Previous Episode << >> Next Part
The final chapter.
3rd - 4th December 2015
The computer screen continuously flashed at him, demanding his immediate attention.
Tom had been staring in its general vicinity for ten minutes so far. It could complain all it wanted, he thought to himself. He knew as soon as he looked at it, there would be only a short space of time to reply. Everytime he had to talk to him he no longer felt like the infamous Tom Paris who guided the Voyager crew back home despite impossible odds and brought back the long thought destroyed Enterprise from the dead. Instead he'd feel like he was fifteen years old again, hiding his maritime manuals and ship models from his father.
It was time to get it over with. His hand flew to the computer before he could change his mind. The screen instantly changed to show his father, Admiral Paris, sitting at his desk in the San Francisco offices. His stomach lurched at the sight of him.
"Afternoon son. I trust your mission to the Morikin system went well," Paris said with an awkward smile.
He was too casual, a little too friendly, Tom thought to himself. It always threw him off guard.
"We're all ready for your gathering tomorrow evening. I hope to join you this year, it seems only fitting," Paris said. Tom caught his last breath in his throat. "If I don't make it, I'll catch you up on the latest over the following breakfast. If you'll have me."
Tom winced through his teeth. "I think I may be out that morning."
Thankfully it was a recorded message. Tom studied for any reaction in his father's face, just in case. There was none so he tried to relax. "Regardless, I'll see you soon son. Admiral Paris out." Finally his image disappeared.
"Sure," Tom muttered distastefully. The Admiral would likely be notified of his message being received, and be waiting for a prompt reply. He always expected extreme punctuality from everyone. That at least hadn't changed. He had a few minutes to put on his game face and decide how to reply.
Cocky smile armed, a boring status report quickly tapped on a PADD by his hand, Tom was ready to face the beast.
B'Elanna cast a watchful eye on the warp core as it hummed gently. She still wasn't used to the new, flashy design they implemented. The simplistic and yet mesmerising look of Voyager's core couldn't be beaten, while the bulky old looking Enterprise one left a bitter taste in her mouth. Both of them had their coolant tanks exposed, so at least this new one had one good thing about it with the deadly material flowing beneath the core's outer layer. Inspired by the slipstream drive design, it had the same overall shape of Voyager's, but armoured by a silly neon striped shell. She'd accept that if it weren't for the red glowing tubes gracing the four corners.
Somebody appeared in her peripheral, to her right. It took her a moment to bring her full attention back to reality. She turned to address the nervous and very young crewman standing beside her. Easily twice her height, average build, even so he was very much on edge around her. B'Elanna thought to herself that she had calmed down since the old days, still it made her smile.
"What is it Ensign?" she greeted him warmly.
"The hourly report, sir. The only problem appears to be two malfunctioning gel packs on Deck Five," he reported. B'Elanna was about to question him further, he had a feeling what she would say and responded before she could, "there's a team already on the case. They reported in two minutes ago, they said replacements were needed. It should be done in half an hour."
B'Elanna nodded appreciatively, still the Ensign didn't relax. "At ease before you sprain something."
"Sir?" the Ensign almost squeaked.
"Relax. We'll reach Earth within a few hours. After that anything that goes wrong is McKinley's problem," B'Elanna said, laughing lightly.
The Ensign laughed hesitantly with her, unsure if he was supposed to. "You um... looking forward to seeing your crew again?" he asked.
His question was a step in the right direction, she figured, even if it was an obvious one. B'Elanna hadn't thought about it recently until now. "Some, yes, if they make it this time."
The main entrance doors opened, getting her attention. "Keep up the good work," she said before walking away towards it and the new arrival. "How did it go?"
Tom still had his smile painted on as he glanced around at passing engineers. Once they left he tried to fade it out, it proved a little difficult. "Same as ever." B'Elanna sensed a missing but at the end of his sentence. She waited for it. Instead he lowered his chin. "Maybe we should think about leaving the kids at home this year."
"Tom," B'Elanna's voice lowered, disagreeing with him but softly. "We don't know for sure. Even if we did, it would only look off to everyone." Tom knew she was right, still he couldn't shake off his paranoia. "Miral's really looking forward to seeing Amy."
"Yeah," Tom answered meekly. His mask finally melting into a grimace.
A hand gently cusped his shoulder, supportive and warm. "Remember, everything's normal."
The word had very little meaning to him now. It had been so long since his life could be described as such.
"We did this last year, and the year before. We'll exchange stories, make fun of each other, eat and drink. Come two days our lives will be back to normal, for another year," B'Elanna said. "Same as every other year."
"He's going to be there, so he says," Tom said quietly.
She didn't have to ask or wonder anymore. The reason for Tom's greater anxiety was plain for her to see, not that anyone else would. All she could do was keep his mind off it until the time arrived.
TO BE CONTINUED
Previous Episode << >> Next Part