Bring it on Homeby Bodie
Disclaimer: Paramount owns it all etc.
"Computer, access the festive decorations archive and give me a bunch of six balloons in each top corner of the room. Two red, two blue and two yellowÖ inflate them just a little moreÖ and make them more reflectiveÖ excellent."
Balloons were one of Regís favourite festive decorations, not that he had too much call for them. But today was different. The mess hall of the USS Voyager was looking more cheerful than it ever had before, during the many hours he had spent there on various holodecks across the quadrant. It was ready, but for one more addition.
"Computer, place banner RB1 on the wall facing the main door." (It was after all the first banner that Reg had designed). A large brightly coloured banner materialised on the opposite wall, proudly bearing the words "Guiding them Home" in bold, dark writing. It was just in time too. As the banner materialised on the wall, the door behind Reg slid open. His involuntary reaction, of course, was to jump. Not to mention his already nervous disposition, Reg had been caught out on the holodeck too many times not to be sensitive to the sound of an opening holodeck door.
He neednít have worried this time however as he was in far from a compromising position, not being seduced by the women of Voyager or waited on by the women of the Enterprise. In fact it was his partner Hope who had just come in through the door and it was clear that she was pleased with what she saw (the holodeck didnít look too bad either).
"Oh Reg, this is wonderful. Youíve done so well." Hope walked up to him and slid her arm around his waist (Reg still jumped slightly every time she did this, but he was getting better) as they both surveyed the scene.
"Yes, itís amazing what you can get done when working under the ambit of an admiral isnít it?" In fact it had all been remarkably easy for Reg. Getting leave from Pathfinder to organise this gathering and getting access to the largest and most powerful holodeck in San Francisco was surprisingly simple when he had the express permission and approval of Admiral Paris. Reg couldnít help but think what he could have done with this holodeck back in his days of holo-addiction. A thought that he immediately tried to suppress.
The gathering had been Regís idea. Something that was very much out of character for him. But jubilant at having contacted Voyager, and being in the fortunate position of having the ear of Admiral Paris, he made the suggestion. Experiencing the same sense of jubilation, the Admiral immediately and enthusiastically agreed to the gathering. This was somewhat out of character for the Admiral too, but, considering he had just discovered that his son was still alive and on his way back to the Alpha Quadrant, it wasnít really surprising. Admiral Paris did of course accept on the condition that Reg organise the gathering from the invitations to the venue and catering. The invitations had been the hardest part for Reg, but once he had got that out of the way, he actually enjoyed making the rest of the arrangements. Reg couldnít help but wonder, in his less lucid moments, if he may have been more suited to a career in hospitality.
Just then the computer beeped to indicate that it was midday and that guests should be expected at any moment. Almost as if to cue the holodeck doors opened and Admiral Paris strolled in wearing his full dress uniform with his wife on his arm. Mrs Paris looked suspiciously like she was a part of the uniform as well. But it did not take her long to dispel this notion in anyoneís mind.
"Oh Owen, so this is what Voyager looks like on the inside. I can almost picture Tom here."
Mrs Paris approached Reg and Hope: "And you must be Mr Barclay. Owen has told me about the wonderful work you did on Pathfinder. We were so thankful to hear that Voyager was still going well on their way back home. But with such a good pilot, who can be surprised."
Admiral Paris caught up with his wife: "Mr Barclay, Iíd like to introduce my wife."
Reg quickly wiped the excess sweat that always seemed to accumulate in the palm of his right hand during introductions, onto the bottom of his shirt, before proffering it to be shaken. "Itís a pleasure to meet you Mrs Paris", Reg stammered in his usual style. "And this is my partner HopeÖ Admiral Paris and Mrs Paris". Hope confidently said "How do you do" as she took each of their hands in turn.
"If itís Tom you would like to imagine here Mrs Paris, I have placed pictures of as many of Voyagerís crew as I could find on the wall over here. I found the pictures in personnel files a bit impersonal so in many cases I substituted them for Academy graduation pictures." Reg walked Mrs Paris over to the wall containing a large range and variety of pictures.
"Oh, will you look at Tomís hair. He looks like he just got out of bed. I havenít understood young peoplesí fashions since I was one myself. Iím glad you donít have any pictures from my youth, Mr Barclay. But my Tom does have a lovely and full head of hair doesnít he? Well at least last time I saw him anyway, but I donít imagine itís changed much since then."
It didnít appear that Reg was actually required to add anything to this conversation. Mrs Paris could carry one of her own accord. Reg didnít really mind, as long as there was no awkward silences (the natural enemy of a nervous disposition).
Meanwhile, other guests had begun to arrive. The Kims were the next to arrive, accompanied by the ensignís girlfriend Libby. Libby had remained in touch with Harryís parents during the time that they believed Voyager was lost. Just as she was coming to terms with the loss of Harry and had begun to notice the bevy of eligible young males around her, the Kims contacted her to let her know that Voyager had made contact.
This had left Libby quite confused as she wasnít sure whether to wait for Harry or not. But after a considerable amount of thought she realised that Harry may not be back for many years. Libby decided to enter the singles market again and just not inform the Kims about that part of her life. Besides, a couple of brief relationships with Star Fleet officers who had turned out to be complete arseholes was nothing much to report.
This decision was probably just as well, as it allowed the Kims to maintain the romantic illusion that Harry and Libby were faithfully waiting for each other at the other end of the galaxy. They were sure that Harry would not engage in any hanky panky in the Delta Quadrant and Libby had given them no evidence to think that she would do otherwise.
After meeting Reg, Hope and Mr and Mrs Paris, the three of them also naturally gravitated to the picture wall to search for a likeness of Harry. Reg had tracked down a picture of Harry in his youth orchestra days, proudly holding forth his clarinet.
"Look at Harry, doesnít he look so young?" exclaimed Libby, while at the same time remembering all the clarinet double entendre that she used to tease Harry with whenever he used to get his instrument out. But she thought that was best left unsaid.
The door opened again, and in walked a tall elegant looking man with fine blond hair, accompanied by a young blond girl, who couldnít have been more than ten years old. Reg did not recognise them, so he thought he should go over and introduce himself (to ensure they were not gate-crashing. Voyager had received a bit of attention in the press when they discovered it was still out there, so it was conceivable that some people who were not invited may come along).
Reg walked up to them, wiping his hand on his sleeve: "Hello, my name is Reg Barclay, nice to meet you."
After a brief moment a light of recognition entered the manís eyes. He shook Regís hand vigorously: "Oh, hello Mr Barclay. My nameís Jens Hansen. I believe you talked to my wife a couple of times about the gathering last month. Iím AnnikaÖ erÖ Seven of Nineís uncle. Itís a great pleasure to meet you."
"ErÖ thankyou. You too." Reg muttered softly as he attempted to retract his hand.
"When I heard about the work you did on Pathfinder I was greatly impressed. You see Iím a bit of an amateur communications engineer myself. But creating an artificial singularity to patch a message through to Voyager, thatís absolutely brilliant. I would never have thought of that myself."
Before he could launch into further superlatives Jens was interrupted by the tugging of the girl on his sleeve. "Oh, Iím terribly sorry, dear. Mr Barclay this is my daughter Annika. You see when we named her we had no idea that Seven of Nine was even alive, let alone coming back to earth. We had long ago given up my brother and his family for lost. But we liked the name Annika so much that we thought thatís what weíd name our daughter."
One thing that made Reg more uncomfortable than being around adults was being around children. As a child himself he longed to be an adult so he could escape his domineering parents and the bullying and teasing of other children. Little did he know, of course, what a magnet for teasing he would become in his adult life. The crew of the Enterprise were not the first to dub him "Broccoli" even though he let them think so. He could not count the number of times that he found cold broccoli in his short-sheeted bed at the Academy. As a result, he still checked between the sheets of his bed every night. It was generally a relief these days when all he found was Hope, and her inquiring / semi-mocking look, in his bed.
However, Reg tried to hide his apprehension as he leaned forwards and shook young Annikaís hand. It helped that she appeared to find her own father rather tiresome.
"Iíd like to apologise for my father.", Annika said as Jens walked off to check out the refreshments. "He tends to get a little excited, especially when talking about Voyager."
Reg was pleasantly surprised. It seemed that Annika was not the greatest fan of childhood either. Especially with one parent who didnít appear to have left childhood yet. "Thatís OK" Reg replied "I can get a bit excited by Voyager myself".
"I can see that!" Annika replied as she looked around the room. "But at least this is your job. My father is a proctologist. Not really an explorer like Aunt Erin and Uncle Magnus." Reg decided to leave that one alone.
"How do you feel about Voyager Annika?"
"I find it very interesting" she replied. "I hope to meet my cousin sometime soon." She glanced over to the picture wall where people were congregating. "Did you find a picture of Seven of Nine?"
"Yes of a fashion. I was actually surprised with the number of pictures I found of her on civilian databases." They walked over to the wall. "Unfortunately the most recent picture I found of her was when she was five years old." He pointed towards a picture of a pale young girl with blond hair, smiling broadly. She looked quite a bit like Annika. Reg decided not to comment on the likeness.
In the centre of the picture wall was a picture of Captain Janeway, just before Voyager left on their mission to find Chakotayís ship. Her hair was pulled back in a matronly bun, and her eyes drilled a hole through whoever was in the way.
Family likenesses came to the fore again as two woman resembling Janeway walked through the door. One was a generation older while the other looked somewhat younger if anything. Neither felt the need to look particularly matronly however. Both had their shoulder length hair down and back off their faces. The youngerís was a mousy brown colour, while the elderís was a dignified grey. They were followed by a man who didnít look particularly Janewayish at all.
Reg excused himself from Annika who wandered off to find her father and make sure he wasnít being too much of an embarrassment to the family. Or boring / disgusting people with hobby / work conversations. Luckily he was so engrossed with the variety of food at the refreshment table that he hadnít had the time to annoy other people yet.
Reg approached the new comers to the gathering. "You must be the Janeways. Welcome to the gathering." Phoebe was used to people who knew Kathryn recognising her as her sister. She wasnít sure whether it was better or worse than the number of times she was compared to her mother in her teenage years.
"And you must be Mr Barclay." Phoebe replied. "Thankyou for organising this gathering. It looks very cheerful. Iíd like to introduce you to my mother." Reg shook her hand and made the appropriate greeting gestures. "And this is Mark, a friend of Kathrynís and ours." Reg shook Markís hand while postulating on the intriguing introduction.
"Have you known Captain Janeway for long, Mark?"
"Yes, for quite some while now." Mark answered uncomfortably and somewhat evasively while fidgeting with his wedding ring. Reg thought it was probably best to leave that line of enquiry there. Luckily, Kathrynís mother jumped in before any sort of uncomfortable silence could develop. "Mr Barclay. I believe we have two things to thank you for: contacting Voyager and organising this party. It was so wonderful to hear Kathrynís voice again."
Reg was not the best at accepting praise and today he was suffering from an over dose of the stuff. If someone was telling you off at least you could apologise for your mistake or try to sort out how to rectify the situation. But if people were thanking you, how should you respond? If you reply "Thankyou" it sounds a bit silly. If you try to dissemble by saying something like "It was no problem", depending on the context, it either comes across as being falsely modest ("the Nobel prize I just won for my careerís work, it was nothing really"), boastful ("finding a cure for that species threatening disease, it was no problem, I can do something that easy blindfolded, with my hands tied behind my back, while eating breakfast"), or just plain ridiculous ("single handedly pulling one hundred obese people without legs out of the 50th floor of that burning building, it was no worries at all").
He tried to be as gracious and comfortable as possible. "Well you can thank Admiral Paris for todayís gathering. It would never have gone ahead without his backing." Shifting the blame / praise was generally Regís favourite tactic.
"Oh, Mr Barclay, I believe that youíre being falsely modest." Could be worse, thought Reg.
"I just wanted to tell you Mrs Janeway what a remarkable person I think the Captain is. I spent quite a bit of time studying Voyager for my work on Pathfinder, so Iím very familiar with the Captainís career. To me she embodies the best of what Star Fleet is about." Reg tried not to think of some of his encounters with the holographic Captain at that point in time.
"Getting her ship and crew stuck on the other side of the galaxy?" Mrs Janeway responded with a wry grin. "If thatís what Star Fleetís about I confess to being a little worried for the future, Mr Barclay."
"Itís the getting them home bit that I find remarkable."
"Letís not count our chickens yet. But I do share your confidence and optimism. Well you two, lets go and meet some more people. Weíve got a lot more to hear about Kathryn today. I dare say weíll talk to you later Mr Barclay."
With that the three of them strolled off into the gathering throng. Reg did a quick head count and it appeared that pretty much everyone who had said they were coming had arrived. Then he remembered that there was one more person to come.
"Computer, activate Emergency Medical Hologram, mark two."
"Please state the nature of the medical emergency" insisted a rather tall, slim and slightly effeminate male. He looked around the room. "Hey this isnít my sick bay and these people donít look sick, they look happy." He turned on Reg. "I demand to know why Iím here."
Reg smiled. It was amazing how grumpy and officious some holograms could get. But he was on much more sure footing with holograms. They didnít bother him at all, not even the stroppy ones.
"Doctor, so glad you could make it. Welcome to the gathering of the family and friends of Voyager."
"Is anyone sick" the doctor asked tersely. "That salmon mousse looks suspicious."
"No doctor, this is purely a social gathering. You are the EMH from the Prometheus who worked with the EMH from Voyager arenít you?"
"Yes" smirked the doctor "I saved the day. But what has that got to do with me being here now?"
"Well, that makes you a friend of Voyager. I thought we could also use it as an opportunity to iron out some faults in your personality algorithms. Besides, thereís people here that would like to meet you."
"You didnít even ask me if I wanted to come first. Who needs their personality algorithms worked on? But seeing as Iím here now I might as well take my social skills out for a test run. A good opportunity to bathe in the glory I should imagine. But first Iíll check that salmon mousse out. Computer, give me a medical tricorder."
Reg smiled as the EMH purposefully strode towards the food. He wondered if it was possible to create a brilliant surgeon that wasnít equally as arrogant. It didnít seem possible with humans, so why should it be any different for holograms created by humans?
As Reg scanned the room for Hope. He saw a few faces that looked like they didnít belong there.
Gate crashers are usually pretty easy to spot at a gathering. They tend to stand in a group looking like theyíre not enjoying themselves quite as much as everyone else because theyíre afraid of being caught and thrown out. That was the bad gate crashers anyway. The ones who were good at it were generally too skilful to be picked out in a decent sized crowd. At Regís coming of age party, gate crashers had been very easily spotted because they were the ones who were more interesting than his friends.
Reg walked up to the rather timid looking group and was pleased with the increasing look of fear in their eyes as he approached. "I donít believe weíve met" he said in as authoritative a voice as he could conjure.
The one who was cringing the least and was obviously the leader of the group attempted a reply. "Um, hello Mr Barclay. My nameís Kerr Kest. Err, itís a great party youíve got here."
"Thankyou" replied Reg, "and who would you be family or friends of?" he demanded.
"Well, ah, weíre kind of friends of the whole crew."
"Really!" replied Reg, actually beginning to enjoy being the ogre "you guys must really get around."
"No, you see, err, weíre great, ah, fans of Voyager. Ever since we heard about Voyager, weíve been kind of obsessed with it" the others grimly nodded. "Weíve learned as much about Voyager and itís crew as we possibly could. In fact we even role play sometimes." Kerr pulled an imitation Star Fleet communicator out of his pocket as proof. The others followed suit, presenting their "obsessed" identification. Reg even suspected he could see the faint outline of a temporary tattoo on the forehead of one of the young men. The girl holding his hand with her hair up in a bun was also a bit of a dead giveaway.
Given his own past, Reg didnít really feel he could be too hard on these kids. "OK, you lot can stay, on the condition that you donít create any trouble. The first sign of a disturbance and Iíll call Star Fleet security on you."
The expression on their faces was a mixture of elation, and fear, from the possibility of Star Fleet security. Reg leaned towards Kerr and whispered: "do you have access to a holodeck Kerr?"
"Yes sir" he replied.
"Good. Contact me tomorrow, Iíve got a programme that you and your friends might enjoy."
With that Reg left Kerr and his friends to talk excitedly amongst themselves. Admiral Paris caught Regís eye and motioned him to come over. Do you think itís time for me to say a few words Mr Barclay?"
"Yes sir, I think so. I donít think Mr Hansen could push the EMH any further into that corner." Reg motioned over towards the far corner of the room where Jens Hansen appeared to be enthusiastically babbling at the EMH, and the EMH didnít look like he was enjoying it a great deal.
"Iíll just get the crowdís attention sir." Reg picked up a glass from the nearest table and vigorously drummed it with a spoon. After a few seconds the room was nearly silent. Annika walked across the room and violently tugged on her fatherís shirt, much to the relief of the EMH. The room was now silent except for the soft humming of the imaginary engines.
"Thankyou Mr Barclay. Iíd just like to say a few words. For those of you Iím donít know me, Iím Owen Paris, Tomís father. First off, Iíd like to thank you for attending today. I know Voyager means a lot to me, and I can tell looking around the room today that it means a lot to you too. Secondly, Iíd like to give a big thankyou to Mr Barclay who organised this little shin-dig, I think heís done a wonderful job."
With that the crowd erupted into applause and Reg appeared to turn the colour of an over-ripe tomato. He also jumped as Hope slid her arm around his waist and gave him a kiss on the cheek. After recovering, Reg produced a half-grin, not showing any of his teeth.
The Admiral resumed. "I know Voyager has caused a great mixture of emotions for us over the last few years. Sorrow when we thought we had lost them turned to great joy when we discovered that they were alive and on their way home. And of course those of you who have lost your loved ones in the Delta Quadrant have my condolences. They were a credit to Star Fleet."
"Now I must confess to be feeling a mixture of trepidation and hope. Trepidation that they still may not make it home, but great hopeÖ and confidence that they will and soon. You can be guaranteed that at Star Fleet we are doing everything within our power to bring them home as soon as possible. There is not a wormhole that we are leaving unexplored, and not a new propulsion system that we are not testing."
"So what can we do here, now, to help bring Voyager home safely and swiftly? Now, I would not describe myself as a particularly spiritual man, but Iím sure that all the warmth and positive energy Iím feeling in this room today just might help to speed Voyager on their way. Once again thankyou, and enjoy the rest of the day."
The Admiralís speech was greeted with a warm round of applause, and the guests returned to their conversations, invigorated and feeling a little more optimistic than they had before.
Meanwhile, as the Prixin party got into full swing aboard the real Voyager, a brief and unexplained power surge shorted out a replicator in the mess hall and a stutter in the engine added about five seconds to Voyagerís journey home.
Bodie does check his mail every now & then. If you liked it, please let him know.
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