Romulan Republic-Federation Border
“Hail them again,” Captain Josiah Hu-Williams ordered as he paced the bridge of his ship between the command seats and the helm and ops consoles. His irritation was evident in his voice, in his stride, in his general aura.
“On screen now sir.”
He turned to face the viewscreen and once more found himself addressing ‘Captain’ Toril Lint of what had to be the single greatest disaster in modern shipping, the somehow still legally allowed to fly merchantman Lucky Dragon #987. A ship he and his crew had bailed out no less then four times in the last year alone.
“Captain Lint, again, you are hereby ordered to get underway towards Carmen’s World. Do not make me repeat myself again Sir,” Hu-Williams said to the elderly Bajoran man whose face filled his viewscreen.
“And I’ve already told you Captain Williams,” Lint responded, emphasis on the rank and not using Hu-Williams full last name, “I’ve got engine problems. We’ll get underway when we can and not a moment before. You don’t like it, you can get that sorry ship of yours over here and tow me out of this made-up space weather advisory zone of yours, if it truly exists! Lucky Dragon out!”
The comm channel cut after what looked like a sweaty, greasy, sausage fingered hand slammed down on whatever console Lint had been using, giving the entire bridge and rather unpleasant view of the man’s hand.
“At warp six, how long to his position?”
“Eight hours sir.”
He sighed, then continued his pacing for a moment. He knew what was at stake presently, just hadn’t been able to inform his crew. Hell, he’d been forced to depart Bucky IV without being able to recall his entire crew in order to enforce a no-fly zone along the Neutral Zone and get all civilian traffic out of it as quickly as possible.
In case the worst came to be.
“Anyone else nearby?”
“Right, set course for the Lucky Dragon. Warp six as soon as you can Ms Xiao.”
“Course three four eight mark two six, helm answering warp six sir.”
“Goddam idiotic merchantmen!” Josiah bellowed out when his Ops officer reported a new contact on sensors, one that was travelling faster then his own California-class ship across the border into Federation space. All the border buoys had been reprogrammed to advise of close territories, of safe border crossings, but here was some damn fool flying into space that they would have been advised of multiple times was prone to category five ion storms.
It wasn’t the best cover story he had to admit, but no freighter captain would want to risk a category three, let alone the disaster a category five would wreck upon their ship. Of course, if any freighter had sensors worth a damn, he knew they’d be able to call the bluff, but then they had another thing to worry about – bureaucratic redtape. Starfleet traffic violations, UFP departments that would come descending down upon you for reckless endangerment, wonton dismissal of duly posted public notices and no doubt a handful of other things. Woe be the health and safety inspections.
“Name and captain,” he barked to his ops officer.
“Uh…Captain Sidda sir, of the Vondem Rose.”
“Get him on screen now!”
“Some Starfleet ship is hailing us,” Deidrick Osterman said from Tactical, silencing the annoying little alarm that made itself known whenever someone hailed the Rose these days.
Sidda had ordered it reprogrammed numerous times, but something in the ship’s Klingon manufactured brain kept resetting that one specific alert to its default noise and it irritated her something fierce.
“Why? Because we’re doing warp eight in a five zone?” Lewis chimed in from the helm, earning a few chuckles. Even a grin from Sidda. “Or to try and pull some rules lawyering on a poor, hardworking merchant ship?”
“Now now Lewis,” Sidda spoke up, her tone quiet but clearly amused. “We’re hardly hardworking merchants. Or poor even. Deidrick, put them on screen.”
Her hand had barely started to drop from waving in the direction of the viewscreen dismissively when some large barrel-chested Starfleet officer, dark of skintone and lacking of hair, appeared before her.
“This is Captain Hu-Williams of the USS Cavelo. You are in violation of Shipping Exclusion Zone 2399-RR-Baker-Sierra. Vacate the zone immediately.”
“Sorry, what was that?” Sidda asked, slowly rising to her feet. “Didn’t quiet catch that Commander.”
The man’s visage cracked only slightly at her dismissive tone and getting his rank wrong. “Vondem Rose, adjust course ninety degrees starboard and maintain speed.”
“Sorry Commander, I can’t make you out. Ion storms in this sector are rather intense. I say again, Ion. Storms.”
“Vondem Rose, adjust…” the comm channel was cut before he could say much more.
Turning, Sidda looked at Deirdrick who was looking down at his console. “Oh, sorry, I think I cut the channel. Should I get him back ma’am?”
“No no, I think we had our fun with him. How long till we make rendezvous with the Lucky Dragon?”
“Right, Deidrick, you’re in charge. If he calls back, just ignore him, or blast static at him, your call. I’m going to get some lunch before I miss the chance.”
“Don’t think I’ve ever seen the Captain that mad before,” one of the bridge crew finally spoke up in the silence that had followed the Captain’s departure from the bridge for his ready room.
“How’d you feel if you’re trying to enforce a space weather warning and there is no space weather, only to have some merchant popup and start telling you they can’t hear you because of it?”
“I think that’s just the straw on the camels’ back mate. Something’s been eating at him ever since that command lockout thing the other day. Hell, we couldn’t even get Commander Lim back aboard.”
“Tell me about it.”
Cargo Bay 1
“Awful lot of syrup you’re buying off of me Sidda. Didn’t think this stuff sold very well in the Republic,” Toril Lint said as he stood beside Sidda, having come aboard her ship to oversee the last few pallets of cargo and take payment for services rendered. “But hey, you’re paying latnium above market value, I’m not to say how your throw money away.”
“Aw Lint, you sound concerned for my wallet.”
“Your wallet feeds into my wallet Sidda. Sure, I can ride a windfall for a bit, but I prefer steady income.”
“Then worry not,” came another voice that stepped up beside Sidda, hooking an arm around Sidda’s opposite side to Lint and hugging it possessively. “You’re being paid a fair share of the profits we’re making off of this run.”
“Afternoon Lady Revin,” the older man said, much different in appearance then he had been a few hours ago. “I take if you have interested parties.”
“Not going to give you my contacts,” Sidda said. “Where’s that padd. Want to pay you and get out of here before that patrol boat gets here. She packed on the speed when she noticed I was coming your way.”
“Ha! Rendering assistance to an old man like me. Receipts and everything for it too!” he exclaimed, producing two padds. One for the transaction of funds for the cargo, the other to provide paperwork for all parties to show this was a legitimate broken engine, helped out by another of the greater merchant community.
A few moments later, after reading things over, Sidda pressed her thumb to both padds, then kept the one that contained the real paperwork, its task done and memory circuits about to fuse, but no point leaving them on Lint’s ship for someone to find, making sure he had the other one before shaking his hand. “Stay safe out there old man. Hear the weather’s terrible.”
“Shocking even! Lint to Lucky Dragon, one to beam back.”
As the man dematerialised and the cargo bay was now just the crew of the Rose, Sidda spun her fiancée around and embraced her, stealing a kiss in triumph before breaking it with a smile on her face. “We got what Roelin wants, now we can get what he knows.”
“And all it took was ten pallets of maple syrup. What is a maple anyway?”
Their illicit trade completed, both the Lucky Dragon #987 and Vondem Rose both departed the dead-end system that had been a selected rendezvous point two weeks ago. Lucky Dragon #987 proceeded to heed the Cavelo’s warning, heading for Carmen’s World at a very pedestrian warp four. As for the Vondem Rose, she set course back for the Romulan border before disappearing under cloak after going to high warp.
“What do you mean cloaked?” Hu-Williams spun on his Tactical officer.
“Vondem Rose went back to warp eight sir, then disappeared under cloak.
“Federation registered merchant with a cloaking device? Those are illegal and you know it, so why don’t you tell me again what type of ship that was?”
“She’s a duly registered merchant ship sir,” the young man said. He wasn’t the ship’s senior tactical officer, just the most senior who was aboard ship when they had been ordered out post-haste. “Uh, sorry sir, armed merchant ship.”
“Armed merchant ship? There haven’t been any armed merchant ships since the Dominion War.”
“Captain,” another voice piped up from Ops, pulling Hu-Williams attention away. “Vondem Rose was apparently involved in some of the fighting in the Archanis Sector sir,” the man said as he threw the ship’s public record on the viewscreen.
And right there was the answer that Hu-Williams was looking for. A single picture to go along with a ship entry that was utterly and completely useless in identifying the ship’s class. A single picture that painted not a thousand words, but just enough words to tell him what he was truly up against.
A Klingon Defence Force K’t’inga class battlecruiser, painted in paisley purple, hung in the middle of what he had to admit was a well taken photo of the ship, the picture stamped with the name of some ship-spotter somewhere who had captured the vessel in orbit somewhere recently.
“Get me Starfleet Command, or someone who knows about that damn ship,” he growled.
“What’s going on?” Sidda said as she stumbled onto the bridge in a state of undress, having been summoned from bed.
“Well, the computer has been…” Deidrick started before he got interrupted by a harsh, brutal Klingon voice filling the bridge.
“Particle anomaly detected!” the voice shouted, in complete violation of the voice style that was most certainly the one selected for the ship’s computer after their little refit at Kyban.
“Yah, it’s been doing that every two minutes,” Deidrick finished up. “I’ve tried to silence the alarm, but apparently only ship master codes will do the job. Hence why I called you boss. It’s kinda annoying.”
Nodding in understanding, that voice only having to have barked it’s warning once to get on her nerves, she approached the tactical console and input her command codes in, clearing the alarm. But instead of system flags clearing and going away, another series of displays popped on the screen for her.
Particle anomaly detected. Contact High Command immediately. Render assistance to any Starfleet vessel in range if possible.
“That’s it?” Sidda said as she looked to her erstwhile executive officer. “Get me Gaeda, I want to know if he’s getting the same error on the Martian Thorn.”