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Posted on 23 Aug 2014 @ 2:57am by Captain Harvey Geisler

Mission: Pursuit
Location: USS Black Hawk || Guest Quarters
Timeline: February 1, 2388 || 1900 hours

Harvey Geisler leaned against the turbolift wall, and closed his eyes. His ears filtered out the sounds of air expelling from his lungs, the whirring of the life support system and the low buzz from the overhead light until all that remained was the rhythmic pulsing of the turbolift motor.

What a day.

Almost a full month of inactivity suddenly packed with two distress calls, red alerts, fighter scrambles and dead bodies. A small part of him, a very sick part, was actually thankful for something to do, no matter how perplexing the problems were.

Harvey was in a corner for sure. He wanted to help these refugees, though they refused the help. He could not keep D'rimo in custody too much longer as the Black Hawk had no jurisdiction in this territory. It seemed that all he could do was patch up the X'annon, which his crew had already finished up.

The motor stopped. Harvey was nearly deafened as the doors opened. He opened his eyes and looked down the empty corridor now in front of him. The captain exited the turbolift and navigated the hallways, passing officer quarters, labs, service junctions and other locations of little note.

Finally he arrived at his destination. He wondered, only briefly, what Lieutenant Noxa might say when she discovered her Captain's actions. Speculating that she would, in fact, react poorly, Harvey decided to do what he did best: attack a situation head-on.

Exercising his authority, he nodded to the guard posted outside D'rimo's quarters. "Not a word," Harvey muttered, tapping the control stud on the door frame. A moment later, Harvey was alone in the quarters with D'rimo.

"Ah, Commander," the Karemma pressed, knowing the Master of the Black Hawk was not fortunate to hold 'Captain' as both title and rank. "The rumors about the Federation working quickly are true."

Harvey frowned, staring at the Karemma's black eyes. He tried very carefully to structure his approach, opening finally with, "How does it feel? Transporting refugees who volunteered for what accounts to slavery?"

"Better them than me," D'rimo immediately countered. "Here on the fringe, survival is purely of the fittest. These... transports keep me from becoming one of them."

Harvey cocked his head, almost expecting to hear that answer.

Before the human could ask another question, D'rimo continued. "You want to believe that I'm a horrible person, sharing the qualities of the Dominion. That is not the case. I have a wife. I have three children. The pay from this job will keep my family fed for another five months."

"You're just as enslaved as your cargo," Harvey fired back.

"But I am surviving." D'rimo approached the human. "These... people are paying the price so that their loved ones have a chance at survival. If they're lucky, they'll last a year. Most don't survive their jobs."

"What will they do?" Harvey asked. "These people? What will they do?"

D'rimo looked away from the captain and chose a view of the X'annon outside the window instead. "Hard labor. Escort service. Whatever the Golden Stars requires."

Harvey tried to imagine several of the feeble refugees in some of those situations and had an easy time doing so. He shook his head. "Life on the Fringe is hard," he stated, trying now to steer the conversation, "but I can't believe the Stars would indenture just anyone."

"And they don't." D'rimo looked back to the captain. "Even the Golden Stars have limited, though very powerful, resources. Two members of my crew, before they were my crew, once tried to become, as you say, indentured. Were it not for me, they would have died."

"Then why did they attack your ship?" Harvey asked. "Why bully a down-on-his-luck freighter captain with a hull full of people."

D'rimo paused, not expecting to be asked that question. In fact, he'd been trying to figure out that answer himself. When the attack started, there hadn't been even an attempt at communication.

"You don't know, do you?" Harvey pressed, taking a step towards D'rimo. Studying his face for a moment, Harvey abruptly stepped away and moved towards the wall panel. A couple quick commands later, an image of another freighter appeared on the screen. "Do you recognize this?"

D'rimo studied the image. "Anthar-class freighter," he replied. "The X'annon is of this class."

"This is the freighter we encountered an hour before receiving your distress call."

The Karemma's eyes widened.

Before D'rimo could say anything, Harvey continued. "We arrived too late. Crew dead. Cargo holds stripped bare. And a Ferengi showed up with salvage rights."

"Salvage rights?" D'rimo quietly asked. He moved to stand next to the window to look at the X'annon.

"There's something greater at play here, isn't there?" Harvey demanded, choosing to remain standing by the wall panel.

D'rimo remained silent, racking his brain to connect the dots. Then it finally hit him. "I passed up a job," D'rimo explained softly. "Lucrative one at that. It would have taken care of my family for years, but it was too risky." He paused for a moment, then added, "A month ago, a group of raiders, an attack vessel and a freighter like mine visited a system with a Federation outpost. Found it abandoned, or so it seemed. They stuffed their cargo hold full with treasures, including one of your famous replicators and a subspace transceiver."

Harvey tensed. He knew there had been foul play at the Altair system, and now there was complete confirmation. And now they also knew what had been stolen.

D'rimo turned to look at the captain. "A couple of the raiders disappeared on the planet. No one knows how or why. They retreated immediately. The attack vessel detected an unknown ship and went to investigate. A Federation ship scared them away. When they went back to the freighter, it was gone. A bounty finally came out for the captain's head a couple days ago."

"All this... for a replicator?"

"No." D'rimo sighed. "Resources may be limited, and the Stars protective of them, but if there's one thing the Stars do not tolerate... it's treachery. They're looking for that ship. Before it gets to Razmena to sell it to the highest bidder."

The Trading Outpost. Harvey thought as he heard the facts. His eyes narrowed as his brain began to consider his options.

It seemed that D'rimo could read the human's expression. "I know you will not condone our actions, or our methods, Commander. Many on the Fringe lack appreciation or respect for both the Dominion and the Federation, as do I. As long as you are in Golden Stars Territory, you are a target. I would, however, appreciate an escort to Razmena. If I do not arrive in three days, my bounty is forfeit, and so will my life, the lives of my crew and their families."

"You put me in a difficult position, D'rimo," Harvey stated, his tone bitter. He made up his mind a while ago to head for Razmena in hopes to learn more. It seemed, however, that the situation was growing more complicated with each minute.

Harvey sighed. "You will have your escort. But you will have to do something for me in return."

~To Be Continued...~


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