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Getting the Band Back Together

Posted on Fri May 24th, 2024 @ 2:49am by Ensign Aenardha Sh'vastarth & Lieutenant Greep & Lieutenant JG Zo
Edited on on Fri May 24th, 2024 @ 1:40pm

Mission: The Only Thing Left Was Hope
Location: Outpost PG-13, in sector TV-Y7
Timeline: Current

A crowd surrounded the table and looked on as the game unfolded. The two players, the only two left, were a Ferengi named Poark and Aenardha, the Aenar. Poark had his Pakled bouncer ensure no one walked behind him, that there was no one behind him at all, and that no one, absolutely no one could see his cards, not even the bouncer. The Pakleds could be strong of body, and they tend to follow orders to the ‘T’, but strong of mind they were not.

Onlookers had their favorite already picked out. Either the Ferengi or the Aenar. They shouted both their praise of one and revulsion of the other. Hands were raised, voices were raised, money was being flashed about as the people were making their own bets on who would win the game. This was possibly the last hand.

“So, how about it, Little Tart,” said Poark to Aenardha. “Feeling lucky. Or feeling saucy. Everyone,” he spoke up, especially to anyone who recently ventured in to watch. “The Little Tart and I have a bet. I win, and she is mine for two cycles. No more need of holosuite credits. Come one and come all. This little tart can implant your wildest fantasies straight into your mind. And you will not even know they are not your own memories.”

He failed to detail what if she had won. “And if I win,” she announced. Aenardha was never one to use a raised voice as she had been sheltered for the vast majority of her life. Still, she tried, “if I win, Poark provides me with information on the location of my ship.”

Poark grinned and showed his crooked teeth.

“Prepare to sign my contract Little Tart. Or do you want to bet low and keep the inevitable from happening?”

A band was playing off to the side. They played yet hardly anyone was listening as the attention of most was on the game. It was Zo and his band ‘Warp Nine’, though not all the original band members. Zo had to get a couple to fill in for those who could not make the occasion. During the entire time they were both aboard this outpost, Aenardha and Zo avoided each other and made no attempt to communicate with each other. There was absolutely no indication that Zo himself was Starfleet or affiliated in any way to Aenardha. If and when things got hairy, Aenardha needed backup. And she was planning on things getting hairy. In fact, she was working toward that end, without anyone being the wiser.

“I told you already, Little Tart, you cannot read my mind. Or can you? If you can, then how about a dose of this.”

Aenardha attempted to read him. It was always avoided to attempt to read a Ferengi. More often was the case that they could not be read at all. But a strong telepath could get some feelers through to their memories and vision. Aenardha was trying but could not, in fact, see his cards in enough detail to make out what he held. Poark was flooding his own thoughts with numbers, amounts, percentages, who owed him what and how much interest, who he owed money to and the accompanying interest, the exact number of days she would be working for him and what pay she would get for her bare necessities…

Aenardha flinched and wiped her nose. A small smear of blood was on her finger.

“Don’t overdo it, Little Tart. I need that mind of yours intact.” As Poark spoke, a random passerby stepped around behind him to the other side of the table. “Donk!” Poark shouted. “I said don’t let anybody behind me!” he shouted at the Pakled bouncer as he pressed his cards to his chest.

“Sorry boss. Not happening again.”

Aenardha took a breath. She could feel the surrounding crowd was energized. She decided to add to that energy. “All in,” Aenardha used public vision and awareness to put her hand on her chips and push them all forward toward the middle of the table.

“Now we’re talking,” said Poark and he tongued his teeth.

It was a tell that Aenardha had picked up about him. It meant that he was not too confident with his hand. It also meant that he was not out of the game. He was not going to fold so she still needed the winning hand.

“Going to show your cards?” Poark asked.

“You first,” said Aenardha. “If I am about to work for you. Let me know I’ve lost before I show my hand.”

The crowd erupted in cheers and praise of her proposal.

“Show…your…cards…” they shouted to Poark. “Show…your…cards…”

Poark was only slightly dismayed but decided to lay his cards anyway. “Very well. Read them and weep. Two pair. Cumulative value…above average.” He pushed the fifth and useless card to the side.

Aenardha looked at his displayed cards using the public vision of the crowd and did the math. “Cumulative value,” she said softly.

Poark smiled and started laughing. “Well, we cannot win them all now can we?” And he leaned forward to start grabbing at the chips.

Aenardha laid down 4 of her cards, also showing two pair. Paork mathed in his head almost instantly that, “Below average. I’m sorry, Little Tart, but it seems…”

And then Aenardha laid down her fifth card. Though it was the same as the lower valued pair, thus keeping her cumulative value below average, she still had a, “Full Chest. I think that beats whatever cumulative value of your two pair.”

Poark was frozen in astonishment, frozen between grabbing the chips and aborting the attempt. The crowd itself was frozen, also in astonishment. Poark looked between Aenardha and her cards. “You cheated.”

“That is the name of the game isn’t it Poark. Cheat without getting caught. And if someone makes the claim, then they must prove the other cheated. So, let’s have it. Where is your proof that I cheated? How did I do it?”

Poark looked around at the crowd. They were not frozen in astonishment. They were, in fact, frozen, as though frozen in time. They were not cheering, not talking, not moving, not breathing. Even the music had stopped playing, but that was probably due to the band not being up there anymore.

“What is this?” asked Poark.

“Me giving you the opportunity to accept your loss before you embarrass yourself.” Aenardha’s nose was bleeding, out of both nostrils. “The location of the Pandora. If you please.”

“I said I might know someone who might know where it is.”

“The name then. And location of this someone you might know.”

“In another life Little Tart. I’m not letting go of my winnings this easily.”

“So be it,” said Aenardha. And, as simply as she could think, the crowd started moving again, cheering and yelling. Donk, the Pakled bouncer, grabbed the gaming table and overturned it with a single hand. Five random people from the crowd turned and threw punches at whomever was to their immediate right. Aenardha sat there as Poark squealed at the sudden outburst of violence in his pub.

Chaos ensued then. One unfortunate soul was thrown onto a table that upended, spilling Romulan ale onto a very angry Chalnoth, who viciously grabbed the thrown person and dragged him across the bar, where they slid straight off the bar onto the empty stage.

Donk was bumped from behind and turned to throw a retaliatory punch, but it was blocked by the large blue-furred hand of an imposing Ontarion, who squeezed his fist and brought the bouncer to his knees. Donk howled in pain. The Ontarion let go of Donk's fractured fist and slammed his hard yellow beak into the bouncer's face, knocking him unconscious. Now the Ontarion focused his gaze on Poark, his deep yellow eyes glaring at the Ferengi like twin suns.

The Ontarion known as Lieutenant Greep grabbed Poark by the collar. "I think now would be a good time to beam up with our prisoner," he squawked to Aenardha as he tightened his beefy, ape-like grip onto the back of Poark's jacket. "Zo and the band are already back on the Pargonon."

Greep referred to the small transport they had chartered by way of Aenardha's kinfam status with the now-deceased Broot Qaraq, whose ultimate sacrifice to the USS Pandora was widely-known by his family, friends, and business allies. Being kinfam to a Broot as prosperous as Qaraq was no small achievement, and any request would be honored without hesitation or price.

Greep led Aenardha and Poark to the only corner of the room that could be deemed quiet. "We must go now," Greep squawked. At this point, they were just lost in the chaos. It was highly unlikely anyone would notice their exit. They weren't going to get their information on the Pandora from Poark in such a public setting. This course of action was merely the start of the plan.

"No. Help!" squealed Poark. He squirmed uselessly in Greep's grip. "No. I can't go."

"Then give me a name," Aenardha said as she got in Poark's face, using Greep's vision to ensure she was looking Poark in the eye.

"I told you, he might know. I can't guarantee."

"The name!"

Another patron was thrown over the counter landing upon a stash of booze which broke and spilled.

"This is only going to continue Poark."

"I can't tell you. He'll kill me."

"Well, it is either that or we can..."

"Alright. OK. Just..."

"We won't tell him you told us. Just..." Aenardha cocked her head to the side. "Oh. I see."

"What?," cried Poark. "I didn't tell you anything." The he realized. "No. You didn't. You couldn't."

"I can and I did," she said to him. Blood dripped freely and steadily from both of her nostrils. She did not need public vision to envision the chaos going on behind her. "You can keep the chips. Greep," she said to the Ontaran, "we have a name and location. Please let him go. We've no more use of Poark." She wiped the side of her face as blood streamed from her hose and around both sides of her mouth, to her chin and on down.

Greep let go of Poark, who landed on his soiled rump. Poark then sprung up and started away. Outpost Security officials had just started showing up when Greep ordered a transport.

Once the teleport was complete and everyone was aboard the Pargonon, the first thing Aenardha did was collapse toward floor, doing her best to control her descent.

Zo ran onto the transporter deck and caught Aenardha before she dropped. Immediately, the other three members of Warp Nine scrambled over to help. Tyler the drummer ran out of the room to the nearest replicator and ordered a glass of ice water, a pair of towels, and some freeze packs.

"It's ok, Ann," Zo said just as Tyler returned. They bunched up a towel and put it under her head as Zo gently laid her down. Zo set the glass of water next to him, ready if needed, and he and the band went about placing the freeze packs around her. Zo looked up at Greep, who was still standing on his dais, looking like his usual awkward self.

"I think she read Poark's mind," Greep said, letting out the guttural clicking noise that happened often when he "spoke." Zo rose to his feet.

"Do you know if she got anything?" Zo asked.

Greep shrugged.


Everyone had stepped away while Warp Nine's bass player and med officer Jim ran a medical tricorder over her, checking her vitals. Zo approached and knelt down next to the tall, thin redhead.

"She's okay," Jim said. "Whatever happened nearly gave her an aneurysm, but her vitals are back where they need to be, more or less. I wish we had a better place for her to stay than that walk-in freezer, but..." Just then she began to stir. As she came to, the two men backed away a little while the rest of the room got quiet.

Aenardha opened her eyes and stared blankly upward at the ceiling. "I can't see," she said and, by that, the others knew she meant she had no ability to tap into their respective visions. "I..." had clearly overdone it, but, "I got a name and location. First, I think we should make contact with Captain Temple. Greep?"

With Greep being the ranking officer of the team, despite their extra-dutiful exploits, they looked to him for a final decision.

Aenardha grabbed aimless and found a towel which she used to wipe her face, the blood staining her skin. With her other hand, she reached up, also aimlessly, as she started to sit up. Jim took Aenardha's hand, carefully helping her into a sitting position.

Greep's head cocked horizontal, then went back. He clicked a few times before asking, "What are the name and location?"

"Someone who will want Poark for dinner if has even the idea that Poark gave us any information. I think it is best that I let Captain Temple know first. Please, Greep," she looked up at Greep using the sound of his voice to best estimate the location of his eyes so she could best look him there. "Poark is a good source of information. I have dealt with him in the past and do not want to lose that line of information. I would not want to put a target on his back."

"Nor his front," Greep remarked.

"Now I'm hungry for pork chops," drummer Tyler grumbled.

"Wrapped in bacon," added Keeva, the band's keyboardist, dramatically licking her lips.

Ignoring them, Zo asked Greep, "Do you know where Captain Temple is?"

"No," Greep squawked. "But if Temple is trying to find the Pandora, as we are, then it's logical other former crew members might be too."

"You mean the Chief," Zo said. "Mindo. But I heard he left Starfleet."

Greep cocked his head back and forth. "He did, and moved to Risa."

"The Chief said he'd never come back to Starfleet," Zo said. "How do we know he'd come back if the Pandora was found?"

"Wouldn't you?" Greep squawked, a rapid series of clicks followed.

Tyler chimed in. "Isn't that what we're doing?"

Zo turned his attention back to Aenardha, who seemed more alert now. "How about it, Ann? Are you up for a trip to Risa?"

Aenardha was shaking her head. "Too hot. And the sun bears down too heavily. I'd burn in minutes. Besides," she moved weakly about as she started to stand herself, "I will be useless to you for the next couple of days. I opt to remain aboard once we reach Risa. Mentally getting that crowd riled up for a fight, mentally playing with Poark and then reading him, not to mention covering my cheating at Acquisitor's Might proved overtaxing. I..." she staggered just a bit. "...I have a headache."

"Get the rest you need," Greep said to Aenardha. "Only one of us needs to go to Risa."

Greep turned to the rest of the crew. "I hate being surrounded by bad food and humanoid fornication, so I can't go either. It needs to be someone else." The band all raised their hands. "It needs to be Zo," Greep squawked. "He's the only one familiar with Mindo out of the four of you." The band dropped their hands in disappointment.

Greep turned to Keeva. "Ensign, set a course for Risa, warp six." Greep looked at the rest of them. "We've all earned a few day's rest, and I think Aenardha and I are due for some quiet time."

"Quiet time," Aenardha spoke up immediately. "Agreed."

Greep finished with, "Feel free to go eat bad food and fornicate on the planet."

The band cheered.


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