Starship Enterprise: Strange New World.
Long ago, in a Enterprise forum not so far away, BBS member RobertScorpio started a thread called 'My Enterprise', asking fellow forum members how they would have done the prequel series had they been in charge. In it were discussed such weighty matters as adherence to continuity, relative levels of technology, and the vital importance of having a hot chick in a tight outfit to get fourteen year old lads watching.
Now whilst I'd enjoyed Enterprise, I'd always been frustrated by it's adherence to the established Trek formula. For a series about humanities first deep space mission, everything seemed terribly familiar. Now obviously a lot of this was because those elements worked, but there also seemed to be a distinct lack of imagination. 'Hey guys, instead of saying "Shields at 30%", they say "Hull plating at 30%"! That'll make all the difference!'
So I put forward a few suggestions onto the My Enterprise thread, and they were reasonably well received. Well enough that I decided to write a fanfic based upon them. What was meant as a short story went on somewhat longer than intended, but I persevered thanks to the support of the readers (I'm not so naive as to think that all who read it enjoyed it, those who didn't like it wouldn't have stuck with it. But those who did took the time and trouble to say so, for which I am most grateful). Having never attempted anything like this before, I made mistakes. Fortunately most of the criticism I received was constructive, allowing me to fix or mitigate at least some of my errors.
'Starship Enterprise (Alternate Version): Broken Bow' was an attempt to do the equivalent of a full length pilot episode. This can be considered the first 'regular' episode. You don't need to have read the original to read this. Hopefully it will work as a stand alone story. Some characters from the broadcast Enterprise are present, but won't be quite as you remember them. There are a few new characters too. The 'hot chick in a tight outfit to get fourteen year old lads watching' turned out to be rather popular in some quarters, despite being completely over the top. Or perhaps, because she was so over the top. If it helps, consider this a 're-imagining' of the show.
I hope this is as much fun for you to read as it is for me to write. Though considerably less hard work.
Starship Enterprise: Strange New World.
It had been a still afternoon, but as evening fell a faint breeze began to blow across the plain. The shrubs and small bushes flexed slightly, a wave of motion across the landscape. The sentinel took this opportunity to alter his own position. Most of the predatory birds were skilled at spotting movement. Staying stationary when all around was still, moving only when when the plants swayed, that was the way to stay safe. Of course, the rest of the pack did not do this. They scurried around, hunting for bugs, seeking warm places in the sun. A litter of cubs played, mock fighting, learning the skills that could one day mean the difference between life and death. It was the duty of the sentinels to keep them safe.
He stood erect on his back legs upon a boulder, an ideal position from which to keep watch. An exposed position though, hence his caution. It was a risky task, many who became sentinels would perish quickly. Those that survived and protected the pack would usually get their pick of the females. The sentinel was one of a long line who'd taken that role, though had not yet passed along his genetic legacy. This did not bother him, as such. For all their sophisticated pack structure, his species had only the most basic sentience, and no sapience to speak of. Yet, on some level, there was an awareness that something needed to be done.
Motion caught his eye, moving opposite the breeze. It came from the edge of the pack's territory, where the plain met the forest. Clearly it was no threat, there were other sentinels in that area who would give warning long before he would see anything over there, and they remained silent. He turned his attention back to the skies.
Presently a commotion amongst the pack triggered his curiosity. After another check that the sky was clear of birds he looked round. A hunting party, returning from the forest, a fresh kill carried between the teeth of the largest of them. Several females, and a number of cubs, scampered around excitedly. The large hunter dropped his kill right in front of one of the females. The sentinel felt a sudden rush of anger. This hunter was his nearest rival for dominance in the pack, and a kill such as this would count heavily in his favour. If the female were to accept it...
Movement. From above, almost directly overhead. The sentinel looked upward. It was unlike any bird he'd ever seen before, no head, no wings. Was it even a bird? No matter, it was in the sky, and heading for the plain, fast. He gave the warning cry. "Chup-chirree-chirree! Chup-chirree-chirree!"
In seconds the other sentinels echoed the call, ensuring all would hear. "Chup-chirree-chirree! Chup-chirree-chirree!" They gave it on the run, darting frantically to burrow entrances and the safety of underground. As the sentinel made his own rush to safety he noticed that the fresh kill was left forgotten on the ground. In some simple, primitive way, this caused him satisfaction.
Initially he remained near the entrance, to observe this strange interloper, but a loud roar and rush of wind forced him back into the darker depths. Then came a sudden thump. The ground shook. Dust and dried earth fell from the roof of the burrow. He sneezed. Then, silence.
The others seemed to be looking to him for leadership. A satisfactory state of affairs, but one with it's own burdens. Cautiously he edged to the entrance. There was something out there, something...different, unrecognisable, unknown.
It was, perhaps, as large as the boulder on which he had so recently stood. It's surface shone in the early evening light. Six long legs, like those of the bugs that crunched delightfully when bitten, supported it, though it didn't seem to want to move. Something shaped vaguely like a flower spun at the top, before suddenly halting. It pointed at a bright spot in the sky, where the stars were just beginning to show, although he had not noticed this particular one before.
From another hole the hunter cautiously lifted his head. For a moment their eyes met. And somehow the sentinel knew, just knew, that their rivalry would be decided here and now. Before the hunter could move the sentinel darted forward, brushing his flanks against the nearest leg. He took care not to pass underneath the thing though. The ground there was blackened, and smelled like that place near the mountains where the water steamed and bubbled, and sometimes leapt high into the air. It made his eyes sting.
He pulled back, but not too far. Other members of the pack were emerging and watching with interest. The hunter was drawing closer. Determined to prove his dominance, the sentinel swarmed up the nearest leg. Directly in front of him now was a black circle that glistened with reflected light. And within that circle....
Another creature! Of the same species as himself, but he did not recognise him so he could not be part of the pack. Instinctively he bared his teeth in a threat display. So did the new comer. He tried staring the stranger down, but the stranger did the exact same thing, and was just as persistent. Angered, the sentinel darted forward to deliver a quick bite. Again, the stranger matched his actions precisely, their noses clashing. The sentinel drew back in pain, somewhat mollified to see his opponent do the same.
No matter. The new comer seemed trapped within the strange object. The sentinel chose to ignore him, heading for the highest point. Casually he marked his territory. This would be a good spot from which to keep watch. Satisfied that all was well, he whistled out the all clear.
Beneath him his urine dribbled down the flanks of the object, over the insignia of the United Earth Space Probe Agency, and the words:
UES Enterprise DSC-06
'To Boldly Go...'
There was another observer present, watching from concealment, one who had recognized the probe, who had understood it's significance. There would be visitors soon. Clicking softly to itself, the hidden observer lifted a weapon and set off deeper into the forest. Preparations needed to be made...
Re: Starship Enterprise: Strange New World.
UES Enterprise. Approaching Galador system. Warp 3.2.
October 12th 2156.
Captain Jonathan Archer, of the United Earth Space Probe Agency, brushed a spot of dust from his uniform sleeve before pressing the lever that opened the briefing room hatch. "Morning all." he said cheerily as he stepped through. There was a chorus of "Morning." in return. Ignoring the main table for the moment, he headed for the smaller desk at the side and pored himself a large mug of coffee. After a fortifying sip he turned to his first officer. "Is everyone here?"
"Not yet Captain." Commander Hernandez replied. "Commander Tucker sends his apologies. It seems the starboard warp field has started, in his words, 'wriggling about a bit', and he wants to monitor it during the deceleration phase."
Archer frowned. "Nothing too serious I hope."
"Tucker didn't seem too worried. A nuisance rather than a problem is the impression I got. Also, Professor Partridge has yet to turn up. No message as to why. I suspect she's planning one of her typical dramatic entrances."
Archer smiled wryly at that. There was no denying that the flamboyant scientist loved being the centre of attention. "Alright. Shall we get started?" He took his place at the head of the table. Hernandez sat in the chair immediately to his right. This lead to a state of affairs that Archer had expected, but still found depressing.
Enterprise had a mixed crew. About half came from Archer's service, UESPA. Apart from a few civilians, the rest were members of the United Earth Military Authority. There was a certain rivalry between the two organisations, and Enterprise's first mission had not run smoothly as a result. Having worked together the crew had now begun to integrate, but there were still divisions, barriers, between them. As Hernandez, the highest ranking UEMA officer on board, took her seat, all the other military personnel present instinctively flocked to that side of the table, leaving the other side for the UESPAs. They don't even realize they're doing it, Archer thought glumly. I'm going to have to find a way to break this patten of behaviour, get them together. As his senior personnel sat and made themselves comfortable he glanced at them in turn, trying to gauge their opinions and feelings.
In addition to her duties as XO, Maria Hernandez was the ship's chief Gunnery officer. She wore the black uniform of UEMA Fleet Division with pride. Looked good in it too, it suited her sultry Latino features and athletic build. She maintained an impassive demeanour, though a repeated tapping of her finger tips against the tables surface indicated a desire to get on with things. That's understandable, Archer thought. She has a personal stake in this mission.
Next to Hernandez sat Lt. Travis Mayweather, chief helm officer. He also wore Fleet Division black. A superb pilot, both of large ships and small shuttles. Cocky, bordering on the arrogant. And clearly, right now, bored out of his skull. The ship had been flying in an almost straight line for the best part of a month, giving him little to do. He was staring straight ahead, not really paying attention to his surroundings.
Major Malcolm Reed also wore UEMA uniform, though his was the olive green of the Marine Division. A small winged dagger insignia showed his membership of the elite Pathfinder unit. There wasn't much need for him to be present at this meeting. Archer suspected that Hernandez had summoned him for his coffee making skills as much for any contribution he could make to proceedings.
Finally, on that side of the table, came Doctor Philip Locke. He was a civilian, in a well tailored if slightly old fashioned suit. But his tie bore the symbol of his old unit. UEMA Ground Forces, Medical Division. He held a cigarette in front of him, unlit, regarding it steadily with his pale blue eyes. Can you see what I am doing? his expression seemed to say. I'm not smoking. I hope you appreciate the sacrifice I'm making, not smoking. Do you? Do you?
Next to Archer, on his left, Lt. Haleh Moshiri studied her computer pad carefully. An attractive, slightly plump young woman of Iranian descent, she was the ship's top navigator. Realizing the captain was watching her she lifted her head and offered a quick grin. Deep space exploration was what she'd joined up for, so her posting to Enterprise was pretty much a dream come true. Like the captain she wore the blue uniform of UESPA.
The next seat was empty, awaiting Commander Tucker, and the one after that was occupied by Lt. Hoshi Sato. The communications officer was deep in concentration, building a house of cards on the table. She didn't seem to have noticed the captain's presence. Archer briefly considered banging hard on the table, knocking the cards down, but decided against it. It would be rude. Besides which, Hoshi was a karate black belt, and had recently started learning the combat martial arts used by the marines. Not someone you'd want to upset, Archer thought, only half jokingly.
The chair next along was empty, as was the one at the opposite end of the table.
Hernandez cleared her throat. "Captain, whilst we are waiting, perhaps now would be time to discuss our combat drills?" Her voice had the merest hint of a chiding tone. She had raised this matter with him many times during the voyage. "Regulations demand that we carry out full drill once every---"
"I'm aware of the regulations, Maria. We'll get them done, at the appropriate time." he said, leaving it vague as to when the 'appropriate time' may be.
She leant back in her chair with a curt "Sir.", clearly unsatisfied with his response.
Fact was, Archer didn't like combat drills, and would avoid them completely if he could. He was an explorer, a diplomat, not a soldier, and resented the attempt to turn him into one. The depressing thing was, he could see the need for such drills--the events of the first mission had driven that lesson home--but he'd still been putting them off for as long as possible.
Further down the table Major Reed raised his hand. "While we're on the subject," he said in his soft Yorkshire burr, "I reckon we should be running more security training. Set my marines up against ship's security. Get a feel for boarding actions, that sort of thing."
"We'll discuss it later Major." Hernandez said, to Archer's relief. Whilst his first officer might not like his decisions, she'd back him up on them all the way. Mind you, she's going to keep on at me in private. She knows she's right. I know she's right. We'll have to do something soon.
He took a deep swig of coffee. "Ahhh. I think we should just get on with this, and fill the others in later." He turned to Moshiri. "Haleh, if you would?"
"Yes sir." The navigator touched a control on the panel set into the table. The lights dimmed, and Sato looked up from her cards for the first time, slightly startled. The viewscreen activated, showing a star map, with a big yellow arrow pointing at one system.
Moshiri cleared her throat. "The Galador system. One star, G class. five known planets. Most of what we know comes from long range observations, although as the first officer will---"
"Sorry I'm late!" interrupted a cultured, English accented voice. "I had the very devil of a time finding my tiara! And you know how necessary that is."
Professor Polly Partridge, chief scientific advisor, swanned in through the hatch, automatically finding the point in the room from which she could be most easily seen. A gorgeous blonde with the sort of curvaceous figure normally only found on comic book super-heroines, she positively craved the limelight. She was indeed wearing a tiara, along with one of her customary figure hugging glossy catsuits, this one a bright pink. After pausing to pour herself a coffee she tottered back to the briefing table.
Now where will she sit? Archer wondered. In Trip Tuckers chair? The empty one next to Hoshi? No, no, neither of them are prominent enough. There's only one place for her...
Sure enough Partridge took the seat directly opposite him, at the other end of the table. She leant back as far as the chair would allow, hands behind her head, and swung her long legs up onto the table, crossed at the ankle. "Oh, sorry Hoshi."
"No problem." Sato said resignedly, gathering up the cards that had been knocked down.
Hernandez rubbed her forehead wearily. "OK, Professor, I'll bite. Why is a tiara necessary?"
"Why, in celebration of course! The very first visit to an unexplored star system! I know we've been to systems before where the hand of man had not yet set foot--" she paused here, thinking over what she had said, then continued "--as it were, but in each case there had been other races there before us. Vulcans, Tellarites, Ithenites....But this is different. A totally unknown system! Never before visited by any sapient life! We're the first! Isn't it wonderful! So we must celebrate! Hang out the bunting, crack open the bubbly. And wear your very best jewellery!"
Archer cleared his throat. "I'm sorry Professor but we're not the first."
"Do you like the earrings, by the way? Got them in Paris. There's a matching broach too but I couldn't wear that with this outfit, the pin wouldn't go through the material. But I think the tiara is enou---Sorry Captain? What did you say?"
"We're not the first to visit this system, I'm afraid."
For a few moments the normally garrulous scientist was most uncharacteristically silent. She goggled at him, jaw flapping ineffectually, before pulling herself together with visible effort. "Well! I mean, well! I, I, I, I think it's....well! At least we are the first humans to visit. That's still worth celebrating."
Besides her Doctor Locke gave a soft chuckle, while the rest studiously avoided making eye contact.
Hernandez said "Actually, humans have been here before. In fact...." She raised her hand, feeling slightly guilty.
Partridge stared at her. "You've been here before? All this way? But you can't have! You can't! I'm wearing a tiara, so that proves it!"
"And not even a Vulcan would argue with that logic." Sato said conversationally.
"Damn right! And if he did argue, I'd, I'd, I'd rip them both off!"
Now it was everyone else's turn to be silent.
"Both what?" Mayweather asked with a quiet, horrified fascination.
"Ears, of course!"
The helmsman gave a sigh of relief. "Oh, OK. Just wondering if you knew if the rumours were true. Y'know, about Vulcans..."
Partridge pulled her legs down from the table, folded her arms, and began to pout like a small child denied a treat. She snatched the tiara, along with a few strands of errant hair, from her head and tossed it onto the table. It bounced, hitting the hand of Major Reed, who said "Ow!"
"Serves you right!" Partridge said, somewhat unfairly, and levelled an accusatory finger. "This is all your fault!"
The marine, a decorated veteran of numerous combat engagements, drew back in his chair and squeaked "I'm sorry!" Across the table Moshiri and Sato exchanged amused, if slightly puzzled, glances.
Hernandez sighed heavily. "Well, now that we've had the Professor's usual theatrics, perhaps we can continue with the briefing...?"
Partridge glared along the table at her. Then, as if a switch had been thrown, was all smiles again. "Yep, sounds reasonable. Carry on Haleh."
Moshiri cleared her throat "So, as I was saying. G type star, slightly redder than Earth's sun, but not a significant difference. Four gas giants, quite far out, just as you'd expect. The only known solid planet is a Mercury type, class-B on the STP scale, and in a comparable orbit. Yes Major?"
Reed had raised his hand. "The STP scale?"
"It's a planetary classification system, a sort of shorthand for defining the attributes of worlds. Named for it's developers, Sotal and T'pree of Vulcan, and..." Moshiri trailed off, glancing down the table.
"Oh, you don't have to finish that sentence." Hernandez said. "Even without looking at her I can feel the smugness." The Professor was grinning broadly.
Sato asked "So you helped develop an entire classification system?"
"Well, I had a weekend free." Partridge nodded.
"There's never been a proper study," Moshiri went on, "so there may yet be undiscovered planets."
Archer drained his mug and put it down on the table. "And that's why UESPA sent us out here, to make a full study. Now the military have their own reasons. I think Maria can explain better."
"Thank you Captain." Hernandez touched a control key. The display screen zoomed out, various systems highlighted in either green or red. "Back in '43 the war was at it's height. We'd had some success. A number of our front line systems and outposts were too well defended for the Axanar to attack. Or at least, attack and win. So they changed tactics. They were able to get small squadrons behind our front lines, right into our territory. They were lightly armed, useless in a stand up fight against warships, but they took a toll on our supply lines. The question was, how were they getting through?
"Turns out they weren't going through, they were going round. An end run, as it were. Given what we knew about Axanar ships and capabilities, they must have had a staging area for resupply. There were a number of possible systems where such an area could be located. Military Intelligence---" here she paused at Partridge's snort of amusement "---somehow identified the Galador system as the most likely location. We couldn't spare many ships, but a small task-force was assembled with orders to scout the system, and disrupt Axanar activities if feasible. And I was on one of those ships."
"The Sun Tzu?" Sato asked.
Hernandez shook her head. "No. This was before I was assigned to the Sun Tzu. She was still being built then, I think. No, I was on board the excitingly named D-32. A Thor class destroyer."
"You're kidding me!" Mayweather exclaimed. He looked closer at the display. "Which base did you launch from?"
"Outpost Delta 14." she said evenly.
Mayweather gave a low whistle. "That's a hell of a trip for a destroyer."
"Tell me about it. Every spare millimetre was used for stores. Spare deuterium pods on all exterior hard-points. Torpedo launchers and storage removed, and replaced with antimatter fuel bottles. No proper food at all. We did two and a half months, there and back, on nothing but emergency survival rations, plus a vitamin injection every other day."
"That," Doctor Locke observed, "would have a deleterious effect on the digestive system."
"Yeah. After we got back, I spent weeks in physiotherapy before I could eat regular food again. Everyone who went on that mission was classified as medically unfit on their return. Those who did return, that is."
She paused, staring into the past. "We came out of warp near the largest gas giant. It was hoped we could use it's gravitational field to mask our arrival. Almost immediately we detected transmissions. We'd expected a supply ship or two. Somehow the Axiees had built a station all that way out. It wasn't complete, but it was operational. Shuttles were collecting deuterium from the upper atmosphere, taking it to the station in orbit. It was a fuel refinery. It was also unarmed and undefended.
"We swooped in, and in short order ripped it to shreds. Then, on our way out of the system, our luck changed. One of the Axanar raiding parties warped in, right on our exit vector. We had no choice, but to try and fight our way past. Only two ships made it out, the Eisenhower and the D-32."
Partridge leant closer. "How many ships were there, in total?" she asked softly.
"Five. I had friends on some of them." Hernandez breathed in deeply, let it out through her nose. "Anyway. We never went back there. Intercepted signals suggested that the Axanar had abandoned plans for the system. We later learned that they did send an expedition to recover their dead for their burial rites---"
"Cremation. Axanar usually cremate their dead." Archer said.
"Right." Hernandez said, clearly uninterested in how they do things. "So. Now we've got diplomatic channels up, they've communicated to us that they've found the wreckage of one of our destroyers. The Admiralty want us to go out their, assess it's condition, and try to determine if the Axanar could have learnt anything of military value from it."
"Is that really likely, Maria?" Partridge asked "If this were a great intelligence coup for them they'd hardly be telling us about it now, would they? Besides, the Thor class is decades old."
Archer said "Perhaps, but there's more to it than that. The Axanar said they'd done no more than a quick scan of the wreckage, but enough to determine that there were bodies on board. Those people had family, friends. Now we can't just abandon our exploration mission to take our fallen servicemen back home. But we can perhaps identify them, and ensure their remains are secure. Not going to fall on a planet or anything. Maybe later they can be repatriated."
Partridge nodded, and said a quiet "I'm sorry" to Hernandez, who gave a quick nod of acknowledgement in return.
"Enterprise's sensors are better than those on Axanar ships." Archer went on. "So as part of our scientific survey, we're going to be looking out for any more wreckage. If it's ours, identify and secure."
"What if it's Axanar?" Reed asked.
Archer rubbed the back of his neck. "Again, make sure it's safe. Other than that leave well alone. We'll place a marker buoy nearby, and if we encounter an Axanar ship on our travels, let them know. Otherwise it'll have to wait until we return to Earth. They can send it through diplomatic channels then."
The intercom whistled. "Captain Archer, paging Captain Archer."
He lifted the handset attached to the table. "Archer here."
"Kaufman, sir, on the bridge. You asked to be informed when we were thirty minutes from the Galador system."
Archer glanced at his watch. "Thank you Mr. Kaufman. I'm on my way. Archer out." He put the handset back in it's cradle. "Ladies and gentlemen, any further questions? Yes, Travis?"
The helmsman pointed to his head. "Does this tiara suit me?"
"It goes with your eyes. Anyone else? No? Then I suggest we take our places. Let's go to work."
Re: Starship Enterprise: Strange New World.
Its baaaack! :) A good first chapter, it explained to new readers who everyone was without being tedious to those who already knew the characters. And we missed our characters. It also had that line that could end any argument "I'm wearing a tiara, so that proves it!" Yeah in our own way, we all missed Polly.
Re: Starship Enterprise: Strange New World.
Missed Polly a lot. God, she's funny! Glad you went back to Enterprise-i found you stuff some of th emost interesting slants out there.
Re: Starship Enterprise: Strange New World.
Edge of the Galador system.
October 12th 2156.
There were no observers here, which was a shame as it was a beautiful sight. The main mass of the galaxy shone like diamond dust on black satin, the occasional ruby, sapphire or emerald amongst them. Abruptly one star seemed to detach itself from the firmament, rushing inward. In a rainbow burst of light it resolved itself into the Declaration class UES Enterprise. Had there been an observer present, and had they known anything of warp mechanics, it would have been immediately apparent that something was very wrong. The cigar shaped vessel, it's aft third surrounded by the annular ring of it's secondary hull, came out of warp at an angle, almost side ways. Energy discharges crackled like lightning around the starboard warp engine.
Archer had to raise his voice over the alarm sirens. "Travis, stabilize our course! Hoshi, patch me through to engineering, then get casualty and damage reports. And someone turn off that damn noise!"
Hernandez used her console to mute the alarms, then turned to the officer at the sensor station. "Mr. Kaufman, run a full three sixty scan. Could this be an attack of some kind?"
Whilst Kaufman checked the sensors, Sato told Archer she'd got the chief engineer on the line. The captain lifted his handset. "Trip? This anything to do with you?"
"Yeah, it's what ah was worryin' about. Starboard nacelle just dephased as we was comin' outta warp. Just a secon', Cap'n." There was a short pause. "I'm sorry John, I gotta deal with this. Talk to ya shortly." He disconnected.
On a military ship, Hernandez reflected, such easy familiarity would not be tolerated. She added this to the long mental list of 'things they do differently in UESPA'. "Mr. Kaufman, anything?"
"Nothing so far, Ma'am."
She grunted. "Keep scanning. This looks like an engineering problem, but let's not take chances while we're here."
"Course is stable sir." Mayweather reported.
"Good work Travis." Archer said, rubbing the back of his neck. "How are things, Hoshi?"
Sato checked her display. "Reports are coming in now, sir. It doesn't look like anything significant. No reports of injuries, it's a good job we always buckle up when coming out of warp.. Apart from the problem with the engine, there doesn't seem to be much in the way of damage." She shrugged. "Of course, a problem with the engine is fairly important."
"Fairly." Archer conceded with a smile. "I'm not too worried. Trip knows what he's doing. All the same, I think I'll nip down to engineering, see what's going on. Maria, you have the bridge."
The flashing light over the entrance warned Archer that sound levels within were excessively high. He grabbed a set of earmuff style hearing protectors from the rack next to the hatch. Inside the engineering personnel were rushing hither and yon in a manner that resembled total panic to Archer's eye, but was probably a well rehearsed emergency procedure. A small group were unrolling a length of very thick cable from a drum. Several were rerouteing power at the main distribution board. One crewman carrying a tool kit rushed past, almost knocking him over. "Sorry sir!" the crewman yelped offering a hasty salute, before turning and walking straight into a ladder.
Well, perhaps there was an element of panic here.
Commander Charles Tucker the third, usually known as Trip, was ringmaster of this particular circus. Unlike the set Archer had picked up, his hearing protection had built in communications gear, allowing him to issue orders. Gradually the chaos came under control, and he waved Archer to his office. "Sorry to be so short with ya earlier John, we kinda had our hands full." he said as the sound proofed hatch cut the engines roar to acceptable levels.
Archer placed his hands over his ears and pressed hard a couple of times in an attempt to equalize the pressure. The protectors always had that effect on him. "No problem Trip. Have to admit though, it gave us all a bit of a scare. What happened?"
Tucker shook his head sadly. "It was always a possibility. It's these engines Cap'n. More powerful than anythin' we built before. Maybe a bit too powerful. Makes the warp field unstable. Now we got regulators, that hypothetically should be good enough to keep things runnin' smoothly, but...." he trailed off.
Archer slapped his hand against the wall in frustration. "What about the Vulcans? They've got more powerful engines, how do they cope with it?"
"Oh, they got regulators too. They also got more'n a century head start on us. Ah'll tell you somethin' Cap'n. You know those trade deals where we got artificial gravity from them? There's a lot o' people, mahself included, reckon we should ha' gone for some propulsion improvements instead. O'course, the fact that the government had just invested real heavy in our warp programme and thought we could easily make a system just a' good might've affected their decision some what."
Archer let out a sigh. "So what's the diagnosis? You can fix it, right?"
"Oh, sure, no problems. There were a bit o' damage done, we can clear that up in a few hours. Main problem though, the warp field's buckled. We ain't goin' anywhere 'till it's reformed. Not faster than light, anyhow. Best guess...if we shut down the drive completely, let it go cold, go for a full restart...it'll be a couple of weeks. Ah could rush things if'n you're in a hurry."
"No, no, we're supposed to be surveying the system. As long as we've got full impulse power we can still do that, though it'll take us a little longer...we have still got full impulse power don't we?"
"Dunno. Haven't checked." Tucker dead-panned.
"Huh. Good thing I'm here to remind you. One other thing, could this happen again?" Archer asked.
"Easily. Don't you worry though Cap'n. Now we've seen it happenin', we know what to expect"
The captain regarded him steadily. "You know what to expect. Good. But does that mean you know what to do?"
Tucker waved a hand airily. "Details, details."
Archer mused things over on the way back to the bridge. As Tucker had said, things going wrong was always a possibility. The Declaration class had been rushed into service to fill gaps in the fleet following the war. A lot of it was new technology, and there were vocal critics of the project arguing that a great deal more testing should have taken place.
"Now there's a nasty thought." he muttered to himself. If the problem was endemic to the design, then all the Declaration class ships might be vulnerable, not just Enterprise. Whilst his ship's mission was one of exploration, the other five were carrying out the role for which they'd been designed. Defence. If anything happened to them, Earth and it's interests could be at risk. The authorities would have to be warned.
He paused at a com panel and typed in the code for the bridge. "Hoshi, put me through to Haleh please."
"Yes sir." There was a short pause before the navigator came through. "Moshiri here."
"Haleh, we may need to get a message back to Earth. Find the nearest outposts, human or allied, that has regular communication."
"Thanks. Archer out." He put back the handset and continued on his way.
Things had pretty much returned to normal on the bridge, although there seemed to be considerable activity around the science station. Professor Partridge was bent over the hooded viewer, making little ooh's and eek's of excitement.
"Full casualty and damage reports sir." Hernandez said, handing him a pad. He glanced at it, thankful that things weren't any worse. He explained quickly about the engine problems.
She looked thoughtful for a moment. "We are certain that it's just a mechanical fault, right?" At his expression she explained in subdued tones, as if afraid of being over heard "After our first mission, I'm a little...cautious about things."
He grunted. "I know what you mean. Suddenly all those wild conspiracy theories you used to laugh at seem just that more plausible. But Trip is satisfied it's mechanical. So the question is, what do we do now. Obviously we've got to let Earth know, this could affect the rest of the fleet. But given the cost of the mission, the amount of time and effort spent setting things up, I'd rather not do a u-turn if there's any alternative."
Hernandez nodded. "Agreed. But do we have an alternative?
"I hope so." Archer turned to the navigational station. "Haleh, got any thing for me?"
"Yes sir." She gestured to her display. "Outpost Delta 9 is due to be decommissioned later this year, but they are still on the main courier route. That's two weeks away at best speed. The Verakim colony is a little further, sixteen days. Both of those options mean heading back on our course. However, if you don't mind going along the edge of Earth space, as opposed to back in, there's the Denobulan archaeological outpost on ED-19. There's a human presence there, guests of the Denobulan government, and fairly regular courier runs to both planets."
"OK, good work. Send the data to my computer, I'll review it later. With the warp drive off line we can't just leave, so let's make productive use of our time and carry out our mission. What's got the professor so excited? Last time I heard noises like that, someone had given my dog a squeaky toy to play with."
"We've found a couple of previously unknown planets, sir." Hernandez said.
Moshiri looked up. "Based on this data, they would both have been on the other side of Galador during the previous visit. Given the short time spent in system, it's not surprising they were missed."
"One of them seems to be analogous to Venus." Hernandez said. "We're checking the other one now. Looks to be third out from the star, in the so-called 'Goldilocks zone'."
"Not too hot, not too cold, just right." called Partridge, without looking round. "Now, who's been sleeping in my bed?"
"I wouldn't dare speculate." Hernandez said, straight faced.
"So what have we got, professor?" Archer asked, approaching the science station.
"About....point nine eight AU out, diameter approximately eleven thousand kilometres...spectroscope shows nitrogen/oxygen atmosphere." She raised her head from the viewer, eyes wide with excitement. "I think it's M class John. An Earth type world!"
Re: Starship Enterprise: Strange New World.
Besides, you have no such characters in your fan fics, Badger. ;)
But I honestly can't believe I just saw this now. Looking forward to reading it when I get back from work. Glad that you're back.
Re: Starship Enterprise: Strange New World.
Glad you're back! I guess I'll have to start checking the site more regularly now.
Re: Starship Enterprise: Strange New World.
I hope its just mechanical-and not sabotage.
And an Earth type planet-who knows what lurks there...
Re: Starship Enterprise: Strange New World.
Well hopefully we'll find out soon Mistral! I should get the next part up over the weekend. At least that's the plan...
Re: Starship Enterprise: Strange New World.
UES Enterprise. Orbiting Galador III.
Captain's Log. October 15th 2151.
The Enterprise has taken up geostationary orbit around the newly discovered third planet. Due to the relative position of the worlds in this system, it will be quicker to head here and then proceed to the battle site near Galador V than the other way round. Commander Hernandez is clearly frustrated by this change of plan, but appreciates the value of this discovery. It occurs to me that there may be a way to kill two birds with one stone...
Hernandez had tried being polite, she'd tried being reasonable. Neither had worked, so she changed tack. "Now look here, mister. I'm the XO on this ship. When Captain Archer isn't around, I give the orders. Understood? Now get out of that damned chair!"
The object of her ire lifted his head and regarded her impassively for a moment before yawning openly. He then returned to the task that had so engrossed him, nuzzling his groin.
Hernandez rolled her eyes in frustration, and glanced over to Sato, who was grinning broadly. The communications officer bent down and clicked her fingers. "Porthos!"
The beagle looked around at the sound of his name, then jumped down and trotted over to Sato, who picked him up and scratched behind the ears. "Good dog! You're a good dog, aren't you boy?"
The commander nodded in thanks and sat down. She squirmed slightly in the seat. "Ewwww. Dog-warm." she said.
The green blue globe of Galador III took up half the view screen. Amazing to think that it hadn't been discovered before. Though admittedly, she thought, we had our hands full last time we were here. I wonder if the Axanar know about it? Almost certainly. They've sent at least one survey mission here. Of course, the current regime has a more....isolationist stance than the last lot. They're consolidating, not expanding. So perhaps they're not interested. Not yet, anyway.
She found herself staring intently at one spot on the screen. At this distance Galador V, a gas giant almost the size of Jupiter, was no more than a particularly bright dot. Unbidden, names and faces came to her, friends and shipmates she'd not thought about in years. Not allowed herself to think about. She blinked back a sudden tear, looking furtively around to see if anyone had noticed.
Gradually she became aware of a warm pressure against her leg. Porthos was up on his back paws, front ones on the chair, trying to push her away with his head. She reached down and picked him up so she could stare him straight in the eye. "I don't know. Your owner seems to have a thing for letting waifs and strays onto the bridge. Complete disregard for procedure, that's what it is. Isn't it?" she said with mock severity.
"I do hope you're not planning your mutiny just yet, Maria." Archer said, entering through the aft hatch. He'd caught her words to Porthos.
"No sir, not yet." Hernandez said, standing. "My horoscope says I should put off any changes at work till next month." She put the dog down. In a flash it was back on the chair.
"Good, I'll mark it in my diary."
"Anything interesting sir?" Sato asked.
He nodded. "The planetary science lab are collecting a great deal of data. The first two landers are down. Based on their findings, it's looking good. Almost certainly habitable, at least in the short term. We don't know about disease risks yet, that'll take a while to verify." He paused, and rubbed the back of his neck, thoughtfully. "Maria, I know this isn't really your cup of tea, but surveys are a vital part of our mission. Why don't you head on down to the lab? Have a look at what goes on, get a feel for it."
She wasn't enthusiastic, but could see the sense in his suggestion. "Yes sir."
As she left she had to smile at the sound of Archer trying to coax his dog from the chair.
Planetary Science was one of several labs squeezed into a cramped area not really designed for such use. In regular, military Declaration class ships this area was storage for orbital bombardment missiles. When Enterprise was re-tasked for exploration there'd been some considerable modifications made. Even so the whole section had an unfinished, jury rigged look to it. In addition to the usual pipes and conduits that could be found in the ships typical corridors these had a mass of snaking cables, for both power and data. Most of the walls were bare metal, and there were only about half as many light fittings as in the rest of the ship.
The hatch to the lab was propped open, and as Hernandez approached it became obvious why. It looked like almost every member of the civilian science group was crammed within, several sweating profusely. As she entered she was hit by a wall of heat. A ceiling fan struggled valiantly to keep the room habitable.
Several console units with integral displays all faced a large, wall mounted screen. This currently showed a multicoloured bar chart, constantly altering itself. Exactly what it indicated was lost on Hernandez. Over the screen a cluster of clocks showed different times. The largest one was set to Enterprise time. She guessed that the ones marked 'PP1' and 'PP2' meant planetary probe-one and -two respectively. Certainly the times displayed corresponded to the time elapsed since they'd landed, as far as she could tell. The third clock, 'PP3', displayed a flashing line of zeros.
She spotted Jeff Murry at one of the consoles near the door, someone she knew from the regular Catholic meeting group. A small skinny man, he was bald on top with thick white hair at the back and sides, like some one had partially draped a small woollen scarf around a hard boiled egg. She tapped his shoulder. "Hi."
"Oh, hi Maria. This is a bit off your beaten track, isn't it?" he said.
"Yeah, I thought it would be smart to get used to this sort of thing, you know. If I'm going to be on an exploration ship, I should know the ropes."
He looked at her with a hint of amused scepticism. "You thought that? I must admit, I am surprised. None of us had you pegged for any interest in anything scientific. Especially as, when Captain Archer was here, he said he'd send you down to have a look. Said it would do you some good."
"Oh really? Well, as it happens I'd already decided to come here." she said, with forced conviction. "And, don't forget, I do have a physics degree, yeah? So I'm not exactly unscientific."
"You're a gunnery officer, Maria. A degree in physics is a requirement. It's not nessacarily an indication of an enquiring mind."
She waved that away. "All right, all right, I'm here under orders and threat of court martial, I admit it. Happy now? So, what are you doing?"
Jeff pointed to his screen, which displayed a number of faintly glowing solid circles. "OK. Each of the landers have a number of these on board, bio-sample discs. They're an advanced form of the Petri dishes you'd have used in biology class at school. Assuming you attended those classes." he added with a grin.
She shot him a killer look. "Keep that up, sunshine, and I'll slap the marrow out of your bones. So you're checking for micro organisms then."
"In a nut shell, yes. These ones are exposed briefly to the atmosphere, and these ones have samples of local vegetation. Each lander's got a remote arm to pick up samples. And these two are kept sealed."
"The control experiment?" she asked, and got a pleased nod in return. She gestured to the screen. "None of them seem to be showing much activity."
He shrugged. "Well, the lander has only been down a little while. It'd take a day or two before we can pull in any significant data, really. Then we'll know if it's safe down there. There are samples of anti bacterial agents on board the lander. We can add these to the bio discs and see how our medicines affect things."
The intricacies of scientific surveys was not a subject that had ever concerned her before. Despite this, she found herself interested. Exploration. She didn't share their enthusiasm, the UESPAs and the scientists, but she could understand it. And each of these consoles were running their own different experiments. They must be learning a lot.
"Complements of the captain!" a voice called. Hernandez turned to see crewman Daniels in the hatchway, lugging a heavy ice box. There were smiles and thanks, even a few cheers, as he started handing round soft drinks. She took a Coke gratefully, gulping it down.
"Sure is hot in here."
Jeff nodded. "Lots of equipment in too small a space. We're going to have to find a better way of doing this."
"Jeff! How's it going?" said Professor Partridge, approaching them. She had a bottle of lemonade in her hand. "And Commander Maria! How good to see you. Have you come to expand your comprehension as to the function of our activities related upon this occasion as to empirical observation and it's place within the realms of natural philosophy?"
Hernandez blinked. "Err, pardon?"
"I asked, are you here to get all learned up about science?"
"Ah, yes. It's quite interesting, actually."
"Hmm, you needn't sound so surprised."
Murry gestured to his display. "The preliminary readings. Too early for anything significant, of course."
"Of course." Partridge agreed. She glanced at the screen and tapped one of the circles. "Although you may want to keep an eye on this sample. Give it point five milligrams of inaprovaline in about, well, an hour should do it."
He examined the display carefully for a moment. "Oh yeah..." he smiled as he realized what she was aiming at.
Hernandez peered closer. She couldn't spot anything different about that sample. "Is there any point my asking what's so special about that one?"
"Well I could explain," Partridge said evenly, "but I calculate a seventy eight point four per cent chance that you'd lose interest in the first two minutes."
"Two minutes eh? How long would the full explanation take?"
"Until about, er, let's see, what time is it now? Yeah, if I explained the whole thing, and you got it first time so I didn't have to repeat myself, I reckon we'd have it covered by Thursday next."
"I'll give it a miss then." Hernandez took another swig of her Coke. "God, it's hot in here. Aren't you roasting in that outfit?" She gestured to Partridge's rubbery black catsuit.
Partridge shrugged. "Hey, I look good in it."
That, Hernandez noted, wasn't actually an answer to her question. She felt some slight satisfaction at the fact that, for all her aplomb, the scientist did look rather flushed, and there was a faint sheen on her brow. Though she was dismayed to admit it, Hernandez couldn't deny a tiny, tiny iota of jealousy at Polly's glamour and poise. Sweating slightly showed she was mortal.
A high pitched beeping came from the third clock. A two minute countdown started. Partridge put her bottle down and clapped for attention.
"Alright people, secure all stations. Lander three is on final approach, put all non essential work on hold. Yes Simon, I'm looking at you! If anything goes wrong with the automatics we'll have to use the manual over ride to take her in. So I don't want the band width clogged up with anything else. Trev, you stand by on manual, just in case."
The main screen flickered, becoming an aerial shot of a rolling plain. To the east lay a thick forest, to the west an undulating river that widened to a lake further south.
"Looks like Earth." Hernandez murmured.
"Quite similar, yes." Partridge agreed. "The first two landers have found chlorophyll in plant life, hence the green hue."
Brow furrowing, Hernandez asked "That's a bit of a coincidence, isn't it? The same compound present on two different worlds, light years apart. Or is this the part where you give the 'the laws of science are universal, there's only a limited number of was things can develop' speech?"
"You're learning. On almost all the M-class worlds we know of, plant life uses chlorophyll. There's actually been some interesting speculation about that, related to the preponderance of left handed amino acids in living things, and there you go, your eyes are already beginning to glaze over. You know, I really must time how long it takes, one of these days, and perhaps write a monograph upon it. 'Some observations as to the boredom threshold of a Fleet officer'. Did you know the first recorded use of the word 'boredom' was in Dicken's Bleak House? Have you ever read it, by the way? It's one of---"
"Oh, good grief!" Hernandez interrupted. "Here's an idea for an experiment, see how long a scientist can just shut up!" Despite her words there was enough levity in her tone to avoid giving offence.
"Sorry. Sorry. I do tend to get chatty when nervous. Or excited. Or bored. It's not irritating though, not really. You may think it is, but you are wrong. It's actually quite an endearing trait, because basically everything I do is brilliant and everyone likes me."
The commander stared at her for a moment. "I can never work you out. Are you for real or is it just an act?"
Partridge leant closer as if imparting some great secret. "If it is an act," she observed, tapping the side of her nose, "it's a very convincing one."
"Thirty seconds." announced Trev, the scientist at flight control.
Hernandez pointed to the screen. "Looks like there's a boulder in the projected landing site. I suggest you divert ten meters north, that looks clear."
"Yeah, I see it." Trev said. "Diverting north. Twenty seconds."
On the screen small grey shapes could just be made out, darting frantically into concealment.
"We seem to have upset the locals." Polly observed.
"Ten seconds....five....contact lights green! We have touchdown!." There was a cheer from the various scientists, and applause. Hernandez was somewhat startled when Partridge suddenly hugged her.
"Alright everybody! Trev, secure the flight systems. Once that's done we can get on with the good stuff!" Partridge said. She picked up a communications hand set from the nearest console and typed in the code for the bridge. "Hoshi, hi, it's Polly. Yeah, let John know probe three is down safely, would you? OK, bye bye now."
The assorted scientists were now busy at work, doing...whatever it was they did. Hernandez drained her Coke, and looked around for another. No sign of Daniels, or the ice box. Sticking her head out of the hatch she saw it just outside. She stepped out, moving to one side of the hatchway so she couldn't be seen, and loosened her uniform tunic. "That'll need changing." she muttered. She could feel, and smell, the sweat underneath. Not nice.
After a few moments to let cool air reach her she refastened her tunic---it wouldn't do to be seen in less than immaculate condition--- and picked out a new Coke. Holding the bottle to her blazing brow she went back in. Partridge had moved closer to the viewscreen. She was studying it intently, whilst chatting to a colleague about a slight magnetic variance they'd detected, and whether it indicated the presence of ferrous materials.
Suddenly a dark mass manifested itself on the screen. Polly, who'd been leaning close at the time, let out a yelp of pure fear and leapt backwards, onto a sitting position on top of the console behind her. For a moment she balanced precariously, before tipping backwards with a wail. Hernandez, and a couple of the nearest scientists, rushed forward to grab her before she cracked her skull on the deck.
"Whooah! Woo! Oh, all the blood's rushing too my head!"
"Don't worry, well get you upright." Hernandez said, fixing one of the scientists with a lethal glare. Whilst he'd undoubtedly helped arrest the Professor's fall, there was no longer any need for him to keep his hands where they were. He caught her look and let go guiltily.
"Thanks." Partridge said, when vertical once more. She took a few deep breaths. "Scared the stuffing out of me. What was that thing?"
Whatever it was had disappeared from view, but it was an easy matter to replay the footage. The thing's appearance was so sudden Partridge flinched even though she now expected it. It was a shapeless, amorphous mass, no detail, just a blur of grey and brown...
And then, abruptly, it formed into something tangible. It was too close, Hernandez realised, the camera needed a moment to focus. "Looks like a meerkat." she said, thinking of the creatures she'd seen on survival training. "Or maybe a mongoose."
"It does, doesn't it? With perhaps a hint of a ferret in there, as well. The first animal life discovered here. Now what's he doing?" Partridge asked, as the creature bared his teeth. "Ah, he's seen his reflection. Probably thinks it's a rival. Ow! Now that must have hurt!" The creature had banged it's nose on the camera lens.
The creature swarmed upwards, but now others of it's kind were coming into view. Though clearly cautious, they also seemed curious about the lander. Hernandez looked around. The scientists all seemed spellbound by the sight, chattering away excitedly about taxonomic classification, evolutionary development and so on. She suddenly felt very depressed. The Enterprise already had a mission in this system. OK, yes, she could see the value of this work, but right now it looked to be no more than a distraction. What was it Jeff had said? A day or two before they had useful data and knew if it was safe. And if it was safe, there was no way Captain Archer would ignore this. No, a full exploratory party, at the very least. He'd probably want to spend a few days there, treat it as a camping trip. And that would mean more delays.
Again,in the blink of an eye, she saw the faces of her friends, friends she'd lost on the earlier mission. They seemed to be waiting.
Waiting for her.
Re: Starship Enterprise: Strange New World.
Excellent chapter, Badger.
Not really sure where you're going with this, but top marks all the way.
Re: Starship Enterprise: Strange New World.
mmm Galadorn mongoose.... with just a hint of garlic yummy! :drool: Good chapter, I liked the amount detail you put into the PSL. Orbital bombardment missiles sound like alot of fun too ;).
Re: Starship Enterprise: Strange New World.
Very interesting....mongeese, huh? Wonder if they talk...
Re: Starship Enterprise: Strange New World.
I apologise for the delay in posting. I've had a few problems recently that have kind of eroded my motivation. I also had great difficulty with this chapter. I'm not happy with it, but think it better to post something rather than leave it any longer.
UES Enterprise. Orbiting Galador III.
October 19th 2151.
"With respect Captain, I don't think this is a good idea." Hernandez said.
Captain Archer spun the locking wheel for the hatch to the open position. "Why is it that people always say 'with respect' or 'permission to speak freely' when they're criticising your ideas?" he asked rhetorically. "Just once I'd like to hear some one say 'with respect captain, that's brilliant'."
They stepped out into the main corridor, sealing the hatch behind them. This access way lead almost from bow to stern, and was one of the few passages where more than two people could walk abreast. During the maiden voyage it was kept in separate sections for safety reasons, but everyone agreed it was annoying to constantly have to open and close the hatches, so they were now left open during normal operations. The automatics would shut them if there was a change in alert status. Quite apart from making intra-ship movement more convenient, being able to see more than a few metres ahead helped reduce the low grade claustrophobia that so often characterised ship board life.
"Look, you want to scan the battle site at Galador V---" he said.
"It is our assigned mission." Hernandez interrupted, and immediately regretted the chiding tone in her voice.
Archer paused, before replying "As is exploration, Commander."
He nodded, dismissing the matter. "So this seems like the best solution. I'll take a small survey team down to the planet, you head on to the battle site, do all you need to do, then come pick us up. Simple."
She was shaking her head. "Sir, without warp drive it'll take us two and a half days to get there. Another two and a half to get back. Factor in at least two days to carry out the mission and we'll be away for a week, minimum. Possibly longer. A radio signal would take nearly an hour. So what if something goes wrong?"
Archer paused. "Ah. I see your point. If something does go wrong....you'll just have to manage without me." Though he kept a straight face and steady tone, his eyes twinkled mischievously.
She put her hands on her hips. "That's not what I meant and you know it. What if something goes wrong down there?. You'll be on your own."
"We're going to the same area where probe three landed." Archer said, ticking the points off on his fingers. "Warm climate, environmentally suitable for humans. No indication of intelligent life. No large predators. No evidence of significant risk from pathogens, and our medicines seem effective in dealing with all micro organisms that we have discovered. Doctor Locke is accompanying us. Geologically there is some activity, but the chances of an earthquake or volcano are so low that...well, according to head of the geophysics department, Professor Partridge would be elected Pope before that happens. His exact words, by the way.
"All the UESPA people going know what to expect. They've read the book on how to do it. Just to keep you happy some of our people are security trained, and armed with rifles. We've also got some of Mr. Reed's marines joining us..."
"Yes sir. I read the manifest. The absolute minimum required by regulations for this sort of mission. On your orders, sir."
"Well I like to think I'm a good judge of these things. This isn't my first survey, Maria, I do have some idea of how it's done. Besides, I'm sure you'll be needing as many marines as possible while I'm away, so it'd be unfair to take them all."
Her brow furrowed. "Sir, why would I nee..." she began.
"Besides which, do you really think the Professor would be coming with us if she thought that there was the slightest risk?"
That was a good point. Partridge cheerfully described herself as an absolute coward. Apart from some nerves about the journey itself---she had a tendency to travel sickness---she had enthusiastically volunteered when Archer had announced the mission the previous day.
Hernandez said "To be honest, I don't see why you should have to go down there at all. Can't we do practically everything from orbit?"
"Practically everything isn't the same as absolutely everything. Besides, we didn't come all this way just to look out the window at planets. Where's the fun in that?"
"Er, excuse me? Guys? Er, how do you fasten this harness?"
"It's simple, professor. Put your arms through the shoulder straps, and fasten the others around the waist and chest."
"Yeah...it's that last one I'm having problems with."
Corporal Autumn James paused in her task of stowing her rifle, and looked round. The shoulder straps were indeed in place. So was the one at her waist, though that looked a little loose. The one above that, however, was no where near long enough. Polly had hold of the ends in her clenched fists, arms quivering with effort as she struggled to stretch them together. "Now that's weird."
"Do you think?" Polly said, giving up. "Salome managed no problem." She gestured down the row of seats.
"It is a bit tight." Salome Murry admitted cheerfully. One of the civilian scientists, and the wife of Jeff Murry, she was an enormous black woman with a gap in her front teeth, a large gold crucifix round her neck and a deafening laugh. She gave vent to the latter now.
"I'm glad you're amused." Polly said. "I don't like travelling at the best of times, I don't want to do it without all possible precautions. And why the hell do we have to go in this thing anyway?" She gestured around at the hold they were in.
"The regular shuttles are too small for all of us, and picking up the landing probes too." Corporal James said, while examining the safety harness. "The Beowulfs are plenty big enough."
"Yeah," Polly sighed, "I just don't like the idea of using a military craft."
Enterprise carried two Beowulf Landing Craft. Developed using lessons learnt in the Axanar war they were the most efficient means of delivering small payloads to and from orbit in Earth's fleet. The interior hold was modular, quickly changeable to suit the mission profile. It currently held fourteen seats, enough supplies for a full month if need be, the scientific equipment necessary for the proposed survey, a rather cramped lavatory compartment, and a small electric quad bike. There was also room at the back for the three landing probes, though they would have to be disassembled to fit in.
"Technically," James said, "the Enterprise is a military craft. I can't work this out. These harnesses are designed to hold really big marines in full armour, backpacks, the works. It should be plenty long enough." She paused, and glanced over at Tipping, a fellow marine.
"Maybe that's the problem." he said, scratching his nose. "If you're wearing all that gear, you're going to be sitting forward a bit, ain't ya? So the straps are designed for all that. Now the professor, right, she's not got all that stuff, OK, so she sits back in the chair. So I reckon once the shoulder straps are tight enough, the one across the...across...er...won't fit."
"I see." said Polly. She regarded the marines steadily for a moment, seeing which ones would meet her gaze. "So what do you propose?" she asked, giving Salome a knowing glance.
James clicked her teeth thoughtfully, and looked up and to one side, left fist under her chin, index finger extended alongside her mouth. The stereotypical 'thinking' pose. Polly looked on in amusement. She was curious as to what they had planned for her.
"I have an idea." James said.
The whine of engines in preflight mode filled the shuttle bay. It wasn't quite loud enough to require shouting, but everyone had to raise their voices to be understood. Trip Tucker and Malcolm Reed were in discussion. Reed held a computer pad, Trip held Porthos. The little dog saw Archer enter and tried to leap free, but the engineer kept a firm grip until the captain was close enough to take him. "Here ya go, cap'n."
"Thanks Trip. It's a pity you're needed on ship, it looks like it could be quite nice down there." he said, scratching the dogs head.
"Ah well, ah'll just have ta go next time."
Reed cleared his throat and held up the pad. "The marine volunteers. Just four, as you ordered. I can get some more if you change your mind..."
Archer studied the pad. "No, no. This should be fine. Let's see...Corporal James, Troopers Dumont, Tipping and Grant...any idea why they volunteered?
Reed nodded. "Well, James has been wanting to get a bit of command experience for a while, even something like this would count. Plus of course, the Professor's going, which for Autumn is motivation enough. Grant's a trained sniper, but she's a bit out of practice after all this time on the ship, she'll be getting her eye back in with a few rounds."
Archer grimaced, clearly displeased at this idea. Reed continued hurriedly. "Regulations state we have to send a field medic, and Dumont volunteered. He seems quite excited by the thought of exploration. His mum's in UESPA, you know. And Tipping...well, we encouraged him to go. Couldn't stand his moaning any longer. Get him off the ship. Do us some good at least."
Archer handed the pad back. "Alright, that sounds fine. Are you sure you don't mind a couple of non-marines flying that thing?" He nodded his head towards Beowulf Two.
"As long as the ship's CO has officially requested it, all the paper works done and the replacement crew are fully qualified, it's all in order." Reed said.
The captain nodded. "OK then, I'll just go check on things on board."
Trip said "All your bags are stowed, cap'n, ah put 'em a'board myself."
"Thanks Trip. See you guys later. Oh, and Maria. Try not to wreck the ship. We've not finished paying for it yet."
Archer shut the hatch behind him. They weren't ready for take off, not yet, but the engine noise was getting on his nerves. He put his dog down, and strode towards the seating area. "Right, how's everybody doing? I hope we will....oh, good grief."
"Yes," said Partridge, "I had a bit of trouble with the harness, so these chaps came up with a clever way of securing me to the chair. Rather innovative of them, wouldn't you say?" She nodded her head, the only part of her body she could now move, towards the marines. Three of them had carefully cultivated innocent expressions. The fourth, Grant, shook her head ruefully and mouthed nothing to do with me.
An intricate, criss crossing web of bungee cords held Polly firmly in place. Each elasticated cord was about half a metre long, though it could stretch far beyond that, and was a military olive green. The metal hooks at each end had been carefully applied to the seat, the cord itself coiled about her body. There were so many she was practically mummified, though the marines had taken care to ensure some features were left unobscured.
Handing his dog to Jeff Murry, he looked around the hold. The civilian scientists generally seemed amused, as did most of the crewmen present, at least until they caught his expression. Finally he turned to the marines. "So. A problem with the harness, eh?"
The fašade began to crack, Dumont and Tipping seeming to shrink into themselves. They half turned to James, who managed "Err, yes sir."
Archer let the silence go on uncomfortably long, though not uncomfortably to him. "And you tried to fix it."
"Er, yes sir."
James swallowed noisily. "So, sir, I thought we'd better, that is, the Professor wasn't safe, so we.....I'll try again sir!"
"Yes you will. And something tells me this time you'll fix the problem. Now I'm heading up to the flight deck, to see how things are going, and I expect it to be sorted by the time I get back." He leant closer to Partridge and said quietly "And you, Professor. Please don't encourage them, they're bad enough as it is."
She just grinned back.
He paused at the bottom of the access shaft. A flight of stairs so steep that they were practically a ladder lead upwards, The voices of the current flight crew drifted down, going through the pre-flight check-list. Rather than risk interrupting them at a crucial stage, he waited until they reached a natural break point before ascending. "How's it going?"
Hoshi Sato swivelled in the system operators seat and smiled. "A little slower than a regular crew, maybe, but we're getting there."
"We'll be ready to leave on schedule." Travis Mayweather added.
"Good, good." Archer said, glancing between them. He knew that the two of them didn't really get on, but from what he'd observed they were treating each other with professional courtesy. "Looking forward to it?"
Sato nodded enthusiastically. "Yes sir! Camping out on a strange new world, it'll be fun!"
Mayweather was less lively. "A change of scenery will be nice. Plus it's always good to get some small craft hours in."
That confirmed what Archer had suspected. The helmsman had no interest in the mission itself, and just wanted to do something different than fly Enterprise in straight lines. "Well, no hot-dogging OK? I don't think your cargo and passengers could take it."
Mayweather spread his hands wide. "Hey, this trip'll be so smooth you'll not even know you're moving."
"Now that's why he volunteered," Hoshi said with a smirk, "he's hoping to charm Polly with his gentle technique."
"No it isn't!" he said quickly. Too quickly. He caught himself and looked embarrassed.
Archer nodded knowingly. "I'll let you two finish. Let me know when you're ready to launch."
The bungee cords had disappeared by the time he returned to the hold, and the safety harness fit Polly correctly. Apart from Grant, who was still trying to indicate via body language that she had nothing to do with it, the marines had the expressions of naughty school children caught in a particularly stern teacher's gaze. Many years previously Archer had met a Vulcan diplomat with an expression so saturnine it chilled the blood. No anger, no threat, no emotional display of any kind, just an impassive mask more disturbing than any scowl or grimace. His own version was nowhere near as effective, but still left the marines squirming nervously. Sometimes, just sometimes, it's good to put the fear of God into people.
He looked round, noting that everyone was now on board. "Scott, what's our load status?" Even though he could see for himself, it was good procedure to double check.
Crewman Scott looked at her pad. "All crew, passengers and cargo have embarked, all hatches are sealed. We are ready for lift. Even Porthos." she added. The little dog was looking forlorn in a padded travel cage strapped to a chair.
"Very good. Inform the flight crew." Archer said. He took his seat between Polly and Porthos.
"John, I'm not so sure it's such a good idea to bring him along." Polly said. "We've not detected any predators in the landing area that are a significant threat to us, but he's a lot smaller. The ferrekats are carnivorous. They might look upon him as a tasty treat." 'Ferrekats' was the nickname given to the creatures detected by lander three, that resembled a cross between ferret and meerkat.
"I'm not leaving him behind, he's a dog. He needs to go for long walks outdoors. It's no good for him to be kept cooped up all the time. I'll just have to keep him on a leash. I'm sure you'd approve of that." he added wryly.
Polly glanced at the marines. "Oh. They put so much effort into setting that up. I couldn't bear to disappoint them. They're adorable really. And have you noticed where they've put their helmets?"
Archer hadn't. The marines were in camo uniforms and light body armour, and wore green berets. The standard battle helmets were stowed in a special rack, almost opposite where Archer sat now. One was placed facing forward. The other three were at odd angles. He looked at them, working out lines of sight.
"Corporal James?" he called.
"I've been thinking, Corporal, that you and you're people may be able to help us, in the gathering of scientific data."
She glanced at her colleagues. "Certainly sir. How can we help?"
Archer looked straight in the eye. "As I understand it, you have cameras, video cameras, embedded into your helmets. Indeed, as I recall, they came in quite useful as to identifying that alien you and Hoshi met."
"Er...yes sir." James said, glancing at the helmets.
"So I was thinking, they'd make good data gathering tools down on the planet. You wouldn't have to do anything unusual. Just go about your normal routine. Although...just to be sure we have as much data as possible, make sure you don't start recording 'till we get down there. And just to be certain....why don't you all just wipe the memory on your wrist computers right now."
James' voice was resigned. "Yes sir." She hit the appropriate controls, then held her arm out to show Archer that the memory was clear. Dumont and Tipping did the same.
"Don't bother, Grant." Archer waved the sniper away. "Something tells me you hadn't recorded anything yet."
Hoshi's voice crackled over the intercom. "Ladies and gentlemen, we have received clearance for take off and will moving to the launch pad momentarily. Please ensure you are strapped in and all cargo and baggage is secure."
Besides Archer Polly suddenly tensed up, gripping the armrests like a vice. "Oh, I really hate flying." she said to no one in particular.
"How did you know they'd focussed their helmet cam's on you?" he asked, hoping to distract her by changing the subject.
She snorted, and a touch of colour came back to her cheeks. "It's me John. If there's a camera within a hundred metres pointing at me, I know abo...whoah!"
That last exclamation was triggered by a sudden movement to the left, and echoed in a whine from Porthos.
"It's alright, it's alright." Archer said, not entirely sure who he was trying to comfort. "That's just the platform moving us to the launch area. Nothing to worry about."
"Yeah." Polly said glumly, then added "I might be sick on you."
The tannoy boomed through out the shuttle-bay. "Beowulf two is away. All stations, secure from launch positions."
"There are times when I think Captain Archer does not take his responsibilities seriously." Hernandez muttered.
"Maybe. But he usually gets the job done." Trip drawled.
"Oh really? Then what about..." she broke off, face clearing as a thought struck her.
"Yeah, now you're figgerin' it out."
She looked straight ahead. "He's not on the ship any more. I'm in charge. And he deliberately left me the maximum marine complement regulations allow. Damn, I should have seen it sooner. Major Reed! Put your people on stand by. It looks like we'll get to do those combat drills after all."
Re: Starship Enterprise: Strange New World.
Good chapter, I don't see why you wouldn't be happy with it. Sure there were no "kewl 'splosions" or anything, but if thats all we wanted in a story I don't think most of us would be reading this. This chapter got parts of the crew from point A to Point B, something I am sure your plot necessitates. It also shows the continuing hijinks of those wacky Marines, and Polly's toleration, even encouragement thereof. In the first episode after a pilot it is important to demonstrate these things to some who may new to the story. It also showed why Archer is a good CO. He may not always be orthodox, but as Trip said, he gets the job done. Sending down the Beowulf with a survey team, allowing Enterprise to continue on mission, with enough Marines to conduct their drills showed good judgement. He is a good multi-tasker, and with his mission of both exploration and defense that is a requirement, not a luxery. Again, good chapter keep it up and good luck with your problems. :techman:
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