Despite proper registration, despite playing by the rules, Starfleet still had a tendency to distrust a klingon warship, armed merchant freighter that is, arriving at a fleet base at high warp without seventy-two hours’ notice, forms in triplicate and announcing intent to visit hours before arrival. They might have some distrust as well based on reasonably good sensor readings of said same starship violating mandated traffic zones, disregarding orders from a Starfleet vessel and a healthy ‘respect’ for the reputation of the ship’s captain.
Which is how Commander Chuck LaCroix found himself leading a customs inspection of the SS Vondem Rose with a team of no less than twenty engineers and security personnel. The two shuttles had departed New Providence as soon as the ‘freighter’ had dropped out of warp and been ordered to heave to. And dutifully they had – at the system periphery, forcing a rather laborious four-hour shuttle flight to get here.
That flight hadn’t left Chuck in the best of moods as the two shuttles set down in the Vondem Rose’s cargo bay, which at first glance seemed to be kept in a tidy state befitting the ship’s original purpose. He had been expecting, as all freighters tended to do, to continue in system and then heave to when ten minutes away from the outward racing shuttle so the lack of preparation had left everyone in the customs teams sorely grumpy.
“Green light,” came a voice from the pilot’s station and Chuck nodded, more to himself then anything and stood up from his seat, watching those around get up and start shaking limps or rolling their heads to wake up and be presentable before some rabble freighter crew. Taking a moment himself, he stretched, careful not to clock anyone, then looked around to confirm everyone was ready then reached out and hit the hatch button.
In front of him stood exactly three people, none of them the same species as another and all them in the ship’s dossier he had been given. The shipmaster, Sidda Sadovu, who he had been told had styled herself at one point as the pirate queen of Archanis, a quartermaster, a ferengi woman named Na’roq who he knew was actively being investigated by the FCA for financial irregularities, code for not having paid her bribes most likely, and a large older klingon man, Kevak, who was officially on the records as ship’s morale officer.
This was going to be a terribly boring and simultaneously interesting inspection; he just knew it. Slapping on that professional detachment, straighten his back another few points towards ‘aspiring admiral’ and tucking the relevant padd he was going to need under his left arm, he stepped out seemingly in time with the second shuttle’s crew disembarking.
“Captain Sadovu, Commander LaCroix, New Providence Customs,” he introduced himself, offering his free hand to the woman as he approached her. “Thank you for acknowledging the request to heave to so promptly.” He thought he did a reasonable job of hiding the sarcasm in his voice with his deadpan best. “We don’t wish to take up too much of your time with this inspection.”
“I’d hope so,” the orion said, her grip reasonable. “I’ve asked my crew to be fully compliant with your inspection, but you’ll be escorted at all times by at least one crew member per team. Safety, you understand.”
“Certain ma’am, this is your ship, your people are best informed upon any safety issues aboard ship, though we will be documenting those as part of the inspection.”
“Best stay out of the kitchen then,” Kevak growled as he looked over the inspectors as they started to assemble and group up into their teams. “Cargo bays, follow me,” and with that the klingon started to walk towards the main door out of the bay.
Quick glances, head nods and the entire other shuttleload of personnel broke off and followed, leaving Chuck with his own people. “I have clearance here for you Captain to proceed to New Providence orbit, so that the inspection won’t delay you any further than it needs to.” The padd presented, he noticed that she only looked at it, nodded and then looked back up at him with a smile.
“Very good Commander, we’ll get underway shortly. Tell me, did the Costaguana make it safely back?”
“Seriously?” Jenny asked Matt as he scanned a pallet of cargo and had voiced his findings for her. “Maple syrup?” She abandoned her own scans to turn around and look at the proffered tricorder before her and squinted at it as if that could make the device suddenly report something more sensible.
“Twenty-five thousand litres of maple syrup. All bottled in seven-fifty millilitre bottles. All dutifully registered products of Earth. Canada even.” That bit he didn’t need the tricorder for, for the pallets themselves proudly announced it. They were stacked and secured in bay three, along with a collection of other cargo bound for wherever the ship’s quartermaster had been able to forge papers for in Jenny’s mind.
Anyone carrying that much maple syrup with a ferengi in charge of cargo couldn’t be legitimate.
“What’s its destination?”
“Listed as Crateris inside the Republic.” Matt’s brow scrunched in that way Jenny had learnt meant he was digging around in his own memory for some specific piece of knowledge or trivia. That look that was typical of him throughout an entire pub quiz or when something specific had just come to mind. “Uh, maple syrup is a band substance within the Republic.”
“Maple syrup, banned? It’s tree sap.”
“Yah Jenny, but’s a direct competitor to romulan hillia syrup. I bet the ban is just some stupid law to protect a domestic industry, but it’s still a banned import.”
She shrugged and set her tricorder down to pick up the padd in their joint kit resting on the floor and started entering in the details of the find. “Is it an agreed ban export?” she asked while filling out the form.
“No, just a banned import. It’s a purely one-sided law. As long as the Federation doesn’t respond we don’t get some stupid Chicken Tax situation,” he continued as he went back to his scanning.
“Seriously, do you just study stupid trivia for pub quiz?”
“How else do we keep winning? Certainly not my knowledge of popular music.”
“Eighty-seven torpedoes. Products destined for the Romulan Republic that are banned imports. A warp field regulator I’m informed is twenty hours overdue for servicing,” Check read off the list on his padd as he sat in Captain Sadovu’s ‘ready room’ opposite her. “Captain, these are all rather serious.”
“Please,” she said dismissively. “This is an armed merchant ship, properly registered. I’m allowed a full inventory of torpedoes, if I can source them. The maple syrup is a banned import, not an export, so there is no need for anyone to get worked up about it. Let me deal with that problem on the other end.”
He restrained himself from huffing at that, instead opting for a sip of the tea she’d provided. Some orion blend that he’d had to look up later, but that he couldn’t ask about. It would distract from the seriousness of the moment.
“And the warp field regulator, well, we had planned on getting that serviced, but I had to go do a little pirate hunting because Starfleet aren’t doing their proper jobs at the moment.” He watched her throw herself back into her chair and glare at him, daring him to object.
And he couldn’t. He knew what she was getting at and somewhat agreed with her. To many merchants in the last week had arrived at New Providence with some story of pirates or brigades, more so then was regular.
“And I have listed here that you’re carrying the Costaguana’s priority cargo as well.”
“It’s being kept in the armoury for safe keeping. It’s all there and accounted for. Payment to go to Captain Anderson. We’ll hand it over happily when we arrive in orbit Commander, don’t you doubt that.”
He looked at her, studying her for a moment before looking back at his padd, tapping a few things and then offering it to her to study and approve with a thumbprint.
“Everything is in order. We heavily suggest servicing that regulator before breaking orbit.”
She waved dismissively at him after tapping the padd, which he took as her way of saying ‘dismissed’ and stood, making for the door. “Oh and Captain, you do actually have a find ship. My crews likely wouldn’t have found that regulator issue if your own engineers hadn’t mentioned it in passing.”
“We’ll be in orbit in twenty minutes. You’ll see yourselves off, won’t you?” she asked as he stood in the doorway.
“Certain ma’am. Have a good day.”
“Mr Krent,” the rotund bolian greeted him as he entered the suite overlooking the largest city on New Providence. “Mottin Brek, Office of Emancipation and Resettlement, absolute pleasure to meet you!” The man’s enthusiasm filled the space and initially set Krent back on edge before he settled himself and shook the bolian’s free mitt of a hand before directing him to the table and chairs by the window where he could sit and set down his brief case.
The morning sun, actual sunlight, was streaming in through the windows and Krent had been sitting at that table enjoying a bountiful breakfast from the replicator, reading some news and just soaking in the infrared radiation when his visitor had arrived and now, they returned there which he was thankful for.
“Mr Krent, we’re all so happy to see you here in the office! I live for these moments, helping someone be free of oppression and getting them on a path of their own choosing within the Federation.”
“I…yes, that’s why I insisted Mistress Sidda bring me here,” he said quietly, an opposite to the Bolian’s volume and tone of voice.
“Oh, I was under the impression she was your liberator, yes?” the bolian stopped in the process of unloading a padd and a recording device on the table.
“Oh, yes, yes she was. But she’s a ship leader.”
“Ah! Cultural thing. We can work on that later Mr Krent. For now though, it’s all about you. I’ve got rather good news actually. Turns out, you’re a reasonably well-off individual it seems.” Mottin tapped on his padd to wake it, held his thumb on it to unlock the secure files and then brought one up. “Seems here that last night a trust was set up in your name with the Bank of Bolus, lovely institution, my sister works there you know, and deposited a sizable fund to accrue interest in your name.”
The padd was turned around and Krent looked it over, his eyes immediately glazing over at the financial figures. It meant absolutely nothing for the self-trained appraiser. “I…what?”
“Mr Krent, you have enough funds at your call currently to live more then a comfortable life style above the mean Federation average. And according to the trust, you’ll have full access to the funds in a year’s time. There’s enough here to buy a small starship, nothing fancy mind you. But otherwise, the interest alone should see you fight until old age.”
“But I have no money. I wouldn’t even know what to do with money, or funds. I thought the Federation was without money.” He was confused by this turn of events.
“Its…complicated. Suffice to say Mr Krent, you’re going to have a happy life, I think. But, that’s not why I’m here. I’m here to help you settle into the Federation. Find a place to live, something to do, any educational catching up you might like to undertake. Help you adjust to life within the Federation, or someone from the Office wherever you plan to live will at any rate.”
Now this was a bit more like what Krent had read in all the documents he’d been left with overnight. Assistance getting adjusted, find a place to live, engage with local communities. So on and so forth it all went. “I…I want to formalise my skill as an appraiser.”
“Ah! Now that I can help with, but maybe we can also look at some academia, yes? Museums always love a good appraiser.”
And with that there was no stopping Mottin Brek, for he had a mission.