Part of SS Vondem Rose: Old friends, old scores, old debts and Bravo Fleet: The Stormbreaker Campaign

We should meet up

SS Vondem Rose
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“We should meet up.”

A simple enough message that could bring with it terribly or fortuitous news. The former the sort that was best said in person, delivered with the warmth of the messenger in the room as they break world-shattering news upon the recipient. The latter was in their line of work the sort best kept off of subspace and out of the prying ears of the local authorities, least they decide they too wanted to get involved and turn a spot of fun into a spot of bother.

Gaeda’s message had only reached them just as they managed to leave the system at high warp, having dumped a few probes to emulate their drive signature for a while yet. Best to leave those still seeking al-Jabir’s bounty looking where the Vondem Rose wasn’t a while longer. The message received, a rendezvous had been set, far from shipping lanes and prying eyes, though both ships had approached under cloak, only decloaking long enough for Gaeda to beam over from the Martian Thorn.

“I should get myself a bigger ship,” he said, throwing himself into what was his chair at the briefing room table, situated all the way at the far end from Sidda. Though it wasn’t that far, she did miss having Gaeda as her right hand but knew she’d made the right call to give him the Thorn after they’d salvaged her.

“We’re thinking of converting some of the unused compartments into a bar.” That got the expression she wanted out of him. Jealousy and contempt before Gaeda stuck to a truly childish follow-up – giving her the middle finger. A human expression she at least recognised. “Hey, just because the Rose has the space, doesn’t mean you should get mad.”

“I want a bar.”

“You can have a stool, all yours. Vaporise anyone you find sitting in it.”

He mulled it over for a moment, then accepted it with a head nod. “Might just settle for stunning and dragging them off my seat though.”

“Shame. Random vaporisation might be good for crew obedience,” she joked. “You said we should meet. What’s up?”

“Okay, so we ran that errand as you wanted. Got the intel on Senator Towh you wanted but got something else as well.” He slipped an isolinear chip on the tabletop from a pocket and sent it skittering down to her. “Turns out the Last Pirate King isn’t just some random pirate who’s been harassing the space lanes for eighty-odd years. Turns out there’s a very real possibility that he’s possibly ex-Starfleet.”

That got her attention and her attention went from the chip in her hand to then looking for the nearest port for the chip. The viewscreen she’d had put in contained an array of inputs under it, able to accept the preferred data media of all the major and minor powers of the galaxy for the last fifty years. No need to look for adaptors or hand it to someone to load into the computer when it could be done straight away.

Soon enough the data was displayed before a now standing Sidda and Gaeda, looking over what frankly looked the ravings of a madman. Conspiracy thinking, tenuous links between news articles, pictures, reports of pirate activity. A missing Starfleet ship, the vulcan XO never recovered, then piracy in the sector taking an upbeat.

“Goddesses and gods,” she said, trying to make sense of what was in front of her. “We need a better source if this is how he organises his information.”

“No argument, but I’ve spent the last few days reading it. It’s not iron-clad but compelling. I’d wager that Starfleet is going to give a better reward for LPK, especially once they know who he is, then anyone else will.” Gaeda held his hands up with a boyish smile. “Be nice to have more favours with our favourites. Maybe talk them into offsetting our maintenance costs going forward? After all, we’re armed merchants, yes? Need to respond when they say jump, can’t do it if we’re in trouble.”

The entire possibility was intriguing and one she’d have to give some more thought on, but Gaeda’s proposition had merit-a-plenty to it. Yanking the chip out she pocketed it and led Gaeda through the ship towards the brig, slowing once past the guards posted to let him take in the magnificent bounty they’d collected, evening going so far as to label some of the cells. Yes, it was a little zoo-like, but she’d specifically only kidnapped and imprisoned the slavers and murders. They deserved far worse than to be put in cages, but again, she was willing to use them as barter than just shove them out an airlock.

There was no internal debate if her actions amounted to little more than the slavery these fiends had practised. She wasn’t sending them to work to death or fight for the enjoyment of others or a variety of other far less pleasant scenarios, she was handing them over to the self-proclaimed moral authority in the region to let them sort it out as they’d no doubt relish in doing.

But in the end, they came to the centerpiece of the brig, a single cell with guards of its own, the only resident being an elderly Vulcan male, in the same robes he’d been taken in, sitting on the floor in meditation. “Captain Ruiz, I present to you T’rev, of the house Sh’rel of P’Jem.”

Her voice had broken the vulcan’s silence as he looked up and studied his visitors. “Your first visit to see me since taking me from my home is to show me as an exhibit to your underling. I think, Captain Sadovu, that speaks more for you than it does for me.” His gaze, emotionless and cold, turned to Gaeda. “Kill her, release me and I promise you can keep everything that is hers and be on your way.”

“Oooh, tempting,” Gaeda said, then cocked his head sideways. “Just kill you boss or vaporise you so the whole crew can breathe you in?”

“Oh, the latter of course. I want people to choke on me. Irritation in the eye, asthma, the whole lot,” she replied, closing her eyes and holding her arms out wide dramatically. “Just make it quick.” The scene lasted for only a moment before Gaeda chuckled and she joined him.

“Joke all you wish Captain Sadovu, but I will have my revenge,” T’rev said, then closed his eyes, returning to his meditation.

“I’ll let Starfleet know that when we hand you over. I’m sure they’ve got some extra deep holes they can throw you in.” Not even a twitch in response. Taunting Vulcans was never any fun.

Soon enough they were out of the brig and walking the corridors once more. “We’re still figuring out who’s paying the most for each of our guests,” she said with air quotes for the last word. “But when we do, we’ll start dolling them out and collecting bounties. Might be able to afford those salvage platforms and to hire actual salvagers for the truly legitimate side of the business.”

“You’re serious about this?” Gaeda asked. “Actually running a business instead of the thin cover everyone knows it is?”

“Yup. I’m thinking we relocate headquarters to one of the worlds with a large romulan refugee population, then hire locals to fill out the numbers under a corp of actual salvagers we recruit. Na’roq has the business plan all set and ready for a presentation to all the shareholders later today. We make some profit, spread it around a few refugee worlds and improve their quality of life.”

“And,” Gaeda continued, “end up with a sympathetic population willing to hide us or help us if things go a little sideways.”

“And embarrass the Federation while we’re at it.”

“Not bad, not bad. Though we’ll need that seed capital you were talking about. And which world are you thinking of? Because I know of one where they have actually built that statue you drunkenly asked for.”

Sidda stopped, reached out and spun Gaeda around. “Seriously? They built it? Is it five meters tall? How do you know?”

“Boss!” he said, raising his hands in mock surrender. “I only found out yesterday. A friend there told me. I got photos. Let’s crack open a bottle of something and I’ll show you the pics.”

“Okay, but then I want to tell you about an idea I had this morning. See, I’ve been thinking I need a chair with lumbar support and I know just where to get it…”