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."
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
"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."
." 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!"