Keash continued.

Is it Beer O'Clock?

Ofcourse not! At least..... Not for you!

Sweat pored from Keash's face as he stabalized the Breda before bringing her to a complete stop. After five hours of constantly coming to within inches of being vaporized by an unimaginably fast or incredably large asteroid the Breda had reached what seemed a ring of relatively clear space. Keash panted when he let go of the controls and turned his seat to face his companions. To his relief and pride his kid was still in the back seat on the bridge, strapped in and pointing a small disruptor at the other occupant of the Bridge with them. Derf, a criminal who'd been the intended recipiant of the cargo the Breda was hauling. Derf had been double crossed by a former asosciate who'd owed him by paying off the debt with a comprimized shipment of illegal armerment parts which was being tracked by Starfleet. As Keash had been about to finish off the contract and unload the cargo Starfleet security forced, surrounding the landing bay they were in, ordered them to surrender. Keash had moved on instinct and, having no other option, Derf had ran into the Breda after Keash and his son.

 

He looked like someone regretting his latest choices. His eyes were still wide like saucers in what seemed perpetual shock, his face wet with presperation. The upper side of the drab jumpsuit he wore was darkened with moist from copious amounts of sweat as well. “The Maker's excrement!” the odd alien, whose species Keash couldn't identify, exclaimed after a few moments of silence. The exclamation made Keash launch into a great belly laugh. Both Ahrund and Derf looked at him as if wondering if Keash's brain had fried.

 

Keash looked over at his son when he felt the laughing had ebbed away enough for him to speak. “That was a very fancy way of saying 'Holy Shit' Ahrund. And maybe daddy's not completely sain anymore but that's funny shit right there1” he said, and laughed some more. This time Ahrund joined in the laughter and after a second Derf couldn't help but join in. After all, Keash was right.

 

When the laughter had ebbed away the atmosphere turned serious again and filled with tention. Derf noted the disruptor was still aimed at him, and Keash noticed him looking at it. “I see you've noticed the expression of my son and myself's sizable distrust and perhaps even anger towards you.” he said. “I am sure the coming moments are going to be fascinatingly entertaining as you're going to convince me why not vaporizing you into atoms is better than it would be to tell Ahrund here to fire at maximum setting” Keash added, leaning back into his seat as if to make himself comfortable to be entertained. Derf swallowed and glanced nerveously at the disrupter. A fleeting sliver of thought asked himself how he'd managed to go from the worst possible situation he could possible end up in to an even worse situation. He then nodded and took a deep breath, sounding more like a sigh of resignation.

 

“Unless you're very descent people with a very high standard of ethics and moral guiding you in your lives i doubt i can give you any arguments not to have your son to pull that trigger” Derf said, finding his feet with his eyes. “I could have had everything, live a descent and wealthy life and make something of myself. Instead i've lived from one party to the next, from one pleasure to the next and partied myself slowly but surely into the gutter of life itself. By the time i realized what i was doing it was to late and i was pennyless, homeless and in debt on a miserable excuse for a planet in an even more miserable excuse for a civilized settlement. I was in the worst possible mess anyone could be in and then i got into an even worse one and took you two with me, so it seems.” Derf continued.

 

When after a few moments, to Derf's surprise, Keash hadn't said a word to accuse Derf or berate Derf or anything Derf elaborated on his sorry story.

 

“Regardless of how it came to be so i was homeless, and owed a lot of money to some pretty terrible people to owe money to. The only chance i had was to call in a long standing debt owed to me by a former asosciate with which i parted ways a decade ago. He is now a very wealthy man i hoped that, though from what he gains his wealth is questionable, he was inclined to honor his debt to me and at least save my hide with my crediters. It seemed he was and he promised me the ownership of a cargo that was in the area and he could reroute to me within weeks.” Derf explained, looking up with an apologetic expression. “And i guess that was when you got mixed up in this” he finished.

 

Then, with a whistfull glance out the cockpit window, he asked almost as an afterthought. “Just one question before you have me vaporized though?”, Derf said and then turned to regard Keash with an incredulous expression before asking “Why are we still aive?”

 

Keash looked at him oddly before realizing what the Alien was referring to.

 

Before their conversation had begun the IMS Breda had traversed a length of space that was filled with what remained of two planets which had mutually anhiallated each other in a cataclysmic collision. Gravitational anomalys not yet understood by science worked to keep the debries field not only contained into a specific area but also afforded a path clear of debries to the planet where they'd met directly above the poles. The debries field itself was a chaoitic mess of asteroids ranging in size from a human fist to chunks of planet surface 100 kilometers across.

 

None of the asteroids were in the nice elyptical orbit around a single point as everybody imagined all asteroids to be though, each one on a different trajectory than any other, at speeds that were equally different though never slow or leisurely. Asteroids were colliding with one another everywhere and all the time which made calculating a clear path through them was to complicated, even for 24th century computer technology. Preventing collision with asteroids the size of Elephants were inevitable for any object traversing the debries field which was about twice a large as even the most powerfull deflector shields cold deflect sucessfully.

 

Larger asteroids could either be shot to little chunks by energy weapons or evaded completely, and reletively slower moving asteroids would mostly be deflected. The majority of the asteroids in the debrief field were anything but slow moving and even an immoblie object would be subjected to high speed impacts getting through the deflector shields.

 

“Look around you mr....” Keash began. “Derf, my name's Derf” the alien filled in. Keash gestured with his armes to include everything around them, continuing “everything that you see is something i have personally put there, after personally putting the hull of this spaceship together out of pieces i took from derelicts or wreckages.” Standing from his seat and moving over to his son he collected the disruptor and thumbed it down to standby before unlocking and catching his son in his arms. He turned to Derf who'd visibly relaxed and wore a greatfull expression at the removal of the disruptor's threat. “The primary hull of this ship was construced from the hull of a blockade runner drone transport and the secondary hull was taken from an ancient asteroid field miner, built in the days before deflector shields and energy barriers to reinforce structural integrity.” Keash reveiled. Derf's expression displayed some recognition but Keash knew he'd need to elaborate before complete comprehension dawned for the alien guest. “During the Dominion war Starfleet found itself being beaten on all fronts. The war went so bad that some outposts or even sectors of space containing colony or member worlds got isolated from Federation controlled space, unreachable for supplies and reinforcements. Starfleet designed and built a number of drone transport ships that were designed to ignore everything that came into their path and keep going full speed towards their objective destination and capable of resisting massive amounts of firepower without critical failures for extended periods of time. Only three were ever used in the field of which 2 actually did the job they were designed to do. They broke through the enemy lines despite taking considerable fire head on and reached the colonies they were sent to reach.” Keash explained.

 

While he was talking he had moved to the replicator, gotten himself and his son who was as captivated by Keash's words as Derf was, a cup of chocolate milk and thrown Derf a quizzingly look asking if he wanted anything. “Coffee please, black” Derf nodded while his expression asked Keash to continue.

 

“Unfortunately the transports moved the reached colonies up on the Dominion's to do lists and were conquered within days after that, and Starfleet decided the drones would not be used in that manner again. As the war's tide shifted and eventually ended with the Federation on the winning side the remaining 3 ships that had been constructed were left at a salvage shipyard judged to costly to dissasemble for recycling or resourcces. One of them became part of this ship.” Keash told his audience as he moved to his seat and sat down, his kid held against his chest and the mug with chocolate milk in his hand moving so he could take a sip now and then.

 

“The miner ship, wich forms most of the other parts of the hull, was constructed in the early days of Klingon expantion into the galaxy and before their wide spread implementation of warp drives, to be used for mining asteroid fields for raw materials. Klingons being what they are would not accept the existance of Asteroid fields to perilous for them to mine and constucted their mining ships with such stuctural strength and heavy armored hulls they could withstand almost any direct impact with solid objects traveling at sublight velocities.” Keash explained and then told his son “Ahrund, its bedtime now. Daddy loves you and daddy is proud of you. Good night and sleep well honey”. He then gave his son a kiss and put him on his feet. “Good night daddy, love you too” said Ahrund lovingly and waved as he turned and walked out of the bridge, off to bed. Derf was amazed as he watched the kid go by on his way out of the bridge. He'd never seen such an obedient kid, especially after such a terrifying trip like the Breda had been through not long before.

 

“The thruster assemblies, impulse engines, warp nacelles and the power distribution systems on this ship were cannibalized from a starship tug, giving the ship it's exceptional maneuverabillity. The rest of the ship is an evolving collection from various other sources which i upgrade whenever the opertunity presents itself. Most important of which might be considered to be our private quarters, directly aft of this bridge. If you'd examine it you'd find it is outfitted like a family home. It's furniture comfortable and antique, its walls adorned with memorabilia, images of family friends or events and even an artificial fireplace to complete a homely atmosphere.” Keash went on telling his remaining companion on the small ship's bridge. Derf's expression must've betrayed his confusion as Keash leaned forward and looked the alien in the eye, his expression somehow intimidating and dangerous to Derf. “I am telling you all this, and specifically the last part, because this ship IS a family home mr. Derf. This ship is the culmination of decades of work, of a life 's dreams. It's the result of my past, the centerpoint of our present and i hope it will build the beginnings of a fabulous future for my son. It is our home and i will kill if i have to, to defend it.”

 

Derf nodded to express his comprehention of the implied threat in Keash's words and expression, and was about to launch into an explaination of how it was not his doing that got the illegal arms parts into Keash's cargo hold and how he was a victim of deceipt just like Keash was when Keash leaned back and started to talk again. “This ship is a home, first and foremost, not the one time use, throwaway valued barely operatable cobbled together heap of metal that is used by a band of swashbuckling adventurous wanabe smuggler types for a illegal smuggling run. Nevertheless my son and me have experienced an anomalous amount of incidents in wich ill intent was displayed towards us and or this ship. First an ambush and attempted raid by pirates, then the trap set by Starfleet on the colony and then the Nova class starship which fired on us to prevent us from leaving.” he said as if sounding off a bullit point list of facts. Glancing over to Derf as if inviting him to disagree Keash went on, no longer so much telling Derf anyhthing as thinking out loud to make sure he was considering all the variables.

 

“You said the cargo consisted of weapon's parts. What part of what weapons?” Keash asked Derf with a frown. Derf looked apologetic at the human as he replied “I have no idea. I never said anything about the cargo's content. It was the Starfleet officer who spoke about weapon parts” Keash nodded as he remembered. “Whatever they are, they must be worth a fortune for the pirates to spent so much effort on an attempt to hijack it. And for Starfleet to risk letting it get to its delivery point before seizing it or for Starfleet to assign a Nova class starship for the operation these parts must either be dangerous on a large scale or so classified you'd have to blind all who behold you with the brass on your chest and shoulder.” Keash concluded and than jerked his head towards the back of the ship. “I think its important we find out what we've gotten ourselves stuck with as soon as we can.” he said and lead Derf out of the bridge, and down into the cargo area of the Breda.

 

“HOLY SHIT!” exclaimed Keash as the outer shipping container's front panel fell away and reveiled what was inside. The shipping container held another, slightly smaller but infinately more sophisticated, containment shield and ryostasis field generating and computer controlled lockbox marked with what looked to be Romulan markings that, though Keash didn't know any Romulan, warned of danger inside and cautioned against tampering with. The markings were placed on all sides except for the side which held the computers controls and display. The display showed what seemed to be sensor readouts which were acompanied by Romulan script simular to the markings.

 

Kicking himself for not doing so routinely with everything that was brought onboard the Breda Keash quickly grabbed a tricorder and scanned the container for dangerous radiation or anything else that might be harmfull, especially for kids. The tricorder beeped reassuringly moments later, indicating nothing dangerous could be detected coming from the container or the rest of the stacked unopened boxes. Relieved at that small favour at least Keash set the tricorder to scan and translate the markings on the container's side and to scan the control mechanism for clues as to its purpose and operation. When the display showed its results Keash's knees almost gave out and a naucious feeling overwhelmed him. Just before Derf's move to support him was no longer premature Keash grabbed hold of and held onto a bulkhead steadying himself enough to take a few deep breaths and pull himself together. Derf's frightened and puzzled expression prompted him to hand over the tricorders and point at one word on its screen. Derf gasped as he realized what the kind of weapons technology their cargo were parts for:

 

Thaleron Weapons.

 

 

 

It wasn't more than an hour later when the two finished opening and checking each container that had come with the shipment meant for Derf and had closed everything back up and safely. At least as safe as one could become with Theleron involved.

 

After Keash had activated the ship's automated containment, quarantine and security potocolls in order to keep the cargo from being touched, moved, scanned or otherwise interacted with without Keash's knowing about it the two men returned to the front of the ship, settling down in the seats on the bridge. “I can't think of a time at which i've ever been screwed more than we are at this point” sighed Derf. Keash laughed at the remark. “I'd never thought i'd experience this moment in my life and hoped i never would but i'm unable to come up with any anecdotes of me being screwed more either” he replied, turning his gaze to the console displays acros his board on the bridge. Nothing had changed since they'd left the bridge, and Keash hadn't expected anything to have. If anything had his computer's AI would've notified him of such change.

 

“Allright, lets take stock of our situation, inventory our resources as figure out what the hell we're going to do next.” Keash snapped, more to himself than Derf. “We can't go back to the Colony because even though the colony isn't a Federation member they do allow Starfleet to enforce their law on their turf. As Starfleet had judged this shipment and the people involved with it important enough to send a Nova class starship out to deal with it you can bet your life savings that every outpost, starship, civilian transport and Starfleet officer is now in posession of any images they have of us, and standing orders to arrest us on sight. Whatever we do, it will have to be outside of Federation territory.” Keash reasoned while Derf nodded in agreement.

 

“On the way to the colony i've run into some pirates which, i strongly suspect, were either Orion themselves or payd by the Syndicate. The fact they were aware of the existence of the cargo, and where and when to be in order to prepare an ambush suggests that any space in which Orion Syndicate has any freedom of movement will in the best case scenario get this ship and us along with it blown into a cloud of superheated atoms. Having had the audacity not to comply with their demand to power down and be boarded and chose to give 'em a bloody nose and run can only have made them more anxcious to see this ship, and more specifically me.” Keash said, his gaze staring out the cockpit viewports.

 

“The other corridor in and out of the colony without going through this asteroid soup leads into the Klingon Empire's territory. Most of the area to the “south” is official territory of the Klingon Empire. My relation has never been anything better than mutual disgust and at best one in which they try to kill me and me having the lousy manners to refuse to do so. It's maybe an unprofessional thing with me but i'm ruling that course of action out of the question until its the only option left.” Keash went on to say, making sure the Alien with him on the bridge understood he was serious about this.

 

“That leaves us with an arc of course options that looks like this on the map. He keyed a command into a console and the main vieuwscreen lit up with a starchart of local space and the area surrounding it. A dot colored bright blue blinked inside a sphere of yellow and red specs at the center of which a green orb was greyed out. Keash zoomed in some more revieling the yellow and red specs were asteroids and the green globe represented the colonty. The overview showed the Breda was in one of 5 circularly shaped empty rings of space that surrounded the spot at which until recently an entire planet had existed. To travel out of the asteroid cloud around the colony they would have to traverse at least two lengths in which the asteroids chaotically tumbled, collided, pulled with gravity on each other and accellerated each other to near light speed velocities. As the Breda had come remarkably undamaged through the first, forced, track through the asteroid field wich in places was more dense and chaotic than what lay ahead of them Keash had no worries about cutting through the field to get out at a spot at which no ship was expected to be able to get to without being smeared onto the surface of a large cold spacerock.

 

Derf then got up and pointed at a spot on the map they were looking at. “There, can you zoom in on that area?” he asked. Keash comlied and the point where Derf's finger had pointed grew to fill the entire screen. It reveiled nothhing interesting though and in fact seemed to be the emptiest piece of galaxy Keash had ever seen. “It's not showing on any maps but i know its there, as i've visited the place before myself. There's a space station there.” Derf informed Keash. Keash frowned as he replied. “If the station's not showing up on my charts they're doing their best to keep their existence a secret. And anyone going through that much effort to keep a secret usually has good reason to do so, which translates into staying away to equal common sense.” Keash shook his head. “I'm not so big on those kinds of places when i'm on my own, let alone with my son along for the ride. I'm no model citizen nor do i get along with any law kind of enforcement i've ever encountered in my life but those places are lawless Derf. Shooting your head off just to see if the sight on a rifle is calibrated correctly isn't unheard of or even an uncommon event in such places.”

 

Derf looked up to meet Keash's eyes before saying “It does have the one thing that might give us a snowball's chance in hell of getting ourselves out of the mess we've been manipulated into..... Informtion about the man who sent the cargo to me as payment for the debt he owed me for decades.” Though throughout the time Keash had spent with the man he had never sensed any threat or evil in him when Derf spoke those last words they were frightening to Keash. The venim and sheer hatred lacing them made Keash notch up the priority for learning more about this alien man inside their home.

 

“Hey, i don't know what you've got in mind but as far as i'm concerned you're no less of a risk to me and my son then you were before. My son isn't here pointing a disruptor at you right now but i hope you don't think that means no weapons are pointed at you or no intelligence is watching your every move, orders to shoot at any sighn you pose a threat to me, my son or the ship!” Keash told him in angry tones. His expression told Derf the man wasn't kidding and had judged postponed deciding what to do with Derf until higher priority issues had been dealt with. Oddly the realization pleased Derf and made him feel more comfortable being forced to trust this Human, traveling with his child, in a massive and remarkable ship the man supposedly constructed himself.

 

A moment of silence followed, long but without any awkwardness, as Keash put together what he knew about Derf and what he had been told by Derf in his mind before feeding it to his instinct and gutt feeling. Then Keash asked “I think it is time i become your bff whom you reveil your darkest secrets to pal. I want to know everything that lead to converge in the exciting way we met each other. If i think you're lying or trying to deceive me or keeping things from me... or rather when my ship's AI tells me your bio signs indicate you are... i'll order her to beam you onto an asteroid with just your torso sticking above the surface.” The expression on Keash's face, as well as the dark and dangerous edge to his voice as he spoke left no doubt in Derf's mind that this in fact was another matter of life and death in the growing list of such matters he had wound up experiencing in the past few weeks and months. Derf looked away from Keash and breathed another sigh of resignation before he answered.

 

“well, i guess you're entitled to at least that. Full disclosure and absolute honesty. You're gonna get it, but remember that YOU asked for it.” the alien began. His gaze seemed to look far into his past and into parts of himself he'd rather not acknowledge for reason of it making him feel so stupid. “My childhood was alright i guess, though masses of people would probably get angry when they'd hear me say that. Compared to many i had everything i could ever want and then some. My parents were wealthy and i had every opertunity to grow up, develop, study, and be whatever i wanted to become. But to me there was enough that wasn't great at all and so i became arrogant, selfish and in need to find something to belong to... to be part of. I needed to feel like there was a group or place or culure or anything really that accepted me as part of them without questions or reservations.” Pauzing his telling for a moment he looked at Keash before asking “Hey, did you have anything to eat yet today? I know i haven't and i'm hungry as hell. How about we have the replicator conjure up a meal before i go on?”

 

Keash nodded in agreement. He hadn't had the chance to eat since before the ambush by the pirates and he could use a good pasta right about now. Ten minutes later the two men sat at the dining table eating their selected meals and Derf decided to continue telling Keash the sad tale of his life.

 

“I wound up finding what i was looking for in the odd Hardcore house party scene, and the subculture called Gabbers in which i blissfully immersed myself completely. It was a party to party rollercoaster in which having a hangover was considered a failure to consume enough drugs and to little parties to choose from.” Derf said, clearly visiting some memories from those days in his mind's eye. “The problem with that life was that in between parties and drug binged adventures you found yourself in places and sharing company with what most would call the lower steps on the ladder of sentient life. And in those environments there are usually two kinds of people: Predators and prey. I wouldn't have admitted it at the time, even to myself as i thought myself quite the ferocious predator, but i was prey most of the time. I had been ignorant and naive coming from my sheltered upbringing into the in your face and fuck all y'all while we have our party society.”

 

Keash had been listening intently to the man and the story of his past while he ate. He had given no indication of what he thought of the man's tale seeming to take knowledge of it without judgment. After swallowing a bite of stake Keash spoke for the first time since Derf had started his story. “I have had that feeling for most part of my life myself. In my case it turned out i'd never find it, to this very day. I looked for it everywhere, from street gangs to Starfleet, but i never felt i've belonged.” he told Derf, wondering himself why he did so. “But you did, and found yourself a Mackerell in Shark infested waters” Keash added, prodding Derf to continue his story.

 

“Ah, you've been paying attention! Now i'm getting nervous, that usually never happens when i tell a story.” Derf smiled and set down his glass next to the emptied plate in front of him. “Like i said my folks were pretty loaded and compared to most folks i spent my time with i wasn't scraping no barrels myself if you get what i mean. Thing about that is that if you're not getting money in, the source of your money is eventually going to run out, and ofcourse it will do so when it is the worst time for it to do so. In my case it happened on the nice little shithole where we met.”

 

“Thank god, i thought you were going to take longer to tell your life's story than it took you to live it man. Go on, what happened” Keash rumbled and banged his fist on the table for emphases.

 

“After a rave which was held on a mountain plateau a couple of hundred miles from the settlement i wound up in town looking for some way to keep the buzz and excitement going being nowhere near ready to accept the party was over. I bounced into one of the dive bars there which had a beat coming from their speakers at least close to the hardcore beats i had bounced on during the three day rave i came from. Inside i started to drink enthusiasticly of the local shine they served there. Pretty soon the drugs in my system were overwhelmed by the alcohol and found myself invited to a game of cards. Looking back i know i was taken for a shave like a little lamb ofcourse but the next morning i woke up face down somewhere in the industrial part of the settlement with nothing but my raver shorts and trainers on.” Derf told Keash with a regretful expression.

 

“I learned that my folks had cut me off and my accounts were empty. The fellas from the card game roughly enlightened me about the missing bits in my memory in which they had extended me a generous line of credit and an open bar-tab which they would like to be compensated for... and some other stuff involving two Orion women they insisted were not slaves but exotic dancers.” Derf went on, almost coming to the point at which Keash had been active part of the story himself. I had nothing anymore, my folks didn't accept any calls and the guys i owed the money to got more and more impatient. There was one long shot i had left to try and that was Misbakesle.”

 

Derf got up and deposited the dishes into the replicator to be reclaimed, and ordered a racktajino for himself. Keash nodded he'd have one too and after retrieving the second mug from the replicator moved to give it to Keash. After having sat back down Derf went on to finish the story.

 

“Decades back, when we were kids, Misbakesle and me were best friends. One time we had gotten ourselves lost in the outback around the campsite our parents had decided to vacation on. It was an almost untouched planet, and the fauna had never encountered sentient beings, let alone humanoids. We went exploring ofcourse and got lost. During our wanderings i saw some form of local bird swoop down towards Misbakesle and something shoot from its mouth, or from its belly or something. I reacted in reflex throwing myself against him knocking him out of the way. I wasn't as fortunate and a spike, which the bird used to hunt its pray, stuck itself deep into my left thigh.”

 

“Misbakesle made a big deal out of it, claiming eternal debt and servitude to me for saving his life. I was initially glad that the spike was easy to remove from my thigh and that i felt little pain. The bird had probably taken a better look at what it had shot at and decided there was easier tastier prey to be had elsewhere. A search party found us soon after that but hours later i started to have organ failures all over my body. One after the other just quit working and for months i was kept alive with organ transplant after organ transplant. Just when everyone thought there was nothing that could save me, and just hours from death the scientist of the Federation outpost nearby had found a cure and saved my life. Misbakesle and me became inseperable friends for years. He always assured me that he was indebted to me and that he would give or do anything within his power to repay me for saving his life whenever i decided to collect on it. Over the years though he became more and more involved in activities i wanted no part of. Slave trade, weapons brokering and that sort of thing. We drifted apart and eventually never saw each other again for over 18 years until i called him. The rest as they say, is history. He fucked me over and in the process fucked you over as well, bringing us here, now, in the present, wanted by Orions, Starfleet and who knows who else.” Derf finished.

 

 

After polishing off a bottle of genuine Glenfiddich single malt whiskey while Keash regaled Derf with the tale of his sorry excuse for a life and the adventures he’d had in the years he’d spent in space the two men, brought together by events that had left both their futures completely in ruins, decided they were friends and liked the other’s company.

 

Keash had shown Derf one of the passenger quarters the Breda offered and which Keash always kept ready to receive customers and told the odd little alien it was his for the duration of his stay on the Breda. Then he’d gone back to the living quarters and spent a good hour watching his little boy peacefully asleep in his little bedroom before finally crashing into his own bed. A good three hours later the voice of the ship’s AI woke Keash with her still not completely alive sounding voice. „master Keash, one of the trigger conditions defined for waking you has been met“ the female voice stated simply.

 

Grunting, as the hangover asserted itself into Keash’s brain, his body, in his own opinion far too old for this shit, seemed to protest every notion of movement. „Report, what condition and met how?“ he asked getting his pants on and stumbling out of his bedroom. „Sensors have detected a vessel on a heading for our position within the range specified for triggering a wake up alarm.“ the emotion void voice dutifully replied. Keash was wide awake and alert as he heard those words and almost sprinted onto the bridge.

 

Crashing into his seat more than sitting down into it he punched controls and keys left and right activating the displays that would show him the information he needed to know. The information worried him deeply. A vessel was indeed ploughing its way through the asteroidfield coming straight at their position. „Fire up the propulsion systems and raise the shields. Get active sensor readings and show me an image of the ship“ he instructed the AI, while he was racking his brain for an explanation. To his knowledge none of the ships in use these days weren’t capable to withstand the kinetic energies that a ship was unavoidable to be subjected to like the Breda was.

„The aproaching vessel is a Klingon Negh’Var class dreadnaught battleship. It’s weapons are charged and its defensive measures are activated.“ announced the AI’s voice simultaneously with Keash’s brain’s exclamation „Klingons!“

 

To deny fear gripped Keash’s chest knowing a Negh’Var was coming straight at them with all weapons hot and pointed at you would be at best a self-delusion. Sweat started to flow over his face and soaked his clothes. „Derf to the bridge! And i think you want to hurry! How’s your tlhingHan’Hol?“ he yelled into the commlink to Derf’s quarters. The viewscreen at the front of the bridge, which wrapped 180 degrees of the command seat, resolved into the first sharp images of the angry looking Klingon ship of war doggedly maintaining a straight course even though it took impact after impact of hard rocks, iceballs the size of the statue of liberty and chunks of metal the size of london dubble decker busses.

Disruptor beams crisscrossed space around the ship taking out larger or faster asteroids or at least soften them up enough not to pose a real threat to the IKS wISuq under captain’s L’Torgh. Even though Keash knew it would be a Don Quichottes charge on the windmills, but Keash also knew there was nothing else left to do. The Neg’Var was faster, had more power, bigger guns and a crew of 1000 Klingon warriors for waging hand to hand combat or even full scale planetary conquest.

 

Nothing Keash could do at that point would prevent the Breda from coming into the Klingon’s weapon range and be cut to shreds by the Disruptor beam arrays, cannons, photon and quantum torpedoes or tricobalt high yield tactical missiles.

 

So as Derf flashed onto the bridge to witness the Breda on course to intercept the Klingon battleship and do a strafing run peppering it’s underside with phased pulse cannons, phaser lance and the phase disrupted poloron plasma beam array combined with a full spread of quantum entangled de-phased photon torpedoes followed by the release of replicator based cloaked mines he nearly blew up his heart out of his hips!

 

„Sometimes i misjudge people and find they’re the opposite of what i thought them to be. You’re one of them. I thought you were a reasonable, quiet and intelligent fellow. Quite obviously you’re completely MAD!“ Derf whimpered landing in the seat by the bridge station he used. „Well, unless you’re not in the process of ATTACKING one of the Klingon’s most awesomely powerful warships!!“ he added with a pleading expression.

 

That was the moment the first volley of disrupter fire were inescapable for the IMS Breda and slammed into her shields with a vengeance. Lights flickered and some screens went black or static for a moment before coming back up slowly. Erratic banks and turns combined with the Breda’s refusal to allow more than 500 meters of distance between it and the hull of the giant Klingon battleship conspired from that point on to make it impossible for the Klingon gunners to get the human cargo ship into their sights.

 

Keash knew that would buy them only a modicum of time to figure a way out before the helm on the Klingon bridge would be ordered to simply ram the TerrangHaNG PetaQ’Pu and swat them like flies with the Neg’Var’s massive hull itself but was coming up blank as for viable ideas.

 

Then the Neg’Var stopped maneuvering and came to a dead stop. It’s weapons powered down, allowing Derf to notice and notify Keash of an incoming hail. „Klingons wanting to talk when they’re about to destroy an enemy in battle?“ Keash wondered in astonishment before keying the comm to connect the signal. A huge broad shouldered Klingon captain standing on a spacious bridge stood proudly while his eyes burned with what Keash recognized as the Klingon bloodlust. „I am Captain L’Torgh, son of Moktor of the House of Quch. I command the IKS wISuq. Identify yourself Human!“ the man barked in typical Klingon civil manner. „I am Keash Faultish, Captain and owner of the Independant Mercheant Ship Breda. State your intent and purpose!“ Keash snarled in return, before adding in a tone of voice suggesting disgust and contempt „qatlh quvHa' quvHa' HIv loD“

 

The Klingon Captain descended into a belly lough which couldn’t have been faked by even the best actor in the Universe. It lasted a good minute before ebbing off into gaffuws and finally the Klingon Captains regaining of his wits and baring. „I give this warning only once Human; Never again accuse me of willingly bringing dishonor to those i command. Death will come before you finish speaking that sentence in which you try.“ the Klingon snarled and despite having seen the man literally laugh his ass off just seconds before there was no mistaking the threat’s sincerity. „By order of the Klingon High council your cargo will be seized. You will be allowed to leave undamaged as soon as we’ve confirmed receipt on the transporter coordinates you’re now receiving. Failure to comply completely and unconditionally will result in your immediate destruction. These terms are non negotiable and you will have no time to consider your options. Do you understand?“ the booming voice demanded before crossing his arms.

 

Keash knew that he was being offered an unprecedented way out of this situation other than by becoming atomized and spread over lightyears of space. He knew that Klingons were true to their word, literally. „Understood. Initiating transport now“ he replied, all the wile keeping his eyes locked with the Klingon Captain across the subspace commlink. A voice snapped of a report in thlIngHan Hol from off screen and the Klingon nodded. He then turned to face Keash again and said in a low voice „You acted and fought like an honorable Klingon warrior Human. So much so you impressed those who command me. That is the only reason you keep drawing breath today. But make no mistake. Your spilled Klingon blood! Next time we meet, one of us will die!“

 

The connection was cut immediately after that and the gigantic ship shimmered just for a second before vanishing completely as if it had never existed at all. „Senors have determined the parameters for the state of all quiet have been met. Recommend deactivation of offensive and defensive systems and resuming idle operating mode.“ the ship’s AI stated ridiculously.

Neither of the two men spoke for a long while after the Negh’var class Klingon dreadnought had reversed its course and lumbered its way out of visual range and out of the asteroid field. All indications were that the Starfleet vessel was still on its side of the field doing whatever it was they were doing to find a way to get at the Breda and that they’d never even noticed the Klingon’s were even there. Keash also knew they couldn’t stay in the position they were in for very much longer. Pretty soon the creative minds on the Starfleet vessel would figure something out to either get to the Breda or force the Breda to come out herself. Having been in the fleet himself for a number of years he had first hand experience in their ability to do the seemingly impossible when the need called for the impossible.

 

“I hope what i’m going to say is as clear to you as it is to me but we have to go after the Klingons and either get the shipment back or destroy it.” Keash finaly told Derf. Blinking twice in obvious confusion, then shock, Derf turned white at the thought. “Again I realize I was wrong in my assessment of you” his high pitched voice replied with a stricken expression. “You’re not MAD.... You’re so crazy they’ve not yet created a word with which to sufficiently express its severity!” he exclaimed almost yelling, no screaming. “Calm down!” Keash snapped, more harshly then he’d intended.

 

“Why the hell would we want to go and kill ourselves in a suicidal attempt at getting at that shipment?” Derf asked, as if not noticing Keash any more. “We’ve got a chance to escape this mess alive and with a head start. Why not take it and run?!” he finally asked gazing into Keash’s eyes, unfortunately genuinely baffled. Keash held his gaze for a moment before looking down at the floor.

 

“Starfleet has no idea we no longer have the weaponary nor does its dissapearance deminish our ‘crime’ in their legal system. We’re just as wanted as we were and just as in prison for the rest of our lives as we were before.” Keash started to explain in a hushed voice. “The Orions, if its them who are behind the raid, don’t know we no longer have the shipment and so will continue to hunt for us unrelentingly until they find us and when they do we will suffer horribly before they end our lives.” Keash went on, counting off two with his finger. Then he raised a third finger saying “And weaponry of the kind the Klingons just took from us in the hands of the Klingons will sooner or later be used to kill hundreds, thousands or even millions of people and I would not be able to live with myself being associated with such horror”

 

Resignation spread across Derf’s expression as he sighed and hung his head. “Damnit, I’m supposed to be a scumbag low life who cares about nothing but his own skin!” he snarled adding “but I can’t even convince myself I don’t give a shit about who gets killed with that stuff as long as it isn’t me.”

 

It amazed Keash how relieved he was to hear Derf say that. He knew he’d have had to part ways with Derf if he had insisted on going on the run and it might have gotten ugly before they did. “Well, lets get our asses in gear and get moving then.” he said and started working the consoles to put his words into action. Not long after that the Breda started moving, following the slowly dissapating cleared path left behind by the massively large Klingon ship when it had left the asteroid field. Near the outer edge of the field Breda’s sensors told Keash that there was no sighn of any other vessel that might be able to witness their emergence from the field. Unfortunately neither did they find any trace of the Klingon ship or of the course it had taken from there the Breda might follow.

 

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