"Behind Closed Doors"

Author: Admiral Jeffrey Pike
Date: April 16, 2384
Location: Starfleet HQ, San Fransisco

Ensign Jamie Piper buzzed busily about the large office with an air of confident professionalism. She tried to be as quiet as she could as she filed away the last week's worth of fleet update reports, personnel reports, requisitions, tactical updates, science updates, Starfleet Medical updates... The list went on and on. Not for the first time and not for the last, the young woman wondered how Admiral Pike found enough hours in the day to read them all. And she knew that he *did* read them all, because she was the one who was charged with formatting and sending off his replies.

She was trying to be quiet because right now the Admiral was in conference behind closed doors and had made it clear that he was not to be disturbed. Secretly, she wondered what the hush-up was all about, but knew better than to ask. Still, she couldn't help pricking up her ears a little every time she passed by the door to Pike's inner office...

*Location: Admiral Pike's inner office*

"Thank you for seeing me, Admiral," said Captain Ryan Evans, commanding officer of the ill-fated *USS Ronin*.

Pike acknowledged the formality by gesturing for Evans to choose a seat near the large windows. He himself was busy with something behind a counter.

From where Evans stood, he couldn't see what Pike was doing, but he could have sworn he heard the sound of ice tinkling into a glass. He figured he'd find out what it was soon enough, and so contented himself to sitting nervously down in one of the comfortable chairs that afforded him an unobstructed view of the Golden Gate Bridge. He looked at the magnificent panorama outside and at the luxurious but not decadent furnishings in Pike's office and concluded that rank apparently *did* have its privileges.

Finally, Pike joined him, handing him a glass and sitting down in the chair opposite his.

"Martini. Shaken, not stirred," said Pike.

Evans recognized the famous quote from the late 20th century and smiled. Suddenly, the nervousness washed away and he felt completely at ease, sitting here in the inner sanctum of Starfleet's Chief of Operations sipping afternoon martinis with the Admiral himself.

He took the situation as a positive sign. After all, if the Admiral had had *bad* news for him, he doubted he would bother to invite Ryan all the way here and offer him a drink. He probably just would've had his pretty secretary send him a curt message and be done with it. He took a fortifying sip of his martini before daring to broach the topic out loud: "Admiral. Since you've asked me here, I'm hoping you have good news for me?"

Pike regarded the captain sitting in front of him critically for a moment, then set his glass down on the small table between them. He seemed to be gathering his thoughts, preparing what he going to say. Evans began to wonder if the Admiral didn't have bad news for him after all. But his doubts were instantly dispelled when a small smile cracked the Admiral's normally serious exterior.

Pike said, "I have some good news for you -- " Evans relaxed, "-- and some bad news --" Evans tensed up again. Pike watched the emotions play across Evans' face with some amusement, but also with some sympathy for what he knew the young Captain must be going through. Losing one's ship was the worst thing that could happen to a starship captain.

"First the good news," Pike continued. "I've managed to call in some favors and exert what little influence I myself have around here, and it's been arranged that the crew of the late *USS Ronin* be kept intact, come what may.

Evans grimaced inwardly when he heard the *Ronin* described as 'late', but he was overjoyed to hear the news about the fate of his people. He'd been worried that his fine crew would be scattered to the far corners of Starfleet, .

Pike was still talking: "Furthermore, it's been arranged that the aforementioned crew be assigned to a new ship of the line -- a fully refitted Intrepid class vessel, equipped with all the latest advances in Starfleet technology."

Ryan's heart was brimming over. He found himself holding his breath in anticipation of what he hoped would be the next words out of the Admiral's mouth.

"And it's also been arranged," continued Pike, fully realizing what effect this was having on Evans, "that the commanding officer be one Ryan Evans."

Ryan let out his breath. *Yes!* he thought triumphantly. His celebratory thoughts were cut short however, by the Admiral. Pike's voice had taken on a very serious tone.

"Now the bad news," said Pike, all traces of good humor gone. "I'm sure you realize how unorthodox all this is." Evans nodded in agreement. "In spite of my creative string-pulling and dubious personal influence, none of this would have been possible without the intervention of an outside party..." At that statement, a dark looked seemed to drift across Pike's face, as if he was remembering a particularly unpleasant event from his past.

Evans waited for the Admiral to continue, finding that he was getting nervous all over again.

Pike had regrouped his thoughts and now simply stated, "It was the Talosians."

Evans' blood ran cold. He knew General Order 7 -- that any contact with the planet Talos IV was punishable by death. He'd read the reports of how the Talosians had subjected the crew of the *USS Knight* under the command of then-Commodore Jeffrey H. Pike to horrible illusions of a Galaxy overrun by the evil Kelvans and pitted them against one of their unstoppable 'Battle Planets'. Although most of what had happened during that encounter was classified under General Order 7, he knew that it had been some sort of 'test of Humanity'. That the Talosians were now apparently interested in him and his crew did not bode well.

Pike had read the play of emotions on Evans' face and guessed what had gone through the Captain's mind. He said, "The Talosians want the crew of the Ronin intact and manning the best ship we've got. God only knows what the reason is."

Pike stood up from his chair, signaling to Evans that their meeting was drawing to a close. On seeing the Captain's dour expression, no doubt caused by the bombshell he'd just dropped, Pike's demeanor softened a little. He placed his hand on Evans' shoulder and cajoled, "Cheer up, Ryan. I haven't even told you the worst news yet."

Evans looked into Pike's face with an expression that clearly said, "You've got to be kidding!" but out loud he simply asked, "What is it?"

Obviously relishing the moment, Pike announced, "I'm coming with you!"