Fifty-five captain and commanders gathered at the main auditorium in Starfleet Command. Each one was now commanding a starship in the fleet. Captain Archer and Captain Tucker marched into the auditorium side by side. AG was already seated and he had saved them two seats beside him. Captain Carlos Ramirez was there along Captain Hernandez and Captain Katherine Paris. Commander Stiles was recently promoted to the Intrepid-Class frigates. He was a year older than Trip and highly competitive having decided that Trip was his competition. Commander Timlin was recently promoted to full commander and given a frigate.
On the stage were Fleet Admiral Masamoto, Admiral Forest, Admiral Black, Rear Admiral Gardner, Rear Admiral Duval, Rear Admiral Williams, Vice Admiral Jefferies, Four Star General MacFee, and Three Star General Holt. Masamoto took to the podium first.
"Captain and Commanders, our fleet is growing and shall continue to grow," Masamoto started his speech.
"I don't know about you but I'm hung over," whispered AG.
"My head is throbbing," Archer whispered back.
"I'm never drinking again," whispered Trip, who wished he had worn dark glasses.
AG tried not to laugh then he settled down to listen.
"Starfleet will now four new commands. The first will be Sol Command, or SOLCOM. SOLCOM will be tasked with the protection of Earth and Rear Admiral Gardner shall be in command," said Masamoto.
"Now there's someone, whose command I'd not serve under," AG whispered to Archer.
"Next will be Alpha Command, or AlPHACOM. ALPHACOM will be tasked with the protection of colonies, building of starbases, retaking of lost territories, and stop the Romulan forces from all of the Alpha Quadrant. Its commander will be Rear Admiral Duvall," said Masamoto.
Archer smiled. Duvall was a tough starship captain He'd command the warp 2.5 starship and a warp 3. He was the first to run into the Nausicaans. It was a good choice.
"Then, there is Beta Command, or BETACOM. BETACOM will be tasked to eject Romulan Forces, drive them back to their borders, and keep them there. There commander will be Rear Admiral Williams," said Masamoto.
AG and Archer glanced at each other. Williams washed out as a test pilot, but proved to be an excellent administrator and politician.
"Finally, there will be Special Operations Command, or SPECOM. SPECOM will be tasked with special missions, missions thought to be impossible or worse, such as the liberation of Vulcan. Admiral Black will be in command," said Masamoto.
There was a mumble of excitement throughout the auditorium. The liberation of Vulcan was going to be a Herculean task. Masamoto continued.
"Vice Admiral Jeffries will now be Chief of Engineers. This will place him in charge of the Corp of Engineers. He will oversee the growing of fleet and starbases, as well as repairs and upgrades, including R&D," said Masamoto. "As it stands we now have three classifications of the Intrepid-Class are classified as frigates, Daedalus-Class are cruisers, and the NX-Class are destroyers. It will be up to Admiral Jefferies to expand from there."
Suddenly, Trip wished he was considered just an engineer again. Working under Jefferies in such an expansive position would have been an engineer's dream.
"I have General MacFee and Lieutenant General Holt here because captains and commanders, Marines will now be part of your crew. From a fire team or two on the smaller boats to one or two squads on the larger boats, they will be a presence from now on," said Masamoto.
"Marines! What about security officers?" Captain Jaeger called out.
"Starfleet security officers will handle most shipboard security matters and away team, except for high priority security conditions," said Masamoto. "Now before you have any more questions, I am not done. There are some promotions and assignments to announce. With each command there will be a Fleet Captain. For SOLCOM the Fleet Captain will be Carlos Ramirez. The ALPHACOM Fleet Captain will be AG Robinson. The BETACOM Fleet Captain will be Jonathan Archer. Finally, the SPECOM Fleet Captain will be Charles Tucker III. This will be brevet position for now. Congratulations on your promotions."
There was a round of applause from the audience cheering on the new fleet captains. The applause died down.
"Now, Rear Admiral Gardner will now address some of the expectations and changes that will be made with SOLCOM."
AG leaned past Archer and whispered to Trip, "At this rate you'll be a full bird admiral by the end of week."
"Let's hope not," said Trip.
Trip leaned back in his chair and tried to listen to Gardner. He knew that the only reason he was being placed in the position of brevet fleet captain was because of the medal he just received. Someone called him a recruiting poster. That was what he felt like, not a real captain but a recruiting poster.
Admiral Black sat in his office along with Colonel Fine, Solaris, T'Pol, and Solkar. Solkar sat in front of Black's desk with the chair beside him empty. T'Pol found herself seated on the sofa along with Colonel Fine, and Solaris was seated in a chair near the sofa. The doors to his office opened and Trip walled into the room.
"Take a seat," said Black and he pointed to the empty chair beside Solkar.
Trip waked over to the chair and sat down. Through their bond he could feel T'Pol anxiety mixed with longing. It had been ten days since the last time they were able to be together.
"The Liberator is going to be an important starship for SPECOM," said Black, "as such it is going to have several positions filled with Vulcan crew members. Solkar has agreed that those Vulcans serving on the Liberator will be secondment from Vulcan High Command to Starfleet. Your chief engineer will be Solaris and your science officer will be T'Pol. Both will carry the rank of commander."
Black pointed at Solaris and T'Pol. Trip felt his stomach knot. T'Pol would be serving under him. He would have to discuss with the quartermaster to have her quarters beside his. Solaris nodded at him and then T'Pol. He nodded back.
"Sir, I was wanting a Lieutenant Commander Shintaro Katsu as my XO. That becomes difficult with both the science officer and chief engineer outranking him," said Trip.
"I'll review his personnel file, Captain. If I deem him fit, I'll fast track a promotion for him," said Black.
"Thank you, sir."
"Any other problems?"
"I wanted Commander Angus MacFadden as my chief engineer. I'd still like him on my boat," said Trip.
"I'll have a talk with Commander MacFadden. He owes me a favor," said Black. "He is a good man to have on hand. I hear he's almost as good an engineer as you are."
Trip tried not to smile.
"Admiral Black and I have been discussing some alterations to the Starfleet uniforms for Vulcans," said Solkar.
"Such has thermal lining so that they are warm and not freezing all the time," said Trip.
"Exactly," said Solkar with an appreciative nod.
"Having served with SubCommander T'Pol…," Trip started.
"That will be Commander T'Pol from here on," said Solkar.
"Yes, sir," said Trip. "Having served with Commander T'Pol, I know that a comfortable temperature for a Human is cold for a Vulcan."
"I'll okay whatever changes are necessary," said Black, who then looked over at Colonel Fine. "Colonel Fine wants 6 squads, which are 12 fire teams, attached the Liberator. They will be commanded by a major. I've okayed this. Major Joshua Hayes will be reporting to Planitia Utopia to report to you."
"You see, Captain, Major Hayes and his Marines are Recon Marines. They are the best trained, toughest, and bravest warriors we have," said Colonel Fine. "You be well taken care of."
"Colonel, they will be part of my crew, so they'll be well taken care of, also," said Trip.
Black smiled. He wasn't sure about having a tyro captain who had been deemed a hero and given too much responsibility as his Fleet Captain, the man who'd spearhead the liberation of Vulcan, but the more he found out about Tucker the more he liked him.
"My style tends to be a little gruff and at times relaxed. You'll get used to it. Now, I've arranged for lunch for Solkar, Captain Tucker, and myself," said Black. "The rest of you are dismissed."
Colonel Fine, Solaris, and T'Pol stood up and left the office. Trip could feel T'Pol's regret at having to leave.
"I've reserved a private dining room for us," said Black, who then stood up. "Shall we?"
The steward seated them then served Black and Trip a cold beer in a pilsner glass and a large cold glass of water for Solkar. Black had ordered prime ribs, steak fries, and a salad for him and Trip, and Thai-style noodles for Solkar.
During the eating of lunch, Solkar managed to question Trip about his life, family, and education. He'd been warned about Trip's emotionalism, but found that whoever did the original profile of Captain Tucker, they had underestimated his intelligence and logic.
"Captain Tucker, have you studied Vulcan culture?" asked Solkar.
"No, sir, but I have had a lot of lunches with T'Pol and conversations, so I've learned a thing or two," said Trip.
"Fascinating," said Solkar.
"I'm going to need you, Tucker. SPECOM is going to be important to our war plan. As I recruit ships and commanding officers to SPECOM, I'm going to need your support as fleet captain," said Black.
"Sir, I wouldn't be insulted if you asked to have me replaced as fleet captain. It is a brevet position," said Trip.
Black laughed at this suggestion, "You a fucking recruiting position, Tucker. If you are at all competent, and considering how you handle the cloak Romulan ship situation it appears that you are, you should be fine."
"Thanks, I think," Trip said.
Black looked at Solkar and Solkar nodded his head. Black reached into his pocket and took a small black box out of his pocket and placed it on the table. He pressed a dark green button, which then lit up.
"This box dampener lets us talk in peace. No one can record or listen in on us now," said Black. "Solkar handles his government's intelligence service. This includes the V'Shar. He has been in contact with V'Shar agents on Vulcan. It is intermittent and dangerous, but these agents keep us in as much intel as they can."
"Two of our agents will be assigned to the Liberator. Tyvak and T'Pal. They are currently on Proxima milling about the refugee population to make sure that none of them are deep cover Romulan spies," said Solkar.
"If they find a deep cover spy, what are they to do?" asked Trip.
"They have either two alternatives: capture or eliminate," said Solkar.
"Have they found any so far?" Trip asked.
"Yes," said Solkar.
"And are they captured or dead?" asked Trip.
"Not your pay grade yet, Captain Tucker," said Black.
Tucker looked at Admiral Black then back to Solkar. Sticking his tongue in the right side of his mouth, Trip realized that his problems were more than engineering ones now. This was more Section 31 territory than he was comfortable with, but he had no choice.
"The Liberator has top priority along with sensor net and a new weapons platform for Earth. We need you to get your boat up and running in record time," said Black.
"Solaris and Tavin are ready to work however many shifts are necessary, and I know T'Pol is devoted… to the project," said Solkar.
Trip was confused by his slight pause. He knew Vulcans well enough by now to know that pause had meaning, but what was the meaning.
"I'll talk to MacFadden and check Katsu. Also, I'm going to recommend a COB for you. Master Chief Gregory Fury is a top chief of the boat. You're going to have a big crew, over three hundred, I think you need him," said Black.
"When can he report for duty?" asked Trip.
"He'll be on the moon in forty-right hours," said Black.
"Yes, sir," said Trip.
AG ordered his third drink, while Archer and Ramirez nursed their second drinks. The 602 was filled with Starfleet personnel. A feeling of excitement hung in the air as many of the younger officers were excited by the idea of war, especially now that Starfleet ships were rising to the level of Vulcan ships.
"We are not ready for a war," said Ramirez.
"No choice," said AG.
"We are going to have a lot of ships with inexperienced crews and engineers who will be dealing with warp engines they are not ready for," said Archer.
"But we'll have defensive shields, better weapons, and a reason to fight," said AG.
His third drink came. He smiled at the waitress, who was new as Ruby was now working behind the bar. She smiled bank.
"Put it on the tab," he said.
She drifted away.
"Fleet Captain of SOLCOM," sighed Ramirez. "I'll be stuck in this system in a Daedalus-Class ship protecting Earth for most of this war."
"The Republic is a good ship," said Archer.
"Just because you were first office and you were the second officer and now that I'm the captain doesn't mean I want to be married to the ship. I wouldn't mind one of those refitted NX starships," said Ramirez.
"Or maybe Tuckers' new starship," smiled AG.
"Trip is the captain and now one of the four fleet captains," Archer said defensively.
"Brevet fleet captain, just like the rest of us. I just don't see Trip as a captain for long. He's an engineer," said AG.
"An engineer who did a great job as a captain killing that Romulan ship," said Ramirez.
"I say that was that pretty little Vulcan filly who made that possible," said AG.
"T'Pol is amazingly intelligent and competent but you are underestimating Trip," said Archer.
"If you say so, Jon," said AG.
"Yeah, I say so, AG," said Archer.
"I just feel that Trip isn't experienced enough to be in the position he's in. I trust the sum bitch with an engine or keeping a starship going, but commanding a ship takes skills that I'm afraid he doesn't possess," said AG.
"You've never served with him, AG. Trip is a born leader, just as long as he keeps his emotions in check. Sometimes Trip's problem is that he cares too much," said Archer.
"Better a commander who cares too much than not at all about his crew," smiled Ramirez.
Archer lifted his glass towards Ramirez.
"Well said," Archer stated then he took a sip of his bourbon with branch water.
"Oh, hell," AG said then he lifted his glass, "I hope you guys are right."
Trip meant T'Pol at a restaurant in Chinatown. He was wearing jeans and a dress shirt, while she wore Earth clothes and a scarf that covered her ears. Tomorrow, they were thankfully headed back to the moon. For Trip, it was about time because he missed those stolen hours he had with T'Pol.
The hostess showed them to a table and left them with two menus. T'Pol started to look through the menu.
"They have a lot of vegetarian dishes here for you, darlin'," Trip said.
"It appears so," said T'Pol. "I hope you intend on sampling vegetarian cuisine, Charles."
"I wasn't really planning on it," said Trip with a smile.
"Trip!" he heard his name called.
The voice was all too familiar. He turned his head and saw standing at the hostess podium his sister Elizabeth.
"Oh, damn," he mumbled.
T'Pol turned and looked to see Elizabeth, who was now headed over to their table. Elizabeth borrowed an unused chair from a table and moved to over to their table then sat down.
"Out on a date," she said then looked over at T'Pol. "SubCommander…"
"Liz, don't use her name or rank and draw attention to us," said Trip. "This is meant to be a quiet dinner."
"Between friends?" asked Elizabeth with a smirk.
"Yeah, between friends."
"Close friends?" asked Elizabeth.
"Charles and I are mated, Elizabeth," T'Pol spoke up.
Trip looked at T'Pol with an expression of shock on his face, "T'Pol!"
Elizabeth appeared to be as shocked as Trip, but she recovered quicker.
"Charles, she is family. There is no need to lie to family," said T'Pol.
Elizabeth looked at Charles and smiled, "Yeah, Charles, there is no need to lie to family."
"Lizzy, there has to stay a secret. It is just between us," said Trip.
"We'll talk about that, but right now I want to find out about my sister-in-law," said Elizabeth.
"I will gladly answer any of your questions, Elizabeth," said T'Pol.
"I just have one question: do you love my brother?" she asked.
"Lizzy, Vulcans have a different way," Trip started to explain.
"Yes, Elizabeth, I love your brother," T'Pol answered.
Trip stopped talking and looked at his mate then grinned.
"Wow," he said.
Elizabeth was grinning, too. T'Pol noted how much their smiles were similar.
"Well, sister-in-law, welcome to the family," said Elizabeth.
The rest of dinner was used to tell Elizabeth how their relationship developed and why they couldn't tell anyone about it right now. She understood, though, she told Trip that their parents needed to know. Finally, the subject changed as they drank green tea.
"Why are you still in town, Liz?" asked Trip.
"The UE and Starfleet have offered me a job, she said. "I'm being hired to design inexpensive but humane housing for the refugees. It appears that some of my architectural work was brought to the attention of some powerful people."
"So, you'll be staying in San Francisco for now?" asked Trip.
"No, I'll be staying at New Berlin on the moon," she said. "Although I've argued that I should be transported to Proxima to see where and how the refugees are living now, so I know how to improve their situation."
"So, when do you leave?" Trip asked with a smirk.
"I'll be gone for eight days. I'll in two," said Elizabeth. "I'll be travelling with Soval."
"Oh, he'll love that you are my sister," said Trip. "Soval isn't that found of me."
"He'll love me, Trip. Everyone loves me," she said.