THE COURIER

Disclaimer#1    Paramount owns the original characters; I'm only borrowing them.

Disclaimer#2    No profit is being made from these ramblings (I wish).

Archive            Gladly, just let me know where.

A/N                 'italics' indicates people's thoughts.

                        **Mycros is the planet featured in "Dead Ringer"-plug, plug.

CHAPTER ONE

Captain Jonathon Archer was reclining on the bunk in his quarters, reading a novel, with his beagle pup, Porthos, snuggled on his chest, enjoying a little one-to-one attention from his busy master.

Enterprise, Star Fleet's flagship, was currently travelling through unchartered space, and for several days now, they'd failed to turn up a single item of interest. Duty rosters had continued as normal, but nearly everyone on the ship was getting more than a little bored.

The exceptions to this were the Denobulan Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Phlox and the Vulcan Science Officer, T'Pol. Phlox kept a small menagerie of exotic pets in sickbay, and the lull in human occupants allowed him to utilise his time in cleaning out the animal cages. And according to T'Pol, Vulcans didn't get bored!

John sighed as he came to the end of his novel. Scooping Porthos off his chest, he rolled off the bed.

"Come on, boy, let's go visit Trip, see if he wants to watch some water polo."

Porthos recognised by his master's actions that they were going 'walkies', and that was fine by him. He raced ahead of the captain, looking back every now and then to make sure his human keeper hadn't got lost. The little dog's tail wagged hugely, a study in perpetual motion, as he ran through the corridors.

Before long, his master called him to a halt outside a familiar door. Porthos sniffed happily at the door and bounded into the room as soon as it opened. John grinned at the slightly dishevelled figure of his best friend, Commander Charles 'Trip' Tucker III, Enterprise's chief engineer. Trip swallowed a yawn when he recognised his visitors.

"Hi, Cap'n, come on in. What brings you out so late? Hey, Porthos, get off my bed!"

John stepped into the untidy quarters and gave Trip an assessing look. The younger man was still recovering from the severe beating he'd received on Mycros** and hadn't yet returned to full active duty.

"Just a social call to see how you're feeling. We've missed you at dinner for a while."

The 'we' was the captain and the Sub-Commander. The three officers usually ate their evening meal in the captain's private mess room, engaging in many a verbal sparring match, often between Trip and T'Pol. John loved to watch the sparks fly between his two most senior officers, and often wondered was there perhaps a physical attraction behind the arguments? He knew better than to suggest it to T'Pol, and he could imagine his friend's reaction if he even suggested that Vulcan-baiting was a prelude to romance!!

"I'm fine, Cap'n, I guess I just haven't got my appetite back, fully. But Doc assures me I'm doin' ok, an' I'll be back to full duties in another coupla days." Trip's soft Southern accent reassured John, even though his friend still looked a little peaky around the edges.

"What's the rush? It's not as if we're doing anything to strain the engineering department. There's just nothing out there to explore. Take as long as you need."

Trip grinned as he handed John a beer.

"Normally I'd be bored, too, but I've been kinda glad to have it quiet until I get back onto my feet again. I don't like anybody takin' pot-shots at us if I'm not there to keep an eye on the warp reactor."

"You're worse than a mother hen with that reactor. You've a perfectly good engineering team, doing just fine without you, Commander!"

Trip grinned at the analogy; he just didn't trust anyone else to look after his precious engines.

"Yeah, whatever, but I guess you can take only so much peace an' quiet. I've no doubt we'll find somethin' excitin' around the next corner."

^*^*^*^*^*^

Two days later, John called his senior officers to the situation room. He looked around as they arrived, eagerness for adventure shining in the eyes of Trip, Hoshi and Travis, with a degree of caution from Malcolm, and the customary blank canvas that was T'Pol's face.

"Hoshi, how's the translation coming along?"

Ensign Sato, Linguistics and Communications Officer, nodded as she spoke.

"Nearly there, Captain. It's a complex language, but basically when it's broken down, it's a synthesised voice sending out a hail on a loop, repeating itself over and over again. It's inviting travellers to stop off at the source, which appears to be a deep space station close by. I tried to send a response, but I don't think anyone's actually listening."

"Ok, good work. T'Pol, does the Vulcan database have anything on this station?"

T'Pol stood with her hands clasped behind her. "Affirmative, Captain. This is a multi-racial, multi-cultural meeting place with a high crime rate. I would advise against visiting it, but should you choose to do so, I would recommend extreme caution at all times."

"Aw, Sub-Commander, haven't you any spirit of adventure?" Trip's drawl sounded in her ear, too close for comfort. His accent seemed heavier than usual, done deliberately to provoke a response from her. T'Pol's elegant eyebrow arched as she turned to face her challenger.

""I would have thought that your most recent experiences might have dampened your own spirit of adventure, Commander, or does your head require frequent blows to remind you?"

"Nah, I don't need a blow to the head when I've got you, darlin'," Trip responded, smarting.

John sighed. Life on ship could never truly be described as dull when his two senior officers got started on each other.

"Ok, let's keep this civilised. We'll send a small away team in pairs. Watch each other's backs at all times, and keep in touch with each other and the ship. T'Pol, you're with me. Trip, you and Malcolm team up. Malcolm, break out some phase pistols and we'll meet in the shuttle bay in two hours. Travis, bring us into orbit around the station as soon as we arrive. Dismissed."

T'Pol considered the captain's decision to visit this place as foolhardy, but she wasn't entirely surprised by his actions. These humans were extremely inquisitive and their mission brief had been defined as seeking out new worlds and civilisations. Well, they'd certainly get their fill now.

TBC

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