The USS Vanguard had arrived safely at Earth Spacedock to be decommissioned. The twenty-five-year-old lieutenant, Duncan Swan, was with his brother and his two new friends. They were celebrating their return in a lounge overlooking the ship.
"Friends forever," Elvin Swan toasted at the table.
After their beverages met, Sara Baker, sitting at the table, began to weep in fear they would never see each other again.
Selak, the Vulcan doctor, noted, "I'm sure all of you have secured posts on other starships by now."
All but Duncan acknowledged this. They all slowly looked his way. This was just like him.
"What?" the lieutenant began. "Do I have to be prepared for everything? Am I a boy scout or something?"
Sara laughed with her drink full in her mouth. It was coming out her nose.
Then, suddenly, a message came over the speaker, so all on the starbase could hear, "To all persons with a lieutenant's rank or higher, if you wish to acquire a ready command, see your local deck officer as quickly as possible. Thank you."
Duncan was already on his way. For the ones still at the table, the alcohol was causing them to laugh uncontrollably. Even Selak, a Vulcan, cocked an eye. For a Vulcan, that was hysterical laughter.
With the help of a turbolift nearby, Lieutenant Swan reached his goal in record time. As he approached the deck officer, the first thing he asked was, "Did I make it in time?"
The deck officer smiled and said, "Yes. You are right on time. Once you catch your breath, could you tell me who you are?"
It took time, but he did catch his breath, "Lieutenant Duncan Swan of the starship Vanguard."
"Well, sir," he said, "you are now a captain."
He looked towards the doorway and informed the other officers a captain had been chosen. Then he got on the station-wide speaker, "A captain of the starship Reliant has been chosen. Thank you."
This started to confuse the new captain, "Reliant, sir?"
"All your questions will be answered when you report to Commander Lori Gates," the deck officer said extending his hand to be shook. "Congratulations, Captain Swan."
Duncan smiled as he rarely did and shook the officer's hand. Making his way out the door, he was puzzled. Starfleet must have been giving commands away if he earned one. He never saw himself as one in a million.
The new captain boarded a travel pod and entered the Reliant at its bridge. The ready room was right there. He decided to speak to the first officer before changing into the appropriate uniform. She explained much.
"This ship was created by a full-power start," she said.
"What is a full-power start?" Duncan had to ask.
Lori Gates explained, "The Enterprise discovered the full-power start in its five-year mission. It created a duplicate Enterprise that crashed into the planet they were trying to pull away from."
"If the duplicate crashed," the captain asked, "how do you know it existed?"
"Can I finish?" she returned. "Everyone knows the Reliant was stolen by the augment Khan Noonien Singh, but that was only the second mission of the USS Reliant. Clark Terrell earned his command by testing a full-power start as Captain Kirk did. It created a duplicate ship and crew. This ship is that duplicate. Study of it only ended early this year."
"So I'm the captain of a ghost ship," the captain responded. "That sounds simple enough."
"Pretty much," Lori told him. They shook hands. The first thing Duncan did was put on his uniform and contacted his brother to rub it in his face. It made him jealous, but he kept it to himself and called it pride. He always saw his brother as a future captain but over time.