It's a Fanfiction story set in the DS9 era and universe set right after Quark, Rom and Nog get stranded on Earth in Rosswell in 1947 .
I've started the story back in 2002 or 2003 and this is what i have so far.
Seeing as i'd take about a century to finish it at this pace plus i've found collaborating on writing fuels my creative whatever i'd like to collaborate.
A Star trek fan fiction story
Christ A. van Silfhout
Chapter 1: The message
Quark rushed through the many narrow corridors on DS9 on his way to his quarters. Normally he wouldn´t have left the bar at this hour, it being the height of the evening rush right now, but he comm. System had notified him the message he´d been waiting to receive had finally arrived and he wanted to be as sure as he could be that no one could overhear the content of it.
For months now Quark had been working on a business scheme that, when all went as he planned, would put him in a position to take full advantage of the wormhole and the business opportunities awaiting those who had the means to get to the Gamma Quadrant and seize them.
Coming to his quarters he could hardly wait until the doors swooshed shut behind him and his automatic sensor sweep for surveillance devices and Odo completed. It was something he had installed years ago when Odo had busted up a business deal that he´d only discussed in his own quarters and therefore had to conclude that Odo had either hidden bugs in his quarters or Odo had gained entrance and hiding as some object or something had been there himself.
`Sweep completed. Nothing with the specified parameters is currently in this quarters.´ announced the computer. Quark had sat down behind his… customized computer terminal and at hearing the all clear announcement from the computer punched in the appropriate commands and opened the message. He read it, read it again and, releasing the breath he hadn´t realized he´d been holding, leaned back with a relieved sigh.
Everything had gone well, and the relief he felt was indicative that he had felt more apprehension and nervousness than he had been willing to admit to himself. Then, after a few seconds of staring blankly into the screen still showing the message, a huge smile crept onto his face, breaking into a full belly laugh moments later.
He opened a drawer and pulled out the bottle of Zokloa, a rare Ferengi Whiskey like liquor; he had been saving for a special occasion and poured himself a big tall glass of the stuff. Holding the glass up in salute he said `to my future, which has just started looking a lot more profitable than I'd ever hoped to dream it could be!` and gulped down the Zokloa in one heave.
Just as he slammed down the glass and pressed the appropriate keys on his computer terminal to confirm the final deal and erase the messages from the system´s cache the doors to his quarters opened to let his brother in. `Hello brother. What are you doing here? Are you all right? You´ve never left the bar at this time of night before, so I got worried` Rom asked anxiously.
`Yes Rom, I've actually never been better` Quark answered but decided he´d better not let Rom know too much about the deal just yet. His brother was pretty good at fixing things but he was also very naïve. He could very well inadvertently let the whole station in on his little secret and that might complicate things. Some of the deals and transactions Quark had made were less than completely legal to some people and the less people knew about them the better.
`I´ve just made purchase in the Gamma Quadrant Rom which might make me a rich Ferengi. I might even be able to finally start making enough profit to start thinking about buying my own moon. ` He exclaimed, knowing the topic of his moon would cheer his brother up. Rom´s face did light up with a smile at that. `See brother, I told you the whole thing with that shuttle you got from cousin Gaila wouldn´t set you back for long` he cheerfully replied, relieved his brother was all right. `What did you buy brother? ` Rom asked.
`I´m keeping that a surprise for now Rom, you'll see when we get there to pick it up` Quark answered. He wasn´t about to tell anyone just yet he had gotten his hands on a pretty large, almost completely automated, long range merchant starship capable of warp 9.
Chapter 2: A Difficult thing to do
"What? You're going on an extended vacation?" asked Leeta with eyes wide like saucers. "But what about the Bar? You're not closing it are you?" she added concerned. What she earned from Quark in wages wasn't very much but it was her only source of income and couldn't afford to lose it, not even for a few weeks. "Actually, I was thinking about asking you to run the bar for me while I'm gone. You think you could do that?" Quark asked the Bajorran dabo girls while giving her a thoughtful look. "I mean, you'd have to tend the bar, manage the holo suites, Keep a close watch over the dabo wheels and direct the rest of the staff. You'd also make sure to have someone clean the bar and the holo-suites and take care of the financial administration. You'd have to close the bar every night, being the last one to leave the place and go to sleep. That's a whole lot of responsibility. You up to that?" he asked. He wanted to appear to be reluctant to give the bar into Leeta's care but that was to gauge her reaction to the idea.
Truth was actually that of all the people on the station, Leeta was the only one he felt he could trust enough not to take advantage of the opportunity and would also not divulge information that Odo, Kira or Sisko would be interested in she might come across in his storage areas. The other Ferengi employees would rob him blind before the end of the week and Morn would drink away his entire stock even faster. That left either someone of the DS9 staff or he had to hire someone he didn't know at all. Leeta was the only option left he felt he could trust to do the job the way he wanted it to be done.
"Sure Quark! Wow, I am astonished. I didn't think you thought this well of me. I would love to run Quark's for a while and promise to not to disappoint you in any way!" the lovely woman exclaimed. She was clearly overjoyed and excited if not a bit overwhelmed by Quarks show of confidence in her. Before Quark knew it she planted a kiss on his fore head and grabbed him into a warm close hug. "I hope so. Here's a Padd with all the instructions you need to keep the place running. Make sure you know them before I leave. I don't know exactly when we'll be leaving but I'll let you know as soon as I can." Quark sighed, not really convinced he wasn't making a mistake and feeling a bit uneasy at the prospect of a woman running his bar. "Oh, and don't tell anyone yet either. No one needs to know I'm leaving all right?" he told her as he turned to walk out of her quarters. "If you wish. Sure. I won't tell a soul. Thanks again Quark." She answered.
Chapter 3: The riskier the road, the greater the profit.
Even though the whole incident they´d gotten into with the shuttle his cousin had given him was pretty unsettling and had cost him greatly financially it did give him the idea to see if he wasn´t able to get hold of a more substantial vessel.
Even though the deal had fallen through, using the goods he wanted to sell for fuel to get back from Earth´s 1940´s, it had given him an appreciation for the numbers involved in interstellar shipping and trade. Only then had he realized how much money his Daimon back in on the freighter he worked on before coming to ds9 had been making.
Back then he´d gotten such a lousy salary he´d never suspected that running freight could be so profitable. Now he had a ship which was easily 100 times the size of that little shuttle. The possibilities were endless. All he had to do was go pick it up at the yard he had purchased it from… in the gamma quadrant.
Three weeks after the deal was confirmed Quark and his Brother booked passage on a Bolian freighter going on an extended trade mission in the Gamma Quadrant. Two weeks after that they finally reached their destination, and their destiny, or so it felt at least to Quark and stepped onto the privately owned shipyard in orbit of a moon of the planet Karemma.
The yard bought used spaceships of all kinds and, after refurbishing them, sold them on to make a profit. Quark had taken advantage of his contacts with the Karemma to get into contact with the owner of the yard and settled on a price for a good sized merchant ship. Then he set to work on obtaining the funds required to make the purchase.
He had performed a number of high risk transactions using loaned money to purchase goods he knew he could sell, sold them at a profit and then refunded the loan before interest could accumulate to more than the profit he had achieved.
The risk was in the high amounts that were required for this to work. If one of the deals went bad, he would have been stuck with an enormous amount of debt which he would be unable to repay. In other words, he'd be bankrupt.
He had to complete all the transactions in one day or else the financial institutions and clients he dealt with would find out the exact net worth of Quarks assets and realize that there was not enough to cover the debts he had compounded.
After planning and plotting for weeks on end to prepare everything was in place for the big sweep.
The first transactions were taking out the loans from financial institutions in the more remote systems using the same assets as collateral every for all loans. It would take at least 24 hours before the financial institutions would learn the others had loaned Quark as well, with the same collateral which gave him 24 hours to earn enough to repay all the loans and the fees he owed and have enough profit to pay for the ship.
The next three hours had been spent getting ownership of goods from one place and transferring it on to others as soon as he could. Then, after the last button confirming to commit to the final transaction, all he could do was wait. The goods were in motion, and so were the flows of money and it would take at least 16 hours before the last money transfer would be confirmed and completed. If one of the deals would not be completed or one confirmation of commitment would be delayed for more than a few minutes the whole scheme would come crumbling down and he'd have been ruined, and bankrupt.
Fortunately the deals all went through as planned.
Chapter 4: Taking the prize.
As the airlock had cycled shut behind them they looked around to get their bearings and found a Karemman male waiting for them a few meters away. `Welkom to the "Hinokar" Yard. I´m Nichor, the operational agent here. You must be Quark and associate. ` The Karemman greeted them. `Thank you, I'm Quark and this is my engineering advisor Rom." Quark answered.
Rom glanced at his brother with a hint of pride in his eyes at being introduced as engineering advisor. Just before they'd reached the yard Quark had revealed the secret that awaited them at the end of their journey and Rom had excitedly jumped around their tiny quarters on the freighter for over half an hour.
"Ah you are here to take possession of the Merchant cruiser. A fine ship if I may say so. If you will follow me, I'll escort you to the berth where it is docked." The Karemman said, waving in the direction of one of the long corridors branching out from where they were standing. "Gladly" said Quark and they started walking. While they walked Nichor was busy punching in commands on his Padd, mumbling "uh huh… ah…. Wonderful…" then he spoke up.
"I've just checked all the documentation to see if all was in order. If you are finished with your inspection tour and find everything in order all we need is your thumbprint to officially and finally transfer the ownership to you."
A five minute walk later they turned a corner and came to an airlock exactly the same as the one they'd come through when they stepped of the Bolian freighter.
Quark thought for a moment they must have gotten lost but Nichor confirmed they actually were where they wanted to be. "Here we are. We've powered up all her systems for you so you can verify everything is working to specified parameters. I'll be accompanying you to answer any questions you might have." He announced as he punched in the keys to open the airlock doors.
With his heart pounding and his breath catching Quark slowly stepped across the threshold into the most valuable object he'd ever owned. The corridor he stepped into from the shipside of the airlock was brightly lit and wide enough for two persons to pass each other without touching each other. The floor was covered with fine, dark green colored carpeting, and the walls were smooth and colored a little lighter green than the floors.
The corridor curved out of sight in two directions and the air smelled crisp and clean. Up until that moment Quark had not dared to completely believe that the ship was in the condition the yard had promised him it would be and seeing it now filled his whole being with joy and excitement he'd never felt before. He felt euphoric and elated.
"This vessel is a Merchant Cruiser originally built by the Silarians as an exploration vessel. It has served in that capacity for 10 years and was then sold to our yard. Here we upgraded her power systems, navigational systems and converted many of its crew quarters and the like into cargo holds. It has three decks.
Deck one contains the bridge, the various systems which automate most of the ships functions and the largest living quarters.
On deck two are the engineering sections and propulsion.
On deck three you'll find all the cargo facilities.
The systems we've installed allows for automated loading and unloading of cargo and on the bridge a crew of two can operate every function this vessel is capable of. Navigation, propulsion and defensive measures are all voice operated and automated." Explained the Karemman with obvious pride and went on to describe the vessel in more detail.
Quark didn't even hear most of it. He was in awe with every corner they turned and every piece of equipment that Nichor showed them. He knew his brother was listening intently and carefully scrutinized every system they came across visually and by tricorder. After every scan though he could see his brother smiling at what the tricorder told him and nod towards Quark signaling that it was as the agreement stated it should be.
Three hours later the inspection tour finished and they reached the airlock to the Yard again. "You've now seen all the systems. If everything is to your satisfaction, which I believe it is... I would like to conclude our business so I can continue with my other duties" the Karemman said as the came to the airlock doors. Quark looked over to his brother.
"Well, what's you're verdict Rom?" he asked. "Eehrm, as far as I can tell everything listed in the agreement is there, and working to specs. I can't find anything wrong with anything." His brother answered. He looked a little bit uneasy, probably because he only now realized the responsibility his brother had cast upon him. If anything turned out to be wrong after all Quark would blame him for it.
"Very well then. Here you go." Said Quark, while pressing his thumb to the appropriate place on the Karemman's Padd.
"Thank you sir. It was a pleasure doing business with you. The ship is now yours. Please have it undocked and clear of our facility within two hours. Another ship is due to dock here then so the dock must be free by then." The Karemman said with a smile and a slight bow. Then he punched open the airlock, stepped through and was gone before the airlock cycled back shut.
Chapter 5: Meeting Leah.
"Yeeeeehaaaaa!" yelled Quark after a look at his brother and started hopping up and down with joy in some sort of victory dance. "I've done it. I've really done it!" he shouted at his brother. "I didn't really believe it until now Rom! I own a starship! A big fast beautiful starship!" he shouted.
"Come on, let's get this baby undocked and take her for a spin!" he shouted as he started half running half walking into the corridor. Then he stopped and turned. "I forgot…. Which way to the turbo lift?" he asked. "That way" Rom said, pointing in the opposite direction of the one Quark had been going.
Rom was delighted to see his brother so happy and excited. He had always been proud of his brother but now he was in awe. His brother, a starship Captain or Daimon as the Ferengi called it. He'd never been more proud of his brother than at that moment. He followed his brother and stepped into the turbo lift with him.
"Bridge" Quark said, and the Turbo lift obediently buzzed off to take the two to the ships command and control center. As they stepped off the turbo lift the displays came back to life and seemed to be greeting their new master.
There were four seats on the oval bridge, positioned behind three auxiliary consoles along the walls and one in the center of the bridge. The center one was outfitted with a computer console and small screens in the armrest and was covered with leather.
It looked comfortable and, at Quarks request, was low enough for a Ferengi to sit in with his feet planted firmly on the ground. Quark slowly sat into it after his brother ceremoniously wiped of some imaginary dust from it and let out a sigh as the chair's soft padding formed itself to Quarks back and buttocks.
"Welcome aboard. I am Leah, the ships computer. Please provide the command transfer code the Hinokar shipyard has provided you to confirm your voice command authorization." a female voice suddenly said. The voice seemed to come from everywhere. "Ah eehr, yes, here it is" said Quark pulling out his Padd on which he had stored the code.
"The code is three, three, nine, eight, one, Alpha, three, Gamma, five, six, Beta" he added reading out the numbers and letters from the Padd.
"Identity and authorization confirmed. Full Voice command authorization now transferred to Quark. Please state preferred command authorization confirmation code. This code will be needed when changing authorizations to crewmembers, overriding safety mechanisms, activating or deactivating self-destruct sequences and making use of defensive capabilities to deliver offensive lethal force." The sulky exotic voice of the computer went on to ask.
Quark thought about that one for a moment. He wanted to think of something hard to guess but quickly to state in case of an emergency.
"Preferred command authorization confirmation code is "better dead than broke" he stated with a smile.
"Restate command authorization confirmation code for confirmation" the computer asked. "Command authorization confirmation code is "better dead than broke" Quark stated again.
"Command authorization confirmation code stored and set. Please state the designation for this vessel." Replied the voice. Quark's eyes went wide at that last question.
He'd not thought of a name for his ship yet, assuming the ship would have a name already. He looked at his brother who had taken a seat at one of the consoles along the bridge outer wall and was scrutinizing the readouts on the displays. "Designation will be IMS Venture" he stated finally.
Rom turned in his seat and faced his brother. "All systems read ready brother. We can get underway at any time we want." He reported.
"Designation IMS Venture entered into ship's registry. The default parameters and authorizations have now been set. Welcome aboard the IMS Venture Quark. I am now ready to accept your commands and queries. "The computer's voice said as if to confirm Rom's words.
"Computer….. Leah…. Please give authorization to Rom, now sitting at the starboard bridge console, for operating all ship's engineering, navigational and logistical functions. Also give him full authorization for all ship's functions if and when I am incapacitated or in case of emergencies, until further notice." Quark called up to the ceiling, even though he had no idea where Leah, the ships computer, was actually located.
The computer answered by asking of Rom "Rom, please state your name and your function for voice recognition."
"Eerm… I am Rom, and I am Quarks brother. I guess I'll be crewmember for the moment." Rom answered.
"Voice pattern stored. Quark, please state the command authorization confirmation code to authorize Rom, brother and crewmember, for operating all engineering, navigational and logistical functions and for full authorization in case you are incapacitated or in case of emergency" Leah continued.
"Better dead than broke" stated Quark and Leah acknowledged the authorization had been given. "Then I guess it is time to leave. Leah, prepare to undock and depart" Quark stated sitting up in his seat. "View screen on. Let's see where we're going."
Chapter 6: Getting underway.
"Preparations for undocking complete." Leah answered as the view screen came to life and showed the forward facing view from the front of the ship. "Undock. Propulsion at station keeping." Quark ordered.
On the view screen the umbilical's disconnection was marked by the escaping of air and moist into space that had been left in the cables and ducts when they had been locked off. Seconds later Leah reported they had undocked and were free to maneuver.
"Increase the distance between us and the yard slowly." Quark told Leah and glanced over to his brother. "Keep a close eye on everything Rom; make sure we're not heading into something." He told him, not completely trusting the computer to do its job yet.
"Aye brother. Distance to docking port now 20 meters…. 30…. 40…. 50…" Rom reported. Leah interrupted. "We are free from the station and are free to maneuver. And we are receiving a hail from the yard." She said.
"Put them through." Quark said and the view screen changed to show a Karemman face. Quark knew who it was; as it was the man he'd done business with over subspace. "Safe journey….. IMS Venture" the Karemman said, looking down at his console to read the name of the ship, adding "I hope we can do business again some other day". Quark smiled as he answered.
"If someone needs a ship I'll remember you said that. Thank you and goodbye" The Karemman nodded and closed the connection. "And now we know communications work fine too" Rom's voice came as the view screen showed the forward view once more.
"Yes. Let's get underway shall we. No point in hanging around here any longer." Quark answered and turned his head towards the ceiling again. “Leah can you show me a star chart and plot a course on it to the wormhole?"
The view screen changed and showed a chart of space across which a yellow curved line ran from green dot upwards into a blue blinking circle. Set that course and engage at one quarter impulse." Quark ordered, and added "return the view screen to forward view".
On the screen he saw that the ship was already turning down and to port and moving forward under and past the shipyard and into open space. "Once we clear the Karemman star system, increase speed to half impulse." Quark said, and to his brother added "Let's slowly increase speeds and see if there are no fluctuations or anything's out of alignment. Keep an eye on things; look for anything that could be a problem."
An hour later the IMS Venture was cruising at a leisurely warp 5 towards the wormhole and on the other side, home. The propulsion system had performed perfectly, being taken all the way up to warp 9 for a few moments just to see if the engines could do it as promised.
So far everything was working so perfectly that Quark was beginning to wonder if everything might even be going to well. "Leah, estimated time until we reach the wormhole?" he asked, standing up from the chair. "9 days three hours and 18 minutes" the female voice answered.
"Rom, I'm going to have a good look around my new starship. Keep monitoring the systems. If there aren't any problems after an hour or two you can leave the bridge to if you want to. We're going to have to trust Leah to run the ship at one point." Quark told Rom and headed for the turbo lift.
Seconds later the doors swooshed shut leaving Rom alone on the oval bridge. For a moment he eyed the chair his brother had vacated moments before but decided not to sit in it just yet. It didn't quite feel right somehow. Then he turned to the console and started going over the instruction manual that came with the ship.
Chapter 7: Frustration.
Odo was unable to suppress a growling sound to escape him out of sheer frustration. He couldn't remember when he'd experienced anything this frustrating before. Weeks ago comm. Traffic as well as paralleled data traffic to and from Quark had spiked after steadily building up ever since the Kemacite incident.
As Quark had miraculously managed to come up with an encryption that, so far, Odo hadn't been able to break within two weeks the content of that traffic was unknown to him. He was absolutely sure that some of Quarks activities in the past few months had been in violation of at least a few rules but suspected that they were more than that and that this was the chance of finally catch Quark red handedly. He just knew that if he found out what those comm. Traffic had been about he would have him.
The simple fact though was that he didn't and he probably wouldn't until he either cracked Quark's encryption which he couldn't ask the Federation's help in seeing they frowned upon such "infringements on privacy" and had to do it all by himself, or some new evidence found its way to Odo without his own doing. It was frustrating beyond the capability of words to describe.
Just as he punched off the computer console the door's chime signaled a visitor. "Come" Odo stated at seeing Captain Sisko's darkened features through the door. The doors obediently slid open to allow the Captain into the security office. "Is everything okay constable?" he asked, adding "you looked utterly frustrated, almost enraged just now".
Odo sighed and decided there was no harm in telling the Captain about his frustration. He had found the Captain was capable of approaching a problem in a unique kind of way Odo himself would never even had considered in the past, and had a great deal of respect for the man.
Not necessarily much for the organization he represented but certainly the man. "I am frustrated Captain. Very frustrated. Please have a seat; maybe you can make a suggestion on what to do about it." Odo answered offering the seat in front of his desk. The Captain sat down and crossed his legs.
He obvious hadn't come here for a chat, and for him to be there in person instead of using the comm. Meant it was probably important but without a word devoted his full attention to whatever it was Odo was about to tell him which was one of the many mysteries to Odo about the man, at odds with the Uniform and the way the Organization it represented tended to do things. Then Sisko smiled, which confused Odo.
"Excuse me Captain. I haven't told you anything yet and yet I seem to have amused you somehow. I don't understand. "Sorry Odo, I just realized I think I know what it is that's bothering you. As it happens if I'm right about it is exactly what I have come here to discuss with you." The stations captain said. Adding: "Quark!"
"Quark" answered Odo, knowing now with more certainty than he knew his own name that Quark had gone too far. "What is it he's done this time?" he asked, almost out of reflex. "I don't know" answered the Captain, speaking the only words he had not wanted to hear from him.
A growl slipped from his throat again which would have please Worf. It took the Captain by surprise somewhat. He knew Odo to be calm, collected and very much in control of himself in any situation. For him to let his control slip in such a manner was indication that Odo felt very strongly about whatever it was.
"That… captain is exactly the source of my frustration. I suspect to have the evidence for what might be Quark's biggest scam ever, and I cannot decipher it. Like you…. I don't know." Leaving how he obtained the evidence and why being unable to decrypt would be more frustrating now than normally unmentioned.
"Since Quark had been able to return to business after the Kemacite incident a while back his comm. Traffic steadily increased which prompted me to keep a close eye on him. When I found that he was taking extraordinary precautions to make sure it was impossible to observe his actions or record what was being said I became even more suspicious." Odo explained, grinning at this point.
"Finally I noticed that his comm. Traffic was in some cases encrypted in a way not even a Federation computer could even recognize and I was sure he was up to no good." Odo continued sharing what he knew in the hope that whatever had prompted the Captain's visit was something else.
"And now he has mysteriously disappeared with his brother Rom for more than 3 weeks ago leaving his most valuable possession, the bar, in the case of a dabo girl. That means that whatever he's involved in is bigger than the worth of the bar and basically everything he possesses." The Captain finished for him.
He knew that if the encryption had held up to the constable's efforts for this long it meant it had been very very hard to obtain and would've cost a fortune. Not even the Romulan Tall Shiar used encryptions that sophisticated in most of their comm. Traffic.
"Well, the only thing which made me really worry was that just a few minutes ago we received a signal from a vessel on the other side of the wormhole offering its designation and registration for entry into our databases. The In depended Merchant Vessel IMS Venture, under the command of its owner and Daimon, Quark will be entering through the wormhole in just over a day and start doing business in our quadrant under its own flag" Sisko explained looking up at Odo at that point.
"The specs on it are…. Astonishing Odo. Three decks, capable of carrying one million metric tons of cargo and capable of a cruising speed of warp 8,5. It's even armed with two directed energy weapons of unknown strength and one torpedo launcher capable of firing torpedoes of unknown design and strength." He told the station's chief of security, who visibly flinched at the realization of just what that meant.
"That is terrible, if it turns out to be true. I still have difficulty accepting that Quark would be able to pay the resources it must take to procure a vessel such as that. Not even Bajor, an entire planet, has that kind of resources. I don't even think I have ever heard of such a ship being in private possession before." Odo exclaimed.
"There aren't many, I can assure you. Like you say, many warp capable civilizations never actually achieved warp flight simply because of the resources it takes to build a ship like that." Sisko answered.
"The frustrating part for me is that the paperwork he has submitted to the regional authorities, including Starfleet, is perfectly in order and seems legal. There's nothing I can do to stop him from taking that ship and go off to wreak whatever havoc he fancies with it" the captain finished, growling himself a bit at the thought of a Ferengi with no ties to the Ferengi Trade Alliance loose in space with a vessel like that.
Even though warp 8.5 was a long way from the top speed of warp-ships these days, the vessels that were actually capable of matching that speed and surpassing it were not abundant. Only organizations the size of the Federation, the Klingon Empire, The Romulan Empire and the Cardassian or the Tholians had them. Some of the Orian Syndicate vessels could do it as well, but maybe not for sustained periods of time. That meant that 99 out of a hundred times Quark's ship would easily outrun any ship trying to either stop it or damage it. The fact that it carried weapons was something Sisko had not even wanted to think about yet. That was too much to take in.
"I want you to use whatever resources you need to find out whatever you can about whatever it is Quark is into and perhaps just as importantly, who did he piss off in his schemes to get this ship of his. My bet is that if he did piss someone off, that someone is not going to be writing letters of complaints about it." Said Sisko. Odo frowned at this.
"Whatever resource Captain? That is… unusual. Normally when Starfleet asks me to do investigations like this I'm doggedly reminded time and time again that they will not condone any action that might be in violation of regulations or protocol." He said, scrutinizing the Captain's reaction.
"Then let me make it as clear as I can make it constable." Sisko said leaning forward to make sure to convey to Odo how serious he was about what he was about to say.
"This quadrant at the moment is a virtual warp core breach waiting to happen. The Cardassians are watching our every move in fear of missing out on the benefits the wormhole can provide since the wormhole's discovery. They will in the future as they have in the past, shown that they would jump at any opportunity that would give them some sort of control over it." The Captain said, raising one finger as if to count that one off the list.
"The Romulans have recently showed that their interest and indeed involvement in this region of space has increased significantly" he continued raising a second finger. He then raised a third saying "and the Klingons were ready to start a war with the Federation not long ago because of the threat they feel that the Dominion poses."
He sighed as he finished up his argument. "All of the Alpha Quadrant is on edge fearing that the next time the wormhole opens it will spew out a Dominion Invasion Armada. It wouldn't take much to set off this core breach we call the Alpha Quadrant Constable." He stood from the chair as he spoke making ready to leave Odo's office.
"Starfleet Command and I personally both agree that the last thing we need is a Ferengi, who is not bound by the Ferengi Alliance to do nothing that might be damaging to the Ferengi Alliance, to roam space in a ship like that. If that wasn't bad enough there's a gut feeling I've got about this…. I can't help but fear that Quark will get himself mixed up in some grand incident, way bigger than even we thinks it can be. I hereby take full responsibility and promise you that rules and regulations carry little or no weight in comparison to the threat posed by this situation." He told Odo.
He then lowered his head and his voice which indicated to Odo that what he was going to say was his own view, and not Starfleet's. "You know right from wrong Odo, and you're a good person, all I can ask is…. just don't do anything you wouldn't except from anyone else."
"I understand Captain. I'll do the best I can" Odo answered and added "and thank you Captain." Before the doors swooshed shut and the Captain made his way into the crowd on the promenade. Odo turned to his console and began tying in the various and extensive databases and computer centers in the United Federation of Planets to assist in his efforts to decrypt Quark's encryptions.
Chapter 8: Distress Call
It was just when Quark, Daimon Quark, had retired for a little sleep before reaching the wormhole and was busy imagining the reactions of everyone at home when he stepped of the IMS Venture. A strange chime sounded first, then twice, before Quark realized someone was at the door. "Rom!" Quark growled. "Leave me alone, I need some sleep!" he called out.
"But brother…erm Daimon, we're picking up a distress signal." Came his brother muted reply from the other side of the still closed door. Quark grunted at that. Just great, he thought while his subconscious struggled between his Ferengi side and the other side he wished he didn't have.
That side won anyhow and with a sigh he got off the bed and went over to the door. As it opened his brother looked up at him expectantly. "We're not going to ignore a distress call are we brother? That wouldn't be right." He said.
"As much as it pains it to admit it, I wouldn't be able to look myself in the mirror if we did Rom. Set a course and let's see if we can help" he answered. "Leah" he called "set a course for the source of the distress signal. Keep your scanners pealed. Anything comes up on 'em I want to know." He ordered while making his way to the bridge with his brother in tow.
"Acknowledged" came the sexy computer voice from the sky.
As Quark sat down in the center seat on the bridge and his brother took to his favorite console to the side, Leah announced a comm. Signal coming in. "On screen" Quark said.
The view of the streaking stars was replaced with the view of a gorgeous alien woman. Even through the static and smoke bellowing around the woman her beauty was obvious.
"I am Daimon Quark of the Independent Merchant Ship Venture. We received your distress call" Quark introduced himself without offering anything.
He wanted to know what was going on before committing to anything. The beauty of the woman was striking though.
"I am Leh’Na OfTroj heir to the throne of the Kaligoli Empire. I was attacked by… pirates but managed to escape. My vessel has been damaged extensively and I require assistance. Can you help me?" the woman answered.
"Just a moment" Quark said and cut the signal. "Leah, what do sensors say?" he asked.
"The vessel is a yacht type vessel. Hull shows energy weapons damage. Energy readings fluctuating. Technology used for propulsion unknown. There is an 80% probability of a warp core breach-like event occurring any moment though." Leah reported.
"Leh’Na … erm… highness… we're going to have to beam you off, as your vessel is about to explode. Stand by." Quark told the princess after signaling the channel open again. "Leah, beam her highness to the bridge's transporter pad." Quark ordered, making his decision.
In his mind the opportunities of befriending a royalty from an empire began to run amok. This could be the best thing that happened to him since getting the Venture!
Seconds later Quark had gotten up and was standing in front of the transporter pad when the shape of the alien princess took shape. As soon as she was solid she stepped towards him and grabbed him in a hug.
"Thank you so much! I was so frightened!" she whimpered. Then, on the view screen behind them a bright flash signaled the end of the royal yacht as it exploded into a cloud of plasma.
"You saved my life" the gorgeous young woman exclaimed and kissed Quark before he was aware of what was happening.
He was so shaken he couldn't utter a word and just stared at the princess.
"Welcome aboard the IMS Venture." For once Rom was the one not Tung tied.
"My name is Rom and this is my brother, Daimon of this vessel, Quark" Rom said after a few awkward seconds. He stepped towards the fragile looking women and offered his hand.
Chapter 9: Trouble.
Leah broke the next one awkward silence with her sulky voice. "Sensors detect vessels on an intercept course. Origin unknown, design unknown." Leah stated flatly.
Quark bolted for his seat. "On screen, open hailing frequencies" He yelped.
The view screen changed to the view of two ominous looking ships about the size of a Starfleet Peregrine fighter for a few seconds to be replaced by an even more ominous looking alien. He was dressed in black battle armor and wore a helmet covering his entire head. In it two red dots were visible, presumably the visual sensory input. Quark wasn't even sure if it was an organic or mechanical being he was looking at.
"Alien vessel, you have taken aboard an enemy of the Kleringon confederacy. You shall hand her over to us or be destroyed" the alien said.
Leah's voice came next. "Sensors indicate alien vessels have powered up energy weapons and shields. Recommend battle alert status" she said. From behind him the alien princess called out "Please don't let them get me! I beg of you, help me! They'll torture me and kill me!"
For a few seconds Quark was stunned. How had he gotten into this? What should he do? His instinct told him to protect the girl, get out of the area quickly and figure things out later. His, Ferengi, brain told him to let them have the girls and to not ask questions. His instinct won. "I'm going to regret this" he muttered under his breath, and added; "And later you're going to tell me who these so called pirates really are!"
Quark turned to the alien on the screen next.
"Listen, I don't want any trouble, but I can't just give you this girl, just because you want her. Nothing is ever for free!" he began the 'negotiation'. "If I hadn't beamed her off when I did, she'd be space dust by now anyway!" he said, finding an angle to pitch. "Why don't we discuss this like civilized beings, and see if we can't make a deal." Quark smiled. "Power down your weapons and let's talk" he pleaded.
The smile vanished quickly.
"You shall die" was the cold reply of the alien, before the communication channel went offline.
On the screen the two ships had grown in size and were still coming straight at them. "BATTLE ALERT, EVASIVE MANOUVRES!" Quark yelled, cringing in a classing Ferengi panic cringe.
Suddenly the Venture shot forward diving down and to port while her impulse engines kicked in. Two bolts of deadly energy sliced space where she had been seconds ago.
The aliens had fired.
Chapter 10: Fight or Flight?
"Can we shoot back?" Quark asked, clambering into his seat.
He was as scared as he had ever been. Strangely enough Rom didn't seem all that phased and was concentrating on the console in front of him.
"Yes brother, Leah has directed energy weapons and torpedoes" Rom said as to emphasize his cool headedness.
Quark now remembered he had come across mentioning of weaponry on the Venture but hadn't really paid much mind to it at the time. If he remembered correctly, Venture carried quite an impressive punch that could match even a Federation Heavy Cruiser a nasty headache.6
A few breaths later he nodded and spoke up.
"Leah, lock onto the lead alien and fire a warning shot. Let them know we can shoot back" Quark ordered, having drawn a little strength from his brothers coolness to his own surprise.
On the screen, which now showed a view from the aft of the Venture, a dark green streak of light flashed through the picture, clearly missing the alien lead vessel deliberately. The reply was swift and clear. The alien unleashed another volley of deadly energy into the Venture's shields.
"Okay" Rom swallowed. "That didn't work" he mumbled.
Quark looked at him for a second with a sigh. Even now he could be amazed by his brother's talent to state the obvious. He looked back at the screen angry and gave Leah her next orders. "Then we'll just have fight back!" he stated and ordered "Fire at the lead vessel".
A green streak of deadly disruptor energy lashed out from the Venture, striking the lead enemy vessel head on. It dropped back for a second with its shields glowing bright blue but then retook its lead position as if nothing happened.
"Targets shields down to 50%." Leah reported, bringing a fleeting smile to Quarks face.
"Warning, incoming projectiles" Leah continued, wiping all vestiges of that fleeting smile from existence. The ship then shook a little as something obviously impacted.
"Shields holding, no damage." Leah said rather emotionlessly.
"Rom, I don't think these guys are going to let this go. Target their engines, and fire to disable them." Quark told his brother.
On the screen a spread flurry of beams shot from the sides of the Venture's hull, connecting with the two vessels. It took only 4 hits to each of the two pursuers before little explosions at the aft sections of the two vessels ended the existence of the alien ship's propulsion systems.
Quark let out a sigh of relief as he saw them fall back but then his breath caught as the View screen showed something terrible unfolding.
Unable to control their momentum without propulsion the left alien vessel began to veer of course. Seconds later it buried its nose into the side of its companion. Even fewer seconds later, nothing of the two vessels remained but superheated molecules.
"Oh no…" was all Quark could say.
Chapter 11: Now what?
"Princess, you got a lot to explain!" Quark almost growled as he spun to face her. Then he saw the terror stricken expression on her face and took a deep breath to steady himself. He told himself that no one voluntarily found themselves in the situation the girl found herself in right now, except for Klingons maybe.
In a softer, more reasonable, tone of voice he continued. "What have you gotten us into? I know a lot of pirates' missy, and they look nothing like those guys we just killed! Those were military of some sort." he asked.
The girl sat down at a small table as Rom magically appeared with drinks for everyone. She held her head in her hands for a moment and then looked up with an expression of resignation on her face.
"My people and their people have been at war for a long time. Quite a few years ago an uneasy cease fire was established ending the hostilities." She began her story, before tears fogged up her eyes and some sort of icy anger filled her voice.
"Now they've betrayed us" she spat. "They started a new offensive and overwhelmed the colony on the outer borders between our territories, on which I was visiting." She completed the short version of the story.
She started to sob a bit as her mind took her back to the events that followed. Quark got up from his seat and went over to the petite woman. As he laid his hand on her shoulder looking for something to say she started telling them more.
"We never knew what hit us until it was too late. Communications were jammed, so we couldn't even warn anyone. I barely escaped myself in my yacht, and only because it was kept ready to depart on a moment's notice as part of standard protocol." Leh’Na said. She then looked up into Quark's eyes and gave him a pleading look.
"I must get to my home world to let my people know I am all right. And I must warn them of the enemies' betrayal. They have no idea of their strength and numbers! Our people must prepare and fight back or we'll be crushed!" the young woman told the two Ferengi, the woman's expression becoming more panicked by the second.
"Please help me! Billions of lives depend on it!" she added in tears.
Quark's heart broke there and then, but he still wasn't prepared to take everything at face value. She had lied before when she had told Quark she had been raided by pirates.
Leah interrupted any further thought on the subject though. "Sensors indicate 12 vessels, with similar energy signatures to the vessels which attacked us. They're on an intercept course, and sensors indicate they have weapons energized and their shields up" she said.
Chapter 12: The run home.
"RED.. Erm... I mean BATTLE ALERT!" Quark yelled instinctively, his voice pitched up quite high with instinctive fear.
He then went over to his seat and plunged down into it. He steadied himself and the tried to sound calm and collected.
"Set a course for the wormhole at maximum warp" Quark ordered. 2 ships was one thing but 12 was something else entirely. And he still wasn't entirely sure that win over the first two vessels wasn't beginners luck either. He wasn't willing to test the limits of the Venture's firepower against twelve targets just yet.
"Course laid in" Leah reported
"ENGAGE ENGAGE!" yelped Quark.
In seconds the view screen showed the streaking stars which told Quark they'd jumped to warp. The worried look on his brothers face told him before his voice confirmed it.
"They're following us brother." Rom stated. Quark was glad he followed that statement with another. "They're not as fast as we are, but not by much" Rom told Quark.
"Keep going as fast as we can." He told everyone, nodding. "All we need to do is get home. Then it'll be all right. You'll see! Sisko will help us, I'm sure of it!" Quark lied.
Even though the Federation and Starfleet had a reputation of helping everyone who needed it, he also knew what Sisko felt about the Ferengi and about him in particular. He wasn't sure of anything anymore, except maybe the fact that he was in way over his head.
When Rom told him they were unable to reach DS9, not even through the subspace relay at the wormhole's mouth he knew the Kleringon pursuers were jamming communications and they were good at it. Jamming communications for such a wide area was quite an impressive feat.
Over the next two hours the Venture kept increasing her lead on the pursuing aliens. The lead didn't increase to the point where they were out of the sensor range of the aliens though. Every time the Venture changed course to shake them off they matched their course right away. When they reached the wormhole the lead was only three minutes.
The wormhole blossomed open in its usual beautiful glory to allow the Venture passage through. Its beauty unnoticed this time as Rom frantically plotted the course Leah was to follow into and through the wormhole. Usually this procedure was in the nav. computers that traversed the wormhole but apparently the procedure wasn't in her databanks yet. Whoever built her wasn't aware of the wormhole's existence yet.
As the Venture went into the wormhole, the alien vessel's sensors had picked up enough to know how to follow them in even if they hadn't been aware of the wormhole before, and their species inherit determination allowed for no other course of action. They would follow.
Meanwhile on the other side of the wormhole the night shift in ops was unaware of the excitement heading their way.
Ops was quiet at this time of night. The day of the expected return, of Quark in his new acquisition, had come and gone, and ops was now its usual night shift oasis of calm again. Except for O'Brien and Kira but that was not unusual either.
"There chief! You've got it. Sensor resolution back to 100% again." The Major exclaimed as her sensor range extended back to the maximum specified range, unlike it had the 20 times they'd reset their equipment before.
"Thank god! You know what it turned out to be Major? This little piece of circuitry!" the chief grumbled as he crawled out from under a panel in the engineering pit. He held up a piece of electronics no larger than a fingernail.
"And the reason I couldn't find what was wrong with it was because it worked just enough to answer the diagnostics queries but not enough for the full flow of sensor data-streams that it had to process in normal operation." He added.
"Well, glad you found it chief. It was driv…" Kira sighed as her console started beeping for her attention. "Hang on… something's coming through the wormhole" she said as she punched in commands on her console. She checked the schedule again to verify what she already knew. "Nothing's scheduled to come in at this hour." Kira added almost mumbling to herself.
She put the view screen up and directed it to the wormhole. The blue, swirling, lightshow that signaled an arrival or departure could be seen in full swing.
From its center a bright dot was spewed forth after which the lightshow ended. Just as she was about to turn the full sensor array of DS9 poring over the dot and punching open an angry hail through her console it happily beeped at her announcing an incoming hail. She put it up on screen, sighed in frustration and her gut wrenched as she saw who it was who was calling.
Chapter 13: What? No Welcome home party?
"Quark! We were expecting you about five hou…." Kira started to say, aiming to scald Quark for not keeping to his arrival schedule and showing up this late at night. Quark interrupted her though.
"Major, you must help me! I am being chased by viciously aggressive aliens, trying to kill me." He said rushing the words out of his mouth. At the smile on Kira's face he saw the obvious pun on her mind. "Yes I know you have the urge to yourself all the time.. Please major, I am begging you. I am speaking the truth and they'll arrive any second now!" Quark yelled, obviously scared out of his wits.
On the background Kira heard a woman's voice. "I repeat; tactical analysis of the last encounter with vessels of this type shows our capabilities provide a 98% chance of complete annihilation of all opposing forces without irreparable damage or injuries to crew." Kira noticed Quark frowning up to the ceiling at that as the voice continued. "Recommend engaging the enemy".
Kira frowned at that, not knowing what to think about this. It was obvious Quark wasn't faking his fear this time. She got annoyed at the Ferengi.
Quark had obviously gotten into such trouble that he felt he was in over his head, and now he was looking for someone to give him a way out. If she heard the feminine voice on that ship correctly though, someone felt that out was in fighting, and denied the situation warranted Quarks distress.
Kira wasn't happy at the thought of any fights being fought over anything in Bajorran space, much less one with Quark at the center of it. She sighed and decided to play the safe card until she knew more.
"Maneuver your vessel in between the upper docking pylons Quark. We'll put up shields around you if someone actually tries to shoot at you. I doubt anyone will want to piss off a Federation controlled space station by shooting at anything close by… even if it is to get at you Quark!" she said with an evil sneer. Then she tapped her comm. Badge.
"Kira to Captain Sisko, Quark is back and he claims to be followed by a bunch of aggressive aliens. I think you need to come up here." She said. "On my way" Sisko's disembodied reply came. She could hear in his voice he was not happy with this call, not in the slightest! She had no idea at that point that Quark would turn out to be right this time.
The moment Quark slipped in between DS9's docking pylons Captain Sisko reached Ops.
"Report" he snapped. He had been about to hit the hay and was not happy about being back in Ops at this hour. Quark had just come through the wormhole in a ship of unknown design he saw on the View screen and it was making a beeline for the station.
"It matches the data Quark had submitted when registering his new ship" Kira said but Sisko noticed its beauty and grace was surprising as was its size. A look at the readouts of the Sensor array told him it was an impressive ship too. Sensors picked up lots of energy flowing through it. Tactical readouts told him she had teeth too.
"He claims there are twelve hostile alien ships after him which all want to kill him. Even though we've had nothing on sensors to support his claims I decided to let him park between the pylons. I told him we can put our shields around him if someone is foolish enough to start shooting." Kira reported professionally.
"Open a channe…" Sisko started to say but he was interrupted by the console beeping to announce new arrivals through the wormhole.
"Damn, we never saw them coming" Kira snarled confused. "They must have disabled the sensor relay at the other side of the wormhole. Sensors now confirm twelve vessels coming through. Scanning…." She reported what her screens told her. "They've got weapons charged, and their shields are up. The database is coming up empty on them. Unknown design. Look like Heavy fighters or Light escort vessels Captain."
"I am going to kill Quark" Sisko muttered. Then he straightened his back and slipped back into command mode. "Red alert, shields up, charge weapons." He ordered with a sigh, hoping there would come a time when those words would no longer be needed. On his tactical display he noticed that Quark's vessel had come to a full stop with the stations shields but hadn't made any attempts to dock yet.
"Hail them Major" he ordered.
The view screen changed from showing the oncoming alien swarm into a black armored figure donning a face covering helmet. Two dots looked straight at the Captain. Uneasy Sisko opened the conversation. "I am Captain Benjamin Sisko of the Federation Space Station Deep Space 9, identify yourself and state your intentions."
The Alien stared at him in silence for a second or two before his chilly voice exploded from the ops speakers. "I am Squadron Commander Kriell, of the Kleringon Confederacy Battle Carrier Obliteration."
Sisko swallowed. He knew from the pride in the alien's voice he was no easy man to deal with. When the alien continued he knew there was going to be trouble.
"We are in pursuit of an enemy vessel which has engaged and destroyed two ships and our brethren within them. Vengeance must be had." The alien simply stated as if it could not be any other way. It then somehow gave Sisko the distinct impression whatever it would say next was directed at him personally.
"Your station design and its metals are different from the ship we followed here. I assume they're not of your kind. You need not have any part in this situation. You need not die today." Then, without it moving in any way it was clear the next words were required by protocol and no more than formality.
"We demand you power down your weapons and lower your shields. Do not interfere when we take or destroy the vessel. Any interference on your part will be an act of war against the Kleringon Confederacy. You have 30 seconds to drop your shields".
Before Sisko could reply to that, the communication was cut off from the alien's side, and the view of space and the alien vessels returned. Right away the console in front of O'Brien chimed. He frowned and stabbed at his controls in disbelief.
"Sir, a communications jamming blanket has covered the entire sector. No communication of any kind is coming in or out. If we're lucky then maybe we still have commbadge communications but other than that, we're mute." Behind Sisko he could hear Kira curse. "We can't even reach Quark's ship anymore. And the alien vessels are surrounding the station from all sides now sir." Kira reported before her frown deepened even further.
"Quark's ship is powering up weapons and raising shields." She said, looking up in confusion at Sisko.
"Sisko to Defiant crew. Report to battle stations. Prepare to scramble." Sisko ordered after tapping the commbadge."
While he walked over to the lift and stepped on it he looked at Kira.
"Major, you've got ops. Defend the station and Quark's ship, but I want you to target to disable only!" he looked her in the eyes then. "I want as little to no casualties as possible."
Kira looked at him a little worried for a second and said "Captain…. What if Quark deserves their anger?"
Sisko's face darkened as he let out a low growl.
"Then I'll be wearing Ferengi leather boots soon Major…. "Sisko answered in a cold grim rumbling voice and then yelled "DEFIANT!" He was whooshed out of sight as the lift dropped downwards to take him to the Defiant.
Chapter 14: No choice but to fight.
Before the Defiant could launch the shooting started though. At first the shots from the alien vessels were aimed at the Venture but the stations' shields stood in their way. Realizing that they had to take the shields down first before they could get to the Venture they turned their fire to the Station.
"We've got to do something brother" Rom yelped. "We can't just let them shoot at our home!"
Quark shook his head though. "We don't know what Sisko wants us to do, we'd better wait until he tells us" Quark said hoping they could just sit safely inside the stations shields and stay out of this whole mess from that point on.
"Communications jammed. Communications with station not possible" Leah said as if to pop that dream bubble, though she'd not been asked. Quark sighed as he made a decision. He was surprised at how much easier it seemed to become to take the lead in a crisis situation.
"Leah tactical analysis, is the space station capable of defending itself against these attackers?"
"Analyzing. It is highly likely the vessels will eventually coordinate their attacks and gradually chew up the stations shields." Leah emotionlessly told him. And as if to clarify it in a manner a Ferengi could not ignore she added "there is a 70% probability the space station will be destroyed"
"Well there you have it then." Said quark. "That decides it then" and then took a deep breath before sitting down in his chair again "Leah, Battle alert. Charge weapons and target the alien vessels. Disable their weapons if possible." He ordered sounding surprisingly calm and collected, even to himself.
Rom's expression changed to that of relief just before he turned to his console. Leah reported that weapons were ready and shields were at maximum. Quietly Quark ordered "take us in and protect the station".
In OPS the actions of the venture did not unnoticed. Sisko had abandoned his descent to the Defiant and ordered it to scramble at once. He returned to Ops. Seconds after he had left it.
Kira looked at her console and uttered a profanity before turning to Sisko reporting "captain quark vessel is moving out from between the pylons and it has powered up its weapons!"
Sisko looked at Kira Incredulously, and open mouthed, before snapping back into action yelling "Get that ship in a tractor beam at once and keep them out of this!"
Kira replied with another unexpected tactical development though. "Captain the alien vessels have stopped firing, they seem to be regrouping. They probably figured out their weapons are unable to penetrate our shields. It's a good bet they're going to concentrate their fire and try to punch through with force. "
"They've now formed two groups sir, a group of five is going towards Quarks ship, two moving to intercept the Defiant and another five are heading for the Station." Kira added as her tactical display fed her information.
"Try to keep them from grouping up on us!" Sisko yelled and was expecting to see the tractor beam hook onto the Venture any second when sparks shot up from the tactical console. On the View screen the IMS venture slipped through the pylons unchallenged, flashed her impulse engines sending her streaking to the nearest group of the aliens.
"Tractor beam just blew out sir. I can't stop Quark unless I fire on him" Kira explained.
Sisko grumbled. This lousy situation was about to become even worse.
Green streaks of deadly energy lashed out and connected with two alien vessels, causing them to explode at once. Three orbs, glowing bright red, spewed forth from the top of quarks ship before quickly connecting with the remaining alien vessels in the group that Leah had targeted. The entire area flashing up brightly, in a blinding display of matter anti matter annihilation, reducing the alien vessels to expanding clouds of superheated plasma.
This sudden and swift loss of five of their brethren, and their inability to penetrate the station's shields was enough to make even these determined aliens realize the futility of continuing the attack and as one all seven of the alien vessels turned their noses towards the wormhole and headed away from the station.
In OPS O'Brian reported that the commutation blackout had lifted as well. The immediate crisis seemed to be over for the moment. Slowly the departments began reporting their damage and Sisko took a moment to be grateful no one had been killed on the station. Then the realization of what happened began to sink in. The ramifications of this battle for the Federation might be enormous. Maybe he had just witnessed the beginning of another interstellar war which could cost the lives of Billions.
The look and Sisko's eyes and told anybody who looked at them the captain was virtually out of himself with rage when Dax got up to Ops half a minute after the fight ended. She had been stuck on the lower decks as the power went down in the section her quarters were in. She had been kept updated through her commbadge on the way up. She knew exactly what happened.
Dax even got a little frightened when she saw the extent of her old friend's anger. He turned to her with a growl. "get the ship of that little troll docked, confiscated, throw that filthy reptiles brother into the brig and haul Quarks doomed sorry ass into my office RIGHT NOW!" and then stomped up the steps, into his office and out of view.
Only minutes later that Quark was practically thrown into Sisko's office by Worf's powerful hands. "The Ferengi slime you wanted to see sir." Worf gruffly said with disdain.
"Thank you Mr. Worf. Please leave us. Mr. Quark and I have a lot to talk about" Sisko replied with a silken voice, smiling a vicious looking smile. Quark, true to his Ferengi instincts held his hands over his head and cringed into the chair in front of Sisko's desk. As Worf left the office, even the Klingon Warrior would not want to be in the Ferengi shoes at this time.
Chapter 15: Standing up to Sisko.
In the office Sisko was still smiling at Quark as a predator does when he sees defenseless pray. He got up and sat on his desk in front of Quark.
Then in a silky smooth voice asked Quark: "Well now Quark. Why don't you give me an explanation for all of this?" He said, and turned his voice to a low grumble. "Please, tell me… what explanation I shall give in my report”
Menacingly he let that grumble turn into a rumble and his smile turn into an expression of raging anger..." What shall I say to make it all right when I tell Starfleet we might have just started an interstellar war with a Gamma Quadrant empire?" He yelled with his face mere millimeters from Quarks. Quark grabbed his lobes in pain at that and stumbled backwards over the chair and onto the floor.
"Please Captain. You have to believe me." Quark cried as he groveled for cover. "I was only trying to help a lady in distress!" his high pitch squeal cried out.
As he began to think about what actually had lead up to all this trouble he found the courage to defend himself, even to a berserker Sisko.
"No Starfleet ship or crew would have acted any differently." He said as he crawled to his feet, vehemently adding "Check my ships logs and sensors if you want!" Then it was Quark who pushed his face into Sisko's with anger and rage radiating off it. "I WAS ONLY TRYING TO HELP!" Quark shouted and then stepped to the chair, picked it up and sat down. He couldn't help remembering that no good deed ever goes unpunished.
Sisko straightened at that, looking incredulously at Quark. He had known the Ferengi for a while now and could almost read him like a book. And now he was reading that Quark actually believed what he was saying. It had been the one option he had not considered in his contemplation of what had gotten Quark and then him and maybe even the Federation into the trouble they were in.
He stared at Quark for a few moments and then walked back behind his desk and sat in his chair. He punched in some keys on the console on the desk and the face of O'Brien appeared.
"Yes sir?" the engineer asked, the glint in his eyes betraying the joy he had in getting to poke around the new ship Quark had brought in. Sisko gruffly ordered him to report.
"We can't get in sir. It will not allow anyone but the authorized crew onto the ship. It won't interface any further with our systems other than to dock and connect to the station's power." Miles told Sisko. He knew that he the captain would get Quark to give them authorization so he hadn't even tried more than a cursory attempt at circumventing the ship's security protocols. From that though he had learned that its systems were very very advanced.
Sisko looked over to Quark. "We will need access Quark." He said. Quark looked up at him, feeling good about having stood up to Sisko and nodded. He touched the communications device that connected him to Leah, the IMV Venture's artificial intelligence.
"Leah, Quark here. Please authorize access to the ship and for downloading the ship's sensor logs and communication's recordings to Chief Miles O'Brian." He ordered. He had busied himself during their dash for the wormhole setting up security protocols with Leah. If there was one thing he had learned over the years, with Odo's constant vigilance to motivate him, it was that securing the computer systems you used from prying eyes was a necessity. The order he had given would allow O'Brian to go into the ship, roam the corridors and access the auxiliary control station on the bridge. That access would be limited to the logs only and Leah would record his every move while he was on the ship.
"Authorization established. DNA profile obtained." Sounded Leah's sexy voice through the little speaker of the device Quark held.
"Go ahead Chief. Let me know as soon as you've downloaded those logs." Sisko ordered the still waiting Miles on the little screen on Sisko's desk.
To Quark he said "No we will wait and see" leaving unspoken the trouble Quark would be in if those logs would show anything but evidence of his innocence.
Chapter 16: Miles meets Leah
Miles approached the Venture's airlock door once again and this time it didn't just sit there in silent defiance. The little screen besides the doorway lit up and a voice sounded from a speaker somewhere. "Identify for access please" a sulky feminine voice asked him.
"Chief Miles O'Brian, I'm here…" Miles began but was cut off when a blue beam came from above the door and spilled over him top to bottom.
"DNA profile matched. Access granted" said the woman's voice as the doorway started to slide back and then up into the hull.
"Thank you" Miles mumbled and stepped into the IMV Venture.
After the airlock door was shut again, another door allowed him a view of the interior of the ship. The woman voice told him all he needed to do was follow the green line that suddenly appeared in front of him on the floor. A wide corridor led away for a few meters ending in another corridor. Left and right were doors which remained shut at his approach. Signs on some of them told him this must be the living quarter’s section. The green lines took him around a few turns and finally lead him to a door that was unlabeled. It opened at his approach and revealed what was obviously the ship's bridge.
"The activated station to your right may be used to download the sensor logs and communications recordings." The voice told him. Miles looked up.
"May I ask you something?" he asked.
"Yes, but I cannot guarantee I can answer." The voice replied.
"Do you have a name?" he asked.
"My name is Leah. I am the ship's artificial intelligence." Leah answered.
Meanwhile Miles had found how he could connect his tricorder to the computer console and had found he had access to only 2 files. He started the download initiation sequence.
"How much control do you have over the ship?" He asked looking up for a moment.
"That information is restricted" Leah told him.
O'Brian scowled at that. "What kind of computer architecture is your system based on?" he asked, hoping to pry some information from the sulky voice. "Is there anything else you can tell me about yourself or the ship?"
"The vessels designation is Independent Merchant Vessel Venture. This vessel is the property of Quark's Merchant Company." Leah intoned as if bored with the conversation.
"That's all?" Miles asked, taken aback. "Can't you tell me where you're from or who built you? What your top speed is? Anything?" he asked scowling at the ceiling.
"I'm sorry; I am not authorized to provide you with any other information." Leah answered.
Miles had just about enough of this, and just as the data downloads had completed he initiated one of his little programs which had helped him come to an understanding with resistant computer systems before. The program initiated and probed the computer system for any entrance it could find so it could brute force its way into it. Just as the scanning sequence reached its end he suddenly noticed the bridge started to shimmer. Next thing he knew he was standing outside the airlock of the IMS Venture looking stupid with his tricorder held out in front of him and him bent forward looking intently into its little screen. "Error: Connection lost" read the screen.
An Irish profanity sounded across the docking ring as Miles expressed his frustration.
Chapter 17: A monster awakened.
From his vantage point in the middle of the command and control center Lord Krnage looked down upon the screens upon which the progress reports were coming in. The command and control center was large and spacious. Over a hundred dedicated officers were busy coordinating over one million men on the ground, one thousand ground invasion support vessels and three hundred space dominance vessels. This campaign was the biggest his people had ever launched and had been in preparation for over a hundred years. He was proud he had been chosen to be the one to lead it.
The first stage of the campaign was coming to a close and it had gone without a hitch. The outer most colony of the Kaligoli Empire was now completely under their control. "Lord, I have some disturbing news" announced his most trusted officer and friend Overseer Krellg. Krnage looked over at him surprised. "What news?" he asked.
"It seems a vessel escaped the blockade. Interceptors were dispatched but apparently they were destroyed… by an alien vessel." Krellg reported, reading off the screens as the information came in. "More interceptors were dispatched which followed the alien vessel into a spatial anomaly. I'm sending the full report over to your station now my lord." Krellg continued.
As he took in the information which was relayed to him Krnage became angry, as well as worried. Though all the commanders involved followed standard procedure the outcome was not one he could use at this stage of the campaign his leaders had sent him on. He looked up menacingly at Krellg. "Let me summarize if I may to see if I understand correctly" he said, staring at Krellg. "A member of the Kaligoli royal family escaped found refuge on an alien vessel which took her through an anomaly and to a space station of considerable proportions which destroyed a large portion of a complete squadron of heavy fighters in the process." He asked.
To his credit, Krellg didn't flinch and answered simply and matter-of-factly "yes my lord". And then continued. "The matter may be more grievous than it already looks my lord. Please review the communication transcripts." He said as he punched some controls.
On Krnage's screen the communications logs appeared. As he read the communication between the squadron's commander and the commander of the alien space station he frowned. Apparently this space station was owned by a "Federation of Planets" which indicated they might have gotten into a fight with a formidable foe. This was not something the confederacy could afford right now. Not until the campaign to conquer the Kaligoli Empire was completed.
"This anomaly through which the squadron came to this station. Do we have a location on it?" asked Krnage. "Yes my lord." Answered Krellg and brought up a map of space showing their own and the anomaly's location. "We must make sure this "Federation" does not become a problem Krellg. Dispatch a scientific vessel to this anomaly and study it. I want to know everything there is to know about it and I want to know it yesterday." Krnage ordered. "Also send the carrier Indomitable and two cruisers to that location. Order them to let nothing come through that anomaly. "He added after a few seconds of thought.” Yes my lord" obeyed Krellg. As Krellg set about communicating the orders to his subordinates Krnage left the control center and went to his quarters. He had to think about these developments and see if he had to adapt phase two of the campaign as a result of them.
Chapter 18: The full story.
Miles had made his way back to Ops and was analyzing the logs together with Dax on his station when Odo was delivered there by the turbo lift. Seeing the door to Sisko's office closed and Quark was still inside he turned his attention to Kira. "I've finished questioning both Rom and the Princess. Here is my report." He said offering a Padd to Kira. Kira looked up at Odo. "I think I'd better hang on to this until Sisko's done with Quark. He's waiting on the analysis of Quark's ships logs." She told Odo. He looked at Kira and told her; "The Princess refused to tell me much. She insisted on speaking with someone in charge and stressed that millions of lives were at stake. She claims her people are facing an invasion by a hostile empire and need to be warned."
Kira looked surprised at this. "And you believe she's telling the truth. Else you'd not be telling me about it." She said. At that moment O'Brien punched in a final key and uttered "done." Dax nodded at him to give her approval. Dax tapped her commbadge. "Dax to Sisko. I've uploaded the analysis of the logs as well as the logs themselves into the main computer sir." He said. "Thank you old man" came Sisko's voice.
In his office Sisko punched up the file with Dax's findings. Then he replayed the communication logs that O'Brien had uploaded. He then sat back heavily into his chair. He couldn't believe it. All Quark was guilty of, at least from the moment he got onto that ship of his, was completely honorable and legal as far as he could tell. Indeed, he had to concede that any Starfleet vessel would have responded in the same manner. "Quark. My apologies. You were right. You were only trying to help." He said in a low voice. Quark, to his credit, didn't seize this opportunity to gloat, or turn a profit. He simply nodded. "Thank you Commander. I know how hard it must be for you to say this to me." He said.
Since the moment the Venture had docked and the airlock had opened Quark had been grabbed away by Worf and Rom and the Princess were escorted by Odo to the brig. One by one Rom and the Princess had been questioned by Odo who took their statements about the events that had transpired. Then Rom and the Princess were put into a holding cell. For a while silence had blanketed the cell until the princess broke it with a question. "Are you and your brother in a lot of trouble?" she asked. Rom looked up from his feet which had been the center of attention ever since they had sat down on the bunk. He thought about it for a moment and then answered. "I don't know. The commander was pretty pissed I guess. The Federation doesn't like fighting." Then he thought some more. "On the other hand, the Federation is pretty big on helping those in need" he told the princess. "I think that Sisko will help you though. He's pretty good at reading people and you are a good person" he added. Leh’Na smiled at that and looked questioningly. "What makes you say that?" she asked. "Well, your people are being invaded but you're worried if I and my brother are in trouble. That's not something a bad person would do." Rom answered. Leh’Na smile got even bigger and she leaned over to him. She kissed him on the forehead and said "You're a good person too Rom" she whispered.
Half an hour later the cell's force field winked off and Odo motioned them to come out. "Your stories seem to hold up to scrutiny for now Rom. You can go home." Odo said. Then he turned to the princess. "Your presence is requested by the commander of this station.. Your highness." He said. "Thank you.. Constable wasn't it?" Leh’Na replied and followed Odo out of the office.
Minutes later Odo and Leh’Na rode up the turbo lift into ops. And walked over to Sisko's office. It was opened and so they entered. Sisko sat in his chair facing the window out into space. "Princess Leh’Na OfTroj of the Kaligoli Empire is here sir" Odo announced. Sisko turned and nodded to the shape shifter. He got up and moved to the side of his desk. "Thank you Odo, you may leave us" Sisko said. He then looked at the fragile looking princess and motioned to the chair facing his desk. "Please sit down. We need to talk." He said.
Leh’Na eyed the man before her carefully. She could sense he was the man in charge here and the one that decided if she would be helped to warn her people or not. The man had dark skin with a texture not unlike that of her own blue hued skin. His body not unlike to more athletic specimens of her own people's males. His expression, though alien, was readable. He looked like an honest and reasonable man to her. She decided to be as open and forthcoming as she could with this man.
"Thank you Commander Sisko. Time is of the essence. I need your help." She answered as she sat down. "I take it you want to know the situation you might have become involved with. Let me begin at the beginning." She said and proceeded to tell Sisko everything about their people's history with the Kleringon Confederacy and the recent invasion. Then she concluded to tell Sisko about how she escaped the blockade of the planet she was visiting and meeting Quark and Rom, and their flight to the station. As she finished she looked carefully into Sisko's eyes to measure his thoughts.
Sisko thought long and hard after the princess concluded her story. This was a difficult position he was in. He had to do everything he could to prevent the Federation getting drawn into war with this Kleringon Confederacy. This mean he could not openly aid the Kaligoli, including warning them about the invasion. His personal moral values didn't allow him to do nothing either. His gut told him this princess was what she seemed to be and she was telling him the truth.
His experience with the Kleringon's jamming technology lead him to believe there was every reason to assume the Kaligoli colony had been unable to warn anyone when the invasion had begun. They needed to be warned, but not by the Federation. A plan was beginning to form in his mind. He looked the princess in the eye. "Highness, I represent a federation of planets which never gets involved in conflicts between unaligned political entities. We cannot get involved in your conflict. Warning your home world would be interpreted as choosing sides. We cannot do that." Sisko began.
At seeing her eyes fog up with tears he quickly continued with what he wanted to say. "However, I may have a plan by which you can warn your people without the Federation getting involved officially."
Leh’Na visibly relaxed at this. Sisko mulled over his thoughts some more before continuing. He smiled as he knew Quark wasn't going to like this. "Princess I need you to help me with detailed information about your region of space. Borders, space stations, shipping lanes, communication ranges… everything. Work with my science officer to fill in the blanks in our star charts." Sisko told the petite woman. She nodded and got up from her chair.
"Whatever it is you are planning, if it helps my people I am grateful." She told Sisko. Sisko nodded and then tapped his commbadge. "Dax, pull up a star chart of the gamma quadrant. Work with the princess and fill in as much of the blanks as you can." He ordered. He pointed out Dax to the princess and she went out of his office to join her.
He tapped the commbadge again to open a new channel. "Sisko to Quark, in my office. Now."
Quark had known the second he heard Sisko’s voice through the speakers of his comm system that whatever the dark skinned Human wanted to talk to Quark about it would be something he wouldn’t like. What the Captain had asked him….. Forced him to do was far beyond even his greatest fears. He had of course refused vehemently at first and had tried everything he could think of to talk himself, and his new acquisition the Venture, out of the mad human’s scheming but in the end realized he had little choice but to do what Sisko asked. Besides the threat the Confederacy that had chased him and his ship halfway across the Gamma Quadrant and through the wormhole just to get their hands on a young girl posed to the station and by extension his business and his home he knew that helping the Princess was the right thing to do.
Now this would have never been an issue before Quark had gotten involved with the Federation and their despicable ways. He would have weighed the profits against the costs and dismissed the whole thing out of hand because there was little chance for profit. Having lived under Federation administration on DS9 for a couple of years though had poisoned him. He’d never admit to it to himself, let alone someone else, but he had developed a conscience. He had been infected with the Starfleeters sense of right and wrong and their loathing for injustice. It disgusted him.
But despite that disgust that newly developed conscience meant he had, grudgingly, agreed to take the IMS Venture back into the Gamma Quadrant with a team of Starfleet officers and try to find a way to warn the Empire of the Invasion by the Confederacy. After he had agreed Sisko told Quark to get some rest and that he’d be called for when his staff and the Princess had come up with a plan and worked out the details.
Quark had gone straight to his quarters and opened a link to the Venture’s computer. It dutifully informed him of O’Brians attempt to hack into the computer after Leah’s less than forthcoming replies to his questions. He smiled as he saw the look on O’Brians face as he realized he had been beamed of the ship by its AI. He realized though that Sisko and his minions would demand to have control over the Venture during their trip into the Gamma Quadrant. As he didn’t want to give them complete control and keep himself as the final authority on the Venture he decided to try and give the Starfleeters enough authorizations to control the navigational and operational systems of the ship, operate the weapon systems on her and allow Leah to answer any and all questions for information not relating to herself, the ship or the way Quark had acquired her. He also built in some safeties which would allow him to rescind the fleeters authorizations when he felt the need to.
An hour later, finally satisfied with the security setup for the Starfleet officers that would accompany them on their trip to the Gamma Quadrant, Quark started to browse through the Venture’s information database in the hope that it contained more information about the Confederacy, the Empire or anything else that neither the Federation’s or Ferengi databases could tell him. The Venture was a product that had been designed and built by Gamma Quadrant people and facilities, though precisely which was yet unclear, which had also filled the computer’s database with its content. Unfortunately the database was almost empty. It contained the star charts and navigational information for the area around Karemma and the space between the shipyards and the wormhole but very little information was in there about what lay beyond Venture’s sensor range.
He knew that somewhere in the contract he signed governing the terms of purchase some line had stated the information in the ships computer would not be sufficient to navigate space outside that of the route to the wormhole from the shipyards but he’d never expected the computer’s memory banks to be that empty. He opened a communication’s channel and said “Rom, get in here right away! It is time to get to work!” A moment or two later the sighing voice of his brother replied. “Yes brother, I’m on my way” before the channel disconnected. Quark knew there was only one person he could trust…. Or at least distrust much less than others, and that was his brother. He was dumb as beetle snuff but he was loyal, honest and an amazing engineer when properly motivated.
Right after his brother had cleared the doorway and the doors swooshed shut he set about explaining what he’d learned and what Sisko had planned for the Venture. Then he explained to his brother that the ships database was virtually empty and told his brother he was to make sure the computer’s memory cores were updated with the data it needed to be useful. No longer than 15 minutes later his brother had departed again on his way to carry out Quark’s demands.
As a testament to the efficiency of DS9’s officers it took no more than a few hours for Dax to get all the information from the Princess into the Federation’s database and to work out a plan of action. Soon the conference room off the Operations pit was filled with the command staff of DS9, Quark, Rom and the Princess. Sisko prompted Dax to begin the briefing. She hit some keys on her padd and the main viewer came to life with what was obviously a representation of space on the other side of the wormhole. On it the part that had already been known to the federation was colored blue. From the wormhole a bright red line travelled the exact opposite direction into an uncolored representation of space and as it travelled yellow, green and red dots emerged to represent starsystems.
“On this map, entirely from Leh’Na’s memory, you see the stars that are neutral or uninhabited in yellow. Those under control by the Princess’s people are marked in green. The red one’s are under control by the Confederacy that have invaded the outermost colony of the Princess’s people. That’s the one blinking in red and green. As you can see the location of their territory is largely blocked from direct approach by systems belonging to the confederacy and after my conversation with Leh’Na I’ve little doubt the encounter between us and their fighter squadron will have resulted in the Confederacy to send ships to the wormhole to investigate and prevent reinforcements for the Empire to come through.” Dax told the listeners present.
The viewscreen then zoomed in onto a view with the wormhole to the left of the screen and the invaded colony on the right side of the screen. On it the line that had been red turned green and another line appeared in red. “Now you see the probable route the Confederacy’s ships will take to get to the wormhole in red. The route we intend to take is marked in green. The princess’s ship had been running at its maximum speed for 58 hours before running into Quark’s ship and the subsequent events leading to DS9. The analysis of the logs from Quark’s ship leads us to conclude there will be no Confederacy ships near the wormhole for another 20 hours.” Dax finished, leaving the rest of the briefing to Sisko.
“Ladies and gentlemen, let me be clear on this. Anyone going on this mission will be volunteering. Furthermore, for the duration of this mission they shall no longer be a citizen of the United Federation of Planets nor an officer or member of Starfleet.” Sisko’s deep voice rumbled. Feeling the need to explain the necessity for this rather extreme measure and emphasize the importance for the mission to go forward and succeed he went on. “As it stands the Confederacy has already declared war on the Federation, which is intolerable. If the Confederacy learns that the Federation is actively helping their enemy their leaders, as we’ve learned from the Princess, will have no choice but to retaliate or they will lose face and be replaced by other leaders who will take action against us.” Sisko said and let the silence that followed emphasize the gravity of the risks involved.
“I think I speak for everyone when I say we would be honored to volunteer sir” said O’Brian. Nods from all those in the room confirmed his assumption to be accurate. A nod from Sisko signaled his acknowledgement and he then stood and started to slowly pace up and down the conference room, hands clasped behind him. “The mission goals are twofold. The primary mission is to prevent open conflict to erupt between the Federation and the Confederacy. The secondary mission is to warn the Princess’s people of the invasion, enabling them to prepare their defenses and, as the Princess assures us her parents will order, their counter offensive against the Confederacy to retake their conquered planet.” Sisko explained while he walked. He then turned to face the assembled crowd at the table.
“The defenses and the attack on the forces occupying the conquered colony world will force the confederacy to focus their forces on the fight with the Empire’s forces and, so the Princess convinced us, deny the Confederacy its ability to strike out at anyone for the foreseeable future.” Sisko told everyone. He then looked at the Princess, Worf and Dax in succession saying; “The only way me, Dax, Worf and the Princess could come up with to accomplish these mission goals is to take Quark’s ship the Venture into the Gamma quadrant before the Confederacy has ships in sensor range and sneak past them using this subspace distortion field to hide the Venture from their sensors as the Venture passes their taskforce.”
Quark took the silence that followed that to voice the question that everyone probably wanted to ask. “What if we fail and they do detect us?” he asked, knowing that communication tech, communication and sensor jamming tech and sensor tech were developed from the same core physics in most civilizations and remembering the range of the Claringon communication jamming blanket. Sisko’s expression was determined and there was no hesitation as he answered. “Survive and get through somehow anyway. Quark’s ship is an independent mercheant vessel and therefore the Federation or Starfleet cannot be held responsible for its actions in the Gamma quadrant. Limitations the Defiant would be faced with are not an issue so more options can be considered on the fly. We…. Improvise!”
“WHAT?! Are you serious Captain?
As the last of the officers had left Sisko and Quark alone in the briefing room the silence that fell over them was awkward for both of them. It was Sisko that broke the silence first. “Look Quark before you start let me tell you I am truly sorry. I also want you to know I am embarrassed I am forced to do this to you. I should not have to be dependent upon civilian ships or equipment but the simple fact of reality is that the nearest ship available is two weeks out at maximum warp.” Sisko explained with a pained expression while he sat down in a chair near Quark. Quark said nothing and continued to stare at the Human with a bland expression. Sisko wondered if it was a Ferengi ploy to play on his guilt briefly but quickly did feel he needed to say more.
“The information we have on the Confederacy and our own experience with them ads up to a problem that neither Bajor nor Starfleet are prepared for or able to deal with right now.” The dark skinned man said. “I have to keep the Federation from getting involved in conflict with an enemy that may well rival the Cardassian fleet.” He added.
Finally Quark responded to the words Sisko had spoken. “Captain. You and I both know that when push comes to shove you haven’t got the authority to order me or my ship or any of its crew into a life threatening situation or to put ourselves or others in danger.” The Ferengi told the Human. “So let us start by getting it clear that the IMS Venture will be leased by Starfleet. Its crew will receive payment for their services and so will Quark enterprises.” Quark went on, locking eyes with Sisko. Sisko was a good enough reader of men to know the Ferengi was serious, and Sisko knew the big eared alien was right too.
“Next I want you to know that I am Daimon of the IMS Venture. I am now, and I shall be so on this mission of yours.” Quark started. At the frown on Sisko and the Human’s move to object to that he quickly added “HANG ON, hear me out Captain. I will relinquish enough command for everyone to work as you want and let everyone do their jobs.” But of course the Human wouldn’t listen. “Quark we are going into a hostile environment up against a military organization with professionals that have been preparing for war for decades. My people need to be completely in control if they are to pull this off!” Sisko started in his bellowing voice but Quark was having none of it.
“CAPTAIN!” he shouted to shut the human up. A startled if not shocked Sisko was quiet instantly. “Now you listen to me carefully captain because you either agree to my terms or you can wait two weeks for one of your Starfleet buddies to give you a ride through the wormhole!” Quark told Sisko heatedly. He took a breath to calm himself then went on. “No matter how much you think the engagement between DS9 and the Kleringon forces that chased us through the wormhole can be blamed on me, the Princess or even the Kleringon’s the fact is that you and I both know I did the right thing, the Princess had no choice but those she made and that the Kleringon’s DID give you an option to stay out of the conflict.”
Quark gathered his thoughts knowing that if he didn’t get this right he and Sisko would butt heads, Quark would lock down the Venture’s systems and the Venture would be seized by Starfleet for as long as Sisko could or as long as O’brian took to break Leah’s security measures, and effectively his stay on DS9 would be untenable. He still had his eyes locked with Sisko’s as he went on.
“I live on DS9 too Captain. It is my home, and more importantly it is my place of business. I have as much of an interest in its continued wellbeing as anyone else, maybe more. And seeing this mission is going to be outside of Federation territory and Starfleet cannot or will not be a part of this mission someone not restricted by Starfleet rules regulations or protocols should be in charge of it. The Venture is my property and the value she represents is staggering, usually only affordable to governments. My life and that of my brother will be on the line just as much as those of your officers. Add to that my experience in years of working in the Ferengi merchant fleet and I think your Federation ethics and moral values cannot justify demanding me to give up command of the Venture.”
Quarks words were followed by a silence that seemed to smother the air in the briefing room and Quark briefly reflected it was fortunate this conversation hadn’t taken place in the much smaller and cramped Captain’s office up in ops. After what seemed like an eternity Sisko leaned back in the chair and sighed deeply having weighed the words the Ferengi had given him to consider. “Well I’ll be damned. First Nog, the kid I had thrown in jail first time we met and which I told my son was a bad influence, goes into Starfleet academy and now I have Quark pointing out the ethical and moral wrongs I was about to have on my conscience” Sisko said, surprising Quark. It sparked some thinking in the Ferengi. “Captain. Let’s do this thing Starfleet and the Federation are famous for and compromise. I have Leah release all command functions to whoever you put in command of your people, and leave only an override authorization which I will never use unless your people leave me no choice.” Quark suggested to the Captain. “That way you only have to trust me a very tiny bit and we can get this thing over with.” Quark added when Sisko’s expression grew thoughtful. “Agreed” Sisko said taking the hand Quark had offered to seal the deal.
Two hours later the IMS Venture released docking clamps and detached from Deep Space 9’s upper pylon. Slowly she backed while she turned increasing the distance between the ship and the station. When she’d nearly turned a full 180 her impulse engines flared and she sped off to be swallowed by the wormhole seconds later. On the other side of the wormhole Leah’s sensor analysis revealed that no Kleringon ships were anywhere within range. Worf ordered the course to be set as planned and engaged at Warp 7 after which the prospect of, if all went as planned, almost 2 days of travelling at high warp those on the bridge that had no immediate tasks to perform left for their quarters or the Ventures galley. Soon only Obrien and Worf were left on the bridge.
“I’m telling you Worf, there’s something not right with this ship.” The Irishman told his friend with which he’d served since the Enterprise-D. Worf grumbled before replying. “Besides the fact it is owned by that sniveling toad Ferengi?” he asked. “Yes, besides that.” Miles confirmed. “I’ve never encountered any encryption or protocols like this ship’s computer employs to prevent unauthorized access, and I’ve seen a few. Not even the Cardassian Obsidian Order would go to these kinds of extremes to protect their computer-systems.” He explained. The Klingon seemed to think this over before answering. “From what I understand this vessel was constructed here in the Gamma Quadrant. That could explain much” he offered. “I guess it could.” O’Brian muttered, not satisfied with that explanation. He made the decision that Leah would have her hands full if she was going to keep her secrets from him. She was, after all, just an AI.
Chapter 20 “The countermove”
“Of course my liege. I shall not fail you or the confederation.” Task Force Leader Grimball replied bowing down before the holographic representation of his commanding officer. Grimball had just been appointed commander of the taskforce sent out to the anomaly through which a squadron of confederation fighters had chased the one single escape that managed to get away from the newly annexed planet. After having been deployed to guard and investigate the anomaly the second of the commander of the entire invasion fleet contacted him on a private channel. He had been briefed in more detail than he’d ever been before and assured that regardless of what he may think of his reassignment away from the invasion his mission was as vital if not the most vital for the the success of the invasion and the future of the confederation.
As the communication channel closed and the holoimage disappeared he rose and walked over to his command seat. On his left screen he pulled up a representation of space with their location and that of the anomaly marked on them. He noticed they’d be in sensor range momentarily even though the current velocity would take more than 15 hours to reach the anomaly. “Sensors to maximum range. I want this anomaly monitored as soon as it is in extreme range.” He ordered. “Yes my liege” the voice of the sensor officer on his bridge replied and set about making the most of their sensors capabilities.
Minutes later the dot marking the anomaly’s location changed from white to green and another dot appeared not far from the anomaly. “Identify sensor contact” he ordered though he knew his officer was working on it before he had ordered it.
“Unable to make a definite identification at this range sir, all I can determine at this time is that there is a ship moving away from the anomaly at considerable speed.” The officer reported. A frown creased Grimmball’s forehead as he heard about the unknown spaceship. Its course suggested it had emerged from the anomaly and that the ship was heading in the direction of the unstable area of space between the anomaly and the Confederacy main territory. That could indicate it had nothing to do with the escaped Princess or that “Federation” that sheltered her on the other side of the anomaly. It could also indicate a ship attempting to reach the shade of the unstable space which would occur when that ship was on one side and the taskforce was on the other side of the unstable space.
“Contact the Devastator. Order them to take a wing of tactical strike fighters and intercept the unidentified spaceship. They are to investigate and determine their identity and purpose” Grimball ordered. “Yes my liege” the voice of the operations officer replied. Thirty seconds later the destroyer and 6 tactical fighters broke formation and headed on their intercept course to meet the unknown ship. The other ships in the original taskforce now split in two remained on their heading which lead to the wormhole, which they called the anomaly.
One the ship in command of them all Grimball started to worry. He had another decision to make. Report the unknown ship and its heading or not. If it was a threat to the Confederacy or the invasion of the Kaligoli Empire and Grimball did not report it he would be dead before he could regret his mistake. The problem was that the result for reporting this to his superior and it turned out to be a ship with no knowledge or ties to either the empire or this “Federation” on the other side of the anomaly his life would probably be as much shortened as it was the other way round. His calculations told him the detached ships would be able to tell him more about the unknown ship within three hours, and decided to wait until then before contacting his liege.
Chapter 21 The Princess meets the chief.
As the Venture was designed as a cargo and a passenger cruiser it had among its facilities a small mess hall/lounge area. A few hours into the trip skirting around the anomalous area of space that should hide their presence from any Kleringon Confederacy ships or sensors there were several in the crew that had found their way to it. As the Princess entered the room she noticed the Starfleet Engineer, O’Brian she remembered, buried in Padd’s with an aggravated expression. As the man was had been busy most of the time she had spent with these people she hadn’t gotten the chance to get to know him personally. She was very aware that all the people on the ship right now were there voluntarily and risking their lives to help her and her people. She felt he deserved to get his chance to ask questions. She walked over to him. “May I join you?” she asked, startling him a little. “Uhm, yes, sure I guess.” Miles replied motioning to the free places at his table. “Thank you.” Leh’na said as she sat down across the table from him. “My name is Miles O’Brian, I’m chief engineer on Deep Space 9 and on the Defiant when she’s out.” The chief introduced himself formally. “I’m pleased to meet you mr. O’brian. My name is Pr… Leh’Na OfTroj.” The young woman told the Federation engineer. “And you’re crown princess of an empire.” O’Brian added for her. “I haven’t met you personally but I do know every detail of the mission information you and Dax compiled. A blush appeared on the woman’s cheeks coloring her slight smile. “Yes, your right. But I’ve read through some information about your history and of some other civilizations from around the anom…wormhole. It seems though the translator has difficulty with our definitions of an empire and its ruler, the emperor or empress. Ours is not a hereditary title but an elected one. The current emperor is not related to me or my family in any way and I have been elected two years ago to begin preparing to succeed him. If and when he is no longer capable of leading our people I will become empress and the people of the Empire will elect a new heir.” The princess explained, grateful she had the opportunity to do so.
The Emperor as Federation and indeed most other peoples on the other side of the wormhole knew them was passed down from father to son, or at least from parent to child. It was mostly the name dictators gave themselves and with it their children and their children’s children. The Kaligoli word for such a dynasty was translated into Federation as “Prime Oppressor” and she hated to think any of the people risking their lives for her and the Empire by extension, thinking of her and her Emperor as being dictators.
The expression on the human face was easily recognized as one of surprise. “Well that’s a big bloody difference indeed” he exclaimed. “I’ll have a look at the translator routines If I have a moment, see if I can put that right.” He added, always the fixer. “You must have had reservations about going along on this journey then, and yet you volunteered nonetheless….” The pretty woman said, leaving the question unasked but hanging between them. “To be honest, it wasn’t part of the equation. I’ve been in Starfleet most of my adult life. I’d never be able to live with myself if anything happened to any of my colleagues that I might have been able to prevent. As soon as any of them volunteered there was no question, I volunteered too.” O’Brian explained. “And besides. I didn’t take ya for a dictator type of gall anyway. And I consider myself a pretty good judge of character.” He added with a smile and a wink. “Why thank you very much mr. O’Brian, I am flattered.” Leh’na giggled while the blush on her face darkened ever so slightly. Leh’na was relieved the man was so friendly and understanding. O’Brian had just mentally shook off the thought starting with “15 years ago, and single…” when the girl asked “You must have a very lucky wife waiting for you. And my guess is you’re a father as well”
A guilty smile crossed his face for a microsecond as Miles had to revise what he’d been thinking about the young woman. Clearly she had more insight, wisdom and awareness then he’d given her credit for, probably due to her young appearance and the title she carried. Both had now been proven absolutely deceptive and false.
“aye, I’m happily married to Keiko O’brien and my daughter’s name is Molly.” He answered and almost on reflex pulled out the holo-picture of the three of them in a park on Bajor. He noticed her face lit up as he showed her the picture. “Oh they’re so lovely. You look perfect together as a family.” She told him and added “You must be so proud.” Not really asking a question.
“Oh aye, I am.” Miles replied anyway. “I’d like to express my gratitude to you for coming to my and my people’s aid. It must be very hard to leave such a precious family behind and even harder for them to be left behind. I really appreciate the sacrifice you’re making and I hope I can one day somehow repay you for this” Leh’na suddenly said solemnly locking eyes with the human. Stuttering a bit Miles fell over his words “ohno.. No please, there’s no need.. I don’t.. “ he began, then took a breath and told the princess “I am doing my duty ma’am princess. I am a Starfleet officer, and I have taken an oath to uphold the ideals of Starfleet and the United Federation of Planets. That oath, if nothing else, permits me to do no less.” He ensured her. The woman got up from her seat and bowed slightly. “I am honored to have met you Miles O’Brian and I am grateful none the less.” She said and then walked out of the lounge into the corridor.