This is a story I started writing a few years ago, and plan on resuming very soon. I’m currently re-watching Star Trek: Enterprise to get back into the story. Stay tuned!
Chapter 1: Prologue
T’Pol entered captain Archer’s cabin just in time to almost get hit by a water-polo ball. Her eyebrow formed a high arch, as she wondered whether she picked a wrong time to contact her captain. He, on the other hand, grinned widely, and motioned for her to sit down. Not surprisingly, she remained standing.
“What can I do for you, sub-commander?” Archer asked cheerfully. Rising from his bed to pick up the ball that rolled under his worktable, he patted Porthos, his pet beagle, whose presence in the room still seemed to unnerve the Vulcan science officer.
“We’ve spotted an inhabited planet in a near-by system. A pre-warp society, on a societal level of medieval Earth. We can be there in less than two days, assuming we keep our current speed. I thought you might be interested,” T’Pol answered, as cold as ever. Archer nodded in apparent approval.
“Do we know anything about them?”
“No. As a species incapable of faster-than-light travel, the Vulcan High Command never found it important to observe them more closely.”
“As curious as ever, eh? Well, we have been quite unoccupied for some time now. Might as well do some exploring. That’s why we’re here, isn’t it?” Archer said, welcoming the chance to explore a new civilization. He reached for one of the buttons on the wall of his cabin. “Ensign Mayweather, set course for… What’s this planet called?” he asked T’Pol, who seemed busy trying to avoid being touched by Porthos.
“We don’t know, since my people never…”
“Observed them more carefully. Yes, yes, I know. Ensign, you know what to do. Archer out.”
* * *
Stepping onto the bridge always amazed Jonathan Archer. He was a captain of Enterprise for almost a year now, but it still seemed more than a bit strange to posses a rank of a starship captain. Smiling to his crew, he approached Travis Mayweather, his navigator, and put a hand on his shoulder.
“We entered the orbit?”
“Yes, captain. I’ve put us into synchronous orbit above one of the largest cities on the northernmost continent, sir.”
“Excellent. T’Pol, have you scanned the surface yet?”
“Yes. The atmosphere consists mostly of nitrogen and oxygen, with a bit higher concentration of argon than the Earth, but still breathable. Temperatures vary with the latitude, with forty degrees Celsius at the equatorial band, and around twenty to twenty-five in the northern parts, where the city is located. Aside from the one continent we’ve picked as a primary exploration target, there are five more around the globe,” she said, checking her console.
“Sounds like a nice place. How many people?”
“Between seventy-five and one hundred thousand in the city, and approximately two million on the continent. I haven’t been able to scan the other side of the planet, but I estimate an overall population of less than half a billion.”
“Do we have visual? We can’t just jump in front of our hosts looking like this, now, can we?” He looked at the screen, where a picture of the continent gave place to a close-up of a city, its architecture solid and precise. He caught a glimpse of something that looked like defensive towers, but then the picture zoomed in even more, to show a crowd of people gathered on what looked like a market, with lots of tents in all colors. His eyebrows rose with surprise.
“Are those… horns on their heads?” asked the voice of Commander Charles Tucker, ship’s chief engineer, who peered in amazement over his engineering station. On the other side of the bridge, Hoshi Sato, communications officer, released a loud sigh.
“I… I believe they are, Trip,” Archer answered his long-time friend, referring to him by his nickname. “T’Pol, make some nice pictures of our friends down there and transfer them to Dr. Phlox. Tell him we’ll need his costume-making expertize once again,” he giggled. “You, Trip and Hoshi will accompany me on this most pleasant roundabout. Meet you in the sickbay in half an hour.”
“We’re going down there, sir?” Hoshi asked, shock apparent in her voice.
“I don’t see why not. What better way to learn about the culture than from the inside? Don’t worry, I’m sure they’re nice people, despite the appearance. By the way, it will be good to feel solid ground under our feet for a change.”
“Captain, if I may?” Lieutenant Malcolm Reed, tactical officer, rose up from his station. “You don’t know how these people are tempered. I would highly recommend that I accompany you to the surface, if you really have to go.”
“Lieutenant, too large a group will be easy to notice, don’t you think? Besides, we have no reason to assume they are some paranoids who will attack us the second we enter the city.”
“We have no reason not to, either. I just don’t think it’s a good idea…”
“I think Malcolm’s right, sir,” interrupted Trip from his station. “This society has no technology I might find interesting, except maybe some kind of crossbow I could hang on my wall. And, to be honest, their horns kinda creep me out.”
“It is decided, then,” Archer laughed. “Malcolm, you’re in.”
“Captain,” T’Pol now took the word. “Maybe it would be better if I stayed onboard too. If you run into trouble on the surface, you will need somebody on the ship able to resolve the situation in the best possible way.”
“What the hell is this?” Archer sounded more than a little annoyed. “Has everyone here forgotten what our mission is? Or are you just scared by the looks of this species?”
“I am not afraid,” T’Pol returned. “I just gave you the reason why my stay on the ship would be… a logical thing to do.”
“I believe the crew can manage any situation that arises. Trip is staying onboard, as well as Travis and Doctor Phlox. Even without them, this ship carries the best crew in Starfleet. You’re coming down with us. Don’t make me order you. Your people, and you yourself, have more experience in dealing with alien species than any of us. You wouldn’t want us contaminating their culture, would you? We’ll need a watchful eye.”
“As you wish,” the Vulcan said, bowing her head a little.
“Good. I’ll meet you in sickbay. Don’t be late, any of you.” He turned on his heel and left the bridge, wondering what happened to the usually all-too-ready-for-action crew that he knew. He believed, however, it had something to do with the horned lizardmen on the surface of the unnamed planet that silently rotated under the ship.
“This is the best I can do, captain. I think they look authentic enough, if you don’t get inspected by one of the natives. But with the crowd down there, I doubt anyone will notice,” said the Denobulan doctor, showing the pair of horns to Archer and his away party.
“Very well, then. Do your magic, doc. Make us pretty,” Archer replied as he jumped to one of the beds. “God, I love these missions,” he said to Malcolm. “Reminds me of Halloween parties back when I was young. You celebrated, Lieutenant? Any weird costumes you want to tell us about?”
“N-not really, sir. I never cared much for such things,” Malcolm said quietly, looking at his feet.
“Well, it’s good you ended up on Enterprise, then, isn’t it?” Archer laughed as Dr. Phlox started working on his makeover.
“Captain, I tried to process the natives’ language through the translator, but there is too much noise, so I couldn’t isolate enough words to start working with. We’ll have to do it with a hand-held translator on the surface,” Hoshi said, apology clear in her voice.
“Don’t worry about that,” Archer said through one side of his mouth, as the doctor glued scaly red skin to his face. “With that crowd on the marketplace, I’m sure you’ll be able to learn their language in a matter of minutes.”
“Yes, sir,” Hoshi replied, smile growing ever bigger on her face. “By the way, red scales look really good on you. Sir.”
“Just you laugh, it will be your turn to become a scaly horned monster soon enough. Malcolm, could you hit the comm for me?” he asked, then continued. “Travis, is the shuttle ready?”
“Yes, captain. We located a clearing in the forest a few kilometers east of the city. You can easily land there without being noticed. There’s a road near by, connecting a few villages with the city, so you won’t look suspicious while entering the city.”
“Sounds perfect. We, uh, will be ready soon, I think. If the doctor doesn’t make a hole in my head,” he said, his voice rising a bit.
“Sorry, captain, but I have to make sure the horns won’t fall off your forehead while you walk. From what I’ve seen from the scans, the natives can ram each other with their horns without as much as scratching them. This also looks like the way they solve their disputes. I’d recommend you not to make too much enemies down there.”
“I’ll try my best. I can’t guarantee for Malcolm, though…”
“Sir, I beg your pardon…” started the security officer, but then noticed the playful smile on his captain’s face, and Hoshi’s hardly suppressed laugh. “Oh.”
Behind them, T’Pol’s arched eyebrow threatened to jump right off her forehead.
* * *
Gathered in the launch bay stood the most unusual away team so far. A bunch of red-scaled humanoids with long dark brown horns that curved above their heads, almost touching the back of their necks, stood by the shuttle pod, checking their equipment. When Trip and Travis entered the launch bay they both hesitated for a moment, observing the figures dressed in long black linen robes.
“Well, cap, you look good in a dress,” Trip said, stopping a few meters away from the group, a smile playing on his face.
“Captain is inside the shuttle, commander.”
Trip and Travis exchanged surprised looks.
“T’Pol? Wow, uh, doc sure did a good job on you guys. You ready for the renaissance fair?”
“Renaissance fair is an inept expression, since this society certainly developed in a completely different manner than Earth. If anything, this would be more like a speculative fiction convention than a historical festival,” T’Pol answered without as much as glancing in Trip’s direction, which was probably for the best, as she couldn’t see him rolling his eyes and making grimaces at her. Before he got a chance to retort, captain Archer peered from the shuttle.
“Everybody ready? Nice of you to come see us off,” he said, turning to face the two normal-looking officers.
“We didn’t want to miss the show, sir,” answered Travis. Next to him, Trip took a camera out of his pocket.
“I just have to take a photo of this. Would you mind standing a bit closer to each other?”
“Oh, come on, is this really necessary? I hate being photographed,” Malcolm said, trying to slip inside the shuttle. “Especially looking like this.”
“Lieutenant, get back here. That’s an order,” Archer laughed as he put his hand around Hoshi’s shoulders and turned towards the camera.
“I’ll have to agree with mister Reed this once,” T’Pol uttered silently, but stepped next to the captain, knowing how stubborn he could be. The sooner they finish with human trivialities, the sooner their mission would start. Surprisingly, the whole procedure took only a few moments, after which Trip and Travis wished safe journey to the away party and left to attend their duties. Once everybody was sure they’ve packed all the necessary equipment, the launch bay door opened, and Archer slowly took the shuttle out. He couldn’t help but throw a prideful look up to the ship he commanded, taking a moment to remind himself of the importance and significance of data he and his crew collected in the last year of exploring the galaxy. The data which will soon be enriched by that collected on the surface of a new, unexplored planet, and its intriguing society.