2256 All around him, the Enterprise was quiet. Outside, workbees and technicians swarmed around the ship in dry dock; inside, more Fleet Yard engineers, techs and a dozen of his regular crew worked on repair and upgrades. Their last six months in space had been hard on her, and now she was receiving not only the badly needed repairs, but a large number of new components. In Captain Chris Pike's office, there wasn't even the hum of the warp and impulse drives through her superstructure, just the faintest buzz of the Yard generators. She would be here for awhile, but Pike was already working out his staffing for the next mission. Phil was reticent to commit to another five year mission -- understandably, given his long decades of service and desire to retire -- but seemed possible to sway for at least part of one when Pike had visited him a few weeks ago on Cape Cod. Number One, of course, had already put in her request to stay as his exec; something that, despite his firm belief she should have her own ship by now, warmed Pike's heart. Spock had likewise requested to remain under Pike's command. The young Vulcan was an exceptionally talented scientist, and a capable second officer; Pike had no difficulties approving that request. That left Engineering, which had suffered the highest number of casualties and the worst losses, most of them from the single engagement which came close to crippling the Enterprise. Pike looked at the letters in hand, printed on thick card stock, with the gilded and embossed emblem of the United Federation of Planets and the crest of Starfleet at the top, the sort meant to be framed and put on a wall. He had his own collection, though he had never bothered with hanging them; the rings on the sleeves of his uniform spoke well enough for him, and the starship under his command. But he remembered each one, and the rush of pride and accomplishment that came with them. These two letters had been particularly difficult to attain. The Office of Personnel tended to have their own ideas of how the Fleet should be run, and what made an officer promotion-worthy. Pike had to actually go himself to the Director and make the case in person. Even then, it had been dicey -- every argument against this promotion would have been perfectly valid in any other context. Were Pike just going on records and not personal experience, he would have refused the request himself. But this wasn't any other context. The Enterprise wasn't just another ship. She was the leading, bleeding edge of the Federation. She was an extraordinarily well-designed, cutting edge starship, under constant upgrade and refinement as they pushed ahead in technological leaps and bounds, often engineering on the frontier. Something Pike could more than appreciate, as he sent his own engineering recommendations back to Belfast as they pushed further and learned more. Even with the recent losses, it was an incredible time to be a starship captain. It was an incredible time to be a starship's engineer, too. Pike looked at the two letters in his hand for a long moment, and thought about a lot of things in that moment; the triumph, and the loss. Then he hit the comm button next to his monitor, set to shipwide, and grinned a little to himself. "Lieutenant Scott to the Captain's office." After a moment, the ready answer came back, "Aye aye, Captain." Scott looked better now than he had when they came into port; less harrowed, less exhausted. Even if he had been quite understandably so, as they'd had to all but limp the Enterprise home. But the time back at Earth had clearly done him some good. Moreso, though, he looked calm and ready, which was quite a far cry from even a few years ago. Officially, the lieutenant had been in assignment limbo; Assistant Chief Engineer of the starship Enterprise by appointment, but in dry dock, that meant considerably less than it did when they were in open space. Reality was that he had been acting Chief Engineer since the loss of Chief Barry, but once back in dry dock had no authority to continue in that role. Pike had been using him mostly as a liaison with the Fleet Yard engineers in the meantime, a task Scott was naturally good at; many of them were young and eager for someone to take them seriously and teach them, and Scott had always been good at doing exactly that. No replacement for Barry had been secured in the past few months. The probability had been that the Enterprise would gain a new Chief Engineer when she was finished with repair and refit, and Scott would again step back to the Assistant Chief's position, serving his time in that appointment until he was promoted. A year ago, that would have been Pike's recommendation. "What can I do for ye, sir?" Scott asked, standing in front of the desk with his hands clasped behind his back. Pike stood up. "How are the upgrades to the impulse regulatory systems going?" "Fine, sir. The techs are doin' a good job, and I've no complaints thus far. I'm a wee bit concerned about a few o' the design elements themselves, but I don't think it's anything that I won't be able to-- well, that-- that whoever's assigned to the Chief's position won't--" Scott stopped himself, and then cleared his throat with a small, somewhat sheepish smile. "Sorry, sir." "No apologies necessary," Pike said, keeping his own smile off of his face by some force of effort, listening to the man speak and act every bit the supervisor he didn't think he'd be in short order. "Have you submitted your own proposals yet?" "No, sir, not yet," Scott answered, shifting a little in place. Pike nodded, looking down at his desk for a moment, then looking back up with studied ease. "Well, Chief, I'd suggest you get on it. The faster it's hammered out, the faster you can move onto the next issue." "Aye, sir, I can--" It took a second for Scott to catch up to what was actually said and his eyes widened. He straightened himself automatically, blinking a few times, and then asked, sort of tentatively and a little incredulously, "Captain?" A year ago, it would have been Pike's recommendation to bring in an older, more experienced officer as the Enterprise's Chief Engineer, and leave Scott as Assistant. But it wasn't a year ago. It was now, and the future. Pike didn't entirely succeed in chewing down his grin this time as he offered the two letters -- promotion and assignment -- over. "Congratulations, Lieutenant Commander." Scott looked at him blankly; even across the desk Pike could see he'd pretty much stopped breathing, and when he did finally remember and drag in a breath, it was shaky. It took him a long several moments to even summon up the ability to reach out with a trembling hand to take the two letters. "Sir...?" "The Enterprise needed a Chief Engineer. Given her mission, a lieutenant in that position is inappropriate. Hence, Lieutenant Commander, your promotion." Pike raised an eyebrow, though he was fairly sure his good humor was showing anyway. "Unless, of course, you'd like to turn it down." "No, Captain." Scott finally looked down at the letters, and then huffed out a shocked sort of breath, before breaking into a wide smile that wavered. "Uhm... I'm, uh..." He shook his head, clearly trying to absorb it, any number of emotions vying for space in his expression. Joy, surprise; a breathless sort of wonder, to go with disbelief, and with it all, a measure of sorrow. And Pike understood. And he thought of the fifty-three casualties, a large portion of them engineers, and he thought about Cait Barry, and he thought about the past. And he also thought about the future. Part of which stood across his desk from him. "I won't let ye down, sir," Scott said, at length, straightening up again and looking the Captain in the eyes. Pike didn't doubt it for a second. "I know." Scotty was still a little shaky and a little dazed, when he paused by the doors of Main Engineering and tried to grasp the massive shift his entire life had just undergone, his letters in his hand. It was a door he had stood in front of countless times in the past five and some years; first as a junior engineer, then as third shift supervisor, then as Assistant Chief... He was just shy of his thirty-fourth birthday; by all rights, if he had a perfect record, he should maybe have had this position on a light cruiser, or a frigate. With his actual record, the best he might have gotten (and with a good word or three put in for him) would have been on a hospital ship or a science vessel, if he wasn't busted down to freighters again. But not Chief Engineer on the Starfleet's brightest, best starship. Not on the Enterprise. There were so many officers, both older and more senior, who could have been given this. He looked down at the letters again, and sure enough, that was his name. His new rank. His assignment, to the refit and next five year mission as the head of Engineering. Inside, the techs were overhauling and replacing components; upgrading and refining, repairing, changing some things and keeping others. Outside, Scotty was trying to remember how to breathe. He looked at the doors. He still sometimes saw Chief Barry in there, auburn hair and rose-tan uniform, out of the corner of his eye. He wondered how long it would be before he stopped looking for her; how long it would be before her loss caught up with the reality, and she didn't haunt the engine room. He wondered if she would be dismayed that he was given her position. Or if she'd be proud. "Keep them alive, Scotty," she had said then, the only time she ever called him by his nickname, the last thing she ever said to him as she went and faced her own end, sure and brave. He closed his eyes tight now, against the sting in them, and answered silently, "Aye aye, Chief." Then he walked through the doors of Main Engineering for the first time as the Chief Engineer of the U.S.S. Enterprise. Sure and brave.