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Taking Control

by Catherine Ellis

Rating : Any age
Disclaimer : Paramount owns the TNG Star Trek characters but they've been neglecting them.

Summary: In the recent TNG books Picard hasn't been behaving like the captain we (and Beverly) admire. In this story I've attempted to remedy that shortcoming. The story is set after the episode 'All Good Things' and the Dominion War but before the film 'Generations'.

Riker started to speak, but Picard held up a hand. He was talking to himself, inaudibly at first then louder.

"… Four … Three … Two … One." He finished with a long soft sigh.

Will laughed, "Leadbetter is somewhat irritating."

"That, Number One, is the understatement of the week. He might be a good trainer for academy cadets, but for experienced crews?"

"He'll be gone in two weeks."

"Sooner, if I can't control my temper. Please ensure I'm never alone with him."

"I'll make it a new standing order. But seriously, Sir, why are Starfleet rushing in the installation of this new helm control system?"

"One of our sister ships has had serious problems with the current system. Apparently some of the changes they introduced during the Dominion War weren't tested as thoroughly as they should have been. On balance, installing the new system quickly seems the lesser risk.

"Nevertheless I wish they'd supplied holodeck simulations. Training on the real thing is risky. Do you remember Kosinski and his warp drive improvements?"

"Vividly!" Picard replied. "But at least this time La Forge thinks the principles behind the new system are sound."

Their conversation was interrupted by the com-system. "Commander Leadbetter to Captain Picard.

"What is it Commander?"

"My training class started two minutes ago - you are late."

Picard made as if to throw something.

"Now, now, Sir. Run along." Riker imitated a mother rebuking her child. "You don't want to be bottom of the class."

The Captain straightened his jacket, "Quite right Will, it wouldn't be good for my image."


Picard approached Leadbetter's class with a touch of apprehension. The last few days had been busy and he had only found time to skim through the instruction manual. The other Enterprise students had obviously had no such problems. He was pleased at how well they answered the instructors questions.

"Captain," Leadbetter asked, "please explain how you would handled scenario 11."

Picard responded with the helm solution he had used for years."

"That would have been right 15 years ago Captain, but helm control has moved on since then. With this new system the answer is as follows …".

Picard sat motionless while he suffered the indignity of being corrected in front of his crew. If any of them found it funny, they had the sense not to giggle. When the instructor finished, Picard stood-up, and with no hint of petulance, declared "Obviously I have some more studying to do. If you'll excuse me Commander."

For a moment Leadbetter looked as if he was about to object before remembering who his pupil was.

Out in the corridor Picard avoided eye-contact with passing crewmen. They didn't know what had just happened, nevertheless he felt embarrassed. No doubt it wouldn't be long before the story was all around the ship.


[ Next morning ]

He was so engrossed in his reading that he barely noticed her enter his quarters. It wasn't until Beverly lent over his shoulder that he lifted his head.

"What's so fascinating?" she asked. "Don't tell me it's that damn instruction manual."

"Haven't you heard? I gave a wrong answer yesterday in front of the class. I don't want the crew thinking I'm not up to it."

Beverly resisted an urge to smile at the double entendre. "Don't worry on that score, there's plenty of evidence to the contrary."

"Are you sure? Since the Dominion War ended I feel I've been coasting. There haven't been any challenges to hone my edge."

While he spoke, Crusher had helped herself to coffee and croissant. "Don't tell me you miss the war!"

"No! Of course not. It's just that …".

… You're annoyed because Starfleet gave someone else the task of training your crew. You've always prided yourself in being the ship's best pilot. "

Picard protested a little, then gave in. "All right, I'll admit it. I am irritated. It wouldn't be so bad if Leadbetter wasn't …", he paused searching for the right words."

"… such a cocky smartarse?"

Laughter made Jean-Luc spill his coffee. "I didn't realise you knew him so well?"

"I don't, the description's Deanna's. She's had to calm several people who've been tempted to hit him. I've only met him briefly myself. Every time I book a place on one of his training classes he moves me to the waiting list."

"I've been tempted to hit him myself."

"Don't you dare!" she ordered. "I've more that enough patients at present, thank you."

When they'd finished breakfast, Picard rose too and followed her to the door. "Beverly, do you think I'm being childish resenting Leadbetter?"

"Not at all, if someone was in Sickbay instructing my staff I'd feel just as uncomfortable."

He smiled at her understanding. "I hope you realise, Doctor, that I expect all my bridge officers to master the new helm system."

Crusher stood to attention and gave a mock salute, "Yes, Sir!"

Neither of them planned what happened next, their brief kiss on the mouth had a volition all of its own. Both were surprised at its occurrence but neither was unhappy.

"Till later then Captain?" .

Picard noticed more of a sparkle in her eye. "Till later then Doctor."

After she'd gone, he remained where he stood memorising the feel of her lips against his.


Later that morning, Leadbetter started running practical training classes on the bridge. To avoid unnecessary contact with him Picard retreated to his quarters and continued his study of the manual. It therefore fell to Commander Riker to deal with any problems Leadbetter might cause.

After just 15 minutes the first complainant asked to speak to Will in the Ready Room. Riker was almost managing to calm the Chief Engineer when Dr Crusher and Counselor Troi arrived. Will backed into the fish tank as the two women advanced on him. Deanna's tirade was already in full flow.

"… fifthly, he suggested the Captain might be 'too old' to learn new systems and sixthly, he thinks Beverly and I shouldn't be having training in helm control. Apparently he doesn't consider us 'proper' bridge officers."

"Okay, okay. I can understand why you're annoyed." He took a deep breath. "So, Geordi, what's he done to irritate you?"

"The man just won't listen. I've tried telling him the Enterprise isn't like other ships but he doesn't want to know. If he's on the bridge for much longer he could do some real damage. Where's the Captain? Does he know what Leadbetter's up to?"

To Riker's relief, Picard entered the room. "Number One, I hear we have a few problems. Who's first?"

Riker nodded towards Geordi.

"Mr La Forge?"

"Sir, I think Commander Leadbetter is using the wrong procedures for this ship. If he keeps doing sharp turns this way then …"

His words were interrupted by the dull thud of an explosion followed by a shudder that reverberated throughout the ship. Alarms started sounding.

"  … then he'll blow the control relays!"

La Forge headed for Engineering while the others followed the Captain onto the bridge.

Jean-Luc instantly summed up the scene - panic - the kind of mind-numbing panic that causes even experienced officers to forget their training. Leadbetter was making things worse by shouting a string of conflicting instructions.

Picard calmly tapped the helmsman on the shoulder and asked for a report. The ensign summoned enough composure to reply succinctly. "We've lost automatic helm control and we're drifting towards that moon. I can't get manual control either."

The captain sat down the left con-station. "Doctor, please put an end to that noise?"

Leadbetter's rantings subsided as her hypospray left his neck.

In the view screen the moon was getting alarming close. The computer's voice warned them of impact in 47 seconds. Everyone held their breath as the Captain moved his fingers expertly over the control panel. Soon they heard the sound of the impulse drive shutting down and the faint vibration as the manoeuvring thrusters kicked into action.

Slowly at first, then faster the Enterprise changed her heading. When, at last, the impact warnings ceased, the outlet of breath around the room was audible.

Picard looked across to the helmsman. "Plot a course away from this system. I recommend you avoid the asteroid belt, I think we've had enough excitement for one day."

Taking rather longer than usual, the woman finally reported, "Course ready, Sir."

"Now Ensign, do you understand how I'm controlling the ship?"

"Yes Sir."

"Are you ready to take over?"

She was still a little rattled by the recent panic, but Picard's calm manner was restoring her self-confidence.

"Yes Sir."

"In which case take the helm in four, three, two, one." He watched her actions for a second or two, then stood up. "Number One, the bridge is yours. Mr Leadbetter, my Ready Room please. Everyone else, return to your stations."

As the Ready Room door closed, Deanna whispered to Will, "I'd like to be a fly on the wall."

"You and me both."


Picard saw no need to shout, Leadbetter had already suffered a greater punishment than words could inflict - an instructor who needed rescuing would be the laughing stock of the Academy. The Captain ordered him to sit and fetched him a glass of water.

"Drink that while I review the bridge log."

It didn't take Picard long to discover the cause of the failure.

"If you repeatedly use the aft nacelle vents to manoeuvre this ship then you're asking for trouble. They aren't configured for that procedure."

"But according to the instruction manual …"

Picard cut him off, "… this instruction manual assumes all Galaxy class ships are configured as they were when they first left the shipyard. Did you ask the Chief Engineer for a list of modifications?"

Leadbetter mumbled something that Picard took to be "I thought I had."

"In which case I think some homework is in order, don't you?"

"Yes Sir."

Picard was still angry - the man had put his ship at risk - however, despite this, he knew Starfleet could not afford to loose another officer, not after loosing so many to the War. Leadbetter was a competent trainer when he understood the limits of his expertise.

"Karl," this time Picard's tone was softer, "I'm going to give you two options. You can either leave the Enterprise tomorrow when we reach Starbase 12 or you can stay till your planned leaving date. If you choose the latter then I expect you to spend your time learning how to apply the new helm control system to non-standard ships."

Leadbetter didn't understand why Picard was being so considerate. "Thank you Sir, I would prefer to stay." The Commander rose and edged towards the door, hoping he was dismissed.

"Two more things before you go, Commander."


"First, there is no such thing as an 'honorary bridge officer' aboard my ship. Dr Crusher and Counselor Troi are just as qualified to sit in the command chair as you or Commander Riker. Further more I expect all my bridge officers to be competent helmsmen. As this recent incident demonstrated, they may need to take over the helm at a moment's notice."

"Understood, Sir."

"Second, Crusher and Troi are also experts in their own fields. If you need help sleeping or want someone to talk to, then feel free to avail yourself of their services." Leadbetter looked doubtful. "They're both professionals, Commander, they don't bear grudges. Dismissed."


[ Later that day. ]

As he walked along the corridor, Picard felt more positive than of late. His cheerful mood was enhanced by the nods of recognition he received from passing crewmen. Was it his imagination or were they more effusive than yesterday?

At the door of Sickbay he paused. One of the medical staff pointed to Dr Crusher's office, assuming that was whom he wanted to see.

Nurse Ogawa was in there with her, causing Picard to adopt a more formal manner than he'd intended. Crusher guessed he wanted to talk in private and told her colleague she would join her shortly.

She waited for Ogawa to be out of earshot. "What can I do for you Sir?"

Jean-Luc hesitated as several erotic possibilities flashed through his mind. He chided himself and cleared his throat. "You can attend an instruction class in helm control at 16:00 today."

"Might I ask who's running the class?"

"I am."

"In that case, I'll attend, willingly."

The pair of them were smiling at one another. Dare she tell him how attractive she found him when he took such masterly control of the bridge? Better not, she decided, it might make him self-conscious.

"So what's happened to Leadbetter?" she asked.

"He's doing a little learning of his own, with Data's help."

"That was generous of you."

"Not really, Starfleet needs him; besides you could say it was my own fault for giving him too much leeway."

"Nevertheless I think you're more than kind."

He blushed slightly.

Sensing she'd embarrassed him, Beverly picked up her tricorder, "If there's nothing more I'd better join Alyssa." Picard said nothing and made no effort to move out of her way.

She halted only inches from him.

This time the idea of kissing was a conscious one. They were on the point of turning thought into action when Ogawa's voice interrupted.

"I could do with your help Doctor?"

Picard sighed. "Later?."

"Yes later."

As she passed their hands brushed briefly.

Picard stayed a moment, cursing his luck, then shrugged and moved on. No doubt the opportunity would arise again.

Little did he know that fate would not be kind. Coming events would curb their chances of flirtation and it would be years before he ever properly kissed her.

The end.
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