UES Enterprise. Earth Orbit.
Captain's Log. April 16, 2151. With the Presidential party safely on board we can begin final preparations. Enterprise is about to leave orbit for our planned departure zone. Whilst Cmmdr. Tucker assures me that the engines are sufficiently calibrated to go to warp straight from orbit, I am unwilling to take any risk, however small, with the President on board. Asides from which, Lt. Moshiri has modified the flight plan at my personal request.
I'm hoping that all goes well on this mission and without a hitch. I can't help feeling that things may get needlessly complicated. While I was showing the President to the obs. dome he handed me a data chip, with instructions not to look at until we had left the solar system. I'm sure he'd waited until my officers were otherwise engaged. But if this is to do with them, it could easily have been sent through official channels at a higher security rating than they have.
Mulling the matter over, Archer was not aware of Hoshi at his side until she cleared her throat.
"Sorry Hoshi, I've a lot on my mind."
"Not a problem sir. Just these reports for you to sign. Oh, and Director Forrest has authorised the diversion."
"That's good news. "said Archer. "I'd promised a flyby."
He was interrupted by the whistle of the ships internal communicator, the distinctive tone of a message for the officer in charge. He lifted the handset. The display screen showed it came from the chief engineer.
"Trip, what can I do for you?"
"Cap'n, all impulse engines running within parameters, and the warp reactor's warmin' up nicely. She'll be ready for the go when we get to the departure zone."
"That's good. How's number three impulse holding up?"
"Still a little hot, nothing we can't handle."
"Very good. We're about to make a little course correction. I'll try not to shake things up too much."
Archer could almost hear Trip grinning as he said with mock indignation "You'd better not!"
"All right Trip, carry on. Archer out."
He deactivated the hand set and replaced it.
"Haleh, we've got permission to use the revised plan. Lay it in."
"Very good sir. Revised flight plan laid in and ready to initiate."
Archer sat back in his chair, and gestured to Hoshi to return to her station. She indicated the pads with the reports on still unsigned.
"In a moment." he told her.
As she sat he turned to the helm console. "Mr Mayweather, you have the new course at your station?"
"Then engage at your discretion."
"Aye sir. Lt. Sato, please inform Earth Central that we are diverting from our current course. New course is filed in their records as...". He paused, and read from his display screen. "...filed as Archer Flyby one."
Archer watched all this with great interest. This was all textbook stuff. Mayweather even went on to read out the file name in phonetics, something few helmsman bothered with.
More curiously, there was absolutely none of the underlying antagonism that had characterized his earlier behaviour.
Hoshi reported back. "Earth Central acknowledges the change of flight plan, we are given clearance."
Mayweather half turned in his seat "Helm is standing by for course change Captain."
Momentarily befuddled by Mayweather's behaviour, Archer simply replied "You have the Conn, Mr Mayweather."
"Aye sir. Lt. Sato. The manoeuvre warning, if you please."
Three melodic chimes rang sounded throughout the ship, an audible warning that a change in course was imminent.
Archer was pleased to see Mayweather waited a few seconds, allowing the crew time to sit or grab hold of something for support, before he reached for the controls.
"I've been told I have a gentle touch." the helmsman said, lifting a suggestive eyebrow towards Haleh Moshiri. "Now let's see just how....Whooa!"
The ship had twisted in it's course. Archer instinctively grabbed at his chairs arm rests to steady himself. He could see Hoshi hurl herself at the support strut by her console, wrapping herself around it for safety. With a clatter the pile of pads fell to the deck.
Within a second it was over, but everyone looked startled.
Once she was sure it was over Hernandez leapt from her seat. "Ensign, what the hell just happened?" she demanded.
"Never mind that for the moment." Archer said. "Is anyone hurt?"
Once satisfied that there were no injuries he turned to Hoshi. "Lt., casualty and damage reports please."
The communications handset squealed for his attention. He checked the display and accepted the call from Crewman Daniels on the obs. deck.
"Mr Daniels, how is the President?"
"Ah, he seems fine sir, ah, a bit shaken but he's joking about it. Ah, it's the Secret Service people. They want to know what's, ah, what's going on. Are we under attack sir?"
"Just a moment Mr Daniels." He looked at Mayweather. "Travis?"
The Ensign looked decidedly sheepish. "Sorry sir. I've trained on both the Declaration and the Invincible. Neither of them responded anything like Enterprise."
Archer nodded slowly. "Well, now you know what to expect, can you complete the manoeuvre safely?"
"Carry on then." Archer lifted the handset. "Mr Daniels, please pass on my apologies to the President, and assure him it won't happen again. You can also let the Service agents know that we are not being attacked. Is there anything else?"
A slight hesitation. "Ah, it's Professor Partridge sir. She fell from her chair and says she's hurt her, ah, uh, well, hurt her bottom, sir. She's threatening to sue UESPA for loss of earnings if there's any permanent damage. Ah, can she do that, sir? I know that she does modelling work, er, but I thought that was, you know, a side job, just for charity. I mean, she is a proper scientist isn't she? She can still do that? What if..."
"Calm yourself Crewman." Archer interrupted. "I'm fairly sure she's joking. Tell her if she's concerned she can head along to sick bay, where Dr Locke can treat her ills with a series of blood lettings. Or, if she's really serious, we can send her home right now. Sadly we can only spare a small, cramped shuttlepod, not very fast so she'd be in it for a few hours. Quite a bumpy ride too."
From the corner of his eye he could see Hernandez grinning. He gave her a conspiratorial wink.
Archer signed off from the obs dome link, and asked Hoshi to put him on ship wide.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, I apologise for the bumpy ride. It seems our Engineering staff had done such sterling work that our helmsman was simply unprepared for how responsive Enterprise is. He learns quickly though, if you don't have an external view you may well be unaware that we are currently making a major course correction. Going very smoothly too. Archer out."
Hoshi had finished collecting the casualty and damage reports. No damage, Crewman Patel had a bruised elbow from an unsecured hatch swinging open and hitting him. Nothing else, though both Trip Tucker and Dr Locke wanted to have words with Mayweather in the near future.
Haleh Moshiri checked her console. "Captain, we are now on plotted course. At current trajectory and speed east coast North America will emerge over the horizon in....seventeen seconds. Sensor section reports our immediate vicinity is clear."
"Earth Central has advised all space traffic of our plans. We have clearance." Hoshi announced
"Thank you. I have the Conn." said Archer. He took a deep breath, released it slowly. "Commander Hernandez, please activate all running lights, and put the departure angle on main viewer.
The image on the view screen changed. It now showed Earth behind them. Apart from the easternmost strip, where dawn was breaking, night covered the hemisphere. Not total darkness, the firefly glow of cities could still be made out. Archer waited until he was sure upstate New York was showing. He blinked back a sudden tear, unsure as to the nature of the emotion that provoked it.
"Forward angle on viewer." He would have liked to have seen what came next, but it would have been too bright, the glare too much for the visual sensors.
He lifted the handset, signalled Engineering.
"Mr Tucker. you may proceed when ready.". His voice was tight.
"Aye Cap'n. We'll put on a show for them. Ten seconds."
Hoshi called over. "Sir, a number of news channels are covering the launch. I can record them for later."
He nodded, unwilling to speak.
"Commencin' stage one." said Trip over the comm system. There was a slight shudder as Enterprise jettisoned a carefully selected amount of fuel. "That's it. You got about twenty seconds before it's too diffuse. Tucker out."
Must remember to thank the President again for letting me do this
, Archer thought. Without his express orders, there's no way this would be allowed.
"Commander Hernandez, let's give them a show."
"Aye Captain.". She reached for the controls. Normally, as chief gunnery officer, it was her job to tell the gunners themselves what to do. This was something she wanted to do herself. Apart from anything else, it gave her an opportunity to practice with the bridge controls.
A single plasma bolt should do it. She selected the upper aft cannon, which she'd pre-heated, and triggered final charging. Releasing the safety she carefully selected her target.
"Firing for effect."
She squeezed the trigger.
Upstate New York. Earth.
16 April 2151.
The bonfire was dieing down, and was giving off a lot of smoke. Fortunately the night was quite warm, letting people wander further out into the field to get a good view of the stars. There was a party atmosphere. Those kids who'd been allowed to stay up late ran about, chasing each other, screaming and yelling. Someone had brought along a portable barbecue, most people present had eaten at least one hotdog or burger. A few had ingested rather more than that, and a lot of belts had been loosened. Despite the bins that had been thoughtfully provided the ground was strewn with drinks cans, both soft and alcoholic.
A shout went up. "There! Is that it?"
Several people checked their personal pads.
"It's in the right place."
"Yeah, I think so."
The small crowd gathered together, heads bent back to watch the bright spot transiting the heavens.
"It's just been on the news." said the owner of the barbecue, "they're going ahead with it."
An expectant hush befell the crowd. For long seconds nothing happened. And then...
It seemed as if a rose of green blue fire had blossomed in the sky. It was not large, no bigger than a thumb nail at arms length, but was bright enough to illuminate the awe struck faces of the observers below. There were gasps of astonishment and delight, followed by wild cheering and applause.
Slowly the glow spread and faded. Only when it had totally gone did the crowd return to their food and drinks. Most though took the time to seek out and congratulate an old man, seated in a wheelchair, a blanket wrapped tightly around him, his silver haired wife by his side.
The man accepted the handshakes and kind words with good grace, but his eyes never strayed from that spot in the skys.
"Godspeed, Jonathan." said Henry Archer, a tear in his eye. "May the wind be at your back."