Title: Picard's New Ship

Rating: T

Summary: It was supposed to be only a temporary assignment, to find Tuvok who was a spy among the Maquis and bring him home. For Captain Picard, and part of the crew of the former Enterprise, it turned into a very long journey and forming a little community.

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the Star Trek characters and I'm making nothing from this.

A/N: The events of this story takes place after Generations, the first Next Gen movie that had the destruction of the Enterprise D.

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Chapter 3: The Caretaker (Part 3)

When he came back to the array he found the Caretaker in bad shape. Something inside of him told him that this old man, who had caused them so much trouble, was coming to an end. Tuvok had gone to try to reactivate the array so that Voyager could leave. Picard sat down and looked at this old man with sad eyes. He talked, talked about what he had done, what he was, and his fear that the Kazon would take all the water and force the Ocampa to return to the surface.

"They need to grow," Picard told him. "I've seen dozens of worlds and they have all overcome things and grown. Maybe they'll do better than you think."

"I guess I'm the only one that has faith."

Picard had to smile at that.

The decision was made to destroy the array, something that he knew that the others wouldn't like him to do. However, he had made the mistake once in allowing a whole world to die out and he wasn't about to make that same mistake. They were seventy-five years away from Federation space and the rules, it seemed, didn't really apply much in this case. It would take him a long time to see Will, Deanna, or even Worf but he knew they would be waiting on him and the others.

"We're going to destroy the array," he told them.

"What," Torres said. "THAT IS OUR ONLY WAY HOME."

"I know that," Picard said. "But I can't allow that technology to fall into the wrong hands."

"Who does he think he is?"

"The Captain," Chakotay answered, who had managed to destroy one of the Kazon ships with his own.

"Fire," Picard ordered and Kim sent several of their torpedo's at the array.

The thing exploded and Picard mentally sighed at what he had done. Deep down he knew that he had made the right choice.

"We're being hailed," Kim told him.

"On screen," Picard said.

"You've made an enemy today," was the only thing that was spoken to him and then nothing.

The remaining ships left, leaving Voyager the only ship in the area.

The next morning Picard called Paris into his ready room. He had just updated Paris's file to include a field commission of Lt. He had done it, once, for Wesley, and he had no problem doing it again. He had also updated Chakotay's record as well. He had made the choice that the two crews should combine as one. The former commander had agreed that was a good idea.

"I'm also in Tom Paris's debt, for someone strange reason," he said.

"Oh really," Picard said to him, "Well that should make this interesting."

"Do you think you made the right choice?" Chakotay asked him.

"I think I did," Picard said. "One of the things that you learn is that sometimes the choices that aren't popular turn out to be the best."

"I hope that I can learn much from you," he said.

"I hope so too."

When Paris entered his ready room he said, "You wanted to see me."

"Yes, Mr. Paris," Picard said. "When you came on board you were supposed to be an observer but things have changed. I must admit that I was impressed by how you handled things. So I've updated your file to include a field commission of Lt."

Paris gave him a shocked look and Picard extended his hand, "Congratulations Lt. Paris."

He took the handshake and said, "For once I'm speechless."

"To bad your father couldn't see this," he said.

"Oh I have a feeling that he'll find out, when we get back home," Paris told him.

"Another thing, Lt." Picard said. "Chakotay told me that he owes you a debt, for some unknown reason. So I've asked him and his crew to stay on-board. We will be one crew with the single purpose of returning home."

"I think I'm going to enjoy this."

Picard grinned at him and said, "He will also be my new First Officer with the rank of Commander. Everyone will report to him from now on."

"Why do I have a feeling that he's going to enjoy this way too much."

"Don't worry, I'll make sure that he doesn't enjoy it as much as you think," he said, though deep down he knew that he wasn't going to do that.

As Paris left Neelix and Kes appeared.

"We have your ship fully stocked with water."

"We're staying," he said.

"We're not a passage ship," Picard told him.

"We won't be passengers; we'll be valuable members of your crew."

And then he went off about all the things that he could give them, the races that he was friends with. Even though he was right about it not being a passenger ship, he knew that he needed all the help that he could get.

"Welcome on-board," Picard told them.

He walked onto his bridge on a ship that now belonged to him and looked around at a crew that he never thought he would have. Geordi, Beverly, Miles, Data, all four of them that had willingly had come with him on what was supposed to be a short mission. He turned and looked at the vast space that was part of space that he had only been in for a short amount of time.

"Even at maximum warp it will take us seventy-five years to get home," he told them. "We have decided to join crews and turn this into a Starfleet ship, with a Starfleet crew. We have made friends and we have made our first enemy. However, I'm not about to wait that long. There is someone out there that has the power to take us home much faster and we'll find her. We will also be looking for anything that can help us get home. I made a vow, as your Captain, to see this mission through.

"And as the only ship assigned to the Delta Quadrant we will continue to seek out new lives, new civilizations, and gain new allies. It will be a long journey but I believe it will be worth it in the end. Mr. Paris, set a courseā€¦for home."

"Yes, sir," he said and Voyager shot into warp and into the unknown.

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A/N: This story isn't over with. This is the end of Caretaker.