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Part of USS Al-Batani: 001 – Uncertainty at Alim and Roosevelt Station: 001 – The Hunt

8: Diplomatic Niceties

Lamek Manor - Dining Room
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Eden smoothed her hair as she sat opposite her host. The others had dispersed through the house, with Inaree and Gates meeting Drek’dak and Kirlas and Lira with Berta. Ailiang was exploring the grounds. Walton, keeping the nerves that kept invading Eden’s empathic senses off her face, waited until Eden was in her seat before sitting beside her.

Lamek smiled. He was looking at her and not at all keeping his interest off his face. That interest felt… oily. Unpleasant and unclean. “Captain Enigma. It is a pleasure to have you and your officers in my home. Welcome.”

Eden buried a sigh. This man was an inveterate liar – it filled every aspect of his emotions. “The pleasure is ours, Mr. Lamek. Your home is lovely.” She could at least say the second sentence honestly – it was a lovely house, the art reminiscent of the Cardassian golden age works she had seen on visits to Cardassian space.

“Thank you, Captain. It has taken some work to make it so, this far from our homeworld.” He rested his chin on his folded hands, eyes wandering away from Eden’s face. She wished she could convince herself that it was to avoid meeting her gaze. “And while we speak of home… may I ask about yours?”

Gone. Gone and forgotten. “I don’t have a homeworld, Mr. Lamek. I was born in space.”

“Interesting. Perhaps that is why you seem so… unworldly. Tell me… may I call you Eden?”

Eden sighed. “I am only comfortable with that from people I have known for a very long time, Mr. Lamek. I prefer ‘Captain’ or ‘Captain Enigma.’”

Lamek sighed, his neck ridges flaring. “Very well… Captain Enigma.” He emphasized her title and name as he said them, his voice throaty. Eden idly contemplated the phaser pistol at her hip – it was far from her preferred weapon, but stun was stun…

“Moving on from that,” Eden said, folding her arms. “I was hoping for your insight into the current situation.”

Walton looked up as Lamek spoke. “A difficult state of affairs,” he said. “Both sides chose borders before the full oceanic survey was completed. The schools of fish are important to both colonies – to the Kolamites as a primary food resource, and to ourselves as a major export. But it turns out that they are migratory, and vanish from the Kolamite-controlled seas for half the year.”

“So the Kolamites want fishing rights within the fish’s feeding territory,” Eden said. “If they are used as an export, shouldn’t you be able to sell some to the Kolamites?”

“The trouble with that,” Lamek said, his voice full of sadness but his emotions barely contained satisfaction. “Is that the Kolamites have little of value to offer us in trade save for land. All they produce, we can replicate or make ourselves, and as newcomers to the stellar community they do not yet have access to the galactic currency markets. There is far more to be made selling offworld.”

And now I find myself missing Ailiang. Her sense of business is far better than mine. “And is the friendship of your neighbors not worth a bit of lost profit?”

“It would not be a bit,” Lamek said. “It would be an order of magnitude. And many of our fishers are here to earn latinum to send to family elsewhere. Surely you don’t expect us to deny them their livelihood?”

“Of course.” Eden rose to her feet. “That will be all for now, Mr. Lamek.” Before my patience with his lust or greed is exhausted. “Ensign, with me.” Before the Cardassian had a moment to speak, Eden walked outside alongside Walton. She moved a distance from the house before speaking. “What do you think?”

“Permission to speak freely?” Walton said.

“Granted. Whenever it is just us.” Eden looked to the blonde woman. “If you cannot speak freely, Ensign, I can’t rely on your advice or observations.”

“He’s a thoroughly vile man,” Walton said. “Who I’m fairly certain would sell his own people out in this if there was profit to be made. Or…” She trailed off, emanating hesitation.

“Or if he thought it would get me into his bed. So I suppose he wasn’t as subtle about that as I thought he was.” Eden often had trouble reading faces, though her empathy more than compensated with most. Still, it left her uncertain what others would see.

“It took me a few moments to be sure, but no, he wasn’t subtle.” Walton shook her head. “And are the Cardassians really going to value a little money over the lives of the Kolamites?”

“Never underestimate how much some people will value money,” Eden said. “So long as they don’t have to pay whatever cost is involved in them getting it. That’s the root of corruption.”

Walton nodded. “And he said the Cardassians are sending money to their families…”

“An old story,” Eden said. “A person goes to somewhere that there is money to be made, sacrificing their ability to be with their family in hopes of giving their family a better life. And given Cardassian moral philosophy, any sacrifice but treason can be worthwhile in the name of helping one’s family.”

“‘State, family, self.’ Though these Cardassians have abandoned the state.”

“Or see it as illegitimate, or as having abandoned them,” Eden said thoughtfully. “Good catch.”

“Captain… may I ask a more… personal question?” Walton looked at Eden, and the nerves flared in her emotions again, hard enough that it took effort for Eden not to fidgit.

“Of course,” Eden said.

“Why me?” Walton paused. “For your yeoman? Why did you choose me?”

“I think that requires more answer than I have time to give,” Eden said. “But I promise you I will answer once we are back on the ship. For now… I want you to look around. Don’t get into trouble, but see what you can learn.”