One of my favorite things to do is preside over swearing-ins and promotion boards.
I didn't usually get to do one quite this large, but it was an unusual situation. We had all the Union Marines, plus the new Fleet officers. Then I had to talk to everyone, which meant it also got terribly drunk out for a long, long time.
As the final echoes died away, Kendra lowered her right hand, followed by the newest members of Starfleet.
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome. I hope that we never give you reason to regret your decision.” She raised her hand and snapped off a salute. “Dismissed.”
Most of the assembled personnel dispersed in the Brownian fashion of a group which suddenly loses cohesion, but a trio approached Kendra from one side, and a foursome from the other. She put on her brightest, most welcoming smile.
“It’s not a race; I’ll talk to all of you, but Commander Porter, you have my attention first. I know your ship is calling you.”
The tall man in the brand new blue Starfleet uniform, bearing the three wide and one narrow gold cuff rings of a Commander, braced to attention. “Thank you, Admiral.”
“You’re welcome. Lieutenant Commander Radabaugh. Captain Nordstrom. What can I do for you?”
“Admiral, we wanted to thank you again.”
She hurriedly waved her hands in negation. “Commander, never give away credit when you don’t have to. You and your people made the decision; all I did was help smooth out the obstacles. You weren’t the first people to come over from Artemis, or I should properly say the Union, but we’ve never had to deal with quite so many at once.”
“Anyways, if that’s all…?”
“No, Ma’am. Actually, Lieutenant, I mean Captain Nordstrom had the question.”
“Oh? Go ahead, Captain.”
“Admiral, what are we supposed to do?” His tone was somewhat plaintive.
“What do you mean, Captain?”
“Ma’am, you brought over a company, near enough, of Solarian Union Marines.”
“Right, because you didn’t want to keep serving in the Union under the, how did you put it? Incompetent bootlickers?”
“So what’s the problem?”
“Ma’am, we don’t have jobs anymore. As far as I’m aware, as far as I can tell from reading your mission logs, you don’t need Marines.”
“No, not really. Not yet at least.”
“You anticipate you will?”
“Anticipate might be a little strong. One thing I’ve learned in this job is I can’t afford to underestimate what’s going to happen, block off contingencies. First I didn’t think I’d need to arm my starship. Wrong. I didn’t think I’d need to make my habitat the most heavily-armed structure in the System. Wrong. I didn’t think I’d need to build multiple starships to defend a suddenly-sprawling territory. Wrong. I’m learning, though, and I can see that I might need to have Marines, somewhere, sometime.”
“Yes, Ma’am. But, Ma’am, what do I do?”
“Do? Captain, you have to do what I’ve been doing the past two years: learn on the job. I might be the head of Starfleet, and I never thought I’d be saying that, but you’re the ranking Marine in Starfleet.” A thought struck her. “You might want to talk to Captain Martinez. She was a professional, like you, thrown in with a bunch of amateurs, and she had to make sense of it.”
“Yes, Ma’am. One more question?”
“Go ahead, but then I expect you and your fellow officers to head over to the reception. It’s your party, after all.”
“Yes, Ma’am. Ma’am, will you be splitting up the company?”
“How do you mean? Eventually, unless they’re totally incompetent, most of the people you brought over are going to move up into command slots, have their own squads, platoons, companies.”
“That’s not it.” Nordstrom looked uncomfortable. “It’s Lieutenant Truitt. He’s not really cut out for command, Ma’am.”
“I’m sure we can find a suitable position for him, Captain.”
“I’d prefer if he could remain with me, Admiral.” There was a touch of determination in Nordstrom’s voice which had been missing only a moment before.
“He trusts me, Admiral, and we don’t know anyone else here yet. It would be too easy for him to get shunted aside, and he does have his strengths.”
“Very well, Captain. He’s all yours. Call him an aide, or chief of staff, or whatever you want. Make it work. That’s all I really care about. Make it work.”
Nordstrom stiffened and saluted. “Aye, Ma’am!”
Kendra laughed as she returned the salute. “Good. Now, get to your party.”
As the three former Union officers left, already deep in conversation, she shifted to face the other four.
“Thank you, Admiral.” The newly-promoted Captain unconsciously fingered the rank rings on her sleeve. “I’ll do my best to justify your trust.”
“You’ve already done that, Petra. Just do your best.” She waited for Orloff’s nod, then faced the other three. “And what did you lot want? This is your party, too, but I know you have pressing obligations tomorrow and will probably be calling it an early night.”
“That’s what we wanted to ask you about, Admiral.”
Kendra closed her eyes and took a deep, cleansing breath before reopening them.
“Okay. You are all on notice, on the day that you’re sworn into Starfleet you are only required to address me as ‘Admiral’ once an hour, and not at all if you have a drink in your hand.”
“Yes, Ma’am,” agreed the second speaker. She was a petite brunette with short-cropped hair, almond-shaped and -colored eyes, and she grinned widely at Kendra’s eyeroll.
“And no more than two ‘ma’am’s’!”
“Aye-aye. We want to get to the reception too, so I’ll keep it quick. Captain Orloff and I were talking before the ceremony and we wanted to know about our deployments.”
“You haven’t even passed through the acceptance trials yet, right?”
“Yes, ma—yes, but we thought to get a jump on this; the way we see things, we’re going to be hip-deep in active duty and patrols before the end of the month.”
“Then what is the plan?”
Kendra looked a bit uneasy. “We haven’t particularly made that plan yet, Captain Resler. Sorry!” she exclaimed at the look she received.
“I guess if I’m not going to let you call me Admiral, I can’t call you Captain, is that it? Fine. Chloe.”
“Then we have a suggestion, Kendra.”
“Good! And what’s your suggestion?”
“Petra and I think we should practice maneuvers as a division, with the intent to form a squadron when more Defiants are commissioned, instead of individual ships.”
Kendra looked to the other two. “Huff? Rene?”
The two first officers nodded. Mikall Rene was taller than her captain, with carroty-red hair, while Huff looked completely natural in his new Starfleet uniform.
“Robert, how’s the eye?”
He touched the patch. “I think even Dr. Quinn has given up on fixing it. The damage was too extensive for the nanobots to repair, and I can’t take cloned replacements.”
“I’m sorry,” Kendra said, genuinely.
“I’ve said it before, it wasn’t your fault. Although I’m sorry to leave the Academy, I’m happy to have the opportunity to get back into the black.”
“You have the most experience here, Robert, and you’ve done squadron work, right?”
“Yes, to both.”
“And you agree with this?”
“Yes again. I don’t think Artemis, or the Union, or both combined, can penetrate a coordinated defense between the Defiant and Defender. It’s simply a matter of practicing together.”
“Then let’s say I give you tentative approval, pending a full review. I’ll want that by the end of your acceptance trials.”
Resler and Orloff shared a glance.
“You’re senior,” Resler said to Orloff.
“How do you figure? We swore in at the same time!”
“You were in Starfleet before I was.”
“Hey, I was Third Officer!”
“Whoa, whoa! New rule, no fighting in the bay. Go find a drink and fight it out over a game or something.”
With that everyone headed for the hatch.
“First drink’s on me,” said Kendra. “Tradition, or so I’ve been told.”
“I won’t argue with you,” Orloff said.
“I thought it was an open bar?” asked Resler.
Kendra shrugged. “So maybe all the drinks are on me. Sue me.”