OK, I've finally stopped mucking about and got on with some more writing. Those of you who have read my stuff before know what to expect. For new readers (I'll be lucky), this is basically what Enterprise would have been like if I'd had been in charge. Some things are the same, some slightly different. And some very different. Hopefully you should be able to pick it up without trouble, but if you want a look at my earlier efforts, they're here: http://www.trekbbs.com/showthread.php?t=90084 and here:http://www.trekbbs.com/showthread.php?t=128616 Enjoy! *** The man ran. Running was something he was used to. He'd gone to college on an athletics scholarship, earned his place on the track and field. That had been a long time ago, and his work had been considerably more sedentary since then, but he tried to stay in good shape. He walked from home to office in all but the most inclement weather, and participated in the regular fun runs at least twice a month. This run wasn't fun. Anything but. Instead of the heady rush of endorphins and sense of achievement, this was motivated by fear, a soul devouring terror. His lungs burned, his heart pounded. Not too far, he told himself, I'm nearly at the main tunnel. Be safe there... Even as he thought that, the conviction arose that he was lost, that he'd taken a wrong turning. The network of tunnels and caverns down here was positively labyrinthine. Standard procedure dictated one should always carry an inertial mapper and distress beacon whenever one entered the complex. His were in his briefcase, which had slipped from his panicked fingers when he began his desperate flight. Now he was relying on memory alone, and wasn't sure just how trust worthy that was under the circumstances. It would help if he could get a good look at his surroundings. Unfortunately the lighting system they'd installed down here took a few seconds to come up to full strength after detecting movement within range, by which time he'd already passed. So as he ran all he could see was just dimly illuminated by the lights behind him. He could take a glance over a shoulder, hoping to see some familiar patten in the hieroglyphs on the walls....But no. The floor was uneven, crooked. To look behind whilst running at such breakneck speeds was risky. He could trip. And then... That was the other reason. What was behind him. What was behind him. If he turned, he might see it, a good look rather than the glimpse he'd gotten earlier. He could hear it's gibbering, caterwauling cry as it scampered along in his path, the patter of it's feet as it followed in his wake. Suddenly he realised where he was. The intersection up ahead, turn left there and he'd be almost at the main entrance. There was always a guard on duty there, not so much for security, but to provide a first response if anyone ran into trouble down here. But the guard would be armed, something the security people had insisted on. I'd argued against that at the time, didn't want guns and jack boots on an archaeological dig. Boy, will I swallow my words! Abruptly the running man was struck by a conviction that his pursuer was playing with him, tormenting him, and that on the very verge of safety he would be mercilessly struck down. Even as a sob of fear escaped him, he reached down into his self resolve, drawing forth the strength for one last desperate dash. Skidding round the corner, he gave it everything he had left. Ten, twenty, thirty metres, and the tunnel spread out to a vast high cavern, eye searingly bright after the twilight of the tunnels. The lights here were kept permanently on, there was usually someone working here. Not now though, there were no signs of life. The main door, on the opposite side of the cavern, was shut. Next to it lay the small low shed like structure where the guards usually spent their shifts. He ran as best he could towards it, zig-zagging between the various containers that were scattered all around. As he did so he noticed something... The sound. The creature's hideous cry. It was different, quieter. No, not quieter in itself, but more distant. Whatever it was that had been following him, it hadn't entered the cavern. It was still back there in the tunnels. The man emitted a choked sound, half laugh, half sob of relief. He risked a glance back, now there was some distance between them, and caught a fleeting glimpse of some dark shape lurking at the tunnel mouth. It was hooting and gesticulating wildly, but seemed in no hurry to come any further. The running man slowed his pace. He was nearing the guard's shack, and exhaustion was taking the remains of his strength. Just a little further to go and then he could----His foot slipped. He sprawled helplessly against the nearest container, scrabbling onto it for balance as he spat out a curse, and just managed to avoid falling further. Panicked, he looked back at the tunnel, half expecting to see his pursuer halfway towards him. But no, the dark shape had advanced no further. He took a deep, shuddering breath to steady himself, and glanced down to see what he had slipped in. Rivulets of a greyish brown liquid ran sluggishly down the uneven floor to pool in a slight depression. He looked upstream, to find the source of the liquid. Some barrel or container, leaking due to improper storage? No.... A body. The liquid was blood, draining from what was left of the security guard. He was a Denobulan, though whatever had happened to him had caused such disfigurement, such dismemberment, that it was only the colour of the blood that made identification of the species possible, He looked like he'd been torn apart. The man gagged, the urge to vomit at the sight of such carnage threatening to overwhelm him. Every instinct screamed at him to get away from the body. He fought it down, reaching for the holster on what was left of the belt. He'd never fired a gun, but it would be some comfort to....The holster was empty. He looked around, scanning the ground nearby for the weapon. Nothing. And then he realized the distant shape at the tunnel mouth was gone. A flicker of motion amongst the containers about halfway along. His pursuer was now in the cavern with him! He turned and staggered as fast as he could to the guard shack. He could hear the creature's soft padding feet approach as it followed him. By some miracle he managed to reach the shack, yanking the door shut behind him. There was a ferocious Claaang! as something hit the door, shaking the shack. He fumbled desperately at the simple mechanical lock, fastening it just as the handle began to rattle. He stepped back in shock. It understands doors! He looked round. The shack was rectangular, the door at one of the narrow ends. It was dark inside, the only light coming through a small window on one side. Transparent aluminium, so it should withstand the creature. All the same, better to stay away from there. If he remembered rightly, there was a communications point at the far end, and a weapons locker too. Gasping for breath, he staggered in that direction. As he did so, two thoughts struck him. First, the lighting should have come on in here by now. And second, the guard had been dead before his pursuer had got to the cavern. And as his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he realised there was something in the shack with him, something large and dark and moving towards him... There was no one present to hear the man's scream. And even if there had been, it would have been drowned out by two inhuman, hideous voices crying out in delirious triumph. *** The Declaration Class Cruiser was Earth's first true Starship design: a deep space vessel capable of long range, long duration missions with minimal support. Designed by the United Earth Military Authority as a pure warship, it was the most advanced, ambitious project Earth's fleet had ever attempted. Too ambitious. Over budget and behind schedule, the project faltered, stumbled, nearly failed. UEMA turned reluctantly to a rival organisation, the United Earth Space Probe Agency, for the extra funding and resources needed to complete construction. UESPA agreed, at a cost. The last ship of the production run would be modified, outfitted for scientific research, and turned over to UESPA during times of peace. This is the story of that ship. Crewed by a mix of UESPA, UEMA, and even civilian specialists, it's mission to explore and defend the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. UES Enterprise. Entering Epsilon Delta system. November 26th, 2151. The howl of the warp engines gradually faded as the ship returned to sub-light speed. Emergency sirens and flashing alert lights were conspicuous in their absence. Captain Jonathan Archer let out the breath he'd been holding in relief, allowing himself to relax. "Now that all sounds like it should. Hoshi, get status reports from all departments please, start with engineering. Though I imagine Trip would be on the blower if there was anything wrong." At the communications console Lt. Hoshi Sato gave a nod of acknowledgement. "Yes sir." Archer tuned to the navigation station. "Haleh, can you get an exact fix on our position?" Lt. Moshiri was already checking her instruments. "Ah, right where we should be Captain. More precisely, we are within one standard deviation of our planned arrival point." The captain raised an impressed eyebrow. "Close enough that any apparent difference from where we wanted to be might be down to our sensors being not quite precise enough to nail down out exact position. Considering the distance travelled, that's one heck of an achievement. Great flying, Travis." "Just a walk in the park, Captain." drawled the helmsman, Lt. Mayweather. He managed, almost entirely, to keep the smug tone from his voice. He was one of the best pilots in the fleet, and he knew it. "Captain, I have those status reports." Hoshi said. "All departments report condition green. The chief engineer would like to discuss warp field stability with you, at your convenience." "Hmm, I'm sure he didn't phrase it quite like that." Archer said wryly. Hoshi grinned. "No sir. He said 'I can yack with him when he's good and ready'." "Thanks Hoshi. OK. Haleh, at full impulse how long will it take to reach ED-19? What do the Denobulans call it? Herrodon?" "Herroton sir. At full impulse, let me see, we are approximately forty light minutes out, so I'd say just over four hours sir." Archer nodded. "Alright, lay in a course, pass it to the helm station. Travis, soon as you've got it, sound the manoeuvre alarm then pour on the coals." He sat back in his chair. "Now, the important bit. Is there any sign of a courier ship in this system?" His comment was aimed to the officer at the sensor station, but the answer came from Hoshi Sato. "Captain, I'm picking up the pre-launch countdown of a Mercury class courier. Triangulation indicates an orbit around Herroton." "Oh, hell!" He leapt from his chair, passing rapidly to the communications station. At this distance, the countdown signal was more than half an hour old. The courier they had been hoping to reach may have already left the system. "How long left?" Hoshi raised a hand to her earpiece, listening intently. "Two days, nine hours, nineteen minutes. Looks like our mad dash to get here on time wasn't necessary after all." "Yeah, but if we'd got here to find the courier had just left, that would have been somewhat annoying. OK, signal the courier, tell them we're sending a data package. Then---" He was interrupted by a slightly alarmed voice. "Captain!" After a moments pause, he turned round. "Is there a problem, Maria?" Commander Maria Hernandez, the Enterprise's first officer, had lifted herself halfway out of her chair at the gunnery station. "I'm sorry to interrupt, sir, but I must ask, were you planning to send the data package by transmission?" "That was my plan, yes commander." he said, holding onto the console for support as a series of high pitched chimes heralded Enterprise's acceleration to full impulse. She stood carefully. "I must caution against it in the strongest possible terms. While we currently have peaceful relations with the Denobulans, we should always be cautious about the dissemination of potentially sensitive data. We don't know who might be listening in." Archer rubbed the back of his neck in thought. "And problems with the warp drive on Earth's newest class of vessel could be considered sensitive." On the last mission Enterprise's warp field had de-phased critically. It was a problem potentially endemic to the entire Declaration class. If so, those ships would be effectively crippled. The engineering and science teams had been working together on a solution. Archer wanted that information sent back to the Admiralty as soon as possible, hence the need to reach a system with a regular courier service to Earth. "OK, I see your point. Let's get over to them, and give them the data personally." "Yes sir. I'll start work on a secure cache as soon as my duties allow. It will be ready before the courier departs." For a moment he considered telling her no, there were plenty of officers capable of doing that task, she didn't have to try to do everything herself. But then he reminded himself that she would insist in doing this. It was the only way she'd be satisfied that the cache were truly secure. It wasn't that she didn't fully trust anyone. Actually, no, he told himself, it is that she doesn't fully trust anyone. "Alright. Carry on. But as we've got a couple of days, there's no hurry. In the meantime, I'll go see what Trip wants. You have the bridge, commander."