Two hours later, the cargo shuttle was approaching Telarak’s moon. It was a tiny ball of brown sand standing in contrast to the blue gas giant behind it. The first thing the three of them noticed was the green orbital space dock with two massive D’Deridex Warbirds in port. They also counted on several more cloaked Romulan vessels hiding around the rest of the system.
“Look at this size of those things,” Katie said staring at the viewport.
“They’re meant to be intimidating,” Tigranian said making a course correction. “A Galaxy class starship can fit inside them.”
“Ventaxian Shuttle,” the comm system said coming to life. “You have entered the Telarak Military Protectorate’s defensive perimeter. Present landing clearance or be destroyed.”
“Certainly don’t mince words, do they?” Laria said sounding a bit concerned.
“Romulan authorities,” Tigranian responded. “Clearance Transmitting Now.” After a few tense moments, the Romulans responded.
“Clearance granted to land at Spaceport One Alpha. Do not deviate from your present course or you will be fired upon.”
Tigranian maneuvered the shuttle to the landing bay. After shutting the systems down, the three of them disembarked, raised their hoods over their faces, and made their way towards the city. In the spaceport’s dilapidated entry hall, an audio recording of a happy female voice played in several languages, including Federation Basic.
“Welcome to the Duty Free Trade Zone of the Telarak Military Protectorate of the Romulan Star Empire. Uniformed personnel are here to assist you. Please familiarize yourself with the legal codes and prohibited areas prior to exiting the space port. Any lawlessness will be severely punished. All personnel are subject to arrest, interrogation, and indefinite detainment at any time. Thank you, and enjoy your stay! The Romulan Star Empire: Peace, Prosperity, and Progress.”
As they stepped into the street, the burning trinary suns immediately started cooking them. The super-heated winds carried sand and grit with them, irritating whatever skin they touched. The three of them wrapped their cloaks around their faces to provide some basic protection.
“This place is literally hell,” Katie said barely able to breathe in the oppressive heat, swirling winds, and stench that could only be described as a mix between human excrement and rotting meat.
The street was barely five meters wide between the mud brick and sandstone buildings. Massive iron gates in front of the buildings concealed hidden court yards in front of the private residences. Both sides of the thoroughfare were crowded with vendors, food stands, and drinking establishments. Fifty different languages were being shouted from every direction as the mocha-skinned Telarak natives, with their glassy third eye in the middle of their forehead, mixed with Phebans, Ferengi, Romulan traders, and even a few of the remaining Cardassian colonials that had survived life under the Dominion in relative isolation.
Laria barely missed stepping in a puddle of unremitting foulness that was putrefying in front of a local butcher. He was slaughtering a creature that looked like a green, meter-long earth slug.
“I think I’m going to throw up, Sir,”
Tigranian turned back sharply and spoke through gritted teeth, “Don’t call me, Sir. That goes for both of you. I’m William or Bill, got it?” Laria nodded somewhat nervously.
“No, problem…Billy.” Katie smirked. Tigranian ignored her.
“I’m surprised they didn’t check us for weapons,” Laria said trying to keep up with the other two in the crowd.
“Look around, Kiddo,” Katie said as her eyes darted back and forth. “I don’t think a few more weapons would be noticed in this place.” Laria finally realized that every single adult around them was armed to the teeth with everything from disruptor pistols to ancient phaser rifles. One tall Nausicaan standing in the courtyard of what Laria assumed to be a local hotel, even had a fully automatic disruptor machine gun strapped across his chest.
“Yeah, this place is a little rough. I doubt the Romulan authorities do much to secure people who don’t have pointy ears,” Tigranian added.
After a few more blocks of winding streets, they emerged into a large square surrounding the former Colonial Administration Building, now Romulan Military Headquarters. It’s crumbling architecture was a monument to Cardassian bad taste in building design, but the Romulans had added a few quirks of their own…mostly tactical. The walls were now ringed with electrified razor-wire and anti-vehicular obstacles were spaced evenly around the perimeter. Four Romulans in desert combat fatigues and red sand goggles were lazily standing guard at the gate, their disruptor rifles slung across their chests. A large banner, with the blue and green bird of prey emblem, fluttered in the breeze behind them.
“The Raptor’s Claw is on the other side of the compound,” Tigranian said beckoning them to follow. “C’mon, I don’t like being here either.”
Behind the headquarters building was a large, walled compound with a fountain in it’s in courtyard. Two native Telaraks were drinking a pungent purple liquid from tiny ceramic cups and playing some sort of game involving dice, wooden markers, and carved, circular board. A large poster hung next to the building’s entrance depicting a smiling Romulan Soldier extending his hand to about a dozen different races huddled at his feet. The word for “peace” in each of their languages was written over their diminutive, bowing heads. Tigranian spit in the dirt when he saw that both humans and Klingons were among them.
“Is this the place?” Katie said skeptically.
“One way to find out…” Tigranian mused. The three of them passed through gate and across the courtyard, before entering a large airy room. A large stage with a concrete post was in the center of the club surrounded by plush couches. Romulan officers lounged on the couches while enjoying various intoxicating beverages from around the Alpha and Beta Quadrants. A long bar on the other side of the stage housed the non-Romulan patrons. Doing their best to prevent the officers from noticing them, they found an empty spot.
A meek Pheben approached from behind the bar and asked for their beverage choices. Katie and Laria declined, remembering their safety classes on non-certified interstellar eating and drinking establishments back at the Academy. Tigranian pulled a strip of gold-pressed latinum from his pocket and slammed it on the bar loud enough to make the Pheben jump.
“Wahlida Kheeru-Romulani, Anja.” Both Katie and Laria looked at Tigranian with surprise. The Pheben nodded causing the tentacles on his head to bounce. He quickly reached for a bottle of blue liquid and poured it into a glass. Before he could take a sip, a voice came from behind them.
“Your Orion is very good…for a human.” A heavy-set Orion male, his leather shirt and pants revealing far too much of his green skin, stood behind them. “You don’t meet very many of your race who can speak our language.”
“I’ve had dealings with your race, before,” Tigranian said calmly taking a sip of his Romulan Ale. “My name is…”
“William Oglesby,” the Orion Man said with a devious smile. “That would make you Ms. Appleton and Ms. Essa.”
“You apparently have me at a disadvantage, Sir,” Tigranian said through his poker face. “However, I also know that in your culture, if you speak to women under a man’s protection without a formal introduction, they cut your testicles off and shove them in your mouth…I ask you extend me the same courtesy.” He leaned back on the bar with his glass of ale just enough so that the Orion could see his disruptor.
“My apologies, Mr. Oglesby,” he said bowing down. “My name is Bolar, and this is my establishment.”
“Attan Aku-Bolar, Wali-Kiva Esha-lalu,” Tigranian said bowing forward and placing his right hand on his forehead. Bolar couldn’t help laughing.
“Absolutely wonderful! You have dealt with us before. I make it my business to know whoever gets landing permits on Telarak. Usually the more important players on this little moon find their way to The Raptor’s Claw eventually.”
“I’m not sure we fall into that category,” Katie said pulling Laria closer to her. She did not get a very good feeling from Mr. Bolar.
“Well, for two humans and a Bajoran to be this far from their homes, speaking to a humble Orion business owner in his own language, you must.” The three of them definitely didn’t like the way he completed that sentence. “Tell me, Mr. Oglesby, are you interested in buying or selling?”
“That depends on the merchandise…I’ve been burned before by the Hida Talme Oryan…”
Laria stood there, doing her best not to give the ruse away. Aghast, she wondered who this person was standing next to her going toe to toe with the bald green giant.
“And what makes you think this bar belongs to the Hida Talme?”
“Don’t insult me. You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t connected to the syndicate.” Tigranian slammed his empty glass on the bar and stared Bolar in the eyes. The green giant clapped loudly and the Pheben dutifully refilled the Romulan Ale to the brim.
“If you’ve been burned before, why do you come here now?”
“You don’t exactly file a customer service complaint against the Hida Talme…I’d be vaporized and these two would be in chains pouring kanar for some old, rich Cardassian pervert.” Laria grabbed Katie’s hand under her robe and squeezed. Katie squeezed back to reassure her she was safe.
“How much you know about us yet how little you respect us, Mr. Ogelsby. Why are you here?”
“I have a friend who’s looking for something very particular. I’ve heard I can get them in this bar…”
“And that is?”
“Breen plasma torpedoes.”
“Do you see any plasma torpedoes in this bar?” Bolar said with a laugh. “Maybe you should go ask the Breen.”
“Since the end of the war, it’s been a little hard to get them to cooperate with outsiders…especially of my species. However, I heard I might be able to help my friend courtesy of your local promagistrate…for the right amount of latinum, of course.”
“You have heard wrong, my human friend…Promagistrate Kival has nothing to do with it. If you have not been witnessed by either the Hida Talme or by Devek, then there is nothing I can do to help…except let you enjoy some free drinks…and fine entertainment.”
Bolar pointed to the corner where a much skinnier Orion male was leading a figure on a long chain draped in a black, sequined cloak to the stage. He pushed the figure down to the ground and fastened the chain to the concrete post. The Romulan officers on the couches began to clap and cheer. “I suggest that once the show is over, my friend, you go back to your shuttle and take your leave of Telarek….or else that scenario you spoke of earlier might become a reality,” Bolar said looking at Katie and Laria. He turned and took a seat on the couches next to the Romulans.
The figure in the black cloak slowly moved to a kneeling position. Sensually, she extended a green hand holding a pair of zills. She slowly began to hammer a beat on her finger cymbals faster and faster, causing the crowd’s excitement to reach a crescendo. Suddenly, she threw off her cloak and twisted to her feet as a drummer and flute player in the corner began to play in a loud, pulsing beat. The crowd was cheering so loud the walls were almost shaking.
The Orion woman’s long black curls were intricately braided down her back. Strategically placed leather bands barely covered her green body, and her eyes were so bright it was almost like they were made of fire gems. She rhythmically moved her body to the music, rotating and swaying towards the crowd, the chain just short enough to prevent her from touching them. She gently blew on her wrist towards the noses of the Romulans, keeping their attention focused on her hand.
“I thought Alex said Romulans were immune to Orion pheromones?” Laria whispered to Katie.
“Oh, Sweetheart,” Katie whispered back. “It’s not the pheromones that’s doing things to those men right now.” Laria and Katie looked down at Tigranian, who was watching the performance while nursing his Romulan Ale.
The Orion woman dropped back to her knees, and slowly bent over until her head almost touched the ground, swaying her arms to the rhythm of the music.
“Bill,” Katie said to Tigranian with no response.
“Bill!” Katie repeated more forcefully.
“William!” she shoved Tigranian in the shoulder, knocking him out of his trance.
“What?” he asked annoyed.
“Look,” Katie said pointing across the room. Promagistrate Kival walked in followed by a Cardassian in civilian clothes. Instantly, Bolar was on his feet and walked over to greet them. He gestured for the skinnier Orion man to come with him and they disappeared into a back room.
“C’mon,” Tigranian said shaking his head and placing his glass on the bar. “It’s showtime.”
The three of them stepped into the courtyard and down a passageway between two buildings.
“Will that thing work through stone walls?” Tigranian asked Laria.
“Like you said, Si…Bill, one way to find out.” They snuck behind the main building of The Raptor’s Claw. Laria took out a small rectangular box she attached to the top of a standard issue tricorder. She passed out three small earpieces which they placed inside their hoods. “Triangulating their position inside…and…got ‘em.” Suddenly, the voices of Kival, Bolar, and another man…presumably the Cardassian, began speaking.
“The Syndicate has signaled. They’re ready for the next shipment. The buyer is very anxious to receive the small-arms,” Bolar said.
“I’ve changed the location of the rendezvous point,” the Cardassian replied. The old one was too close to the Federation Zone. They’re getting suspicious. I will be leaving within the hour to meet your freighter in the Corvallia System.”
“Yes, there are two humans with a Bajoran in the bar right now asking questions. Don’t worry, they won’t be leaving Telarek alive. We placed a surprise on their shuttlecraft at the spaceport.”
“Guess, we’ll need to find another way off this moon…” Katie said trailing off.
“I thought you said that you would keep this operation safe from outside entanglements, Promagistrate,” the Cardassian said angrily.
“I said no such thing, Devek,” Kival said in reply. “My ten percent cut only gives you a protection in this sector. Anything that happens beyond that is your problem to deal with.”
“Corvallia is just across the border in the Klingon Zone,” Tigranian said. “We’ll be able to intercept them there.” Suddenly, they heard someone else whispering in the room.
“I just received word back from Syndicate. Apparently, the human male is named Daniel Tigranian, a Starfleet Captain, and pretend Klingon. The human female is Katherine Stone and the Bajoran girl is named Amira Laria also Starfleet officers.”
“It’s too risky to let them get back to their shuttle,” Kival interjected forcefully. “They could find the device and disarm it. Kill them here…now. Romulans can’t harm them. Ostensibly, we’re still allies.”
“I will have to confirm with my Kishra. It will be her decision.”
“Let her know that if she still wants to operate here, she will make one quickly.”
“Also, do it quietly. The legionnaires are supposed to keep the peace. Public executions are hard to explain.”
“I think that’s our cue to leave,” Tigranian said.
“You won’t get any argument from us.” Katie replied.
“Where will we go, Sir?” Laria asked nervously.
“Anywhere but here…”