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An Expensive Lesson [CD]

Posted on Tue Mar 24th, 2020 @ 10:22pm by Captain Malcom Llwyedd & Poc

Mission: Interlude 4
Location: Ferenginar
Timeline: 27 February, 2395 - 1500 Hours

[ON]

Brugi sat in the main room of his home, a warm drink in his hand and the pleasant sound of rain echoing on the roof. He had a warm feeling in his stomach, both from the drink and the excitement for the conversation that would soon begin. He'd sent for Poc, informing him that they had important business to discuss. He knew that Poc would scurry over, hoping for something that would save him from certain death at the hand of his Orion debt collectors. Brugi waved at one of his wives, pointing to his ears.

Someone knocked on the door and Poc was shown into the room a few seconds later, escorted by one of Brugi's guards. The captain seemed agited and he quickly advanced to face Brugi while the guard stayed close to the door, trying to become invisible.

"Ah, Brugi, my good old Brugi!" said Poc with a smile. But his eyes were showing something else than sympathy. Was it fear?

"I think you know what happened to me. An unfortunate tragedy!" he added, "very unfortunate".

Poc kneaded his hands, embarrassed, as he was looking at Brugi's female. He was already ashamed, but her presence was adding to it. He knew females talk, and if she would repeat to others what she could see now...

He was hunched up, but he straightened up in one last effort of pride, yet spoiled by these words: "I need your help".

Brugi smiled, his jowls jiggling as he nodded his head. "You do, Poc, you do indeed. I have excellent news for you! I've arranged to purchase all of your debt which you, sadly have been unable to repay to the Orion Syndicate. And it was not an easy negotiation, I assure you. But in the end, I was worried about my old friend, Poc and paid a pretty price in latinum." Brugi waved a hand at his wife who obediently brought him a bowl of fruit. He slurpped on a piece of red colored fruit as he waited for Poc to reply.

Poc moistened his lips with a sharp tongue. This "old friend" had the taste of a rotten fruit. He knew the price would be high, even by considering an extra margin for Brugi, but he really did not like the tone of voice of his interlocutor. Really not. But he did not have the choice as he could almost feel the breath of the Orion Syndicate's thugs on his neck. Brrrr..

"I know it was not an easy negotiation, Brugi, but you're the best I know at this game." Poc smiled without conviction, knowing that this compliment would not hit its target. After a short break, he tried another shot "So, hu, are you lending me one of your spaceships so I can repay you by delivering, hu, things for you?"

Brugi let an expression of shock appear on his face. "Poc, do you think it would be a good business investment to give one of my ships to someone who recently managed to have his ship destroyed?" Brugi said and then shook his head. "I certainly don't. But. I have an excellent opportunity for you to repay your debt in full in only a few short years. As you might know, besides being a businessman, I also have an appointment in the Ferengi Defense Force. I've received a contract that would send me to Earth as a liaison officer. I've decided to sub-contract that to you and send you in my place. It is an excellent opportunity for you to make contacts that will only enhance your future business with the hu-mans," Brugi said.

Poc's shoulders sagged as Brugi shared his terms. "A few short years". Half an inch less. "Ferengi Defense Force". Another half inch. "Send you in my place". And an half inch more. "The hu-mans". He almost fell to his knees.

"The hu-mans?" he repeated with fear in his voice, "but... you... I mean...". He could not add anything else.

The breath of the Orion Syndicate's thugs was all of the sudden not that cold and smelly anymore. But Brugi purchased the debt and had all rights on him. A man is only worth the sum of his possessions, said one of the rules of acquisition. And Poc had to face it: he owned nothing more than what he was currently wearing. That and an old and shabby racing targ, who never won a single race.

This position, far away from the Orion Syndicate and Brugi himself, was actually not that bad since he could finish in a turbolift accident or even worse: a sexual plaything in one of Brugi's whorehouses. He knew that Brugi could plan one or the other for him; or both (in no particular order). Brugi was, all things considered, making him a good offer. That is at least what Poc tried to convince himself of.

"A liaison officer, right? So, not a cadet or a doormat." added Poc, with more trace of conviction in his voice. "Well, this is a, hu, generous offer, Brugi. And how long would that be?"

Brugi waved at Poc with a hand. "Only two years. And I've managed to make sure that you will receive the same treatment I was to have. You'll go through a brief training and be commissioned as a Starfleet Liaison Officer. You'll probably have a staff when you get there but you can take a personal attendant with you as well. I'm sure you'll be on a large starship that has numerous amenities and a spacious quarters befitting your rank," Brugi said. "I'll expect regular updates on your progress, including any information that we can profit from."

Poc looked at Brugi's female but she looked away. She obviously did not like loosers. Poc grumbled and his eyes returned to Brugi.

"Yes, of course. This is fair, Brugi." he said.

No, of course. Poc would prefer to sell his mother than giving any possibility of profit to Brugi. Well, this was probably not a good example, Poc did not care about his mother.
Anyway, Poc would not give any tip to Brugi. Not after being thrown like this to the hu-mans. The fallen captain would keep any advantages he could, any lead to new profits, any occasion to do business, so he could return to Fereginar head held high... and his pockets full of latinum.

"Now, if you'll excuse me, I think that, hu, I have my bag to prepare".

Brugi smiled. "Of course. I'll send my cousin Jors with you to help you with your bag. He's very strong. We wouldn't want anything happening to you. We don't know what those Orions are really up to. They might have discharged your debt and still hold a grudge. Good luck on Earth, Poc. And stay in touch," Brugi said and stood, shuffling out of the room.

Poc remained a long minute in the room, alone and thinking. The meeting was over and he was still alive; sort of, at least.
Being acquainted with the Orion Syndicate could be dangerous and lead you to very unexpected places, just to keep your head on your shoulders. This was an expensive lesson that Poc had just learned. The hu-mans, bah!

Poc suppressed a grin.

Jors would escort him to the spaceship flying to Earth. He was not fool, though: just to make sure he would not flee and force Brugi to honor his duty with the Ferengi Mercantile Defense Force. Poc bet that another cousin of his old fat savior was waiting for him on Earth. Just to make sure he would actually go to Starfleet Academy.

Poc looked around, checking that nobody was watching, and, with all his courage, spat out some disgusting green slime directly on Brugi's chair.
Satisfied with his artwork, Poc smiled and left the room, whistling some popular Ferengi song. The hu-mans... Poc decided not to panic and only consider one thing at a time. "First, prepare my bag" he said to himself "and find the best way to annoy Jors". And then... He would see later on; one thing at a time.




[Starfleet Academy, San Francisco, Earth]

Captain Hugo Lewis stood at the edge of the transporter room, waiting for his new assignment to materialize. He hadn't been thrilled to be assigned to the Academy. Unlike other officers, he wasn't chosen to teach anything. Instead, he was assigned as an Administrative Officer. Which, to him, meant that he was a glorified babysitter. Case in point, the Ferengi who was about to arrive. From what he'd heard, this was not going to be an easy assignment and unlike when he was in command of the USS Carthage, he couldn't fight his way out of it. He sighed just as the transporter hummed into life.

Poc appeared in a blue halo and blinked, still, until he was sure to have arrived. He sighed and hung on to his bag - his only baggage. He noticed the presence of a Starfleet officer and, with his commercial training, immediately faked a smile.

As the Ferengi stood next to Hugo Lewis, his pretty and colorful Hawaiian shirt, that he bought in Earth Spacedock for a very good price, was misplaced with the Human's strict uniform.

"I'm Poc. You're here for me, yes?" he said, handing his bag out, "Take this, my good man. This journey was quite exhausting".

Hugo looked down at the bag and then up at Poc's face. "I'm sorry, Mr. Poc, I'm Captain Lewis. I'm the military liaison officer here at the Academy. My job is to get you situated and prepared for your classes, which start in a couple of days. I don't carry bags," Hugo said and matched Poc's smile with one of his own. He'd been the captain of an Intrepid class ship. He could handle one Ferengi. "Why don't you follow me." Hugo turned and walked out the doorway and into a wide, clean hallway. It was one of the main causeways in Starfleet Academy and a large number of cadets and staff were hurrying past them.

Oh, thought Poc. Oh, this was embarrassing. Not that this Hu-man was a Captain or something. But rather Poc was apparently classified as a cadet or a trainee, rather than on the leading side. He sighed, and then followed Lewis after a few seconds of hesitation, carrying his bag close to his chest, and his short legs working at full speed.

"Wait, Capt'n Le-wis. What do you mean with classes?" he asked, out of breath.

Hugo paused as they emerged into a central space of the Academy. A large, blue-colored dome rose two stories over their head, casting the large central space in a pleasant shade of blue. He gestured to a sitting area that was free. There were a number of other such sitting areas scattered under the dome and many were in use. "Why don't we take a break here for a moment and I can answer your questions," Hugo said. "You're a fairly unique situation, Mr. Poc. We've had very few Ferengi take part in our cultural exchange program with Starfleet. As I'm sure you know, this is a multi-year experience for you. We're hopeful that you will be able to bring your unique talents and insight to whichever ship you are assigned to. At the same time, we hope you will gain a greater understanding of Federation and Starfleet policies. Part of preparing you to serve on one of our ships is a short program where you will take classes on a variety of topics. One thing I would like to know is whether you have a specialty already? Engineering? Medicine? Something like that."

"A multi-year experience for me, I know" replied Poc, politely. Deep inside however, he wanted to cry and bang his head against a wall, or... or... something. He managed to simulate a smile, though. "My specialty, let me see...".

Poc quickly reviewed his qualities, counting them on mental fingers. Well, he could obviously fake smiles. And waste profit, for sure, he would not be sitting here otherwise. Have bad acquaintances? Check. An intrusive - incapable - family as well.

Ok, so that was it for the good things. The Ferengi had to admit that he was not good at engineering and did not have the slightest interest for it. All the machinerie and mecanisms were Klingon to him ; bipping and flashing gizmos. That's precisely why he hired Nugg in the first place, to take care of that annoying stuff.

Medicine? Poc had a good laugh. He would definitively pass out on the first sight of blood - or similar weird viscuosity, depending on the alien type. He could not even tell the difference between the brain of a targ and that of a Klingon. If there was any difference, that is. Poc still had some doubts about it.

What else could he do, aboard a Federation Starship?

"Well", he said, "I used to be the captain of my own ship, you know?". Beside the fact that he did not really own the ship, as the events, unfortunately, proved that a property with a mortgage is not that solid.

"But I guess this is not an open position, yes?" he added with a note of regret in his voice. "I have an extensive experience with trading, Capt'n Le-wis, scam talk to clients, people, officials, whatever. I can anticipate market trends, or manage stocks and supplies. All those kind of things that you, Hu-man, think Ferengies can do. Those are not clich├ęs, those are things I can do. I would not be on this cultural exchange program otherwise, yes?" he bragged with a confident ton and an adequate commercial smile.

Yes, Hu-man. He could do that. Most likely not as more talented Ferengis would do it, but he could fake it enough to pretend it was done the Ferengi-way.

Hugo sat back in the chair, considering the options. The idea of Poc in charge of a Starfleet ship, any ship, was completely impossible. But he did admit that Ferengi had an innate ability to find supplies and acquire resources. It might be just the thing. "Yes, Mr. Poc, I understand what you are saying. And I agree. You are ideally suited to be a logistics officer in our exchange program. Starfleet sometimes operates on the edges of spaces, interacting with different kinds of cultures where we have to exchange resources and supplies to function. I think that you could be a great asset in that kind of situation. What do you think? Sound like a good fit?" Hugo really hoped he said yes because the only other option was security and Poc with a phaser sounded... unwise.

"I guess it is, Capt'n Le-wis. I guess it is, indeed" replied Poc with a smile. "I was afraid, just a moment, that you would offer me a position in security". The Ferengi looked at his hands in a very sceptical way, as he did not even know how to hold a phaser the right way.

"Then we have a deal, yes?".

Still looking at his hands, Poc considered offering a pinky swear. He had read, somewhere, about that weird hu-man tradition when making promises. This was ridiculous, of course, but just like hu-mans in general. However, he had the feeling that Starfleet would not use pinky promises ; they were military after all. And military was just as foolish as hu-mans.. Poc decided to nod his head, as, he imagined, a soldier would do. At least, he was not onboarding a Klingon starship: things could always be worse than they are. He smiled.

"Yes?" he repeated.

"Yes," Hugo said and then stood once more. "Why don't we get you to your quarters. You'll be sharing them with another exchange officer to give you a feel what it will be like living on a real starship. Don't worry, you'll get your own sleeping quarters. You just share common spaces. Right this way." Hugo turned and lead the way down a labyrinth of corridors and turbolifts.




[Cadet Holodeck 3]

A moment before, the viewscreen had showed a vast expanse of space but now, as the five cadets plus exchange officer Poc watched, three Klingon warbirds dropped out of warp, right off the port bow of the USS Utah. Their mission had been simple: get to Proxima Delta, pick up the stranded cultural exchange team and get out. Unfortunately, the Klingon's were claiming Proxima Delta was theirs and the Federation was intruding.

The young acting captain was a Vulcan cadet name P'ral. Cadets Jenkins and Leroy were manning tactical and navigation. Cadet Rixal was at the science station and Cadet Hirata was at engineering. All of that left Poc manning communications.

Captain P'ral turned to Poc. "Mr. Poc, please open a hailing frequency and let our Klingon visitors know that we are simply here to retrieve our people."

The Ferengi looked at his console, trying to remember how these devices from the Federation worked. He mumbled a vague "Aye aye, sir" and began to press virtual keys from the console to open the requested channel. It was actually not that difficult, realized Poc, satisfied with his own great skills.

"Uh, oh, Officer Poc of the USS U-tah speaking. Please, uh. The Capt'n..." started Poc but he stopped a second before saying the name of his commanding officer. The Klingons would probably not be cooperative - at least, less cooperative - if they knew they were dealing with a Vulcan. So he continued with "the Capt'n kindly asks you, if you don't mind, to let us retrieve our people".
Poc was not sure to be convincing enough so he added, just in case: "In all good faith. And stuff. Please".

=^=Utah! This is K'tok of the Klingon Empire. You are trespassing! Leave now, without honor.=^=

Captain P'ral glanced at Poc, and shook his head. He too knew that Klingons wouldn't appreciate dealing with him. Logically the young Ferengi was better suited to converse with them.

"Let them know that we can't do that. This is a humanitarian mission and we will be removing all Federation personnel. We do not wish a confrontation," P'ral said.

Poc took his eyes off the console and looked at P'ral. At least, thought the Ferengi, P'ral was actually a good captain as he was delegating all the dirty jobs to his subalterns. Unfortunately, he was the subaltern in this case. Poc sighed and returned to his console.

Poc quickly analysed the situation and realised that things were in fact not too bad so far: they were still alive, which was not that obvious with threatening Klingons just in front of them. This was well known: usally, Klingons shot first. As a matter of fact, the Ferengi was almost considering K'tok as a real scholar, since (i) he was communicating instead of shooting, and (ii) he was able to align a dozen words in a couple of sentences.

K'tok was obviously bragging and showing that he was the alpha male of this stellar system. Usual Klingon stuff, so to say.

Poc re-opened the frequency.

"OK, K'tok of the Klingon Empire. We won't leave" said Poc "and we are going to pick up our personnel. Then, we'll leave. We don't want to stay here, anyway, and you can claim whatever you want afterwards." Hold on, not too many words at the same time. He wanted K'tok to understand what he was saying. "And we all parade with honor as we both get what we want, yes? What say you?" he concluded.

Then, Poc winced, waiting for the Klingons' ship to shoot them.

"I say, you will die!" The Klingon's voice roared over the comms.

The USS Utah rocked under the sudden attack of three Klingon ship's. Consoles exploded on the port side, away from Poc. The shower of sparks scattered across the bridge. Captain P'ral gave commands rapidly, attempting to fight the ship free of their situation but the Klingons were too much and eventually the bridge went black and the lights came up. All around them were the black walls of the holodeck.

Cadet P'ral raised an eyebrow at Poc. "I do not believe communications is your area of expertise, Mr. Poc," he said and turned and walked out of the holodeck, the rest of the cadets following.

Left alone, Poc asked loud "did you even ever try to communicate with Klingons?"
But only the silence responded. The Ferengi meticulously wiped his sweaty hands on his pants. "Well, lesson learned, at least.. I think." said Poc to himself. After a couple of seconds he sighed and muttered "and it seems, lately, that all lessons are expensive..."




"Captain?"

Malcom looked up from the book he was reading. Kipp stood in the doorway of his ready room, an unusual look on his face.

"Yes?" Malcom asked.

Kipp looked over his shoulder and then back at his captain. "Sir, the liaison officer is here to see you. I think... it will be an interesting meeting," Kipp said with a small grin.

Malcom frowned. He'd been informed weeks ago that he would be receiving a liaison officer but had completely put it out of his mind. It was fairly common for Starfleet to bring liaison officers onto active ships in order to foster understanding and awareness. He nodded. "Please show them in, Petty Officer Lak."

"Aye, sir," Kipp said and stepped back. He motioned with his hand for the liaison officer to proceed.

The Ferengi entered the room, a smile floating on his face. He made a mouvement with his hand like he wanted to shake hands, hesitated, and finally opted for a formal greeting.

"Capt'n Llw.. Llwidd.. Llwyedd. Officer Poc reporting for duty. Do you remember me? I'm happy to be assigned to the Firebird" said the small officer with a large smile.

Happy was maybe not exactly what Poc was feeling. But he had to admit it could have been worse; at least, he knew the ship and some of the crew. And he even survived their last encounter, despite all the issues he was facing at that time with the exploding star, the Romulans, his late shipment and the stupidity of his own crew.
The Ferengi was quite surprised when he was given his assignment on that ship. Some kind of cosmic karma, he would have bet. That, or simply because an officer actually read his file and found it highly amusing to send him to the Firebird.

Anyway, now that he was here.. And like the thirty-third rule of acquisition said: it never hurts to suck up to the boss. That definitively was one of his areas of expertise, although he would have prefered to be the boss, of course.

"And I guess it's the same for you, yes?" he added before Malcom could answer, his smile expanding on his face.

Malcom was stunned for a moment, trying to wrap his mind around the fact that Poc was the new liaison officer. Finally he managed to speak. "Poc, the last I saw of you, we were offloading you here on Empok Nor. How did you get wrapped up in this?" Malcom said and then added. "Please, sit down." His mind was racing as he tried to figure out how he was going to integrate Poc into the crew.

The Ferengi did not hesitate this time and he took a seat, sitting down in a relaxed manner. Malcom's behaviour gave him some sort of confidence.

"Empok Nor, yes, indeed. Then afterwards I did some, uh, stuff, you know, here and there." said Poc with a wave of his hand "But I must admit that meeting you affected me; deeply. I started thinking and after a while decided to know more about the Federation and Starfleet. I think there's a lot to benefit from, on both sides.. And, long story short: here I am. Completely on a voluntary basis. Completely. I explicitly asked for the Firebird, you know?".

Poc changed his smile to his favorite one: the "I can sell an umbrella to a tourist on Risa".

Malcom nodded at Poc's story, as if believing everything the Ferengi was saying, while in truth believing very little. He couldn't believe that Poc would ever want to work for the Federation. And he knew just how to bring the truth out.

"Well we are very glad to have someone of your skill as part of our crew, Poc. But, tell me," Malcom said, leaning forward. "Doesn't it just kill you to know that you won't be making any latinum while you are with us?"

Poc sank into his seat as Malcom was leaning. He could not help but squeal when he heard the word latinum, although his smile was still clinging to his face.

"And a Ferengi without any profit is not a real Ferengi, yes?" completed Poc. "I know what you mean, Capt'n, but even Ferengis, sometimes, have to fulfill their duties. I'm a Ferengi with honour, Capt'n".

He winced inside, but Malcom did not have to know that for Poc the concept of honour was not really applicable, if at all. The Ferengi thought that the Hu-man, with all his experience, was not really fooled though.

Poc sighed and used a contrite tone, just like he was about to reveal something important. "The Ferengi Defense Force called me to serve the Alliance. I'm a man of honour, Capt'n; I had to do it although, to be honest, I wasn't excited to do so. But I've heard about this exchange program with Starfleet and I remembered our short, hu, collaboration. As I said, being aboard your ship sounded like a nice opportunity to serve the Alliance with the lesser of two evils, as you, Hu-man, would say".

The Ferengi was satisfied with his story. The best lies were always the ones with enough truth in them to look true. He in turn leaned forward.

"With all due respect," he added after a second.

"Of course," Malcom said. "I'm glad to have you on the ship. I'm sure your... talents will be very helpful. I see that you are to be assigned as our quartermaster. I'd like for you to talk with Lieutenant Rees after you get settled in your quarters. Do you have any questions I can help you with?"

"I understand, Capt'n. He is my manager, yes?" Poc asked politely. He had not forgotten that he was at the bottom of the chain of command. Unfortunately.
He then added, "Of course, I will talk to this Lieutenant Rees" before using a sententious tone, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." His smile revealed his spiky and misaligned teeth, "You see, Capt'n, I'm already adopting your culture."

Poc rose to his feet, assuming that mentioning a meeting with Rees meant the present interview was over. He did a slight bow, as sign of respect and submission. "I'm sure that Lieutenant Rees will answer all my questions. You have other - and more important - business to do".

After a small sign from Malcolm, Poc left the room.

Malcom sat for a minute, running through all the complications that having Poc on board was going to create. He grinned. At least things weren't going to get boring. He tapped his combadge.

"Lieutenant Rees, you've got a new crewman coming to visit you. Good luck. Llwyedd out."

[OFF]

Captain Malcom Llwyedd
Commanding Officer
USS Firebird NCC-88298



Mr. Poc
Quartermaster
USS Firebird NCC-88298



 

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Comments (1)

By Lieutenant JG Soto Gantt on Fri Apr 3rd, 2020 @ 11:10am

Poc is a great tragic "hero" for this story. His story from his ship to the Firebird gave him a chance to shine. His reactions with Brugi, when he reviewed his "qualities" in response to Captain Lewis, the short stint at comms, or the cover-up of his disgrace to Captain LLwyed. His bewilderment and confidence is everything. Poc will be a great addition to the crew.