Captain’s Log Supplemental: We have departed Starbase one forty-seven, and are now enroute to the Sendatius system to investigate a series of murders. Due to her personal relationship with the prime suspect, I once again have the services of a former Enterprise officer. However at this point I’m forced to wonder if Captain Matthews’ presence will be an asset or a liability.
Picard had given the ensign at helm the course, then called for a briefing of his senior staff. 'Commodore' Matthews maneuvered silently past the Captain, and went straight to the bridge level observation lounge. As the Enterprise command officers filed in and took their usual places at the long conference table, each glanced at the visiting starship captain. Matthews allowed them to believe she was preoccupied and vaguely aware of their presence, when nothing could be further from the truth.
Captain Picard assumed his position of authority at the head of the table. Doctor Crusher and Commander Riker joined their captain, taking seats opposite one another at Picard's end of the table. The others settled into chairs at the faintly curved, wood trimmed table, positioning themselves by rank…with one exception.
Ship's Counselor Deanna Troi shifted in her plush, high backed chair, dividing her attention between the preliminary discussion and the silent, distracted Matthews. Captain Matthews, since she had arrived ahead of the others, simply took the chair nearest the door.
Matthews was aware of the half Betazoid counselor's concern for her, but dismissed it as a low priority. At the far end of the table, most visitors tended to feel like the guest of honor at a roast. Matthews remained motionless in what had come to be known as 'the hot seat', and waited for something important to come up.
Content to let Picard fill the others in on their mission, Matthews kept an ear to the discussion while she mulled over the ramifications of the available information. As Picard opened the floor to speculation, Angela Matthews had begun trying to convince herself she really was on her way to---
An off the cuff remark from Lieutenant Worf demanded her undivided attention. Matthews instantly dropped the pretense of disinterest, locked onto the Klingon and began hurling icicles at him. "I can't believe the Major's gone insane, Mr. Worf," Angela growled, then hit Worf where he lived. "In a case like this you, of all people, should be the last to rush to judgement."
It was the first time she had spoken since the briefing began; Matthews not only brought silence to the room, but became the center of attention as well. She glared at each of them in turn, daring any of them to speak ill of the Major. After a few tense seconds, it was Picard who accepted her challenge.
"I understand this is a difficult situation for you, Commodore," Picard reminded her in an almost fatherly tone, "but Mr. Worf's opinion is, however distasteful, still a possibility we must explore."
Matthews locked weapons on Picard, and in a tone so neutral it could have come from the ship's computer, she opened fire on the captain. "If it were anyone else I'd be the first to agree;but I know my grandfather, Captain. You'll need a lot more than you have, to convince me he's murdered seven people in cold blood."
Matthews folded her arms across her chest and shifted her attention to one of the viewports, once again turning cold and dormant. No one, save the empathic counselor, suspected the Commodore was prepared to slam each of them in turn, should the need arise. In Angela's mind it was two down, five to go.
Picard moved quickly to fill another cold silence. "Data, can you offer some background on the colony itself?"
Lieutenant Commander Data spent a few microseconds accessing the information, then began what he considered a brief synopsis. "The Sendatius system consists of two planets, the smaller of which is Class-M. The colony itself was established on Sendatius Minor forty-one Terran years ago, and is a leading agricultural producer in the sector. The colony's principal exports are an apple-like fruit known locally as---"
Riker interrupted with, "Are there any mineral exports, Data?"
Data's response was immediate. "There have been no mining operations on Sendatius Minor. The initial planet survey, conducted by the science vessel USS Ballard, indicated no useful mineralogical deposits present. However the natural global climate offers a remarkable agricultural opportunity." The android officer attempted to reconcile current information with his background report by adding, "Available information suggests the dead colonists, were interested in nothing more than recreational cave exploration."
Matthews rejoined the discussion by offering, "That would make a lot of sense. This is the first I've heard of a cave anywhere near the colony, and the Major's had a fascination with caving since his service days. He used to tell me war stories about how he ran guerrilla operations from---but that was a long time ago. Still, if there was a cave to be explored, the Major would want to lead the first team into it, picnic lunch and all."
Doctor Crusher summarized, "A group of colonists goes cave exploring. One of them is found by the cavern entrance, six more inside, so we're accusing the missing eighth member of their murders?" She could suddenly see why Matthews would be upset.
Worf shifted in his eat and reminded them all, "One of the colonists who found the bodies claimed to have been fired on, while searching the cave for the Major." He turned his gaze on Captain Matthews and finished, "That may be sufficient evidence for the colony governor, but I agree it is not enough for us."
The look in Worf's eyes told Matthews all she needed to know; he knew exactly what she was going through. Now she felt a pang of regret for jumping down the security officer's throat, but stifled it quickly. It wouldn't do to soften her position now, even if she wanted to.
Matthews sighed, and turned her attention to Captain Picard. No one but Troi could tell how it pained the Commodore to add, "The Major doesn't shoot at people, Captain. My grandfather does have a very bad temper and I know for a fact, given a good reason, he is completely capable of violence."
Geordie LaForge inquired, "You know for a fact?" and was sorry he asked. The ship's chief engineer knew the instant he spoke up, his turn to be chastised had come.
Matthews turned her ice-cold stare on him, and in that same chillingly calm tone she clarified,"Yes Geordie, I do. When I was six I watched my grandfather kill a Kolrachian warrior with his bare hands, in my defense."
Picard filled another frozen vacuum by asking Data, "How long until we reach Sendatius Minor?"
Data's answer was quick and of course accurate. "At our present speed of warp six, seventeen hours, thirty-one minutes."
Angela could see Picard was tempted to order maximum warp, but decided against it. Just as well; they would have their answers soon enough, and it was still quite possible Angela wouldn't like them. She needed time to think, and found herself hoping seventeen hours would be enough.
"Very well," Picard announced, "return to your stations. Commodore Matthews, have your away team ready to beam down the moment we make planetfall."
Matthews nodded, grateful he didn't make her ask for the assignment. As the bridge crew of the Enterprise filed out of the observation lounge, Angela Matthews remained in her seat, and stared into space. As she let the reality of the briefing sink in, she found herself wishing she had not been a part of it.
What she really wanted was for the entire mission to be exposed for the vicious, tasteless joke it had to be. She needed to be alone with her thoughts, but was aware Counselor Troi had remained seated also. They sat alone for a short eternity, before Deanna spoiled a perfectly good silence.
"You mask your feelings very effectively," was the counselor's opening gambit.
Angela's response was cool as ever. "Is that a compliment?"
"Just an observation."
Despite her efforts, a faint smile spread across Matthews' features. "Any special reason you've been observing me?"
"Just doing my job," Troi answered.
Matthews smile faded. She turned to the counselor and stated, "I really don't feel up to another sparring match, Deanna. Half an hour ago I learned I'm on my way to locate, maybe apprehend my only living relative for murder. To say I'm having a bad day doesn't quite cover it."
Deanna shook her head and told Angela, "I know exactly what you're feeling."
Matthews scoffed, "That makes one of us."
"You're understandably confused and distraught, and---"
"I really don't want to go into this, Deanna. I really don't." Angela suppressed a vindictive thought or two, and settled on wishing Troi would just leave her in peace. She wasn't certain how well the counselor read minds, but the feeling was strong enough for Mr. Data to get the hint.
Completely unfazed, Troi rose from her seat and headed for the door. Over her shoulder, the counselor offered one last bit of advice. "Doctor Sterling is on duty in sickbay."
Doctor Sterling examined her patient's injury, then looked the five year old boy straight in the eye and asked, "Now how did this happen, Jimmy?" Her chestnut brown eyes twinkled, and her softly rounded, cherubic face was bright and smiling.
Looking down at his scraped left knee, Jimmy told her, "Alexander pushed me down so he could get the ball first."
Sterling crouched by the examination table, bringing herself eye to eye with the boy. Still wearing the grin, she shifted her expression to vague disbelief. "That's not what Alexander told me."
"He's a liar!"
Sterling sighed, and pretended to mull something over. "Well," she said at length, "I suppose we can check the computer log and find out what really happened."
Jimmy went silent and the small, blond, brown-eyed boy suddenly became a little nervous. "The what?"
"Oh yes," Sterling assured him, as she disinfected his wound and placed a synthodermal patch on his knee. "The ship's computer watches over all the children on board all the time, and helps us keep you from harm. Yes, I think I'll just check the log and see---"
"Don't do that, Doctor Kate," Jimmy whispered.
Sterling stopped short. "Why shouldn't I?"
Jimmy fidgeted slightly on the exam table, then blurted, "Alexander didn't knock me down---but if he had'na jumped outa the way I wouldn'a fallen on the floor so it's still his fault."
Still cheery as a spring day, Sterling explained, "Jimmy, it was his turn to pitch. Now if you had asked nicely for the next turn instead of trying to grab the ball, I wouldn't be fixing your knee. If Alexander can learn to take turns, so can you."
She lifted him off the table and set him on the floor, then finished, "leave this patch alone 'till it falls off by itself. You can go back to your quarters now, Jimmy."
Jimmy took a few tentative steps toward the door, then turned and asked, somewhat apprehensively, "Doctor Kate, are you gonna tell my mom I fibbed?"
Dr. Sterling straightened up to her full, one hundred and sixty-seven centimeters, and stifled a giggle. "No Jimmy, I'm not...you are."
Jimmy shook his head, and scuffed toward the door. On his way out he muttered, "No ice cream tonight."
Sterling waited for the doors to close between them before she let go of her giggle. Hugging herself, the buxom young doctor announced, "I love my job!"
From behind her, the voice of an old friend asked, "Then I suppose you wouldn't want to come work for me?"
Sterling whirled to find Matthews leaning in the doorway near Doctor Crusher's office. "Stand up straight," Sterling ordered. Matthews responded by moving out of the doorway and throwing her arms around the doctor. As she returned the hug, Dr. Sterling declared, "Oh, it's good to see you again, Angela."
Angela stepped back and smirked. In a nearly serious tone she commanded, "That's Captain Matthews to you, Doctor Kate."
Sterling smoothed a few strands of her straight, dark blonde, stylishly short hair back into place, then tossed her hand out in a generally dismissive gesture. "You always were stiff as a board, Angela. So what brings you here? Must be something serious; Doctor Crusher came through here a while ago like a cold wind. Went straight to her office without so much as a word to anyone."
"I don't want to talk about it."
Sterling's features turned to a look of consternation. "I can read you better than Troi, Angela---always could. Something's bothering you, so out with it."
Angela forced a smile. "What, just like that? Don't I get a bit of candy or anything?"
An exasperated Sterling took her friend by the arm and dragged her to the sickbay exit. As they passed the CMO's office, Sterling stopped and poked her head in. "Doctor," Sterling asked nonchalantly, "I'd like to take this patient down to the holodeck and knock some stuffing out of her."
Crusher looked up from her computer terminal and asked, "Do we have any business?"
"Not at the moment," Dr. Sterling responded. "I just sent Lieutenant Marl's boy back to their quarters."
"All right, go ahead," was Beverly Crusher's answer.
Matthews wanted to know, "Hey, don't I get a say in this?"
Doctor Crusher studied Matthews, then the ship's primary pediatrician before uttering a simple, "No," then turned back to her terminal.
Beverly felt a faint grin rise to the surface, as she listened to Matthews' protests until they were cut off by the sickbay doors. As she finished reading Matthews' latest medical and psychological profiles, Crusher concluded someone had to get Angela to loosen up. She also knew if it could be done at all, Sterling was the best choice for the task.
The CMO found herself recalling Doctor Sterling's first day aboard the Enterprise. Crusher had waited for Sterling to report for duty nearly an hour, before asking the computer to locate her. Beverly found Sterling on the kindergarten play area floor, making balloon animals for the children.
There was a top physician---first in her class, author of several brilliant papers on child psychology---sitting in the center of a group of children, trying to make a balloon dragon. Crusher reminded her of the appointment she'd missed, but wound up waiting while Sterling finished the dragon.
Beverly was polite enough, but insisted Dr. Sterling accompany her to sickbay. Back in the CMO's office, Crusher was all set to read out this new arrival for disregarding protocol to the point of insubordination, but was stopped cold by Sterling's demeanor. The young pediatrician waited for Crusher to sit at her desk, then revealed the serious side of her nature.
Before Crusher could say anything, Sterling took the offensive. Kate pointed out she was an experienced pediatrician and a damned good one at that. From there, she apologized for ruffling the chief medical officer's feathers but her patients had to know and trust her, before they needed her. Better to learn every one of her patients’ first names, before shaking hands with a flock of grownups.
Crusher remembered the fire in Sterling's eyes, when she told her department head the children always came first. However the most telling of Sterling's verbal blows came when she reminded Crusher she'd asked for the best pediatrician in Starfleet, and the best was what she got.
Crusher was about to surgically remove Sterling's ego when the younger doctor pulled a piece of candy from thin air, set it on the CMO's desk and apologized again. The twinkle was back in Sterling's eyes, and somehow made her look like an eight-year-old in a woman's body. Beverly was as surprised as anyone to discover her anger abandoned her. Sterling's approach was different, but effective; she was right to claim the title of best pediatrician in the fleet.
Since that day, Doctor Crusher had learned Sterling's generally cavalier bedside manner was an excellent approach to nearly any patient. It wasn't Crusher's style but as Kate herself had once pointed out, not everything works for everyone. Having overheard Sterling's conversation with Matthews, she felt a tinge of sadness; after this mission, the Enterprise medical staff would almost certainly be short one doctor.
Commander Riker strolled into the Ten-Forward lounge but stopped near the entrance, casting about for a seat. Although there were various spots open at a number of tables, after a moment of deliberation Riker ambled casually to the bar.
As he pulled himself onto a stool he asked Guinan, "How about a nice dry ale, please?"
The bar itself wasn't crowded, and within seconds Guinan had set a frosted glass before the first officer. With a knowing look in her eyes, she asked, "Is there something else you'd like?"
Will Riker felt a broad grin bubble up to the surface; knowing when one of her friends needed to talk was but one of Guinan's talents. "I'd like an ear to bend, too," he confessed.
Guinan smiled as she responded, "You've come to the right place. Would this have anything to do with Angela Matthews?"
Will's grin broadened. "And all this time I thought Deanna was the only mind reader on board." He paused to organize his thoughts, then opened with, "We didn't really stay in touch, after she took the first officer's slot on the Arcturus. It has been over three years, but, this afternoon, when she came aboard, I...I just don't know. She didn't know about the mission yet but she blew past me like I wasn't even there. I had the feeling if I'd been blocking the door, she would've walked over me to get to the bridge."
Guinan took it all in, thought it over quickly and inquired, "And she still hasn't said 'Hi Will, how's it going?'"
"She's understandably preoccupied with the mission now, but---I felt like a piece of furniture."
Guinan answered, "I understand she and her grandfather are very close." To remove the surprised look from Riker's face, she added, "News travels fast on a starship."
Riker savored a mouthful of synthahol, then swallowed hard; remembering Guinan was, as she put it, 'used to having the Captain's ear'. "This has to be hard on her," he admitted between gulps, "I suppose I'd feel the same way in her place."
The solution to his problem seemed simple enough to Guinan. "Why don't you just tell her that?"
Riker shrugged, then tapped his comm badge. "Computer, locate Angela Matthews."
The computer's motherly voice issued from his badge, "Angela Matthews is on holodeck two."
The shipboard holodeck system could be described as the technological equivalent of a magic carpet ride. Through the computer's magic, a person could go almost anywhere, meet nearly anyone, or do just about anything. Hundreds of programs were on file for various activities and locations, or the user could create his or her own. Thus a great deal of the holodeck visitor's personality was reflected by his or her choice of program.
At the moment, Starfleet Captain Angela Matthews was kneeling on computer generated grass, sizing up a half meter putt. It wasn't exactly what she would have picked for herself but then, she wasn't given a choice.
Sterling wanted to know, "Are you praying, Angela?"
Matthews stood, and with putter in hand declared, "I was wondering why this particular game."
Doctor Sterling leaned against her putter and replied dryly, "Tradition."
With the golf club, Matthews made a sweeping gesture to include the entire course; eighteen obstacle free, carefully landscaped holes of miniature golf. Turning away from the holodeck wall grid to face her friend, Angela asked, "When you could be playing any of the great courses in the known galaxy or you could design your own, why this?"
Doctor sterling exhaled sharply, totally exasperated once again. "Why does everyone ask that?" She stared into Angela's eyes and explained, "I don't want a machine running my game for me. In this game my ball goes where I send it, good or bad."
"So? The computer can---"
"Yeah yeah, the computer can do just about anything, but at least this an honest game."
"I don't follow." Angela lowered her club and waited for an explanation.
Sterling was just short of amazed. "You really don't get it, do you? Okay, look at it this way; I'm out on the holodeck back nine, and I slice into the rough. The temptation to ask the computer to correct my slice would be overwhelming. Pretty soon, with the computer's help, I'm playing well enough to turn pro."
"And I repeat, so?"
Sterling waved the putter around as she answered, "So on my next leave I head straight for the links, and slice into the rough. 'Funny', I tell myself, 'that never happens on the holodeck'---y'get it?"
Angela's response was dismissive. "You're being ridiculous."
"Am I? Anyone can become computer dependent. I was lunching with a colleague a while back who had to be told what a splint was. Poor boy couldn't set a broken bone without all this wonderful magic. Now that's ridiculous."
Observing her friend's histrionics with some amusement, Angela was still cool as a spring breeze. "You really get fired up over these things, don't you?"
"Damn right," Kate Sterling huffed. "Now are you gonna sink that putt or what?"
Without turning, Angela swung her club back and tapped the ball. A few seconds later, she read the results of her backhand swing in Sterling's face.
Angela felt compelled to rub her nose in it. "Went in, didn't it?"
Kate glowered. "You know I hate when you do that."
Matthews finally cracked a smile. "I know, that's why I practice it."
Kate Sterling snatched her ball from the cup, and dropped it on the fifteenth tee. Her practiced swing paid off, as her ball rolled to a stop, mere centimeters from the cup. The doctor stepped back, and shifted a bit of her weight to her club, as Matthews set up for her swing.
Just before club met ball, Sterling inquired, "So, when was your last romantic fling?"
Angela's ball still rolled onto the green, less than a meter from the cup. As she walked to the green, Angela stated simply, "None of your business, Doctor."
Dr. Sterling knocked her ball into the cup, retrieved it and said, "Of course it is. After all I didn't drag you down here for my health."
"There's nothing wrong with me, Kate."
"Says you. Answer my question."
Angela missed her putt, then a three centimeter second effort. "I thought we came here to golf?"
"Evasive maneuvers will not help you, Angela," The doctor informer her. "I came here to golf. You're here to tell me all your problems."
Angela tapped her ball in for a bogey, then turned on her oldest, closest friend, her blue eyes cold as ice. "And if I don't?"
"I strap you to a biobed and pump you full of chemicals until you talk. Your choice."
Angela held her harsh glare on Kate, but the fire in Sterling's eyes convinced her the doctor was deadly serious. Sterling may be flip most of the time, but she could stare down a mad dog if she had to. One way or another, she would get to the root of her patient's problem.
Matthews held her stare for a long, hard minute, waiting for Sterling to back off; but Kate would not budge. In the end, after another minute, Matthews blinked first. If Kate was so determined to help, perhaps there was something wrong with her.
As she reached for her ball, Angela grumbled, "I didn't know you could go that long without smirking."
"I can't," Kate hotly reassured her friend, "now answer the question."
Matthews sighed. "I don't know...fourteen months ago, I suppose."
"Wow---okay, why do you suppose that is?"
"I've been busy." Angela was growing impatient again. "Is there a point to this?"
Sterling was relentless. "Busy with what?"
"With my new command---what's with all these questions?"
"Tell me about your new command."
Matthews flashed a grin. "I can't, it's classified."
Unruffled, Sterling grinned right back. "I know. Naval Construction Contract number six-two-eight-oh, nearing completion at the Utopia Planitia yard in Mars orbit."
Angela's jaw dropped. "How do you know that?"
"It's right there in your file, under current assignment." Sterling was becoming genuinely annoyed. "The mission's classified, but the ship isn't. Stop trying to duck my questions, Angela, I want to help. Why are you here?"
Angela gave in, and told Kate the whole story. Since there was precious little to go on, the telling was brief. Kate nodded once as she listened, but did not interrupt. Once Angela had laid it all at her feet, Sterling mulled it all over, then a second later recovered her ball and moved to the next tee.
Kate shrugged, then lined up her shot as she assured her friend, "So we'll prove it wasn't the Major, find the real culprit and have you back to Mars in no time."
Angela was truly, deeply impressed. "It's that simple for you, isn't it?"
Kate took her sawing and posed, "Why shouldn't it be?"
Angela swallowed hard, then admitted her worst fear. "He could be guilty."
Kate stopped short, looked her friend in the eye and quipped, "Nah."
Angela took her swing, coming within centimeters of a hole in one. As she tapped in for par, Angela declared, "I wish it was that cut and dried for me."
Kate made her putt and explained, "Your Starfleet training makes that just about impossible. You have to see a problem from every conceivable angle, because missing a tiny detail could be fatal."
"Tell me about it," Angela grumbled.
"Hmm, I think I just did."
Angela teed up, swung, then turned to Kate. "So why did you ask about my love life?"
Wearing a dopey grin, Sterling confessed, "I like to talk dirty," then earnestly explained, "I wanted you to think about all the eighteen and twenty hour workdays you've put in over the last eight and a half months. If you haven't made time for a man, then you probably haven't time for any of life's other simple pleasures. Stress kills, Angela."
Matthews was astonished. "When you say it out loud---I really had no idea."
"It's like most other radiation poisoning," Kate offered sincerely. "You don't know it's got you until an alarm goes off. For example, a moment ago I thought you were gonna bop me with your putter."
"Actually," Angela admitted, "I was thinking of wrapping it around your neck."
Doctor Sterling's flip, flighty manner was back as she pointed out, "But you didn't, so there's still hope."
Angela took another long, deep breath, then let it go as a heavy sigh. "Well Kate, you're the doctor; recommend a decontamination protocol."
Kate sized up her next shot with a faraway look, reveling in a fantasy. "Oh I suppose I'd get off the ship, locate some out of the way place, and find a good looking guy to get out of uniform with."
Sterling's hands went to her hips as her putter fell to the deck. With a stern edge to her tone she scolded, "Oh, get over it. I'm gonna tell Worf to have his people watch for you. Go near a workstation in the next twelve hours, and I'll have you brought to sickbay and sedated."
At that moment the holodeck doors opened to admit Commander Riker, who took in the scene and asked, "Am I intruding?"
Sterling spoke up first. "Oh no, Commander. By all means, come in." Under her breath she added, "I couldn't have written a better prescription," which earned her an elbow in the ribs from Matthews.
Riker strode across the course, but stopped at the tenth hole. His charming smile firmly in place, he seemed constrained to observe, "You realize the computer can provide a full size---"
Sterling exploded. "Why does everyone say that?" She brushed past Riker and stomped off the holodeck, muttering something about technology and serpents.
Captain Picard sat at his desk in his ready room, reading the report from Sendatius Minor for the fifth time. The colony governor made the situation seem open and shut; a retired military officer had suddenly gone berserk and killed seven colonists. Jean-Luc found such a leap unsettling, but wasn't certain of the reason. Was it because it was indeed a remarkable speculation, or could it be the insinuation of retirement driving a person to madness?
While he was certain he had at least a few good years left, Picard had always assumed someday his time to rest would come. Thoughts of the family vineyards came to mind; pleasant daydreams now suddenly marred by violence. He had been through hell more than once, and the possibility of those nightmares coming back to haunt him was uncomfortable enough. That he might unknowingly and without warning, act them out among innocents was intolerable.
The Captain of the Enterprise sat up, and snapped off his computer display screen. Deciding he had followed that path far enough, he reached for his teacup and sipped the hot, Earl Grey. He realized the odds of becoming such a walking time bomb were remote to the point of insignificance. If it began happening to him, his physician would see and put a stop to it, if he did not.
Which brought the Captain to the one point of the governor's report that troubled him most. Major Matthews was being accused on the most circumstantial of evidence, with an extremely poor motive. Picard's gut instinct wouldn't let him accept the possibility of mental impairment.
Captain Matthews was correct, when she insisted there was no evidence of such disability. The Major had recently been through an annual physical and psychological examination, by a physician Dr. Crusher knew to be competent in both fields. Having read the most recent medical reports, Picard could not reconcile them with the colony governor's accusation. All that seemed left to do on arrival was prove the Major's innocence.
Captain Picard set his Earl Grey tea aside, and leaned back in his padded, high backed chair. Rubbing his chin thoughtfully, Picard concluded he preferred his murder mysteries confined to the holodeck. Having tentatively eliminated the prime suspect, he was no longer certain how to proceed with his investigation.
He was comparing a number of possible explanations from his imagination to the facts at hand, when the pager tone coming from his terminal derailed his train of thought. "Picard here."
From the computer terminal, Worf's even baritone informed him, "Incoming message from Sendatius Minor. The colony governor wishes to speak to you personally, Captain."
Angela Matthews dropped her golf club and commanded, "Computer, end program." Once the miniature golf course and equipment vanished, she turned to Riker and began her apology. "I'm sorry, Will. I brushed you off without a thought, and I still can't believe I did it. Can you forgive me?"
Riker's charming, disarming smile broadened. "Well of course I can forgive you. I just want to know if there's some way I can help, Commodore."
She remembered Sterling's suggestion and blushed. Hoping to cover it quickly, Angela told him, "For starters, please don't call me commodore when you don't have to."
All the tension Riker had pent up over the last few days melted away. "No problem, Angela."
Angela felt a smile appear, and for once decided to leave it there. She wrapped an arm around Riker's and asked him, "Buy me a drink, sailor?"
As they left the holodeck, Riker chuckled. "Sailor? There’s some dust on that one, isn't there?"
"Ah, it's good to be back," Angela all but purred. "Back among friends who take care of you."
"That's funny," Will Riker told her, "I never thought of you as someone who needed to be taken care of."
Angela shrugged. "Me either, but Doctor Sterling just made me take a hard look at my lifestyle; all work and no play..." She left the thought unfinished, as she tried to control another blush---damn that Kate, anyway.
Will inquired, "Been pushing yourself too hard?"
"I certainly didn't think so, but then work addicts never do. Then one day your best friend points out you haven't taken a day off in eight months, and it's like running full tilt into a force field."
Riker stopped them dead in their tracks. Stunned, all he could muster was, "Eight months?"
Angela confessed, "Double, triple shifts, seven days a week---then this whole business. For over two days I was the baton on a relay race, passed from one fast ship to the next; then I found out where I was going and why. Frankly, I don't know why no one put a hypospray to my neck during the briefing."
Riker cracked, "Would it help you to know I had a phaser under the table, pointed at you?"
Will delivered the punchline. "All right, I didn't...but Worf did."
For the first time in months, Angela actually giggled. "Okay Bill, one more crack like that and there will be nothing left of you but a pile of broken bones."
Riker couldn't help himself. "Now that's what I've been waiting to hear."
"What, threats of violence?"
Will took her hand, and squeezed it. "The sound of laughter, coming from you."
Angela gently pulled her hand away. "Well, I guess you bring out the best in me." She stepped aboard the turbolift ahead of him, to hide yet another blush.
Riker stepped aboard, rested a hand on her shoulder and turned her to face him. Smiling as her face reddened, he offered, "What are friends for?"
At last thoroughly embarrassed, Angela insisted, "Don't get all philosophical on me now."
She suspected he was about to launch some witty double entendre when a pager tone sounded from the lift car's comm panel, followed by Picard's voice. "Bridge to Commodore Matthews."
Matthews responded by ordering the turbolift to the bridge, then slapped her comm badge. "Matthews here, Captain."
Picard's voice blended tension and depression as he informed her, "There's been another incident near the cave, Commodore."