Chapter 1 - USS Tanjura-Arriving in the Trading System

They had planned this out, the warp bubble created by the runabouts would persist, for a matter of seconds around the Tanjura once the tractor beams were uncoupled.  So it would appear that the ship was arriving under her own power and the runabouts were acting as scouts.  Well tuned and focused sensors would see through the deception, so they would have to hope that they were not being closely watched as they arrived in system.

“Is everyone ready for us to coast to a dramatic entrance?” Njessa asked.

“Waiting in the wings with bated breath Captain.” Kyle joked, trying to ignore the small bile of nervousness inside of him.

“Ready, Captain,” Tomaasz replied from the engineering console. He shot a reassuring glance to his friend. “The stage is set. I’ve arranged a slight subspace fluctuation that should help disguise the source of the warp bubble, but look like a minor maintenance issue.” One ear skewed sideways for a moment. “If all goes well.”

“Have faith all,” said Njessa.

“I feel like this is the equivalent of doing donuts in the parking lot…except with a heavy cruiser,” Mira quipped as she did final checks for drop from warp.  “Also definitely on my list of “Things I’m Not Allowed To Do (But Did Anyway).””

Njessa’s antennae quirked in amusement.  “And here I was under the impression that pilots live for moments like this.”

“I do,” said Roj from the helm, his antennae also showing amusement as his hands flew over the controls, keeping everything adjusted just so.

Ahead, subspace buoys marked the edge of Qualik’s Trading Post and Salvage Yard (Serious buyers only, no time-wasters).

“Runabouts ready to disengage on your mark,” Mira reported.

Tomaasz kept a watchful eye on his console. Despite his confident (if tactless) claim in the hangar, there was always a chance the control synchronization would not be quite so smooth in practice. If anything did go sideways, he was ready to pounce. Those were his crewmates out there, after all.

“Mister Dylft, on your command,” said Njessa.

“And . . . Mark!” ordered Roj, riding the warp bubble as it began to break up, trying to make it appear as a natural transition out of warp.

As one, the three runabouts dropped their tractor beams and coasted out of warp alongside the Tanjura.

Runabout three’s warp field wavered for a moment, but some quick adjustments kept the ripple from becoming too blatant. “Residual warp bubble is nominal, dispersing at the anticipated rate.” Tomaasz flicked an ear. “Not as cleanly as I’d hoped, but it should be alright.”

“Runabouts move into scouting positions as discussed,” transmitted Njessa to the pilots.  “Ensign Savoi, hail the station.”

“On it, ma’am,” said the Communications officer.

“Anything threatening out there?” Njessa asked.

“Nothing obvious,” Mira reported. “Three civilian vessels, minimal weaponry. Honestly, if I wanted to hide a threat, I’d power down and put it in the junkyard.”

“Just how big of a junkyard are we talking? How many exits you figure?” Kyle asked, staring at the screen readout over Ensign Savoi’s shoulder a couple feet away; arms crossed over his chest, eyes squinting.

“It is space, there are always exits, Counselor,” said Njessa, “but not though the junkyard.”

V’Rea manipulated the Operations board with swift precision.  “Lieutenant Vashan has correctly analyzed the situation,” she said as pieces in the junkyard on the viewscreen were highlighted in yellow.  “Cardassian disrupter mines, probably purchased as military surplus.”

“A cautious man this Qualik,” said Njessa.

“Captain, incoming broadcast from the trading post,” said Irij.”

“On screen,” said Njessa, making sure she was sitting straight.

The screen resolved showing a well-dressed Ferengi in his middle years, behind him were a variety of objects apparently made of latinum.  Standing to his right was a middle-aged human man in a grey bodysuit and holding an old fashioned physical notebook and pen, the human appeared worn down, his one black hair shot through with grey.

“I am Captain Ajzure of the Federation starship Tanjura,” Njessa said, “we are on a survey mission of the sector and were pleased, if a bit surprised, to find a Ferengi trading post here.  We hope we are welcome to trade.”

“Welcome, Captain Ajzure!” said Qualik with an insincere smile.  “I was not expecting to encounter Starfleet visitors so far out of your home territories.  But anyone with goods to trade and latinum to spend are welcome in my trading post.  We have all forms of entertainment and a wide variety of interesting goods for sale.”

Some things never change. Is Kyle’s first thought at Qualik, his brain flipping through previous exchanges with the Ferengi, and the distinct feeling of his proverbial pocket being emptied. His eyes glancing over to the assistant, surely ‘overworked’ didn’t begin to cover his appearance. But he kept a pleasant smile on his face, hoping he looks like just the kind of fool who’d fall for this ‘junkyard paradise’.

Jason tapped a few of the buttons before his console, as he listened to the exchange between the Captain and their new host.  He had constantly watched the sensors to keep an eye out for any changes in their current surroundings.  Hitting 2 buttons, and entering his command code, 2 more holographic security teams appeared, one outside the Shuttle Bay and the Armory.  He had an odd feeling that this was slightly too easy and calm, especially compared to their abrupt arrival to the system.

“A kind offer, Qualik,” said Njessa, “we will see about sending some of our crew on shore leave into your fine station.  We are interested to explore your junkyard and see what we can learn.”

“Tours can be arranged,” Qualik said grumpily, not seeing much potential for profit in tours.

“Perhaps to make things easier for you we could agree to buy some items from your . . . collection,” said Njessa, aiming for a tone that indicated that she was soothing ruffled feathers.

“That would be acceptable,” the Ferengi nodded, obviously calculating how to mark up the items that Starfleet might ask for.

“Thank you, we wish to be good guests,” said Njessa.  “May the Tanjura dock with the trading post?”

“Yes, yes,” said Qualik.  “My assistant will send the information.  I look forward to doing business with you and your crew, Captain.”  He cut the broadcast.

Njessa looked around.  “That went much better than I had feared.  Tomaasz, V’Rea, Vashan, run scans of the junkyard and look for pieces of salvage that may be of use to us.”

The view screen shifted to a vista view of the junkyard and trading post.

“If this area is hostile to dilithium, it would behoove us to get engineers on some of those hulks and see what’s being used in its place,” Mira suggested as she performed the requested scans.

“It is possible, even probable, some of those ship do use dilithium drives,” said Njessa.  “If you are lucky enough to not have your ship tossed across space the background effect just increases the rate of dilithium deterioration.  So, there may be something salvageable.  Obviously, we cannot let Mister Qualik and his staff know what we are looking for.  It will be tricky but I have confidence in you all.”

Whether or not we find dilithium today, eventually we will need an alternative, Mira thought. She might bring the matter up with Njessa later, privately, but for the moment she kept quiet.  We can’t continue a long term survey of an area hostile to our engines.