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A new venture

Posted on Sun Apr 21st, 2013 @ 1:08pm by Jeffrey Tambleton & Lieutenant Commander David Burkeson

Mission: Part of the Team
Location: Docking Bay 12

The skittering noise was getting on Tambleton’s nerves. Honeysweet’s hold held cases of Cardassian voles. All they ever seemed to do was pace their cages. Unnaturally sharp claws on six legs scraped over the steel floor of the cages creating a cacophony which set his teeth on edge.

They were ugly beasts; all skin and bones. What little hair they had was sparse and straggly. The only good thing was that males were caged separately from females. He’d heard the wretched things bred like tribbles. Mind you, they screeched at each other in what Tambleton assumed to be some sort of mating call. As serenading went, it was enough to destroy the libido of any self-respecting animal.

It was his ticket into Deep Space 12 though. Not that the authorities there would be told about it. These voles were bred for fighting and on DS12, like on every other Federation facility, vole fighting was illegal.

Ostensibly he was a dealer in antiques. He was setting up there because some of the Romulan refugees had gotten out with a lot of latinum but very few possessions. They were looking to acquire some comforts and weren’t too particular about niceties like source or previous ownership. Then there were those at the other end of the spectrum; asset rich and latinum poor. For these he was setting up the other side of his business; a pawn shop.

In this way, he saw himself as the middleman providing a vital service to both groups.

The voles were providing the capital to acquire suitable premises and get himself started. That part was important; the business provided the perfect cover for regular trips across the Neutral Zone. Mohune was already in contact with what passed for authority on the Romulan side with a view to providing Tambleton with travel permits.

That only left one problem; what to do with the voles if some overly officious desk jockey on DS12 decided to get a bit of exercise and inspect his ship? He didn’t think it likely; from all reports, they were up to their necks in it at the moment and still trying to place all those refugees. He had a canister of gas he’d been assured would knock the voles out but he doubted anything could achieve that.

Docking Bay 12; Pylon 3

Tambleton edged the Honeysweet into the dock, killed the impulse engines then secured the docking clamps. Only then did he open the hatch. The air that gusted in almost caused him to gag. It was always this way; after the recycled and endlessly filtered air aboard ship, the smells of a base with an active and varied population were...well, rank was not too harsh a word.

No-one was waiting to greet him. That was not a good sign. The longer he sat here the more he risked arousing suspicion. He walked out the hatch but dared not go too far. The gas had worked but he had no way of telling how long its effects would last. He needed a hold full of voles waking up and screeching like he needed a disrupter to his head. Anyway, it looked like a rabbit warren out there. Getting lost was not a prospect to be entertained fondly. It would probably end in a good kicking.

He spotted a person walking towards him. Well...towards was a term to use advisedly. The way he was staggering he spent more time going sidewards than forward but he was making slow progress in the general direction of ‘towards’.

As the figure got closer, it became apparent that it wore a hooded robe, filthy and foul-smelling. From beneath the robe emerged a gloved, cloth covered arm holding a battered metal cup.

"Alms, dear Sir?" a voice croaked from the depths of the hood, "Alms for a poor soul? The blessings of Athrazoor will abide in they that care for the weak and destitute! Alms, Sir?"

“I worship Banelmeedes myself,” Tambleton replied, “but Banelmeedes urges us to compassion.” He fished a slip of latinum from a pocket and tossed it into a cup thrust towards him. “Here, treat yourself to a good meal.” The beggar coughed and Tambleton caught the fumes of stale alcohol. “Mind you don’t spend it on anything else,” he cautioned. “I’ll know if you do.”

"I doubt that, smuggler." the figure said, straightening. The vice was no longer gravelly, but deep and strong. The cup withdrew into the robe and the newcomer straightened, "You have the agreed upon consignment?"

Tambleton nodded. “I have,” he said, fishing a wrapped parcel from a pocket deep within the folds of his coat. “Though the asking price just went up by one slip of latinum.

A dark chuckle emerged from the hood.

"Not so generous as you first appeared, eh smuggler?"

The hand reappeared with the cup and, with a sharp upward flick, sent the slip arcing back toward Tambleton.

“Nor you so desperate, beggar,” Tambleton responded. “And for what it’s worth, I’m not a smuggler. I’m a businessman; one who follows the old maxim, take care of the slips and the bars will look after themselves.

"Call it what you like, as will I. As to the rest..." the figure gestured and several figures emerged from the shadows, carrying cases about a meter long and half that height and width. They represented a variety of races, but all had a furtive, dangerous look to them and all were visibly armed. The cases were stacked neatly beside the hooded figure, then the others withdrew, all in silence.

“Thank you. I presume that contains my payment.” Without waiting for an answer, he walked over to a case and opened it. He wet the tip of a finger and dipped it in. It came out with a coating of bluish powder. He tasted it. “I’ve had better but, then again, I’ve had far worse.” He counted the cases. “It will do.”

"Then we shall collect our purchase." Another gesture brought the cloaked figure's minions out again, this time empty handed. Under Tambleton's direction, they offloaded the cages and began to withdraw. The silence was broken when one bearer, almost out of sight in the shadows, gave a sudden cry and dropped his cage. It burst open on the deck, the freed voles scattering into the darkness and nearly tripping up several other bearers.

Any other time, Tambleton would have looked on with disinterest as the voles made good their escape. Now though.... He was looking to expand his interests. The Triangle was becoming crowded; he needed an area to ply his trade where there was little competition. A backwater like Deep Space 12 seemed a good base to operate from.

To that end, he was planning the set-up of a legitimate front on DS12. The last thing he needed was voles running loose and upsetting the apple cart.

"You did indeed deliver as per our agreement, smuggler," the voice said, cowl swiveling to regard the errant bearer.

"And it is indeed not your responsibility..." the voice now dripped with malicious threat, unseen eyes boring into the henchman, " account for this mistake. We shall take our leave now."

The grizzled, scarred Andorian who had dropped the cage looked positively terrified as he meekly followed his master into the blackness.


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