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Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 3
04-27-2012, 09:36 PM
“Captain,” the Cardassian science officer announced as she turned in her chair from the sensor panel. “Ferengi Cargo vessel dead ahead. Your orders, sir?”

The captain shifted in his chair, shadows slashed across his scarred and pox-marked face hiding most of his disfigurement, yet still revealing some of the rigid scar tissue that kept half his face frozen in a grimace of agony even when he smiled, which he did now. “Hail that vessel,” he commanded.

“No response.” Natima replied.

“Disable their engines. Have a boarding party standing by,” The cyclopic captain said.

“Yesss’sssir,” Hoth the Gorn Task Master hissed from behind the Captain.

The view screen flashed with disruptor fire. The Ferengi vessel’s speedy retreat was cut short. It drifted under its own inertia. A tractor beam latched onto the vessel and brought it to a stop.

“They’re hailing us.”

“Now they want to talk,” the Captain said, no longer finding humor in the situation. With cold calculating conviction, he ordered his crew to expose the ship’s docking port and prepare to board the vessel. In response another tractor beam latched onto the vessel and began to pass it from one tractor beam emitter to another. The ship began to rotate. Once the docking port was within view, the Captain ordered the message on screen.

A small-lobed Ferengi male appeared on screen. His expression transformed from justified anger to wide-eyed panic the moment he saw the shadowy figure seated before him. “Please don’t destroy my ship. I didn’t know that it was you. If you had identified yourself sooner, I would have welcomed you aboard and we wouldn’t be having this little misunderstanding.” He laughed nervously. “It’s not too late for a little hospitality, is it?”

The Captain silently shifted in his seat, illuminating the mangled horror he wore upon his visage. He lowered his head, and looked upon the rambling Ferengi from beneath his ridged brow and scowled disapprovingly. The Ferengi recoiled from the repulsive figure as he rose to his feet and approached the view screen.

“Shlep. Shlep. Shlep,” the Captain replied as he shook his head. “Why must we play this game? I’m hurt. I thought we were friends. If you had simply answered our initial hail, all of this could have been avoided.” His hand went to his face; his finger traced the jagged rift of fibrous tissue that bisected his cheek from beneath the eye patch to the corner of his mouth, while he stroked his beard.

Shlep, the frantic Ferengi began to stammer as he tried to come up with a convincing lie. “Korrath, I didn’t know it was you. Please-“

“Enough!” Korrath exclaimed as he looked up to meet Shlep’s gaze. The paralyzed half of his face remained motionless as its better half contorted into a horrible reproduction of irritated amusement. “We found an error in your quarterly expense report. We just wanted to ask you a few questions. However, you failed to answer our hails, requiring us to pursue and detain you until this issue has been resolved. Do you know how much paperwork I’m required to file because of this little incident?” Korrath sighed heavily. “I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do to help you this time, Shlep. Prepare to be boarded.”

The massive Ferengi face on the view screen suddenly seemed smaller. His eyes fell to the ground as he reluctantly ordered his crew to greet our guests at the airlock. The transmission was severed with a wave of Korrath’s hand, and in its place the view screen displayed the Ferengi vessel being drawn closer under the firm grasp of their tractor emitters.

“I want to see his cargo manifest myself. Hoth, you have the bridge,” Korrath commanded as he turned, approached his chair, and picked up his cane. He gripped its aged, leather-wrapped handle tightly as he planted it firmly onto the first step leading away from his command center. Leaning heavily against it, he swung his bad leg onto first step. He banged on the stiff mechanical brace strapped to it with the hopes of loosening it the stiff joint. Using the cane again, he hobbled up the remaining steps to the platform leading back to the turbolift. He quickly crossed the distance with little effort.

***

Shlep stood at the end of the long cargo-filled hallway with his crew standing ready for inspection. With a heavy sigh, Shlep stepped towards the docking port hatch. He looked at the men under his command as he passed them. He paused in front of a scared clerk. From the looks of him, he only received his second set of lobes just a few years earlier.

“Pull yourself together ensign,” Shlep reassured. “When dealing with an Alliance Tribute Enforcer, like Korrath, it’s better to just do as they say. If you stay calm, we’ll make it out of this in one piece, and hopefully with our cargo intact,” Shlep clasped the ensign’s shoulder and gave it a squeeze before continuing towards the hatch. He hoped that it helped set the ensign’s mind at ease, although, it had done nothing for his own. He was in trouble. If he’s lucky, he may be able to escape this with his life, but it may cost him his cargo.

The locking mechanism on the inner docking port hatch began to whirr. Shlep’s heart began to pound in his chest as he quickly took his position to greet his guests. He ran his hands over his jacket as the hatch began to hiss. It opened its maw and retched out pairs of armed soldiers. They jogged past Shlep and quickly took positions flanking every Ferengi crewman without a word. Wave after wave followed and began searching the ship. Shlep put on his best smile when he saw Korrath emerge from the airlock with his cane in hand. “Korrath! It’s good to see you again.” Korrath stopped in front of the Ferengi cargo hauler and looked down upon him. “May I interest you in a drink or something to eat perhaps?”

Korrath’s only response was to jab the cane into Shlep’s stomach bending him over. “That’s for the error on your quarterly report.” Korrath tapped a small button near his forefinger three times. The cane began to hum as he jammed it into Shlep’s ribs. The Ferengi cried out in pain as an electrical discharge travelled throughout his body, making his ears ring. He dropped to his knees and cowered. “That’s for trying to run and making me chase you.” Korrath tapped the control three more times and the cane began to hum even louder. He adjusted the brace that wrapped around his leg and squatted beside Shlep. He waved the glowing tip of his pain stick in front of Shlep’s face. “This is the agonize setting, a few seconds is all it takes. However, I hear that it can disintegrate a person if held for more than thirty seconds. I’ve always wanted to try it out.”
Shlep began to whimper and cry. “I’ll give you whatever you want. Just don’t hurt me anymore.”

Korrath brought the pain stick closer to Shlep’s face. He turned off the agonizer and laughed. The undamaged portion of his face formed a horrible half smile. “Good. Now, why don’t you show me your cargo manifest?” Korrath used the agonizer to return to his feet.

Relieved that Korrath had turned off the agonizer, Shlep crawled away from Korrath before getting up. “It’s in my office. If you’ll come with me, I’m sure we can arrive at some kind of arrangement.” Korrath slapped Shlep on the back and nearly sent him stumbling to the ground.

Moments later, Korrath was seated in Shlep’s chair, feet on his desk, the agonizer lying across his lap, a drink in one hand, and the cargo manifest in the other. Shlep paced nervously around the office, until Korrath finished his beverage and demanded another. He wiped the leakage that collected in his beard from the lifeless side of his mouth. Taking the beverage from Shlep, he sipped it while examining the records.
“What’s this?” Korrath replied as he set his feet down and sat up. “It’s says that you’ve got 500,000 units of assorted Lobi crystals. I’ve got to see that.” He rose to his feet and came around the desk.

“Ah … About the crystals, Korrath …” Shlep began.

“I don’t want to hear your excuses. Take me to the crystals. Now!”

“Alright,” Shlep replied reluctantly and led Korrath out of the office, across the small Ferengi Bridge, and into the primary cargo bay. They approached a cargo loader with a large container on it. Shlep entered a three digit security code and unlocked the box of lobi crystals. Korrath pushed him aside to see the glimmering, shimmering stones. He reached into scooped a handful and allowed the crystals to slip through his fingers back into the container. Korrath’s hideous half smile returned in all of its horrors, when the turned back to Shlep and said, “You know, I was wrong. There is something I can do for you. And, it’ll just cost you this container of Lobi crystals.”

“Korrath, they’re not—“

“Quiet you miserable wretch. I’m taking this container and that’s the end of it. That is unless you want to find out exactly what the Agonizer setting can do.”

“Fine. Take the crystals. Just get off my ship, so we can deliver the rest of our cargo.”

An expression of demented amusement contorted his face as he laughed. “I find your impertinence amusing. I’m in a much better mood now, and I will forgive you this trespass this time. However, next time I hail, I suggest you have the common courtesy of responding. I may not be as easily amused.”

After the container was loaded onto his ship, Korrath and his security teams left the Ferengi vessel. The hatch sealed behind them. Shlep and his men stood starring at the hatch unsure of what just had occurred. The clerk approached Shlep and asked, “Wasn’t that the container of imitation lobi crystals that we were delivering to the artisan colony on Dramus II?”

Shlep didn’t look at the young clerk. He simply said, “It sure was.” The sound of the tractor beams releasing echoed throughout the ship. He turned around and began barking orders to his crew. “Let’s get out of here before he figures out what he’s got.”