Chapter 2, part 1
Day 1, 0500 hours
Gul Messek was watching the Furillian raid on strip mine 6-c from his ship's sensor room. He was sat down watching a screen, while four other officers were manning their stations. His Galor class type B ship was not only equipped with the best weapons the Cardassian Union could offer, but it also contained some very advanced sensors and monitoring equipment.
Messek had been captain of this ship for over twenty years, and he had seen it change; different crews and of course the retrofitting after the Elim military forms of 2379. He was on a mission sent directly from president Garak to patrol the Furillian star system, and to arm those of the Furillian populace that there were desperate enough to carry out raids and sabotage the strip mine's facilities. Right now the ship was maintaining a geostationary orbit and covertly watching events on Furillia's biggest continent.
As he watched the raid unravel, Messek had to admire the bravery of the Furillians. For a once peaceful and ecological-loving people, they knew how to fight. The first few minutes of the raid were eventful, there were twelve explosions in a short space of time, and from the three view types displayed on the screen, the infrared view really brought out the magnitude of the explosions.
Aside from infra red, there was natural light and of course zeda waves. Whatever the zeda waves touched, there was a faint but distinct radiation signature generated by every atom and molecule. Taking the zeda readings back to the ship's computer, and it produced a spectacular see-through view of the entire ore-facility.
Messek tapped in a few commands and the camera switched to the zeda view and then zoomed in on the pumping station. This was the main objective of the raid, though Messek doubted that the rebels would be able to successfully plant charges in that building. There were three people inside, and they showed as green and yellow blobs. One of them was at the blue/grey coloured pumping valve, he seemed to be bent down but with the bird's eye angle it was hard to tell.
The other two Furillians were defending the first Furillian, streaks of orange flew across the screen. Messek was surprised by how disciplined the Furillians were, they rigidly kept position behind cover. Then one of the Furillians ran out, and from this angle Messek couldn't believe the stupidity of that action, very soon the Furillian was shot down. The Furillian defending the explosives carrier then ran out, Messek expected him to be shot, but it seemed the Furillian was lucky as he successfully flanked five guards and killed them, before bringing his comrade behind cover.
It seemed the Furillian had totally forgotten about protecting the man planting the explosives. After a minute, the Furillian left his fallen comrade and ran over to the other Furillian. Messek knew exactly how long it took to plant liquid polysomian explosives, which was about two minutes, but it seemed the Furillian was using his own home-made detonator instead, this explained why he was taking so long.
In a strange way, watching the raid in such close detail was highly gripping for Messek, though he retained his professional objectivity by studying the Furillian's battle strategies. For many months Messek had been giving out tactics and strategies for the Furillians responsible for planning these raids. At least with each raid the Furillians were slowly improving, but so was the security at the strip mines.
When the Furillians started retreating over the dam, Messek had seen enough and he returned to his office. He would be filing a report to the Cardassian ministry of defence about the raids the Furillians had carried out last month. Though Messek had no love for Garak and his polices, he had to admit that Garak was using one very devious strategy for taking over the Furillian star system.
The whole purpose of the raids was to make life for RH Mining as difficult as possible. Eventually RH Mining would ask for Starfleet to protect their operations, and the devious part of Garak's strategy was that it relied upon Starfleet enforcing it's laws and the Prime Directive. When Starfleet found out about the blatant ecological abuses that RH Mining had carried out, Starfleet would quickly liquidate the entire company and close the strip mines.
With the Federation gone from Furillia, it would leave just the Ferengi and the Cardassians. Of course the Ferengi wouldn't stay in the Furillian star system for long, as without their Federation proxies to mine the ore, there would be no profit from the operation.
Finally with the Ferengi out of the way, the Cardassians would swoop in and take over the strip mines. And when that day came, Messek's assignment would finally end. It was a day that Messek constantly dreamed of, there would be no more talking to those Furillian simpletons; he could not understand the Furillian craze for nature. Indeed they were a backward people, and they reminded him of the Bajorans.
Messek constrained his hope and optimism when he returned to his office. Writing up the report removed Messek from his hopes and dreams very quickly.
Day 1, 1000 hours
Ron Harding was being giving a tour of a new asteroid mining station by the station's manager. What impressed Harding was the cheapness of asteroid mining, of course the returns weren't nearly as good as the strip mines on Furillia. But every little helped towards generating a profit. It was hard to generate a profit when the Ferengi took a cut of 85% from the minerals extracted. If it weren't for the rising prices in metals and minerals, Harding would have been out of business a long time ago.
However just this once, Harding could momentarily forget about the business and admire the views from the station of the asteroid it was built on. The tour then came to the communications relay which was situated at the top of the station. From the observation deck, Harding could see the entire mining operation stretched out before him.
At the base of the dull grey coloured station were wide pipes that came from various locations on the asteroid's surface and joined up as one single massive pipe. Inside flowed a molten mineral slush, slush was the only way to describe it as it had a bubbly and viscous nature to it. The asteroid itself was like any other, a dull brown rock, with craters, ridges and hollows.
Mining on an asteroid was a lot cheaper because of the near zero gravity, a one thousand tonne container carrying duranium ingots could be just pushed by a human. The metal slush in the pipes only needed a little pressure, and it was away, heading directly to the purification facility.
It was one of Harding's better business decisions to start mining on asteroids, his biggest mistake was asking the Ferengi to protect the strip mines on Furillia. Though of course what he was doing wasn't exactly legal, but it was an opportunity to make money.
Just when the station's manager was about to leave the observation deck, Harding was contacted by his secretary and personal assistant Celicia. “Sir,
” she said from a comm badge on his chest. “I’ve just received a communication from Mr Strart, the head of Depton Mining Inc, he says it is urgent.
“Understood, I’ll return to my office immediately, Harding out.”
He then addressed the station manager. “Unfortunately I must cut this tour short, I have urgent business elsewhere.”
In a hurry Harding proceeded to the station’s transporter bay. Inwardly he was dreading speaking to Strart, no doubt Strart had heard about the latest raid on Furillia, though as a well-connected Ferengi it was not surprising that Strart had found out. Strart was a short and pot-bellied Ferengi, his appetite was almost unquenchable but his thirst for profit eclipsed even that.
As Harding waited in the descending turbo lift, a terrible queasy feeling made his stomach churn. In some ways he was afraid of Strart because he owed to much to Strart. At any point Strart could leave Harding to the wolves, the wolves of bankruptcy and destitution.
Harding's only trump card was that Strart needed RH Mining to ensure that his money making operation was well greased. The turbo lift came to a halt, and Harding walked as quickly as possible to the transporter bay. When he walked inside there was a station worker manning the console, it seemed the worker was performing diagnostics of the transporter pad.
Harding walked over to the worker. “Beam me over to the primary orbital extraction plant above the Furillian surface.”
The worker nodded, and readied the transporter while Harding stepped onto the transporter pad. “Energise,” he said.
Shimmering blue and white light descended upon him, and he felt a bit fuzzy and the room disappeared, for a moment there was nothing but the lights. Then the image of the orbital extraction plant’s transporter room came into focus. A few seconds later and he had completely materialised.
He immediately stepped off the pad, while not even acknowledging the person standing by the transporter controls. Leaving the room, Harding took the shortest route to get to his office. This involved walking right through the ore purifications rooms: the storage bays and the smelting unit.
At least on this station he knew his way around, though he always prided himself on remembering the layout of every station RH Mining used. Walking along the storage bay was uncomfortable due to the sheer noise, he should have brought ear protection but he was in such a rush that a little tininess in his ears was something he could live with.
Upon entering the smelting unit, he walked by on a platform very close to the four furnaces. The heat was something like fifty degrees centigrade, he should have put on a protection suit but that would be a delay of at least ten minutes, and Strart was so impatient and virtually impossible to please. After two minutes of walking through such heat Harding was covered in sweat, his hair was wet and his clothes clung to his body.
After going through the door leading to the exit, Harding briefly thought about heading to the sonic shower room to clean himself up; he was dripping sweat all over his body. It was either presentability or punctuality, he chose the latter, fearful that if he delayed any further it would only serve to worsen Strart’s constantly dour and vindictive mood. Harding was so desperate to keep RH Mining running that Strart was exploiting him at every opportunity, and there was nothing Harding could do except to take the criticism and unfair treatment.
He walked down a corridor until he reached a turbolift. “Deck one,” he said to the computer.
Immediately the turbolift moved upwards, and Harding waited, he was so nervous he started fidgeting with his hands. When the doors opened he walked out, and proceeded along a plush looking corridor. It was surprisingly wide and there were pots containing plants and bushes.
In the habitat section of the station, there were numerous recreational facilities for the workers. This was a place where there families stayed and as such there had to be the proper facilities. A school, clinic, shopping area, holosuites, swimming pools and even a massive arboretum.
At the top deck was where the more privileged workers lived. It was also where Harding's office and quarters were located. Harding made a mental note to clean himself up in his quarters after his conversation with Strart. Being the chief executive of RH Mining, Harding had the biggest and most luxurious quarters, complete with a massive holovision set, an incredibly wide Jacuzzi and other expensive items.
After a minute walking he came to the door to his office. Upon entering the office, his secretary glanced up and her eyes widened in surprise by Harding's wet appearance.
“Your all wet sir! Shouldn’t you get yourself cleaned up?”
Harding shook his head. “You know Strart, he hates any delay on my part.”
Celicia looked like she was going to protest some more but she restrained herself, and returned to working on the laptop on her wooden desk.
Seeing Cecilia always brightened Harding's mood, today she was looking beautiful in that red office suit and skirt she was wearing. Of course Cecilia was more than his secretary, it got lonely working by himself in his office. Aside from sorting out paperwork and managing his schedule, Cecilia could also provide other ‘services’ when running the business took it's toll on Harding.…
When he sat down at his desk, he realised that his laptop was already activated, and on the screen he could see Strart’s irritated and impatient face. Though when Strart saw how sweaty and wet Harding looked, a nasty grin became etched on Strart’s face, the grin made Strart’s double chins bulge slightly more. “What happened Harding, did you and Celicia have sex in that Jacuzzi of yours again? Was that why you were delayed, because you had some unfinished business?”
Harding felt unbelievably embarrassed. “Leave Celicia out of this, I was delayed because I was inspecting a new asteroid mining station.”
The amused look quickly disappeared from Strart’s face. “Always remember the 56th rule of acquisition; pursue profit; women come later. Anyway I have heard from certain sources that there was another raid on a strip mine, would you care to enlighten me which mine was attacked?”
“It was strip mine 6-c, next to a large village called Viyara.”
The anger started to build on Strart’s face, a pulse was throbbing on one side of his wide and flabby neck. “This is starting to become very annoying; how badly did the attack disrupt operations?”
Here was the part that Harding was really dreading. “One of the main pressure values for pumping water was critically damaged, while the four others were compromised, it will take at least a month to repair. As such production will be down by about thirty percent.”
Strart’s nostrils flared in indignation and the pulse on his neck throbbed even harder. “Thirty percent!?!” he shouted. “How could it be so bad?”
“Vast quantities of water are required to cool down the molten duranium ore, and other minerals, after they have been purified. Mr Strart these attacks are only happening because security at the strip mines is quite frankly inadequate.”
Leaning forwards, Strart’s eyes were reduced to slits. “The security is more than sufficient. If you Harding had bothered to carry out greater maintenance of the strip mine's sensors, these Furillian attacks wouldn't be so serious!”
Harding nearly cringed at Strart’s anger and shouting, but he had to get his point through to Strart. “And you know full well that my company's budget is stretched to breaking point, if you were to provide additional funding for more-”
Strart slammed a pudgy hand onto his desk. “Not likely!” he hissed. “Your company haemorrhages money because of your 'ethical' obligations to look after your workers! Exploit them! Cut costs!”
Finally Harding felt enough anger to overcome his fear and finally stand up for himself. “This is a Federation company not a Ferengi consortium! I have a better idea, why don't I contact Starfleet and ask them to provide more sensors?”
He had been toying with this idea for a long time ever since the raids began, it was his only hope for staying afloat and protecting his business…
However Strart didn’t seem to like the idea at all. “But Starfleet would then realise the extent, and the illegality of our operation if they sent a ship over to Furillia!”
“Let me handle that; Starfleet doesn't need to know everything. Besides Furillia is in the Badlands, and it will be very hard for any Starfleet ship to properly scan the Furillian surface, or to beam down people.”
For a moment Strart thought about it, and Harding held his breathe, surely Strart would listen to reason…
“All right, call Starfleet,” said Strart through gritted teeth. “But if they find out, I will liquidate your entire company!”
All the relief Harding felt about Strart’s decision instantly vanished. “But that would ruin me!” he said weakly.
Anger once more returned to him. “You wouldn't...” he growled.
Strart laughed out loud in a horrible manner, before finally calming down, he then gave Harding a menacing stare. “Try me.”
The comm link ended and Harding felt considerably better, for the time being Strart was out of his hair, and contacting Starfleet would be a doddle. If his past dealings with Starfleet where any guide, getting them to provide five hundred sensors would be very easy. For some reason Starfleet almost seemed eager to help him, and it tended not to ask to many questions…
Celicia came in, she looked apprehensively at Harding. “Did it work?”
Harding nodded and Celicia gave him a big smile. “That’s great you know, you always manage to convince Strart in the end,” she said breathlessly.
Lifting up his hand, Harding gestured to her to come over. “Come here, I feel like celebrating, soon all our immediate problems will be solved.”
Automatically Celicia closed the door. “So will the strip mines become more secure?”
“Absolutely, and with the portable cloaking devices I managed to purchase from a Bajoran smuggler, the mines will become so guarded that not even a mouse could enter without being detected.”
Harding walked over to a sofa, and sat down, he looked up at Celicia taking in her beautiful and slender figure, finally his gaze rested on her blue eyes.
Celicia walked over and removed her red jacket, it dropped to the floor, revealing her white blouse. She didn't seem to care how sweaty Harding was, indeed she seemed to like that. She then undid some of the top buttons on the blouse, and removed the braided bun bunching in her hair.
Watching Celicia’s black hair drop down to the middle of her back was highly stimulating for Harding, though in the back of his mind he wondered what Celicia really saw in him. As Celicia came onto the sofa, resting on her knees, Harding reached over and placed an arm around her shoulders and pulled her in.
The two then kissed very passionately and they were soon rolling around on the carpeted floor. At the moment Harding felt that for once his life was finally working out right. RH Mining would soon be solving it’s problems, this would mean some more free time, which could be spent with Celicia…