The Secret

“Captain”, T’Pol’s voice echoed out of the intercom system.

“Go ahead”, replied Captain Jonathan Archer.

“Captain, I have something on long range sensors that you might want to see”, stated T’Pol in her even monotone voice.

“On my way”, said Archer.  He closed the intercom connection and turned to his Chief Engineer.  “Trip, continue with those upgrades, I’ll be right back”.

As he made his way to the bridge, Archer marveled at how well his ship was performing for only being out of space dock a few short months.  The mechanical operations were improving, the crew getting to know each other and he was even starting to appreciate Cook’s wide variety of meals.

The bridge door slid open and Archer stepped onto the bridge.  His primary bridge officers were at their posts: Sub-Commander T’Pol at her science station, Ensign Travis Mayweather at the helm and Ensign Hoshi Sato at her communications station.  Only his weapons officer Lieutenant Malcolm Reed was missing.  “Report”, Archer said, looking over at T’Pol.

“Captain, I’ve picked up an object on long range sensors that is not part of natural space”, responded T’Pol.

Archer walked over and leaned over her consol looking at the scans.  The Sub-Commander stepped back so as to allow the captain room.  “What do you make of it?” said Archer looking at the tiny dot and a variety of reading on the consol.

“At this distance I would speculate a small craft, perhaps an escape pod from a larger ship.”  T’Pol inched closer to Archer, “The alloy content would indicate earth metals.”

“An earth ship out here!” Archer’s voice was rising.  “You know that isn’t possible.

“It is possible, just not logical” replied T’Pol, with an odd quizzical look on her face.  “Of course it is also possible that this craft is of a species that is not in the Vulcan database”, she added.

“Let’s investigate; Travis, adjust heading to intercept.”  Archer ordered turning to his right, then turning to his left and looking past the science station he said, “Hoshi, try to communicate or raise a signal with this object.”

They both acknowledged the orders with a simultaneous “Aye sir!”  Once again Archer noted how well his new crew was learning to work together.

Several minutes pasted as the bridge officers focused on their duties before any new information was available.  But new readings only seemed to confirm T’Pol’s original theory that the object originated from earth.  Hoshi received no communication signals at all.  This made Archer uneasy.

“Malcolm to the bridge!” barked Archer into the intercom system.  “Be there in a few moments;” within 60 seconds Malcolm Reed entered the bridge.

“Malcolm, we are approaching an unknown object and we should have weapons manned” indicated Archer dryly.  “You should have been monitoring communications.”

“Sorry captain, I was re-aligning the targeting grid as we discussed this morning” Malcolm stated defensively.

“We are in uncharted space and any abnormality should generate an alert, I expect you to do perform your tasks and be alert, understood?”  Archer spat out.

“Aye captain but……” “There it is!” Travis shouted and both men stopped their dialog to look at the view screen.

The object before them was very odd looking, like a fat four legged shiny animal of sorts, picking up and reflecting a golden hue from theEnterprise’s lights as it spun slowly in space.  “Something about that looks familiar,” said Travis.

It took a moment, but one by one a surprised expression of disbelief took over every face, every face except T’Pol, who was busy with her readings.  “Captain, no atmosphere or life signs at all” she said.  She then noticed the others staring at the object with concern, shock or some kind of acknowledgement.

Travis, turning to look at the captain, spoke first, “Captain, that can’t be what I think it could be, is it?”

Archer’s face was a twisted frown with eyes furrowed and his chin covered by his right hand stroking the point nervously.  “And just what do you think that is Travis?” he said with an air of mystery.

Malcolm interrupted, “Sir that looks like……”

“The first moon lander!” shouted Travis, cutting him off.  “But that can’t be!”

Travis, Malcolm, Hoshi and Archer all started talking at once.  From their conversations came words like museum, Apollo, centuries ago, pioneers but T’Pol started drowning them out.  She had activated the Vulcan Database and was searching through archives very quickly.  Suddenly she too showed an expression of surprise; in her case is was a mere rising of the eyebrows.

“Captain, I have found a reference in the Vulcan Database,” she said evenly.

“Put it on the screen T’Pol”, Archer said impatiently.  His mind was whirling, how can this “artifact” be out here so far from earth.

Their view of the space object was soon joined by a split screen view similar object.  This image was taken in space and showed a similar craft against the backdrop of earth’s moon.  They now noticed that the object in front of them was scarred and pitted with damage presumably from space debris; a comparison of the two images showed major damage to several areas.

“According to our database, this is a lunar module, the first earth vehicle to reach earth’s moon,” T’Pol explained.

Once again the other four members of the bridge crew started talking at once.

“Captain, there is no way that this is an original moon lander,” exclaimed Hoshi.  “For one thing it would be 200 years old and if I remember correctly, part of them never left the moon.”

“She’s right Captain,” said Travis.  “This unit looks to be intact; I specifically remember from studying early space fare that the bottom is left on the moon as a launching pad for the manned upper portion.  In fact the bottom of the first moon lander is the centerpiece at the Tranquility Base museum.”

During this discussion theEnterprisehad been moving closer to the object at a reduced speed; suddenly a new light flashed in front of T’Pol.

“Captain!” said T’Pol, her voice elevated, “I’m picking up a faint power signature, atomic in nature.”

“Travis, full stop!” shouted Archer, “Malcolm this could be a trap of some sort, scan the object and surrounding space for weapons!”

Once again he heard simultaneous “Ayes!”

Suddenly the bridge doors slid open and Commander Charles “Trip” Tucker appeared.  “What’s going on up here!” he boomed.  Then his eyes went to the view screen and his jaw dropped open.  “How in dickin’s name did you get out here?”

“Recognize this Trip?” Archer said turning to face him.

“Of course I do Captain, it’s an Apollo Lunar Module that carried the first men to the moon.  But why is it out here?”  Trip said staring at the view screen in disbelief.

“That’s what we are going to find out!” Archer slowly sat down into his command chair.  “OK, first let’s find out if it is real.  T’Pol, you’ve been reviewing the Vulcan database, go to Earth Central and access old NASA records for any mission that would have put an intact Lunar Module out in space.  Trip analyze Malcolm’s scans, we need to find out where that power signature is coming from. Hoshi search for any type of communication traffic in this sector that might be related.”

Archer looked around at the group.  They all wore looks of excitement and anxiety.  “I know you all are anxious to bring this on board but we need to make sure it’s safe, you have your assignments.”

Forty-five minutes later Archer was in his quarters doing his own research.  The general information available indicated that 182 years ago earth’s first entrance into beyond orbit space began with six Apollo moon missions that were successful in placing two men on the moon each mission and returned safety to earth.  Only one mission was incomplete and that was Apollo 13, which was considered a hero’s mission.  An on-board accident cancelled the moon landing and the crew was lucky to return alive.  That mission helped put into perspective the dangers and risks involved with space travel.

“Captain”, Archer’s intercom rang out.  It was T’Pol.

“Go ahead” replied Archer.

I have some useful information concerning our unknown space object.

“On my way”, stated Archer as he smashed the intercom button and bent down to log off his computer.   The last image he saw on the screen before he turned to exit his quarters was a photo of the three Apollo 13 astronauts waving to a crowd.

As he entered the bridge, Archer once again noticed the absence of Malcolm.  “What have you got?” he said looking at T’Pol.

“The specifications of the object before us match the data in the NASA database for the Apollo program’s lunar module.  The lower portion powers the descent to the moon’s surface, the upper portion is housing for a two man crew and is the ascent stage for leaving the surface.”  T’Pol stated matter-of-factly.

“I think I know all that, it’s in the history books” said Archer. “But this one is intact and if I remember correctly none were ever missing.  What about communications?”

Hoshi looked up and shook her head.  “There’s nothing at all coming from this thing and nothing long range either for that matter” she said slowly.

Archer walked over to his command chair and punched the intercom button, “Trip do you have anything on this lunar module?” he bellowed, and then added, “Is Malcolm with you?”

“Yes on both counts Captain” was Trip’s gritty reply. “ Malcolm and I have determined that the power signature is an old low grade nuclear source and if I didn’t know differently, I’d say is was from the lower engine area.”

“What do you mean, know differently?” inquired Archer.

“Those things were fueled the old fashion way with solid rocket fuel” said Trip.  “Learned that in basic aerodynamics. This power level is not dangerous to us but it’s stronger than it should be.”

“And Captain”, Archer heard Malcolm speak up, “I can’t detect anything that looks like a weapon,” he paused, “I think we should have a look at it.”

Archer took his finger off the intercom button, sat down in his chair and pondered his choices.  They were only a few months out of space dock and he felt they had something to prove, especially to the Vulcans.  He didn’t want to be waylaid by a piece of space junk.  But this didn’t appear to be ordinary space junk; at the very least this was or could be a piece of history.

“Malcolm!” Archer punched the intercom button again; “man your station on the bridge and be sharp for any trouble.”  “Trip prepare a tractor beam to bring our friend into the shuttle bay.”

“Aye sir,” he heard them both respond.

“Travis” Archer stood up, “take us closer, 50 meters should do.”

Moving theEnterprisein closer and pulling the lunar module into the shuttle bay was easy and uneventful.  Malcolm reported no threats or anomalies from his scans of the area.

Once the shuttle door indicator showed closed Archer stood and moved toward the turbo lift doors, “Everyone keep an eye out, it could still be a trap.  T’Pol you have the bridge” he quipped, “I’ll be in the shuttle bay.”

Making his way quickly to the shuttle bay, Archer tried to make sense of this discovery.  His brief review of history in his cabin had refreshed his memory enough to send his imagination whirling.  There had to be an explanation for an old lunar module this far out in space.  Perhaps it was a test vehicle never recovered.  However; as far as he knew, all space flight vehicles from the old NASA program were fully accounted for.  He was somewhat familiar with the bug like craft that set the stage for man’s travel to the stars, so very long ago.

Archer wasn’t quite sure what to expect when he entered the shuttle bay, but the feeling was overwhelming.  The lunar module rested in the center of the shuttle bay, listing to one side, two of its landing legs broken, forcing the one side to sit awkwardly upon the base of the lander.  What appeared to have been a bright, golden bottom half was dulled, scarred and marked with numerous dents, holes and gouges.  A portion of the wording was readable on one side, Archer could make out “ITED ATES”, which he was certain was originally United States and on another side a portion of red and white striping was visible which he also knew to be the United States flag.

The top half, which Archer was familiar with from his history books, was the portion that contained life support and carried the men who had first explored the moon.  It was in worst shape; large dents, cracked or broken windows and a baseball size rock seems to be imbedded on one side.

This spacecraft stood over 6 meters high and didn’t have any of the aerodynamic features that more recent or familiar spacecraft have.  Archer was certain this unit had to have some other purpose; it couldn’t be an original lander.

“What do you make of it Trip?” asked Archer as his chief engineer appeared from the other side of the lander.

“Looks pretty authentic, I’d say” was Trips anxious reply.

“But how can that be?”  Archer pivoted around to face Trip, “None of these landers were listed as missing, none were sent out in space and no one would have survived for very long anyway on a deep space mission.”

“I know Captain, it is a mystery but we’ll get to the bottom of it!”  Trip said as he looked over the lander in awe.

“Captain!” It was Malcolm coming up to them from across the bay. “Something is not quiet right here, beyond the obvious.”

“What do you mean?” pushed Archer.

“These radiation readings don’t match the specifications we pulled from the old NASA files.  The output is higher implying that more plutonium is on board than should be.” Malcolm stated as he held up a data pad.

Archer didn’t take the pad, instead he looked back at the lander.  Something had occurred to him that might help solve this mystery.  He walked around to the opposite side of the lander, which was propped up on the two intact struts.  One of the struts showed the remnants of a ladder that would have lead up to a hatch, which was barely recognizable with the dents and scarring.

Trip and Malcolm followed closely recognizing that Archer was contemplating an important thought.

“If I remember correctly, we should find on this leg the plaque that identifies the mission” Archer stated firmly, his voice rising.

Trip and Malcolm looked at each other but moved closer.

The three of them focused their attention on the landing strut with the remaining ladder parts.  Until this moment, no one had touched the spacecraft.  Between what would have been the third and fourth rung, Archer reached over and brushed a shiny spot with his hand.

As Archer wiped his hand back and forth to clear the space dusk and dirt writing appeared and as enough appeared to read what it said, he gasped.

“This is impossible!” Archer shouted and stepped back.  Malcolm immediately took his place closer to the strut and peered anxiously at the now visible plaque.

Malcolm read; Apollo 13. Aquarius. April 1970.  Below that were three signatures that appeared to be that of Lovell, Mattingly and Haise.

Later, in Archer’s quarters, the face of Admiral Forrest filled the view screen on Archer’s desk.

“Jonathan!” shoutedAdmiralForrest.  “That’s impossible, don’t be ridiculous”  Although he sounded angry, Archer knew that in his own fatherly way Forrest was making sure that his subordinate understood the implications of this report.

“I understand Admiral, but this is our initial conclusion. We are forwarding data and images to you now.”  Archer stated calmly.  “I’ve also got a team breaking down the vehicle and another doing research, anything that you can add would be helpful.”

Through the small view screen Forrest looked annoyed but then brightened.  “You know Jonathan, if you weren’t in a hurry to get out there you could have waited for the next test ship.” He said mischievously.  “I didn’t expect you to stop and examine whatever space junk you could find.”

Archer took the bait and added defensively, “We’ll get out there soon enough, but this is indeed an interesting mystery in my opinion, Admiral.”

“I’m sure it is,” said Forrest, backing off.  “Let me review this information and I’ll get back to you soon, Forrest out.”  With that the screen went black, Archer pushed his chair back and stood.

“Travis” he shouted punching the comm button, “Resume original heading at one half impulse.”

“Aye Sir” came the reply and he knew they were off.

Archer then summoned Trip and T’Pol to his quarters. Upon their arrival he jumped immediately to the point.  “Let’s hear what you’ve got” he gestured to the computer.

T’pol spoke first, although her normal stern monotone took on an air of hesitation and lack of confidence.  “Captain, all preliminary research indicates that this is indeed the lunar module from the failed Apollo 13 mission 181 years ago.”  She paused and waited for a response.

“But that doesn’t make sense” exclaimed Trip, “And we’re finding some unusual things as we break her down.”

“Wait a minute Trip, let her finish” said Archer, “Go on T’Pol, what makes you so certain?”

T’Pol continued.  “Besides matching physical attributes with historical records one fact stands out pretty clearly.”  Her eyebrow arched knowingly.

“Go ahead” Archer said impatiently.

“The plaque that you first looked at on the landing strut, do you remember those names?”  T’Pol seemed to enjoy turning the conversation around to expect answers from the other two.

“Lovell, Mattingly and Haise”, said Archer, then it hit him, that didn’t seem right.  “Wait a minute; what I remember from those lessons”……he paused……”It doesn’t seem to fit.”

“No” said T’Pol, a little too forceful it seemed.  “The Heroes of Apollo 13” as earth’s history is written was Lovell, Swigert and Haise, not Mattingly.”

“Yes!” Archer shouted as he swung around from his pacing, “That’s it!”  Swigert replaced Mattingly at the last moment.

T’Pol looked impressed that he would remember that.  “Yes Captain, Jack Swigert replaced Tom Mattingly due to an illness days before launch and the plaque was never changed” she said.  “In fact the replacement plate, which would have been installed on the moon had the mission been successful, is in the Lovell display at the Smithsonian.  That makes it only logical this is the original spacecraft sent on that mission.”

Archer felt a chill, it still seemed to be impossible that this abandoned, space abused craft could have been one of earth’s original moon lander’s from the 1970’s.  He looked up at Trip speculating that the “unusual things” might mean some faction, alien or not, had something to do with this.  “So what are you finding unusual Trip?” Archer asked evenly.

“I need to do more research because my memory of the details is too sketchy, but I was expecting the power signature to be for all of the lunar surface experiments of the time,” he hesitated, “I don’t know Captain, this looks more like a weapon of some sort.”

“A weapon!” exclaimed Archer, now he was sure that this situation was the result of some type of covert operation.  “All of the early space programs were weaponless including Apollo, that can’t be.”

“OK, ok, don’t shoot the messenger; I need more time in order to give you a full report.”  Trip said as he moved toward the door.

Archer nodded, “Understood.  Both of you, continue to find out what you can, I’ll ask Admiral Forrest to download any additional information that might not have been in our files or…..”, Archer looked apprehensively at T’Pol, “the Vulcan database.”  “Plan to report in four hours. Dismissed!”

T’Pol and Trip left quickly.  Archer hit the intercom button, “Malcolm!” he shouted, “Report to my quarters immediately!” was Archer’s crisp command.  Upon arrival Captain Archer instructed his weapons officer to continue to scan long range space for other possible artifacts.  He relayed to Malcolm his concern that this craft could have been a plant from some alien race and that there could be more like it close by.  He then contactedAdmiralForrest and asked for additional information on the Apollo 13 mission of 1970.

Four hours later, senior officers were gathered in the Captain’s Ready Room.  This was one of the first puzzles that they had to solve together; in addition to the mystery at hand with the strange space craft, anxiety over interacting with each other was still present.  Admiral Forrest was attending this briefing remotely; his anxious face appearing on the view screen.  Malcolm entered the room last and Archer rose from his chair at the table, “Malcolm, report!” Archer bellowed.

“Nothing sir, I can find absolutely nothing further out here within our capability.”  Malcolm replied then took his seat.  Archer looked at him like he didn’t believe him, but mumbled thanks anyway.

“I do not believe that you will find any related artifacts Captain,” T’Pol stated, and then looking smugly at Archer said, “Should I continue with my report?”

“Go ahead” was Archer’s curt reply.

“In the late 1960’s and into the early 1970’s theUnited   Statesmade six lunar landings on earth’s moon with a program called Apollo.  The Apollo spacecraft consisted of two components after rocket launch from earth, a command module and lunar module or lunar lander.  Of the three men, at this point no women were involved this deeply in the space program,” she added with what seemed to be a touch of sarcasm, “two left the command module to pilot the lunar lander to the moon.  They left the moon by using the bottom section of the lander as a launching pad and piloting the upper portion back up for rendezvous with the command module.”  She looked at the nods from the table; this was basic earth history known especially by these folks who chose to work in space.

T’Pol continued, “However a seventh mission, labeled Apollo 13, which should have been the third moon landing, never made it.  An explosion on the command module early in the flight forced the mission to be aborted. The astronauts used the lunar lander as a life raft in order to return to earth safely.  This mission has historically been regarded as significant in its redeeming value toward flight safety and the ingenuity that it took, by all involved, to get the astronauts back safely.”

Archer becoming impatient with the history lesson jumped up.  Raising his arms above his head for emphasis he said, “So that’s not from Apollo 13!”

T’Pol glared at the interruption, “I am not done, Captain, I suggest you hear this out.”

Archer grimly relented.

“According to both Vulcan and earth databanks, the lunar module was ejected before it reached earth’s atmosphere and then re-entered with a controlled burn to be destroyed upon reentry.”  Stated T’Pol evenly.

This time it wasAdmiralForrest who spoke up, “So far you haven’t told us anything new Commander. Why do you still feel this could be the Apollo 13 lunar lander?”

“I do not feel that this could be the lunar lander, it is logical that it is.” T’Pol replied.  “No disrespect intended to your history Admiral but in addition to the physical evidence we have on board theEnterprise, there is no collaborating physical evidence to prove otherwise.  Records of the time simply state that the craft burned upon reentry and the RTG unit was jettisoned into 20,000 feet of water in thePacific Ocean.”

“The what?” Trip asked quickly.

“The radioisotope thermoelectric generator that contained 8.3 pounds of plutonium that was supposed to power experiments left on the moon.”  T’Pol said.  It would have powered the scientific experiments package that you should have found on board.”

Trip’s face turned red as all eyes had turned to him.  He broke away his gaze and rubbed his hand over his face.  “But that’s not what we found” he said, his voice becoming defensive.

Archer was immediately alert, the history lesson forgotten.  “What do you mean Trip?”  “What did you find?” Archer wanted to know.

Trip hesitated and then began, “I agree that this vehicle came from many years ago, everything verifies its age in the timeline that we are discussing.  And I agree that the plaque is a sure fire way to identify this craft as Aquarius but your description of the contents is not right.”

Forrest beat Archer to the draw by shouting, “What have you found Commander?”  He was excited in a nervous sort of way.

Tucker started to speak, “I had to do a little research myself in figuring out what it was exactly that I was looking at,” he said.  “But what I was researching was old IFF systems.”

“IFF” asked Malcolm, “that sounds familiar.”

“IFF means Identification Friend or Foe, or sometimes called radar identification and recognition system. IFF systems were used as far back as World War II to challenge vessels or aircraft through radar to demand a particular response.  The proper response identified the other guy as friendly and if the proper response code wasn’t given then the other fellow was treated as an enemy craft.” Explained Trip.

“Why would the Apollo program use an IFF system, there wouldn’t have been any other spacecraft around to communicate with?”  Malcolm wanted to know.

“I don’t know,” replied Trip, “The Apollo program equipped each lunar mission with a set of instruments to be left on the moon for returning data to earth called the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP).  This was housed in the rear compartment of the lower section of the lander to be accessed by the astronauts after landing.  But in the rear compartment of this lander I’ve found this IFF system and the components with a payload, including a rocket with launcher and nuclear detonator.”

“Incredible!” said Archer, still suspicious.

“The IFF system on board Aquarius, if this is Aquarius, is more sophisticated than naval or air IFFs referred to in historical literature.  The lander’s radar antenna is different from NASA specs for the lander.  Its incorporated into an IFF interrogator which includes what appears to be an automatic receiver box, attached to a tracking system and a small explosive device.”  Trip stopped talking to allow all of this to sink in.

“Trip, this was never part of the Apollo program, could this have been put in place later by someone else?”  Archer queried.

“I don’t think so” stated Trip, “The metals all have the same aging and corrosive degeneration.  Even if this was done by someone else, it was done back at the same time.”  He paused, “But that’s not all.”  Looking around he continued.  “The power signature that we are picking up is plutonium all right, but it contains over 50 pounds not 8. Whoever did this was serious about it’s use.”

This news was unsettling.  Fifty pounds of plutonium, even with today’s more sophisticated power sources was significant.

Admiral Forrest looked worried but asked Trip directly, “Commander what would be your conclusion upon seeing this equipment up close?”

Trip didn’t hesitate, “If this is from a real lunar landing mission it must mean that the moon was being equipped with an Identification Friend or Foe system that would identify intruders to the moon and possibly damage or destroy anything within a short range.

Forrest looked agitated, “Captain, I’ve got a meeting to attend, send me the details discussed in this conversation and I’ll contact you later, Forrest out!”  And with that the screen went blank.

“Trip, is this plutonium safe?” Archer asked, directing his gaze from the view screen to his chief engineer.

“Sure Captain, I disconnected the klystrons that could have triggered the device, its container was intact and I’ve moved it into one of our storage chambers just to be on the safe side, but I’m still confused” Said Trip.

“I agree,” said Malcolm, “Why would earth need an IFF system on the moon?  And why would anyone replace lunar experiments with a weapon?”

Archer shook his head, “It doesn’t make sense to me either” he said.  He glanced over at T’Pol.  “Commander any thoughts?”

T’Pol had been looking somewhat cross but diverted her eyes slowly over to Archer.  “Captain, if it is true that a weapon could have been placed on the moon in this time frame the Vulcan High Command will not be pleased,” she said.  “They will see that as an unnecessarily aggressive act.”

“But that was a long time ago T’Pol, they couldn’t possibly hold us accountable for that now.”  Archer offered.

“Boy, does that change the meaning of that mission,” stated Malcolm rather absentmindedly.

“What do you mean?” said Archer carefully.

“I just meant that those astronauts might not have been heroes and if there was an accident that aborted the mission what would have happened if that plutonium had gotten away,” Malcolm stated.

“I’ll askAdmiralForrest for more information from his end, there has got to be more to this story.”  Archer stated while standing up.

This was their cue to leave and as they filed out Archer added, “T’Pol, Trip send me your files and notes and I will forward to the Admiral.

The wait seemed long.  Archer had forwarded back to earth visuals and data regarding the artifact they have found in space hours ago.  He had decided that this problem didn’t pose an immediate danger and now he was anxious to get back to their original mission.  Finally his comm rang, “Captain” called Hoshi, “Incoming message fromAdmiralForrest.”

“I’ll take it in my quarters,” was Archer’s reply.  A few minutes later he was once again looking at Forrest’s image in the view screen.  “Admiral, I was afraid that you had forgotten about us.”

“Sorry Jonathan”, he looked tired, “But you have apparently happened upon an interesting piece of earth’s history.” Forrest offered. “I’ve had to do some digging on this one.”

“OK, so is this the Aquarius?”  Archer asked slowly.

“Looks like it,” said Forrest, “You’d better sit down and let me bring you up to date on what I’ve discovered.”

Archer sat and the admiral began.  “Do you remember studying about the first moon landing?”  Forrest asked.

“Sure I do, required reading and all that.”  Archer replied.

“And do you remember the state of earth’s politics at the time?”  Forrest pressed.

“Two major super powers, cold war, space race, it’s all in the books.”  Archer said.

“Yes, but what’s not in the books are some covert activities of the time and I think you have stumbled on one of those.”  Forrest said grimly.

“Go on,” encouraged Archer.

“During the first moon landing mission for theUnited States, which was called Apollo 11, the other superpower, theSoviet Union, had launched a moon probe, Luna 15, which orbited the moon during the landing mission, was to land after the American crew left, but crashed on the surface at touchdown.  That is public knowledge, but what is not public knowledge is that the American president, Richard Nixon, was paranoid that the Soviets would impair future missions.”  Forrest seemed uneasy.

“Isn’t he the president that resigned?”  asked Archer.

“Yes but that would appear to be unrelated,” replied Forrest.  “Nixon ordered that the moon be protected from unwarranted intrusion by enemy nations and so authorized a mission to establish such protection.  Since Apollo 12 was almost ready to go, the mission to protect the moon fell to Apollo 13.”

“I do not remember reading any of this,” Archer quipped.  “Are you sure?”

“It’s been a long time and of course everyone involved is now dead, but I was able to find some classified documents that supported what I’m about to tell you.”  Forrest took on a serious tone.  “So what I’m about to tell you is highly classified information, got that?”

“Yes sir, please continue,” said Archer.

“Apollo 13 was equipped with an IFF system, and a targeting array, that could launch a small rocket armed with a nuclear warhead.  This package was intended to be left on the moon to repel enemy visitors that might try to interfere with moon landings,” Forrest continued, “But it was a secret mission.”

“Why an IFF system, wasn’t there other options?” asked Archer.

“IFF was developed in World War II as a means to identify approaching aircraft as friendly or not.  The concept for the moon would have meant that all future missions would carry a signal that identified them as friendly and those that could not provide this signal would be fired upon.” Forrest explained.  “Other countries would be required to obtain this information from theUnited Statesprior to attempting a moon landing, thus no surprises.”

“That sounds pretty arrogant,” said Archer, “Especially since theUnited   Statesdidn’t own the moon.”

“Agreed, but the tensions of the times led to some extremely poor judgment.  Fortunately the accident caused the mission to fail and the system was never installed.  In fact the entire Apollo program was shortened after the incident.”  Forrest looked more relaxed.  “However that brings us to our present day problem.”

“What problem?” said Archer, “I think there are some folks on earth that would love to take a look at this.”

“It’s not that simple, the true facts of that mission were never known.  In fact you’ve probably found the lunar lander because it was too dangerous to reenter earth’s atmosphere as reported so it was sent to deep space,” said Forrest. “Why don’t you bring T’Pol in and let’s bring her up to speed as well.”

“And Commander Tucker as well,” insisted Archer, “he is most familiar with our recovered artifact.”

“That’s fine, bring them in and I’ll wait,” said Forrest.

Archer keyed his comm and asked T’Pol and Trip to report to his quarters.  He was concerned thatAdmiralForrest was about to ask them to alter their mission because of this discovery.  T’Pol and Trip arrived within minutes of each other and Archer brought them up to date with the admiral’s findings so far.  T’Pol’s expressions seemed to darken slightly.

“OK Admiral, go ahead,” said Archer.

“First, I want you to recognize that this is still classified information under the current space program even after all of these years.  The problem we are faced with is a re-writing of history among other things,” Forrest began. “The Apollo 13 mission was considered a hero’s mission due to its rescue nature.  It rallied support for the space program and was a benchmark for the use of ingenuity and creative thinking in space.  For the public to discover now that it was really a failed covert mission could lead to other speculations,  including second guessing all other programs and missions successful or not.”

“Understood,” said Archer hesitantly, looking over at Trip.

“The other problem I’ll let T’Pol explain,” said Forrest surprising them all.

T’Pol’s eyes grew wide and then realization hit.  She looked at Archer and Trip.  “I think what the Admiral is referring to, is to the reaction of the Vulcan High Council,” she said.

“That’s right Commander,” said Forrest. “And what do you think their reaction would be to this discovery?”

T’Pol never wavered, “They would not be pleased,” she said.  “The Apollo 13 mission occurred 93 years prior to first contact with your world.  We would have been observing you from a distance at that time.  If the Apollo mission had been successful and a weapon had been placed upon earth’s moon, first contact could have been delayed or might not have occurred.”

“Thank you Commander, that was my thoughts as well,” chimed in Forrest.  “For this reason we should keep this as closely held as possible.”

“Admiral,” Trip spoke up.  “We have some significant historical information here, why should we care what the Vulcans think of our past indiscretions?”

“The Vulcans have been good to us and very supportive of our efforts,” he raised his hand at the change in Archer’s facial expression.  “I know it doesn’t seem that way to you, Jonathan, but believe me, we don’t want to risk their trust by exposing a bad decision at the beginning, even if it was a long time ago.”

“So you are suggesting that we keep this as our little secret?” asked Archer.  He looked at T’Pol and Trip.

“How many of your crew are familiar with the situation?” asked Forrest.

“Only officers present are aware of anything beyond the fact that we’ve picked up a piece of space junk,” replied Archer, then he added, “Oh and Malcolm.”

“Then this becomes your decision as to whether or not this should be kept a secret, but my two cents would be that you consider this,”  the Admiral’s face was grim.  “I don’t want to start your mission out with deception but given our concerns, we need to gain the Vulcan’s trust, uncovering a dirty little secret isn’t the best way to say we’re ready to be out there.”

Archer looked over at T’Pol, but he spoke to the Admiral, “I think that T’Pol is the one who should guild us on this issue, since she is the one who would inform the Vulcans anyway, if she decided to.”

Forrest jumped in before T’Pol could respond, “T’Pol, earth has had its share of unflattering moments but we seem to be headed in the right direction now,” his face soften as he spoke.  “Do you feel that sharing such an old piece of knowledge now, would justify the damage it could cause us going forward?”

T’Pol took a step back as she realized that all eyes were on her. Her mind was contemplating the impact of this decision.  “With all due respect Admiral, I don’t feel that this is my decision.”  She stated in her even monotone.

Archer spoke up, “Admiral, give us some time to digest this and I’ll get back to you.”

“Very well,” Forrest replied, “I will trust that our first crew with warp five capabilities at their disposal will make the right decision, Forrest out!”

The view screen went blank.  No one spoke, their thoughts heard only by their own brains.  Finally Archer broke the silence, “T’Pol, can’t you see how important this is?”  He said grimly.  “No matter what I decide it would be up to you to keep this a secret on your end of things.”

“My end of things?” T’Pol asked.  “I thought I was part of your end of things now Captain.”

“You know what I mean, if we decide not to share this secret, it also means that it cannot be shared at some future date, or then it’s also conspiracy.”  The anger rose in Archer’s voice.

T’Pol turned to leave but hesitated at the door, “I would like to meditate on this, can we meet again in two hours?”

“That’s fair,” said Archer, “and I’ll bring Malcolm up to speed.”

Two hours later T’Pol informed the Captain that she would keep their secret, “For the good of the mission” and with one condition, destroy the evidence.  Archer had explained to his chief of security the details of their discovery and although he wanted to investigate further, Malcolm agreed to keep the secret as well.

After Trip had reinstalled any parts removed during his inspection, including the plutonium, the crew assembled on the bridge.

“Trip, release the space junk,” Archer said loudly into the comm.  “Malcolm prepare for a little target practice,” Archer said slyly.

The crew watched as the tiny, shiny object that they had been so excited about seeing earlier tumbled into view, out in front of the Enterprise.  Malcolm adjusted his instruments and with a glance to Archer, fired a quick short burst from the starboard laser cannon.  The resulting explosion was bright, then gone as quickly as it began.  Archer’s face saddened at the thought, right or wrong, the Aquarius had been a fine ship.

Later in the Captain’s mess T’Pol looked across the table at Archer as he spoke, “It saddens me to destroy such an important artifact.”  He said.  “But I do thank you for being part of this secret.”

T’Pol in her even, non-emotional voice glanced up, “What secret?”  She said.  “You know we have just destroyed the evidence so any story regarding Apollo 13 other than the original would not have a suitable foundation upon which to exist.”

Archer’s face broke into a grin, “I had not thought about that. And as far as I’m concerned, along with many of those they inspired over the years, the crew of Apollo 13 are heros.”

“And besides” T’Pol added, “Don’t hold yourselves in such high regard that other species couldn’t have their own secrets.”

“True!”  Said Archer, “But this secret belongs to us, the crew of theEnterprise.”

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