“I still can’t believe it. Nothing like this has happened in the history of the Federation.” Riker took a seat in Picard’s ready room.
“Nevertheless, it’s been confirmed, Number One. The votes for Federation president are evenly split, and a hand recount on Risa will determine the outcome of the election. I’ve been asked to travel there as an observer of the recount’s fairness. Supposedly, this is a great honor.” Picard didn’t sound particularly thrilled at the prospect.
“Captain, many of our crew members have become somewhat agitated about all this political uncertainty,” Deanna Troi put in. “I can sense much confusion and anxiety among them.”
“Tell Guinan to give everyone an extra ration of synthale. That, and the news of an extended shore leave on Risa, should cheer them up. We’ll probably be there for weeks. A hand recount, of all things, when we have computers that can process teraquads of information in seconds.”
“I understand the Risan government has hired several Borg refugees to oversee the efficiency of the process,” Troi replied calmly. “It shouldn’t take long at all.”
“Wonderful,” muttered Picard, now looking even more disgusted. “And then there are all the lawsuits over alleged election irregularities. Number One, have you ever heard of a butterfly ballot?”
“Can’t say that I have, sir.”
“There’s a tradition on Betazed of releasing butterflies into polling places. It’s supposed to provide an emotionally soothing ambience.” Troi sipped her hot chocolate. “Unfortunately, we had to abandon this practice when we joined the Federation because of concerns that it discouraged voting by several species with an aversion to insects. I wasn’t aware that anyone still did it.”
Picard just shook his head in response to that. “This absurd situation is making us the laughingstock of the galaxy. The Klingons think it’s hilarious. They don’t understand why our candidates haven’t just fought a duel to decide the matter.”
Riker nodded. “And of course the Ferengi wouldn’t miss the opportunity to run the biggest betting pool in modern history.”
Fidgeting with his tunic as usual, Picard crossed the room and got a cup of hot tea from the replicator.
“The worst of this will be the reporters, I’m afraid. They’re descending on Risa like the proverbial horde of locusts.”
“I understand a very well-known legal reporter will be there,” Troi added, “who was recently revived after more than three hundred years in cryo-stasis.”
Picard and Riker exchanged glances, and both shuddered.
“You can’t mean . . .”
“I’m afraid so. Geraldo Rivera.”