Starfleet Academy had certainly never advised command students, Jean-Luc Picard and William Riker, of the possibility of being summoned before the Terran Monarch while they had still been students. They hadn’t even known such a summons was possible until moments after the ceremony that awarded them command aboard the exploratory and diplomatic vessel, the U.S.S. Enterprise. Picard and Riker had been approached by the Royal Steward just after leaving the ceremony and informed that they were expected at the Palace. A hovercar would arrive for them.
Picard had been from generations upon generations of wine-makers, the lower class, however. They did not own the winery or the estate upon which the countless grapes were grown and harvested. But he’d shown promise and interest in something other than making wine for the nobles of Terra, and so he had – with a little convincing – managed to be the first to step away from the soil and fruits and pursue his own dreams. Riker had been from similar circumstances, only he came from the serving quarters of a machine-producing and assembling estate. Both men had grown up using their hands. Now, they were accustomed to using their minds as well, and they would use them to explore the stars.
They had waited, nervous to do anything else, for two weeks. Then, finally, the promised hovercar arrived. Picard and Riker were ushered into it, and then they were leisurely headed to the Royal Palace. It wasn’t until they were standing just outside of a large set of closed doors did it fully sink in that they were about to speak directly to their ruler. They were just recent graduates of Starfleet. What could their king possibly need from them?
“This way, Captain, Commander,” the Steward said, bringing both men from their thoughts. He was an old man, still carrying himself with dignity and pride, but aging harshly and slow in stride. The Steward led the way into the chambers but halted several feet into the room to announce the guests. “Captain Jean-Luc Picard and Commander William Riker, Your Majesty.”
A soft but authoritative voice replied from a room beyond. “Thank you, David. Captain, Commander, please be seated.”
The Steward stepped aside to let them pass. Two chairs had been placed at a table in the sitting area of the king’s personal chambers. They remained standing at parade rest. It would not do to be seated before the king, despite what he’d instructed. Refreshment had been set out, coffee and tea and various small treats, but the young men were uncertain to touch it just yet. Perhaps they should wait for the king to do so, giving them permission as it were.
A moment later, the king entered the room, resplendent in his finery. He was no longer a young man, but he had certainly not reached the age of his Steward. His face was lined by laughter and his blue eyes shined with the memories of a happy childhood. In his youth the king’s hair had been like sunlight, but with age came a silver to interweave with his born golden locks. He reached for the refreshment and poured himself some of the dark, hot beverage. “You’ve passed your first test, gentlemen,” the king said to them, smiling, though his focus was still on his drink’s preparation. He took the third, and only available, chair at the table and began to add sweetener and cream to his coffee. “Please, truly, now, be seated and prepare your coffee or tea – whichever you prefer.”
Picard and Riker obeyed the order and sat. Riker reached for the coffee, while Picard began to prepare a cup of tea, placing his saucer over his cup to properly steep the leaves. Once Riker finished stirring, the king gazed at them for a long moment, observing them, taking them in. “I’m sure you’re wondering why I summoned you here.”
Riker spoke up with a friendly smile on his face. “I’ll admit, I’ve been wondering ever since your Majesty’s Steward told us we were expected here.”
The king nodded. “It has to do with your achievements and new positions.” Picard straightened in his chair. Riker, on the other hand, relaxed, and continued to lazily stir his coffee. “Before you embark on your missions to explore strange and new worlds, seek out new life and civilizations, and boldly go where no one has gone before, I summoned you here to give you some counsel, something that I wish for you both to carry with you in your mission, and to use as a—” The king smiled to himself. “—proverbial roadmap, especially when you encounter the unusual and different, which you will certainly experience.”
“Five years is a long time,” Riker interjected, jovially. Picard shot his second in command a look, clearly concerned that the man had interrupted the king of all people.
But His Majesty did not seem disturbed by it at all. “Five years into your future yes. But my advice to you comes from the past.” The king reached to his left, opening an ornate box that Picard did not notice until that moment. Reverently, the king removed an object from the box. “His name was Spock Grayson, son of Sarek of Vulcan,” the king began, as he held aloft the object for both Picard and Riker to see. It was forged metal and carved stone, an interlocking circle and triangle, and one independent gemstone, all suspended from a fine golden chain. “And this was his IDIC pendant.”
As the king continued to speak, Picard and Riker leaned back in their seats, settling in to listen to the origin of Starfleet’s most important directive.