Disclaimer: Paramount owns Star Trek: Enterprise, plus all places and characters contained therein. The phrase "A Master Word" is borrowed from Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Books".

Author's Note: I came up with this idea over five years ago when walking home from lectures, I started writing it and posted 10 chapters before it lamely fizzled out. This is the second version of "A Master Word", I'm hoping to improve on the first – so let me know what you think?

The term "A Master Word", as mentioned in the disclaimer, is taken from Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Books". In these stories, a "Master Word" is a call or phrase given by an individual to a group or an individual of another species that cannot be ignored. Set early in Season Two, I thought it might be interesting to see how Archer and the crew reacted when they received "A Master Word" and a bit of a mystery. Here goes!

Chapter One – A Master Word

Captain Jonathan Archer flopped less than gracefully into a chair in the Captain's mess, red faced and panting heavily. He was exhausted. He glanced across as, looking much more refined and barely breathing heavily, Lieutenant Malcolm Reed pouring four tall glasses of water. T'Pol stood nonchalantly by the window, as calm and sedate as ever. With not a dark hair out of place, if she hadn't been in the gym with him, Archer would never have guessed that the Vulcan had been playing sport. However, just to boost his pride, the Captain of Enterprise was pleased to note that his Chief Engineer was looking just as worn out as Archer himself. Commander Charles "Trip" Tucker III appeared ready for a nap, his head lolling back and eyes closed. But the moment Reed replaced the jug on the table; Trip's head snapped upright and he reached for a glass – the contents of which he downed greedily before pouring himself another.

"Pretty good game, eh?" Malcolm laughed at his friend and colleague, comically saluting his associates with his glass.

"Not bad." Trip agreed, trying – and failing – to gulp down his second drink.

"I'd forgotten how exhausting squash could be." Archer agreed, taking up the remaining glasses and offering one to T'Pol. The Science Officer accepted both the water and the comment with a typical one-eyebrow-raised glance in her Captain's direction.

"I still fail to see the point in repeatedly hitting a small spheroid against a bulkhead." Was her stoic response.

The three men looked at each other, but decided to remain silent. They'd already had this discussion – arguments about keeping fit, improving hand-eye co-ordination and simply having fun had come from Archer, Reed and Trip respectively – both before and during their match, but their views had fallen on apparently deaf pointed ears. Trip shook his head in despair of what he called T'Pol's "Vulcanisms", prompting her to add to her comment with "But the experience was… entertaining."

The humans chuckled together, leaving T'Pol to wonder what they could possibly find amusing in her observation and to sip delicately at her drink. The conversation moved on to other sports, and the Vulcan turned to observed the stars streaming by as Enterprise flowed along at a less than sedate pace of Warp Three. By focusing on the gentle hum of the ship's well-kept engines, T'Pol was able to tune out the human's conversation, and so it came as a mild disturbance to her when the comm. sounded.

"Bridge to Captain Archer." Ensign Hoshi Sato's voice called for Archer's attention. The Captain rose from his chair with a groan, muscles well used over the last two hours already beginning to ache, to activate the comm. panel on the wall behind him.

"Archer here."

"Sir, a recorded message just arrived from Starfleet Headquarters for you. It has Admiral Forrest's code attached." The Ensign sounded curious, but Archer frowned a little. High-priority messages were unusual, and brought good news even more rarely.

"Prob'ly callin' to give ya the latest water-polo results." Trip chuckled. Archer gave Trip a sideways glance, smiling at the joke. Trust the engineer to break the momentary tension that Hoshi's news had caused with an untimely quip. Nevertheless, the Captain glanced back to the comm. panel. "Put it through to my quarters, Hoshi, I'll take it there."

"Aye Captain." Archer knew that his Communications Officer would already have turned back to her displays and would be tapping the relevant keys. The Captain released the button on the wall panel and turned to the others. "I hope you'll all excuse me?"

Without further word, Archer left his three most senior crew members to their own devices and headed to his quarters for a brief shower before picking up the message.

"Hello Jon. Apologies for not calling you in person, but I've been tied up with Sovaal again. Seems the Vulcans want to extend their compound in San Francisco, which isn't going down well with the locals."

"Not surprised." Captain Jonathon Archer told the screen uselessly. It wasn't like Admiral Forrest could hear him. He smiled at himself, but it had been a long week after all. Trip had been on about the deuterium reserves for a week now. It had been several months since their last pick up of the vital material, and Enterprise was running low again. Somewhat reluctantly, Archer focused his attention back on the screen.

"Anyway, I have some important information for you. Sovaal has told me that there's deuterium store on a planet approximately five light years from your current position. Course one zero three mark two. It's a small, little known planet called Miphon; the Capital is called Freedom. He assures me you'll find deuterium there, and at a decent trade price. Good luck."

Archer smiled. That should put Trip's mind at rest anyway. He reached out to fold down the screen, but it seemed that the Admiral's message hadn't finished yet.

"Oh, one more thing, if you hear the word 'Curion', contact me immediately, and I mean immediately. Is that clear? 'Curion.'"

"'Curion'?" Questioned Archer, staring at the screen in astonishment. If this 'Curion' was so important that he should contact Forrest at once, why tack it so carelessly onto the end of the message? But Forrest had signed off, and though Archer briefly considered calling him back, he guessed that Forrest didn't really expect him to come across this word anyway. The Captain sighed heavily; with the rigours of his squash game getting the best of him, Archer settled for instructing Travis to set course for Miphon. He would question Forrest next time he spoke to him.