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Part of USS Hathaway: Episode 1: Breathless Skies

A Ferengi on the Starboard Bow

Bridge
Stardate 24015.6, 1400 Hours
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Captain’s log, supplemental.

 

Hathaway has dropped out of warp outside of the Kanaan system, almost three hours ahead of schedule. I’ve decided to take the opportunity to conduct a series of tests of new and improved systems, including the new launch procedures for the fighter squadron. An asteroid field, known locally as the Gauntlet, is just a few thousand kilometres from here and should be an interesting proving ground.

 

Before we get there, however, a signal on the edge of the system has piqued our curiosity…

Ephriam’s consoles lit up like a Christmas tree had just been plugged in and immediately grabbed his attention. He was certain others on the Bridge had been given the same information warnings. His hands glided without effort across the controls of his station – he had quickly become acclimated to their layout in his time on board so far. “Captain. Sensors are picking up something I think you’ll want to see,” his hands continued to move across the panel to quickly work on confirmation of the ‘something’ he had indicated. “I believe it is a Ferengi vessel, sir. A marauder.” Ephriam looked up and turned slightly in his seat so he could make eye contact with Romaes.

Mason stayed quiet but immediately became alert when Ephriam reported the Ferengi vessel. He pressed a few commands on his console and located the vessel, and kept a close eye on it, preparing to match the vessel move-by-move if necessary. He looked up at the view screen, as the ship started to come into visual range, then back to his console, watching for any moves that required a counteraction. 

Romaes inched forward in his chair, planted his feet and turned his chair a fraction to starboard, his hands clasped to the armrests on either side. “Ferengi?” he asked with raised brows, “coming from where?”

“The Gauntlet,” Ay’dar noted, his eyes narrowing as he studied the blips on his console. The tension in his voice hinted at the gravity of his findings. Just then, a sharp chirp sliced through the air, drawing his attention away. “We’ve got an incoming hail, sir,” he announced, his fingers dancing over the controls.

“Take it away,” the Captain nodded, granting permission for his security chief to put the transmission through. The view screen was filled with the visage of a pouting Ferengi, almost unparalleled in ugliness. From her chair near the Captain’s own seat Squidge tried to classify his appearance, arriving on the descriptor of a shaved bulldog who had just eaten equal portions of bees and methamphetamine. Hair sprouted from the oversized lobes like reeds in a dark pot-hole pond of fetid, dirty water. The face grinned in a sickly smile showing a line of rose-thorn teeth who appeared to have had a committee meeting about which direction to point but had reached no particular agreement.

Fed-er-a-shuuuun,” the voice was a sweet cake of welcome, heavily drizzled with a frosting of pure animosity. “Welcome to Kanaan, I will ask your purpose, perhaps we can be of… assistance.” The mouth returned to its pout around the jagged teeth.

If he had been in his first years of command, the grotesque creature’s comments may have triggered the Captain into a certain kind of response. Luckily for the Ferengi, the ‘Federation’ he faced had years of experience under his proverbial belt, and opted for a diplomatic approach to the engagement.

“Good afternoon Daimon,” the Captain nodded, the largest smile he could manage plastered across his face. “I welcome you to Federation space, sir, and respectfully ask the reason for your presence here, in our territory?” Romaes asked curiously, but deep down, he couldn’t help but feel somewhat cautious. Hoping to convey his inner feelings to his XO, the Captain started drumming his fingers on the arm of his chair closest to his first officer.

The Ferengi smiled again, subjecting the bridge crew to a festival of thorny vine teeth, grotesquely blown up to superhuman size by the view screen, and bad breath, not that they could smell it over the Comms, but Squidge would have put good money on it. She would have made bank, too. Brightly-coloured fingernails adorned the screen for a moment in a gesture of apparent openness.

We have been conducting legitimate business in the area, trading with our Hoo-maan compatriots, all fair transactions at good prices as is deserved by the Federashuun. We spied this asteroid field and took the… opportunity… to further train our pilots.

Squidge analysed his manner for a moment. If that statement was true, Squidge was a Tarkalean sheep. But you didn’t have to be a psychologist to work that out.

“Oh?” Romaes raised an eyebrow, “What is it that you trade, sir? Perhaps we could enter negotiations with you also? Maybe a visit to your ship could be arranged?” Romaes relaxed back into his chair, knowing full well the Ferengi would never acquiesce to any sort of customs check, which was entirely what the Captain had up his sleeves. Especially since none of the worlds in the sector had anything remotely of value to the Ferengi; not that he knew of anyway.

The Ferengi leaned forward, his grin stretching from ear to ear in a display of teeth that seemed almost predatory. “Ah, Captain,” he exclaimed, his voice oozing with a slick charm, “it warms my lobes to see such enthusiasm for commerce in this remote corner of space.” His eyes gleamed with avarice as he continued, “I’m always open to exploring new business opportunities.

He paused, as if considering something, before adding, “Perhaps a visit to our vessel could indeed be arranged, under the right circumstances, of course.” There was a subtle emphasis on “right circumstances,” hinting at the delicate balance of negotiation. “But you understand, Captain,” he said, his tone lowering to a conspiratorial whisper, “trade secrets and all that.”

He chuckled softly, a sound that seemed to reverberate with the promise of profit. “We Ferengi do love our privacy, especially when it comes to our profitable ventures,” he confessed, the grin on his face widening even further, though it paled in comparison to the Captain’s practised diplomatic facade.

Meanwhile, Jinaril, having had numerous dealings with the Ferengi during his career, swiftly tapped away on his PADD. With a subtle gesture, he angled the device for the Captain to discreetly read his message – ‘Rule #60: ‘Confidentiality equals profit.’ & Rule #2: ’The best deal is the one that brings the most profit’.’

“Oh, I entirely understand the need for privacy in such matters,” Romaes smiled his most charming of grins, “but alas, we have matters to attend to elsewhere before we can explore these negotiations further. For now, Daimon, I think it best that we part ways until our next encounter.”

It was then, somewhat slowly, purposefully, that the Bajoran rose from his command chair and took a few small steps forward to the edge of the command platform. His facial muscles tensed and his brow furrowed. The words uttered next were nothing less than a warning.

“We’ll be watching for your return.”

We wish you… fruitful… endeavours, Captain.” Despite the warning the Daimon’s smile never waivered, unlike the channel which closed abruptly.

Mason rolled his eyes and shook his head slightly before refocusing his attention on his console, watching them for any unexpected moves. As he tracked them, he said aloud to no one in particular, “What a nice and sincere fellow.” 

“Ay’dar!” Romaes barked, never diverting his eyes from the image of the Ferengi marauder on the main viewer. “Track that ship until it leaves sensor range. Mason; find that ship’s flight path. I want to know where it went.”

“Aye,” Ay’dar murmured, his fingers gliding effortlessly over the console’s interface, a dance of agility and finesse. As he worked, his brow knit together, the ridges on his forehead deepening reminiscent of rugged mountains, betraying his growing apprehension.

“Sir,” he began, his voice deep and measured but edged with unease, “observe.” With a subtle gesture, he indicated the display before him. “Their reluctance to depart speaks volumes.”

Romaes silently observed the display for a few moments until satisfied enough that they could return to their own ventures. “Resume course to the asteroid field.”

Ephriam had remained turned with his back facing the viewscreen while the brief conversation took place with the Ferengi. His hands moved over the controls and reallocated sensor pallet priority to Ay’dar’s tracking. He wanted his colleague to have the best data possible given his own gut feelings about the matter.

“Aye, Captain.” Mason said aloud, acknowledging the order as he began to input the new coordinates into his console. “Course for the asteroid field has been laid in and engaged, sir. ETA five minutes at one half impulse power.” He pressed a few more controls, still attempting to track the previous flight path of the Ferengi ship, but so far wasn’t having any success. Mason feared they might have masked their ion trail, but he continued his efforts, trying his best to locate the path for the Captain as instructed. 

For now, it was back to business as usual. Whatever ‘usual’ was in Starfleet these days anyway.