Daxos System: Romulan Frontier
The second moon of Daxos IV was barely Class M. During winter months, it was dark for at least twenty-two of the day's twenty-six hours and temperatures could plummet to nearly forty degrees below centigrade. During the long days of summer, however, it could be considered near the fringes of comfort. Though Romulan colonists never took to the low gravity and frigid climate, a Yridian mining concern saw the opportunity for profit. The company leased the moon from the Star Empire to harvest its considerable stores of flontium ore. Flontium was completely useless to the Romulans, but Yridians used it as everything from a food additive to laundry detergent.
Every day, the Yridian miners would pour out the mineshafts carved deep into the mountains and flow into the small settlement to spend their hard earned latinum at one of a few choice establishments. The most popular was a bar and gentleman's club called, "The Snowball." It was run by an older woman everyone just called Mama Traxi. No one knew exactly why Mama Traxi first came to Daxos or even how long she had been there. However, everyone knew exactly why she was called "Mama." She looked after the "The Snowball's" staff of twenty dancing girls like they were her own children. Unlike most clubs in the Romulan Empire, not a single one was enslaved. Each woman was an entrepreneur here to make some hard currency before returning to whatever place she came from. Not even the most drunken, lecherous miner was stupid enough to lay a hand on one of Mama's girls. Even if they were, Mama kept an automatic disruptor rifle under the bar and knew how to use it. The most popular theory about Mama Traxi was that she used to be a dancing girl herself. It was partially correct. She was once one. She also used to be a slave.
Forty years earlier, a Romulan nobleman named Trallian took pity on Traxi. He saw her master beat her senseless after a less than enthusiastic performance in a bar on Boshun III. Trallian purchased her freedom on the spot with only the money in his wallet. For him, it was a small act of kindness. For her, it changed the stars. She would be always grateful to that man, and when he suddenly appeared and asked for help, she couldn't refuse.
Two of Mama's girls took the small stage of "The Snowball" to warm up the crowd before the evening rush. The sudden cheer from the Yridians drowned out the sound of the small subspace terminal besides the bar. Mama Traxi looked over and saw a message from "Yridian Hospitality Incorporated." Her eyes rolled and she immediately copied the message to an old PADD. She knew very well that "Yridian Hospitality Incorporated" was a front company that dealt exclusively with Romulan ales grown on the estate of her secret benefactor. On the surface, it was a simple invoice for a shipment of 100 bottles of Romulan Ale. However, there was something else hidden underneath the lines of digital code. She didn't know how to read it and she didn't want to know.
"Flora!" Mama Traxi said to another one of her girls leaning against the bar. "Take care of things up here. I gotta go down and get another case of Takarian mead from the cellar.
"No problem, Mama," Flora said stepping behind the bar. Traxi then headed down a rickety flight of steps. In the dark basement, she made out the silhouette of an Orion female. However, the green-skinned woman didn't look anything like a typical lodubyaln. She wore combat fatigue bottoms and a striped tank top. She rested her Klingon disruptor rifle across her shoulder as she smoked a hand rolled cigarette of noxious local tobacco.
"Now I'm going to get it," the Orion said sarcastically rolling her eyes.
"You know I don't like you smoking down here, Valaa," Mama Traxi said. "There's a lot of bottles down here that tend to catch on fire."
"Can I tell you a secret?" Valaa replied barely above a whisper. Traxi nodded. "I don't give a shit…"
Mama Traxi couldn't help but laugh. She truly admired Valaa and would have happily offered her a position as one of her girls, but pragmatism overcame compassion in this case. Traxi knew that very few men would pay money to watch a woman dance whose back and shoulders were covered with thick, white scars made by years of Romulan whippings. The ones that would were not ones that were welcome in Mama's establishment. Valaa always wore her thick black hair down, but there simply was no way to hide the aftermath of her abuse. She used to try but after turning her shame to rage she wore her scars with pride.
Valaa had come to the Romulan Empire in the hold of an Orion slave ship at age thirteen. For eight years she suffered as the private play thing of a very rich Romulan industrialist who enjoyed causing her pain for his pleasure. Then, Rellas came to her colony. Valaa's Romulan master originally protested when she said she was leaving, but quickly dropped his objections when she shoved a knife into the pervert's gut and watched with a wry smile as he bled to death. Now, she was one of Rellas' best fighters.
"What do you want, Mama?" Valaa asked as she put her cigarette out on the concrete floor.
"A message for your boss," Traxi said handing her the PADD. Valaa took it and rose to her feet. "What no tip for the messanger?" Mama added with a grin.
"Here's a tip: go back upstairs," Valaa said haughtily.
"Touch, touchy," Traxi said grabbing a box of mead and returning to the bar. Valaa turned towards the wall. She placed her palm against a particular brick which recognized her DNA signature and deactivated the holographic door. Valaa stepped out of the cellar and into an abandoned mineshaft that now served as Rellas' military headquarters. He had learned his lesson after the catastrophe at the Pomparath Nebula. There were no civilians here to take care of or get hurt. Mama Traxi always arranged for the Yridians to smuggle the innocents safely out of the Star Empire in the holds of their ore carriers in exchange for a percentage of the weapons and explosives captured in Rellas' raids. It was as advantageous deal for both parties.
Valaa walked past several dozen fighters. Some were cleaning their weapons. Others were eating rations out of foil packets. A few were sampling a barrel of home brew they just cracked open.
"Hey Tarko," Valaa said as she walked past, "save some of that swill for me."
"You got it, Val," the muscular Boranid said with a nod.
Valaa continued down a side corridor until she emerged in a larger chamber. Several individuals were standing around a map table speaking with one another. The man in the middle was a tall, blue Gralluscan.
"Hey Bossman," the Orion said interrupting their huddle. "You got another message from whoever the hell it is you get messages from."
"Thank you Valaa," Rellas said taking the PADD.
"Now, I'm going to get drunk," the Orion said turning and leaving. Rellas shook his head as he entered the proper decryption code. Instantly, the invoice transformed into lines of written text.
"What does Trallian say now?" Esrak asked. The yellow-furred Sarcassan had been with Rellas' ever since the rebel returned to the Romulan Empire. Now that Mama Traxi had safely gotten his daughter back to their home planet, Esrak proudly served as Rellas' second in command.
The Gralluscan gripped the sides of the PADD.
"Qu'vatlh, this message is almost two days old," Rellas muttered angrily. "Those lazy Yridians sat on it too long before retransmitting."
"They have to be careful," Esrak countered. "If the messages are too close together the Tal Shiar could get suspicious."
"Still," Rellas answered. "We now have to find a way to strike in the Syrcanis belt in less than four days. The pointed-ears are planning something big which means we have to plan big too."
"That's right along the Federation Neutral Zone. What could possibly be in the Syrcanis belt?" Esrak asked. Rellas finally looked over at him.
"The best chance we have to finally bring this whole damned country to its knees."