“My what?” Ajshea declared.
In the same breath Tabatha also declared, “Excuse me Georgie but I haven’t agreed to anything.”
The two of them began protesting at Anthbek over each other. Tabatha continued in a toying mood to begin. “Money up front I always say.”
While Ajshea continued ranting, “This is a Starfleet mission. It cannot be compromised by being subcontracted to some dubious civilian cargo hauler.”
As she picked up on the accusation cast by Ajshea, Tabatha addressed the Vulcan, “I am not some dubious civilian cargo hauler. I am Tabatha Katherine Chase, the finest starship captain you are ever likely to meet.”
Ajshea was unimpressed with any such claims as she forged on with talking over the woman. “I resent a vital mission of extreme importance and my being farmed out to some rank amateur with a penchant for dressing ludicrously and scandalously. Perhaps she should look for gainful employment on Bazaar One!”
“Rank amateur! My ship is the fastest most well armed in the quadrant, it could turn circles around anything Starfleet has to offer. I made the Denobulan run in...”
“Shut it the both of you!” The two women stopped short at the loud bellow from the Commander. The silence lasted only a moment before they started speaking again.
“Bazaar One!” She looked for an instant offended before turning on Jorge. “You were visiting Lilli’s again Georgie.”
Ajshea tried to score one more point. “I am mistaken. Apparently, Bazaar One is for more discerning customers.”
“Oh psst Georgie.” Tabatha announced. “I kinda like ears here. She’s feisty. I like feisty.”
Gaining her approval disgusted the Vulcan. “I like professionalism, a degree of decorum and someone who exudes authority.”
Before Tabatha could continue the tit for tat, Jorge interjected, “I don’t give a damn. I need to get you off my station as soon as! As for you Tabatha – don’t call me Georgie. You know I hate it.”
“Yes, but you don’t say that when you introduce yourself, so how is a person to know.” She winked in turn at him and then at Ajshea. “Anyway, her protests are all mute until such time as you can convince me of whatever your harebrained proposition is. Money talks after all.”
“I do not believe someone motivated by profit is going to be of use to our mission.”
At this, the quiet Oses spoke up. “I must profess Commander Anthbek that I am uncertain that is a viable option. The mission itself is quite likely perilous and open ended, requiring a long term commitment and investment that will require a dedicated and purposeful crew. Meaning no offence to Miss Chase.”
“That’s right, I’m not married.” She patted his posterior and ran her fingers through his slick jet black hair. “Though he makes a point about our deal Jorge, the danger and peril not so much an issue, in fact it kinda excites me. But the open ended nature makes it sound like an ongoing contractual affair. Which could become a bit of a bore. So, I think I might pass up on this one. See ya!” She wagged her fingers as she started leaving the room.
“Tabatha! Their mission is to find the Spawn.”
She stopped at the doorway. She turned slowly. Shocked and incredulous at what the Commander had proclaimed. The playful tone in her voice was dropped. Instead her voice was grave. “Are you serious? You intend to simply go off looking for them! What? Do you all think it some sort of safari hunt deal? Let’s jaunt about for a bit and hope we trip over one of them.”
“Let me explain the particulars to you. Alone. If you will excuse me.” He bid Ajshea and Oses to leave the office. Ajshea wanted to protest but Oses firmly led her out into the general gallery area that looked down to a level below wherein the lay the hub of Jericho’s station controls.
The curving gallery corridor was lined with other offices and a conference room with a number of stairs leading down into the circular command hub. At one time it was cool, glass lined and light. Now it was a grimy run down station centre with other priorities than the aesthetics of its interior.
At the doors to the Office there were a number of torn upholstered seats for visitors. It seemed that Tabatha Chase was not alone. Both Ajshea and Braham looked at the motley gathering before them. A mouselike creature that stood at waist level wore gun belts and a brown leather waistcoat along with a grimy pilot leathercap with holes for his large mouselike ears. Neither Ajshea nor Braham had seen a Weelom in person before and it was a startling sight to take in as the mouse paced the corridor in a foul mood speaking animatedly with another crewmate.
The Reptilian Xindi looked bored at the expositions of his miniature friend, his countenance worn thin. “Nesqhuim! Shut your trap before I do it for you.”
The mouse retorted angrily in a high pitched squeak as he jumped up onto a seat to gain a better height on the Reptilian. He pointed angrily with his hand and his tail, which was wrapped around a sandwich of some kind. “Derga it is alright for you! I am offended! Do they not know that I am ... oh hello!” He bowed in the direction of Ajshea and Braham. He then brought his tail up to his mouth and nibbled on the sandwich.
Derga stood against the wall with his arms folded. “You our potential clients?”
Braham inclined his head. “It would seem so.”
“There has been no deal made.” Ajshea pointed out.
“I am Braham Oses. You all work with Captain Chase.” He pointed in the direction of a third person shuffling along at the end wall engrossed in his thoughts.
Nesqhuim jumped off the seat and extended a hand by way of introduction. “May I introduce to you our engineer, Ellioh Hex.”
Oses approached the daydreaming Trill warily as he talked to himself absorbed in his own ramblings. “Pleased to meet you Mr Hex.”
The Trill came to, startled as if only now becoming aware that the corridor was filled with others. He extended a hand to the proffered and shook it effusively. His smile was wide and mad looking with the ebullient joy of making contact with another being. “Hex. Em ... ah ... yes ... Ellioh ... Ellioh Hex, yes Ellioh that would be it. Sometimes I forget. Never the minding. Heh. Did Tabatha enquire about the equipment I require?”
Nesqhuim shrugged and smiled benignly. “He’s a little ... batty.”
The Weelom explained good heartedly, “Well he has lived for almost nine hundred years. Old age has to catch up at some point.”
Braham seemed a little troubled by this and pressed further. “In what manner?”
A new voice volunteered the truth not. “Sometimes Hex forgets that he is Ellioh. He gets lost in his memories and past lives. However, with that said, when he is in the here and now he is like an almighty genius with the engines.”
“Oh.” He turned to look at the new figure. She was a Caitian of medium height. She came up to them and gave Nesqhuim a little rub under his chin with her claw. He squirmed at the gesture and puffed up indignantly however clearly enjoyed the attention. Ajshea refrained from making mention of a cat and a mouse.
“I’m Meetra Ros, gunner on the Effervescent Cascade.”
“That is the name of your ship?” Ajshea asked appalled.
Aggrieved Nesqhuim jumped back up onto a chair and faced the Vulcan. “And what of it? The Effy is renowned for its speed and agility! I would not deign to squander my skills on anything less.”
Ignoring the disturbance between Ajshea and Nesqhium, Oses asked of Meetra, “How often do his episodes interfere with his ability to do his job?” He hoped that Ajshea did not overhear the particulars. He also hoped the answer would be reassuring.
“Rarely in a crunch situation.” She tried to reassure. “Rarely.”
Suddenly the klaxons on the station rang out and the lights dipped to a flashing red hue. Dale Garrow bounded up the stairs from the command hub to the parting doors of the commander’s office. “Commander, perimeter sensors have detected the arrival of a Romulan scout ship!”
“This is Federation territory.” Ajshea informed them all.
At the doorway looking at the visage of the Romulan scout on the viewscreen with a concerned grim on his face, Anthbek informed her, “And those cannon phasers are a passport for him to travel where he wants to.”
“This is ridiculous.”
“This is your fault! No doubt someone has decided to cash in the reward for your Vulcan head. They’ve come for you.”
“I will not permit it.”
“You don’t have a say in the matter.” Tabatha Chase was gathering her people and steering them away from the gathering. “And just where do you think you are going?”
She smiled playfully. “It’s obvious that you have your hands full here Georgie. I’ll leave you in peace and be on my way. Sorry I couldn’t be of any assistance. Must dash. Important business to attend to.”
“What you mean is, that there is a new Romulan warrant for your arrest and you want to sneak off before they register your presence. No ball Tabatha.”
“It was all a misunderstanding! Unpaid fines, speeding tickets and a legitimate transaction they’ve misconstrued as theft.” Shrugging her shoulders she played it innocently. “Bye now!”
“I don’t think so Tabatha.”
“You’re hardly going to hand me over to the Romulans. Like she said, this is the jurisdiction of the Federation-Alliance. They cannot arrest me.”
“Again – those cannon phasers make for a compelling argument. Unless ...”
“Unless what?” She asked, hands on hip.
Ajshea cut in. “I demand you safeguard me in order that I can undertake my mission.”
“Unless you agree to the terms of the proposition and take these people on their way and help them to complete their mission.”
“Instead of surrendering myself you want me to choose suicide instead.”
Dale intervened. “Scout is within weapons range. It is transmitting the standard seeker message.”
“The Romulan Star Empire seeks retribution and justice for the war crimes perpetuated by the Vulcan people. Surrender all Vulcanoids to our military or face summary punishment for obstruction of justice.”
“Their mission is vital.” Anthbek declared over the repeating message. “I chose you Chase because you are the only person I know who can carry them all the way and bring them back. We need to know if the Spawn are mustering their strength and determine a means to stop them that does not require the same final solution as last time.”
“You expect me to agree to take the Effy and my crew into the Border Lands in search of monsters. It’s suicide I tell you Jorga.”
“Scout is on approach to the station. It is beginning sensor sweeps.”
“Put the shields up to try and buy us a little time and interference.” He looked at Tabatha and Ajshea. “I know this is not what either of you wants but trust me when I tell you that it is your only option. It is also the best option. Believe it or not you offer each other the best chance for survival.”
“Let me get back to my ship and I can try and make a run for it Georgie.”
“I’ll transport you there but only if you agree to take them with you.”
“Damnation!” She stomped her foot. She gave her fellow crew a questioning look. Nesqhium squeaked while Meetra shrugged. Hex was lost to his thoughts but Derga nodded slightly. The alternative was better than facing a Romulan prison sentence. “Ok, ok, ok. I agree. Now let us go.”
Dale tried to point out, “But the Romulans will know we helped them. As it is they’re demanding we lower shields.”
“Not to worry Dale. We will tell the Romulans that Tabatha took hostages and we had no option. Get your gear together Garrow.”
“Taking a Vulcan and a Cardassian hostage won’t carry much clout with the Romulans. Even taking you will stretch their understanding. However, it’s a Starfleet mission.”
“Oh goodie. A parting gift. You are too kind.”
Anthbek corrected her. “I need someone I trust along with them. Just so Tabatha doesn’t decide to dump them on the next available rock. Sorry son. This could be dangerous but the fate of us all depends on the mission’s success.” Nodding his head he pelted towards a storage cupboard and started filling a rucksack.
Ajshea gathered her own equipment cases. “Are you sure about this? The mission is too important.”
“I am.” He intoned solemnly. “Beam them to the Effy.”
Tabatha stood alongside Ajshea in preparation for the transportation. The pensive Vulcan looked appalled at her presence. “Cheer up ears. It’s going to be an adventure.”
“Whatever you say ... Tabby.”
* * *