Starfleet Command, Priority 1
Due to the recent Mars attack by synthetic life forms and the massive loss of life and ships, we are ordering the immediate suspension of the Romulan evacuation. All captains are ordered to cease and desist in these efforts after completing their current mission, and await further orders.
Signed, Fleet Admiral Rebecca Bordson
Will couldn't believe it. He couldn't believe it when Picard told him, and he couldn't believe it now. This was not the Starfleet he had joined, the Starfleet he had been a part of for so many years. This couldn't be happening. How could he tell his crew? How could he tell Deanna?
Sitting at his desk in his ready room, he began writing a message to Admiral Bordson.
After nearly 30 years of Starfleet service, I do not take this decision lightly. But there are some lines which we cannot cross without betraying our mission and our ideals. I understand that the Mars attacks were a massive tragedy as well as a huge strategic setback. But as long as we still have operable ships, we must continue evacuating as many people from the Romulan star system as possible. If Starfleet does not make this effort but instead caves into political pressure driven by fear and prejudice, then I can no longer in good conscience be a part of it. I resign my commission effective immediately.
Signed, Captain William T. Riker, USS Titan
He stared at his PADD for several seconds, rereading what he had written. He could send it and end his career just as Picard had. But he couldn't make that decision alone. He needed to discuss this with Deanna.
As soon as Will entered their quarters, Deanna could sense his strong emotions: anger, sadness, worry, confusion. They locked eyes, and they knew this wouldn't be a conversation they wanted to have in front of their 4-year-old son.
"Go to your room, Thad," Deanna said gently. "Mommy and Daddy need to have a grown-up conversation."
Thad looked up from his mother to his father. He had inherited much of his mother's empathic abilities, and the emotions coming from both his parents frightened him. He reluctantly got up off the bed with the book he was reading and went to his room.
"What is it?" Deanna asked as Will sat down on the bed next to her.
"Starfleet's withdrawing from the Romulan evacuation," Will said numbly.
"No," Deanna whispered, her eyes widened. "Can't you do something? Can't - can't Jean-Luc?"
Will shook his head. "Jean-Luc already told them he would resign if they withdrew," he said. "But they did anyway. And he resigned."
"Well, he's eighty years old," Deanna said. "He's more than earned it."
"And I haven't," Will said.
Deanna stared at Will, finally understanding. "You're thinking of resigning too," she said.
"I just - I have to do something," he said. "I can't let them get away with this."
"If they didn't change their minds for Jean-Luc, they won't change them for you," she said.
"I know," he said. "But if I could just get enough captains on board… They can't let all of us resign, right?"
Deanna stared into Will's eyes. The entire last year had been exhausting for both of them. And then there had been the news of the Mars attack just last week. Both of them had been frantic to find out if Geordi had made it out, which, thankfully, he had. But they couldn't believe that the Federation was now seriously considering banning synthetic life just because synths had attacked Mars. Had they all forgotten about Data? How much he had done for Starfleet, how he had given his life to save Picard? How could the Federation have lost its way so badly?
But the worst thing they felt was relief. Relief that they could stop dealing with all the Starfleet red tape and the Romulans accusing them of trying to undermine their empire and their incessant desire for secrecy, and go back to exploring the galaxy and raising their son. Deanna felt it, and she could sense that Will felt it too. A few times, the thought had even crossed their minds that maybe the Federation should just let the Romulans die out. They had been enemies of the Federation for centuries, and they oppressed their own people and other races. It was exhausting, being the bigger person all the time. Maybe Worf was right to hate them.
So they felt relief, and they felt guilt for feeling relief. The only people they were sure were worth saving were the children. Many of them were Thad's age or younger. Thad enjoyed playing with them, and was fascinated by their language and culture. Maybe those children would grow up feeling grateful for what the Federation did for them.
"Will," Deanna said, putting a hand on his shoulder. "You do what you think is right, and Thad and I will go with you. But I think you should stay."
"Why?" Will asked.
"Because we've built a life here," Deanna said. "Because Thad is happy, and I'm happy, and you're happy… most of the time. We're doing what we love. But most of all, because while you're on that bridge, you can make a difference."
Will looked at her quizzically. "Who told you that?"
Will's eyebrows shot up. "Captain Kirk?!"
"Well, actually he told Jean-Luc while they were in the Nexus, and Jean-Luc told me. There are some things you can only tell your counselor."
"Well," Will said, "who am I to argue with the great Captain Kirk?"
"There's so much good you can still do - we can still do," Deanna said. "With this ship, and this crew… it doesn't get much better. Except for the Enterprise, of course."
"But what about Jean-Luc?" Will asked. "Are you saying he was wrong to resign?"
"Not necessarily," Deanna said. "Maybe Starfleet needs both kinds of people. It needs people like Jean-Luc, who stick to their principles no matter what, and it needs people who work within the system to push for change in whatever small ways they can."
"Like me?" Will said.
"And like me," Deanna said. "Think about it. Sleep on it."
"I don't need to," Will said. "You're right. I have to stay, now more than ever. If only to remind them of who we are, and who we need to be."
Deanna leaned in for a kiss, and it felt like a cool glass of water after a long marathon. In the morning, another race would begin. Will would delete the resignation letter he had written, he would play with Thad, he would go on extended shore leave, and he would embark on another exciting adventure. But for now, one word of Deanna's stood out in his mind: sleep.
It was the best he had slept in a long time.