Mission To Oz
Part Two: The Scarecrow and Tin Woodsman
The sun was still blazing, and Archer was still walking, and although Munchkin Town was a long way behind him he still couldn't see anything but countryside up ahead. It felt like he'd been travelling for hours, which was odd, because his dreams weren't usually this boring, and the skin on the back of his hand was an angry red where he'd repeatedly tried to wake himself up.
He was just about ready to sit down on the yellow paving and simply wait out the time until his alarm went off when Porthos, who had been trotting happily alongside him, suddenly shot off along the road barking his little heart out. Archer hurried after him, sprinting over the brow of a small hill and surprised to find that after several kilometres of nothing but fields they'd finally come across some civilisation. Well, a tumble-down old shack surrounded by a tangled of mechanical mess at least.
Jogging down the other side of the hill, he called out, "Hey, is there anyone in there?"
"Who wants to know?" Another familiar voice answered, this time with an unmistakable southern drawl. A few seconds later the familiar voice's owner appeared from around the side of the shack.
Archer couldn't help but grin. "Trip! Man, am I glad to see you!"
"Do I know you, mister?" Trip asked, frowning and running one hand through his already messy blond hair whilst the other scratched absently at his stomach. Archer had to wonder whether this man did know him. The physical attributes and voice certainly matched those of his friend and fellow officer, but the clothes were all wrong; a pair of grubby denim dungarees with a frayed plaid shirt worn open on top and a tatty pair of work boots on his feet, leather scuffed and cracking. And the ensemble was set off with the most vacant expression on his face that Archer had ever seen.
"I'm Jonathan Archer, captain of the starship Enterprise"
"Uh huh," Trip said, uncomprehendingly, "Sounds mighty impressive, anyhow. I'm Trip. I fix stuff round here. Kinda. People says I'm not that smart, y'know." He shrugged. "No common sense." He tapped the side of his head with a knuckle and produced a worryingly hollow sound.
"So, what do you mean you 'kinda' fix things?" This man certainly didn't seem to be the real Trip then, the Trip that Archer knew was possibly the smartest man Archer had ever met.
He grinned self-consciously. "Reckon I know how, but Ma 'n' Pa don't want me goin' to town to get parts. Says 'cause I'm not that bright I get into trouble every time and they're tired a'bailing me out." He looked around the small yard. "They left me here. I'm not s'posed to go nowhere. Hey, where you goin'?"
"I'm off to see The Wizard."
"The Wonderful Wizard Called Phlox?" Trip asked. "Wow."
"You've heard of him?"
"Sure! Everybody's heard of him. I used to hope that Ma 'n' Pa would take me to meet him so's he could give me some brains. They said they never knew where he lived though..." Trip trailed off dejectedly, then shrugged again. "Why're you goin'?"
"I was told he could help me get home."
"You know where he is?"
"At the end of the yellow brick road, that's what Hoshi the, er, Good Witch said."
"Huh!" Trip shielded his eyes with his hand as he gazed along the length of the road as it meandered in to the distance. "I always won'ered where that went."
"You want to come with me?"
"Me? I'll just get y'all in trouble, Cap'n." He shook his head.
Archer huffed a sigh. This may not be the Trip he knew but he was a man in need of help, and a marginally better conversationalist that Porthos.
"Come on. We'll go together. I won't let you get into any trouble."
"Really? Oh boy! I'm, gonna get me some brains!"
Trip talked long and loud about engines and their workings as the two men and one dog continued along their journey to find The Wonderful Wizard Called Phlox. Archer was content enough to listen, asking the odd question just to keep the narrative flowing. It was clear that Trip did indeed know an incredible amount about all things mechanical, but every time Archer asked him anything off the subject the answer was either ridiculous or non-forthcoming.
The light was starting to fade by the time they reached the edge of the forest and the travellers still didn't have any clear idea of how much further they were expected to go. Possibly of greater importance though, they were both starting to get very hungry. Trip, naturally, hadn't thought to pack any food, and Archer had been so happy to see a friendly face that he'd failed to suggest it.
"Hey, look!" called Trip, gesturing to small cottage a little way off the road, partially obscured by the trees. "Maybe there'll be food in there...?"
Agreeing, Archer led the way away from the yellow brick road and towards the cottage.
If the last two occurrences of meeting people in this weird land where anything to go by, Archer supposed that the inhabitant of the cottage was likely to be a member of the Enterprise crew also. Therefore, it was not wholly a surprise to see T'Pol striding purposefully in their direction in a dull grey metallic catsuit. It was, however, something of a shock to see her brandishing an axe.
"Trespassers, get off my land immediately, or I shall be forced to injure you."
"Hey now lady, we ain't here to do you no harm!" Trip shouted back. "We just wanna borrow some food off of you, is all."
"Borrow food?" she said, eyebrow arched interrogatively and axe still held tightly in front of her, "Why would I lend you food? I do not know you."
"'S'called bein' friendly. If I had food and you needed some, I'd lend it you."
"But you do not have food, so your argument is irrelevant. It would be illogical to waste my provisions on strangers."
Trip looked as though he was going to argue further when Archer broke in with, "Look, how about if we bartered something?"
T'Pol's chin tilted up slightly as she considered the proposition. "A fair exchange of goods would be acceptable. However, I fail to see anything you have that I could possibly want." In fact she looked faintly disgusted as she regarded the Humans, and rather more disgusted as Porthos started to sniff about her ankles.
"What about services?"
Archer looked pointedly at the axe she was holding. "We could chop wood." Turning to Trip he continued, "Couldn't we?"
"I guess so, yeah."
"Agreed. You will chop wood for two hours each, and I will provide you with bread and broth in return."
"Two hours!" Trip whined, "Come on now, that ain't what I call fair. Two whole hours? Lady, have a heart!" He stepped forward, getting into her personal space. She shifted her stance fractionally in response but gave no ground.
"Trip..." Archer said, warning clear in his voice. "You remember I said I'd keep you out of trouble? Well, now's one of those times when you're gonna have to listen to me and stand down. Understood?"
"'Kay." Trip said grudgingly. "But she's bein' mean."
"It will be dark soon. You should get started if you wish to eat tonight." T'Pol handed the axe to Archer and led them off to the small clearing around her cottage.
Archer was exhausted. He'd been chopping wood for the best part of an hour, as T'Pol watched serenely from her cottage window. The smell of the broth was enticing, even if it was bland; food was food after all and Archer's stomach was rumbling angrily. What was more, the Vulcan woman hadn't even so much as offered either man a glass of water as they sweated away doing her chore.
Or as Archer sweated, at any rate. Trip had wandered off around the back of the house some time ago and not yet returned. Wiping his brow on the sleeve of his uniform, Archer decided to investigate.
He was met by a large mechanical monstrosity and a grinning engineer. "She had all the right parts just sittin' here. All I had to do was put it all together. Mighty fine, ain't it?"
"What is it?"
"Choppin' machine. Watch this..."
He pressed a large red button on the side of the contraption and stood back. There was a loud whirring, an ominous screeching noise and an almost deafening 'thunk' before the machine started spitting handy, firewood sized chunks of tree into a large basket.
"You just need to put your logs in this section," he indicated the container at the rear of the machine, "And it does all the hard work for you."
"Amazing," said Archer.
"Why have you ceased working?" T'Pol asked, her emotionless voice carrying clearly over the noise of the chopping machine.
"Fixed up your machine instead. Now no one has to chop nothin', this'll do it all."
"This is much more than I asked of you. Why would you help me so?"
"Like I said, it's the friendly thing to do. An' I guess we're kinda neighbours, y'know. You coulda come asked me before, instead of letting all the pieces just sit here, gettin' all rusty."
"This is what you term 'heart'?"
"Yeah. Hey, Cap'n, d'you think The Wizard could help out T'Pol too?"
"I don't see why not, Trip. What do you say, T'Pol? Want to join us?"
"I have long been intrigued by stories of The Wizard and his power. Perhaps it would be beneficial to have 'heart'. I will join you. After we have eaten."