OK, just a quick bit for now. UES Enterprise. Orbiting Herroton. 28th November 2151. "Now if you would all follow me please...up these stairs. They're very steep, so please take care. I recommend you hold on to the railings with both hands." Despite his warning captain Archer used only one hand to steady himself. Porthos was tucked tightly under the other arm. The little dog had previously taken a tumble down the steps---fortunately a short distance, and he wasn't hurt---so Archer didn't want to take chances. He'd also instructed his officers to intersperse themselves at regular intervals amongst the guests, to help out if there was any trouble. He emerged at his destination through a wide trap door, the huge, thick hatch held open by heavy duty pistons. It was located at one end of a short corridor. There was a door on either side, marked with the symbols for male and female lavatories. They were also labelled in a variety of languages. Denobulan was not one of them, but per his instructions Sato had added the appropriate words via sticky labels. At the opposite end of the corridor was a standard hatch, propped open. He put Porthos down and gestured to Trex, first up the stairs after him. "If you would care to go through, Governor." He followed him through, trying to gauge the Governor's reaction. The room beyond was reactively long for the Enterprise, with quite a high ceiling. Rather than the customary straight lines and right angles, here the walls curved up and over, giving the room a lozenge shape. The walls were made of meter wide featureless plates, dark grey in hue, joined to each other by chromed struts. Directly to Archer's left there was a small food preparation area, it's surface covered with many trays carrying plates under plastic covers, to prevent them going cold. To the right was a bar with a variety of beverages. Several drinks had already been prepared. Half a dozen smartly dressed crewmen stood ready to act as waiters for the meal. Towards the front of the room lay a raised area with several comfortable chairs and a small, old fashioned, optical telescope. The presence of the latter seemed incongruous, given the utter absence of any window or port hole. A handful of tables, normally spread out around the room, had been pushed together to form one long table with enough room for all of the party. Archer cast an eye over it critically, ensuring that everything was in place. Denobulan cutlery was rather different from that used by humans, but the guys in the workshop had been able to run something up to his specifications. He'd given the first set manufactured a quick try out earlier, and it seemed to be as he remembered. As Major Reed, bringing up the rear, came through the hatch, Archer nodded to Crewman Daniels at the bar, who started to hand out the drinks. "Ladies and gentlemen, I hope you've found the tour so far to be interesting---" there was a general murmur of assent "---and I also hope you've worked up an appetite. Chef has prepared a variety of courses for us. Some are delicacies from Earth, but he's also turned his hand to several Denobulan recipes. Granted we don't have access to the correct ingredients, but I'm rather intrigued to see exactly what he has come up with. And I can't think of a better place to partake than this, my favourite part of the Enterprise." Some of the guests looked slightly bemused by that. There didn't seem to be anything of great interest here. Archer smiled, and waited for a moment, letting them wonder. When the time felt right he gestured to Crewman Jacobs, stood next to a control panel. Jacobs saluted, then touched the appropriate controls. The lights dimmed, slowly as to not alarm anyone. Gradually, the grey wall plates began to fade from view. Soon they were utterly transparent. Were it not for the chrome struts, it almost seemed as if they stood unprotected upon the outer hull of the Enterprise, the long shaft of the primary hull jutting forward ahead of them, the toroidal ring of the secondary hull half filling the sky like a giant metal rainbow behind them. And to the left, as the ship was orientated, the globe of Herroton itself, inky black save for an illuminated crescent edge. There were gasps and exclamations of joy and admiration from the guests, and even a smattering of applause, the sort made by people trying not to spill their drinks. Archer waited until he had their attention again. "Ladies and gentlemen." He held his glass aloft. "To Denobula, and to Herroton colony!" The drinking of toasts was a custom shared by the Denobulan people. Trex held up his own glass. "To Earth, and the UES Enterprise!" They drank. The humans present had been given champagne. Archer knew from experience that Denobulans had no taste for sparkling beverages, as the bubbles irritated their sensitive nasal passages. He did however know of a suitable substitute. "Ah, now this is rather pleasant." Commissioner Tovan said, rolling the remains of his drink round the bottom of the glass. "Brings a warmth to the bones. What is it?" "Apple schnapps. I'm glad you enjoy it. We've got a little bit more, if you'd care for it." Following the Enterprise's first mission there had been a few changes of crew. One of those departing had left quite a stockpile of the drink on board, although thanks to administrative error this hadn't been discovered until after the second mission was under way. It was, he thought, the sort of thing Denobulans would appreciate, and was pleased to see he'd been right. "I would indeed, thank you." Tovan gestured around them. "So. This room. Not standard for a Declaration class ship, am I right?" "No," Archer said, beckoning Daniels to refill Tovan's glass, "the observation dome is unique to the Enterprise." Tovan nodded slowly. "Now we seem to be located outside the main hull...and that flight of stairs looked like it was re-purposed from a loading tube..." Archer cringed inwardly. Most of Tovan's questions so far had taken a decidedly martial direction, and he could anticipate what was coming next. "...so I'd say that on other ships of this type, there'd be some sort of torpedo or missile launcher located here. Am I right? Given the width of the tube not your usual anti-ship weaponry, I'd say. Orbital bombardment weapons, perhaps?" "That's right." Archer admitted reluctantly. "There's no need for them on our mission, so the mechanisms were replaced by improved sensors, and this lounge. You've seen our main science labs. They're located in what would be the missile bays. Ah! Malcolm! Now's your chance." "Sir? a baffled Reed asked. He'd been talking to Sato when Archer suddenly singled him out. "Governor Trex informs me that the Commissioner here is a veteran of the Denobulan-Antaran conflicts. Now I know you've studied the official histories, but didn't you want to ask a few questions from some one who was there?" This was, in fact, a massive and rather desperate bluff on the Captain's part. He really couldn't face any more of Tovan's questioning, and getting him to talk shop with another soldier seemed the best way to distract him. He had no real idea if Reed had any interest in, or indeed knowledge of, that particular conflict, but it seemed a likely gamble. Reed stood stock still for a moment, and Archer thought he'd miscalculated. Fortunately the marine seemed to snap into life. "Right. Yes, right. Right. Yes. I, ah, I've been meaning to...yes. Yes that's it. The standard Defence Force carbine. Did you find that the plasma dissipation past a hundred or so metres was a significant drawback?" "Ah, you'd think so wouldn't you, you'd think so. As it happens though most of our engagements took place...." As Tovan droned on, Archer took a step back and let out a soft sigh of relief. He offered a quick mouthed 'thank you' to Reed, who apparently was so caught up in the Commissioner's explanations he didn't notice it. Well, at least those two would be happy together, Archer thought. He realized Trex was watching him. The Governor smiled widely and lifted his glass in salute at his adroit deflection of Tovan's questioning. Archer raised his own glass back. He looked around, satisfied at the way everyone was mingling. It was what he'd hoped for. "Captain?" said Sato, approaching. She kept her voice low and she sounded troubled. "What's up Hoshi?" She hesitated. "Sir, it's just that... I've looked at the place settings and...they've got me sat next to Dr Soong. I'd really rather not be near him, sir. My country was hit bad in the Eugenics War, and I'm very uncomfortable with supporters of Augmentation." Lots of countries suffered in that conflict, but it wouldn't help to point that out. "Well, we originally planned to have the Professor sit there, but considering how the reception went, I thought it wise to move her away from him. Sorry Hoshi, I should have consulted with you first. Let's check with Trip and Malcolm, see if either of them will swap with you." She sounded relieved "Thank you sir." Archer nodded, and surreptitiously ran a finger under his collar. Despite what Hernandez might think, he also found dress uniform constricting. He just hid it better. As if summoned by his thoughts, the XO appeared at the entrance to the lounge. "Captain, sorry we're late. The Professor insisted on giving me her life story before agreeing to apologise." "What absolute poppycock!" Partridge exclaimed, bursting into the room. "You held me captive until I divulged my secrets. We all know the deep envy you hold for me Maria, and your desire to absorb every scintilla of data about my magnificent and wondrous life borders upon the obsessional. Quite understandable really." Perhaps in recollection of her earlier actions several of the guests had drawn back nervously at her entrance. They were not reassured when one finger flashed out to point, almost accusingly, at the man she had struck. "Doctor Arik Soong! Yeah, that whole punching you in the face business? Yeah, err, sorry about that. I was a bit...tense." Doctor Soong wore a sticking plaster over the bridge of his nose. The skin around it was discoloured, and dried blood flecked at his nostrils. Despite this he grinned back at her. "No need to apologise Polly, I quite understand." They started talking. To Archer's trained eye there still seemed to be a lot of 'tension' around Partridge. Whatever had worked her up clearly wasn't a simple matter. But for now at least the matter was in hand. The guests seemed to relax a little too, and the conversation resumed. They were still rather cautious though, as evidenced by the way they all looked round nervously when Partridge piped up. "Hoshi, I couldn't ask an enormous favour, could I? I notice you're sat next to Arik. Could I swap with you? We've got so much to catch up on!" "Sure thing Polly!" said a happy sounding Hoshi. "Splendid!" Archer glanced at his watch, then over at Jacobs questioningly. The crewman spoke into the intercom, listened carefully to the answer, then gave Archer a confirming nod. The captain walked up to the head of the table and picked up a spoon, which he rang against his glass for attention. "Ladies and gentlemen. Our dinner is ready, so if you care to take your places, we can begin."