I've been summoned to Starfleet Headquarters.
No doubt, they want to thank me for the superb job I did at the Zarn/Braken Peace Conference. I'll tell them it was nothing,, really, although of course I won't mention the 30th Century renegade, due to the Temporal Prime Directive.
Still, I won't say 'no' to a medal. My official uniform could do with another one.
I beam down to Starfleet Headquarters; there is just one surly looking Lieutenant who tells me to report to Admiral Hollingsworth. No rousing band around to welcome me there. It's all rather strange.
Admiral Hollingsworth is responsible for Starfleet Publicity; he probably wants to congratulate me and tell me how they are going to release the peace conference news accross the Federation.
I arrive at the office and see Admiral Jennings, who is responsible for Discipline with him; an odd combination.
"Sit down, Picard." says Hollingsworth in a gruff manner.
When I'm called "Picard" by an Admiral, there is trouble.
"Hello" I say, "The Zarn/Braken Peace Conference went down well, didn't it?"
"Never mind that." Jennings icily says, "Take a look at this copy of the Federation Gazette."
He slides it across the table for me to pick up; I read the headlines:
'All Aboard The USS Loveship!!" by Hal Wallace is the main title. I groan.
"Read more, Picard" demands Hollingsworth.
I read more:
'If you think our starships are just defending the Earth and the rest of the planets in the Federation, you'd be sorely mistaken' it starts, 'It's fun all the way for the senior officers of the USS Enterprise, as they make sure they don't get lonely in the long voyages they have. Captain Jean-Luc Picard ensures he has a date with the fiery haired Beverly Crusher, who is the ship's doctor; his First Officer, Commander William Riker has the shapely Betazoid affections of Counselor Deanna Troi. Then there is...'
I put the Gazette down.
"Errrmmm" I say with hesitation.
"Captain Picard" Hollingsworth tells me, "We sent Hal Wallace of the Gazette to the Enterprise so that we could could get some good publicity for Starfleet, and show everyone what the flagship of the Federation was like. We did not want a commentary on all your love lives."
"That was the fault of Mr Wallace, Sir." I say, "He was only interested in lurid publicity and scandal, not how the Enterprise performed."
"That may be so" commented Jennimgs, "But your over-amourous senior officers gave him the material that he wanted."
"It's only human nature, Sir" I say.
"Hmmph!" snorts Hollingsworth, "Bring in Wallace."
The doors open, and Hal Wallace is brought in, flanked by two security guards; he is still wearing his 20th century outfit with 'PRESS' sticking out of his hat.
"Take it easy, you guys!" says Wallace, "No need to be so aggressive; I'm a member of the press."
He sees me.
"Hi Captain" he waves, "Good to see you again. Have they hauled you here as well?"
I don't reply.
"Mr Wallace" Hollingsworth tells him, "You were sent aboard the Enterprise to obtain a story for goos publicity of our organisation. Instead, you came back with tabloid-style journalism of the lowest grade."
"Hey, fellas" replies Wallace, "You gotta think what sells more papers; the people don't want starchy reports. They want to know the latest scandal. The recent one with Angelina Aniston sold like hot Bajoran cakes."
"You will print a retraction in your paper, saying you were given false information" Jennings tells him.
"What about freedom of the press?" protests Wallace.
"You should think about your own freedom Mr Wallace." smiles Jennings, "A Penal Colony is waiting for you."
"No need to be rash, fellas" says Wallace, "Sure I'll print a retraction; it never happened."
With that, he is escorted out of the room.
"You can consider yourself to be very lucky, Picard." Jennings tells me, "Had Wallace not agreed, more 'severe' actions might have had to be taken."
"You can leave us now, Picard" Hollingsworth glares at me, "Watch your step."
I leave the room and beam back to the Enterprise....or is it the USS Loveship?
Just in time for my date with Beverly.