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Part of SS Vondem Rose: Jailhouse Rock and Bravo Fleet: Blood Dilithium

Jailhouse Rock – 6

SS Vondem Rose; DeDiDrOp
November 2400
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“And how much is this going to cost me?” Controller Messak asked as she stepped into the briefing room behind Orelia. They’d met in the Rose’s shuttlebay just a few minutes ago, but a few comments here and there had already left Orelia with a feeling that Messak’s opinions of the Alpha and Beta Quadrant had already been deeply tainted by the Ferengi and specifically Daimon Hilke.

“This Controller, is just us being good hosts to our guests.” The table of the briefing room had been laid out with a collection of plates bearing a wide variety of finger food. All of it was as always expertly made, expertly presented and no doubt soon to be confirmed, excellent in taste.

She had ordered most of the chairs removed, leaving just two on the same side of the table, turned to each other so the table was at their side with its delicacies placed in easy reach, including several carafes bear hopefully a drink the Controller would find acceptable. Settling into one of the seats, Orelia indicated for Messak to do the same. “Not everyone from the Alpha Quadrant is like the Ferengi with their hidden surcharges and unannounced fees.”

“Daimon Hilke has already warned me plenty about the peoples of the Alpha Quadrant.” Messak took a seat while examining the food, picked up a small sandwich and sniffed at it. “Moral proselytisers, interested only in destroying stable economic systems. Unhinged barbarians who attack whatever they want, whenever they want. Duplicitous sorts that betray you with every word they utter.” She bit into the small sandwich. “Federation, Klingon and Romulans. I have been warned,” she said around the food in her mouth. As soon as she stopped the rest of the sandwich was quickly consumed, another collected in her hand as the other went to grab another small snack.

Orelia smiled as she shifted slightly to reach for a carafe and poured two glasses of a light blue wine. Not the best, but it was sweet and barely alcoholic. “He’s not far off the mark on a few of those descriptions, but perhaps a bit zealous in his fears and concerns. But Orions, you’ll find are the most civilised and responsible people of the Alpha Quadrant. That aside though, I bet he portrayed himself as an upright and honest businessman that you’re learning isn’t quite true, yes?”

Messak took the drink after freeing a hand and sipped at it once before setting it down. “What do you want?”

“Straight to the point.” Orelia tapped at a control on the table and the large monitor along the wall came to life with an image of the Martian Thorn and images of the then fifteen-man crew that had been aboard her when she passed Guardian Station a few months back now. The bird-of-prey was mostly stock standard, save for a few splashes of Martian Red as Gaeda called the colour, along the hull in a semi-haphazard manner. “My captain is looking for this ship and Daimon Hilke is unwilling to tell us in what direction it went after departing here. I was hoping we could come to some sort of agreement for your sensor logs so we might be on our way.”

Messak slowly finished chewing the sandwich she had in her mouth as she squinted at Orelia, then leaned right back in her chair. “A trade of information then,” she finally said after a moment, judging Orelia. It was an expression she was used to, just on someone else’s face when they marched into a room and took ownership of it, especially when they were the one setting the demands. “I have reason to believe the Hilke is cheating me.”

“No surprises there,” Orelia chipped in, raising her wine glass in a slight toast.

“He actually has two ships out here. The other conducts trade missions with the dilithium we mine, while his personal ship stays here to watch us work. He supplied the location of this vein, some industrial equipment of spotty quality and his expertise at unloading the cargo to those needing dilithium for their starships while my company provided the manpower and local pre-processing.” She picked up and bit into another sandwich, at least waiting to chew and swallow before talking more. “It was meant to be an even split but I think he’s holding out on me.”

“Any proof?”

“Not yet.” Messak leaned forward. “My ship’s sensors are five decades out of date and were originally designed for planetary mineral scans, not scanning Ferengi mansions and starships for valuables.”

“And you don’t want to destroy your relationship with him if he isn’t lying, so why not use the stooges who just arrived on your doorstep?”

“Your words,” Messak said, grinning. “You scan that Ferengi’s compound and ship, get me the scans and I’ll give you every detail we had of this ship of yours until we lost it beyond the range of our sensors.”

“Hilke’s vessel is, just from looking out our windows, relatively well armed. And with two Nausicaan raiders at his side, is more than a match for the Vondem Rose. Once we scan his ship and compound in enough detail to get the information that you’re after, he’s likely to take exception to it. Violently.”

“And?” The single word was spoken from the doorway behind Messak, forcing the Malon woman to turn in her seat to look. Stepping through the doorway, sans her leather jacket, was a rather ragged-looking Sidda. Bags under her eyes, shoulders a little slumped from exhaustion. She looked like someone who had spent a few days without sleep and frankly shouldn’t be wondering about the ship.

“Boss…” Orelia started, stopping with a sharp wave of Sidda’s hand.

“You’re just looking after the ship. I get it.” Sidda had staggered in, giving Messak a nod as she stepped between her and Orelia to grab a few of the snacks for herself, scoffing one down as she poured a drink to wash it down with. At least, Orelia noted, it wasn’t one of the wines, but a dark-yellow fruit drink the humans aboard ship insisted was good, despite being acidic.

“Who is this?” Messak demanded.

“Sidda,” Sidda answered. “Captain Sidda.” She took another swig of the drink in hand. “You know where my people went and will tell me for pissing off a Ferengi for you. Easy enough deal.” She set the glass down with a small thud. “If Hilke has been cheating you, what are you going to do about it?”

“I’ll consider my options at that time,” Messak answered as she studied Sidda.

With a sigh truly showing her exhaustion, Sidda pushed a few plates back from the edge of the table and perched herself there, glaring at the conference room door as it opened to reveal Bones standing there.

“You have yourself a deal,” Sidda said, a small gesture to keep Orelia quiet. “We’ll make the scans of Daimon Hilke’s property. But first, you’re going to need to tell us what the locals around here would have been paying with, so we know what we’re looking for.”

“That can be arranged. I’ll need to return to my ship first.”

“Orelia, would you be so kinda?” Sidda asked, smiling at Orelia’s slight head nod. “And see that Controller Messak here gets a bottle of the Takellian Blue as a parting gift.”

As Messak and Orelia left, Sidda sank into the seat just vacated by her cousin and watched as Bones stalked towards her. She grabbed a small sandwich and chomped down on it, waving for her doctor to join her.

“Escape my sickbay will you,” Bones stated as she approached, a hypospray in hand. She gave no explanation or warning as she jabbed Sidda in the arm with it. “A hormonal suppressant and yes, I know you’re up to date.” Then she poured herself a glass of the blue wine that Messak had been drinking and another glass of orange juice for Sidda. “Get back to bed and sleep. Doctor’s orders.”

“I can sleep when I’ve found my people.”

“You can sleep in your bed, or wherever you hit the deck in five minutes.”

“You drugged me?” Sidda asked accusingly. “Respect.”

Bones merely shrugged as she sipped at her wine. “Maybe I did, or maybe you’ll collapse from exhaustion. Guess we’ll never know.”

“Is that why you mustered out of Starfleet? Kept drugging your superior officers?”

“Not superior,” Bones said. “Just higher ranked.” She downed her wine and offered her hand to help Sidda to her feet. “Bed or deck plating?”

“Bed.” Sidda took Bones’ hand and stood.

“Good, already sent Revin there.”

It was in fact less than four minutes before Sidda was once more asleep.


“So, now that Controller Messak has told us what to look for, how do we go about doing it?” T’Ael asked around the galley table at the collection of senior officers present. It had been an hour since the Malon Controller’s brief visit to the ship and only recently had she sent across information highlighting what a variety of local currencies would have looked like.

“I was hoping,” Orelia said as she looked down the table, “that Tavol might have a clever idea or two.”

“I have an idea,” the Vulcan stated. “Tunnelling sensor sweeps.” When not a single set of eyes on him seemed to register what he said, he sighed and continued. “A form of high penetration, but low perceptibility scan with low detectability. There are some drawbacks to using this method though.”

“Like?” T’Ael asked.

“The target area of the scan is very, very narrow and therefore will take some time to complete a decent baseline scan. There is also the issue that if the scan is detected there will be no doubt as to where it came from.”

“So, we can be as sneak as we want, but if we’re caught, we’re caught.” Orelia shrugged. “Or we fire up the main sensors, and get what we want within seconds but everyone knows what we did. Orin?”

Orin for this part bobbed his head side to side in thought for a moment. ‘Start with Tavol’s plan. The safest idea for now. Let’s the captain get back on her feet.’ He stopped signing and smiled widely.

“Oh, I know that smile,” Lewis said, a spoonful of cereal suspended before his mouth. “That’s the ‘Orin has a devious idea’ smile.”

‘Nausicaan guards.’ He repeated what he signed. ‘Hilke has Nausicaan guards.’

“Yes, that is part of the problem,” Orelia stated.

‘What if we had Nausicaan guards instead?’

“Bribe them?” T’Ael asked. “With what?”

“We don’t,” Orelia said, and Orin smiled, pointing at her as she got there. “But Messak can.” She stood up and gave Orin and high-five. “I best go call our Malon friend. Good catch Orin.”

“Aren’t Nausicaans some of the most fearsome and loyal warriors from where you are from?” Messak asked over the channel a few minutes later. “Unbribable Hilke had said.”

“Ha!” Orelia couldn’t help herself as she paced in front of the command seat, alone in the middle of the bridge. “Hilke likely said that just to try and convince you never to try. Nausicaans are thugs and bullies. You might not be able to convince them to fight for you, but you can certainly bribe them to stay out of anything that might break out.”

“Hmm…” Messak said, her face taking up the whole viewscreen. “I shall open negotiations with them while I await the results of your scans.” And with that, the channel went dead.

“Rule number ninety-eight,” Tavol said as he started his scanning program. “Every man has his price.”

“Let’s hope so,” Orelia said. “Let’s hope so.”

Comments

  • Delicious - in more than one sense! I enjoyed reading how Orions conduct negotiations here and how easily the VR crew has worked out how to handle business with the Malon is genius! And why not bribe the Nausicaans?! The plan to scan without being detected is creative, it's given me the same vibes we saw from the Hierarchy from that Voyager episode where they took over the Doctor's daydreams!! And as always Sidda is one of the finest diplomats...straight to the point and a deal is made! Love it!!

    November 13, 2022
  • This is my favourite conceit. I love a caper WITHIN a caper, because the micro-caper is the only way to get an important element of the meta-caper. lol, and of course, the consequences of the micro-caper are obscured. "I'll consider my options at that time." That never bodes well. And Siddha negotiates all this through a blood dilithium haze! This is gonna spiral out of control real good.

    November 14, 2022
  • Awesome! I love the whole negotiation scene, with food, and the fact the controller didn’t stop eating. Lovely little detail! Sidda’s appearance, while obviously still affected, cut right to the chase there but the jewel of the scene was Bones tracking her down and drugging her. “Bed or deck plating?” has to be my favourite line in this scene. Love it, looking forward to reading more!

    November 24, 2022