The Chop Yards
Stardust and Sin
Location: The Chop Yards, Hukatuse Tagumik
Timeline: Mission Day 2 at 2015
[The Chop Yards]
[MD 2: 2015 hours]
Malik had told the Starfleet trio that Kaldri's stolen Kazon shuttle had been confiscated by The Governor and sent to a section of the station known as "The Chop Yards" for processing. And by "processing," Malik had meant the shuttle was to be carved up for spare parts and hull plating to reinforce the station's exterior and keep its innards running smoothly. Thus Irynya, Noah, and Sava had left The Gravity Well in search of the ship-slicing facility.
It'd been a lengthily walk, the small group passing various tent vendors, brick and mortar shops, and eateries along the way. They'd even snaked their way through various dark and not-entirely-safe-looking hallways, but Sava had seen to the safety of the group. But the closer Irynya and her brood came to The Chop Yards themselves, the more and more sparse things became until, finally, they'd arrived on the periphery of their intended destination. From their position overlooking a gantry leading down into the central work area, the Starfleeters could see exactly why this place had been given its name.
"The Chop Yards” were actually the hollowed out remnants of a single, enormous vessel. Its interior had the appearance of a gigantic and singular corridor, tall and wide enough to accommodate small to medium vessels. One wall was open in sections to the vacuum of space, protected only by force fields through which ship hulks could enter and leave. Within was a chaotic mass of conveyor belts, cranes and hoists, massive chop saws, and mechanical welding arms, all of which were in motion at all times, creating a deafening drone as hundreds of workers milled about. The crewers carefully scurried about between dwarfing machinery that cared little for whether they were in the way of the saws or not.
The Chop Yards were also positively filthy. Piles of scrap were heaped into designated areas and workers were covered in grime and grease or other various machine fluids. A perpetual hail of sparks illuminated what would otherwise be a space too massive for the dim luminescence that the few lights present could provide, which only served to reveal the dust that hung in the air at all times, threatening to clog the already overworked air ventilation systems.
These conditions necessitated the presence of protective equipment: heavy burn-resistant overalls, hard hats, goggles, gloves, and respirators were all employed here. Of course, not all workers were lucky enough to afforded such luxuries and reluctantly worked to the detriment of their own health to pay for their food and lodging aboard Hukatuse.
For those with the metal to spend, however, there was a vendor down at the end of the gantry with protective equipment available to buy. The alien stationed there even sold short range communications devices -- an earpiece with a snaking microphone that fit into the respirators he peddled -- in case the workers needed to talk to each other while carrying scavenged equipment and hull plating pieces back and forth amidst the deafening noise of the chop saws.
If The Exchange was the beating heart of the station, The Chop Yards were its stomach. It was through there that the nutrients needed to keep it alive passed through, were digested, and the waste was ultimately expunged. Old ships were broken down, new ones were made, or pieces were harvested to add to the station itself in its ever-growing amalgam. And above it all, watching the workers with intense interest, were the same black-clad Enforcers seen enforcing The Governor's will throughout the station. And somewhere -- amongst all this -- might be Kaldri's ship, possibly awaiting its own turn at being carved up like a Thanksgiving turkey.
The Chop's gear reminded Noah of some kind of bunny suit. He'd paid the "metal" for a protective jumpsuit- one meant for someone more girthy than he. Searching the plasticized fabric for signs of it being a smart material, he found none and was relegated to looking like someone had deflated an elephant. It was a cool gray color that bunched into sags and wrinkles. The gas mask on the other hand reminded him of the masks they donned in the computer core- albeit much more primitive.
When he was clothed up, the slight engineer took a second place of the place. This was a combination of an engineer's hell and an engineer's paradise. It was hoarding on a megascale- though Noah was willing to bet one station's junk was another's mass recycle. It seemed little was meant to go to waste here.
The area itself was, to Noah's eyes, obviously a gargantuan vessel- larger than even some Federation ships. And like its contents it had been recycled. Noah could trace where power conduits, data transfer nodes and computer interfaces had likely been mounted. This was like walking around inside a skeleton.
The things on display, however, Noah could more easily guess at. He approached a conveyor, careful to stoop and look with his eyes rather than risk using hands and being accused of taking. "Some kind of duotronic data relay," he said toward his earpiece. "Something we'd see..." he stuck out his bottom lip with a vague headshake, "On a Daedalus-class. Maybe. Or a Ganges-class." It's prongs for data transfer was all but a confirmation for the young one. He'd seen similar things in the Fleet museum and in the odd hobby shops of engineer enthusiasts who befriended his Father. "Strange to encase it in a reactive alloy like lapretanium duride though," he noted of the metal.
Noah straightened and paced a few more steps up the conveyor. "M-most of this is at least a hundred years behind our tech. And a lot of jury-rigging of things into things." He pointed- and then being cognizant of his body again withdrew- "That's a plasma coil someone's turned into a dynamic mode converter."
"I need you to focus, Ensign." Sava stated crisply as she walked one step behind him and his pretty female friend. She didn't know either of the two well at all - perhaps this young boy called Noah was a helmsman or at least a spacecraft enthusiast. Or both at once, from the looks of it. Evidently it was impossible to keep one with starships on the brain from geeking out over a bunch of old scrap they'd only ever read about in books or seen in museums, but right now they had a mission to do, and something to find here.
Noah straightened, "Y-yes ma'am," he acquiesced. He stepped back from the running track of junk and occasional antique on the conveyor.
"Now. I'll need you to help me spot if your Kazon friend's ship is here. As we discussed on the way here - we must not attract too much attention if we wish to come away from this ordeal safe and sound. Once someone suspects that there is something we want here, I sense that it will not be as easy leaving as it was coming in." Sava added. "Can you do that?"
Noah produced his tricorder from the strange and cumbersome gray protective clothing. He opened it. "I have the s-schematics here. I-I'd suggest we narrow down our search with pinging a material that her ship had, that they probably don't have around here." His eyes dropped to his tricorder and his thumb began to work. "At least not much of. Something like duratanium or duranium."
Perhaps it was the tone or maybe the fact that nothing Noah had been doing seemed wrong to Irynya, but she shot a look at the tall Kelpien security officer at her admonition of the engineer. This might have been a more effective silent communication were she not also clad in one of the safety get ups that they'd procured. Like Noah's hers was oversized, though unlike Noah's it seemed to be meant for someone more stick figured. The suit was tight in all of the wrong places and awkwardly loose in others, giving the impression that she was a bit of an accordion. She couldn't imagine that anything about this was safe except, perhaps, that the suit's material might protect their skin. That it might get caught on anything they walked past seemed like an acceptable risk.
"Which is newer?" she asked Noah, more to show that she was contributing than anything else. "You said the tech here all looks about 100 years behind ours, but Subrek's ship certainly isn't. My guess is the newest will be the least common."
"Duranium, by-by about a hundred and fifty years. More or less," Noah appraised. "M-maybe I should scan for Tritanium or tritanium composites." Noah followed that line of thought, only briefly looking at the ultra-lanky Kelpien and the Risian. He smiled into one cheek: they really did look ridiculous. And Noah wondered if they'd not offered enough "metal" for a more appropriate cut. His fingers had been working his device, huddled discreetly as he could against his thigh. "I have a tritanium ping... bearing 233 carom 0 from our position." He pointed vaguely between true left and true forward, at around ten o'clock.
"Or you could skip the tricorder entirely and search with your eyes instead, Ensign - constantly looking down at your leg will only serve to draw unwanted eyes. Speaking of using our eyes-" Sava turned to look at a much shinier, seemingly newer chunk of metal poking out from way behind the pile. How it'd wound up there was anyone's guess - and honestly so was how they were going to get to it. "Could that be it?"
Noah nibbled his lip and then closed his mouth- his teeth clenched behind them until he felt a pang of pressure in his molars. He swayed gently. She's not Margarar, she's not Margarar. Sava probably had a point. Noah, though, was an engineer. He didn't skulk very well. There had never been a, "Inconspicuous Engineering" class. His eyes blinked. He tucked his lips together and followed the two again.
He looked at what Sava had noted. "That's a polyduridium composite. Sorry Ma'am. Sorry." He said softly, not finding his big voice. Noah rubbed the flat of his nose. "The-the only group known to Starfleet Engineering to use that are the Caatati." He squinted an eye, "I-I think. It's either Caatati or the Brunali." Noah chewed his lip, "In oxygenated environments, tritanium will s-sometimes take on an aqua patina if its not, um, not cared for. It's the tri-cobalt fusion finishing p-process. But in space, it'll look like that," and he gestured again to the newish metal.
"Definitely not our ship then," Iry commented, this time staring at Sava with a look that was meant to speak volumes. Noah could fight his own battles, but she outranked the tall Kelpien here and didn't particularly love the way the security officer had seemingly jumped the line.
To be fair, she reminded herself, she was also salty about not only Margarar's treatment of her friend, but the fact that he was still subjected to sharing quarters with her. The chances of Sava falling into the same pattern were quite low, but still...
"Lieutenant, perhaps we could let Mr. Balsam do what he is best at and trust he knows the materials here better than either of us," she said tone clipped and level.
Sava was silent for a good few seconds. Perhaps she had overstepped. As much as Noah had been a little excitable coming in here he was far more qualified than both of them combined (or her, at least) to find what they were after - which she would not have debated. Perhaps she hadn't quite gotten out of her Academy instructors' mindset yet - most of her charges then had been cadets who didn't really know any better and needed to be taught what to do. Balsam was long beyond that point now, and she should've kept that in mind.
"Indeed. I'm sorry, ensign." Sava said to Noah, apologetically, at last. "Please, do carry on."
Catching the Kelpien's eyes Iry offered her a small smile, acknowledgement of the other woman's willingness to adjust her approach and admit she might have been too hard on Noah. She hoped the look conveyed that she appreciated the shift rather than adding any confusion into the communication.
"Ok," she said, regrouping and tugging absently at her ill-fitted safety suit. She squirmed a bit, frustrated at the places where the material awkwardly restricted her movement. "You said the ping for the tritanium was that way?" she asked, gesturing in the general direction that Noah had indicated previously. Getting Noah's quick ascent she nodded her understanding and then moved. "We might as well get ourselves over there then."
"And what, exactly, is over that way?" A new voice had suffused the local communication channel between the Starfleeters' ear pieces. Set for proximity, the devices automatically added anyone who was considered to be in "ear shot." And the alien who was now approaching the trio certainly qualified as he walked within proximity. Though unlike many of the other exotics Iry and the like had seen since setting foot aboard Hukatuse, this man wasn't resembling of a fish, shrimp, or any other type of aquatic species. He was, in fact, very much a Trabe: one of the races Starfleet's Delta Quadrant primer for new duty assignments covered in great detail.
"I am Torbis," he introduced himself, placing a hand on his chest in a gesture of respect. "Maybe I can help you find whatever it is you're looking for? You look a little out of place," the man stated the obvious. No one else on the floor of the Chop Yards was walking around taking in the sights like Noah and his ilk were. "I'd hate for Foreman Koloss to notice you just wandering about with nothing to do..."
Through his mask, the Trabe certainly looked friendly enough; there was a slight smile on his face. And his eyes were, perhaps, a bit knowing: Torbis didn't seem to think Sava and the rest were here to work like he was.
Noah had fixated on his tricorder, which he was trying less to disguise. His body had returned slightly toward an unusual signal. He got a bead on its possible, relative location and then smiled an awkward smile at the first sort of Human-like humanoid they'd seen thus far. "Oh uh. We-we are..." he looked at Sava and Irynya. "Buyers?" He didn't mean to lilt his words up like a question. But his uncertainty of how to cover their presence betrayed him. Utterly. He dropped his eyes. "S-sorry. Uh. Well, um." Noah gestured at himself at least, "Noah. Uh." He hesitated but extended his hand in a greeting.
Where Noah's response gave away his uncertainty, Irynya's doubled down on friendliness. The all too familiar mask of Risian training slid into place and she smiled warmly at the newcomer. Repeating Torbis's gesture, she moved her hand to rest on her chest, holding it there for for nearly exactly the same amount of time the Trabe had. "I'm Irynya," she remarked, the warmth of her smile seeping into the tenor of her voice. "This is Noah and Sava," she continued, gesturing to each in turn. "We're in search of some very specific parts and hoping we can barter for them. We do have some currency, but..." she shrugged and somehow managed to make the gesture appear natural despite her ill-fitting suit.
Taking a risk she added, "The owner of the Gravity Well suggested that we start here."
Sava, for her part, hung back, regarding the newcomer with a weary eye. Standing at the extreme height of her species, the Kelpien peered down at Torbis, assessing whether this man could be trusted. He certainly didn't seem threatening and, from what the security officer could tell as she looked around, no one else was looking their way or keeping an eye on the Trabe. That probably meant Torbis was safe enough to interact with, at least for the moment. "Malik," she stressed the name, trusting in the power it seemed to have around these parts.
"Oh," Torbis' eyes lit brightly as he shook Noah's gloved hand and regarded Iry and Sava. "Well if Malik sent you, he must think what you're after is here. Which is pretty curious," the Trabe commented, cocking his head to the side like a dog who'd heard a strange sound. "You said you're in the market for parts? There's all kinds here for sure but most of the useful stuff gets purloined for the station itself or sent to the Exchange for sale. If Malik sent you here instead of there, though," the man said slowly, "I'm guessing you're not in the market for the normal stuff people come to Hukatuse looking for?" It was Torbis' turn to up-lilt a statement into a question. "I admit, I'm very curious what that might be..."
Sava left the talking to Balsam and Irynya. While she was technically part of search team, her primary function was to provide for the security of the other two. Instead of involving herself directly in the conversation, the Kelpien kept her eyes moving in search of potential threats. The Trabe had mentioned an overseer who might come down on them if he deduced they weren't on hand to work or shop, but where was he? Scanning the ramparts above -- that's where Sava herself would stand to oversee the happenings here -- the security officer's large eyes finally found the being she assumed was this "Foreman Koloss." If the various aliens coming over to report to him weren't a giveaway, his protection suit most certainly was.
A Malon of thinner-than-normal stature, Koloss' protective gear made him a clear standout in the crowds. Unlike the rundown and -- frankly -- falling apart suits of the Chop Yards' working class, the Foreman's suit was immaculately clean, owing no doubt to his role as a supervisor rather than a laborer. His suit and all its armor plates and tech was also clearly expensive, no doubt considered top-of-the-line by Hukatuse standards. Its sleek design and polished surfaces no doubt reflected the success and prosperity that Koloss had achieved in his position as Foreman. As he watched the happenings below, his facial features were sharp, accentuating a pair of intense, calculating eyes that seemed to miss nothing.
Sava made a note to keep the Foreman in her awareness at all times and then tapped Irynya's elbow, surreptitiously nodding up to Koloss once she had the Risian's attention.
Following the line of the taller woman's sight, Irynya spied the well appointed--if a fancy work suit could be considered well appointed--man up on the gangway. She gave the other woman a mute nod, agreement at what seemed to be an unspoken assertion that this was the Foreman. Before she could say anything, though, Torbis's voice broke into the silent exchange.
"Yes, that's Koloss," Torbis said, making a point not to look up at the man. He'd obviously noticed Sava and Irynya's recognition of the Foreman. "Best not to let him catch you looking his way, hmm?"
What is ours is yours. What is ours is yours. The mantra flowed through Irynya's head like a chant helping her to keep from screwing up her face in mild annoyance.
"Thank you," she said quietly, acknowledging Torbis's advice.
After shaking the Trabe's hand, Noah had stepped back, deferring to his senior officers- and as surreptitiously as he could, to his curiosity. He sidled closer to his mark and set eyes on the conveyor. He raised his tricorder closer to his line of sight- and raised an eyebrow. He felt a tingle chill down his spine. Tricarbon-Duranium bio-alloy... accuracy 74.31%." Noah only knew of one species that used that.
Noah turned it over in his gloved hand, its shape vaguely disc-like with a variety of connection points. Its metal was dark- probably down to the high tricarbon content- with a black, round readout screen. It was a hub- of some sort. Possibly a processor but Noah wouldn't know for sure until he opened it. He turned back to the Trabe and waited his turn, the piece in hand.
"Lucky for you," the universal translator used a common Earth phrase, "I'm in a position to help you." Torvis offered his most pleasant smile through the faceplate of his helmet. "I'm authorized to help potential buyers find what they need here. It's not often The Exchange comes up short on desired parts, but it does happen from time to time. Perhaps you could tell me what you're looking for?" This was to Noah, who -- in contrast to the other two -- seemed to be the one keyed into the tech passing by on conveyor belts or available for stripping off various hulks parked on the grimy work floor.
"Ah," the Trabe spied the part in the young man's hands. "Those are pretty curious, aren't they? We've had a few pieces like that come through, though we're not entirely sure from where they come," Torvis admitted. "The tri-carbon is useful but there also seems to be some kind of an organic component? I'm sure it's a proprietary technology from whatever ship these parts come from but it's useless to us. Which is why we've been stripping those down to base materials only. Does it interest you, though? There are more if so," the seller explained.
Noah nodded in cautious agreement. "I-I have seen things like this in my textbooks." He turned it over in his slender hand. "How much?" Noah asked. He looked at the Trabe with a head flick to dislodge his bangs from his beakish nose, and set his eyes on the man. He tried not to act eager. "I like to tinker. With old junk."
Torvis considered the young man's facial features -- what he could see of them through their respective faceplates, of course -- and made a mental assessment of the ask. While Noah seemed to know more than he was letting on, the trader wasn't picking up on any nefarious motives: just a genuine curiosity, perhaps being kept under a lid so as not to give away too much excitement over something fun to study. That reaction garnered a better offer than he would have otherwise presented. "16 strips," the trader said with a smile.
Noah plunged his hand- awkwardly- into his strange containment suit and rummaged in his jacket pocket. He produced the strips, too naive of money to consider hiding the full amount he carried. Instead he counted out the requisite sixteen and handed them over. "Thanks," he said with a flash of a too-wide, geeky smile. He was chuffed. He looked chuffed. This was not a boy who would excel at Poker.
A small smile danced across Irynya's lips. She didn't know if the piece of tech in Noah's hands was, in fact, old junk. It seemed more likely to be something they might want to look at in relation to Kaldri's missing ship. But she wasn't going to stop the freshly minted Ensign from doing what he was best at--geeking out over interesting technology.
"Do you get anything else with that material?" she asked, pumping as much innocent curiosity into her tone as she could. "Or, for that matter, any of the other parts from the ships it comes in on?"
Noah tried to look at Irynya with a one-part knowing and one-part innocent look, with just a nod of acknowledgment. "I-I think I have an idea. But I need to check. It doesn't have power right now. And the biomechanical parts are-are probably pretty... um... shot." He perked his brows. Noah looked to Torvis. "Anyway. Um. We-we are looking for Kazon technology. We-we heard there might've been some, uh, re-recently?"
"As I mentioned to your young friend," Torvis looked to Irynya, a polite smile flashing under his faceplate, "we do get other parts like that one from time to time. If you're really that interested in them, I'd be happy to show you another. But I don't think they're Kazon technology," he said, shaking his head. "If that's what you're really after, I'm afraid you're looking entirely in the wrong place." Gesturing to the piles of parts and conveyors of stripped machinery around them, the trader said, "We had a Kazon shuttle come through, but haven't had time to break it down for parts and spare materials yet. If you're looking to buy the ship wholesale, I could show it to you. But if you only need a part or two, you should come back in a few days. We'll have it dissected by then, I'd say," he nodded.
With an effort Irynya kept her face at least semi-neutral at that news, but a swirl of excitement built in her stomach making her itch to head off in search of the aforementioned shuttle. How many Kazon shuttles could the realistically get here? Surely not that many. The odds of this being Kaldri's shuttle were high. Still, she forced herself into stillness and looked between Noah and Sava. "Would it be alright to see it intact first? I think we're still trying to decide how much we need. The whole shuttle may be easier for us, but we won't know that until we get a look at it."
"I-I agree," Noah said, still coddling the part of his interest. He looked between Torbis, Sava and Irynya, "It's-it's not Kazon. It's just personal curiosity. Can we, uh, see the shuttle you do have?" And again he looked at Irynya and Sava with an Ensign's uncertainty- especially when it came to the idea of bartering and money. "If we do-do, um, buy it whole, I would need to be able to examine it." Noah added. It only then occurred to Noah of the potential faux pas here. And following that logic in his naivete, he asked. "Is... are... you OK with a Kazon shuttle being here?"
Torvis' face had been a carefully crafted mask -- the practiced look of someone who routinely withheld his personal feelings to tow the company line -- but at the young man's unexpectedly empathetic question, the trader's mask slipped for a moment. "I have no hatred for the Kazon as a whole. Both sides did terrible things," Torvis somberly admitted, "and there's no easy answer to hate. But I do wish it wasn't so hard to see past grievances." Did he mean see beyond the grievances? Or not see them at all? Such questions went unanswered as something above drew Torvis' attention away.
The trader looked up and offered Koloss -- who'd noticed the group and moved to questioningly look down from the ledge above -- a nod. With the gesturing of his hands, Torvis communicated to the Chop Yard's foreman that he was going to show this particular group around the floor. Then, to the Starfleet trio, Torvis said, "Come with me. If you are wealthy enough to buy such a vessel intact," he smiled politely, his voice warm, "then I am only too happy to show you what you'd be buying. But I must advise you...all sales are final." And with that, he began to lead the way deeper into the massive machine shop.
Sava, too, looked up at Koloss but then quickly turned to follow in Torvis' wake. As she and the others moved away, the Kelpien could practically feel the foreman's gaze boring a hole into the back of their skulls. Even without her threat ganglia -- which she'd shed during her vahar'ai -- Sava could sense the danger they were potentially in from the floor boss and his minions. She squared her shoulders and kept her eyes especially alert as they walked, giving Bridgeport a short report over the "squad comms" earpiece she'd been issued for the mission.
Noah had meanwhile fallen into line with his superiors, following this new being- Koloss. His curiosity itched for the computer lab and its interfacing research station, brought there by the thing he now theoretically "owned." He looked briefly at Irynya- or at least her back- and wondered if he should confide in her about this potential prize. He decided later- when this was all done and they were happily back on the Sojourner.
Noah kept eyes forward- and less than surreptitiously on his tricorder as the large tritanium signature made itself known.
A post by:
Lieutenant JG Irynya
Assistant Chief Helmsman
Ensign Noah Balsam