Elkin Shipyards: Status of the Cortina Elkin Shipyards Late Afternoon, MD1
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Braedyn Tann, Master of the SS Juan Cortina hunched into the old style red and white Starfleet field jacket he’d ‘appropriated’ while he was still in Starfleet, just before they went out of service. It provided excellent protection from the cold and wet, and the outside areas of Polar City, Rigel IV’s predominantly Human colony, could get very cold and wet. It was the end of the day and Braedyn was headed to the shipyards to meet with the yard boss of Elkin Shipyards. They had been refitting and upgrading the Juan Cortina and Braedyn was looking for an update on their progress.

Braedyn had known Alaysia Ronn since they were kids together. Alaysia was the niece of Callam Elkin, the CEO of Elkin Shipyards. Callam had encouraged the Alaysia’s love of technology and helped her get into the Starfleet Merchant Space Service Academy, where she had studied Engineering. After a tour as a SFMSS engineer, Alaysia returned to Rigel IV where Callam hired her on at his company. She was a brilliant engineer and between her and Cal, Braedyn knew his ship was in good hands. He arrived at Elkin Shipyards and was passed through security. He found Cal and Alaysia in one of the labs going over blue prints and making notes. He recognized the plans as those of his ship. Alaysia saw him first.

“Brae!” she said walking over to him and giving him a warm hug. The two had been…close when they were teenagers and Braedyn still got a thrill when she pressed her warm body up against his. “The Cortina is almost ready. Come look.”

She led him over to the display.

“Hello, son,” Callam Elkin said. “Ready to see the magic we’ve worked?”

“Yes, sir,” Braedyn said.

“How many times have I got to tell you, son,” said Callam, a vigorous man in his eighties. “It’s Cal! We’ve known each other for around…what? Fifty years?”

“That sounds about right…Cal,” Braedyn said.

“Good,” Cal replied. “That’s better. Now come look at this! Everything has either been refit or upgraded or in some cases, both. Computers, sensors, shields, engines, weapons, everything. We even contacted Andoria and had them send us the latest version of that Weapon Signature Dampening Field you like so much. Must be nice to do whatever it is you do for Starfleet. I suppose that comes in handy. You may have Federation and Starfleet licenses for all that firepower you have installed but I bet it helps not to have to explain yourself over and over to Starfleet authorities or anyone else you might run into. With that in mind, you’ll notice here that we installed that cloaking device of yours in a way that it wouldn’t be noticed during a spot inspection. I mean, if they really tear your engine room apart, they’re going to find it. It can’t make itself invisible or intangible. But a basic inspection wouldn’t find it. We did the same with the WSDF.”

Braedyn looked over the blueprints and smiled.

“How soon will she be ready?” he asked.

Alaysia smiled.

“I say a week,” she said. “But Uncle Cal says two. We’re going to see who’s right.”

Braedyn chuckled. Alaysia was enthusiastic…about everything she did. He wondered if she’d have any more free time before he left. They’d already had few passionate, intimate, no strings attached encounters since he’d arrived at Polar City.

“I’ll wait the extra week if it means the Cortina will be better prepared,” he said.

“See,” Cal said. “I told you he wouldn’t mind the wait. You don’t even have a crew for her yet, do you?”

Braedyn sighed.

“No,” he said. “Haven’t found anyone I’ve clicked with yet. I’m going to widen the search to include some of the other planets in the system and see what turns up.”

Alaysia laughed.

“You’re just looking for an excuse to go to Rigel II and get your ashes hauled by one or more young, nubile Orion girls!”

Braedyn grinned.

“Maybe,” he said. “Can you blame me? They’re a lot cleaner there than they are at Sathura or on Rigel X.”

Alaysia made a face.

“Ew, gross,” she said. “Don’t make me lose my lunch. Well, go have fun. Some of us have work to do.”

“Okay,” Braedyn said. “I’ll get out of your way.”

They all said their goodbyes for now and Braedyn left Elkin Yards in search of a drink. He considered stopping off at the Rusty Rivet, a favorite of the local yard workers, but decided he wanted a warmer environment. There was a jazz club he liked inside Polar City’s environs, away from the winter cold of the yards. He decided to head there.

Recruiting the XO Last Diner in the Rigel System MD-2 Early Morning
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Marsha had put in an application with a few people and refit specialists she knew hoping she could get back on a ship soon. It was nice bumming around, but her pocketbook was hurting and she needed some more income. Hence why she was now trying to find an XO or first mate gig on a decent ship before she had to rely on Federation rationing.

Sipping from her coffee, she glanced around the 'Last Diner' and saw nothing but junkies and people nursing hangovers. Perhaps her latest venue wasn't the best place to meet a prospective employer... At least the booth she was in was comfortable.

The Last Diner was well known around Polar City. It was your basic greasy spoon, a throwback to Earth's 1950s. It was joked that it was called the Last Diner because it was the last diner you'd ever eat in. It was toss up as to whether that meant the food was so great that you'd never want to eat anywhere else, or that the food was so unhealthy that whatever you ordered would be your last meal. Surprisingly, they had pretty good coffee, and, as unhealthy as it was, sometimes you wanted some scrambled eggs, sausage, and a short stack. Braedyn was in the mood for that very thing...and coffee. He opened the door to the last diner and entered, brushing off his old Starfleet field jacket, and pulling off his gloves and watch cap. He chuckled when he saw the local crowd. Most of them looked hors d'combat from hard drinking, hard drugs, or intimate activities that Braedyn didn't want to know anything about. One person struck his eye. A woman sitting alone. Attractive. Pretty well endowed.

What's she doing here? Hmm...kid looks a bit down on her luck. Actually, she looks sort of hungry.

Braedyn removed his jacket and hung it up, then walked over to the woman's table.

"Excuse me," he said. "Can you help me? I'm desperately seeking a hungry person, sort of down on their luck, hanging around a greasy spoon, so I can buy them breakfast? Are you that person?"

Did she really look that desperate? Compared to the rest of the clientele, she thought she looked well enough off, but apparently not. Still, a free meal is a free meal so Martha motioned to the seating on the opposite side of her booth. "I think I fit that description well enough. Have a seat." Looking him over again, she could tell from her empathy that he wasn't looking for sex or anything, but he was looking for something and it wasn't entirely a pretty face to eat with. "So what else are you looking for? Anything in particular?"

Braedyn took the seat across from the woman.

Kids, always in such a rush.

"I guess we're all looking for something," he said. "I'm Captain Braedyn Tann, master of the SS Cortina. What's your name?"

Braedyn extended his hand to shake.

"Marsha," she replied, shaking the man's hand. "Marsha Mallow, former XO of the RMS Dawn Eclipse before her fiery destruction over Guise 9."

Braedyn was intrigued.

Royal Marine Ship? That's interesting.

"Nice to meet you Marsha," he said. "So, XO of an RMS ship. Was that a real RMS ship or one of the less than legit ships using that prefix? I'm not a cop. I don't care either way. I'd just like to know who I'm dealing with."

A waitress came over to take their order.

"What'll it be folks?" she asked.

"Scrambled eggs, sausage, and a blueberry short stack, orange juice, and coffee," Braedyn said. He looked at Marsha. "Have whatever you'd like. The breakfast specials are pretty good. Burgers aren't bad either."

"I'll have my usual then. Patty melt with extra cheese and a Rigelian omelet, please." Martha replied. As soon as the waitress left with their order, she continued. "We were registered with the Federation Merchant Marines so we had the name legally, but we dabbled in covert shipments as well."

Braedyn nodded. He could deal with that. In fact, that kind of experience was almost preferable.

"How long were you a merchant spacer?" he asked. This Marsha couldn't be much more than thirty, she couldn't have been an adult more than twelve years, give or take. Question was, how many of those years had she spent in space? How many as an officer?

"Eighteen years now. I got a job as a deckhand moving cargo when I was fifteen and moved up to XO over the course of twelve years." Marsha replied, sipping from her coffee again. "How about you?"

Braedyn chuckled.

"As a merchant spacer?" he said. "I haven't really started that career yet. But I graduated from Starfleet Academy back in 2342 so that's...thirty-three years ago? I spent twenty-eight years in Starfleet, a good portion of that fighting the Cardassians. When that bogus treaty got signed back is seventy, I ended my relationship with Starfleet, I thought for good at the time. I joined the Maquis for a while. When we got overrun by the Jem'Hadar, I managed to load up my ship with civilians and escape. Starfleet recruited me to work for them as a sort of privateer for the duration of the war in exchange for a pardon. Elkin Shipyards is just finishing up an overhall, refit, and upgrade on my ship, the SS Juan Cortina. It just so happens that I'm looking for a crew. On paper we're a Ju'Day Class Light Freighter, but the Cortina is much more. We're going to be doing a lot of good and hopefully make a living doing it. Does that sound like something you might be interested in?"

"Let's see... steady pay, good ship, and you seem good too. I have no reason to say no. Where do I sign up?" Marsha replied with a lopsided grin.

"We'll be leaving in a week, maybe two," Braedyn said. "Depends on how fast we find a crew and how long it takes the yard birds to put the final touches on the JC. This meal is on me."

He handed Marsha a credit chit.

"Take this to the Spacefarer's House," he said. "It's easy to find. This will cover you there until we're ready to leave. It's not plush, but it's clean and dry, and you can wash yourself and your clothes there. The chit covers room and board, so they'll feed you. We're going to be doing quite a bit of stuff that you have to keep your mouth shut about and we will, from time to time, end up in harms way, but the pay will be good and the work will be worthy of us. So if you're still in, welcome to the crew of the SS Juan Cortina...Number One."

Marsha smiled and nodded as she took the chit and tucked it into her bra. "Never been hired without someone doing a background check, but I'll do my best, nonetheless. I might even have a few contacts you might be interested in." Pulling a small PaDD out of a pocket, she slid it over to Braedyn. "Most of them are probably dead or retired, but a few should still be looking for work. My work history and resume are on there too, if you want them."

Braedyn chuckled.

"I have a good feeling about you," Braedyn said. "And besides that I'll check you out a bit while we wait for the ship to be ready to take off and while we gather more crew."

"Fair enough," Marsha chuckled softly as their food came and the waitress set it before them. "And this is why I can't lose weight," she added with a wink and a mischievous smile. "So worth it though."

"I couldn't agree more," Braedyn said as he poured Rigel IV's version of warm maple syrup on his two blueberry pancakes. A lot of things on Rigel IV were served warm. It had been winter since Braedyn was born and scientists believed it would still be winter for sometime to come. He let his pancakes soak for a moment and ate a forkful of eggs before speaking. "And you should be proud of your curves. They look good on you."

"Thank you," Marsha didn't expect that. Most people these days expected her to have some sort of health issues, but no she just really enjoyed eating. Digging into her omelet first, she moaned slightly as the delicious spiciness hit her tongue. Yes, she indeed did consider this to be far better than sex.

The two of them chewed in companionable silence. After a bit, Braedyn picked up the PaDD with Marsha's CV on it and began to read. He'd heard of some of the ships she'd served on. She'd clearly been shot at before and shot back. He'd have to give her more training in ship to ship tactics and probably some small unit tactics, but the ship's small holosuite could be used for that. Other than that, Marsha had a fair amount of experience in the merchant service. She'd lend credibility to the Cortina's cover as a light freighter. Of course they would actually haul freight reasonably often, but that wasn't all they'd be doing.

"Well," Braedyn said. "If you're telling the truth on this thing, you're going to work out just fine. I need someone to help with the Merchant Marine aspect of our work, and you can learn what you don't know about the rest. I've heard that there's going to be a gig coming our way soon. I'll fill you in on the details as soon as I have them."

Marsha had finished her omelet and was letting her guts settle a bit before tackling the grease soaked patty melt when she picked up some stray thoughts about combat training or something similar. "Sounds good to me. If you need to verify anything on it, the local ships registry should have everything you need. I should warn you though, I'm not a very good shot and the one phase pistol I was good with I had to pawn. It was a modded version of the old Earth ones back when they had actual sights."

"We'll work on your marksmanship," Braedyn said. "But that's good to know. I'll try and keep you out of situations where you have to shoot anyone with a hand phaser. Just try and remember to stand forward of me if we get in a shoot out."

He grinned to show that he was joking. He was...mostly. Hopefully she wouldn't shoot him in the back in crisis.

Marsha chuckled softly as she dug into her patty melt. "I'll stay clear of any firefights if I can help it. I just hope I can spring my pistol from the pawn shop now."

Braedyn pulled out a business card and handed it over.

"My contact information is on this," he said. "Get the name and address of the place to me later and I'll get it back for you. No, don't thank me. I do this for you out of a sense of self-preservation."

"Well then," Marsha mumbled, taking the card and tucking it into her purse before digging around in it for a pawn chit from Borif's Interplanetary Pawn and Loan Shop, handing that to Braedyn. "I'm going to trust you with this."

"What?" Braedyn said with a grin. "You don't think I have an honest face? Do I seem like a flim flam man to you? Actually, I probably do. Well, I won't let you down. You have my word. Now you just need to decide if that's good enough for you."

Marsha tapped her forehead and chuckled softly. "I'm Betazoid. I've been reading you since you walked in the door. If anyone here can't be trusted, it's me." Chuckling a bit more, she dug back into her patty melt.

"Uch, now I'll have to wear a tinfoil hat everywhere I go," Braedyn said, winking to show he was kidding. Then he realized she had no idea what he was talking about. "It's an Old Earth thing. Some of the mentally disturbed thought that the government or aliens or both were trying to read their minds or use mind control or both. They thought that wearing a hat made of tinfoil kept the mind readers and controllers out of their heads."

Marsha couldn't help but laugh at the thought of the entire crew going around with tinfoil hats everywhere. "Yeah, that doesn't work. We had the same theory back in the dark ages on Betazed to try and prevent others from reading your mind but still being able to read theirs. But yeah, if you can read someone else's mind, they can read yours."

"Too bad it doesn't work in reverse," Braedyn said. "You know, if you can't read someone's mind, they can't read yours."

"I'm sure there's been research on that," Marsha said just before finishing her patty melt.

Braedyn had finished up his eggs and sausage and was putting the coup de gras on his pancakes.

"Hmmm," he said when he was done. "Worth the health risk. All things in moderation as they say. So, I'll be in touch. No need to rush moving on to the ship. Soon we're going to rearrange the quarters so they'll be a few more private ones. Right now, though, space is tight. Might as well take advantage of the privacy while you can."

"As long as I fit through the doors, I'll be happy." Marsha quickly finished her coffee and leaned back contentedly. "I'll move my things to the Spacefarer's house as soon as I leave here so when you need me, I'll be easy to find. Then I'll start looking over stocks and making sure the ship is prepped. Anything you need me to do before that?"

"Just keep an eye out for people looking for work," Braedyn replied. He finished his coffee and stood up from the table, taking his coat off the hook, which he put on. "Well, best be off. Lots to do. I'll be in touch."

"Stay warm," Marsha replied, standing and bundling up herself.

"You, too," Braedyn said. "See you soon."

Braedyn winked, walked to the door, and exited the diner.
Dazed and Defanged Rigel System | The Manasa
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"Critical damage to primary hull" announced the computer after several minutes of taking a beating as Gaenor managed to get her vessel through an Orion welcoming party. A misunderstanding that they paid dearly for, but Gaenor was not without her own loss. Her 'ship' as it were was now a smoking heap of scrap metal Frankensteined together over the past year from various repair work after several skirmishes. She was operating on parts well out dated and past their prime. "CRITICAL....CRITICAL...CRITICAL" the word came across the visor of her helmet several times before she finally sat the craft down on the landing pad.

Once the landing struts hit the pad, and she popped the cockpit hatch open, smoke just bellowed out from the cockpit and the craft nearly gave way and collapsed like a parched ox. "Damn it!" she shouted "Fucking Federation technology!" she shouted even louder as she took off her pilot's helmet and threw it against the metallic and ploy synthetic alloy frame of the the old Cobra class fighter turned Starfleet Academy Flight Trainer, turned retired piece of junk scrap. Only Gaenor had salvaged it and managed to keep it alive for another year of service albeit under her relentless abuse.

The craft was from the late 2330s and saw service into the 2350s, then had been an Academy Flight Trainer during the 2360s. That had been its last official refit. Gaenor had some work done to it and modifications made, but The Manasa as she named her craft had definitely seen its last day. She had a job to complete that involved a Ferengi with a big mouth, and she was tasked with making sure he was silenced. I'll figure out how I'm getting back after the job's done. You did your job getting me here, Manasa....it's time we part ways old girl she thought as she walked away from the smoking former Federation fighter.
Tea and Romulans The Bean There and Done That Cafe Current
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Rigel IV was a damp, cold, miserable place. Of that, Jaeih was certain, and she was beginning to wonder just why she'd even come to this planet with its decades of bitter winter. While there had been rumor of ships looking for crew and other such opportunities, most took one look at her and quickly set off in the opposite direction. She supposed she couldn't blame them; despite the recent alliance during the Dominion War, most people in the Alpha Quadrant still feared the Star Empire and its inhabitants. Running in the opposite direction was, for them, a conditioned reflex that would be difficult to break. A more logical woman might have given up and left, seeking a warmer world or at least a more friendly one. After all, she didn't need the money.

Jaeih, however, was not that logical of a woman, nor did she give up quite that easily. Instead, she'd again donned a warm sweater and the thick, heavy cloak that had once been a part of her Navy uniform, braving the cold one more time. However, it seemed luck would again be opposing her, as she was greeted with what seemed to be a solid wall of blowing snow and rain. Quite thoroughly soaked - and damn near frozen - she sought shelter in the closest establishment she could, some sort of coffee house. At least, she thought it was a coffee house. It smelled primarily of that Terran beverage and heavy doses of chocolate, with some undercurrents of the spices more common in Vulcan beverages.

In fact, she'd have ordered a Vulcan spiced tea if the barista hadn't taken one look at her and fled from the counter. Realizing she was unlikely to get the girl to come back, she resigned herself to the cold and turned back to the door.

Captain Braedyn Tann was enjoying a mug of coffee while sitting in a chair by the fire and doing some light reading. He looked up when the door opened and saw a woman enter. Her hood was up, but the cloak looked like one he'd seen Romulan naval officers wearing during the war. When she pulled back her hood, he saw pointed ears. He didn't see pronounced forehead ridges, but she didn't carry herself like a Vulcan. He didn't get a Vulcanoid Rigelian vibe off of her. They were more cheerful...probably from getting laid all the time. No, Braedyn was pretty sure she was Romulan. The barista seemed to get the same vibe because she snubbed the woman, refusing to take her order.

"Wait," Braedyn called out to the Romulan woman. He got up and walked over to the Barista. "Give the lady what ever she wants, on me. I assume my credits are still good here."

His tone was polite, but his meaning was clear: The Barista could, of course, refuse business to anyone, but doing so in this case would not be wise. The barista would give the Romulan what she wanted or Braedyn would know why not. Braedyn turned to the Romulan woman.

"Captain Braedyn Tann," he said, introducing himself. "Master of the SS Juan Cortina. Please, order whatever you want, on me. You're welcome to join me by the fire when you're ready. Please, stay, drink a warm drink and warm yourself by the fire. It's not fit for man nor beast out there right now."

"Thank you." Jaeih's tone was soft and lightly accented. It was obvious that she spoke Federation Standard rather than relying on a universal translator. "Jaeih t'Hwersuil, retired Navy. And I think a Vulcan tea with extra spice would do nicely." Even inside away from the wind, she shivered slightly, and the swiftly delivered mug of tea was a welcome respite. She held it between both her hands for a moment, letting its heat warm her fingers before taking a careful sip of the hot liquid and moving to take one of the empty seats near the fire. "I appreciate your kindness, Captain Tann. Most humans wouldn't think twice about one of my people being turned away."

"Not at all," Braedyn said. "I grew up interacting with your cousins, the Vulcanoid Rigelians. I got pretty good at guessing ages. I figure you for veteran of the recent unpleasantness, as some would have us call it. Am I right?"

"You have a good eye." Most would find Jaeih young for a retiree, but she'd often found that fellow veterans of the War had her easily pegged. "I commanded a warbird during that mess. I'd do it again in a heartbeat, should my service be required."

Braedyn nodded.

"So," he said. "What brings you to the frigid planet of my birth? I'm guessing it wasn't the weather."

"Most definitely not the weather." Jaeih chuckled a bit, sipping her tea. "Retirement bores me. I need something to occupy my time, and rumor was this was the place to look."

"There are definitely ships looking for crew in this system," Braedyn said. "It just so happens I'm one of them and I'm more interested in qualifications than points of origin. Technically, my ship is just a simple light freighter. In reality she's much, much more. Which means I'm going to need people who've been in the thick of it before. Any of this sound interesting to you?"

"Hmm." Jaeih thought about it for a moment, quietly sipping her tea while she considered what Braedyn had said. "I haven't spent as much time in light craft as I have in warbirds. And I suppose it does sound adventurous. What sorts of positions are you looking to fill?"

"I just recruited an XO," he said. "She's young, but they all have to learn sometime. How would you feel about handling our security, tactical, and intelligence needs? I know, I know. You're thinking 'what does a light freighter need with a security, tactical, and intelligence officer. Well, that's where the much, much more comes in. We're licensed to carry a considerable amount of firepower and there are going to be situations where we'll need it. I need someone experienced in ship to ship tactics who can learn to anticipate my commands. I need someone who can train the crew in small unit tactics and small arms and secure our cargo and . I need someone who's going to watch my back. Most people would say that I shouldn't trust a Romulan to do this for me, but you and I know different, don't we?"

"Most people do not actually know any Romulans, so they are unqualified to comment on the matter." Jaeih set her tea down, folding her hands together on the tabletop. "Before I commanded a warbird, I was in security and tactical. Many warbirds do not have a separate intelligence department, so I've done my fair share of that work as well. As for watching your back, I believe I can handle that." Having only just met the man, she was impressed with the level of trust he already seemed to place in her, especially after dealing with so many Federation types who had no love for the Romulan people.

Braedyn nodded.

"Can I take that to mean you want the job?" he said.

"I do indeed want the job. For one thing, your ship is probably warmer than this Elements-forsaken planet." Jaeih cracked a hint of a smile. "I don't much care what the pay is. Having some work to do is better than sitting at home on ch'Rihan getting fat."

"You and me both, sister," Braedyn said. "You have a place to stay? There's a Spacefarer's House near the yards. It's not fancy, but it's clean and warm and they'll feed you, wash your clothes, etc. I just sent the XO over there. She was a bit down on her luck. The place isn't expensive at all, but if your tapped out at the moment I can give you a chit to carry you until we leave."

"I already have a room, but I do appreciate the offer. I may look into the Spacefarer's House... my current accommodations are a bit lacking in heat. But I do not require a credit chit just yet. I have my retirement funds from the Imperial Navy. Not unlimited, but certainly adequate for now." Jaeih knew most people who came to the Rigel system to find work were less fortunate, but she had no plans to take advantage of Braedyn's kindness in that manner. "I do, however, greatly appreciate the warm drink. I don't tolerate this cold weather very well."

Braedyn laughed.

"I grew up here," he said. "The only time I actually experienced warm weather before Starfleet Academy was when my parents took me to one of the warmer planets in the system in search of Orion artifacts or evidence of the Architects, the supposed first race of the Rigel system. We did a fair amount of that here, but there's a lot to be seen in this system if you know where to look...and if the Kaylar don't eat you while you're looking."

"The... Kaylar? Is this an animal?" Jaeih certainly hoped there weren't any animals on Rigel IV big enough or savage enough to eat people, but even the planet Vulcan had its sehlat and le-matya that stalked the deserts.

Braedyn chuckled.

"They're a primitive species found on most of the habitable worlds of in the system," he said. "They're tall, usually better than two meters in height, and heavy. Most of that weight is heavy bone and muscle. They were soldier-slaves to the Orions, still are on Rigel VII. They aren't very intellectually developed. There are large tribes on most worlds. Most settlements work out some kind of peaceful trade with them or just leave them alone. Mostly the Kaylar keep to themselves. Every now and then. though, they mount an assault on a settlement, swooping down in lighter than air ships. It's been less frequent in recent years, but it still happens. On Rigel II they basically rule the jungle areas. That doesn't stop people from mounting expeditions into the jungles in search of ancient Orion Empire tech. Most just disappear. Sometimes a member or two of an expedition will come wandering out of the jungle, raving about monsters. The government over there officially forbids such expeditions, but likely not for altruistic reasons. More likely is that they want to salvage whatever is there themselves. They just haven't figured out how to do it."

"Ah. Well, I'll be steering well clear of the Kaylar then." And here Jaeih had thought the cold was the worst part of this planet. "I have no intentions of leaving the city until your ship is ready to depart anyway."

"Fair enough, Jaeih," Braedyn said, pronouncing it 'Jay', which was about as close as he could come to pronouncing the Romulan's name correctly, and only they because the language the Vulcanoid Rigelians used was also a derivative of Vulcan. That he could speak, but with a Fed Standard accent. He wasn't even going to attempt her last name until he'd practiced for a month. He handed her a business card. He wrote something on the back. "Take this. My information is on it and I wrote the yard address and hanger number on the back. You have some way for me to contact you?"

Tucking the business card into a hidden pocket in her sweater, Jaeih fished out one of the identity/contact chips she'd managed to procure before her retirement. Setting it on the table, she slid it over to Braedyn. "This holds the frequencies that work with my personal communications devices. I keep one on me at all times, so I'm always available."

Braedyn took the chip offered to him.

"I'll be in touch," he said, rising from his seat. "It was nice to meet you Jaeih."

Braedyn put his field jacket and watch cap back on and pulled on his gloves as he walked to the door of the cafe. He opened the door, turned up his collar against the cold, and left the cafe. He had many more billets to fill on the Cortina.

Red Red Wine Rigel System | Rigel VI - Sixth Moon of Gesh
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'Have business, will travel' was more or less Gaenor's standpoint on matters. The quadrant did not matter, the systems were of little concern to her, and the more risky the adventure, the more thrilling the reward. Her years of serving the Klingon Defense Force were behind her, and she was more or less back in business for herself these days, having finally been released by the Federation. They had held her for several months, questioning her, and detaining her...filibustering her freedom with inquires and legal hearings. All because some fucked up backwards little world the all high and might Federation cared about had managed to use the weapons Gaenor had acquired for a wealthy member of the world against some people and caused some political coup that altered the balance of power on the world. People died and a government was overthrown. So be it. They weren't her people and it had no affect on her whatsoever except she might get more business in the future from it.

Though she did work for herself, she took jobs for others. She was anything and everything you needed from a smuggler, to a mule, to a dealer, to an enforcer. There was not really a job too small so long as the compensation was handsomely appropriate. Today, her 'employer' was a disgruntled Ferengi who was looking for his good for nothing former brother in-law who had stolen from him and was spreading the word about some things that her employer would rather he not mention. Being a 'female' made it difficult to get any work from within the Ferengi Alliance, but she worked around it by doing the work sub-contracting. In this case, she was working more directly for a male Yridian who took the job from the Ferengi, and the Yridian gave the job to Gaenor. She did not care if she got any credit for accomplishing the task(s) so long as she received the agreed upon payment.

Gaenor walked into the Ferengi owned establishment, a small bar on the sixth moon of Rigel IV, a moon called Gesh. The bar was called Tula's Grub Hub, but it was nothing special. A seedy little bar with poor lighting and an atmosphere that was about as lively as a Vulcan Center for Elderly Care. However, it was frequented by some of the more rowdy and unlawful types, bounty hunters, mercenaries, arms dealers, smugglers, or just the average miner looking for some place to escape work and the piss poor home life they did not want to go home to.

She walked up to the bar and took a seat at the stool. A Ferengi behind the bar approached her and asked her what she wanted. Gaenor intended to enjoy herself and unwind a bit before getting straight to business. "I'll have a Klingon blood wine in a stein" she said in a sardonic tone. "And it had better be warm" she added with a bitterness. "There's nothing more repulsive and insulting than cold congealed blood wine" she explained as she watched the Ferengi fetch her drink. A few minutes later the dark red substance was in front of her in a glass stein. She took a sip, swallowed and snarled. "This blood wine has to be the worst in the quadrant!" she shouted.

Braedyn Tann had left the Rigel system when he was eighteen to attend Starfleet Academy. He'd visited Gesh once before that when he and some friends of his worked out a plan to sneak over to the moon and visit the resort. They hadn't been disappointed but they'd caught Hell when they got back, brains addled from liquor and pheromones. The was Braedyn's first visit to Tula's Grub Hub. He'd heard that a variety of spacers came to the Ferengi establishment looking for work and he was here scoping out the talent. Er...not that type of talent. Spacer talent. He saw a Nausicaan at the bar and heard...him...her? Braedyn had a hard time telling the difference from where he was sitting. He heard the Nausicaan complain about the poor quality of the blood wine. Braedyn had heard rumors of a female Nausicaan operating as a mercenary. If this was her, she had an impressive rep for someone so young and inexperienced. Rough, he'd heard, and not afraid of criminal associations, which might or might not be useful in his new endeavor. Then something caught Braedyn's eye.

Is that a Kaylar?? What the Hell is he doing here?? It looks like he works for that very shifty looking Ferengi over there. Where the Hell did he get a Kaylar to use as a bodyguard? And why does that Ferengi look so nervous?

The Kaylar was given signal to 'take care' of the Nausicaan. Gaenor had heard the rumors that a Kaylar was in employment of this Ferengi, but it was not something she had invested much into until she felt herself manhandled out of her bar stool, ripped from her seat and thrown across the room smashing into a Dom-jot table. People began to scatter, though many just cleared way and left some distance as they encircled to watch the brawl like spectators at an arena. Gaenor pulled herself back up to her feet and looked at the Kaylar, letting out a bit of a hiss in his direction. "You don't have the guramba!" she shouted at him.

Blow for blow, the Kaylar had the height and weight advantage. If he got a good hold of her, he could throw her around like a rag doll and shake her apart. She could not...she would not allow him the opportunity. As the Kaylar came in with a straight fist towards her breastbone, relying on techniques of the Vulcan Suus Mahna, she rolled out of the way, a defensive action. It was not something she enjoyed doing. She liked to be delivering blows, not dodging them. "I have no intention on dying by your dimwitted hands, Kaylar. If you are going to kill someone...DO IT PROPERLY!" she spat back as she pulled a Nausicaan dagger from the sash tied around her waist.

The Kaylar lunged forward at her, but she was ready for him. She may had been at a disadvantage with strength, height, and weight. However, she had agility and a quickness about her. She caught his clothesline attempt, and turned into him. This lead her into being placed into a bit of a choke hold and was losing her grip on the bladed weapon. Gaenor mustered her strength to bring the knife up and jab the Kaylar deep into his kidney. It was more than enough for the man to loosen his grip to which she slid out and turned to face him as he staggered with her dagger embedded in his side.

"Next time, hire better" she said looking up at the Ferengi who was watching with pleasure until she managed to break free and sear the man's kidney. She reached forward tearing the dagger out of the Kaylar's side and plunging it front low and center into his gut where the dagger got logged for a moment, before she raised her heeled boot pushed his gut back and pulled out a very blood dagger. The Kaylar fell backwards like a collapsing tower of terror, smashing through a table.

Gaenor took the blade of the weapon, brought it towards her mouth and licked the blood along the flat side of her bladed weapon. "Terrible diet" she commented and headed back towards the bar where her blood wine sat. She placed the bloody dagger into the stein and washed the blood off by stirring it around, then slung the stein back downing the beverage. "Ahhh. Perfect" she said, "It just needed a little blood" she added before bashing the glass stein across the Ferengi's skull, shattering the stein.

Braedyn sipped his drink as he observed the fight. The Nausicaan could handle herself well. He was sure it was a she now. The Cortina could use that type of muscle. On a whim, Braedyn motioned to a an attractive, scantily clad waitress (most of the waitstaff were 'body beautifuls' with a lot on display). She smiled and sauntered over, hips swaying.

"What can I get for you, venerable one?" she asked. She'd been serving him since he got there. According to her, 'mature' beings turned her on. Braedyn had his doubts, but was keeping an open mind.

"Give the winner of that fight another stein of blood wine," Braedyn said. "On me. And make in the good stuff, I can afford it."

Braedyn flashed the waitress a winning smile and slipped her the coin for the drink plus a healthy tip for her and the bartender.

"Anything you say," the waitress replied. "Didn't know you were into that kind of thing. I don't know if I should be offended or not."

Braedyn chuckled.

"Not that kind of a thing, Kiara," he said. She'd slipped him her name and comm channel earlier. "Strictly business."

Kiara's face brightened. Her prospects were improving, or so she thought.

"I'll take care of that for you right now," she said. The beautiful Andorian woman winked and walked over to the bar, putting a little extra sway in her hips. A moment later, the bartender gave the Nausicaan a stein of the good blood wine.

The Nausicaan wiped the tusks and bones around her mouth as she finished the sub-par blood wine, only to see the waitress come and serve her another albeit this one already looked a hell of a lot better in appearance and scent than the garbage Gaenor had slung back. "I did not order another drink, wench" she said glaring at the woman. "Who?" added the Nausicaan questioningly after determining she was not expected to pay for the drunk as someone was covering it.

Gaenor took the beverage and chugged it down with ease. Her lips were practically cheery stained red from the blood wine, but she was pleased with the taste of this higher quality. She then looked over at the human male who apparently paid for the beverage she had just consumed. "If you are trying to buy me for evening companionship, I'm afraid you are too delicate for me to pleasure, human," she said bitterly. "Though the blood wine is appreciated," she added with a nod before belching out a storm.

Braedyn chuckled.

"This is purely business," Braedyn said. "And not that kind of business. What brings you to Gesh, if you don't mind my asking?"

She glared at him "Can't you tell? BUSINESS, and I'm still working" she replied. She had taken her eyes off the Ferengi after busting his head open a bit with the glass stein but he was still behind his bar reeling from what had happened moments ago. Gaenor reached across the bar, grabbed onto the Ferengi's collar and yanked his head downward so she could have a 'word' with him.

Gaenor looked the Ferengi dead in the eyes. "Your mouth is as big as your lobes, Ferengi. And they have gotten you into a great deal of trouble as you can tell by my presence in your shitty establishment. I didn't come all the way from Ork for nothing. Your ex brother in-law, Mork is not pleased with you ratting on his business dealings with the Ferengi Commerce Authority...I've been told to silence you to keep you out of his business dealings" she said, seeing the look of terror grow immensely in the man's eyes.

"Now wait...please just wait. Surely we can work something out...some blood wine. Kegs and barrels of blood wine, the best quality that I have" he began to gravel and barter. "I have two little ones at home. Please, think of the children" he added pleading for his life.

The Nausicaan scoffed. "Killing you would be too easy and an offense to my dagger. Your ex brother in-law gave me creative freedom to do as I please, all he cares about is knowing you won't ruin his fortunes and all I care about is getting paid' she said as she reached for her dagger with one hand and plucked the Ferengi's tongue from his mouth, slicing half of it off swiftly. She then took a hold of one of his lobes, and slices and good chunk of it off. "Speak no evil, Hear no evil" she said as the Ferengi was shrieking in pain. "Consider your eyes a gift from me" she said as she cleaned her blade and placed the tongue and part of the ear in a small pouch.

She then looked at the human "My business here has concluded. Do you wish to hire me now?"

Financial Matters Andorian Colony, Rigel IV Current
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The shuttle ride out to Rigel IV’s Andorian colony was uneventful. Fall had settled in around the time Braedyn was ten years old and forty-five years later, the weather had gotten colder, windier, and rainier, so the view was grayer, but beautiful nonetheless. When the atmospheric intercolonial shuttle landed, Braedyn zipped up his field jacket, pulled on his gloves and his watch cap and exited to the landing platform. He found the gate and walked into the shuttle port. Not long after he was on a train into the colony’s largest city. Once there, he took a bus into the corporate district and once there walked to the local Keth Dovoro office.

‘Keth’ or ‘Clan’ Dovoro were the financial wizards of Andorian society. They were the bankers, financial planners, and accountants used by all Andorian citizens, governments, and corporations. No financial business was too big or too small. If there was money to be made helping others with their money, Keth Dovoro was right there.
Braedyn’s paternal grandfather, Colrin Tann was a wealthy man, both in terms of Federation credits and hard currencies such as latinum. He had investments and business connections all over the Federation and beyond stemming from Braedyn great grandfather’s and great-great-grandfather’s time. At 105 years of age, Colrin Tann was ‘semi-retired’, which for all intents and purposes meant that he still ran everything except when he felt like taking the day off. Braedyn uncle, Jaxon Tann was being groomed to take over from the old man when he either finally retired or, more likely, died hard at work in his office.

Colrin Tann loved his grandson even before he saw him in person. He wanted Braedyn to have all of the opportunities that the galaxy had to offer. The very day Braedyn was born, Colrin began investing in his grandson’s future. He invested in markets both inside and outside of the Federation and created connections for him throughout the Alpha and Beta quadrants. The result was that Braedyn was also a very wealthy man and like his grandfather he had access to both Federation credits and hard currencies as well. That was how Braedyn had been able to afford the purchase and upgrade of the ship he named the Juan Cortina back in 2370 when he quit Starfleet and joined the Maquis. It was how he was able to afford the extremely expensive overhaul, refit, and upgrades that were just now being completed on the Cortina.

Tann Corporation began working with Keth Dovoro in the time of Braedyn’s great-great grandfather Krastin Tann. Krastin saw the opportunity to invest in the Andorians and jumped at it. It paid off in spades. As Keth Dovoro became more familiar with working in foreign markets, Tann Corporation began to work more exclusively with them. On Rigel IV, Keth Dovoro handled the financials for all of Tann Corporation’s holdings on the planet, both in the Andorian colony and in Polar City. They also managed Braedyn’s money. Keth Dovoro, along with their Keth Uporu lawyers, had protected Braedyn’s money when the Federation tried to confiscate it. The Federation claimed that because Braedyn was a member of the Maquis, his money was essentially funding terrorism. Keth Dovoro and Keth Uporu kept the matter tied up in the courts until Braedyn’s pardon came through. By then the point was moot.

Today Braedyn was set to meet with Kyla Dovoro. Kyla was his contact in Dovoro’s Rigel IV office. He arrived at the building and got security to admit him. He went to Kyla’s office and waited for her to come out. Moments later she came out to get him.

“Braedyn, my love,” she said. “So good to see you again! Please, follow me to my office. Can I get you a Saurian brandy? Of course I can! Here have a seat and I’ll pour us a couple!”

Braedyn let himself be led to a couch in Kyla’s office. Kyla was younger than Braedyn, and looked even younger than that. Braedyn sometimes wondered if she had a painting of herself as an old crone hidden somewhere. Whatever the reason for her stunning good looks, she knew how to use them to her advantage. Their relationship was strictly professional for years, but a few times, often after a few too many Saurian brandies, it had been more intimate. They never let it get in the way of their professional relationship. They were two consenting adults having a good time and they didn’t make any demands on each other. When Kyla had finished pouring their drinks, she brought them over to the couch. Handing one to Braedyn, she picked a PaDD up off of the coffee table, kicked off her shoes and sat down close to him, folding her legs underneath her.
“So,” Kyla said. “How long until you set off?”

“I’m not sure,” Braedyn replied. “I’ve taken on some people and I’m working on more. There are plenty of veterans to fill the unlicensed positions, but I’m having a little trouble finding officers. I’ve picked up two really good ones, but I need more. Am I all set for funds? I’ll use credits when I can, but I’m going to need some hard stuff, too.”

Kyla nodded and called up some information on the PaDD she was holding. She angled the screen so that Braedyn could see it.

“Both your Federation credits and hard currency are invested in such a way that you can run your operation, as long as you keep it small, on a percentage of the earned interest. The rest we’ll reinvest. We’ve set you up with banking locations throughout the quadrant where you can withdraw hard currency if you need it, within reason. You won’t be buying any planets, will you? That might prove a problem.”
Braedyn chuckled.

“I think my management skills are limited to starships,” he said. “I’m pretty sure that if I ran a planet everyone on it would freeze or starve or die of thirst or any number of failures of administration. And I’m planning on getting paid for what we do most of the time, so we should be fine. That said, it’s nice to know that we won’t ever be hungry, thirsty, or out of gas because of money.”

“No, you won’t,” Kyla said. “About that other matter…”

“I assume you took care of it?” Braedyn said. “Kyla, it’s important to me.”

“I know, and I did take care of it,” Kyla replied. “Your uncle and your grandfather have agreed to make you a limited partner in Tann Corporations contracts with the Cardassian Reconstruction Authority using your income from Tann Corporation. I don’t understand, though. You fought the Cardassians for over twenty years. Why invest in helping them.”

Braedyn let out a sigh.

“First of all,” he said. “There’s going to be a lot of money to be made from CRA contracts, so there’s that. But really I’m doing this so hopefully the Federation won’t have to fight the Cardassians ever again. Maybe they’ll even become members of the Federation. Look, they’ve never understood how to manage their natural resources, so they’ve always been resource poor. This resource deficit drove them out among the stars where they stripped every planet they could find. If there was a local population in the way, they conquered it. Sometimes slowly, offering the hand of friendship at first, but always with the intent of taking everything the planet had to offer. This constant need to conquer for resources gave Central Command the opportunity to wrest control of the government from the Detapa Council. Once that happened, there was nothing to check their aggression. If we don’t want the Cardassians to just go back to the way things were, we have to try and work with them to make things different. If I’m right, and if the Old Man agrees with me I probably am, this is a huge opportunity for Tann Corporation to do the right thing, look good doing it, and earn a big payday.”
Kyla put down her PaDD and began to run her fingers through Braedyn’s hair.

“Well,” she said. “When you put it that way I agree with you, too. So…you’re my last appointment for today.”

“Oh really?” Braedyn said.

“Yes,” she said. “And I’ve got that little bedroom just off of this office…for when I have to stay late or be here early in the morning, of course.”

“Of course,” said Braedyn. He could see where this was going but he was having fun letting it play out.

“Or if I just need a bed for something…like a nap,” Kyla said.

“Of course,” Braedyn said. “Napping is good.”

“So, Braedyn my love,” Kyla said. “Am I going to have to ply you with Saurian brandy before you let me lure you into that private bedroom off of my office for an activity that will hopefully be a great deal more active than a nap, or can we skip that ridiculous ritual and make love?”

“I think we can skip the ritual,” Braedyn said with a grin.

“Excellent,” Kyla said. She walked over to her desk and activated the comm unit, calling her secretary. “I’ll be in an intense conference with Captain Tann for the rest of the afternoon and evening. Please hold all of my calls. I am not to be disturbed for any reason, is that clear?”

The secretary responded in the affirmative and Kyla cut the signal. She walked over to the couch. Braedyn stood up as she approached. Kyla held out her hand.

“Shall we?” she asked. Braedyn nodded and Kyla led him to her private bedroom. She locked the door behind them, activated a white noise generator, and shoved Braedyn back onto the bed. It was going to be a long afternoon and evening.
Recruiting a Pilot Tan 3 Ginger Spa Current
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Cara was sitting in a booth enjoying a smoothie and looking over job listings on her PaDD. This wasn't a normal bar, hence why it was called a spa instead. If there was ever a non-alcoholic bar with all the seediness of a normal bar, this was it. The main difference was people talking about being vegan and doing crossfit. It wasn't normally her scene, but the smoothies were literally out of this world - most of the ingredients were imported.

Braedyn wasn't normally into the crunchy vegan super health nut scene, but the Lean and Mean made a great smoothie. He normally preferred locally grown ingredients when he was home, but the Lean and Mean had access to some exotic fruits you just couldn't find here on Rigel IV. He entered the restaurant and looked over the clientele. He noticed an attractive young woman with bright pink hair enjoying a smoothie in one of the booths. He smiled at her when she looked up and winked, then went up to the counter to order something.

"Welcome to the Lean and Mean where our all natural smoothies will help make you both lean and mean," drawled the guy behind the counter. "Now, what the fuck do you want?"

Braedyn ignored the obnoxious counter person and just looked at the menu. After a minute, during which the counter guy looked bored stiff, Braedyn ordered.

"I'll take a gantha berry smoothie with banana and vanilla soy milk. Add some chia and some Bajoran skeksa bee honey," he said. "And if you spit in it I'll slice your balls off."

The guy at the counter looked like he was going to give more attitude but stopped when he looked in Braedyn's eyes. Convinced that the crazy old bastard might actually cut his balls off, the counter guy swallowed his pride, if you could call it pride. He shrugged and started making Braedyn's smoothie.

The man that just came in looked familiar so she winked at him when they made eye contact. Why was he familiar though? Looking back at her PaDD, she scrolled up several pages and then saw the ad. He was looking for a pilot! Was this her lucky day? Perhaps it was. As his smoothie was finished, she checked the man's name and waved him over, leaving the PaDD with his ad up in plain view. "Captain Braedyn Tann? Please, sit with me. This is a nice booth and I'd like to talk with you about an ad, if that's ok."

Braedyn looked over when the pink-haired woman called his name. At first he had no idea what she was talking about and then he realized she must have seen the classified ad he'd put out.

"Sure thing," he said. He walked over and took a seat across from her. "So, what's your name?"

"Cara Vahn. It's a pleasure to meet you," she replied, offering her hand for a handshake. "Your ad says you need a skilled pilot familiar with the Ju'day class."

Braedyn shook the offered hand.

"I do," he said. "So, are you a skilled pilot familiar with the Ju'Day Class? I hope so. I'd hate for this to be a short conversation."

Cara nodded and smiled as brightly as her hair. "I have a level 5 Pilot's license and I spent the last couple years as the pilot of a Ju'Vej class, which is basically a Ju'Day with cargo pods. I also ran a few Dominion blockades with it. Interestingly, it had a more user friendly bridge than the luxury liner I did night duty on."

"So, blockade running, huh?" Braedyn said. "That means you know how to maneuver under fire? I ask because I'm pretty sure we're going to get shot at enough for that skill to come in handy."

"We weren't as maneuverable as I'd like but I was able to avoid three kamikaze attempts while only losing one wing under full load. Twenty three hundred tons of fuel isn't as easy to move around as most people think." Cara didn't like bragging, but that's what happened and what was put in the logs. She even had a small commendation for it, though she'd never admit to it.

"You'll find the Juan Cortina a bit more maneuverable since we don't have cargo pods and we've got some upgrades to the engines and maneuvering thrusters," Braedyn said. "You have some records with you I could look at?"

"Yes! Of course!" That had almost slipped her mind. Switching her PaDD over to her resume and service record, Cara handed the PaDD over to Braedyn. "Everything is in there, including my academic failure at Starfleet Academy."

Braedyn said nothing as he looked over her records. She seemed familiar to him somehow. Then he remembered. A colleague of his who taught at Starfleet Academy told him about a cadet that had failed out. The colleague had described the cadet as 'potentially the best damn pilot he'd ever seen.' The cadet's name had been Cara Vahn.

"If I'm right about who you are," he said at last. "A friend of mine described you as potentially the best pilot he'd ever seen. 'Maybe even better than you,' my friend said. My friend actually is the best pilot I'd ever seen so coming from him that's high praise. So, are you that good? Should I take a chance on you?"

"I'm not sure if I'm the best or anything... But I was the only student I know of to make a Nebula class do a powerslide at warp. It was a simulation of course, but I'm told they're very true to life." Cara blushed slightly and fidgeted a bit. Best pilot? No, she'd seen better out there. Or at least far more experienced, at least.

"Well," Braedyn said. "I can only tell you a little about what we'll be doing, but what I can tell you, I will. We are of course set up to haul small loads of cargo over small to moderate distances, but that's not all we'll be doing by a long shot. We're going to be a crew of problem solvers, as in people will hire us to solve problems for them. We'll go where our clients can't, we'll locate and bring back what they can't find, and we'll solve people's transport needs, people or cargo, particularly if there's something tricky or even dangerous to be done. Essentially we'll be a special mission ship for a variety of clients. Don't worry, we've got the firepower to handle ourselves and the defense systems to protect ourselves. So, you still interested?"

"I am. Will I have shared or private quarters?" Cara asked, worried about her collection of cat miniatures. "And will I be able to display my cat figurines? I know it's an unusual hobby, but they're so very cute."

Braedyn chuckled. Cat miniatures fit perfectly with the pink hair.

"You may have to share a room with someone else," he said. "But I'm sure we can figure something out for your cats. You may need to find a way to secure them down so they don't end up all over the place if we get into a skirmish or need to do some fancy flying, but we'll figure something out. Do you have some place to stay?"

"I have a gravity control mat that I can lay across a shelf so that's no problem. As for a place to stay, I'm currently bunking with a family friend until I can find another job." Cara replied.

"Well, you're hired," Braedyn said. "But the ship's in a hangar in Elkin Shipyards and they're still finishing up the work on her. Probably not a good place to stay. If you need another place to stay go here."

Braedyn handed her a card and a chit.

"It's a local place for transient spacers," he said. "Military, civilian, whatever. It's warm, it's dry, you can wash up there, and they feed you. If you've worn out your welcome at your friend's place, go there and show them the chit. They'll put you up until we're ready to leave."

"It'll be nice to not have to sleep on a couch. Thank you." Cara replied, slipping the card and token into a pocket. "I'll report to the ship in the morning so I can at least get a feel for the setup before we take off, if that's ok."

"Sure," Braedyn said. "I'll let them know to expect you. Nice to finally meet you Cara Vahn. Welcome aboard!"

Braedyn slurped up the last of his smoothie.

"Well," he said. "I'd best be off. See you in the morning if I'm over there."

"I'll see you then!" Cara called happily as Braedyn headed off.
Have Engineer Will Travel Rigel VI Moon 3 Current
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Jinkra was...at least semi pleased to see him, Jonas was certain of at least that much. The Bolian woman had agreed to see him with offers of authentic parts for his EM-33 project. He'd had to meet this new captain somewhere, so he'd agreed to kill two birds with one stone and meet him in the Upfront Bazaar, at Jinkra's booth. Not that it was any more or less illegal then other places, but the goods tended to be more run of the mill rather then slaves and drugs and things like that. An engineer could get lost in a place like that. He checked his wrist mounted scanner, only a few minutes until his latest rendezvous.

"It's always nice to see you too Jinkra..." he said as he pried the Bolian woman off him and took a look at the particle filter she'd procured for him. An old friend from his days with the Dovetail, he was probably....stretching his probation talking to her. But being in Rigel seemed to him like it was one big stretch of his probation. He frowned as he waved the small item over his wrist. The leather bracer had a flexible screen built in and served him as well as any tricorder for his scanning needs. Sadly, it told him the little filter was in dire need of realignment, at least a 3 day project. Still, it WAS authentic and that was what he needed.

"3 slips?" He offered, giving her that boyish charming smile that seemed to work every now and then. Even she wasn't immune.

"I'll give it to you gratis if you look at a side project for me..." Jakra replied, even as Jonas shook his head a little. Her "projects" were generally something that would definitely break his probation. Sliding the slips across the booth, he waggled the part at her.

"Tell you what, if this new job doesn't work out...we'll talk ok? Those were 3 of my last 10 slips.."

While working with the Maquis, Braedyn had learned to blend into the background, which is what he was doing now. He was pretty damn good at it for someone who came to it later in life. He scanned the crowd until he picked out the engineer he was supposed to meet. Braedyn had 'acquired' the engineer's file. Wasn't difficult. His criminal conviction was a matter of public record, as were his identity documents. The probation department's file was a bit more difficult, but there were people in places that either owed Braedyn favors or had a stake in his little venture working out. Satisfied that he had the right guy, Braedyn sidled up to him at the Bolian trader's booth.

"Jonas Pavan," he said. "I think maybe you're looking for me."

Jonas turned his head, avoiding the daunting look that Jakra was giving the person that dared interrupt her sales pitch for the next crime of the millenium. Giving her a little wave, he turned his body towards the man and began slowly moving away from the booth, to walk and talk at once. "Got me in one..usually looking for some fried coin crabs, but a job's as good a path to them as anything else. Captain Tann I take it?" He held out his hand for a moment before realizing the small part was still in it. He gave a smirk as he tucked it into his pocket and offered the hand once more. "Heard you're looking for a spanner monkey?"

Braedyn shook the offered hand.

"Why don't we stop in over there and talk," he said. Braedyn led Jonas into a tavern. A waitress leaning on the bar, backside out, turned around when he walked in. He nodded to her and wordlessly she escorted them to a booth in the back. "Two Rigelian Lagers please."

Braedyn slipped her enough for the drinks and something for her to keep on the side. She smiled and winked and walked over to the bar. Braedyn waited until after she left to start talking.

"So," he said. "Jonas Pavan. Doesn't coming to this moon sort of invite the probation authority to violate you?"

Jonas waggled one hand a little bit, while the other toyed with the drink a little, not taking a sip. He rolled the glass around untill it was precariously tipped over, then let it tip back, the liquid still safe inside. A perfect metaphor maybe. "I prefer to think of it as the time honored alcoholic who works in a bar kind of test."

Leaning forward he fished around in the bowl, grasping a handful of fresh kanzlok from it and tossed them in his mouth. Not exactly his favorite snack but delicious nontheless. "Besides, you can't do the kind of work we do and not go somewhere illegal now and then. The best parts, the best jobs..and at this point it's kind of..probbie on paper only now..I'm not going anywhere and they know it."

"Good to know," Braedyn said. "So, how good of a spanner monkey are you?"

"Good enough. " Jonas thought about it for a moment as he chewed thoughtfully and the squishy wiggly food. "Any engineer can tell you they know it all but that's a load of toss. I know enough that I know enough to know that you've have to learn half the problems as you go. All those silly little production engineering concepts that look so nifty on paper but...well..not so much in the real world."

Braedyn nodded.

"You're not wrong kid," Braedyn said. 'Kid' was a relative term. Three hundred years ago, Braedyn would have been on the downward slope of his life. In the 24th Century, with humans living to be over 120 years of age, he still had six or seven decades before he had to worry about where he wanted to be buried, and maybe another decade beyond that. "Well, the Cortina is packed with upgrades for you to play with, as long as everything works when I need it to, plus a few toys you may not have had the opportunity to work with. Her space frame may be an old design, but she's been completely rebuilt bow to stern, dorsal to ventral."

Braedyn to a sip of his lager.

"Look," he said. "I know that you've got a past. We all do. That's not going to be a problem for me unless you can't be honest if or more likely when trouble from your past catches up to you. Because, when it catches up to you, it's going to catch up to the rest of us. My crew works together. They have each other's back. Your problems may just become our problems, just as ours may become yours. Can you handle that?"

"Sounds like a decent place enough to hang my hat, as soon as I buy a hat and start wearing them." Jonas eyed that lager again for a moment, then drummed the still full glass on the table. "My problems are mostly in lock up. I doubt they're ever letting her out. Old friends. Can't live with them, can't take them down to the river and drown them in a sack. But I'm in for a penny in for a pound and all that."

"On Earth they say someone like that is like a bad penny," Braedyn said. "Always turning up at the least opportune moment. Alright, you're hired, so if your personal bad penny shows up, she'll have all of us to deal with. The Cortina is in a hangar at Elkin Shipyards in Polar City Colony on Rigel IV. If you need somewhere to stay, I've got a deal with the local spacer's inn. They'll put you up and feed you til we leave, on me."

Braedyn slid Jonas a card with his information on it and a chit for the inn.

"Meet me at Elkin Shipyards, Hangar Nine and Three Quarters, tomorrow morning, Braedyn said. When Jonas looked at him funny, he explained. "It's from some Old Earth book from the early 21st Century. I've never read it but Mister Elkin has and he numbered the hangar he's got set aside for special projects 'Hangar Nine and Three Quarters." Anyway, we'll do a walk around and through the Cortina then and I'll show you the toys you'll get to play with."

Jonas palmed the chip and slipped it into his shirt pocket. Another handful of the table snack went into his mouth as he nodded "Well, I was planning on sleeping in an alley, but that sounds a bit better. You've hired yourself an engineer, skipper."

"Welcome aboard, Jonas," Braedyn said. "I've got to get back to Rigel IV. Need a lift? I borrowed one of Old Man Elkin's shuttles."

"If it saves me a fare over there, sounds good to me...home again home again."

Braedyn nodded and led the young man to the shuttle he'd borrowed for his trip.
Is There A Doctor In The House? Rigel X Current
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Haneri stepped into the bar, trying hard not to gawk at all the races mingling inside and failing miserably. She could not understand why her people were so afraid of going out into the galaxy instead of staying where they were. Other races brought in new ideas, a new way of seeing things, but her people for the most part wanted none of it. She had often wondered how her people had managed to make it as far as they had with such an attitude.

A Klingon shouldered his way past her, snarling at her in annoyance.

“Sorry,” she said, but he was already past her and making his way to the bar proper.

She had arrived on Rigel X by way of a freighter that she had joined as the medical officer. Once the ship stopped at the ice planet, she had gone in search of medical supplies. When she returned several hours later, she found it guarded by several of the local police force who told her that the captain had been arrested and the ship impounded on suspicion of smuggling.

After an interrogation of several hours and a thorough search of her belongings, she had been released. She was out of Cardassian space, and given this was a major spaceport in the system, she could have just settled down here, content to see all the different people that came through, but she knew herself far too well to know she would do that.

She wanted to go out into the galaxy and see everything that had been denied to her until now. This was just a small taste of it, and she wanted more. She wanted to gorge herself on it to the point of bursting and then take in some more.

She didn’t have to be a Vulcan to deduce that she would find starship captains and their crew in a bar near the docks, and so she made her way there after making a quick stop to store the medical supplies in a temporary storage facility.

Looking around, she saw all the tables were occupied, so she made her way to the bar itself, several seats down from the Klingon who had shoved past her.

The bartender, a Bolian, made his way over to her, frowning.

“I don’t allow children in here, miss,” he said. “You’ll have to leave.”

She sighed. For all of her life, her slim build and delicate features had made people think she was ten years younger or more. She supposed this was something she was going to have to deal with the rest of her years.

“I’m twenty-eight,” she said, showing the Federation-issued ID given to her at the refugee camp.

The Bolian took it and examined it—some of the longest seconds in her life—then handed it back.

“If it’s a fake, it’s a good one,” he said. “What’ll it be?”

She thought for several seconds. She wanted to try something, but she had no idea the sort of effect an alien drink might have on her, and this was neither the time nor the place to find out.

“Just water, please,” she said.

The Bolian frowned at her some more but said nothing as he filled a glass and gave it to her, then made his way down to the other end of the bar.

Sipping her drink, she turned and surveyed the room, looking over the occupants. A multitude of species filled the bar, all united in their common desire for drinking and socializing.

Of course, there was no way of telling anything about them, what sort of people they were or what sort of business had brought them here or if they would be willing to hire one of her race—assuming they were even looking for a doctor.

“Klakeq!” roared a voice.

She turned to see several Andorians approaching the Klingon, who was turning to face them. Before the Klingon could do anything, the lead Andorian pulled a knife and stabbed him several times.

“That’s the last time you undercut me,” he said and then left.

She looked around at the patrons. No one came to the Klingon’s aid as he thrashed feebly on the floor; they seemed content to stand around him and watch him die.

“Out of my way, I’m a doctor,” she snarled with surprising ferocity as she shouldered her way through the crowd.

Kneeling before the Klingon, she could see all of the wounds were on his torso. Suddenly quite glad she had taken one of the medkits with her, she reached in and pulled out a tricorder. Making sure it was calibrated for Klingon physiology, she waved it over him.

“Does anyone know him, if he has any preexisting conditions, allergies, anything like that?” she asked the crowd.

There was no response, and she caught sight of money discreetly changing hands; they were betting on whether she could save him.

Shaking her head in disgust, she returned her attention back to the tricorder. While the blows may have appeared random to an outsider, they had in fact pierced his spleen, one of his livers and one of his lungs; the Andorian had either been very lucky or had known exactly what he was doing.

She reached for the sonic scalpel to cut away his clothing and her hand grasped air. She looked back to see a Ferengi scurrying away, clutching her pack.

“Stop him!” she yelled.

Braedyn had been drinking at the bar when commotion started. He'd seen the Andorians enter the bar. They looked like they might be smugglers, maybe even Andorian Mafia. They frequently operated in the Rigel System, usually paying the Orion Syndicate a cut of their profits for the privilege. However, it took serious balls to do a retaliation hit on the Syndicate's turf. When he'd seen them approach, he'd reached for the phaser he had under his jacket but the hit happened too quick and besides, getting involved in this wouldn't be good for his health. Braedyn was surprised when he saw the cute Cardassian girl step forward and heard her announce she was a doctor. He saw the Ferengi snatch her medkit before she noticed it. He spun off of his bar stool and, planting himself, clothes lined the Ferengi as he passed. The Ferengi lost his grip on the kit and Braedyn deftly snatched it out of the air. The Ferengi must have hit his head because he just lay on the floor moaning. Braedyn brought the medkit back to the doctor.

"I believe this is your, Doctor," he said, handing her the kit.

Haneri looked up at the human.

"Thank you," she said, taking it back and rummaging for the scalpel.

The Klingon started to get up, but she pushed him down and resumed her search. Out of the corner of her eye she saw him start to rise again, and she looked over at the human.

"Could you hold him down please?" she said.

Braedyn looked dubious at the idea of restraining an angry Klingon. He sighed and knelt down next to the patient and held him down as best he could.

"Don't be such a big baby," he said. "The doc here will have you patched up in minutes...I hope."

Obviously the punctured lung would have to be treated first; there was the danger of not only him drowning in his own blood but also the possibility of the lung collapsing. She began pulling out what she needed when suddenly the Klingon began spasming and foaming at the mouth.

She waved her tricorder over him again and frowned at the results.

“The blade must have had been dabbed in poison, no wonder the Andorian just left,” she said.

She dug into the pack for a hypospray, inserted an ampule of antivenom in it and then jabbed it into his neck. The spasms and foaming stopped a few seconds later.

The poison dealt with, she returned her attention back to the lung. She ripped open a pack of sterile dressing and placed it over the liver and spleen wounds, then taped down the packet itself on three sides over the wound; that would allow the air to get out but keep it from going in.

She inserted a small vacuum hose into the wound and activated it; it would keep the blood from filling the lung. She then activated a cellular regenerator and pressed it against the wound, sealing it within seconds, quickly removing the vacuum and fully sealing it.

She then did the same thing with the liver wound, followed by the spleen, and within minutes it was as if the Klingon had never been wounded.

He moaned and slowly sat up.

“How are you feeling?” she asked.

He punched her in the face, sending her flying a couple of meters.

QI’yaH!” he yelled at her as he stood up.

Her universal translator did not tell her what he said, but she guessed he was not expressing his gratitude.

“You stupid piece of petaQ, I was ready to join Kahless!” he roared.

He glared at her for a few more seconds, then grabbed his torn clothing and stalked out.

She looked after him for a few seconds, bewildered, then looked back at the human questioningly.

Braedyn chuckled and offered the young woman a hand up.

"There's a saying that originated on Earth," he said. "No good deed goes unpunished. You just learned the truth of that statement. Here, let me borrow this."

Braedyn picked up the doctor's medical tricorder, pulled out the handheld sensor, and ran it over the woman's face. Then he replaced the sensor and handed the tricorder to the woman so she could diagnose herself from the results of the scan.

"So," he said. "Will you live?"

"Minor contusion, no signs of concussion," she said, barely looking at the readout. "I think I will survive. Thank you for your help, Mister...?"

"Captain," Braedyn replied. "Captain Braedyn Tann, Master of the SS Juan Cortina."

Haneri's eyes widened in surprise.

"You wouldn't happen to be in need of a medical officer, would you?" she said. "As you can see, I'm certainly qualified for the job."

"I would happen to be in need of a medical officer," Braedyn replied. "And one that can handle herself in a crisis AND take a punch from a pissed off Klingon would be highly qualified. What's your name, kid?"

"Haneri," she said. "Haneri Tohrne. And I'm twenty-eight years old."

"Nice to meet you Haneri Tohrne," Braedyn replied. "Come on, let's find a table. I'll buy you a drink and we can talk about who you are and what your qualifications are. I believe they have some Kanar if you're looking for Cardassian booze."

"Thank you, but I'll stick with water," she said. "I prefer to discuss business with a clear head."

She spotted a recently vacated table and made her way towards it.

Braedyn ordered a Rigelian Lager and followed the young Cardassian to the empty table. He took a seat and a sip of his beer. Setting down his mug, he regarded Doctor 'Tohrne' if that was actually her name.

"So," he said. "Most Cardassian trained physicians wouldn't know what to do with any species other than Cardassians, unless they'd had the opportunity to experiment on prisoners. Is that how you learned? Are you a stereotypical 'mad scientist'? Or did you learn xenobiology some other way?"

"Oh yes, it's a requirement in order to graduate from medical school," she said with a straight face. "I know some of my people are scared about being defeated by you lesser races, but for me it's a great opportunity to get out and practice on some new victims...I mean, 'patients'."

She leaned forward.

"Not all Cardassians look beyond our borders and feel fear," she said, her voice tight with anger. "Some of us look out and feel a sense of wonder, a desire to go out there and see it for ourselves. Some of us didn't believe what our government said about our neighbors. Yes, it's a terrible thing my chance to explore the galaxy had to happen like this, but I'm not going to waste it. And if I can start showing that not all Cardassians desire to keep everyone under their thumb, even better. But if stereotypes are all you're ready to accept about my people, then we have nothing to talk about."

She got up and started to leave, but then turned back.

"As for where I learned about xenobiology, I worked at a hospital in the Diplomatic Quarter of Cardassia Prime, treating the staff of alien embassies," she said. "My name is spelled H-A-N-E-R-I T-O-H-R-N-E, look it up. If you're still willing to hire me, come find me. And whatever you were considering paying me, double it. See you around, Captain Braedyn Tann."

She stalked off.

Braedyn frowned. He'd have Tann Corporation's security division check the girl out. TC already had contractors on the ground on several Cardassian planets. It wouldn't be too hard to get some background on the girl. Maybe she was worth a second look, maybe she wasn't. She'd have to curb that attitude, though. The Cortina was too damn small for anyone to behave like an adolescent. That was puzzling, her attitude. Cardassians were known to respect their elders. Braedyn shrugged and took another sip of his beer. He rarely turned down a good Rigelian lager and as seedy as the bar was, this was damn good lager.

After he finished his drink, he left the bar. He'd spend the night on Rigel X and, if her story checked out, he'd go find the girl tomorrow. No reason to haul all the way back to Rigel IV just to turn back around again. Besides, the Cortina was just about ready for launch.
First Day at the Office Elkin Shipyard, Hangar 9 and 3/4 Morning
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Braedyn sipped coffee from a travel mug as he stood outside of the hangar his ship was currently in. He'd called everyone together so they could get a look at the ship they'd be living and working on. They'd stow their gear aboard today and he'd discuss their first job...well...as much as he knew about it, anyway. Whoever was really pulling the strings on this one was going to a lot of trouble to make it look like the Cortina was going on a couple of simple cargo runs.

Braedyn had woken up early, run through some Fu Style Wudangquan, showered, eaten breakfast, filled his travel mug with a nice vanilla chai tea latte, sweet, and still arrived at Elkin Yards before everyone else.

Gaenor had arrived not too much longer after Braedyn, though she had not come across him until several minutes had passed. When she arrived she had a look at the vessel. It was a lot larger than her own little two seater fighter, but she still had reservations about leaving her life behind and making this sort of jump, this switch from working for herself for working for this Braedyn person and doing the bidding of whom ever he took his missions from.

The female Nausicaan had a flask in her hand as she took a swig from the Bolian spice nectar, the contents of the flask. She found that the master of the vessel was near by and approached him. "This is your ship...the Juan Cortina" she said shaking her head. "I was hoping for something less archaic" she said scoffing. "But I will work with whatever you have. At least these vessels hold together and can take a beating" she said reassuring herself.

"You want archaic, look to the Miranda class ships the Federation used as cannon fodder in the Dominion war. They even tried fighting the Borg with them a couple times." Marsha commented as she walked up as well, visually comparing the ship to a PaDD she carried.

With her was the bright haired new pilot, a moving case slung over one shoulder as she looked over the lack of pod clamps on the bottom of the ship. "Yeah, she looks a lot more maneuverable than my last ship. I'm Cara, by the way. I'm the one you blame if we fly through a sun."

"Gaenor" replied the Nausicaan. "I will be the one handing out the disruptors and phasers to the crew in order to shoot you if you dare fly us through a sun" she said crossing her arms as she tucked her flask away. "I don't think this rust bucket stands much of a chance against the radiation of a sun let alone the heat. The shields will buckle after we take a few good hits. So, your flying better be marvelous" added Gaenor.

"I'm told I'm pretty amazing," Cara mumbled as she glanced around the bay trying to act like she wasn't as awesome as she was.

Taking out the flask, Gaenor took another swig. "There's not enough of this in the galaxy to cope with poor piloting decisions" she said with a smirk. "I'll learn to trust your piloting in time, Cara. I'm just very acustomed to flying myself around" she said as close to an apology as she'd ever give.

Jonas had tried to ignore that beeping of his comm unit, but the thing persisted. So he'd dragged himself out of bed, found the food vendors outside, and was working his way through a large piece of tuwaly pie as he walked up to the ship. He'd done a large circle around it, apparently starting near the other side of the rest of the crew. His duffle slung over his shoulder, he'd managed to catch the tail end of the flying conversation. Giving a cheery wave to everyone, and managing to hang onto the piece of pie at the same time, he grinned "It's a good looking ship. And a good looking ship is like a piece of pie..delicious..sugary...ok that metaphor went off the rails. I'm Jonas..fixer of things and stuff."

Jaeih had arrived quietly, observing the others rather than directly interacting with them. It was an interesting mix of people from across the Alpha and Beta quadrants. Human and Betazoid from the Federation. Cardassian. Nausicaan. All species with whom the Star Empire had once had conflict with. While Braedyn had seemed nice enough, she wasn't as certain about the rest of them. So... she watched. And waited. With the hood of her cloak still carefully concealing her ears.

Haneri stood behind some packing crates, watching as the rest of the crew arrived. She had actually been there for several hours, watching just in case it was all an elaborate trap. But even now, as they had all arrived, she still felt nervous. Would they accept her? Would they quit?

Only one way to find out...

She forced a smile onto her face and approached the group.

"Hello, everyone," she said. "I'm Doctor Haneri Tohrne, your medical officer."

"Wotcha Doc. I'm Jonas..I expect we're along the same lines of work. You patch them up and I patch that up.." Jonas pointed a finger towards the space ship "Of course...my spare parts are easier to come by then the ones you might need.."

"Quite true," she said. "But I do not expect I will be required to look after everyone all at once. You are."

Braedyn listened as the crew greeted each other. Finally, when they had all arrived, he spoke.

"Alright," he said. "Welcome to Elkin Shipyards. Old Man Elkin has known me since I was a child. He's been kind enough, for a price of course, to refit and upgrade the Cortina for me. The slightly used appearance is intended to make people ignore her, to make people think she's just an old light freighter. Looks can be deceiving. The Cortina is much, much more."

Braedyn tossed a tricorder to Jonas.

"Mister Pavan," he said. "Scan the ship. Tell me if there are any weapons installed."

Jonas let out a rather pithy "Gah!" when the tricorder was tossed at him unexpectedly. He stuffed the rest of his pie into his mouth and started a sweep with the thing. A frown crossed his face a little as he looked up, visually confirming what the tricorder wouldn't. He stuffed the thing into his back pocket and rolled up his sleeve, trying his own wrist strapped scanner. His fingers danced on the touch screen a few times before giving a little shaking of his head. "Nothing that either thing can pick up...but you know..the layout's all wrong for that from what I can see standing here.."

Braedyn pulled out a PaDD and fiddled with it for a moment.

"Try it now," he said. "I think you'll find you get a very different result. The Cortina is equipped with a piece of Andorian technology called a Weapon Signature Dampening Field. It masks weapons signatures. Beam weapons scan as tractor/pressor beam emitters or even sensors, missile weapon launchers look like probe launchers, ammunition like torpedoes show up as probes. It will hold up under a pretty well under most scans. An extremely detailed scan might reveal some abnormalities, but nothing concrete. Our weapons system set up has been masked pretty well on the inside as well. Of course, if they open up the torpedo magazine, we're going to have a lot of explaining to do but I don't intend to let too many people get that close. At the very least they might wonder why a light freighter has thirty-six torpedo-looking things in there that we're telling them are 'probes'. Well, Mister Pavan?"

Jonas gave his head a little nod in a tilt of ascent. Everything the Captain said was true, according to his scanner. "It's true.. a weapon's cloaking field...pretty impressive to be sure. Makes hiding things a bit easier, I'd wager. So...what other rabbits you got hiding in that hat?"

Braedyn smiled.

"Well," he said. "There's this..."

Braedyn tapped controls on his PaDD again. The Cortina seemed to shimmer right before she disappeared from site. He hit the controls again, and the Cortina reappeared.

"That device was among several that were 'donated' to the Maquis by the Klingons back when the Maquis were still a thing," he said. "It's come in handy many times since then. If I have to say this, neither of these devices are to be mentioned to anyone but us unless I do the mentioning. We have special permits for the Weapon Signature Dampening Field, but we're on our own if we get caught with the cloak. Both have been installed in such a way as to avoid attracting attention if we were to be inspected for some reason. We'd get a pass for the cloak, too, eventually, but I don't want to sit in lock up while that works itself out. Any questions so far?"

As the captain described some of the special features of the ship, Haneri felt her unease grow. Something like this was clearly meant for jobs that skirted the law if not outright broke it. But she had already agreed to work for him, so for the time being she would stay--at least until she set aside enough money to survive on while she looked for something a little less...questionable.

So let's find out...

"Yes," she said. "Do you have our first job lined up?"

"Yes," he said. "But we'll talk about that shortly. Jaeih? Any questions?"

"You most certainly are on your own with that cloaking device if my people should catch you." Jaeih cracked a bit of a smile, pushing her hood back now that her identity was given away. "I'm fairly certain my questions will be answered when I take a closer look at the Weapons Masking system. I have heard of such things and seen them in action, but I have never operated one."

Braedyn grinned.

"The Andorian Defense Force uses them to ambush pirates," he said. "They've got some starships they've built to look like harmless freighters. They fly in high-risk areas with the dampening field on. The pirates swoop in to attack what they think is an unarmed freighter and get a big surprise instead."

Jaeih nodded slightly. "It makes sense from a tactical standpoint, despite what most of my people would say about honor. I tried to get the Navy to put such a system on the Ki Baratan and they were very much not amused."

That made Braedyn smile.

"I met some Romulan brass during the war," he said. "They didn't strike me as a very humorous bunch."

"They aren't. They tolerated me, but I know of one warbird commander who eventually had her rank taken and was later excommunicated." Jaeih shook her head slightly. "Anyway, I don't have any questions at the moment, but if one arises that I cannot find answers to, I assure you I will ask."

Cara shook her head as she surveyed the other crewmembers with wide eyes. "I can't help but think that there's a joke in all this. A human, Nausicaan, Romulan, and Cardassian all walk into a bar... We just need a Ferengi now and we're set."

"Perhaps the captain will hire one in the future," Haneri said.

She looked over at Braedyn.

"Question, Captain," she said. "Where is sick bay located?"

"Deck Two, starboard side, aft of the mess hall," Braedyn replied. "It was originally a gym, but I had it converted. We have a holodeck deck two, port side with various exercise programs already loaded. Alright, let's get aboard and get our gear stowed. Settle in, have a look around, and we'll meet in the conference room in thirty minutes. Haneri, you might want to introduce yourself to your EMH. When you get into Sickbay, just say 'Activate Emergency Medical Hologram' and she'll appear. Conference room is located on deck three, port side, forward of the troop and cargo transporter. See you in thirty."
There is a Doctor in the House Rigel X, one of the residential areas Current
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"Her story checks out, Captain Tann," said Stohn from Tann Corp Security. The Vulcan was a former counterintelligence officer with Starfleet and he was very thorough. Stohn had helped to cover Braedyn's tracks when Braedyn was with the Maquis. "Almost too well."

Braedyn sighed. Nothing was ever easy.

"What's wrong with it?" he said.

"Nothing at all," Stohn replied. "I encountered no trouble confirming her identity and background...on a planet recovering from near destruction, with government in disarray."

"You think it shouldn't have been so easy?" Braedyn asked.

"Correct," Stohn said. "She may be hiding something. However, I have no proof that she is not exactly who she says she is, no concrete facts to support such an hypothesis."

"A suspicion from you is usually more reliable than facts provided by others, Stohn," Braedyn said. "What's your recommendation?"

Stohn looked like he was thinking. Either that or he was having a stroke. Braedyn wasn't entirely sure until Stohn finally spoke.

"She could be telling the truth and you need to hire a physician," Stohn said. "Hire her. I will continue to look into her background and keep you informed as to my progress."

Braedyn nodded.

"Alright," he said. "I'll go track her down now."

"Perhaps you should take the Nausicaan,," Stohn said. "The good doctor does not reside in the safest of neighborhoods."

"I left the Nausicaan back on Rigel IV," Braedyn said. "I can handle myself. Thanks Stohn. Let me know if you find anything new."

"I believe that I just informed you that I would do just that," Stohn replied with a raised eyebrow. The snark was for effect. Stohn had been working around non-Vulcans long enough to understand Human niceties.

"Yes, you did," Braedyn said. "Thanks again, Tann out."

He cut the transmission. Reaching for his field jacket, Braedyn walked to the door. He pulled the jacket on and left his quarters in search of the 'good' doctor. Stohn wasn't kidding. The girl was staying in a lousy area of the base, not that you couldn't get stabbed, shot, or just plain beaten to death almost anywhere here. Eventually he found her quarters. He hit the chime. Hopefully, she was home.


Haneri was in the middle of throwing a full-blown pity party for herself, cursing at how poorly she had handled the encounter with the human. His question about experimenting on prisoners had struck a nerve and she had lashed out at him without thinking.

While she may have not experimented on prisoners, she expected a war crimes tribunal would not accept such a minor technicality. She had only provided enough care to get them back on their feet so they could go right back out to the hard labor they performed from sunrise to sunset, with minimal food and rest.

At the refugee camp she had seen more than one former soldier whose identity had been discovered and taken away by security personnel, and she had wondered what happened to them. She figured the only reason she hadn’t been discovered was that before being picked up by the Federation she had the foresight to hack into the hospital mainframe and swap her identity with another doctor who had the same first name—and she wondered how long it would last.

The other thing whose duration she wondered about was what little money she had left over from her trip to stock the sickbay on the freighter she had managed to join. She may have been new to the space beyond Cardassian borders, but she knew a bad place when she saw one; however it was the only place she could afford. She knew she would have to find a job soon, and she expected it would be something way outside her skill set.

If he had just asked how I learned about xenobiology instead of making that remark about experimentation…and if I had just let it go instead of blowing up at him…

The door chime abruptly ended the party, and her first reaction was one of fear. She had received several looks as she made her way through the neighborhood, and she wondered if it was because of her race or her gender.

Was this it? Was this the end of her journey among the stars? Would her name go down in history as the fool who had defied the traditional thinking of her people, only to prove what her government had been saying along?

She pulled a phaser out of her pack, something she had purchased shortly after her ill-fated encounter with the human, and suddenly it felt inconsequential in her hands. How could she possibly defend herself with it? She had trained with one as part of military background, and she did well enough on the practice range, but could she really defend herself if there was a group of hostiles outside her door?

She looked around for something that could provide her with some sort of cover. She immediately dismissed the bed she had been lying on. It was more of a cot than a proper bed; it would give her no protection.

There was a small dresser against a wall which was on line with the door. The protection was barely more than that given by the bed, but it was a bit more substantial.

She sighed with resignation as she crouched down behind the dresser.

“So much for my grand adventure,” she muttered as she aimed the phaser at the door. “Who is it?”

"It's Captain Tann," Braedyn replied. "Your story checks out so here I am. If you want to talk to me about a job, you're going to have to let me in."

Her first reaction was one of doubt. He had come here just to recruit her? He couldn’t find another doctor?

Then another thought enter her head, the possibility he was an undercover Federation officer who had discovered her true identity and had come with a team to arrest her.

“Just a minute!” she called out as she went over to her pack. “I was asleep and I need to get dressed!”

Braedyn waited patiently in the corridor. He was a gentleman after all.

She pulled the tricorder out of her pack and activated it. It showed only one life sign in the hall, a human life sign.

She sighed with relief as she put the tricorder away. She went to put the phaser away as well but something told her to keep it and so she put it in a pants pocket with the handle sticking out—just in case.

"Come in!" she said.

Braedyn entered. The room was pretty much what he expected and was probably the best Haneri could afford given her circumstances. He might be able to change that if she'd let him. He glanced at the handle of the phaser sticking out of her pants pocket.

"I hope you aren't going to shoot me," he said. "That would definitely make a bad impression on your potential employer...me. Mind if I sit down?"

"Go ahead," she said. "As for the phaser, this may be my first time outside of Cardassian space, but even I know a bad part of town when I see it. But enough about me, tell me about you and your ship. What sort of work are you in?"

"Problem solving," Braedyn said. "We offer our services to people who need problems solved and then we solve their problems for them. Usually for a fee, but we'll do some charity work, too. I have access to enough resources to make sure that the crew is paid for every mission, regardless of whether I charge for our services. Sometimes we'll just haul cargo, simple, straight forward. Other times we'll haul special cargo, cargo that has a high value, either because of the need for it or for financial reasons. Sometimes we'll perform other services. We'll be in harm's way more often than not. On the plus side we are going to travel to many different planets and star systems. Lots to see and learn. Still interested?"

"What size ship?" she asked. "And how big is the crew?"

"Small on both counts," Braedyn said. "Though the crew may get larger as we go. We've got a small Sickbay and I've acquired a Mark One Emergency Medical Hologram. You and our photonic friend will be the only medical personnel on board. Quarters will be cramped if we're carrying a lot of passengers, but we'll have a little more room when we're not. The pay is good, better than you're going to get trying to stay off the grid in a place like this."

Haneri bit back the impulse to respond to his last statement. She wanted to say it was all she could afford, but then that would make her appear desperate and give him an advantage in negotiating her salary. And she certainly wasn't going to admit she was hiding either, so she side-stepped it completely.

"You're very open-minded, Captain, trying to hire a Cardassian so soon after the war," she said. "Can you say the same for your crew? What if they don't want to be treated by one of my race?"

"They may not," Braedyn said. "But that's a challenge you'd have to face anywhere you went. You're going to have to win them over somehow."

"I suppose I will, won't I?" she asked. "And if I can't the EMH can always take care of them...assuming we can get them to sickbay in time. Of course, if we can't then they have to decide what is more important them, won't they?"

She smiled at him.

"Those were rhetorical questions," she said. "You said the pay is good, exactly how good?"

Braedyn pulled out a PaDD and called up the contract he'd written for her. He handed Haneri the PaDD.

A slight widening of her eyes ruined the cool reaction she tried to display.

"I suppose that is adequate," she said. "When would I start?"

"Tomorrow morning," Braedyn replied. "So, do you want the job?"

"It seems like a fair trade: you get a skilled doctor, I get to show the galaxy another side of my people," she said and extended her hand. " Very well, I shall join you, Captain Braedyn Tann."

Braedyn shook the offered hand.

"Welcome to the crew of the SS Juan Cortina," he said. "Now, if you'll accept an offer I've made to everyone so far, I can put you up at the Spacers House. It's a place that space service personnel stay between jobs. I have an arrangement with them. They'll give you a room, shower, laundry, and food, on my tab, until we leave. Also, I can give you a ride back to Rigel IV if you'd like. What do you say? You ready to get out of this place?"

She nodded.

"Just give me a few minutes to pack and I'll be ready," she said. "I'll need to stop along the way and pick up some medical supplies I purchased for my previous employer...until he got himself arrested."

Braedyn laughed.

"That happens a lot around here," he said. "Whenever you're ready, we'll go."
Business and Brandy Rigel System | Rigel VI - Sixth Moon of Gesh Current
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Having collected some body parts from the Ferengi in order to prove to her employer that his ex brother in-law would not be meddling in his affairs any longer, Gaenor then looked at the human male who had briefly talked to her just prior. "My business here has concluded. Do you wish to hire me now?" she said to him. The Nausicaan woman had had a rather busy evening, and her hair was disheveled, but looks did not matter to her. It was a cold day in hell before she's go on another date and it had been an Ocampa's life since the last time she did anything intimate. The closest thing to intimacy she had was cutting out the Ferengi's tongue.

She turned to the waitress who was tending to the medical needs of her boss. "Clean yourself up and fetch me a drink, wench" said Gaenor. "Suarian Brandy" ordered Gaenor "Make that two. One for this human for making a girl laugh" she added as she looked at Braedyn. "You're either really stupid or really brazen to come here. Orions all around. Hope you aren't Starfleet, human. The Syndicate pays a pretty price for Starfleet personnel, more for officers. Double that for a females, but that depends on personal preference" she added.

Braedyn swallowed a little bile that had just erupted from his esophagus moments before when the Nausicaan had sliced pieces off of the Ferengi. That had been a little too intense for him.

"I used to be Starfleet," he said. "But I doubt the Orions would pay anything for me. Besides, I might have an offer for you that's worth more. You say your job here is done. Does that mean you're looking for work?"

The Nausicaan looked at him as though she would kill him then and there. "I am never looking for work" she replied adamantly. "When one job is complete, another comes my way. I am the best in dozens sectors with a reputation that keeps me financially satisfied" she boasted, though if that had been entirely true, she would have a means to travel. Right now her Cobra fighter was as dead as could be.

She glared at him. "If you have an employment offer, make it. I do not know how much longer I care to sit here pondering if there would be profit in clearing your head from your shoulders and presenting you to the local Orion Boss for a petty fortune" she hissed. "You may not be worth much, but enough for me to afford transportation."

Braedyn nodded. This one was going to be a controversial addition to his crew...if he could get her signed up.

"Captain Braedyn Tann," he said. "Master of the SS Juan Cortina. What kind of experience do you have with combat? Empty hands, blades, energy weapons, projectile, etc. I'm looking for muscle with the brains and the know how to help keep my crew alive while we're traveling around solving problems. The pay will be good, but you'll have to follow my orders and the orders of the officers I appoint. Interested?"

Gaenor looked at the man with a coldness that could chill an Andorian child. "I take care of business with whatever weapon and by whatever means I see fit if not specified in my contract" she said flatly. "I also do not like the term 'Master' very much, so you'll be wise to just say Commander or Captain around me" she added. "If you want to live, you'll hire me and tolerate my input...Captain. Though I will follow your orders so long as they do not put my life into too much peril or jeopardy. I am here to make a profit, but not at the expense of my life" she said firmly.

Braedyn chuckled.

"The pay will be worth the risk," Braedyn said. "And 'Master' is a technical term. It means that I am licensed to command civilian starships. But that's neither here nor there. Captain will do just fine. As to the rest, there's probably going to be a fair piece of peril and jeopardy, so you'll need to prepare yourself for that. As for the profit..."

Braedyn leaned in and whispered the amount of pay Gaenor would be receiving between base pay and bonuses.

More than I get paid working these dead end jobs she thought to herself, though she would not let the Captain know of that fact. "Your offer is not as insulting as your unattractive appearance" she replied. "If this payment is stable and consistent, I would be willing to remain part of your crew. Though I will leave if a better offer comes my way" she said honestly and bluntly. "Business is business" she added.

"Of course," Braedyn said. "So, you're hired. There's a place for transient spacers, those between jobs I mean, in Polar City on Rigel IV, which is where the Cortina currently sits in hanger 9 3/4 at Elkin Shipyards. If you need a place to stay, I can put you up there."

The Nausicaan nodded "How generous and unnecessary" she replied. "I have my own arrangements, thank you. The Ferengi who hired me ensured that I would be paid well and I intend to see to it that I sleep well in the best room I can find for the night" she stated. "However, I will be at the Elkin shipyards, hangar nine and three quarters after I rest."

Braedyn nodded.

"Very well then," he said. "We have a deal then. I'll be in touch. I want to give everyone the opportunity to stow some of their gear aboard and get a look at the ship. I think we have our first job already. I'll know more soon. I've got some things to do elsewhere, so farewell for now."
Meeting Emily Sick Bay Current
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Haneri made her way to the sickbay with little difficulty, and as soon as she entered her spirits lifted.

It was small as the captain had said, but it was well-equipped, far better than the one she had previously worked in. The captain may be carrying out jobs whose morality was questionable, but the dedication to the health and welfare of his crew was not.

“Activate Emergency Medical Hologram,” she said.

A red-haired human female wearing a Starfleet uniform shimmered into existence, and smiled at Haneri.

“Hello, Doctor Tohrne,” she said. “Welcome aboard the Juan Cortina. Are you in need of medical aid?”

Even though Haneri was aware of such technology, this was her first time dealing with it, and she couldn’t help but walk up to the hologram and poke it in the arm.

“While I am not a real person, thanks to current hologram technology I feel quite real,” the doctor said. “My sensors indicate you do not require medical aid at this time. Is there anything else?”

Haneri managed to push her awe aside.

“So you are fully capable of treating patients in the event I am unavailable or incapacitated?” she asked.

“Yes,” the doctor said. “However, my area of operation is limited to areas of the ship with functioning holo emitters.”

“And what of your medical knowledge?” Haneri asked.

“I possess detailed files on the physiology and ailments of all races currently aligned with the Federation,” the doctor said. “As for those who are not, my knowledge increases as the information is provided. I also monitor medical publications in order to remain current on all medical breakthroughs.”

“And since you were able to detect that I was not suffering from any illnesses or injuries, that means you have information on Cardassian physiology,” she said. “Tell me, do you have a problem with Cardassians?”

“While I have the appearance of a human member of Starfleet, it is simply a physical manifestation of my program,” the doctor said. “I have not been programmed with any racial biases or prejudices, so I can assure you I will provide equal care to anyone who requires it.”

“That’s good to hear,” Haneri said. “Do you have a name?”

“No I do not,” the doctor said. “If you wish to assign one, that is your prerogative.”

Haneri thought for a moment, then stepped over to a console.

“Computer, generate a list of human female names that start with the letters ‘EMH’,” she said.

“There are no such names,” the computer responded.

“Then generate a list of human female names that start with ‘EM’,” she said.

A list appeared on the screen. She looked it over, saying each name softly to herself before finding one she liked.

She looked over at the doctor.

“Since you’re just a highly advanced computer program, you’ll have no opinion on the name I give you, correct?” she asked.

“Yes,” the doctor said.

“Very well,” Haneri said. “From now on, your name is ‘Emily’. You will respond to that name or your previous designation.”

“Updating my program now,” Emily said. “Is there anything else, Doctor Tohrne?”

“Not at this time,” Haneri said. “Emily, deactivate.”

The doctor blinked out of existence.

Haneri left the sickbay and hurried to the briefing room, a smile on her face.
Back Room Dealings Offices of Keth Claness, Andorian Colony, Rigel IV Current
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Galen Claness had worked his way up through the ranks in Keth Claness, one of the Andorian mining clans. He attended the Andorian Military Institute and served in the Andorian Defense Force for several years as a logistics officer. When he got out, he went to work for his Keth in the same field. He'd worked on Andoria itself and on several colonies as well, including both ends of the Rigel Corridor: Cimera III, and Rigel IV and XII. His current assignment on Rigel IV was a comfortable one. It put him into contact with many different people and organizations and made him responsible for transporting ore from Claness operations on both Rigel IV and Rigel XII all over the Federation and sometimes beyond. This was what the Am Tal had been hoping for when they recruited him when he was in secondary school.

The Am Tal. The secret intelligence society that started as a kind of gentlemen's club on Cimera III and now had its fingers in everyone's pies, all right under the noses of the intelligence services of most of the major powers. They recruited Galen young, they trained him, and they pushed through his application to the Andorian Military Institute. They didn't cheat, exactly. Galen met or exceeded all of the entrance criteria. The Am Tal simply made sure he was chosen.

Mostly Galen just went about his daily life. He worked, he played, he spent time with his family. Every now and then he would get asked to make sure a person or thing was shipped out of or into the Rigel System. He'd received a message asking that he use a particular carrier to ship metals to Cimera III. He didn't ask for more details. That just wasn't done. His job was to give a particular ship and a particular crew a believable, legitimate reason for traveling from Rigel IV to Cimera III. He didn't care about the why. It was usually better if he didn't know. He buzzed his secretary.

"Call the Dovoro office here in the city," Galen said. "Get me on with whoever handles their Tann Corporation accounts."

"Right away, sir,

A few moments went by and then...

Sir, I have Kyla Dovoro on the channel for you.

"Excellent," said Galen. "Send the call to my console."

A moment later Kyla Dovoro appeared on his terminal.

"Galen," Kyla said. "What can Keth Dovoro do for Keth Claness today?"

"I have to send a small shipment of metals to Cimera III and my usual carrier for this type of shipment dropped out at the last moment," he said. "I've heard that Colrin Tann's grandson Braedyn is going into business for himself. Do you think Captain Tann could handle a small contract from Claness? As a bonus, I can have our agent on Cimera line the Captain up with another job once he delivers our goods, either with Claness or someone else."

"I think you know that Braedyn does a bit more than simple cargo hauling," Kyla said.

"That's part of why I thought of him," Galen said. "We've had some threats from the Orion mining caju here. We'd just like to be sure our cargo gets where it's supposed to go in one piece."

Kyla considered this for a moment, then replied.

"I'll put you in touch with him," she said. "I'm sure he can help you out. will that do?"

Galen smiled.

"Nicely, thank you," he said. "I owe you one, Kyla."

It was Kyla's turn to smile.

"All part of the service. Good day, Galen," she said, closing the channel when she was done speaking.

Galen breathed a sigh of relief. Hopefully, Captain Tann would contact him soon. If not, he'd reach out to him. Either way, Galen was reasonably confident he could convince him to take the job offered. Taking to his keyboard, he began what was to be a masterful fabrication of a 'paper' trail. A day later, Galen was able to report to his handler that he had completed his mission. Braedyn Tann had accepted the job hauling metals to Cimera III. If all went according to plan, Galen would never know what happened next, and that was just the way Galen liked things to be.
Princess Diaries Juan Cortina | Deck Three | Bunk
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Gaenor had retired to her bunk for the time being, and found herself alone at least for a few moments which she could tell on a small three deck ship with things crammed into it and several crew, opportunities like this were hard to come by. She jumped up into her bunk with a Nausicaan personal data device in hand as she skimmed through and did some light reading from a letter from home. It had been one she received several days ago, but had not found the time to read it while she was on her job. Though she extracted it from her abandoned vessel along with completely stripping the old fighter of anything useful other than the junk scrap. All her personal information and everything that could be traced back to her was gone. She more or less lived her life out of a few duffel bags which were now securely housed aboard the Juan Cortina

The young Nausicaan woman looked around and took a peak out in the corridors before coming back to her bunk and getting comfortable, even if it was just momentarily. She opened the device and set it for an audio recording, a message home when she could manage to send it. Though there was no telling when that would be. Gaenor reached down her shirt and pulled out a locket that usually was kept rather concealed, it often danged just above her cleavage. A heart shaped locket, old in design. She opened it and starred at a picture of her and her father taken several years ago on an old archaic Earth photography device. The picture was something she carried in the locket, always keeping it with her.

She closed the locket and breathed a heavy sigh. "Daddy" she said kissing the locket and sliding it back into her grey undershirt tank. Gaenor was just glad to know that her father was still alive and well. Or rather alive at least. She could tell he was not all that well even if he tried to say otherwise in is letter to her. The young Nausicaan woman had a tear streaking down her face as she brought her hand up to wipe it from the corner of her eye. Into the device she had set to record she spoke as calmly as she could thought also quietly to be discrete about everything.

Gaenor's voice was a bit shaky at first. "Daddy, it's me your princess" she said, a small smile forming on her face, one she would not dare let anyone see, especially this crew. "I know you won't get this for quite sometime, but I just got around to reading your letter, Daddy. I'm sorry it took me so long. I had to concentrate on the Ferengi job I told you about. I just finished it and will be getting the latinum from it soon enough. Please stay strong and remember that I love you, Daddy" she said trying not to sob, trying her best to be the strong young woman she was meant to be. "I have a new job now though. One that I think will let me make enough money to get you out sooner. I promise that I'll get you out and we can be a family again, but you have to stay strong and keep your health up there. I joined a crew of a starship. It's nothing grand, but if we get enough missions and I stay with them, I'll have a steady enough pay coming in" she continued.

A noise suddenly caused her to go silent as she thought she heard someone coming. "I'm sorry. I have to go now, Daddy, I love you" she said before closing the device off and putting it back into her pocket. She missed him terribly and she wanted him back in her life. There was nothing that she would not do to get him back.
First Day at the Office Part Two Conference Room Morning
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Having stowed his gear, Braedyn walked into the conference room and set up for the meeting. Though he was an experienced starship captain, he found that he was excited and slightly nervous about the prospect of starting a new adventure with a new crew. He did a quick breathing exercise to calm himself and took a seat at the head of the table.

Marsha entered a few seconds later, followed by the pilot Cara. While Cara headed to the far end of the table with what looked like a smoothie in hand, Marsha headed straight for the replicator and punched in an order for a white mocha latte with caramel and an extra triple shot of espresso. Drink in hand, she sat down next to the Captain and sipped at her drink while reading at a PaDD. "Supply manifest says we have enough weapons and munitions to assault half a planet."

Braedyn chuckled.

"Not quite that much," he said. "I think I provided us with somewhere between too little and too much. Enough, I think they call it. I even had some 23rd Century Type II Assault Phasers rebuilt to 24th Century standards. The pistol grip style and sights should work out for you if you need to use one. Oh yeah, I almost forgot."

Braedyn picked up a small case that had been standing up on the floor next to his chair and placed it in front of Marsha.

"As promised," he said. "This is for you."

Popping the case open, Marsha grinned from ear to ear. "There's my baby. Come to mama." Pulling the antique looking phase pistol out of the case, she popped open the module compartment and loaded the orange emitter module into it before inspecting the blue, green, and red modules and snapping them into their little case. "I'll need to link my transport module to our transporters later. Thank you."

"You're welcome," Braedyn said. "And, uhm...what about your transport module?"

Pulling out the blue module, Marsha grinned and showed it off. "This little baby. If I shoot something or someone with it, it acts as a sort of transport trigger. The object or person looks like they've been disintegrated but they're actually transported off to whatever transporter pad is linked to it, granted it's working and within range. The best part is that the readings will look like a high energy phase pulse disintegration rather than a proper transport."

"Impressive," Braedyn said. "What about the other modules?"

"Orange is the standard Federation stun and kill phaser module, the red one is a disintegration beam, and the green one is a plasma emitter." Marsha explained.

Haneri strode in, a smile on her face.

"Hello Captain, hello everyone," she said as she took a seat.

She looked over at Braedyn.

"I introduced myself to the EMH," she said. "Having it around will be most useful. Thank you."

"My pleasure," Braedyn said. "Can I get you something from the replicator?"

"I'm fine, thank you," she said.

Cara's ears perked up at the mention of the EMH, a sour look crossing her face. "We have an EMH on board? I was treated by one once towards the end of the war. If one of those asinine things so much as touches me, I walk. The damn thing barely treated burns from an exploded console and complained the whole time while doing it. Thanks to that thing I spent two weeks in a medbay on Rigel ten having the galaxy's cheapest facial reconstruction surgery."

Gaenor looked a bit perplexed by that bit of news. "An EMH on this flying piece of scrap?" she commented looking at the Captain. "How did we come by an EMH and how functional is it? Don't tell me it is a Mark II, I hate that chirpy stick up the ass smug personality they gave that thing. An improvement over a Mark I, don't get me wrong, but I hope you got something less annoying aboard."

"I can't speak as to how it was acquired or its skill level yet," Haneri said. "As for its personality, it was friendly towards me and I see no reason why it shouldn't be the same to everyone else."

Braedyn chuckled.

"It's a modified Mark I," he said. "I agree that the Zimmerman template is obnoxious as Hell, which is why I had a holo-programmer tweak the software quite a bit. I think you'll find that this one gets on with us better than a standard Mark I would, especially as she gains experience and adapts to us."

Jonas had found some empty quarters and flung his duffel onto the bed. There wasn't much time to unpack and such, so he'd done a few things. Synchronized his wrist scanner to the ship, downloaded a layout and specs, and taken a quick nose in the engine room. The place wasn't on fire and leaking plasma, though his eye spotted a few things to noodle on a bit later.

He'd trudged up to the conference room, catching the tail end of the EMH conversation. He'd had nothing to add, for once really having nothing to add. He'd never seen one, and holography wasn't his strong suit, but he'd read up on them once or twice. Stabbing a few controls on the replicator, he pondered, then ordered, "Zariphean tea 3 sugars and milk." He grabbed the newly formed cup and settled himself into a chair.

Jaeih was far from the first to arrive to the briefing. In fact, it seemed she was dead last. It wasn't an occurrence she intended to repeat, but this time she'd settle for that. Having traded the heavy cloak for a winter-weight cardigan over her simple attire, she still found the small ship to be too cool to be comfortable, though she suspected she'd get used to it eventually. Coming into the room, she did not stop at the replicator, joining the conversation at the tail end of the EMH conversation. "Your holographic doctors are better than many of the flesh and blood physicians in the Imperial Navy."

"That doesn't say much about the practice of medicine among your people," Haneri said. "And Emily can only function in areas with working holo emitters."

She turned to the captain.

"Sir, with your permission, I'd like holo emitters installed in the engine room and bridge," she said. "Just as a precaution in case we have a need for a doctor in multiple areas of the ship at the same time."

"That would mean ripping apart all of the interior work done on this ship," Braedyn said. "It's not just holo emitters you'd have to install, but the support hardware as well. The work would require staying here for a month or more. So I guess you'll have to deal with her only being able to manifest in Sickbay...and the mess hall...and the ward room...and deck one forward...and...here. She can't manifest in the Engineering sections of the ship because proximity to the warp core disrupts her matrix. Will that do, Doctor? Everyone take a seat."

"Yes sir," Haneri said, feeling somewhat abashed.

"The ship simply put...is not made for fancy holographic technology" said Gaenor. "Next time, steal a Defiant and we might be able to talk holo emitters and support software" the Nausicaan commented. "However, you won't be alone with the EMH. I won't be pleased about it, but I do have basic medical training to pop things back into sockets and tend to minor contusions" added Gaenor.

"Okay, I'd like to officially welcome everyone aboard the Starship Juan Cortina," he said. "This ship is an older design, but when I bought her, I bought the newest one I could find. I bought her when I quit Starfleet and joined the Maquis and I wanted to give her an appropriate name. Juan Cortina was a wealthy rancher, a freedom fighter, and some say a bandit. Using his name seemed appropriate at the time. I haven't seen any reason to change it since."

Braedyn took a sip of his drink.

"First things first, the pecking order," he said. "Marsha Mellow here is my first officer, Jaeih t'Hwersuil is my second officer. Secondly, and I know you'll all be thrilled with this part, we have a job."

Gaenor cocked her head as she studied the two women. Excellent. Things go to hell and I'm left taking orders from someone that sounds like gooey campfire treat and an untrustworthy pointed ear she devil thought the Nausicaan.

Braedyn hit a few controls on his console and a holographic display with the cargo and all of the important numbers concerning it came up in the center of the table.

"Keth Claness, that's Andoria's major mining clan, has asked us to deliver a small shipment of beryllium to a Keth Ivari operation on the Andorian colony world Cimera III. The pay is right and to sweeten the deal, they're working on a lead for another job for us to pick up from a contact on Cimera III. I know we're a little over armed for a simple supply run, but Claness has been receiving some thinly veiled threats from the Orion mining caju here on Rigel IV. Some ships carrying Claness ore have reported being...stalked, for lack of a better word. They've chosen us because they believe we can handle ourselves. I agree with them. Questions?"

"Opposition" replied Gaenor. "Clearly you've accepted this job so that's what we will be doing, but where there's one offer, there's a counter...an opposition. You say some ships have been stalked. By whom or by what pray tell may we be up against?" asked the Nausicaan.

"Likely the Orion Syndicate in some shape or form," Braedyn replied. "The caj tend to have various levels of connection to the Syndicate out of necessity, so do the remaining pirates in this area. Before the war, Starfleet patrolled the Rigel Corridor and the Andorian Defense Force provided escorts to Andorian merchant vessels. ADF even ran a few decoys with WSDFs installed. Together, they made this area very unfriendly for pirates. When the war started, Starfleet was tied up with fighting the Dominion and the ADF provided an expeditionary force to assist them. One of the places they pulled forces from was the Rigel Corridor, since there hadn't been much trouble here in recent years. Since the war, though, piracy in this area has increased while patrols have not yet returned to pre-war levels. The stalking ships could be coincidence or they could be tied to the Rigel IV mining caju. Either way, we're looking at anything from Orion copies of this ship and/or the Peregrine Class Fighter, to surplus B'Rel Class Birds of Prey or surplus Romulan scout vessels or armed shuttles from various military forces. There are also a few Orion designs, light attack cruisers, upgrades of the old Lightning Class Blockade Runner from the 23rd Century or maybe even Nausicaan mercenaries. Either way, if they decide to attack us they're going to get a bloody nose for their troubles. As for considering a counter offer...the money on this was good, good enough to offer you a substantial bonus if we successfully deliver our cargo. Besides, I'd like to wait as long as possible before getting in bed with the Orions. Once we go down that route, it's a slippery slope."

Gaenor grumbled about Orions. They were not her favorite clients either to be truthfully honest. "Once you get in bed with anyone in these parts, it is a slippery slope. I've done plenty of business out here to know the best dives to dine at for a bargain, if your stomach can handle a parasite or two" she said shaking her head. "Trust no one out here and you're living safely. Even the so called 'Vulcan Merchants' out here are nothing more than Romulan scum living in exile from the Empire with their brow ridges surgically altered to pass as Vulcans" she said looking at the Romulan in their midst. "I wont like you, but I'll work with you" she added.

"I do not expect anyone to like me, but I do expect to be shown some respect." There was a very quiet anger in Jaeih's voice, the sort that said rather plainly that she wasn't going to put up with any disrespect from any of the crew. But she was especially not going to put up with it in her own department on the ship. "You'll keep your xenophobia to yourself or you'll be finding a new place to work because that sort of behavior is not acceptable in my department."

"You won't have anything to fear from me," Haneri said softly, then looked around at the rest of the crew. "I don't know about doctors from races, but Cardassian doctors swear an oath to treat anyone who comes to them for help. Anyone."

"Well," Braedyn said. "Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's focus on work. Everyone get yourselves familiar with the ship. We're going to need to do some cross-training so everyone can at least fake doing each other's jobs in a pinch, but we can't really do that until we get off the ground. Speaking of taking off, we leave on a brief atmospheric flight to the Andorian colony here to pick up the ore in two hours. From there we're off to Cimera III. Any last questions?"

"Not a question, but a request to the crew, Captain," Haneri said, then looked at the others. "I need everyone to stop by sick bay as soon as possible so I can do a baseline physical."

She looked back at the captain.

"I know you said our first job is supposed to be an easy one, sir," she said. "But, as you humans like to say, did the rest of the galaxy get the memo?"

"Of course, Doc," Braedyn replied. "You heard her, everyone. In the interests of getting under way, we can do that as we travel. Alright, dismissed."

Captain's Exam Sickbay Current
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Braedyn had never really seen the point in avoiding a routine medical exam. He was in good shape, he took care of himself. That said, the galaxy was a germy place and he lived a dangerous life. If he caught something or some old injury was going to cause him trouble, he'd rather find out about it in Sickbay than in the field (or when some part of him fell off).

Braedyn had never quite gotten all the way to 'the only good Cardassian is a dead Cardassian' but he'd come close. He'd spent most of his Starfleet career at odds with them, had fought them with the Maquis, and then fought them again when they allied with the Dominion. Cardassian Central Command was responsible for many atrocities. On the other hand the Cardassians had come out the losers of the Dominion War, despite turning on the Dominion at the very end. Their military was being dismantled, their planet was in ruins, their government was in shambles and was being 'supervised' by the Federation. Their society was being rebuilt from the ground up. Maybe they deserved a chance...an opportunity to better themselves. Part of the reason he'd hired Haneri was to force himself to see a Cardassian in a different light. These thoughts were in his head as he entered Sickbay.

"What's up, Doc?" he said. "Here I am, ready to be poked and prodded. Depending on where you prod me though, I may ask for dinner and a movie first."

"How disappointing," she said. "I heard humans were cheap dates."

Braedyn laughed.

"That depends on the individual human, I suppose," he said. "Well, shall we get started?"

"Of course," she said. "Emily, activate."

The red-haired female flickered into existence.

"Hello, Doctor Tohrne," she said. "Are you in need of my assistance?"

"Not right now," Haneri said. "Emily, this is Bradeyn Tann, the ship's captain. Captain, meet Emily, the emergency medical hologram."

"Hello, Captain," Emily said. "It's a pleasure to meet you."

"Emily," Braedyn said. "It's...uhm...nice to meet you, too."

"All right, let's get started," Haneri said. "Emily, please start a file for the captain."

"Done," the hologram said.

"Thank you," Haneri said. "Now Captain, how old are you?"

"I'm fifty-five," Braedyn said.

She noted it on a padd.

"Are you currently experiencing any sort of illness or injury?" she asked.

"Other than the beginnings of middle-age," Braedyn said. "None that I can think of."

She made another note on the padd.

"Do you have any allergies?" she asked.

"Chelarian swamproot!" Braedyn, making an unpleasant face. "My parents took me to a dig on Rigel III and the locals fed us swamproot stew. I don't think I've ever been so sick in my life."

She entered that into the padd as well.

"Okay, now I'll scan you to see if there's anything wrong that you may not be aware of," she said.

She activated a tricorder, calibrated it for human physiology and then slowly passed it over the captain.

"Evidence of some old injuries, but they all healed well...weight and body composition are good for someone of your age, gender and height...heartbeat and blood pressure within acceptable parameters...no abnormal neurological activity...no problems with the eyes or ears," she said. "Congratulations, sir, you are in very good health."

"Why thank you," Braedyn said. "I'll to break or bend something or maybe get infected by some bizarre space germs on our travels so your life can be more interesting. I see you've given our EMH a name. Probably a good thing. It will make her more approachable."

"Past studies have shown that giving a name to previously unknown entity greatly helps in achieving that effect," Emily said. "I'd also like to think that having a default personality matrix set to friendly helps as well."

"Anyway, Captain," Haneri said, stepping in to head off any further discussion of the subject. "I do appreciate your offer to make my work more interesting, but please don't get sick or injured for my benefit. If you go out of your way to do so, I'd have to use my authority as the medical officer to relieve you of command due to mental illness, and then I'd have to take over."

She winked at him to show she was joking. The last thing she needed was for him to take her words at face value.

Braedyn chuckled.

"I think Marsha and Jaeih would have something to say about you assuming command," he said. "So, how are you finding your facilities? I'd like to think we did pretty well with the space available. Sickbay is at least comparable to the ones on some of Starfleet's smaller starships."

“Oh, they’re way better than what I had before!” she gushed before she caught herself. “I mean...even though they’re much smaller, the mere presence of Emily outweighs that. Her medical knowledge is much more expansive than what my people had on file, even if it was the one hospital that served non-Cardassians. That’s the downside of having a, uh…rather closed…society.”

"So," Braedyn said. "How did you get stuck treating off-worlders? Was that a choice or did you have to be pushed into it?"

"Oh, uh, it was by luck," she said. "Like I said, I'm not like most of my people in that I want to see what lies beyond our borders. I've been like that as long as I could remember. After I completed officer basic training, I was assigned to that hospital. I guess my superiors thought I might as well be in a position where I could...indulge...my curiosity."

"I assume that's not as ominous as it sounds," Braedyn replied.

"No, I didn't mean it like that!" she said, a bit flustered. "I just want to help people, that's all!"

"Hey, take it easy," Braedyn said. "I've already given you the benefit of the doubt. Though maybe you should try to word that differently with the others. We all suffer guilt by our associations from time to time. Speaking of which, how have your interactions with the crew been? Getting along with them well so far?"

"Yes," she said. "I must admit I'm a bit surprised at that, given how my government portrayed non-Cardassians and their subsequent actions towards them. I guess that's just one more thing they were wrong about."

"For a long time I didn't see Cardassians as people," Braedyn said. "Only as 'the enemy'. That point of view made things easier. It's easy to hate. Compassion is harder. Then I met members of the Cardassian Resistance. Then, at the Battle for Cardassia, the those Cardassian ships turned on the Dominion. Then I saw the results of the Dominion attack on Cardassia Prime. They, your people, became real people to me. I won't ever forget what I've seen over the last thirty years of fighting Cardassians, but I've got more of an open mind now."

"And I'm grateful for that, Captain, more than you'll ever know," she said.

Her vision got blurry for a moment, and she realized that her eyes had filled with tears, though she didn't know what or who they were for. She turned away and regained her composure before turning back.

"Anyway sir, will there be anything else?" she asked.

"No," Braedyn said. "That will about do it. Let me know if there's anything I can do for you as time goes on. See you around."
You're a Spy for the Wolves! Lounge
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It had been a long day and Marsha wanted nothing more than to relax for a few. Hence why she was now in the lounge, trying to get a triple fudge sundae out of the replicator. Apparently, it could only do a normal double fudge - something she'd have to correct soon. Finally, she retrieved her desert from the replicator and plopped down into one of the empty seats and dug into it When their resident Romulan entered the small lounge as well.

Jaeih wasn't generally the socializing sort, but on a ship so small as the Juan Cortina, it seemed socializing would be forced on everyone. She noticed there were very few places to sit, but she'd worry about that issue after she'd found something palatable in the replicator menu. Looking through the options offered, she made a mental note to have some of her homeworld's traditional recipes added to it, but for now she settled on an inoffensive noodle dish with an interesting mix of Terran vegetables in some sort of lightly spiced sauce. It would never compare to the food she was accustomed to eating, but it was similar to meals she'd enjoyed while visiting Federation installations during the war.

Her meal in hand, Jaeih now glanced around for an empty seat, finding space only at the table of their comparatively young first officer. While Jaeih hadn't really talked with Marsha, she did know the other woman was Betazoid and had often found the Betazoids to be friendly enough. So she quietly took the empty seat at Marsha's table.

Offering a handshake, Marsha smiled brightly in greeting. "It's a pleasure to meet you. I'm Marsha, but I'm sure you already know that. How are you settling in? Any difficulties so far?"

"Other than the lighting still being on the default Federation setting of 'blind everyone else' I'm settling in fine." Jaeih's tone was unusually cheerful for a Romulan as she accepted Marsha's handshake. She even smiled. "I'd expected to struggle with the ship's motion given how small it is, but instead it's the Federation lights. Clearly I need to find the tinted lenses I wore through half of the war."

"They are pretty bright, aren't they? And I think most of the people aboard would agree." Pausing a moment, Marsha looked up towards the cieling and addressed the computer. "Computer, reduce all shipboard lighting except sickbay by fifteen percent and set as new default level. Override Marsha Marsha Marsha Niner." With a chirrup, the computer complied with a noticeable dimming.

"Thank you. You have no idea how much difference that makes." Jaeih rubbed her eyes momentarily, grateful they'd be less strained. "I'm not sure why the humans like their lights so bright. Most of the galaxy survives with much less illumination."

"It's because of the internal sensors. They love high resolution internal sensors on every deck but the way most are set up you have to flood everything with light pollution and varying warm currents of air. That and I'm convinced every single one of them is afraid of the dark." Marsha commented before digging back into her sundae, her own eyes relieved.

Jaeih snorted at the assumption that all humans were afraid of the dark. "I wouldn't be surprised. I have often been accused of lurking in the shadows like some sort of demon." She stirred the vegetables into her noodles before taking a few bites. Like most Federation replicated food, it seemed to have a muted flavor, though it was pleasant enough.

"I once had a human passenger blame me for being a black eyed demon trying to mind control her into killing her husband. Turns out she just wanted the insurance." Marsha replied before taking another bite of her sunday and all but purring at it. "I just hope the replicators can get an upgrade in programming soon. The menu selection is abysmal."

Jaieh nodded slightly in agreement. "Most Federation replicators have abysmal selections on their menus. They stick to what is safe and comforting to those races who would normally use the device, and the more ethnic dishes are often lacking in spice, having been tamed or dulled to appeal to a wider audience. Even during the war, the replicators could not produce authentically flavored Rihannsu dishes. I often found myself opting for dishes native to Japan. At least they had some flavor to be enjoyed."

"I'm fond of the Hispanic dishes myself. I have to use an override to replicate good salsa but at least I can get it." Marsha replied.

"I have not tried many Hispanic dishes. I do not like many of the hot peppers used in that region of Earth... they have a bitter quality to them that is not present in our food. Our traditional flavors are tart and bright, though most of the galaxy wouldn't know it. The colors tend to make non-Rihannsu more than a bit wary." It was an attitude that Jaeih semi-understood. After all, she didn't gravitate toward earthen or red-colored foods from other cultures.

"Perfectly understandable," Marsha commented. "I'm glad chocolate seems to be somewhat universal in color for most worlds."

"On the worlds that have it, anyway. Ch'Rihan never developed a chocolate recipe, and many of us still find it to be too sweet." While Jaeih had acquired a liking for some Terran sweets, chocolate was not one of them. "Personally I do not tolerate cacao well."

"Have you tried dark chocolate? Or baker's chocolate? it can be pretty bitter and without all that sugar and cream isn't really sweet at all." Marsha offered. She was a bit of a chocolate connoisseur and prided herself on finding a chocolate for just about anyone.

"I have, but it is not the flavor of the cacao bean that is the problem. I have much the same reaction as I do when doctors give me morphenolog." Jaeih decided not to elaborate much further on that given they were both eating at the moment.

"Ah... Nevermind then." Marsha ate in silence a bit more, scraping her dish out and finishing her sundae, then leaned back and sighed. "Please don't take this the wrong way, but you're the first Romulan I've ever met. Do all of your people keep their emotions so closely guarded?"

"No, not all of us." Jaeih was quiet for a moment, mulling over whether or not tell Marsha where she'd learned to keep herself so controlled. She knew there were no other Romulans on the crew, but the Tal Shiar had its ways of finding out what had been said in many a location they supposedly had no access to.

"I'd almost say you nearly have a Vulcan level of emotional control." Marsha commented idly.

It was then that Jaeih realized that Marsha was very close to guessing the truth anyway. "Ambassador Spock would be pleased to hear you say that, I think. Then again, he is half Vulcan so he might never admit it."

Marsha then leaned in conspiratorially and spoke with a hushed voice. "Admit it. You're actually a Vulcan in disguise, aren't you?"

Jaeih chuckled a bit at that. "No, I am very much Rihannsu. I did, however, have the pleasure of meeting the ambassador while he was on ch'Rihan in his attempts to reunite our two peoples."

Marsha leaned back, grinning widely. "Definitely one of the greatest ambassadors ever. Not that I'd ever want to bring the Federation and Empire together into one entity, but I do look forward to a day when we can all get along and not worry about the neutral zones."

"The goal of reunification is not to make the Star Empire a member of your Federation. Only to allow for peaceful existence with our Vulcan cousins. We were, after all, one people before Surak began his teachings." Jaeih returned to her meal for a few moments, giving Marsha time to reflect on that.

And reflect Marsha did. After a few moments, she spoke in a somewhat reverent tone. "Reminds me of the Wolves of Miburu. They were a pirate gang that wanted to get along with the Miburu governmental body but their basic ideology was very different. Most Miburuuns wanted strict government control and oversight over practically everything but the Wolves wanted zero oversight, hence they were branded pirates. They enjoyed the trade between the groups well enough but could never peacefully coexist. Of course that all ended when the Dominion wiped them all out at the beginning of the war. The Wolves actually stopped and robbed the first ship I served on. Just took Federation resources and left personal items alone. Very respectful for pirates."

"I suppose that's a good analogy, although during the Sundering we were forced out for not conforming. The ships that made it to the twin planets carried the ancestors of both the Rihannsu and Havrannsu. Sometime later, a Federation captain named the planets after twin boys from a Roman myth, Romulus and Remus." Her noodles mostly gone by now, Jaeih slid the plate aside. "Spock and the reunificationists believe that forcing the Raptor's soldiers out was a mistake."

"I don't understand a lot about the whole history of the situation, but I know that talking through things with an open mind is good policy. If the Federation can befriend everyone, that's also a positive influence on the socioeconomic landscape as a whole and all peoples will have a chance to flourish with new ideas." Marsha commented. "After all, overspecialize and you breed in weakness. It's a slow death on any scale."

"You understand the concept then." It was odd that Jaeih discussed this with anyone, let alone someone who was actually able to understand the events and their consequences. "Vulcan has not been conquered in the time since the Sundering, but it has not been challenged by a conqueror either. They believe their peace and logic have saved them, but one wonders... if the Dominion had landed forces on Vulcan instead of Betazed... would the population have survived?"

"Without the Federation? No. Betazed wouldn't have either." Marsha was turning a bit grim at the mention of the Dominion's invasion of her homeworld. She'd lost a lot of good friends in that invasion. "As for Vulcan combat tactics... The history I know, theirs were some of the most barbaric and ruthless out there."

"They have abandoned most of them. We kept a few, made them our own. But I do not think we are as brutal as the early Vulcans, despite what most of them might say about us." Despite her apparent peacefulness, it was clear that Jaeih did harbor some resentment over the usual Vulcan attitude toward her people.

Marsha chuckled softly. "I think the Vulcans have the same opinion of all races that don't purge their emotions to be honest. They called my people emotional prostitutes. Humans brash and arrogant beasts. Andorians... Well, you get the idea. They study us all but remain completely separate."

"Most of them have a superiority complex. Though to be perfectly honest, so do most of my people." Jaeih knew of many Romulan ship commanders whose 'superior ships' had fallen prey to 'weaker' vessels. "I suppose it's a hereditary curse."

"Everyone has a weakness. That's one of the things the Federation was founded on. Humans could see clearly that everyone is stronger united." Marsha replied. "Each weakness is tempered by others. A bit like a peaceful version of the Borg, I guess."

"Not quite. The Federation does not assimilate its members in quite the same way." Jaeih grinned at the thought of a Federation captain forcing another race to bend to Federation doctrine.

"No, but diplomacy can be far more sinister." Marsha grinned. "How many worlds has Picard alone brought into the Federation? Hundreds? What about Ambassador Spock? Ambassador Dax? Ambassador Telvix?"

"More than I care to try counting, I'm sure." Jaeih didn't know all of those names, but she was familiar with Picard and Spock. She'd heard tales of Dax, but one could never be sure what was fact and what was fiction as far as Dax was concerned.

"Assimilation through diplomacy," Marsha chuckled softly again. "As long as I get paid well and can get my chocolate, I'm ok with it."

"It is a cunning plan, and one that works better than coercion at phaserpoint." And while Jaeih could commend diplomats and their clever use of words, she wasn't giving up her plasma pistol that she still carried, well hidden under her civilian clothing.

"Yes it does." Marsha was silent a moment, letting her desert settle.

XO's Physical Sickbay
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"Hello?" Marsha called out as she entered sickbay. "Is now a good time for a physical?"

"Yes, I just finished my last one a few minutes ago," Haneri said. "Please, come in and have a seat. Emily, activate."

The hologram shimmered into existence.

"Emily, meet Lieutenant Marsha Mellow, the first officer," Haneri said.

"Hello, Lieutenant," the red-haired woman said. "Nice to meet you."

"Good to meet you as well," Marsha replied with a polite smile. No emotional response on her radar - that was definitely a hologram. "So are the biobed scanners good enough? Everything well stocked?" She asked Haneri, passively reading her emotions since she was the only other one in the room with any.

"I was planning to use a tricorder," Haneri said. "As for supplies, I am well stocked despite the small size of the sickbay. Anyway, let's get started."

She activated the tricorder, set it for human bioreadings and began to slowly run it over the first officer, but almost immediately frowned.

"I'm getting some odd neurological readings," she said.

Emily leaned in and looked over the readings.

"Those readings are within normal parameters for a Betazoid," she said.

"Betazoid?" Haneri asked. "Oh."

She looked over at the first officer.

"Sorry," she said. "I could say I should've asked, but that would've been rather silly, wouldn't it?"

Marsha grinned softly. A lot of people were a bit freaked out by telepaths so she expected a bit of fear. Cardassians in general with their isolationism were one of the races that avoided empaths in general from what she'd seen. The only race more paranoid about it that she'd seen were Andorians. "No, it's perfectly ok. Other than my eyes and hair being uncommon for humans, most Betazoids do pass perfectly well as humans. It makes reading them easier. Don't worry though - I'm not one of the higher empaths. I can only pick up emotions and tell when most people are lying."

"Oh," Haneri said again, trying to sound casual as she resumed scanning the first officer.

"If you're uncomfortable about it, you can let the EMH take over. Or get some chocolate? Chocolate helps me." Marsha offered.

"Chocolate? I might have to try that," Haneri said. "My people had chocolate, but then I tried the chocolate of the Federation while I was in the refugee camp. I threw up the first time I tried it. Not because it was bad, though; just the opposite. It was sweet beyond anything I had ever had before.

"But anyway, back to the physical," she continued. "I'll be okay. If you're telling the truth about your abilities, then all I have to do is tell you the truth and we'll get along fine."

"Dark chocolate. Eighty percent or higher might be more to your taste." Marsha offered. "I'm pretty sure I've gained a bit of weight from all the sweets I've had lately."

"Yes, you are a few pounds over the recommended weight for someone your height," Haneri said. "Try cutting back on some of the sweets, drinking some more water and getting in a bit more exercise, you'll be fine. Eighty percent or more dark chocolate, eh?"

"Chocolate is a bit of an addiction of mine. I'll try to cut back, but it's hard." Marsha chuckled softly. "I do exercise regularly at least."

"That's good," Haneri said. "Exercise does play a part in losing weight, but if you really want to do it, it will be a matter of your diet. Other than that, you appear to be in good health. I think we're about done here, do you have any other questions or concerns?"

"I do actually. I was wondering how you were settling in. With the war and all, most people don't like Cardassians and with the rumors about Cardassian medics performing torture... It can't have been easy." Marsha asked, genuinely concerned.

"So far very well," she said. "I must admit, I'm surprised at how warmly I've been welcomed into the crew. I expected there would be some hostility, given the actions of my government, but so far everyone has been nice. But I don't think I should expect the same reception from the rest of the galaxy. I just hope I can do enough to start making others see my people as something other than monsters."

"I think the war crimes that the Dominion did to the Cardassians was punishment enough for just about anything out there and I'd like to think that that's how most people see yours. Besides, you've got a pleasant air about you and you've done nothing duplicitous so why worry?" Marsha replied, trying to explain her own personal take on the situation. "Now if there was a Bajoran aboard... That might not have been a warm welcome."

"Yes, I would expect so," Haneri said. "As for your attitude, I think you may be right. I can't control how people are going to feel about me, so I should stop worrying and just do my job the best I can. Thank you."

"You're very welcome," Marsha replied genuinely. "Is there anything else you need from me for a physical?"

"No, we're done here," Haneri said.

"Excellent," Marsha hopped off the biobed and offered the good doctor a handshake. "I will be on the bridge if you need me."

"I'll keep that in mind, thank you," Haneri said, taking the offered hand.
Physical of Flying Colors Sickbay
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Cara didn't like this, but it was necessary. She just hoped she wouldn't run into the blasted EMH on this visit at the least. Sighing, she steeled herself, nodded, and walked into sickbay. "Doctor, I'm here for that physical."

"Hello!" Haneri called out. "Come in, have a seat."

She almost asked Emily to activate but caught herself in time.

"For the physicals of the other crewmembers, I've had Em--I mean, the EMH--present so they could start getting used to her," she continued. "But I remember you mentioned a previous bad experience with one. Would you prefer to just be seen by me?"

Cara glanced around the room nervously, almost expecting the old bald nightmare to pop up out of nowhere at any moment before she nodded her head and hopped up onto a biobed. "Yeah, Yeah I think I have enough anxiety for now. Between new parts failures affecting flight control and the few shelves in our quarters being too narrow for my gravity plating for my ceramic cats..."

Haneri nodded.

"Very well," she said. "You do understand that in the event I am unavailable it will be up to the EMH to treat you, yes?"

"I'll patch myself up before that happens, thanks." Cara replied a bit sourly.

"All right then, on with the physical," Haneri said, dropping the subject.

She activated the tricorder and then looked over at the pilot.

"This may sound a bit silly, but what race are you?" she asked.

"Human," Cara replied, relaxing a bit. "But there might be a little deviation since I grew up in a colony on Denev four."

"What sort of conditions were present there?" Haneri asked.

"Mostly wet rainforests and swamps. Normal forests too. Every animal there tries to kill you. The usual." Cara replied. "I had part of my liver removed due to an infection but it's pretty well healed since then. Then there's all the scar tissue from a console blowing up in my face during the war..."

"Yes, you did mention that," Haneri said as she slowly ran the tricorder over the pilot.

Cara nodded and looked down at her hands before looking back up at Haneri. "The Dominion earned a healthy dislike from me that day as well.At least they did their jobs to the very end though, which I can respect. That EMH though... He sprayed some plastic mesh on me, gave me a hypo, insulted me, and stuck me in a corner. If It hadn't been for my Captain coming to get me, I'd have spent another week in there without treatment. I mean, I get that others were more injured and as a civilian I was low priority, but they could have at least fed me for the three days I was laying there, you know? Nevermind that I had had nearly twenty percent of my skin seared off by plasma."

"I'm very sorry for that," Haneri said. "I can assure you that if you are ever my patient I will give you the best care possible."

"Thank you," Cara replied, looking back down at her hands. "This may sound strange, but I trust you."

Haneri took a moment to force down the lump that had formed in her throat.

"Thank you," she said. "You have no idea how much that means to me."

"It's only right that I do, you know? The Cardassian people never did anything to wrong me. Besides, everyone is putting their lives in my hands since I'm the one flying this bird, you know?" Cara looked up to meet Haneri's eyes.

"And let's not forget Jonas, he keeps this ship flying," Haneri said. "As for your attitude, I like how open-minded you are. You have no idea how difficult it can be having such an attitude among my people.

"Part of me is glad that's I'm finally getting a chance to see the galaxy," she continued. "But another part is sad as to how it came about. But I suppose most things in life are like that."

"That's how it goes, it seems. Something bad will often lead to something good and vice versa depending on what you make of it." Cara grinned wryly.

Perhaps it was just eagerness on her part, but Haneri felt a sense of kinship with the pilot. Both of them had been through difficult times but had not let their circumstances get the better of them. Back in the refugee camp, some of her people were unable to accept being brought low by those they considered inferior to them, and so they chose to end their lives. By the time she left, it was up to several a week.

"That is true," she said.

Cara was no mind reader or empath, but she felt like she and Haneri had a bit of a kinship as well. She'd lost most of her crew on that last blockade run during the war and though the cargo arrived intact, the ship was pretty much written off because of all the damage and fried EPS conduits. "You and I should get a drink sometime. I have some of the tea leaves from my home if you ever want to share some with me."

"I will take you up on that, thank you," Haneri said as she finished running the tricorder over the pilot. "Aside from what you mentioned, you appear to be in good health. Do you have any other questions or concerns?"

"I um... I could use some lotion or cream. I know it's not supposed to, but the regrown patches of skin itch sometimes." Cara spoke softly, almost embarrassed as she blushed softly. "Especially down below."

"Of course," Haneri said as she went to one of the medicine drawers. "Good thing I inventoried my supplies, otherwise I'd have no idea where it is."

She opened the drawer and considered several different lotions before withdrawing a small bottle.

"Try this," she said, handing it over to Cara. "If it doesn't work or if the itch gets worse, let me know."

Taking the cream, Cara tucked it into one of her pockets and nodded. "I will, thank you."
Lift Off! Rigel IV/SS Juan Cortina (Various) Current
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Braedyn sat in his command chair, glad to be in the center seat. He wasn't entirely comfortable. He'd broken the previous chair in. This new one was...well...new, really new. He'd have to used to this one now, just like the crew would have to learn to work the Cortina and shake off the stiffness the old girl must be feeling, having been stuck in her hanger for so long. Now was as good a time as any.

"Time to go," he said. Braedyn hit the 'all call' button on the arm of his chair. "Now here this! I don't know about the rest of you, but I am now officially bored with Rigel IV. All hands to stations. We are leaving!"

Marsha was already on the bridge working the Operations consoles like fire. "Moorings and tethers clear and we have escape vector clearance to point two niner seven two."

Cara was at the helm doing her preflight checks when she glanced back at Marsha. "Does Rigel seven even have an active two niner path?"

"Yeah, but watch out for moons and debris." Marsha replied as she cycled the sensors up. "Feeding telemetry to your station now."

"Received," Cara tapped the console a few times to check the 'expected' flight plan. She then fired up the engines. "Atmospheric thruster four's output is too low. I think I can adjust manually, but it'll need some repairs."

"How the Hell did that happen?" Braedyn said. "There have been yardbirds crawling all over the Cortina for months! Everything is brand new!"

Braedyn sighed. Nothing was ever easy.

"Let Jonas know," he said. "Maybe he can fix it enroute. Worst case, he can fix it when we land on Cimera III."

"Roger that," Cara replied. She then fired up the engines and hovered the ship a few inches to manually calibrate the thruster so they could hover level. "Ready to leave at your command, Captain."

Jaeih let the others chatter away while she quietly set up her console in what she found to be the most efficient layout. In her mind, it didn't make sense to inform the captain when her department was ready; everyone should be ready before the order was even given to get underway.

"Acknowledged, Cara," Braedyn said.


Haneri activated the intercom.

"This is Medical, we're ready for travel down here," she said, then shut it off. "Emily, activate."

The red-haired female shimmered into existence.

"Hello, Doctor Tohrne," she said, smiling. "Do you require aid?"

"No, but I do require information," she said. "Do you have an inventory of all the medical supplies and equipment on this ship?"

"Yes," Emily said.

"Good," Haneri said. "I want to to conduct a physical one."

"That is wise, Doctor," the hologram said.

"Yes," Haneri said. "I expect the others will be busy doing their jobs and therefore won't come here right away for their physicals, so I might as well do mine."

She went over to the drawers nearest the entrance, opened it and began tallying its contents.


Jonas had been poking around the engine room ever since the meeting had gotten over, aside from devouring three more cups of tea and a a bowl of black noodles and peanut sauce. Everything in the engine room was shiny and new and bright and sparkly. He didn't much care for that at all. He'd pulled open this panel and that, checking this isolinear chip or ODN conduit, and it was all more or less in order. Which gnawed at him for some reason.

He'd been checking the matter/anti-matter seals when the little red light on the panel started winking at him, a message from the bridge. The thrusters weren't working right. His hands danced around the panel for a moment, then he slid back in his chair, moving to another console and opening up the display. A grunt escaped his lips and he stared at the screen for a moment. He tapped his fingers against his wrist sensor, crunched the numbers, then had the computer recheck them. He opened up a channel to the bridge "This is Pavan here..yeah I'm seein' the thruster problem. Looks like a bad seal on the hypergolic propellant mix. Nothing too bad..once we break atmo I'll get in there and have a whack at it...might need a second set of hands on it but we shouldn't explode too bad in the meantime. Just ease off it and compensate with the other thrusters for now.."


"My last ship had the same issue on a couple thrusters. Checked out fine, but put power to them and the seals all popped." Marsha commented. "Ended up being a bad batch of self sealing couplers we had picked up."

"Thanks, Jonas," Braedyn said. "We'll compensate for now. Marsha will give you a hand with that thruster repair once we're underway. Are the big transporters ready to go? I'd really like to avoid having to land and manually load all of that ore."


Jonas crunched a few numbers again, then linked the auxillary panel to the cargo transporters. He hadn't had time to go over their specs too much, but assuming they were the same as most wasn't an unsafe bet. Glancing at a few outputs, he looked at the cargo they were supposed to be beaming soon and pondered. "Yyyyyes. Yes. We'll have to hold it in transit for a bit longer then normal to account for the neutron moderation but it's doable. It'll take longer then if we were beaming up a cargo hold full of kittens, but only by a little."


"Acknowledged, Jonas," Braedyn said. Braedyn switched to all call again. "Gaenor, are you ready at the cargo transporters?"

Gaenor stood ready at the receiving area for the cargo transporters when the Captain's voice broke through. She stood alert and bellowed out a reply "Ready as can be, Captain" she replied. "This task is so simple a Kaylar could be trained to do it added the Nausicaan with a sigh. "Just give me the orders and you'll have it done."

"Copy that," Braedyn replied. "Alright. Marsha, send the signal to open the hangar roof and let's get out of here! Cara, once we've confirmed that the roof is open, you may take us out. Put us in orbit over the Andorian colony to make things easier for Gaenor."

"Roger that," Marsha signalled for the roof doors to open and waited a bit to receive the confirmation signal, then confirmed on her own sensors before letting Cara know she was clear. "We are clear. They request that we not scorch the deck with ions when we take off."

"Roger that," Cara eased the atmospheric thrusters to power, hovering them straight up out of the hanger until they had a clear line of sight to the sky. She then cycled up the inertial dampeners to max and let the engines fly at about one third, the 'recommended' maximum for travel in an atmosphere. The ship responded perfectly, arcing and catching wind as she was designed to do, and arcing gracefully into the sky. As a bit of flair and to get used to the controls, she put the ship into a gentle barrel roll as they ascended and soon they had cleared the atmosphere so Cara pushed the engines to full, sending them hurtling towards their planned spot in geosynchronous orbit at a seemingly breakneck speed, the top of the ship facing the planet. It was only a few seconds before she engaged the braking thrusters and parked them in perfect orbit, the colony immediately below them. "Maneuvers complete, Captain. All primary engines at peak operation and all flight controls check out at better than original spec."

"Alright," Braedyn said. "Gaenor, please advise Claness Transport Operations that we are ready to receive cargo. Once they confirm, go ahead and bring it aboard."

"They're already asking when we're going to be ready. I told them to be more patient a moment ago." Jaeih cracked a smile as she relayed the message to Claness Transport, also sending a copy to Gaenor to give her a heads up that the cargo was incoming.

"Aye Captain" replied the Nausicaan as she relayed the message to Claness Transport Operations. She sent them the 'green light' to go ahead and send over the cargo which several moments later she saw that things were coming through as ordered. I traded the good life for cargo running she thought to herself.

She then opened the comm channel back to Braedyn. "Captain, our 'packages' are arriving aboard and everything is looking to be in order. Should not take too long to have everything aboard" she reported.

Once he was informed that the cargo had been successfully been beamed aboard, Braedyn asked Gaenor to randomly inspect the ore crates until she was satisfied that ore was what they were carrying. After that...

"Here we go, people," Braedyn said. "Cara, lay in a course for Cimera III and engage when ready, speed and course at your discretion, but please take the most direct route. Marsha, devise a schedule for manning the bridge. Make sure whoever has the bridge at any given time keeps an eye on the sensors. If they pick up anything even remotely suspicious, they should call the bridge crew up and we'll see what there is to see. I'd rather lose a little sleep or leisure time than have pirates get the jump on us. Acknowledge and execute."

"Roger Captain," Cara replied almost instantly, having already plotted a course. "Engaging now." And with that, the stars turned to streaks of light. "Holding steady at warp six." She then opened a comm line up from her console. "Cara to Engineering. Jonas, I'm sure you have status readouts to study and all that but if you could clear us for a faster speed, I'd be grateful."

"Belay that last, Jonas," Braedyn. "Sorry, Cara, I know I gave you discretion. I appreciate the enthusiasm folks but this is a short enough trip at Warp Six as it is, and if we do end up having unwanted company, I want a few warp factors left to increase to. And remember, if that unwanted company shows up, our client wants Intel and they want us to, within the bounds of defending ourselves of course, bloody some pirate noses. Any faster and we'll be in the Cimera system before anyone notices we've left."

Marsha started on a schedule immediately, setting it up so one person would be on duty and one would be on standby at all times. "I should have a schedule set up within the hour. Is there anyone you'd like me to exclude?"

Braedyn thought about that.

"Let's team Haneri up with the more experienced hands," he said. "I'd like two people on the bridge at all times anyway. One person should be monitoring the sensors every shift. I don't want anything sneaking up on us."

"Full two person integrity it is then," replied Marsha, editing the schedule accordingly.

"Okay," Braedyn said. "Okay if I take the first watch?"

"I'll put you and Cara as first shift then," Marsha replied. "Second shift, I think Jaeih and Haneri would be a good matchup."

"Excellent," Braedyn said. "Alright everyone. Cara and I will take first watch on the bridge. Everyone else find something else to do. If there's work that needs to be done, do it, but make sure to get some rest and relaxation as well. There's only six of us to run this whole bird so we're going to get stretched a little thin. Also, stop in to see Haneri when you get the opportunity. That's it. Dismissed.
Perfect Health is Dying a Little Slower Sickbay After Loading
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Jonas wandered his way down the corridor, frowning a minute as he paused, turned his head, then reversed direction and took the other corridor. New ship's and all that. Checking his scanner quickly he confirmed he was finally on the right course towards sickbay. His whistling soon turned into a soft singing as he finally rounded the corner towards the right room, at least he's pretty sure it is. "To Ganymede and Titan, yes, sir, I've been around but there ain't no place in the whole of Space like that good ol' toddlin' town..."

Finally reaching the right door, he walked in, the door obediently parting for him as he peeked his head in "Helloooo...Cap'n said you needed us all up here for physicals and all that...guess you need a reading for the baseline of human perfection...so here I am.."

"I'll be sure to make a note of that in your file, Jonas," she said. "What is your last name? When I publish a paper on human physcial perfection, I want to be sure to identify the proper one."

Jonas jumped a little as the voice seemed to come out of nowhere. Turning his head, he finally spotted the doctor and gave a jaunty little wave. "Pavan. Jonas Ignatius Pavan. I'd surely hate to be confused with all those other Jonas' on the ship.."

"But there are the other Jonases out there in the galaxy...unless you killed them all," she said, a slight smile crossing her lips. "Emily, activate."

The red-haired female blinked into existence.

"Hello, Doctor," she said. "Do you require assistance?"

"Not right now," Haneri said. "Create a file for Jonas Ignatius Pavan, please."

"Done," Emily said, then turned to the engineer. "Hello, Jonas Ignatius Pavan. Nice to meet you."

"Just Jonas will do fine.." Jonas shook his head. Sometimes holograms could be a little to literal for his tastes. Glancing about, he pointed his thumb over at the bio bed "So..up on it or just here? And do I get one of those little gowns?"

“Yes, but as you can see, the small confines here do not allow for a place for you to change in private,” she said. “You don’t have a problem undressing in front of me, do you?”

"Never all the way on the first date Doc...y fronts will have to do.." Jonas shrugged out of his jump suit. He'd pulled the garmet out of his bag before he'd headed down to the engine room. He didn't own too many clean civvies and getting induction grease out of them was a right pain. It was just easier to wear the grubby thing and try to clean it when he could. It left him in a pair of boxers and an undershirt. A small plasma scar still visible on his right shoulder, his elbows and knees a bit more coarse from crawling around jeffries tubes from half his life "So...what's first?"

Haneri stared in disbelief. Had he never undergone a physical? Did he not know that medical scanners were capable of ignoring clothing?

She decided to just go ahead rather than admitting she was joking; no need to make the situation more awkward.

"A couple of questions first," she said. "Are you currently suffering from any illnesses or injuries?"

Jonas shook his head, his feet swinging idly from the table as he glanced about the sickbay, idly noting a few things that could use his engineer's charm. Turning his head back towards the doctor, he waggled his hand "Just a few aches and pains..nothing serious. I had a touch of the Auroral Plague when I was a kid but that's been ages.."

"Tell me about these aches and pains," she said. "Where they are, what kind of pain, the intensity of the pain and how long you've had them."

"What like a smiley face versus a frowny face?" Jonas waggled his hand a little bit and shrugged "Just the general aches and pains. I crawl about in jeffries tubes for a living Doc...shoulder clicks sometimes but that's it.."

"All right, let's see what the tricorder comes up with then," she said, slowly running it over the engineer. "Hmm...I found a small bone spur in your left shoulder. I can treat it here and now if you'd like."

"You can try...I've had a lot of people look at that thing..different ship docs...prison doctors...even an Orion massage artist once or twice..never seems to do the trick.." Jonas gave a little shrug, a soft audible pop echoing from his shoulder.

Filing away the remark about prison doctors for a later time, she said, "It will be a minor surgical procedure. Would you prefer a general or a local anesthetic?"

Jonas opened his mouth to respond and a trill little beep came out. Frowning, he glanced down at his wrist scanner and tapped a few buttons. "As much as I'd love to get cut open right now, looks like the power couplings are giving a few fits. We'll pencil something in." He hopped off the table and gave a little nod to both ladies "Doc, Emily..." and strolled out the door. A few seconds later it hissed back open as he came back in and gathered up his coveralls "These usually help..." before patting them, turning, and walking back out again.

Haneri stared after the engineer, then looked back at Emily.

"What an...interesting...human," she said.
Sathura Scheming... Orion Colony Sathura, Rigel IV Current
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Inside an Orion Syndicate stronghold, Lisk (Associate) Radvaa entered the office of his superior. The 'office' was a suite with all the amenities, including women, one of whom was rubbing the shoulders of the porcine imbecile Radvaa was forced to serve. Radvaa would not serve forever. Felgar's days were numbered, and Radvaa was doing his best to ally himself to the Malgren (Operator) above him in the food chain who would have the most success in taking the rotund bastard out.

And if it doesn't happen fast enough, I'll skip over those above me and gut you myself, hierarchy be damned!

"Delbaj (Lieutenant) Felgar?" he said. "I have news."

"Well, don't make me wait for it!" Felgar replied. "Out with it!"

Any day now...

"We listened in on communications between Claness Transport Operations and a Ju'Day Class Light Freighter called the...Juan Cortina," Radvaa said. "A shipment of beryllium was beamed aboard. Immediately following, the...Juan Cortina took off at Warp Six."

"Took off where?" Felgar demanded.

"I can only guess," Radvaa said.

"Then guess, you fool!" Felgar said.

Radvaa took a calming breath.

"It appeared to me that she was headed into the Rigel Corridor," he said. "Which, if I am correct, means that they are likely headed to Cimera III. The trip isn't that long at Warp Six, but we do have two ships in the vicinity who are loyal to us. They could overtake the ship. If it's just a Ju'Day class, then they should be able to disable it and confiscate the cargo. They then destroy the now empty ship, we split the bounty with the pirates and we turn around and sell the ore. But..."

"But what?" Felgar said. "What is it now? You always have something to whine about. What is it now?"

Radvaa took another calming breath.

"I suspect this is a trap," he said. "Why send such a small shipment on such a small ship? There are plenty of larger carriers that would be harder for pirates to take down. Better yet, why not try to get the Andorian Defense Force to provide escorts. That's their job, after all. It isn't like Claness doesn't have the influence."

"You're boring me," Felgar said. "Send the pirates. Tell them they are weapons free. No more threatening. This comes from the top. It's time to up the stakes."

Idiot! You're even more of an idiot than the Alasho (Director) who issued those orders to you. My mother always told me to beware the idiot dumb enough to listen to words of another idiot.

"Of course, Delbaj," Radvaa said aloud. "As you wish, of course, but shouldn't we try to find out more about this...Juan Cortina?"

Felgar was busy kissing the fingers of the woman who a moment ago had been rubbing his shoulders. An obvious precursor to taking her into the bedroom off of his office to have his way with her...or even right here. Radvaa suppressed a shudder. It would serve Felgar right if one of his slaves decided paying the price for slashing his throat was better than submitting to his amorous attentions.

"Do what you want," Felgar said absentmindedly.

"As you wish, Delbaj," Radvaa said and made his exit before he vomited the contents of his stomach onto the floor of Felgar's office.

One of these days...
Bridge Watch Juan Cortina, Bridge Current
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After everyone but he and Cara had left the bridge, Braedyn stood up and stretched. An unbidden yawn escaped him, but he went with it, letting the yawn carry through his body and relax his muscles and loosen his joints. He hadn't realized how tense he'd been.

"So," he said. "I'll take the sensors if you want to work the helm for now. I'm sure I'll get plenty of flight time as we go."

"Actually, Captain, I can keep an eye on both, if you want to take a nap or get some food or something," Cara offered. "Besides, it's not like flying this thing at warp is hard. The course is in and the computer handles pretty much everything. Someone just needs to be here in case something happens."

"Thanks," Braedyn said. "But I think I'll hang around. I have full confidence in your abilities, it's just that I also have full confidence in my own assessment that we are almost certainly, probably definitely maybe, going to run into trouble and I don't want anyone to find themselves up here alone. I'm already taking a chance putting Jaeih alone with Haneri. I probably should have had Marsha assign someone else to that shift, but...nah, we'll be okay. We can all get up here pretty fast in a pinch. The flight computer even has some standard evasive patterns programmed into it. Jaeih can just order it to take evasive action while she works the weapons and shields. It won't be perfect, but it should do until the rest of us can get up here. Anyway, I'll just man the sensors for now."

Braedyn sat in the chair at the sensor station. He ran a short range sweep, then a long range. So far, nothing.

"So," he said. "Tell me something I don't know about you yet, or maybe something I've forgotten since our last conversation."

"Once upon a time, I was born. Then there was a jungle and some mosqitons the size of livestock and phasers trying to protect a colony. Then there was schooling where I was found to be mentally retarded. It surprised everyone since that was supposed to be genetically removed from humans but I guess living in a colony with mild inbreeding leads to that. Then there was some genetic reconstruction to help me get along. I still suck at science and math and stuff, but my spacial awareness and coordination went through the skylights. Father spent a year in a local prison, if you could call it that, while they investigated the extent of my genetic restructuring.Turns out I'm not a power hungry maniac trying to take over the world so they let him out and let me try my hand at the academy. Got a level five pilot's license with ease, but I couldn't pass the basic science classes needed to fly a Starfleet ship. These days I enjoy a clean healthy diet and try to take care of myself with whatever fancy buzzwords sound healthy. I also collect cat figurines. I have over a hundred in my collection from about forty different worlds. A few are replicated replicas of larger statues, but I love them nonetheless."

"So you're an augment," Braedyn said. "You're not going to try to take over my ship, lose, get dumped on an uninhabited planet somewhere in a system where another planet explodes and ruins the planet you're on and then come back twenty years later to exact revenge, are you?"

"Only if your ship looked like a cat..." Cara muttered. "And please don't call me an augment."

"Sorry," Braedyn said. "I won't call you that again. Isn't it difficult to fly more than a civilian shuttle without at least a small understanding of the science of...you know...spaceflight? I only say that because you're flying my baby here."

"Just because I don't know how a spacial anomaly works doesn't mean I can't figure out how it reacts with a ship. I know what I need to know to fly circles around just about anyone or anything." Cara declared.

Braedyn shrugged.

"Fair enough," he said. "What drew you to cats?"

"They're soft and fluffy and cute and just so awesome," Cara replied. "They ease my mind about a lot of things. If I could have a real cat with me, I would. Maybe when I retire I'll be able to start a cat refuge."

Braedyn laughed.

"We could get a ship's cat," he said. "Unlike a canine, it's pretty easy to teach them to use a litter box. Only problem would be the cat, and its litter and food and water, getting knocked around if things get rough. I've never been in one place long enough to have a cat. The Elkins are cat people. I used to go over there all of the time and hang out with their cats. The little things seemed to like me well enough. At least they thought I was nice to sit on and lay down on. What do you think? Any ideas on how we could keep a ship's cat in relative safety?"

"On a ship like this, not really. We'd have to put up force fields in several areas to keep the cat out of engineering and the cargo areas and a few other areas. Plus, someone might have allergies." Cara replied as she started programming in her attack and evasive maneuver patterns into the helm.

"Yeah," Braedyn said. "You're probably right. So, no cat. Wait, I've got it! A holographic cat! Holograms are very sophisticated these days! I bet a holographic cat could even give the impression of warm fuzziness! What do you think!"

"I'm not too good with holo-technology, but wouldn't that limit it to the bridge, holodeck, and sickbay?" Cara asked, already forming ideas on what kind of cat she'd want. Bobcats were awesome, and had been brought to her colony to help control the vermin population. Then there was the Iriomote cat. Extinct on Earth, they still had enough in the databases to recreate one if they needed to. "And we'd have to get a program from someone. I like the idea though. I miss my cats back home and I'd love to see a cat or two roaming the halls."

"This...EFH, that is 'Emergency Feline Hologram," Braedyn said with a grin. "Would be able to go anywhere that the EMH could go. That means sickbay, ward room, conference room, mess hall, and individual quarters. So, it could get around. We wouldn't have to worry about it getting in any where we don't want it to go like the cargo bay, the torpedo magazine, or engineering because there are no emitters there. I'm sure there are some good 'holo-cat' programs out there and if not I can probably have one commissioned. So, are we doing this?"

"If our doctor will agree to share her EMH's emitters, yes by all means. I'd love to snuggle up with another bobcat. The iriomote cat from the Japan islands on Earth are extinct, but I'd love to see one of them too." Cara replied.

"Well," Braedyn said. "I'll let you pick. We'll try to get one with enough of an AI that it can have a real personality...wait...are you saying that you used to snuggle with a bobcat? How did you manage that? Bobcats aren't domesticated, are they?"

Cara giggled softly at that revelation. "They were on my colony. Normal cats weren't enough to handle the local rodents so we introduced them as pets. They love boxes as much as any other cat and snuggle just as warmly. They also purr really well and as long as you feed them on time, they're happy."

"Well," Braedyn said. "At least with an EFH, we don't have to worry about it getting peckish and attacking the crew. Okay, so I know what a bobcat is, I've even seen one in the wild, but what's an...iriomote? I've never heard of those."

Tapping a few keys on her console, she quickly pulled up an image of an iriomote cat and put it up on the viewscreen. "A now extinct cat that lived on a small island off the coast of Japan. My colony tried to bring them back but we couldn't get a DNA record or something. Either way, the Federation denied us the opportunity."

"That's too bad," Braedyn said. "That little guy is cute."

"That he is," Marsha clicked the viewscreen back to the normal starfield before continuing. "A bobcat would be nice though. They're very loyal and wonderful companions."

"Sounds good to me," Braedyn said. "A bobcat it is...hmmm."

Braedyn ran some scans and frowned.

"There are plenty of ships passing through the corridor," he said. "But I swear that I'm seeing a sensor contact just out of range that seem to be paralleling our course, matching our speed nearly exactly. Make some course adjustments, maybe alter our speed. Make it look natural. If you adjust our speed, maybe make it look like we're experiencing engine trouble. Let's see if they adjust to match us."

"Bait and switch tactic, huh? Roger that." Punching in a change to the warp drive, Cara opened a minute leak in the plasma exchange manifold, then dropped speed by half a warp. She then also modified their course just slightly, angling them more towards a system not far from their course. "Changes made, Captain."

The ship clearly moved to follow. Braedyn called up a map and checked the course Cara had put them on.

"Perfect," he said. "That route takes us through the most advantageous spot for them to ambush us. Keep us on this course. My guess is that they will hit us...here."

Braedyn indicated a spot along their route.

"Reduce speed again and keep us along this route," he said.

"Roger that," Cara replied, dropping their speed another third of a warp. "We should get to the projected location a little after the next time we take shift."

"Excellent," Braedyn said, sitting back down at the sensor station. "Now we wait."
The Hunt for Juan Cortina Bridge, Orion Raider Hakkarc, Rigel Corridor Current
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Delbaj (Lieutenant) Thekam sat in his command chair aboard his Lightning Class blockade runner. It its heyday, the Lightning had been on of the fastest ships in the Alpha and Beta Quadrants. Before the rates of warp speed were recalculated, the Lightning was rated for a top speed of Warp Ten. Under the new system, her maximum speed had been Warp Eight and a little more. The producers of the Lightning Class quickly set out to increase her speed once again and (mostly by copying Federation, Klingon, and Romulan designs) got the ships speed up to just over Warp Nine Point Five. That meant that the Hakkarc could overtake most freighters, hit them, loot them, and be gone before help arrived. She had just enough armament to disable a standard freighter and just enough cargo space to make raiding worthwhile. Their current contract was a different arrangement. The Hakkarc was teamed with another starship, an upgraded Wanderer Class called the Daiggarc. Their job was to intimidate Keth Claness. It was a lucrative arrangement. Both crews were paid well and even made a little extra by skimming ore off the top and selling it for a profit with the help of the very clever Associate Radvaa. Of course, working with that ignorant hindquarters of an equine Felgar made it easy to skim. He was an idiot. Even if they were caught, Felgar would take the blame. A certain amount of dishonesty was to be expected, side deals and such. as a Delbaj (Lieutenant) Felgar was expected to factor this into his dealings.

"Delbaj," said his tactical officer. "The target has changed course. They are losing speed as well. They may be experiencing engine trouble from running at such a high rate of speed. They appear to be headed for a repair station off of the corridor. It will take them through an area of space where we could easily ambush them, especially if the Daiggarc can join us."

"Let me see what you're talking about," Thekam said. "Put it on screen."

The tactical officer put a map up.

"We can intercept them here," he indicated a spot on the map. "The Daiggarc is slower than us, but it is coming from the other direction and should arrive first. They can hide in this sensor shadow here. Between us we should be able to disable the freighter before they can even call for help, particularly if we can jam subspace communications even briefly during our attack."

Thekam scratched his chin. The plan was solid. He made his decision.

"Helm, plot the intercept course," he said. "Communications, notify the Daiggarc of our plans."

"At once, Delbaj," came the responses.

Thekam sat back in his chair. Now came the waiting. Intercepting a starship at warp in open space was no easy task. It required patience. What made Thekam a good captain was that he had an abundance of patience. So, Thekam would wait. Soon enough the Hakkarc and the Daiggarc would have this...Juan Cortina in their crosshairs. Thekam smiled. As much as he enjoyed capturing his prey, he enjoyed hunting his prey. The anticipation excited him. Perhaps he would go back to his quarters with his slave, Tashasse and work off some of the tension he was feeling. Yes...that's exactly what he would do.

"I'll be in my quarters," Thekam said abruptly. "Notify me when we are near the intercept point. Otherwise, do not disturb me. I'm sure you can handle keeping pace with our prey without my watching over you."

The expression on Thekam's face indicated that a response in the affirmative was the safest thing to say.