The Shuttlepod landed with a thump, skidding along the muddy ground on the planet- Trip almost lost his balance but managed to stay steady, opening the door as soon as it was safe to do so. Captain Archer turned off the controls and turned round in his seat. 'Now remember what we're here to do?' he asked lightly, standing up himself and walking to the door. It was always good to go over a plan, no matter how simple.
'Aye, Sir- pick up some residue from that volcano, and try and find survivors.' Trip answered in a sombre voice, nodding his head.
'Good- we shouldn't need to use any breathing apparatus….the atmosphere is good enough to breathe normally.' He replied- the wind levels of the planet meant that the ash cloud formed from the erupting volcano was quickly neutralised and wiped from ground level.
'Ok Cap'n.' Trip muttered, stepping outside the Pod and looking around.
Two days before, they had come onto the planet face to look at the huge, beautifully carved cliffs- some had been carved to show the inhabitant's history, another looked like a calendar, and another that Hoshi had said was their Holy Scriptures. Just before they had a chance to take a closer look, however, the volcano had erupted with more force than was expected, leaving them with no choice but to abandon the mission and get back up to Enterprise.
They hadn't even had a chance to meet the locals, something that Archer had been very eager to do. Not much was written about their species, even in the Vulcan Database, and he was excited to talk with these people, to get to know them a little better.
The two men stepped forwards- Archer breathed in deeply, scrunching his nose up at the smell. 'A little sulphur in the air,' he noted, shrugging. 'Shouldn't be too much of a problem.'
'What do you spose' happened to the locals? Did they die?' Trip asked as they walked along.
'I don't know.' The Captain replied. 'The volcano had long been dormant, as far as T'Pol could tell from the scanner…..they must have known about its power, or at least should have been even a little prepared for it.'
Trip nodded, sighing under his breath. He hoped that they found someone- hopefully not all of them were dead. 'How many inhabitants were on this planet?'
'Oh, at least three thousand, maybe more.' The Captain sighed, shaking his head a little. He caught the look on the face of his engineer and friend- a fleeting panicked look, coupled with concern. 'Don't worry; I'm sure we'll find someone.' He reassured him, even though they couldn't see any living thing in range; the waves of chemicals and dust from the erupting volcano had rendered their bio scanner obsolete for a few hours until it cleared- they would just have to hunt out survivors the old fashioned way.
'Yeah….hope you're right….' Trip muttered as they continued walking. The planet was- or used to be- full of luscious green vegetation and crops. But now all that was left was a sludge of ash and cooling lava.
The ground still sizzled a bit as they walked through the debris; they were heading towards what looked like a settlement of tin cottages and buildings. That was as good a place to start as any.
'T'Pol and Malcolm will monitor the air levels from Enterprise, then come down and take their own scans and things from the planet too,' Archer explained as they got closer to the batch of huts.
'Let's hope they find more than we do.' Trip replied, smiling hopefully up at the sky.
Back up on Enterprise, Malcolm was peering into his scanner on his desk. 'Any sign of life, Lieutenant?' T'Pol asked him from her spot in the Captain's chair.
Malcolm shook his head, eyebrows knitted together. 'Not apart from the Captain's and Commander Tucker. It looks like that volcano obliterated the entire planet.'
'There must be something down there!' cried Hoshi from her own desk. 'Three thousand inhabitants….some of them must have survived.'
'Not according to these scans.' Malcolm muttered, sitting back in his chair. 'Perhaps they went underground?' he ventured.
'Perhaps.' T'Pol conceded, nodding her head. 'We must keep looking; I'll keep the Captain updated- Mr Reed, make sure that the air levels on the planet stay at a safe level.'
'Will do.' Malcolm nodded, turning back to his scanner.
The ground was slick with recently melted soil, a large surface of congealing lava spread across the road leading to the settlement. Trip picked his way carefully, trying to avoid the stickiness. They hadn't so far seen any bodies or injured inhabitants; he just hoped they weren't buried under the great grey folds of lava all around them. Archer looked around at the group of huts as they approached- it was as silent as a ghost town. The smell of acrid burning was still in the air.
Windows were boarded up, doors locked tight shut. Nothing moved around the huts.
'This don't feel right….' Trip muttered, hand pressing against his weapon. The fact that there weren't any bodies to find just didn't sit right with him- something should be here, he thought to himself.
'Let's just check through these huts,' replied Archer, hand venturing to his own holster. 'Then we can radio back to T'Pol, tell her we haven't seen anything. If we can't find survivors there isn't much we can do.' He said, shrugging.
'Aye.' Trip nodded, and together they started going through each hut in turn, forcing open the boarded windows and peering inside. Nothing. Just empty rooms and silence.
With each hut searched Trip started to get more and more nervous. 'I think we should go,' he eventually said, frowning.
'Alright, don't panic Trip.' Archer laid a hand on the other man's shoulder to calm him. Trip gave him a short look. 'I'm not panicking, sir…..it's just….it don't feel right, y'know what I mean?' he said again. 'I'm fine, Dad…' he added, grinning cheekily at his friend.
'We're on a mission, remember.' Archer reminded him with a smile, before pretending to clap him on the side of his head.
'I still don't like the idea that no one is here….' Trip cleared his throat, getting back to business.
'Listen, j-' Archer's words were halted by the sound of rustling outside, before the sound of someone running away could be heard loud and clear in the hut.
'Outside.' The Captain ordered, taking his gun out of its holster. 'Set to stun.'
The two men darted outside, looking around urgently. Nothing. 'There was definitely someone here!' Trip cried, gun out and ready.
'Let's split up- you take that direction and I'll double back and search the back area.' Archer instructed. 'Five minutes, then we meet back here, got it?' he added, getting a nod from his engineer in reply.
Trip continued walking forwards as The Captain walked back around the sides of the huts- he looked around everywhere, but it seemed that whatever had made the noise before had bolted. Nothing stirred at all. Suddenly, he heard a cry to his left- gingerly walking towards the noise he saw what looked like a small figure….a little girl. Well, whatever the species was; she was purple with what looked like small scales all over its-or her- face. It definitely looked like a little girl, dressed in a singed blue dress, clutching a small doll made of cloth.
'You ok?' Trip whispered, immediately holstering his weapon and stepping closer- it looked like this girl was the only survivor of the volcano. The girl said nothing, merely looked at him with huge yellow eyes.
He reached out a hand, palm out, to show her he was safe. 'C'mere darlin', I aint' gonna hurt you…' he whispered, stepping closer. The girl started moving backwards, shaking her head.
'No, don't go! I'm here to help….I can get you to a Doctor.' Trip cried. '…Doctor?' he repeated again, making sure she understood. 'Are you hurt?'
The girl didn't reply. She probably didn't understand a word he was saying, Trip thought, shaking his head. The girl was still backing up; she was stood between two huts, the high walls creating a shadow across them both.
Suddenly, Trip got the feeling that they weren't alone. He turned, but not quickly enough- a strong punch floored him, and as he lay on the ground, dazed, a foot was levelled at his chest. He yelped as he was flung to the dirt again, grimacing in pain.
Scrambling up, hand darting for his weapon, another punch caught him on the side of the head, sending him spinning onto the metal wall of the cave. He gave a loud cry as another cut knocked his head sideways, the sound joining the reverberation noises of the metal wall. He fell to his knees, putting his palms out as he felt warm blood trickle from his nose. 'Please…' be begged, squinting into the sunlight at his attacker. The broad shadow didn't move or say anything, merely looked down at him.
The girl darted behind the shadow, eyes wider than ever. Trip didn't know what to do- suddenly, the man darted forwards again, fist raised high. The blow caught him right in the temple, sending him sprawling sideways, unconscious, onto the dirt.
The sounds of crashing metal made Jon look up immediately. 'Trip?' he called into the radio, not waiting for a reply as he headed in the direction of the sound. A cry of pain made him run faster, his gun ready in his palm as he sprinted toward the sound- turning the corner into what looked like an alleyway between the huts he spotted a crouched figure, it's face obscured- it had what looked like a huge hump on its back as it tried to walk away. No….not a hump…..it was-
'HEY!' Archer called, levelling his gun at the figure as his eyes adjusted to the shadows- Trip was on the figure's back, slung over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes.
He walked forwards, hands steady. 'We're not here to hurt you!' he called, eyes steely. 'We're here to help you!'
The figure paid no notice, instead it tried to continue walking, readjusting its hold on his engineer.
'Stop!' Archer bellowed, walking quickly forwards. 'My name is Jonathan Archer, I'm the captain of the Starship Enterprise….let us help you!' he cried, panic rising in his chest- he pushed it down. He had to maintain control.
'Help us!?' The creature suddenly spoke perfect English, its purple face turning to him with scorn. 'You've brought this down on us and now you're expecting us to let you help?'
'I- I don't understand…please, give me back my officer and we can explain…'
'No. I don't know what we did to anger you, but we won't stand for it!' the figure cried, before raising its own arm- Trip's gun was in its hand.
Eyes wide, Jon had barely a second to react- the jet missed him by an inch as he rolled in the dirt, the second grazed his shoulder as he knelt, firing off a return shot. The third, however, met its mark- the Captain keeled forwards with a groan, face hitting the dirt with a dull thud.