written by Travis Cannon

The place was dirty and smells of urine and feces, but Ar’cuk ignored the terrible conditions knowing that his meeting with the So’ja insider was crucial. However Ar’cuk, himself, even though he may look like a So’ja was not. He was part of an Oralian species known as the Rigusians. Rigusians share the external appearance of the So’ja, but other than that they are entirely different species. It is this uncanny similarity that has benefited and burdened the Rigusians for millennia.

Ar’cuk was dressed in plan attar, not wanting to draw attention to himself. The Alkanden security squad is always watching and it is hard to rent out meeting rooms. This one was the cheapest Ar’cuk could find at such short notice. He stood there, ignoring the stench while waiting. Finally the door opened and a So’ja slipped into the smelly room. The So’ja took one smell and vomited. Ar’cuk watched from the corner.

“So’ja have hard times holding down their stomachs,” he said, breaking the silence.

The So’ja looked up. He glared at Ar’cuk and then cracked a smile.

“Ar’cuk, my good friend,” he said. “It has been a long time.”

“Yes, Ru’fur, it has,” Ar’cuk said placing his hand on Ru’fur’s chest, just over his heart. Ru’fur did the same.

“May Ba’gee guide us well.”

“May he, indeed,” Ar’cuk concurred.

The ritual greeting was finished and the meeting began. The two smiled at each other.

“Such a stench this room has,” Ru’fur said.

“It was the only one I could afford,” Ar’cuk replied. “The Alkandens are getting greedier by the minute.”

“That is true, my friend, but not as greedy as that Ferengi!” Ru’fur said. “Now what is it that you wish to talk with me about?”

“I am expecting a visitor in a couple of days,” Ar’cuk said. “A representative from the United Federation of Planets.”

“The Federation!?” Ru’fur said in a low voice. “Here!”

“Yes,” Ar’cuk nodded.


“I don’t know, maybe,” Ar’cuk said. “I have only communicated with him via audio transmission, but he sounds trustworthy.”

“Can he be trusted?” Ru’fur said. “If any knowledge of the alliance between the Rigusians and the So’ja Resistance were to come out... let us just say that if Chancellor Ar’kon found out... my head would be on a pike.”

“Then let us make sure that it stays upon your shoulders,” Ar’cuk said. “When this contact arrives I shall test him, then we shall see were his loyalties lay.”

Ru’fur nodded. “You should do it in a public place... the bar perhaps.”

“Good idea,” Ar’cuk agreed. “That reminds me, have you scheduled a meeting with the Ferengi merchant?”

“Not yet, my friend,” Ru’fur said. “But I shall, as soon as time permits.”

“When I meeting is in place, please contact me,” Ar’cuk said.

Ru’fur nodded. “And if that is it, I shall take my leave.” He turned to leave.

“Ru’fur wait,” Ar’cuk said. “If the meeting goes as planned, the one with the Federation, I suspect that we might have an alley.”

“I hope so, Ar’cuk,” Ru’fur said. “Admiral Ru’mal is counting on us.”

Captain Benjamin Kelsoe stood in the center of the bridge looking at the view screen. The view screen was showing the Alkanden outpost. It was a space station the resembled a set of tinker toys put together randomly and in a haste. Kelsoe shook his head. He did not know what to think of the Alkanden.

“Is that it?” Burt inquired stepping out of the turbo-lift.

Kelsoe turned around and nodded.

“Looks like they just connect a bunch of derelict ships,” Burt said, stepping down into the center of the bridge.

“That is precisely what they did,” Braxis said, from his station. “According to the sensors the outpost is made of over twenty different ships. However...”

“Let me guess,” Burt said. “There’s a method to the madness?”

“Precisely,” Braxis said raising an eyebrow.

Burt smiled and sat down.

“So, what do we do? Drop Dr. Kesar off and leave?” Burt inquired.

Kelsoe shook his head.

“Admiral Dutton hasn’t given us anymore orders,” Kelsoe said. “I think we can take this time to enjoy some shore leave... if you can call it shore leave.”

“How about just some time off,” Burt said. “No need to call it shore leave when we don’t have any shore to enjoy.”

“You know, I bet we could see some entirely new species aboard the outpost,” Kelsoe said. “Maybe even some from the Kai Imperium.”

“The Kai do stop here,” Braxis said from his station. “But from the little knowledge we have it is highly unlikely that the will be sending any ships here around this time.”

“Why is that, Brax?” Burt inquired.

“Sensors report no Kai ships,” Braxis said.

Burt laughed. “That’s a good one, Brax!”

The turbo-lift doors opened and Dr. Lucus Kesar stepped onto the bridge. His eyes immediately went to the view screen. Kesar beamed with happiness. He stepped down into the center of the bridge, jaw opened in amazement.

“Look at it,” he said in his high pitched voice. “Truly remarkable.”

“That remarkable?!” Burt said.

Kesar turned and looked down at Burt.

“Yes, Commander, remarkable,” Kesar said. “To think that the Alkanden were once nomadic merchants. Then utilizing their merchant skills and knowledge built these outposts, which have now become a hub for interstellar trade in the Oralian Sector.”

“Yes, it is remarkable,” Kelsoe agreed. “Still, what do we know about the Alkanden? Nothing.”

“We know enough to know that their outpost have very good security,” Kesar said, and then added more quietly, mostly to himself, “Which may effect my mission.”

“What was that?” Kelsoe asked.

“Nothing,” Kesar said shaking his head. “Nothing for you to worry about. I’ll go a prepare my things now.”

Kesar turned to leave.

“Wait, Dr. Kesar?” Kelsoe called.

“Yes, Captain Kelsoe?” inquired Kesar as he turned back around to face Kelsoe.

“Are we suppose to stay and wait for you to finish your mission?” Kelsoe asked.

“No,” Kesar said. “You are free to go... or stay if you so like.”

With that said, Kesar bid his farewell and left the bridge to pack his belongings. Kelsoe turned back to face the view screen. He slowly sat down into his chair, rubbing his chin.

“Something seems fishy,” Kelsoe said.

Burt nodded, “Something about Dr. Kesar makes me suspect that he’s up to something.”

“Yeah,” Kelsoe said, “but what?”

“Sir, the Alkanden station is hailing us,” Tracy announced.

“On screen.”

The screen blinked to a view of the interior of a room on the outpost. A tall lanky figure, whose head look similar to a chicken with its feathers plucked out, stared out at them with two blinking yellow eyes in a mess of brownish green skin, which even covered what appeared to resemble a beak.

“I am Crunek, the Chief of Operations,” squawked the Alkanden. “I welcome you to AO-5.”

“Thank you very much,” Kelsoe said, standing. “I am Captain Benjamin Kelsoe of the Federation starship Pioneer. We request...”

“Ah, Federation!” Crunek chirped. “We have seen Federation before here. About five months ago. Very nice people indeed. How is that blue and green planet of yours doing?”

“Fine, thank you,” Kelsoe said, a bit confused about the question.

“You may attach at dock eleven, Federation,” chirped the oddly smiling Crunek. “Welcome Federation!”

And with that the conversation ended.

“Strange people, these Alkanden,” Burt said. “Sure seem friendly though.”

“I recommend caution, Captain,” Braxis said from his work station. “We still know little of their species.”

Silence followed for a moment.

“Sir,” Zimmer said breaking the silence. “Should I proceed to the dock?”

“Yes, Mr. Zimmer,” Kelsoe said. “That would be fine. Proceed.”

Kelsoe sat behind his desk in his ready room, reading a data pad that Commander Tuff had given him able the Alkanden. From it Kelsoe was able to determine that the Alkanden appear to have no home world, and are considered by most races in the Oralian Sector to be the trash species. That was at is was, until the Alkanden began operation space stations that were created by combining their ships. This space station soon functioned as beacons to merchants and traders. The Alkanden soon feel comfortably into the managing niche of the space stations. The merchants and traders soon label the stations Alkanden Outposts or AOs. The Alkanden soon found that this way of living suited them best, being descended from space merchants themselves. Their outpost had now become the centers of trade in the Oralian Sector, as well as parts of the powerful Kai Imperium. According to sources that Tuff had found on the station, most of which were merchants, the Alkanden have become greed and prices for business dealing have increased dramatically over the past fifty years.

All of this was interesting, in its own way, but not it told Kelsoe way Dr. Lucus Kesar would want to be taken here. Kesar had left the ship four hours ago, but Kelsoe was curious about what Kesar was up to. Kesar, being a very easy man to pick out of a crowd, was easy to follow. So Kelsoe had asked Tuff to put a security group on the station to watch Kesar’s movements.

Chirp! Chirp!

Kelsoe jerked. He had been too wrapped up in his thoughts to notice that the door chime was going off.

“Come in,” Kelsoe said.

The door opened and Commander Burt walked in.

“Connor,” Kelsoe said. “What’s on your mind?”

“It’s about the crew, Captain,” Burt said, stepping inside Kelsoe’s ready room and sitting down in a chair in front of Kelsoe’s desk.

“About the crew?”

“Yes, Captain,” Burt said. “You see, I’ve spoken with Counselor Sawyer and she believes that the crew needs a little rest and relaxation. Especially after having Dr. Kesar aboard.”

“What have you got in mind, Connor?”

“We’ve got a space station full of strange and interesting people at our disposal,” Burt said. “We might as well use it.”

Kelsoe smiled.

“Okay,” Kelsoe said. “Shore leave is granted for those who want to explore the station.”

“Thank you, sir!” Burt said standing up, rather excited.

“Commander!” Kelsoe said, half smiling, until he become serious. “I don’t want any trouble with the local authorities. Make sure that the crew understands that.”

“Yes, sir!”

Ar’cuk and Ru’fur stood leaning against the counter at the bar. Ar’cuk held a glass containing pink liquid, commonly known as Alkanden brandy. It was not as good as one may think, but it was cheap. The Alkandens made so much that it was the cheapest alcohol that one could buy at one of their outpost. Kai Ale was the most expensive, which is not worth its taste. Kobalian tea is soothing, but Ar’cuk needed alcohol, and he did not have a lot of money to spare, so Alkanden brandy it was. Ru’fur had Rae Liquor, a brownish green liquid that’s color betrays its exquisite taste. Made on the paradise planet of Andres Rae, Rae Liquor is probably the most sought after alcohol beverage on Alkanden outposts.

Ar’cuk sipped his Alkanden brandy and turned to Ru’fur.

“Where is this Ferengi?” he said under his breath.

“I told him to meet us here,” Ru’fur said. “He’s probably gotten himself involved in another business transaction. He’s been very active over the last couple of weeks. He seems to really like it here.”

“Sure he does,” Ar’cuk said. “Dinokians and Callians are easy to con. And that is what it appears this Ferengi does.”

“From what I’ve read about Ferengi from what the Federation has given us, before the Coalition’s take over, they seem to be a very business orientated people,” Ru’fur said.

“Clever little rats,” Ar’cuk said. “That’s what they are.”

“We need him,” Ru’fur said. “The Federation has not given us full support yet. We still haven’t even met with their representative. By the way, who is this representative?”

“Dr. Lucus Kesar is what he told me,” Ar’cuk said.

“How are we suppose to recognize him?” Ru’fur inquired.

“I don’t know,” Ar’cuk said. “He said that he’ll find us.”

“But he doesn’t even know who were are, except by name,” Ru’fur said. “This mission is becoming increasingly harder with each passing day.”

“It is, indeed,” Ar’cuk agreed.

Ar’cuk and Ru’fur turned away from the crowded bar and faced towards the bartender.

“Another Alkanden brandy, please,” Ar’cuk said.

“Nonsense!” said an alien next to Ar’cuk, who spoke with a high pitched voice. “Three Rae Liquors please.”

The Alkanden bartender filled the orders and handed them the full glass.

“Come,” said the alien with the high pitched voice. “Let’s find a booth.”

The alien had a hairy head, one could almost describe it as a mane. He lead them to a small booth in a dark corner of the bar and sat down. He gesture for them to sit.

“You look confused,” said the alien with the mane.

“We are, indeed,” Ar’cuk said. “Who are you?”

“Kesar, Dr. Lucus Kesar.”

“You?!” Ru’fur said. “But you are not human.”

“I’m sorry, is that what you were expecting?” Kesar said.

“I don’t know,” Ru’fur said. “I just thought that Federation officials were humans.”

“Oh, no, not at all,” Kesar began to explain. “The Federation is made up of many planets and many different species. I am a Wismaga. We are a proud race that made contact with the Federation fifteen years ago, and are already one of the most respected members. I, myself, work for the Office of the President of the Federation, and I am here on his behalf.”

“I knew it,” Ar’cuk said, very excitedly. “I knew that you would come.”

“I am pleased that you are happy to see me,” Kesar said. He sipped the Rae Liquor. “Now to business.”

“Yes, please.”

“We, the Federation, have policy of not interfering with other civilizations evolutions... it is our Prime Directive,” Kesar explain. “But in light of how unstable the region of space is the President has granted me the authority to deal with you.”

“We need weapons, Federation,” Ru’fur said. “The Resistance needs them.”

“We cannot give you weapons,” Kesar said. “You must find them elsewhere. There are many merchants on this station, surely one deals in arms.”

“I know of one,” Ru’fur said. “He is a Ferengi.”

“A Ferengi... what’s his name?” Kesar inquired.

“Mordoc,” Ru’fur said. “He’s been trying to sell something called Romulan Ale to the bars on the station. None have taken any yet.”

“Mordoc...,” Kesar said, thinking. “Yes, I know this name. You may find weapons from him. Do you have a meeting with him?”

“Yes,” Ar’cuk said, nodding. “Here in this very bar.”

“We’ve been expecting him for sometime,” Ru’fur said.

“Sit down with him, and don’t let him haggle you,” Kesar said. “He’ll try and make thing expensive for you. You must not yield, and stay sharp, he is very clever. But remember this above all else Mordoc values latinum.”

“That we will remember,” Ar’cuk said.

“We do not want to get cheated,” Ru’fur added.

“And you won’t,” Kesar said. “If you stay sharp and don’t let him get ahead of you.” Kesar turned and looked out into the bar. “Ah, Mordoc has arrived.”

Ar’cuk and Ru’fur turned their heads to look. And sure enough there he was. The big ear lobed Ferengi was, indeed, there. He was standing causally at the entrance of the bar, with his hands behind his back, gently rocking on his heals. They turned back to Kesar.

“When your meeting is complete, meet me at room number one hundred and fifty eight,” Kesar said. He gulped down the rest of his Rae Liquor. “I’ll see you later.”

Kesar got up, placing a small amount of change on the table, and heading for the exist. As Kesar left, a man turned at the bar and watched him leave. It was Commander Robert Tuff disguised as a terran merchant.

Tuff stared across the room at the two aliens Kesar had been meeting with. So’ja? Tuff thought. He shook his head. He turned back to the bar and put down some change and left.

Captain Benjamin Kelsoe nodded, listening to Commander Robert Tuff’s reports. They were in the conference room. Burt and Braxis were also there. When Tuff finished, Kelsoe leaned back in his chair and stared out the window at the Alkanden space station.

“So Dr. Kesar is meeting with So’ja,” Kelsoe said.

“This disturbs me, sir,” Tuff replied.

“This is indeed disturbing,” Braxis said with a nod.

“Yeah!” Burt interjected. “I mean, hell, Dr. Kesar’s got high Starfleet clearance, he has access to lots of stuff that the So’ja would like to get their hands on.”

Kelsoe nodded.

“Disturbing, yes,” Kelsoe said. “But I’m more interested in who these two So’ja are. We must first discover who they are to fully understand what they are up to.”

Burt nodded. “Good point, Captain.”

“I’ve assigned Ensign Manon to investigate them,” Tuff said.

“We should meet with the Alkanden authorities,” Braxis said. “It might be helpful to have their cooperation in this matter.”

Kelsoe nodded. “Good thinking, Braxis.” Then to Tuff. “Do you think you can handle that, Rob, or should I send Braxis.”

“I can handle it, Captain,” Tuff said with a slight nod.

Commander Robert Tuff and Crewman Tom Dunn stood in a small waiting chamber. The chamber, as with most of the station, looked like a bunch of metal plates pinned together. An Alkanden woman sat behind a steel desk entering data into a computer console. Unlike her male counterparts, she had haired, though it was thin and stringy. She did not look at them, and kept all her attention on entering data. Behind her a door slide opened and a tall rough looking Alkanden stepped out. He wore what appeared to be a fur overcoat, which covered most of his body. He blinked at Tuff and Dunn and then bent down to speak with his secretary. They spoke quickly in their native tongues and then the tall Alkanden turned his attention to the two starfleet officers standing in front of him. He scanned them with his bird like eyes.

“You are the Federation officers?” the Alkanden inquired.

“Yes, sir,” Tuff said with a slight nod.

The Alkanden nodded. He then raised his hand, gesturing them to follow him.

“Come in, Federation,” he said. “Leave your bodyguard, if that’s what he is. And let us speak in private.”

Tuff turned to Dunn and told him to wait. Then Tuff followed the Alkanden into his office. Once inside the Alkanden went over to a small sink and dipped his beak-like mouth into it. He then straightened up and turned staring at Tuff.

“I am Dunek, Chief of Security,” the Alkanden said. “Your Captain contacted my supervisor, Mr. Crunek, and told him that you require my assistance.”

“That is right,” Tuff said, holding his hands together behind his back. “We are keeping an eye on two So’jas aboard the station.”

“Interesting,” Dunek said, bobbing his head slightly. “So’ja don’t come here that often. Those I have seen them. Rare, though.”

“How is your security system?” Tuff inquired.

“Security system?” Dunek said. “We have security camera posted all around and ten armed security officers.”

Tuff gasped. “Ten men for a station this size?”

“We don’t have that much trouble,” Dunek said. “Most of the security problems consist of petty feuds between merchants. Sure, occasionally will get a smuggler or two, but we require no huge armed force to handle those situations.”

“Pardon me for asking, but why?” Tuff was shocked at this development. He had heard of no such lake of security in any station before.

“As you no doubt know, the Kai Imperium comes here quite often,” Dunek said, stepping around his desk, without blinking. “They come with their soldiers, for protection. When trouble break out, they handle it, and without any complications.”

Tuff nodded. “Just curious. You see I’m the chief of security aboard my ship.”

“I know,” Dunek said. “We check before your friend, that furry man, came aboard. You’re suspicious about him?”

“To be frank, yes,” Tuff said. “He met with two So’jas. Of course we’re worried.”

“Federation and So’jas enemies, yes,” Dunek said as he sat down in a steel rimmed chair behind his desk. “Problems you have together. Come here, you do, with furry man. He talks to them. And you... you think that he plots against Federation.”

Tuff nodded. “Perhaps. But the Captain would like to find out more about these So’jas before was jump to any conclusions.”

“But you’ve already jumped to the conclusion, Federation,” Dunek said, with what appeared to be a smiled, but Tuff could not tell.

“Yes, you can say that,” Tuff said.

“You don’t like that you’re Federation envoy immediately takes with So’jas,” Dunek said. “As you said, though, you’re captain want’s to find out more about them. So you come here to ask me for assistance.”

Tuff nodded. “Yes.”

“I cannot give you much,” Dunek said. “I can allow you and your team use of the security camera network, and full cooperation of my staff. I will issue you an all access security pass and you can move freely throughout the station.”

“Thank you,” Tuff said and turned to leave.

“Oh, Federation,” Dunek called.

Tuff stopped and turned. “Yes?”

“If you uncover anything... serious to the security of my people, you let me know right away.” It was a demand, not a request.

“Yes, of course,” Tuff said.

Tuff then left Dunek’s office. The secretary said that she could issue the security passes in an hour, and that there was no point in them waiting her. She called in one of the security staffers, who then lead Tuff and Dunn to the security office, where a bunch of different size monitors created the security camera network. Tuff looked over the monitors, examining the location that each showed. He stopped at the bar where he had seen the So’jas. They were still there, sitting in a booth in a dark corner of the bar.

Tuff tapped his commbadge.

“Tuff to Ensign Manon,” Tuff said.

“Manon here,” came her response.

“Rendezvous in the security office with Alpha team,” Tuff said. “I’m going to go undercover again.”

“Yes, sir.”

Ar’cuk looked around wary of his surroundings. He did not like this particular bar, but it must do. The ferengi, Mordoc, was late. Ru’fur sat next to Ar’cuk. He, too, was worried. The ferengi said that he would be here, and so far he had not shown himself. Suddenly there came a commotion from a group of Dinokians. The tall orange feathered one was pushing a small figure around. The tall Dinokians laughed aloud, and soon the small stature of the ferengi could be seen. He bowed slightly, and stepped away from the tall orange feathered Dinokian.

“Rule 79: Beware of the Vulcan greed for knowledge, my fine friends,” the ferengi said, laughing along with the Dinokians.

“You ferengis are a funny lot,” roared the orange feathered Dinokian. “Now get out of here! We’ve got business.”

“Business you got, and business I got,” the ferengi said, smiling. “...”

Mordoc looked over and saw Ar’cuk and Ru’fur waiting for him in the shadows of the bar. Mordoc made little time getting over and sitting down.

“About time,” Ar’cuk said.

“Time is money,” Mordoc said. “Now, let us order.”

“Order?” Ru’fur said confused.

“Yes!” exclaimed the ferengi. “Never begin business negotiations on an empty stomach. Rule 214.”

“So you won’t talk, unless we get you something to eat?” Ru’fur inquired.

“Precisely!” grinned Mordoc. “Chop! Chop! I’m starving. Starve before the business negotiation so that you can get a free meal.”

“What rule is that?” asked Ar’cuk sarcastically.

“One I made up!” Mordoc said with a wide grin of his sharp little teeth. “When no appropriate Rule applies, make one up.... it’s kind of an unwritten rule.”

“Very well,” Ar’cuk said, raising his hand and snapping his fingers.

An Alkanden waitress stepped over.

“What kind I do for you, boys?” she asked.

“Let’s see,” Mordoc said, rubbing his chin. “A little lobe rubbing would be much appreciated.”

“In your dreams big ears,” the waitress said.

“Oh thank you,” Mordoc said with a wink.

“What do you want!?” Ru’fur asked impatiently.

“I’ll try a Dinokian specialty,” Mordoc said. “Those over there said that they chume-chom is quite delicious.”

“Anything else?”

“Yes, your finest bottle of Rae Liquor!”

The waitress took Ar’cuk and Ru’fur’s orders, as well. Both of them were not hungry, but decided to have some Kobalian tea. The waitress left and Ar’cuk tried to bring up business, but the ferengi turned him down, saying that if first required his meal. So Ar’cuk stared out across the bar, while the ferengi ate. There was a newcomer in the bar. A terran from the looks of him. He was mingling with the Dinokians, but he kept glancing over at them and their ferengi friend. Finally after an hour, the ferengi was done with his meal and they were able to discuss business.

“Now what is it that I can do for you?” Mordoc asked with a wicked smile.

“We need weapons,” Ar’cuk said.

“Lots of weapons,” added Ru’fur.

Mordoc nodded.

“This I can do, but it must be done away from the station,” Mordoc said. “Kai soldiers will be coming soon, and you now how they love to steal... taking my profits away they are.”

“Yes, well, we can pay and meeting outside the station is no problem,” Ar’cuk said. “You do konw we plan to use these weapons for war.”

“War, my friend, is good for business,” Mordoc said. “Rule 34.”

“Friend?” Ru’fur said. “We are not friends.”

“Of course,” Mordoc said. “Never allow family - friends for that matter - stand in the way of opportunity. Rule 6. And this is an opportunity I don’t want to lose.”

“So how much?”

“Right to the point,” Mordoc said with a nod. “I like that. The price? Hmm? The price of a price of a price for profit.”

“Stop with your damn riddles and gives us a number!” growled Ru’fur.

“It depends on the number of weapons you require,” Mordoc said.

“Enough for a small army,” Ar’cuk said.

“Then price goes up... hmm,” the ferengi rubbed his chin. “I’d have to say five hundred thousand bars of gold pressed latinum.”

“Five hundred thousand!” Ar’cuk almost choked on his tea.

“Why you son of a motherless...,” Ru’fur began.

Mordoc raised his hand and shook his head.

“Never make fun of a ferengi’s mother,” Mordoc said. “Insult something he cares about. Rule 31.”

“You are greedy,” Ar’cuk said.

Mordoc shrugged. “Greed is eternal. Rule 10.”

“Five hundred thousand it is,” Ar’cuk said, though Ru’fur protested. “But how can we trust you?”

“Rule 99: Trust is the biggest liability of all,” Mordoc said. “I’m in this for profit. And that is all I care about. You get me my latinum, and you get your guns. We’ll meet out of scanning range of the station’s security sensors.”

“You risk a lot,” Ru’fur said. “For a ferengi that is.”

“Risk is part of the game... play it for all it’s worth. Rule 143,” Mordoc said.

“So where will you be getting these weapons?” Ar’cuk inquired.

“Rule 208: Sometimes the only thing more dangerous than a question is an answer,” Mordoc said. “I tell you I comprise my little enterprise here, and why would I want to do that when I can cheat so many people on this station?”

“You’ve made your point,” Ru’fur interjected. “Just give us a time.”

“In a week I’ll have the supplies you require,” Mordoc said standing. “So, until then, you best be finding my latinum.”

And with that the ferengi waddled off, bumping into the terran merchant, before jolting his way out of the bar. Ar’cuk noticed something about the terran when Mordoc bumped into him. A small gray square-shaped object fell out of his jacket. The terran quickly picked it up and left in a hurry. Ar’cuk mentioned this to Ru’fur.

“Suspicious fellow,” Ru’fus nodded in agreement. “Perhaps Dr. Kesar can answer some questions about him?”

“Yes,” Ar’cuk nodded. “Perhaps.”

Ensign Jerri Manon watched as the two So’jas got up and left. She tapped her commbadge and gave the order for the undercover men to follow them. Crewman Tom Dunn was with with her in the security network room on the Alkanden station. Dunn was leaning sitting in a chair watching the monitors. Manon turned back to the monitors, herself. She watch that silly little ferengi as he walked towards the docks.

“That damn ferengi almost blow his cover,” Dunn said.

Manon nodded. She had seen Tuff’s tricorder fall from his jacket. It had gotten a little more tense in the room when it occurred, but when the So’jas did not react the tension disappeared almost as quickly as it had come.

The door clanked opened, and Commander Tuff stepped into the room.

“That damned ferengi!” he grumbled.

“Sir!” Dunn said, standing at attention.

“At ease, crewman,” Tuff said. He took out his tricorder and handed it to Dunn. “Take this back to the ship, Dr. Braga might find it interesting.”

“Yes, sir.” Dunn said leaving.

Manon stood at attention. “Anything else, sir?”

“Yes,” Tuff said, stepping over to the monitors. “Kesar... what do we know so far.”

“Nothing much, sir,” Manon reported. “He’s been going in and out of shops all day. He hasn’t done anything suspicious yet.”

“Oh he has, Ensign Manon,” Tuff said. “He’s been meeting with those So’ja. Than in itself is suspicious behavior.”

“He does outrank us, sir,” Manon said.

“The Captain’s curious,” Tuff said, scanning the monitors. “And frankly, so am I.”

Tuff sat down at the console and placed his commbadge back on.

“Who do you have following Kesar?” Tuff asked.

“Stackhouse and Doogan,” Manon said.

Tuff nodded. “Good choice. You might just make your way to lieutenant.”


“Captain’s considering giving you a promotion,” Tuff said. “On my advice, of course.”

Jerri Manon did no know what to say. “Um... thank you, sir,” she managed to say.

“You’ve earned it,” Tuff said. “Two years of heading Alpha Team... you’ve proven that you are a natural leader.”

Suddenly Tuff commbadge beeped. He tapped it.

“Tuff here.”

“Sir,” came a low voice. “This is Stackhouse, sir.”


“Dr. Kesar gone into a room marked one-five-eight,” came Stackhouse’s low voice. “We’ve been following him for... sir!... the two So’jas are coming... hold on...!”

Tuff and Manon looked at each other in anticipation.

“Sir...” hissed Stackhouse’s voice. “They’ve also entered the room.”

“When Kesar leaves follow him,” Tuff said.

“Aye, sir. Stackhouse out.”

Tuff turned to Manon.

“I need to see the Captain,” Tuff said, getting up. “You’re in command until I get back.”

The room was much nicer than the one Ar’cuk and Ru’fur had been in earlier that morning. There was a steel table with chairs, and a hanging light above it. Kesar sat on one said, and the two resistance operatives sat on the other. Kesar brushed his hair away from his eyes.

“I’m being followed,” Kesar said in his high-pitched voice.

“We, too, are being followed,” Ar’cuk said. “By who? We don’t know.”

“Starfleet,” Kesar said. “I can read them like a book. Captain Kelsoe is suspicious of me. He has always been. Plus Commander Tuff... yes... Tuff would be suspicious of me.”

“Why would they be suspicious?” Ru’fur ask. “You have high security access status?”

“Precisely,” Kesar said with a nod. “They are afraid they I am leaking information to the So’ja Coalition.”

“The Coalition!?” Ru’fur said. “But Ar’cuk isn’t even So’ja.”

“I know, but they don’t,” Kesar explained. “You see, the Federation council and Starfleet Command has decided not to tell their subordinates about the Rigusians. They are waiting. You see, their are those in our Federation who would love to exploit this development.”

“But isn’t that why you’re here?” Ru’fur said. “Exploiting Admiral Ru’mal and our secret resistance?”

“I guess you might say that,” Kesar said. “We are violating the prime directive, but the Federation Council believed that is was okay to do so now. The So’ja Coalition must fall.”

“Then we are agreed about what must be done?” Ar’cuk said.

“Yes,” Kesar nodded.

The two resistance operatives sighed, relieved.

“How was your meeting with Mordoc?” Kesar inquired.

“We made a deal,” Ar’cuk said. “Though the price he asked will be hard to obtain.”

“What was his price?” Kesar inquired.

“Five hundred thousand bars of gold pressed latinum,” Ru’fur said.

“We can handle that,” Kesar said. “The ferengi should have been more greedy. That is less than half of what I’ve brought.”

“Then we were not cheated?” Ar’cuk asked.

“No, only Mordoc was cheated,” Kesar said. “Frankly, I’m surprised. I would have expect more greed from Mordoc.”

“He might have gotten used to the value difference here already,” Ar’cuk said. “The Alkanden’s don’t value things as high as some other races.”

“Good point,” Kesar said. “When do you meet with him?”

“In a week,” Ar’cuk said.

“Good,” Kesar said nodding. “I shall stay with you. And then I will leave with you, Ar’cuk for Rigus.”

“As you wish,” Ar’cuk said

“What about Starfleet?” Ru’fur said. “They might spoil our plains.”

“Don’t worry,” Kesar said. “Our plains will remain unspoiled.”

Captain Benjamin Kelsoe sat in his ready room, looking out the window at the Alkanden space station. Despite its peculiar design, Kelsoe found it comforting to look at it. It symbolized the salvation of an entire race that was thought lost. The Alkanden culture was saved thanks to this junkyard space stations. But he also found it troubling. Somewhere on that space station, Dr. Lucus Kesar was meeting with So’jas, and possibly be giving them valuable Federation secrets. If only he had asked more questions of Kesar when he had the chance. Surely Kesar would have lied, but then Kelsoe would feel better. At least he had tried! But now he was forced to sit and wait. Give orders, receive reports and wait.

The door chime rang.

Kelsoe looked up. “Come in.”

The door opened and Commander Tuff walked in, along with Dr. Chase Braga.

“Captain,” Tuff said. “We have some startling news.”

“Good or bad?”

“It depends on definition,” Braga said.

Tuff placed a data pad down on Kelsoe desk.

“This is a report of all of Kesar’s movements,” Tuff said. “We last say him going into what the Alkanden officials call a conference room. It was rented under his name, paid for it in gold pressed latinum.”

“Latinum?” Kelsoe said surprised, looking at the data pad. “What about the So’ja?”

“That’s something entirely different,” Braga said, placing his own data pad on the desk. “Commander Tuff took some reading of the So’ja when the were meeting with a ferengi. I gave they readings to me for analysis and I’ve discovered something very interesting.”

“And what might that be?” Kelsoe inquired, picking up Braga’s data pad.

“One of them is not a So’ja,” Braga said. “He may look like one, but his anatomy is entirely different. Their hearts are different and even their brains' are different. But on the outside they look the same.”

“How can this be?” Kelsoe said. “So’ja conspiring with Federation officials... Federation officials conspiring with So’ja.”

“I’m not entirely sure what they are conspiring about, sir,” Tuff said. “But whatever it is, I don’t like. If they needed to met with a smuggler like Mordoc, then they are up to something.”

“What do we know about this Mordoc?” Kelsoe inquired.

“He smuggles many different things into this sector, from alcohol to arms,” Tuff said. “At this stage I don’t feel safe leaving Kesar out to do whatever he wants.”

“I don’t know,” Kelsoe said. “We have our orders from Starfleet. We’ve been ordered to leave Dr. Kesar alone.”

“I don’t bloody well care what Starfleet says,” Tuff said. “That damn little monkey is up to something.”

The intercom beeped. Kelsoe tapped his commbadge.

“Sir,” Tracy said. “I’ve just received word from the station that Dr. Kesar’s been arrested. And Chief Dunek seems very upset about something.”

“Damn it!” Kelsoe said standing up.

“Sir...,” Tuff began.

“Those Alkanden’s have messed up our investigation,” Kelsoe said. “We’re going to the station. I need to speak with Dr. Kesar.”

“Yes, sir.”

Kelsoe stood in the waiting room at Chief Dunek’s office. The secretary stared at him. Around Kelsoe were Tuff, and his security team. Kelsoe paced back and forth.

“Where is that Alkanden?” he hissed under his breath.

“Right here, Captain,” squawked the tall Alkanden security chief. Standing behind him were two of his very own security guards.

“Why have you interfered in our investigation?” Kelsoe inquired.

“I have not interfered, you have,” Dunek said.

“And how is that?”

“Your Chief of Security promised to inform me as he progressed through his investigation of this Kesar fellow,” Dunek said. “And does he, no. So I took power into my own hands. This is my station, my jurisdiction. You have no authority to order me about, or my men.”

Behind Dunek the door opened and a slightly smaller Alkanden stepped in. He was dressed in green robe. Kelsoe recognized him as Crunek, the chief of operation of the station. He had welcomed them to the outpost upon their arrival.

“It appears that you are in somewhat of a pickle, Captain Kelsoe,” Crunek said. “Your men thought that had full authority here.”

“You gave full security access!” Tuff growled.

“True,” Dunek said bobbing his head.

“That may be so, Commander,” chuckled Crunek. “But when the safety of my station comes under threat of terrorist such as Kesar, I take action.”

“Kesar is no terrorist,” Kelsoe said. “He may be somewhat odd and peculiar but he is no terrorist.”

“If you say so, Captain,” Crunek said. “But right now, he’s in our custody.”

“Let me speak with him,” Kelsoe demanded.

Crunek stepped back and bobbed his head, thinking.

“Yes,” Crunek said. “I will allow only you, Captain. Your security officer and his men must leave the station at once.”

“Captain,” Tuff whispered to Kelsoe. “I must protest. Starfleet regulations are clear on such matter. No commanding officer should be alone in hostile territory.”

“I agree, Crunek,” Kelsoe said, ignoring Tuff’s protest. “Commander Tuff, see to it.”

Tuff stood there in shock. But he soon nodded.

“Yes, Captain,” he said reluctantly.

Commander Tuff and his security detail left, followed by the Alkanden security guards. Kelsoe glared at Dunek.

“Take me to him.”

Dr. Lucus Kesar sat behind a force field in a small chamber no large than a bed. Kelsoe stared in at him from the other side. He shook his head. Kesar merely blinked back at Kelsoe. There was something odd about seeing this proud man behind a force field. Somehow he seemed to have lost something of him that made himself so proud.

“What happened, Kesar?” Kelsoe finally asked. “What have you been up too?”

“A secret mission for Starfleet,” Kesar said.

“Well, too bad,” Kelsoe said. “I can’t help you unless you explain to me what you have been doing.”

Kesar sighed. He stood up and walked over to the edge of the humming force field and stared across at Kelsoe.

“The So’ja Coalition is unstable, Captain,” Kesar said. “You know it. You’ve seen it. Chancellor Ar’kon has made enemies. Most of all in the So’ja military. There are those in the Coalition who wish to see it fall. Those who are willing to deal with the Federation for help.”

“Are you saying that you are interfering with another planet’s growth?” Kelsoe said. “What of the prime directive.”

“Things change, Captain,” Kesar said. “We are not feeding the seeds for revolution. They were already there. There is a So’ja resistance building. They need support or they’ll end up dead. I’ve been meeting with Resistance representatives. We are buying weapons, yes... we, from Mordoc. The Resistance needs help. They already have the assistance of the Rigusians... yes, yes, Captain, that's their names. They look exactly like So’ja, that is why they are first allies for the Resistance and us.”

“How can the Federation stoop so low?” Kelsoe said.

“We do this because they asked for help,” Kesar said. “And we don’t abandon our allies.”

“The So’ja aren’t our allies,” Kelsoe said. “They changed that when the Coalition took control.”

“We have Ba’l, their president,” Kesar said. “Most still recognize him as the So’ja’s true leader. Help me, Captain. I need to complete my mission.”

“Starfleet as approved of this?” Kelsoe said.

“Look into my eyes, Captain,” Kesar said. “Am I lying to you?”

Kelsoe looked into Kesar’s eyes. No. No he was not. Kelsoe nodded.

“I believe you,” Kelsoe said. “I’ll see what I can do.”

Kelsoe nodded and then left. Kesar turned around and slowly stepped back to the cold steel bench and sat down. Dr. Lucus Kesar knew that the chances of getting out would be slim, but he only hoped that Ar’cuk and Ru’fur would be able to succeed in their quest to free their people from the oppression of the So’ja Coalition. Kesar raised his feet off the ground and lowered his back onto to the cool surface of the bench. He closed his eyes with a sigh and fell asleep.

He woke to see a figure blocking the light from his view. He blinked a couple of times to get his vision back from his little slumber and was surprised to see Commander Robert Tuff.

“Commander...?” Kesar said sitting up. “What’s going on?”

“Your free,” Tuff said. “Captain saw to it, and the Captain doesn’t break his promises.”

Behind Tuff stood Captain Benjamin Kelsoe and the Alkanden officials.

“He is free now, Captain,” Dunek said. “No keep your end of the bargain.”

“You made a deal for my freedom, Captain?” Kesar asked standing up.

“Yes,” Kelsoe nodded. “Replicator technology for your freedom.”

“Replicator, eh?”

“Profits will rise,” Crunek said with what looked to be a grin. “No more dealing with ferengi merchants.”

“That is good,” Kesar said smiling. “Very good, indeed.”

“Yes,” Crunek said, and then turned to Kelsoe. “I hope that next time we meet we can avoid having to put someone in our cells.”

“I’ll do my best, Crunek,” Kelsoe said.

“That is all I ask,” Crunek said with a hiss, and bobbed his head in respect and left.

Dunek stepped up to Tuff.

“Next time you come here,” Dunek said, “If you promise to keep me inform, do it.”

“Will do,” Tuff said. “I apologize. I forgot my place”

“You did, indeed, Commander,” Dunek said, bobbing his head, and then left.

Tuff stepped aside and escorted Kesar out of the cell holdings. Kelsoe and Tuff then escorted Kesar to the center nexus of the entire station. They stood there in silence of a while, until Kelsoe gave Tuff a glare that made Tuff clear his throat.

“Um... Dr. Kesar,” Tuff said. “I wish to extend my apologies for suspecting you of treason.”

Kesar nodded. “Apology accepted, Commander. After all you were only doing what you believe was right.”

“Thank you,” Tuff said bowing his head. “May I excuse myself... sir?”

“Of course,” Kelsoe said.

Commander Tuff nodded and shook hands with Kesar, and then was gone. Kelsoe and Kesar stared at each other for a while in silence, and then Kelsoe broke the silence.

“I contacted Starfleet Command to confirm your story,” Kelsoe said.

“I assume they denied it,” Kesar said.

“Yes,” Kelsoe chuckled. “They did.”

Kesar nodded. “Then why, Captain? You had no evidence.”

“I believed you,” Kelsoe said. “I know its a risk, but out here one must take some risk.”

“Yes, one must,” Kesar nodded.

“So will you be requiring our assistance any longer?” Kelsoe inquired.

“Thank you, but no,” Kesar said. “My mission now needs to be secretive. I can’t very well go flying around in a Federation ship, the So’ja will suspect something.”

“Yes,” Kelsoe nodded. “So you will be going with the Rigusians, then?”

“Yes,” Kesar said with a grin. “Ar’cuk says that Rigus is a beautiful planet. I can’t wait to see it. We have much work to do before the Resistance can have any effect.”

“What do you think will happen?” Kelsoe inquired.

“With luck good shall prevail,” Kesar said, and grinned. He extended his hand. “It’s been a pleasure, Captain.”

Kelsoe grabbed the fuzzy hand and shook it.

“The pleasure was mine, Dr. Kesar,” Kelsoe said. “I hope this is not the last time we met.”

Kesar stepped back and smiled. “Don’t worry, Captain. We shall meet again. That I can promise you.”

And with that the funny little Wismagan walked away into the crowded nexus of the station. Kelsoe stood there and smiled. Dr. Lucus Kesar was one of the Federation’s greatest treasures, and though he may be strange at times, his uncanny presence is irreplaceable.