Part of SS Viridian Expanse: Swimming with Sharks

#1 – Blood in the Rocky Waters

Somewhere in the Romulan Free State
Sepetember 10, 2400
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Viridian Expanse, Captain’s Cabin

It had been a couple months since the twin crises on Psi Valorum and Rator and Keren had finally gotten things back together. Couple of quick and quiet cargo runs to fairly boring colonies and one run of not quite legal pharmaceuticals to a Federation outpost and he’d managed to clear his head from all the maneuvering he had to do in order to not be killed or worse.  While he craved the mundane at times, Keren knew the life of an independent trader, especially his, was not mundane for long. Something would come up that had the potential to get him in trouble, it always did. Why? Because the things that can get you in trouble are also frequently the most lucrative.

Keren was just finishing up processing some invoices and getting a line on their next job when a message appeared on his console.

<<Incoming Encrypted Holocommunication – Emerald 3 Protocol>>

Keren sighed and muttered to himself. “And just when I was starting to enjoy the mundanity.”

Emerald 3 was a high-level Free State governmental communications protocol. He’d gotten those calls before, but they were always for dangerous jobs that were never quite worth the high compensation. What’s worse they almost always came from his great aunt Jurel or one of her minions. Anything that had Jurel’s fingerprints on it was always messy, dangerous, and even worse, he couldn’t really say no.

Keren took a deep breath and keyed in the commands to activate the holotransciever and then turned around as an image of an older Romulan male flickered into being. Keren recognized him as Neran tr’Vhalle, a senior official in some Free State ministry or another and one of Jurel’s closest lackies. The young hybrid was a mildly surprised Neran had contacted him since his position didn’t generally require Keren’s talents or his ship. However, Keren was willing to hear him out.

Giving a polite bow and speaking with an even tone, Keren addressed the image. “Neran, a surprise and a pleasure to hear from you.”

“Always a pleasure to speak with you as well Keren.” Neran answered. “Hope things are going better after Psi Valorum. Heard you were in quite a spot there and came up with an interesting solution.”

Outwardly Keren grinned while internally he grimaced. Of course he’d heard, which meant Jurel heard.

“Well, since both sides presented valid claims to the cargo, I had no choice but to take the money I could and submit the matter to third party arbitration.” Keren responded. It did seem like the best idea at time and the least likely to get him shot at or arrested.

Neran nodded. “Quite a logical approach. Who did you get to arbitrate?”

Keren smirked at the question. “Oh I have a few contacts in the Sheliak Corporate. If anyone could figure out the mess of regulations, obligations, and legal and bureaucratic red tape in that situation, it’s the Sheliak.”

Neran laughed. “I’ll always approve of bogging Admiral Terak down with legal minutiae. Pity what happened to Senator Durana though. I heard she also made a claim.”

For the first time in a long time, Keren was surprised that Jurel and her associates had caught wind of something. Durana had made a request for the cargo as well, but that was more than a simple matter of legal interpretation or trade policy. Helping Duranna would have gotten him into a mess that wouldn’t be easily dealt with for what was looking like a lost cause. Still, it pained him not to help someone who’d helped him.

Keren eventually replied with a bit of regret in his voice. “Her’s was a situation for the Qowat Milat, not me.”

“A wise answer,” Neran replied. “But enough with that, I did contact you for a purpose other than catching up. There’s a situation that’s come up that I think your talents could be useful for.”

Keren nodded but looked a bit tense. “Who’s asking, you or her?”

Neren stared in recognition. “I knew you’d ask that. This time your aunt is not involved, or at least I think she isn’t.”

Keren shook his head. “One never knows, do they? Continue.”

Neren’s hand could be seen reaching for a nearby console and then the image of a young Romulan woman, slightly younger than Keren, appeared in the holographic image next to Neran. “This is Livanna, my eldest daughter. While I don’t know exactly what her business was there, she landed on Freecloud on assignment for one of the science ministries about a week ago and dropped out of contact. While that is, by itself not concerning, this is.”

An image appeared on the console behind Keren and he turned to examine it.  He swiped through a series of still images of Livanna being approached by a number of individuals with distinctive clothing and tattoos and then being forcefully dragged away. Keren took one look at the tattoos and grimaced.

“Star Rider Consortium, I can see why you’d worry. Who sent these?”

“A business contact, not who you’re thinking.” Neran responded. “And since you’re going to ask, I called you since you’re one of the few people I can trust that can operate on Freecloud without getting too much of the wrong sort of attention there.”

Keren got a pensive look on his face. “Last time I checked I was still up to date with the Interfacers Guild. That and I have some business there anyway. I know you’ll compensate me appropriately, but it would be easier if I had some cargo to work with to make it easier to get a hold of someone.”

The Romulan thought for a moment and then answered. “I know someone that needs some stuff moved off the books in the Verren system, I’ll make the arrangements.”

Keren nodded. “That will work. We can be there in a couple days.”

“Thanks Keren. I trust you’ll be able to figure out what’s wrong.” Neran answered approvingly. “Keep this between us for now, I’m not sure where this is going to lead. I’ll contact you when I have more.”

With that Neran ended the transmission and Keren sighed wondering what he’d just gotten himself into. The scars from the last time he was on Freecloud had only just healed and that incident didn’t involve any of the really bad gangs on the planet. Star Riders were a whole different level, so this was bound to get interesting. Once he collected his thoughts he keyed the comm to the bridge.

“Timek, you there?”

“Of course boss.” The Reman answered.

“Set course for the Verren system, best speed.” Keren answered “And then meet me in the Database, we have an interesting one.”

“Freecloud?” Timek asked.

“Where else?” Keren replied.

Timek sighed. “Try not to dress like a total idiot this time.”

Keren shook his head. “I’m more going for not getting shot this time.”


  • This makes for an excellent kick-off to what looks to be an exciting caper! I appreciated the layers of family politics, interwoven with the galactic politics. The shadow of Jurel poses such a satisfying series of pullies and levers, applying pressure on Keren. I am suitably impressed with Keren, turning arbitration over to the Sheliak Corporate! I love those creepy bureaucrats. Involving the Sheliak was bound to make life complicated. Now I'm left with the central question that's keeping me on the edge of my seat, ready to read chapter 2: why would someone from the Free State science ministry be of such desperate interest??

    September 17, 2022