Location: Ferengi Embassy Compound
Timeline: MD 5 1900
Qinee met the Cardassian ambassador Hydel Turvan in the foyer of her private quarters within the Ferengi embassy compound. She gave him a scraggly-toothed grin as she stood there in her gaudily colored, full-coverage gown. It seemed after centuries of not being allowed to wear clothes, the modern Ferengi female had gone almost completely the opposite.
“Thank you for accepting my invitation to dinner, Ambassador,” Qinee said. “I thought this would be much more conducive to conversation than sniping at each other across a conference room. Would you like some kanar?” She gestured, and a Ferengi servant hurried up with a bottle of the favored Cardassian drink. By the color of the kanar and the shape of the bottle, he could tell it was an excellent -- and expensive -- vintage, one Turvan favored. Even the environmental controls had been reset to be more comfortable for Cardassians. While both Ferengi and Cardassian favored a warmer base temperature than what was usual in the Human-baseline public areas of the station, Cardassians tended to prefer less humidity than Ferengi.
The ambassador nodded to the servant and accepted the kanar. It never ceased to amaze him just how the Ferengi were able to get their grubby paws on such exquisite Cardassian goods and spirits. The prudent course of action would have been to inquire as to where the Ferengi obtained the bottle; however, he figured why ruin such a relaxing mood with questions.
"I couldn't agree with you more," Turvan replied. "I find far too often that much more business could be taken care of over a glass of kanar rather than in a conference room surrounded by bureaucrats and low-level minions," the Cardassian said. "I agree that much more can be accomplished when you speak directly to the decision maker, rather than an intermediary," Turvan said, mostly referring to himself.
“Yes, eliminate the middleman to increase profits,” Qinee said with a snaggle-toothed smile. She lifted her glass in a show of respect and then sipped at the strong alcohol. Damn, but she was going to have to be careful with this!
Qinee gestured to the dining room where a smaller table had been placed for just the two of them. “Dinner will be served shortly,” she sad. “Starting with regova eggs.” The scent of the Carassian spices from the eggs could already be noticed as more servants brought out the yellow and green shells. “Just brought in this morning, so they are fresh.”
The Ferengi had pulled out all of the stops for this meeting. Vintage kanar, fresh spices, all of this was well beyond what was customary for a simple meeting between two dignitaries. If he didn't find Ferengi women in general to be repulsive, he might have thought she was coming on to him.
"You have certainly gone the extra mile for this gathering," Turvan said. "But I'm certain the Ferenginar government has not gone through such an expense just to make me smile," He said as he took a sip from his glass. "What angle are you playing, Fergengi?" he said bluntly.
Qinee laughed. “Blunt and to the point. Excellent, Hydel,” she said, refilling his kanar as they sat at the table for the first course. “The first thing I want to establish, Hydel, is that there are no hard feelings after that nasty tribunal business.” She lifted the top off of one of her eggs. They had been carefully cut to keep the shell intact, the contents removed, mixed with herbs, spices, and other things, baked, and stuffed back into the shell for eating, all in a traditional Cardassian way. In fact, Qinee had gotten a rather famous Cardassian chef back in the kitchen to prepare this meal of Hydel Turvan’s favorites.
Hydel took a sip from his glass. "Why should there be? I'm sure you were only too happy to accept your thirty silver pieces for your role," he said ruefully, making reference to the ancient Human religious story of Jesus Christ of Nazareth being betrayed by one of his own followers, Judas Iscariot, in exchange for thirty silver pieces. Hydel always considered the story to be an example of irresponsible action. The Christ individual was an enemy to the Roman Empire, the lawful government at the time. It was only natural that one of his followers would decide to support the government over that of a religious radical.
"The Federation had no intention of ensuring that justice was served, so they proposed this sham of a tribunal. They were the architect, and you simply followed suit. I can't say that I'm terribly surprised," he said in between sips. "I'm certain the Federation offered you and the other members a substantial bounty," he continued
Qinee smiled and sipped her kanar. “You think too small, Hydel,” she said. “Even had your tribunal been successful, there was no way Starfleet or the Federation would have let custody of Chief Ryan and the other officers to Cardassia. It was diplomatically, politically, and militarily unfeasible. At best, Commander Ryan would have gotten a demotion for violating the Temporal Prime Directive. At worst, Cardassia would be blamed for breaking the diplomatic detente you have profited from since the war. And you would be blamed,” she pointed out, pointing to him with her spoon. “You got your little show trial, you got to air your grievances in public, and Starfleet got its personnel back, with egg on their faces.”
Qinee wiped her mouth as the servers took away the remains of the first course and brought out prime zabu steak drizzled with yamok sauce.
“We both have been victims of Starfleet’s overzealous justice,” Qinee said, cutting into her steak. It was cooked to perfection. “But you fail to see the bigger picture, Hydel. Caleb Ryan is now the executive officer of this station, and he owes me,” she emphasized with her knife. “Without my vote, without the Romulan’s vote, his best prospect was a labor colony and a slow death through overwork. You are entirely to idealistic, Hydel. You need to look at this pragmatically.”
Hydel gave a hearty laugh in response. "Owes you? He owes you?" he said incredulously.
"He's Starfleet, not a Regelian arms dealer," he replied sarcastically. "He would sooner be assimilated by the Borg than payback a favor, especially to the Ferengi government," he said as he took another sip. "Just look at how lackadaisical his department has been to the death of your diplomat. All of the resources at their disposal, and they still haven't come close to finding his murderer," Hydel said.
Qinee gave Hydel a level stare. “I’m not talking tit for tat here, Ambassador,” she said, cutting into her Zabu steak. “That’s cheap. I’m talking about good will. Caleb Ryan -- and Starfleet and Security, for that matter -- will now be more...amenable to my needs and desires after that little show of solidarity. Nazl’s death is a case in point. They may be extra motivated to solve it now. If it’s even solvable. I bribed a security officer to see the evidence. There isn’t much there. The best suspect was that Ranjell woman that showed up dead at the Dilithium Chamber. She had similar stabbing injuries as Nazl, though it was ultimately a disruptor to the head that killed her.”
Hydel perked up at the revelation. He always assumed that Raddon had a hand in the death of the Ferengi Ambassador, but for his own assassin to end up dead in a striking similar fashion was alarming. Perhaps there was a third entity at play? One more dangerous and unpredictable than the Pro-Human's racist cadre.
Qinee picked up her kanar and took a sip. “But I am not wanting to focus on the past, but on the present and future, and we have a prosperous one laid before us right outside the window.” She gestured to the view of Pangea in the starfield.
Hydel shifted his attention back towards the conversation at hand. "Yes, a prosperous future that is currently guarded by a well-armed military installation and half a dozen attack vessels," he said, indicating the small task force that had developed outside of the station.
"As long as the Federation maintains its blockade, then they will essentially control the planet and all of its resources," Hydel said as he reached for his glass. "Unless you had something in mind," he inquired.
Qinee smiled. “Of course,” she said. “Only part of the planet is dangerous,” she said. “There is no reason the rest needs to be kept under quarantine. It is time to exert a bit of pressure on the Federation. I have already contacted the Ferengi ambassador on Earth. He and your Ambassador Garak will be opening talks with the Federation President and Council about allowing a small, mixed nations settlement well away from the caves and portals, probably around the castle.” She leaned forward, a glitter in her dark, beady eyes. “Think of it, Hydel. Let the Federation run around with their starships. We press for a mixed council to run the colony, convince Starfleet to provide security, as they already are, and sit back and reap the rewards while the Federation shoulders all the costs! We expend latinum only to improve and enrich, not waste on administration and defense.”
Hydel huffed, as he was still not convinced. "While I see the logic in your statement, however, you are forgetting that while we may control the ground, the Federation will still lord over us in the planet's orbit," he replied. "I'm not willing to cede the safety of Cardassia to Starfleet in exchange for financial expedience," he said as he began to enjoy the meal before him.
"If we are to truly have control over the planet, we will need autonomy from the prying and omnipotent eyes of this station," he said in between bites. "If you wish to exert pressure, then it will require more than just talking to their president. You need some form of leverage, something that we hold in absolute control that the Federation understands and will submit to," he suggested.
“And what do you suggest?” Qinee asked. “We’re trying to not provoke an incident, Hydel,” she reminded. “The Federation is fairly laissez-faire with trade,” she pointed out, “much less so than you Cardassians, or any other quadrant power. If you wish to avoid scrutiny, we could establish the colony as a multi-power corporation, mask some of the assets behind shell companies scattered throughout the quadrant, numbered, secure accounts on Ferenginar or Bolius.”
"The answer is exclusion," he said as he paused to take a sip from his glass of wine.
"A multi-power coalition of governments coming together for their collective technological and scientific benefit," Hydel said. "Show the Federation that there are other powers within this quadrant that are willing to come together for their own collective benefit without them," he said. "Make it as inconvenient and embarrassing as possible for them to simply ignore our demands," he added.
“And how do you expect them to even let us set foot on the planet if we exclude the Federation?” Qinee asked.
"The Federation maintains its power because it has the military and technological advantage over most races because we think in singular terms," he said. "One on one, we have little to no leverage," he pointed out.
"However, having a coalition of governments behind you gives you immense leverage. Leverage that even the Federation would have to recognize or risk losing their moral superiority," the Cardassian said as he reached for his glass again for another sip. "Gather the other governments for a joint petition to the Federation for access to the planet," he said.
Qinee nodded. “That does make sense,” she agreed. “I can certainly forward the idea on to Ferenginar. They are eager to start developing Pangea’s resources as well. The question is, will the Romulans and Klingons back us? With the removal of t’Vaurek, the Romulans seemed to have signaled their disinterest in this sector. And the Klingons tend to side with the Federation. They aren’t usually interested in expanding out this far from their borders.”
"The Klingons are nothing more than rabid dogs for the Federation. They'll do whatever their masters tell them to do," Hydel said coldly. "The real wild card will be the Romulan government. We must appeal to their self-interests, or, at the very least, their sense of paranoia about the Federation gaining some advantage over them."
“Agreed,” Qinee said. “Though we should still make an overture to the Klingons. They have their pride, you know, and it would show we are not trying to make a political block of this, that we want genuine cooperation. I am pragmatic, Hydal,” Qinee said, leaning back and sipping her kanar, getting a bit wistful. “One does not rise in the Ferengi Alliance without being so. But I am also a bit of a romantic. A dreamer. One does not live under the thumb of males and rise, as a female, to my position without being so. This could be the first truly inter-galactic settlement in two quadrants. Perhaps even independent of all our governments, able to choose its own way.”
"Time will only tell," Hydel said as he continued to enjoy his drink.
NPC Caleb Ryan