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Trading Standards

Posted on Sun Apr 25th, 2021 @ 11:35pm by Captain Jacob Kane & Lieutenant Commander Savin & Lieutenant Finnley Keating VII & Lieutenant P’rel M.D & Lieutenant JG FalenvralLi Zh’kyhrihr

Mission: By Artemis' Bow
Location: Trader Outpost - Iuvat System
Timeline: MD-03 - After "On The Hunt"
2229 words - 4.5 OF Standard Post Measure

The landing party materialised in a very poor imitation of the one they had just beamed out of. The surrounding transporter chamber was run-down and barely serviceable by comparison to the Starfleet standards. Indeed, a lot of the technology on display looked a good 20 years past its best.

They were greeted by a trio of individuals, led by a squat, rotund human-looking man with a comb-over and squinty eyes. Hardly intimidating by any stretch.

"Captain Kane, USS Athena," Kane announced immediately, stepping off the platform.

"Andrew Ryan, station administrator. Can we help you?" the man squeaked.

"Probably not," Kane retorted. He glanced at the rest of his landing party. "Check their logs and database information. It'll be the fastest way of finding out if they're hiding anything dangerous or illegal out here." He returned his attention back to the administrator. "Your cooperation will be required. After all, you're not supposed to be here..." he smirked, feeling like he was back on the frontier busting Orion slaver rings. Amazing how easy it was to get back into that mindset.

Savin studied the trio, taking them in before moving towards a nearby console. He wasn't quite sure what he was going to find or was expected to find, but he assumed his skill as counselor was deemed useful to judge their character, if anything. From his vantage point, while copying data to a PADD, he still kept an eye on them, and the captain.

Li quickly scanned the trading platform's transporter room, exhaling in relief and letting her hand slip from her holstered phaser to hang at her side when she saw more of befuddlement and worry than violence in the welcome they faced. She watched Savin move to one console and stepped up to another herself. She'd logged enough cargo manifests herself to know what she should find. What she did see were outdated logs in less proper order than her first attempts to help out on her family's freighter when she was 14. She shook her head, "According to their own records, they haven't received anything since they arrived in the system. Does that conflict with what anyone else is seeing?"

Observing the brashness of her colleagues, the Vulcan intelligence officer decided to play the weaker link in the chain. Stepping from the platform, she made a deliberate show of stubbing her booted toe on the corner of some haphazardly arranged cargo crates. She looked around the nervous assembly of crewman from the outpost; a eclectic mix of several species, none whom particularly wouldn’t fit in. There was a lone Klingon, which seemed odd given the vast multitude of civilian jobs much closer to Klingon space; but then again it wasn’t especially unreasonable that one would be working this far away. She locked eyes with Kane, darted her eyes to the Klingon and then back to Kane; the large muscular man could be a problem if trouble arose and she wanted to convey to Kane that - as much as he had himself, assumedly - she had clocked the the threat. She holstered her tricorder the wrong way up, and walked towards one of the screens near the console the Andorian Officer was at. “Uhhh I am uncertain,” she lied, “I am unfamiliar with cargo inventories.” She knew, seemingly as well as her Andorian colleague, that the randomly mismatched and poorly maintained logs were likely so, in order to hide items and obfuscate attempts to properly access the database contents.

Her crewmate's stumble startled Li and she looked from P'rel to the station's staff. Considering how the team had come aboard a private vessel without invitation or even warning, they were being *awfully* calm about all of this. "Well," she said, "the way it's supposed to work is that any time you bring cargo in you should file a manifest. It shows the container ID, who owns it, what vessel dropped it off, and some description of contents. The station or platform logs where they put it and when. That's how whoever is going to pick it up knows where and what it is. The big trading companies or an actual Federation outpost will have accurate, detailed inventories, but even a place like this has to have some record somewhere otherwise... how do you make the transfer? But even if they did take something in without logging it formally, the computer's systems should have some automated record of a ship docking or a bay opening for transfer."

P’rel nodded with faux concentration, pretending to be immersed in the cargo console whilst instead she was maintaining a keen awareness of the civilians around them. “Unless, there had been some kind of sensor malfunction or computer error?” She asked Li, still playing the uninformed starfleet busybody.

“Ah err yes!” The fat man who had identified himself as the administrator called out, sounding surprised to hear his own voice escaping his mouth. “Yes yes sensor malfunction, very common” he blurted out with rapidity, demonstrating his nervous mood. He looked at several of their others who begun nodding in turn, before the Klingon, in a characteristic growl, simply said “Very common”.

“Perhaps Lieutenant Keating and I could offer some assistance repairing their sensors, Captain?” P’rel offered, curious to see how the administrator and his staff would react.

Finn raised an eyebrow at the Vulcan's odd behavior. It wasn't like her to put on a show of a feigned toe injury, let alone to holster her tricorder incorrectly. Not that she didn't enjoy watching the normally icy and unyielding intelligence officer make mistakes. To add to the confusion, Finnley had run a scan immediately upon arrival and saw no issue with any sensors, indicating that the problem was more likely to be within the data itself. Surely P'rel had seen the same thing? She wondered.

"I'd be happy to lend a hand with the repairs," Finn offered up a response, choosing to play along with whatever P'rel had up her sleeve.

Li looked, confused, between the Traders and her crewmates. Assuming these folks were up to what the Captain thought they were, she wasn't so naïve as to expect them to be forthcoming, but she was having trouble following what, exactly, the lie they were telling was. "So... you're saying that you did take some cargo in without logging a manifest for it?"

The conversation back and forth was hard to follow, so Savin chose to focus on the intelligence chief as obviously she was trying to get at something with her odd behaviour. He assumed, these traders might not have experience with Vulcans, or if they did, her behaviour might just throw them off a little. The trio seemed nervous, on edge, and he couldn't quite figure out why.

Kane understood P'rel's approach, almost silently amused that those present would likely not expect a Vulcan to be committing such flagrant deception. She had her uses. "Setting up in a legal no-fly zone, and without the ability to present reports for inspection? This really doesn't look good..." he began.

"We were here before the Federation set up those rules..." the Administrator responded, far too loudly. It was a practiced answer, blurted out.

"Regardless." Kane shrugged a little. "Perhaps we should conduct a more thorough investigation."

Savin studied the trio under the pretense of still trying to copy data. They seemed on edge to him, fidgety and certainly restless. Though he was unaware of the loudness of the administrator's voice, he could definitely sense a touch of frustration. He stepped up to Kane's side. "They are hiding something," he whispered, "I cannot tell what, but they feel on edge to me."

Fidgeting herself, the scant, old cargo data long downloaded, Li stepped in front of the Administrator while the Captain and Savin had their little conference. "Rules aside," she said, looking up at him, "this is no way to run a trading platform. Maybe while our Engineer repairs whatever's wrong you'd like me to go over the proper way to log cargo as you bring it in. We could take a walk down to the bay where you're storing whatever it is that your malfunctioning sensors didn't see coming in. Do a quick inventory."

The administrator was looking more and more flustered by the second.

"Indeed," Kane agreed. "A visual inspection might not go amiss. Lieutenant Li and I will take care of that. Keating, P'rel, their sensor logs might be recoverable if we download them to the ship." He glanced at the counsellor. "Stay close. And keep a close eye on them for anything that might be dangerous to us," he said with a whisper, knowing he wouldn't need to hear to understand.

"Aye aye, sir." Keating responded with a bit of a smirk as she stepped up to the closest console to start a data transfer to the ship. It was obvious that the cargo crew were becoming more nervous by the second. She wondered when they would finally break and tell them to stop. In the meantime, she couldn't deny having fun with the ruse.

Administrator Roberts shared a long, intense stare with his Klingon counterpart before huffing. The burly man put a meaty paw on Lt. Li and shoved the slight Andorian to the side so that he could step toe-to-toe with Kane. "Now see here, Captain," he spit the title from his mouth as though it were made of vinegar. "You Starfleet types fly around in your big, bad battleships like you own space. But this here is a privately owned trading platform, not some Federation outpost. You can't just go searching our holds or tearing apart our systems without some cause. Deciding to make this area a no-fly zone after we were already here doesn't cut it."

Li recovered nimbly enough, steadying herself on the transport console. "It does, actually," she said. "Federation rules of..."

"No," Roberts said without even turning his head toward her. "Whatever your rules say. Ethically, morally, this is not your station. This is not your property. We aren't trying to do business with you. You don't get to tell us what to do here. What's this all about anyway? Some kind of wildlife conservation? We're in space! This isn't some Vulcan oasis."

"Federation Law is Federation Law," Kane countered. "Ethically or morally." He moved to Lt Li's side. "And if you lay hands on one of my crew again you'll be wishing this was a Vulcan oasis."

The administrator held up both hands - not looking terribly contrite - but it was the Klingon who stepped up behind the Captain, his voice rumbling, "And what would you have us do? We were hired to staff this trading platform and here it is. You pass your environmental laws and say we shouldn't be here. You beam over unannounced to harass us. To what end? We can't simply warp this place away because you don't like us being here."

Finn raised an eyebrow as the conversation continued. Hoping to break up the obviously building tension for a moment, she piped up. "Sir, all of the files have been transferred to the ship. I've sent it with a request for the team to review and recover any..." she looked directly at the administrator, "corrupted files." Looking back at Kane she finished the status update. "We should hear back soon. I'd be happy to work on those sensor repairs next?" It was everything Finn could do to keep the smirk from creeping onto her face as posed the follow-up question.

The Klingon looked threatening enough, so Savin strayed closer to the captain but not so close to be considered a threat himself. Though it wasn't his job, he did feel capable of defending his commanding officer if needed. "This station is in federation space," he finally said, carefully considering his words, "and as such it is Federation property. If you wish to trade here, which is obviously acceptable, then you are required to abide by Federation law. As Starfleet officers, we are required to make certain all rules are abided by, and see to the safety of all involved."

Roberts frowned at the Engineer, hearing her report and sensing that these Starfleet jackboots would do as they wished regardless of what he said or what was right. His gaze shifted to his Klingon counterpart while searching his mind for some way out of this. They were outnumbered and outgunned just in the transporter room, let alone considering the warship that hung ominously outside. It was Savin's words that roused him, though. "We are not," his voice rose with each word, right arm coming up as though about to take a swing at Kane just because he was closest but then pointing at Savin, "your property!"

Before it could go beyond pointing though, the third member of the station staff moved quickly to put a hand on the Administrator's shoulder, rising onto tiptoe to whisper something. The Ferengi glanced around, knowing that he'd mostly been escaping notice until now. Roberts turned to look at him with disgust. "Fine," he said. "Do your cavity search. We have nothing to hide." He slumped and turned to walk out the door.

"We appreciate the cooperation," Kane replied with just a hint of a smirk. "Now then, shall we take a look at that cargo?"

 

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