An alternative version of 'Enterprise'. It's based on a variety of ideas I've had, plus some suggested by other users of this BBS, on how the prequel series could have been done differently. C&C gratefully received! Place de la Concorde, Paris, France. 14th April, 2151. Captain Jonathan Archer, of the United Earth Space Probe Agency, stepped out of the shuttlepod and into a maelstrom of shouted questions and camera flashes. It appeared that half the reporters in western Europe were gathered around the landing pad. It was impossible to make out what any of them were saying. 'This isn't the reception I'd expected' he thought to himself. He had no idea why UESPA Director Forrest had summoned him so abruptly. During the shuttle trip he'd speculated that some politician or other had raised an objection to the Enterprise's mission, and that he'd been called in to give a rousing speech about the need for deep space exploration. That had happened before. But there had never been this much press interest. Something else unusual. He noticed for the first time just how many other shuttlepods and transports were parked nearby. A couple more UESPA ones, several expensive looking civilian vehicles, and at least half a dozen police flyers. Most ominously, squatting like a malevolent toad, a Beowulf class landing craft, camo coloured, with the markings of the United Earth Military Authority. Archer shuddered as he saw it. Against his wishes, two of those craft had been assigned to Enterprise, and he found the brutal lethality of the design disturbing. A group of security personnel pushed their way through the shouting crowd towards him. In the normal state of affairs, Archer recalled, they were quiet, unobtrusive, and polite. Right now they were bulldozering through the reporters, brandishing their night sticks aggressively. "Captain Archer?" their sergeant asked as she reached him. She had to bellow to make herself heard. He nodded. Rather than shout further, she indicated that he follow her. The group forced their way back through the crowd and into the building. After the hullabaloo outside, Archer thought himself momentarily deaf. He shook his head to get rid of the ringing in his ears, and looked round. The lobby was large and well appointed. It was also unoccupied, apart from at least three times the normal level of security personnel, all of whom, he noticed, were regarding him suspiciously. "What's going on?" he asked the sergeant. "Couldn't say sir. May I see your identification please?" Bemused, he handed his ID card over. She took it without a word and studied it intently. It was then handed over to another guard, occupying the seat where a receptionist would normally sit. It was slid into a computer port for detailed analysis. At the same time three guards came forward and proceeded to scan Archer with various pieces of equipment. Apparently satisfied they nodded to their sergeant, who, Archer noticed, had been keeping one hand on the handle of her holstered sidearm. At the same time the ID card was returned. "Sorry for the inconvenience." she said, sounding not sorry at all "I'm going to have to ask you to leave your communicator, computer pad, and any electronic device here at reception. You can collect them on the way out." "But I might need them. If I've been asked to..." She cut him off. "Sorry sir. No one is too proceed past this point without full compliance with these regulations." He took a deep breath, let it out slowly. Clearly whatever was going on was big, much bigger than a politician getting cold feet about the Enterprise's first mission. And he wouldn't find out standing here in the lobby. Five minutes later, sans everything that had been in his pockets except his ID card, he was shown into a secure briefing room. It was packed. Mostly civilians, chattering nervously amongst themselves. The bulk of the rest were Military Authority, sitting quietly. Archer noticed with great interest that that their holsters were empty, and none of them looked happy. Glancing around he spotted a small group from his service, UESPA, including Director Forrest. The Director beckoned to him, gesturing to the single unoccupied chair near the back of the group. As Archer sat he asked his neighbours if they knew what was going on. They didn't. He was just leaning forward to ask Forrest when the lights dimmed. In the hush that followed the public address system came to life. "Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of The United Earth." Everyone sprang to their feet as President Chandraskar stepped onto the podium. Even before he had turned to face the audience the PA spoke again. "Ladies and Gentlemen, the Prime Minister of The United Earth". As PM Glover took her place, Archer's mind whirled. For the head of state and the head of government to be present, this must be of great importance. 'And to think that an hour ago all I was concerned about was whether we'd have enough cheese for a six month voyage!' "Be seated." the President said. "I realise you are all very busy, so I'll get to the point. This morning, at approximately 0600 hours, the chief engineer on United Earth One decided to run an unscheduled test, a static warp field test I think it's called, on the ships engines. Forty five minutes into the test, a series of explosions occurred throughout..." He was interrupted by sudden exclamations from about half the crowd. Archer recognized Lindel, head of the company that constructed United Earth One, leaping to his feet in shock. Questions and enquiries came so fast and loud that Archer was momentarily transported back to the landing pad and the crush of reporters. The President waited for silence, gesturing for those standing to sit. When order resumed he continued. "There can be no doubt that this was deliberate sabotage. Forensic investigators have discovered chemical residue from..." he consulted his notes "...from Composition Nine plastic explosive, at the damaged areas. C-9, that's military grade, isn't it?" The last remark was directed at General Kaplasky, the highest ranking member of the UE Military Authority present. She looked uncomfortable at the question. " Mister President, C-9 is used by the military, yes. But UEMA is not the only user." she was quick to add. "There are numerous uses in construction, mining, industry..." "Calm yourself General, I asked for informational purposes only. Mr Lindel, would you be so kind as to give me your professional opinion?" The President pointed a remote control to the large display screen at the front of the room. A schematic of United Earth One appeared, surrounded by the swirling lines used to visually represent subspace contours. Archer recognised the field dynamics of a static test: he'd ran six of them on the Enterprise in the last month. Lindel, a short, slightly chubby, balding man, stood. He looked uncomfortable to be the centre of attention. When asked by the President, he confirmed that this was, indeed, the standard field pattern for a static test. "And what would the effect be," The President asked gently, "if these six areas became damaged?" The display changed, flashing red lights at critical points. "Oh, the warp field would collapse, sir, but nothing too critical. I'd say we can have those systems repaired, or replaced, inside...well, a month at the most. Maybe two weeks, sir." He looked pleased with himself. The President nodded "Thank you Mr Lindel, you've been most informative. Oh, one last thing. I have been informed on this matter by my own people, but I would like your opinion. Could you tell us of the probable effect, if these explosions had occurred whilst United Earth One had been travelling faster than light?" Lindel thought about this for a moment. As the answer came he went very pale, eyes protruding, jaw sagging. "It would..." he stammered, "...the ship...ripped to shreds..." "Thank you Mr. Lindel, that will be all. So I think we can say, then, that this was not merely sabotage, but attempted assassination. As I'm sure you all know, in two days time I am due to travel to the Rexus system, to meet with the Vulcan Premier and finalise the details of our trade agreement. Had the explosions occurred in transit, as they were clearly planned to do, well..." He left it at that. No more needed to be said. Archer repressed a shudder at the implications. There were many opposed to the trade agreements, and of course anti alien groups like Terra Prime were always using violence to try and get their way, but the idea that explosives could be smuggled aboard the Presidential vessel was most disturbing. pretty sophisticated bombs too. They must have been fitted with sensors capable of detecting the warp field, and detonating after a pre-set period. It was only good fortune that they had been activated by the static test. He was considering the matter further when he realized that Director Forrest was speaking. "...identifying the culprits is a matter for the security services, whom I'm sure are most capable. I may, however, be able to offer a solution to your transportation problems. The Enterprise has completed all it's trials and been certified space worthy. It could be used.." "Now just a minute!" bawled General Kaplasky. "The Enterprise is a UEMA ship, not a..." "General!" The President interrupted. "Kindly allow Director Forrest to finish. Director, please continue." "Thank you sir. Now, as the General pointed out, Enterprise was developed by the UEMA. However, they have most generously placed that ship at UESPA's disposal, for purposes of deep space exploration and research." He looked pointedly at Kaplasky, who squirmed in her chair. "We recognise the value of exploration to the United Earth, and are happy to assist our colleagues in UESPA." The last few words were forced out between clenched teeth. Archer suppressed a smirk. Generosity and assistance had nothing to do with it. UEMA had designed the Declaration class as a pure warship. But the project went massively over budget. So UEMA had come cap in hand to UESPA for the finances and resources needed. As a result of the deal, UESPA had gotten the Enterprise, last of the production run. Enterprise was less well armed than her sister ships, although still carried far more firepower than Archer liked. He was an explorer, not a soldier. Still, many of the weapons ports had been replaced by sensor arrays. Weapons magazines had been refitted as state of the art laboratories. He was satisfied that the ship could do her job. Director Forrest gestured to him. "Allow me to introduce Captain Jonathan Archer, commanding officer of the Enterprise." Feeling slightly nervous, Archer stood. "Mr President. Madam Prime Minister." For the first time this meeting, Prime Minister Glover spoke. "Jonathan Archer? Made first contact with the Denobulans?" "Yes Ma'am." "Ah, I read the transcripts of your initial meeting. Seems the diplomat training paid off there. Good work, good work." "Thank you Ma'am". The President regarded him carefully. "So Captain, obviously there is a lot too arrange, but can you, in principle at least, transport me to the rendezvous?" Archer nodded slowly. "Mr President, if you need to get to Rexus, the Enterprise can get you there. There are some matters that need to be sorted out first, but we'll be ready for your departure in two days." "Excellent, excellent. Unless there are any objections, or alternatives...? No? Then we shall make the arrangements. Might I enquire though as to the nature of the matters that need to be resolved?" "Personnel matters, sir. As part of our scientific research mission, we are taking a group of civilian scientist with us. Most have already arrived, but our chief scientist, Professor Partridge, will be joining us tomorrow." PM Glover raised a surprised eyebrow. "The Professor Partridge? I can never make up my mind as to whether she's a good role model for young women or not. Still, she knows her stuff." Archer smiled "Yes Ma'am. We're lucky to have her on board." "I expect most of the male crew feel the same way." Archer said "Apart from Partridge, we have just a couple of UESPA people left to join us. However, under the terms of our agreement with the UEMA, we have to have some of their people in certain jobs. We've got gunnery crews, and Marines, ", his tone indicated disapproval, "but we still need a first officer and a chief helmsman. Admiral Kelley told me he'd found a suitable candidate for the first job, but the helmsman he'd lined up was badly injured in a car accident last week. So we're looking for a replacement..." "Oh, don't worry, Captain Archer." General Kaplasky smiled like a crocodile. "I've got just the fellow for you."