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The Ensigns of Command

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For the longest time, Picard had hoped to become captain and when he did, he did it with the best of his abilities, and he was damn good at being captain too

When Starfleet command told him he would be commanding the brand new galaxy-class Enterprise-D, a surge of confidence built up in him. He was an explorer, and to be gifted such a fine ship for the sole purpose of exploration made him feel like he were back in his childhood receiving gifts on Christmas nights

For the most part, he's had his selections of crew all mapped out. In every sense, he was more than ready. But then, for some unknown reason, came the very odd request a few days before his planned departure to open space

"You are to take some of the final year cadets to serve as ensigns for this mission" Picard felt his determination and satisfaction disappeared immediately by the order. Was this a joke? If so then Picard was certainly not laughing

"Admiral, I don't think it would be wise to send a group of inexperienced kids on such a big ship on their first assignments" Picard didn't even try to hide the disdain in his tone. Was it disrespectful? Yes. But then again he'd rather face some scolding instead of being stuck in a starship with newly graduated cadets

"On the contrary, Picard. The Enterprise would be the perfect learning ground for some of the Academy's most brilliant young minds! They just need the proper area for it, and there's no better place than a Federation flagship" Picard really couldn't argue with them even if he tried. Not because their arguments were sound, but because they were ranks above him. He had no power over their decision no matter how bitter it tasted in his tongue

"I admit I'm not too confident in the abilities of some freshly graduated teenagers on my ship"

"Well, that's your personal affairs, Picard. But Command has made it clear, they want a set of young cadets to be on your mission" Picard groaned internally. He was fighting a losing battle

"Alright, when are these ensigns going to arrive?"

"Actually, Picard, that's the good news. You will be hand picking these cadets yourself" Picard groaned, this time outwardly and loud

"Good news? How is delaying the mission to see these volatile kids 'good news'?"

"That's for you to decide, Picard. Whether you like it or not, you will be taking some of those cadets with you. That's an order. I expect to see you at the Academy in 3 days" The captain immediately straightened up from his slumped position at the sound of an order. A reflex he's developed

"Yes, Admiral"

"It won't be too bad, Picard. Who knows? You might find some of them interesting" And just like that, communication was cut. Picard sighed in frustration, pinching his eyes closed, a headache already forming. It's not that he hated kids. Okay, maybe he does, but it's not like he's doing it on purpose. As far as he's concerned, freshly graduated cadets are the worst of the bunch, they acted as if they knew everything just because they just left the Academy. He hated those types of inexperienced kids. By theory, they're brilliant, but when put in an actual field? An away mission? They're the first ones to crumble

He didn't even notice the chime to his door the first time and when the chime sounded again, he grumbled under his breath

"Come" The door slid open from command to reveal his Chief Medical Officer standing just by the doorframe

"Dr. Crusher, what can I do for you?" Beverly walked in, eyebrow raised and her steps calm as ever. She was observing him, Picard realized. She has a tendency to do that

"Alright, Jean-Luc, what happened?" It didn't take her long to catch his discomfort. Picard has always liked this side of her; A doctor with strong instincts, but at that moment it felt more intrusive than anything

"Nothing"

"Well, if it was nothing, you would've answered the door the first time I rang. Now what happened?" He really couldn't escape her questions even if he tried. He sighed heavily, might as well get this over with

"Starfleet Command just contacted me. They want me to take on a few cadets on board the Enterprise for a learning experience. Sounds like some sick cosmic joke if you ask me but unfortunately, it's an actual order" Beverly's eyes softened. She knew the captain before her wasn't the one for interacting with fresh new ensigns and she had to admit, she sometimes shared the sentiment. Good Medical ensigns are hard to come by, and obedient and down to earth Medical ensigns are even harder to come by

"Sounds to me like you have to double as captain and teacher for them"

"More like a babysitter. They thought the Enterprise was the perfect learning experience for some brilliant minds from the Academy" They fell into a contemplative silence. Beverly wasn't sure what to say. It wasn't as if she could say anything that could change the situation, and Picard was very sure he would hate it. All she could do was offer her deepest reassurance

"Well, I'm sure you'll do great. Who knows, maybe there's some cadets out there you won't find annoying" Picard scoffed and smiled, the thought seemingly so ridiculous it was close to make him laugh

"I highly doubt it. You'll be going too, you know. Pick out a new Medical ensign. From what I read, you were lacking some"

"Well, I'd love to if I wasn't already called to attend a Medical conference on the Mars colony" Now that just made his mood sour even further

"Beverly, you can't expect me to pick out a Medical ensign for you as well"

"Actually, that's what I'm expecting you to do. I trust your judgement, Jean-Luc. I'm sure anyone you pick would be great additions to Sickbay" If it were anyone else, Picard would think they were doing it on purpose. But it was Beverly. Sure, he still thought there's a possibility she's doing this on purpose, but when she implied her intentions were genuine then he believed her

"Fine. But don't blame me when they turned out to be horrible" Beverly smiled softly

"Actually, I can help you a little" Oh? Now that got his attention. Either that or he was just desperate

"Anything, even the smallest, would be of great help"

"I can tell you what I'm looking for in an ensign just so you can narrow them down" Disappointment washed over Picard once again. And to think the help was going to be in the form of names or something

"Not really much of a help, Beverly. But, a clue is better than nothing" Beverly's smile lit up as she handed him her PADD. When Picard looked down, all he saw were a list of qualities, half of them are medical jargons that he couldn't comprehend

"Those are some questions I want you to ask them"

"Even I don't know the answers to half of these questions" The CMO rolled her eyes as the captain slumped even further down his chair and tossed the PADD on his desk

"You don't need to know. I admit, some of those aren't even proper questions. Just... You'll know when you see them, alright?" Picard pinched his eyes closed. If it weren't for Beverly's presence, he felt he would pop a vein

"Why can't you just come with me? It'll be a lot easier" Beverly sighed at the captain's final desperate attempt to persuade her

"You know I can't" There it was. Another losing battle. Picard wasn't sure why he even tried to argue when the answer was loud and clear

"It would make my job a lot easier if you just skip the conference"

"Which I won't"

"Which you won't"

"I can't do much, Jean-Luc. All I can do now is tell you good luck. I'm sure any ensign you picked would be nothing more than the best of the bunch" With that, Beverly left Picard to his own thoughts. He was never the one with patience and he was never good at handling children. Beverly had said she trusted his judgement but he wasn't sure she knew what she meant.

Well, there was no point in trying to avoid it anymore. He sighed in frustration one last time before opening the database filled with personal information of the cadets that were scheduled to graduate that year. He still had 3 days, might as well begin writing some names down, and probably learn what these jargons mean