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Fiction by Pen . . . . . not real, made up, purely intended for entertainment
Star Trek is not mine and I make no claim on it

Stuck in the Big Chair

written for Fandom Gift Box exchange 2021


"So," the Captain said, smiling up at Will from behind his desk, "this seems like a perfect opportunity for me to get back to the holodeck and finish exploring the countryside."

"Absolutely," Will agreed. He could, with a bit of a squint, see the appeal of riding horseback, though he'd have chosen a snowmobile and a bright Alaskan sky, himself. But from Picard's smile it seemed the captain was looking forward to it, and while they were in this quiet little sector with nothing much to do but map the occasional star, run a maintenance check on the weapons systems, and see if there were any indications that a wandering science vessel had passed that way, there was no need for Captain Picard to be on the bridge. And with everything he'd been through lately, Will was sure both Beverley and Deanna would be very pleased to see him taking the time to relax.

"I'll let you know if we pick up a trace of the Maathai," he said, and went back to the Captain's Chair while Picard left the bridge.

"You sound happy."

Will smiled. "Deanna, we've been run ragged over the past few weeks. The captain's not the only one who could use a rest. I'm just going to sit here and think about nothing. At least, Worf's going to be reporting every fifteen minutes, and Stellar Cartography will probably let me know what they're doing whenever they remember, and meanwhile, I got nothing to do. If you don't count the personnel reviews, which I'm trying not to think about. So, how was your day?"

She smiled at him, somewhat ruefully. "When you put it like that.... I had five appointments this morning with crewmembers wanting to talk through their feelings, so yes, I could use the rest."

The phrase 'famous last words' crossed Will's mind, but he decided to ignore the possibility. The Enterprise was due for a break."I bet you have paperwork, too," he added. "Why do we call it paperwork? This stuff hasn't been on paper for centuries!"

Deanna shrugged, and made that wry face she saved for when he made her want to laugh.

Worf had reported twice on the weapons testing—everything satisfactory, of course—and Will had gone over most of his personnel reports, when Data announced that there was a vessel heading towards the Enterprise.

"Configuration?" Will asked.

"Unknown, sir. From its trajectory I would surmise it is traveling from the fourth planet in the system." Data looked perturbed. Will wondered for a brief moment whether Data actually was perturbed, or was he using an appropriate facial expression from his increasing repertoire? Not that it mattered.

"Do we have any information about that planet?"

"Very little, Commander. There has been one observational mission, twenty-seven years eight months nine days ago, which reported a degree of technological achievement that would suggest warp drive is approximately forty-eight years away. That mission did not make any kind of contact with the local population."

"So we're looking at a First Contact situation. Captain Picard to the bridge." It was Starfleet protocol that the Captain be the one to deal with any First Contact situation.

Captain Picard is not aboard the Enterprise, stated the ship's computer.

"What? Data, where is the captain?"

"Captain Picard is... on Holodeck Two, Commander. But it appears..." the android paused and appeared to re-check his readings, "it appears that Holodeck Two is currently in a different universe than our own. Holodeck Three is also in a different universe."

Will stared in disbelief. "How the—no. Never mind how. Mr Data, get to Holodeck Two and see what you can do. Take Geordi, and anybody else you need." He looked at Deanna. "Looks like we're doing this without the captain today. Mr Worf. Hail the ship."

"Receiving audio only," Worf reported after a moment, and allowed a somewhat indistinct message to be heard.

....any attempt at evasive action with force.....permission to enter this system. Remain.... prepare to be boarded.

"Boarded?" Will said, incredulously.

"The ship is approaching at approximately one quarter impulse speed," Worf announced.

"Then I think we should advance to meet them. Ensign, one-half impulse, take us closer to that ship."

"Aye, sir."

In moments, the Enterprise was conveniently situated a couple of thousand kilometers from the strange ship, which was a more-or-less cylindrical object in grey ceramic, or maybe even metal, Will thought, amused. It was fitted with some very retro fins. I should take this more seriously, he thought, and caught Deanna's eye—she obviously thought so too, but it was hard to be intimidated by something that looked like one of his grandfather's antique toys.

"Deanna, are you getting anything from them?"

He still found it fascinating, watching her look with her mind's eye, with her empathic senses.

"Confusion, aggression and annoyance," she reported. "They seem very possessive of this part of space, and they were not expecting us."

Fair enough, he supposed. They were probably the big players locally. Probably the only players, he amended. They certainly didn't look as though they were up to the Enterprise's weight, but he wasn't going to play this the stupid way. "Mr Worf, weapons analysis. What have they got?"

Worf, scowling, bent over his console. "Their weapons system is negligible, Commander. It appears that they are equipped with projectile weapons only."

"Old school," Will said, grinning. "All right, then—"

Imperator to alien ship. You do not have permission to enter this system. Remain in your current position and prepare to be boarded. We will meet any attempt at evasive action with force.

At least communications were becoming clearer at this distance. "No video connection, Mr Worf?"

"No, sir."

"Never mind. Let me talk to them." He took a careful breath to order his thoughts. "This is Commander William Riker of the Federation Starship Enterprise. We are on a peaceful mission and have no hostile intent."

You do not have permission to enter this system. Remain in your current position and prepare to be boarded. We will meet any attempt at evasive action with force.

"That's not a recorded message, is it?" It would be ridiculous to get the ship involved in a stand-off with something automated. "Are we talking to an empty ship?"

"No," Deanna said, "no, there are sentient beings aboard that ship. My impression is they are very worried. Talk to them, Will."

Slightly embarrassed to have forgotten that Deanna had already confirmed the existence of sentients on the Imperator, Will did as he was told.

"Imperator, I repeat, this ship is on a peaceful mission. We would be very happy to talk to your representatives. You are welcome to come aboard."

There was a pause.

"Commander, they appear to have launched five—six—sev—seven small ships," Worf reported, unnecessarily since Will could see them perfectly well for himself on the main screen.

"I suppose it's too much to hope that those are shuttlecraft bringing our invited guests," he said, wryly.

Beside him, Deanna snorted, very quietly.

"Shields up," Will said.

"Should I go to red alert, Commander?"

"You did say 'negligible', Mr Worf?"

"Yes, Commander, but may I remind you that these... small craft apparently intend to board the Enterprise. We should have non-Security personnel stay in their quarters."

"Inarguable, Mr Worf. Red alert." He'd never thought those flashing lights were any kind of help to a tense situation. "Now, I wonder what will happen when they reach the shields."

As he had entirely expected, the 'boarders' were unable to get through the shields. Hailing frequencies open once more, he addressed the Imperator. "This is Commander William Riker of the Federation starship Enterprise. I think there may have been a misunderstanding. Are you sending representatives to talk to us?"

Your ship does not have permission to enter this system. You must leave. We are ready to use force and will fire on your ship if you do not comply.

At least there was somebody listening, Will thought, irritated. "Imperator, we were unaware of your... territorial claims in this sector. We are just passing through. We are on a peaceful mission. We are looking for traces of a ship which was last heard of in this sector of space." No sense telling them about the Stellar Cartography work. "Have you encountered that ship?"

That ship had no business in this sector and has been dealt with.

"Am I speaking with the Captain of the Imperator?"

Hesitation. Yes.

"Captain, can you explain what happened to the Starship Maathai? Perhaps you would come aboard and we can meet face-to-face? Or else I can transfer to your ship so we can talk?"

We do not negotiate with terrorists!

Riker made the 'cut off' gesture at Worf. "Well, I call that rude," he said. But he had an idea. "I'm going over there. They'll probably feel safer that way. No, Mr Worf, I'm not taking an escort, and yes, Deanna, I do believe I'm the best person to go over there right now."

"May I remind you, Commander, that you are acting captain," Worf said. "You have a duty to remain on this ship."

"I know that, but Captain Picard is still aboard the Enterprise, isn't he?" Yes, he was splitting this hair very fine indeed, but—


"Deanna.... damn it," he said, exasperated. "I just—"

"You have command of the Enterprise, Will. You'll have to delegate."

His thoughts flashed back to that conversation with Picard, just yesterday. Somehow the subject of sitting in the big chair had come up, and Will was still struggling to understand why he hadn't leapt at the chances he'd been offered to command his own ship. "What's the hardest thing about being captain?" he'd asked. "After giving people orders that may kill them."

"Well, yes, that is the hardest and always will be." Picard had looked at him for a moment, and then replied, "To answer your question, delegating. I don't mean letting Geordi run Engineering, or trying to overrule Data at Ops, or Worf. I appreciate having a good crew, people who can do their jobs better than I could. But sometimes, when there's something to be done, some unexpected situation to be dealt with," he smiled ruefully, "I have to force myself to remember that I'm not the only person on board who is capable of dealing with—whatever situation has come up."

"That's what you have a First Officer for, sir!"

"And don't think I don't appreciate it. Mind you, I strongly believe that it's good for a captain to go on an occasional Away mission. Keeps us sharp."

Picard would probably claim this mission, Will thought, but Picard would have his trusty First Officer available to take over the ship. And Picard was apparently in a different universe right now, leaving Will occupying the big chair. Will, who had sent Data to get the captain out of the holodeck, and in a delicate situation like this he didn't think Worf—

"Do you have a plan, Commander?" Deanna's question recalled him to the immediate moment.

"I do," he said.

"Good. Then I suggest you tell me what it is. I have diplomatic training, Will, and in a First Contact situation like this, I'm your obvious choice."

I didn't want a choice, Will thought, crossly, but he knew she was right. He'd have to delegate. "Damn it," he said again. On the screen, the alien ship didn't seem to be doing anything very much, and on the captain's monitor the seven little ships were circling the Enterprise like excited gnats. "All right. But I think you should be in uniform for this—dress uniform."

"Yes," she said, thoughtfully. "I concur. I'm getting a sense that.... I'll go get changed."

It took several tedious minutes for Will to convince the other ship's captain to let him send an unarmed representative to discuss what to do. Terrorist, hah. But as Will had expected, they were far happier to have Deanna, alone, visit their ship than they were with the idea of coming on board the Enterprise, at least now they'd realized that 'boarding' was a lot harder than they'd expected. As soon as she had left the ship, Will made for the main transporter room. "I want a full lock kept on the counselor at all times. Be ready to pull her back the second I give the order. And the shuttle." She couldn't transport onto that ship, of course. Showing them that level of technology was absolutely a breach of the Prime Directive. But he was not going to let a bunch of primitives harm his—a member of his crew.

By the time he got back to the bridge, Deanna's shuttle had been granted access to the Imperator and she had obviously been brought to the alien ship's bridge.

So. You are here to beg for your ship?

I'm hoping it needn't come to that. I thought perhaps we could come to a more amicable agreement. Plus, I'm hoping you can tell me about that other ship which you, ah, 'dealt with'.

Behind him, Will could hear Worf seething as the conversation came through on Deanna's open comm link.

There is no reason to give you information.

We're at a bit of a stand-off, then, aren't we? I should think you might want to get the situation resolved. Peacefully.

"That's right, Deanna," he muttered. "A touch of steel under the velvet glove."

Oblivious to their audience, the aliens continued. I can have the situation resolved in minutes, when I tell my fighters to destroy your ship!

Are you sure that would be wise? After all, you don't know what kind of armaments my ship has. Although, you've already seen that our defenses are strong.

Armaments? Pffff! A cruise ship, with armaments!

The alien crew made hissing noises, along with the captain, which seemed to indicate laughter. Cruise ship? thought Will, and Worf growled out the same thought.

"Maybe the Maathai claimed to be a cruise ship, for some reason," Will suggested, quietly. It might have seemed the safest course for them, faced with these belligerent aliens.

Deanna's voice sounded over the comms again. Might I suggest a demonstration of our capabilities? We're not far inside the asteroid belt of this system. Why don't we each demonstrate what our weapons can do by destroying an asteroid?

There was silence. Will wondered what the aliens looked like. It seemed Deanna's suggestion had caught them off guard, but it was hard to imagine a puzzled expression on a face when you didn't know what the face looked like.

We will accept this challenge. We will demonstrate our power, and then you will submit to us.

"Excellent! Ensign, keep us at this distance from the Imperator as we move out."

So a few minutes later, the two ships were aligned above the plane of the asteroids, and the Imperator's captain had given his orders. The seven small ships began an intricate series of maneuvers, circling and firing by turns around their chosen target. Will could see the dust and rock chips puffing away from their chosen asteroid, and one of the officers was calling out numbers which probably related to its structural integrity.

The asteroid broke apart, and the halves tumbled back separately into their orbital dance. There was a burst of appreciative noise on the other ship.

Very impressive, Deanna said. And now it's our turn.

"Mr Worf," Will said. "A photon torpedo, I think. Make sure you aim it straight." He could practically feel Worf's glare, and felt a tiny tickle of Deanna's amusement at the back of his brain. The Enterprise's torpedo fired, and a large chunk of rock exploded into oblivion. "Nice shooting, Mr Worf."

There was dead silence on the Imperator.

As you see, my ship is well able to defend itself. But we are on a peaceful mission. Deanna took a few minutes to give an innocuous description of the work they were doing. Probably giving the aliens time to get themselves together. They'd had a bit of a shock. We have been looking for a ship called the Maathai. Is that the name of the ship you found? What happened to that ship?

It is, it is safe. It is in tethered orbit. Around our home planet. The alien captain was having a hard time getting his words out. Seemed Worf's shooting had rattled him to the core.

If you would help us to recover that ship, you would have our gratitude and thanks.

They couldn't agree fast enough.

"Good to have you back, Counselor," Will said as Deanna—still in her dress uniform—strode onto the bridge.

"It's good to be back. Even if I do have to write up a report on these people."

"What were they like? What do they look like, I mean."

"Normal bipedal, bilaterally symmetrical pattern, about my height and mass, I'd say. Yellowish skin, or possibly scales, I couldn't be sure. There were more prominent scales around the ear flaps, but they may have been skin markings. And they had green hair. Lots of it." Will eyed her suspiciously, but this seemed genuine. "And their uniforms! They were green, too, and with so much braiding and flash and glitter, I can't tell you. it was like historical pictures of dictators on Earth. I felt quite dowdy!"

He laughed. "Good thing I sent you in full dress. If you'd been in regular uniform—wait, I wonder if that was why they thought we were a cruise ship!"

"We may never know," she said, taking her seat. "I tell you what, Will, I'm going to recommend very strongly that in, oh, maybe fifty years from now, the warp determination team for this sector be sent in an out-and-out warship. Something that will intimidate these petty little tyrants. Klingons, maybe."

Worf, behind the Security station, grunted with unmistakeable satisfaction.

Will smiled. "Riker to Data. Have we managed to retrieve Captain Picard yet?"

Not yet, Commander, but the holodeck program has only eleven minutes left to run. I believe the alternate universe it currently contains will give way to normality when it closes.

"I hope you're right, Mr Data. Meanwhile, let's go get the Maathai." They'd probably never get an explanation for the holodeck problem, but Will had lived through too many peculiar events to care. So long as they got the Captain back, and the pair of junior lieutenants who were in Holodeck 3, they could do without an explanation.

A quarter of an hour later, Captain Picard strolled onto the bridge looking more relaxed than Will had seen him in weeks. "All well, Number One? Mr Data tells me you've located the Maathai. Nice work!"

"Yes, Captain, we should be in a position to retrieve the crew in an hour or so. I hope you had an out-of-this-world experience on the holodeck."

"Oh, I wouldn't go that far, Will. Just a pleasant ride in beautiful countryside with not a care in the world. So, what have you been doing in my absence?"

Grinning, Will followed his Captain into the Ready Room.


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