By Carol Sandford


Chapter 08


"Curious sir, the shuttle’s findings show no abnormalities"

Data’s curious tone filtered around the table as it’s other occupants studied the viewscreen before them. Picard pursed his lips, his mind looking for other alternatives.

"Any thoughts on this, Counselor?"

Deanna shook her head, "No sir, nothing, to all intent and purpose, this is a harmless cloud, like any other cloud, I sense nothing untoward?"

Picard sighed, before turning back to face his senior crew. He looked at each and every one before settling his gaze on the geo-physicist. Before Picard had even voiced his thoughts, Stephanie held up her hand, shaking her head as she did so.

"I know, sir. I know the probe has turned up no abnormalities, it’s just a gut feeling."

Picard smiled, "I understand, Doctor. We have had several instances on our travels that have been averted because of ’gut feelings’, enough to know not to ignore these particular sensations. However, we still have work to do, so I’m allowing further tests to go ahead on the planets surface. The clouds will be monitored constantly for any change, whether it be a small change or not. I do not take chances with my crew Miss Carter, and particularly with my guests."

The smile that Stephanie threw to everyone around the table was warm and genuine. Her eyes settled briefly on Will, and her heart glowed with a happiness that showed in her clear, green eyes.

Will returned the grin, relieved that things were okay between them. He seemed to have done the impossible, he had managed to return things to a more professional level. What had happened the night before was now delegated to treasured memories, to be called upon whenever it was deemed necessary. Whenever he missed her. Whenever he wanted to remember what could have been.

Stephanie had learned a long hard lesson last night. Although William Riker was undoubtably the man of her dreams, her fantasies, he was also the nicest man she had ever met. A man with decency. A man that cared enough about her to do the only thing that he could have done under the circumstances.

Will Riker was a gentleman, and she would always love him for that alone.

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