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Cptn Swain

Dinner Intrigue

Asher shimmered aboard the hulking Elasian flagship Soltok. He was early, but greeted by a cordiere of Elasian officials alongside the senior Starfleet commander for the operation, Joshua Hamlet of the Yalta. Wearing the full-dress whites, Hamlet had salt-and-peper hair parted to one side.  He was tall, pale and had deep blue eyes that sparkled in the transporter room lighting. Despite his height, the Elasian officials still towered. Their uniforms were far more ostentatious; silver chords hung from their shoulders, and the lower ranked among them wore highly polished silver helmets.  The lead Elasian was lean and sharp featured. His dark auburn hair fell gently across broad shoulders covered in silver pauldrons. 

“Welcome aboard, I am Prince Coreth, Duke of Collasta and Viceroy,” he said to Asher with a respectful gesture. “The Elasian people and the House of N’Dak are honored to host you aboard the flagship of the Elasian fleet.”

Asher smiled tightly, both at the grandiosity of the situation but also the mention of N’Dak. How the universe had allowed not one, but two houses to have such a name eluded him. “The honor, is all mine.”

“Captain Swain” Hamlet said moving to shake Asher’s hand. “It’s so good to finally meet you in person.  I served with Arden on Deep Space Six.”

Caught on his back foot for a moment, Asher shook Hamlet’s hand half-heartedly before returning Hamlet’s own firm handshake.  He remembered, now, that Hamlet had sent them a wedding gift -- an espresso machine -- that was still in a box in storage back on Starbase 37 Tango. 

“Of course,” he said, hopping his momentary lapse had gone undetected, “we love the espresso machine.”

Pleased, Hamlet nodded. “His highness has offered to take anyone who arrived early on a tour. I highly recommend it, it’s an impressive ship.”

Sensing that was more of an order than a suggestion, Asher nodded and went along with his royal highness. Asher had read about the rather pompous nature of the Elasians in preparing for the mission, but he had expected it to be an exaggeration. If anything, they had undersold it. 

The Soltok’s vast interior was finished more in the style of a cruise ship than of a battlecruiser. Every room and corridor had thick, rich carpeting and trim finishes. It was, surprisingly, tasteful however, as Asher had fully expected some garish nightmare to shame a Ferengi.   

The Prince was affable enough. He clearly took great pride in showing the ship. It wasn’t the Excalibur, but Asher smiled anyway. After they’d finished, Coreth invited Asher to join him in the lounge while they waited for the other Captain’s to arrive. 

“So,” Coreth said, handing Asher a drink from a passing waiter. “How do you find her, the  Soltok.”

Asher took a sip of the surprisingly good wine and cleared his throat. Several other captain’s had found their way to the  lounge as well, but they were being kept busy by other Elasians and Hamlet. “She’s a fine ship,” Asher said. “A real show piece.”

The prince nodded. “The other vessels of her class,” he said between sips of wine, “are more austere, but my grandfather insisted the Soltok be built to a higher standard. It’s a bit of an extravagance, I admit.”

“What will become of it... and the other battlecruisers? They aren’t being sold, correct?”

Coreth wrinkled his nose. “No,” he said flatly, “the Dano III, Prince Gaal, and the Freilo will all be decommissioned in the coming months and taken to the Federation boneyards at Gravis II. The Melora and the Tyan will go into reserve duty, while the Soltok will remain active leading the newly formed Elasian Security Force.”

He continued unprompted. “Not everyone in the military has been happy about disarmament, or the democratization of  our government. But it was the right thing to do. It was the only thing to do.”

Asher lifted a brow, but  sensed he should politely end the conversation. “Well, again your highness, thank you for the tour. It was most enjoyable, but I shouldn’t monopolize you. In fact, if you'll excuse me, I should catch up with Captain Hamlet.” 

Smiling, Coreth nodded and Asher slipped away with a deep sigh of relief before making his way over to Hamlet. 

“How was the tour?”

“It’s a big ship.”

“The Elasians don’t ever do anything small.”

Asher nodded in agreement, taking a drink of wine before a waiter refilled his glass. Hamlet was breezy enough while they were in a group of other commanders, but sobered as he pulled Asher aside surreptitiously. 

The sudden mood change worried Asher, but he wasn’t deep enough into the wine to have lost his poker face. When he was sure they were out of earshot, Hamlet took a deep breath. “I have an assignment for you.”

“Me -- or my ship?”

“You, personally. “

Asher lifted his brow. 

“Strictly on the QT.”

Unable to hide his frown, Asher nodded his understanding. “What’s  up?”

“Despite putting a lot of resources into it, Intelligence still hasn’t ferreted out the identity of the third party broker. Both the Elasians and the Cardassians have said that their agreement required  strict non-disclosure.

“But the Council is concerned. We have a team on the surface working it, but I’d like you to see if you can find anything out from the Prince. He seems to like you.”

Asher’s brows went higher. “We talked a little and he showed me around the ship. That’s hardly a relationship.”

Hamlet held up a hand. “It’s still something.”

“Shouldn’t this go to someone more experienced with...” Asher’s voice dropped,  “that kind of thing? I am not a spy or even a diplomat. I am just a scientist.”

“I have people working on other angles,”  Hamlet made a motion to the room. “But hadn’t  got anyone to cover the Prince yet.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” Asher said, resigned to his fate. “But no promises.”

“That’s all I ask.”

The identity of the broker had continued to be an explosive topic in Federation discourse. Asher should have known there would be some clandestine plot to find it out. Afterall, there  were only so many people who could come up with the latinum equivalent to 20 billion Federation credits; and virtually all of the prime suspects had been eliminated so far. 

The Grand Nagus had personally given the Federation assurances that neither he nor any Ferengi were behind the deal, and had even taken the unusual step of having the Ferengi Commerce Authority complete a public audit of transactions.  The Klingons had neither the will or finances, and at any rate could have simply bought the ships directly off the Elasians. The Romulans were always suspects in any galactic intrigue, but Praetor Gaher had been among the loudest voices against the deal, second only to the Bajorans. That left only the smaller powers, none of which, according to Intel, had the finances.

Asher glanced over Hamlet’s shoulder to Prince Coreth.

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