Fur and Feathers

By Eireann

Rating: PG-13

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Chapter 1

Disclaimer: Star Trek (plus all its intellectual property) is owned by Paramount.  No infringement intended.  The additional characters are owned by me.

Author's Note: Very many thanks to Distracted, who kindly offered to beta me through this story and without whose inspiration and patient guidance it wouldn't exist in its present form.  This is my first attempt at writing fan-fiction, so I hope you enjoy it - and if you don't, please be gentle!

Introduction: This story begins after 'The Breach' in Season 2 and goes AU after that.

Summary: Damage to Enterprise necessitates a search for the materials for repairs, but the members of the landing party find more than they expect...

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Chapter 1

"I don't like the idea of it either, Cap'n.  But we need that material.  Can't guarantee the plating will hold till we get back to Jupiter Station otherwise - and if it doesn't..."  Commander Charles 'Trip' Tucker's voice trailed off.  He didn't need to elaborate on the danger.

They'd been travelling through a largely uncharted but superficially non-hostile area of the quadrant when they'd fallen into some kind of energy distortion field.  Fortunately, it was very narrow, and its effects were largely temporary. Humans suffered no more than headaches and nausea, though the fact that the captain's dog Porthos howled for an hour afterwards and Dr Phlox's Pyrithian bat went off her food for days suggested that some of its effects varied between species.  At first they had all believed that although the experience had been unpleasant, they had survived it without damage.  That was until a more detailed scan of the ship's systems had revealed that the hyrellanium plating that protected the ship's hydroponics area from stellar radiation had suffered minute but irreversible damage.  The stresses inflicted on it by warp drive travel were slowly worsening the deterioration.  Tiny cracks visible even to the naked eye were beginning to appear.  It was only a matter of time - and not a long time - before the whole area was poisoned by radiation.

Naturally, they had stocks of hyrellanium in reserve, but the field had corrupted that as well.  It was therefore a matter of urgency to find a replacement.  They had begun checking out the nearer star systems for the necessary mineral deposits, but had had little success.  Hyrellanium wasn't rare in the general scheme of things, but the thinness required for this particular job needed a good quality ore, and most of what they found was poor.  Emergency measures had meant that some of the more precious denizens of the hydro area had had to be housed temporarily elsewhere; staff quarters had dozens of plants billeted on them and their life support settings amended accordingly - much to the displeasure and discomfort of the inhabitants.  Some of the plants, however, were so delicate that moving them in the wrong season would be as fatal as irradiating them. The situation had been approaching critical point when a planet was finally discovered that possessed the requisite quality of hyrellanium deposits.  Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.

Except that it was an inhabited planet - and its occupants were nowhere near advanced enough to be experimenting with space travel.  In the ordinary way the ship would have avoided contact at all costs, fearing to interfere with their cultural development.  Scans suggested that the people who lived there didn't even mine for the mineral; perhaps they weren't aware of its properties, or had no use for them.  Certainly there were limited uses to which it could be put inside the safety of an atmosphere.  Quite possibly they would have been glad to trade it for something that might be of more use to them, but in view of the fact that as far as anyone knew they had never so much as put out a simple radio signal announcing their existence to the rest of the universe, their ability to cope readily with visitors from outer space turning up on their doorstep wanting to trade for their hyrellanium was hardly likely to be good.  At worst any such irruption into their lives could be deeply damaging.

With a little luck and cunning, however, it would probably be possible to extract the ore the ship needed without announcing their presence.  The deposits were so shallow in places that they were actually exposed to the air.  Nevertheless, this action smacked strongly of theft.  The conflict between his ship's plight and the distaste for descending to piracy sank a troubled frown between Captain Archer's brows.

"Wouldn't take long to get what we need," offered the commander persuasively.  "It's not as though that one site's anywhere near a township or anythin'."

"I believe our scanners could establish a period when there were none of the inhabitants within a range that might risk our being discovered."  As science officer, Sub-Commander T'Pol was the one most nearly involved, but she remained as cool as a cloud.

"I understand your reservations, Captain, but I think our options are limited."  Lieutenant Malcolm Reed, Enterprise's tactical and weapons officer, was leaning against a nearby bulkhead.  "If it's a choice between causing all the cultural damage that introducing ourselves would do or of helping ourselves to a few tonnes of a material they don't appear to use themselves, I think the latter is the better of the two."

"Stealing," said Archer bleakly.

"Unfortunately, there would be very little that we have on board that would be of use to them as a trade," observed T'Pol.  "Their cultural level is very different from ours."

The captain's frown took on a measure of resignation.  He would not rule out theft if that was what it took to safeguard his ship, but he was a moral man.  Many of the decisions and actions that the exigencies of life in Starfleet were forcing on him troubled him deeply.  "Perhaps we could take a look first and see how the land lies," he conceded at last, perhaps not wishing to admit even to himself that he'd already decided that if they couldn't buy the hyrellanium he'd just have to authorise taking it without permission - 'stealing' it, in fact.  "Just make sure we don't bump into any of the locals."

"There will be no difficulty in landing the shuttle in the area I have selected as the most suitable.  The ground is very flat there.  But we may have to beware of animal herds."  The Vulcan consulted her PADD.  "It would appear that there is a migration in progress.  If we intend to use blasting we will need to take steps to clear the site."

"Won't be a problem," Trip said breezily.  "Find the right frequency for a sonic broadcast and I'll have 'em galloping for the nearest horizon."

"Migration places severe demands on animals without adding unnecessary stress."  T'Pol glanced at him rather frostily.  "We should keep disruption down to a minimum."

"Darn sight less stressful gettin' their ears tickled than having a photonic torpedo land between 'em."

"We'll do exactly what we have to.  No more, no less."  Archer interrupted them ruthlessly.  The air between his science officer and his chief engineer fairly crackled with tension these days, and their present exchange was coming perilously close to bickering.  "I want that hyrellanium and I want it fast, but I don't want to cause a mass extinction down there.  If the area's still clear of people we'll take a shuttle down - make it some time in the evening, so there's less chance of anyone seeing it by accident.  But obviously we'll need enough light left to do a decent survey of the ground."

 


Comments:

Cogito

Very nicely sets the scene, especially the crackling tension between TnT. :)

Alelou

I'm happy to see a Season 2 fic too.  Ah Archer, these were your boy scout days.  Looks promising. 

Distracted

Tantalizing, isn't it? We see so few early season fics these days. I know it seems TnT light so far, but trust me, you guys will like it!

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