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Exchange Rates

Posted on Wed Jan 31st, 2024 @ 6:48pm by Debbie Gless & David Mccolugh

Mission: Stardust and Sin
Location: The Exchange, Hukatuse Tagumik
Timeline: Mission Day 2 at 1830

[The Exchange]
[Hukatuse Tagumik]
[MD 2: 1830]

Dismissed by Captain Kodak and Commander t'Nai, Debbie had led the way from the Docks, following the map on the mini-PADD she carried. The station had been kind enough to send an information packet about Hukatuse over prior to docking, so the matron was able to easily lead David and their security escort -- Petty Officer Mia -- in the direction of The Exchange. And newly arriving, she could see that the station's central market place was simply huge.

Booths and vendors of all varieties dotted the massive square that had been hollowed out amidst the various buildings that edged its sides. Situated on the edges of the marketplace were various hotels and what appeared to be a constabulary of some kind. Looking around, Debbie also spotted the entrance to the station's infirmary as well as a sign indicating that the Governor's office was high above them, situated so as to look down on all that was below. Aliens of all shapes, sizes, and bi-, tri-, and more-pedal makeup were walking in various directions, all going about whatever business brought them to The Exchange.

"Well, this certainly puts Pathfinder's promenade to shame. At least in terms of size and offerings," Debbie commented. "Federation space stations are certainly a damn sight cleaner, though. And maybe a bit safer?" she directed to Mia, who was responsible for their safety while shopping.

David looked over the area, it was large but it had that lived in look, and he was also keeping an eye out on the crowd, "It should be fine, we stick together and we've got our guardian to protect us. "

Observe and report was the order of the day. Mia would observe the movement’s of the two people she was responsible for. Report anything that she thought was prudent and keep her senses sharp and aware of her surroundings. She would also be ready in case there was a need to take any action of any kind in the performance of her duties. But mainly, she would remain as inconspicuous as possible.

Just as she shared that thought with herself, a pic-pocket moved in from the corner of her right periphery. She took two steps in his direction and he quickly realised the mistake his was about to make and changed his mind. Mia took that moment to exhale and kept on being diligent and on point.

Oblivious to the woman's chasing away of the pick-pocket, Debbie continued on, nodding to David. "You're right. Nothing to be nervous about," she said with a big, brassy tone. It sounded more like she was trying to convince herself than a true acceptance of the bartender's assertion. "Well, we have quite the list of things to procure," the diner-matron said then, holding up her PADD. "Foodstuffs, of course. And more alcohol -- we made a pretty big dent in my stock the other night," Deb referred to Noah and Booth's party. "How about yours?" she asked of David.

Meanwhile, another figure lurked behind the trio, moving silently through the crowd of people they'd waded into. As the pick-pocket changed directions and moved away, this figure fell quietly behind Mia, keeping a consistent distance of three people away. The alien was clothed in a nondescript way, a hood drawn -- a not uncommon look amongst the gathered crowds -- as it shadow-traced the path Mia and the others were making, taking no other actions...for now.

All at once, the fine hair on the back of her neck stood on end. There was something amiss here and Mia could not phantom what it was. The Orion instinctively began to release pheromones into the area, then she thought better of it. She moved in closer to her principles as to give them better cover, and she failed her senses up to the highest setting in order to get a better read on the situation. Whatever happened now, she would be ready.

He could sense the tension in the air and it moved him unconsciously to a higher alert. so he kept an eye out, trusting the Orion with their safety. "Not too big a dent, I made sure I was well stocked before I left, I figure we'd need it."

"Plan ahead then, maybe?" Debbie asked, eyes peering around at the various vendors lining the lane they were walking. "May not have depleted your stores this time, but when's the next time we might be able to stock up like this?" Oblivious to the scene unfolding behind her, the matron let her feet carry her to a stall with an array of vivid outfits on display. There were brilliant pinks, blues, greens, and violets -- a bit like an Easter basket exploded everywhere -- but Debbie preferred to express herself with outlandish color. "Look at these," she half-whispered, delighted to stumble upon such an array.

The figure tailing the trio came to a halt at another vendor, this one a couple of stalls behind the group. They nonchalantly picked up an item on offer and asked the vendor about it, though furtive eyes kept Mia and her charges in sight at all times. The alien seemed intent on following the Starfleeters, though did not move to engage. This very much begged the question "Why?"

David looked at the outfits, "Lovely" He examined them, "Very vivid." His normal attire was a bit more drab, he had kept a more utilitarian look for most of his long life. Maybe it might be time for a change.

"That's what I love about them," Debbie almost-whispered, her eyes positively full of stars as she regarded the vibrant outfits on display. She reached instinctively into the breast pocket inside her jacket, ready to produce a handful of metal strips with which to buy a blouse that was particularly colorful and busy-patterned. She stopped, though, realizing two things: one, the metal-money wasn't meant to go shopping for items for herself and two, their security guard was looking around, though for what, Debbie was unsure.

Figuring Mia would do whatever it was that she needed to, Debbie moved forward to the next stall. This one was full of various plants on display. Some looked positively aquatic -- like seaweed that could somehow grow and thrive out of the water but still longed for it. Others involved intricate flowering patterns or vibrant, leafy formations that spread wide to catch the light. But one plant in particular caught the matron's eye: an alien tree in miniature -- a bonsai, by Earther standards -- and Debbie knew just who would love such a thing. Making a decision, she got the vendor's attention and pointed to the tiny tree.

"How much for that?" she asked, fishing metal strips out of her only slightly-age spotted cleavage. Apparently Debbie was going full-bore on the Biker Mama persona.

The alien vendor eyed the boob sweat-spotted strips with a bit of disdain at first but, seeing the interest in the woman's eyes, decided he was up for trade, dirty money or no. "Ten strips. Very hard to grow, very valuable," the stall owner emphasized, perhaps hoping to stave away any questions as to why the price was so high.

"Hmm," Debbie hawkishly intoned, her eyes narrowing. "That's a lot more than I'd hoped to spend. Besides, if it's difficult enough to to grow that the price must be so high, it'll be difficult to sell, I would think," she replied shrewdly, eyeing the plant up and down. Shrugging, she started to put her metal money away. "Ah well. I wish you luck with it, then. Thanks anyway," the matron said and began to move away.

"Wa-wait," the alien replied, his tone changing a bit to be more friendly. "Y-you make a good point: this plant is not for a novice grower. I am...protective about who I will sell it to," it explained. "I would rather it go to someone who can properly care for it," he stressed. "This little tree is very much a curiosity. Found on Dilloptrix VI, only one of its kind I saw there. Would hate for it to perish under incorrect care. If you are...experienced in plant care," the vendor sounded hopeful, "I could be convinced to lower the price some."

"Well," Debbie shrugged, "I'm not. Couldn't grow a plant to save my life. I actually killed grass once, of all things. But," she held up a staying finger to assuage the vendor's reluctance, "I want to buy this for someone who is talented in such things." She tap-tap-tapped at the screen of her PADD and then turned it towards the alien. "This is his collection of bonsai trees. He spends many hours caring for them. Some he's been growing for over 20 years."

The vendor bent forward, his tiny, coal-black eyes narrowing at the screen. "An impressive collection indeed. Alright," he nodded with confidence now. "I will lower the price to...8 strips," he said, standing back up and waving the PADD away.

Debbie smirked: the haggling had begun. "I'm afraid I'm here shopping for needed supplies for our ship, so I'm on a bit of a budget, sweety," she replied, infusing her tone with motherly smarm. "Would you take 5 strips?" the matron asked, tucking the PADD under an arm so she could start counting her money, putting on a show of seeing if she had enough. Truth told, she could get a strip refill from the Sojo very easily. The metals used on Tagumik for money were easy for the replicators to produce. Debbie just enjoyed the haggling, it seemed.

The alien stared at the strips of money Debbie was counting out on his counter, then looked at the aging woman's face. She was smarter than he'd taken her for initially. "I will take 7 strips, miss. But I will go no lower. I was serious about that tree's uniqueness. I've not found its equal anywhere else."

Debbie considered the alien's words, eyes again tracing over the Delta Quadrant bonsai. "Deal. But only," she locked eyes with the vendor, "if you have the tree safely delivered to my ship, free of charge."

"Done," the stall owner nodded, happy with the deal they'd reached.

Debbie handed the money over and began arranging for the delivery of Björn's gift.

Meanwhile, it was time for Mia to find out what this feeling was that she was feeling. As Mia scanned the area, she caught a tell. Two stalls away, they were being watched. And it was time to find out who it was that has taken such a deep interest in her crew. Mia moved off as if uninterested. Then she doubled back in behind the on looker. As she stepped in close, she whispered. “I’d be very careful if I were you.” Leaving her comm signal open so the others on the away team security detail could hear her.

“Bridgeport here, Mia do you require assistance?” he asked.

“Negative, standby.” As Mia asked the stranger. “You want to tell me why you’re following us?” She asked

The alien in question did not seem surprised at Mia's sudden appearance behind him, nor at her not-so-subtle threat. Putting down the bauble he'd been pretending to look at, the hooded man regarded the security officer with steely, piercing purple eyes. "You walk like an Enforcer and you are very keenly observant. You are for hire, yes?" His eyes flicked to Debbie and David, the pair whom the security specialist had clearly been tailing and protecting. "Have a great job for you, if interested," he said, his face a study in neutrality.

Mia knew she had to keep their origin secret so she played the game. “That’s very observant of you. Yes, I’m for hire. But at present as you have gleaned I’m on my assignment and I need to know your intentions.” Replied Mia not flinching

"Am Brokesh," the alien named itself, placing a scaly hand on its chest. "Need protection from Thrashers. Must get home/central/safety, will be attacked," Brokesh explained, his voice suddenly sullen. "Partner/spouse/companion needs medicine. Came here to buy but it will be stolen on my way back. Thrashers nasty and vile," he commented, a bit of fear in his cerulean eyes. The medicine in question was held up then -- a long vial of acid-green liquid stoppered with a gunmetal gray cork. "Cost all my ingot slips," Brokesh said with a sigh. "Have ingots to give for service at home, though."

"Thrashers?" spoke up Debbie, who'd followed Mia over and now regarded Brokesh. "If they'd steal medicine of all things, that makes them monsters in my book. Should we help?" she asked the security officer, her eyes bright with concern for this alien and his partner.

David paused, thinking for a minute then he looked at Mia, "it's up to you lass, but I think we should."

Mia was contemplating something. “You obviously know more about this place than we do. Maybe there’s a way we can help each other?” She asked. “We’re looking for someone. If you can help us, we may be willing to help you get your medicine home where it’s needed.” Said Mia, with Bridgeport listening on comms.

Brokesh brightened as the group seemed to settle on helping him. "Brokesh will do what Brokesh can do to help you find your friend. Cannot guarantee we will find them but will help as can be helped." The alien looked around the Exchange, perhaps sensing other eyes were on him, and then stepped closer to the group, making it very visually clear that they were a team up: safety in numbers and all that. "How can Brokesh help?" he asked.

Mia reached into the folds of her garment and retrieved a small tricorder. She tapped it one time and it began to glow. The image of the person they sought was taken from the shuttle she was treated on. “This is our friend. We need to find her. Will you see what you can do to help us?” She asked.

Debbie's eyes narrowed at the tricorder. She wasn't sure so openly asking someone about Kaldri was the best of ideas. The other groups were going undercover and, she hoped, being very sly about how they asked for information. Plus, they'd been tasked with their own mission while the others looked for the Kazon. A detour to help Brokesh was one thing, but turning their mission into another attempt to find Kaldri was another. The matron held her tongue, however, given that Brokesh was intently studying the image on the tricorder. It was too late to intercede even if she wanted to.

"Not have seen this person," the alien shook his head slowly. "But the young adults who loiter near my home are ignored by most. They see many things: many people that way," Brokesh explained hopefully. "You show this person to them. See what they say?" he asked with a verbal up-tilt. His suggestion accomplished two things, it would seem: getting himself home safely and perhaps getting the security operative the information she wanted.

David nodded, it made sense some people were just 'part of the scenery' he'd seen it for centuries. But the information the ignored people could provide had helped him out many times, "Capital idea, See what we can find out." He had helped escort people home a time or two in his past as well, bodyguard type work might not have been the most glamourous line of work, but it had bought him food and lodgings a time or two. Also he felt an odd sympathy for the poor guy who just wanted to get home and not deal with the local thugs.

Mia listened intently. “I think it’s a good idea. But I’ll have to clear it with my boss. One moment." She stepped away momentarily, speaking into her earpiece while pretending to look at wares on offer: all to make it less obvious she was communicating with someone externally. Then, shaking her head as if disinterested in said wares, Mia stepped back towards the group. "We're good," the Orion said with a nod. "Brokesh, where are we headed?"

The alien spent a few moments explaining, borrowing Debbie's PADD with the map to indicate the route they should take. After all, as a resident of Hukatuse, he knew better than the covert Starfleeters how to more safely get around. Drinking in the details, Mia nodded at the proposed route and said, "Let's get going then." She gestured Brokesh forward and slipped behind him, David, and Debbie to keep an eye on all three as they went.

Debbie walked with purpose, glad they'd decided to help the alien: that certainly seemed more important than buying supplies -- at least, for the moment. They could return to that when done. And perhaps David was right: maybe they could help the Sojo's mission while escorting Brokesh home. It wasn't their mandate but if they could do it anyway, why not? To David, she said, "You been on many stations like this one before?, I mean?" She'd been about to say "non-Starfleet" but had caught herself.

David chuckled, "I've been to a few non-regulated ports, THis is much different from the Tortuga port in the Caribbean around the 19th century," Then he smiled, "Before you ask I wasn't a pirate, I was crew on a merchantman tobacco, sugar and rum were our three cargos. Captain made a good living off that. "

"Can't imagine using sailing ships to run cargo," Debbie replied, shaking her head. "Good thing I hadn't been born back then. Probably would have died of boredom," she half-guffawed. "Honey, you doing ok?" the matron then asked, noticing that Brokesh looked more than a little nervous as they walked. The alien was constantly looking this way and that, as if expecting an attack to come from anywhere at anytime. It was a reminder for Debbie to squeeze the small hand phaser in her biker jacket, reassured by its presence there.

"Brokesh very afraid. Not nice people on Hukatuse. Company not included/grouped/delineated," the alien explained. He took a turn off the main thoroughfare and led them down a quiet alley, along the backside of a row of vendor stalls. Those who weren't out front doing the selling sat out back, some smoking on their breaks while others ate and chatted. The group received a few looks as Mia and her charges made their way along Brokesh's suggested route.

"We'll do what we can to protect you," the security officer spoke up from the rear. "I definitely get the feeling, though, this isn't exactly a great place to live," Mia commented dryly, her verdant skin almost chartreuse in the yellow lights of the alley.

"Reminds me of York the seedier parts that is." David looked around, "Wasn't a great place there either. The only difference is, no workhouse." The smells and sounds of the area really brought back memories, to the point he let his hand cover where he kept his currency. It was something he picked up to protect his currency from the pickpockets that ran around the old cities when he was in the world.

"Workhouse?" Debbie asked, the fusion of two common words into one an anathema to her. The running commentary from David was a bit of a welcome break from the worries before them but she still kept her eyes sharp and focused. Beside her, Brokesh had gone quiet to listen to the bartender's thoughts, though continued navigating them ahead. Debbie looked then back to Mia -- the sight of the security officer a sustaining comfort on this trek -- but the matron suddenly stopped cold in her tracks. Mia wasn't right behind them. She was, in fact, a stall-length behind, back the way they'd come.

"I'm very sorry," Mia called out. "I'm sure you'll be fine, though." It sounded as if the woman had decided to leave the group to their own devices. With her right hand, she withdrew an item from her jacket pocket. It was her combadge. She tossed it onto the ground and then tore off at a sprint, weaving between two stalls to disappear into the pervading darkness.

"M-Mia!" Debbie called out after the woman. "What are you doing?!" But it was too late: the Orion had very much left the party.

David saw Mia dissapear, and paused a brief second, this was not good, he felt a small pit of fear, like when he was in the square and saw those curiaseers charge forward with their swords drawn. Outwardly he looked calm then he spoke, "Bollocks." as he looked for anything that could be used as a weapon if needed.

Brokesh looked up at the calls after Mia, his aquiline eye-stalks swiveling around in wild fashion. "Where did your security escort/bruiser/Enforcer go?" The alien looked positively terrified. Mia had clearly been the one keeping the other two safe: he'd counted on her abilities to keep him safe, too. "Without your companion, we are not capable of reaching safety/home/hearth," he said in lament, lowering his head in dismay. Webbed hands came up to cradle either side of his skull as he rocked back and forth on his heels.

Debbie shared a look with David. "'Bollocks' indeed Listen," she said, hoopy gold earrings swaying quickly as her head turned to include the kind-of-freaking-out Brokesh in her look as well, "I don't know what's going on with our escort but um...we should probably make our other trading associates aware. Brokesh," she offered the alien a stout look and a confident nod, "We will get you home safely if at all possible. But David," the matron -- formerly a Starfleet Chief Engineer -- took charge, "I want you to stay with Mr. Brokesh. I'm just going to step away a bit and make a call. I'll be right there," she pointed to a very lit area underneath an overhead path light down the way some.

Keep him calm, Debbie mouthed silently, hoping centuries of interactions with so many people had taught David to lipread. And with that, the woman nodded once more and then moved off to the area she'd indicated. There she pulled out her communicator -- away from eavesdropping ears -- and initiated a call to Bridgeport. They were going to need a replacement escort but, more importantly, the security chief needed to know his officer was running around the station off leash.

David nodded and took a deep breath, "Mr Brokesh, you don't worry about a thing, I've been around the block a few times and Debbie is quite capable. What do you say we wait over here and you can help me pick out some new spirits for the bar, I'm not too familiar with lhe local beverages."

Brokesh simply nodded -- too stunned and afraid in the wake of Mia's abandonment to speak. Instead, he walked forward in David's wake, following the bartender as he moved from stall to stall. After a couple of minutes, the power to communicate seemed to return just in time to wave David away from one particular display he'd been perusing. Speaking quietly, the fish-like alien said, "Those are for unsuspecting/gullible/stupid. Come," he said, bulgy-eyes opening wider as the led the bartender to another vendor. This one had wooden crates packed with all manner of dusty bottles. They looked old and unadorned with colorful labels or even much in the way of descriptive words. "Real/true/genuine stock here," Brokesh nodded.

That got a nod from David, sometimes the best finds are hidden. plus, if he kept Brokesh's mind off what happened, the poor man wouldn't panic; he wasn't sure why Mia disappeared suddenly; she was very capable, even though he'd seen better-trained soldiers suddenly run in battle, even if they were old soldiers. He hoped Debbie had a plan to find out what's going on.

After a few more minutes of trading, Debbie stepped up to David and Brokesh and then pulled them away from their shopping. "Alright. Mia isn't our problem. Bridgeport is going to try to figure out what happened there but for now, our focus is on getting you home, Mr. Brokesh," the matron offered to their alien charge. "David and I are not as skilled at keeping you safe as Mia would have been. Our commander is sending some well-trained people to take our place and see you home. They should be here shortly. As for us," the woman crooked her neck at David, "we'll be returning to the ship with whatever we've bought so far. We're spread a bit thin and it's been decided that supplies can wait. Bridgeport's sending someone to see us back safely."

With a nod of finality, Debbie and the rest settled in to wait for the security officers to arrive. When they did, two of the officers gathered up Brokesh and led him deeper into the station, setting a course for the Habitation Sector. The third -- a Tellarite with a particularly grumpy disposition, even for one of his race -- fell into line behind David and the diner proprietor as they headed back for the Sojourner. The things the Bartender and the Matron had purchased would be sent there as well and though the trip had been cut short, at least they'd recouped the alcohol losses from Balsam's promotion party and Booth's wake.

=/\= A joint post by... =/\=

Debbie Gless
Diner Matron

David Mccolugh

Petty Officer Mia (formerly Roy, now Brad)
Security Officer

Brokesh (Brad)
Hapless Alien


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