Chapter 6 - Unconventional Diplomacy

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Mira Vashan lay on the rough bench in her cell, eyes closed, hands under her head to cushion it.  The effect of the phaser had mostly passed, best as she could guess, although the alcohol made everything fuzzy around the edges. The water provided was… suspicious, to say the least, so she was resigned to the reality of a massive hangover come morning.

Across from her, Lan and Zel sat in their own cell, at least equally drunk, shouting something about entrapment or… something. Mira carefully raised an arm, flipped them off, and returned her hand to beneath her head.


Tomaasz stretched in his chair, tendons popping and joints creaking. He glanced around the XO’s office. His office, he reminded himself. Even though it looked the same as his office in Engineering, he felt somehow out of place here. Ridiculous, of course. Captain Azjure had made her choice and explained her reasons. It was up to him to live up to the role he had accepted. Though it didn’t feel as if he had done much in that regard as yet.

His self-indulgent musing was interrupted by the chime of an alert from Communications. A message from… the outpost’s security office? Oh, that did not bode well. Opening the message, he was confronted with the sneering visage of a Ferengi in a uniform that strived for flashy and impressive, but only reached gaudy.

“I am Naluk,” the Ferengi began abruptly. “Head of security for Qualik’s Trading Post. Federation vessel, one of your hyu-mons has been arrested for disturbing the peace and assault. You will present yourself to my office to discuss the… disposition of the prisoner.” The leer that followed suggested two things. One, that some very expensive bribes would be involved. And two, that the prisoner was most likely female and attractive.

Pausing the message, the Caitian called up a list of crew members who had taken first shore leave on the station. And there she was. Flight control officer, Lieutenant JG Mira Vashan. Reviewing her record, he estimated that she was quite capable of both starting and finishing a fight. But he did not know her well enough to gauge just how she had gotten into this scrape. A failing he would have to rectify soonest.

Resuming the message, he listened to the charges. His ears twitched as the list continued. Even by the standards of corrupt local officials, the amount of puffery was impressive. Naluk ended with another imperious demand to “present yourself immediately.” Well, this self-important Ferengi could just wait. There was more information to gather and leverage to acquire before that unpleasant meeting. And Vashan could use a little time to cool off as well. Though he would not be surprised if she also gathered more information, even from a cell.


The sound of raised voices grew slowly louder through the door of Naluk’s office. Grem, at his tiny desk in the outer office, strained his lobes to overhear. Naluk had removed the latest listening devices, unfortunately. They both knew Grem was spying on his superior for Qualik, of course. Profit required good information. But this was one meeting the underling badly wanted to listen to, if only for his own amusement. 

It had been a surprise when the Federation officer arrived. Not only had he kept Naluk waiting for three hours, but instead of the expected Andorian or Terran, the officer was a Caitian. He had not had dealings with them before, which made the meeting all the more intriguing. 

Naluk had begun, as expected, by building up his importance and the value of his time. But instead of apologizing or trying to smooth the waters, the Caitian had brushed him off. “Time is valuable, so don’t waste any more of mine,” he had said, and strode into Naluk’s office as if it were his own. The security head’s lobes quivered in anger as he followed.

The meeting had been brief, and mostly too quiet to overhear, until the end. Then voices had raised, and Grem stopped even pretending to work. Naluk had already begun shouting about denying the Federation ship access to the trading post, which was usually a last ditch tactic. The Caitian countered with a threat to undermine Qualik’s reputation in some frighteningly specific ways. Whatever Naluk was going to say next was cut off with a flat, almost bored contempt. “I have faced death and true terror, and taken its throat in my fangs. A tiny would-be despot who tries to extort prisoners because he lacks the lobes to do real business does not impress me. You will take the terms I offered and release my officer. Any further issues with my crew will be handed over to me for any necessary discipline. This conversation will not be repeated.”

When the office door opened, Grem was caught openly staring. The Caitian strode past without a glance. Naluk emerged slowly, visibly shaken. “Grem, release the Federation hyu-mon.” He didn’t even shout or insult him. What had the Caitian done or said to terrify him so? With a start, Grem realized that he would have to escort the terrifying officer to the holding cells. Putting on his most obsequious snivel, he scurried ahead down the corridor. 


Tuning out the background noises of the brig, Mira didn’t even realize she was getting sprung until she heard the rattle of her door opening.  At that, she sat up straight, not knowing who or what was going to be entering and what their intentions were.

She couldn’t read the Caitian’s expression as she slid off her bench and almost slunk her way out of the cell.  Apparently she wasn’t going to get an earful in public – which was good, as anything she had to say would surely be overheard by the Ferengi – but she had no idea what was waiting for her once they got back to the Tanjura. So she gave a bit of a shame-faced nod to her XO and followed him out of the brig.

Tomaasz kept his expression neutral as he and Mira returned to the Tanjura. What needed said was not for the greedy lobes of the Ferengi. And, truth be told, he needed the time to rein in his own emotions. An ugly part of himself had strained to be unleashed, and he did not like how close a struggle it had been.

He cast a surreptitious glance over the Terran as they rounded a corner. No obvious injuries, thank goodness. His eyes narrowed at the phaser burn on her sleeve, but she didn’t seem to be favoring that arm. Judging by the tightness around her eyes and the smell clinging to her clothes she was probably nursing a hangover. But she didn’t seem to have been abused by Naluk or his cronies.

Once on board the Tanjura, he led Mira to his office. Gesturing her to a chair, he crossed to the replicator and punched in a code. Taking the lightly steaming mug that materialized, he set it on the desk in front of her. “Regulan tisane,” he said. “Good for hangovers. Drink up.” Moving around the desk, he settled into his chair and patiently watched until she took a sip.

“All right, Lieutenant. Report.”

Dropping into the offered chair, Mira took a long sip of the tisane.  It was….not good.  I mean, it was probably just fine for people who liked tea, but tea had never really been her thing. Still, it gave her another few moments to put her thoughts together and not have to look at her XO.

“Met two spacers at the bar,” Mira started. “Figured I’d get some local info out of them, which I did, although we’ll have to take anything they say with a grain of salt.  Sounds like Romulans are making a play for the area and are not sharing well…” she waved a hand. “Sorry, for another time.”

“Made a deal with them,” she continued.  “Navigation charts for some parts they needed. Straight forward exchange. Would have happily held up my end of things. Maybe their ship is worse off than they were letting on, because by the end of things they clearly meant to pirate ‘my’ ship, not realizing my ship was a Starfleet heavy cruiser.” She shrugged innocently. “They never asked.”

Tomaasz’ eyes held a calm, level gaze through the report, though one ear twitched near the end. After a moment, he rested both hands on the desk. “We’ll check into the Romulan angle. If there was any truth there, we don’t want to be caught unaware. I appreciate the information. On the other hand.” He leaned forward slightly, ears lowering. “What exactly were you thinking, trying to cut a deal with two unknowns with no one watching your back? I know, you were a Ranger, you know how to handle yourself. But what would your CO in the Rangers have to say about that?”

Mira bit her lip before she said something rash, something like how most of the time she didn’t have someone to watch her back, or how chain of command hadn’t really been a thing for a good while now.

“Point of clarification then, please, sir… are you saying the crew should only go on shore leave with…backup?” Mira asked, hoping she didn’t sound too impertinent. “Because I went on shore leave. I went to a public meeting place, a bar. I met a couple guys at said bar. I chatted with them and, yes, drank with them, as one does at a bar. Over the course of the evening, I offered to replicate them a part in exchange for some maps. I could have just as easily bet said part on a game of beer pong.  It’s not like I met them in some back alley selling contraband.”

She took another drink from her mug. “Back alley with contraband, totally needs backup. 100% with you. But…conversation at a bar, sir?”

Tomaasz fought to keep a smirk off his face. This skating the edge of impertinence sounded very familiar, from the other side of the desk and too many years ago. Being honest with himself, he had over reacted a bit. Hearing her state it flat out brought that home. But still…

“I take your point, Lieutenant. But remember, we are far from anywhere, with a minimal organic crew. More caution than usual is hardly a bad idea.” He relaxed back into the chair. “Whether you want to call it ‘backup’ or ‘an extra set of friendly eyes,’ it can’t hurt. After all, we can’t afford to lose anyone, especially someone with your experience.” He gestured toward the phaser burn on her sleeve. “The next one might not be set to stun.”

“Fair enough, sir,” Mira replied.  “But, I think this still offers us an opportunity. We have two problems with our search for dilithium.  First, the Ferengi are going to charge us an arm and a leg for it, and I can’t help with that one.  But the other problem is if they know we don’t have any, they know we’re sitting ducks, and might call in some very big guns, yes?”

“That they might. Thus our dramatic coasting entrance to conceal that fact.” He shook his head slightly. “When I switched to Engineering I never thought ‘fake a warp field’ would come up. At any rate, we plan to do everything but ask directly. In fact, the Captain plans to send some of us on a tour of the junkyard to try to find what we need discreetly.”

Tomaasz cocked his ears to the sides. “You know, I could use a friendly pair of eyes on that tour. And I could certainly do worse for backup than a Ranger. What do you say?”

“Uh, sure?” What Mira really wanted was sleep, but she wasn’t going to turn the XO down. “But I have an idea in the meantime. Lan and Zel, the geniuses who shot me, are in a rough spot. We ask to borrow their ship.  Say we want our engineers to get an idea of what kind of tech local ships are using, which is absolutely true. Also, yeah, copy their navigation maps. We promise to hand it back in working order when we’re done with it, which is a damn lot better than what they currently have. They’ll find the offer really weird, but they might go for it.  Debt servitude to a Ferengi is not where you want to be. Thing is, while we’re fixing it, we borrow their dilithium to keep the Tanjura in working order.  Then we get more dilithium from the scrapyard and resupply their ship. At the end of it all, our ship works, their ship works, everyone’s happy.”

Tomaasz chuckled. “I like that plan. I’ll run it past the Captain. In the meantime, why don’t you get a couple hours of rack time and a shower? I’ll com you when we’re ready to disembark.”

“Yes, sir,” Mira replied with improved enthusiasm. Rack time. Shower. Sometimes it was the little things in life.