^*^*^*CHAPTER 1*^*^*^

As he slowly walked down the corridor, he breathed quietly so he could only hear his own footsteps or possibly someone else's around the other. Hearing the unusual murmur in the middle of the night made him curious for he was already bored and couldn't sleep, so why not?

Step by step, the murmur became louder, Trip's heart beat faster and he could hear it pounding in his ear. He was so anxious and tried so hard not to make a noise that he stumbled a little on his feet making an almost louder noise than the one he was trying to investigate. The engineer rolled his eyes in frustration at his own clumsiness and stood still to hear if whoever or whatever making that strange sound was still there.

It didn't seem as though he disturbed it for the sound was still there so he crept closer again, sweat rolling down his forehead and soaking through his shirt. *Damn this heat. Why did we have to find a new species that needed their environment so hot?* Trip thought as he wiped off the sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand, gently putting his other hand on the wall so he could balance himself to peak around the corner.

He slowly looked around it, saw a large shadow, and then quietly jerked back. His chest was breathing even more heavily now but he made sure he was still unnoticed by whatever was creating that shadow. Why was he so frightened in the first place? This new race, the Veekicians, was very violent in personality, yes, but their captain and most of their higher ranking officers were peaceful nonetheless. Their ship was falling apart; Archer gladly rescued them so 7 of them have been on board for over two days now as the ship has been on its course to their home world.

But, there was something about them that Trip did not like. They didn't mind the hospitality of others but they were still rude and insulting towards the crew. Especially one called Tisk'rar. He insulted Captain Archer in his face but his captain apologized for him. Tisk'rar also spit on Mayweather's boots on the bridge, barked an insulting remark to Hoshi which only she knew what it meant, and Reed's lunch splat against the wall in the mess hall. Trip knew that embarrassed Reed in front of half the crew, but he also knew Reed didn't want anyone to know that as he stood with his head held up without budging.

Trip almost got up to confront Tisk'rar himself but the Veekicians were nearly twice a human's size and had the temper of a mad bull. So, he kept still but didn't hesitate letting Tisk'rar know that he didnt 'approve' of his behavior. The giant noticed the puny human's disgusted glare, gave an even more gruesome scowl back and roared as he flipped the engineer and tactical officer's table completely upside down, its utensils crashing against the wall. Reed jumped then held his breath but Trip only blinked without budging and looked the Veekician straight in the eyes. Tisk'rar leaned in closer - his breath, a rather disgusting smelling breath, blew on Trip's face as his chest heaved - and looked right back.

"Nir eesk sha'vim lah toh!" he grumbled at the human. Trip's expression didn't change, he didn't blink. Tisk'rar stood up with Trip's eyes following his, and walked out, not even glancing at the security officers that entered the room moments ago.

After the door closed behind him, Reed let out a heavy, relieved sigh and shook his head. Trip finally let out a good breath and sunk his head a little with his fingertips at his temples.

"That was a close one. Its a pity I didn't get to finish my lunch" Reed chuckled with a hint of sarcasm in his voice "Now, we'd better get back on duty; the sooner we get our engine up to full speed, the sooner we can dump these hooligans off our next stop" He didn't seem upset about the hostile giant and patted his friend, Trip, on the shoulder and headed out.

As some crew members picked up the mess Tisk'rar left behind, Trip didn't understand why Reed didn't seem worried about what else the Vreekician could do, and stared at the door, puzzled. But, Reed was right, there was no time to waste; these giants would out of their lives for good in twice the time once he fixed the warp core - damaged in the nebula, for it only took a few more hours for him to fix it - at least they would be out of their lives off the ship.The engineer let out a heavy sigh as he stood up and headed towards the door, but Hoshi stopped him with a hint of terror in her eyes.

"'You will pay soon'. That's what Tisk'rar said" she said. Trip swallowed and stared into her eyes with his brow sinking low, then looked around on the floor to gather his thoughts. Hoshi was undoubtedly concerned "What are you going to do about it?" she asked.

Complain to the Veekician captain? No. Tisk'rar never listened before. Keep a security team around Trip until the new species were brought back to their planet for good? No. That's too much. Besides, Trip wouldn't want that and after he thought about it for awhile, it didn't seem so serious even moments after it happened.

"Don't worry, I wouldn't take is so seriously" he replied. Hoshi seemed a bit more satisfied

"Alright, but watch your back, okay?" she said forcing a wry smile and gently tapped his arm so he could sense she was still concerned.

With his usual charming grin, he said "I promise" and she left the room. Trip stood there for a few more moments, sighed and headed towards engineering. As he walked down the halls, he watched his back, eyes flinching at any new shadow that crawled up on the walls. A bit paranoid - admitting to himself - he quickened his pace little by little while still trying not to grab the attention of other officers. He tugged at his collar as sweat rolled down his neck. *Damn this heat*

*Damn this heat* he sighed under his breath again.

He leaned over once more, slower and quieter, to see what made the shadow. Sweat was dripping more now than ever down his neck and his stomach churned nervously. A blade? Was it a blade he saw shimmering in the faint dose of light? Trip's eyes widened in fear but he didn't stop moving in. There was a large hand gripping the blade, with a long arm, and a giant chest. Tisk'rar.

Trip swallowed and stood still. The Veekician's sharp, gruesome teeth shimmered with the blade as he brushed it with his finger, checking if it was still sharp. It was no ordinary knife - sickle-shaped with its smooth but uneven, waves on one side, jagged edges on the other, and claw-like points on the tip.

It made Trip's bare skin crawl at the sight of it. The Veekician put the blade back in his boot, where they usually kept them, the blades with the dark red handles. Why was Tisk'rar so amused? Trip was relieved he put it away, out of sight, but that didn't keep him from worrying. Tisk'rar took a step closer in Trip's direction, so he jerked his back and backed up against the wall, chest heaving, sweat swimming down his temples and neck.

*Oh, God* Trip thought as he took long, squinting blinks, listening to Tisk'rar's footsteps. As the steps got closer and heavier and quicker, he felt himself squeeze his eyelids together but then realized this wasn't the way out. Run? Keep hiding? He looked in the direction of his quarters. That's the coward's way out. Why didn't he grab a phase pistol when he heard the strange noise outside his door? *Dammit, Charles Tucker III, what's wrong with ya?* he told himself *don't be sucha coward!* and he shook his head, keeping his eyes open.

The footsteps stopped for a moment so he decided to react. *God, help me!* he bit his lip and whirled around the corner.

Deciding to keep his eyes mostly shut a split second before speaking, also hoping to wake up any other officers who could help if there was any need for some, he decided to bring some attention to himself.

"Hold it right there!" he yelled, pointing his finger, with his hand spread out in front of him.