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Children Of A Lesser God

A Ferengi up to no good.....

Part 1: Mozart and Mysteries

USS Jaxartes
Date: 29th July 2401 06:30

The sounds of Mozart’s Symphony Nº 7 in D major wafted through the Captains quarters as Jason Devron prepared himself for another day in command.  Sleep was coming more easily to him since the strange events on New Alberta.  In fact he hadn’t slept on the floor once since it happened; which was a very good thing for his neck, if nothing else.  The reverberating hum of the engines or the sounds of classical music was no longer something he needed to lull him to sleep, but Jason had grown to love the mix of melodies and rousing tunes of these long dead composers.

The nightmare of the Borg was still there at the back of his mind, but they had lost their vice like grip on his soul.  You could say he was feeling human again.  Jason smiled slightly at that thought, before grabbing his uniform jacket off the empty bed.

Yes that was another thing; the empty bed.  In fantasy world created from his own mind, he’d shared a bed for several years.  In fact only this morning he’d woken to find himself holding one of his two pillows in a loving embrace.  How was he going to tell the woman?  She had enough problems of her own, being connected to the Q Continuum.  He knew more about it than she did, but that was still pitifully little.  Doctor Andrianakis supposedly had a pivotal role in some future event.  Could he’s feelings for Phoebe jeopardize the outcome; would he hold back or make the wrong decision to save her at the cost of others?

Dervon adjusted the jacket, took one final look at himself and exited the room.

            ********** 

Lieutenant Lyanna Stuart sat on the Bridge alone, the lights dimmed to around 40% brightness.  It was unusual for a First Officer to take watch at night, but with such a small crew, the options were limited.  Resent events and their current patrol location made them wary of leaving the computer to monitor everything on its own; alerting the crew if anything happened.

The door behind her ‘whooshed’ open and Stuart didn’t need to turn to know it was her Captain arriving to kick her out of the big chair. “Anything to report number one?” He asked arriving at her side.

“Oh, nothing much really.  Couple of Syndicate Cruisers dropped in, but when they realised which ship this was, they warped away pretty sharpish.” The young Orion informed him with her cheerful Scottish accents. “And I’ve been awarded the Christopher Pike Medal of Valor. But if you can just keep that between the two of us until the ceremony.”

Devron tried his hardest not to break into a smile, but one look at his fellow officers face; as he took the Duty Padd from her was all it took.  “You’re impossible to work with when you’re bored. You do know that?” He laughed. “I relieve you, so got get some rest.”

Lieutenant Stuart vacated the captain’s chair. “I stand relieved Sir.” She gave a little curtsy. “The bridge is yours.”  

“Skedaddle.” The Captain waved his First Officer away with a dismissive yet friendly gesture of the hands. As he sat himself down in the captain’s chair, Devron had to admit this patrol was proving to be remarkably uneventful.   Considering how thinly spread the fleet was right now, it would have been expected that others would take advantage of the situation.  But in this sector at least, all seemed quiet.

            **********

In another part of the ship; C’Rren the Caitian Science Officer had just stepped out of the sonic shower in the quarters he shared with his Cardassian roommate.  The two of them got on rather well, having both been assigned to the Jaxartes at the same time and had got to know each other from day one.  Tholakath had already left; no doubt to grab breakfast.

But that didn’t mean the young Caitian ensign was alone.  No, the two of them shared their modest quarters with one other.  A small coppery coloured Tribble who’d earned the name ‘Houdini’ after making two successful escape attempts.  The first time had been the reason why he’d stayed onboard whilst the rest of his family was beamed down to a remote secret planet.  They referred to the Tribble as ‘He’ even though there was no such distinction for these small furry creatures.

Tribbles as a whole had been nothing more than a minor nuisance if not kept in check and closely monitored; until at some point during the mid-part of the 23rd century a Lieutenant by the name of Edward Larkin had took it upon himself to genetically alter these creatures in the hope of creating a vast food supply but instead turning them into a furry plague of biblical proportions.  Thankfully more recently a group of scientist after collecting a large number of them from DS9 had managed to reverse much of that genetic tinkering.

The fact that Houdini was still a lone individual and not part of a huge group; was a clear sign that by being careful and feeding them a controlled diet, they could be good pets and companions.  This Tribble in particular loved listening to C’Rren play his flute and music in general.  In fact Mozart’s The Magic Flute was currently playing.  The young Caitian was puzzled by this as he was sure no music had been playing a few minutes again.

“Computer did Ensign Tholakath select this music.” He asked as he got dressed. The computer thought about the request for a brief moment before replying with a negative.  C’Rren paused; his head only half way out of his undershirt. “Who did then?” 

“Crewman Houdini.” The computer answered. 

C’Rren pulled the top straight and plopped himself down on the bottom bunk.  That can’t be right, how could a Tribble possible activate any of the ships systems?  The computer couldn’t understand their language; in fact no one could.  He asked for confirmation and the computer gave him the same reply.  Finishing dressing swiftly he rushed off to tell his roommate about what had occurred.

            ********** 

During breakfast Ensign Tholakath kept his composure whilst his roommate described the strange goings on in their room. He appeared to display both surprise and wonderment, with a hint of scepticism thrown in for good measure; despite actually being the one behind it all.  

Only Lieutenant Stuart was there to witness the bizarre exchange between the two officers and she had the sneaking suspicion that the young Cardassian was up to something.  But as it didn’t appear to be anything that would cause harm to anyone or affect the running of the ship; she finished her drink and left them to it.

            **********

Several hours passed with absolutely nothing of note actually happening.  Until around 15:30; Ensign Tholakath picked up a small vessel on the long range scanners.  It wasn’t easy to spot in its current location orbiting a class M planet, had it been more noticeable, no doubt it would have been spotted more than an hour ago.  The planet in question was Vasileio and the ship, a Ferengi shuttle. “I can confirm the shuttle is the one previously used by DaiMon Talr.” Announced the Tactical Officer after running a detailed scan. “Shields are down, systems operating at minimal.  Not registering any life signs at present.”

“Ensign Harris, bring use in close.” Devron instructed.

“Aye Captain.” Replied the New Zealander: before altering the corvette’s course towards the planet.  They drew within a half a kilometre of the Ferengi vessel; which was maintaining a stationary position above one of the two central continents.

“Ensign Tholakath, I want you to beam over to that ship and see what you can find out.” Devron instructed. “Take crewman Tyson with you.” 

“Right on it sir.” The Cardassian replied getting up from his seat at tactical. “Armed?” 

Jason nodded. “Just in case. There’s still the cargo hold we can’t scan.”

            **********

Not long after two figures materialised aboard the Ferengi shuttle craft.  Crewman Tyson did a quick scan of the cockpit area, whilst Tholakath took a look inside the cargo area, before reporting back that the ship was indeed empty.

The two of them spent some time checking through the shuttles systems and gathering together any data they could retrieve ready for detailed analysis back aboard the Jaxartes.  There was something not right about the whole situation.  The small two person transporter could only be operated from onboard the ship; so unless there was an emergency and the crew had no intention of returning, someone would need to stay behind.  There was no indication anything had gone wrong resulting in the crew abandoning the shuttle.  So why was it empty?

Tyson signalled he’d downloaded the ships log to his PADD.  Satisfied they could do no more, and happy the vessel was in no immediate danger, Tholakath requested they be beamed back.

Part 2: Situation Report

USS Jaxartes
29th July 2401 19:00

After having a chance to go through all the data collected from the seemingly abandoned Ferengi shuttle, the senior members of the crew were gathered together in the aft observation lounge. 

Lieutenant Devron felt it would be better if he allowed his Tactical Officer to chair the meeting and put forward his and Crewman Tyson’s findings.  Besides it would be good practice for furthering the Ensigns career and easier with a small group of familiar friendly faces.

Tholakath began by out lining the situation aboard the shuttle.  Nothing had seemed out of place; the computer and equipment all appeared to be functioning normally, just on low power.  He supposed this was to render the ship harder to detect.  Which the rest of those present all agreed with.  Life support was working perfectly well and there appeared to be enough emergence food rations available to last a month even if the replicator failed.

He also confirmed that it would be impossible for anyone to return to the shuttle as its own transporter could not be operated remotely. Whoever had left it had left for good.

Jason asked him how long the shuttle had been here, to which the Cardassian was able to give him a fairly accurate answer.  The 13th February; and within a few hours of them leaving the solar system.

“The craft sod was watching us.” Devron slammed a fist on the table before learning back clasping his hands behind his head. “How did he know we were watching the planet?”   The question was asked more in general; he wasn’t expecting anyone to give an answer, not yet and least.

He signalled for Tholakath to continue with the report.   Transporter logs registered DaiMon Talr beaming down to the planet’s surface alone; roughly three hours after they’d arrived.  There followed at various intervals the odd communication between Talr and his pilot/assistant Norr.  Nothing though that would indicate there being any problems.  At one point a number of items were beamed on board, one of which the young Cardassian now produced for the rest of the senior staff to view.

It was a short broad sword, about 60 centimetres in length and 8 wide at the point where the blade met the ornately designed handle.  It was a weapon more for show than actual combat, but if called upon it could be used rather effectively.  One thing that stood out though was the carved gem nestled within the hilt.  Roughly the size of a Quails egg was a Dilithium crystal.

“Wow.” Was the only word that came out of Ensign Harris’s mouth and it kind of summed up everyone’s feeling in the room. In fact it was nearly half a minute before anything else was said. 

“So these Vasileian treat Dilithium in the same way the vast majority of other races treat diamonds and emeralds etcetera.” Lieutenant Stuart mused. “So what’s Talr doing, just stealing them?”

“From what information we collected, other than this sword and a few items of Jewellery taken on a previous visit; the DaiMon has been replicating the Dilithium and any other gems to replace any he’s taken, before returning the item.” 

“Wouldn’t they notice the stuff was fake?” Cho asked, still marvelling at the craftsmanship of the sword.

C’Rren stepped in with an answer. “Given the level of advancement this people have reached and how good the Ferengi are at deception, they might not notice for another five hundred years.”   

It was a perfect crime, or at least had been up until the point it had all mysteriously gone wrong.  The Tactical Officer finished off by playing the last recorded message from DaiMon Talr.

“Norr what’s taking you so long?” The voice of the Ferengi was clearly annoyed and agitated. “It shouldn’t take even a halfwit like you this long to operate a transporter!” The next part was originally another ten minutes late. “Norr if you don’t get me off this planet this very instant, I will chop off both your ears and sell them as novelty ashtrays! I’m docking your pay for this trip to.” 

The Captain laced his fingers together, elbows on the desk listening to the one sided conversation, before speaking again. “What about his ship?  That Marauder we ran into. Why hasn’t it come looking for him.” 

“The Perpetual Profit, as she’s called had a run in with one of our ships.” Tholakath informed him. “Another unfortunate side effect of Frontier Day.  The Marauder was heavy damaged in battle and had to make a run for it.” 

“Well thank you Ensign for that detailed report.” Devron commented rising to his feet. “I hope your first time leading a briefing, wasn’t too stressful.” He smiled at this Tactical Officer who nodded a ‘thanks’ back.

“Mister C’Rren if you’d conduct a detailed scan of the area, we can assess what impact if any our Ferengi friend has made in six months. Dismissed, all of you” 

Cho commented on how sorry she felt for the people on the planet below having their wealth stolen as she headed for the door. Harris mused over their reaction if they’d discovered the DaiMon.  Doctor Andrianakis, who’d, remained mostly silent turned back half way between the table and the door. “I’d hate to think what someone like that could do to a planet like this.” 

“I agree.  The consequences could be devastating.” Replied Jason. “Well now I’d better go make a report on all this.”

            **********

In the end the report back to Fleet Command had been fairly short.  There were still so few facts and Jason was unwilling to go out on a limb and speculate.  One thing that nagged him; and he’d told them as much was the missing pilot of the shuttle.  There were eerie similarities between what had happened to the crew of the USS Alberga a Danube class Runabout he and the crew of the Jaxartes, then under the captaincy of Commander Salan; had been tasked in finding.  The Commander was amongst several others seemingly kidnapped on that ill-fated mission.  Was it just coincidence that a Ferengi had gone missing around the same time?  If it wasn’t and there was a connection; some as yet unknown and potential hostile race, based on their action, now had one individual from at least ten different races.  What the fate of those taken had been could only be speculated upon. 

For now though that was something for greater minds than his own to discuss and think about.  His tasks right now was the retrieval and apprehension of one DaiMon Talr with the minimum impact and disturbance to the native population and if possible negate any influence or damage created by the Ferengi’s arrival. 

Of cause it could be all too late, but wasn’t going to stop him trying.  Regardless of anything else Talr needed stopping.

Part 3: Stealth Is My Middle Name

USS Jaxaretes / Vasileio
Date: 29th July 2401 22:00

They’d waited until it was dark in the area of the planet they needed to go; hopefully the majority of the locals would be safely tucked up in bed and not wondering around at such a late hour.  Vasileio had the equivalent of a 30 hour day, and now was half way through its dark period which at this time of year would last another 6 hours.  The planets two small moon did not offer much in the way of light, not that it would matter as they were beaming directly into a building any way. 

The building in question could have been best described as a fortified châteaux rather than a castle.  It dwarfed any other building around it and was separated from the rest of the town by a high stone walls and an imposing wooden gate flanked by two square towers.  Between the walls and the châteaux beautiful flowered gardens and tree lined footpaths.  There was signs of resent construction; in the garden sat a massive wooden box and sections of scaffolding around it.

The châteaux was a four story building, though scans had indicated another two floors were below ground level, most likely a wine cellar and the vaults were all the items Talr had been stealing had been stored.  Locating and transporting a Ferengi off the planet should have been easy, but for whatever reason the DaiMon appeared to be operating an Ionic Disruption Field.  The crew of the ‘Jax’ knew he was in the building but couldn’t pin down the exact location.  It was therefore decided to beam down to the co-ordinates taken from the Ferengi shuttle; which was just beyond the influence of the field and work from there.

Lieutenant Stuart stood on the transporter pad, along with Ensigns Tholakath and Cho. All three were dressed in civilian clothing in keeping with the fashions worn by the Vasileian.  Since all of them were much taller than anyone on the planet and looked nothing like a Stoat, avoiding detection would be the key to this mission’s success.  They had decided to keep technology to a bare minimum.  Swallowing small tracking devices rather than wearing Comm-Badges.  The First Officer did however have a distress beacon disguised as a hair slide; a quick tap would be all that as needed to have the three officers whisked away to safety.  There would be no Tri-corder either; Cho would need all her linguistic skill to guide them.  She’d studied and picked up a few general words both spoken and written.  As for weapons, small wooden clubs would have to suffice, complete with manually operated swing activated stun setting; as Stuart so eloquently put it.

Tholakath also had with him two small torches made from dried branches tied together with rope, along with something to help light them, in one of his pockets. They were replicated, but looked authentic enough.

Devron took one long look at the mottle looking threesome before him. “Even I wouldn’t want to bump into you lot in the dark.” He commented. “Try to be as careful and discrete as you can.”

“Stealth is my middle name.” Replied his First Officer with a wink.

“I thought it was Jolel?” Piped up the Cardassian from her right.  Though with the hooded cloak pulled low over his face; it was hard to tell if that had been a genuine statement or an attempt at humour.  Cho did snigger, before swiftly hiding it with a sniff like she had the beginning of a cold developing.

“Right if you’re ready?” Dervron asked and received an affirmative from each of them.  Then waving a finger in Crewman Lightwoods general direction, he gave the command. “Energise.”

            **********

The room was pitch black, until the light from the transported beam fleetingly illuminated the stone walls, wooden shelving, crates and a table to one side.  Soon however the three Starfleet officers found themselves once more in total darkness.  Tholakath felt inside his pocket for the lighter and set about igniting the two torches, one of which he passed to the Lieutenant.

Slowly the light from their torches began to reveal some of the details within the room.  For one think the young Cardassian’s head wasn’t far short of the celling, also he’d need to duck if he wanted to exit via what appeared to be the only door out of the room.  The room was roughly 8 metres wide and 20 metres long.  Stretching the full length of the room on either side, rows of shelves on which sat wooden crates of various shapes and sizes.  A quick and careful search revealed that these boxes contained valuable items.  Decretive glass and china ware, or at least this planets equivalent.  Gold plated drinking mugs; they could probably spend another hour looking, but that wasn’t why they were here, they had a mission to do and time wasn’t a luxury unlike all the stuff around them.

Lyanna had moved over to the wooden door, a thick well-constructed one with iron hinges and plate around the key hole.  And in that lay their first and most major stumbling block.  The door was locked. “Oh you stupid, stupid, stupid idiot!” She cursed under her breath.  It had been her suggestion to beam down to these co-ordinates and now she’d got the three of them locked in a storage room.   

She heard a creak behind her and turned to spot Tholakath opening a small draw mounted on the underside of the table.  From within, after a short rummage through its contents he produced a long slender key. “Always have a backup plan.” He declared in a triumphant half whisper.  Holding the key for his two companions to see.  So the DaiMon had found a spare key or duplicated an original so he could come and go from this room locking it from the inside if he needed to. Without further delay he proceeded to unlock the door, open it carefully and peek outside.  

The corridor beyond was empty, a lone torch rested in a small iron cradle mounted on the wall just next to a stone staircase leading upwards.  Five other doors along the corridor indicated what were probably other storerooms.  They silently made their way to the stairs, the Cardassian taking the lead.  He’d already had to stoop slightly to get out of the room, now he had to do so again to avoid bashing his head on the stone arch.  Technically it was his own fault for volunteering even though he was nearly twice the height of the average Vasileian and knew it would make moving around tricky at times.  It was part of his duty though to protect those he served alongside; the scare of letting them down once, despite his captain’s reassurances it wasn’t his fault, still ran deep.  It had made him more determined than ever though, he would show what a true Cardassian was capable of, both to the Federation and those back home.

            **********

On board the corvette, the Caitian Science Officer monitored their progress from his console at the back of the bridge.  A small three dimensional representation of the châteaux hovered before him.  It lacked any real detail, but was sufficient enough for him to locate where the away team were.  “They’re moving up to the next level.” He informed the Captain.

Devron thanked him for the update and slumped back in his chair.  Waiting was so hard, he hated waiting; for one thing it seemed to take too long.  Part of him worried over the away teams’ near total lack of equipment, but instructions had been clear on avoiding even the slightest chance that modern technology might get into the hands of the Vasileian.  Imagine Julius Cesar’s army with rifles or Napoleon’s with tanks and you start to realise the devastating impact that would have on a civilisations development and future progress.  Replicating something like a phaser with the tools they had would be way beyond them, but possessing one could still be deadly.  He trusted his crew though and new they could get this mission completed.  He just couldn’t stand waiting!

            **********

They’d made it past the wine cellars and kitchen area, through the main dining area and the library and up another two flights of starts unnoticed.  Keeping to the narrow back routes normally used by the servants, who thankfully at this late hour all appeared to be asleep.  Despite not being able to determine the location of Talr, due to the use of the Ionic Disruption Field, C’Rren had managed to calculate the centre of the field and therefore reduce the search area considerably.  With Ensign Cho’s help in deciphering a couple of signs which indicated the staff occupied the top level, it left only three rooms to physically search.

Tholakath had handed his torch over to Cho and asked his two companions to move away.  The Cardassian wanted his eyes to adjust back to the darkness and didn’t want the light from the flame giving away his presence as he carefully opened the first of the three doors.  The curtains were open casting a faint glow, but it was enough for the Ensign to know the bed within was unoccupied.   Silently closing the door, he crept towards the second room.   A thin beam of barely visible green light, at roughly ankle height caught his attention.  Most other people would have probably walked straight through it.  This was unquestionably technology beyond the understanding of those on this planet.  He smiled to himself before stepping over the light so as not to trigger whatever warning device it was probably connected to.  The scarcely audible click from beneath the floorboard as he lowered his foot, told Tholakath he’d just sprung a trap!

Part 4: Bow Down And Worship

Vasileio / USS Jaxartes
29th July 2401 22:40

The first thing that came into Tholakath’s mind was that only a Ferengi would be that devious and cunning, not that it felt of much consolation.  He was glad it had been the Lieutenant and not himself who’d jokingly boasted about being stealthy.  Whatever he’d inadvertently triggered had set off alarms elsewhere within the building and only mere moments passed before guards came rushing in from either end of the corridor.  There were five in total two had helmets and protective metal breast plating and each carried Pikes a little longer than their height; the other three dressed in leather-like jackets all had drawn swords, which were longer and less decorative than the one he’d removed from the shuttle, but no less sharp and deadly.

One of the three Vasileian with a sword spoke and waved it in the Tactical Officers Direction, Tholakath had no idea what the male had just said.  “He wants you to surrender.” Ensign Cho informed him.  The Cardassian carefully lowered the club and handed the burning torch to the nearest guard carrying a Pike.  The one who had spoken had to tiptoe and stretch to reach Tholakath’s hood in order to pull it off.  When he did though revealing the Cardassian’s features, he reeled back in terror letting out a ghastly screech of shock. Eventually regaining his composure the evident leader of the group of guards spoke again.

“He orders to follow him.”  Cho told the others, omitting the part about ‘foul creatures of the night’.  The leader opened the door nearest them and stepped inside saying something as he did so, but the Communications Officer was unable to catch what it was.  The three crewmembers were ushered inside the room at the point of the Pikes.

Standing before them a single figure stood resplendent in red and gold silk robes.  The Vasileian barked out another order. “Bow down and worship….our God!”  The last word the young Korean wasn’t completely sure of.

“I would advise you to follow the advice of the fee-male.” Came the distinctive voice of a Ferengi male. “My people will not hesitate to kill you if you do not obey.”

“DaiMon Talr I presume?” Asked Lieutenant Stewart. She did however bow, and her two companions followed suit.

“The one and only.” Talr smiled devilishly.  “And now with my very own planet with which to rule over.” 

“There’s no one coming to rescue you.” Tholakath informed their capture.

“Star Fleet will take anyone, won’t they?” The Ferengi sneered.  “Besides, who say’s I need rescuing?” 

Talr said something else in the locals native language and the three officers were forcefully removed from his room.  The DaiMon didn’t much care for the situation he’d found himself in.  What was the point in power and wealth if you couldn’t use it to your advantage? No the stupid Cardassian was right; no one was coming to rescue him.  But he was too tired right now to deal with that, and besides he had two female Vasileian’s keeping his bed warm just through another door in his private chamber.

**********

Ensign C’Rren the Caitian Science Officer aboard the USS Jaxartes noticed something was up.  The three dots representing the away team where now heading back the way they had originally come; which was not part of the plan.  “Sir, we may have a problem!”

Devron jumped up out of his seat and rushed round to join the Ensign at the bridge science station. “What is it?”  The Caitian’s right index finger pointed and highlighted the progress of their fellow crew members.

“Should I get them pulled out?” C’Rren asked glancing at his captain.

“No, not yet.  Just keep monitoring.” Replied Jason. “Somethings gone wrong but Lieutenant Stuart hasn’t activated her distress beacon, so for now we wait.” 

More waiting, now he’d said it; He just hoped that it was the best course of action.  This was going to be a long night!

            **********

The three crew members found themselves back on the level were they had started, but being ushered in the other direction to what appeared to be a cell.  The place was dark, dank and smelled none too pleasant either. “You’re not expecting us to go in there?” Stuart protested; but it was clear that was exactly what the guards were expecting.  The door slammed shut, keys rattled and the door locked.  Footsteps moved away.

“I’d say one guard possible two standing outside.”  Tholakath whispered.  “So now what?”

“Well now no one is looking I can activate the beacon and we’ll get transported out of here, and those guards will just find an empty room in the morning.” The First Officer smiled reassuringly, not that in the near total darkness anyone could tell. She tapped the hair slide and prepared herself.  Seconds past, with nearly a minute gone her finger tapped again.  After a fourth attempt she unceremoniously dropped down onto one of the beds in the cell. “Slight problem.”

“It’s not working is it?” Cho asked sitting down next to her.  The Lieutenant shook her head.

“Sorry I got us into this mess.” Muttered The Cardassian dropping on to the other bed. 

“We’ll get out of this.” Replied Stuart.  “Just keep your head together and your wits about you.  Tomorrow is another day.”

            ********** 

Devron gave a startled jump as he felt a hand touch his shoulder.  How long had he been asleep, what time was it?  A quick check revealed in was 3am ship time.  The hand that had woken him belonged to Doctor Andrianakis.  She smiled at him, then with a slightly sterner expression. “Bed doctor’s orders.” He tried to protest but she waved a hypo-spray in his direction. “You either go willingly and grab a couple of hours in bed or I knock you out for six. The choice is yours”

Jason stood up a little unsteadily, his left leg not having been so eager to wake up with the rest of his body.  The ships systems had mostly been set on automatic; other than himself and Phoebe only crewman N’Quith, who had apparently volunteered to stand in for C’Rren whilst he took a nap.  He took one last look at the doctor, wondering whether a last desperate protest was worth it; but soon dismissed that idea. “I leave the bridge in your hands doctor.” He conceded. “The slightest thing and you wake me, understand?”

“Crystal.” Was her one word answer.  Andrianakis carefully sat herself down in the Captain’s chair.  Under normal circumstances she would have never had the opportunity to sit here; she was after all still a civilian with no formal ‘Bridge Officer’ training.  This wasn’t a normal situation and on a small ship like a Raven class Corvette carrying 17 Officers and crew; everyone was expected to do their bit, which sometimes meant taking on extra roles when needed.

Part 5: Escape Plans

Vasileio / USS Jaxartes
Date: 30th July 2401 09:45

DaiMon Talr had been up long enough to shower and put on clean fresh clothing; now he was enjoying a breakfast fit for a king.  Well a God in fact, for that’s what the people of this planet regarded him as, right now.  He had absolutely no intention of setting the record straight, either.  These creatures may be extremely primitive but they did know how to treat someone who was superior to them.

Today was going to be a very special day, doubly so if Starfleet did what he expected of them; and if Talr could be sure of one thing, it was the predictability of Starfleet.  That brought a smile to the Ferengi’s face; he rubbed his hands together with confident glee, before grabbing a big chunk on meat before him and sinking sharp teeth into the soft tender flesh.  He would have to put careful consideration into getting some of these warthog like creatures off planet and breeding them elsewhere.  Far larger than a Klingon Targ and a lot more docile, their meat was far more to his liking and he could imagine making a sizeable profit out of them.   Six months trapped here may have set him back considerably, but never let anyone say DaiMon Talr couldn’t turn a bad situation to his advantage. 

            **********

Jason Devron was back in the captain’s chair; he’d been there since just after 7am, both Ensigns C’Rren and Harris joining him around half hour later.  There seemed to be a lot of activity going on within the grounds of the Châteaux.  Tents had been erected tables set up and fires lit under a number of cast iron cooking pots.  The scaffolding and wood had been removed from the large structure which was now covered by a huge canvas sheet anchored in place by ropes. 

No one on the ‘Jax’ was exactly sure what it was, their scans hadn’t given much detail; but it was a statue of some kind; that much they did know. 

It was approaching mid-day, at least on board the ship; when the Communications consul bleeped.  Harris had it linked through Helm so he could deal with any messages.  “Incoming from the planets surface.” 

“On screen Mr Harris.” Devron replied.

A moment later the image of a Ferengi appeared on the main viewer; three quarters of a face at least.  DaiMon Talr was holding a small device in his hand, but too close for the built-in camera to include all his head. “Ah, Hu mon. You I recognise Devon, Deventer, Denver…..”

“Devron!” The Captain butted in.

“Close enough.” The Ferengi said it in a way that made it sound like Devron was the one pronouncing his own name wrong. “Well Captain Drevon, you are going to help me get off this planet.”

He ignored the mistake and carried on the conversation. “And tell me why I’d be willing to help you?”

“Because I have three of your people locked up.” The toothy grin of A Ferengi could be horrible at the best of times, but close up on a large screen in glorious vivid colour; was a sight you wouldn’t want repeated too often. “They can only stay safe for so long.  My people may act out on their fears of strange creatures.”

Devron let the clear threat to his friends and fellow shipmates slide for a moment. “They accepted you.” 

“May be it was just my charm and charisma?” The Ferengi suggested with an even bigger grin. “They worship me and will do anything for me.”

“Poor deluded souls.” Came Ensign Harris’s mumbled voice.  Jason felt the same way, but rather hoped Talr had not heard the comment.

“However.” The DaiMon continued. “Being stuck on a planet hundreds of years away from discovering space flight, doesn’t help business.”

Devron sat back a little, but it didn’t help lessen the impact made by the large face on screen.  “What do you propose then?” 

“You grant me safe passage back to my ship.”  Answered Talr. “Once I am well clear, you’d get the shut off codes and can rescue your friends.”

“And can I trust you?”

“I am a man of honour and integrity.  Of cause you can trust me, mister Donavan.”

Devron closed his eyes a moment; was all this getting his name wrong a way of trying to wind him up or did this Ferengi before him just not pay attention to what’s been said? “Very well you have a deal.”

“I will be in contact with you later.”  Talr’s face promptly vanished, replaced once more by the image of the planet the corvette orbited.

“Sir, you can’t!” Protested Ensign Harris; half turning in his chair.

“That will do Ensign.” Barked back the Captain, a little harsher than intended.  “The quicker we can get DaiMon Talr and our people off that planet the better. Just trust me.”

Chad turned back to face his controls.  He was worried about the three officers down on the surface, Cho especially.  He wasn’t so sure he’d be this willing to trust the Ferengi; not with their lives, not with hers. 

            **********

The young Korean herself was sat on the bed in the cell she’d shared the night in with Stuart and Tholakath.  The Cardassian was currently on his hands and knee’s using the handle of a metal spoon to scrape at the mortar between two of the large stones that made up the wall.  He’d been lucky that the guards collecting their dishes after breakfast had been in too much of a hurry to check everything was there.  So now he’d spent the last few hours in the hope of dislodging one of the stones. 

“How’s it going?” Lyanna casually asked; lying face down on the other bed her head tilted in the Cardassian’s direction.

“It’s a work in progress.” He answered her. “Still a way to go though.” 

“Take a break and let me have a go.”  The Orion rolled over and swung her legs round, before planting her feet on the floor.  Stuart took the spoon from the hand of Tholakath before getting down on the floor where she continued the work.  As an escape plan this may have been a slow and laborious task, but until other potentially better plans presented themselves this was all they had to work with.

Part 6: Farewell My People

Vasileio / USS Jaxartes
Date: 30th July 2401 15:00

By taking it in turns to scrap away at the mortar around one of the stone blocks making up the walls of their prison cell using the handle of a metal spoon, Lieutenant Stuart along with Ensigns Tholakath and Cho; had finally managed to dislodge it.  The young Cardassian who’d done a large percentage of the work, carefully and as quietly as possible dragged the heavy stone out of the way.  Behind it was what he’d originally hoped to find when he’d begun the arduous task; one of the iron bolts locking the door which ran through a small channel carved half into the stone he’d removed and the other one behind it.

He was about to see if there was any way of pushing the bolt back into the door and therefore releasing the lock; when the Tactical Officer heard footsteps approaching. He barely managed to push the stone back in place and hastily step away; when the small hatch in the door was opened.  The voice of a Vasilian shouted through the gap; instructions that Cho knew meant stand against the far wall.  The three officers wasted no time in following those orders and the door was opened.

Under escort of several guards they made their way up the stairs and eventually out of the building.  Several locals stopped and stared in amazement as they were paraded past.  Vasilian’s gasped in shock, some backing away, mothers drew their children close to them and a few brave souls jeered and heckled the Starfleet Officers.  One male even raised his arm as if to through the partly eaten fruit in his hand, but the closest guard to him turned and made it clear with a simple stare that behaviour like that would not be tolerated.  The individual backed down, and the prisoners moved on.

“Calm yourselves my people.” Came the voice of the Ferengi, but in their own language. “You are quite safe in my presence. I will not allow these creatures to harm you.”

Lieutenant Stuart looking in Cho’s direction looking for clarification regarding what the DiaMon had just said. “He’s telling them to be calm.” Was the answer the Korean gave her.

They were eventually led to a large wooden cage, just to the right of a small platform on which the Ferengi was standing.  There must have been at least 30 guards including those that had escorted them outside; with somewhere in the region of 600 onlookers. 

“I have been to a zoo, when I was much younger.” Grumbled Tholakath. “Never thought I’d experience what it felt like to be on the other side of the bars.” 

“My family were slaves for generations until my grandmother was offered her freedom.” Lyanna intoned.  “I do not intend being part of that kind of life.” 

Talr stepped closer to them, and bent down slightly to bring his face more in line with theirs. “Oh why the glum faces?” He asked. “This will all be over soon.”

“What are you intentions?”  Stuart questioned.

“Nothing horrible I assure you.” He smiled at her. “I just needed you to be on view so your ship is able to tell you’ve not been harmed.”

“You could just let us go.” Cho piped up.

“You Hu mons can be so funny at times.” He laughed, but there was seriousness to the eyes the Communications Officer didn’t like one bit. “Enjoy the celebrations.  I have a speech to make.”  The Ferengi made his way back to the centre of the platform.  When he raised his arms above his head, the crowd slowly feel silent.  “My people…..”

            ********** 

On the bridge of the USS Jaxartes, everything was being closely monitored.  They’d watched the gathering crowds of Vasilian; there was probably nearly everyone from the town there, along with others from nearby farms and villages.  The region had ground to a halt for what looked to be a rather special occasion.   

“The away team have been escorted over to a cage of some sort.” The Caitian Science Officer informed the Captain. “They appear unharmed, but it’s difficult getting a clear line of sight from orbit and with the broken cloud.” 

Devron contacted Crewman Lightwood stationed in the Transporter room, and was informed it was still impossible to beam the three officers up. Frustrated he sat in his chair and asked C’Rren to put the image up on the main viewer.   As the Ensign had said the image wasn’t that good.  The ‘Jax’ didn’t carry any drones or surveillance equipment they could drop below cloud level and get an uninterrupted view.

For now though the sky was relatively clear above the châteaux and Jason could tell that DaiMon Talr was standing on a wooden platform set before the massed crowds.  It was impossible to know what the Ferengi was saying, though from the visible reaction of those present, they appeared happy enough.  He was still wondering what the object under the large sheeting might be, when out of the corner of his eye Devron notice that a pair of the Llama like creatures had been attached to the ropes on one side.  Then with the encouragement of their owners the two animals moved forward and started pulling; slowly revealing the object underneath.

“Please tell me that’s not a 20 metre tall Bronze statue of a Ferengi?” Enquired the Captain.

“Just under 22, in fact.” Commented C’Rren. “But visual analysis does point towards it being Bronze.” 

“I can always hit it with phaser fire and claim it as an act of God?” Offered Chief Petty Officer Lose; standing in at Tactical as he had done on a couple of occasions.

“Do not tempt me Chief, do not tempt me.” Replied Devron with a half-smile.  Regardless of how hideous Jason felt the larger than life statue of DaiMon Talr now standing within the grounds of the châteaux was; he had to marvel at the skill and craftsmanship that had gone into its construction.  He’d seen the Ferengi’s face close up and this statue looked a near perfect representation of it.  When it came to construction the Vasileian or at least those in this area, they were true masters of their art. 

When Devron looked back at the platform a moment or two later Talr was gone, and a group of a half dozen female Vasileian had taken his place and were performing some kind of dance.  He wondered were the DaiMon had got to, but didn’t have long to wait for an answer.

“Incoming communication from the planet’s surface.”  Ensign Harris announced.

“On screen.”

There he was again in all his glory and far too close to the camera again. “Ah, Mister Denbar.” Talr smiled very much like a shark would before taking a sizeable chunk out of an arm or leg. “As I’m sure you’ve been able to verify, your crew are unharmed.”

“It’s Captain to you.” Devron shot back. Captain Devron, D E V R O N.” He spelt it out in the hope it would finally sink in.

“There is no need for that kind of attitude!” Retorted the Ferengi. “We both have something the other needs.  So now is the time to trade.” 

The Captain begrudgingly allowed the DaiMon to outline his request.  It was simple enough, if not a little theatrical.  But it was clear that Talr wanted to leave a lasting impression of these people that somehow saw him as a God.  It was difficult to tell how big an impact he’d had on their lives or how much the future of this planet had changed because of his arrival.  Jason hope for their sake that it wouldn’t doom them to destruction.  

            ********** 

The dancers had just finished as the DaiMon came back onto the platform.  He clapped and thanked them for a wonderful performance in his honour and also expressed gratitude towards all those present.  They cheered and chanted in response. “Talr, Talr, Talr.”  The noise was almost deafening; and it took him a while to calm them down again.

“It has been my pleasure to walk amongst you and see how far you have come.” The Ferengi’s voice rang out.  With the aid of a hidden microphone and speaker he could make his voice heard by the massed crowd before him. “I only wish I could stay longer.  But I must return to my place in the stars.”  It was an honest enough statement, even if the Vasileian would understand it differently.  Many of them pleaded for him not to go, sighting the improvements he’d made to their simple lives.  Talr could have been reckless and irresponsible; but making huge sweeping changes would do more damage than good.  So he’d done little things to just nudge them in the right direction.  Thanks to him, they could plough a field up to 10% faster, grind corn a little more efficiently and down at the harbour they were currently re-rigging a sailing ship with sails of his design; a ship that would be faster than anything else afloat. All these would help increase resources and trade.  Could the Federation really condemn him for the work he’d done here?  After all money makes the world go round, regardless of what that world might be.     

The DaiMon smiled at that thought and marvelled at the stupidity of anyone that believed power and wealth were not important; when in fact they were everything.

“Fare well my people.” Were the last words from his lips as seconds later the transporter beam bathed him in light.  Their God had performed one last miracle for his people; he had turned himself into a star and ascended once more.

            **********

A moment later DaiMon Talr found himself in the Transporter room of the USS Jaxartes, two crewmen looked at him; one stood by the controls another in the centre of the room phaser pointed at the new arrival. “Just passing through.” The Ferengi smiled.  But Lightwood and Appleby; the one holding the weapon had no intention of letting the DaiMon go anywhere until their captain gave them the all clear. 

In the end it was a few minutes before Devron arrived. “You may think you’re getting away. But I will catch you.” He warned the Ferengi.  “Mark my words.” 

“Do not make bets with Latinum you haven’t got!” Replied Talr. 

“Get him out of my sight!” Jason Yelled; and crewman Lightwood was only too happy to oblige.

            ********** 

Back on the Bridge; Harris, C’Rren and Lose were all ready to monitor and track the Ferengi shuttle with the aim of taking up the pursuit no sooner their fellow crewmembers were back aboard. 

What they couldn’t have banked on was the sudden intense flash of white light, which left them all temporally blinded and the accompanying pulse that knock out all of the corvettes external sensors.

Part 7: Sign From Above

Vasileio / USS Jaxartes / Ferengi Shuttle
Date: 30th July 2401 17:00

Even in the bright sunlight of a near cloudless sky the Vasileian had seen the flash of light.  A sign from above; a sign from their God and they knew what they must do.  He had commanded them, and they would obey.  His will would be carried out.

The first indication that something was amiss for the three Starfleet Officers in the cage was when the crowd turned towards them and started chanting. “I’m not going to like what their saying, am I?” Asked Lieutenant Stuart; turning to her Korean companion.  The Communications Officer merely shook her head.  Sometimes it was probably better to remain ignorant, for Ensign Cho though, it wasn’t an option, she knew exactly what the people were shouting and it wasn’t good.

One of the guards started to unlock the door to the cage, whilst others used the points of their pikes to force the three of them towards it.  Tholakath tried to grab one of the pikes before its point prodded him in the left thigh; only to feel another jab more forcefully into the small of his back.  It wasn’t enough to pierce the skin, but the Cardassian felt it enough to realise resistance was still out of the question; at least whilst in such a confined space.

They were taken up on to the stage, where a large block of wood had been placed at the centre.  A block of wood with a curved top and could possibly only serve one purpose; as emphasized by the Vasileian male who approached from the other side.  Naked from the waste up, he carried with him a huge axe, the size of which would have made any Klingon sing for joy.  This was a weapon designed to kill and do it very well.   

            **********

Ensign C’Rren was the first of those on the bridge to regain any form of useable sight; quickly swapping the imagine on the main view screen from that of the now empty star-scape to one showing the grounds of the châteaux.  Green and purple dots danced before his eyes as the Caitian tried to piece together any details of what was happening on the planet’s surface.

Then he saw them; the difference in height between the three individuals and the much shorter stoat like locals was evident, even with less than perfect vision.  The away team were being forcefully escorted to the platform were Talr had made his speech; and from the movement of the crowds, something was about to happen. Whatever was going on down there; the indication was that they were in imminent danger. 

C’Rren moved towards the Captain’s chair and the Comm-Link mounted in the arm. “Bridge to Transporter room, you need to get the away team out of there fast!” 

            ********** 

Crewman Lightwood didn’t even acknowledge the message or look up to see the reaction of the Captain; he knew things must be desperate and he would have to act fast.  The transporter system was still being blocked by the Ionic Disruption Field, though when the DiaMon had brief disengaged it to allow himself to be beamed up, Lightwood had been able to get a partial lock on the three members of the way team. He hoped now he could use that to break through the field.

His fingers danced across the controls in a frantic bid to break though the interference, being created by the device.  He quickly asked Torf in engineering for additional power, silently praying that this was going to work.  Lightwood realised he could only bring them back individually and precious seconds would be lost whilst he reset everything after each operation of the transporter.  This might only work once, or perfectly each time, then again he could wreak the entire system leaving them all trapped waiting whatever fate the locals had in store or anyone of them could die mid-transport.  There was so much that could go wrong, so much riding on his shoulders.   Who would he pick first; he couldn’t hesitate for a split second longer!

Lieutenant Lyanna Stuart appeared on the pad a few seconds later; she staggered and stumbled off the transporter into Jason’s arm. “They’re about to execute Tholakath.” She blurted out.

Lightwood knew who his second target for retrieval would have to be; but the whole system had to resent first.

            **********

The sudden disappearance of one of their prisoners in much the same way as their God had bid farewell; had been a dramatic shock for the guard and crowd alike.  The Cardassian saw his chance and swung an elbow forcefully into the chest of the executioner; who almost doubled over.  The axe narrowly missed Tholakath as it came crashing down; imbedding itself into the wood of the platform.  Turning quickly he saw the closest guard rush forward, pike pointing level with his chest.  Tholakath dodged at the last possible moment grabbed the shaft of the pike in both hand and swung the guard round.  The guard lost his grip and went flying backwards into the crowd; landing on a handful of locals that’d been unable to move out the way.  Pike in hand but pointing in the wrong direction the young Ensign smashed a second guard in the side of the neck; who instantly dropped to his knees in pain clutching the point of impact.  Behind him the executioner was just managing to lever the axe out of platform when the Cardassian felt the familiar tingle of a transporter whisking him to safety.

During that brief fight for survival Ensign Cho had remained almost motionless, her arms held tightly by two of the other guards.  She’s watched her two companions disappear and kept a careful count; 27 seconds, 27 precious seconds between life and death, because that’s how long she’d have to wait before it would activate again. 

The young Korean pretended to faint, lolling her head forward and making her entire body limp and lifeless. One of the guards let the go, the other turned towards her and lowered Cho down, not entirely sure what to make of her sudden collapse.  The guard would let her go shouted something, as the other one leaned over her.  Cho half opened an eye, just enough to assess where everyone was.  The Koreans right boot made contact right between the males legs and he would have fell right on top of her had she not rolled out of the way.  The roll took her off the edge of the platform but she never hit the hard ground below.  The transporter had successfully worked a third and final time; the away team were safe. 

Crewman Lightwood required another twenty minutes to locate and beam up the rest of the technology the Ferengi had left behind; they could afford to leave any of it behind.

            **********

DiaMon Talr sat at the controls of his shuttle.  Whilst he was happy to be off that planet after so long trapped there; he was rather annoyed he’d had to rely on Starfleet to rescue him.  It made any return or future exploitation of its inhabitants that much more tricky.  No doubt this system would be more closely monitored in the future.

It was sad that his escape had most likely cost the lives of the three officers who’d come looking for him; but he couldn’t be held accountable for the actions of the people once he’d left.  Even if he may have dropped a subtle hint regarding their ultimate fate.  The two females had looked rather charming and under more favourable circumstances he would have loved to have got to know them a little better.  They’d both fetch a good price; that Talr could be sure of.  Though they’d both need some taming and be brought into line first.  As for the Cardassian, well no one was going to care much about one less of those in the universe, now were they?    

Talr hadn’t operated the controls of any sort of ship in years; that’s what he paid others to do.  He made a mental note to get a replacement for Norr at the nearest convenient space port.  He’d also have to fine his pilots family over breach of contract.  Norr had left his service without permission; that was completely unacceptable.   

The DaiMon set navigation to auto, whilst he got up and headed for the replicator to get a glass of Snail Juice with ice.  The device took a little longer to activate than it should; which would usually indicate a large amount of the ships power being diverted for other tasks.  But other than the engines running at 110% and life support; almost everything else was powered down.  A noise caught his attention, well two to be exact, both more or less simultaneous.  Spinning round on the spot he was confronted by a force field; most likely erected by the human male now sat in the pilot seat.

“How did you get aboard?” Talr yelled in surprise. “I scanned this entire vessel.”

The man in question turned his head slightly in acknowledgement.  “Not a bad little ship considering its age.” 

The Ferengi thought for a moment. “I’ll give you Latinum.  How many bars to let me go and just forget all this happened; five, ten?”  When the human failed to reply Talr added more to the deal. “How about I let you keep the ship?  Just drop me off at the next space port.”  Talr still couldn’t figure out how anyone could have been on board.

“How about I give you access to a holo-girl.  You’ll love Sasha or maybe you’d prefer Zelina?” He asked. “Both are very pretty and are always happy to fulfil your every wish and desire.  Plus you haven’t got all the fuss of feeding them.”  Surely even a Starfleet Office could be tempted by an offer like that?

A thought struck the DaiMon.  Why was this guy wearing a doctor’s uniform and not red or gold?  The Jaxartes’s EMH and self-trained pilot turned to face the Ferengi, gave his best reassuring smile and clicked his fingers.  The twenty something blonde that appeared on his lap; Sasha to be exact; was almost wearing a red dress.  It covered were it touched and not much else. “That’s very kind of you to offer, but I have complete access and control over all ships systems.  The women giggled gave him a kiss on the left cheek, complementing the doctor on how brave, handsome and charming he was

Talr was furious.  Outsmarted by a stupid Emergency Medical Hologram; and when did one of those ever learn to fly?  He felt the vessel turn and knew it was heading for a rendezvous with the corvette.  Altogether this had turned out to be a rather bad day.  He was sure there was a rule somewhere regarding all this, but right now he wasn’t all that bothered.  Something would crop up, he was sure of it.