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Old May 9 2009, 03:22 PM   #1
Goliath
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May Challenge - ENT: "Countdown"

ENT: “Countdown”


T minus Ten. Earth. AD 2193.


The interviewer said: “Let’s talk about the Enterprise NX-01.”

Jonathan Archer nodded, smiled. “Sure,” he said.

“Who chose the name? For the ship?”

The smile faded. The retired Starfleet Admiral and former Federation President considered.

“I don’t know,” he said finally. “I don’t think anyone did. It was just… assumed.”

“Was it chosen to honor the crew of the XCV-330?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Starfleet and the UESPA were competitors, weren’t they?”

“Yes. But that didn’t matter, after what happened.”

“Did you ever meet Colonel Russell?”

“No,” said Archer. “I met his wife, once. Years later, on Vulcan. T’Pol introduced us.”

***

Nine. Earth. Republic of Guangdong. AD 2118.


“Threat,” the computer said. “Threat. Threat.”

In the cockpit of his fighter, Lieutenant William Russell tapped his radar with a gloved finger. The screen expanded to fill half the head-down display. It was full of target icons.

Holy shit, he thought.

“Ground Control,” he said, “this is Vampire. I have multiple threats inbound. Can you confirm?”

“Roger, Vampire. This is Ground Control. Confirm. The Chinese have broken the ceasefire. They are crossing the border in force. You are clear to engage. Weapons free.”

“Roger, Ground Control. Weapons free.” He thumbed a button on his joystick. “I am engaging ground targets.”

***

Eight. Vulcan. United Earth Embassy. AD 2124.


“You have been watching me,” said the beautiful Vulcan woman.

Russell smiled. “Was I that obvious?” he said.

“Yes,” she said. Then: “You are the new military attaché.”

“Captain William Russell,” he said.

“I know,” she said. “I have been watching you, too. My name is T’Tan.”

“Pleased to meet you.”

She looked at him appraisingly. “I am told you fought in a war. On Earth.”

Russell nodded. “Yes. The last one, hopefully.”

“Fascinating,” she said. “There has been no war on Vulcan for centuries.”

“I know,” he said. “Maybe someday we’ll be able to say that about Earth, too.”

***

Seven. Vulcan. AD 2126.


Russell stood stiffly in his dress uniform, sweating in the heat. T’Tan’s parents were seated before him: her father, Sulok; her mother, Iskel.

Russell cleared his throat. “Thank you for seeing me,” he said. “I…uh…”

“You wish to marry our daughter,” said Sulok.

“Yes,” Russell said. “If she’ll have me.”

Iskel raised an eyebrow. “Have you discussed this with her?”

“I…yes, ma’am. Of course.”

Sulok said: “Where do you plan to make your home?”

“On Earth. At least, at first. I’m transferring to the UESPA.”

The two Vulcans looked at each other, then back at Russell.

“You have our consent.”

***

Six. Earth. AD 2128


The Human doctor said: “I’m sorry, Major. There was nothing we could do.”

“I don’t understand,” said Russell. “They said the baby was developing normally. What happened?

“We are not certain,” said the Vulcan doctor. “There is much we do not understand about the physiology of Vulcan-Human hybrids.”

“Oh, my God,” said Russell. Then: “Can I see her?”

“Yes.”

He went into T’Tan’s room. From her bed, she turned to look at him, her face expressionless. She held up her hand, extending two fingers.

He touched her fingers with his own. Then he burst into tears.

“Please don’t,” she said.

***

Five. Solar System. AD 2133.


On the bridge of USS Columbia, T’Tan watched and waited as her husband prepared to make history.

“X-Ray Charlie Victor to Flight Control.”

“Roger,” said the Flight Controller, near where T’Tan stood. “Warp ring is active. Quantum singularity is nominal.”

“Okay, Flight Control.”

“Impulse engines armed,” said the Flight Controller. “Prepare for separation, on my mark. Three, two, one—mark.” The Columbia lurched.

“We have separation.”

“Roger.” Onscreen, the ringship test vehicle appeared, freed from its mother ship, accelerating on impulse, carrying William away.

The Vulcan closed her eyes.

“Prepare for warp speed, on my mark. Three, two, one—mark.”

***

Four. Earth. AD 2137.


Today, the United Earth Space Probe Agency announced that Colonel William Russell will command the latest Declaration-class starship, USS Enterprise, on its maiden voyage.

Four years ago, Colonel Russell piloted the test vehicle Independence, the first Earth ship equipped with Vulcan-type warp drive.

Speaking from the Warp Five Complex, Starfleet Lieutenant-Commander Jonathan Archer criticized the UESPA’s decision.

“Annular warp drives are a technological dead end,” he said. “Zephram Cochrane’s linear warp drive represents the future of spaceflight.”

Colonel Russell responded. “Annular warp drives are a proven technology. I am confident that, next year, the Enterprise will break the warp-two barrier.”

***

Three. Earth. AD 2193.


“How serious was the rivalry between the two programs?”

“Very serious,” Archer said. “We hated them: we thought they were wasting humanity’s time and resources, reinventing the wheel.”

He thought for a moment. “Looking back, we were pretty chauvinistic about it—racist, even. We called the Declarations ‘mules.’”

“Mules?”

“Half human, half alien. Sterile.”

“Did you know that Colonel Russell’s wife had miscarried?”

Archer looked pained. “Not then,” he said. “I read about it later, after she died.”

“Pause,” the interviewer said. Then: “Would you like me to take this part out, Mr. President?

“No,” said Archer. “Leave it in.”

***

Two. Earth. AD 2138.


“Are you ready, Colonel?”

“Just a minute,” said Russell. He looked at his wife, held up two fingers, and said: “Wish me luck?”

She touched his fingertips with her own. Then, surprising him, she leaned over, pressing her cheek against his. “Come back to me,” she said, softly, into his ear.

Where did that come from, he thought. When she straightened up, he smiled reassuringly. “Everything will be fine,” he said. “I’ll see you in a few days.”

She nodded. He looked around, and said, “Okay—suit me up.”

Later, he waved at her, one last time, from the airlock.

***

One. Solar System. USS Enterprise XCV-330. AD 2138.


“Warp One,” said the Pilot.

Russell nodded. “Navigation?”

“On course for Delta Pavonis,” the Navigator said.

“Engineering?”

“Stand by.”

Russell frowned. “Engineering, report,” he said.

“Engineering here. Sorry, Colonel—we were getting some anomalous readings from the quantum singularity. Everything’s normal now.”

“Mission Control,” said Russell, “did you copy that?”

“Roger, Enterprise. You are clear to accelerate.”

“Roger, Mission Control.” Russell turned to the Pilot. “Okay, Jennifer. Take us to Warp Two.”

The Pilot smiled. “Roger that.” She throttled up slowly. “Warp one point two…one point four…one point six…”

”Colonel,” said the Engineer, “The singularity…”

…and then, the ship imploded.

***

Zero. Earth. AD 2193.


“I saw it happen,” said Jonathan Archer. “I watched it live, at the Warp Five Complex. There was a flash of light, and then the XCV-330 was just…gone. We were stunned.”

“I’ll be honest. I wanted them to fail. We all did. But—not like that.”

“Anyway, that’s how the Enterprise NX-01 got its name.”

***

Earth. AD 2105.

“… and liftoff of the starship Yuri Gagarin!”

Eight year-old William Russell watched, open-mouthed, as the starship roared up into the sky on a pillar of fire.

Later, on the ride back to his grandparents’ house, he thought: someday, I’m going to fly in space!
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Last edited by Goalie Mask; May 10 2009 at 05:23 AM.
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Old May 9 2009, 07:00 PM   #2
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Re: May Challenge - ENT: "Countdown"

We've all met the heroes and pioneers who succeeded but you allow us a fascinating look at one that didn't. All written like a biography on speed.

Super-fast but also super-fun.

Great stuff from beginning to end.
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Old May 10 2009, 01:22 AM   #3
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Re: May Challenge - ENT: "Countdown"

Thanks!

And I swear--I wrote this before I saw the movie, this afternoon.

"Red matter," indeed.
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Old May 10 2009, 01:52 AM   #4
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Re: May Challenge - ENT: "Countdown"

Well done, sir! High speed and high impact. I especially liked Archer's self-admission of bitterness towards the Vulcan design, and his unintentionally hurtful nickname for it.
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Old May 10 2009, 02:13 AM   #5
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Re: May Challenge - ENT: "Countdown"

Ah, beautiful. And an extremely talented display of word-weaving, too. Excellent use of the countdown theme.
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Old May 10 2009, 04:26 AM   #6
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Re: May Challenge - ENT: "Countdown"

Wow...VERY well done for all the reasons already stated above.

One thing I wish I could have seen more of, though: it seemed very, very swift how Russell fell in love with T'Tan. I would've enjoyed more insight into what it was that really made them bond with each other. But then I'm a hopeless sap.
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Old May 10 2009, 05:20 AM   #7
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Re: May Challenge - ENT: "Countdown"

^Thanks, everyone.

Nerys Ghemor wrote: View Post
One thing I wish I could have seen more of, though: it seemed very, very swift how Russell fell in love with T'Tan.
Did it? Two years passed, if you check the dates.

I would've enjoyed more insight into what it was that really made them bond with each other. But then I'm a hopeless sap.
I hear you. If I'd had one more "count," I could have covered that in more detail.

But then I would have had to start at "T minus eleven," which just didn't seem right.
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Old May 10 2009, 05:23 AM   #8
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Re: May Challenge - ENT: "Countdown"

Camelopard wrote: View Post
^Thanks, everyone.

Nerys Ghemor wrote: View Post
One thing I wish I could have seen more of, though: it seemed very, very swift how Russell fell in love with T'Tan.
Did it? Two years passed, if you check the dates.
I did see the dates--but something as groundbreaking as what may be one of the first Vulcan-Terran marriages (yes, I know Trip and T'Pol had a relationship too) kinda...feels like it needs more detail because of its significance--an opportunity to really savor it.

But like I said...I'm a sap.
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Old May 10 2009, 05:50 AM   #9
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Re: May Challenge - ENT: "Countdown"

Nerys Ghemor wrote: View Post
I did see the dates--but something as groundbreaking as what may be one of the first Vulcan-Terran marriages (yes, I know Trip and T'Pol had a relationship too) kinda...feels like it needs more detail because of its significance--an opportunity to really savor it.
Hmm. I see what you're saying. If I ever revisit this idea and write a "full-length" version, I will definitely keep that in mind.

Your comments are especially interesting because I wound up focusing a lot more on Russell and T'Tan's relationship than I intended at first.

This was originally just supposed to provide an element of contrast with Archer: Archer the Vulcanophobe v. Russell the Vulcanophile. But it grew quite a bit in the telling.

And this created problems, as well as opportunities, because the story's really supposed to be about the XCV-330: what it was, and why we hear so little about it.

Ultimately, it became a story about the contingency of history. In addition to the "lost Enterprise," we have the "lost hero" and the "lost space agency"--a whole other path that the future history of Star Trek might have taken, if not for a single accident.
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Old May 10 2009, 05:54 AM   #10
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Re: May Challenge - ENT: "Countdown"

Maybe you can write another story someday.
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Old May 10 2009, 06:03 AM   #11
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Re: May Challenge - ENT: "Countdown"

Very well done, and in a way I probably would have never thought of myself. But hey, thats why the fan fic forum is here right? so we can learn from each other. This one is going to be hard to beat for my vote.
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Old May 10 2009, 09:48 PM   #12
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Re: May Challenge - ENT: "Countdown"

A great story with a clever device - I liked the countdown theme. I'm not a big Archer fan, but I thought you captured him well in this story. Nice homage to the XCV Enterprise.
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Old May 10 2009, 10:57 PM   #13
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Re: May Challenge - ENT: "Countdown"

That was very well done! Wow. Great concept. You packed a lot of emotional punch and well developed characters in only a few paragraphs. I wish Star Trek Brave New Worlds was still around. I think that entry would've gotten published.
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Old May 11 2009, 01:01 AM   #14
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Re: May Challenge - ENT: "Countdown"

^Thanks guys!

TheLoneRedshirt wrote: View Post
I'm not a big Archer fan...
Neither am I, to tell the truth. For me, ENT was probably the biggest disappointment in the history of Trek. So much potential--wasted.
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Old May 11 2009, 01:56 AM   #15
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Re: May Challenge - ENT: "Countdown"

Camelopard wrote: View Post
^Thanks guys!

TheLoneRedshirt wrote: View Post
I'm not a big Archer fan...
Neither am I, to tell the truth. For me, ENT was probably the biggest disappointment in the history of Trek. So much potential--wasted.
And you did a wonderful story with that character...

Now to read some of the other entries!
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