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Unexpected Company

Posted on 26 May 2014 @ 2:59am by Captain Harvey Geisler & Emily Carter & Lieutenant JG Harold Sherman & Lieutenant JG Ivan Dash

Mission: Pursuit
Location: USS Black Hawk, Bridge
Timeline: February 1, 2388 || 1500 hours

Twenty minutes had passed since the Away Team had transported aboard the unknown freighter. During that time, Harvey shifted uncomfortably in his chair. For a moment, he wished he was repeated the Altair Situation from a month ago. Abducted crew he could deal with.

An unknown freighter with dead bodies, that was difficult.

Yeoman Carter had arrived on the bridge minutes ago, delivering a preliminary report based on the departments' response times to the sound of alert conditions. She stood nearby, waiting for him to review it.

Harvey merely held the report. He tried to look at the contents now on two occasions, but his mind was elsewhere. He'd made it a habit to not sign anything he couldn't read thoroughly.

Who would attack an unknown freighter?

Vex was monitoring the long range sensors when a light started to flash in the top left hand corner of his display, there was a vessel incoming.

“Captain I’m detecting an incoming vessel, and sir you’re not going to believe this but it appears to be a Ferengi ship, D’kora class if I’m not mistaken.”

Lt(jg) Sherman started to scan the new coming ship, as he made minute adjustments to the various systems of the Black Hawk to prepare it for the new comers to the party. He also kept eye on the away team and the fighters that were out at this time. As he worked he had the CAG-Bridge Warrant Officer inform CAG-Flight Ops to let Lt Command Sherman Squadron that they had visitors and to have the newly arrived 555th Fighter Squadron to be manned and waiting.

"Ferengi," Harvey muttered, handing the PADD (without approval) back to Emily as he stood up. He approached the Lieutenant's station as he asked the next question. "How long before they get here?"

Vex glanced over his shoulder at the captain,

“Three minutes out Sir.”

Sherman was still keeping track of things with the away crew and keeping CAG-Flight Operation apprised of the situation. Sherman knew well enough the pilots of the Fighters out there would give the Ferengi wide margin of room as he looked to make sure that the 555th was on standby. As well as having resource that might be need at the command of the Captain in moment notice.

===[Bridge of the Ferengi Marauder Latinum Sea]===

Damon Zeel was sitting in his command chair in the center of the bridge watching his men going about their work preparing for a salvage mission, They had unloaded two of the eight massive cargo bays in preparation for the hall and thanks to his contacts he knew where his prize was and that he would get first pickings. Like with every salvage mission he was determined to leave nothing for the scavengers. He chuckled to himself drawing a few looks from the bridge crew but he didn’t care, he always got a tingling in his lobes when there was profit on the horizon and thanks to the backwater pirates of this quadrant who were only interested in a ship’s cargo not the ship itself like the Orion’s were back home there was a great deal of profit on the horizon.

His science officer turned in his seat to look at him, “Damon, I’m detecting two vessels at the target location, one is the freighter and the other appears to be a Humon vessel, Akira class.”

Zeel cursed as he got up from his chair and approached the helm, “if the Humons think they’re going to take my prise they have another thing coming. Tactical raise shields, charge the disrupters and load the torpedo tubes. Control officer, drop us out of warp and prepare the deflector for a flare, just in case we need to make a quick exit.”

The Latinum Sea dropped out of warp and approached the two vessels at full impulse coming to a stop ten kilometres from the Human vessel.

The tactical officer turned to the captain “Damon, the Humon vessel currently has a tractor beam locked onto the freighter and they have rapped there shields around it. I am also detecting several smaller crafts patrolling the area, federation fighters by the look of them.”

Damon Zeel looked over to his comm. Officer, “hail them,”

“There responding Damon activating Viewer.”

The screen activated showing a middle aged Human wearing the red collar of a Starfleet command officer, he noted that the rank on his neck was only that of a commander, not a full captain. Interesting he thought to himself, “This is Damon Zeel of the Ferengi vessel Latinum sea, you are currently holding my property in your tractor beam, release it, and go about your way, the Federation has no business interfering with my salvage.”

===[USS Black Hawk, Bridge]===

Sherman slowly worked at this station while, to a smaller screen off to the right of the main view screen, he sent signals to it to keep the Captain informed of various information from the away party and from CAG. While on the other side there information about various systems that he, Engineering, and Security/Tactical were adjusting at the moment.

Form what the Captain of the Latinum Sea had been saying, and seeing he had powered up his craft shields and charging weapons didn't help ease his mind. Yet, he continued to monitor things and was ready to help out with what was needed to be done.

Vex’s sensors monitored the Ferengi vessel as it came out of warp and took up position ten kilometres off their starboard side. He ran a full sensor scan of the vessel. The computer backed up what he had thought, it was a D’kora class vessel but his scans didn’t add up. The ship was emitting a larger than normal power signature, the vessels reactor and power systems must have been modified. If that’s the case he could only guess what else had been modified.

He didn’t want to interrupt the commanders conversation with the very aggravated Ferengi so he brought up a console to console messenger and sent a message discreetly to the tactical officer, informing him of the discrepancy in the power readings and requesting a tactical scan of the vessel. He knew the Ferengi and they always had a trick or two up their sleeves.

Ensign Ivan Dash could not help but eye the cute blond that was the ships Petty Officer, but upon hearing that a Ferengi ship was fast approaching, Ivan's attention went right to his controls. He began running systems diagnostics on the ships controls, and brought up a screen so he could keep a passive eye on the ships engines. He brought up a list of his favorite evasive maneuvers to keep handy. Dash would not be caught asleep behind the wheel, no mater how interested he was in the Petty Officer.

Emily caught the expression on the helmsman's face, giving him a playful expression in return with a hint of Be careful or I'll bust you. She was vastly outranked, but being the captain's yeoman gave her quite a bit of power over the rest of the crew. She hoped she'd never need to use it, but she would if backed into a corner.

Harvey fought the urge to glance at the status displays Lieutenant Sherman had provided. Before silence could reign any longer, he spoke, "This is Harvey Geisler, commanding the USS Black Hawk. We responded to a distress call transmitted by this freighter, only to find it disabled and the crew killed. I might be mistaken, but it seems early to declare salvage rights."

Stupid pirates can’t do anything right, don’t even know how to jam communications, he thought quickly to himself, before responding to the humon filling his view screen.

“Time is not important Humon, I have the salvage rights to this whole sector.”

He said spreading his arm then pointed at the view screen.

“So every piece of scrap floating in this sector belongs to me, including that freighter, as you said the crew is dead, that makes it salvage, and by that definition... it is mine! Now Go, this isn’t the alpha quadrant... commander, Starfleet has no jurisdiction here, beside you can’t help the dead.”

"Come now," Harvey pressed, "the crew has been dead for less than thirty minutes, not nearly long enough for anyone to discover it, much less you. Jurisdiction or not, this is a crime scene. Let's say those people over there have families. Imagine how they'd feel learning someone pre-determined their deaths and you were involved. How much latinum are you ready to lose in a lawsuit?"

Zeel started laughing, harder than he had laughed in a long time.

“You Humons crack me up, Lawsuit... for there to be a lawsuit you need a law, You keep forgetting commander...”

He stopped laughing and his demeanour changed back to before.

“You are a long way from the federation, out here there is no law, no authority. The only sort of law was the iron fist of the dominion, but they closed their boarders after the war, there hasn’t been a Jem’ha’dar patrol outside their space in years. In this region of space systems and governments have to fend for themselves, why do you think there is so much piracy? The crew of Interstellar freighter like this know the risks when they leave there systems as to their families, but if you care so much, take the body’s to their families, I can’t sell corpses... well I could, but there’s no real profit in it.”

Whatever energy Harvey would put in a frown he channeled down his arm to his wrist. For once, he'd met a Ferengi who was right. These systems the Black Hawk had been passing through the last few weeks were in dispute, and many were becoming accustomed to the sight of Federation vessels. His mission was merely to scout and explore, not stir up trouble.

The Federation was concerned with the rise of piracy, yes, and was not willing to see the areas around the wormhole fall into another Dominion-like influence. Information would be key to preventing it. Unfortunately, the Federation had none.

This incident was doing little to rectify that problem.

"Thank you," he offered to the Ferengi, wishing with every syllable could have been replaced with other choice words. "Permit us some time to transport the bodies and we'll be on our way."

Damon Zeel smiled to himself knowing that he had bested the Starfleet captain, it was one thing he missed about the alpha quadrant, Starfleet was so predictable.

“Very well commander, I in a generous mood now that this business is settled, I’ll give you an earth hour to finish you little investigation, I know how you Humons like to dot every I and cross every T as you say it.”

Zeel knew that he had to sweeten the pot to throw them off the trail if he was to keep the humons from finding out to much about him and his associates, and he knew the best lie was one seeded in truth so he came up with one quick, it would give him enough time to salvage the vessel and disappear before they realized what he had done.

“Also commander in the spirit of cooperation and because for some reason I like you ill give you some free information, in the hopes that if we meet again you will repay my generosity. There is a trading outpost twenty light years from here on a little planet called Pelops, it’s on the edge of dominion space and run by the Karemma, it is one the primary trading and resupply ports for this sector, it’s possible that your pirates are there or have been, it’s were I heard about this freighter after all. I just happen to over heard it from a man two tables over from me, he was bragging about a raid that would set him and his crew for months. You might want investigate it since I’m sure you’re going to search for these terrible pirates”

He may not have been a captain for long, but Harvey knew sweet talk when he heard it. "One hour, very generous. Thank you, Damon."

===[Ferengi Bridge]===

Damon Zeel smiled, "You're quite welcome commander, but remember your hour starts now, and if you have not released my property I can’t be held accountable for what follows.”

He signalled his comm. Officer and the transmission was ended. He turned and sat back down into his command chair. He signalled the blue and white skinned slave girl that had been kneeling on a gilded pillow on the left side of the bridge. She slow got up and came over to him, The fine chain around her neck jingling as she walked, she came up behind him and began giving him a very skilled oo-mox. Closing his eyes to enjoy the feeling.

“Tactical maintain combat status and ready point defence cannons for fighter defence, also prepare a firing solution on their port warp nessel just encase we have to use the flash, engineering officer is the flash prepared?”

A short and old Ferengi answered from behind the command chair. “Yes Damon, the deflector is charged and the phase emitters have been tied in, the pulse is ready at your command”

Zeel smiled, he knew that the humons would leave by his dead line but they are investigating inside the ship, if they happen to find something linking him to the pirates or the freighter he was going to be ready. He knew that his ship could match the Federation’s if it came to blows but the fighters would be the tipping point, not to mention the battle would be a very costly, he wanted to avoid if he could. He leaned back in his large comfy chair and enjoyed the oo-mox he was receiving form his pet well the clock slowly ticked away.

===[USS Black Hawk, Bridge]===

As soon as the screen cleared, Harvey allowed his mouth to frown. He wanted to check out that outpost for sure, but there was no idea what they'd get into. And twenty light years was a long way to cross for 'hearing' about a freighter. All the more evidence that the wrecked vessel in tow was a deliberate target.

They'd been given one hour to complete their work, which was certainly more than generous. Harvey wanted to maximize that hour.

He swung around and looked at the Andorian at Tactical. "Tactical analysis, Mr. th'Zarath."

Thelin began punching out commands on his control panel as he tried to formulate his response in his head quickly, "Captain, they have charge their disrupters and are arming photon torpedoes. I don't read that they are firing as of yet. I am getting an odd reading as well. The deflector dish is also being charged, possibly for some kind of ordinance response. That may explain the odd energy signatures I am reading. They shouldn't be that much of a problem Captain...but that is what worries me. That energy signature is not making sense. They have something up their sleeve. I would recommend caution."

Did i just recommend something to the Captain?! What do I think I am doing, Thelin thinks to himself, growing visibly nervous.

Harvey looked at the Andorian for a few moments, considering his alternatives. "I agree," he said at last. "Maintain yellow alert. Don't arm our weapons, but remain on standby." At least the shields were up.

"Yes Captain", Thelin began to arm the weapons, sending the necessary messages to the crew in charge of loading the torpedo bays. Also readying the phasers, holding them charged but in reserve prepared to release at a moments notice.

Turning to the other side of the bridge, Harvey instructed his operations chief, "Mr. Sherman, inform the CAG to maintain his patrols. Let's make the Ferengi think twice before he tries something."

Lt(jg) Sherman repeated the order for the CAG to maintain his patrols. This was largely done to keep up with protocol. He had already set up open channel so that CAG-Commander and CAG-First Officer would hear all their orders directly from the Bridge, and also the CAG-Flight Control had channel open to the Bridge. The repeating of the orders gave the Captain and crew on bridge that they were sent, and also help to keep Flight Boss aware that there were orders to be relayed to CAG-Commander. He shortly got nod from the Warrant Officer assigned to the Bridge from the CAG. It was Sherman turn, "Orders have been acknowledge by CAG, Sir."

"Mr. Dash, maintain our position, but be ready to move to protect the freighter. Mr. Vex, start compiling all of the data that we have. Work with Mr. th'Zarath to learn anything you can about who attacked that vessel."

"Aye Captain. I am already prepared for evasive maneuvers should they attack. I have run diagnostics on all the flight control systems and everything is running as they should. I have also taken the liberty of keeping an eye on the engines and they are 100% operational" Replied Ensign Dash to the captains orders.

Vex transferred all his data over the tactical station then logged out of his consol, he move to the tactical station and leaned over th'zarath shoulder.

“Lieutenant I transferred all my sensor data to your station, let’s see if we can figure out what this Ferengi is up to and who attacked that freighter. You‘re detecting the strange energy signatures and strange power readings too if I’m not mistaken, I know that the D’kora class marauder is comparable to a federation galaxy class but I bet that he has modified it extensively. I think the strange power readings are coming from an extra fusion reactor and an advanced warp drive which would give him almost double the power he as available for weapons and shields, and the readings I’m getting from the deflector, I can’t make heads or tails of them, your thoughts?

Th'Zarath nodded and began to focus on his console comparing it with the new data that Lt Vex transferred over. "Well the radiant wave patterns do suggest some type of energy emitter but i am not certain....wait a minute...." A serious expression grew over his face. "No....no...it cant be ..." almost wildly punching out buttons on his console, analyzing the readings on the screen. "Vex, are you getting the same readings I am? I swear the energy signature from that deflector is looking like Tetryon readings. If that is accurate and they have a Tetryon emitter it could neutralize our shields, possible in a single shot. How would they have acquired that tech? Please confirm you are seeing the same thing before we alert the Captain." Thelin's antennae began to twitch in opposite directions as he nervously poured over the technical database for specifications on a Tetryon emitter, hoping that if they were right he could find a counter-defense.

Vex’s face went stern for a moment analysing the reading in his head, the young tactical officer was right, the readings do indicate some kind of tetryon emitter setup, and with the extra power they have it would be just enough.

“I think your right Lieutenant but the worries me more, with the extra power they have a tetryon emitter would have enough power to overload our shields and cause a reset, there would be a thirty second window where we would have no shields and to make things worse there is no defence against it, our only hope is to try and speed up shield recharge time to lower the open window. The pulse would also blind our sensors for a few seconds... you got to give the Ferengi credit it’s a brilliant device for a fast escape. We better inform the captain, the fighters would have to be our shields for the recharge window but I doubt they would be able to punch through the Ferengi’s shields in time to stop their escape if they attack.”

Thelin's antennae stood completely straight as he nodded to Lt. Vex. He refocused his emotions and faced the captain.

"Captain, sir, Lt Vex & I have discovered something important." He then began to relay the findings and the possible threat they held for the ship should the Ferengi decide to take advantage of the Blawk Hawk's disabled condition. "...thus to be safe the best recommendation is Lt Vex's plan to shorten the recharge window and use our fighters as a mobile defense until we could reset the shields."

Harvey nodded, though he really hoped it wouldn't come to that. "Get it ready, Lieutenant."

Deven, new to the crew of The Black Hawk had kept a relatively low profile, He quietly walked on the bridge staying out of view of Captain Zeel, but ensuring he could continue to observe him. His behavior typified the aggression common to Ferengi when they believe themselves in a very favorable position. He mentally reviewed everything he knew about Ferengi and swiftly came to the conclusion that this could become very bad very quickly. The Black Hawk was standing between a Ferengi with firepower and potential profit.

Deven considered the Commander for a moment noting the tension in the line of his body and the carefully modulated facial expressions. The Commander was understandably a bit stressed at the conclusion of the negotiations with Captain Zeel, if terms being spelled out unilaterally could be called negotiations. Walking closer to the commander, he spoke up quietly.

“Commander, If I might make an observation?”

“The Ferengi are extremely pragmatic. It is safe to assume sir that they would not still be here if they did not believe they had an advantage. Regarding the anomalous readings from their ship? Well, Starfleet ships and their capabilities are generally well known and respected. If that was going to be a deterrent I suspect it would have been before now. I recommend extreme caution sir.”

Harvey agreed with the man's advice, and was somewhat surprised by it considering he hadn't yet met him. More than fifty people had come aboard via the transport, most of them belonging to the 555th. The majority of his senior staff now were new arrivals. Harvey supposed this was the new counselor.

"I agree, Mister..." Harvey paused, realizing he didn't yet know the man's name.

"St. Croise Sir. Deven St Croise your new Chief Counselor. Please forgive the deviation from standard protocol, but it seems I have come on board The Black Hawk during a rather stressful event and I have not yet had the opportunity present myself properly. Please accept my apologies sir. Given the circumstances I wanted to make myself available to you as quickly as possible."

Harvey held up a hand. "Apologies are not needed, Counselor. Welcome aboard." Harvey gestured to the seat to the right of the command chair. "I believe that's yours. Run through the Rules of Acquisition. I'd like to have a couple in our playbook should we encounter this Ferengi again."

After approximately 15 minutes of research St Croise considered his findings and they were not good. There was either not much wiggle room that offered an advantage or enough room to maneuver a space station through that made life harder for them. These rules are categorically insane he thought, quickly scanning through the Rules as fast as possible. He had an idea, he just hoped it would be useful later. It wouldn’t help much now. Based on th'Zarath and Vex’s findings negotiation would not be possible until there was a means to defend against the tetryon emitter. He took a deep breath and hoped the Commander didn’t think him insane.

He cleared his throat, “Sir? Regarding the matter of the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition, there is nothing specifically applicable to our current situation. However, there are at least a dozen rules of acquisition which obliquely touch on the actions currently being taken by Captain Zeel. I've included references to several to include numbers 14, 24, 26, 28, 34, 211, 217, 268, and 138 for you to peruse at your leisure. It is interesting if slightly distressing reading. As to those which might be useful to us, there appear to only be three, number 283 and 284. Number 283 states that rules are always subject to change. Number 284 states that rules are always subject to interpretation. The most useful rule however Sir, is The Unwritten Rule, a catchall for those situations not addressed by rules 1 through 287.”

St. Croise thought for a moment, “Utilizing the Unwritten Rule, might I suggest something along the lines of the following: “When negotiating with a well-armed friend, cheat, lie and deceive”. -- That should possibly be followed by something along the lines of, “The rules of Wall Street stipulate the following: “Finders keepers losers weepers”. It is decidedly Ferengi in outlook and will engender some measure of respect.” He shifted uncomfortably in his seat not entirely certain of the legality of his advice to the Commander, but acknowledging that if one plays by the Ferengi’s rules, lies and deceit were inevitable. He hoped the Commander wouldn’t think less of him.

With the entire bridge crew at work, Harvey glanced over at one of the two familiar faces on the bridge, his yeoman. The other, Lieutenant Sherman, was engrossed in his work. "A lot of new faces," he told Emily, extending a hand to take a look at her PADD once more.

"Yes, sir," she replied in her thick British accent. "And eager too."

Harvey sat in his chair, trying once again to read the status report. He still could not help but to think of the freighter. It was deliberate, targeting that freighter. What was aboard that ship that someone wanted so badly? And why leave no one alive? Hopefully, the Away Team was having some luck getting some answers.

~TBC~

 

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