By Carol Sandford


Chapter 01


The tall man strode up towards the wide flight of steps leading into the office suites, his brow furrowed in thought as he continued to wonder why he had been summonsed back to Earth. On another day, he would have swung his gaze around the building's impressive frontage, fondly remembering the first time he had stepped towards his new life. But that day was not today. He took the shallow steps two at a time, one half of him eager to find out his fate, the other half dreading news that he most certainly wasn't going to want to hear.

Nodding briefly to passing superiors that he knew mostly by face rather than name, William Riker didn't falter his pace until he reached the door that he needed. Taking a deep breath, he readied himself for what lie beyond, half convincing himself that it could only be bad news that awaited him. Rapping the heavy teak door sharply with tense knuckles, he awaited his admittance.


Taking another deep, calming breath, Will turned the ornate brass handle and stepped inside, his eyes quickly fixing onto the woman that sat demurely behind a huge teak desk, its glossy sheen reflecting Admiral Alynna Nechayev's image, highlighting her classical features as she sat with her hands laced before her upon the desk.

"Ah, Lieutenant Riker," she beamed, her hand separating from the other to show him where she wanted him to be. "please, come in, take a seat."

As Will sank into the plush seating opposite her desk, Will murmured, suddenly feeling like he now knew how it must feel to face a firing squad. He wasn't going to show her that completely irrational fear though. At least, not yet. "Thank you, ma'am. It's good to see you again, although I didn't expect it to be quite so soon."

Both fully aware that Will had only been on board the Potemkin for barely six months, nobody was more surprised than Will when he received the summons from Starfleet Headquarters to return for a special mission. His captain had protested, and even Will had protested, but to no avail. No one else would do for the job, so he'd returned, reluctantly to Earth. Very reluctantly.

"No," Admiral Nechayev agreed, "I'm sure you didn't, but an important assignment has been put into our hands, and, unfortunately, you're the poor unfortunate soul who's been requested to see it through."

Turning down his full, bottom lip in thought and dismay at the possibility of having his life snuffed out before he'd gotten a chance to do what he'd joined Starfleet to do, Will's blue eyes met Nechayev's slightly lighter blue ones straight on. "Guess that means it's a dangerous mission, huh?"

He was momentarily taken aback when she chuckled ruefully. "Depends on your viewpoint of dangerous, Lieutenant. If you can deal with the waspish tongue of a dignitary who's reputation is as big as her ego, then yes, it could be dangerous, but only to your pride. Because, by God, Will, she will tear you to shreds if anything happens to your charge!"

Will went cold and a slither of dread slipped down his spine. "Charge, ma'am?"

Nechayev nodded, her own lips pursing with distaste and regret at the poor mans crummy luck. "Yes, Mr. Riker. Charge. Your mission is to keep someone safe for a while. It seems you made quite an impression when you last met and you have been especially requested for the job."

Will blinked several times as he stared at the woman before him, allowing the information to sink into his stunned mind, until, at last, unable to keep quiet for a moment longer, he blurted, "You mean to tell me, that I've been pulled from my ship that was in the middle of an important mission of it's own, just to come back here and baby-sit somebody's brat, just because I made an impression?!"

Will didn't need to add that whilst he was planted planet-side, again! he was missing out on valuable space time. Even he knew that if he was to beat Kirk's record for youngest ever captain, he was going to need every second in outer-space that he could get. That was if he ever even made it to captain! At the rate he was going, he'd never do it, and that really pissed him off.

Will didn't even realise that he'd risen to his feet as his outburst and his anger escalated until Admiral Nechayev pointed her finger at him and indicated for him to put his butt back down onto the seat. Will uneasily lowered himself down adding somewhat quieter, inwardly grimacing at the pleading tone in his voice "Tell me you're kidding me, ma'am, please."

Feeling sorry for the man in front of her, Nechayev smiled gamely at him and shook her head, regret shadowing her eyes as she spoke. "I'm sorry, Lieutenant, no joke. Please report first thing tomorrow to shuttle bay one for the arrival of, 'the brat'. You're to take them first to a suite so that they can freshen up and then onto a unit within then campus grounds that has been especially assigned to them whilst they are here. There will be a servant coming along, too, so your time won't be completely taken up - just mainly for security if they are off campus."

Still stunned at his assignment, Will pushed himself back to his feet. "Will that be all, ma'am?" he asked quietly. On Nechayev's reluctant nod, she quietly added, "When they arrive, we'll talk some more. I'm sure I don't have to remind you that this has to be kept on a strictly professional level at all times, Lieutenant. Do I make myself clear?"

With amusement, Will was sure he knew exactly what she was driving at. So she was afraid that he was going to bully that brat, or worse, and smirking with barely disguised malice, he answered her with a clear, "Crystal, ma'am." Spinning on his heels, Will turned and left her office before he said something he shouldn't.

Baby-sitting. He'd been pulled off assignment just to baby-sit someone's kid and was suddenly incensed at the very idea. He'd waited for so long to get out among the stars where he belonged, even considering his time planet-side on Betazed as part of the training he'd need to get out there and do a better job. Having fought the Sindareen and won. Loved a woman, and unfortunately lost. But, even so, Will still figured he'd learned something, so now, looking back, it had all been worth it; The pain and the glory.

Baby-sitting. Will was still growling when he took himself off to the nearest bar and ordered the stiffest drink he was allowed, and while he sat there brooding into his synthehol, he began to run through the possibilities of who his charge was going to be. Hell, he didn't even know if it was a boy or a girl. What the hell was he supposed to do with a little girl, for cryin' out loud! Play with her Barbi dolls!?

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