The Rabbs, Post and Bush retired to the living room of the caretaker’s residence to discuss the Bourne’s crew complement over replicated coffee. “We already have a development crew for the ship, but they’re essentially all engineers. You’re going to need Medical, Tactical and Security personnel.” “I also want a dedicated ground force,” Rob said. “We won’t need Science personnel so we’ll have plenty of room for a decent-sized unit.” “We can arrange that. Meantime, we can round out the ship’s company with personnel from the Prince of Wales. That’s a Sovereign that’s been laid up at San Francisco yard for reactor replacement.” “How long will it take to train them on the new systems?” “Not long at all,” Bush said. “The changes we made to the ship’s structure and weapons loadout are significant, but the control systems are still based on the standard Sovereign design. Havin’ Sovereign-trained personnel would speed up the process.” “Okay, then let’s bring ‘em aboard, but I want to pick my own senior staff.” “You can,” Post said, “with three exceptions...” “Rod! Come on! I need to be able to pick my own senior officers.” “No argument, but these three come with the ship. First, since this is ‘her baby’ Dr. Bush will go along as your Chief Engineer.” Rob nodded to her. “Welcome aboard.” Bush smiled. “Pleasure to be aboard.” “How much shipboard experience do you have?” “Mostly I’ve been out on shakedown and training cruises as an advisor. I’m sorry I can’t tell you I’ve been part of an actual mission, but don’t worry. I do have experienced backup.” “That would be Lieutenant Nivin Dafydd,” Post said. “Served aboard two frontline ships before transferring to the Corps of Engineers. She’s been working as Dr. Bush’s assistant since Project: Continuity began. She’ll come aboard as deputy ChEng and Damage Control Officer.” “That will be perfect!” Bush said. “The girl is brilliant! We make a great team!” “I’ll bet,” Rob said. “Fine. That’s two.” Post sighed and brought up a dossier on his PADD. “Meet your Chief Medical Officer,” he said as he handed Rob the device. Rob merely glanced at the display. His eyes went wide for a split second, then he turned to glare at his wife. “Aw, HELL no!” Etta just raised her hand, index finger extended. “Now you just listen...” “There’s nothing to listen to, because ain’t no way in hell you’re going on this cruise!” Etta finally turned to glare back at him. “And neither are you if you think you’re leaving without me!” “Who says you get to make that decision?!” Before she could respond he turned back to Post. “And how in the hell does she ‘come with the ship’?” Post shrugged. “She said if I was giving you a ship she would only help me convince you if she could go along as the Ship’s Doctor.” Rob shook his head at that and turned back to Etta. “Look, you know how I feel about families aboard starships...” “I know exactly how you feel,” Etta said, “but I’m not just family! You need a Medical Officer that’s prepared for the shitstorm I guarantee you’re about to lead this crew into. Believe me, B.C., I’m the only doctor in the Medical Corps who can put up with you.” Rob pinched the bridge of his nose. “Okay...have you forgotten what happened the last time we served on a ship together?” “No, I haven’t. It’s all burned in my brain, right up to our second honeymoon in the life-pod. But that’s the point. You can be the biggest pain in the ass sometimes, but I’ll be damned if I have to outlive you for any significant amount of time. So we go together or we don’t go. And you know you wanna go. You wanna go and drool over that overpowered phallic symbol Edwina just showed you.” The Rabbs just glared at each other for a few seconds. Then they smiled. Rob chuckled and turned back to Post. “Fine. Edwina, her assistant and Etta. Anybody else.” “You can pick the rest of your seniors,” Post said, “but I would suggest you take Prince of Wales’ First Officer as your own. It’s Parker Raines.” Rob brightened. “Park? You’re kidding!” “He made full Commander last year, and word is he’s on the fast track for his own command.” He smirked. “Surviving you as his commanding officer ought to help him along nicely.” Rob chuckled. “You think? Okay, Park comes aboard as First Officer. We ready to do this?” “Let me have that back.” Rob handed the PADD back to Post, who called up a new document and returned it. “Your orders. Etta, yours are in the next document.” Rob read the document that started with his name and “You are hereby promoted to the rank of Captain” word for word and affixed his thumbprint at the bottom, then he handed the PADD to Etta. While she read, he said, “It’s a good thing my old uniform still fits...” “But it’s out of date,” Post said. “We’ll fix you up once we get back to Utopia Planitia. Meanwhile...” He fished a small box out of his pocket and handed it to Rob. “I can give you these right now.” Rob opened the box. Inside were the four silver pips of a Federation Starfleet Captain. “Never thought I’d get to wear all of these,” he said. “Yep.” Post said. “Now you get to make all the really important decisions. Don’t screw up.” “Gee, thanks for the pep talk. When do we go and what do we need to bring?” “We can leave as soon as each of you packs one space bag.” Rob laughed. “You seriously expect my wife to only pack one bag?? Has it been that long since you’ve visited?” “Oh, B.C., hush!” Etta said as she swatted his shoulder, then the Rabbs got up and headed for the bedroom. “We’ll only be a few minutes, Rod,” she called back. When they were alone, Dr. Bush leaned close to Post and said softly, “Can I ask you somethin’? You gotta be honest.” “Of course,” Post said. “Why exactly are we here?” “To recruit a captain for your pet project. Isn’t that what you wanted?” “No, right, I’m up to speed on that part, but why him? I mean, there are some things I like about him, but some of the things he said earlier...it’s like he’s almost as xenophobic as April.” A pause. “Well...it’s not ‘almost’. He is just as xenophobic as April, and that’s why we’re here.” “And now you’ve lost me...and I don’t like being the one to say that.” Post smiled and explained. “Even if he had stuck it out in Starfleet after Wolf 359 he would never have made it to the rank of Captain because his one glaring flaw is that he has little tolerance for any lifeform that isn’t at least superficially human. He’ll trade with Ferengi and Breen but he’d sure as hell never invite any into his home. I read his final psych eval before we set out. The counselor he spoke with concluded that it would be virtually impossible to eliminate or even just suppress this particular trait, and under normal circumstances that would preclude him from ever being given a command. “But these aren’t normal circumstances, and a basic principle of warfare is that you need to ‘Know Your Enemy,’ and that’s the catch, because thanks to the aforementioned character flaw and its elimination we didn’t have a single commanding officer on the roster capable of truly ‘knowing’ April.” “Until now,” Bush said. “Until now,” Post said. Bush shook her head, chuckled and said, “So, your idea is to send a raving xenophobe...” “...to stop a raving xenophobe.” Post finished for her. “And when exactly were you going to let Admiral Janeway and Secretary Kurhk in on this brilliant scheme?” “Oh, about three or four weeks after the stolen ships and crews were recovered and April was in the brig. There’s no rush.” Now Bush started laughing out loud just as Rob and Etta came out of the bedroom, each carrying a black duffel bag. “What’s so funny?” Etta said. Bush settled down as she and Post stood up. “Oh, nothin’,” she said. “I was just about to tell Cap’n Post that he’s got a pair of big, shiny, duranium cajones!” Rob suddenly grinned. “Why, Rod! I didn’t know you and the good doctor were that close!” Bush laughed harder and Etta started giggling. Post just rolled his eyes. “Okay, have we had our fun? Can we go now?” Everyone tried to compose themselves and Rob tried to say with dignity, “Lead the way, Captain.” Post shook his head and tapped his commbadge. “Post to Howard Hughes. Four to beam up.” The runabout’s computer chirped in response and transported the foursome out of the residence.