Yawning, Captain Archer walked onto the bridge. He hadn’t slept very well the night before. He was anxious to get to the Minshara-class planet they’d detected a couple days ago. It wasn’t on the Vulcan star chart, but Phlox said that it was called Haven. He was somewhat familiar with the planet and its people, offering to teach Hoshi their language. To his knowledge, he was still trying to teach her the basics. It wasn’t an easy language, full of harsh gutturals and unusual combinations of sounds. Heard in bits and pieces the way Phlox was teaching it, it sounded awkward, but it was really quite nice to listen to when it got all strung together.
He sat down in his chair, hiding another yawn. “How much longer until we get to the planet, Travis?”
Ensign Mayweather looked up from his console. “A few hours, sir.”
“Are we within hailing range, Hoshi?” Over at her console, the slight Japanese ensign nodded. Archer clapped his hands together. “Excellent. Let’s give them a ring and let them know we’re coming for a visit, shall we?”
Hoshi looked a little nervous. “Uh sir? My grasp of their language isn’t nearly good enough for this yet.”
Archer smiled knowingly. “I’m confident that you can do this, Hoshi.”
“All the same, I’d like Dr. Phlox to come up here. He knows the language better than me.”
T’pol looked up from her station. “Dr. Phlox has mentioned a familiarity with this race. He may well be able to help us interpret them as well as giving Hoshi a hand with the language.”
Archer nodded his approval. The tension eased out of Hoshi’s shoulders as she sent a call down to sickbay. When Phlox arrived on the bridge, Hoshi hailed the largest city she could find on the planet. It was a few minutes before a distinctly masculine face appeared on the screen. His height was difficult to determine as he was seated in a high backed chair. He had shoulder length black hair, the odd bunch decorated with colorful beads. His clothing was unlike anything the crew had ever seen. The shirt he wore was made of a shiny black material that showed a rainbow of colors when he shifted position. It had one long flowing sleeve attached to a thin gold ribbon that wrapped under his other, bare arm. He was well muscled. From what they could see, his pants were made of the same black material.
His face was very delicately made with high arching pointed ears and slanted yellow-green eyes. He looked a little like a predatory wild animal who wasn’t entirely sure if you were a friend, competition, or prey. His long straight black hair was tidy and left hanging loose around him.
“Dan je mal kesh nan?” he asked, folding his hands in his lap. He sounded polite, but his eyes narrowed suspiciously at her.
Hoshi turned to Phlox for encouragement. He nodded and smiled at her, so she turned to the view screen. “Jan mel geshkri Enterprise. Archer Kalvre ge heshmel.” Hoshi pointed over at Archer.
The man narrowed his eyes. “Dan je mal galhesh nan?”
Hoshi looked at Phlox helplessly. “I don’t know what galhesh means.”
“It means planet or world, Ensign,” Phlox supplied.
“Jan mel Earth galhesh,” she replied.
He gave her an odd look. “Earth? Iin kal lesh paren ka. Ane dan je kesh nan?” He narrowed his eyes. “Ja desh!”
“Hoshi, have you got enough of his language to use the UT? I’d really like to know what’s going on?”
“He wants to know who we are. He’s suspicious,” Phlox explained as Hoshi pushed a few buttons.
Seeing Hoshi’s nod, Archer stood and took a few steps towards the screen. “My name is Jonathan Archer. I’m captain of the Enterprise. Please pardon my need to speak through my communications officer. I’m not familiar with your language.”
“You seem to be doing just fine right now,” the other man said, eyes narrowing further.
“We have a piece of technology that we call a universal translator. It’s helping us to understand each other.”
“I see.” He unfolded his hands and placed them on the armrests. “Who are you people? Where are you from? Why are you allowing a female to speak for you? Answer!”
“As Ensign Sato told you, we’re from Earth. We’re called humans. We’re on a mission of peaceful exploration. As for the ensign speaking for me, as communications officer, it’s her job to learn the languages of the species we encounter so that we can talk to them.”
“Explorers? I’ve never heard of humans before.”
“The human race has only developed warp technology in the last century,” T’pol told him.
He looked at her. “Ah. Vulcans are a species that I’m quite familiar with. As for the fellow with the interesting ridges, I don’t recall seeing one of you before.”
“I’m a Denobulan,” Phlox filled in helpfully. “I served on your planet for a time in the western region.”
“The name doesn’t sound familiar, but this is the central region.”
“By the way, we didn’t get your name. Might I ask who you are?” Archer asked him.
“I am Tanikefren, First Council of Haven.” He inclined his head politely.
“I’m pleased to meet you,” Archer replied. “Would it be alright with you if we came down to visit your planet, to learn about your culture?”
“I’m sure that would be fine. It’s not every day a peaceful ship shows up here. Would you care for a tour?”
Archer smiled gratefully. “We would be honored.”
“Be down on the surface in three hours. I’ll have my assistant send you the landing coordinates.”
“We look forward to meeting you in person.”
The First Council broke off the communication and Archer turned to look at the bridge crew. “So. What do you think?”
“If you ask me, he looks like a Vulcan,” Trip piped up from where he was standing beside Malcolm’s station. At T’pol’s questioning look, he added, “I’m not saying that like it’s a bad thing. I’m just making an observation.”
“He seems reserved, more so than the other members of his species that I’ve met,” Phlox said. “Then again, as he said, he’s from the central region. The people there are a little more formal than those from the western region.”
“Why’s that?” Hoshi asked.
“The west is very remote and sparsely populated. In order to survive there, you have to learn to drop the formality and get to the point. One thing I did learn about these people is that they don’t, as you say, beat around the bush. They say what’s on their minds. This has caused problems with other races and I believe that habit was what started their war with the Klingons.”
Archer raised an eyebrow. “They’re at war with the Klingon Empire?”
“Yes, and they have been for a couple hundred years.”
“They would make good allies for the people of Earth,” T’pol observed.
“Especially with how often we seem to be running into the Klingons,” Malcolm added. “I wonder what kind of weaponry they have.”
“Not a whole lot, really,” Phlox told him. “They prefer to live and let live. They aren’t even particularly fond of space travel as a general rule, but as with everything else in life, there are exceptions to the rule.”
“You seem to know a lot about them, Doctor,” Travis commented.
“Not really. I wish I knew more about them, but they didn’t really trust me too much when I was here all those years ago.”
“Let’s hope they react better this time around,” Archer said.
“Who will you be taking with you to the surface?” T’pol asked.
“Trip, Malcolm, Hoshi, and Phlox,” he replied.
“With all due respect, Cap’n, why me?” Trip asked.
“You don’t get out enough. “
“Is there anything that you can think of that we need to know before going down there?” Archer asked Phlox.
“I would like you all to stop by sickbay before we leave. Some of their food is a little upsetting to the stomach. I’d like to give you a simple inoculation to keep it from affecting you too much. I got used to it, but it’s a shock at first.”
“Fair enough. After you visit sickbay, I want you all to meet me in the docking bay in two and a half hours. It won’t hurt to be a few minutes early.”
First Council Tanikefren was waiting for them when Archer opened the hatch of shuttle pod one. He squinted a bit in the sunlight before walking over to Tanikefren and extending a hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you in person.”
Tanikefren looked at the hand. “This is a human custom, I assume?”
“When we greet someone on Earth, it’s polite to shake their hand.”
“Ah. On Haven, it’s considered rude to touch someone you are unfamiliar with.”
“In this case, I will make an exception.” Tanikefren took Archer’s hand.
Delighted, Archer gave it a light shake and let go. “May I introduce my officers?”
“This is Commander Charles Tucker, my chief engineer, Lieutenant Malcolm Reed, my chief armory officer,. You remember Ensign Hoshi Sato, my communications officer and Doctor Phlox, my chief medical officer.”
Tanikefren examined the other officers up close, scrutinizing their faces. He turned to Archer and pointed between Hoshi and Trip. “This female’s facial structure and skin coloration is different than the males. Why? Are all your women like this?”
“On Earth we have many ethnic groups. Hoshi is Japanese while Trip and myself are American. Malcolm is British.”
Phlox cleared his throat. “You’ll also notice, First Council, that the captain, Lieutenant Reed and Commander Tucker all have different accents. They’re from different parts of the world, and so speak differently, just the same as it is here.”
“How fascinating.” He gestured towards the tall structure behind him. “Shall we?”
They followed him into the building, looking around at the very plain architecture. As they walked, he explained. “This building is not representative of our people’s tastes in style. The offices of the First Council were designed to be plain so as to not favor the style of any region in particular, thus making anyone feel welcome.”
“That makes a lot of sense,” Hoshi said.
Tanikefren short her an annoyed look. He led them into a medium sized room dominated by a square table. It was low to the ground with flat circular cushions spaced around it. “This is the council chamber. One of my predecessors decided that if he made the room uncomfortable to be in, the meetings wouldn’t drag on forever. There is, of course, a more comfortable one through those doors on the far end for meetings that will go longer than planned. It’s very rarely used.”
He took them through the doors he’d mentioned. There was another square table, similar to the one in the previous room. This one was higher off the ground and was surrounded by comfortable looking armchairs. “Please be seated. Food will be along shortly.”
No sooner had they sat down than a group of young women came in carrying trays filled with small plates of food. When they were all set down on the table, there was a large variety of appetizer-sized dishes to choose from. Meats, strange fruits, soups, what appeared to be cheeses, sweets, and breads with tall pitchers of a sweet smelling fruit juice.
“Please enjoy yourselves,” Tanikefren told them.
After taking a bite of one of the cheeses, Archer turned to him. “Are you from the city?”
“No. I was born and raised in my family’s tribe. They live just outside of the city limits.”
“We would like to see it, if that’s permissible.”
“I don’t see why not. You are my guests. As nice as the city of Ken Jeer is, it’s very plain and not a particularly good sample of what my people are like.” He smiled. “I will introduce you to my family.”
“How is that a bad thing?” Hoshi asked him.
“It’s difficult to explain to an outsider. Even if I could, it would take several days to tell the fullness of it.”
“Could you abbreviate it?” Archer asked.
Before the First Council could reply, Phlox turned to Archer. “In Wolfling society, it’s impolite to abbreviate important things. Names, history, and the like. In human society, it’s a mark of affection to shorten another’s name or give them a nickname. To do so here is to offend. To abbreviate an important event from their history is a cultural taboo. It offends the spirits that lived during that time and brings misfortune. Among other things.”
“I didn’t mean to offend,” Archer said, feeling himself wilt on the inside. This was the second time he’d had to apologize for offending the First Council and he hadn’t even been on the planet for an hour.
Tanikefren gave him an understanding smile. “We do not know each other. If you don’t know the rules, you can be forgiven.”
“Tell us about your family,” Hoshi asked, going back to the original subject.
“My wife’s name is D'neianrathen. I have two children, twins. One boy and one girl. My son’s name is Coyohakithte. He has no interest in world politics, but will make a good leader for the tribe when his grandfather passes. He has all the makings of a great warrior and leader.”
“What about your daughter?” Trip asked.
“We don’t speak of her,” Tanikefren replied politely, but there was a cool edge to his voice.”
“Is there an easily explainable reason for this?”
“No. Please don’t mention her again.”
Trip gave him a strange look, but turned back to the piece of fruit he was turning over in his hands, debating whether or not he wanted to eat it.
Tanikefren saw this. “That is a loktar. They look strange, but they’re quite sweet. The juice in the pitcher is made from a blend of loktar and jai luen. That’s the pale blue crescent shaped one with the green flecks.”
Trip popped the fruit in his mouth and chewed experimentally. “It’s good, but a little too sweet for my taste.”
Hoshi started to reach for a piece of meet, but Tanikefren stopped her. “Please, don’t eat that. My apologies, but they women weren’t supposed to put that near you. You see, there are some foods here that it is taboo for women to eat. That kind of meat is one of those foods.”
“That seems like a strange custom,” Malcolm commented.
“I assure you, there are reasons for it.” Tanikefren gestured to a man wearing a plain grey jumpsuit hovering near by. “Please move that tray away from Ensign Sato and see to it that the serving girl learns of her mistake.”
The man came forward and moved the tray away from Hoshi, growling under his breath as he did so. After he left, Tanikefren turned to Hoshi and smiled. “Please continue. Everything else is safe for you to eat. Please accept my apologies for that unfortunate incident.”
Hoshi smiled. “Don’t worry about it. It’s important to keep an open mind about other cultures. It did look tasty, though.”
“I recommend that you try the reddish one. It’s a little spicy, but it’s quite good.”
Hoshi picked up a slice and nibbled one of the ends off. She chewed with a thoughtful look on her face. After swallowing, she nodded. “It is a little spicy, but it’s very good. It tastes almost like wasabi.”
“People call it the Japanese mustard. It’s a spicy green paste that we eat with our food. We mix it into sauces to make it spicier.”
“Interesting. Are you ready for the tour?”
“I can’t speak for my officers, but I would love to,” Archer replied. “This was really good, but it’s incredibly filling.”
“You humans have small appetites, then. This would barely be considered a snack by the standards of my people.”
“You do love your food,” Phlox commented as they got up from the table. Tanikefren led them outside to where a horse drawn carriage was waiting for them.
“Interesting form of transportation,” Archer commented, taking his seat.
“Do your people not use such vehicles?”
“We stopped using carriages centuries ago, replacing it with cars driven by gas powered engines.”
Tanikefren wrinkled his nose. “Wouldn’t that be damaging to your environment?”
“It was, but we didn’t know it at the time. It took us a while to refine the process. The ones in use now aren’t harmful.”
“I’m glad to hear that. Anything that harms your home should not be used.”
They drove on in silence, enjoying the view of the countryside. Outside of the city, the area became densely forested with many strange plants and animal sounds. After two hours, they came upon a primitive-looking settlement. The buildings were all made of wood or brick, and some were a mixture of the two. The driver stopped the carriage just outside of the village and let them out. Tanikefren led them in.
“Welcome, my friends, to my home village of Jal Keerath.”
They looked around. The people were stopping and staring at them. The place became completely silent mere moments after their arrival. Out of the crowd, a tall, thin woman stepped forward, walking towards Tanikefren. She had long brown hair and brown eyes and she wore a simple green dress with only one thick shoulder strap belted at the waist with a grey sash. She made a complicated gesture with her hands and bowed deeply.
“Honored husband,” she said softly. “We welcome you back to your home. May I ask what has prompted this sudden return?”
“Wife, we have visitors from another world.” He turned and gestured to the Enterprise crew. “I require that a feast be prepared in their honor.”
“You have but to ask, my husband. I will gather the women at once.”
“Tell me, where is my son?”
“Your son is out on the hunt, husband. He will be returning shortly.”
“Good. Go and prepare.” She bowed again and left to gather the women. He turned to Archer. “That was my wife.”
“She’s very lovely.”
“What is it that you mean by that?”
“On Earth, it’s considered polite to tell a man that his wife is pretty if she merits it. I’m not making a pass at her. I’m merely complimenting you on her appearance.”
“She is pleasant enough to look at, I suppose,” he said reluctantly. “I could have been less fortunate.”
They heard a commotion over on the side of the village not far from them. They went towards the sound, curious. A young woman ran out of one of the wood houses followed by three men, laughing as they chased her. Her clothes were in tatters. She tried to fight them off, but they surrounded her, leering at her and pawing her whenever their hands got close enough.
“Hey!” Trip shouted. “Leave her alone!”