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Log Entry: Star Date 46256.8 Personal log entered into official station log.
There was a brief external shot of a fighter/patrol ship sitting on a small rock in empty space on the screen.
"Personal log, Lieutenant Junior Grade Jamah Haunson. Well, I made it to the planetoid." The screen showed a profile of the officer as he talked. "OK, let me start at the beginning."
The next view showed an animated display of what happened as Jamah narrated.
His ship had been on routine patrol when it came upon a group of alien ships in close formation.
"I hailed them and announced my presence as a Star Fleet patrol ship. Since they were running without transponders I raised my shields and armed my weapons." He snorted into the microphone. "It was a good thing too. They fired on me immediately. I returned fire and decided I didn't like the four to one odds and turned hard and fast to run. They kept firing."
The animation showed his ship in full flight with three of the enemy coming on hard.
"I called for help and MarcTall said he was on his way, but there was no way he'd get to me before they did." The view changed back to him. "They shot me up pretty good. I managed to keep just enough shields up to keep the ship together and ducked into an asteroid field for a few minutes. But they sniffed me out. It bought me enough time that MarcTall got here and with two ships we ran them off."
The voice changed to the Vulcan's overly sedate tones. "Lieutenant Haunson's ship was severely damaged in the unprovoked attack. He landed on a stable planetoid and awaited pickup. I attempted to follow the attacker's trail to learn exactly who or what they were." He paused. "Our scans of their ships during the attack revealed the ships to be a hybrid Cardassian design with strong elements from several other cultures. There is no record of anything like it in the files on the base. The data has been transmitted to Fleet Command for analysis and identification.
The screen showed a moving map depicting Ensign MarcTall's pursuit of the attackers. From a discreet distance he observed them rendezvousing with a much larger ship of unmistakable design. He saw enough to realize two things, the attackers were in cahoots with them, and that if he was seen he was in serious trouble. The ensign logically evaluated the situation carefully and decided the best course of action was a hasty retreat.
Lieutenant JG Hauson sat patiently in his small ship on the rock in space and waited. Without atmosphere or even daylight he had nothing to do but watch other smaller rocks float past and wonder how much ribbing he was going to get once he got back to base.
Lieutenant Welden arrived in the fighter support runabout. Jamah got his crippled bird off the planetoid and she towed him back home. The series of images danced across the screen, then it went blank for a second to light up again with the command office on the base.
"Ferringi." Commander Straider said slowly. Almost savoring the word. "I love dealing with them." The sarcasm dripped from every syllable. "OK, so have we figured out who these things belong to?" He pointed to the display showing the alien fighters.
MarcTall shook his head. "No sir. And according to Star Fleet they are a completely new design. Although their weaponry is common enough. They used a rather outmoded particle pulse cannon based on a Cardassian design. Except its output has been increased somewhat, it was still defeated by our shields, only their advantage in numbers and surprise proved overwhelming. When faced with two of our ships, they fled."
The young Vulcan nodded, "I believe a private operator has begun operations in this area dealing in the black market between certain elements on Lattor and the Ferringi."
The Commander shook his head. "I've never seen anything on Lattor like these fighters. I don't even think they have the capability of producing them."
"They do not have to produce them, all they have to do is refuel them."
Commander Straider had a routine he went into when he was thinking hard. He would chew the inside of his lip and stare at a small painting on the wall of the sunrise over the sea on Riza. The others kept silent and let him think. Finally he took a deep breath, his signal that he had reached a conclusion.
"Well?" Lieutenant Welden said.
"A couple of you will have to go chat with our friends on Lattor. See if you can pick up any nice juicy rumors. We can't approach them officially unless we have a good reason."
"We got a few good shots at them, at least a couple of their ships are going to need repair. We know where the bases that can do that kind of thing are." Jamah said with hope.
"If it's in a private cave in the middle of a mist forest, how are you going to justify waltzing in there wanting to shake them down?"
"It is clear we must pursue this most diplomatically." MarcTall said.
"Which is why you and Lieutenant Welden are going down there. You leave as soon as possible."
Welden smiled and picked up a datapad with the info on it. The screen changed to a close-up of her grinning about something for a second.
Lieutenant Hauson pouted for a minute, but he soon let it go as the commander turned his way. "Run through the analysis of those ships and see if you can get some info on where those weapons were made or installed. Since they're not straight Cardassian issue, somebody on our side is either building or retrofitting them." Then Straider looked at the last officer in the crowded room. "See if you can get some sort of denial out of the Ferringi Trade Ministry. Just express concern over their ship being in this area without filing a flight plan or something."
"Should I express concern for their safety since there are outlaw elements at work in the area?" Chief Pang said with a smile, when he smiled his Oriental features were extremely overstated.
The commander smiled. "Excellent idea."
The view changed to the departure of a runabout from the station.
There was another shot of the exterior of the station then the picture changed to a view of a landing area on Lattor.
The runabout landed and in a minute the two Star Fleet personnel stepped out.
They were met by an official delegation from the planet's off world relations office.
The view changed to a personal camera worn by Ensign MarcTall. They got into an antigravity vehicle and traveled through the new development around the spaceport into the old city.
"It's been some time since you've been here Lieutenant." The Lattorian diplomat said.
"Too long." She replied.
"I am Ru-Kalota, minister to the Federation Counsel." He bowed slightly to the Vulcan. "How is your first impression of our little planet Ensign MarcTall?"
"Vulcan's reserve judgment until there is a concrete basis for it. First impressions are often misleading and based on an emotional response."
The diplomat looked at him, and into the camera, he blinked several times, the Lattorian equivalent of nodding. "Well then, based on the evidence, what do you think so far?"
MarcTall looked around. "It seems like a nice enough place."
Ru-Kalota blinked again.
The vehicle stopped inside the reception area, a higher-ranking diplomat greeted them and escorted them into the Federation Consulate's office.
"We heard about your encounter with rouge elements, I hope no one was injured." The quasi-Human Consul said. The Lattorian blinked at them. The Consul continued. "My dispatch said the there was some evidence to link these unknown fighters to a Lattor mining outpost."
"The evidence is rather circumstantial. We traced their course to where Lieutenant Haunson met them as coming from this system."
"This is a rather large system. Besides the three inhabited planets. There are mining outposts and squatters on twenty or more bodies that we know of and have contact with, maybe again that number if you count the 'unofficial settlements' and prospectors camps and the like." The diplomat said in defense of his people.
"We know sir. Which is why we ask the assistance of the Lattor Government in investigating this matter." Lieutenant Welden said with her most charming smile.
Ru-Kalota blinked several times. "We will do everything we can to aid your investigation."
MarcTall nodded and excused himself to go answer his communicator, as he talked the view showed the others standing in a semi-circle making small talk.
The Vulcan rejoined the others. He waited for their attention. "Mr. Tu-Huljin would like to see me about the commander's order."
The Lattorian blinked rapidly, "Commander Straider enjoys Fletin Sausages?"
Lieutenant Welden saved MarcTall from trying to answer without saying either too much or lying. "He keeps them for special dinners on the station."
"You should sample the goods to see if it meets his expectations." MarcTall said with what would almost be a smile if you didn't know him better.
The lieutenant made a bitter face. The diplomat blinked slowly, "You don't appreciate the sausages?"
"They're all right." She said.
In a few minutes the Star Fleet officers left and walked swiftly to the small clean shop where the commander's order was being filled.
As the purveyor of the best spice sausages in the city, and some would say on the planet, Tu-Huljin's shop was busy. But the gentleman himself was not. When MarcTall and Lt. Welden walked in, the video showed him sitting on one of the Lottorian's favorite tall narrow style of stools apparently ignoring most of the activity in the shop around him. He made a face straining expression that told them he was trying to smile as a greeting, then he blinked at them and extended his hand.
"Ahh, Vulcan! You must be Mark Tall. And Lieutenant Welden! My most favorite Human." He went through a variety of greeting rituals, most of them from races scattered across half of the Federation.
Several of the clients looked at them and blinked. MarcTall nodded to them. "Yes. We are here to discuss the Commander's package."
"Ahhh, right to business with Vulcans. Very good." He led them to a small very neat office with several of the tall stools sitting in a circle in it.
He waited wordlessly inside the door until they got on a stool, MarcTall with obvious unease about it, then he hopped up on one and blinked at them with his face straining going full blast. "Now."
"Is this room secure from eavesdropping?" MarcTall said with great calm.
Tu-Huljin looked at him, then at the lieutenant. She nodded. He blinked.
The sausage man got up and went to his desk, scarcely more than a small flat platform on a stick in front of yet another stool. He tapped the platform, then spoke a few words, and tapped it some more. A brief and low keyed but noticeable tone filled the room. It passed. "We are now alone." He said.
"Ferringi." Lieutenant Welden said.
"They have been here." He blinked. "But they don't like sausages. I couldn't help them."
"They know that if anything is going on you'd know about it."
"My fame is my curse. I am watched. By everyone. Even by you."
MarcTall nodded. "Then why do you stay in business?"
"I have good sausages."
"So who did you send the Ferringi to?" MarcTall asked.
"A friend of a friend."
"Does this friend deal in off world fighters."
"How 'off world'?" Tu-Huljin said without blinking.
"But..." MarcTall said looking at him with piercing eyes.
The sausage man blinked. "I know somebody that might know somebody..."
"Just the name and location."
Tu-Huljin blinked and strained his face. "Koi."
"That is not a Lattorian name for either a person or a place."
"He's not Lattorian. And before you ask, I don't know what he is."
"Where is he?"
"The sulfur moon?" Lieutenant Welden asked, he blinked and confirmed it.
"I was told the mines there were abandoned and the moon condemned for habitation." MarcTall said after searching his memory for the moon.
"It was. Then Koi moved in. His business associates don't like crowds."
Lieutenant Welden. "So we've seen. OK." She nodded to him.
"Now we should get the commander's order and go." MarcTall said.
The Lattorian got up and touched his controls once again. The tone filled the room for a second then receded. A younger Lattorian almost ran into the room with two large packages. The Vulcan made an involuntary face at it.
"That smell." He managed to say after gasping and putting his hand over his nose.
Lieutenant Welden sniffed the air. "I don't smell anything."
The Vulcan's face became granite. "I do."
"Re-wrap them for our Vulcan friend." Tu-Huljin said to the assistant.
When the packages came back the Vulcan nodded, "Much better."
They left and went straight back to the shuttle. Once inside they put the sausages in a statis chamber to hold them for the trip back.
MarcTall scanned the shuttle for unwanted ears. He was rather disappointed there were none.
"I do not believe anything will be found on Balkon." MarcTall said as they lifted off.
Lieutenant Welden agreed. "But I want to scan it anyway. We'll see if the name Koi means anything to the commander."
In a few minutes Commander Straider was laughing at the name. "It's not a he, it's a ship. An old convoy vessel, give me a minute to refresh my memory."
They sat about scanning the area around Pratol one of Lattor's outlying colony planets for the ancient radiation-leaking tramp frieghter, Koi. They found it without much trouble. It was unmanned, in a wide orbit around one of the planet's furthest out moons.
"Somebody was here recently." MarcTall said scanning the dilapidated ship's docking ports. "And look at this."
Lieutenant Welden glanced at the display. "Therecite. Lots of it."
"Twenty seven thousand kilos. In neat bundles."
"That shouldn't be on that tub. That's a fortune in raw crystals."
"I would venture that whoever just left picked up something in exchange for the Therecite. Most likely they will not be happy to see a Star Fleet shuttle nearby when they come to retrieve their goods."
"Mask our trail, make it look like radiation from the ship, let's go hide and wait." She said laying in a course to take them to the far magnetic pole of the moon.
They discussed it with the commander and waited.
It wasn't long. One of the ships that had fired on Jamah showed up escorting a small bulk transfer shuttle which docked with the Koi. In about an hour they left on a 'great circle' course to the other side of the system.
"I've got their signature. We can stay well back from them." MarcTall said.
The course led them to a cluster of asteroids far from the inhabited inner planets.
"Scan for sulfur." She said. The Vulcan looked at her. "Just a hunch."
"When faced with infinite possibilities, playing a hunch is a logical choice." He did the scan. "I have four bodies with high concentrations of sulfur. One of those is showing artificial energy sources."
"Send its coordinates to the commander, I don't feel like walking into a nest of snakes."
"Neither do I given these snakes' penchant for firing on us."
"Given the information from our intelligence mission to Lattor, Star Fleet set up covert surveillance on the sulfur asteroid they discovered. In time, two Ferringi Assault Traders were captured and the crews charged with dealing in arms and stolen technology. After the raid, our problems with privateers firing on our patrols ceased for a time. Commander Straider out."
Continued in: The Station Part 3
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