Devil's Leftovers, Part I
The Prometheus-class U.S.S. Phoenix-X sat out in deep space, scanning phenomenon and sending signals to nowhere. Commander Seifer sat expectantly on the Bridge of his ship.
"This is great. We're doing stuff. We're getting out there and making a life for ourselves," he commented.
Armond turned from tactical. "Sir, we've wasted hours of power and resources for no results whatsoever. I think it's safe to say we're the poster-ship of diminishing returns."
"Hm. Make a note that we should stop trying in general," Seifer suggested.
Ensign Dan turned from his science console. "Señor Seifer, sir, we are receiving hail from Bajoran system, sir!"
"I know I ordered you to call me that, but I'm not feeling it. Plus, you're Bajoran yourself, so, why? You know what? You're relieved."
As everyone watched Ensign Dan exit the Bridge, Lieutenant Commander Red continued the report from helm. "I believe the hail to be distressed-based. The connection request text is filled with exclamation marks!"
"Typical of lazy writing. Where's the literary umph? Anyway, put them through."
The screen blinked on to a view of a robed Bajoran leader, Alds Rohn. "Oh, thank goodness someone replied! We are the leaders of Bajor VIII, one of many colonized planets in the Bajor system."
"What? But people talk about Bajor in a non-numerical sense, indicating only one planet?" Seifer pointed out.
Rohn shrugged. "People are jerks, obviously. Anyway, we have been trying to contact a Starfleet ship for days, because we've been swindled out of two shipments of quadrotriticale grain for one shipment of fake latinum. All we got were gold bars. Worthless gold!"
"Why didn't you contact Deep Space 9?" Seifer asked.
The Bajoran leaned in. "That conglomerate of thieves and cut-throats? No thank you! A bald Liseppian once stepped on my foot!" He then took a breath. "No; a starship crew will ensure anonymity."
"I'll see what I can do. But, chances are, I'll probably do nothing. After all, it is a Saturday."
Rohn panicked. "But you simply must help us! We were battered by the Cardassian Occupation and the Bolians sent us rude messages as well!"
"Ugh. The Bolians barely even know how to use a computer. Anyway, I have to go. There's an onboard tea party that I simply can't miss," Seifer replied. Then, to his crew: "Well, that was awkward."
"I'm still here!" Rohn argued from the view screen, prompting Seifer to cut it off, quickly.
Armond turned from his console. "Commander, I'm reading signs similar to that of quadrotriticale near the moon known as Baraddo."
"Dammit. You know you're supposed to wait until we're long gone before reporting things. You can forget your bonus this year," Seifer interjected. "And no counter arguments that Federation energy credits have no actual value! I knew a Ferengi that acknowledged their existence once."
Later, the Phoenix-X approached the outermost misshaped rock that orbited Bajor VII.
"Sensors are detecting the 'scent' of the grain, an indisputable smell in the cold, vacuum of space," Armond reported.
The Commander sat on the edge of his command chair, focused. "Remember that time a bunch of Klingons poisoned a shipment of it on Deep Space K-7? One of my past hosts bumped into Benjamin Sisko; could have sworn he looked like Gabriel Bell."
"Sir, a ship is approaching off the port bow!" Red reported.
Activating the viewscreen, the crew watched as a broken down alien starship neared them and opened fire.
"Open hailing frequencies," Seifer ordered. "Enemy vessel, you have violated Starfleet shields and the consequences is immediate death. Prepare to be boarded."
Kayl turned from Ops. "Commander, that is not current protocol!"
"Uh, have you seen our egos lately? It totally is now," Seifer answered.
Then, a response came through on audio. "Federation ship, this is the Karisag. And you may think you're seeing us, but the question is, are you really?"
"Yes?" Seifer said, confused.
The voice from the Karisag then replied. "Are we here, or..." And as his ship disappeared, "Or are we here?" Then his ship re-appeared in the spot to its left.
"Is this is a bit?" Seifer tried to comprehend.
The alien ship started up again. "Are we here?" It suddenly disappeared once more. "Or, are we here!" The ship reappeared two spots to its right.
"Hey! Stop that! You're parlor tricks are not impressing me!" Seifer yelped.
Then, "Now, for our final act; my lovely assistant, here, will get into the forward section of our main separation facility. Aaaaand, ala kazaam!"
"Dammit," Seifer cursed as he and the crew watched the alien junk ship separate into two halves.
The voice on the Karisag finished with what he assumed was great applause. "Thank you, thank you! You are the stars!" Then, both halves suddenly began to cloak again.
"Armond, tractor beam!" Seifer reacted quickly.
Rolling his eyes, Armond replied. "Why do I literally control everything?"
"Hey!" came the shocked reply from the forward half of the Karisag as the Phoenix-X locked a tractor beam onto it. "Stop that! You are ruining the mysteriousness of this!"
Seifer turned. "Kayl, force their view screen on!"
"I can't do that, sir!" And then, "Wait. If I modulate a thermo dynamic pulse and direct it into a narrow band frequency, it should remotely charge their visual communication systems."
Seifer nodded expectantly, having expected as much from her. "Obviously."
"What? You uptight Starfleet brats!" replied an alien man in ragged clothing as he and his Bridge appeared on screen. "You do this every time!"
A Ferengi, also in civilian clothing, turned to the alien, "Hexagin, just stop with the theatrics already, and get us out of here. I feel like your dialogue is just padding for something else entirely."
"Quiet, BOG. I'm this close to my demands being met!" Hexagin argued. "Look at how confused they are. It's working!"
The Commander addressed the two. "Uh, the confusion is self-aware; sorry. Also, I must arrest you for swindling Bajorans out of quadrotriticale for fake latinum."
"Oh, please! Like you have any jurisdiction here!" countered Hexagin. "BOG! Initiate Escape Pattern: Surprise Attack!"
Seifer blinked. "How can it be a surprise if you're announcing it? I'm literally expecting a surprise attack any second now."
"Just wait," Hexagin reassured as the other half of the Karisag appeared and fired photon torpedoes into the Phoenix-X's tractor beam emitters.
The Karisag reassembled and shot itself into warp, leaving the Phoenix-X in the wake of its exit from normal space.
"Their warp trail is undetectable, likely by their ingenuity, which we underestimated," reported Armond. "But they did leave something behind, something we can all agree on: An impression."
Commander Seifer rolled his eyes in frustration. "Set course in that general direction. Even though being off by a micron, in heading, could potentially set us half a quadrant away, I'm willing to take that chance."
"Understood, Commander. Closing my eyes and engaging engines," Red answered as he covered his vision with one hand and arbitrarily slapped the other around on the console.
Later, Commander Seifer entered the Messhall and took a seat at the bar.
"Bartender, your finest ale!" he ordered.
BOB walked over and handed him a Cardassian Sunrise. "Sorry; it's all we have left after the Klingon exchange portion of the Phoenix-X drank through half their sorrows for having to serve on a Federation ship."
"The Ferengi bartender, BOB?? I thought you were running that face-stretching studio on Deck 7?"
Shrugging, BOB replied, "Unfortunately, we went under after we lifted way too many cheeks over eyes. I can't count how many mumbled complaints we got from crew with chins over their mouths."
"Yeah, I was waiting for reviews before getting in on that," Seifer said. "Anyway, the Phoenix-X just encountered a crew of no-good tricksters, much like the hundreds of imitation-Janeways that surfaced from the Delta Quadrant a few weeks ago. But, one of these ones was a Ferengi named BOG, which I imagine is inexplicably spelled in all caps like yours."
The Ferengi put his mixer down and sighed in defeat. "Well, I knew this day would come. You see, BOG and I used to be part of a similarly named, specialized group of moneymakers and grifters. Since our group failed as business people, in general, he's likely attempting to overachieve as compensation."
"Well, he's oddly succeeding thus far; possibly due to his joining with that group. Any idea who they are?"
BOB thought for a second. "Last I heard, he was attempting to align himself with Ardra's crew; a group of tricksters who followed a woman that pretended to be the Goddess of several worlds."
"I remember her! She was promptly proven a fraud by Picard and the illustrious crew of the Enterprise-D." And then, "They were always doing stuff, that crew. I never trusted them."
The bartender nodded in agreement. "They had a reputation. Anyway, in order to stop BOG, it will require a mixture of wit and guile, and pretty much anything that mentions his mother. Also, word salad confuses him."
"So, what normally works on you," Seifer reaffirmed.
The bartender was taken aback. "Whoa! Ho! You really know how to treat your drink server around here."
"Do you want to keep the bar or not?"
BOB conceded as fast as he could. "Yes, sir! I'm a nitwit, sir!"
"Bridge to Commander Seifer," came Armond's voice over comms. "We're getting a distress call from the Kriosians. Someone traded them imitiation tube grubs for one of their princesses."
Seifer tapped his commbadge. "Acknowledged; and surprised how reported events are always related. Coincidence sure is the mother of consequence."
"Not to mention the surplus of princesses that world seems to export on the regular," BOB added.
The Commander stood up. "Agreed. It's time I found a mate-- err, I mean, let's put a stop to these grifters. To the turbolift that leads to the Bridge! Engage!"
He then briskly walked his way to destiny.