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

9: For Want of Replicators

Lamek Manor - Side Garden
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Inaree sat on one of the long benches in the Lamek estate’s garden. Bushes grew around her, with bright blossoms in green and blue, some reflecting near-ultraviolet light in scintillating patterns. Those ones must look so strangely dull to human or Cardassian eyes, and she briefly wondered why Lamek grew them.

“My people,” Drek’dak was saying, “Will survive this summer well enough. We have food stores for two years. But we are already seeing hoarding, and if the fish do not return…”

“Do you have a reason to think they won’t?” Inaree had no idea what humans found attractive in their men, and Gates’s odd choice to grow facial hair was baffling, but his eyes were a pleasant shade of blue and his voice a commanding baritone that was quite pleasant to listen to. And he was brilliant, having spent his early career at the Advanced Starship Design Bureau before putting in time on a Prometheus-class ship.

“None,” Drek’dak said, his left earlobe reaching up to scratch the side of his nose. External ears were odd. “But the Cardassians seem willing to watch us starve. I can’t bet the lives of my people on their not being willing to help that process along… especially with some of the things we’ve heard about their history.”

Good thing Kirlas isn’t here, Inaree thought. “Is there an alternative food source?”

“Not without risking the local ecosystem,” Drek’dak said, smiling. That was when Inaree saw his teeth – sharp and wicked, made for cutting and tearing. “We don’t process vegetable matter well… our ancestors were hypercarnivores, and while we are slightly more omnivorous than they were, we can’t live on vegetables. We need meat, and the land animals here… we’ve found few we can eat, those few aren’t common, and no progress has been made on domestication.”

“Hence the fish,” Inaree said.

“We could introduce our own livestock from the homeworld,” Drek’dak said. “But the cost would be immense, and we’d risk introducing invasive species. And we can’t be sure the ox-horse herds could eat the local grasses.”

“Best to avoid that if possible, then,” Gates said. “What about technological solutions? Replicators?”

“We don’t have them,” Drek’dak said. “And our food synthesizers are rudimentary and insufficient to the task. Could the Federation…?”

“If the Prime Directive allowed us to give you replicators, Captain Enigma would have done so already,” Gates said. “I don’t pretend to understand the nuances of how it interacts with warp-capable societies, but that’s required for captains to know.”

Drek’dak nodded. “I’d likely find your Prime Directive admirable if not for our situation,” he said. “And the Cardassians won’t sell them to us, because we have nothing they need but our land, and if we sacrifice land to them it is forever, and sets the precedent that they can force us to give more with their technology.”

“Hence the impasse.” Inaree considered. “Thank you, Mr. Drek’dak. I think we understand your position now.”

“We’ll report to the captain,” Gates added. “She should be able to find a solution.”

“Appreciated,” Drek’dak said quietly.