Independence Fleet has a long and glorious history which, strictly defined, began on July 4th, 2001. On that significant date, Independence Fleet was launched by Admiral James D. West, Vice-Admiral Charles Star, and Rear-Admiral Robert Seldon. Each admiral commanded one ship and also directed a single division (each of which was to grow to include several ships). West's ship was the USS Sunfire NCC-3001-A and his division was the Special Operations Division (SOD); Star's ship was the USS Avalon NCC-3002 and he directed the Deep Space Exploration (DSE) division; and Seldon's ship was the USS Washington NCC-11988 which was the flagship of his division, the Defense Response Force (DRF).
The history of Independence Fleet, however, can be better understood by knowing of some of the events which preceded its creation. The fleet's history can be traced back to February of 2000 and to the USS Sunfire NCC-3935, a ship about to be launched by Utopia Fleet, one of the premier Star Trek RPBE (Role Play By E-mail) fleets at that time. UF, whose structure was never as well defined as IDF’s would come to be, placed the new ship, which would become so key to this fleet’s history, under the command of Commodore Jay "Robbie" Robertson.
Though "Robbie" (as many of his crew would come to call him) was charged with coordinating all of Utopia Fleet’s recruitment efforts, he made his XO, Cmdr. James D. West, responsible for staffing the new vessel. This turned out to be a fortuitous decision and one of the best calls "Robbie" would make. West was able to quickly recruit Charles Star (who was made Lt. Commander and CMO) who, in turn, brought Robert Seldon (who started as a Lieutenant and as CSO) to the ship. Thus were the three crewmembers who were, arguably, the most important to the Sunfire (minus a two-week hiatus for Seldon, they were the only three to be on the ship for its entire run) in place.
Several others among of the rest of the Robertson crew would prove to be important in the story of Independence Fleet as well and so earn inclusion here. Ensign Ace Decade, who started as Small Craft Pilot and whose considerable exploits will be brought up later in this narrative, joined a few posts into the Sunfire’s first mission. As with Star and Seldon, this was Decade’s first experience with Star Trek RPBE. Lieutenant Sutak (again, whose later contributions to the fleet will be made clear shortly) joined the Sunfire as Chief Security Officer sometime a little later.
Condensing several months of very good posting for the purposes of this history, suffice it to say that the original Sunfire enjoyed several fun-filled and action-packed missions during her first few months in service. During one of those missions, the ship was actually destroyed in an event whose facts are still somewhat disagreed upon. Utopia Fleet then gave Comm. Robertson a new ship, the USS Sunfire NCC-3935-A, and the adventure continued. However, these times did not last long.
During April of 2000, strife hit the crew of the Sunfire. Disagreements arose and many crewmembers began to publicly argue with one another. The ship became increasingly factionalized and there was more fighting than posting. All was not well and Robertson did not know what to do or how to handle the situation. The crew managed along until the disagreements became unbearably bitter and intense. Events climaxed in June of 2000, when Commodore Robertson resigned without fanfare or even a public announcement. Much of the crew then quit as well. Those several who remained then destroyed the second Sunfire in the storyline in a time accident to bring that tragic chapter to a conclusion.
At this unfortunate turn of events, Utopia Fleet turned over command of the Sunfire to West, who had previously been promoted to captain while still that ship’s XO. A new USS Sunfire, the third of her name and bearing the registry number NCC-3001, was launched as a special forces vessel. Star, who had previously been promoted to commander, was given the position of XO of the new ship. Seldon, now holding the rank of lieutenant commander, kept his job as CSO and also became 2nd Officer. Ace Decade worked his way up to lieutenant during this time and stayed with the new Sunfire under West.
Soon after the 3rd Sunfire was launched, the ship left the decaying Utopia Fleet and became an independent vessel. Shortly thereafter, Utopia Fleet disbanded and is still defunct to this very day. The Sunfire NCC-3001 had several fairly uneventful missions under West. During that time, both Ace Decade and Sutak were fired for disagreements with West and several other crewmembers. Their loss was compensated for by many new crewmembers who were attracted to the ship. Most notable of these new recruits were Conn Officer Ashla Bogan and Chief Engineer Krol. The Sunfire sailed on unperturbed.
During the spring of 2001, West, Star, and Seldon independently became convinced that the Sunfire could form a strong foundation for a Star Trek RPBE fleet. They found each other mutually excited about the possibility and, after much discussion and debate, they outlined a few details for the new SIMing organization. The fleet would start out with three ships, one commanded by each of them. West, Star, and Seldon would make up the admiralty of this new fleet and be jointly responsible for fleet decision and individually responsible for the direction of a division within the fleet for future growth. West would be the Commander in Chief and it was later decided that Star would be the Fleet Historian and Seldon the Fleet Secretary. Their other plans in place, they finally decided upon a name that West proposed, Independence Fleet, and the dream was nearly a reality. This brings the account back to the date of July 4th, 2001.
The idea of a fleet had quickly caught on among all the rest of the Sunfire’s crew and IDF launched amidst much excitement on July 4th, 2001 after much hard work by the first triumvirate. The three admirals were proud to see their new fleet become an immediate success. It had paid off and it was all worth it.
After less than a month in service, Star and the DSE added the fleet's first expansion ship, the USS Liberty NCC-4003. She was commanded by the aforementioned Ace Decade, who had previously left the Sunfire with his reputation at low ebb. Star had invited Decade, against the advice of both West and Seldon, to join the Avalon and Ace (as he’s often called by his friends) proved himself to be an extremely capable officer, winning the fleet’s first MVP award. The Liberty went on to have a hugely successful August. At the end of that month, Seldon and the DRF launched the fleet's 5th ship, the USS Potomac NCC-23512. She was commanded by Captain Krol, just formerly the Washington’s executive officer and another veteran of the Sunfire whose name was introduced above in this narrative. In September, West and the SOD launched the fleet's 6th ship, the USS Goldeneye, NCC-84653. She was commanded by Captain Emery L. Ashley, also known as Ashla Bogan.
At the end of November, VAdm. Star announced that he’d be stepping down as the CO of the Avalon, NCC-3002, to launch and command a new ship, the USS George W. Bush NCC-2004 (DSE). Capt. Sutak, formerly of the USS Liberty (and before that of the West Era Sunfire), was promoted to the captaincy of the DSE’s flagship (The importance of this item will become clear as the story progresses).
Independence Fleet reached its height under the triumvirate of West, Star, and Seldon in January 2002. The fleet had grown to 11 ships (four in the SOD, four in the DSE, and three in the DRF). January also saw the greatest number of website hits (1,837) and the most posts (758) of any month up through that point. The fleet had seen 2,863 posts through its first seven months in action (July 2001-January 2002). People in the fleet were enjoying the monthly newsletter, the competition for awards, and many other programs the fleet had to offer. Though all seemed excellent, it was unknown at this point the trouble which stirred just beneath the surface of the fleet.
The first problem of the fleet, which, to Star and Seldon, was increasingly obvious as January of 2001 progressed, was West's leadership style. Breaking with the spirit in which the three had founded the fleet, West declared that he alone, as Commander in Chief, had the right to make fleet-wide decisions and to set fleet policy. West’s style, which was described as "bullyish" by many and the decisions he made were causing dissension within the fleet. West’s position was further undermined by the great weakness in the Special Operations Division which he directed. The SOD ships seemed to always be the least productive and several people on those ships had conflicts and issues with West. Star and Seldon were considering all of these facts and attempting to create a solution when a less ignorable crisis hit the fleet.
On February 4th 2002, Captain Shawn Edwards of the USS Chesapeake NCC-18907 (DRF) and Captain Sutak, the new CO of the USS Avalon NCC-3002 (DSE) announced that they were leaving IDF to form a new fleet, to be named Utopia Fleet in memory of the long-defunct fleet from which the Sunfire first sprung (though it was quickly dubbed "Neo-Utopia Fleet" by the members of IDF and that name was shortly thereafter adopted even by the organization's own members). Upon learning of the secession, Star and Seldon immediately went to West to try and work out some of the problems which had taken IDF to that point. West was completely uncooperative throughout several e-mails and multiple conversations. During the final discussion in which the two lower admiral attempted to keep the fleet unified, West fired Star and Seldon, both of whom he accused of "mutiny," "conspiracy," and general "treachery," among other things. The remainder of Independence Fleet was now destined to be further split, between those going with West and those who chose to go with Star and Seldon.
To minimize the damage to the fleet, both sides made a deal. Each of the fleet’s 9 remaining ships could go with whichever side it wanted. If the group Star was leading got the most ships, they would keep the Independence Fleet name and history. If West's group got the most ships, they would keep all the fleet properties (including those items mentioned above along with the fleet website, admiralty e-mail account, and forum). In the end, it was only the Sunfire that went with West, much to the former CinC’s surprise. Of the nine ships, five went with Star, two elected to become independent ships, and two immediately went defunct.
In that clumsy, haphazard manner the crisis, the largest the fleet had ever spread, came to a close, though certainly not to the full satisfaction of any involved.
At this juncture, Star was promoted to Admiral (dropping the "Vice" from his rank) and took over as Commander in Chief in place of the departed West. Commodore Ace Decade was given Directorship over a re-made Special Operations Division which was christened the Special Assignment Taskforce (SAT). Very shortly later, Seldon, still director of the Defense Response Force (DRF), was promoted to Vice-Admiral and Decade was made Rear-Admiral. This period in fleet leadership quickly came to be known as the Second Triumvirate.
Independence Fleet began to very quickly grow once again. Star Base 31 (SAT) was launched as previously scheduled on February 9th; The Defiance NCC-72480 (DRF) launched on February 24th; and the USS Pioneer NCC-81277 (DSE) launched on March 1st. Once again, on the surface, all was calm.
However, the period of the second triumvirate did not last long. A little over a month after the fleet split, a difference of opinion arose within the new admiralty with RAdm. Decade on the one side unable to reach a consensus with Adm. Star and VAdm. Seldon on the other. The exact nature of the disagreement has not been publicly disclosed but reports are that it mainly concerned RAdm. Decade’s ship, the USS Liberty NCC-4003 (SAT). After a period of being unable to reconcile the dispute, Ace Decade withdrew the Liberty from the fleet on March 14th (2002).
At this, the Special Assignment Taskforce was dissolved (it’s only other SIM, Star Base 31, was now transferred to the Defense Response Force) and, now with only a two member admiralty, a period in the fleet which could be called the Duocracy was ushered in, Star and Seldon not having a ready candidate to promote to the admiralty.
This second splitting in the fleet, as it was of a much smaller scale, was much less traumatic than the first and things progressed nearly uninterrupted. On the very day that the Liberty withdrew from the fleet, the USS Avalon NCC-3002-A (DSE), named for the previous Avalon NCC-3002 (DSE), which left to form Nova Fleet, entered service in IDF and just five days after that, the USS Excalibur NCC-2997 (DSE) launched.
Even with just two people in fleet-wide leadership posts, the period under the Duocracy has been one of the most consistent in terms of performance and growth. During this time: awards and newsletters have continued to come out like clockwork; seven new ships have been launched in IDF and only two have left service; and average posting per ship has risen from 56 in March to 84 in June (which was the first month in IDF’s history in which no ship saw fewer than 40 posts). Admiral Star and Vice-Admiral Seldon continue to operate the fleet with their two divisions. It has been an era free from major disturbance, an epoch of quiet prosperity.
The above might be an adequate place to conclude the history thus far, but it may be appropriate to expound on it just slightly farther as two of those ships launched under the watch of the two duocrats were actually re-launches. During April 2000, both Captain Krol of the Minerva (formerly the USS Potomac, NCC-23512, in the DRF) as well as Captain Edwards of the USS Goliad (formerly the USS Chesapeake, NCC-18907, in the DRF) requested to bring their ships back to the fleet in which they were created. Star and Seldon were very glad to welcome them back into the fold and on May 1st, the USS Minerva and the USS Goliad rejoined the fleet.
If that were not pleasant enough news for IndFleet, Ace Decade submitted a request in mid June for the Liberty, one of the most successful ships in all the annals of IDF, to rejoin the fleet. The new Liberty is set to launch on the one year anniversary of the ship’s first creation, August 1st.
This news brings the fleet once more back to that ever-important date of July 4th, this time, the fleet’s first one year anniversary. And that, good readers, does conclude this portion of the fleet’s history. But, like all history, there is much, much more that has yet to be lived and yet to be written.