As well traveled as he was, Keren had never been to Klaestron before. It was an interesting planet with a sorted history, which in no small part had to do with its position between two major powers. Still, the nature of Keren’s business was liable to take him to all corners of the quadrant and in the case of Klaestron it was a shipment of rare and not entirely legal biological compounds on behalf of some rather rich medical researcher. It was an easy run, the pay was good, and Keren had taken the Viridian Expanse to much rougher and more dangerous places. That, in and of itself, was unusual. It had been a while since the Expanse had a run that didn’t involve political intrigue, gangsters, or otherwise getting shot at. What was more unusual was what came afterwards.
Timek, the Expanse’s first mate had mentioned receiving a message from an old contact of his that just happened to be operating on Klaestron. It struck the young Romulan hybrid that a Reman like Timek would have friends on the other side of Federation space but odd was almost an expectation in his line of work. Still, Keren couldn’t help but be curious as he and Timek approached a compound on the outskirts of Klaestron IV’s capital.
“So who is this person we’re meeting again?” Keren asked.
“A Lissepian named Nasir.” Timek responded with his usual curtness. “And since I can anticipate your next question, we met during the Dominon War. My unit stormed a compound where he was being held by the Jem’hadar. He thinks I saved his life and we’ve been in contact ever since.”
Keren arched an eyebrow. “You never struck me as the type to go out of the way to save someone without a good reason.”
Timek shrugged. “I was doing my duty. The fact that he thanked me afterwards and remains friendly is on him. Besides, in our line of work it never hurts to have friends in all sorts of places.”
“What’s his usual business?” Keren inquired.
“All sorts of things,” the Reman answered, “but his family has traditionally been miners and metallurgists.”
Keren looked over to Timek quizzically as they approached the compound’s entrance. “Doesn’t sound like our usual clientele. Why would he need our services?”
“Excellent question.” Timek replied. The Reman then keyed the comm panel at the compound’s gate. After the panel did a brief scan of the pair, the gate opened.
Keren immediately was hit with the smell of acrid smoke from one end of the compound which was dotted with industrial buildings. The distinctive odor of several large smelting furnaces wafted through the air. Nearest the gate was what looked like a combination residence and administrative building. As Timek and Keren approached, a well-dressed, middle-aged Lissepian walked out of the building and greeted the Reman warmly.
“Timek my friend, it is good to see you in person again after all this time. You seem to have done well for yourself.”
The Reman gave a slight smile and nodded. “Indeed it is Nasir. And I see you’ve expanded a bit since we last spoke.”
Nasir chuckled. “Quite a bit, and this is only where we do the rare metals and more delicate alloys. We have a much larger facility in the industrial sector a few kilometers away. Business has been good.”
“That is good to hear,” Timek replied. “May I introduce Keren tr’Serov, my ship’s Captain.”
Keren gave a slight nod. “It is a pleasure to meet you sir.”
Nasir grinned widely as he gestured towards the structure and started walking. “Come, Timek has told me much about you. I’m told you have quite the reputation as transporter of rare and exotic goods with the utmost discretion.”
Keren nodded as he followed the Lissepian into the building. “So I’ve been told. You buying or selling?”
“We’ll talk inside, come, you must be thirsty after your trip from the city.” Nasir’s voice held a twinge of anxiety in with his outwardly jovial nature, something that was normal with clients who needed a smuggler. Keren simply nodded and followed Nasir into the building, Timek close behind.
The pair were led to a well-appointed office at the rear of the structure. Most notable in the room was a large elliptical desk made of several different metals polished to an intense shine. It was accented more by natural light pouring through the massive windows with a view of the forested hills beyond. Nasir gestured to a pair of opulent metal chairs on one side of the desk while the Lissepian sat down opposite them. As the three sat, a younger male Klaestron brought in a tray with several metal cups and placed one down in front of each man. Keren picked up the cup and smelled the liquid inside before taking a sip.
“Betazed peach nectar.” Keren stated with a slight smile. “You are a man of taste as Timek said.”
Nasir smiled back. “I’ve heard you’re quite fond of it as well.”
“I wonder where you got that idea.” Keren glanced at Timek who simply winked in response.
“So, now that we’re here, to business then.” Nasir took a breath as his face turned to a far more serious expression. “I have what you might refer to as a sensitive consignment that has to go to a rather discerning client that is in need of the utmost discretion and needs the goods delivered to a rather dangerous local. There are not many who have both the skills and the assets you posess.”
Keren’s face also straightened as he chimed in. “So you need a cloaked transport?”
Nasir gave a slight nod. “Such a vessel would be useful for this contract, yes. I’m also told you will operate no questions asked if compensated appropriately.”
Keren tilted his head slightly. “Well, not no questions asked, but essential questions only. Is the cargo hazardous or require special handling?”
“No.” Nasir answered.
“Is the cargo alive?” Keren asked next.
“No, but wouldn’t that be covered by the first question?” Nasir asked.
“You’d be surprised.” Timek responded. “We’re still cleaning one of our holds after someone neglected to mention the crate of Cardassian fighting voles.”
“That would do it.” Nasir responded.
“Last question.” Keren interjected. “How powerful are the people I’ll be pissing off if I’m caught?”
“Quite powerful.” Nasir answered.
Keren nodded. “I can work with that. How much?”
Nasir slid a PADD across the table. “I think you’ll find that quite acceptable for the risk. Forty percent up front, remainder on confirmation of delivery.”
Keren picked up the PADD, looked at it for a moment, and nodded. “It is. Are those the coordinates of the delivery?”
“Yes.” Nasir responded. “Deneb sector between Breen and Ferengi territory.”
Keren didn’t seem to react to the location. He’d heard from various sources that the Breen and Federation were fighting again in that region and that there’d been rumors of Jem’hadar ships seen in the region. It was definitely a dangerous place to be, but that also meant there’d be quite the profit to be had. As the Ferengi said, war is good for business.”
“Pickup instructions are also included. You’ll be given two manifests, the actual one and a cover manifest. The actual manifest will be encrypted by a key provided by the buyer. Please refrain from trying to copy or decrypt the manifest. As I said, the buyer is quite particular.”
“If I’m supposed to be making this delivery cloaked, how will the buyer know to pickup the merchandise?” Keren asked.
“When you arrive at the coordinates, transmit a tightbeam communication to the nearby relay station. The buyer will contact you.”
“Makes sense. Time frame?” Keren asked.
“As soon as possible, ideally by the end of next week.” The Lissepian responded as Keren sipped his nectar.
“Should be doable.” Timek answered.
“Agreed.” Keren added. “Might have to buy off a couple of Daimons to slip through Ferengi space, but their sensor nets are prone to having exploitable holes. Anything else?”
“Just follow the instructions precisely,” Nasir said. This buyer is liable to get grumpy if there are any hold ups or problems.”
Keren and Timek nodded in understanding. After Keren took another generous sip of the nectar, he stood up followed shortly thereafter by Timek.
“We should get to it then.” Keren said with smile. “Pleasure meeting you.”
The Lissepian stood and gave a slight bow. “Pleasure meeting you also.”