____________ _________ _________ _________ _________
Will Riker and Geordi LaForge stood in the center of Engineering,
hands clasped behind their backs, facing the now gaping hole that
used to house the Enterprise E's warp core. Geordi's expression was a
mixture of relief and sadness. They'd narrowly escaped the Son'a
attack, and in fact, they were all lucky to still be alive. Much of
the thanks went to the man standing next to him, the one with a
rather worried look on his face.
"I'm gonna miss her," Geordi said, ignoring the rest of his
engineering staff as they dutifully began repairing what they could
from the workstations.
"Her?" Will turned slightly and looked at him, an inquisitive brow
rising to the occasion.
"The warp core. I know it sounds crazy, but...she had a name...poor
Lucille," he replied, the sadness creeping into his voice. Will did
nothing but continue to stare at the shorter man, who had begun to
show signs of losing his mind, as he went on to explain the three-
year relationship he'd had with the artificial hunk of engineering
masterpiece. "I helped to design her, and she never let me down. Not
once. The pride of the fleet just....gone. "
Though Will thought that the engineer was going a bit overboard, as
all engineers tended to do about their engines, he understood.
Clapping a hand on Geordi's shoulder, he gave the man a friendly
nudge. "I know it's tough, but there will be other warp cores."
Geordi sighed, then crossed his arms on this chest. "Yeah, maybe. But
not like this one. She was a beauty." Will mimicked the engineer's
posture and followed his gaze back to the empty space.
"You think the Captain will notice?" Will asked, a little hope
cresting as he spoke.
Geordi snickered and glanced at Riker, an incredulous look on his
face. "You are kidding, right?"
Will shrugged. "I won't tell him if you won't."
"I think when he gives the order to go to warp and nothing happens -
he's gonna notice all right. Either that, or he'll show up in
engineering and see a hole where the core used to be."
'It's simple then. You keep him out of engineering, I keep him off
the bridge, and maybe it'll buy you some time before you have to tell
him," Will said as he patted Geordi on the back and turned to make a
"Me?!" Geordi said, pursuing his commander towards the door. "You
were the one who gave the order to eject the core. As First Officer,
you have to assume responsibility. "
Will smiled gamely and stopped before the door opened, turning on his
heal. "The First Officer is off the hook when one of his subordinates
does something like....ejecting warp cores for instance.... when he
hasn't been ordered to, which is exactly what you did if I'm not
"Oh, no," Geordi said with a sarcastic laugh. "You're not going
pin this one on me. You gave me the order to eject the core a
millisecond after I pushed the button. It still would have turned out
"Technicalities, " Will waved him off.
"I am an engineer. Technicalities are what we do," Geordi explained
with a shrug. "You really think the Captain is going to be upset over
this? You were just doing your job."
Will let out a deep breath and straightened. "Let's review, shall we?
How many times has the ship gotten broken when he's left me in
command? There was the time when the Romulans were on board and
everyone was frozen. What happened? The ship blew up. Yeah, we fixed
it, but it still blew up. What about when he was chasing after that
Nexus guy on the planet? What happened? Half of the ship blew up and
the other half crashed - ruining his fish tank by the way. And now
there's this. In order to keep the ship from blowing up, I had to
eject the warp core. Now it's going to take us months to get back to
sector 001 where it will be repaired."
Geordi let the information soak in for a moment. "Well, at least the
ship didn't blow up this time. That's a little progress."
Will frowned at him and shook the engineer's words off. "Well, he
already knows there's some damage, but no one's told him about the
core yet. He's been through a lot on the planet, might as well not
ruffle the feathers until we have to. Come on, we better beam down."
With that, both men decided to remain silent about the issue, and
walked in the direction of the transporter room. However, Will
stopped just outside the door. "Lucille? Really?" he said.
Geordi shrugged. "She looked like a Lucille, what can I say?"
Will rolled his eyes and walked on.
____________ _________ _________ _________ _________
The transporter room doors opened, admitting the entourage of senior
officers into the corridor beyond. They'd just beamed up from the
planet's surface, the mission now complete. Beverly gave the
Captain's arm a squeeze of support, knowing that the only reason he
was leaving was because of his duty. Anij had given him the
opportunity to see life in a new perspective. There was always the
explorer inside of him, but there was also a side that longed to
enjoy the individual moments of life - something the Ba'ku dedicated
their lives to doing. He looked at the Doctor and gave her a small
smile, hiding it from the others.
Not far behind them, Data studied Worf's face, trying to decide if he
should mention an common cure for pimples. From the glare the Klingon
was giving him, he thought better of it and looked straight ahead again.
Will, Deanna, and Geordi brought up the rear. Deanna was squished
between the two and noticed that they were both a little tense. What
the reason was, she couldn't imagine. While on the planet, Will had
been relieved and happy to see her, even daring to hold her hand in
front of everyone. That actually had surprised her - he wouldn't have
done it if he wasn't serious about their relationship this time
around. It was his way of telling her that he was committed, and that
everything was going to turn out fine. The gesture was simple, but
all she needed to solidify their decision to give their romance
"Will, Geordi, you join me on the bridge for a debriefing. The rest
of you report to sickbay. The Doctor will need to look you over
before releasing you to duty," the Captain's voice carried through
the hall. It was only then that Deanna noticed they were at a
turbolift. She also noticed a look pass between Riker and LaForge.
"Captain," Riker suddenly said, "I don't think the bridge is
place for you to go right now. You've had a hard few days - perhaps
you should rest for a while. I can handle everything."
"Thank you, Number One for your concern, but that won't be
necessary," Picard said. "Shall we?" He indicated that they should
step into the turbolift.
"What's wrong?" she whispered to Will as the others began to
separate. Will's nervousness had increased by the second since they'd
beamed up from the planet.
"Nothing," Will whispered back quickly. "I'll see you later,
he said, then gave her a gentle shove as Beverly looked back to see
why she was moving. As the other officers disappeared around the
corner, Will and Geordi joined the Captain, and to the bridge they went.
____________ _________ _________ _________ ________
Picard took a few steps onto the science level of the bridge and
looked around. When he'd returned to the ship before their mission
was complete, his focus kept him from realizing the extent of the
damage. Though it was more than he remembered, it seem to pose any
"Well, Number One," he said, slowly pacing himself to his chair.
and Geordi cautiously followed, not daring to say anything. "Looks
like you ran into a fair amount of trouble while I was gone. It all
appears to be superficial, however." He turned back to his first
officer. "A job well done," he said, smiling in his Picard-like manner.
Brushing some stray dust from the seat of his chair, he sighed as he
sat down. "Ensign," he addressed the conn, "Take us back to Earth,
warp five." As he raised his customary finger, Will sprang forward.
"Uh, Captain?" Will started.
"Sir," the ensign interrupted. Unfortunately, he didn't see the look
of pure death Riker was giving him. "Impulse is the best we can do
without the warp core."
Riker's head rolled back and he shut his eyes, letting out a sigh.
Geordi attempted to bury his head in the engineering workstation.
Picard looked at the ensign for a moment before standing up and
turning to Riker. "Who broke my ship?" he said. Riker didn't know if
he was joking, or genuinely upset. With Picard, it was hard to tell.
"Number One?" he asked when Will had not replied.
"It's simple, really," Will finally offered. The stern expression
the Captain's face wasn't helping. "We have no warp core," he
finished with a little chuckle to lighten the mood. It didn't work.
"My ready room," Picard said, then maneuvered between Riker and a
piece of metal pipe on the floor.
"You can't go in there, Sir," Will said. The Captain stopped, then
turned, hands straight by his sides.
"Why not?" Picard said with deliberate patience.
"The doors are jammed."
Picard let out a breath, then glanced around as if looking for a
solution. "All right. How about the conference room?"
Riker pursed his lips in thought and nodded. "That probably still
works," he said. He ignored the Captain's look of disapproval as his
superior walked past him to the conference room. Riker grabbed
Geordi's sleeve and forced the engineer to join them. After all, this
was his fault as well.
Once out of earshot of the rest of the bridge crew, Picard turned on
the two officers, slightly taken by surprise at Geordi's presence.
Still, he did not falter. "Why is it that every time I leave you in
charge of my ship, something goes wrong?" Picard began to pace. Had
this been ten years ago, Riker might have been on the verge of a
nervous breakdown at his Captain's reaction. However, the two of them
had formed a bond of friendship that made moments like this a bit
easier. At this point, he knew Picard was probably goading him on
more than anything else, but he had no choice other than to stand
there and take it.
"I can handle a few loose beams, maybe a blown out window or two,
shorted out consoles, hull damage from phaser fire, or even jammed
doors. But for some reason, I tend to come back to exploded ships,
what appears to be Romulans commandeering the ship, and warp cores
Will glanced at Geordi beside him. "Told you," he said. Geordi
frowned back in response.
"I hope there is a good explanation, Number One, or else I will be
dropping you off on Earth and leaving you there. This can't keep
happening," Picard said as he leaned against one of the tall chairs.
"With all due respect, Captain," Geordi chimed in, "it wasn't
Commander's fault. I pushed the button."
"He did," said Will stoically. "Before I told him to," he added.
"I don't understand," Picard said.
Will sighed, taking in the floor before looking the Captain in the
eye. "The Son'a started chasing us on our way back to warn Starfleet.
They were shooting at us, we were shooting back, but they outnumbered
us. The only way I could keep them from destroying the Enterprise was
to eject the core into the nebula gases, and then detonate it. The
blast caught their ships and they were destroyed."
Picard stood up straighter, a slight look of disbelief on his face.
"You purposely destroyed the warp core? You used our engine as a
weapon and blew it up on purpose?"
Riker opened his mouth, then closed it again. He shrugged and nodded.
"That's about the size of it, Sir."
Geordi shuffled his feet and cleared his throat. "We called it the
Riker maneuver...Sir. "
"Indeed," Picard said, performing what had become known as the Picard
maneuver. The quick tug of his uniform jacket forced Will to bite
back a smile. "You realize that the warp core is designed to make the
ship go to warp, and only be ejected when its containment has been
compromised. Now, we are without any practical engine power, and
Starfleet's most advanced warp engine - the first of its kind to be
installed - has been destroyed. On purpose."
Riker and LaForge traded looks.
"Gentlemen," the Captain continued, "there is only one thing to do."
____________ _________ _________ _________ _______
"You about done in there?" Will called from the couch. It had been
little over an hour since his meeting with the Captain, and he gladly
left the scene of the crime for a more pleasant environment.
"Just a minute!" came Deanna's voice from the bathroom. They hadn't
seen each other in a couple of days, the last moments they'd spent
alone was in the bubble bath. Will brought his hand up to rub his
chin at the memory. Careful not to undo Deanna's hard work in the
bathtub, he'd kept his beard shaved completely - just in case she
really did prefer him that way.
Deanna emerged from the bedroom in her fluffy white robe, wet hair a
bit tangled from her shower. She wasted no time in plopping down
beside him, a big smile on her face. "I feel so much better," she
said, still dabbing at her scalp with a towel. Will's arm as
stretched across the back of the couch, and she took advantage of the
opportunity to snuggle a bit closer to him. Her legs curled up
underneath the folds of her robe, eliciting a smile from Will.
"What?" she asked.
"Nothing," he said, gently shaking his head.
"You keep saying that," Deanna said, dropping the towel into her lap.
Will caught her gaze and sighed. "It's just that it's been a while
since we were like this...I mean, where it meant something. It's nice
to be this comfortable around someone, ya know?" He picked at the
robe's fuzziness across her thigh, and both pairs of eyes went to his
Deanna's fingers slid carefully into his, halting his movements. "It
feels good to do this again," she said quietly, squeezing his hand.
"I mean...with it meaning something," she grinned at him. He grinned
back. "So, wanna tell me why you were so tense earlier? You seem
RIker chuckled and looked at a painting on her wall. "Long story
short, I broke the ship again...and I don't get shoreleave with the
rest of the crew. Captain's orders. Instead I get to stay aboard and
supervise all of the repairs - no matter how mundane."
"Oh, Will," Deanna said, not able to keep the disappointment from
creeping into her voice. "I was looking forward to us having some
time together while the ship was repaired. What in the world did you
"I know, I'm sorry," he said, brushing some drying strands of hair
from her face. "I blew up Lucille. Not while she was on the ship
Deanna's other hand went to her mouth, but he couldn't tell if it was
from shock or if she was trying to cover up a laugh. He creased his
eyebrows as he studied her. Apparently, Deanna was aware of the
engineer's nickname for the warp core. It figured though - she seemed
to know just about everything there was to know on the Enterprise.
Being the entire ship's confidant would only serve to help that.
"Well," Deanna said after a few moments, "at least you didn't
the ship this time." She wasn't able to keep her amusement from him
any longer, and he took the towel from her lap, and gently tossed it
in her face.
"I seem to recall that I had an accomplice when it came to the
destruction of the D, Counselor. And for the record - the planet
didn't come out of nowhere. Planets don't move. Ships do."
Deanna grabbed her towel and whacked him across the chest with it -
considerably harder than he'd thrown it at her. It left a bit of a
sting, but he didn't complain. "I thought we'd agreed to let the past
be the past, Commander. Maybe you deserve the Captain's punishment
"Maybe I'm starting to take after you too much," Will said, leaning
in closer to her, despite her threatening demeanor. She didn't back
away, however. Instead, she smirked at him and idly rolled the towel
around her hand. "You're right," he said. "We did agree to let the
past be the past, and who would I be to ruin that?"
"An idiot, Riker," Deanna said, joining him in quiet laughter.
Through their merriment, they both drew closer together until their
lips met in a soft kiss. Once they made contact, neither one could
pull away. It had been too long of a wait over the years, and they
wanted to take the time to get used to the feel of each other again.
The kiss grew deeper, and Deanna dropped the towel back in her lap,
sliding her hand up to cup the nape of Will's neck. Her fingers
played with the same hairs that they'd played with in the ship's
library only a few short days ago.
Will let out a tender groan, and spoke into her mouth, "That still
does something to me."
Deanna smiled against his lips and broke the kiss with an audible
pop. "I know," she said in a low, devious tone. "Too bad you can't go
on shoreleave with me. There's a lot more where that came from." With
that, she got up from the couch.
"Wait, where are you going?" Will asked, obviously wanting to resume
their more intimate activity.
"To bed," she said, then held up a hand to stop him from getting
as well. "Alone, Will. Doctor's orders are for me to get eight hours
of uninterrupted sleep, which means that I'll see you tomorrow."
"You want me to leave? But we just got started," Will said gesturing
to the couch.
"There's time for that later. I'll even stay aboard during shoreleave
so we can spend at least some of it together. How does that sound?"
she asked, unconsciously folding her towel.
"It sounds like the Riker maneuver might be the only maneuver to go
down in history as the one to avoid at all costs," he said, lifting
himself form the coach with a tired moan. "I don't want you to give
up your shoreleave, Deanna."
"I'm not giving up anything," she said, looking at him expectantly.
"I'm actually looking forward to seeing the Riker maneuver up close
and personal. And trust me, Commander, I most certainly will not be
trying to avoid it." A grin spread across Will's face, as he wrapped
his hands around her hips. He bent his head towards hers, but his
mouth met her hand instead of its intended target. "Except for
tonight," she said.
He playfully kissed her palm, causing her to giggle at the twinkle in
his eye. Once she'd let down her guard, he dove in for a quick peck
on the lips, then whispered in her ear, "I'll see you tomorrow. Sleep
Before he could get away, her hand reached up and pulled his face
back down to hers. She kissed the bare cleft in his chin then looked
into his blue eyes. "Goodnight, Imzadi," she whispered back. For a
moment, neither one was willing to move, but Riker finally did. He
planted a soft kiss on her forehead and felt the brush of her hand
against his torso as he stepped around her and left her quarters.
Deanna watched him go, then padded back into her bedroom for some
much needed sleep. She for one was glad that she had a ship to come
home to, and a man brilliant enough to protect it for them all.