NCC - 81102
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A Rebel's Welcome

Posted on Thu Nov 19th, 2020 @ 1:27am by Maximilian Dedeker

Mission: What Came Before
Location: USS Chimaera - Main Bridge, Alpha section / Fiddler's Green, third moon of Avalon
Timeline: January 2389

Outlaws one and all find refuge at Fiddler’s Green. Follow Charon’s tail to far side of the Stygian Traverse and find a rebel’s welcome."

The recording, vague and unsolicited as it was, remained Sayuri's only hope. Mutinies, she supposed, were like crash landings -- walking away from one was an unmitigated success. She thanked the besmirched honor of her ancestors that she remained alive and free.

She further hoped that her fortune wouldn't run out, lest her hard-won victory be in vain. The Black Nagus had a larger contingent on board that she had initially believed. Between the Black Nagus operatives and the Consortium vessels waiting to greet them with ship in hand, there had been little choice for Sayuri but to take matters into her own hands.
Even though she had also been on the Black Nagus payroll.

With just a handful of parties she knew would be willing, she had done the unthinkable. Sayuri had mutinied against Starfleet and claimed the vessel for her own. Between leaving the Pentad's fleet for Starfleet service only to be held back by a glass ceiling of discrimination against her transhumanist culture that the rest of the Federation frowned upon and then advancing only by accepting Black Nagus bribes, Sayuri found her breaking point. Quid-pro-quo was one thing, but directly promoting the spread of interstellar terrorism was quite another. It was a bridge too far, and rather than cross it, Sayuri chose burning.

Now, she sat on board the Alpha section of the Promtheus class USS Chimaera, the only one with guaranteed life support while all auxiliary power was diverted to the Beta section tractor beam array. Those who had survived her uprising and wished to stay loyal to Starfleet had already been jettisoned in escape pods. Besides an act of mercy, it also served as a successful distraction for the Jem'Hadar patrol drawn to the battle with the Consortium flotilla. With any luck, the two sides had destroyed one another. The Chimaera had slipped away to lick its wounds while the getting was good.

"What now?" her fellow mutineers had asked.

Acts of piracy were still punishable by death in Lagashi space. Once reports of this event got out, Sayuri would be exiled from home.

As if home could protect her from the Black Nagus. If Starfleet justice didn't dispose of her first, then the Black Nagus most certainly would. Between destroying the Consortium vessels and evading a Jem'Hadar patrol, the number of allies stacking up on this side of the wormhole amounted to nil.

Save this pledge of sanctuary at Fiddler's Green.

~Koi, what do we know of the sender?~ Sayuri wordlessly communicated through her neural link to her integrated AI that rode sidesaddle in her brain.

~Voice recognition filters have yielded a positive result: the audio portion of the Fiddler's Green telemetry file has a 97% match with Maximilian Dedeker.~

A visual projection filled the left side of Sayuri's field of vision. Her left eye consequently glowed brighter than usual. Federation Marshal records and a rap sheet a mile long danced before her vision like a scrolling marquee.

"Charming," she said aloud, as much to herself as anyone. Still, beggars can't be choosers.

~Play it again, Koi~

Outlaws one and all find refuge at Fiddler’s Green. Follow Charon’s tail to far side of the Stygian Traverse and find a rebel’s welcome..."

== 12 hours Later ==

The bar stools inside the large cabana felt more plush than the wicker chairs outside beneath the tiki torches. Sayuri narrowed her eyes in attempts to staunch their faint glow. She could see perfectly well despite the dark interior, and right now she did not want to stand out.

Sr'asi, her primary accomplice, had been left back with the Alpha section. The Beta section petered out just as they entered orbit of Avalon, the Jovian giant on whose moon she now stood. It was up to her to secure an arrangement for the rest of them. Most of the others were already whispering about abandoning ship for greener pastures.

Heh. Fiddler's Green. Seemed fitting. The exterior spaceport of Fiddler's Green was just like every other crummy criminal haven embedded within every other desolate rock she'd ever seen, but this... the proper Green? It was breathtaking. Somehow the "day" side of the moon was an idyllic paradise with breathable air and palm trees. Even a passing scan of the moon's dark side showed its natural state. Unwelcoming, to say the least. Sayuri's life on the Dance of the Dusk arcology told her how much terraforming had been involved to carve paradise out of an inhospitable rock.

Sayuri approached the bar. The two crewmen who followed her from the ship stood at her flanks as she took a seat.

“What brings you here?” asked the barkeep. Sayuri had never seen a man with a bushier beard.

“Maximilian Dedeker,” she said. Her voice’s natural low tone made for a dramatic whisper. “Something about a rebel’s welcome.”

The barkeep guffawed. “Ah, yes. That fella' brings all sorts to Fiddler’s Green. What can I tempt you with?” He ran his dirty palms over the tops of several glass bottles.

“Maximilian Dedeker,” Sayuri repeated. “Can you help me find him or not?”

“‘Round these parts, it’s best not to ask what Old Max can do for you, but what you can do for Old Max,” the barkeep replied cryptically.

Sayuri felt her impatience spike. It likely made her eyeshine intensify. “Hear me now: I have a very limited number of able bodies holding together a ship that is on the verge of collapse. Maximilian Dedeker promised aid which I sorely need, so if you cannot tell me where he is, then I will be on my way.”

The barkeep’s expression shifted with her outburst. Though he still remained outwardly jovial, a darkness fell upon his eyes that mirrored the sly grin stretching across his face. “Doesn’t sound like you have much for Old Max then, do ye?”

Looking back to her crewmen for any sort of hint or suggestion, Sayuri was met with blank, calloused stares. She swiveled back around to the barkeep. “You’re Maximilian Dedeker, aren’t you?”

Still grinning, the barkeep threw up his hands in smug acknowledgement. “In the flesh, guilty as charged.”

“What game are you playing?” Sayuri demanded.

“Oh, it’s no game, love.” Old Max set out shot glasses and began pouring a black liquid. “You are a guest here at my pleasure, and now that I know you have absolutely nothing to offer, we’re finally able to discuss terms.”

Sayuri inwardly fumed. She refused the drink, but her two crewmen tossed the shot glasses back so fast she couldn’t be sure they’d tasted anything. “Terms of what?” she asked, dreading the answer.

“Terms of your stay here, of course!” Old Max clapped his hands and laughed in excitement. “Fiddler’s Green is the best and greatest rogue sanctuary in the quadrant. We harbor everyone from slavers, pirates, and smugglers to good, ol’ fashioned deserters such as yourselves.”

“We’re not deserters,” Sayuri protested.

“Yeah, we mutinied,” offered the crewman to her right.

Sayuri gave him a sharp elbow to the ribs, but not before Old Max shot off another laugh.

“Oh, we don’t judge here. We just accept payment and trust ya’ll to play nice.” Reaching beneath the table, Old Max presented an old style roll of paper. It contained terms for a hand-scrawled contract. “Now, since you have a ship that’s no longer functioning, I’ll be happy to claim it in exchange for six months’ room and board. Ya won't find no better offer, lemme tell just tell ya. Affix your autograph here, here, and he–”

“No.” Sayuri slid her shot glass back across the bar. “I keep my ship.”

“But you can’t even fly it.” Max gave her a skeptical sidelong glance that mocked any attempt to argue.

"We'll fix it." Sayuri breathed in and out, steeling her nerves against the indignation.

Old Max threw his head back and laughed. "Oh, that's rich! Who's going to fix it for free? Even them Rish a few moons yonder expect more than a song. Meanwhile, as I've already said, until we come to an agreement, you are here at my pleasure.” His eyes glimmered with dark intent. "Do not court my displeasure."

Thunder cracked overhead. At first it sounded like a rapid atmospheric entry gone bad. Sayuri and her two crewmen looked up, tracing the sound. The twilight sky was rent by a black fold of space that glimmered with lightning. A starship entering atmosphere cut a sharp turn and tried to flee from it. Before it could get far, a serpentine tendril shot from the rupture and grasped the starship with talons half the size of its nacelles. The starship's impulse engines groaned in vain against the violent tug-of-war before ultimately succumbing to the overwhelming strain. Once the ship was dragged away from standard space, the breach sealed as quickly as it formed.

“What was that...?" A chill ran down Sayuri's spine. The Chimaera had dodged several subspace distortions and fissures on their way through the Stygian Traverse, but never in Sayuri's wildest dreams had she imagined something like what they had just witnessed. Especially when the look on Dedeker-san's face suggested he was in some way responsible.

"Oh, the Archons?" Old Max chuckled darkly. “Don’t mind them. So long as I stay happy, they stay in their cage.”

Sayuri looked down at her shot glass, still poured and filled. She got the message. There was something unnatural about this place, and Old Max had leveraged it to earn a fortune at others expense. Still, her crew was wanted by everyone this side of the wormhole, and Dedeker-san had all but made clear that his charity was running on empty.

“My ship separates into 3 parts. I’ll put up one of the damaged portions as collateral until we can arrange another agreement.”

Old Max grinned but shook his head. “How’s about you give me both damaged sections, I issue you and your crew a line of credit here at Fiddler’s Green, and two-thirds of your ship will remain in hock until you pay me back or run out of credit.” He slid his dirty hand over the bar top to Sayuri. “We gotta’ deal?”

Sayuri looked down at the hand extended in front of her. It was a shit deal, but there wasn’t anything else on the table. They would just have to make it work.

“Deal.” She shook his hand, then threw back her shot glass. It would not be the first drink she had over this decision.


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