Every cadet in the Academy had high aims as future officers. Especially those of the Command track. Those who wanted to wear the red shirt of command, to take the lead of a starship, to become leaders themselves. And that didn't exclude him
William Riker liked to consider himself as a man of ambition. Everyone in Command had the same kind of ambition he did; to command a starship of their own, and their aims for starships are higher than the other cadets from other tracks. As for Will, his aim was simple yet huge; to be the First Officer of the Federation flagship the USS Enterprise-D, under captain Jean-Luc Picard
Will absolutely idolized Picard. Both his close friends and roommates would go on to say he worshipped Picard like a god. Will would then call them over dramatic and prove himself wrong once again. He absolutely worshipped the man, and to serve under him was his biggest dream since he'd heard the man's name first uttered by the Admirals visiting the Academy. Sure, he had ambitions to become captain as well, but that wasn't as big as his ambition to work alongside Picard and be his 'Number One'
It was his final year in the Academy, a few weeks before he and his friends get sent to a starship of their own and work as Ensigns according to their fields of studies. It was also a special day since the announcement came from the main lecture hall
"Cadets, it is with honor that I've come to announce-" Will's brain blacked out from the length of the opening statement from the Vulcan lecturer. Distracted, he decided to look for a familiar face in the sea of Engineering and spotted Geordi with the same bored expression on his face, most definitely not paying attention at all. The Engineer caught his stare anyway and gave a small nod and Will assumed that was his way of saying 'yes, this is the slowest day of my life and I hate it. Thanks for asking'. Somehow, Will could tell that behind that visor, Geordi was struggling not to close his eyes and just fall over and die at that moment
Will, assured that Geordi just wanted someone to end him there and then, turned his attention towards the spot where all Science and Medical cadets were to see a particularly pale cadet with yellow eyes, said yellow eyes happened to be his other roommate. Will observed Data from afar and came to the conclusion that the android was, also, bored. His shoulders were stiff and his eyes weren't blinking at all, his fingers still and he seemed to have deactivated his ventilations as his chest ceased to rise. Ah yes. He activated his dream program. These were one of the moments Riker wished he had an off switch
"I'd like you to meet a special guest" Suddenly, all boredom and sleepiness forgotten, Riker's eyes widened in shock and awe by the sight of a familiar man in red
"This is Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the starship Enterprise. Some of you may have heard of him, some of you may not have. He's here on a very special mission of his own"
Captain Picard was here
Jean-Luc Picard was currently on the Academy grounds
The Captain Jean-Luc Picard was on the Academy grounds seeking to recruit a few cadets to accompany him on his new Five Year Mission aboard the Federation flagship USS Enterprise-D. And now he was here, looking over the cadets in the hall, looking at Will
"Good morning, cadets. I'm pleased to see you all managed to get through to your last few months in the Academy"
Oh my god I'm actually hearing his voice
"As you've heard, I'm looking for a few exemplary cadets to take on the Enterprise for our 5 year mission. I will be foreseeing some of your progress, evaluations in both academic and practical assignments. By the end of next week, I will have my decisions ready and a list of cadets I've found promising enough to serve aboard the Federation flagship. I'm expecting nothing but the best from all of you" Murmurs began to fill the hall after Picard left the room. There were excitement, of course there were, they just witnessed a legend walk through those doors and announced he needed a few cadets to take on for his mission
And Will was going to be one of them
He has to be. This was his one chance and he has to take it
He's going to make sure of it
When they were dismissed for the day, Will could feel the weird stares from his friends, the twisted knowing grin on Geordi and the same one albeit innocent and a bit forced from Data. Oh those two would be the death of him
"So?" Geordi started, the playful sing-song tone of his made even more exaggerated as he nudged at Will
"So what?" Will tried to hold down the need to launch himself onto the two in a fit of pride. He just saw Captain Picard for fucks sake, he needed to squeal loudly to convey his feelings at the moment
"As I recall correctly, Will, you have mentioned Captain Jean-Luc Picard's name by the total amount of 94.3% everytime our topic of conversation mentions the Command track, and with said calculations, it is safe to say, you worship Captain Picard to an extremely obsessive level. As your friend and the closest Medical cadet you personally know, I find it to be an extremely unhealthy behaviour" Will glared at Data who had that small innocent smile on his face. Usually, he'd blame Geordi for teaching Data how to talk shit but at this point, Will figured, it was all Data and it was Data's own way of saying 'wow you're a sad bastard. As your doctor, I diagnose you with hyperfixation'
"I don't worship the man, alright! I just think he's a great man and an even greater captain!" The two weren't convinced and Will grumbled under his breath. This was not a good time to be having this conversation
"Yeah, sure, it's not like you didn't keep an action figure of him" Will felt his face heat up at the mention before groaning loudly
"Please don't remind me of that!" Geordi giggled under his breath as he leaned even closer onto the taller as if taunting him
"I don't know about Data but I'll never stop reminding you of it as long as we're living in the same room"
"Though I can not feel the emotional response towards knowing a friend's most embarrassing experience, I do find the notion amusing to some extent" Well, there he goes. Will was convinced whenever Geordi did Data's maintenance he's actually planting some kind of subroutine specifically to bully him. Wouldn't be surprised if that were the case, honestly
"You know what, let's just drop it, okay? I got a piloting simulation in a few minutes and I don't need this right now" Will felt a tap on his shoulder as Geordi placed a comforting hand on the same spot he usually would. If it weren't for the fact the schedule for his piloting simulation loomed over him, he would be teasing his friend for being too short to reach him
"Don't fall over and die! You don't want Picard to see it!"
"Why would Will fall over and die, Geordi?"
"It's a figure of speech, Dee. It means he'll be so nervous he wouldn't be able to handle it"
"Ah. Then I suggest you do not 'fall over and die', Will. Then you would not be able to prove yourself to the captain!" Will rolled his eyes endearingly. His friends' words were making the atmosphere lighter for him
"I'll make sure of it"
"Please do not forget, all cadets are scheduled for a physical checkup today. I hope you will not be 'half-dead' when you arrive at the Medical center, Will" Of course. There's that. Will was never good at remembering events and schedules unless he's specifically written them or the ones he found are actually important. One of the perks of being friends with Data was that Will could willingly forget schedules and his friend still had the decency to remind him of it
"Yeah yeah, I won't forget! I'm heading to class! And this conversation is over and no more mentions of the thing!" The command cadet yelled over his shoulders and continued walking
Will sighed, his mind kept wandering to the piloting examination he had to take in the next 2 hours and tried to take his mind off of the captain who was currently at the academy
'Keep it together, Will. It's only a normal amount of idolizing! Don't make a fool out of yourself!'
"You're a great pilot. Just, do your best. It's just a normal simulation. It'll be fine-"
"Cadet Riker, isn't it?" Will felt himself freeze on the spot, his heart skipping several beats to the point he nearly choked on air as he felt the very distinguished presence behind him. A very familiar voice with an accent, Will swallowed the giant lump in his throat and tried to calm himself down enough to be able to face Picard
"Y-yes, sir" OH MY GOD WILL YOU ONLY LIKE HIM A NORMAL AMOUNT Gods he wanted to kick himself in
"I'm guessing you're heading towards the holodecks for a piloting simulation" Where was this conversation even going?
"Yes, sir. It'll be an actual flight simulation. The professors told us it'll test our reflexes, command abilities, and knowledge of local space" Oh smooth talk, Will. That was the worst fucking small talk you've ever done, and it's right in front of Captain Jean-Luc Picard of all people!
"Well, I'm sure you'll do great. From what I've heard, even the admirals praise your potential" Oh. Well. That made his chest warmer and lighter for some odd reason
"Oh, thank you, sir"
"I'll be happily watching your simulation from afar. I hope you do well, cadet. I see alot of potential in you" Picard continued walking when Will visibly, once again, froze in his place. It felt like the world was about to eat him and he was paralyzed waist down. He felt his heart quickening by the information, his hands began to shake nervously, cold sweat began to drip and his eyes turned blurry
Captain Picard was going to personally oversee his simulation
Will felt his stomach twist and turn and bounce in both anxiety and excitement and oh boy they were not good combinations of emotions to be having during the day. Especially, the day the Captain of the legendary Enterprise would be watching his simulation in piloting a shuttle
Oh he's so fucked
"Come on, Riker! You got this!" He tried slapping his own face. This was going to be a very long day
"Welcome to your final flight simulation" The voice of the Command officer boomed across the holodeck which did take Will's attention away from the captain currently drilling holes in his brain from afar. Usually, he'd be the overconfident cadet in the scene, piloting a shuttlecraft away like a madman, not even noticing the eyes grading his insanity. Now though it felt as if thousands of eyes were watching him altogether and it was weighing him down more so than he thought was possible
"Now, this isn't a new situation, you've all done flight simulations before and if you haven't, you've probably skipped classes too much and don't have the capacity to fly at any rate. This simulation will mostly be a test of strategy and guile, every theory you've learned and memorized would be useless in the piloting field if not for your own courage, so I expect every Command cadets to take advantage that ingrained guile" Everyone was stiff and still but from years of facing the same faces, Will knew when the stress was visible. Clearly, everyone here was hyper aware of the eyes around. Will was only aware of the eyes on him
"Well, what are you all waiting for?! Move!" The crowd of cadets immediately dispatched and all took their own shuttles. At times like these, Will was very much impressed with hologram technology as he grasped the interior of the shuttle. It felt so real. Before Will could appreciate the realistic elements of his simulated shuttle, a prompt popped up in the viewscreen before him
'Cadet Riker, William T.
Mission: Escape From A Ship of Pakleds With Any Means Necessary'
Escape maneuvers were usually a walk in the park for him so he tried to focus on that. This was his zone. He was in control
"Computer, start simulation" In an instant, he was brought into space. His sensors beeped as an incoming Pakled ship chased after him. He broke into warp immediately. He wanted to try and shake them off his tail. Before he could change course, the ship fired. Multiple warnings and reports of damages were visible on screen. Shields were down, Will was out in the open
"Bastards" He typed in a new number on the console before him and confirmed for a new course. He tried to keep both his eyes on the screen before him, the console, and the warning that blared through his ears. Life support, navigational system, warp engines, and gravitational control were still up and running at the very least, and that was all Will needed to shake them off
Then the ship fired again, this time only gracing the shuttle, not hard enough to destroy but hard enough to cause even more extensive damage. Will then tried to lay a new course in, his hands were shaking and sweating and his heart drumming in his ears. At the back of his mind he knew this was a simulation but the situation felt so real and the fear also felt real
"NO! Not. Now."
He tried to bring his focus back to the task at hand. This was no time to mope. As he tapped to confirm the new course, a new notification appeared
Navigational systems are offline
"Computer, reroute navigational systems to manual control, authorization Riker Alpha-2" He moved away from his station and onto the controls on the other station. The manual controls were similar to old Earth aircrafts in a form similar to a steering wheel with two handles, at least, that's what it reminded Will of. The manual controls were heavy but not to the point it became impossible to control. He pulled the handles to the side, steering the shuttle away from the pakleds with no specific course. It was either this or death in a simulation. Will liked to think that dying in holo-games meant dying in real life, which was why he never lost and he'd be damned if he were to lose at that moment
Another phaser fire missed and Will felt himself smile for a small victory. Now onto the next step; actually escaping
The last phaser fired shook the shuttle as if it were a ragdoll and Will felt himself slowing down and drifting. Oh fuck. The cadet furiously tapped onto the consoles, turning off warp and switching to impulse. He needed every last bit of energy and he wouldn't risk losing more just cause he's a dumb bastard
Another weapon was shot, this time it was different from the usual phasers. It looked like a photon but the way it moved, almost as if it was tracking him down and following his every move
"Are the pakleds even in that stage of development? Surely they don't have photon trackers!" It was a matter of immersion and Will was sure to file the complaint later on to either the officers teaching Command or Geordi's Engineering friend Barclay who liked to tinker with the holodecks. As for the moment, he needed to think and think fast while the notifications of an incoming projectile was about to seize him in less than 5 minutes. It turned into a game of cat and mouse and Will wasn't sure if he liked the idea of being the mouse
"Think, Will, think! How do I stop that thing from following me-"
Then like a light bulb clicking, an idea popped in his head. Oh this was going to be dirty
Another series of tapping onto the console as Will rerouted everything except life support and warp engines into impulse as he violently turned the shuttle around and, in Ancient Earth's idioms, punched the gas
The wave of photon energy was still chasing him like a missile onto its target. Good. It was then the hunted became the hunter, except the previous hunter didn't know that. Another tap and warp was back online, increasing speed and velocity. It was dirty and it was dumb, risky and felt like laughing at the face of death itself, but that was what being Command meant, taking risks and willingly sacrificing themselves for the goods of their crew
The shuttle moved fast and Will had to think faster. Then within seconds, he was on a collision course. He reached close enough to leave a dent on the shuttle but not close enough that he could even destroy himself with the shuttle. He pulled the manual controls as hard as he could to bring the shuttle up and watched as the projectile flew towards the ship at maximum speed, still perceiving that he went that way. The ship shook violently when it came to contact with the shields and instantly took it out. Will ignored the tiny details and pushed the controls towards open space
His escape was a success
The simulation then ended and he was greeted back with the sight of the viewscreen
'Mission status: COMPLETE
Mission completion percentage: 100%'
"Hell yeah!" Will sighed in relief and slumped on his seat as he stared at the soft blue glow of the view screen before him. Another walk in the park
As he exited the shuttle, he became aware of the reality around him and realization struck him. Picard saw all of that. Jean-Luc Picard saw him nearly busting his head open just to escape a bunch of pakleds. At that moment, Will wished this was the simulation and that he's actually still running away from a ship
"Nicely done as always, Cadet Riker!" He flinched at the sudden sound, being brought back by the voice of the Command officer standing beside him with Picard right beside him
"It was an interesting approach, cadet" Will felt his cheeks heat up from the compliment. He was just complimented by his idol, how could he not?
"Thank you, sir, captain. I hope I've put on a good show" He tried his other coping mechanism; jokes. He really hoped the captain wouldn't pick up on his nerves from his shaky tone
"More than a good show, cadet. You've impressed me with your quick thinking and courage, very admirable for an officer and especially for a young cadet" Oh now he was just full on blushing at this point. Picard was impressed by his flying, this was the best day of his life
"Cadet Riker here is known for his guile and extremely well-trained poker-face. Whatever situation he's in, he faces it with complete calm and bravery. Nicely done cadet" Will didn't even hear the other officer's compliment as his entire attention was fixated on Picard
"Well, if you have a moment, cadet, I would very much like to get to know you a bit better after this simulation. The Command officers here talk very highly of you. Then again, you've already finished your simulation" A skip and two of his heartbeat. Picard wanted to talk with him? Wanted to get to know him? Will felt a vein pop. Not out of anger or frustration mind you, but out of the intense pressure of fear and nervousness
"Yes, sir. I have time" Picard nodded and exited the holodeck. Will looked back to the officers training him and they nodded back
"You've done well today, Cadet. You may go" With that, his legs decided to lead him away from the holodeck to follow Picard. Well, it's been proven, he's downright worshipping the captain, might as well live up to it. When he caught up with the captain, their pace slowed down and their direction unclear, maybe they were going to the mess hall? Maybe Picard just wanted a walk around the Academy
"It has been awhile since I stepped foot on the Academy. It's nice to see the standards for cadets are still the same" Well that was sudden, but the way Picard had said it strangely put Will at ease. It was light, his tone was soft, unlike the usual gruff tone of a captain. Picard was talking to him like a friend, and Will smiled at the gesture
"What do you mean, sir?"
"Well, I wouldn't want to make a false assessment, but so far from what I've seen with your performance today, the Academy is still picking up great potentials"
"Thank you, sir"
"William" Suddenly, Picard stopped in his tracks and turned to face him, his face turned stern from the previously soft expression. And he called him by his first name, which meant business
"Tell me, Cadet. Why should I bring you aboard my ship?" Well, that question came out of nowhere
"I beg your pardon, sir?"
"What makes you think you deserve to be part of my mission, on my ship, more than anyone else in that simulation?" Will was at a loss for words for a while. Why did he deserve to be on that ship? Sure, serving under Picard was his long time dream and he'd be damned if he just gave up his chances, but then again, so were a lot of the Command cadets, alot of them also wanted to serve under Picard. Why should Will be the one?
"I'll be honest with you, sir. I don't even know"
"Hardly the best answer for that question, Cadet. I've read through your records before. Apparently, the first few weeks on the Academy, you've been reported for numerous behavioural issues. Starting fights and skipping classes aren't exactly commendable behavior. I don't think I want someone with such records to be on my ship" That struck a nerve. Will wasn't sure how to answer anymore so he opted to just let it roll out of his tongue. He never had problems with telling the truth anyway
"I admit that I'm not the best choice for a cadet, but I'd like to think I have the capability to learn from my mistakes. From what I've learnt, from over years of learning in the Academy, is that someone of Command doesn't come from invulnerability, but admitting their faults and righting wrongs. And I'd like to think that's the one quality that deems me perfectly fit to be a Command ensign on a Federation flagship" He hoped it was the answer Picard wanted to hear. It sounded good in his own head, he just hoped it sounded as good when delivered. Even if what he said was wrong, he stood by his words. Every word is genuine from the start. Besides, what use would he get from lying to Picard?
"You want to be on the Enterprise that much?" Will flinched slightly. Was his obsession turning so visible?
"Yes. A lot, actually. More of the thought of working with you that I anticipate the most" Will wasn't sure how Picard would respond to his blatant worship of the man. What if he thought him weird? or creepy? He certainly didn't want to leave that kind of impression on the captain
Surprisingly, Picard nodded, his expression softened at the response
"Thank you for your honesty, Will" They continued walking towards god knows where as silence fell upon them once again. It took only a minute before Picard finally spoke up again
"I want to ask for your opinion on some of the Engineering cadets" Huh. A strange change in topic but Will didn't mind. Besides, listening to Jean-Luc Picard talk was one of the greatest honor he could've had
"I'm not too familiar with the Engineers, sir"
"Hmph. Neither am I. I've never been a master of mechanics, I'm more of an archeologist myself. But you do know a few from Engineering, don't you?"
"If knowing one or two of them means a few, then yes" Picard smiled at Will's attempt at a joke. The cadet felt himself slumping even more, the stress and nervousness over as they fell into an almost casual talk
"Do you know anyone who might show some potential?" Will grinned at the question. Sure, Geordi's gonna kill him when he finds out he's been selling his name out but the Engineer would be thanking him once they're on the same ship
"Cadet Geordi LaForge, sir. Though I admit, I might be a bit biased, but I've been told that he's Engineering's best man"
"I've also been told as such, though the same professors also warned me about Cadet LaForge's... condition"
"He wears a VISOR, yeah. But that doesn't mean he's in any way less competent, sir. As far as I can tell, he far exceeds every other Engineering track cadets" Will didn't mean for his voice to rise like that. It sounded accusatory. Picard shook his head
"No, no, I'm not thinking of that, Cadet. Personally, I'm very impressed by tales of his work, and I have full confidence in his skills. I'll be observing him later after this and some other from Engineering and Security" Will blushed slightly at the captain's reassurance. Of course Picard wouldn't think less of someone because of a disability, the man's a god!
Aaanndd there goes the obsession
"What about the Science track? Or Medical? I happen to know a cadet with exceptional skill that you should see" Of course, he couldn't leave out his other roommate. If they were going to have a chance on this ship then might as well drag everyone along
"Usually, medicine isn't exactly my area. My Chief Medical Officer would usually be the one observing her own cadet, but..."
"She has asked me to pick for her, as she seems to trust me. Either that or she's bluffing. Even then, Will, unfortunately I've already set my eyes on a single cadet in Medical"
"Seems a bit of a stretch to only set eyes on one, captain" Will tried his best to sound as respectful and not desperate to shove Data's name into the mix
"Oh no, I will still be looking over the entire track, no doubt. But I was... Intrigued. I've been invited to review him in the Medical center later tonight before tomorrow's evaluation" Will tried to hold his disappointment from showing. He just hoped the captain would at least give his friend a glance during the general evaluation
"I expect you to not say a word to these cadets about me. This was supposed to be a sudden examination, to see if they could work in any situation with efficiency, so no words" Picard continued and Will was snapped back to reality, barely managing the same bright smile he had a moment ago
"You can count on me, sir"
"I'll see you around, Will" Then with that, Picard walked from their previous direction towards the Engineering track. Once Picard left, he felt himself exhaling. Warmth filled his abdomen as the sensation of standing and talking so close to Picard sets in. He liked to think he just made a good impression
As for now, he turned towards his dorm, impatient to talk about his encounter with Picard