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

Jailhouse Rock – 7

SS Vondem Rose, DeDiDrOp
November 2400
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The Klingon version of a cortical suppressor was known as a solid whack to the head followed by sedatives to make sure the subject didn’t wake until properly restrained. Luckily for Sidda she had listened when Bones wanted to restock the sickbay aboard the Rose and then directed Naroq to spend more than the Ferengi initially wanted.

“Spend like you’re going to be on the receiving end of the parts and medications,” she told her chief financial officer and boy had she. The sickbay wasn’t Starfleet standard but in some ways was better, in others worse. Civilian equipment could be ahead of Starfleet’s ‘tried and true’ gear, but sometimes behind in their ‘hey, isn’t this neat!’ gear. This meant that the cortical suppressor currently behind her left ear was far smaller and more comfortable than those in Starfleet’s inventory. It wasn’t as durable, having been designed for civilian use after all, but had been built with the user’s comfort in mind instead.

“What have I missed?” she asked as she stepped onto her bridge for the first time in nearly eighteen hours. Eighteen hours of the Rose sitting around, going nowhere, not looking for Gaeda and the Thorn. Eighteen hours of blissful, solid, deep sleep, gentle wake-up call, breakfast and then finally back to the work at hand.

“We’ve got some evidence that Hilke has indeed been cheating the Malon out of their fair share of the profits,” Lewis Chin said as he approached with a padd in hand. No joke, no charm, just straight to the point. That was enough to cause Sidda to look up and she realised that Lewis was her most senior staff member on the bridge right now.

“Are you on watch?” she asked.

“Yes ma’am.”

Ma’am? He had never called her that before in his life. “Excuse me?”

“Yes Boss,” he corrected and offered a smile as an apology. “Just trying to give the right impression to the new folks.”

“The new folks who’ve been aboard ship for a few months now and know your bad sense of humour?” She teased him in good humour as she took the padd and looked it over on the way to her seat, Endeavour’s seat. The seat of a captain, not the throne of a warlord that had been originally at the heart of this ship. “Nitrium, verterium cortenide, latnium…Hilke’s sitting on a vault.”

“The nitrium and verterium cortenide will likely sell for a good price back in the Alliance,” Lewis said. “The latnium likely is what he had and what he’s been able to swindle from locals. Bet he told them it’s worthless and he’s willing to ‘take it off their hands’ to get it.”

“Have we been able to figure out what Gaeda was shipping out here by any chance?”

“Oh, you’ll love this.” Lewis had stepped along her chair on the left and now stepped forward to turn and face her. “Messak spoke with Gaeda after his delivery, where he spilt the beans to her. Turns out Hilke’s mining equipment is made by a Ferengi corporation, because of course it’s the cheapest he could find. And it all uses licensed software that locks up every so often unless you pay the fee. Gaeda was delivering new isolinear control modules for the units with cracked software to let them run indefinitely without paying a single license fee.”

“He was bringing control modules? Hilke paid how much for control modules?”

“Uh…I haven’t seen the books, Boss, so you’d know better than I do.” Lewis shrugged a shoulder. “But that’s just part of it. The gear is so shit that Hilke finally dished out for the repair manuals since his people couldn’t figure out how to fix the gear he bought. Of course, he then sent the manuals over to Messak’s people and told them to fix the gear he bought for them.”

“Charming.”

“Yeah,” he agreed.

She spent a few moments more looking over the padd, perusing the findings. “Get Orin up here and make sure one of the twins is in Engineering,” she finally said. “We’re going to confirm all the evidence now we know roughly where on that Ferengi barge to scan.”

“They’ll see that,” he warned.

“And that’s why I want Orin up here. If they want to start a fight, we’ll give it to them. And we’ll have to deal with the Nausicaans too.”

“Oh, sorted that already,” Lewis said with a boyish smile. “Controller Messak has bribed the Nausicaans into staying out of any fight with us. It’ll just be us and the barge.”

Twenty minutes later and the bridge of the Vondem Rose was teeming with activity as the main bridge crew had taken their stations, with the night shift remaining at their stations, just in case things did go sideways. Which in less than a minute after ordering a comprehensive scan of the Ferengi ship it had.

The Ferengi ship had raised shields, powered up weapons and even locked onto the Vondem Rose, bringing its array of weapons to bear. Of note however was the lack of weapon lock from the Nausicaans, though both ships had moved to their respective flanking positions.

“Surprise, surprise,” Orelia said with a drawl advertising her total lack of said surprise, “Daimon Hilke is calling.”

“On screen.”

The expectation of Hilke being on his starship’s bridge wasn’t to be as he was safely ensconced still in his latnium-encrusted office. His all-consuming anger and bluster were evident as his face filled the viewscreen, his eyes wide and face flushed. “What do you think you are doing?” he whined. “Invading a man’s privacy! I won’t stand for this Orion! I won’t be the victim of piracy!”

“Shut it,” Sidda said quietly.

“Shut it? SHUT IT!” Hilke shouted. “I’ll have you know I could blow your pathetic ship to pieces.”

She looked over to Tavol, who faced her momentarily, gave a single confirming nod, and then turned back to his station. The scans had been confirmed, and their details were transmitted to the Malon mining ship. Now she just needed to wait for Messak if Lewis’ update was correct, confirmed by Orelia when she came up to the bridge.

“I said shut it,” she reiterated. “Your partners know you’ve been swindling them, not paying them their fair share of the profits. And now, so do your hired muscle.”

Hilke’s eyes narrowed as he squinted at her, then came that monocle from earlier as he held it to one eye. He studied her for a moment then spoke quietly. “You haven’t told them yet; this is a blackmail attempt.”

“Nah, I don’t do blackmail.” She pushed herself out of her chair and to her feet. “Well, I don’t do it often that is. We’ve already sent the scans over to Prospector 17 and they’ll have forwarded them to the Nausicaans to show them you could have paid them a lot more for their trouble.”

“Pah! Rule seventeen!”

“A contract is a contract is a contract, but only between Ferengi,” Sidda said, unimpressed. “It’s that last bit that’s about to bite you.” She watched the confusion on Hilke’s face for a moment. “Messak thought, assumed, with a contract in hand, that she was operating in good faith with you. But you just couldn’t help yourself, could you? Had to swindle someone to make that extra bit of profit.”

“And what would you know of profit, Orion? You’re a female and not even a Ferengi female either! No lobes for business at all!”

“That profit is not the be-all and end-all,” she answered, earning a nasally laugh from the Ferengi.

“Oh, that’s funny! Profit is all there is! Greed is eternal and the only measure of success worth caring about. So, what if I swindled the Malon? A bribe here, a bribe there, I’ll smooth over things. It’s just business.”

“So’s this then.” She gave a hand gesture and could feel the slight whine through the deck as the Vondem Rose fired a disruptor shot at the planetoid below. Messak had given them coordinates of where to fire near Hilke’s compound just outside the atmosphere shield. Somewhere to give him a damn good shake but not compromise the mining site. To rattle the cage and provoke him to action.

“Ahh! You lunatic! Hilke to Dramel, beam me up you lumbering oaf!” The Ferengi on the screen started to disappear in a shimmer of golden light and that was Orelia’s cue to cut the channel. And Orin’s to take his next shot. With Hilke being transported, that meant his ship’s shields had to be down. The Rose might not be able to go toe to toe with a modern and no doubt heavily up-gunned D’kora-class ship, but it didn’t need to right now. What it needed to do was prevent it from running away so that it had to face not just the Vondem Rose, but the guns of the Prospector 17 as well.

Lewis had driven the ship forward, up and over the D’kora’s dorsal aspect, bringing its warp engines into view of the Vondem Rose’s rear disruptors and single torpedo launcher. Orin had only a moment to find his target and fire. Green disruptor beams lashed out, raking along the aft aspect of the Ferengi ship, and then the angry red torpedo found its target just before the shields snapped up, further disruptor bolts splashing across the shields shortly before the Ferengi’s phasers started firing.

“Shields at ninety per cent,” Orelia announced as the Rose rocked under fire.

“Lewis, swing us around behind Prospecter 17!” Sidda shouted as she stepped up behind her helmsman, a steadying hand grasping at the back of his head. “Let’s see if Hilke’s people are stupid enough to walk fire onto the Malon.”

“Aye boss,” the young man said, no jokes or jibes as he focused on the task at hand, wrestling the Rose onto her new course. She wasn’t the nimble knife fighter the Vondem Thorn had been, but she also wasn’t a stand-up brute like larger Klingon ships. She was the rank and file of a Klingon fleet, a dependable mix of attributes that meant she wasn’t much good at any of them. Jack of all trades, master of none.

It only took a moment for Hilke’s crew to make a mistake, lashing fire on the Prospector 17 in their attempt to get at the Rose. Another moment for that massive bulk of a ship to bring its weapons online and begin lashing at the Ferengi ship. The initiative swung and the Rose dove back into the short battle as Hilke signalled his surrender in quick order.

There was after all no profit in dying in battle. Especially when your hired guards were just sitting there, doing exactly what everyone had said Messak had convinced them to do.

“Well, that took an interesting turn,” Orelia said as she entered into the briefing room with the gathered senior officers nearly an hour after the fighting had come to a premature end. “Turns out Hilke didn’t order the surrender, but Deputy Daimon Grelk. Fighting us and the Malon wasn’t a winning prospect and we’ve apparently smashed their warp drive up good and proper. He’s negotiating with Controller Messak as we speak, but has already handed over profits due to the Malon, as well as Daimon Hilke for various violations of Malon laws.”

“A mutiny?” Lewis asked. “And we missed it? Dang it.”

“Boardroom infighting is the worst,” Sidda muttered. “Especially in light of an external hostile takeover.”

‘Unexpected hostile environmental conditions,’ Orin signed, ‘requiring quick action and top-level downsizing from the management team to ensure company survival.’

“I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s something like how this Grelk sells it when he gets back home. What of the Nausicaans?” Sidda asked not so much out of actual interest, but just to make sure they weren’t going to have to deal with them later.

“They went to warp about five minutes ago. Grelk paid them out and they’re headed for a place called the Markonian Outpost to wait out time till the wormhole reopens.” Orelia stepped up to the large monitor and tapped at it, bringing up a star chart of the local region with a single green line that then turned into a green dotted line as it continued towards an ominous-looking red rash. “We’ve also got the last sensor readings regarding the Martian Thorn.”

“About fucking time,” Sidda said. “What’s that?” she pointed at the red rash on the map.

“According to Messak, the Devore Imperium. Or at least their last publicly notified borders. They’ve been in a state of flux since this dilithium rush started.” Orelia tapped once more on the map and a faint red smear appeared all over it. “This is what the Malon are considering the new Devore frontier. Turns out that the Devore might give the Malon trouble from time to time, but a lot of their ships are built tough, so the Malon have been learning the borders the hard way. Malon Security forces haven’t gotten involved yet, but she thinks it won’t be long if the Devore keep hindering trade and waste dumping.”

“The Devore are a known xenophobic and hostile power,” Tavol spoke up from where he was seated it. “They were in fact put on the general warning issued by Starfleet to all ships entering the Delta Quadrant. They consider all telepaths to be anathema to a stable society and therefore a threat to be rounded up and imprisoned wherever their ships go.”

“Good thing we don’t have telepaths aboard ship then,” T’Ael said from her seat next to Tavol.

“Vulcans are in fact telepathic,” he stated.

“Oh, sure, if you get your hands on someone,” she said. “Just wear gloves.”

“That is not how that works,” Tavol said, with a hint of classic Vulcan exasperation to his voice. “In either case, Captain, myself and Prisoner T’Rev would be in violation of the Devore’s proscriptions should they run into us.”

“Yeah, well, their laws can apply inside their space as much as they want.” Orelia’s voice was cold.

“The Devore’s proscriptions against telepaths extend to their borders and the feasible weapons range of all their ships no matter where they are. Essentially if they can enforce their will upon a ship, no matter where it is, they will.” Tavol looked completely unconcerned with this possibility.

“Charming,” T’Ael muttered. “Guess we should find the Martian then and get out before that border gets any closer?”

“Oh, it gets funnier yet,” Orelia said, tapping a key and a smattering of blue dots appeared on the map inside that faint red possible-Devore zone. “Starfleet gotta Starfleet.” A few of the dots had names attached to them. Endeavour, Odyssey, Sojourner, and Sarek was even listed in two locations at the same time, which caught Sidda’s attention. One was listed as Sarek-alpha, the other Sarek-beta. The rest had no names, but designations, ships they’d not been able to get a good look at while crowded around Starbase 38, or after arriving in the Delta Quadrant before everyone ran off in their separate directions. Nosey1 was the closest to them, moving away at a decent high warp value, the numbers mostly ascending the further from the Rose they were, but a few higher numbers were closer.

“We’re only catching glimpses on sensors because, well, Klingons have made it their business to keep an eye on their ally slash sparring partner, and Tavol has made some modifications to help with our…extra-legal activities back home.” Orelia offered a nod to the Vulcan, who replied in kinda. Lewis for his part gave the Vulcan a gentle punch to the upper arm, which confused the Vulcan.

“Any damage from the fight with the Ferengi?” Sidda asked.

“None. Discovered a flutter in disruptor four’s power supply, but R’tin is solving it now,” T’Ael said. “My brother might be an idiot, but he’s good with weapons. And now he’s got a team of people to help, so should have it sorted in no time versus taking days to sort.”

“Good.” Sidda sighed, tossing one last look at the map. “Lewis, plot a course and get ready to get us underway. Orelia, Orin, take the ship to condition…ah fuck it, fuck the Klingon conditions, take us to yellow alert. If something jumped the Martian Thorn I want us ready for it.”

With affirmations and nods, all three stood and left the briefing room to go about their duties. “T’Ael, work with your brother, make sure we’ve got a solid team of engineers ready at all times. I want that cloaking device ready at all times in case we have to run and hide.”

“Will do boss. She’s a lot less temperamental than our last one was.” She too stood and left.

And that left just Sidda and Tavol in the briefing room with each other. He made to stand and leave, but she waved him down, waiting for all others to depart. “Well?”

“Concerning which matter?” he asked back.

“The blood dilithium,” she clarified, adding a wave of her hand to indicate the suppressor behind her ear as well. “What have you found?”

“It’s a curious substance I must admit. One which I’m sure Starfleet has more information on than I do, seeing as they would have more working on the problem than just myself.” A glare of impatience from Sidda moved him along. “I admit to feelings of unease when I’m near the singular example I brought aboard the ship, even when it is safely inside an airtight container, behind a forcefield and in another room. I feel like the ship is lurching gently from side to side and compounded with a feeling that something is watching me though logically I know nothing is there. T’Rev reports hearing discordant singing.”

“I don’t like the idea of him hearing things.”

“Neither do I,” Tavol added. “I’ve taken the liberty of consulting with Doctor Ward and adding a mild sedative to his rations. And mine as well,” he stated. “Not enough to dull my senses but to slow reaction times and strength, in case of a worst-case scenario. Doctor Ward still insists on keeping a large rock ready to drop on me should I develop maniacal godlike attributes.”

“Prudent.” The rations, not the rock. “What about myself, or Orelia and Orin?”

“I would need a volunteer for testing, but it would appear that whatever mysterious psychic phenomena the crystal is producing excites a portion of the Orion brain that is responsible for hormone production. It’s triggering a key hormone that tells your body to begin adrenaline and pheromone production at a vastly heightened and possibly dangerous level.”

“Why didn’t Orelia or Orin get flattened by it then?” she asked.

“Orin is male and Orelia’s only contact so far would have been trace amounts of particulate dust you likely encountered at Hilke’s compound. You on the other hand are female and were inside the crater. The effect of the crystal does seem to be a function of proximity and quantity. Orelia also hinted at perhaps an element of your family line might come into play.”

Sidda sighed, folding her hands on the table and resting her forehead on them for a moment before gently banging her head into the back of her own hands a few times. “Bundle up your findings and then transmit them to the nearest Starfleet ship. Let’s be good citizens for now. Besides, I don’t want to suddenly hear that a Starfleet ship has gone missing after some Orion inadvertently caused the crew to tear themselves apart.”

“I would think that highly unlikely,” Tavol responded.

“Yeah, but stranger things have happened in space. Just…send Starfleet a warning. And then make time this afternoon with Bones, I’ll pop down to sickbay and we confirm your hypothesis.”

Comments

  • omg i love the notion of Ferengi selling mining equipment that's like a mobile game that makes you watch ads to keep playing. (Not to mention Klinon cortical suppressors and Vulcan...contraceptives? lol). I love all the little details that make the world of the Vondem Rose feel so lived in. All the more so after they kicked some Ferengi ass and started to dig their paws in the Starfleet shenanigans of the blood dilithium campaign. I adore all the little references to Bravo Fleet ships (especially my very own Sarek in its saucer-separated condition). Such good samaritans, sharing their knowledge with Starfleet!

    November 14, 2022
  • This story just keeps getting better and better. I very much enjoyed the description of the medical facility and the Starfleet vs civilian models. Made it feel more real. The Rose itself keeps giving, and the crew and the way they work with the ship are amazing. I particularly enjoyed the brief combat, short and sweet while giving just enough of a description to allow the reader to build it in the mind as if it was on screen (for me at least). I would be amiss if I didn't smile at the reference to the Sojourner and their high warp drive at the Imperium. The Orions interactions with blood dilithium is amazing, I may be to incorporate it into the story for Kirin and the newest Orion on the crew now that the findings have been shared! Keep up the stories they are great!

    November 14, 2022
  • I’m thoroughly enjoying how this story is unfolding! From the very beginning with the klingon version of the cortical suppressor and all the little details in the differences between Starfleet equipment and that on the Vondem Rose. It really helps flesh out the world and draws you right in. The short fight was awesome and I love the little comment about the ship being the rank and file of the klingon fleet, doing everything adequately but not well. It’s great, and really suits this crew down to the ground. Love it! Looking forward to more!

    December 1, 2022