The Last Days of the USS Starlight Pony (Chap 16)
Previously... Chapter 15:

“You never read the Rules of Acquisition, did you? I could sense it from the way you quoted Rule 98.”

“I actually read it. Only that I was not taught them as part of my upbringing,” Fludicus replied.

“Curious, I thought all Ferengi were taught that from childhood.”

“I was brought up by non-Ferengi. They were traders, just not Ferengi. In fact, I wasn’t even born on Ferenginar.”

“I see...” Kurland then snapped back to business, “We’ll discuss later. Good Hunting Fludicus.”

And Now...
The Last Days of the USS Starlight Pony (Chap 16)

The Ferengi have finally joined in.

Well, most of the them anyways. They were a few that were clearly not happy and were sulking at one corner, but it didn’t matter. 

The deal was done.

The Ferengi and the Caitians have agreed to expand the trade deal that have stood for a century. More, trade, more profits, more opportunities.

More of the same. And made to last just as long to boot.

The celebrations  between the Ferengi and the Caitians ranged from the most casual to the slightly risque. At the food table was a range of cuisine featuring the best of both worlds (No... it's not the title of some teeny-booper song). On one end of the table were a variety of local beers and cold meats produced from the local Caitian farms. Opposite the Ferengi dishes carefully prepared from grubs and insects harvested from Ferenginar.

Close by, Ferengi escorts (slavery and indentured servitude are banned in the Federation) posed and faced off against Caitian dueling champions in shows of strength and grace. A few would escalate into sparring duels which resemble those done by ancient Earth gladiators.

Amidst the celebrations however, it was clear that the Starfleet personnel were not in a celebratory mood. The staff from security and the logistics divisions were making sure the event was running smoothly. Even the three officers who were dressed in red for command and were in the celebrations were thinking less of the moment and more of the tasks ahead.

Captain Nog and Captain Neytiri were together trying out drinks from each of the other’s worlds. Nog was having a local beer from Cait, reputed for its taste towards root beer except with a stronger ‘kick’. Neytiri was trying out one of the most popular drinks from Ferenginar, Slug-o-Cola. Nog looked with some amusement as Neytiri tried out a sip of Slug-o-Cola and then nodded with approval (A jingle claiming it to be “the Slimiest Cola in the Galaxy” rang out every ten minutes as part of a marketing push).

“I was called in by an Elder to attend this issue,” Neytiri explained to Nog when asked what brought her to Cait, “It was because of my standing within my pride that I sought to participate, not to mention how much that deal was to my pride.”

“I was actually travelling to Tellar Prime to take up my next assignment. I cross paths with my father the Grand Nagus who was travelling back home after a visit to Risa,” Nog replied, “I was about to give my Father a tour of my ship when Admiral Janeway dropped by.”

“Mind if I join in?” Admiral Janeway interjected, deciding to join the two Captains, “I put it to a mere convenience of coincidence. I had word of the Caitian trade dispute some hours before and I wanted to see the Grand Nagus if he could help us with that problem.”

“My father was always championed for good trading relations with the Federation. He gave his staff and told me to make sure we come up with a permanent solution to the problem.”

“I guess my role has been sidelined with such figures such as yourselves to intervene on the matter,” Neytiri commented.

“Don’t be so modest,”Admiral Janeway said, “You were called to duty, and you fulfilled it regardless.”

A Starfleet officer then brought a metal mug containing a black, bitter liquid. Admiral Janeway thanked the officer delivering her beverage and began to sip her drink.  No one, especially the two Starfleet captains, bothered to ask what the Admiral had ordered.

Admiral Janeway’s addiction to coffee was as infamous as her achievements. She picked up the habit back in the Academy, and was a regular coffee drinker ever since. She would not start a day without her cup of coffee. It became common knowledge that you could tell how bad her day is by the number of cups of coffee she had drunk (four in the morning was a sign of a bad day).

It was speculated that Admiral Janeway took less coffee since her return from the Delta Quadrant compared to the seven years there. Nevertheless, it became SOP for Starfleet crew on stations or ships to make sure that they could provide some black coffee on her request.

“Nog, when would the Ferengi confirm that they can ratify the agreement?” Admiral Janeway asked.

“It would be a matter of getting through the Congress of Economic Advisors,” Nog replied, “My father’s got all this covered.”

“Really?” Admiral Janeway asked. Nog’s father Rom had assumed political leadership of the Ferengi since the end of the Dominion War, “I recall that the Congress has been... difficult with him and his proposals.”

“They do oppose his social and economic reforms,” Nog explained, “but a trade agreement? It's a bribe in itself.”

“Is he planning to use it as some leverage to further his agenda?”

“The last time he tried to get a formal alliance with the Federation, It was just too costly to mount a bid,” Nog replied, “Trade deals like this are too cheap to ignore: No Ferengi would vote it down without looking stupid.”

“Surely there would be opposition to the deal,” Admiral Janeway mused.

“If there is, then its minimal,” assured Nog, “No one would want to vote away the profits that are laying in front of us with Cait. No Ferengi can be rich enough - or insane enough for the matter- to vote it down.”

“I hope your assessment is correct,” Admiral Janeway nodded, “And what about that staff your dad gave?”

“We can drop the staff with my father when we stop by at Ferenginar,” Nog replied, “I doubt if you want to make such a stop, would you Admiral?”

“Well, I could use having a word or two with your father concerning our current trade relations...” Admiral Janeway mused, “as well as some other things.”

“I will see what I can do,” Nog said, just as a dark-skinned human in his fifties emerged from the crowd and began to wave his hand at Nog, “If you would excuse me Admiral...”

Nog broke away from the two starfleet officers and began to approach his caller. Both then reached to shake hands just as Nog spoke, “Jake... we got to discuss on that upcoming news despatch...”

Neytiri barely was able to register who Nog’s acquaintance was when Admiral Janeway filled the Caitian in, “Jake Sisko: Federation journalist and Betar Prize winner. Nog and him are close friends”

“Jake... that’s Ben Sisko’s son,” Neytiri added, “The father was the first commander of Deep Space Nine and a veteran of the Dominion War. Jake’s account of DS9 under Dominion control is recommended reading for Dominion War 101.”

“I see you have been reading up,” Admiral Janeway commented, “Did you know Benjamin Sisko was the one that recommended Nog to Starfleet Academy?”

“And thus made him the first Ferengi in Starfleet,” Neytiri replied, “If only Ben saw him now...”

“Indeed...” Admiral Janeway agreed somewhat sadly.

Neytiri absentmindedly looked out into space when her eyes fell on two ships docked outside. One was her own ship the Caitian Escort M’Gruran. Several berths away was a cruiser-sized ship, dwarfing her command that she acquired following her training cruise.

“The Chimera.. Nog’s first ever command.” Admiral Janeway said, “Impressed huh?”

“Until I met Nog, I never saw this sort of starship,” Neytiri commented, “In fact, no one ever remembers seeing such a ship during my years in the Academy.”

“That's because you were not meant to. The Chimera was developed in secret during the course of the Klingon conflict. In fact, during its most critical stages, the Utopia Planitia shipyards were completely locked down to all but those critical to the project.”

“Was it some sort of secret weapon against the Klingons?”

“Of a sort,” Admiral Janeway replied, “It actually incorporates some of our best and most developed technologies from the Starfleet Corp of Engineers. Nog, for the record, is one of its contributors.”

“Interesting,” Neytiri said, “Still, if I may speak freely...”

“Go ahead.”

“With all due respect to Nog and his service record, which I do in light of him being the first and (for most of his career) the only Ferengi in Starfleet, I find it... uneasy that Nog would assume command of the Chimera, especially given its experimental nature.”

“I will concede that I have my reservations on giving Nog a command of his own,” Admiral Janeway said, “I could say the same for you - if not for current circumstances. Still, you have proven more than adequate to the task...” 

Neytiri could breathe easy - for now.

”I had my share of unpleasant interactions with the Ferengi while in the Delta Quadrant,” Neytiri’s face just flashed with wonder on such a prospect, “A long story. But in Nog’s case, it seems all evidence has disproved my concerns as well as proving that he had been prepared for that day he would take command of the Chimera,” continued Admiral Janeway, “Aside from his contribution in making the Chimera, Nog had been appointed to some of the most challenging and prestigious positions in Starfleet. As in, Chief Engineer of the Enterprise...”

“Starfleet’s flagship?”

“First ever Ferengi to serve, and he took the top engineering spot,” the Admiral took some coffee to wet her mouth, “It helped that he made some well-placed connections as well. We mentioned Ben Sisko, but he had others too. Geordi La Forge recommended him for the Enterprise position as chief engineer. Kira Nerys appealed to have him posted on Deep Space Nine time and again. Even Tom...” Admiral Janeway sighed as she smiled, “Bless him. If there was one thing he did right while on Earth Spacedock it would be to recommend Nog to SCE.”

“Perhaps I misjudged him,” Neytiri admitted, “He does deserve the command, all things considered.”

“We all do make mistakes judging people,” Admiral Janeway admitted, “We just have to be grateful we are wrong,” the Admiral drank more of her coffee and then said, “This leave me with one last matter: you.”

Neytiri took more of the Slug-o-Cola and replied, “My path is clear. With the present situation stabilizing... I should be resuming my course to my next assignment. My ship and crew are slated for another tour on the frontlines...”

“Then I guess I have to break this to you. You and your crew are not going back to the Frontlines. In fact, I am relieving you of command of the M’Gruran.”

Neytiri’s shock and horror spread across her face on hearing those dreaded words. Admiral Janeway was quick to explain in a more motherly manner, “Neytiri, I understand this is unexpected, and you got questions why. I am not relieving you due to my lack of confidence in you or for some disciplinary measure. In fact, it is exact opposite. I need your help in closing this Caitian-Ferengi matter, and it requires your attention away from your ship for the meantime.”

Still struggling from the shock of the news, Neytiri was only able to ask,” What is my specific task Admiral?”

“I am assigning you to be my adjunct for the duration of the rest of this assignment,” Admiral Janeway replied, “Due to your standing in Caitian society, I would like you to be my eyes and ears on the Caitian delegation. What they are thinking, what is on their minds, basically anything that we should look out for as we get them to Ferenginar and ratify the trade deal.”

“I will have a report in the morning,” Neytiri calmly replied.

“Good girl,” Admiral Janeway said approvingly, “You will be transferred to the Chimera until we finish this.”

“What about the M’Gruran?”

“It will escort the Chimera until we reach Ferenginar. I trust that your First officer is up to the task?”

“Commander Dirsyirse would be a fine commanding officer,” Neytiri replied, “Would this mean that we would be attached to your command?”

“For the meantime,” Admiral Janeway replied, “But don’t get comfy yet: While we make our way to Ferenginar I will be briefing you on your next assignment.”

“Another diplomatic assignment?”

“I will inform you once we get underway,” Admiral Janeway replied, “For the meantime,“ she patted Neytiri on the shoulder, “you should go ahead and enjoy the party.”


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