Obsidian Command

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A New Contract

Posted on 07 May 2023 @ 9:07am by Brek - Timeless Treasures Art Gallery

Mission: M3 - Into the Deep
Location: O.C. Station - Promenade
Timeline: MD11 - Morning
1735 words - 3.5 OF Standard Post Measure

Brek, who had spent too many hours last night studying the life of his grandfather (fourth husband of his grandmother) had woken up with an odd craving for Ferengi food. It had never happened before. In fact, more often than not, he would emerge from a nightmare, in the middle of the night, with images of being trapped in the Tower of Commerce, unable to leave his homeworld or its food. Today though, he had this urge to eat a plate of fried spider legs. His grandfather had loved them (his parents had owned a chain of restaurants) and now his brain was screaming for this delicacy.

The best way to get rid of a yearning was to give in to it. So he went to the promenade to search for this specific dish. In many cases, the answer to his query was no, or its variant: why don’t you replicate any dish you want in your quarters? What a stupid answer. If he was in a mood to eat food in a restaurant, obviously he wasn’t inclined to eat all alone in his quarters. Anyway, he responded to every impatient rebuke with a polite smile and he moved on to the next eatery.

It took him a full hour to find a place exotic enough to offer him what he wanted. The restaurant had a nice name: Fortune Palace, and although the décor was a little too bright for his taste: vibrant red everywhere (floor, tablecloths and napkins, chairs and even the staff’s uniform) he felt comfortable.

There were some 10 people eating in the restaurant and the staff was very polite. They were the type of Eastern Terrans who like to produce a little bow after every phrase they say. He was told that the dish he wanted is considered as street food (read food for the poor), and that in days of old, their country folks had taken to eating spiders because the population was starving. Then the unthinkable happened: tourists took a liking to spider meat so it stayed on the menu.

“The situation is very different on Ferenginar,” Brek, a little irked, told the waiter. The man was as small as him, but thanks to his hair, styled in an improbable way, as if frozen on top of his head by a sudden gust of wind, he looked taller than him. “We have whole chains of restaurants dedicated to selling the best spider food in the universe.”

“This I can believe,” the waiter said with a little bow. “Although this is not Ferenginar, our food is most perfect. Unfortunately, the spider legs will have to be replicated, this cannot be helped. But the rice and vegetables will be fresh and organic.”

Brek thanked him, and it got him to wonder: would there be edible spiders on Obsidian? The planet’s climate certainly seemed favourable to the breeding of large spiders. Food for thoughts...

His meal arrived ten minutes later: an impressive stack of spider legs, black and crispy. The side dish was a generous curry with fresh coconut milk, spices and would you believe it: delicious looking snails on top. This was accompanied with the drink he had selected: iced coffee.

The Ferengi was enjoying his meal, feeling pretty much like a king, when two dark silhouettes loomed in and sat in front of him. There were, nearby, two other booths that weren’t occupied, but they had to invade his private space. This annoyed him, and he slammed his fork on the table. The fact that the invaders were none other than Senator Thitur and his unpleasant wife did nothing to improve his mood. Was there truly no peace to be had from these two?!

“I’m not available for business right now,” he told them bluntly

“A Ferengi is always open to profitable ideas,” Thitur replied. The senator looked his usual self, haughty and ancient, with the addition today, of a little smirk.

“You look amused, Senator,” Brek commented. “I fail to see why. Eating good food is a serious business, for which I don’t need a close audience.”

“It makes me wonder, Mr Brek,” Thitur went on. “Those black things that you are eating, what do they taste like?”

Brek took a spider leg and snapped it in two. “If you are familiar with Terran food, it tastes like fried pork. And no, you cannot have any of them.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Thitur said, his little smirk still on his lips. “My dear Mr Brek, we have an offer to make. You see, you have passed the test we surreptitiously imposed on you yesterday. Most Ferengi would have taken the bait and followed me. You didn’t. I’m impressed by your self-discipline.”

Brek winced. The way things were going, the unpalatable couple would manage to ruin his appetite. Yet when he spoke, he kept his calm. “I’m not impressed by your sarcasm towards my species, Senator. Whatever you have to sell, don’t count me in.”

A new waiter, with another type of bouffant hair, stopped at their table to see what the Romulans wanted to eat or drink. He left seconds later, disappointed with, for sole order, two lemon teas.

“Come now, Mr Brek,” the wife said softly, placing her hand on top of that of her husband, as if to pacify him. “I know you are dying with curiosity as to the reason for our presence here.”

“You couldn't be more wrong. Could you please leave me alone?” Brek observed them. Two old Romulans who seemed to be starving for trouble. Could it be that their lives had become so tedious that they were prepared to do anything for a bit of action? Had they convinced themselves that whenever you are willing to gamble your safety, a greedy Ferengi makes an ideal partner?

“This will not be possible,” Thitur said gravely. “You see, Mr Brek. We appreciate your company.”

“I would even go as far as saying that we like you, Mr Brek,” the wife added.

“Is that so?” Brek asked, getting more suspicious. He made a pause as the lemon teas were served, and then he resumed: “What you mean is that you ‘like’ me enough to bring trouble to my doorstep.” He took a sip of iced coffee and he chuckled. “You see me as the perfect errand boy, who will do your bidding and then pick up the tab when things get too hot. You’ll have to find yourself a Ferengi who’s more desperate than I am.”

“My dear Brek. What an imagination you have. If there is desperation, it is solely on our side,” the senator added. He produced a little sight and went on. “I’m afraid we have left a sordid impression on you. Let me enlighten you...”

What followed was a thirty minute sob story, told while Brek continued to eat his food. He hated those tales. They were all the same: people painted themselves in a poor light to instil sympathy and to force your hand into helping them. Even when payment was generous, the plot was always embarrassing. In the case of Thitur and his not-delicious wife it turned out that, some twenty years ago, they had lost all contact with their only son. A chap who, in their eyes, had wandered from the true path by falling in love with a Terran woman. The parents had intervened, the young woman had been killed in a shuttle accident. The son, both furious and dejected, had severed all connections with his family. The End.

“We thought we were doing the right thing,” Thitur said, as if this would change anything to the sorry tale. “That Juru would only ruin his life by dating a foreigner. As things happened, we ruined his life by taking action.”

Brek, whose suspicion had morphed into disbelief, stared once more at the two Romulans. Sure he had a heart and even without the prospect of latinum he could be convinced to help people. But usually it required a fair amount of good vibes between him and his interlocutors. Here there was none. “I hope you are not mistaking me for a counsellor. Pointers and ideas, I can provide none of them.”

“We know. You have other qualities, and we would reward you generously for those, Mr Brek,” the wife added, almost speaking in a lively way. “All you’d have to do is to find our son, on our behalf, without saying who you work for, and tell us how he is faring. You wouldn’t even have to tell us where Juru lives. Although a picture or two would be much appreciated.”

“We don’t intend to disrupt his life. We only want to make sure he is alright.” Thitur added. “Our son would never suspect us of hiring a Ferengi for this task. This is why you make a perfect candidate.” He placed a Romulan PaDD on the table and slid it towards Brek. “Here, we took the liberty to draft a contract. It is hugely in your favour.”

Brek, who feared that the Senator had only fed him lies, didn’t want to get involved, so he was surprised when he heard himself say: “I would have to read it, of course, with great care.”

“As you should. Do not worry. I took every precaution. The document includes the birth certificate of our son; a list of his credentials, and a clause which insists that we are never to disrupt his life.” Thitur said as his wife squeezed his hand.

“Hmmm... You’ve certainly done your homework,” Brek mused as he consulted the first few pages of the contract. There was nothing he disliked about the terms he saw, and yet... “This said, a contract, even a tight one, can easily be broken. Legally binding and words of honour, they don’t amount to much when people have a secret agenda.”

“I’m too old for many things now, and this includes the making of mistakes." Thitur said. "Please, take your time to review this contract. A few days, weeks or even months aren’t going to change anything in the picture. Have a good day, Mr Brek.”

Thitur got up, his wife imitated him, and they left. Their tea, now cold, remained untouched, and unpaid.


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