Will Riker stood in the center of the command circle of the once-bustling Yorktown bridge, settling his fingers lightly on the back of the first officer's chair. Not his chair, not yet - and not likely to be ever, now, he reminded himself with a pang of regret. The Yorktown was hardly the prime of the fleet, but she was a good ship. A damn good ship.
'*All remaining personnel, please report to your designated transporter room. Final evacuation will begin at oh-nine-hundred hours. All remaining personnel, please report to your designated transporter room.*'
Riker sighed, the unemotional tones of the computer pushing him deeper into his fog of disappointment and regret. Yes, a damn good ship, and he'd have been proud to serve her as first officer. He'd have been up for the position in a few months, too, if they hadn't stumbled into the raider attack that had securely scuppered the old ship's chances of ever seeing deep space again. Starfleet had to do something about that growing problem, Riker noted with a touch of anger that such a fine ship had been allowed to go down like this, but he had to face the fact that he wasn't likely to be a part of the solution. All the prime positions were taken, the Yorktown not being expected to fall out of commission so suddenly, and it would be months before something came up that would edge him another rung up the ladder. He'd likely be put planetside again now, probably on Earth since they were so close. With a resigned sigh, he ran a finger lightly along the edge of the chair and let it spin as he stepped away. The turbolift opened automatically, detecting his presence, and he turned inside to pay one last salute to the ship that had been his home, however transiently. The chair was still spinning aimlessly as the doors closed around him, a solitary movement on the wrecked and deserted bridge.
The officer in charge nodded to him as he stepped into the transporter room, gesturing with a silent solemnity to the waiting pad. With a single nod of his head, he complied, appreciating the quiet and sober way the man was conducting himself. It was like leaving a funeral, he thought bitterly. Or perhaps arriving for one, as the room shimmered around him and he coalesced on the brightly-lit transporter platform of McKinley Station. The reception was just as sombre as his departure; although it wasn't the first time he'd transported to the station, it would be the last from that particular place, and the station crew seemed to appreciate that a certain candour was appropriate when dealing with an officer who'd just lost his ship.
The station, as was probably due its nature, had viewing rooms arranged along the interior of each strut. A few were in use, but Riker had no wish to intrude on anyone else who might be catching their last glimpse of the shattered vessel.
He stared out at the crippled ship floating just outside his reach, his hands resting lightly but instinctively on the plasglas of the window. The deep stress fractures showing on her hull displayed themselves like battle scars - even a wreck as she was, she managed to look proud, unafraid of the fate that would now become her. He couldn't help being reminded, suddenly and insanely, of Deanna Troi: standing in the grip of a Sindareen raider, tall and proud and looking right into his eyes with that deep, lovely gaze of hers -
He shook himself away from the thought, amazed that it could surface so readily after so many months and somewhat irritated that he could let the image of her face distract him from the regret and anger he wanted to feel right now. Thinking of Deanna soothed him, oddly, and he really didn't feel like being soothed with the vista of the Yorktown still in front of him. He wanted anger, bitterness, disappointment -
The hesitant tone addressing him made the woman clearly his subordinate, and he saw as he turned that she was a pretty young thing; an ensign, by her pips, barely Deanna's age... He sighed and mentally slapped himself, straightening his uniform a little to cover the lapse.
The young ensign held out a PADD, looking a little hesitant and to Riker's eyes, perhaps even slightly afraid of him. Understandable, he realised, given the circumstances. "I have a communique for you, sir. Priority two from Starfleet Headquarters."
He held out his hand in return, trying not to seem too brusque with her but not feeling chipper enough to say anything friendly as he might usually do. Besides, flirting with another woman with Deanna's face floating in his head wasn't exactly his idea of guilt-free fun.
"Thank you, Ensign." He rewarded her with a curt nod, indicating her dismissal: luckily she took the hint, tossing off a quick salute that Riker found wholly too enthusiastic for the circumstances, and quickly backed out of the room.
The message was headed by the standard details, with nothing to mourn his loss or that of his captain, but Riker wasn't surprised. It was comfortingly unemotional, oddly enough, but very clear.
The PADD seemed to melt out of his hand for a moment, and he re-read the destination three times before he finally let it drop to the floor. An odd smile began to form on his lips then as he turned to look out, once more, at the ruined but proud Yorktown.
"Well, I'll be damned."