“Mind if I join you, handsome?”
Varh looked up from his meal, mildly amused. It’d been some time since anyone had referred to him as handsome, let alone a Ferengi woman. Curious, he nodded and pointed at the seat across from him. “Be my guest,” he said with a smile. The young Ferengi smiled back and pulled up a chair.
“I’m Onna. I’m also the only reason this crate’s warp core hasn’t breached six times today,” she said as she picked at the array of replicated food cubes on her tray. “And you are?”
“Varh. I suppose I’m the reason this crate hasn’t plowed into a star at warp 5.”
“And navigator when the Orion with the job title isn’t sober, which is most of the time.”
Varh smiled as Onna made an amusing combination between a snort and a giggle. “I’m afraid you have me to blame for his lack of sobriety,” she said after wiping her mouth with a cloth. “The case of Romulan ale he’s so fond of helped pay for my passage to Nimbus III, along with engine room shifts.”
“So his taste in liquor is as bad as his talent for navigation,” Varh replied before popping a cube in his mouth. “Glad it worked out well for you, though.”
“As good as it goes for a girl like me,” she smiled. “It got me away from my marriage on Ferenginar, so there’s that. ‘Wives serve, brothers inherit’… hah!”
“Aren’t Ferengi a little… touchy about breaking marriage contracts? What if your husband sends someone after you?”
“Let him try,” Onna grinned. “I’ve signed a new contract with the Syndicate, and I think the Orions might have a few things to say to anyone coming for me. A few violent things.”
Varh nodded in agreement. “You’re not the only one who did a deal with the Syndicate,” he mused. “Though I can’t help but wonder if you’ve went from bad to worse, where contracts are concerned.”
“Spend five years walking around naked, rubbing a man’s lobes whenever he says so, and tell me about bad to worse.”
“I’ll pass,” Varh laughed. It’d been a while since he’d done that, too.
“What about you, handsome,” Onna asked between bites. “What’re you getting away from?”
“Na’kuhl,” Varh replied. “You may not have heard, but my homeworld isn’t exactly the vacation spot of the quadrant these days.”
“So I’m told,” said Onna softly. “The universe hasn’t shown you Na’kuhl a lot of kindness.”
“Not in the slightest. After what went down on New Romulus, the Federation cracked down on us, hard. The Klingons weren’t too fond of us, either. All because of one idiot with a gun.”
Onna nodded in agreement. “The whole thing’s pretty ridiculous, really… I mean, old J’mpok didn’t even die. Just got a belly ache, from what I heard. He’s probably had worse after eating a plate of bad gagh!”
“Doesn’t matter,” Varh said bitterly. “Suppose we’re lucky the Klingons didn’t use it as an excuse to blast what’s left of Na’kuhl to bits. They’ve done worse, for less.”
“True. Well, for what it’s worth… I’m glad you got out in one piece.”
“Thanks,” Varh smiled, thinking a change of subject was in order. “So… you mentioned Nimbus III before. Wouldn’t be going there to meet a guy named Lontus, would you?”
“Funny you should mention it,” Onna replied. “That’s exactly who I’m meeting there. I take it you are as well?”
“I am. Looks like we’ll be working together there, too.”
“Looking forward to it,” Onna said with a wink and a grin. “Us refugees gotta stick together.”
“I wonder who this ‘Shangdu’ is,” asked Onna as she walked into the nightclub with Varh. “Or what… the only words in Orion I know are curses. Oh, and ‘warp core breach imminent!’ That comes in handy.”
“No doubt,” Varh replied, eyes narrowing as he took the measure of the club. “Stick close to me and keep that relic of a phaser handy.”
“What’s wrong with my phaser?”
“It’s older than my great-grandfather. I’m surprised it still works, to be honest.”
Onna patted her holstered 23rd century Type II phaser with a proud smile. “It’ll make things glow blue and disappear quite nicely, thanks. And at half the price you paid for that KDF surplus disruptor you’re packing!”
“Some of us weren’t born to haggle,” Varh smirked in response as he spotted an Orion man matching their contact’s description. “There’s Lontus, unless he’s got a twin. Let’s not keep him waiting… he looks sour enough as it is.”
The two made their way through the boisterous crowd to a table in the back. Besides Lontus, two other figures were seated at the table – a pale, slight human woman with sharp features and the biggest Klingon either of them had ever seen. Both of them were holding a hand of cards, and the Klingon didn’t look terribly happy.
“Read ‘em and weep, jup,” the human woman drawled as Onna and Varh reached the table. “Full house.” She pulled a stack of colored discs toward herself as the Klingon threw his cards to the table with a snort of disgust. Lontus looked up from the two card players to regard the new arrivals with a look of irritation and contempt.
“You’re late, red-eyes,” he growled. “They don’t have chronometers on Na’kuhl?”
Varh shrugged as he pulled up a chair. “They do, but mine got froze over when the Tholians did a number on our sun. Sorry.”
“My heart bleeds. Don’t let it happen again,” Lontus sneered. “Sit down, Ferengi… the brute won’t kill you unless you give him cause.”
As Onna took a seat next to the massive Klingon, the human extended her hand toward her. “You must be our engineer,” she said warmly. “Name’s Louann Wilkins. I’m the… infiltration specialist. The mountain with arms and legs next to you is Big Kor. Give ya three guesses on what he does.”
Onna smiled nervously in response as she shook Wilkins’ hand. “Hopefully none of it to me, whatever it is.” This made the Klingon smile widely. It was not a pleasant sight.
“Kor don’t talk. Born that way, I guess. His momma named him after a big ole war hero, right before she ditched him on the streets of Qo’noS. I wouldn’t inquire as to why. Gets him riled.”
“D-duly noted,” muttered Onna, shifting nervously in her chair.
“Enough,” Lontus barked. “You dregs can get to know each other on your own time. Right now, we have business. You’re here to work, not run your mouth.”
Wilkins gave Lontus a flippant salute and smirked. Varh smiled at that as he put in a drink order over comms. “Fine, you’re the boss,” he said. “What’s the job?”
Lontus picked his teeth for a moment, then spoke, an irritated look still on his face.
“We’re hitting a yacht heading to Risa. Small crew compliment, minimal security detail. In addition to a fair amount of loot, there’s a high-ranking Federation trade minister onboard. Ought to fetch quite a few bars of GPL in ransom.”
Varh exchanged a glance with Onna before turning his gaze back to Lontus. “This yacht armed?”
“Defensive phasers only. It’s a pleasure boat, not a military craft… nothing my ship can’t handle.”
“How’re you planning on getting the drop on ‘em,” asked Onna. “They’ll be deep in the Federation, on a well-traveled space-lane. The minute they see an Orion ship on sensors, they’ll scream for help and go to warp!”
“By the time they see us, it’ll be too late,” sneered Lontus. “The Cleaver has a cloaking device - Romulan tech, not some half-rate Klingon garbage. We’ll get the drop just fine, big ears.”
Varh noticed an exchange between Wilkins and Kor – a quick, nimble series of hand gestures. The big man wasn’t amused by Lontus’ earlier ‘half-rate Klingon garbage’ comment, but Wilkins calmed him down - for the moment, anyway.
“Alright, Lontus, so we drop out of cloak and disable the yacht,” he asked. “Then what?”
“That’s where you start earning your latinum, smart guy,” replied Lontus. “You, big ears, the mute, and little pink-skin will beam over, take out any security still standing, and lock down the VIP.”
“Walk in the park,” grinned Wilkins. “I’ll crack their command core security, then we’ll be able to take that boat anywhere we want, and well before any Fed patrol ships come a’callin’, I might add.”
Lontus nodded in agreement. “Once you‘ve secured the yacht, we’ll all go to warp and meet up at a Syndicate station near Orion. Got a guy there interested in buying the yacht, no questions asked. We’ll take the VIP off for ransoming, and you’ll get paid… so long as everything goes smooth.”
“And if it doesn’t,” Varh asked, locking eyes with Lontus. “A lot of ways this could go sideways, cloak or not.”
“I’d see to it that it doesn’t, red-eyes,” said Lontus with a smirk. “Unless you wanna find out if space is colder than that ice ball you call a homeworld. We clear?”
“Crystal,” replied Varh.
“Good,” Lontus sneered. “Now drink up. We beam out in five.”
“My sweet lord,” rasped Wilkins through the smoke filling the yacht’s bridge. “Is there anything those idiots didn’t blast to hell on this boat?”
Varh pushed her to the side and fired a single disruptor shot into an approaching security guard. “Him,” he said sharply.
“Okay, besides him,” she replied with a nervous grin. “Nice shot by the way… and thanks.”
“Don’t worry about it. We have bigger problems,” Varh tapped the comm band on his wrist. “Onna, talk to me. What’s the situation in engineering?”
“Horrible,” came the agitated response. “The mains are banged up good. We’re on emergency power now, and barely.”
“How’s the warp core?”
“Locked down, for now. But Varh,” Onna’s voice cracked with stress as she spoke. “It won’t hold for long. If we’re gonna do anything, it’d better be quick. This core’s gonna go critical in ten, fifteen minutes tops. Best I can do.”
“Got it. Stand by,” Varh turned to face Wilkins. “Get that command core cracked… let’s get the VIP out of the panic room, at least.” She gave him a nod in reply and began to access a nearby console.
“Lontus,” said Varh over the comm channel as he covered the door to the bridge. “You hear all of that? Your idiot gunner damn near blew this yacht out of the stars instead of disabling it. We’ll be lucky if we can extract the VIP before the core breaches!”
“Then you better hurry up, red-eyes,” Lontus barked angrily. “Cleaver, out!”
Varh muted the comm channel and joined Wilkins at her console. “Gimme a sec here, Red,” the human coughed, her eyes watering from all of the smoke. “I’m fixin’ to get the keys to the kingdom… right about… now. We’re in.”
“Nice work. Scan the panic room… I want to know how many of ‘em got in there.”
“Hold on,” she grinned. “Getting a sensor ping now… crap.”
Varh joined her at the console. “Talk to me,” he said calmly. “What’s happening?”
“Only one livin’ thing in there, Red,” Wilkins said, wiping the smoke from her eyes. “Looks like it’s a baby in an escape pod! Everyone else… gone. Hull breach… poor devils got spaced.”
Varh cursed and hailed the Cleaver. “Lontus,” he said grimly. “The VIP is dead… this job’s a bust. Beam us out of here, we’re done.”
There was a moment’s pause before the reply came back. “You’re done alright, red-eyes. But there won’t be any beam-out.”
“You wanna run that by me again?!”
“Remember when you asked me what’d happen if this went sideways? You’re looking at it. I’m not wasting transporter power on a band of worthless mutts. Enjoy that core breach.”
Varh muttered a particularly salty Na’kuhl curse before looking back at Wilkins. “Don’t suppose you have any miracles handy?”
“Oh, honey,” she grinned widely. “I’ve got a real peach.”
With that, Wilkins entered a sequence on her console. Varh looked around the bridge expectantly.
“Right, so where’s this peach of yours, exactly?”
“Oh, it’s not here, Red,” she said smugly. “It’s over on the Cleaver. See, I took the liberty of cracking her command core a while back… probably after the fifteenth time ole Lontus called me a ‘pink-skin.’ That dog just won’t hunt.”
“I see,” said Varh, his own smile widening. “Tell me more.”
“I just remotely locked ‘em out of everything. No engines, no shields, nothin’,” smirked Wilkins. “I also took the liberty of flooding the whole boat with the sleepy gas Lontus installed, in case his crew decided to go off an’ mutiny on him.”
“Onna,” Varh said over comms. “Can you give us transporter power?”
“Enough for one beam out, tops.”
“One’s all we’ll need.”
“How’s that chair treating you, handsome?”
Onna walked onto the bridge, where Varh, Big Kor, and Wilkins sat at their stations. Even the Klingon smiled at her statement.
“It’ll do, once you get the stink of Lontus’ perfume out of it,” replied Varh. “I think he bathed in the stuff.”
“I’ll get right on that, Captain,” Onna replied impishly. “Louann, it’s your turn to feed our passenger. I can’t bear to look at the little monster. Hew-mon babies are so… hideous.”
Wilkins laughed as she walked to the nearby chair where the baby was located. “He is a homely little thing, isn’t he? Ears are almost as big as yours! That said, I’ll miss him once we take him back to his kin.”
“Any word from the Orions,” asked Onna as she stood next to Varh. “I can’t imagine anyone’s missing Lontus, but you never know with the Syndicate.”
Varh nodded. “There’ll be some details to hammer out once we reach the station, but they seem to be fine with the… change in management here on Cleaver.”
“Ugh,” she replied, nose crinkled in disgust. “This ship needs a new name! Who names a ship after a kitchen utensil?”
Varh looked at the viewscreen, stars streaking by as the ship hurtled through space at warp five. “Been thinking about that,” he said. “I like Coldstar.”
“Has a nice ring to it,” said Wilkins as Big Kor nodded his approval.
“Coldstar it is,” said Onna with a smile, putting an arm around Varh. “Take us home, handsome.”
Star Trek Online
|The life of a Temporal Agent will take you across time and space to strange frontiers and deadly battlegrounds with the Temporal Agent Pack.|