Summary: What happens when the Doctor can‘t be activated and B‘Elanna is not able to repair him?

Assumptions: Timeline: approximately 5-1/2 years from entry into the Delta Quad. Tom and B‘Elanna are engaged.

This story can be read by itself but will make more sense if And I Love You So, Deception, and Rebecca‘s Revenge by the same author are read first and in that order.

SOLUTIONS by PJ in NH, rated PG
4/98

Chapter 1 - Memories of Home

As Tom entered B‘Elanna‘s quarters, he could see that she and Harry were still in the same position they were in when he had left them over three hours ago to attend his medical classes, sitting at the table both with half-filled cups of coffee in front of them.

"I tell you, B‘Elanna, I am so close to activating the entire Starfleet message. It‘s just driving me crazy to be so close and still not be able to read it. It‘s like the whole message is virtually laying there before me and all I have to do is remove my blindfold and I‘ll see it all, but I just can‘t get a grip on the blindfold. It is so frustrating!" complained Harry Kim as he took a sip of his now cold coffee as Tom laid down his datapadds on the table and sat down with them.

"Maybe you have been working on it for too long, Harry. It might be a good idea to take a step back to let it rest for a few days and then try again." she suggested, "I think your trying to get too much done too fast, sometimes a slower pace can accomplish more."

"Are you two still taking about that message? I believe you were having the same conversation when I left to go to class." Tom said, "couldn‘t you two find something else to talk about, maybe tomorrow‘s shore leave?"

"We did talk about it for a while and even developed a list of what to bring with us for the hike," Harry explained, "but then..."

"It‘s just that Harry is so close to deciphering the entire message," B‘Elanna explained. "It‘s like we‘re missing the last piece to the puzzle."

"You mean that the last piece will allow us to view the entire message?" asked the pilot.

"That‘s what it looks like, the last piece may be the key to the whole thing, and we just can‘t find it. There are some odd bits and pieces of messages that we can‘t associate with any other message that we received, but those don‘t work. The piece we need must have gotten lost in the array."

"Maybe not," mused Paris. "Maybe we have to supply the mystery piece, maybe it is something that is already on Voyager."

"What do you mean," asked Harry.

"Well, if I were sending something that is as sensitive as we believe this message to be, after all they did take the trouble to hide it amongst all the letters from home, then maybe for an added measure of security they figured that we would supply the key to activate the message. If the message had been intercepted, they wouldn‘t want an alien race to decode it and then possess all the information," he explained.

"I never thought of that, you may be right, but if you are, what is the key?" asked Harry.

Tom had been contemplating the very question. "Well it could be as simple as a password. And normally, if someone uses a password, it is something that isn‘t that obvious, something that means something only to the individual, like a favorite sport, a name, a place, or a combination of information. It could be just about anything."

"Harry, we could always let the computer try supplying the password from information stored in its database." B‘Elanna suggested.

"That‘s going to take awhile, but it‘s the only option I can think of at the moment," agreed Harry. "We‘ll get started on it first thing in the morning, if the computer has to run through most of its information, considering the different amount of possible combinations possible in its database, it could take over a week, possibly two."

"It‘s something to try though, right now that is the only possible solution we have," said B‘Elanna thankful that they had come to some type of solution, albeit possibly only temporary. "By the way, Tom, how did class go today?"

"I finally got through viruses and toxins with a 95 on the written exam and 98 on the lab!"

"That‘s wonderful!" the other two chorused.

"Thanks," he said as a blush worked its way up his cheeks.

"So what does the Doctor have planned for the next stage?" she asked.

"Childbirth. I have a ton of reading assigned for the next couple of days and at the next class, we are actually going to have a holographic mother give birth, the Doctor doesn‘t believe on wasting any time. The program is suppose to be very realistic with multiple scenarios which are selected at random, so we never know what‘s going to happen," he explained. "It could be a normal birth or we could be faced with a several complications, everything from a simple premature breech birth to severe hemorrhaging."

"Hey, guys, how about we head down to the mess hall and beat the rush," suggested Harry paling at the thought of participating in a birth, even if it was holographic. "I don‘t know about you two, but I‘m hungry." <Not really, but it was the first good excuse that had popped into my mind.

"Sounds good," replied Tom and B‘Elanna nodded. "Why don‘t you two go ahead and I‘ll meet you there, I just want to wash up and swing by Sickbay and pick up a couple of datapadds on gynecology and childbirth."

The other two just laughed as they exited the cabin, it still amazed them how much time and effort their friend was spending in his studies, it didn‘t seem that long ago that he hadn‘t seemed interested in medicine at all.

"You know, Maquis, I bet his father would be surprised at what Tom has accomplished here in the Delta Quadrant," remarked Harry.

"I would hope so, but I don‘t think that it matters as much to Tom as it used to what his father thinks of him. At least I hope not. He doesn‘t need that added pressure."

"Your right, from what little Tom has ever told me about growing up with his father, none of it was ever very good. I can‘t imagine what it must have been like for him."

"I can, somewhat," she recalled, "my mother and I never got along and when my father left it was terrible, but what Tom went through with his father, I think was worse. I just wish he would talk to me about it," she said sadly. "There are times when his walls come down and he‘ll let something slip but as soon as he realizes his lapse, he starts erecting them again.

Harry reached over and put his arm around her shoulders. "He will, B‘Elanna, when he is ready. When that time comes, he‘ll tell you, I‘m sure of it. I also know that the walls aren‘t as high as they used to be."

"Thanks, Harry, I needed to hear that," she said with a slight smile.

Harry and B‘Elanna then turned to enter the mess hall and were surprised to find a long line and it appeared that everyone was asking for Neelix‘s special of the day. "I think you had better pick up an extra tray for Tom," Harry suggested. "It looks like this meal may be a keeper."

"Good idea."

The two made their way through the line and when they got in the front of the line found out what all the excitement was about. Neelix had created his version of an earth favorite called Eggplant Parmesan, and according to some that were coming back for seconds, equaled or exceeded the real thing. Harry picked up his meal and B‘Elanna took two plates of the dish with her, stopping at the refreshment counter. The two friends located a table off to the side, fairly near to the entry door and waited for Tom.

Tom had left sickbay and had the two datapadds he had picked up with him, along with three others the Doctor suggested. It looked like he was going to be busy. He was still contemplating which padd to start reading first when he entered the mess hall.

"Hey Tom, we‘re over here!" Harry spoke up waving his arms and pointing to an extra tray at their table.

The pilot started over to join them when he noticed a familiar smell in the air, it made him hesitate in mid-stride. The smell was familiar but he couldn‘t quite place it and he was still wondering about it when he put the padds on the table and sat down.

"Tom, we took the liberty of getting you a meal since we thought that they may be none left by the time you got here. Everyone is raving about this one." B‘Elanna explained, though Tom was hardly listening, he was just looking at his plate.

It couldn‘t be, he thought, he hadn‘t smelled that aroma in years, not since . . . But, as he examined the food on his plate, he knew that he wasn‘t mistaken, it was Eggplant Parmesan or something very similar to it.

"I . . . I . . . I‘ve got to go," he stammered, as he got up abruptly from the table, knocking over his chair and causing the stack of datapadds to tumble to the floor.

"What‘s the matter?" she asked looking at him with concern geting up from her seat.

"I . . . it‘s nothing . . . stay and eat . . . I can‘t . . ." he mumbled and turned and fled the mess hall.

"What was that all about?" asked Harry as he reached over to pick up the chair.

"I don‘t have any idea." replied B‘Elanna worriedly as she reached for her napkin to wipe her mouth. "Do me a favor, Harry, when your done, pick up the padds and leave them in engineering, I‘ve got to find out what‘s going on."

"Good luck, B‘Elanna, I hope he‘ll open up to you this time," he said as he reached over to pick up the padds.

"Thanks Harry, I hope he will too." she said as she left the table in search of her fiance.
 
 

"Computer, location of Lieutenant Paris?"

"Lieutenant Paris is in turbolift 4, current destination habitation level." the computer replied.

His quarters, he was going to his quarters, she thought as she raced through the corridors of the ship.
 
 

"Tom, it‘s B‘Elanna, please let me in." there was no answer. She tried his general access code but was still unsuccessful, obviously he wanted to be alone. "Please Tom, open the door." Still there was no answer. "Computer override security lock on Lt. Paris‘ quarters authorization Torres Beta Omega," she ordered and the door opened to admit her and then slid shut behind her.

She entered his quarters only to find that the lights were out. For a minute she thought that maybe she had been mistaken and that he wasn‘t here. For a moment she almost left, but then she heard what sounded like sobs from over by the porthole.

"Computer, 20% illumination," she ordered. In the dim light she could make out a figure sitting on the floor against the wall with his knees pulled up to his chest with his head resting on his folded up arms on top of his knees and very softly she could hear muffled sounds coming from under his hands.

"Tom?" she said as she touched his shoulder and kneeled down in front of him. "Tom, tell me what‘s wrong."

His head shot up at her touch, and from the dim light she could see the traces of tears that had tracked down his cheeks. "Please leave Bea, just leave me alone," he choked.

"I don‘t think that‘s an option."

"But B‘Elanna, I‘ll be fine, I just need some time."

"Your not fine Tom. Let me help you," she asked but received no answer. "Tom, I love you and we have made a decision to spend the rest of our lives together. Don‘t you know that you can tell me anything, anything at all. I want to help you if I can, and if I can‘t, I‘d like to be here just to listen to you, so you have someone to talk to, someone to confide in," she paused to let the words sink in. "I trust you with my life and my heart, won‘t you put your trust in me too? she said as he slowly let her pull him into her loving arms. They held each other for a long time. After a while Tom reluctantly pulled away from her embrace.

"Are you ready now, will you tell me?"

"I‘ll try, but I‘ve never told anyone before, not even the psychologists at the rehab colony, and they were pretty persistent. In fact, I hadn‘t even thought about it for quite a while, but when I smelled the meal in the mess hall, all the memories came flooding back."

"The meal? Why the meal?" she asked surprised by his answer.

"That meal was my mother‘s favorite. Every time I smell it or see it, I immediately think of her, and while most of the memories I have of my mother are wonderful, that meal only brings up the worst."

"Do you think you could tell me about them?" she asked as she touched her palm to his wet cheek.

"I can try," he replied softly. He steadied himself by taking a couple of deep breaths. He pushed back against the wall to look at B‘Elanna‘s face and she took a hold of one of his hands in both of hers.

"Bea, my mother meant the world to me, I loved her and she loved me unconditionally. I wish you could have known her—I wish she could have known you. She would have loved you," he told her as he choked on the last words before he could continue. "With the Admiral away so much, most of the time it was just her and me, other than the staff. We would do a lot of things together. We would go hiking, bike riding, swimming, and sometimes we would just sit and watch televids and talk about nothing at all." Remembering all the good times brought a smile to his face.

"Things were wonderful when it was just us, but eventually he would come back, then things would all turn upside down." He stopped talking for a moment and swallowed down his tears before continuing. "Neither of us could do anything right. He would yell at us sometimes for no reason at all. If she didn‘t dress right or the party she planned wasn‘t up to his standards, if I didn‘t stand up straight or my hair wasn‘t combed to his satisfaction," he recalled, his eyes focused on memories of many years ago and thousands of light years away.

"One night shortly after father had returned from a space mission, he was at Starfleet and was supposed to work late. So for a treat, after the help had left for the night, Mom fixed dinner from scratch, all by herself, it was Eggplant Parmesan, her favorite and mine. Just as we sat down to eat, Father stormed into the kitchen reeking of alcohol and demanding a meal. When he saw what we were going to eat, he lambasted my mother, upended the table and slapped her hard across the face. I still remember him saying something like ‚You expect me to eat that slop!‘" He stopped momentarily to steady his voice again.

"Bea, I still don‘t know why he was so angry or upset, but then most of the time he didn‘t need a reason. He wanted to hit something, so he just made up an excuse, any excuse. Before then, I had never seen him raise a hand to her, but now looking back on it, I can remember other bruises and I don‘t think it was the first time he had hit her. Then...then...he..." he found he couldn‘t go on, the memories were too painful so he buried his head in his hands again in an effort to compose himself. B‘Elanna took the opportunity to get up and replicate him a glass of cool water.

"Here, Tom, drink this it‘ll make you feel better," she said as she handed him the water. She sat back down next to him again and wrapped her arms around him.

Tom lifted up his head and took the glass from her and took a sip. "Thanks," he choked. "I‘m sorry, after all this time you wouldn‘t think it would still affect me this way."

"That‘s alright Tom, your doing fine, please finish your story. What happened after he hit your mother?" she asked knowing that the most painful part of the story lay ahead.

Tom inhaled deeply and slowly released the breath before continuing his story. "He had hit her and she had landed on the floor. I went over to try and help her but she told me to leave the room, B‘Elanna. She said that she would take care of it, that everything would be fine, but I knew better. I ran out of the room and bolted out of the house screaming that I was going to the servants‘ quarters and tell them. My father realizing that that was just what I intended to do, let go of my mother and made a beeline for me. I had just reached the top of the stairs leading out of the back door when he caught up with me, mother was right behind him. As he grabbed me and pulled me over to him, mother shot past him, tripped and fell down the stone steps, finally landing at the bottom. She broke her neck, Bea, she died trying to save me from that monster. She died for me. If I‘d been faster, it wouldn‘t have happened. If I....if I..."

"Ssssh, Tom," she said soothingly as she took the glass from him and placed it on the floor. She then pulled him to her arms again stroking his back with her hand. "Sssh, it‘s okay now. I‘m glad you told me."

Tom just shook his head in agreement, not daring to say anything, doubting that he could voice any words in his present condition.

"She must have been a lovely woman. I wish I could have met her. I wish I could have let her know what a fine son she raised. I‘m sure you have a lot of her in you."

"I love you, Bea, I love you. She would have loved you too," he finally said and hugged her tightly and the two of them sat on the floor in silence for a long time occasionally touching, kissing, and comforting each other.

B‘Elanna finally rose to her feet and pulled Tom up from the floor. "Come on, let‘s get ready for bed, we have a busy day tomorrow. You haven‘t forgotten about our shore leave have you?" she reminded him in an effort to lighten his solemn mood.

"Nope, I haven‘t forgotten," he said with a small grin. "I think I‘ll shower first though before I turn in, do you want to join me?"

"I‘d love to."
 
 

Chapter 2 - Rest & Relaxation

Tom and B‘Elanna, followed by Harry and Seven, hiked down through the alien forest, climbing up ridges and down valleys. It was a lovely and warm, but not too warm, with a gentle breeze blowing pine-like scented fresh air. The trees around them were very tall and very green. It reminded Tom of some time he had spent in the Colorado Rockies after graduating from the Academy.

"So how much further, Tom?" asked Harry for the third time in the last half an hour as he and Seven descended down the trail to join Tom and B‘Elanna on the valley floor.

"I bet you were the little kid that sat in the back of the hover car who asked every two minutes ‚Are we there yet?‘," chided the pilot in an annoying little boy voice.

"And you weren‘t?" he argued as he and Seven caught up with the other two.

"Nope, I was the kid in the backseat that was always saying ‚We would have been there already if you went the way I wanted you to,‘" which caused Harry to laugh.

"I bet your folks didn‘t like that," said B‘Elanna hoping it wouldn‘t bring back unpleasant memories.

"No, not much, especially when I was only eight at the time."

Seven was at a loss for words during this exchange, but finally spoke up. "Please explain the purpose for this expedition. What purpose is served by walking through these trees when we could have been beamed to our destination?"

"The purpose is to enjoy nature and to get a little exercise. When we get to the lake, you‘ll see that it was all worth it." explained Tom.

"But you forgot the best reason of all, Tom," reminded the half-Klingon.

"Your right, the best reason of all is that..."

"It isn‘t Voyager!" the three said in unison as Seven stared at them in bewilderment.

As much as they loved the ship, at times Voyager‘s walls just felt like they were closing in on them. To be out in the fresh air, away from anything Starfleet, was very welcome.

"But you didn‘t answer my question, how much further?" insisted Harry, not willing to let his question go unanswered.

"It‘s just over that next hill, you‘ll love it," promised the pilot as he adjusted his backpack on his shoulders and began to climb the final hill. "According to the preliminary maps of the surface it should be a real special place."

As the four came to the top of the final rise, stretched below them with the sun glistening on its surface was a small blue lake surrounded by trees and wild flowers.

"Wow!" exclaimed Harry, "your right, this was worth it, let‘s go!" He took the lead and the other three followed. They finally arrived at the shore of the lake and took off their backpacks.

"I don‘t know about the rest of you, but before we assemble camp how about we go for a swim?" suggested B‘Elanna.

"A swim?" questioned the former-Borg.

"Yes Seven, that is why you brought your swimsuit," the young ensign reminded her.

"Oh, course," she said, but inside she thought <I don‘t know how to swim, do I?

Tom quickly stepped behind a nearby bush and stripped off his clothes and donned his navy blue swim trunks. "Last one in is a rotten egg," he yelled as he ran into the lake, when he was in deep enough he dove under the water. He swam underwater quite a ways before finally emerging. "Come on you guys, hurry up, the water is great!"

"You better not be lying to me helmboy, I don‘t plan on freezing!" B‘Elanna threatened as she began entering the water herself clad in her a red one-piece swim suit. "Tom, it is cold!"

"Come on Bea, where‘s that fierce Klingon hiding today? Once you get in and swim around you‘ll warm right up, I promise."

"And if I don‘t?"

"If you don‘t . . . then I‘ll find some other way to warm you up?"

"Your learning, flyboy, your learning," she said as she dove into the cool water and started swimming towards the pilot to collect on his promise.

Harry followed shortly behind her and was almost up to his waist when he turned around and noticed that Seven wasn‘t following him in. "Come on, Seven, hurry up."

"I don‘t think so, I don‘t see the purpose to his activity, and I don‘t want to be a rotten egg." she said stubbornly standing there in a black two-piece suit her hands on her hips.

"The only purpose to this activity is to have a good time, look at Tom and B‘Elanna," he said pointing to the couple who were having a good time swimming and splashing each other, "and besides Tom was only joking about the rotten egg."

Seven shrugged her shoulders and walked in deeper towards the young ensign. Harry dove in and began to swim. Following his example, Seven attempted to do the same. Unfortunately, all she ended up doing was floundering around in the water waving her arms and coughing up water.

Harry hearing the commotion swam over to her and helped her stand up in the chest deep water. "There is that better?" he asked the former Borg‘s blond hair hung in wet strands down to her shoulders.

"Better than what?" she sputtered.

"Better than drowning? Why didn‘t you tell me you didn‘t know how to swim?" he asked.

"Why didn‘t you ask? I thought that you just did it, I didn‘t know that it was something that required instruction!"

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Back on Voyager, the Captain was pacing in her ready room, waiting for her first officer to join her for an afternoon cup of tea. Or maybe something else? she pondered, when she received a call from the Doctor.

"Doctor to Captain Jane...vate emergency...chann..." said the Doctor.

Catching bits and pieces of his transmission Janeway turned on the emergency medical channel. "Doctor, this is the Captain, your breaking up, please repeat."

"...that‘s the problem.....fading in and.....require assist...." said the Doctor clearly worried as his image fluctuated on the screen.

"I‘ll get right on it Doctor." she promised as she looked up and saw Chakotay enter her ready room. "There is something wrong with the EMH, he keeps on fading in and out."

"I‘ll contact B‘Elanna on the surface right away," he said. He turned around and exited for the bridge and the communications officer.

"Please contact Lt. Torres and request that she and Lt. Paris beam up right away."

"Aye, sir." the officer replied and pressed a few buttons.

"Voyager to Lt. Torres, come in please." And she waited. "Voyager to Lt. Torres, come in please." Still no answer, then she proceeded to try call all the members in their party before she instituted a search for the lieutenants‘ commbadges.

"Commander, there is no answer, according to my readings their commbadges are located next to a body of water on the planet."

"They must be swimming," he reasoned remembering the conversation he had with Tom that morning over breakfast where he had spelled out his plans for the day. "Keep on trying to hail them, and let me know when your successful."

"Aye, aye, sir."

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"Wow that was refreshing," B‘Elanna said as she stepped out of the lake.

"Yeah, I don‘t think I‘ve swum like that in a long time. I know that I never had as much fun before." he said as he reached for her and pulled her towards him into an embrace their cool wet skin touching and crushed his lips against hers.

"BREEP, BREEP—Voyager to Lt. Torres, come in please."

"On damn," she said as she reluctantly pulled away from him and reached for her commbadge from the pile of clothes she had left on the shore. "Lt. Torres here, go ahead."

"B‘Elanna, it‘s Chakotay, we are having a problem with the EMH and we need you and Lt. Paris to transport up to the ship immediately."

B‘Elanna and Tom exchanged worried looks. "What‘s the problem Commander?" she asked.

"We are really not sure, the EMH keeps on fading in and out."

"Just give us five minutes to towel off and we‘ll contact the ship for transport."

"Very good."

"What do you think the problem is Bea?" Tom asked.

"I have no idea, this kind of thing hasn‘t happened before." She handed Tom his towel and grabbed her own not noticing the insect that had been perched on her towel. "Ouch!" she said as she brought her finger up to look at it.

"What happened?" he asked as her reached over to look at her finger.

"I don‘t know, I think something, some kind of insect maybe, bit me."

"Well, it seems to be alright, but have the Doctor look at it when we get back to Voyager. Are you ready?" She nodded in the affirmative. "Harry and Seven, we have been asked to beam back so have fun!"

"Okay, see you back on the ship later this afternoon!" Harry replied, proud of himself for teaching Seven to swim. Granted it was just the dog paddle, but she was staying afloat.
 
 

Chapter 3 - Problems, Parties, and Progress

B‘Elanna and Tom materialized directly in Sickbay and were greeted by the Captain and Commander.

"So Captain what‘s the problem?" asked the Chief Engineer.

"We‘re really not sure, about two hours ago the Doctor called me from Sickbay and he kept on fading in and out, both visually and verbally. When the Commander and I got to Sickbay, all we found was his portable holographic projector," she explained as she handed the device to her Chief Engineer. "We felt that no one but you should attempt to repair it, as you are the most familiar with its function."

"I‘ll get right on it Captain. If you need me, I‘ll be in engineering."

"Very good Lieutenant," Janeway said and turned to the pilot. "Tom, until she has the Doctor functioning again, I think it would be wise for you to only be assigned to Sickbay for the time being, I‘ll find someone else to cover your shift at the helm, possibly Chakotay. Do you think you could bring a few things down from your cabin and spend the night if necessary?"

"Sure, no problem." <No problem? Why did I say that? The Doctor would be back soon wouldn‘t he? Of course he would. B‘Elanna would fix the problem and everything would be back to normal in no time—hopefully.

One hour stretched to two and two stretched to four and still B‘Elanna hadn‘t brought the Doctor back to Sickbay. It hadn‘t been boring during that time though, a steady stream of people had come to Sickbay to be treated for a variety of minor ailments, thankfully there was nothing he couldn‘t handle. He prayed that nothing serious arose before the Doctor was back again.

As anxious he was to find out what progress B‘Elanna was making, he hesitated calling down to engineering not wanting to disturb her. He knew from past experience that one risked life and limb disturbing a half-Klingon under similar circumstances. He also knew that as soon as the EMH was functioning again, he would be the first person B‘Elanna would notify.

Finally, about two hours later, B‘Elanna and the Doctor strode through the Sickbay doors. "Doc, it‘s good to see you!" exclaimed the pilot/nurse as he looked up from where he was seated reading one of the medical datapadds.

"You know, Mr. Paris, I think you actually mean that," the Doctor replied dryly as he turned to enter his office.

"Oh I do, I do." he said turning this attention to his fiance.

"So what happened?"

"I really don‘t know, and I am not even sure what I did to correct it. Some additional investigation is necessary to determine that cause, but I think that can wait until tomorrow, he should be alright for the foreseeable future."

"Well, if that‘s the case how about joining me for dinner tonight?" he asked.

"Sounds good, but I think we‘re going to have to settle for the mess hall, I am about out of rations," she replied.

"Unfortunately, I‘m in the same boat," he said and extended his elbow gallantly to her which she took and he ushered her out of Sickbay en route to the mess hall.

Tom and B‘Elanna entered the mess hall and were happy to find out that there was no eggplant on the menu today. They made their selections, such as they were, and noticing Janeway and Chakotay at a nearby table joined them.

"So B‘Elanna, did you get the problem with the Doctor straightened out?" asked the Captain.

"It seems to be," she replied, "though I still don‘t know what caused the problem. I‘ll have to do some further investigation, but for now everything seems alright."

"Very good, then are we still on for that tennis match in Holodeck 1 tomorrow?"

"I‘m looking forward to it Captain, 1900 right?"

"That would be fine," Janeway replied, turning her attention to the pilot. "Tom, so how are the classes coming?"

"Pretty good, though there is a lot of reading involved. The Doctor now has me concentrating on childbirth, apparently because we have two mothers-to-be ready to give birth in about four to five months. In fact, tomorrow morning I‘m scheduled to assist in my first holo-birth. I just can‘t make up my mind on the proper way to catch the baby. Should I go for a ground ball or a line drive type approach," he said and he attempted to demonstrate the technique causing the other members at their table to laugh.
 
 

The next morning, Tom reported for a half-shift at the helm with the afternoon scheduled for the classroom followed by a few hours in Sickbay that evening—a very busy day. The morning went smoothly, no confrontations with any alien species and only a few asteroids to fly around to make the morning interesting. The afternoon however was a different story. While he had anticipated participating in one holo-birth, the doctor/ instructor had other ideas. After the fifth birth this one involving twins, he had had enough for one day and he still had to look forward to the evening in Sickbay. Well at least he could be guaranteed of one thing, a good night‘s sleep. Then again, that could only be accomplished if he could put B‘Elanna off until the morning.

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Shortly before she was scheduled to meet the Captain in Holodeck 1, B‘Elanna changed from her uniform into a pair of white shorts and a blue tank top. If it hadn‘t been that the invitation came from the Captain, she would have canceled as she wasn‘t feeling all that well. <Maybe I‘m coming down with a virus or the flu, she mused. <Then again maybe I‘m just tired and a little exercise might give me the boost I need.

At 1900, tennis racket in hand, B‘Elanna prepared to enter Holodeck 1. At 1901, B‘Elanna was standing speechless inside of the holodeck looking at all her female friends gathered around her, each one shouting surprise.

"What‘s going on?" she asked, turning her attention to the Captain.

"B‘Elanna, this is your bridal shower," explained Janeway.

"But what about the tennis game?" countered the half-Klingon who wasn‘t too fond of surprises, especially when they we directed at her.

The Captain came over to B‘Elanna and put her arm around her shoulders. "We had to think of some way to get you come down to the holodeck." She had sensed a tension in B‘Elanna‘s shoulders, and whispered in her ear so the others couldn‘t hear, "come on, B‘Elanna, this will be fun."

An hour later, B‘Elanna had to agree it had been a lot of fun.

She had received a number of gifts and extra replicator rations. Sue Nicoletti‘s package contained candles of all different kinds some scented, some tapers, some votives, and the package also included hand-printed instructions on how to use them to ‚create the right mood.‘ The present from Samantha Wildman was a bit more risque as it contained various scented massage oils ‚guaranteed to get you in touch with your partner.‘ The Delaneys‘ gift was another matter, even after she unwrapped it and held it up she couldn‘t figure out was it was. The gift consisted of two pieces of red see-through material. <Was it some kind of wash cloth? Maybe a hat? she wondered. Finally Meagan came over noticing her puzzled expression and held up the two pieces right side up while Jenny explained that what her sister was holding, what little there was of it, was lingerie. Obviously Tom was going to love it, B‘Elanna thought, providing she could figure out how to get it on, he would have a lot of fun removing it.

The last gift to open was from the Captain. It was beautifully wrapped in blue paper which reminded B‘Elanna of her fiance‘s eyes and it was tied together with silver ribbon. She undid the bow, opened the box, lifted the tissue paper, and brought out the gift. All the guests gasped in awe. It was an exquisite negligee, made of ecru lace with spaghetti straps that showed a substantial bit of cleavage and when worn would come down to the floor.

"Captain, I..I.. don‘t know what to say it‘s just beautiful," stammered B‘Elanna at a loss for words to describe how touched she was by the gift.

"You‘ve said enough, B‘Elanna. This is for your wedding night. I wanted you to have something that would make you feel extra special," explained the Captain.

"And besides that, it‘s sexy as hell," chimed in Sue Nicolleti, which caused B‘Elanna unusually pale face to blush and she felt a little lightheaded.

Standing at the head of the table, B‘Elanna expressed her gratefulness to her friends. "I can‘t thank you all enough, all the presents were wonderful, even if I didn‘t know what they all were at first," she said smiling at the Delaneys. "In fact..." she paused as she grabbed a hold of the table for support and to catch her breath.

"B‘Elanna, I think you had better sit down," said the Captain clearly worried. She berated herself for not noticing the young woman‘s condition before. "On second thought, I think I should bring you to Sickbay." To her surprise, the soon-to-be bride didn‘t protest.

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"...so Doc then I turned the baby‘s face and cleared out the mucus from his nose and then before I knew what was happening the holo-mom had delivered not only the head but the rest of the body as well. I was so nervous I thought I was going to drop the little guy, he was so slippery." the pilot explained grinning from ear to ear.

"It sounds as if you enjoyed it," observed the EMH with a huge grin on his face, taking pride in the progress that the pilot/nurse had achieved in just a relatively short while. The emergency medical classes Paris had wisely taken at the Academy, combined with the accelerated lessons he had taken on Voyager already were the equivalent of about two and a half years of conventional training. He recalled a time shortly after he had been activated in the Delta Quadrant when the Lieutenant had told him that his father didn‘t approve of him taking the medical classes at the Academy because he believed that there were more appropriate classes to select from—how wrong his father had been the EMH thought.

"You know I think I did enjoy it, Doc," he replied "I‘m not saying that I wasn‘t nervous, I was, and I know that it wasn‘t real, but after the first few contractions your mind kind of forgets that and it becomes real to you. You and Harry did an amazing job with the program," Tom enthused as he performed one of the more mundane jobs in Sickbay—inventory—sitting on the floor in front of the supply cabinet, his back to the Doctor.

"There is just one thing I don‘t understand," the pilot continued, "how do you know when the appropriate time is to perform the episiotomy, or if one is necessary?" There was no response. "Doctor?" he questioned as he got up from the floor and turned around and noticed the portable holographic projector laying on the floor which he picked up and placed on the nearby table.

"Computer, activate the Emergency Medical Hologram."

"The Emergency Medical Hologram program is currently not available to comply with that request."

"Why not?" he asked agitatedly.

"Insufficient data," came the computer‘s vague reply just as the Sickbay door slid open and Captain and B‘Elanna entered.

"Tom, where‘s the Doctor?" asked Janeway. "B‘Elanna isn‘t feeling well."

Tom hurried over to his fiance‘s side and helped her up onto one of the biobeds. "I think he‘s having problems again, he blinked out again when my back was turned, and the computer can‘t bring him back," he explained before focusing his actions on B‘Elanna. "How are you feeling, love?" he asked obviously concerned.

"I‘m lightheaded and it‘s getting difficult to breathe," she explained fighting for oxygen.

"I‘ll get the medical tricorder," he said as he made his way to the diagnostic table. He went back to her and scanned her, noticing that she was looking worse all the time. "According to the readout and symptoms, you appear to have been poisoned," he proclaimed looking at the device. When he brought his head back up he noticed that B‘Elanna had quickly progressed into a stage of delirium and was fighting to breathe. He reached into the draw to his left and withdrew a vial of antitoxin and injected it into her neck, and when nothing happened, he administered a second vial. Finally, her breathing eased, but he could tell that she was still in critical condition. <How could she have gotten poisoned? he wondered, <of course the insect bite. Didn‘t she have that taken care of?

"Computer, did Lieutenant Torres report to Sickbay within the last 36 hours?" Paris asked.

"Negative," came the reply,

"Damn!" he said through clenched teeth as he slammed down the empty antitoxin vial.

"What‘s the matter Tom?" asked the Captain noticing the concern on his face.

"She was bitten by an insect during our shore leave. I told her to have the Doc look at it..." he said his voice drifted off as he contemplated the result of her inattention to her own health.

"So where do we go from here?"

"Right now she appears to be holding her own. All I can do right now is to monitor her condition and hopefully she will improve," he said taking her hand in his as he continued. "If she doesn‘t respond to the universal antitoxin, I can put her on life support. In the meantime, I‘ll do my best to come up with a specific antitoxin, but that could take time. I‘ve performed all the class work and taken the labs, but this is real life, Captain, this is B‘Elanna," he explained his eyes never leaving the patient.

The Captain could clearly see that he was troubled, and needed encouragement. "Tom, I‘m sure you‘ll come up with a solution. I have every confidence in you. In the meantime, I‘ll go speak with Joe Carey and see if there is anything he can do about the Doctor‘s condition," she said as she reached over and patted her pilot/nurse on his upper arm, but it was like he hadn‘t even heard her. "Tom? did you hear me?" she said louder this time.

"Yes, Captain, I heard. It‘s just that this is my worst nightmare," he explained his tear-filled eyes still hadn‘t left B‘Elanna. "I‘m the closest thing the ship has right now to a doctor, and I‘m not good enough, and to top it off, B‘Elanna may be the only one who can bring the Doc back."

"Tom... TOM!" Janeway said as she grabbed both of his upper arms with her hands and shook him until he focused on her. "Tom, listen to me. B‘Elanna is counting on you and so is Voyager. I expect you to do your best and I know you will. Now get started on finding that solution. On the way down to engineering, I‘ll stop by Ensign Wildman‘s quarters to see if she can come down and give you a hand," she said as she picked up the holographic projector and pocketed it. "Tom, I have every faith in you."

<I wish I had that much faith in myself, he thought.

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The next morning Janeway joined Chakotay in the mess hall for breakfast. Naturally the conversation turned immediately to the crisis in Sickbay.

"So tell me Kathryn, how is B‘Elanna and Tom doing, has he made any progress?" the big Maquis asked.

Janeway reluctantly took a forkful of ‚breakfast surprise.‘

"Well, I stopped by Sickbay this morning after I got up. Unfortunately, B‘Elanna is still in critical condition. Tom is desperately trying to find a solution, in fact he‘s been working all night long, but so far has made no progress," she said as she shook her head in despair.

"I wouldn‘t want to be in his shoes, Kathryn. It wasn‘t that long ago, in fact it was during the problem with McAfee**, Tom and I were talking and he told me how worried he was that if something happened to the Doctor he would be the only one available to care for the medical needs of the crew."

"It‘s a lot of pressure to put on one‘s shoulder‘s, especially when Tom is not fully qualified to replace the EMH. Granted he is doing his best, it hasn‘t been easy for him taking the classes on top of all his other duties. I have to give him credit for that, but he still isn‘t the Doctor," admitted Janeway.

"I‘m worried about him too. I‘ll make a point to stop by and check up on him later today," suggested her First Officer.

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Tom stood by B‘Elanna and scanned her again, she wasn‘t getting any better and the antitoxin wasn‘t working as well as it had at first. Earlier in the morning, he had to resort to putting her on life support. It broke his heart to see the woman he loved, the normally vibrant half-Klingon, so helpless. It was now late evening and he was still no closer to an answer and he had gone nearly forty hours without sleep.

"B‘Elanna, I just want you to know that I‘m trying everything I can think of to make you better. I love you so much, I don‘t know what I would do without you," he said as he reached over and caressed her unusually pale cheek with the palm of his hand. He was so focused on her, that he never heard Chakotay enter the room.

"Tom, are you okay?" asked the Commander which caused the pilot to jump a bit. What he saw concerned him. The man before him was obviously in dire need of sleep. He had dark circles under his half-shut eyes. How he was staying erect, the older man had no idea.

"Yeah fine... just fine," he replied dejectedly.

"I‘m sure you‘ll find the answer soon."

"I‘m glad your so sure, I haven‘t had any luck so far."

"It‘s just a matter of time, Tom," he said trying to sound hopeful. "By the way, where‘s Sam? Has she been in here today?"

"She was here earlier. She had to go tend to Naomi and then she was going to bring back dinner. She should be back anytime." At that moment, Samantha came through the door carrying two trays.

"Tom, is B‘Elanna getting any worse while she is on life support?" asked Chakotay as he looked down at his former Maquis crew mate concerned by the lack of progress.

"No, so far I‘ve been able to keep up with it, but she isn‘t getting any better either. That little insect certainly possessed some potent venom. I take it Joe hasn‘t made any progress either?" Tom asked as he swayed next to B‘Elanna biobed. Chakotay seeing the pilot falter went over to steady him by putting his arm around the younger man‘s shoulder.

"No, I‘m sorry but he‘s working on it. Tom, I think it is time for you to get some sleep," he suggested.

"No, Chakotay, I‘m fine I‘ll just give myself another stimulant shot and I should be fine for another few hours," Tom protested through a yawn shaking off the First Officer‘s arm.

"Tom, don‘t force me to make this an order. I‘m asking you to get some sleep for your own good, yours and B‘Elanna‘s, don‘t make me make it an order. You need to eat and you should sleep for at least six hours. I‘ll come back down after I go to the mess hall and stay with Samantha while you sleep and the Captain will be down in the morning," the Commander said sternly.

The pilot sensing that he wouldn‘t take no for an answer relented and after kissing B‘Elanna on her still lips sat down with his meal, fork in hand.

"Come on Tom you have to eat," coaxed Sam, "you have to keep up your strength for her and the crew, you know that."

He nodded his head in agreement too tired to speak and silently began to eat his meal. After he ate about half that was on his plate, he laid down on the bed next to B‘Elanna and immediately fell asleep.

The Commander stopped by a little while later as promised.

"I don‘t know how he‘s doing it Commander," said Samantha worriedly as she covered up the pilot with a blanket. "He never stops. On top of trying to find a cure for Lt. Torres, he also had to take care of all the usual cases that come through the door. I‘m just glad you came down here when you did or he would have collapsed."

"I know, I wouldn‘t want to be in his position for anything. I just keep on thinking if I was in Tom‘s place and B‘Elanna was Kath..."

"Kathryn," she finished for him patting his hand. "It really is no secret Commander, in fact I am very happy for the two of you."

"Thanks, but I look at what he is going through and I question whether I could cope as well as he has," he finished.

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The next morning, the Captain joined Tom in Sickbay, relieving Sam so she could get some sleep herself.

"Well where are you at with the testing Tom, have you made any progress."

"It‘s slow going, I‘m trying all different types of antitoxins in different dosages and strengths. So far, I‘ve gotten nowhere," he said with a discouraged tone in his voice.

"I‘m sure you‘ll have a breakthrough soon Tom, we just have to keep working on it."

"And Joe, has there been any progress?"

"I wish I could tell you there was, but he is not giving up."

"McAfee to Sickbay."

"Lt. Paris here go ahead Ken."

"Lieutenant, there has been an accident in the Cargo Bay 3, we need you to come down while we extricate the injured. I don‘t think it is serious, but according to Starfleet regs. a doctor is recommended to be present..."

"...and barring the doctor that means me," he finished. Tom looked up at the Captain who nodded to him. "Ken, I‘ll be right there. You can stick around to help me can‘t you?"

"I‘ll be waiting."

"Don‘t worry Tom, I‘ll keep an eye on B‘Elanna and the tests. You go, someone else needs you." <Someone else needed him, not too long ago back in the Alpha Quadrant it seemed that no one needed him, hell he didn‘t even need himself. How he wanted to be needed back then. But now to be needed carried such responsibility, responsibility to B‘Elanna, the crew, and to himself. With those thoughts running through his head, Tom picked up his medical bag and headed for the door.

The next day.

"Well Joe how‘s is going, are you making any progress?" asked Harry as he sat down at his table.

"No, not really. Lt. Torres didn‘t have time to brief me on what she did the last time to bring him around, so I‘m operating blind," Joe Carey responded shaking his head.

From the next table, they could hear Chakotay and the Captain talking. "...and then Puppikins would take my shoes and run in circles around the kitchen table thinking that it was the most fun of all," said the Captain. "She was so cute it was hard to be mad at her."

"Puppikins?" questioned Chakotay disbelievingly.

"Well you‘ve got to remember I was only six years old at the time." she said with a playful pout on her face looking very much like little Naomi Wildman. "I made up the name Puppikins, but until the day that black labrador died fourteen years later we always called her ‚Puppy.‘"

"Captain?" asked Harry sensing a lull in the conversation. "I understand that your going down to give Tom a hand again this morning."

"That‘s right."

"I have a couple of extra replicator rations. Do you think you could you bring them to him, I won‘t have time. I thought maybe he could use them and get himself some breakfast or something."

"That‘s very kind of you Harry," she said as he handed her the rations. "I‘m sure Tom will appreciate it."

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The Captain entered the Sickbay about a half an hour later. and was surprised to find two people waiting very patiently to be taken care of. In fact, after the door slid shut behind her, they looked at her and brought their index fingers up to their lips, made a shushing sound, and pointed to the figure sound asleep at the work table.

The Captain went over to the two and quietly spoke to them. "Mr. McAfee and Ms. Williams what seems to be the matter?" she asked keeping her voice low.

"Nothing much Captain," responded McAfee for the both of them. "We only came down to get something for a headache and we noticed Paris had fallen asleep. We didn‘t want to disturb him, everyone on board knows how hard he is working to help Lt. Torres, so we thought we‘d just wait and see that he wasn‘t bothered."

"That‘s very kind of the two of you, let me see if I can find a pain reliever for you," she said as she headed toward the supply cabinet and ordered it to unlock on the Captain‘s code and she handed them some capsules. "There you are, this should help you and thanks for keeping an eye on the Lieutenant, I appreciate it."

"Your welcome, Captain," replied Ensign Williams.

"When he wakes up will you tell him we wish him the best of luck?" asked McAfee.

"I will, and thanks again," said the Captain as the two ensigns walked out of Sickbay hand in hand.

The Captain proceeded over to Tom‘s worktable to check on what he had been doing. The sample he had worked with before he had fallen asleep was still processing. <That‘s strange, thought Janeway, <usually the samples processed almost immediately, he must have done something wrong. Then she saw what he had done. He had programmed the sample to inject the new antivenom solution in small dosages at twenty-second intervals. A bit unorthodox but, according to the computer the test was nearly done. The computer beeped a few minutes later signifying that the test was complete. The sound of the beep woke Tom up.

"Good morning, Mr. Paris, it appears that your test is finally complete."

"Oh . . . good morning Captain," he murmured trying unsuccessfully to stifle a yawn, "what are the results?"

"Let‘s see." She addressed the computer, "Computer, provide results of last sample processed."

"Working . . . result of last sample processed is conclusive, 100% eradication of the poison," stated the computer.

Paris and Janeway exchanged wide-eyed looks with each other. "We did it?" asked the Lieutenant still not convinced of what he had just heard.

"No, Tom, you did it," said the Captain clearly proud of the young man. "Let‘s administer the solution, Tom, the quicker she starts to get it the sooner she will get better and the happier I‘ll be and you‘ll be. I just can‘t figure out how you came up with it?"

"Well, I had tried the standard treatment for administering antitoxin in all sorts of different strengths and dosages, via recommended direct hypospray penetration to the neck. It is painless and fast. Then I remembered something B‘Elanna said not too long ago about sometimes working slow accomplished more than trying to get things done quickly. Then I also remembered some of the things that were talked about in my class a couple of weeks ago, about how old-fashioned medicines were sometimes administered intravenously by dripping a medicine periodically into a solution that was fed directly into the blood stream. I figured I had nothing to loose, I had tried everything else," he explained as he assembled the necessary equipment to set up the intravenous to administer the antitoxin, "so I fed in the parameters to the computer, and lo and behold it looks like it‘s going to work!" he said with the first smile on his face in a few days.

The two of them went to work setting up the IV and began the drip of the antivenom.

Five hours later B‘Elanna began to stir.

"B‘Elanna? Can you hear me?" Tom asked. "Wake up, dear, wake up."

"Uh . . . Tom? . . . Tom?" she said here eyes still closed.

"I‘m right here, Bea, just open your eyes."

B‘Elanna slowly opened her eyes and looked into the tired blue eyes belonging to her mate sitting beside her. "Tom . . . how long?" she mumbled her dry lips sticking together making speech difficult.

"About four days Bea, four long days," he said as he reached for a glass of water by her bed and helped prop her up so she could drink. "Better?"

"Uh, huh. More."

"Sure, have a little more then try and be quite and let the medicine work. I‘ll be right here."

He settled her back down against the pillow and then reached up to activate the commbadge. "Paris to the Captain."

"Go ahead Tom," the Captain answered from her ready room.

"B‘Elanna‘s woken up, I thought you should know."

"That‘s great," she said looking up and smiling into a familiar tatooed face who held her in his strong arms. "We‘ll be right down."

He sat back down next to B‘Elanna‘s bed to wait for the Captain and Chakotay to show up. It had been a very long four days, he had to admit and he was very tired. But knowing that B‘Elanna would recover made him feel much better. After the Captain and Chakotay got here, he would see if Samantha Wildman could come down and keep an eye on B‘Elanna while he got some sleep.

Chakotay and the Captain entered the Sickbay and found the pilot was still sitting next to B‘Elanna but his head was resting on the bed next to her and he was fast asleep her hand resting on his fair head.

"I think we should move him to one of the other beds." said the Captain.

"Good idea I‘ll call down and get some help."

He was so tired when he was moved to the next biobed, he never even stirred. The Captain removed his shoes and covered him up while the First Officer contacted Samantha Wildman for her to cover sickbay while the pilot/nurse slept.

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Joe Carey rushed over to greet his boss. "Chief, it is good to see you up and about."

"It‘s good to be up. Even Tom wouldn‘t let me out any earlier than if the Doctor had been there."

"I suppose you want to look at the PHP," he said motioning to the device that was on his work table.

"Yes, let‘s see if we can get the EMH working again."

After about four hours:

"Please state the nature of the medical emergency" was once again heard on Voyager.

"Doctor it is good to see you again." said B‘Elanna.

"Where have I been Lieutenant?"

"It is not so much where as when, you‘ve been inactive for a little over five days."

"Five days?! Is everyone alright."

"Everyone is fine, but to be sure why don‘t you call Tom and ask him."

The EMH reached up and slapped his commbadge. "Emergency Medical Hologram to Lt. Paris."

"Doc, is that you?!"

"In the flesh, so to speak, yes."

"That‘s wonderful!"

"Tom, we‘ll bring the Doctor to sickbay, could you contact the Captain and Chakotay and have them meet us there as well?"

"Sure thing, Paris out."

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"...so that is the problem," B‘Elanna concluded. "Our EMH has been too busy lately and the knowledge that he now possesses is much greater than what it was when he was first activated. For him to remain active on some level on Voyager, he‘s going to need to regenerate on an average of forty hours every week. It also might help if he could rest longer than that. For instance, if he could rest more than forty hours each week, say seventy hours, than he could occasionally work more than usual, say if an emergency arose. Also, I forgot to mention, the rest has to be for a significant period of time, say six to ten hours or more of continuous rest no interruptions. It would have to be verified during actual use, but if he could get seventy hours a week, after a few weeks it‘s possible that he could cover sickbay for a whole week without regenerating again."

The weight of her statement could be felt on everyone in the room, and in particular the weight fell very heavy on Lt. Paris‘ shoulders.

"So your saying that preferably everyday we have to find someone else to cover sickbay, or at least be on call," confirmed the Captain.

"That‘s what I‘m saying."

The Doctor appeared to be miffed. "Well I never. And who would possibly cover for me?"

"Why I imagine that Mr. Paris will do a excellent job. He covered for you wonderfully during the last five days," explained the Captain.

"He did?"

"He did, and not only did he cover for you but he had to come up with a solution to the poison that was attacking Lt. Torres‘ system. It‘s a testament to your training that he was successful," she concluded trying to soothe the EMH‘s feelings and looked over to the pilot who‘s complexion had deepened into a deep shade of pink.

"Captain," began her First Officer. "I think I may have a solution that would make Tom‘s backing up the Doctor a little bit easier."

"And what‘s that?"

"I understand that there is a storage area across the hall from Sickbay is vacant, there is no reason why Tom couldn‘t move in there to be closer to Sickbay, it would be more convenient, especially if intership transport was unavailable. I also understand that there is a seldom-used utility closet next to those quarters. If we were to knock out the wall in between, it would make an appropriately sized cabin for both him and B‘Elanna or anyone else that may ultimately constitute their family." It was B‘Elanna‘s turn to blush.

"Well Tom, B‘Elanna, what do you think?"

"I think it‘s a good idea. Being so close, I should be able to work my schedule around the Doctor‘s and still have time to pilot and continue my studies."

"I agree with Tom, besides it would be nice to have a larger cabin," B‘Elanna agreed.
 
 

Chapter 5 - Underlying Messages

Tom walked into Sandrine‘s the next evening having packed up most of his belongings for the move tomorrow, B‘Elanna was planning to move most of her belongings in after the wedding. Spotting Harry at the bar, he went over to join him. B‘Elanna was expected to join them shortly.

"So you still haven‘t made any progress with the message?" Tom asked as he sat down next to Harry at the bar noting his dejected expression.

"Not yet, the computer ran through its entire database, but no luck," Harry said discouragedly.

"Well that only means that the words aren‘t in there," said Tom trying to be cheerful.

"Tom, the computer contains all the words in standard language.

The password is not the answer."

"Not necessarily, Harry. It might be a word that was a made-up word that wouldn‘t show up in the computer."

"A made-up word?" questioned Harry thinking that Tom had lost his mind.

"Yeah, like Ensign Williams, what is it she calls McAfee—

‚snookums‘?"

"Oh, well I suppose." he said not sounding convinced and not entirely believing that Ken McAfee, all 6‘7" of him, would allow anyone to call him ‚snookums.‘ Ah, he thought, it must be love.

"The fragments of messages that you didn‘t know what to do with, do you still have them?"

"Yes, so what?"

"Would you mind if I looked at them?"

"No I suppose not, though I think it‘s a waste of time, all they consist of is a few words here and there, they don‘t even make sense."

"Humor me, Harry, I used to play word games with my mother all the time. Let me look, in fact, let‘s go now," he said pulling the younger man along with him.

"Sandrine, when B‘Elanna comes in, please tell her we have gone down to stellar communications."

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"These are the message fragments Tom, can you make any sense of them?"

Tom looked them over and over on the screen and finally asked Harry to replicate some pieces of paper. He carefully duplicated the letters and words that were contained on each message each on a separate piece of paper. Then sitting cross-legged on the floor moved them around in various kinds of combinations. Which was what he was doing when his fiance came into the room.

"What is this some kind of game?" she asked Harry with a smile on her face.

"No, he‘s trying to make some sense of those message fragments," he replied shaking his head obviously believing that it was a waste of time and energy.

"Your kidding?" she said looking at Harry and noticed that he wasn‘t fooling her.

"I‘ve got it!" shouted the pilot, "Come look."

There on the floor spelled out on the paper were the following words:

JANE WAY LINE FOUR PAGE SIX PASS WORD TO MSG. STAR FLEET

"How did we miss that before?" Harry asked scratching his head.

"Maybe you were just too close to the problem." Tom said.

"Janeway should be on the bridge shouldn‘t she?" asked B‘Elanna.

"Let‘s find out," Harry said and tapped his commbadge "Ensign Kim to Captain Janeway."

"Go ahead Harry." responded the Captain.

"We‘ve made a breakthrough with the message, but we need your help, can we meet you and the Commander in your ready room in ten minutes?" the young ensign asked.

"That would be fine Harry, we‘ll be there. Captain out."

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"...then Tom wrote down the message fragments on pieces of paper and moved them all around on the floor until he came up with the message," explained B‘Elanna.

"But the message that I initially got from Starfleet only consisted of four pages," countered the Captain as she walked around the table with her hands on her hips.

"But," responded Chakotay pointing to the Captain, "that wasn‘t the only message you received, was it? You got one from Mark."

"Oh yes, but I don‘t see how," she began, "but give me a minute and I‘ll go down to my quarters and bring it right back."

A little while later, the Captain came back to the ready room carrying her ‚Dear John letter.‘ She sat down and scrolled down through the message until she got to the sixth page and counted down to the fourth line she read it aloud to the group: ‚I remember you talking about all your dogs, how many where there four?‘

"I don‘t understand how this could be a password?" she asked.

"Well what were the names of your dogs?" asked Harry.

"Let‘s see there was Bear, the Irish Setter; and before him, Remington, the black Labrador Retriever; then Casey, the Golden Retriever; and then my first dog Puppikins, she was another black lab."

"Puppikins, of course!" shouted Harry.

"What do you mean ‚of course‘?" asked the Commander thoroughly confused.

"Why ‚Puppikins‘ is a made-up name and it wouldn‘t have appeared in any connotation in the ship‘s data base, this might be the answer we have been looking for," he explained.

"Well put the name in Harry," instructed B‘Elanna anxious to see if it would work.

Harry quickly instructed the computer to supply ‚Puppikins‘ as the password to the Starfleet message, but was unsuccessful.

"Harry," B‘Elanna said, "try all four of the dogs‘ names in both normal and reverse chronological order. See if that works."

"Computer supply the names: Puppikins, Casey, Remington, and Bear and process message."

"Working...working...message being downloaded, approximate completion time three hours, twenty-two minutes." the computer droned.

Soon they would know what the Starfleet‘s message contained.
 
 

Chapter 6 - Onward and Upward

"I am glad all of you could attend this meeting," Janeway said as she looked around Shuttlebay 2 at most of her crew. A skeleton crew stationed at the bridge and engineering were monitoring the proceedings from their stations. "There are a couple of items that I would like to take care of tonight. The first item is something that is long overdue, I have a few promotions that I would like to announce. Mr. Kim, Ms. Torres, and Mr. Paris would you please come forward.

The three surprised friends approached the podium clearly self-conscious of their predominance among the rest of the crew. "It is my honor and privilege to bestow the rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade to Ensign Harry Kim, and the rank of Full Lieutenant to both Tom Paris and B‘Elanna Torres, she said as she passed out the pips that signified their new ranks to the three officers. The rest of the crew signified their approval with a round of applause. Eventually, the applause died down and the Captain continued.

"Lt. Kim, your contributions to this crew and ship over the past five years have been outstanding, not only at the communications station but also in engineering. You continue to perform at a level consistent of someone with many more years of service. I am honored to have you on my ship." Janeway walked up to the happy new lieutenant and shook his hand.

"Lt. Torres, without your talents and sacrifices you have made over the years I don‘t think we could have come as far has we have. I know that not only the crew but the ship has benefitted by your presence, ingenuity, and dedication to your job. You are a valuable asset to this ship and I am honored as well that your a member of this crew," the Captain walked up to her Chief Engineer and also shook her hand and murmured her thanks.

"And Lt. Tom Paris, what you have accomplished since we entered the Delta Quadrant has been nothing short of miraculous. Not only have you saved the ship on numerous occasions and have more than once put your life on the line, for not only the ship but your crewmates, but you have taken on the added responsibility of the ship‘s EMH medical assistant and have found the time to attend classes in order to enhance your medical training. Your actions can certainly be described as above and beyond the call of duty. I am honored to serve with you Tom," Janeway walked up to the pilot and shook his hand, looking up at his face she could see his eyes were moist with unshed tears.

"Everyone let me introduce Lt. Junior Grade Harry Kim, Lt. B‘Elanna Torres, and Lt. Tom Paris," she started clapping and the rest of the members of the crew followed.

"Now if I could again have everyone‘s attention. Several months ago we received letters from family and friends in the Alpha Quadrant. Along with those letters was a message from Starfleet. This message was cleverly hidden amongst all the letters. Lt. Harry Kim, with some recent assistance from Lts. Torres and Paris, has been working relentlessly since then to attempt to download this message. I am happy to say that finally we have the entire message." A huge round of applause erupted from her audience accompanied by whoops of joy, hugs, and kisses.

"To play the whole message would take some time, so I‘ll condense it for you. Essentially what it says is that the Federation has developed a device to create temporary wormholes. Their plan is to create a temporary wormhole in an area of space approximately 10,000 light years away. A Federation starship, the U.S.S. Salvation will then travel through this wormhole, according to the message, that would have occurred a month and a half ago. This ship is equipped with a prototype propulsion system which will enable it to rendezvous with us approximately two months from now. They will be carrying necessary provisions and supplies which will enable us to retrofit Voyager to withstand a journey through this type of wormhole. We will then travel to the wormhole location which will take approximately eleven months. That should give us plenty of time, barring confrontations with aliens, to prepare the ship for travel through the wormhole. At about the time, the Federation will begin creating a temporary wormhole once every month. We will travel through one of those wormholes back home."

"It is my hope that in eleven months from now I can assemble the crew together again but this time in the Alpha Quadrant!"

The End.

Probably to be continued.

Please send E-mail to kelhapam@lr.net and let me know what part of the story you liked the best.

Also, I‘d really appreciate it if in your e-mail you could include what state/country your from so I can keep track of how far this story travels. Thanks.

** To find out more about McAfee read "Rebecca‘s Revenge" by the same author, if you can‘t find it on the internet please e-mail me at kelhapam@lr.net.

Thanks again to my daughter and hubbie for letting me indulge in this passion. I‘ve finally forgiven my Labrador Retriever, in fact I‘ve given him a piece of the story, he‘s the real one that runs around my kitchen table with my shoes and his name is Remington.