Herroton City. Herroton. Epsilon Delta system.
November 26th 2151.
Trex and Tovan left the governor's office, Trex giving his secretary the rest of the afternoon off. As they approached the elevator to take them down to the Command Centre, Tovan cleared his throat. "Listen, Governor. Do you mind if I give you a bit of advice? Perhaps I'm getting paranoid in my dotage, but I feel that....Oh, Kralon, not again!"
The lights in the corridor had flickered and dimmed. Glancing through an open doorway in passing Trex saw several office workers staring in frustration at their computer screens, displaying a blur of static. There was muttered swearing, and the occasional slap to the malfunctioning equipment. As they reached the elevator he exchanged glances with Tovan.
"The stairs." they agreed simultaneously.
The stairs were designed for emergency evacuation as well as normal use. In addition to the standard lighting, now dim and failing, fluorescent panels provided a modicum of illumination. It certainly felt safer than the elevator under the circumstances.
"I was talking to Phlox over at the Medical Centre." Tovan said as they descended. "He reckons it's only a matter of time before someone gets hurt. And if he's performing an operation when the power goes out...."
"Are there any operations planned, at this time?" Trex asked, brow furrowed. He couldn't recall anything from the weekly reports, but that was not the sort of information he'd regularly need.
"I don't think so. But I rather got the impression Phlox was worried about emergency situations. Some one getting themselves mauled by a vrex, or something."
"Hmm. I see your point." the governor said. "Of course, the most frustrating thing is, no one knows why it's happening. Environmental services are completely baffled. Their own words, 'completely baffled'."
Tovan lightened. "Here's a thought. That human ship. Enterprise. It's bound to have a top notch engineer onboard. Maybe we can get them to have a look at the power plant."
Trex nodded slowly as he thought it over. "That's an idea. We could give it a try, if the opportunity presents itself. Ah, that's better." The main lights had resumed their normal brightness. "Now, what was that bit of advice you wanted to give me?"
"Advice? Not sure I---Oh! Oh yes, I remember. I was going to suggest you watch yourself.Councillor Vrok will undoubtedly attempt to make some political capital from this. You allowed a foreign warship to approach our world unchallenged, and you did so without
consulting or informing the rest of the council. She might even claim you've been exceeding your authority."
"That's absurd." Trex said. They had reached the floor, and he held the door open for Tovan. "It's part of the governor's job to make decisions when the council isn't available, or if things need to be decided in a hurry. Besides, we have good diplomatic relations with the humans, and a number of them at the dig. I'd hardly risk damaging our friendship by refusing orbital privileges without good reason."
"True enough," Tovan said, returning the salute of a patrolling security guard, "but Vrok will find a way to make it work for her."
"As I recall, she's in the middle of her hibernation cycle right now. Not available for consultation, I should say."
Tovan nodded. "Yes, for another day or so. But you didn't
talk to the councillors who are available. And that gives her something to complain about. Although, as I think about it...She probably won't raise the matter herself. Probably get one of her supporters to do it. That way, you look bad for ignoring the council, but she keeps out of the mud slinging."
"It's this sort of politicking I detest." Trex said grimly. "I became governer to help guide this colony into a new future, not to get involved in power games like this."
Tovan shrugged sympathetically. "Comes with the territory. Here we are."
For security reasons the Command Centre was located in a reinforced bunker beneath the building. Although no trouble was anticipated Tovan took his duties as Commissioner very seriously, so both had to present credentials to the watchful guards before being allowed access. Inside half a dozen Denobulans monitored display screens, accompanied by the steady whirr and bleeping of the computers. Everything seemed to be running smoothly. Given the importance of the systems in this room, everything had emergency back up battery supplies. If power was cut off completely the Centre could run for a full day with no loss in efficiency. That, at least, was the plan. So far it had coped with the short term power losses without trouble.
"Governor, Commissioner. The Earth ship is just entering orbit, and communications systems are calibrated." said a technician, approaching them. "We've set it up so you can use the main communications alcove."
"Thank you. Any word from Doctor Smith at the dig site?"
"Just a brief message. He claims to be unaware of any Earth ship. And apparently there's some business at the dig got his attention right now. A couple of missing personnel. One of their scientists, and a security guard."
"That's worrying." Tovan said. "Still, it's a maze down there. Soon as we've finished here I'll head on over, take a team with me and help with the search. Assuming they haven't turned up by then."
"Very well." Trex said. "Right, let's get on with it."
The alcove was a small room just off the main centre, with several comfortable chairs facing large display screen. Currently it was showing the human's test patten. A camera located just below the screen would allow his image to be transmitted to the Earth ship. Trex thanked the technician, closing the sound proofed door after she left, and sat. To his mild surprise Tovan didn't sit, taking a position just to one side of the main screen. Somewhere he can see what's going on,
Trex realized, without being seen himself. Crafty old devil.
He tapped the controls built into the armrest to begin the process, feeling slightly nervous for some reason. For a moment the screen dissolved into a blur of static and white noise, before the message 'Stand By' popped up in Denobulan, accompanied by a steady tone.
After a few seconds the tone cut out, replaced by a fragment of speech, too short to be understood, then the screen resolved into the image of a room similar in shape and form to the one Trex was seated in. It was also a pulsating fluorescent purple. The 'Stand By' message flashed up again, before the room returned in more reasonable colours, a pale cream. Sat on one of the chairs, facing the camera, was a dark haired human male in the blue uniform of UESPA.
As the display settled down, he raised both hands to chest level, flat, with the palms facing down. "Khaa'li dorax za'roon." he said in near perfect Denobulan. The traveller is grateful for the welcome.
"I am Jonathan Archer, commanding officer of the United Earth Ship Enterprise."
Trex returned the traditional gesture of greeting. "Fado'run dorax ty'rath." he replied. Hospitality is a boon to both guest and self.
"It is an honour to meet you, Captain Archer. I am Trex, Governor of Herroton. To what do we owe this unexpected, but most welcome, visit?" Even as he spoke he cursed the crassness of his comment. By pointing out the unexpected nature of Enterprise's arrival, he implied it could potentially cause him problems. By stating it was welcome, he suggested nobility in himself for facing those problems without complaint. An experienced diplomat like Archer would not be fooled by such cheap stratagems. Worse yet, it was precisely the sort of thing Vrok would do.
Archer gave no sign of having noticed the implications, but that could just mean he played the diplomacy game well. "Governor. I apologise for our unscheduled entrance into sovereign Denobulan territory, and on behalf of United Earth I offer thanks for your kind permission to enter orbit over your world. We have some potentially important data that must be sent to Earth as rapidly as possible. Given the nature of the data, it must be directly transferred to the courier."
"Surely you don't think the Denobulans untrustworthy, Captain?" Trex asked, a wide smile indicating he spoke lightly.
Archer returned the smile, though as a human he could not match Trex for it's width. "Oh, I wouldn't say that. But if the data were to leak out, my superiors would not be pleased. If I had allowed an open transmission in this system, they would be investigating here most
thoroughly. And that would be no way to repay your hospitality."
With his peripheral vision Trex could see Tovan nodding: Archer's explanation made sense. "So. You are here for the courier then."
"That's right. Although...while we're here, I don't suppose there's any chance we could visit the colony? And the archeological site of course, it sounds fascinating."
"For what reason?" Trex asked, brow furrowed.
"Well a bit of shore leave is always welcome." Archer replied. "Also, simple curiosity. It's why we're out here, exploring the heavens. The desire to see something new. It's part of human nature. Some might say the best part."
"Curiosity." Trex repeated, reminded of the way Redmane the mahwee had looked round his office. "Well, that's understandable. I'm sure something can be arranged---" he spotted Tovan stiffening from the corner of his eye "---but I'm afraid I will have to put that one before the full council. I'm sure you appreciate a matter of this importance should only be decided when all those relevant have had their voices heard." Tovan visibly relaxed.
"Of course, of course." Archer nodded. "Having a horde of humans descend on your planet is not something to take lightly. Please, put it too your council. We will of course respect your decision. In the mean time, might I offer an invitation, to you and your colleagues? A formal dinner, our chef is exceptional. Followed by a guided tour of the Enterprise. We're rather proud of her,"
"A....guided tour of your ship? That is...most unexpected." He forced himself not to look directly at Tovan. Even so, he could easily make out the expression of surprise on the Commissioner's face. "I for one would enjoy dinner, and I'm sure there are those amongst my colleagues who would find a tour of your fine vessel to be of great interest. I'd have to put it to the council, of course."
"Of course. And we''ll have arrangements to make. I'll speak to my people, put the wheels in motion, as it were. So unless there's anything else that needs to be dealt with right now, I'll wish you a very good day. Thank you again Governor, and we'll be in touch."
"Thank you Captain, and good day." The screen went blank.
For a few moments there was silence. Then Tovan spoke. "Kralon has blessed us this day! We've actually been invited to look round their ship! I did not expect that."
"Oh, calm yourself Tovan. It's not as if they're going to be showing us around the most classified, secret parts. We'll probably see a shuttle bay, some corridors, and a dining hall."
"Don't be so miserable. Any data on alien ships is of use. High Command will be pleased with this, very pleased. Haven't you always wanted more resources, more funding for this place? Practically guaranteed now, I think."
Trex brightened. "You may be right. Yes. Yes. This could be the beginning of something big. You know, Tovan, I've got a feeling our luck may be about to change."