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SD241903.18 - Joint Duty Log - Torhild & Civilians - "The Ration Transaction"

Posted on Wed Apr 17th, 2019 @ 6:38pm by Commander Torhild Jessen & Brigadier General Jonathan Grey

2,081 words; about a 10 minute read

Mission: The Sincerest Form of Flattery
Location: Versailles
Timeline: Current

=^= Refugee Aid Market =^=

The bustle of the market stalls was still thick and heavy. Long lines of people, often in rags or torn clothing, stretched far down the wide hallway. While there were many stalls along both sides of the vast space, a few were extremely popular, and were causing all manner of congestion as refugees queued up in their hundreds.

The biggest stall was brown, and bore the name "Fred's Foods". Easily twenty meters wide, this was a place of squares. A checkerboard of brown shades on the floor marked out the different areas, with refugees restricted to certain areas, which were filled with large boxes full of ration packs. Employees in brown outfits were handing the packs out to the refugees one at a time, and ensuring nobody got more than their share.

Yet more of the uniformed folk marshalled a baffling array of red ropes on metal poles, cordoning off certain squares. Every now and again, one would speak into a communicator, and a flicker of transporter light would deposit another batch of boxes. These areas would then be opened up for public access, another square would be roped off, and the dance would begin again.

Running the whole show was a man with a fluorescent gillette over his brown polo shirt. He had an oversized tablet in one hand, and spent much of his time up on a raised podium. With one hand he would gesture at an empty spot to be roped off, and with the other he would point at areas of the crowd that were restless. The little army in brown moved at his command, and there was little the weathered eyes couldn't see.

Except, perhaps, the bottom row on the optician's letter chart.

"Oi, Fred!" barked the radio on his hip. A gnarled hand snatched it off his belt and squeezed the big button on the side, holding it near his head.

"Wot, you ol' codger?" he barked joyfully, recognising the gravelly tones of an old pal from the local watering hole.

"We got five 'undred t'ousand tonnes of rations goin' foul. Klingon crap's got us locked up, anna crew won' budge. Cutcha good deal?"

"Nah. But 'ole on, ye warklar." he drawled, asking for a moment.

His other hand pushed buttons on the radio, hooking him into the station's comms network.

"Hullo." he said to the operator, cutting back on the accent, "Can oi speak to Missus Jessen?"

The brash voice cut across the science lab, making both Tori and Claire look up in surprise.

"I think that's for you, ma'am" said Claire, after the shock had passed. "Let me give you some privacy." she added, grabbing her padds from the desk and rushing off with them tucked under her arms.

Tori rolled her eyes slightly as the younger woman retreated. She was far too polite. Instead, she turned in her seat, opening a channel through the console she was working at. "This is Commander Jessen, how can I help you?" she asked politely.

"Good evening C'mn'der." declared the speaker grill, each word enunciated slowly and carefully. "Oi'm a humble merchant on tha' Ref-oo-gee Maaarket, and moi business associate has a proper-sishun for yus. 'E's got foive 'undred t'ousand tonnes of ration packs, an' I 'ere you're givin' good proice." said Fred, mangling the civilised terminology with an accent so thick the spoon would stand up.

"Five hundred thousand tonnes?" Tori repeated, not sure if it was the accent that made it difficult for her to understand. "You said five hundred thousand tonnes of ration packs?"

There was a moment of silence as Tori shook her head. Something told her that there was a lot more to this than what was going to be made obviously clear. "Look, Mr... sorry I didn't catch your name? Why don't you give me your details, I'll come sit down with you and have a chat in person, okay?" Tori offered.

"The name's Fred, miss." said the rumbling voice, "Oi've got no toime ta be sittin' dahn wit' yer lardy-dah teas and such. If yez wants first crack at 'tose packs, yool afta stand, lessen yez be starin' at me tuckus. Er," he hesitated, lowering his voice a pitch. "beggin' yer pardon miss. No 'arm meant, oi's just a common workin' fella y'see. Simple is, simple does." he apologised.

"Iffen yez can drop boi, I's sure the lads c'n finda tall box for yez to sit on." he offered, generously.

Tori raised one eyebrow slightly. "I can assure you, Mr Fred, I have absolutely no interest in your 'tuckus'," she replied curtly. "I'll be there within ten minutes."

Five hundred tonnes of rations was going to go a long way to helping with the situation on the station, but there was a small part of her that questioned why she was the one that had been called to discuss this. Surely a trade or sale of this size should have gone straight to the CO? Or at the very least to the Operations Manager?

Aside from that, there were so many questions racing through her mind about the origin of the rations among other things.

Pushing her chair back, she stood up quickly. "Claire, I'm heading down to the promenade for a bit," she called before disappearing through the doors.

Once she made it to the promenade, it didn't take a lot of asking before she found herself face to face with 'Mr Fred'.

"Mr Fred I assume?" she asked, holding her hand out politely.

Leaning over the edge of the podium, Bald Fred reached down and shook her hand with a grip like wrought iron. Age had wrinkled his face, but there was no trace of softness in him; the years had weathered this old coot like wind weathers a mountain.

"Missus Jessen! Ah, welcome to tha' flea market!" he boomed, releasing her hand and stepping off the podium. Treating her to a grin, he raised his radio and squeezed the talk button. "Ey, y'old codger! Get dahn 'ere. Got a party as wants yer ration packs."

"Aight. Much obloiged." crackled the radio, popping and fizzing for a moment before the signal stopped.

"E'll be 'ere in jus a few." Fred explained, wiggling the radio.

"Alright," Tori replied as she glanced around. She hadn't actually ventured into this part of the promenade before, but there was a certain... well... 'charm' to the area. Under different circumstances it could even be considered quaint or lively.

"So what can you tell me about these ration packs?" Tori asked, still keeping a close eye on what was going on around her.

A surge of refugees captured Fred's attention, distracting him from the Commander's question. The swell of people rushed through a set of red ropes placed to hold them back. A handful of brown-shirted employees hurried to keep the desperate refugees away from the latest beam-in spot, well aware that the discount beam-in tech being used was at least three generations behind the times.

Collision detection had been...patchy in those days.

Fred's hands latched onto the collars of some enthusiastic teens, nearly throwing them back into the crowd as he marched up and down the line, settling people down with a kind word here, and a barked warning there. His staff followed in his wake, restoring the ropes keeping people from beam-in zones until they were ready to be opened.

Eventually, the mob had settled enough for the grizzled veteran of the retail trenches to return to the Commander. As he reached her, another man of equal age appeared from the throng and strode towards the pair. This one was a scarecrow on legs, and seemed to have no wrinkles by virtue of every inch of his skin being both pulled taut and extremely thin.

The overall impression was that of a skellington inside a yellow balloon, and the employees appeared to draw back from the unsettling fellow.

"Oi oi!" he announced in surprisingly deep tones, echoing Fred's accent.

"Missus Jessen, Doffin. Doffin, Missus Jessen." said Fred, introducing the pair. For his part, Doffin seemed to be trying for "twinkly-eyed and kind" with his eyes, while at the same time flirting with a habitual, disconcerting stare.

Tori turned to face the newcomer, smiling politely as she held out her hand. "Lieutenant Commander Torhild Jessen," she said, introducing herself properly. "But feel free to call me Tori. So you're the one I'm supposed to speak to about these ration packs? Mr Fred said it was five hundred thousand tonnes? Is that right?"

There were so many questions that she wanted to ask immediately but she figured barraging him with questions likely wouldn't be the best way to start this conversation.

"Is roight, muss. Five hundred tonnes, yessir mum." said Doffin, dropping much of the accent as he spoke. "Tha Klingons 'ave got me...have got my ship and crew locked dahn. These tests go on forever, and I's...I've got to sell these packs before I run outta antimatter. Ship's empty, I c'n switch the engines off. Best in the long run, see?"

As Doffin explained, one stick-thin arm was probing the depths of an overly-large pocket, bending the man sideways like a banana.

The grubby yellow jumpsuit didn't help either.

Eventually, Doffin fished out a surprisingly clean padd, and rapidly punched in a series of commands with his needle-like fingers. The display changed to an inventory screen filled with different types of ration backs, each numbering in the hundreds of thousands, and divided by ship compartment.

"Here ya are. Complete wit'...with proven'nces." he declared, holding out the padd.

Taking the PaDD, Tori scanned through the list. There was an impressive array, that was for sure, but she still had doubts. "How in hades did you even get stuck with five hundred thousand tonnes of ration packs in the first place?" she asked curiously.

"Look, I'm interested, at least, I'm interested enough to take it to my boss, but before I do we're going to need to look it over and make sure it's all above board and there's no surprises. I'm sure you understand we need to take our own precautions," she said with a vague wave of her hand indicating the chaos surrounding them.

"So, assuming this all checks out and I can take it back to my boss, you're going to need to give me a price I can work with. I'll be honest, it's going to be a hard sell to get him to take the whole lot as it is, I mean, we need them, but we need other supplies too and latinum is in VERY short supply," she said as she continued scanning the inventory list.

"Jes replace it with sumthin' that keeps better in tha long cold, I figure." Doffin advised. As long as it would outlast this siege, he figured, he could always make a profit on it later. The rations, though keeping fine for now, were vulnerable to the frost. If he turned the ship off to save fuel, the rations would be ruined.

"Erm, you got parts?" he asked, racking his brain to consider alternatives to latinum that he could sell later. "Unrepl'c'bles? Bonds 'r maint'n'nce contracts? 'N I'll get my crew t' let let your folks survey the goods before pur-chase." he enunciated carefully, ignoring the strange look Fred was giving him.

Tori paused for a few moments, contemplating. She would need to liase with both operations and engineering, work out what they had that they could spare and compile a list. Hopefully anything that they listed up for trade wouldn't be needed in the future. Claire could do most of the running around for her, it shouldn't take terribly long to get lists of what was in storage where.

After a few moments of contemplation she looked back at Doffin. "Alright, I'll get a crew to go check out the rations and I'll have one of my assistants get a list of what non perishables we are likely to be able to spare for trade. Just out of curiosity Mr Doffin, exactly why is it that the Klingon's have your ship locked down?"

Here the man gave her a funny look.

"After what 'appened to the last uns that tried running their barricade, miss? We're all locked down."

=^= End of Log =^=

Lieutenant Commander Torhild Jessen
Chief Science Officer
Starbase Versailles


Fred (NPC Grey)
Fred's Foods


Doffin (NPC Grey)
"The Fat Begger"


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