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Sky Trek: Children of the Night

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World Map and Glossary

As twin full moons ascended above the small, tranquil Farpoint Island, a young Federation naval officer, Kumar Patel, stepped outside his radar station. As the device mounted on the small building twirled, he reached into his coat pocket, pulling out a self-rolled smokeleaf joint. Leaning against the side of the structure, he then reached for his flintlock lighter. 

It was a warm night as it usually was on Farpoint, with a gentle light breeze adding to the comfort. Also as usual, his radar picked up no contacts. Perfect conditions for a little self-indulgence. 

However, before he was able to do anything more, he heard the snap of a tree branch coming from the tropical forest surrounding him.

“Yo!” Kumar called. “Harold? That you?”

The chirp of crickets was the only response.

“Harold?” Kumar called again.

Again, there was nothing.

“Dude, quit screwing around and help me smoke this thing,” he groaned. “What took you so long, anyway? You pass a kidney stone or something?”

There was a noise this time, though it was only a familiar bird chirp.

‘Guess it was just that snipe again,’ Kumar thought, relaxing slightly. ‘Though what the hell is Harold-”

Before he could even finish the thought, he felt a sharp pain on the side of his head. 

Only darkness followed.

--

Two days later and two thousand miles away, a new shadow loomed over the skyscrapers of Axis Mundi. Far below, among the hustle and bustle of numerous pedestrians, magitek automobiles, and trotting horses, Captain Jean-Luc Picard eagerly studied its origin. It was a skyship; his skyship, in fact, and one his horse-drawn carriage was rapidly closing the distance towards on the busy city streets.

It was nearly half a kilometer long, larger than any other ship in the vicinity. Flying high above the nearby bay, her metallic and wooden hull glowed like a beacon in the midday sun. It was enough to illuminate many of her larger features: everything from maneuvering propellers to her massive, saucer-shaped bridge, to fin-like sails hanging off her sides. The latter were not the main mode of propulsion, however, merely the brakes. That would be the gargantuan, rectangular mana engine fitted to her stern.

“Something on your mind, captain?” Deanna Troi, Picard’s carriage companion noted, turning to him as their carriage bounced along the cobblestone city road. 

He chuckled slightly. Though normally he wasn’t too open with his emotions, it was no use trying to hide them from her. “Is it that obvious?

"You know who you're talking to, right?" she sassed. “Though this is just common sense, really.”

“I wish you’d have just chalked it up to your abilities,” he said. “Here I thought I’d mastered the stoic pose.”

“That’s pretty much your default - there’s no need to master it,” Deanna chuckled. “When it’s broken, though, it’s like a ripple on still waters…”

“More easily noticeable,” Picard mused. 

“And more potent,” Deanna smiled.

Picard gave her a whimsical look. “I’ll have to keep that in mind.”

As he spoke, the carriage slowed to a stop at a crosswalk. Briskly, creatures of all shapes and sizes began to move across it, from humans to winged averials to dwarves to elves of all types. He could even spot a few of the normally reclusive nymphs and newly emerged astrals, or ‘monsters’ as they called themselves, bumping shoulder to shoulder with each other. Picard couldn’t help but marvel at the sight. 

“Captain?” Deanna said, snapping Picard out of his thoughts. 

“Mmm? Sorry counselor,” he said. “Honestly, do you want to know what really makes me… somewhat disconcerted about all this?”

“The children aboard?” Deanna joked, earning a sarcastic smirk from Picard.

“No, not the children,” Picard said. “Though I’m still hesitant about that decision, mind you, not that I had any say in it.”

“If not them, then what?” Deanna asked. 

There was a pause. Picard gestured towards the pedestrians. “Did you know that literally every member state is sending someone to serve aboard? From the largest to the smallest. And they’re all the cream of the crop. The best Skyfleet Academy could give us. Some are even royalty.”

“There are a few coming aboard, aren’t there?” Deanna said, nodding. 

“It only shows how invested everyone is in this,” Picard said. “It’s virtually a monument.”

“It is kind of like one, isn’t it? Like something you’d see here in the capital - something that celebrates unity,” Deanna said. “Only this one’s mobile.”

Picard thought for a moment as the driver of the carriage, a young Earthen, whispered something in his horses’ ears. They quickly changed direction.

“I just hope anyone we meet doesn’t get the wrong idea,” Picard said. “Almost seems like we're showing off, strutting around our best technology like this. Envoys who do that sort of thing are all to often mistrusted, and rightfully so. Historically, most haven’t had good intentions. That old proverb, ‘first impressions are the most lasting’, comes to mind.”

“The Enterprise is a little too well armed, in my opinion,” Deanna said. “However, a wise people would know that first impressions are almost always wrong.” She then smiled. “We’re going to be fine. Like you said, we have the best of the best with us.”

“Mmm… speaking of which,” Picard said. “We’ve both reviewed the bridge crew roster, and I’m a bit… concerned.”

“Of?”

“Cohesion, mainly.”

“They’re a diverse bunch, that’s for sure,” Deanna said. “Like you said, almost everyone wants to have a hand onboard.”

“A diversity of species is not what I am worried about. It’s, well… you know.” Picard glanced away from her. “I requested Skyfleet make some… rearrangements, but they wouldn’t hear it.”

Deanna smirked, a hint of a twinkle in her eyes. “Is this about a certain princess?”

“Partially,” Picard stated bluntly. “I know it’s a bit arrogant to believe I have the right to be able to hand-pick the entire crew, but given our history, it’s asking for trouble.”

“She just needs to get to know you - the real you,” Deanna said. “They all do.”

“Mmmm, I just wish they’d all be there on our trip to Farpoint,” Picard said. 

“We’re only missing a few people,” Deanna said. “Though what is Commander Riker doing all the way out there, anyway?”

“Investigating rumors of sabotage,” Picard said. 

“Sabotage?” Deanna said, raising her eyebrows. 

“My thoughts exactly,” Picard said. “Farpoint hasn’t had any real strategic value for decades - not since we made peace with the Klingons. The small base we have there is more of an emergency port for trade ships than any real fortification.”

“It sounds like you don’t think it was the Klingons,” Deanna said.

Picard shook his head. “It’s unlikely. They could roll over the island like a tsunami if they wanted to - they’d have no reason for sabotage.” He then smiled slightly. “However, I’m confident the commander will get to the bottom of it before we arrive.”

“You and me both,” Deanna said, and again Picard saw the twinkle in her eyes.  

“And by the way, I am happy you accepted the invitation,” Picard continued. “If there is a lack of cohesion on board, I’m sure you’ll go a long way toward remedying it.”

Though she hid it well, a hint of a blush crossed the empath’s face. “I’m always available if you need me.”

Before the conversation could continue, the young Earthen piped up from the coachman’s seat in front of them in a Lyonessian accent. “Bout’ a minute out, Cap’n. Sorry for the delay - traffic was extra thick cus of the maiden voyage an’ all.”

“Nothing you could do about that,” Deanna responded. “Um, Pip, was it?”

“Yes, ma'am,” he said jubilantly, tipping his newsboy cap her way. “Boy, when me mates hear who I shuttled today, they’re gonna lose their sh--” He paused, coughing slightly. “Uh, they’re going to go bonkers!” 

“Mmm, yes, I’m sure they will,” Captain Picard said, folding his arms and holding back a sigh.

“He’s not as grouchy when you get to know him,” Deanna said, winking at a slightly off-put Pip, who smiled back at her with a nod. 

Picard shifted in his seat. “Honestly, I’d be in a better mood if this entire damned city wasn’t out of good tea.”

Deanna looked at him curiously. “I managed to find some this morning. There’s this cute little shop right when you enter the elven district. They have better Wellness Tea than even Vulzedia in my opinion. Oh, and the chocolate. By the gods...”

“Hm …” Picard hm’d. 

"What?"

"Oh nothing. Sounds lovely."

Deanna looked puzzled for a second, then smirked. “Oh.”

“Oh what?” 

“Ohhhhh …”

Picard gave her a blank look. “You know I hate it when you do this.”

Her smirk didn’t diminish. “Oh you’re picking up what I’m putting down, alright. You mean the city doesn’t have any ‘real’ tea.”

Picard raised his eyebrows. “That is a backwards, Galliacentric attitude and you know it.”

“Then you’ll agree with me that Earl Grey Tea is *not* the best in the Federation.”

Picard gave her a sarcastic look. “And here I thought counseling required a certain degree of honesty.”

Deanna laughed. “And here I thought Klingons were picky.”

“I wouldn’t tell a Klingon that if I were you,” Picard chuckled. 

A minute or so later, the carriage pulled into one of the many skydocks lining along the coast. Though one could easily mistake it for a simple large, concrete platform at first, on closer inspection it was so much more. Like a normal maritime dock, each of the facilities was equipped with everything needed to maintain any type of small vessel that needed it. There were everything from suspendium tanks to stockpiles of electro-mana batteries.

The vessel that currently sat on the landing platform was what appeared to be a newer ship - no scuffs or scratches to be seen. It was a relatively small, 200 meters long with what seemed to be oversized propellers fitted on it.

“Is that the Normander ?” Deanna asked. 

“Indeed,” Picard said, gazing at it with an impressed look as it grew closer. “Remind me to send my compliments to the construction crew - it fits the design to a T.”

Deanna raised her eyebrows. “You mean it’s a brand new design?”

Picard nodded. “Quite. Specifically made for the Enterprise’s use, too. It’s formally designated as a light sky frigate, but has a unique nickname given what it’s supposed to do.”

“What’s that?” Deanna asked.

“A ‘dropship’,” Picard said. 

“A what?” 

Picard cleared his throat. “A dropship.”

Deanna blinked. “It’s a skyship specifically made for… dropping out of the sky?” 

“Well, it can,” Picard said. “Oh, I know - it’s like a larger version of a sky shuttle.” 

“Why not just call it a ‘large sky shuttle’, then?” Deanna chided.

Picard coughed slightly again. “Well, because, to put it in the design team’s own words… ‘dropship sounds cooler’.”

“I see.” 

“I think it sounds cool!” Pip called. 

Picard nodded his way appreciatively. “Thank you.”

“Also, we’re here,” Pip said, tipping his newsboy cap as the carriage rolled to a stop. Carefully, Picard and Deanna exited it. Pip smiled their way one more time. “I’ve got a few more runs to do before I can come aboard. Hope everything goes smoothly for you lot.”

“Thank you, cadet,” Captain Picard said formally. 

With that, the young man smiled once again and drove off, the cloppity clop-clop of the horses trailing off into the distance.

Deanna smirked at Picard once again. “See, captain? You handled a kid well enough.”

Picard sighed. “He isn’t exactly a child. Not to mention, there will be more than just one young person aboard the Enterprise, and I haven’t even seen the finalized crew roster.” He held up a small folder he had been carrying to emphasize.

“Oh no. An experienced captain being in a position to influence a bunch of young officers?” Deanna said sarcastically. “Truly a nightmare scenario.”

“Nightmares are something you can wake up from,” Picard snarked.

Deanna nearly rolled her eyes. “Captain…”

“Jesting, jesting.”

With that, they began to move towards the ramp that would take them to the top of the two meter high platform. When they reached the top, they spotted three individuals, two who were currently arguing among themselves. A third, a woman wearing metallic armor, gazed at them with a mix of amusement and annoyance.

I’m telling you, feeding electricity into a mana drive at that level is going to overload the thing,” one said harshly in a haughty tone. “And need I remind you, without engines we can’t move!” 

“That must be Dr. McKay,” Deanna whispered to Jean-Luc. 

“Fits the profile,” Picard nodded.

Not if we can match the frequency with one of the new modulators,” the other man retorted. With his glowing orbs in place of eyes, Jean-Luc recognized him immediately as his Chief Engineer, Geordi LaForge.  

“Mana frequencies shift like winds during a cyclone. That’s magic in general for you - it’s inherently unpredictable,” McKay huffed. “You’d have to have someone watch the readings like a hawk to even attempt it.”

“Not if we figure out a way to--”

“Oh, I know where you’re going - don’t even think about trying to automate it! Haven’t you ever heard of the Hawkins Incident?” 

As the two continued to argue, Deanna and Picard approached the watching woman. 

“Commander Shepard, correct?” Picard asked.

She turned around, before giving Picard almost a relieved smile followed by a salute. “Reporting as ordered, sir.”

“No need for that, commander,” Picard said. “I’m not MACO.”

“Sorry, old habits,” she said. “Still getting used to working with Skyfleet.” 

“It’s quite alright,” Picard nodded, before gesturing at the two verbal combatants. “Is everything okay here?”

“Well, they haven’t started flinging insults yet,” Shepard shrugged. “Better than most ‘conversations’ with Dr. McKay turn into. Helps that Chief LaForge seems to have the patience of a sniper.”

“How long have they been at it?” Deanna asked. 

“30 minutes,” Shepard deadpanned. 

“Ouch.”

She gave a morbid chuckle. “And I’m pretty sure something about lemons was what sparked it.”

"Hey, lemonade is serious business," Deanna beamed.

Picard raised an eyebrow.

"I'm gonna keep telling whimsical jokes and there's nothing you can do to stop me!" Deanna pronounced.

Shepard blinked, glancing between Picard and Deanna. "Is that a shrink thing?"

"A good shrink thing," Picard said, earning a bright smile from the empath.

"Eh, fair enough," Shepard shrugged. "But uh, back to the matter at hand." She gestured towards the arguers. 

“Mmm, yes. I suppose whatever kicked it off, they’ll have to save it for later,” Picard said. “Commander?”

“With pleasure,” she grinned, before raising her voice and calling: “Hey, do you two wanna get a room or something?” 

The two paused, before slowly turning her way. Though they looked annoyed for a split-second, their eyes (in a manner of speaking) widened upon seeing the captain. 

“Hi!” Deanna beamed, waving. 

McKay turned towards Geordi. “Dinner?” 

“Dinner.” Geordi turned back towards the captain. “Sorry about that, captain, just debating ways to boost engine output.”

“Highly theoretical ways,” McKay said. “Buuut better than what most engineers have thrown my way.”

“Hah!” 

Picard nodded. "It sounded like you were speaking of exciting the mana reaction via running the electrical current through the initializing chamber."

"W-Well yeah," Geordi stuttered out. "But how did you-?"

"I sat in on the majority of the design meetings," Picard said. "I was under the impression it is impossible-"

"It is," McKay said stubbornly.

"-However, I'm no expert. Do you think it could be done?"

"No," McKay moaned.

"Possibly," Geordi said.

Picard gave him a satisfied look. "Then perhaps some limited experimentation is in order, so long as it doesn't endanger the drive."

"Oh for crying out loud," McKay groaned. "I didn't expect you, captain, to be the type to drive out of your lane like this."

Picard gave him a stern look, to which he simpered at.

"... Well, alright, if you insist.” He turned to Geordi. “Maybe bring the design specs to dinner?”

“It’s a date!” 

At that, Picard could have sworn he heard Deanna whisper to Shepard, “ I’m definitely shipping them.” When he turned to her, she merely gave her an innocent glance. 

Shepard, again, had a mix of annoyance and bemusement on her.

“Let’s uh…” Picard said, clearing his throat. “Let’s get on the ship.”

“With pleasure,” Shepard said. “Right this way.”

She led them to a large ramp extending from the rear of the sloped ship. They soon found themselves in a large chamber that seemed to take up the majority of it. Inside was a large, glowing leviton crystal in the center, and wrapped around the edges of the room were a series of harness-equipped seats, of which everyone but Shepard moved to take. 

“Wait? You really want to sit back here?” Shepard said, raising an eyebrow.

“Is there anywhere else?” Geordi asked.

Shepard gestured towards an archway leading to the bridge. “We’ve got a few spare seats up front. Thought you might want to take a look. It’ll give you a better view of the Enterprise as we go up.”

“It would give us a chance to meet the helmsman as well,” Deanna noted.

“Oh wait, yeah…” Shepard said, glancing away from them. “About that…”

Picard gave her an inquisitive look. “Oh? Is something wrong?”

“It’s just Joker can be a bit… grating,” Shepard said. “And Edi can take a bit of getting used to as well.”

“Ah, the Edi?” Picard said, the intrigue in his voice growing. 

“Indeed, the same one my team, er, liberated from that Cerberus lab a while back,” Shepard said.

“I would assume having a wisp with her abilities would be incredibly useful,” he said. “Is there a problem?”

“Other than doing the creepy ghost in the machine thing?” McKay grunted.

“Thank you, doctor,” Picard grumbled. “Commander?”

“It’s really nothing. It’s just Joker and her tend to… bicker,” Shepard said, holding back a cough. 

Deanna and Geordi couldn’t help but stifle a laugh at that. McKay, instead, rolled his eyes.

Picard finally sighed. “Very well, I’m sure we’ll be fine back here. The view isn’t that bad.” 

Indeed, there were multiple viewports inside the chamber. Some were situated above six machine gun ports that lined the room. Others were just there seemingly to give the passengers a chance to survey their surroundings before disembarking. Either way, it gave anyone within a somewhat checkered horizontal 360 degree view of the ship’s surroundings.

“No, no, it’s okay,” Shepard said, her voice taking a more light-hearted tone. “Though we should head up there soon. I’m sure everyone is eager to take off.”

Almost as if on cue, a voice chimed in over the ship’s intercom speakers. “Commander, are we going to lift off soon or should I book a hotel?”  

It looked like Shepard was about to face-palm at that. Without delay, she moved to a nearby comms unit and hit its transmit button. “Joker, you realize who’s on board, right?” 

“Is it one of the princesses?” Joker said. “Cus if it is make sure she comes to the bridge. Don’t want to miss a chance to show off to a--”

“Annnnd that’ll be all,” Shepard sighed. “Go ahead and ready the ship for takeoff.”

Yes, mom.”

“Joker!”

“Sorry, sorry.”

Shaking her head, Shepard cut the comm line. 

“Yeah, back of the bus it is,” Shepard said.

“Agreed,” Picard said. 

With that, the five-person group grabbed a seat and strapped themselves in, Picard thinking along with way: ‘Is everyone in my crew going to act so… unprofessional?’

A second later, a light humming sound originating from the leviton crystal could be heard, the numerous cables connected to it glowing hot as mana flowed through them. Soon the ship would be skyward. 

“My apologies for that, captain,” Commander Shepard sighed. “He’s probably the best helmsman in Skyfleet. The only problem is he knows it.”

“Not to worry,” Picard said reassuringly. “I trust in your abilities to handle him.”

Shepard grinned wickedly. “Well, I can’t physically kick his ass like we’d do in MACO, but I have other ways.”

Picard raised his eyebrows.

“Kidding, kidding.”

Picard shook his head, speaking softly to Deanna beside him. “Hopefully none of my own bridge crew will be as rambunctious as this ‘Joker’ character.” 

“A little comedy never hurt anyone,” Deanna said. “I’ve gone over numerous psychological studies that show having someone with a sense of humor among a group can actually improve morale and thus efficiency.”

“I see …”

“I should also note that the study was conducted by the Federation Comedian Guild.”

Picard stared at her blankly, to which she simply smiled innocently at. 

“Buckle up, kiddos, we’re lifting off,” Joker called over the intercom. "Alright Edi, you know the drill. All flight systems powered?"

"Affirmative. Mana and electro-mana batteries at 70% and 76% respectively," a new, slightly distorted voice replied.

"Docking platform clear?"

"Indeed."

“What the-” Geordi said. “Did he leave his intercom on?”

“He’s been doing that all day,” Shepard said. “I think he and Edi like showing off. Captain, I can tell him to turn it off if you want.”

“No, it’s alright,” Picard said, folding his arms. “Let’s see if his cocky attitude is warranted.”

"Go ahead and charge the leviton crystal to 50%.”

“Roger,” Edi stated .

“Spinning up maneuvering propellers to 50% as well. Gonna be nice and smooth."

"That'd be a first."

"Hey, snark is my thing. No copypastarino."

"What?

"Nevermind. Anyway, lights are green, so sky is clean. All clear. Give us 0.35 ms lateral."

"Crystal charged to 60%. We have liftoff."

With almost no fanfair, the leviton crystal began to glow even brighter, and the ship drifted skyward. If it wasn't for the maneuvering propellers and their respective machinery, it would have been almost completely silent. 

Sensing a break, Captain Picard opened the folder he was holding and began to peruse through the Head of Departments roster. 

Dr. Rodney McKay - Lead Science Officer

Dr. Perry Cox - Chief Medical Officer

Lieutenant Tasha Yar - Chief of Internal Security ...

"That is one beautiful view," Deanna said dreamily, interrupting him before he could read further.

True to her word, the ship had lifted above the small buildings that lined the coast, giving everyone a clear view of the capital city's shimmering bay. For miles and miles, various ships of all sizes could be seen, from small sailing vessels to even a couple of maritime military cruisers. However, none could outclass the sight of the Enterprise hanging above them all.

"Powering engines to 75%.”

The whir of the propellers grew louder, and the Normander jetted forward towards the Enterprise , forcing Picard to instinctively hold onto his seat. It was one thing to know the frigate was a speedy little thing, it was another thing to actually feel it.

"Heading towards our docking station.”

"Never thought we'd build a ship big enough to house a frigate," Shepard said. "On top of how many of the new monoplanes?"

"Thirty-six," Picard said. "Mixed assortment of fighters, fighter-bombers, bombers, torpedo bombers, and scout planes."

Deanna gave him a sarcastic look. “Do we still have room for our quarters?”

“Deanna…”

"Sorry, I just think it's a little excessive for a ship designed for diplomacy and exploration," she continued.

Shepard shook her head. "I disagree. What's that old saying? 'Offer one hand and arm the other?' We’ve barely charted the waters around the Federation. There's no telling what we might run into out there."

"Not to mention, many of our neighbors aren't the most amicable bunch themselves," Picard noted. 

Deanna looked slightly taken aback, perhaps even disappointed. "I thought you argued against arming the ship so heavily?"

"I did," Picard said. "The original design was even more heavily outfitted. With tensions so high with the Galactan Empire after the New Republic integration, the Federation Council wanted nothing short than a dreadnaught at the time. They were convinced the Enterprise would be withdrawn from it's exploration mission within months and sent off to war. I convinced them otherwise."

"You might have actually prevented a war," Shepard said. "Thrawn isn't someone who lets himself get cornered. If the Empire caught wind of us building such a mean ship, it could have provoked them into attacking first to keep it from being finished."

"Indeed - the president herself actually made that argument," Picard said.

"A win-win in my book," Shepard said. "No war with the Empire and the Enterprise can still throw down."

“True enough,” Picard said, nodding. "However, and no offense, commander, I hope we’ll never need to.”

"So do I," Shepard said. "But still, it doesn't hurt to have teeth.”

Shepard gestured out the front window. As if to punctuate her statement, the Enterprise was now close enough to show off her weapon systems. The semi-rectangular craft was indeed armed for anything, having everything from point-defense machine guns to flak cannons to several massive multi-gun turrets on both her top and bottom decks. 

“Can’t believe we managed to get maritime dreadnaught guns on her,” Shepard said.

“The Enterprise’s leviton crystals must be top of the line,” Geordi said.

“Hah!” McKay piped up. “Top of the line doesn’t even begin to describe it. I honestly can’t stand dealing with magitek, but helping to design that thing… totally worth it.”

Geordi raised an eyebrow. “What’s with you and hating on magic so much?”

“Bleh, don’t get me started,” McKay spat. “It has its uses, but we’re always trying to use it to do things it’s not supposed to. It’s like… it’s like using pliers to turn a screw.”

“Now you’re speaking my language,” Geordi laughed. “Fair enough, I suppose.”

"Set crystal mana to 50%, Edi, and hail our docking station, will ya'?"

The group glanced out their respective windows with a hint of eagerness. The Normander had moved above the floating Enterprise, approaching her stern. From here the Enterprise revealed itself to be a sort of carrier/dreadnaut hybrid. On the rear was a large landing pad where the Normander was preparing to land on. The back-mid section contained a landing strip, a dotted line running down its middle. And in the center, blocking the view of the aft, was a tall spire, windows lining it all the way up. Atop it sat the saucer-shaped bridge.

A few moments later, the Normander was hovering over her docking pad. Then, with a flicker of the leviton crystal, she set down. A skyship sitting upon a skyship.

Picard put on a hint of a smile, glancing towards Shepard. “My compliments to Joker. Not too shabby. I’m surprised he didn’t sign on for the main bridge crew.” 

Shepard chuckled. “He’s more than qualified, but in his own words, ‘The Enterprise is too damned slow.’

“He hasn’t seen the mana drive in action,” Geordi piped in. “We can move almost as fast as the Normander at max power. Speaking of which…”

“Of course, Mr. LaForge,” Picard nodded. “Believe me, I’m just as interested in viewing the bridge.”

“And I want to see if my lab is remotely up to spec,” McKay piped in. 

Geordi chuckled. “This isn’t the private sector - Skyfleet will have you covered, doctor.”

“Yuh huh,” McKay said, folding his arms. “We’ll see about that.”

Picard ignored the quibble, turning to Shepard. “Commander?”

She grinned. “Armory. Sergeant Undyne and a few other MACO want a crash course in firearm usage.”

Picard noticed Geordi raise his eyebrows. “They’re from cultures who haven’t discovered or bothered to utilize gunpowder,” he explained. 

“Primarily magic users,” Shepard continued for him.

“Ah, gotcha,” he said. 

As if on cue, the hatch on the back of the Normander lowered, creating a ramp to her landing pad. 

“Well then,” Deanna said. “It was a pleasure meeting all of you. Here’s to a smooth-”

As if sensing his sudden unnerve, she turned to Picard, who was gazing apprehensively at a figure waiting for him at the bottom of the Normander’s ramp.

“Uh oh.”

With her white dress and hair formed into honey-buns, there was no mistaking Career Minister Leia Organa. As per usual when interacting with the captain, she held a cold look on her.

“Hello again, Captain Picard,“ she said in a diplomatic tone. “Welcome to the Enterprise.”