Thanks for the comments, let's see if I can take them on board!
United Earth Military Authority Head Quarters, Texas, America.
14th April 2151. Approximately the same time that Captain Archer arrived in Paris.
Admiral Kelley stood at the window of his office, watching the latest batch of cadets struggling to march in step in the neighbouring academy. As if on cue the drill instructor bellowed, her voice clearly audible even at this distance, that they were the worst excuses for human beings ever to disgrace the uniform. Kelley chuckled. That particular insult had been used by instructors probably for as long as there had
been instructors, but it still worked. It'd put the fear of God into him when he was a cadet.
Flowers. He simply must remember to buy his wife flowers before going home tonight. Mustn't take her for granted. Too many military marriages going down the pan these days, with the person in the service neglecting their partner.
What had got him thinking about flowers?
Ah yes, his old drill sergeant. Seeing the cadets had reminded him. Had it really been a year since the funeral? Lovely wreaths. For a guy whose job had been to terrify, shout and insult, old Jellico had been well loved.
"You knew Sergeant Jellico didn't you?" he asked, without turning round.
"Ah, yes sir. He was my drill instructor the year before he retired."
"What did you think of him?"
A slight hesitation. "To be honest sir, at the time I hated his guts. Came this
close to taking a section eleven and walking out the main gate. Looking back, though, I see what he was trying to do, so I'm glad I met him."
Kelley nodded. Hindsight was a wonderful thing. He'd been tempted to take a section eleven discharge himself.
He turned, and regarded the officer seated in front of his desk.
Lieutenant Commander Maria Hernandez was his idea of an excellent officer. Career military, hard-working, decorated several times. A little young for her rank, maybe, perhaps lacking experience, but that would come to her in time.
The boys in the PR department loved her. She looked like a recruitment poster in her smart black uniform. An attractive woman with sultry Latino features. A good figure too. Not voluptuous, but compact and athletic, muscular without being muscle bound.
Kelley moved back to the desk and sat. "So have you considered the offer? I must stress that this is volunteer only."
Hernandez nodded. "I must say sir that I'm not exactly wild about the idea. I'm military sir, I don't know about space exploration. And off the record, Admiral, the UESPA people, well, they don't exactly seem professional."
Kelley nodded sadly. It was a common perception amongst the ranks of the UEMA that UESPA was a bunch of wide eyed dreamers with no grasp on reality. His own personal experience, which included six years as liason, was quite the opposite. But, when you get two organisations competing for government funding, these things occur.
"Perhaps, Lieutenant Commander, these will sway your thoughts."
He placed a small wooden box on the desk, and opened it. Hernandez's eyes widened as she saw the rank pins of full Commander. He let her cosider them for a few seconds.
He said "I've spoken to UESPA Director Forrest, and here's the deal. You will be assigned to the Enterprise for one tour of duty, currently planned as two deep space missions, of five months duration each, plus two months back home repair and ressuply. That might change, however, in which case the matter will be up for review.
"During that time, you will be considered part of the Enterprise crew, within the chain of command. Yes," he held up a hand to forestall any objection, "that does mean you will have to accept all legal UESPA orders."
He leaned forward. "But here's the good part. In addition to your duties as chief gunnery officer, you will be acting as the ships Executive Officer."
That got a reaction. Hernandez looked stunned. She sat back in her chair, silent for a moment.
"That's.....very generous sir."
"Generosity has nothing to do with it. Practicality does. At the end of your tour of duty you can request a transfer. I've spoken to the Joint Chiefs. Nobody is happy about the Enterprise situation, there have been few volunteers. But we need to keep a significant presence on that ship.
"If you are willing to take the bullet on this one, spend a year on board, you'll get a lot of good will from the people upstairs. I can guarantee you right now that, if you still want it, your next post will be as XO on another Declaration class, one of ours. A pure combat vessell. That is what you wanted, isn't it?"
Hernandez nodded eagerly. "Yes sir, it's been an ambition of mine since the Declaration was launched."
Kelley stroked his chin thoughtfully. "One other thing. If, God forbid, United Earth were to find itself in armed conflict with another space faring power, then under the terms of our agreement with UESPA the Enterprise would revert to us, for the duration. If so, it would have a purely UEMA crew.
"Under these circumstances, we would need to carefully consider who should best serve as Captain. Obviously there are many factors to take into account. Training, experience, seniority and so on.
"But given that Enterprise differs so significantly from the rest of it's class, familiarity with those modifications would be a great boon to any potential candidate. In other words, if you know that ship, you've got a chance."
He sat back, letting Hernandez digest his words. It was a big decision, he'd said his piece. Now it was up to her.
Slowly, reverently, Hernandez reached across the desk for the insignia. She lifted the box and regarded it's contents silently for perhaps half a minute. Then, with a single nod, she put the box down and stood.
"Admiral, I accept the posting." she said simply, before giving a crisp salute.
Kelley stood and returned the salute before reaching across to shake her hand.
"Excellent. I shall inform Director Forrest and Captain Archer shortly. Apparently they're in some sort of meeting right now. The Place de la Concorde. Must be good to have friends in high places.
"Anyway, congratulations, Commander."
"Thank you sir. " she said, before giving a slight smile. "I only hope I don't come to regret it!"
Kelley smiled, and lit a cigar. "Travelling round star systems mapping planets and cataloguing wildlife. I think the only thing you'll regret is not taking enough books to stave off boredom!"
Hernandez nodded "True enough sir. Honestly, what could possibly happen on a voyage like this?"