The NX Class Enterprise took up a stationary orbit around the beautiful blue and green orb that was the planet Talagea, as it hung in the vastness of space. The crew had made contact with the native people there several days ago by subspace communication, despite the fact the planet did not appear to have a warp capable civilisation. However, they were familiar with space fairing species through their refinement of extremely pure deuterium, that they had in abundance, making them an important trading power in the region.
Their recent journey back to Earth to witness the signing of the Coalition of Planets treaty has given the team at Jupiter Station an opportunity to upgrade much of the ship's systems. One of those components was the transporter, which Captain Jonathan Archer was looking at with some trepidation. It could now beam up to six people simultaneously, and over much greater distances than the last pad. Trip had assured him it was perfectly safe, and that hundreds of tests had been conducted on it. The thought of beaming down to a planet and being spliced with other crew members was not appealing to him, but as the Captain it was his duty to put on a brave face, and show no hesitation. His landing party consisted of himself, T'Pol, Hoshi Sato and Doctor Phlox. T'Pol did not seem concerned, or at least managed to hide it in typically Vulcan characteristic. Phlox, however, was excited to try it out, as he had not been on an away mission in some time. Hoshi however, looked increasingly nervous at the prospect.
"How many tests did Commander Tucker say he ran on this?" she asked, arms folded, biting the inside of her cheek trough nervous energy
"Relax Hoshi, Trip wouldn't send us in if he wasn't confident," replied Archer, knowing his communications officer tended to need a little encouragement from time to time.
"The new transporter system was tested over two hundred times at spacedock, and Commander Tucker has performed forty seven separate tests while in space. It is perfectly safe," came the logical, and yet somehow not reassuring words of T'Pol.
"There's always a first time for everything," replied the young woman.
"You are letting your emotions overrule your judgement, Ensign."
Archer patted her on the back, "It will be fine," he said, secretly agreeing with her sentiment.
"I don't know what all the fuss is about. It's an absolute joy to use the transporter. The feeling of being disassembled, it's really quite invigorating," said the doctor, in his usual upbeat tone."
"I've just had some bad experiences with them, is all. I was just getting used to the last one, then they rip it out a put a whole new pad in."
"Trust me, Hoshi, if something goes wrong you won't live long enough to know it," replied Phlox, a huge playful grin on his face.
"Thanks," she said, letting out a sarcastic smile.
The transporter chief signalled the system was ready, so the four of them stepped onto the larger pad. Archer ordered the lieutenant to energise. Hoshi scrunched her eyes closed, as a tingling sensation rippled over her body.
The sunlight hit her skin, and when she reopened her eyes they were safely in the centre of town. She checked to make sure all her body parts were in the correct place, and released a massive sigh of relief that caused the captain to chuckle to himself. T'Pol was already scanning the surroundings.
The quaint town was immaculately clean, while the air was fresh and clear. The Talageans had built a society based on renewable energy and healthy natural living. High above their heads electric trains carried passengers about their business. In the centre was a large perfectly cut diamond shaped lawn of emerald green grass. A single pillar rose out of the ground, with an ornate symbol upon the top. To the east, large windmills could be see dotted around the rolling hills. To the west were massive recycling plants, converting waste into harmless natural gases and electrical energy. Solar panels adorned the roof of every house. The sounds of a water turbine could be heard coming from the distance, down a stream that separated the town into two, with wooden bridges connecting the gaps. People rode about on both bicycles and tricycles. Beautiful trees were planted in green space, and flowers and vines of every colour ran up the side of the houses.
"This seems idyllic, a virtual paradise, with no overcrowding, no litter," commented Phlox, "and smell that air. Oh, I had forgotten what non recycled air felt like."
"Very impressive," complimented T'Pol, "Most humanoid cultures of their level of technology advancement operate societies run on fossil fuels, but I am detecting no complex hydrocarbons in the atmosphere, or any detectable damage to their ozone layer. It appears their entire society has achieved a one hundred percent clean energy output."
"I'm glad you approve," replied a voice through the universal translator. They turned round to see a tall, athletically built man. He seemed young, perhaps early thirties and was clean shaven. He had ridges running horizontally across his forehead, and his ears extended high up into his head. He wore fine silk clothing, of blues and purples that shimmered in the bright sunlight. On the right side of his chest was a tag with a bright green colour on it. "We are very proud of what we have built here."
"Hello, I'm Captain Johnathan Archer," he said offering his hand in friendship.
The man looked at Archer's hand wondering what he was supposed to do with it. He slowly offered his hand too, which Archer griped and shook. The man smiled at the strange custom.
"This is my science officer T'Pol, my communications officer Hoshi, who will be helping us to communicate, and Doctor Phlox."
"It is good to put a face to the voice," he said, clearly pleased to see them. "My name is Administrator Senki Kumba. We are familiar with this translator device of yours. We have encountered several other species that use them. Ingenious really."
"You've had a lot of contact with aliens?" asked Hoshi, already curious to see what other languages they may have records of.
"Yes, a great deal. As you mentioned that your scans detected, we have large quantities of deuterium on our planet, and our location has made us a trading power in this sector. We were pleased to receive your hail that you were looking to trade, although I was not expecting such variety from one ship. We have met the Vulcans and Denobulans before, but I'm not familiar with your species."
Archer was used to that query now, "Ensign Sato and I are Humans. You could say we're fairly new to the neighbourhood."
"We are delighted to meet you. If you will forgive us, we conducted a scan of your ship and crew when you entered orbit, and it seems absolutely marvellous. Your crew are all in excellent health."
Archer frowned slightly at the strange compliment, "Well, errm, thank you, all thanks to Phlox here, and there's nothing to forgive. A little scan never hurt anyone."
"Excellent. May I be the first to welcome you to Talagea. If you would care to follow me to the mansion we can conduct trade talks. I'm sure we have a lot to offer one another."
"Lead on," replied the Captain.
They began to walk long the path toward the mansion that was up a slight incline of cobblestones. Hoshi nudged Phlox to whisper to him how cute she thought Kumra was, adn even he had to agree the man had a striking appearance. In fact all of the people looked in incredible shape. Young people sat on benches, laughing and conversing. Children played in the streets with paper kites, blowing in the gentle breeze.
'It really is paradise,' Archer thought to himself.
"You have a beautiful town. Is the rest of your world this lovely?" asked Ensign Sato.
"Not as beautiful as you." he said, Hoshi blushed at the compliment. "But much of our planet is the same, yes. But there's always room for improvements," said the handsome young man, sounding very proud of what they had achieved. "I do have one question, I'm unfamiliar with the position of... doctor, did you say?"
Archer looked at Hoshi, wondering if there was a problem with the translator. She tapped her device and shook her head.
Phlox took the initiative, "The title of doctor is a name for a physician."
The administrator looked on blankly.
"A healer. Someone who administers medicine."
"Medicine? I am unfamiliar with this term."
"When people get sick," he replied, slowly.
The administrator snapped his fingers, "Ahh, I see. Yes, I understand now."
"You do not have doctors on Talagea?" asked T'pol.
The administrator stopped walking, "We have no need for them. Our society is based on natural balance. We believe that our development is best guided by evolution. We do not interfere in that balance. As a result it had benefited our people with extremely healthy lives, overall, and we strive towards a day when there will be no illness at all."
"Remarkable. May I conduct a scan of you?" asked Phlox. The administrator nodded in compliance.
"So if someone is sick or ill, you don't help them?" asked Hoshi, who was troubled by his answer.
"We neither help, nor harm them," he replied, while looking curiously at the medical device Phlox was using.
"So if a plague sweeps across your country, and could kill a million people, you would let it?"
"Hoshi," said the Captain, sternly.
"It's okay, Captain. The animal kingdom is left to its own devices. They have no way to heal their sick, and yet evolution has served them well. The sick and weak do die, but it allows the healthy to survive, breeding an even stronger, more resistant next generation. There are times when we have suffered from terrible diseases that have killed millions, but it keeps our population in balance with food resources, stops over crowding, and many that survive have a natural immunity. It pushes us forward to a better collective state, as evolution intends.
Phlox, marvelling at the man's incredible test results, added, "While I do advocate for the use of medicines, it is difficult to argue with nature. My scans of Administrator Kumba indicate he is in remarkable health, with an incredible immune system. Perhaps the fittest man I've ever met."
"Why thank you."
Archer felt uncomfortable with how they chose to live, but wanted to put a pin in the conversation. It was not his intent to get into a moral and philological debate straight out of the gate.
"I may not agree with the way you live, but I do respect your beliefs."
The administrator was pleasantly surprised, "Thank you captain. Not every species that comes here feels the same way. It is refreshing to encounter such an enlightened people that do not want to change who we are."
"That's part of the reason why we are here, to lean about other cultures, and as my Doctor keeps reminding me, we are not out here to play god. It's not for me to decide or interfere in your way of life, whatever my personal feelings may be."
"Well said, Captain. Shall we continue?"
Archer and Kumba continued on. The other three lagged a little behind as both Phlox and T'Pol looked at the scans they had taken.
"Sounds like a health lottery to me," whispered Hoshi to the others.
"Ensign, you must lean to control your passions, and refrain from making snap judgements. My studies of comparative periods in Earth's history is not supportive of your moral stance. These people have a way of life that is very successful for their society as a whole. "
"If you're healthy that is. Tough luck if you get the flu. They wont even lift a finger to ease symptoms." The administrator suddenly did not look so attractive to her.
"Ensign," began Phlox, "I share your distaste, but I've seen cultures that have become too addicted to medication; Antibiotic resistant drugs, genetic conditions passed down through the generations, genetic engineering rampantly out of control. There is no perfect solution. The universe is not here for our comfort, and sometimes we just have to make the best of the situation, and looking around it seems like it works for them."
Hoshi was about to argue her case further when she saw a man running towards Archer and the Administrator.
"Senki, Senki, come quick," he shouted. He reached the two men and doubled over, gasping for breath from the exertion. "It's Malrika, he's ill."
He was dressed in less lavish clothing, but was still had a crisp, smart appearance. He had a well trimmed beard, but seemed tired as if he had not had any sleep. Archer noticed that he too had a coloured badge on his chest, but his was yellow. They followed the man back to his house, situated on the outskirts of the town. His residence was modest compared to some of the inner houses, but no less charming. They entered the house and followed the man up the stairs to a boy's bedroom. The young child, perhaps eight or nine, was lying in bed, extremely pale, and coughing violently.
"He's had a fever all night," said the father, worriedly.
The administrator took out a device from his pocket and ran it across a badge on his chest that was yellow.
"This is the third time, Douvall." The device changed the colour of the badge from yellow to orange. His father began to sob. The administrator placed his hand on his shoulder. "We will get him the best food that we are able to. Hopefully the nutritional values will bolster his immune system enough to fight off the fever."
"Father, I don't feel well," the sickly boy said, clearly exhausted. His father took his hand, then wiped his brow with a cloth.
"Is there anything we can do?" asked Phlox.
"Perhaps you would like to stay with him, while your Captain and I conduct business. Little Malrika loves meeting aliens and it would improve his spirits greatly. Positivity can have a wondrous effect on our wellbeing."
"Stay with him," Archer said as the administrator left the room, before he lent nearer to T'pol to whisper, "Find out what that coloured badge means."
Archer patted the boy on the chest and wished him well before he followed the administrator out of the room, leaving the other four with the little boy. Phlox pulled his scanner out from his pocket again to analyse the sick child's condition.
"Are you awiens?" the little boy said, opening his eyes at the three strangers.
Hoshi giggled at the mispronunciation, and leaned in closer to the boy, "That's right, but don't worry, we're good aliens."
"Are you going to make me better?"
"I'm not-, we'll see," the words getting stuck in her throat.
The boy closed his eyes before quickly falling into a deep sleep.
"I wish there was something we can do for your son," said Phlox.
"Perhaps there is, you must have chemicals, yes?" said the father, hurriedly.
"I thought your society did not believe in using medicine?" Phlox replied.
"Our leaders don't want us to use them," he replied, the bitterness apparent in his tone, "because that is the way we have been for thousands of years, but with recent contact with aliens, the public's mood has shifted. There is a black market for alien chemicals to help the sick, and a resistance movement is growing. There are many who believe that we should be using these chemicals legally to fight off infections and diseases, but the consequences-."
"Go on," encouraged Hoshi.
"Using chemicals or unnatural substances is illegal, and they are hard to come by so they are expensive, more than my status can afford. They want to clamp down by scaring us into line."
"Is this status you have significant to the coloured badge you each wear?" asked T'Pol.
"It's out health index. Our society has a status depending on how healthy you are. Green for exceptional health, descending into yellow, orange and red depending on your current ailments, past number of days ill, severity, and so forth. Black for disabled. Malrika has had a number of conditions, and his status keeps falling."
"What does a lower status mean?"
He sat down on his son's bed, "The more sick and unhealthy you are the less you are likely to serve society's development. You are less likely to get a job, as no one wants to hire someone who takes sick days off. There's less money assigned to your education, because you're more likely to die sooner wasting the effort to train you. You are more restricted in who you can marry. No Green would ever marry an Orange. It's not illegal, not yet anyway, but it's a massive taboo. People have even gotten divorced because one person's status has dropped too low. Most Reds now live away from the main town."
"Forcing lower status people to be isolated, to marry each other and have children together, would only exacerbate the problem," stated Phlox.
"It does, but that's the point," he said nodding, "they want to eliminate lower class family lines with a history of illness. Their children are more likely to die before having children themselves. Green family trees can be traced back thousands of years, but Red families are dying out. Blacks are virtually extinct. The administrator himself comes from one of the most powerful families. I don't think they've had so much as a cold in fifty years."
"This is more like eugenics than evolution," cried Phlox, disgusted at the prospect.
"Regardless of our feelings we should not get involved, Doctor."
"How convenient for us," replied Hoshi, a little bite in her voice.
"Do you have elections? Can you vote in new leaders?" the Vulcan asked.
The man let out a grunt, "Elections are based on fitness and health. Our leaders are always picked based on who is most able to handle the pressure, and that would be the healthiest among us. Administrators are always Greens. The system never allows us to break in because all the healthy families don't want to jeopardise what they have by changing the system."
"Can you cure her, Phlox." asked Hoshi, turning to Phlox.
Phlox took a while to answer, because of the awkwardness of the answer given the current situation. Eventually he replied, "Yes. Quite easily in fact."
Now it was T'Pol's turn to ask, "And if you don't?"
He pulled a troubled face, "I can't say for sure. I don't think she's in danger of dying, but there could be lasting respiratory damage."
"Please, if you can help her, I beg you," the father said, sinking to his knees.
"We should relay this information to the Captain," said T'pol.
They went outside and made their way back to mansion. After a few minutes walk they found themselves at the base of the impressive building. It was a three story building, with green creepers running up the building. There were many fine windows, with exquisite drapes, and balconies on the top level. There was a fountain outside with clear blue water, and several fish swam around in it. Several fluffy white clouds had rolled in obscuring the sun, and the temperature had dropped slightly. The captain was emerging from the double doorway with a smile on his face. He saw the others and walked down the steps towards them.
"Looks like we can get all the deuterium we need. They only need some mechanical-," he saw the less than pleased look on their faces. Even T'Pol looked uneasy. "Okay, what happened?"
"We have a problem." replied Phlox.
"I'm shocked," he said sarcastically, having grown accustomed to missions never going smoothly, "what is it?"
T'Pol retold the story of the little girl and her father. How the Talageans leadership had been effectively performing eugenic breeding of their people, and that the public were not as in agreement with their leaders as they seemed. She explained about the black market for alien drugs and medicines and the growing resistance to the Green administrators.
Hoshi added at the end, "We would only be providing medicine to one person. No one has to know."
"What about all the other sick people on this planet," asked T'pol, "We can not secretly help them all, are you going to illegally aid one person because you feel emotionally invested?"
"I don't know about helping everyone, but I can help someone," replied Phlox.
"Doctor, you've given me an earful about interfering in other cultures before," pointed out Archer.
"I have, and I understand these decisions are never easy, but we are being asked directly for help by one individual on a personal request, and it is within our power to grant that request. One dose of antibiotics is enough to cure her. It will not harm her, it won't change their evolution, and it won't upend their society."
Archer pondered his choices, while scratching at his ear. He instinctively wanted to help but he also had to weigh up his responsibility to Starfleet. No one ever said being captain was easy. He sat down on the edge of the fountain and looked into the water. A distorted, rippled reflection stared back at him.
"I wont personally authorise us to interfere with this planet's development, big or small, no matter how I feel about their actions," he began. "That being said, Doctor, you are not a member of Starfleet, and you're not even human, so therefore, if you in your medical capacity were to encounter someone that needed medical help, I believe your oath would encourage you to render that aid."
"Yes, Captain, it would."
"As the Doctor is a member of your crew, I am not sure I see the distinction. I believe you are trying to find a way to justify your own bias," suggested T'Pol
"Your observation is noted, Sub Commander." he added. "Let's head back to the ship, and do what needs to be done."
A day had passed. Archer sat on the bridge. He was about to finalise the transportation of deuterium ore up to Enterprise. Phlox had paid a rare visit to the bridge and was talking to T'Pol at the science station.
"Sir, we are being hailed," said Ensign Sato.
"Pipe it through."
"This is Administrator Kumba," came the formless voice over the communication system. Archer noted he did not sound pleased.
"Good day to you, we have the parts you want ready to transport down, if you will give us the coordinates to the deuterium ore we can conclude our business and be on our way."
"Before we initiate transport, I am afraid I must alert you to a serious issue."
'Damn.' he thought. "Oh, and what might that be?"
"The boy you encountered last night, Malrika, made a remarkable recovery."
He turned his head to look at Phlox, who had stopped what he was doing, "We'll that's good news."
"I am not sure that it is, came the indignant reply, "Using an alien device we acquired similar to your medical scanners, the boy was discovered with a chemical compound in his blood stream. Your medicine as you call it. It seems one of your crew, either with or without your knowledge, gave it to him."
"If he is cured then what's the problem?" replied Archer, trying to get out of this conversation with as little admittance as possible.
"The problem is that we do not allow it. Someone saw your man return to Douvall's house. On... questioning his father, he revealed that he asked your crew members to help him, and your Denobulan Doctor did. Desperation makes people do stupid things, and your man couldn't wait to help. I guess your people are no different after all."
Archer sunk his head into his palm.
The doctor saw that the game was up, and interjected, "This is Phlox, you are correct, I did administer a cure."
"Do you have any idea what you have done? The damage you have caused?" his voice hurt Phlox like ice pressed against skin. "In the interest of cooperation and future trade, Captain, I am willing to overlook any involvement you may have had in the matter. I will let you discipline your crew in any way you deem fit."
"What will happen to the father?" asked Phlox.
"He will be punished in accordance with our laws, and the situation with his son will be dealt with," he said, sounding sombre at the prospect.
A wave of anger exploded inside Archer, "Punished, for trying to save his son's life?"
"It brings me no pleasure to do this. Douvall is a friend, but he knows our laws. No doubt he failed to mention the consequences."
"And what are these consequences?" he asked, leaning forward.
"Douvall will be imprisoned for a maximum of five years. His son... must sadly be put to death."
"You'd murder a little boy, a child?" he snapped back angrily, while bolting out of his chair.
"Douvall sealed his fate the moment he allowed these chemicals into his body. We have no way of knowing what this will do to our evolution, or how any mutations might occur because of it. Your crewman has endangered our genetic integrity with unforeseeable results that could last generations. He has been quarantined and will be put to death shortly."
"That is simply not true. There is no danger to the boy, or your society."
"I can not take that risk."
Phlox threw his arms in the air in annoyance, "Let me show you the science. I will walk you through it."
"Forgive me if I don't place much confidence in your word, Doctor. You have already abused our trust," he growled, becoming aggravated at the alien visitors.
"You can't do this, Kumbra, you're not seeking natural balance. You're deliberating deciding who is worthy of living. You are letting fear and ignorance of medicine cloud your judgement. Can't you see that?" he said, pleading.
"Captain, you must understand. I take no pleasure in this, but it must be done. Our genetic integrity-."
"I don't five a damn about your genetic integrity," shouted Archer, fuming with rage.
"That much is obvious." came the curt reply.
"T'Pol, can you beam them out?" Archer asked his Science Officer, hoping for a way to avert this impending calamity.
"Please, do not try to rescue either of them. There is now a low level scattering field around the town. Our ship defence batteries have also been activated."
Archer looked at Reed, who nodded in agreement that their defences had been activated.
"We have the largest supply of deuterium within nine sectors," continued the Administrator, "we one of the highest value targets for raiders and pirates, do you think that we are not both capable and prepared to defend ourselves? We have gained access to many aliens defence systems through our trade. There are plasma based weapon platforms in orbit, and anti-aircraft defence towers on the surface. We having scanned your vessel, I see that you are out clearly out gunned. It would be suicide to attempt anything. The best thing you can do is take your deuterium and leave."
"I don't trade with murderers."
"Then we have nothing further to discuss."
The com channel closed. There was silence on the bridge. The words 'do no harm' rang in Phlox's mind. Hoshi was stunned that the little boy was going to die. Even T'Pol seemed moved by what had transpired, as the painful memories of Elizabeth's death filled her thoughts. Archer returned deflated to his chair and sank into it. He lent his left elbow against the arm rest and ran his had over his head. He slammed his right fist into the other arm rest.
Down on the planet's surface. Administrator Kumba walked from his office to the middle of the town. The young boy was tied to the central post, dressed in a small isolation suit, his face was covered by a helmet. He was sobbing for his father to rescue him, condensation forming on the clear panel. A small crowd had gathered to watch the gruesome execution. They all wore green badges and jeered at the defenceless little boy, who now seemed the greatest threat they had ever seen. Her father was by his side on one knee, fresh cuts to his face, his hands in chains, clutching his hand and crying. He saw Kumba walk towards him.
He scrambled to the feet of the man, "Please don't do this. Kill me instead, but please, not my son."
"There is no need to kill you. You are healthy enough. Your actions were wrong, and your prison sentence will be suitable, but your son must be terminated. He is a threat to our genetic purity, to the system of natural balance that we have created for thousand of years. You would have us throw our deepest law into chaos by allowing him to go free? You know this is folly."
"Please, he has done nothing wrong?"
"Where would it end? He is the tip of the iceberg, my friend. He must serve as an example to all others that the way we live can not, and will not, be endangered by anyone."
"You think this is the end? You think others don't want a chance at a normal life."
He drew closer. "I am well aware of the pathetic resistance and the immoral black market, and I will root them out. I won't allow reds and oranges infected with these chemicals, like your sick little boy, to ruin what we have."
He raised himself up to try to swing at the Administrator, but a guard punched him in the chest causing him to crumple to his knees again.
"You allow... millions to die," he spluttered, "to maintain the health... of a few. You're not serving society, you're... killing them. The people will stop you."
"I always knew you felt this way, my friend. Could never prove it until now. I hope your time in prison changes your mind."
"You won't get away with this."
"There is nothing to get away with. Look at the people," he said, pointing at the baying mob, "they want this. No one is coming to your rescue. Plenty of aliens have offered help, but none of them want to get involved. The stranger won't doom his crew of nearly one hundred to protect one tainted boy's life. No one would be that foolish."
He signalled for the guard to drag him away. He moved back behind a row of executioners, who were armed with an assortment of alien energy weapons.
"Ready weapons." He turned to the crowd, "I do this for our people. I do this to maintain our way of life that has served us so well. No one can be allowed to endanger us."
The crowd cheered louder. The boy and his father cried. Horrified Yellow, Orange and Reds watched from afar, too scared to act.
The executioners raised their weapons.
What happened next will be told in Talagean folk lore for a generation. The Enterprise exploded through the planet's stratosphere after performing a microsecond warp jump, sending the displaced air outwards with a sonic boom, and knocking the crowds to the ground. Confusion and panic reigned as the ship bore down on them, releasing a spread of low yield photon torpedoes aimed at the tips of the four corners grass the boy was on, sending dirt and debris into the air. The resulting cloud of dust obscured the vision of the executioners. A fountain of antiaircraft rounds shot into the air like a water sprinklers. The silhouette of the ship caught the low evening sun, making it look like an avenging angel was descending upon them, sending the Greens scattering in all directions.
Perhaps the Archer of a few years ago would have left well enough alone, perhaps he would have tucked his tail between his legs and counted his losses for foolishly getting involved, but this was a different Jonathan Archer. He had been forged by confrontations with the Suliban, the Xindi, and a dozen other hostile races. He had stared down impossible odds and he had no intention of letting this man kill an innocent boy. Not on his captaincy.
The phase cannons of the Enterprise punched a hole into two of the defence turrets as it swooped down through the air. It spiralled further down avoiding the fire from the turrets behind them, with only a few hits slamming into the polarised hull plating, before firing its aft cannons at them, knocking both offline. The remaining towers tried to get a lock but were unable to match the flying skills of Travis Mayweather, who expertly navigated the ship using a sophisticated evasive manoeuvre pattern of his own design. Malcolm targeted the final few turrets clearing the way for phase two of the daring rescue.
Shuttlepod 1 was already primed for action, and launched out of the shuttlebay in mid flight, now able to complete its task unimpeded. It flew down carrying a compliment of MACO soldiers; Major McKenzie, Sergeant Chang and Corporal Cole. Once the shuttpelod was in position, hovering above the pole holding the boy, the two women rappelled down. Cole laid down suppressing fire at the executioners, while McKenzie cut the boy loose and tagged the father and son with a transponder patch to improve the targeting sensors of the transporter. The Enterprise, barely skimming the rails of the train tracks, was now close enough to get a lock. They four of them disappeared in a flash of light, as the administrator screamed in anger.
The Enterprise began to turn and arced back towards the town centre on a northern trajectory. Chang, piloting the shuttlepod, turned north and approached the ship lining up parallel beneath it, before attempting an emergency docking procedure. He had done this type of on-the-fly docking many times, but never in the atmosphere of a planet. By either skill or sheer luck, he docked it first time, and the clamp retracted the pod into the bay.
"We have recovered all targets, Sir," said Malcolm.
"Can we just jump away again?" asked Hoshi.
"No, warping in is easy, but the field won't form in an atmosphere. We need to get clear," replied Travis, as he increased the speed of the ship.
The Enterprise began to climb, glowing red with flames as it broke its way through the upper atmosphere. The plasma weapon platforms began to target the ascending ship. Several bolts of green energy headed towards them, but were absorbed harmlessly into the newly installed shields. The phase cannons punched a hole through a platform directly in their path. Its payload overloaded and exploded in a shower of debris and brief plasma sparks. The shields could only absorb a small number of hits, but it was enough to allow it to reach open space, and warp safely out of the system.
"I think we can consider that a successful test of the new shields," said Archer.
"Good thing they were not online when they scanned us. They didn't know we had them," said Malcolm, in a cocky tone.
The sound of Trips voice was heard over the internal communications. "Can we please not do that again."
"No promises, Trip," retorted his friend.
He activated the ship-wide broadcast and raised to his feet, "I want you all to know how very proud I am, and how proud you should all be of yourselves. You all showed tremendous courage, and quick thinking in a crisis. There's no better crew in the fleet."
His words echoed round the ship as the crew congratulated each other.
An hour later, after being examined by Phlox, the man and his son were lead into Captain archer's cramped ready room by T'pol. The captain looked at the two with a smile.
"I'm glad you're both okay. Especially you. Malrika."
"Thank you, he said shyly, clutching his father's leg.
"I'm sorry things had to come to this." Archer said, feeling apologetic for his actions that lead to it.
"It is I who should be apologising to you. I asked you do do something without fully explaining the consequences. But I'm grateful you did."
"What will you do now?" asked T'Pol
"There is a station not far from here. If you could drop us off, we can arrange passage back to my world."
"You're going back?" said Archer, a little surprised
"I have friends on the southern continent who will look after us. But its our home, and we have to fight for what we believe in. Change is coming. What you did will be a rallying cause. Come back in a few years and maybe things will be different."
"I wish you well." he said, standing up, and offered his hand. The man gingerly took his hand and shook it.
After they had left, Archer threw up his hands, "I know what you're going to say. I allowed interference in an alien culture, launched a raid on their territory, lost us a trade deal that Starfleet will be furious about."
"Then I have no need to say it," came the emotionless response.
"Is that a crack at humour?"
She raised an eyebrow, "No."
"I couldn't just do nothing, T'pol."
"That frequently seems to be the problem. Your inability to leave a situation alone that is not your business. We have altered the fate of that planet's society. For better or worse, our actions have changed them forever."
"Thank you, T'Pol. I know what I've done."
She was right, as usual. Not for the first time, he wished someone hurry up and write some rules of conduct of when and how to act. But until they did, he was left with his best judgement. He just hoped that it would be enough.