Commodore Tab Dutcher stepped onto the bridge of the Breen ship. Calling it a bridge was just a convenience for Dutcher's mind, as the Breen's ship was quasi-alive and the Breen considered anywhere the ship's commander was currently located on the ship to be the command center.

Where Relk Hel Sweg Tansan was, was the bridge for this ship.

The thermal long underwear Dutcher wore, chemically heated head cover, boots and gloves, were doing their job just well enough to keep him from freezing to the deck and the moisture enhancer buried in the chin plate of the suit put enough moisture into the air he was breathing to keep his lungs from drying out.

Dutcher reflected that the only time he'd been warm aboard the Breen ship had been when buried under the half-dozen, electrically-heated thermal blankets in his quarters. His quarter's climate control was Breen standard, and 24 degrees Celsius was just too high for the life support system to produce.

"Good day, captain. Do you have a visual yet?" he asked the ship's commander, using the Federation equivalent rank to that of Relk.

Dutcher's inner cochlea translator unit translated the Breen captain's words from the slow, deep guttural flapping of his vocal muscles into something the Federation's newest commodore could understand. "Coming into range now, commodore," The captain replied, pointing to the three-meter in diameter display sphere at the center of the "bridge." The greenish holo-image was a meter off the floor and showed the relative position of the Breen ship they were currently occupying, to the ship they were closing on. Numbers and letters scrolled beside each of the ship images and translucent lines, presumably measurement scales, were off to one side, but they were in the Breen language so Dutcher had no chance of identifying what they meant. Dutcher was versed in many languages, but Breen was not one of them.

Dutcher had been aboard the Breen ship for three days. It had been the only ship in the vicinity of the Federation's Command and Admiralty Staff Academy with transwarp drive. There had been a dozen ships within range with warp propulsion, but Dutcher was ready to finally take command of the Enterprise J, and warp speed just wasn't fast enough, so he cut orders for the Breen ship, and put up with the sub-freezing temperatures and dry air.

He would be the first human commander of a ship named Enterprise in over 207 years, since then Captain Jean-Luc Picard had relinquished command of the Enterprise-E to her first non-human commander, a Vulcan named T'renn.

Commodore felt an affinity to that Vulcan captain from so long ago. Dutcher's great grand father was a Romulan, and it was Captain T'Renn who commanded the historic Star Fleet ship which was crewed with Romulans as well as Vulcan, Klingons and humans. The Enterprise which was coming into range now would be crewed by an even more diverse group, with 38 different species from throughout Federation space.

"Pilot," the captain ordered to a Breen soldier standing at what Dutcher assumed was the helm, "reduce to warp speed. Then send approach signals and authorization to the Enterprise."

The Breen heavy attack ship dropped from transwarp into a standard approach heading to the Enterprise. The ship morphed a new station to the left of the captain's position as the ship's transwarp field reformed from transwarp to slower warp speed. The crewman who was manning the transwarp console left the bridge when his station was absorbed into the bulkhead, and another crewman entered and took up the new station.

"Slow to warp one," the captain ordered. "Sensory, long range sensors into the sphere.

"There it is, commodore. Range two point seven light years."

Commodore Dutcher saw his ship for the first time through the sensors of the Breen combat ship.

He knew the ship inside and out, from the date her keel was laid, the name of the chief engineer who was in charge of installing the new Slip Stream drive, the length of the ship from the forward sensor unit to the aft docking arrays for the 21 shuttles, six fighter craft, the 150 bi-neural independent engineering repair drones and 12 harvesting tugs, to the names of every department head he would be commanding.

He'd spent the past nine months studying every aspect of the Enterprise-J, the first of the Janeway-class dreadnought ships designed for defense of the Federation and the first ship to be fitted with the revolutionary and now stable Slip Stream Drive.

Originally proposed to be a Universe-class, generational ship, with families and shops and scientists and peaceful explorers, the benign design was scrapped when the Federation was attacked by the invading forces of Azati Prime less than 18 months earlier.

The Federation had taken a beating. Twenty-one planets, 161 ships, six spaces stations and Deep Space 4 and 9 were all laid to waste by a fleet of six ships from the trans-galactic creatures who had taken refuge in the Procyon Sector of the Beta Quadrant.

It was the first credible threat to the Federation's ability to defend itself and its Federation members in almost two generations, since the final Borg conduits were collapsed and Unimatrix One was neutralized.

Dutcher had personally chosen the primary, secondary and tertiary command crews, all of whom were on the ship now for the completion of the deep space trials. He'd wanted to be on board himself, but the time constraints were not in his favor.

During his training at the Command and Admiralty Staff Academy, Captain Dutcher and 15 other line captains had endured some of the most difficult and intensive training the upper echelons of the Federation had to offer. Three weeks earlier, Dutcher was named as the commodore of the new ship, surpassing Gul Al'Len LennarRannal of Cardassia Prime by two-one thousands of a point in the replay of the battle simulation of Wolf 359, 221 years earlier.

The ship would be Dutcher's to command and the rank of Commodore was authorized by the Federation council a week later.

It took another two weeks to finish classes and two days more required for out-processing and briefings of the mission. During that time Dutcher began having orders cut for the officers he wanted on his command crews.

The deep space trials had all ready been scheduled for the Enterprise and Dutcher's presence was not required for them. Dax, his first officer was already in the Sol system, teaching a class at the Federation Academy Annex on Earth and would command the ship in the commodore's absence with regular reports forwarded to Dutcher, but his hope to make it to Utopia Planitia in time fell well short.

The ship builders from Utopia Planitia, Glok'Nar VIII and Space Dock L'RinHansal had put the ship together over the past 22 months, including the hasty upgrades when the ship was refit from an exploratory vessel to a combat ship, and knew the lives of 2,700 Federation military personnel would be relying on their shipbuilding skills during their combat tour.

The Breen captain ordered a point one zero light year fly-by of the Enterprise-J at warp one to allow an enhanced "visual" of the new ship for the new commodore.

"Permission to disembark, captain," the commodore asked respectfully after stepping up to get a closer look into the sphere. The Breen captain zoomed in to fill the sphere with the Enterprise-J.

"Permission granted, commodore," the Breen captain said.

Commodore Tab Dutcher had earlier put a subspace transporter locator on the personal-belongings chest in his quarters and knew it would be held in transporter stasis until retrieved by his personal code aboard the Enterprise-J when the code for his personal transport was ordered.

He tapped the multi-badge on his left breast and gave the code word he'd pre-arranged hours earlier for his transport to the Enterprise.

"Alladin," he said and everything that was Commodore Tabson Benjamin Dutcher was broken down into its component parts, buffered into a personal transporter, shunted through a sub-space vacuole tunnel to the bridge of the waiting USS Enterprise- J.

Dutcher rematerialized aboard his ship amid some very loud, and apparently heated, discussions among some Federation officers and civilians near the rear engineering suite of consoles.

Ship's internal sensory reported the arrival of the commodore before the others aboard the bridge noticed his appearance. The personal transporter unit Dutcher used was not silent, but much quieter than earlier units, and hadn't been heard over the din of the arguments at the engineering station.

The transportation of sentient beings by personal transporter over any significant distant was a recent addition for military personnel, and the unit took more than two hours to re-charge, but the convenience of transporting to and from ships while still in warp was a convenience Dutcher couldn't believe star ship captains had to live without years earlier.

Programming was a simple wireless interface with whatever Federation ship they were on and the unit could be pre-coded for later use. The positronic brain of the unit was smaller than the tip of a stylus, but it was smart enough to transport to within point zero one centimeters from the distance of more than one hundred thousand kilometers, through Federation shield harmonics and structural integrity fields.

"Commodore Dutcher, Tabson Benjamin, Federation ship commander, has arrived in-ship," the soft, slightly-accented voice reported to no one in particular. The report, however, would be recorded in the ship's bi-neural/positronic circuitry for some historian in some future who may want to know the exact time and date Commodore Dutcher arrived aboard the ship.

The voices at the engineering station slowly fell silent as the commodore looked around the bridge.

His bridge.

It was just as his mind's eye had told him it would be. Nearly 20 meters in diameter, the split level bridge was the largest of any deep space warship the Federation had ever built, work stations and library interfaces were plenty, overhead secondary display panels showed statuses, and even the synthetic flooring was unscuffed.

The intruder control system dominated the ceiling nine meters above him and the telltale lights indicated the commodore had been noticed, scanned and considered to be a non-threat to the ship and its personnel.

As Dutcher removed his gloves and thermal hat, neck and chin protectors, he began a slow look around the rest of the bridge.

The primary bridge was dominated by a four by six meter main display screen flanked by two tactical screens, one on top of the other, on either side of the main screen. This had been a design Dutcher had been most insistent on. He wanted to be able to have as much information as possible within easy sight line and the four smaller screens would allow him more detailed information than he wanted to see on the main screen.

Circling port side of the main screens was the turbolift to the secondary hull compartments and warp drive and transwarp engineering section more than 1,800 meters behind the bridge section and 20 decks below the primary hull disc.

Next were the primary science stations followed by the port aft turbolift which led to the aft crew barracks, recreational, medical sections and environmental.

The main engineering suite of bridge stations included two slip stream stations, one warp and one trans-warp station. These four stations would be manned by engineers specializing in their specific propulsion, reporting to the captain of engineering who would be Commodore Dutcher's third officer.

Next to the engineering consoles were the shielding readouts, diagnostics and sub-system back-ups. The major systems would be the Dragon Shield; the series of over-lapping combat shields were the strongest defense ever fitted to a ship. The design had been successfully used on smaller ships in the fleet, but after the devastation wrought by the invaders, the Federation insisted the energy hungry Dragon Shield emitters be installed on the Enterprise. And entire quad-core power plant was dedicated to the Dragon Shielding, so much energy they needed.

Sidled up to the starboard side of the Dragon Shields were the Tertiary Refractive shielding, a direct descendant of the metaphasic shielding developed by Dr. Reyga, a Ferengi scientist in 2369, and the defensive ablative armor shielding which had been so effective during the Borg Wars.

The rear quarter of the bridge had a second deck where environmental, ship's services and secondary science stations were arranged. The second deck had its own turbo lifts at either end of the deck, a head, and a ramp on the starboard side of the bridge.

Internal security and communications rounded out the quarterdeck of the primary bridge, directly under the second deck. The design gave three officers a relatively quiet and secluded area to handle the traffic and security of the massive ship while still permitting the ship's commander easy visual and auditory access to them.

A dedicated three-person transporter to the weapon's bays, fighter craft, multi-vectored ancillary defense platforms, repair drones and harvesting tugs was to the right of the main entrance to Commodore's Combat Control Center, captain's ready room, first and second officer's duty offices, the senior non-commissioned officer's suite of offices, and quarters for the commodore and his aide-de-camp.

The ramp to the secondary deck dominated most of the starboard wall, but there was still room for secondary environmental stations, library interfaces and navigation and weapons sub-systems.

Like the ship's she was named after, the Enterprise had it's command chair centered on the bridge. The commodore's chair was a massive piece of machinery with multiple links to every station on the bridge, every sub-system in the CCC, and several more to communications, engineering, medical, life sciences, tactical sensors, helm and navigation, all nestled around a form-fitted chair which had been designed especially for Dutcher.

To the port of his command chair was the first officer's elevated seat with similar interfaces for communicating the commodore's orders to any section of the ship and to check on the status of any damage repair units. The tactical officer's seat was to the commodore's right, with all the tactical, communications and weapon's controls within easy reach on the swivel board which would swivel in front of the tactical officer when seated. A good tactical officer would play the board like a musical instrument and be able to launch any number of different weapons systems, engage multiple targets, change field strengths and harmonics, launch defensive drones and maintain tactical control of the fighters.

It was hammered into Dutcher at command school to choose a tactical officer with as much care as one would choose a mate because they could be as important as a mate when the house was on fire.

The helmsman and navigator had the foremost duty stations on the bridge, each occupying semi-circular consoles with a plethora of read outs and touch pads for controlling the 3,000-meter long ship, but sunken a meter below the bridge proper, as to give the captain, tactical and first officer unobstructed views of the main screens.

Finishing his visual tour of the bridge, he saw his first and second officer approaching from the engineering station where they had been arguing with the civilians.

"Welcome aboard, captain," his first officer said, a wide smile on his face. Commander Esten Dax, a Trill, had been Dutcher' choice as first officer and none of the others in the pile of data pads had a chance. While the commander was young looking, inside him was the legendary symbiot Dax, well over 400 years old and 11 lifetimes of experience including two tours of service in Star Fleet and one in the Federation fleet in his repertoire.

He gave the commodore and old fashion salute that had gone out of use aboard star ships more than 300 years earlier, but was an affectation the symbiot probably put Commander Esten up to. Dutcher, returned the salute with a snap and flourish that surprised the commander.

The second officer was a Klingon, Commander Vro'Kha, who had commanded ships in the Klingon Defense Force for nearly 15 years before she had been lured by the commodore to serve with him aboard the Enterprise. She was an experienced leader of both ground troops and had seen black space combat in several types of vessels. She would be the primary leader for all planetary missions. She wore the sash of the Honored and Remembered House of Alexander with decorations for various battles and wore her Federation uniform the same way she had her Klingon uniform, form fitting and with a Mek'leth sword behind her left shoulder, sheathed in a scabbard.

Standing 20 centimeters taller than the first officer and broader in the shoulders, she was an impressive officer for the bridge. She had no assigned station, but would be everywhere, over seeing everything that had to do with military combat and combat support personnel and their responsibilities to the ship and the first officer. She would sit in the command seat only when she had been given the bridge for a duty cycle, and Dutcher doubted even then.

If and when the ship saw combat, Vro'Kha was the primary tactical officer and would be on his left. A fleeting thought of her as a life mate brought a well-hidden grin that lasted as long as the thought itself. He wasn't even going to think of such things.

She saluted the commodore in the traditional Klingon fashion as habits were hard to break. "Qu'plah," she said, as she was not much for conversation.

"Thank you," Dutcher said to his officers. "It's good to be aboard finally." He nodded to the civilians at the aft engineering station. "What seems to be their problem and will this require my attention?"

Dax answered when Vro'Kha harrumphed and crossed her arms over her chest and looked in disdain at the civilians still standing, talking in low voices at the engineering station. Engineering personnel were combat service support, so out of her direct supervision except in combat situation. "The senior engineer, as you know, is Dr. Marmer. He is the expert from Utopia Planetia on the slip stream drive which is installed aboard this ship.

"He says the bi-neural interface between the bridge and the slip stream drive in the engineering section are not communicating as quickly as the computer specs insist they must." Dax said. "The specs are well within the documentation put forth for the ship by the Federation, but Marmer, believes there is something wrong."

Dutcher rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "But the ship did pass deep space trials."

It was Vro'Kha who answered this time. "Aye, sir. The inspectors from the Federation left early yesterday morning. Their report has been forwarded to Federation Command and a copy to your aide-de-camp as well as all department heads."

"Then we are spaceworthy and ready to begin our mission?" Dutcher asked his two officers. Both nodded.

Looking between his two officers, he caught the eye of Dr. Memar. "Doctor, will the Slip Stream Drive fail in the current configuration?"

Memar, a Bolian of some note to the Federation for his work on the Slip Stream Drive, stepped toward the commodore and clasped his hands in front of him. His blue skin and white lab coat were a stark contrast to his penetrating black eyes which exuded the confidence he had in his own readings.

"Commodore, the Slip Stream Drive will take this ship more than 2,000 light years before it needs to be shut down for artifact cleansing," he said matter-of-factly," however, these bi-neural interfaces lag the shutdown sequence for the drive."

"Is it a danger for the ship?" Dutcher asked.

"Not right now, but the interface needs to be monitored and diagnosed to find out why the system does not perform to computer specifications," the Bolian said. "It is very important for the stability of the drive."

"Doctor, we have a mission of vital importance to the Federation and do not have time for this. What is your recommendation?"

"I hold the rank of Rear Admiral in the Federation Reserve, as you well know, commodore. I'd like to re-activate my commission now and head your engineering department for this mission, if it is all right with you?"

Dutcher nodded and pursed his lips. "You understand you'll be under the command of Commander Dax even though your position will be captain of engineering?" Dutcher had planned on picking up Gul Jolan, the senior engineering officer at the Federation outpost on Lillehammer VIII to be Captain of Engineering. Until just now, he was to drop the Bolian off on the Enterprise's way out of Federation territory, but if he was willing to serve, Gul Jolan would be just slightly disappointed; after all, he'd just been married a month earlier.

The Bolian's brow furrowed and he thought for a moment. "That will be acceptable commodore." Dutcher looked to Dax and the Trill nodded his agreement and Enterprise had its chief engineer just that easily.

"In that case," Dutcher said to the bridge crew, "by order of Federation Command, I hereby take command of this vessel as of Federation Date 101.09. 3. Computer, transfer all command codes to Dutcher, Tabson Benjamin, Commodore, authorization Zulu, Tango, seven, two, one, six, one, one, nine, confirm voice-matching, retinal scan and intra-dermal implant."

Dutcher had been forced to learn the old Stardate system in elementary school but was much happier using the Federation dating system which was based on the birth of the New Federation itself and broken into 10 segments or "months", of 100 "days" which were broken down into 10 "hours" of 100 "minutes." The Universal Scale as some called it allowed for each planet or system in the Federation to know what time it was on any of the other planets, no matter what the individual planets rotational speed was. It wasn't a perfect system, but it made for easier time keeping and scheduling of interstellar commerce. Time beacons spread throughout the Federation could be accessed by anyone with a subspace communicator.

The computer scanned the commodore and spoke to all stations. "NCC-1701-J is now under the command of Commodore Dutcher, Tabson B."

Dutcher nodded then looked to the aft communications console. "Communications put me on all-call."

The Ferengi lieutenant at the communication's station nodded to the commodore, acknowledging that the all-call was open.

"Crew of the Enterprise, this is Commodore Tab Dutcher," he said to entire ship, his voice echoing from every library computer, every internal communication unit, and every work station. "Our first mission is about to begin and I trust this crew will uphold the tradition of the name Enterprise.

"Good luck to us all. Close all-call," he said to the communication's officer.

"Dax, set course 180 Mark 91 and engage at Transwarp 2. Have the senior officers to the CCC in one hour for mission briefing."

"Aye, commodore," Dax said and turned to his bridge seat. Vro'Kha nodded to the commodore and headed up the ramp to the second level to oversee the bridge crew coming on duty now and to give out assignments.

"I will be in my quarters getting out of most of these clothes," Dutcher said, wiping the sweat he'd begun to work up off his brow. "Have my aide come to my office in 20 minutes. I'd like to meet him before this all gets started."

"You're going to like her," Dax said, not looking up from his board, a smile crossing his face like he knew something the commodore would find out soon enough.

Dutcher entered the CCC knowing what every display was showing, what every station could do and the capabilities and limitations of the combat control center. From here, he could see every weapon's range, its status, its firing arc, damage assessments, field strengths and everything else he could ever hope to need to know to make tactical decisions.

Everything in the room would be channeled to the command chair and tactical station on the bridge, but here was where everything coalesced into something the Commodore and the tactical officer would need. Before any battle, both officers would spend hours in here if they could afford to.

Dutcher'd seen everything here in the simulator at the admiralty school, but it was much more impressive in person for some reason. The Enterprise might be the most advanced ship ever built by the Federation, but the CCC was a throwback to any Man-o-War from days long past. In this room war was planned by sentient beings against other sentient beings, just had happened in the wet navy of Earth's history.

The room was currently lightly manned during Alert Level 1. If the ship were to go to Alert Level 2, 3 or 4, more power would be allocated to the room and more crewmen would be assigned here. The highest ranking person in the room was Senior Chief Colin Bellweather who acknowledged the commodore's entry into the room by standing up from the suite of stations he was overseeing. Two other ratings remained seated and just nodded to the commodore.

"Welcome to the C3PO, commodore," he said extending a hand.

Dutcher's eyebrows went up. He'd heard the CCC called many things, but never C3PO. "Thank you, Colin," he said reaching to shake the extended hand of the senior chief. "Ummm, C3PO?"

The senior chief released himself from the strong grip of the commodore and smiled a somewhat sheepish grin. "Yes, sir. One of my men made it up and it kind of stuck. 'C' to the 3rd power, Palace of Order. It is also the name of some mechanical man from an old holodrama I gather. But the name sounded good to me, so we kept it," he explained.

"Palace of Order," the commodore repeated. "C3PO," a pause while he thought about it, "I like it too. We'll use it. Put a placard on the door and spread the word.

"It's good to see you again chief. I wasn't sure the Rannufull and Captain Alleek'Allum would have let you go. I know how much it coveted your expertise."

"You know how it is with us enlisted personnel, commodore, every 30 months we have a choice to terminate our contract with the Federation and my tour of service was nearing an end. It offered me a good deal, but didn't block my chance at coming here," he said.

Bellweather served with Dutcher many years earlier aboard the Binar Science Ship

, known to the non-Binars aboard the ship as "Science Ship 17." The ship ran into difficulties deep inside the Typhon Expanse when unexpected energies collapsed the shielding around the ship. The Binars aboard, including the captains and first officers, chief engineers, most of the engineering staff and fully 7/8ths of the crew of 1,200 became incapable of communicating with the ship's computer core, leaving the ship vulnerable.

Commander Dutcher, the second officer of "17", assumed command as the ship drifted powerlessly through the expanse. Bellweather, a junior engineering rating took the lead in the Binar engine core and played fast and loose with the regulations, equipment and power sources he had available to him and the seven other able crewmen who could still function in the current environment.

In less than two days, with Dutcher overseeing the overall repairs of the ship and Bellweather doing his magic in engineering, a rudimentary warp drive was installed on the center outboard nacelle strut. The "17" still had more than six days at a crawling rate of Warp 2.1, but the crew of science specialists survived and both Dutcher and Bellweather received commendations of the highest order from the Binar government and the Federation.

Dutcher promised himself that if he were ever in the position to give the chief a place aboard his ship, he'd walk willingly through the HellFires on Remus to get him a position.

"Well, I'm glad you signed up for another tour, chief," Dutcher said. "I'm on my way to my quarters and wanted to pop in. You go on and we'll talk later."

"Thank you, sir. I look forward to it," this chief said and returned to the director's seat.

Dutcher took a slow walk around the room, looking at every display and every control board. He stopped to catch the chief's eye as he prepared to leave the room. "Nice, chief," he said, and then left the room to the chief's acknowledgment.

His quarters were another 25 meters down the corridor and he began removing more of the clothing that had been keeping him alive on the Breen ship. His were only one of two sets of quarters in this area of the ship. The second officer's quarters were directly opposite his on the other side of the bridge, but also seven decks lower and the third officer was billeted with the Klingon contingent three-quarters of the way to the back of the ship.

The distance between the quarters was to give the ship the best chance of having a senior officer alive and able to access the bridge, battle bridge, or C3PO in case of ship-wide disaster.

The doors to the commodore's quarters did not open as he arrived. They needed to be oriented to the commodore on his first visit. He stood in front of the double door and waited as the shipboard circuitry analyzed him down to his component nucleotides and synaptic pattern, then mapped his entire body much as his personal transporter had done. This was a security feature to keep shape shifters and other morph-type creatures from duplicating the commodore. They might be able to mimic him in every conceivable way, but the creature had yet been made by God who could duplicate the shifting synaptic paths of a human being.

Two and a half seconds ticked off and the double doors slid silently open, save for the almost silent pneumatics in the door frame itself, and Commodore Dutcher was finally at home on his ship.