1. Broken Bow Part I
A/N: The journey begins...
Except for one very small scene, I kept all on-screen action intact – as was the plan. I also incorporated two deleted scenes.
Thanks and kudos are in order:
-to Chrissie for her fantastic transcripts site
-to aadarshinah and Warpgirl for helping me clean up the mess that was my original draft
-to Rigil Kent, who's 'Endeavour' series inspired me to try something epic myself
San Francisco, California, USA, Earth: June 19, 2121
Henry Archer watched with the pride only a father can know at how his son Jonathan patiently painted the model, reciting Zefram Cochrane's famous speech as he did. It had been two years since the opening of the Warp 5 Complex and progress had been painfully slow, largely because the Vulcans demanded each and every modification to be tested to death.
"...where no man has gone before," the boy triumphantly finished his recitation.
"Doctor Cochrane would be proud of you."
"I know the whole speech by heart," Jon declared proudly. "When's it going to be ready to fly?"
"Let the paint dry first."
"No, I mean the ship."
"Not for a while. It hasn't even been built yet. You know that," Henry corrected with a slightly admonishing tone.
"How big will it be?"
"Bigger than Ambassador Pointy's ship?"
"His name is Soval, and he's been very helpful. And I've told you not to call him that, Jonathan."
"Well, Billy Cook said we'd be flying at Warp Five by now if the Vulcans hadn't kept things from us," Jon insisted despite his father's disapproval.
"Well they have their reasons. God knows what they are," Henry Archer sighed with ill-concealed frustration.
Broken Bow, Oklahoma, USA, Earth: April 4, 2151
It had only been a small scout ship, but its crash-landing had cut a long swath into Farmer Moore's corn field, littering it with debris. The big alien ran through the man-high corn plants, trying to escape his much more agile pursuers. Occasional shots from behind and his attempts at evasion impeded a quick escape. Reaching the high metal structure in the distance was the top priority.
Alarmed by the sound of gun fire, Farmer Moore stepped out of his house and saw the destruction done to his field. Seeing the flashes and hearing the sound of phaser fire, he quickly ran inside to arm himself.
When he saw the door of the towering metal structure, the burly warrior redoubled his efforts and secured it behind him, waiting for the next move of his adversaries. Momentarily held up by the obstacle, one of the unpleasant looking aggressors dropped to the ground and started compressing his internal organs until he was almost flat on the ground, allowing him to crawl through the gap beneath the door and open it from the inside for his comrade.
This delay gave their prey the chance to escape. He jumped out of an upper-level door, landed on a roof element, and jumped from there to the ground. After putting some distance between himself and the structure, he fired his disruptor rifle at it, causing it to explode and ridding him of his would-be captors in the process.
Farmer Moore threw himself to the ground instinctively as his grain silo exploded. Scrambling to his feet again, he rushed to the site of destruction and saw a big, strange creature, which by the looks of things, was in dire need of a dentist appointment.
"Drop your weapon, I mean it!" he commanded and pointed his pulse rifle at the ugly trespasser. The creature answered with dark, guttural growls. He surely did not appear to be a diplomat.
"I don't understand a word you're saying, but I know how to use this," Moore warned and waved his pulse rifle.
Another animalistic growl was too much for Moore's patience and the large bulk of the uninvited visitor was thrown back as Moore's shot hit him square in the chest.
First Floor, Admiral E. T. Mancini Hall, Starfleet Command, San Francisco, USA, Earth
Captain Archer was walking through the corridors of the Starfleet Headquarters, still in civies, when a very familiar southern drawl caught his attention.
"Jesus, these pointy-eared numb-nuts are driving me up the wall. 99.95% failure safety, 1000 hours above specs, too risky my ass."
"Trip?" Archer asked, weary of interrupting the irritated rant of his friend and future chief engineer.
"Hey, Jon. Sorry 'bout that, but the Vulcans are sabotaging the hell out of us," he sighed and waved the PADD with a recently denied modification proposal.
"What they do?"
"I drew up a modification that would get us up to 5.2, but those green-blooded naysayers nixed it, all because the injectors would have a 0.05% probability of failure when operated 1000 hours past the specs."
"Ridiculous, I know," Archer agreed. "But we can't change it, so we might just as well live with it. Hang onto the plans and make sure we get every spare part we can lay our hands on; you can make the modifications as soon as we're out of space dock."
"Sounds good. Where ya headin'?"
"Just coming from the gym. I was on my way back to my quarters."
"Wanna go up to the docks? I'm about to do a fly-around."
"That's sounds like a great idea. Let's go."
"How's the crew coming along?" Trip asked, as they approached the shuttlepod that they would use to go up to the space dock.
"All set except for science and medical."
"Anyone I know?"
"Hoshi Sato – an ensign – for comms and Malcolm Reed – a lieutenant – for security."
"I've heard of Sato, but not the other one."
"He's a British officer with Starfleet Security. He's the best tactician there is, or so they tell me."
"Hopefully we'll never have to find out. Got a helmsman yet, or you still planning to pilot Enterprise yourself?"
"Travis Mayweather – another ensign, and a boomer. Best damn pilot ever to graduate from the academy. He was the only one to pass the chase test in the simulator."
"How?" Trip asked, his eyes wide in disbelief.
"He flew a loop, came back behind the attacker, and blasted them to pieces – and all that in an NX-class."
"No doubts about the chauffeur," Trip whistled in appreciation. "Any idea for the doc or the science officer?"
"No. Starfleet wants to present some candidates tomorrow."
Dock 3, Roger B Chaffee Starfleet Shipyards, L1 Orbit
Orbiter Six, piloted by Commander Charles Tucker III, was nearing the huge metallic structure that would soon become their home for a considerable time. I'll be damned. That's one helluva ship, Trip mused to himself.
"The ventral plating team says they'll be done in about three days," the engineer explained with an irrepressible southern twang.
"Be sure they match the color to the nacelle housings."
"You planning to sit on the hull and pose for some postcards?" Tucker asked with an amused expression on his face. Knowing Jon and his enthusiasm, one could never be sure.
"Maybe," the Captain mused in admiration of the structure. "God, she's beautiful."
"And fast," the engineer proclaimed with pride. "Warp four point five next Thursday."
"Neptune and back in six minutes. Let's take a look at the lateral sensor array."
"Give me a second," Tucker said and adjusted their heading.
"Slow down," Archer ordered and pointed at the parts that had thwarted their last test run. "There, those are the ports that buckled during the last test. They need to be reinforced."
Momentarily distracted by writing down Archers findings, Tucker failed to notice that the Orbiter had drifted towards Enterprise and they bumped into the larger ship, thankfully without much force.
"Great, you scratched the paint," Archer mock-admonished.
"Sorry," Trip muttered, before answering the hail that saved him from having to scrape and bow. "Orbiter Six."
"Captain Archer, sir."
"Admiral Forrest needs you at Starfleet Medical right away."
"Acknowledged," he replied. "Turn her 'round Trip, doesn't sound like good news."
"Yeah, may as well go back to the ship. Gotta clean up the mess they're making of it."
"Those space dock 'engineers'. All they know is specs, and those were written by apes, if even that. I've seen them install a few couplings that we'll never be able to replace unless we take Houdini with us."
"I'll make sure we'll enlist him," Archer promised with a chuckle, just as Trip set the orbiter down on the landing platform.
Intensive Care Unit B-13, Starfleet Medical, San Francisco, USA, Earth
T'Pol steeled herself for first contact. Although she had been on Earth for two years already, two visits to a jazz club and the occasional diplomatic meeting was the limit of her experience with humans.
In time of crisis, we shall see if they are prepared to embrace logic. Every suggestion I've seen so far indicates it is improbable they even known the meaning of the concept.
"Admiral," Ambassador Soval of Vulcan opened with stifled pleasantries. "This is my attaché Tos, and my personal aide, T'Pol. I have already spoken to the farmer."
"Ambassador," Forrest nodded back to his Vulcan friend – not that any of the other Vulcans would ever suspect that. "May I introduce Commander Wiliams and Rear Admiral Leonard."
Holding his arm out, Soval lead the way.
Bringing Tos may prove a mistake, T'Pol analyzed. He can enrage even the most calm of the humans.
"Who was chasing him?" Williams asked Soval as they rounded the corner into the hall in front of the intensive care unit.
"We don't know. They were incinerated in the methane explosion, and the farmer's description was vague at best."
"How did they get here? What kind of ship?" Leonard continued the questioning. Tos answered in his usual, almost exaggeratedly arrogant manner.
"They were using some kind of stealth technology. We are still analyzing our sensor logs."
"I'd like to see those logs," Williams demanded, eyes still fixed on the alien creature, which was tended to by an equally alien doctor, although the latter, at least, had a more agreeable appearance.
"The Klingons made it very clear they want us to expedite this," Soval answered in a dismissive tone.
"It happened on our soil," Leonard demanded defiantly – he was immediately shot down by Tos' snotty remark.
"Ambassador, with all due respect, we have a right to know what's going on here," Forrest insisted.
Why do they insist on questioning our judgment? I find it to be illogical to demand information. We have already analyzed the situation thoroughly. Are they questioning our logic or being intentionally insolent?
"You will be apprised of all pertinent information."
"And just who gets to decide what's 'pertinent'?" Williams asked in growing anger.
"Admiral," Captain Archer announced his presence from behind them, just in time to save the discussion from degrading into a heated argument, as most of Tos' interactions with humans usually did.
"Jon. I think you know everyone," Forrest greeted him and indicated at the Vulcans and his two fellow flag officers.
Jon. This must be the captain of their new vessel, Jonathan Archer. Why was he summoned here? He has no part in this investigation. From what the Ambassador told me, he is the son of the engine's designer and a pilot, with no special knowledge of Klingons or any other alien race.
"Not everyone," the Captain corrected, his eyes fixed on the big alien in the ICU. Shoving past Soval and Tos, he came to a stop and observed the inside of the unit.
"It's a Klingot," Leonard explained.
"A Klingon," Tos corrected with an overly arrogant undercurrent.
"Where'd he come from?" Archer asked as they all watched the proceedings inside.
"Oklahoma," Williams answered and Archer swung around at the unexpected answer.
"A corn farmer named Moore shot him with a plasma rifle. Says it was self-defense," Forrest clarified.
"Fortunately, Soval and I have maintained close contact with Qo'noS since the incident occurred," Tos patronized.
"It's the Klingon's homeworld."
"This gentleman is some sort of a courier. Evidently he was carrying crucial information back to his people," Forrest continued, but was cut short by another sniping comment from Soval.
"When he was nearly killed by your 'farmer'."
I am surprised by Ambassador Soval's conduct. It is not characteristic of him to be confrontational. Knowing the humans' volatile nature, it is unwise to provoke them.
"Ambassador Soval thinks it would be best if we push off your launch until we've cleared this up."
"Well, isn't that a surprise," Archer sneered. "You'd think they'd have come up with something a little more imaginative this time."
"Sarcasm aside, Captain," Soval tried to calm the flaring emotions of this the particularly irritated Captain, "the last thing your people need is to make an enemy of the Klingon Empire."
T'Pol suspected that Soval knew they were debating a moot point. The only remotely convincing argument they had was that the Klingons were not an ideal race to make an early first contact with. The humans were as ready as they would ever be, but if they didn't put up a symbolic fight, it was likely Soval would be removed from the post, and allowing Tos to take it over would throw human-Vulcan relations back by at least half a century.
"If we hadn't convinced them to let us take Klaang's corpse back to Qo'noS, Earth would most likely be facing a squadron of Warbirds by the end of the week," Tos kept patronizing, not noticing or indifferent to the response he garnered. But his words peaked Archers interest.
"Corpse? Is he dead?" he asked angrily and stormed into the ICU, obviously wondering why a Doctor would put so much effort into tending to a corpse? "Excuse me, is that man dead?" Archer asked the alien doctor.
"His autonomic system was disrupted by the blast but his redundant neural functions are..."
"Is he going to die?" he interrupted the man's somewhat cheery explanation.
"Not necessarily," the doctor answered, with a hint of disbelief at being asked such a question.
Coming out of the ICU, Archer started reading the Vulcans the riot act.
"Let me get this straight. You're going to disconnect this man from life support even though he could live. Now where's the logic in that?"
"Klaang's culture finds honor in death. If they saw him like this he'd be disgraced," Soval tried to find a more conciliatory tone.
"They're a warrior race. They dream of dying in battle. If you understood the complexities of interstellar diplomacy..."
"So that's your diplomatic solution, to do what they tell you. Pull the plug?" the Captain interrupted, just as Tos was about to start another irritatingly Vulcan berating. From what T'Pol knew of the human captain, he had never done well with Vulcans. Reports stated he was more accepting of her people than he had been in his youth, but it was obvious that Tos had pushed him to the the brink of rage, and, if the disapproving look, Soval was giving his assistant, was any indication, even her mentor did not quite agree with Tos' attitude.
"Your metaphor is crude, but accurate," Tos answered coolly.
"We may be crude, but we're not murderers. You're not going to let them do this, are you?" Archer asked Forrest, shoving Tos aside.
"The Klingons have demanded that we return Klaang immediately," Soval explained.
"Admiral," Archer pressed.
"We may need to defer to their judgment."
"We've been deferring to their judgment for a hundred years!" Archer answered with growing frustration, obviously believing that the Vulcans were going to, at least in in his opinion, hold him back as they had done for so many years with his father.
"Jon!" Forrest warned against more outbursts.
"How much longer?" Archer asked, still unrepentant.
"Until you've proven you're ready," T'Pol interjected, having until this point done nothing more but standing rigidly straight near Soval.
"Ready to what?"
"To look beyond your provincial attitudes and volatile nature."
"Volatile? You have no idea how much I'm restraining myself from knocking you on your ass," he snarled and tried to stare her down, but the female didn't budge. Turning to Forrest, he continued his rant, but in a much softer and even prouder tone. "These Klingons, they're anxious to get their man back. Fine. I can have my ship ready to go in three days. We'll take him back home, alive."
He isdetermined, but where is the logic in endangering an entire ship to save one Klingon. They value life, which is commendable, but they do so most illogically.
"This is no time to be imposing your ethical beliefs," Soval insisted.
"Dan?" Forrest asked for Leonard's opinion.
"What about your crew? Your Comm Officer's in Brazil. You haven't selected a CMO or a Science officer yet."
"Three days, that's all I need," Archer pleaded.
"Admiral," Soval managed after a very un-Vulcan sigh.
"We've been waiting for nearly a century, Ambassador. This seems as good a time as any to get started."
"Listen to me. You're making a mistake!" Soval said with a voice that was raised a tad too much for Vulcan comfort.
"When your logic doesn't work, you raise your voice? You've been on Earth too long," Archer touted with a lot of sarcasm seeping into his voice. Having fired their last shot and drawn a blank, the Vulcans left.
Her superior hearing caught Forrest warning, "I had a feeling their approach wouldn't sit too well with you. Don't screw this up," before she heard more footsteps behind her and, curiously, the sound of knocking.
Ambassador Soval's Office, Vulcan Compound, Sausalito, California, Earth
"Subcommander, I wish to station you as an observer on the human ship," Soval explained as soon as they had returned to his office.
"You will allow them to take the Klingon to Qo'noS?"
"Yes. We are on Earth and it is a human matter. We offered our advice and they declined. We have no right to interfere any further," Soval explained. "You have the most experience in space of all my staff."
"Why do you think they would accept a Vulcan observer? They made it quite unmistakably clear that they do not desire our presence or our advice."
"They need our star charts. In exchange they will take one of us with them. Preferably someone with experience in both diplomacy and space travel."
"What you propose is coercion," T'Pol answered and a hint of disapproval seeped into her voice.
"I prefer to see it as a trade," Soval evaded a straight answer. "They need the charts and they could most certainly use guidance, but they will not accept a Vulcan on their ship without getting something in return."
"Would not an experienced member of the security forces be a more logical candidate?"
"The humans need a science officer, not a security officer."
"I have only limited experience with humans. An experienced staff member will find it substantially less taxing to work with them in such close confinement."
"That is exactly why I want you on this assignment. You are ready to take on greater responsibilities in the diplomatic service and you need to learn how to work with humans. This mission will last only 8 to 10 days. V'Nur taught us that Vulcans can cooperate with humans on a starship. It is time to prove yourself."
T'Pol struggled to hide her surprise at the mentioning of her father's name. Nobody was supposed to know that he was rescued by a human ship and still alive.
"You may drop the pretense," Soval explained calmly. "It was I who enabled him to transport through the sensor grid on Vulcan. No one but me knows that he is still alive."
"I shall accept the assignment," T'Pol replied.
"If you wish to correspond with him, send your communiques to me. I shall relay. He would wish for an occasional report if it is not too much inconvenience."
"As you wish. I shall begin my preparations."
Third Floor, Admiral E. T. Mancini Hall, Starfleet Command, San Francisco, USA, Earth
"Jon, how are the preparations coming along?"
"Almost all crew have reported to the ship. Doctor Phlox has agreed to come with us as CMO and I'll leave for Brazil in an hour. If Sato can't make it in time, Lyndon will stand in. We're ready Sir."
"Good to hear. One thing – you'll have to take a Vulcan with you."
"Sir," Archer started to protest. "Why should we take a Vulcan? Doesn't that beat the purpose of the exercise?"
"We need their star charts and they were not willing to give them to us without having an adviser on board."
"They blackmailed us into having a spy on the ship?"
"Not a spy, think of her as a chaperone."
"Subcommander T'Pol," Forrest explained and handed him a pad. "She'd make a good science officer. Look at it this way: she'll complete your officers roster and she'll leave as soon as you're back from Qo'noS. It's an acceptable price. Eight days and she'll be gone again."
"Miss You're-Provincial-Volatile-and-Not-Worth-My-Time," Archer grunted in distaste when he recognized the face. "It's gonna be long eight days."
D Deck, United Earth Starship Enterprise, Dock 3, Roger B Chaffee Starfleet Shipyards
Lieutenant Malcolm Reed eyed the alcove with distaste and horror. There had been lots of talk about this transporter, especially about the horrible accidents that had occurred when they tried to put living beings through it.
"I heard this platform's been approved for bio-transport," a black man who had just introduced himself as the ship's helmsman explained as the two men waited for the announced transport of plasma coils. Several crewman carried boxes and crates away that had already arrived by transport.
"I presume you mean fruits and vegetables," Reed answered in visible disgust. No way they're going to scramble some poor sod through this.
"I mean Armory Officers and Helmsmen."
"I don't think I'm quite ready to have my molecules compressed into a data stream," the Brit answered and stepped away as if the device would grab and maul him if he got too near.
"They claim it's safe," Travis answered clearly not very convinced himself about the safety of the contraption. Both men watched as a box materialized in a cloud of shimmering light.
"Do they indeed? Well, I certainly hope the Captain doesn't plan on making us use it," Reed replied, opening the box to inspect its content.
"Don't worry, from what I'm told, he wouldn't even put his dog through this thing."
"This is ridiculous," Reed complained with a sigh and exasperated eye-roll. "I asked for plasma coils and they send me a case of valve sealant. There's no chance I can have these weapons online in three days."
"We're just taking a sick man back to his homeworld. Why do we need weapons?" Travis asked with a side-glance at the tactical officer – the one that Mal had learned long ago meant the person in question didn't understand why it was so important to have the weapons ready.
"Didn't you read the profile report on these Klingons? Apparently they sharpen their teeth before they go into battle," Malcolm explained ominously and headed towards engineering to file a complaint with the man who had promised him to deliver the plasma coils on time.
Travis followed with a nervous chuckle.
"No doubt Mister Tucker will reassure me that my equipment will be here tomorrow. 'Keep your shirt on, Lieutenant'," Reed mocked the predictable reply of Commander Tucker when Travis had caught up. They slowly navigated the corridor, dodging passing crewmen and space-dock personnel.
"Is it me, or does the artificial gravity seem a bit heavy?" the helmsman asked.
"Feels all right. Earth sea level."
"My father always kept it at 0.8G. He thought it put a little spring in his step," the space-boomer recalled with a wide grin, as the men neared engineering.
"After being raised on cargo ships, it must've felt like you had lead in your boots when you got to Earth," Reed answered with a wry smile and entered main engineering.
"Beautiful," Commander Tucker said admiringly, while walking briskly along the catwalk, giving out orders to a nearby crewman. "Lock it off right there."
He climbed down the stairs towards the warp console and gave Ensign Virts, who was making last adjustments to the intermix ratio, a congratulatory pat on the shoulder, before starting to polish the frame of the console with a wide grin.
Seeing the engineer wipe a fingerprint off the console, Malcolm Reed decided to make his presence known.
"I believe you missed a spot," he joked and pointed to the console that the chief had been polishing until moments ago. "Commander Tucker, meet Ensign Travis Mayweather. He just arrived."
"Our boomer," Tucker answered, still smiling, and bent down over the railing to shake the helmsman's hand.
"How fast have you gotten her?" Travis asked.
"Warp four," Tucker answered, mustering the surroundings with a satisfied smile. "We'll be going to four five as soon as we clear Jupiter. Think you can handle it?"
"Four point five," Travis repeated with an excited face expression and a small laugh. It was obvious that, as someone who'd grown up dawdling through space in a warp 2 cargo-boat, the numbers boggled the ensign's mind.
"Pardon me, but if I don't realign the deflector, the first grain of space dust we come across will blow a hole through this ship the size of your fist," Reed complained in a more serious tone.
"Keep your shirt on, Lieutenant. Your equipment'll be here in the morning."
Reed looked aside and couldn't suppress a smirk.
Federal University of Para, Belem, Brazil, Earth: April 5, 2151
Archer was clad in white pants and an equally white shirt and beginning to regret it as he walked along the narrow path that led to the linguistic school, nestled away in the Amazon rain forest. He could hear the unmistakable voice of Hoshi Sato, the first human linguist to pass the strictest and hardest tests on Vulcan language ability – designed by the Vulcans themselves. He stopped behind the sitting students, watching for a moment.
"Ghlungit !tak nekleet," the petite Asian, wearing short pants and a small red top, demonstrated a tricky sequence of guttural sounds.
"Ghlungit !tak nekleet," the students repeated. Some of them struggling with the alien sounds.
"Very good. Ghlungit !tak nekleet."
"Ghlungit !tak nekleet."
"Carlos," she called the attention of a student. "Ltrunghi !krgltt!"
"Ltrunghi !krgltt!" Carlos repeated, grimacing slightly.
"!krgltt!" Hoshi demonstrated again.
"Tighten the back of your tongue. !krgltt!" she instructed, hearing the source of his problem.
"Keep trying. You've almost got it," Hoshi praised when she saw Archer lurking in the back. "I'll be right back."
"Captain, what brings you here?"
"Hello Hoshi. We had a change of plans, we're shipping out in two days. I need you on Enterprise," Archer explained and held out his arm to invite her on a short walk.
"There's two more weeks before exams. It's impossible for me to leave now."
"You've got to have someone who can cover for you," Archer retorted.
"If there was anyone else who could do what I do, you wouldn't be so eager to have me on your space ship," Hoshi deflected. She wasn't so eager to get on a space ship in the first place. She had hoped for a posting at Starfleet Academy rather than traveling through space in an oversized sardine tin.
"Hoshi-" Archer started, but she cut him short.
"I'm sorry, Captain. I owe it to these kids," she persisted, waving her arm in the direction of her students.
"I could order you."
"I'm on leave from Starfleet, remember? You would have to forcibly recall me… which would require a reprimand which would disqualify me from serving on an active vessel," she reasoned.
"I need someone with your ear."
"And you'll have her in three weeks," Hoshi answered and watched Archer produce a small recording device from his pocket, turning it on. "What's that?
"Klingon. Ambassador Soval gave us a sampling of their linguistic database," Archer explained, knowing that he had played the right hand.
"I thought you said the Vulcans were opposed to this?" Hoshi asked in surprise.
"They are. but we agreed to make a few... compromises."
"What do you know about these Klingons?"
"Not much. An empire of warriors... with eighty poly-guttural dialects constructed on an adaptive syntax," he explained, laying out the explanation as if he was a traveling merchant, trying to sell her something. He knew – she was hook, line, sinker.
"Turn it up," Hoshi demanded and inclined her head for better hearing.
"Think about it. You'd be the first human to talk to these people. Do you really want someone else to do it?"
Hoshi looked at him and flashed him her tiny smile. "Ok, I'll be there - tomorrow night."
"Thanks Hoshi," Archer answered, smiling.
Deck A, Enterprise, Dock 3, Roger B Chaffee Starfleet Shipyards: April 7th 2151
"Want to tag along Trip? I'm about to say 'hello' to our Vulcan science officer," Archer inquired, falling in step with Trip on his way to his ready room.
"Since when do we have Vulcan Science Officers?" Trip asked sceptically.
"Since we needed their star charts to get to Qo'noS."
"So we get a few maps and they get to put a spy on our ship?" Trip asked with a disbelieving look, as they navigated several doors toward the ready room.
"Admiral Forrest says we should think of her more as a chaperone," the Captain explained as they entered.
"I thought the whole point of this was to get away from the Vulcans," the engineer replied, frustration and exasperation visible in his gestures.
"Four days there, four days back," Archer explained, pouring himself a coffee while Trip made himself comfortable in an armchair. "Then she's gone. In the meantime, we're to extend her every courtesy," he continued with a fake smile.
"I don't know," Trip replied sarcastically, looking down on the Captain's pet beagle. "I'd be more comfortable with Porthos on the Bridge."
X X X
Lieutenant Malcolm Reed observed the Airlock pressurization process, waiting for their last arriving crew member – a Vulcan of all people.
When the airlock door opened, he had to compose himself. She wasn't like other Vulcans. What caught the eye – literally – was her beauty and very female stature, which wasn't much concealed by the tight-fitting catsuit that appeared to be her uniform.
"I am Subcommander T'Pol, permission to come aboard?" she recited the customary introduction, she had been briefed on.
"Lieutenant Malcolm Reed, tactical officer. Permission granted and welcome on board Enterprise," he returned flustered, extending his hand.
The subcommander looked at it disapprovingly and turned to go. "I shall report to the captain."
"I'll show you the way," the flustered Brit offered.
"That will not be necessary, I memorized the layout of the ship," she answered brusquely and left the dazzled Lieutenant behind.
What an ice queen... Malcolm thought ruefully – after he had managed to regain his senses.
X X X
T'Pol was hit hard by the almost nauseating mix of human smells. The corridors were full of hectically passing crewmen and space-dock personnel, putting in the finish touches on the ship that was about to launch in two hours. Almost every second a new, equally disagreeable staunch hit her sensitive sense of smell. She hastened her steps, before the onslaught of olfactory stimulation would become too unbearable.
The ships interior looked rather simple and utilitarian – a surprise, since she had expected to be confronted with the illogical and redundant ornamentation that was so typical for many of human buildings.
Arriving at the Captain's ready room, she steeled herself for the inevitable confrontation with the Captain. She had been briefed that he was highly resentful regarding to Vulcans, blaming them for the long delay in the success of his father's engine design. After she pressed the door chime, her acute sense of hearing picked up the voice of said human inside.
"Here we go. Come in."
She opened the door and quickly let her glance scan the room. Two officers where sitting in the room. One was positioned in an armchair in a rather unprofessionally lax posture, while the other – the Captain – sat on his desk with an expectant face expression.
"This confirms that I was formally transferred to your command at oh eight hundred hours, Reporting for duty," she introduced herself and handed him the PADD with the official Starfleet orders.
Suddenly she noticed a nauseatingly disagreeable smell. She sniffed the air and the source was found to be a small quadruped, lying on a cushion beside the yet unknown officer.
"Is there a problem?" Archer asked, following her glance, seeing Porthos.
"No, sir," she answered, pushing down the repulsed reaction she had almost displayed.
"Oh, I forgot. Vulcan females have a heightened sense of smell," the human Captain explained in a teacher's voice that obviously was meant for the second officer, who might not have been aware of it. "I hope Porthos isn't too offensive to you."
"I've been trained to tolerate offensive situations," she answered brusquely.
"I took a shower this morning. How about you, Captain?" asked the second officer with a facial expression that she had learned to identify as amusement.
"I'm sorry," Archer continued, leaving it deliberately ambiguous as to whether he apologized for his officer's less-than-professional conduct or for his oversight to introduce him. "This is Commander Charles Tucker the Third. Sub-Commander T'Pol."
Why do humans number their children? T'Pol thought, while the officer stood and offered his hand.
"Trip. I'm called Trip," the blond-haired human offered with a friendly face expression.
"I'll try to remember that," she brushed off his antics and turned back to the captain, leaving the other human standing, slightly embarrassed.
Tucker. That must be the chief engineer, she recalled the information of her briefing. It appears to be universal that human engineers have to possess... quirks. At least his smell is not as repugnant as the Captain's or that of the disagreeable quadruped.
"While you may not share our enthusiasm about this mission, I expect you to follow our rules. What's said in this room and out on that bridge is privileged information. I don't want every word I say being picked apart the next day by the Vulcan High Command," the Captain lectured sternly.
"My reason for being here is not espionage. My superiors simply asked me to assist you."
"Your superiors don't think we can flush a toilet without one of you to assist us," the Captain retorted with a hidden smile at his engineer.
"I didn't request this assignment Captain, and you can be certain that when the mission is over I will be as pleased to leave this ship as you'll be to have me go-"
Her riposte was cut short when the small quadruped raced towards her and climbed up her leg with his front paws. Trip watched her predicament with an amused smile. The close proximity of the animal and the resulting staunch was almost too much to bear for her and she let out an audible gasp.
"If there's nothing else?" she asked, with an unspoken request to leave.
"That'll be all," the captain acknowledged and she beat a hasty retreat, while the two humans exchanged amused glances.
Damn, she's beautiful. And she ripped the Cap'n a good one, Trip mused to himself. At least they didn't send Soval.
Deck E, Enterprise, Dock 3, Roger B Chaffee Starfleet Shipyards
"Ah, you must be Subcommander T'Pol," Phlox greeted enthusiastically when the Vulcan entered sickbay.
"I am. I wish to make the appointment for my physical examination."
"Would 0700 tomorrow morning be possible?" the rotund medical officer asked with a smile.
"That is agreeable."
"Is there anything else I can do for you?" he asked, seeing the female's hesitation to leave.
"I am experiencing difficulties to tolerate the number of olfactory stimuli that are present in a predominantly human environment."
"Ah, the acute sense of smell of a Vulcan female," the Doctor realized and started to rummage around in a small cabinet. "Here it is."
"What is that?"
"It's a nasal numbing agent. It will help you cope with the many smells you will encounter on this ship," he explained and administered the hypo-spray. "We need to renew the dose every 24 hours, so please visit me before the start of your daily shift."
"Agreed," she answered and left sickbay.
Observation Deck, Dock 3, Roger B Chaffee Starfleet Shipyards
"Over here," Archer indicated and his senior bridge officers lined up on an elevated catwalk, ready to start their journey after a short launch ceremony.
Both Vulcan and human guests were in attendance. Admiral Forrest waited for the commotion caused by the arrival of Enterprise's senior crew to die down. He would have preferred to have them stand with him – in front of the audience – but the catwalk allowed them to reach the docking bridge in a matter of 2 minutes, so they wouldn't have to fight their way through the attendance to get to their ship, which was visible behind the huge windows of the observation deck.
"When Zefram Cochrane made his legendary warp flight ninety years ago and drew the attention of our new friends, the Vulcans. We realized that we weren't alone in the galaxy. Today we're about to cross a new threshold. For nearly a century, we've waded ankle-deep in the ocean of space. Now it's finally time to swim," he intoned with pathos, waiting for the applause to end.
"The Warp Five engine wouldn't be a reality without men like Doctor Cochrane and Henry Archer, who worked so hard to develop it. So it's only fitting that Henry's son, Jonathan Archer, will command the first starship powered by that engine."
Ending the last sentence with a nod, Forrest looked up to Jonathan Archer and registered the return nod, before the officers left to man their stations. "Rather than quoting Doctor Cochrane, I think we should listen to his own words from the dedication ceremony for the Warp Five Complex thirty two years ago."
Deck A, Enterprise, Dock 3, Roger B Chaffee Starfleet Shipyards
The senior officers filed out of the turbo-lift and hurriedly took their stations, since they were supposed to leave the dock as soon as the short ceremony was over.
Archer walked over to his command chair in the center, sat down and watched the recording of Dr. Zephram Cochrane on the view screen, listening to the famous speech that he had known by heart for over 30 years.
"On this site, a powerful engine will be built. An engine that will someday help us travel a hundred times faster than we can today. Imagine it. Thousands of inhabited planets at our fingertips. And we'll be able to explore those strange new worlds and seek out new life and new civilizations. This engine will let us go boldly where no man has gone before."
As he recited the speech in his mind, Archer remembered that special moment when he had put the gyro-stabilizer into his model spaceship – the last part, ready to conduct the first flight. The same sense of pride, anticipation and curiosity overtook him now as he heard the last docking clams and umbilical cables being released. They were ready, at last.
"Take her out, Mr. Mayweather. Straight and steady," he ordered with a melancholic look.
This one's for you, dad.
Gliding effortlessly past Jupiter on impulse power, it was time for the ship to play her party-piece.
"How are we doing, Trip?" the Captain asked into the com.
"Ready when you are," his friend replied from engineering.
"Prepare for warp."
"Course laid in, sir," Travis reported with a wide grin. "Request permission to get underway."
"The co-ordinates are off by point two degrees," T'Pol interrupted.
"Thank you," Archer replied sarcastically. Only an unemotional Vulcan would spoil the moment like that and he failed to keep the sarcasm and annoyance from showing.
Alien Nexus, Sector Unknown
A faintly green-skinned alien entered the chamber warily and looked at their mysterious benefactor, who hid his appearance behind a screen of shimmering beams. When this unlikely alliance began, he had been afraid of the strange distortions, which made his voice echo eerily, but over the time, he had grown used to them. It was time to report their failure.
"Where's Klaang?" the mysterious figure demanded.
"The humans have him."
"Did you lose anyone else?"
"Two of my soldiers were killed. One of them was a friend. Can you prevent it?" the alien asked, hope and a hint of despair coloring his voice.
"Our agreement doesn't provide for correcting mistakes," his master dismissed his question. "Recover the evidence."
"I will, I promise you. When will we speak again?" the alien replied.
"Don't be concerned with... when," the shadowy figure explained, before the beams disappeared, leaving nothing, but the empty chamber behind.
Deck E, Enterprise, en route to Qo'noS
Captain Archer rounded the corner and approached sickbay, which was the next stop on his inspection tour through the ship. Predictably, the Subcommander had questioned the logic of inspecting a ship that he should know inside-out, only hours after launching. He retaliated for her continual nagging by ordering her to do the same once he was back from his own tour.
Entering the facility, he looked around for the Doctor, but only found a selection of boxes, cylinders, cages and other containers. He inspected a glass cylinder, which contained a pink colored liquid with worm-like creatures swimming in it.
"Love what you've done with the place," he told the doctor, who passed him by carrying a tray with several medical instruments, the purpose of which he didn't really want to find out.
"Those are immunocytic gel worms. Try not to shake them," he rotund man explained in regard to the creatures Archer had been studying.
"What'd you think of Earth?" he asked.
"Intriguing," the doctor answered with his trademark, slightly clipped accent, while setting down his tray. "I especially liked the Chinese food. Have you ever tried it?"
"I've lived in San Francisco all my life," he explained, following the doctor over to a large box.
"Anatomically, you humans are somewhat simplistic, but what you lack biologically you make up for with your charming optimism, not to mention your egg drop soup."
Archer took a cylindrical cage from the box and held it up. He saw a small animal in it.
"Be very careful with that," the alien warned.
"What's in there?"
Archer had barely finished his question, when the container started shaking and the animal made screeching noises. Startled, the captain quickly passed it on to his medic.
"An Altarian marsupial," the Doctor explained cheerily with an almost unnaturally wide grin, while making strange cooing noises to the animal. "Their droppings contain the greatest concentration of regenerative enzymes found anywhere.
"If you're going to try to embrace new worlds you must try to embrace new ideas. That's why the Vulcans initiated the Interspecies Medical Exchange in the first place. There's a lot to be learned."
"I'm sorry I had to take you away from your program, but, our doctors haven't even heard of a Klingon," Archer continued apologetically.
"Please, no apologies. What better time to study human beings than when they're under pressure? It's a rare opportunity," the alien replied and flashed him another ridiculously wide smile. "And your Klingon friend. I've never had a chance to examine a living one before."
"Ensign Mayweather tells me we'll be to Qo'noS in about eighty hours. Any chance he'll be conscious by then?"
"There's a chance he'll be conscious within the next ten minutes. Just not a very good one."
"Eighty hours, Doctor. If he doesn't walk off this ship on his own two feet, he doesn't stand much of a chance."
"I'll do the best I can. Optimism, Captain!" the doctor called after the retreating captain, displaying the widest grin that Archer had ever seen.
Deck D, Enterprise
Coming out of his office, Chief Engineer Trip Tucker spotted the Vulcan, who was standing near the entrance of engineering with her hands clasped firmly behind her back, observing his staff for no obvious reason. What the hell is she snoopin' around here for?
"Can I do something for you?" he asked as he approached her.
"The captain ordered me to inspect several locations on the ship to familiarize myself with them."
"Let me guess, you being Vulcan and all, you already knew them?"
"I did." she answered with an aura of superior arrogance.
"Well, I can give you a report. At least you wouldn't go back empty-handed," he offered with a sarcastic smile.
"That would be agreeable."
"Just a moment," he answered, seeing that a Crewman started working on one of the 'Houdini relays'. "Rostov, that's the wrong one. C12, not C10. You better leave it where it is, you'd never get it out with your spine intact."
"Aye, Sir," the engineer replied and went to the correct relay.
T'Pol's eyebrow shot up for a second when she heard the familiar name of the young crewman, but didn't say anything.
"So, where were we?" Trip continued. "Ah, yes, the report. Well, the engine's running quite smoothly, had to purge one of the injectors and we're cleaning up a bit of the mess that the guys from space-dock have left us with."
"Do you foresee any problems?" the subcommander asked, slightly less cold and hostile than she'd been just a minute before.
"None at all, things're running better than I thought."
"Thank you, Commander," she said and left Engineering.
Did I just hear Miss High-and-Mighty thank me for a status report?
His thinking was interrupted by the sound of steps in one of the Jeffreys tubes. Since nobody was scheduled to work there he went to investigate. Climbing up the ladder inside the tube he had to do a double-take. Ensign Mayweather sat in a lotus position inside the tube, which was not that unusual, aside from the fact that he had no business being there. But the one thing making it unreal was the little detail that he was doing so upside-down on the ceiling.
"You're upside down, Ensign," he stated the obvious with a mix of confusion, amazement and amusement painting his features.
"Care to explain why?"
"When I was a kid, we called it the sweet spot. Every ship's got one."
"Sweet spot?" Trip asked incredulously.
"It's usually about halfway between the grav-generator and the bow plate," Travis explained, grinning. "Grab a hold of the hatch."
Trip grabbed the hatch in front of him.
"No, on either side," the helmsman explained, pointing at the hatch. "Now push off."
"Push off!" he repeated after Trip shot him an 'are-you-kidding-me' look.
"Wow!" Trip enthused as he noticed that the environment was a zero-G area, but his amazement quickly turned into surprise.
"WHOA!" Tucker cried out as he flipped over and slammed uncoordinated onto the ceiling, flat on his back.
"It takes practice," Travis remarked dryly, observing the Chief Engineer's clumsy attempt to get into a sitting position. "Ever slept in zero G?"
"It's just like being back in the womb," Travis explained.
"The Captain tells me you've been to Trillius Prime?" Trip asked, glancing around and trying to get used to the fact that he was hanging from the ceiling like a bat.
"It took the fourth, fifth and sixth grades to get there. I've also been to Draylax and both the Denebian moons."
"I've only been to one inhabited planet besides Earth. Nothing there but dust-dwelling ticks," Trip said ruefully. "I've heard the women on Draylax have..."
"Three. It's true," Travis confirmed the popular rumor.
"You know that first-hand?" Trip asked with a sheepish look.
"First-hand, second-hand, third-hand," Travis recalled with a mischievous glimmer in his eyes.
"I guess growing up a boomer has its advantages," Trip quipped and both had to laugh. "I better get going, dinner with the Cap'n in 20 minutes."
Deck E, Enterprise
"The Grand Canyon?" Archer asked.
"Big Sur Aquarium?"
"Sightseeing was not one of my assignments," T'Pol explained, slowly getting irritated by Archers guessing game.
"All work and no play," the Captain mumbled, his mouth full of bread-stick. "Everyone should get out for a little fun now and then."
"All our recreational needs are provided at the Compound," she retorted, trying not to let her irritation show as he continued on, oblivious to the fact that he was speaking with his mouth full. She started to wonder how the humans expected to be welcome to the interplanetary community without having mastered something as simple as table manners.
"Come in," Archer ordered, when Trip pushed the door chime.
"You should've started without me," the engineer said.
T'Pol tried to ignore the engineer as inconspicuously as possible. Even with her nasal inhibitor still effective for several more hours, she could pick up the faint smell of pine needles that his shampoo had left behind. It was definitely more agreeable than the not-so-faint smell of canine she had picked up from the Captain. He too was clean, for the most part, but he must have had touched the disagreeable animal before coming here.
"Sit down," Archer indicated to the chairs. "T'Pol tells me she's been living at the Vulcan Compound in Sausalito."
"No kidd'n," Trip mused while arranging his napkin. "I lived a few blocks from there when I first joined Starfleet. Great parties at the Vulcan Compound," he added with a smirk. Both men shared a chuckle at T'Pol's expense.
"It might be a little easier using your fingers," the Captain said, seeing T'Pol struggling to tackle a bread-stick with a fork.
"Vulcans do not touch food with their hands."
"Can't wait to see you tackle the spare ribs," Trip added – seemingly serious – while the Captain settled for an understanding nod. T'Pol failed to hide a hint of surprise on her face, not sure whether the humans would really be prone to a gaffe of that magnitude.
"Don't worry. We know you're a vegetarian," the Captain quickly added as the steward entered the room.
"Looks delicious," Trip mused, when the steward placed the steaks in front of him and Captain Archer, while T'Pol was served a fresh salad. "Tell Chef I said thanks."
"Of course, sir," agreed the crewman.
"You humans claim to be enlightened, yet you still consume the flesh of animals," she lectured with a slightly more condescending undercurrent than originally intended, sure that it would be the engineer, who would challenge her accusation first.
"Grandma taught me never to judge a species by their eating habits," Trip answered, joining his captain in the disagreeable habit of speaking with his mouth full.
"Enlightened may be too strong a word, but if you'd been on Earth fifty years ago, I think you'd be impressed by what we've gotten done," Archer explained further.
"You have yet to embrace either patience or logic. You remain impulsive carnivores," she continued in the same tone as before.
"Yeah? How about war, disease, hunger. Pretty much wiped 'em out in less than two generations. I wouldn't call that small potatoes," the engineer replied and T'Pol noticed a certain stubborn pride in his voice.
"It remains to be seen whether humanity will revert to its baser instincts," T'Pol insisted, not budging in her confrontational manner.
"Well, we used to have cannibals on Earth. Who knows how far we'll revert? Lucky this isn't a long mission," Tucker answered and he didn't even try to hide his sarcasm.
"Human instinct is pretty strong," Archer interjected, trying to cool the argument that was brewing between his two officers. "You can't expect us to change overnight."
"With proper discipline, anything's possible," she replied, showing the piece of bread-stick, she had finally managed to wrestle onto her fork without breaking any Vulcan etiquette.
Deck A, Enterprise, Deck A
Captain Archer pushed the com button to hail Engineering.
"Trip, you ready for the next test?"
"We're ready to go."
"Ok, Travis – warp 4.3," the Captain ordered.
"Warp four point three, sir," the helmsman reported.
"Not much of a change," Malcolm asserted.
"I don't know," Hoshi said nervously, looking at Archer. "Does anybody else feel that?"
"Feel what?" Archer asked and noticed her uneasiness.
"Those vibrations, ... like little tremors."
"You're imagining it," T'Pol dismissed her coldly and Archer's irritation began to rise again. Those damn Vulcans have a strange way of reassuring an insecure crew member.
"Bring us to four four, Ensign," he requested of Travis. A short while later the ship shuddered for several seconds.
"There! What do you call that?" Hoshi asked and the nervousness in her voice was clearly palpable. Archer started to worry. They needed Hoshi desperately for this mission, but she wouldn't be any help if she was a basket case.
"The deflector's sequencing. It's perfectly normal," Malcolm tried to calm her down.
"Perhaps you'd like to go to your quarters and lie down?" T'Pol told Hoshi in an arrogant manner and Archer felt an urge to strangle her. Sometimes the Vulcans appeared to have the social skills of an ice block.
"Ponfo mirann," Hoshi replied with barely restrained anger. Whatever it was, she had said, Archer noticed the short flinch in T'Pols face, which could only mean that Hoshi hadn't offered her a compliment.
"I was instructed to speak English during this voyage, and I would appreciate it if you would respect that," T'Pol retorted and Archer decided to deescalate rather than witnessing a hen-fight on the bridge.
"It's easy to get a little jumpy when you're traveling at thirty million kilometers a second. Should be an old hat in a week's time-" he interrupted them. His re-conciliatory speech was interrupted by the chime of a com-hail. "Archer!"
"This is Doctor Phlox, Captain. Our patient is regaining consciousness."
"On my way," the Captain answered and motioned Hoshi to accompany him. He noticed T'Pol and Hoshi staring daggers at each other before he entered the turbo-lift with the ships com-officer.
"Hoshi, what was that all about?" he asked as soon as they were alone in the lift.
"I don't think, you told T'Pol 'good idea'. I wanna know, what you said. That's an order," he added with a stern look.
"It means 'go to hell', Sir," Hoshi admitted and cast her eyes to the floor.
"None of us is happy with her being on the ship," Archer replied with visible frustration. "It's difficult enough to keep Trip from shoving her pointy-eared ass out the nearest airlock, I don't need you to add to that, too. Is that understood?"
"Aye, Sir. I'm sorry."
"It's OK, Hoshi. Just make sure you don't make a habit of cussing her off. As I said, I'm busy enough keeping Trip in line," Archer said with a smile.
"I don't think that would be necessary," Hoshi replied, now smiling herself. "Something tells me that those two have way too much fun arguing to kick each other out the airlock."
"I don't think the words 'Vulcan' and 'fun' belong in the same sentence," Archer said with a chuckle, shaking his head. Both officers left the lift, heading for Sickbay.
Deck E, Enterprise
Archer and Hoshi could hear the growls of their passenger, before the door to sickbay even opened.
"Pung ghap! Pung ghap!" the Klingon growled and Phlox noticed that the young human female punched away at the keyboard of the prototype universal translator a bit too frantically.
"What's wrong?" the Captain asked with an irritated look at the Ensign.
"The translator," Hoshi answered – very nervously. "It's not locking onto his dialect. The syntax won't align."
"DujDaj Hegh!" Klaang continued to shout, trying to free himself from the restraints. Phlox kept observing the young ensign, but refrained from interfering... yet.
"Tell him we're taking him home," the Captain demanded.
"Ingan Hoch juH," Hoshi spoke to the Klingon and Phlox registered that she appeared extremely unsure of her self.
"He wants to know who we are," Hoshi reported, before answering the aliens request. "Ou'ghewme Enterpise. PugloD."
"LupHom... Ship," Hoshi stammered after a few seconds. "He's asking for his ship back."
"Say it was destroyed."
"Vengen Sto'vo'kor Dos!"
"I'm not sure, but I think he's saying something about... 'eating the afterlife'?"
Phlox grew irritated with the captain. Even someone with nonexistent knowledge of human psychology should by now have realized, that the young ensign was extremely unsure of herself and almost panicking. He failed to understand, why the commanding officer put more pressure on her, rather than trying to calm her down.
"Try the translator again," Archer ordered and continued to pace the room.
"I'm going to need to run what we've got through the phonetic processor," Hoshi explained at kept frantically poking the buttons of the device.
"He says his wife has grown ugly?" Hoshi reported with a pleading look at Archer, before stammering on."I... I'm sorry, Captain. I'm doing the best I can."
Phlox decided it would be best to get her out of that situation. Any more pressure from the captain would only make her more insecure or even cause her to panic. He walked over and started to scan the alien's head, before delivering a more than slightly exaggerated diagnosis.
"Excuse me," he interrupted the Captain. "His pre-frontal cortex is hyper-stimulated. I doubt he has any idea what he's saying."
"I think the Doctor's right, Captain," Hoshi agreed, with a grateful look at Phlox. "Unless 'stinky boots' has something to do with all this."
"OaOgu'na!" the Klingon shouted, when the ship shuddered again, causing Hoshi to panic.
"That's the warp reactor again, right?" she stammered with a frightened glance at the Captain.
"OaOgu'na!" Klaang repeated.
"Bridge, report," Archer barked into the com.
"We've dropped out of warp, sir. Main power is-." T'Pols report was cut short when the whole ship went dark as all systems short of life support went offline.
Deck A, Enterprise
Back on the bridge, Travis delivered a less than optimistic report.
"We're losing power on all decks."
"I think I just saw something off the starboard bow," Malcolm butted in.
"What?" T'Pol asked him.
"I don't know. It might have just been the sensors going down."
Deck E, Enterprise
"Auxiliary power should have kicked in by now," Archer muttered in confusion about the absence of the emergency lightning, before addressing Hoshi "Can you tell him to shut up?"
"Shut up!" she shouted at the Klingon, who kept up his irate growling.
"You may have to sedate him," Archer said in Phlox' direction, "I need to get to the bridge."
"Captain!" Hoshi cried out when she saw a shadowy figure blend into the background. "There's someone here."
The two security crewmen, Archer, Hoshi and Phlox turned on their flashlights and walked through sickbay searching for the invisible intruders. Archer caught a glimpse of a pale-green figure in red clothing, crawling along the ceiling.
"Crewman!" he shouted out to one of the security members, but Crewman Zabel's shot missed it's target.
"Suliban," Klaang uttered in a low voice.
A short while later Zabel was struck down, when the same figure charged at him out of the darkness and slammed him into the wall. Archer picked up the rifle that Zabel had dropped and managed to shoot the attacker. Hoshi let out a shriek when the dead alien landed right at her feet.
Archer's light caught a second figure, crawling along the ceiling. The intruder dropped right onto Klaang and pinned a locator on him before activating a remote transport.
As the lights returned, along with all other deactivated systems, the officers in sickbay found the biobed empty. Klaang was gone.
Deck A, Enterprise
Archer exited the turbo-lift and was visibly irritated.
"We've got state-of-the-art sensors. Why the hell didn't we detect them?" he asked angrily.
"Mister Reed thought he detected something right before we lost power," Travis answered.
"The starboard sensor logs recorded a spatial disturbance," the tactical officer reported.
Looking over Malcolm's shoulder, Trip added. "Looks more like a glitch."
"Those weren't glitches in Sickbay," Hoshi said defiantly.
"I want a complete analysis of that disturbance. Where do we stand on weapons?"
"I still have to tune the targeting scanners," Reed reported.
"What're you waiting for?" Archer asked, irritated about his tactical officer's hesitancy.
"Captain," T'Pol tried to get his attention, but Archer ignored her and addressed Hoshi instead.
"The Klingon seemed to know who they were. See if you can translate what he said."
"Right away," she agreed.
"Captain," T'Pol repeated more firmly, finally getting his attention. She continued with what seemed to Archer as the Vulcan equivalent of an I-told-you-so attitude. "There's no way you could have anticipated this. I'm sure Ambassador Soval will understand."
"You're the Science Officer. Why don't you help Trip with that analysis?" he replied in anger. He couldn't believe that she was taking the time to patronize him in front of his bridge crew rather than helping to resolve the problem.
"The astrometric computer in San Francisco will be far more effective."
"We're not going to San Francisco, so make do with what we've got here," the Captain answered, struggling to keep himself from shouting at her.
"You've lost the Klingon. Your mission is over," she replied, still making no move to follow his orders.
"I didn't lose the Klingon," Archer fumed. "He was taken, and I'm going to find out who took him."
"How do you plan to do that? Space is very big, Captain," she continued. Archer was reaching critical mass. "A shadow on your sensors won't help you find them. This is a foolish mission."
"Come with me," he hissed and stormed towards his ready room. When the door closed, "I'm not interested in what you think about this mission, so take your Vulcan cynicism and bury it along with your repressed emotions-"
"Your reaction to this situation is a perfect example of why your species should remain in its own star system," T'Pol replied, unmoved by his anger.
"I've been listening to you Vulcans tell us what not to do all my entire life. I watched my father work his ass off while your scientists held back just enough information to keep him from succeeding," Archer turned away to deny her the satisfaction of seeing the painful sadness that showed on his features, caused by being reminded of his fathers untimely death. "He deserved to see that launch. You may have life spans of two hundred years, we don't."
"You are going to be contacting Starfleet to advise them of our situation," T'Pol demanded.
"No, I'm not," he replied, staring daggers at her. "And neither are you. Now get the hell out there and make yourself useful!"
As soon as she had left, he slammed his fist onto his desk. "Damn, those Vulcans!"
Deck E, Enterprise
"What have you found, Doctor?" Archer asked when he strolled in sickbay. He shivered slightly at what he saw: a dead alien on the biobed with it's chest splayed open for Phlox to rummage around in it's internal organs.
"Mister Klaang was right about one thing," Phlox reported. "He's a Suliban. But unless I'm mistaken, he's no ordinary one."
"Meaning?" Archer asked, wondering what could be so special about the ugly figure, other than being dead.
His DNA is Suliban but his anatomy has been altered," Phlox continued and grabbed an organ with his forceps. Archer made a disgusted face.
"Look at this lung. Five bronchial lobes, you see. It should only have three. And look at the alveoli clusters," Phlox explained, rummaging around in the aliens bowels, causing some very disgusting sounds that made Archer cringe. "They've been modified to process different kinds of atmospheres."
"Are you saying he's some kind of a mutant?"
"Yes, I suppose I am, but this was no accident, no freak of nature," Phlox mused, putting away his forceps and his rubber gloves. "This man was the recipient of some very... sophisticated genetic engineering."
Watch this," he requested and directed a red light at the aliens skin, causing it to glow in the same color. "Subcutaneous pigment sacs. A bio-mimetic garment. And, the eyes are my favorite," he continued, opening one of the alien's eyes. "Compound retinas. He most likely saw things even your sensors couldn't detect.
"It's not in their genome?" Archer asked.
"No,... certainly not. The Suliban are no more evolved than humans. It is very impressive work, though. I've never seen anything quite like it.
Deck D, Enterprise
Trip was sifting through the sensor data for the fifth time and his frustration was only growing. Unless the intruders had materialized out of thin air, there had to be a way to find a trace of where they had gone. He registered the distinct sound of Vulcan boots approaching him from behind.
"The Captain ordered me to offer my assistance," she explained, coming to stand beside him on the console in his office.
If she weren't Vulcan, Trip could have sworn that he sensed a hurt undercurrent in her voice – but she was Vulcan, so it had to have been his imagination.
"I'm trying to find any trace of were they came from or were the hell they went to," he reported, indicating at the grained visualization of the sensor data. She looked over his shoulder at the readouts.
Sensing that her strange mood probably meant that she didn't make much sense of whatever the captain had said in the ready room, he explained. "You should be happy that you're not floating in space now, you know. That stunt you pulled on the Captain was completely uncalled for."
"I was merely offering my opinion on the facts."
"I don't know, how you Vulcans handle such things," he replied, mustering her with an annoyed look. "But, if you have an opinion, take it to the captain in private or shove it where the sun don't shine. I'd have thought you of all people would understand that."
T'Pol abstained from any comment and returned her eyes to the data on the screen.
"What about this?" he asked, pointing at some strangely irregular values.
"It's just background noise. Your sensors aren't capable of isolating plasma decay," she explained. That did not much to calm Trip's growing annoyance with her superior attitude.
"How can you be so damn sure what our sensors can do?"
"Vulcan children play with toys that are more sophisticated," she remarked and Trips patience came to an end.
"You know, some people say that you Vulcans do nothing but patronize us," he snapped, storming along the catwalk. His voice was practically oozing with sarcasm "But if they were here now, if they could see how far you're bending over backwards to help me, they'd eat their words."
"Your Captain's mission was to return the Klingon to his people," she replied dismissively. "He no longer has the Klingon."
"I realize he's only a simple Earthling," Trip spat back, not even trying to hide the offense he took in her words, "but did it ever occur to you that he might know what he's doing? It's no secret Starfleet hasn't been around too long. God knows you remind us of that every chance you get, but does that mean the man who's been put in charge of this mission doesn't deserve our support? Then again, loyalty's an emotion – isn't it?" he challenged her attitude.
"Any luck?" Archer interrupted them, as soon as they arrived in front of the warp reactor.
"Not really," Trip sighed with frustration.
"My analysis of the spatial disturbance Mister Reed saw indicates a stealth vessel with a tricyclic plasma drive," T'Pol reported,
"If we can figure out the decay rate of their plasma, we'll be able to find their warp trail," Trip clarified.
"Unfortunately, your sensors were not designed to measure plasma decay."
Entering engineering, Hoshi eyed the engine with a worried look. "Are you sure it's safe to stand so close to that?" she asked pointing at the throbbing propulsion device. The other officers ignored her question.
"What've you got?" Archer asked her.
"I've managed to translate most of what Klaang said, but none of it makes sense."
"Nothing about the Suliban?" the captain asked,
"Does that name ring a bell to you?" Archer asked his science officer rather more harshly than Trip thought he might've if she were a human crewman.
"They're a somewhat primitive species from Sector 3641, but they've never posed a threat."
"Well, they have now," he replied before returning his attention to Hoshi. "Did he say anything about Earth?"
"The word's not even in their database. It's all there. There were only four words I couldn't translate. probably just proper nouns," Hoshi explained, while Archer looked at the PADD she had brought with her.
"Sillik, Sarin, Rigel, Tholia. Anything sound familiar?" he asked mustering the Vulcan. Seeing that she hesitated, he pressed on. "T'Pol?"
"Rigel is a planetary system approximately fifteen light years from our present position."
"Why the hesitation?" Archer asked and Trip could see the anger boiling up inside his friend.
"According to the navigational logs salvaged from Klaang's ship, Rigel Ten was the last place he stopped at before crashing on your planet," she reported reluctantly.
"Why do I get the feeling you weren't going to share that little piece of information?"
"I wasn't authorized to reveal the details of our findings," T'Pol explained. Trip knew immediately that Jon wouldn't be most pleased with that one.
"The next time I learn that you're withholding something," Archer spat and shot her an angry glare. "You're going to spend the rest of this voyage confined to some very cramped quarters. Understood?"
Without waiting for her answer, he walked over to the com. "Archer to helm."
"Go into the Vulcan star charts and find a system called Rigel, then set a course for the tenth planet."
Deck D, Enterprise: April 12, 2151
"Y'know, for a science officer, you've got quite the knack for engineering," Trip admitted, while he ran several of his modifications past the Vulcan's scrutiny.
"Every Vulcan is trained in engineering. As it is the most important department on the ship, it is imperative that every crew member is able to fill in for wounded or killed engineers."
"Well, the perks of living for 200 years," Trip quipped. "I think, we should try to improve the engine control routines for the intermix ratio. It took us days to get it fine-tuned to within .3 microns, despite the specs saying .5 is ok, but the routines are designed to keep it within .5 only, so we'll lose the alignment over and over again."
"I was of the impression that the specifications, as they were written, are technically sound," she replied in a challenging tone.
"They are," he sighed with his trademark eye-roll, which she had come to believe he displayed intentionally whenever he was displeased with her. "But we're wasting a helluva lot potential."
"I fail to see the logic of improving the engine's top-speed before we even have managed to use it's current maximum. Wouldn't it be the logical course of action to concentrate on maintaining its current state and use all the potential that it already has before trying to extend it?"
"Jeez, T'Pol. I'm an engineer, not a glorified mechanic," he argued, gesticulating wildly. "Why have you been helping me for almost a week if it is so illogical? If all we needed were mechanics, Rostov would run this show, not me."
"I apologize, Mr. Tucker," she replied calmly. The mentioning of Crewman Rostov reminded her of something she had planned some days ago, but forgotten to actually complete.
"It's ok," Trip answered in a re-conciliatory tone. "Care to continue?"
"Agreed," she answered with a nod and they continued to review his latest batch of creative ideas.
Deck E, Enterprise: April 13, 2151
It was well past midnight when T'Pol returned from her latest creative sparring with Commander Tucker. While he was not any less confrontational than Captain Archer, she had noticed that the engineer at least did not continually accuse her of bringing misery to his family and, in contrast to many other crew members, he did not immediately adopt a hostile stance whenever she addressed him.
According to your views, Mr. Rostov would have been considered the most bothersome of all the humans aboard. He insisted on using an appellation of his native tongue, even though human Standard has a perfectly suitable word. His colleagues called this a 'quirk'. He was the easiest for me to interact with.
The words of her father started to make sense. Just like this Mr. Rostov, the most approachable person aboard this ship was the chief engineer. He was the least bothersome to interact with, despite his irritating tendency to constantly instigate arguments.
T'Pol called up the personal file of a Crewman and her eyebrow shot up...
Name: Rostov, Mikhail Sergeyevich, UES NX-01 Enterprise
Born: June 25th, 2128 in Kalachinsk, Russia
Father: Rostov, Sergey Antonovich, Chief Engineer, UECS Baikal
Mother: Rostova, Nadezhda Timofeyevna neé Kuleva, UECS Baikal
Siblings: Rostov, Nikolai Sergeyevich, Chief Engineer, UECS Gerald Ford
Deck E, Enterprise: April 16th, 2151
"Computer, start recording:
"Captain's log, April 16th, 2151: We are 8 hours from Rigel X, where we hope to find new information about Klaang's mission and – maybe – where we can find his abductors, whom Doctor Phlox identified as a species called Suliban. Unfortunately, our science officer is not much help. Other than challenging my authority in public and telling us endlessly what blithering idiots we are, her contribution to this mission has been nothing to write home about-
"Computer, stop and delete recording," Archer instructed – realizing that his latest recording would not sound very professional, when reviewed by Starfleet.
"Would you have thought that it is actually meand not Trip who'd have to fight the urge to flush her out into space?" he asked Porthos. "If Trip wasn't keeping her busy in engineering, I'm sure she'd be intergalactic flotsam by now."
The beagle let out a little whimper, sensing his masters rotten mood. That would mean no cheese and no ear scratches today.
"How does Trip do it?" Archer continued to rant. Porthos tucked his head between his front paws, hoping that the human's flare of emotions would subside. "I'll buy him a beer, when we get back - for keeping her out of my hair. God knows how he can stand her, but I'm thankful for small mercies," Archer sighed, shaking his head.
Suliban Nexus, Sector Unknown
Klaang was bound to an interrogation chair with IV's connected to either side of his head while the Suliban leader interrogated him in Klingon. A second Suliban stood nearby but did not take part in the interrogation.
"Where is it? Where is it!" the Suliban demanded.
"I don't know," Klaang answered. His look was disorientated and unfocused.
"We're not going to harm you. Tell me where it is."
"I don't know," the Klingon insisted.
"Are you certain he's telling the truth?" the Suliban asked his comrade.
"Absolutely certain. The drugs are working," the alien medic assured his superior.
"Did you leave it on your ship? Is it on Enterprise?"
"I don't know what you're looking for."
"What were you doing on Rigel X?" the interrogator inquired.
"I was sent to meet someone."
"A Suliban female named Sarin," Klaang replied, his brain muddled by the drugs.
"And what did Sarin give you?"
"Keep him alive while I'm gone," the Suliban interrogator ordered the medic, leaving the chamber.
Deck A, Enterprise, in standard orbit of Rigel X: April 16, 2151
"Lt. Foster, you have the bridge while we're down there," Archer instructed.
"Aye, Sir," Foster replied. As seventh in the chain of command the young security officer would never have expected to have the bridge, let alone on their very first mission. How could he have guessed that all 6 people ahead of him in the food-chain, would leave the ship together.
"At the first sign of trouble, you take the ship out of orbit and make a run for it, understood?"
Deck E, Enterprise
"As soon as we've tied down, we'll be descending into the trade complex," Archer explained while T'Pol started handing out the universal translators.
"It has thirty-six levels." He motioned T'Pol to continue with her instructions. Trip listened on in curious anticipation of his first ever mission to a planet with more complex indigenous life than dust-dwelling ticks. "Your translators have been programmed for Rigelian. However, you'll encounter numerous other species. Many of them are known to be impatient with newcomers. None of them have seen a human before. You have a tendency to be gregarious. I suggest you try to restrain that tendency," T'Pol lectured and her head-teacher attitude annoyed the Chief engineer.
"You forgot to warn us about drinking the water," he quipped sarcastically.
"Doctor Phlox isn't concerned with the food and water, but he does caution against intimate contact."
She doesn't seriously believe we're going down and bang the hell outta the first female that doesn't run fast enough, does she?Trip thought and rolled his eyes in annoyance.
"The Vulcans told us Klaang was a courier," Archer took over. "If he was there to get something, then whoever gave it to him might know why he was taken. It was only a few days ago. A seven foot Klingon doesn't go unnoticed."
The shuttlepod was lowered out of the launch bay once all 6 officers had boarded and Travis executed a flawless descent through the blizzard. The landing team filed out of the vehicle, once the helmsman had set it down on the snow covered landing platform of Rigel X's trade complex.
Level 6, Trade Complex, Rigel X
"Ok, Trip – you and T'Pol take the lower levels," Archer instructed, once they had secured the shuttlepod. "Hoshi and I'll try to get some answers from the dock master. Klaang's ship had no transporter, so he must have seen him. Malcolm, you and Travis try your luck in the entertainment district."
"Aye, Sir," the officers answered in unison and scattered in different directions.
Trip and T'Pol walked slowly through an industrial looking area of the trade complex and, while she scanned the area for clues about Klaang or any security risks, the engineer took in the surroundings with wide eyes, overwhelmed by the amount of unusual sights.
When a very oversized fly-like insect landed on his shoulder, the engineer was so startled that he tried to chase it away with wildly flailing arms. As soon as T'Pol's piercing glare hit him, he calmed down in embarrassment, while the Vulcan failed to hide a short flinch of consternation.
Continuing their slow walk, Trip noticed two shadows behind a door with a translucent window and the distinct sound of scared female shrieks. T'Pol didn't notice immediately that he went nearer to the door to investigate.
"What the hell?" His disbelieving swearing made her aware of him and she grabbed his shoulder forcefully, spinning him around to face her.
"It is nothing that concerns us," she admonished with ill-concealed annoyance.
Neither of them noticed the hooded, pale-green figure that followed them.
X X X
"Five or six days ago a Klingon passed through here," Archer asked the Rigelian dock master. "Can you tell us where he went?"
"Five or six days ago?" The alien asked in disbelief. "Do you realize how much traffic we process in a single day?"
"This was a one man Klingon scout ship," Archer clarified. Surely it couldn't be so often that someone arrived here in such a small ship.
"What species are you?"
"Humans. We're called humans," Archer explained, but before he could elaborate, the chime of an alarm from the approach guidance system interrupted him.
"Elkan Nine, raise your approach vector by point two radiants," the dock master instructed, before turning his interest back to Archer and Hoshi. "It was seven days ago. A K'toch-class vessel."
"Does it say who he was here to see?" Archer asked, pointing at the alien script that the dock master had called up, when he found the record of the last Klingon ship to land in his area of responsibility.
"What it says is that he arrived at docking port six and was given a level one bio-hazard clearance."
"You don't seem to be very interested in what people do here," Archer stated to make it clear to the alien that he didn't quite trust him.
"Our visitors value their privacy. It wouldn't be very tusoropko tuprova pro the business they're in."
"It's all right," Hoshi explained, when Archer looked at her with a questioning glance. "Rigelian uses a pronominal base. The translator's just reprocessing the syntax."
"Do you have any records of a Suliban vessel coming in around the same time?"
"Suliban? I don't know that word. Your device must still be malfunctioning."
Neither Archer nor Hoshi believed him, but fishing for more than they'd already gotten was fruitless and they continued their walk back to the trade complex.
X X X
Malcolm Reed and Travis Mayweather had entered a rather sleazy bar and – after talking to the owner – were rather captivated by two almost-naked alien females who's skin was painted in garish tones of red and blue. They were dancing quite suggestivly surrounded by a flurry of butterflies, their long, prehensile tongues shoting out from time to time to catch and devour one of the insects.
"Would you like to meet them?" the ugly, hooded owner of the establishment asked. "I can arrange it."
"Is this where you saw Klaang?" Travis asked, reminding the ugly dwarf of the their previous agreement.
"I'll show you where, but first you should enjoy yourselves. Which one would you prefer?" the owner asked the rather flustered Reed.
"We should get going," Travis advised, seeing his fellow officer a bit too fascination with the colorful females.
"Are those real butterflies, or some kind of holograms?" Reed asked absentmindedly.
"Sir," Travis repeated more firmly.
"Yes... err... Absolutely. Right," Reed stammered and turned to follow Travis.
Seeing two potential customers turn to leave the alien upped the ante. "Gentlemen, gentlemen. Perhaps you would prefer to watch the interspecies performance?"
"You don't know anything about Klaang, do you," Travis stated, his growing annoyance visible by now.
"Of course I do, but there's no reason to hurry," the ugly toad stalled for time.
"Interspecies performance?" Reed inquired with renewed interest.
"Lieutenant, this man has no intention of helping us," Travis explained with an eye-roll, failing to understand that the ship's almost paranoid security chief of all people could let an unknown alien lull him into such a lame trap.
"Perhaps another time," Reed declined, finally realizing that he'd been played.
"I can't believe we fell for that," Travis sighed and shook his head, using 'we' rather than 'you' to avoid being accused of showing disrespect towards a superior officer.
"We are explorers," Malcolm quipped to hide his embarrassment. "Let's return to the shuttle, maybe the other were more... um... successful."
X X X
Waiting for T'Pol to come back out of the office of the Central Security, Trip struggled to fight the annoyance at being left outside like a dog in front of a shop. Looking around, he noticed an alien female and a child. The youngster used what looked like a breathing device, but periodically the female would remove the device, letting the child gasp and wheeze helplessly. Angered by such cruelty, he walked nearer to the scene, ready to rescue the kid from his tormenter if necessary.
Coming out of the office, T'Pol opened her communicator. "T'Pol to Archer."
"Go ahead," the captain replied.
"Hey!" Trip shouted towards the female, who continued to harry the child.
"Central Security claims to have no record of Klaang," T'Pol reported, unaware of Tuckers discovery. "But they told me about an enclave on level nineteen where Klingons have been known to go. Something about live food."
"Where on level nineteen?" Archer asked, having just entered that section with Hoshi.
"The easternmost subsection, by the geothermal shafts."
"I'll meet you there as soon as I can. Archer out."
As the alien female continued to torture the child, Trips patience ran out and his anger boiled over. "What are you doing? Leave the kid alone!" he shouted.
"Don't get involved," T'Pol warned, grabbing him by the arm.
"Do you see what she's doing?" he asked – very agitated. "He's going to suffocate!"
"They're Lorillians. Before the age of four, they can only breathe methyloxide. The mother is simply weaning her son."
"Could've fooled me," he answered, realizing that his inexperience made him look like a complete fool again and he grew even angrier for it.
"Humans can't refrain from drawing conclusions. You should learn to objectify other cultures, so you know when to interfere and when not to."
Trip swallowed his annoyance. As if it wasn't enough, that he had embarrassed himself – again, no, this pointy-eared know-it-all had to twist the knife on top of it.
Both were too engrossed in their bickering to notice a hooded Suliban...
X X X
"Isn't an enclave supposed to have people?" Hoshi asked, fear oozing from her voice as she walked alongside Archer through an industrial looking complex.
"Enclave can mean a lot of things," Archer explained, trying to calm her down a little.
"T'Pol said something about live food. I don't see any restaurants," she continued, but stopped, when they saw two Klingons pass by in a T-junction, not too far ahead.
"Hello! Excuse me!" Archer called out.
"Ha'quj jeg!" Hoshi shouted, but the Klingons ignored them and moved on. "They looked Klingon to me."
"Archer to T'Pol. T'Pol, come in," the captain hailed.
"Maybe we should get back to where there are more people," Hoshi pleaded with a frightened voice.
"There are plenty of people right here," Archer said and charged up his phase pistol, when they heard suspicious noises around them. "Stay behind me."
After a mere few meters, Hoshi shrieked as she was grabbed into a stranglehold by a hooded Suliban, while Archer was attacked by two others. He managed to fend off their initial attack by kicking one in the guts and flooring the second one with a Judo-throw, but the superior strength of the green mutants soon overwhelmed his resistance.
They were hustled away to a nearby holding cell, in which Archer saw Trip and T'Pol already apprehended. One Suliban deactivated the force field, while Hoshi was shoved inside by another, before the force field went up again. Archer was left outside.
T'Pol shot Archer an 'I-told-you-so' look of consternation from inside the holding cell. She's got a damn annoying way of telling me about it, but this time she's right – we got ourselves into one hell of a mess, Archer thought ruefully, before he was hauled away by his two captors.
X X X
He was shoved into a narrow corridor, where his captors left him alone before they retreated back towards the holding cell.
"You're looking for Klaang. Why?" a female voice asked from somewhere behind him.
Archer spun around. "Who the hell are you?" he asked back angrily.
"My name is Sarin," she explained and Archer recognized her name immediately as one of the four words that Hoshi couldn't make sense of, when she translated Klaang's irate mutterings in sickbay. "Tell me about the people who took Klaang off your ship."
"I was hoping you could tell me," Archer demanded from the hooded figure, who emerged from the shadows, slowly walking towards him. "They looked a lot like your friends outside."
"Where were you taking him?" she asked further, still not answering any of his questions.
"How come you don't look like your friends?" Archer inquired, noticing that she looked like a bald human female and an attractive one at that. The mysterious woman started to circle him in close proximity.
"Would you prefer I did?" she asked with a seductive voice.
"What I'd prefer is that you give me Klaang back," Archer counter-demanded, his look following the female closely as she continued circling him.
"So you could take him where?"
"Home," he sighed in annoyance. "We were just taking him home."
"You'd better be careful," he added, when she came to a stop in front of him, pressing her body to his. "I'm a lot bigger than you are."
"If you're thinking about harming me, I'd advise against it," she whispered seductively.
"What are you doing?" Archer asked, when she started to caress his face.
"Why were you taking Klaang home?" she asked, gently tracing his jaw-line.
"You know, under different circumstances, I might be flattered by this, but-" his reply was cut short as she kissed him.
After breaking the kiss, she took a step back and Archer gasped, her skin morphing into the mottled greenish mess that was a Suliban's outer shell.
"That's never happened before," he muttered completely flabbergasted.
"I've been given the ability to measure trust, but it requires close contact," she explained and lowered the hood.
"I was a member of the Cabal, but not any longer. The price of evolution was too high," she continued, turning to walk away from him.
"Evolution?" Archer asked, following her.
"Some of my people are so anxious to improve themselves that they've lost perspective."
"So you know I'm not lying to you. Now what?" he asked as they stopped and faced each other.
"Klaang was carrying a message to his people."
"How do you know that?"
"I gave it to him," she answered flatly.
"What kind of message?"
"The Suliban have been staging attacks within the Klingon Empire, making it appear that one faction is attacking another. Klaang was bringing proof of this to his High Council. Without that proof, the Empire could be thrown into chaos."
"Why would the Suliban want that?"
"The Cabal doesn't make decisions on its own. They're simply soldiers fighting a Temporal Cold War."
"Temporal? You've lost me," Archer asked, visibly confused.
"They're taking orders from the distant future."
"What?" This started to get more and more surreal by the second.
"We can help you find Klaang but we don't have a starship. You'll have to take us with you," she continued, but was interrupted when a phaser shot from behind only narrowly missed her.
Archer and Sarin, who grabbed her phase pistol from a nearby console ran for cover and managed to fend off the two attackers after a short fire fight. The female Suliban motioned him to follow her to the holding cell, where they had to fend off three more attackers in a lengthy shootout.
Frantically reaching for the console, Sarin released Trip, T'Pol, and Hoshi and handed them their weapons. "Where is your vessel?" she asked, while doing so.
"On the roof. Docking port three," Archer answered and waited for her to show the way.
"This way," she indicated and they started running. Hoshi noticed two Suliban crawling along the ceiling, but Trip shoved her onwards, while Sarin tried to fend off the attackers. As they came to a solid door, Sarin opened it using a nearby control console. She followed the humans, but, before she could clear the exit, the attackers' leader shot her twice in the back.
"Trip!" Archer cried out for his friend to provide suppression fire, while he cradled the limp figure of Sarin."
"Find Klaang," she groaned, before the last breath escaped her body.