“Lieutenant Michaels.” The voice of the captain drew up behind him, the intensity of the man’s anger dropping his tone to one barely audible to those on the bridge. Mike, sitting inches away from the source of the voice, strained his ears as well, except he was trying to hear something different. A glimmer of forgiveness about what he’d done was what Mike wanted to hear.

As he sat at the Conn, his eyes fixed on the viewscreen ahead, the tiny bits left of the unknown ship expanding outward in a tangible cloud of Mike’s stupidity, he wished he wasn’t drunk. Actually, drunk wasn’t the right word at that point, Mike figured he was more close to buzzed. Rob, sleeping the alcohol off on Mike’s couch, he was probably buzzed, too. Staring at the cloud, Mike continued to wish. In that moment, he wished a lot of things. He wished Rob hadn’t visited. He wished Rob hadn’t been able to get real alcohol onto the ship. He wished he’d pushed the “engage tractor beam” button instead of the “fire photon torpedo and ruin your life” button on the control panel in front of him. He wished he had tripped over the coffee table in his quarters and knocked himself out so that he would’ve been unconscious and unable to report for his shift. Then he would’ve found himself waking up looking at the hot redheaded chief medical officer instead of sitting at the Conn, staring at a cloud on the viewscreen that had started coalescing into a vaguely horse-like shape.

Mike wished he’d gotten that pony for his sixth birthday.

“Lieutenant Michael Michaels.” Not the captain’s voice this time—Riker’s. His tone was harsh, foreboding. So unlike the first time the first officer had spoken his name, with that tone of disbelief that any man could carry a name like “Mike Michaels” and expect to be taken seriously.

And then most importantly, Mike wished his parents had been more creative. They had books meant for naming children, books chock full of names other than Michael. Dictionaries, thesauruses, hell, even the Official Starfleet Manifest of Spare Tricorder Parts Found Littering the Decks of Shuttlebays of Decommissioned Ships (such a manifest did exist, Mike had checked after it was a bonus question on a midterm at the Academy) would have given Mike’s parents a better choice for naming him. If only Mike had been able to say to Commander Riker on his first report to the ship, “Hello, my name is Aardvark Michaels. Call me ‘Arr’ for short, like what a pirate says.” Sure, that would get him a raised eyebrow or two, some muffled chuckles, maybe an outward giggle. But at least he wouldn’t have the sudden urge to bash his head repeatedly on the bulkhead every time he heard his name said aloud. Instead, it would only be every fourth time he heard his name that he felt his muscles twitch in their want of head bashing. At least he’d have an excuse to take to wearing an eyepatch.

Mike realized he still hadn’t moved from his seat. Slowly, he turned his head around to face the senior staff, their outraged eyes leveled at him and the viewscreen behind him. Somehow, Mike figured they weren’t going to offer insightful existential comments on the pony in the cloud, or that they even saw the pony. Their eyes were all searching his, trying to see if Mike were insane.

Mike would’ve told them no, but he wasn’t quite sure himself. What the hell was I thinking, reporting to duty drunk? No, buzzed. I’m buzzed. Right, I wasn’t thinking, that’s the problem.

“Lieutenant? Are you all right?” The sweet voice of the ship’s counselor was a welcome change from the intensity of Picard’s and the anger of Riker’s, as well as a welcome interruption to the chaos of his thoughts.

Mike, his eyes wide with shock, looked at Troi. Yes, I’m fine. We’ll just ignore the fact that the captain and the first officer want to fire me out of that torpedo tube right after that torpedo I just shot. Then, if they know which button really turns on the tractor beam, they’ll grab my body and place it at the top of the cloud, so I can finally ride my pony. Aloud, Mike said “No.” He’d meant to say it with a resolute finality in a tone carrying the seriousness of his character and person. Instead, it sounded like a frog filled with helium had snuck into his throat and replaced his vocal cords.

The corners of the Betazoid’s lips turned down as she glanced over at the chief medical officer. Mike blinked. When the hell had she gotten there? It wasn’t like anyone could miss an entrance of Doctor Beverly Crusher, not with that long legged striptease queen walk of hers. As Mike responsibly kept his eyes on the counselor, he didn’t fail to notice the captain turn to look at the doctor. Mike knew what went on between them, or what didn’t, what with that non relationship relationship they had going on. His shift leader had given him the lowdown his first day on the job. Like many a male—and some female—crewmembers, Mike couldn’t understand how the captain could continue not pursuing the hot doctor, not when she clearly had the hots for him.

Clearly.

The doctor returned the counselor’s glance, then looked at Picard. “I want him brought to me in Sickbay,” she said. “I’ll go down there now to prepare a room. I assume he is under arrest?”

“Yes,” said Worf. Mike couldn’t bring himself to look at the Klingon security chief. He’d heard that the guy could kill any man with a single look. Now wasn’t the time to test that rumor.

Crusher nodded and stepped into the turbolift.

Mike watched as Picard’s eyes followed her path until she disappeared behind the closing ‘lift doors. “Aw dude,” Mike thought to himself, “You could’ve had that.”

The captain’s head swiveled around fast enough to make Mike think he had whiplash just from watching the spin. Picard’s eyes bored straight into Mike’s. “What did you say, Lieutenant?” he asked.

Oh shit, Mike thought, this time making sure he didn’t say it aloud. Not that it mattered, he’d already committed the sin of speaking out loud about the non-relationship relationship. Even worse, he’d addressed Captain Jean-Luc Picard, captain of the Federation’s flagship, as “dude.”

For the seventh time that day, if Mike had done the math correctly, he wished he were dead.