Matt limped out onto the stage of one of the larger briefing rooms at Star Fleet Headquarters. Nearly two hundred seats were arranged in stadium seating in a half-circle around him, providing all of the attendees with unblocked line of sight to the speaker and the view screen behind him. One hundred and twenty-six of those seats were filled by men and women; primarily humans, but there were a few Vulcans and Tellarites and Betazoids and Trill and other Federation races among them. A white-haired and blue-skinned Andorian standing on the stage nodded and the shrill piping of a bosun’s whistle sounded. The commissioned and non-commissioned officers in the audience all stood.
Matt slowly crossed the stage, his cane clicking against the polished wood with every step. Turning his back to the assembly, he stopped next to the Andorian and gave the dour faced man a wink of one eye.
“Good to see you again, Chan.”
“And you as well, Captain Dahlgren. I trust that you are responsible for this abrupt change in my orders?”
“I am. Chan, I’ve a problem ship I need help sorting out. Can I count on you to back my play?”
“Marquis of Queensbury rules?”
“More like a street-fight with a broken whisky bottle, and a length of chain.”
The Andorian’s antennae twitched in amusement. “So I am to be the Royal Guard drillmaster of Andoria to your what?”
“The hard-nosed son-of-a-bitch, in-your-face Captain who is twice as mean, twice as nasty, and twice as handsome as his ice devil of an exec.”
“Hah! Humans have no concept of true beauty, pink-skin. I do believe I will enjoy myself, however,” Chan Shrak continued as he scanned the auditorium audience. “These are our victims—I mean our officers?”
“I think some of the natives are starting to get restless, Captain Dahlgren. This will be a ‘fascinating’ experience for us all, to quote the Vulcans.”
Matt continued over to the podium, and he finally turned around to face the assembled group.
“As you were,” he spoke into the microphone. “I am Captain Matthew Dahlgren. By the order of Star Fleet Command and the direct intervention of all nefarious powers of whatever Hell you believe in, I am also your commanding officer and the Captain of the USS Republic
. Never in my twenty-two years of service in Star Fleet have I seen such a motley, moldy, half-assed collection of so-called officers and senior NCOs. If I had a choice in the matter, I would send half of you back to your mothers to wipe your noses and rinse off your backsides, and might—MIGHT—make a passable team out of the rest. YOU!” Matt bellowed, pointing to one female officer sitting attentively in the front row. “WHO ARE YOU?”
The woman rose; she wasn’t dressed in Star Fleet uniform. “Ship’s Counselor Andrea Trincullo, Captain Dahlgren. Let me say it is an hon . . .”
“Why are you out of uniform, Ship’s Counselor Trincullo? And what, pray tell, is your official rank?”
The woman shook her head and looked puzzled at Matt. “I am a Lieutenant Commander in Medical Branch, Captain Dahlgren. And I have found it is useful to dress in a manner designed to sooth those crewmen who come to me for counseling.”
“I see. As of this moment, Lieutenant Commander, you will wear your assigned Star Fleet uniform whenever you are on duty. Is that understood?”
“Captain, I am not certain this is an appropriate venue to dis . . .”
“LIEUTENANT COMMANDER!” Matt barked. “I asked you a question: was I clear in my direct order to you? If the answer is yes, respond with ‘aye, aye, Sir’ and shut your mouth. If not respond with ‘No, Sir’ and then
shut your mouth. Is that understood?”
“Aye, aye, Sir,” the counselor muttered through clenched teeth.
"Take your seat, Lieutenant Commander," Matt said, waiting until she sat once more. Then he turned back to face the audience. "Star Fleet has been, for many years now, an organization which seems to have forgotten its purpose, ladies and gentlemen. An objective outsider, looking at our ships and our collection of so-called trained officers might instead get the impression that we are running a luxury liner service, ferrying young men and women across the galaxy so that they might enjoy themselves on strange new worlds!”
“That attitude, in Star Fleet Command, in the Federation Council, and on the decks of individual starships cost us dearly during the Dominion War. We have forgotten that discipline and order is as necessary for our ships as it was in the days of sail. Instead, we have become a debating society, where everyone has their say and gets to express their opinion. Where our officers and crew are so concerned with recreation and their own amusement that they fail to do their jobs.”
“Well, that, ladies and gentlemen is about to change aboard the United Federation of Planets Star Ship Republic
“Some of you are already aware of the shame that Republic
has had heaped upon her by officers and crew who were unprepared and ill-equipped to handle an unexpected tragedy. Mistakes were made, and the errors were compounded. And through it all, more than one hundred Star Fleet officers and NCOs, graduates of the Academy and mustangs alike; they stood by and let it happen. Because we have made them so comfortable they had forgotten that a Star Fleet officer must also be tough. Tough in spirit, tough in physique, tough mentally to accept and to cope with the challenges and the dangers that lie out THERE!” His voice boomed across the chamber as he pointed towards the sky.
Matt paused and he looked across the rapt, horrified audience sitting before him, his face stern and stoic.
“Senior Chief Callaghan!”
A grizzled and stocky non-commissioned officer snapped to his feet. “SIR!”
“You and I have served together before, haven’t we?”
“And we served upon a good, well-found ship?”
“AN EXCELLENT SHIP, SIR.”
“Our new ship, the Republic
, has shamed herself, has shamed our Star Fleet.”
“MOST SHAMEFUL, SIR.”
“But we will fix that. We will restore her to a proud ship.”
“VERY PROUD, SIR.”
“We will make her once again a fine ship!”
“THE FINEST, SIR.”
“And that proud ship, that fine ship, it will have the best crew in Star Fleet.”
“THE VERY BEST, SIR, EVEN IF YOU HAVE TO PUT YOUR BOOT UP OUR ASS, SIR.”
“We will redeem our ship in the eyes of the Federation; we will restore her honor!”
“AN HONORABLE REDEMPTION INDEED, SIR.”
Matt nodded and Callaghan sat back down.
“Right now, there are two hundred and fifty-four crewmen aboard that ship. Crewmen that no vessel in the Fleet wants. Crewmen who are crushed by what their ship has done. By what they did and did not do. By how their officers and leaders failed them in a time of crisis.”
“It is my job, and it is your job, to restore to those crewmen their sense of worth. Their pride. Their confidence. Their ability to accomplish their duty when everything around them is going to Hell.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is one job we had best get RIGHT.”
“Department heads, stand.”
Seven officers stood, five humans, a trill, and a tellarite. “Commander Natantael Malik, Engineering. Commander Quincy Talbot, Medical. Lt. Commander Amanda Tsien, Science. Lt. Commander Pavel Roshenko, Tactical. Lt. Commander Grace Biddle, Operations. Lieutenant Erwin Beck, Security. And Lieutenant Pok Khar’tess, Logistics.”
"Ladies and gentlemen, these officers will enforce Star Fleet regulations and my will upon you. Or I will have their heads. And yours for adding to my frustrations.”
"And if you prove too hard-headed and stubborn for the department heads to handle, then you will be paid a visit by my executive officer. Commander?"
The Andorian walked over and stood by Matt on the stage, and he smiled--a terrifying smile--at the assembly.
"Commander Chan Shrak. He will maintain discipline and he will ensure that Republic
redeems herself. That you will redeem her."
"And if you are not afraid of him, then you will come to me
. And understand this: I will command Republic
, there will be no committee or council. And if you screw up bad enough to come to my attention, then you will find yourself sitting in the brig or transferred off my ship to man the most remote, isolated, hard-luck outpost in the Federation!"
“If you think that perhaps this assignment is too much; by all means talk to the officers outside and request a transfer! If you are lacking in character and spirit and energy, then by all means, get the Hell off my ship!”
“But if you want to be a member of the finest crew in Star Fleet history—if you want to make
this crew the finest in Star Fleet history, then welcome aboard.”
“There are several officers waiting outside this briefing room, ladies and gentlemen. They have your exact department and division assignments. We board ship at 0600 hours tomorrow morning. Our crew—all two hundred and fifty-four of them—are waiting on board to see what kind of officers they deserve. And I hope, I pray, that some
of you might become the kind of officer that they need. That the Federation needs.”