Chapter 1 is a basic retelling of the start of "Sleeping Dogs" but with 1 additional scene. If you're familiar with the episode or just want to get on with the story, feel free to skip to Chapter 2!
Ensign Hoshi Sato suppressed the urge to sigh as she carefully reloaded the phase pistol, her elegant fingers completing the task with practiced ease. If only she found everything else about this easy... she watched as Lieutenant Malcolm Reed affixed the target projector to a bulkhead. This was the sixth day running she had requested target practice with him, and she had expected him to grow tired of watching her fail consistently, but he seemed as calm and patient today as he had every other day. However, she had noticed him cough quietly and rub his throat a few times, when he seemed to think she wasn't watching him, and she wondered if tiredness was getting to him. She was, after all, taking up his free time with her insistence at target practice. She felt a flash of guilt and reminded herself that with her new-found resolution to space travel and exploration, she had to improve her tactical skills if she ever wanted to be included on away missions. Translating alien languages should not put her on the front line of combat, but every officer was expected to be able to defend themselves if the need arose.
Reed switched on the projector and the target materialised a few feet in front of her. He returned to her side, as she took up a firing position.
"You have a ten second firing window," he informed her, "ready?"
Mustering herself, Hoshi tried to sound confident as she replied; "ready."
Reed glanced down at his data pad, pressed a button and simultaneously told her; "Go."
The cube-shaped target with its bright orange cross hairs immediately began to move. Hoshi immediately began firing, trying to keep the motion fluid and her arm locked on the target, but she mentally cursed in a different language every time she saw the target flash red instead of green, indicating a miss.
"Time," Reed announced, stopping the target.
The target dematerialised, and Hoshi dropped her arm back to her side, tuning back to face the lieutenant. She already knew she had not done well, and she also knew that the target was on one of the lowest difficulty settings. Reed was hands-down the best marksman on board, everybody knew that, and she wanted to learn from the best, but she still felt slow and useless with the unfamiliar weapon.
"That any better?" she asked, optimistically, but deep down she already knew the answer.
"Your hit-to-miss ratio is still below fifty percent," Reed replied, but there was no rebuke in his voice; he even quirked a tiny smile as he added; "if those had been live rounds, you'd have blown out two or three bulkheads."
Hoshi huffed as she turned away, unable to hide her disappointment in her performance.
"I never had this much trouble with the EM-33," she commented, pursing her lips in frustration.
Reed placed his pad down on the armoury workbench, and turned back towards her, reaching out to take the phase pistol from her unresisting fingers.
"This is an entirely new weapon," he said, gently, as he took it and switched it off, "unlike the EM-33, you don't have to compensate for particle drift. Just point," he made a fluid motion with his arm, demonstrating as he spoke, "straight - at - the - target."
She watched his arm move gracefully as he mimicked pointing the weapon at a moving target, emphasising each word. She didn't have the heart to tell him that she never compensated for particle drift with the EM-33, it was just that the drift and the broader beam of the EM-33 had compensated for her poor marksmanship by hitting the target regardless. She much preferred deciphering alien syntax to this; okay, so Reed could not do what she did at all, but she still needed to at least be able to shoot straight.
"Try to keep your shoulders relaxed," Reed suggested, switching the phase pistol back on and handing to back to her, "it's hard to aim properly when you're tense."
She sighed, rolled her eyes, and dropped her shoulders back, willing herself to relax. She wanted so badly to succeed at this so that she could go on away missions; she kept reminding herself that this was necessary and that Reed had been nothing but patient, he was doing his very best to help her and she was coming along a little. When she had first started her hit to miss ratio had been below twenty percent...
Her train of thought was broken when Reed coughed, audibly, raising a hand to his throat and wincing as he did so; she noticed then that he did look rather pale.
"Are you alright?" she asked, concerned.
"Yeah, fine," he murmured, and, as if embarrassed to have been caught in a moment of weakness, he quickly switched the subject back to her target practice with a reassuring; "you'll get the hang of it. Let's try for twenty seconds this time..."
Hoshi heard the slight rasp in his voice as he spoke, but she was already turning back towards the target projected while he pressed a few commands into his pad. However, they were both distracted by the slight shiver that ran through the ship and the audible whine as the warp engines powered down to impulse drive.
"I thought we were supposed to be staying at warp for the next few days?" Hoshi queried, as Reed crossed over to the armoury wall console to check the readouts.
"Oh," he raised his eyebrows, "we're approaching a gas giant – class nine."
They both knew, without speaking, that this meant they needed to report to their stations, which for Hoshi meant reporting to the Bridge. Reed could easily check in on duty from the armoury. She glanced back at the target projector one last time.
"So much for target practice..."
Reed smiled and patted her shoulder, a gesture of comfort that lifted her spirits, even if just a little.
"We'll pick it up tomorrow," he assured her, taking back the phase pistol once more and turning it off, allowing her to leave to report to her post to see what the gas giant would bring.
The small probe streaked towards the outer atmosphere of the gas giant, seeking to plunge into the gaseous depths of the mysterious planet. On the Bridge of the Enterprise NX-01, the crew waited in eager anticipation. They were still feeling the exhilaration of exploration and this was something new and exciting to catalogue. Only one member of the Bridge crew did not share in the sense of awe and wonderment at this phenomenon.
"The probe has entered the outer atmosphere," Sub-Commander T'Pol, of the Vulcan embassy, reported smoothly, her sharp features highlighted by the blue light from the scanner relay.
At her words, the probe began transmitting an image to the Bridge view screen; it showed a brownish-orange planetoid, awash with static.
"Can we clean up the signal?" asked Captain Jonathan Archer, glancing across at Hoshi.
"I'm trying, sir..." Hoshi pressed her fingers to her earpiece, concentrating on the output, "there's a lot of EM interference...it sounds very... strange."
"Intense magnetic fields often create unique waveforms," T'Pol offered, informatively.
"Let's hear them," Archer said.
An eerie, ghost-like whine filled the bridge, rising and falling in an ethereal crescendo. The sounds were definitely alien and unusual, though oddly harmonic, and Archer realised that the entire Bridge crew was captivated – except, of course, for T'Pol.
"Siren calls," Ensign Travis Mayweather smiled, and, when Archer merely looked at him in askance, the young ensign explained; "that's what we called them when I was a kid. My dad would put them through the speakers whenever we flew by a gas giant. Huh – gave me nightmares sometimes!"
Archer listened for a moment longer, and then nodded to Hoshi to turn off the weird sounds.
"Other than keeping Ensign Mayweather up at night, I'm not sure what we expect to accomplish here," T'Pol remarked, dryly, "there are four gas giants in your own solar system."
"None of them are class nine," Archer replied, approaching her console to address her directly, "I think this one's worth a closer look."
Even as he spoke, one of the Bridge consoles began emitting a soft but persistent chirping. T'Pol turned away from the captain and lowered her gaze to the sensor array, quickly recalibrating the sensor to analyse the readings.
"I'm reading an anomalous power signature in the lower atmosphere," she reported, turning back to the captain, as she added; "and several bio-signs."
Archer turned towards the view screen, his mind reeling with the news – he wondered who else could be here, and what were they doing so deep in the atmosphere of a gas giant? All he knew was that he had to find out, and that this class 9 gas giant had just become even more interesting.
"Get the probe closer," he ordered, calmly, not wanting to let his excitement show.
Through the static on the view screen, a blurry outline of a ship became visible; a dark, hulking shadow against the broiling orange-brown smoke of the atmosphere. Archer gazed at it, and instantly wanted to know more.
As soon as Hoshi left the armoury, Reed placed the phase pistol back in the protective storage case and locked it. He stowed it back in the locker and closed it firmly, following the correct safety protocols for the storage of weaponry aboard a starship. It was only then that he allowed himself to sink into a chair. He coughed, wincing, raising his hand to his throat. He'd been lying when he'd said he was fine to Hoshi; the truth was he was beginning to feel pretty awful. His head was thumping, his eyes were sore, his throat felt like he'd swallowed shards of glass, and his nose was starting to itch.
As if on cue, he sneezed, and groaned. It was not allergies; he knew all too well what that felt like. No, this was an encroaching misery known to virtually every single human being that had ever lived. He hated to admit it to himself, but he was coming down with a cold, and he'd been fighting it unsuccessfully for the last two or three days. He was now rapidly losing the battle. He was operating on very little sleep and even less food; he couldn't remember the last time he'd had a proper meal, he seemed to spend all of his time just trying to keep the ship's weapons on spec and training the untested crew in the use of their new phase pistols, with varying degrees of success.
He heard the door open, and glanced up, getting to his feet. Commander Charles "Trip" Tucker appeared, his sleeves rolled up, a crate gripped firmly between both hands, a cheery smile plastered across his face.
"Good mornin', Lieutenant," he drawled, happily, dumping the crate haphazardly on the table, "gotcha them power relays you were askin' after for the targetin' scanners."
"Ah," Reed nodded, surreptitiously reaching for the table to lean against it as his balance wavered slightly, "thank you... I... ah..."
He broke off and sneezed, hard.
"God bless," Trip reacted automatically, then added; "jeeze, lieutenant, you look like hell. You feelin' okay?"
"Yes, I'm fi-"
He was interrupted by another violent sneeze, followed by a fit of coughing. He was suddenly aware of a strong hand at his elbow and he found himself sitting in a chair. He blinked to clear his blurry vision and found Tucker staring at him in open concern.
"You ain't fine, lieutenant," the commander said, with certainty, "you need to go to the infirmary."
Reed gave a short bark of a hoarse laugh; "No, thank you. I'm fine. It's just a cold."
"Well, we can't have you infecting the rest of the crew," Tucker replied, a mischievous glint in his eye, "look, you can go of your own accord or I can make it an order...?"
Reed was saved from arguing by a summons from the ship-wide communications relay.
"Archer to Lieutenant Reed."
Reed stood up and walked on unsteady legs to the wall panel; "Reed here, go ahead, Captain."
"Lieutenant, sensors have detected a ship in the lower atmosphere of the gas giant; I want you on the away team to assess the vessel. You'll depart on the shuttlepod in twenty minutes. Grab your gear, Malcolm."
"Acknowledged, Captain. Reed out."
He thumbed the channel closed and turned to find Tucker standing almost directly behind him.
"You're goin' to see Phlox first."
"Sorry, Commander, you heard the Captain..."
"It'll take you five minutes, Lieutenant.," Tucker retorted, holding up his hand with fingers spread to emphasise his point, before grasping the Armoury Officer's elbow, "Come on – I'll drop you there on my way back to Engineerin'. At least let the doc give you somethin' to take the edge off."
Lacking the time or the energy to argue, Reed heaved a sigh, and obediently allowed the Engineer to escort him out of the armoury.