I, the Constable, page 1
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To Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda, whose combined depth of knowledge and love for Star Trek, Buckaroo Banzai, and all things canine never ceases to amaze, delight, and inform
This story takes place in the year 2385, shortly after the events of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine—The Long Mirage.
“Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.”
“The Simple Art of Murder”
My dear Nerys,
I miss you.
Is that an odd thing to say? We were together two days ago. Prior to that, we were separated for many months. Why is it that I feel your absence more keenly now?
I’m afraid I still don’t understand emotions.
This afternoon, Chief O’Brien explained to me that when humans are separated from their loved ones, they often send messages back and forth in text format. I’m not sure how that differs from a recorded message, other than the obvious fact that it takes longer—but the Chief assured me it is more personal, perhaps even . . . romantic. A window into the mind.
I don’t know about that. I do know that the spiritual retreat you’re on likely will prevent you from seeing or listening to a message immediately. Still, I confess to feeling happy that this proxy of me will be waiting for you when you are ready to receive it.
As you predicted, Captain Ro has offered me quarters at Deep Space 9 for as long as I wish. She told me that the people on the station think of me as family—an odd sentiment, but not unwelcome. Oh—and she gave me that package you sent. Thank you for saving my bucket all these years. It is good to have something familiar here on the new station.
Bureaucracy within the Federation is much as I remember. Which is to say, nothing related to the status of those Dominion émigrés I told you about is likely to happen quickly. I suspect someone on the Federation Council decided to sit on Starfleet’s request that I serve as the unofficial liaison to the group. No one is on the same page about how to handle the situation, and no one wants to be blamed for taking the wrong step. So until they all come to some sort of consensus, it would seem that I am going to have a bit of time on my hands.
And you know how much I enjoy wasting time.
I’ve asked the chief to provide me with some reading material to fill the time. I enjoyed those Mike Hammer novels of his years ago—I’m sure you remember me talking about them. Hammer is quite a compelling character. Visceral. Highly physical. A vivid example of pre-Federation humanity. The chief assures me that he has more of those tales written by Mickey Spillane, and quite a few titles by other authors in the same vein—
Sensing a familiar presence standing in front of him, Odo paused and looked up from his padd.
“Can I do something for you, Quark?”
“I was just wondering,” the bartender said, “when you were planning on buying a drink. This table is reserved for paying customers.”
Odo looked around the near-empty bar. “You don’t seem to have an overabundance of paying customers at the moment.”
The Ferengi’s lips twisted in annoyance. “Happy hour starts at seventeen hundred,” he said pointedly. “Then there’ll be lots of customers, all looking for tables. So are you going to order a drink or—”
“You know I don’t drink, Quark.”
“Of course I know you don’t drink. And frankly, I don’t care if you pour it into one ear and out the other. I’m just trying to earn a living. This table is valuable real estate. So you can either buy a drink or rent the space. Maybe you’d prefer that.” The Ferengi whipped a padd out of his pocket. “Let’s see. It’s a small table. At two slips per square centimeter . . . divided by amount of time occupied . . . plus wear and tear . . .”
Odo sighed. “Fine, Quark. Bring me a Bajoran ale.”
“Coming right up,” said Quark, a toothy smile spreading across his face as he strode across the room. “Frool! Get the man a frosty mug of Bajoran ale.”
The Ferengi slipped behind the counter and returned to the conversation he’d been having with an extremely attractive customer. “Now, as I was saying before business matters called me away . . .” He leaned closer to the busty female, noting that her skin was the creamy blue color of beetle puree. “You’d be very popular. We’ve never had an Andorian bartender here at Quark’s Public House, Café, Gaming Emporium, Holosuite Arcade, and Ferengi Embassy—oh! Did I neglect to mention that this establishment is also the Ferengi Embassy to Bajor? A lot of important people pass through these doors every day. And,” he added, lowering his voice to a husky whisper, “I’m sure that in a very short time you could upgrade to a more exciting position—say, handling one of the dabo tables. You certainly seem talented enough to master the game. Think of the tips you’d make.”
“I already told you,” the woman said, leaning back just a bit, her pert antennae arching away from Quark in a similar maneuver. “I enjoy working on my cruise ship. What could this place offer me that I won’t find traveling to exotic ports all over the galaxy?”
“Ask anyone,” Quark persisted. “Living at Deep Space 9 is unique. The people you meet, the sights, the opportunities for romance—”
“Um, Boss—” The voice came from behind him.
“Later,” snapped Quark.
“Sorry, Boss, but it’s important—”
Quark spun around to see Hetik, the Bajoran dabo boy, a look of concern on his handsome face. “What are you doing away from your table?” the Ferengi snapped.
“Call for you,” Hetik responded. “It’s Rom. I mean, the nagus. He says it’s urgent.”
Quark rolled his eyes. To Rom, urgent could mean anything from his daughter Bena’s school recital to the collapse of the Ferengi Futures Exchange.
Turning back to the beautiful Andorian with an apologetic smile, Quark said, “Don’t go away, sweetheart.” Then he stomped off toward his office.
“Brother!” the nagus’s image blurted out as soon as Quark came into view. “I just got a call from the Ferengi Futures Exchange!”
Quark gasped, visibly shaken. Had he suddenly become clairvoyant? “The FFE?” he said, feeling for his chair and slowly sitting down. “I . . . I can’t believe it.”
“Believe what?” responded Rom, a look of bewilderment clouding his expression.
“That . . . that the Exchange could go under so quickly. The last time I looked, the stock inventory was stable and—”
The grand nagus of Ferenginar was hyperventilating now, his face an unattractive shade of burnt umber. Quark suddenly realized that the conversation had taken a wrong turn. “Rom,” he said. “ROM! Calm down! What in Gint’s name did you call me about?”
Rom blinked and tried to speak, but nothing came out, his rapid breathing making conversation impossible.
Quark tried again, speaking very slowly. “Why did the FFE call you, Rom?”
At last Rom spoke. “They—they called about our uncle Frin.”
“Frin?” Quark echoed. “Frin, the one who owns a chain of thirty taverns—that Frin?”
Rom nodded. “The chief broker called to inform me that Uncle Frin’s vacuum-desiccated remains have been listed on the Exchange—”
“Frin is dead?” Quark said, coming to the only logical conclusion.
“So it seems,” responded Rom. “The broker wants to know if we’d like to purchase some discs of the remains.”
Quark knew that it was traditional on Ferenginar for family to purchase some of the deceased’s remains as a sign of respect, particularly if the deceased was a successful businessman. Frin certainly was that—in fact, his status as the most successful purveyor of fermented millipede juice on the planet made him the envy of his competitors—but purchasing his desiccated remains was the last thing on Quark’s mind.
“Frin is . . . dead?” Quark repeated, his features scrunching together tightly as his brain went into overdrive.
“Brother?” Rom said, attempting to draw his attention. “What about the discs?”
Quark shook his head and his eyes once again focused on Rom’s image on the screen. “Forget about the discs,” he said. “What about the taverns? What’s happening to them?” The bartender’s mind was racing now. “Frin had only one sibling: our father, Keldar. And he didn’t have any children. That should mean that Keldar’s sons are the legal inheritors of his properties, right? And that’s us.”
On the monitor, Rom’s expression was curiously evasive, and an uncomfortable tension enhanced the growing silence. “Um,” the younger brother offered at last, “that’s complicated.”
“Why is it complicated?” Quark asked. “ ‘Wives serve, brothers inherit’—that’s the 139th Rule. It goes to the nearest male relatives. And that’s still us, right?”
“Um, the 139th Rule has been . . . well . . . amended,” Rom muttered.
“Amended? When did that happen?”
“Recently. Like, in the past month. And it hasn’t been highly publicized on Ferenginar. The amendment says—” Rom picked up a padd that was lying in front of him so that he could recite it accurately. “It says, ‘Henceforth, wives will be allowed to inherit, provided their marital contract is active—that is, not expired or ruled invalid—at the time of their husband’s demise.’ ”
“No!” Quark gasped. “That’s impossible! The Rules of Acquisition are inviolable! They have been since Grand Nagus Gint created them ten thousand years ago!”
“That’s true. But they are amendable under the Bill of Opportunities,” Rom said, actually managing to sound, for the moment at least, nagusorial. “We learned about it in school. The Bill was considered necessary because a couple of Gint’s, uh, ‘quirkier’ edicts could result in any number of awkward situations.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know,” Quark interjected. “Everybody makes jokes about the 113th Rule: ‘Always have sex with the boss.’ ”
“Well, think about what the business world would be like if Grand Nagus Gezunt hadn’t come up with an amendment for that rule,” Rom said, now feeling sure of himself. “It explained that ‘sex with the boss’ could loosely be interpreted as ‘Always keep the boss happy.’ ”
“Gezunt did that a thousand years after Gint died,” Quark interjected. “What fool amended the 139th rule just in time to ruin my inheritance?” But he didn’t really need to ask. “It was you, wasn’t it? That’s what comes of your spending so much time with our conniving mother!”
“It wasn’t Moogie,” Rom protested. “Leeta—”
“Ah, the other conniver! I knew it was one of the two of them!”
“It wasn’t conniving,” Rom responded. “It’s just . . . Leeta was saying how sad it is that Ishka wasn’t entitled to inherit any of Keldar’s property after he died. Not that he had very much. But think about it! Most of it went to Frin. Well, Zek’s not going to live forever, and Leeta worried what would happen to Ishka after Zek dies. Would Krax inherit everything and leave Ishka to beg on the street?
“And then she started to worry what would happen to her and little Bena after I die,” Rom continued. “Would my estate go to my brother or my son? Would she have to depend on the kindness of relatives? I mean, Nog is a good son, but you’re not exactly the most generous person in the quadrant, so what could she expect from you? And the more I thought about it, the more I worried. What would they all do?”
Quark gnashed his teeth. “With my luck, they’d probably all come here to sponge off my inheritance!” he said, picturing his quarters crowded with his mother, his sister-in-law, and his niece.
Rom sat a little straighter in his chair, refusing to let his brother cow him. “So, yes—I amended it. But only a little. The nagus has the right to do that, so long as he can establish that it’s for the benefit of the Ferengi Alliance. Which it is. And I proved that. So as of now, Ishka will be eligible to inherit whatever wealth Zek has accrued since the two of them were married—while Krax will receive the rest of Zek’s estate. That will keep everybody happy. And Leeta and Bena will inherit my estate.” As he talked, Rom broke into a broad smile. It all made perfect sense to him.
“Wait a minute,” Quark said. “What happened to the part about ‘brothers inherit’? Did you eliminate that entirely?”
“No, of course not. But brothers would inherit after wives and children—” Rom’s smile faltered just a bit at Quark’s expression.
“Why after?” the bartender barked.
Rom winced. “Be-be-because brothers have more opportunities to earn, even with all the changes in suffrage and the right to work that Zek enacted. You know as well as I do that not everyone adheres to the new rules, Brother. Fe-males need a . . . a . . . little advantage.” Rom felt himself rushing his words, reflecting that everything had sounded so much more convincing when Leeta was explaining it to him. “Anyway, you would still inherit, Brother. You’d just be standing . . . a little further down the line.”
Quark’s head was spinning. “I can’t believe you were able to enact this change without the general public demanding your head.”
“Most of the public, uh, they don’t know about it yet,” Rom admitted. “They’d have had to attend some of those monthly sessions of the Ferengi Economic Congress of Advisors. But the public considers those gatherings so boring that hardly anyone but the advisors come. If they had come, they’d have heard me submit the amendment, and deal with all of the concessions and compromises that it took to get the FECA to agree to it. Leeta was very proud of my arguments.”
Quark knew he’d be disappointed by the answer, but he asked anyway. “What concessions?”
“The amendment won’t work retroactively,” Rom answered. “It’s only effective going forward.” He sighed. “I was kind of sorry about that. Because the wives whose husbands have already died are still out of luck. Moogie will only get Zek’s odds and ends; she still won’t inherit Keldar’s stuff. I guess that’s passed to Frin’s wife.”
Quark’s dream of owning a chain of popular taverns across Ferenginar was fading fast. “You idiot!” he screeched. “You’ve destroyed my empire!”
“Don’t give up yet, Brother,” Rom said in a placating tone. “Maybe Frin’s wife doesn’t want the taverns. Lots of old-fashioned fe-males don’t want to be in charge of a business. Maybe she’s like . . .” His voice trailed off.
“Like your ex-wife, Prinadora?” guessed Quark.
“Yeah,” Rom said a little sadly. “She let her father handle every single financial transaction in her life.”
“Well,” Quark sighed, “it doesn’t really matter what kind of fe-male Frin’s wife is. She’s still going to inherit those thirty taverns.”
“But if she’s not a businesswoman, maybe she’ll be open to selling them to someone else, particularly someone in the family,” Rom suggested tentatively. “And if she doesn’t know how to properly assess their value . . . well, no one’s better at negotiating a deal than you, Brother.”
“Flattery won’t make me forget that you’re the one who caused this mess,” growled Quark. He frowned, then quickly made up his mind about his next move. “All right,” he said. “I’m coming out to Ferenginar.”
“Great,” Rom responded. “Do you want me to contact—”
“Don’t do anything! Just wait for me. I’m going to see if I can salvage a profit from this nightmare.”
Quark couldn’t believe how close—yet so far—he was from becoming the magnate of a vast franchise. But maybe, just maybe, he could turn the odds in his favor. Storming out of his office, he told Frool to contact Treir at the bar on Bajor. “Tell her to get up here now. I’m going away for a few days!” he yelled. He glanced over at the luscious Andorian, still seated at the counter. “Sorry, sweetheart,” he said. “Maybe next time.”
And then he was gone.
Odo paused once again, looking up from his padd as Quark scurried past him and out of the bar. For nearly a full second he allowed himself to ponder what might have motivated the Ferengi’s hasty exit. Then, deciding he really didn’t care, he shrugged and went back to his letter to Kira Nerys.