The starship Enterprise moved cleanly through space, moving farther and farther away from the Romulan Neutral Zone. There had been a slight scare at some of the Federation's outermost posts and colonies involving the detection of possible Romulan ships in the area, and the Enterprise had been ordered to go investigate these claims. Thankfully, nothing seemed out of the ordinary, so the starship was permitted to go about its usual routine.
"Take us off yellow alert, Lieutenant Worf." Picard had demanded that it be on while they were in the vicinity of the Neutral Zone.
Next to Data, Ensign Crusher breathed a sigh of relief, which he believed was an understandable human reaction. Most beings did not seek out danger.
Riker slumped awkwardly in his seat, bringing his leg up to rest on the chair. Data was always perplexed by this. Was the commander incapable of using the seat properly?
Once they were far away enough from the Neutral Zone, the captain spoke. "Set course to Ranous VI." Picard stood as his combadge dinged, the voice of Dr. Crusher then reminding him of a physical that he had been delaying for two months, three weeks, three days, seven hours, and twenty-five minutes exactly.
After engaging in temporary eye contact and silent conversation with the captain, Commander Riker slid to the other seat to occupy the con.
Data never understood why Picard and some other humans would ignore and delay physicals. He never once missed a check up with Geordi himself; after all, what use would he be if he were damaged? Humans as well needed to make sure that they were in adequate if not optimal condition every now and then.
Wesley gave a small sound of frustration, typical of him when the computer system of the Enterprise wasn't up to his preferred standards, but something told Data that that was not the case this time. That was a relatively human thing, was it not? Perhaps he would have to speak with Counselor Troi on whether or not it was possible for him to learn how to read into human behaviours and perhaps gain an acceptable amount of empathy.
"You are stressed." Data spoke, moving his head in the direction of the ensign.
"Kind of, yeah." The teenage boy agreed with the android's conclusion.
The lieutenant-commander twisted in his chair slightly. "Is it because the captain left momentarily? Sometimes, I have observed that crewmembers feel more pressure in the absence of their leader than they would if they were present."
Wesley only looked confused and raised an eyebrow.
"I have prepared for this situation."
He widened his eyes. "You have?"
Data nodded enthusiastically, his emotion chip granting him abilities he had longed for for years. Well, he hadn't been capable of longing for anything then, but that was besides the point.
"How?" Crusher looked back and gained eye contact with Riker, who shrugged.
The android rose from his seat. "Let me explain. In the absence of the leader, efficiency ratings have always tended to drop, so recently, I have taken to trying to prevent this from happening. Geordi, do you have my box?" He turned to his friend.
Geordi looked as though he was trying not to laugh. "I sure do, Data." He pulled out a small cardboard box from underneath his station.
"What is it?" Troi sounded especially curious.
"In order to palliate any detriments seen in the absence of the captain or other common authority leader, I have created a way to simulate their presence." Data responded and shuffled through the box a little bit.
He then proceeded to pull out a very lifelike, very detailed, felt puppet of Picard.
Troi gasped. "You made this, Data?" His developing emotions always warmed her heart. It was like experiencing a child grow and learn on the starship.
"Yes." The android confirmed this.
"How does this improve efficiency?" Worf's deep voice grumbled. "The captain is still absent."
Data looked his puppet Picard in the eyes for a moment before walking to Riker. "Commander, may I suggest that you put this on your dominant hand?"
Riker, who had been dying of silent laughter, wiped away his tears. "Yes, I'll put the Picard puppet on. How many do you got in there?"
"I have created a selection of all the Enterprise's leaders." Data answered immediately.
"They're really cute, Data." Wesley laughed from his station, his stress having been relieved not by the presence of the puppet but by the hilarity of the situation.
Geordi agreed. "Yeah, Data has been spending a lot of time making these." He held up a random one, this one of Worf.
"Is that me?" The lieutenant inquired.
Data nodded. "Yes, it is."
He stared for a moment before nodding in approval. "It looks like a tiny warrior."
"It does represent you, Lieutenant." The android pointed out.
Riker stared at the puppet now on his hand. "Make it so." He badly imitated the captain while moving the mouth up and down.
"For that, I would suggest pressing the topmost button on the inside of the head." Data offered his hell.
Troi smiled. "It has buttons too? These are amazing, Data." She didn't think Starfleet would approve of the professionalism of using an imitation puppet of the captain, but it was cute and did no harm. Anything that Data did that could help him develop not only his emotions but also ways to cope with them was a good thing.
Riker smirked at the puppet for a moment before pressing the button.
The puppet then created noise. It was Captain Picard's voice coming from the puppet, a recording that must have come from the computer.
"Make it so."