Part of Empok Nor (Archive): The Grand Experiment

Making the Rounds

Trivas System
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Previously, on the USS Hydra…

“Yes…” the Legate nodded, “Well, for what it’s worth, I do wish you luck in the coming skirmish… though I really don’t believe you will be needing it.”

Bastin straightened a bit in his chair, “Thank you Legate. I’ll let you know how things go once it’s over. Bastin out.”

As the screen went dark, Legate Sela Aren drummed her fingers against the desk she sat behind, her mind already replaying the conversation she’d just had with the leader of the Federation contingent currently being allowed to operate in Detapa Council controlled Cardassian space. She hadn’t actually expected the Federation to muster a force to expel the raiders that were squatting in the nearby nebula, not to mention mobilizing a vessel that rivaled some of her people’s more specialized assault ships. The show of force from Starfleet would certainly not go unnoticed even among the Central Command’s circles.

The Legate was mulling over what her next move was when her Executive Officer walked through the door to her office. While she didn’t look panicked for a change, her mood still seemed dour. Aren drew in a deep breath as she turned to more fully face the woman as she approached her desk.

“Legate,” the Dalin said briskly, “I’m sorry to disturb you, but we’re tracking several Federation vessels within our vicinity.”

“Are you now?” the Legate said with a sarcastic lilt to her voice, “That would explain why I just finished conversing with Captain Bastin who just so happened to mention bringing a small convoy of ships nearby. Was one of them… perhaps… a Manticore-class?”

“Yes, Legate…” Nefet said, already getting the feeling that her information was less than breaking news to her superior.

“Then you are rather late in reporting, Dalin. I not only know they are out there, but also exactly where they intend to go and why. And armed with that knowledge, anything you might have had to say is likely not nearly as detailed,” Legate Aren continued her rather brutal teasing before growing weary of it, “I need you to summon Glinn Talmet for me. There are some things I need him to look into.”

“Right away, Legate,” her First Officer nodded curtly and returned to Station Ops.

The Legate turned back toward her work console and skimmed through several reports that she’d been neglecting while she waited patiently for her Security Chief. Most of her backlog revolved around requests that either couldn’t be supported or that were extremely outlandish and not worth actually reading. It was no exaggeration to say that when Glinn Talmet actually did walk into her office that she was happy to be interrupted.

“You wished to see me, Legate?” the man asked, standing just inside her office.

“I did, yes,” Aren nodded, indicating to the chair in front of her desk, “I wanted to talk to you about getting in contact with people whom you think might have information we can use.”

“I assume you’re referring to my contacts in the Central Command…” the Glinn said with narrowed eyes.

The Legate gave him a rather devilish grin, “I’m so glad you’re on top of things. That’s exactly what I want. It’s been postulated that the raiders nearby might be in some way connected to our friends at Central Command, though it might only be the most basic of ties. If that’s all there is to it, I can still use that information to our advantage. If it’s something even deeper… well… all the better.”

“I’ll call in a few favors,” Talmet nodded as he began running through a mental list of who he might be able to reach out to, “Anything else?”

“No… I don’t believe so. Thank you,” the Legate said in a dismissive manner.

Her Security Chief was more than perceptive enough to understand that he had overstayed his welcome and briskly pushed himself out of the chair, disappearing out into the Ops area shortly after. Once the Legate was again alone, the thought of having to wade through yet more trivial requests was enough pressure that she decided she needed to step away for a while.

Rising from her chair and rounding the desk, Legate Aren stepped out into the Operations Center and looked around. Had Empok Nor been the standard Cardassian station, the entire compartment would be filled to the brim with people working at nearly every console. Currently, however, the only traffic they really received was the occasional Federation trade ship and the Cardassian haulers that would come soon afterward to bring whatever they could snag back to Cardassia Prime.

“I’m going to the Promenade,” Aren said as she crossed the space between her office and the lift, “If you need me for anything important, contact me. Otherwise, I am indisposed.”

“Understood, Legate,” Dalin Nefet said with a cursory nod as her superior walked onto the lift and activated the controls that would move the lift down into the interior of the station. After a few silent minutes, the lift eased to a stop and allowed the woman to step off into the spacious Promenade. When she’d first arrived, the only actual businesses to be seen were the bar and the replomat and neither of them were ever truly full. Flash forward to the scene playing out before the Legate and one would never have been able to imagine the station being so desolate.

A mixture of Cardassians and various Federation species were milling about the causeways that linked the shops going around the hub in the middle of Empok Nor. There were still small pockets where Cardassians would huddle together or the Federation would keep a bit of distance, but it wasn’t nearly as prominent as it had been when they’d first arrived several months before. Legate Aren wondered what might be possible in the coming months, should the trend continue in such a manner.

As a creature of habit, Legate Aren made the long circle from the lift hub all the way around to the bar, taking time to look into each shop and take notice of the composition of the patrons inside. Certain stores seemed to captivate Cardassian customers while others drew in large crowds from the Federation. Though not as common, there were a few establishments that had nearly equal patronage from both parties. Each time Aren happened upon one her lips curled into something of a proud smirk.

When she finally made it to the bar, the space was packed nearly to capacity, a sign that the duty day had ended for most of the crew. The Legate took a moment to glance up to see just what time it actually was, and couldn’t help but sigh upon discovering that she’d spent yet another full day without any real issues. Yet another far cry from when they began their great experiment.

“What can I get you, Legate?” the Cardassian behind the bar asked as he walked over to the part of the counter the woman had been standing near.

Aren shook her head a bit and focused on the man who’d just spoken to her, “I’m not sure. Have you gotten anything new in?” Even as she was asking the question, the Legate was already walking over to an empty bar stool.

“Yes, actually,” the man nodded, ducking behind the counter only to return with a bottle of liquid which had a very strange coloration to it and a glass. As Aren settled onto the stool, she eyed the foreign beverage with a great deal of suspicion. Even as the man poured the drink, she couldn’t help but wonder what she was getting herself into. The woman picked up her glass and gave the beverage a sniff, finding it to be at least tolerable to the nose. Finally the Legate took a hesitant sip, letting the fluid dance over her tongue for a while before she rendered her verdict.

“It isn’t horrible, though I don’t know what ‘it’ is…” she said finally.

“I was told it was a citrus drink. Beyond that, it doesn’t have a name according to my supplier. I’ve had a bit of it myself and I can’t say I hate it, even for something directly from Earth,” the bartender shrugged.

“I see…” Aren said before catching sight of one of the Starfleet officers currently attached to her station, “You there. Would you be so kind as to tell me what exactly this is?”

The young Ensign gave her a rather incredulous look before catching sight of the drink that had caused her to call out to him. A smile finally emerged onto his face as he obviously figured out what it was.

“It’s called orange juice. I’m surprised someone brought that here,” the man remarked.

“Is it something rare?” the Legate asked, giving her glass another look.

The Ensign shrugged, “Not overly rare, no… but the replicators don’t seem to be able to recreate the flavor very accurately, so if it doesn’t taste overly acidic, it’s the real deal.”

Aren sloshed the beverage around in the glass for a moment before taking a much larger swallow. While it had a bit of bite to it, she couldn’t say it was overly acidic. “Seems as if it is indeed the genuine article. Thank you for the information, Ensign.”

“Happy to help, ma’am,” the man bobbed his head before returning to his conversation.

The bartender lifted the bottle up as he looked at the woman, “Top you off?”

“Sure,” the Legate shrugged, “And perhaps you could bring me something to go with this. I believe a nice dinner is in order.”

“Coming right up,” the man said with a nod before wandering over to the replicator behind the bar. As he busied himself trying to pick a meal that would compliment her drink, Legate Aren turned toward the throng of people and watched them mingle, a quiet smirk of pride on her lips.