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Down the Slippery Slope

(Historian’s Note: This scene takes place immediately after the conclusion of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Up the Long Ladder”.)

Commander William Riker pressed the chime next to Captain Picard’s office door. He heard the captain say “Come!”, and the door opened in front of him. Picard was sitting behind his desk, leaning back in his chair, apparently contemplating something other than his first officer’s entrance.

Riker walked in, stopping a couple of meters from the captain’s desk. “You wanted to see me, sir?”

Picard, apparently noticing Riker for the first time, sat forward and said, “Yes, indeed, Number One. Have a seat.” Riker took one of the two chairs in front of the desk and leaned forward, his elbows on the chair’s armrests and his fingers interlaced before him, projecting an image of both interest and patience.

Picard, on the other hand, almost immediately stared into the middle distance again, not meeting his first officer’s eyes, a crease between his brows as if he were attempting to solve a difficult puzzle. On someone else, Riker might have thought that this meant that some unpleasantness was in store, but he recognized the expression on Picard as indicating that he had a problem for which he desired Riker’s input.

“I’ve been informed,” Picard said, continuing to stare past Riker, “that you went … somewhat above and beyond the call of duty in your efforts to aid the Mariposan and Bringloidi colonists with their … genetic diversity problem.” On the last words, Picard’s eyes finally met Riker’s, but the crease in his brow was gone, and he regarded his first officer with an expression of innocent curiosity.

Riker felt his skin temperature drop almost immediately as the adrenalin hit his system. But he was used to being in this kind of position, so he didn’t let it bother him. “Yes, Captain,” he said as sincerely as he could. “I was invited to contribute my … expertise on the matter.” He remembered Ms. Odell—Brenna—and felt his cheeks flush, but he held his neutral expression.

Picard nodded in apparent satisfaction, but once again stared off, this time leaning back in his chair and steepling his fingers in front of him. “I have been considering Doctor Pulaski’s advice to the colonists on the subject,” he said. He didn’t elaborate, but Riker remembered her saying that each woman in the newly-combined colony would need to have at least three children by three different men in order to most effectively make use of their limited genetic stock. “It occurs to me …”

Riker waited for a few seconds for the captain to continue. When he didn’t, Riker said, “Yes, Captain?”

“Well,” Picard continued, his face returning to its earlier innocent expression, “it occurs to me that there are somewhat over five hundred adult humans on the Enterprise.”

Riker blinked in brief incomprehension. “Um … Captain, are you suggesting…?” He let the question hang.

“Well, it just seems to me,” Picard said, “that should the colony request any … additional assistance with the matter, they would likely not lack for, ah … volunteers. Don’t you think so?”

Silence hung between them for a few seconds as Riker let what the captain had just said sink in. Picard, to his vast credit in Riker’s opinion, held his curious expression as he waited for Riker’s reply.

“Permission to speak freely, Captain?” Riker said at last.

“Of course,” Picard replied.

Riker grinned. “You, sir, are a dirty old man.”

Picard sighed. “Ah, yes, well … don’t spread it around. I have a reputation as a stick-in-the-mud to maintain.” He nodded to Riker. “Thank you, Number One. Dismissed.”

Riker exited the office with as much dignity as he could muster. As the door closed behind him, he let out a breath that he didn’t know he was holding.

And then he heard, from within the office behind him, the still-strange sound—for the second time in as many days—of Captain Jean-Luc Picard laughing out loud.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
madamedoragon
Mar. 19th, 2015 10:32 pm (UTC)
Hah!
This is most excellent. I'm still chuckling.
ebenbrooks
Mar. 19th, 2015 10:38 pm (UTC)
Re: Hah!
Thank you. :)
(Deleted comment)
ebenbrooks
Mar. 20th, 2015 03:07 pm (UTC)
Thank you. :)
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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