"Of Profits, and an Ill Wind."

“There’s somethin’ you don’t see every day,” mused Louann Wilkins as she looked at the Bajoran Wormhole on the viewscreen. “Kinda reminds me of a hurricane. Still pretty, though.” “You say that now, but wait until there’s a thousand ships coming out of it, all filled with people wanting to kill you,” Quark smirked at the sharp-featured human at the Science station as her eyes widened. “It loses its luster pretty fast when that happens, believe me.” The Ferengi took a seat at the empty Engineering station and watched something else on the viewscreen – a Bajoran freighter as it entered the wormhole at impulse speed. “There. There’s our decoy,” Quark called to the Na’kuhl at the helm of the Orion vessel Coldstar as he pointed at an image on the viewscreen. “Follow them in, nice and slow, and we’ll ditch the Federation cloak sensors around the wormhole. If anything, we’ll register as a sensor shadow.” “I know the drill, boss,” replied the helmsman. “Matching speed and heading in, following the mark in three…two…” The Coldstar shuddered momentarily as it entered the wormhole shortly after the freighter it followed. “Did we trip any sensors, Louann?” he called out as he made minor course corrections. “Not a one, Cap,” she replied. “Mister Quark’s plan worked like a charm!” “Mister Quark’s in my seat,” said Onna, the Ferengi engineer and first officer of the Coldstar as she entered the bridge. A walking mountain of a Klingon followed her in silence, though his size spoke volumes. “And unless he wants to get bent into a new shape by Big Kor, he’ll vacate it with a quickness.” “Aren’t you a little overdressed,” said Quark, grinning at the boldness of the Ferengi woman. “By Ferenginar standards, sure,” Onna replied with contempt. “Aren’t you a little under-lobed?” “Enough,” Varh said from the helm. “My wife needs to do her job, Quark. Take a seat in the center chair if you want. Not like I’m using it right now.” Quark gave Onna a smug look as he sat in the empty chair. “Captain’s chair, eh? Don’t mind if I do. Some of you need to remember who’s paying the bills on this trip, after all.” If he noticed the obscene gesture Onna made in his direction, he didn’t show it. “Well, this is gonna be a real peach of a job,” Wilkins grinned. “Think we’ll see the Prophets on the way through, Cap?” “Hope so,” Varh said with amusement. “I could use some prophecy, especially if involves winning lottery numbers.” *** “Something you want to tell us, Quark?” Varh stared with alarm at the spectacle before him on the main viewscreen. Dozens of alien vessels swarmed through the local space around the Coldstar’s destination – the planet Karemma. “You know, like why there’s a massive fleet battle happening here?” Quark gaped in astonishment along with the rest of the Orion vessel’s crew as they watched Karemman defense ships clash with a host of alien attack ships. “I honestly have no idea. Garak didn’t say anything about this!” “Cloak’s holdin’ - they aren’t readin’ us, Cap,” Wilkins called out as she peered at sensor readouts. “Yet, anyway.” “Charming,” Varh replied. “Any idea what those alien ships are? Anyone?” Big Kor made a quick series of hand gestures toward Wilkins. “Well, yeah, Kor,” she frowned, puzzled at his statement. “They’re definitely ‘outsiders,’ but where are they from, exactly?” “They’re called Hur’q,” said Quark as the Klingon scowled at the images on the viewscreen. “They tore up Deep Space Nine not too long ago – you might’ve noticed the damage on the way to the Wormhole?” “I thought that was the Tzenkethi,” Onna said, worry creeping into her voice. “It was, at first,” Quark replied grimly. “Then the Hur’q dropped by to throw salt on the wound. Got pretty bad before the Dominion showed up.” “The Dominion? Wait, they helped?” “Believe it or not,” Quark said, his brow furrowed. “Speaking of the Dominion…” “What about ‘em,” Wilkins asked hesitantly, expecting bad news. “They’re not here,” Quark said grimly. “Karemma’s a big deal in the Dominion… make a lot of their weapons. This system should be crawling with Jem’Hadar, not Hur’q. Something’s wrong. Really wrong.” “That’s putting it mildly,” Varh added from the helm. “What’s our play here, Quark?” “Stick to the plan, for now,” replied the Ferengi merchant. “Get us in comms range… let’s hope our contact is still up for the deal.” “Or alive,” muttered Onna. “That too,” Quark replied. *** “Thanks for coming along,” Quark said to the two men as they beamed in alongside him. “Something tells me this place might be livelier than usual now.” Varh nodded in acknowledgement; his massive Klingon security chief just curled his lip in a sneer. “The hazard pay you put up was a nice touch,” Varh said, looking around his surroundings. As an explosion echoed in the distance, he reached for his sidearm, a vintage Federation Type-2 phaser from the 2260’s. “Where did you get that relic,” Quark said, astonished. “I’ve only seen phasers that old in a holosuite program!” “It makes people glow blue and disappear nicely,” Varh grunted as he walked toward a nearby cave opening. “My wife thinks it’s a relic too, right up to the point it saves her life.” “She’s a Ferengi, she knows the value of things when she sees them,” Quark replied with a smirk. “Tell you what, I’ll throw in a nice phaser from this century when we get back to the station. Call it a performance award.” “Let’s make it back to the station before we start to talk about bonuses,” muttered Varh. “More importantly, where are these Karemmans we were supposed to meet?” “Good question,” Quark replied. “These are the coordinates they told us to beam to… just no Karemmans. I don’t like this.” Varh nodded his agreement before turning toward a sharp sound echoing up from a nearby canyon. “We might have unwanted guests.” “Yeah, you’re right… I hear ‘em too.” Quark grimaced as he drew his own sidearm and moved to take cover behind Big Kor, who had a vicious looking automatic disruptor rifle almost as big as Quark at the ready. At least the walking mountain has a decent weapon, he thought to himself as the sounds of approaching life grew louder… and closer. “Take cover,” Varh hissed to his allies as he moved to crouch behind a nearby pile of rocks. He grinned as the giant Klingon moved next to him, followed by a very nervous looking Quark. “What, you two couldn’t find your own rocks?” Quark shook his head silently while Kor peered over the rocks, then returned to sign a message to Varh. “What’s with all the hand-wiggling,” Quark whispered to Varh. “Something wrong with his trigger finger?” “It’s Klingon sign language,” Varh hissed in response. “In case you haven’t noticed, he’s mute.” “What’d he say?” “Today is a good day to die.” “Wait, Klingons usually say that when – “ An intense chittering filled the air as a single insectoid hexapod darted out of the canyon and into view. Several more followed it… followed by more… and more. “Hur’q!” Quark whispered. “Don’t just sit there, shoot them!” Varh rolled his eyes before he took aim with his phaser. Big Kor smiled a smile that’d give another Klingon pause and sent a flurry of emerald devastation in the direction of the approaching swarm. As the mayhem grew in intensity, he heard a high-pitched wail. It was coming from Quark. *** “Nice work,” the young female Karemman soldier said to Varh with a wink. “You did all that with a grampa gun? I’m even more impressed!” “Thanks,” Varh replied with a shrug. “The big fella did all the work, though.” Big Kor signed a quick message to Varh, which the girl noticed. “Neat, sign language! It’s different from ours, though… what’d he say?” “It was a good day to die,” Varh said with a sly grin. “For them.” “Yeah, it was! Hey, is the snappy dresser with the big ears okay?” “He’ll live… might be a little hoarse for a while though.” “How come?” “He spent the entire fight screaming.” Big Kor issued an unnerving series of snorts that Varh knew was his version of laughter. Quark, on the other hand, sat next to the pile of rocks looking like he was about to be unwell. Again. “Hey, they’re ready for us back in the caves,” the Karemman girl said, tapping an earpiece. “Which one of you is the Ferengi, anyway?” Varh and Kor smirked and pointed at Quark simultaneously. “Okay, come with me, ears!” the girl said brightly. “Um… just you. No bodyguards. Minister’s orders, sorry.” Varh shrugged in response as Quark stood to join the Karemman girl at the cave entrance. “It’ll be fine,” he muttered. “Monitor comms and be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.” “You got it, boss,” Varh said with a jaunty Earth salute he learned from Wilkins. “Good luck.” “After all this,” Quark said, with a shudder. “I’ll take all the luck I can get.” Paul Reed Content Writer Star Trek Online .share-footer a { margin: 20px 10px 10px 0; background: url(d7afaaa14e96d0d973f76157ae31ec5b1466398539.png) no-repeat 0 0; opacity: .5; display: inline-block; height: 60px; width: 60px; padding: 0; border: 1px solid transparent; -webkit-transition: opacity .3s; transition: opacity .3s; } .share-footer .TI { background-position: 0 20%; } .share-footer .YT { background-position: 0 40%; } .share-footer .YT { background-position: 0 40%; } .share-footer .TW { background-position: 0 60%; } .share-footer .FO { background-position: 0 80%; } .FB:hover { background-position: 100% 0%; } .TI:hover { background-position: 100% 20%; } .YT:hover { background-position: 100% 40%; } .TW:hover { background-position: 100% 60%; } .FO:hover { background-position: 100% 80%; } .share-footer a:hover { opacity: 1; -webkit-transition: opacity .3s; transition: opacity .3s; } $(document).ready( function() { $('.show-lightbox').click(function() { var $el = $(this); var link = $el.data().lightbox; $.colorbox({href: link, maxWidth: '90%', maxHeight: '90%', scalePhotos: true}); }); }); .headerimage { border: 2px inset rgba(255, 255, 255, .05); border-radius: 2em; box-shadow: 5px 5px 2px rgba(0, 0, 0, .3); -webkit-transition: all 500ms ease; -moz-transition: all 500ms ease; -ms-transition: all 500ms ease; -o-transition: all 500ms ease; transition: all 500ms ease; }