Star Trek: Titan - "Circle of Fate" part 1
Space. The final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Titan to explore strange, new worlds to seek out new life and new civilizations to boldly go where no one has gone before.
STAR TREK TITAN
Captain William T. Riker
Commander Aaron Jameson
Counselor Deanna Troi
Chief Engineer Miles O'Brien
Lt. Commander Reginald Barclay
Dr. Julian Bashir
Lt. Wesley Crusher
Lt. Michael Daniels
Blue skies smiling at me, nothing but blue skies do I see. Blue birds singing a song, nothing but blue skies all day long. Never saw the sun shining so bright, never saw things going so right. Noticing the days hurrying by, when you're in love, my how the fly
Captain Jean-Luc Picard exited the turbolift that lead to the command center of the Enterprise. Normally he would have taken confident strides with a slight scowl on his face. Today, however, he was forced to stop in his tracks as he assessed the new situation that they were all in. Gone was his trusted Number One and sitting in his place was a young man barely the same age as Will was on that first mission so long ago.
Across from him was the empty chair of his Counselor. She was to be picked up at Starbase 141 in two days along with a few other new officers. Picard smiled as he remembered what it was like sitting in the middle of both Will and Deanna on the bridge. Him, trying to concentrate on whatever task had found him while he pretended not to notice the looks that the Commander and Counselor threw at each other. When they had returned from the Briar Patch, it just got worse. Soon he was seriously thinking about locking them both in a his ready room until they got it out of their system. Of course, such an act would have been highly unprofessional and underhanded. That's why he was probably the most relieved when they announced their engagement. At least, they had resolved the matter and he could work in peace without having to ward off the temptation to separate the two.
The wedding had been beautiful and full of emotions that he was expecting but when they came, he found himself not knowing how to deal with them. In that moment when he was giving his toast to the bride and groom, no one else would have suspected it, but he was desperately fighting back threatening tears. In fact, perhaps they all were now that he really thought about it. It was a bittersweet toast not only to their marriage but also to the future where they, as a crew, would no longer be together.
"Captain," the voice startled Picard and he snapped out of his trance. His eyes searched the bridge until he found who the voice had belonged to. His first officer was watching him cautiously and confidently at the same time. "Captain," he repeated, "Command has cleared us for warp. The docking clamps will be released in about three minutes."
Picard's chest welled up in a deep breath and he slowly made his way to his new chair. All he wanted to do was prolong their orbit around Earth because as long as he was still here, he was still with Will, Deanna, and Beverly. He also knew that it was an impossibility. Starfleet had given him new orders to explore the Denab system which was in a strategic position so that they could offer assistance to the task force if something went foul in the talks with the Romulans.
In a way, he felt as if the Enterprise should have a more vital role in the talks because he had been the one who had partially caused the talks in the first place. He had commanded the battle that saved the Empire. He was the one who had been cloned by them. He was the one who had stood in their senate chamber. Starfleet wouldn't let him near Romulus for the same reason they didn't want the Enterprise fighting the Borg six years ago when they had invaded again. It didn't matter so much this time, however, as part of him would be there in that senate chamber. Will Riker would lead the talks and being the skilled diplomat that he was, Picard was certain that he would deliver a good report to Starfleet.
He sat comfortably in his new chair, wiggling a bit to find the right spot. As he leaned back he noticed Worf at the tactical station and Geordi at the engineering station. They were all that was left of his former crew and Data who knew where Data really was. Perhaps he was just a few decks away, sitting at the desk in his quarters looking at data chips. He smiled at the thought.
Picard had discussed the mission with Commander Madden on the bridge a short time ago and had to bite back a chuckle at the young man's uneasiness. Actually, he found Riker's practical joke on Madden to be more amusing. That was the spirit of Will Riker that he would never forget. Always looking to have fun. He would have his crew wrapped around his finger in no time at all.
Picard shot a glance at his second in command and then retuned it to the front of the bridge. "Ensign, prepare to take us out of orbit. Commander Madden, you may do the honors."
The birght-faced, newly commissioned commander of the U.S.S. Enterprise flashed a brief smile in Picard's direction before giving the orders to engage the engines.
In the dark elegance of space hovering above the spinning Earth below was the most beautiful sight that Captain William T. Riker had ever seen. He lingered in the window of the docking station that orbited the terran planet. Out of the corner of his eye he could still see the Enterprise undergoing repairs. It had been hard to leave her behind after so many years. Even harder was leaving the people behind that he had served with. Only a half hour ago had he disembarked and said goodbye to his former Captain. Now he stood on the threshold of something new and exciting. He was about to officially take command of his very first ship and she was a beauty.
The U.S.S. Titan was one of the new Galaxy class ships built to replace the ones lost in the Dominion War. Truth be told, he had a hard time differentiating the Titan and the Enterprise D. On the outside they looked almost identical even though he knew that the Titan would be much better equipped than the D ever was. It had new computers, new weapon systems, bigger and better laboratories including stellar cartography. It even had an extra holodeck.
Although he had not seen the inside of the ship yet, he knew that it was supposed to look very much like the interior of the D as well. The Titan was designed to carry 1100 passengers, nearly 100 more than the former Enterprise. There were dozens of families onboard with almost 80 children. A third more than the D. Riker could do nothing more than smile. He was definitely looking forward to serving on a galaxy class ship again. God bless the Enterprise E, but it really wasn't his style. It was cramped and darker than he liked. However, it had not taken him long to get used to it initially.
Now he would have some leg room, so to speak. Deanna was looking forward to the opportunity to work with families and children again. All of her work on the Enterprise E had centered around crew members with work problems and battle weary officers having a hard time coping with the war. Not to mention the endless research sessions that he had so often helped her with in preparation for talks with new races and candidates for federation citizenship. There would be one thing he would miss though and that was working on the personnel reviews with her. Even though the task was daunting they had always managed to make it tolerable and sometimes fun. It meant that they had an excuse to be together while working. Now she would work with Commander Aaron Jameson, his new first officer.
"Captain," Will was startled out of his thoughts by a deep voice behind him. He turned from the window to find Admiral Parris with his hand extended.
"Admiral Parris," Riker said as he shook the older man's hand.
"Starfleet is proud to have such a fine officer as her newest Captain. It only took you 15 years." Riker chuckled along with the admiral as they released hands.
He shot a glance over his shoulder, clearly indicating the Enterprise. "If you had the chance to serve on that ship with the finest crew in the Fleet, you'd understand why it took me so long."
Parris nodded slightly, "Indeed, I probably would. But from looking at your crew manifest, I'd say that Picard has some competition coming his way."
Will smiled, "You bet. I'm looking forward to it."
The Admiral extended his arm, indicating that they should begin walking to the docking hatch of the Titan. Will quickly looked at the Enterprise one last time before he fell into step beside the Admiral. The Enterprise was in his past now. All he had left of it was fond memories. His future lied just a few meters ahead.
"The ceremony will be at 1900 hours in your Ten Forward, I believe you call it. Then you will be underway to Romulus. Tell me, Captain, are you prepared for such a difficult assignment?"
Will draped his hands behind his back as he walked along the corridor of the station. It was busy with people walking in all different directions. Some he noticed were heading towards the Titan as well. "It will be difficult but I've learned how to deal with them in my years on the Enterprise. It's always a chess game with them. Move, counter-move."
"Some in Starfleet do not believe that they are being sincere. Do you?"
Riker looked at the Admiral for a moment before answering. "Admiral, in my dealings with the Romulans in the past, there have been many times when I thought we would be fighting a war the next day. Then there were times when we worked along side them and it was during those times that I saw a glimmer of hope that we would someday be able to get along and become allies."
Parris stopped walking and Riker suddenly realized that they were at the doors that would lead to the interior of his new ship. "Perhaps that day has finally arrived, Captain. You seem well equipped to deal with the situation. The Enterprise has logged almost all contact with the Romulans that Starfleet has had save for the war. That's one of the reasons we're sending you. You, Mr. Riker, apparently have an uncanny skill when it comes to diplomacy. I'm looking forward to seeing the results. I want you to know that Starfleet has the up most confidence in you to carry out this mission successfully."
Riker couldn't help but allow a little bit of pride to seep into his expression at the Admiral's words. "I'll do my best, sir."
"Good," the Admiral turned to walk away but stopped short. "By the way, Captain, congratulations on your marriage. Counselor Troi is a remarkable officer and a fine woman."
"That she is, sir," this time the pride was clearly seen on the Captain's face.
"I'll see you at 1900 hours, Captain," Parris said over his shoulder as he walked away. Will continued to stare at him for a moment before rotating himself to step through the docking doors. As he did, he ran directly into a frazzled ensign with a green collar on his uniform.
"Excuse me, sir," he said hurriedly not sure whether to stand at attention or continue on his way. Riker couldn't help but smile at the young man's apparent predicament.
"Don't worry about it, Mr "
"Addington, sir," the dark-haired ensign replied, deciding to finally come to attention.
Will clapped him on the shoulder, "Relax, Mr. Addington. Brent is it?"
The young man dropped his shoulders slightly while a shocked look came over his face. It wasn't usual for a brand new captain to know the first names of his crew. But he had heard that Riker's command style seemed to accommodate such unusualness.
"Yes, sir. I'm assigned to-"
"Engineering," Will finished for him. "I remember looking over your file. Just out of the Academy with a promising future. Your work at the Academy on experimental warp drives was one of the reasons I chose you for the Titan. I was very impressed."
The ensign swallowed and managed a weak, "Thank you, Captain."
Riker reached over and pressed a button on the wall panel that opened the round dock doors. He seemed to want the ensign to walk with him so Addington cautiously went through first and waited for his Captain to catch up. "Have you seen the Titan yet, Mr. Addington?" Riker asked.
Brent wiped his sweaty palms against his black uniform pants and shook his head. They continued along the short, constricting corridor that lead to the actual doors of the Titan. "No, sir. But I heard that she's something to be proud of."
"So have I," Will said as they stopped at the double doors of this new galaxy class ship. Both he and Addington shared a smile and released a breath before Riker keyed in an access code and the doors were parted, revealing the beige walls of one of the corridors of the Titan. Deck 20 section 3 to be exact. All of the docking ports were in the stardrive section. The saucer had a couple of emergency ports in case of separation from the stardive, but they were not to be used under routine docking procedures.
"Wow," Brent said under his breath as he turned in a full circle taking it all in. The smile on Riker's face grew to where he felt his cheeks might crack. It looked exactly like the D. Having spent seven years on a galaxy class, he wasn't as taken as the ensign by the look of the ship. But the reality that it was all his took his breath away. He stole a look at Addington and remembered that he had sported the same reaction when he first stepped onto the Enterprise D. Especially the bridge, after the whole crisis of rejoining the two parts of the ship was completed, that is. Fond memories suddenly gripped at his heart but he forced them away. Right now he had to concentrate on getting settled in and getting his crew prepared for the trek to Romulus.
"Mr. Addington," he said grabbing the young man's attention. "It was nice to meet you. I'll be looking forward to serving with you. By the way, there's a young man who goes by Wesley Crusher in engineering that I'm sure you'd get great along with."
Brent recalled the name and knew vaguely who he was referring to. However, he could not put a complete picture of Crusher in his mind. Ignoring that for the moment and squared his shoulders and lifted his chin. "The pleasure of serving with you, Captain, is mine. Thank you."
Will smiled at him and then took off toward the turbolift that he instinctively knew was right around the corner. Indeed it was. As eager as he was to see the bridge, there would be time for that later. Right now he had a wife waiting for him in their new quarters on deck eight.
Deanna Troi set down the last transport box in the pile that had taken up residence in the middle of their living quarters. A security detail had just delivered all of their belongings from the transporter in cargo bay 5. Looking at the several large titanium boxes, there was more stuff than she had thought there would be. Even though she and Will had moved into quarters together on the Enterprise the day before their wedding, they had not placed all of their belongings in the new quarters. Only the essentials. The rest had been already packed, ready for transport as soon as they returned from their honeymoon. They had decided to pack beforehand, knowing that they wouldn't feel like it when they got back. Leaving the Enterprise would have been hard enough without the painful process of stripping their quarters bare at the same time.
She sighed at the mountain of stuff in the middle of the floor and plopped down on the couch in front of the huge slanted, star-filled windows. A movement caught the corner of her eye through the windows and she turned to watch the Enterprise slowly being released by the docking clamps in place around it. The repairs had taken half the time originally estimated and it had provided her and Will the time needed for a three-week honeymoon as planned.
Carefully, the flagship turned about and began to move form orbit. A few seconds later, the lights of the warp drive kicked in and the Enterprise was gone. She felt a tear slip down her cheek that she did not know was there. A lump formed in her throat at the knowledge that her home for the past fifteen years was finally gone and her family was gone as well. At least her extended family was gone. Her real, true family should have been on board by now.
Deanna forced herself from the window and swallowed the lump in her throat. She had a long life ahead of her still and who knew what was to happen? Looking around at the room she stifled a small laugh. It looked like Captain Picard's old quarters. But these quarters would not be filled with ancient artifacts and thick books. They would soon be filled with poker chips and a trombone. Plus a few arrangements of flowers if she had anything to do with it, and she most certainly did. Will hadn't seemed to mind the flowers in their temporary quarters on the Enterprise. And of course their most prized possession-their favorite wedding photo. It was one with the entire senior staff and she and Will in the middle. They were lined up in neat row all in dress uniforms except for her in the pink wedding dress. She had her hands tightly wrapped around her husband's arm. They chose to display that photo because of how important those people that surrounded them were, especially on such a special day. It was the only photo that they had all posed for as a crew. Both she and Will would always cherish it.
The sound of the doors opening brought Deanna's eyes back into focus. They settled on the wonderful sight of her husband and the smile that he offered her.
She rose from the couch and went to him. Instinctively they embraced and their lips met. When they pulled apart, Deanna rested her head on his strong chest and stroked his back lightly. "So, Captain, what do you think?" she said.
He tightened his hold on her and kissed her hair. "I think that this is the beginning of a wonderful future for us."
Deanna smiled and tilted her head back up at him. She brought a hand up to brush against his hair, "I think so too." She continued to brush his hair with her fingers but remained silent for a moment. Then on a breath she finally spoke. "The Enterprise is gone. She just left a few minutes ago."
Will automatically looked out the window and sure enough there was no longer a ship occupying the docking clamps. He felt his heart catch again and Deanna felt it with him. She pulled closer to him and kissed his chest through the fabric of his uniform. They both stood there, not wanting to say anything, just wanting to be there for each other. Their honeymoon had allowed them to forget about Starfleet and the Enterprise, or at least it allowed them to distance themselves from it. Now it was back in full force and they were finally dealing with moving on and moving in to their new home.
After nearly five minutes of silently comforting one another, Will pulled apart from Deanna and noticed the boxes for the first time. The look of dread on his face caused Deanna to laugh. "Welcome home, Captain."
Will shot her an annoyed look, "Thanks."
"There's more in the bedroom," Deanna added a little to cheerfully for Will at the moment. "I tried to sort through our things as best I could. Will, the two of us are going to have to put some things away in storage. There's just not room in here to put all of our stuff, Captain's quarters or not."
Riker let out a lingering breath and assessed the situation. "Well, it looks like we're going to have to give that compromising thing a try, Imzadi. However, I will not compromise on my poker stuff, my trombone, or my Ode to Psyche by John Keats."
"I wouldn't dream of it, Captain," Deanna said as she reached up
and placed a kiss on his cheek.
Soft jazz music lilted through the air of Ten Forward which was just beginning to see its first customers ever. Behind the bar a mysterious and interesting woman was sorting through all of her supplies giving a final inspection. So far, everything seemed to reach her expectations. She stood up fully and scanned the room, her eyes resting on one person in particular.
Deciding to abandon her place behind the bar as she often had in the past; she made her way across the semi-crowded room and stopped just behind the young man.
"Gracing Ten Forward with your presence again, Guinan?" Wesley Crusher did not have to turn his head to know it was her who stood behind him.
She took another step around him and joined him at his table. "I see that your time with the Traveler has heightened your senses."
Wesley smiled and for the first time since the wedding, she noticed how much older he looked. No longer was there a boy who sat before her, but a fully matured man. One who had gone through an experience that no other human had ever been through. "My time with the Traveler heightened my entire life. It's made me look at everything differently. It's amazing how much clearer engineering is now. I realize that engineering doesn't have to be about just facts and figures. It's about harnessing the energy of the universe and your mind and blending them together."
Guinan raised an eyebrow at the young man and smiled, "Have you run that by Chief O'Brien yet?"
Wesley laughed, "I'd imagine his reaction would be much worse than yours. He's got his hands full though. Dealing with me and Barclay isn't going to be easy."
"True," Guinan said, "But I think Captain Riker has it worse than anyone. He's got to deal with all of you."
Wesley took a sip of the drink he had been shuffling around on the table. "I'm glad that I have the opportunity to serve with him. I always thought it would be Captain Picard, but I guess it just didn't work out that way."
"You've always seemed to enjoy working with Riker. I know that he's glad to have you onboard."
Wesley nodded and looked out the large windows occupying the wall in front of him. "I remember when he was given the Hathaway during the war games exercises. He requested me for his crew. An educational experience was his reason. I remember how much fun it was to serve with him like that. I hope that it'll be the same this time around."
Guinan folded her hands on the table and tilted her head thoughtfully. "He's always had a relaxed command style. He's an encourager. I imagine that most of the crew, at least the ones that know him are expecting the same things you are."
Wesley nodded and fixed his eyes to a spot on the table. "While I was gone, I was able to look at the condition of life as a whole, especially of that within Starfleet. I left in the first place because there were so many unanswered questions that no one was able to even understand. I wasn't willing to just accept the conditions of life like everyone else did. No questions asked. I felt like I was stuck in a never-ending routine and I didn't want that for myself. The problem was that Starfleet epitomized that routine and I began to hate it. With the Traveler all of those questions were answered and when I finally understood everything, I felt ready to come back and help others understand."
"Do you think they will?" asked Guinan.
Crusher shrugged and swirled the liquid in his drink around. "I don't know. There's so much out there that we don't know about and our potential is so much greater than our reality. If you could only imagine how far we would progress in a short amount of time if we would only put our potential to use." Wesley looked Guinan in the eyes and sniggered. "Sorry, I seem to have become a philosopher along the way."
"That's okay," she tapped him on the chest with a finger and then folded her hands on the table. "If it's any comfort, I think that I understand. I've lived many different lifetimes in human terms and I've seen what potential can do. Perhaps you are the one who will introduce humans to the next step in their existence."
Wesley looked at her and felt his face screw into a mask of ambivalence, "That's a big responsibility, Guinan."
Guinan stood slowly and eyed Wesley carefully. "Don't look at it as a
responsibility. Look at it as an opportunity." And she walked away.
"What do you say we try out the holosuite tonight? Keiko can take care of the kids." O'Brien shot a look at Bashir and slithered past him, heading for the dilithium chambers.
He opened the doors to one chamber and slowly pulled out the crystals so he could study them. "There is no way I can do it tonight. I've got a lot of work to do here. Being the chief engineer on a starship is a lot more encompassing than being the chief engineer on a space station. Besides, don't you have a tone of work to do in sickbay or something?" he asked, his head still buried in the dilithium crystals.
Bashir sighed and spread his hands, "I've already done everything in Sickbay."
Miles raised his head slowly and stared at the doctor. "Everything? You've only been on board for seven hours and you've got everything done? Dr. Crusher stayed in sickbay religiously on her watch."
Julian stared back at his friend in equal measure and shrugged, "Genetics, what can I say? Besides, I'm not Dr. Crusher. Unlike her, I do like to have a life."
"You didn't even know her!" Miles said before returning his attention to the warp crystals. "She had a life outside of sickbay. She was the resident drama instructor and put on plays left and right. She enjoyed a good time as well as anybody."
Annoyance spread across Bashir's face. "Okay! All right, so she had a good time. But can we forget about Crusher and think about the holosuite? I brought all of our programs from DS9."
Miles stood up fully and closed the door to the warp chamber. "First of all, it's called a holodeck on a ship. Second of all, I'm not genetically enhanced so I have quite a bit of work to finish. Third, this is our first night in a new place and Keiko would appreciate that I be there with her and the kids. The holodeck can wait."
Clearly frustrated, Julian backed away toward the exit. "Fine. In the meantime what am I supposed to do?"
Miles walked back over to the main engineering computer station located in the center of everything. "I don't know. Go to Ten Forward, the arboretum, sickbay, or go to the holodeck yourself. I don't care. Just get out of my way for now."
Without saying another word, Julian turned and reluctantly found his way out
of engineering and into the corridors beyond.
As the Titan hung in space over the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean, Riker watching the globe spinning beneath him from the window in his ready room. He figured that Picard had probably spent many hours doing exactly what he was doing now. In fact, he had even caught his Captain several times. In a way, it was relaxing. It allowed him to think.
To his left, he heard a slight trickle of water and knew that it was his fish tank. Why they equipped Galaxy class ships with fish tanks in the ready rooms was beyond him. Of course, he could choose to have it removed but he didn't dare. He actually had requested that an Angel fish be placed in the waters. When he turned his gaze upon it, there the fish was, black and white striped softly gliding its fins through the clear liquid. Riker had been tempted to name his fish Jean-Luc but decided in the end that it might come across as strange to some people, including himself. It was something that a child would do, but maybe he would call it Jean-Luc when no one else was around. Just as long as Deanna didn't find out. He'd never live it down. Still, he felt that he should have something representing the Captain in this sacred room. Even if it was a fish.
Just as Picard had collected items from their journeys to display in his ready room, so too would Riker as time went on. Right now it was nearly bare, save for the picture of the Titan soaring through space hanging above the small couch across the room from him. It had been a gift painted by Data when he announced that he was taking the command. Data had mentioned that he could hang it in his ready room just as Picard had a painting of the Enterprise in his. It was one of the most precious gifts that he had received, especially now that its artist was no longer here with them.
Riker approached the large chair behind his desk and pushed a button on the shiny surface before him. A small screen began to lift from the desk. Yes, a lot was the same but some things were different. When he was satisfied that the computer screen worked, he sent it back down out of sight. "Computer," he said, "Captain's log, stardate 47851.4. We have received our official orders to lead the task force to Romulus where we will begin talks with them. They claim to want peace but I and the rest of Starfleet remain skeptical. In the meantime, the Titan is undergoing final preparations in all departments for our departure from spacedock. She's a brand new ship with a new crew and I know that they will all be able to complete this mission and all of the missions ahead of us successfully. Almost all of the senior staff and crew have reported in, one member of my senior staff has yet to arrive. My first officer. No word has come as to why he is late, but as 1900 hours approaches quickly, I am in need of him to help assure me that we are ready to leave spacedock."
As he finished his last sentence his door chime rang. He tapped the command button to end his log. "Come," he said.
The doors parted to reveal the object of his wonderings his first officer. Aaron Jameson, a capable and respected officer with an ego as big as the universe took a step into the ready room and gave room for the doors to close behind him. "Sorry I'm late," was all he said.
Riker pushed back in his chair a little and pulled down on his uniform top, his expression remaining stern. "Commander," he said, "You were supposed to report over eight hours ago. Right about now I need to be looking at a progress report on all ships systems and personnel. Unfortunately my first officer decided to go AWOL."
The light-brown haired man shrugged and played with the straps of his carryall. "What can I say? Deep Space 5 had a screw up in all of their shuttle schedules. Some new Ensign right out of the Academy was in charge. Need I say more?"
Will's face did not change demeanor. However, he lifted his chin in a trademark gesture meant to be a little intimidating. It had never failed to work on Aaron considering Will was almost a head taller and slightly more muscular. "A lot more. But I don't have time to lecture you right now. I want a report from all departments in one hour. I expect to be ready at 1900 hours before the ceremony. The admiral will be expecting us to get underway as soon as he disembarks."
Jameson straightened in his spot and squared his shoulders. "Aye, sir."
Riker pulled himself closer to the desk, his chair rolling on the carpet beneath. He snapped his head back up at his first officer, seeing that he hadn't left yet. "Don't you think you better get busy?"
Aaron let a look of irritation cross over his features. His weight shifted. "It's good to see you again too."
"Come on, Aaron," Will said, but Jameson kept on as if he hadn't spoken.
"I mean, we spend four years at the Academy together on the Nova Squad, we go through countless impossible missions together. We were best friends and you don't even say hi when we see each other for the first time in 20 years good lord."
Will had no choice but to smile, if not at Jameson's antics then at his admission of 20 years. Had it really been that long since he was a kid? "I'm sorry, okay? It's good to see you again, but we can catch up later. Right now, I really need those reports."
Aaron's glazed look dissipated immediately. "Right. One hour." He hurried out the door.
Riker leaned back fully in his chair and blew out a breath. Looking at his desk again, he reached out to the edge and smoothed a hand over the deep wood that lined the shiny black surface. It was all his. Now that made him smile.
Deanna glanced at the chronometer on the wall and noticed that it was 1700
hours. She had two hours to get ready for the command ceremony. Luckily she
had been able to get her office ready for tomorrow. So far she had no appointments
but on a starship it was possible for her to have plenty lined up by lunch time.
There would be plenty of cases involving people, some officers but mainly families
and children, having trouble adjusting to life on a ship. Many families were
simply transferring from another ship assignment. But there were a few first-timers.
The thought of being able to deal with children and families again was an extremely comforting one. Not until today had she realized just how much she missed it. There was definitely something to be said for galaxy class ships. It seemed more like a small town than a starship. A Starfleet starship to be exact. She also knew that Will was glad to be back aboard one. He too had missed the homey feel that a ship like this offered. But all that mattered was that they were both back and ready to write the next chapter of their lives together.
Deanna finished the arrangement of flowers on one of the tables in her office and gave it a final inspection. This office had more blue in it than her other one on the D. But she had spent the better part of a year decorating her other office, making it have more of a lavender look. It suited her and made her patients feel more at ease. She would have to do the same again in this office. Although, she was sure that she would have fun doing it. Maybe she could persuade Will to help. The thought made her laugh. She would have to do a lot of persuading. Decorating wasn't one of his favorite pastimes. In fact, he had already passed the duty to her regarding their own quarters. Just not too many girly things was his only condition.
Deanna released a satisfied breath and proceeded out the door to the corridor beyond. She thought about returning to quarters but the untouched mess that still graced their living area floor was enough to detour her. One thing that she hadn't seen yet was the bridge, which was where Will was at the moment. She had felt his frustration and then humor just a few minutes earlier in her office. It was probably just related to ship's business.
As she rounded the corner to the turbolift she smacked hard into a man's chest. As she let out a yelp of surprise, he quickly reached out to steady her. "Deanna? I'm so sorry!" he said.
Once Deanna regained her vision, she saw one of her dear friends standing before her. "Reg!" Not a moment was wasted as she took him into an embrace. It had been close to two years since they'd seen each other. It was when the Ferengi were playing games with his hologram. She had worked long hours with him to try and get to the bottom of the mystery. In the end, they had been successful.
"It's good to see you again, Deanna," he said with a genuine smile on his face.
Deanna touched his arm gently, "You too, Reg. I'm so glad that you could join us on the Titan-as science officer no less!"
Barclay shyly shrugged of the comment, "There isn't anywhere else I'd
rather be. I miss serving on a starship. By the way, I meant to send you and
Captain Riker a congratulatory note but I was on shoreleave during
Deanna let her arm fall from his. "Yes, we know, Reg. You told us that when we sent you the invitation."
"Oh," he said. "Right. I still should have sent something "
Deanna held up a hand, "Really, it's all right. We both understand how busy life can get."
Reg began playing with his hands, "But not too busy to forget to send a simple congratulations to two of your dear friends. I promise you that I'll get you a wedding present."
At that, Deanna laughed outright. "Reg! It's fine. You can stop by our quarters and see the wedding album. Then you can see all the fun you missed."
"I'd like that," he said. "Well, I'm on my way to engineering to talk with Chief O'Brien."
He nervously ran his hands over his pants and they looked at each other for a couple of awkward moments before Deanna lifted her eyes and smiled. "Good. I'm on my way to the bridge. I haven't seen it yet. You'll be at the ceremony tonight?"
Barclay nodded, "Of course. Sounds like it'll be a lot of fun. I'd better go, see you tonight."
Deanna's smile grew even more as he began walking in the wrong direction. "Reg!" she called out. "The turbolift is this way," she said as she shoved her finger in the opposite direction he was walking.
He stopped in his tracks and turned around. "I know," he said. "I I just wanted to stop by my quarters first and get a data PADD that I needed."
"I see," Deanna said. "I'll see you tonight." He smiled and then disappeared around the curve of the corridor. She shook her head as she approached the turbolift and stepped in as when the doors parted. The thing was, she couldn't recall his quarters being on this deck.
Soft notes of jazz filled his ready room and he was completely relaxed for
the first time since he and Deanna's honeymoon. His hands were propped up behind
his head and his desk supported his feet that were resting on top of it. Images
of music danced before his closed eyes and he sighed. Content. If there was
one word to describe the moment it was content. Unfortunately it didn't last
long as he heard his door chime.
He quickly shut off the music and righted his position. "Come," he said.
Content found it's way back when he saw the beautiful image of his wife coming towards him. "Like the bridge?" he asked as soon as the doors had closed behind her.
"Mhmm," she said. Deanna made her way around the desk and leaned against the edge. Even though they were alone, she still didn't feel right giving into her impulse to lounge in his lap. This was officially part of the bridge. A duty space. He sensed her conflict and understood it completely.
Riker took he hand and kissed it. They did not let go, however, after he had completed the gesture. Instead, they both caressed each other and smiled a knowing look.
Deanna forced herself to tear her loving gaze from her husband and looked at the room around her. She marveled at it's familiarity. There had been many times throughout the day when she found herself thinking that she was on the D instead of a new ship. There had also been many times where she had shared interesting and private conversations with Captain Picard in this room. Except, it wasn't this room not exactly. She wondered if she and Will would share the same experiences here. Of course it would be different since they were married. They would be under the scrutiny of the crew whenever they were in public. Even when they spent times together in the ready room she knew there would be inquiring minds. It was something that they would have to adjust to.
Eventually the crew would come to learn about them and the professionalism that they made an effort to exhibit when in the company of others. Especially on duty. It had not been a problem so far. But they had been in the presence of their Enterprise family. They could get away with more then. Now, it would most definitely be different.
"What do you think?" She heard Will ask her. Deanna smiled again and thought about telling him what she had been thinking about.
"I think that it's really bare in here. You should put your trombone over there," she said, deciding not to relay her thoughts. At least not right now.
"I thought we picked out a special place for it in our quarters already?" he said with a slight puppy look on his face.
She laughed and shook her head at his expression, "You, Will Riker, never fail to get what you want do you?"
"Never," he said as he pulled her closer.
She was certain that he was going to pull her right into his lap. "Will," she said and he stopped at the tone of her voice.
"What is it?" he asked, concerned.
Deanna pulled her hand free of his, but only to smooth it through his hair a second later. "Imzadi, you know as well as I do that we have to maintain a professional relationship when one or both of us are on duty."
Will captured her hand again and held it against his bearded cheek. "Even when we're here like this?" he asked, clearly indicating the closed ready room doors.
"Even," she said soft enough that he could barely hear her. "I don't want either of us to get distracted. What if a Romulan Warbird decloked all of the sudden and we were engaged in a passionate kiss? It would take you a couple of seconds to get back to reality before you had to make a life or death decision."
"Not very appealing, huh?" he said with a hint of smile in his voice. "You're right. But a Warbird could decloke when we're making love in our quarters OFF duty. It would probably take more than a couple of seconds in that situation."
Deanna cocked her head to the side in thought. "True," she replied. "But in that situation someone else would have command of the ship until you could get to the bridge. Not so in the situation we're in now, Captain, because you are already on the bridge."
Will groaned and plopped his head back onto the headrest of his chair. "I hate it when you're right."
Troi smiled triumphantly and stood fully. "I better get back to our quarters and see if I can't salvage the situation there."
Will stood with her and escorted her to the door, a gesture that was completely unnecessary considering the door was only a couple of meters away. Nonetheless, anything to prolong being near her, he would do. "I'll be home as soon as Aaron gives me the reports I need."
"Aaron?" Deanna asked. Her eyebrows scrunched up in an effort to recall the name.
"My first officer," Will reminded her. Her expression cleared when he said it. His roommate at the Acadmey. How could she have forgotten?
"Of course. Commander Jameson. I'm sorry, Will. I've had too many names
running through my head today. Which reminds me, I need to set up a personnel
review schedule with him."
Will smiled tenderly and cupped her cheek as he bent down and placed a peck on her nose. "Don't worry, Imzadi. It's going to take a while for both of us to get used to having so many people on board."
Deanna grinned back up at him and smoothed his uniform front with her hand. "I'll lay out a fresh dress uniform for you so that it will be ready when you get home." Home what a sound that was. Their home. It still took her by surprise to say things that related to marriage. After being together for so long as simply friends it was a big adjustment to make. Even now, that element of friendship was as strong as ever. The only difference now was that it was joined with a deep, unconditional love for one another. And they shared quarters which was also an adjustment to make.
Will brushed a strand of hair behind her ear. It was something one of those little things that he did that caused her to fall in love with him all over again. Looking into his baby blue eyes she wanted nothing more than to kiss him. Her heart began to beat faster and she felt his do the same under her hand. Suddenly she knew that she better make a quick escape before they went back on their agreement.
They said nothing. Will just watched helplessly as his wife slid her hand off his chest and walked out the door. He wondered if the bridge crew would be able to see her flushed face as she walked past them.
He groaned a little louder this time and hoped that there wouldn't be rumors
going around at the ceremony tonight.
It was indeed 1900 hours as Will and Deanna walked into Ten Forward, his arm around her waste. Traditionally she would have walked in on his arm, but they were married now. They saw no need to hide their affections for each other-just as long as they didn't cross that line they had discussed earlier. Any other night in Ten Forward would be different. But in a sense they were on duty tonight. Admiral Paris was officially handing Will command of the Titan in front of the crew.
No sooner had they begun to greet crew members then they heard a bell at the podium set up in front of the legendary windows. Admiral Paris was behind the podium decked in the dress uniform of an admiral. "Ladies and gentlemen. I see that Captain Riker and his lovely bride have arrived. Why don't we get the ceremony over with so that you can all get on with the celebration?"
A murmur of approval piped up and Riker headed toward the podium at the cue. Deanna's eyes followed him, clearly showing a sense of pride to anyone who could have seen them.
Will and the admiral stood facing each other and Paris began to speak. "Captain Riker, in honor of your service to Starfleet for 22 years, having been decorated 5 times, and becoming one of the brightest up and coming officers of our time, gaining the respect of all of Starfleet command and those who have had the opportunity to serve you, I as a representative of Starfleet hereby give you command of our newest ship, the U.S.S. Titan as of 1902 hours. Godspeed, Captain Riker."
The admiral handed Will the traditional data PADD with the ships first assignment orders on it. With his other hand he shook the younger man's and they both wore matching smiles. A respectful applause arose from the crowd and Will decided that he loved these people already.
Admiral Paris stepped out of the way as Will turned to address the crew. He knew that it would be expected of him, but he had made no planned speeches. Instead, he chose to speak in the moment, the only true way to do it.
There were at least 200 people in the room, almost too many to fit. Looking out he saw his wife first, beaming with a huge smile. He felt her silently encouraging him through their bond. His eyes scanned the room. In the back was Reg Barclay. He had yet to talk to him. Miles O'Brien stood not too far away with his wife Keiko. He recognized Doctor Bashir in the midst of the crowd. In the front was Aaron, his arms crossed in typical fashion. Wesley was at the bar joined by Guinan. This was his new family. Even though his heart tugged at the thought of having to move on, these people he knew. He'd served with nearly all of his senior staff at one time or another. Over time they would become family hopefully as close as his Enterprise family had been.
He cleared his throat and tugged at his uniform jacket. A gesture that his closer friends, those he knew, smiled at. "I didn't plan anything to say. I figured that I'd wing it. There's not much to say, really, other than it's an honor to be given this opportunity. It's an honor to be able to work with all of you. I don't know most of you but I know a lot of you from the past. This whole ship reminds me of the past. But our mission is the future as someone once taught me. Each one of you better count your blessings because where you are now, you won't be forever. I know I better count mine," his gaze rested on Deanna. He saw her wiping tears from her face. Others who understood what he meant had a knowing and thoughtful expression, watching him closely. The room was deftly quiet.
"I will say this as well. I just came from the flagship of the Fleet earlier today. Some of my senior staff and some of the crew have had the opportunity to serve with me on the Enterprise. Things are done differently there. The standards are higher and the work is elite. I, with the help of Counselor Troi, have selected a crew that is equal to that of the Enterprise. Captain Picard and I are on equal footing now. I expect you to follow through." Even though his voice was firm, everyone knew he was hiding a smile. The crowed, however, made no effort to hide their smiles. A big "Aye, sir," was heard by him from the chorus of many voices and he turned to wink at the admiral, confirming their earlier conversation. The admiral smiled back.
The evening was now two hours old and to be honest, Deanna was getting a little tired. She and Will had spent most of their energy talking to the crew, namely the senior staff, greeting them and catching up on old times. She hadn't been with Will for most of the evening either. They both went their separate ways shortly after the speech. When she spotted him talking to Paris, she decided to join him before anyone else claimed her attention.
Will was listening to the admiral intently when he felt Deanna's presence draw closer to him. The admiral stopped speaking when she finally arrived. "Gentlemen," she said. "I hope that I'm not interrupting?"
Paris smiled at her and then Will. "Not at all, Deanna. I must be going anyway and the Titan must be going as well. The Romulans aren't a patient species from what I can tell."
Riker pulled Deanna to him and tipped his drink to the older man. "Thank you for the send-off. We'll do our best."
"I know you will, Captain. The rest of the task force will meet you at the Romulan neutral zone. From there only you are to proceed to Romulus. The task force will be standing by should you need them. Once you have lead the way, the task force will take over. You will be the key spokesman in any major negotiation, however."
Will nodded and felt Deanna's eyes on him. "I understand, sir. As soon as you beam to Earth we'll be on our way."
Paris offered his hand to both of them one last time. "It was good to see you both. Have a safe journey."
A few seconds later he was out the door. Will tapped his comm. Badge, "Riker to transporter room three."
<<Go ahead, Captain.>>
"Admiral Paris is on his way. As soon as he has transported to the surface, please inform me."
<<Aye, sir.>> came the reply.
Riker looked down at his bride to find her looking up at him. "Well, I guess I have to spoil the fun now."
"Just when the party's getting started too," Deanna said. Will shrugged helplessly and Deanna hooked at arm around his waist, rubbing his back gently.
Will found a spoon on a nearby table and hit it against his glass. The room gradually became quiet as everyone turned to see who was requesting their attention. Finally, all eyes were on him. "I'm sorry to be a party crasher, but we will be going to warp momentarily, heading for Romulan space." An uneasiness could be physically felt in the room. "All of those who are on the delta shift will report to duty in thirty minutes. Spread the word. Let's make this mission a successful one."
Immediately the crowd began to dissipate. Aaron eagerly approached the Captain and Counselor. "So, Captain, I guess I have the honor of first bridge duty."
<<Transporter room three to Captain.>>
Riker held up a hand to hold off Jameson for a moment. "Go ahead."
<<The admiral has transported safely, sir.>>
"Very good. Riker out." He looked at his first officer again. "Looks like you do. You have the coordinates?"
Jameson clamped his hands behind his back and bounced on his feet. "Yes, sir."
Riker did all he could to keep from laughing at his friend. "As soon as you get to the bridge, take us to the neutral zone. Then I want you to check up on all departments and make sure the delta shift is operating smoothly."
"Right away, sir." He and Deanna watched with smiles on their faces, his eagerness practically springing him out the door.
Once he was gone, they realized that they were alone with a huge mess. Deanna reached up and locked her hands behind her husband's neck. They both leaned forward and kissed slowly, savoring the moment that they had been craving and fighting all day. When they broke, Deanna slid her hands down his front torso. "I'm going to go to bed. We'll have our work cut out for us tomorrow."
Will began to ask her why she hadn't insisted that he go with her until he saw someone standing in the corner that he had failed to notice. She was obviously waiting for something. Her eyes met Deanna's as the Counselor passed by her on the path to the large double doors.
When his wife was gone, Will turned to the peeping Tom. "You could have told us you were still here."
Guinan smiled a small smile and walked toward him, a hot steaming cup of coffee in her hand. "It'll help you lick that alcohol that's inside you right now."
Riker carefully took the black liquid from her and sat a the same table he had taken the spoon from. Guinan joined him an instant later. She wore her usual large hat and robe. This time she it was a blue ensemble. "Thanks, Guinan," Will said after a sip.
She folded her hands on the table. "That's quite a crew you've got. Quite a ship too."
He set the cup down on the table and gently twisted it in a circle. "It feel strange."
Guinan eyed him carefully, "What? The coffee?"
Will smiled, "No, the coffee's fine. It's being in charge of 1100 lives. Being held responsible for a ship."
"Mmmm. Picard warned me about this."
Will's head snapped up at her. "About what?"
Guinan sat forward slightly, a neutral expression on her face. "At the wedding. He told me that I should keep an eye out for you. He knew you'd feel this way about taking your first command."
Will shook his head and brought the coffee to his lips again. "How?"
"Maybe because he had to say goodbye too."
He thought about it for a moment but his rational brain was suffering a bit at the moment. "I'm talking about taking command of a new ship. Having to adjust to a bigger responsibility."
Guinan's eye lids closed a little and she sighed. "It doesn't matter. Trust is the true issue. He has a new crew that he has to trust. For 15 years he's had the safety net of having his closest friends serving by his side. He knew he could count on all of you and he knew what you were capable of. You're going through the same thing, but the biggest trust has to come from your crew. They have to learn how to trust you. To do that, you have to prove yourself to them."
Riker snickered and leaned back further. "Maybe that's my demon, Guinan. I was raised with a father who I couldn't trust. In the Academy I learned how, but not fully. It wasn't until I met Deanna that I really, truly began to trust. You know what the worst things is? All of this makes me feel old."
Guinan grinned at him and tilted her head. "That's not necessarily a bad thing, Captain. Everyone has their personal demons. Yours happens to be growing up."
Will shot her a look. "Where did you come up with that?"
"I didn't. Picard did."
"He did?" Will asked.
Guinan stood and placed a hand on his shoulder. "He told me that you always reminded him of a boy who never wanted full responsibility, who never wanted to really grow up. You just wanted to do a good job and have fun. I think he's right. Why do you think you turned down all of the other commands? Deanna may have been part of it, but I think it was really something else. Now you're here all grown up." She watched the changes on his face as the words soaked into his head. "Drink your coffee, Riker." Then she was gone.
"Captain's log, stardate 47836.4. The Titan has finally arrived at the Romulan neutral zone. We have coordinated our efforts with the task force and we're on our way to Romulus where I will speak to the new Praetor. Starfleet doesn't know the current condition of the Romulan government or of their association with the Remans. They have chosen not to reveal it to us."
Riker sat in his command chair on the bridge. His muscles were knotted with tension and the sight of Romulus coming up steady and fast on the view screen did nothing to alleviate that tension.
Around the bridge, his crew seemed to nervous to even breath. Lt. Daniels spoke up from behind his tactical station. "We're entering orbit around Romulus, sir. No hail yet."
Riker stood from his command chair feeling Deanna's gaze upon him. Looking again at the view screen in front of him and all of the wonder and grandeur that was Romulus, a chill ran up his spine as memories of his last visit here invaded his thoughts. He was sure he felt a chill from Deanna too across their bond.
"I'm receiving a hail from Romulus, Captain. Text only. They've given us the beam down coordinates. The Praetor will be waiting for us in the senate chambers," Daniels said.
Riker looked at Deanna, "Away team to transporter room four."
Riker, Troi, Daniels, Barclay and a couple of security guards stood in the middle of the Romulan senate chamber. It was empty. Even though he had not been here a few weeks ago, it reminded him in a way to the chamber of the Scimitar where they had first met Shinzon.
The lights were low. In fact, the only light at all was natural coming in from the windows. "Praetor?" he called out, his voice echoing sharply.
Suddenly the large steel door behind them opened and the Praetor entered followed by a rather large delegation. Riker assumed they were senators. She said nothing until she and her followers stood completely in front of the away team.
"Welcome back to Romulus, Captain." A pair of piercing Romulan eyes burned his own and for the first time since they arrived he began to not only feel nervous, but uncomfortable.
"Praetor Donatra, it is an honor to be standing in the senate chamber of the Empire. I hope that this tremendous step will be one in the right direction. You seem well respected as the new leader of Romulus."
She smiled at his tactful response. "Of the Empire, Captain. I helped your ship fight off the Remans in the middle of a battle. I can assure you that my attempts at these talks are genuine."
"And those of your colleagues?" Riker asked.
She did not answer. Her stare only became more intense.