The township of Landing was like many other little towns, or even cities and metroplexes across known space, in that it was the unimaginatively named first settlement upon a colonised world. Landing however wasn’t some prosperous colony town, or thriving metroplex. If it was surviving and self-sufficient it was considered a success here for this hard scrabble community.
The world of Ayer’s Rock was barely habitable and likely would have been settled in some concerted effort decades, maybe even centuries ago, if it wasn’t for its proximity to the Klingon border. But the last few decades of nominal peace had endeared this tough little dirtball to some human settlers who had been looking for a challenge.
They had a general disregard for modern technologies, outside of those that kept them alive. No energy weapons, no hover cars, or shuttles outside of the red and white, and well maintained, one that was parked next to the only hospital on the planet. The one and only subspace transmitter on the planet was prominent with its antenna sticking out of the top of the town hall.
“Quaint,” said Trid said as she stepped up beside Sidda, barely coming up to the Orion’s shoulder. “Mother tells stories of growing up in places like this.”
“These people want to be like this,” Sidda said as she finally took the step off the ramp and on to the hard packed dirt that the Vondem Thorn had set down on a couple of kilometers outside of town. “Maybe a few hundred thousand across the entire planet, few thousand of them here in Landing. Many of them think this collection of shacks is too crowded.”
Another set of footfalls came down the ramp as Orin approached, Orion disruptor on a sling over his shoulder, handing a Klingon disruptor to Sidda and a rather worn and beaten looking Federation phaser off to Trid who inspected it, checked all it’s features and then stashed it in her belt with practised ease.
With all three of them armed, Sidda turned to look at the crewmembers at the top of the ramp, weapons in hand as they guarded the entrance to her ship. She nodded, received a nod in response and then started to walk towards town with her companions for this excursion.
“Sidda,” the older gentleman on horse back said, approaching from the township. He was one of the oldest humans she had ever seen, outside of some image of Starfleet admiral or human politician. Definitely the oldest she’d seen in person. He had in his possession an actual honest to goodness firearm, a replica mind you, but still deadly, and it was sitting across his lap as it had the last two times she’d visited.
“Sheriff Jacobs,” she replied with a smile, stepping forward with both hands visible and empty. “As always, we promise no trouble. Just looking to ask Pete a couple of questions, do a bit of trading and then be on our way.”
“Uh huh,” Jacobs said. “Which one is he?” he asked with a slow raising of a hand to indicate Orin.
“This is Orin, Sheriff. I stand by my word, Telin won’t be coming back into town.”
“Uh huh,” Jacobs said once more, not exactly believing what he was hearing. “I hear any word of you or yours causing troubles, I’ll arrest yah, understand?”
“As always Sheriff Jacobs, your word is understood.”
“Uh huh,” the man said as he turned his horse around and trotted back into town.
“Friendly chap,” Trid said. “It’s like some sad human Western story isn’t it?”
“Western?” Sidda asked.
“Later. Let’s just do what we need to do and get out of here.”
Orin didn’t say a word, just nodded with such vigor, once, that it could be heard and then started marching forth like a man on a mission, which technically he was.
“I…I never took Orin for…”
“The gentle sort?” Sidda asked while finishing off Trid’s question as the two women continued walking towards the town hall in the middle of Landing. She was smiling, loving seeing the confusion on Trid’s face as well having seen Orin off to see his lady love for at least a few hours.
“Yah. I mean…he just seemed so natural. Wait…we haven’t been here since I signed up. You been keeping them apart for six months?”
“Not by choice. I’ve offered to swing by and drop Orin off for a few days or a week, but Orin is Orin.”
“He doesn’t speak much though.”
“Doesn’t speak at all, unless you count sign. Klingon cut out his tongue when he was young. He could afford a fix, just doesn’t want to. People pay attention to the silent ones.”
Trid nodded in understanding, the switched back to the previous element of the conversation after a beat. “She was so tiny!”
“I know right!” Sidda exclaimed, finally having someone who got it.
“Oh no! No no no!” The door slammed shut in their face after briefly opening, the sound of something being knocked over from inside the building attached to the back of the town hall and what sounded like scampering feet of someone trying to get away.
“This normal?” Trid asked.
Trying the door and unable to move it, Sidda enlisted the help of Trid and they were able to move the door just enough to slide in past the debris that Pete had knocked over in a vain attempt to bar the door. “Pete!” she shouted into the dark. “I just want to ask some questions. Clearing your debt sort of questions.”
“Can’t afford those!” came a shouted response from somewhere in the mess that was nominally Ayer’s Rock’s archives. “Your questions always have costs Sidda! Go away!”
“Can’t do that Pete! Need some answers and I know you’re listening to subspace traffic across the sector.”
“No I’m not!” the shouted voice responded from somewhere else in the room.
“Damn he’s fast,” Trid whispered before she started working her way around the room, opening distance between her and Sidda.
“I sold you the gear you wanted Pete. Don’t you think I know what I was selling?” She herself was moving, away from Trid to draw Pete’s attention and hope that her companion would find the troublesome little man.
“What do you want?” he asked. Had he moved?
“D’Ghor raiders attacked a Federation merchantman last week. I want to know what you’ve heard.”
“Nothing! I swear I’ve…ACK! Hey, let go!”
“Got ‘im boss!” Trid announced as she dragged Pete out from under a desk by his shirt collar.
“See,” Pete said, showing the traffic his array had picked up. “Nothing unusual.”
The handful of large-scale consoles in the back of the archives represented the single greatest collection of modern technology on Ayer’s Rock and what Sidda had to think would form the start of a decent communications intercept post.
Nevermind if it had been assembled by a hick on a back water.
Who had been supplied by Sidda in order to build up this resource for just this situation.
Pete’s passive listening array was spread in parts across a couple thousand square kilometers, listening to whatever was being said in the Archanis sector. Oh, he couldn’t decrypt anything, but just knowing people were talking was sometimes more then enough to go on.
She still didn’t know what Pete did with any of the transmissions, but she humoured him for it had helped her from time to time in spotting new shipping routes, or identifying changes in patrols routes.
Or avoiding her mother, the Witch. Scourge of the Kolendrin Drift, Victor of Parsis III and decorated Starfleet Captain.
“Huh.” Sidda stepped back from leaning over Pete’s shoulder and pondered the data she’d been shown. No new increases in subspace activity, that wasn’t on Starfleet channels at any rate. Slightly higher traffic on merchant channels, but then again that sort of thing was likely ship captain’s forming convoys for protection. If Starfleet was in the area in numbers, they all knew something must be up.
And it had to be.
“Right, Pete, keep listening. I’ll be back. Consider your debt cleared, anything further is me going into debt with you.”
“Wait..you in debt to me?” the man asked as he swivelled his wooden chair towards her. “You’re serious?”
“So serious Pete that I’m willing to leave a subspace emergency beacon with you. Something happens here I want you to activate it.”
His nervous disposition instantly melted away and a serious individual was left in it’s wake. “Sidda, what’s going on?”
“I don’t know just yet, but we’re likely to start hearing about a few more Klingon raids in days to come Pete.”
“Ayer’s Rock is undefended.”
“You’ve also got nothing worth stealing. Longer the Vondem is here though, the longer Ayer’s has something that is worth taking. Trid, let’s go. Pete, we’ll have the beacon with you in an hour. Clear a space for us to beam it in will you.”
“You sure it wise to leave Orin behind like that?”
“First time he’s ever asked to be left behind. Besides, once I explained things, he was pretty insistent. He’s got his rifle and folks around here do respect him. His brother not so much.”
“You’re the boss, boss.”
“Damn straight. Let’s get back to the ship. I want of this rock. We’ll head for Kyban. That’s a moderately busy Federation world. See what the local news there is saying.”
“And please, please can we restock the kitchen?”
“And restock the kitchen.”