“Sir, we are entering the Stameris system. The temporal wake appears to lead to the third planet,” The Lukari helmsman turned to face his captain and continued, “Temporal cloak is active and holding. Welcome to the 22nd century.”
Captain Istra sat proudly in her chair. Even now, it wasn’t common for a Ferengi female to rise so high as to be a Temporal Agent, let alone the Captain of a Wells-class vessel. “Thank you, Dareun. Standard orbit, please.” she remarked, adding, “Must be after Archer. It’s always Archer.”
Dareun turned back to face his captain, “Unless it’s Kirk or Janeway.”
With a chuckle, Istra turned toward the science station. Back to the business at hand.
“Initiate passive scans of the surface,” Istra said to Commander Mosaa, her Lethean science officer.
Mosaa answered, “Several settlements, lots of different lifesigns… but predominantly Ferengi.”
“Scan for Na’kuhl lifesigns,” Istra said, “Maximum gain, to penetrate any distortion effects.”
“Captain, may I remind you that a maximum gain scan will be detectable by the inhabitants.”
Istra pondered for a second. Detecting their signal could lead to a lot of questions she wasn’t prepared to answer.
“Very well. Instruct engineering to prepare a shuttlecraft for 22nd century infiltration. I’ll be in sick bay.”
“Are you feeling alright, sir?”
“I’m fine. Just need a little surgery.”
“Surgery, sir? But… you appear Ferengi.”
Istra smiled at her helmsman, “Yes, but I also appear female. And, at this point in history, Ferengi females were severely curtailed in their rights. I wouldn’t even be able to wear clothes, let alone talk to a male outside my family.”
The look on Dareun’s face was priceless to her, as it slid from shock to discomfort to distaste. To a 31st century Lukari, 22nd century Ferengi cultural practices must appear incredibly barbaric.
“Captain,” Mosaa interjected, “I must protest. Protocol clearly dictates at least two members of the crew compliment must be present on an away mission. And preferably not the Captain.”
“How’s your ancient Ferengi, Mosaa?”
Mosaa hands twitched slightly on the console, his normal unflappable air disrupted by being confronted with his inability. “Even worse than my modern Ferengi.”
“While I can’t dispute the usefulness of a telepath on this mission, I’m afraid a Lethean, or most any other species, would arouse suspicion. Even Lukari, Dareun, before you get excited. But you can monitor me from here.”
Mosaa nodded his head. Istra could tell he was upset, but too crafty to show it. “You have the bridge.”
Istra looked up at the moon growing on the viewscreen. She was already bored of working on her dialect.
“Captain’s personal log, addendum. The worst part about being a Temporal Agent is that if you do your job right, history doesn’t remember. It is only our failures that history records. Still, at least Temporal-“
She was interrupted by a hail from the moon. “State your business,” said a gruff Ferengi port officer over the comm.
“I am here to trade,” Istra said.
“Welcome to Krava, first city of Stemeris.” the port officer said, “The landing fee is three strips of gold-pressed latinum. Cargo inspection is another two strips. And then there are the various importation, exportation, and transaction fees. We are transmitting a fee schedule now.”
“I won’t be needing a cargo inspection, I am here to trade information.”
“All the more reason for an inspection,” the officer smiled a toothy grin, “We need to verify your lack of cargo. We wouldn’t want any dangerous materials or contraband in our settlement.”
“Or miss out on an opportunity to seize my goods or invent some additional way to bleed me of my latinum?”
“Naturally. I’m a firm believer in the Ninth Rule of Acquisition, after all,” the port officer smiled again, wider this time, “You are cleared to land on pad four.”
She walked through the narrow streets of the settlement, weaving between stalls and displays, ignoring the cries of hawkers. She rounded a corner and found herself in one of the slave markets of the city. Istra felt a bit sick; her people were still acquisitive, generally, but nine hundred years and contact with the Federation had mellowed naked avarice into more of a social and cultural ritual of acquisition. At the very least, slavery had been abolished, and women now stood on a more equal footing with men.
But as she stared into the faces of the naked Ferengi women, vacant gazes hiding any intelligence that might mark them as troublemakers, she felt a flush of shame creep up her lobes.
She caught a glimpse of red turning a corner out of the square. As she followed, she surreptitiously opened her tricorder. The readings were faint, no doubt due to some kind of masking, but unmistakable. Na’kuhl lifesigns. She had found her target.
But she lost the signal again amidst the crooked narrow streets, crowded as they were with vendors and customers.
She caught the signal again, and it seemed to have stopped in a back alley market, barely more than a couple of forgotten stalls staffed by apathetic Ferengi.
And there she was, the Na’kuhl assassin, speaking to a pair of Ferengi.
“We can’t possibly pay that much for your information,” rasped one of the Ferengi, “How are we to know if it is even accurate?”
The Na’kuhl woman sighed, clearly annoyed and eager to get the transaction over with.
“Very well. Half now, and half upon completion.”
“One quarter now, not a penny more.”
The Na’kuhl woman handed some kind of chip over.
“Damn,” Istra thought, “So much for the subtle approach.” As she pulled out her phase pistol, one of the Ferengi made eye contact and shrieked in alarm as she raised her weapon and shot at the Na’kuhl.
The beam narrowly missed the alerted Na’kuhl as she dodged out of the way with warp-speed reflexes. But she dropped the chip, which fell at the feet of one of the Ferengi.
“Let’s get out of here,” the panicking Ferengi cried, “He’s after our latinum!”
The closer Ferengi scooped up the chip as his associate activated some kind of device, and both Ferengi dematerialized.
Istra approached the Na’kuhl woman, her phase pistol raised.
“You’re too late,” the Na’kuhl smirked confidently, “The Ferengi authorities are already on their way, and they’re not terribly fond of thieves.”
A beam of light shot from the darkness, stunning Istra. Her pistol fell from her numbed hands. The Na’kuhl woman scrambled away, laughing bitterly.
Istra awoke in sick bay. Tralix, the Talaxian ship’s doctor, bent over her with a hypospray in his hand. Mosaa stood nearby. Most people were unable to read Lethean expressions, but Istra had known Mosaa a long time, and she could tell he was concerned.
“What happened?” Istra said.
“You were attacked by an unknown assailant, and knocked unconscious,” said Mosaa, “We beamed you up to sick bay. Dareun is retrieving the shuttlecraft.”
“Temporal status?” She asked, sitting up from the bed.
“Bad news,” Mosaa answered, as they walked to the turbolift, “Proto-history reports conclude that, when it arrives, the Ferengi will strip the NX-01 Enterprise of anything valuable, including the females of the crew. This will set back the development of Starfleet and impact Archer’s effects on the Temporal Cold War… with disastrous results.”
“Bridge,” Istra said as she stepped into the lift, “Alright, Mosaa… what are our options?”
“The crew of the Enterprise is quite capable. Perhaps if we provide them with some assistance, they could repel the Ferengi invaders,” Mosaa said, “Our ship is much faster than theirs... but we don’t know where they are headed.”
They entered the bridge, as Istra considered carefully. “Once Dareun has returned, set a course for the last known location of Enterprise.”
“Captain,” Mosaa said, “We’ll be too late.”
“I have a plan,” Istra said, “Once we learn the Ferengi plan, I’ll go back in time to disrupt it.”
“What about temporal psychosis?” Mosaa asked.
“It’s just a risk we’ll have to take, I’m afraid.”
“There is one additional complication, sir,” said Mosaa, “Starfleet’s first official contact with the Ferengi doesn’t happen until the 24th century.”
Istra sighed, “Great. So not only do I have to figure out a way to thwart the Ferengi plans, I have to make sure the crew of Enterprise never identifies the species of their attackers?”
“I suppose that’s why they pay you the big bars of latinum.”
Istra ignored his joke. “We’ve faced worse. What troubles me, is who shot at me on the surface?”
Istra felt a sudden wave of dizziness, and then a moment of déjà vu. Dareun, her Lukari friend and helmsman, turned to her with a look of concern and asked, “Are you okay, Istra?”
“Yeah, I just felt a bit dizzy for a second,” said Istra, “I’m okay now.”
“That’s good. The Admiral is waiting for us.”
They continued down the halls of New Khitomer, and entered the office of Admiral Darrar.
An Orion woman, Admiral Darrar’s hair was piled up neatly in a bun on top of her head. She seemed rather tired, but as they entered Admiral Darrar looked up from her work and perked up a bit.
“Please, have a seat.”
“Reporting for duty, Admiral,” Istra said, “We’re very excited for our first assignment.”
The Orion woman looked thoughtful for a moment. “Actually, Captain, this is your 43rd assignment.”
“I’m sorry?” Istra said.
“Yes, we sent you on 42 assignments before.”
“But, I… I don’t remember any of them!”
“There was an incident with your last mission,” Darrar said, “We had to pull you from the timestream before it happened.”
“Yes, apparently something disrupted your mission and caused temporal psychosis.”
“Temporal psychosis?” Istra asked, “Then how can you be using me as an agent again?”
“We have administered a compound that should prevent some of the effects. But you will need to complete your mission quickly.”
“I see. And what is my mission?”
The Admiral, normally unflappable, seemed uncomfortable with the question. “Your mission, Captain, is to bring yourself into custody.”
Istra stared at the Admiral, speechless with disbelief.
“I think you will agree you are uniquely suited to the task.”