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Quark's money-loving, profit-driven homeworld of Ferenginar is torn with scandal, intrigue, and political upheaval, while Odo takes a hard look at his past decisions and at the Dominion's ultimate motives, in the third of three volumes examining six alien civilizations. Original.
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
Keith R.A. DeCandido was born and raised in New York City to a family of librarians. He has written over two dozen novels, as well as short stories, nonfiction, eBooks, and comic books, most of them in various media universes, among them Star Trek, World of Warcraft, Starcraft, Marvel Comics, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Serenity, Resident Evil, Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda, Farscape, Xena, and Doctor Who. His original novel Dragon Precinct was published in 2004, and he's also edited several anthologies, among them the award-nominated Imaginings and two Star Trek anthologies. Keith is also a musician, having played percussion for the bands the Don't Quit Your Day Job Players, the Boogie Knights, and the Randy Bandits, as well as several solo acts. In what he laughingly calls his spare time, Keith follows the New York Yankees and practices kenshikai karate. He still lives in New York City with his girlfriend and two insane cats.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Females and finances don't mix.
-- Rule of Acquisition #94
Quark looked up at the baritone cry that indicated that someone had just won at Hetik's dabo table. Again.
What was I thinking when I let Treir talk me into hiring him? The honest answer, of course, was that he wasn't thinking, at least not with his brain, but rather the appendages on either side of it. It was difficult to be reasonable or to think things through when you were talking with a two-meter-tall Orion woman bred for sex appeal and wearing one of the skimpy outfits that Quark himself insisted his dabo girls wear.
Not to be confused with the sleeveless V-neck tunic and tight shorts that his dabo boy was clad in as he handed over a considerable pile of winnings to a Boslic woman. It was, in fact, the third time the woman had won, and if she kept up at this rate, Quark would be bankrupt.
With a brief hand signal to Frool to keep an eye on the bar, Quark navigated among the tables, which were fairly crowded. Three Starfleet ships were in dock at Deep Space 9 -- one about to head into the wormhole to the Gamma Quadrant, one on its way to deliver supplies to the ongoing Cardassian relief effort, and one simply stopping over for shore leave after a patrol of the sector -- so the bar was full to bursting with gray-and-black-uniformed personnel, along with the usual collection of traders, cargo carriers, and travelers of all kinds that paraded through DS9 every day. Plus, of course, the regulars.
If Quark had his way, there'd be fewer Starfleet; they weren't the biggest spenders in the galaxy, and they didn't imbibe nearly enough to suit him. There wasn't a lot he missed about the days when the Cardassians ran the station, but one was that you could always count on members of the Cardassian military to be heavy drinkers.
Still, it was a decent day for business. So I'm not about to let that Bajoran simian ruin it by giving all my latinum to that Boslic!
As he drew closer, he noticed that the Boslic woman wasn't looking at the winnings that were piling up next to her arms, which were folded neatly at the edge of the dabo table. She wasn't looking at the other players -- a Lurian freighter captain, a human Starfleet officer, and a Tellarite civilian -- who were looking at her winnings, and rather dolefully at that.
She was looking at Hetik. More to the point, she was staring at Hetik.
Quark knew that stare very well. It was one that was all too often etched on his own face whenever Ro Laren was in the room. Or Kira Nerys. Or Natima Lang. Or Treir. Or Ezri Dax. Or pretty much any other beautiful woman.
In a gentle voice that sounded like honey over hasperat, Hetik told the Boslic woman to put all her winnings on double down.
Without even hesitating, she did so, barely looking at the latinum strips she moved across the table.
Quark, who knew his dabo table, relaxed and stopped in his tracks.
The human and the Lurian both bet triple under, and the Tellarite, spitting and cursing to a degree that irritated Quark -- not so much the cursing as the spitting on the table, which he made a mental note to tell Broik to polish later -- put what little money he had remaining on double down as well.
To Quark's lack of surprise, triple under won, and both the Tellarite and the Boslic were cleaned out. The Tellarite immediately got up and stormed out, which suited Quark fine, as he had bought only one drink, finished it hours ago, and refused every offer of a fresh one.
However, the Boslic woman simply stood up, ran a hand over Hetik's cheek, said, "Thank you for a divine evening," and slowly exited, making sure to give Hetik several backward glances as she departed.
Okay, so maybe a dabo boy wasn't such a bad idea.
Quark worked his way back to the bar. On the way, he was intercepted by Treir. The Orion woman towered over him and favored him with a seductive smile. "You didn't trust Hetik, did you?"
"I just wanted to keep an ear on things." Quark spoke defensively, which caused him to wonder why he felt so defensive. "Rule of Acquisition Number One-Ninety: 'Hear all, trust nothing.'"
As they got to the bar, Quark took his place behind it. Treir draped herself over the bar so that she was at eye level with the much shorter Quark, and also gave him a very good look at her very generous cleavage, most of which was visible in her very skimpy outfit. Quark knew she did it on purpose, since she was as aware of the Fifty-Third Rule as he was -- "Never trust anybody taller than you" -- and also knew the deleterious effect her cleavage had on his higher brain functions.
"You know," she said in her sultriest voice, "you never gave me proper compensation."
"Hiring Hetik. You didn't think hiring a dabo boy would be a good idea, but he's drawn in a huge number of customers. I think I deserve some kind of reward for that."
Two Bajorans departed; Quark grabbed their empty glasses and put them on the shelf to be cleaned. "It's true, he has added bodies to the dabo table."
"And yet, you haven't -- "
" -- given you compensation? No, I haven't." Quark leaned forward on the bar, his large nose close to Treir's small green one. "You had that idea while in my employ to service my bar. 'You pay for it, it's your idea' -- Rule of Acquisition Number Twenty-Five. Since I paid for it, it's my brilliant idea, and I don't owe you anything."
Treir stood up straight and looked down that small nose at Quark. This put her torso at eye level, which didn't bother Quark all that much. Treir had a magnificent torso, and the outfit she wore today left it entirely exposed, from the bottom of her breasts to the middle of her pelvis. She folded her arms over her chest. "You know, Quark, when you sold me on this job, it was as an improvement over being a slave."
Quark spread his arms. "Isn't it? You don't have to have sex on demand with whomever your Orion master says you have to. You're free to come and go as you please, and you actually earn a wage. Now, if that state of affairs is no longer to your liking, you can walk out that door and that will be that -- aside from the breach-of-employment fine, of course."
Treir smiled sweetly. "Of course." The smile fell. "You do realize that if I leave, the dabo tables will empty out in an instant."
"Nonsense. I'll still have Hetik and M'Pella."
"Oh, don't be so sure of that."
Quark felt a tingle in his lobes. He couldn't help it; he loved it when Treir pretended she had some kind of authority over the bar. She didn't, of course, but that didn't even slow her down. And, it was true, she had made several good suggestions for improving business.
She's so invigorating.
Brushing a hand across his lobe, he started to speak, when a customer in a Starfleet uniform called out for two synthales.
As he went over to the replicator, he said, "Anyhow, I can't afford to trust Hetik or you or anyone else. These are dangerous times." To the computer he said, "Two synthales."
Treir scrunched her face up in confusion. "What're you talking about? Profits are up, and have been since Bajor joined the Federation."
He handed the synthales to the officer and his companion, also in uniform. They raised their glasses in salute and drank. Quark turned back to Treir. "No, revenues are up. Profits are barely holding steady."
"That doesn't make any sense. You've got people pouring in here, you gave us all a pay cut, and the dabo tables and holosuites are packed."
"Which reminds me, shouldn't you be at your table?"
"I'm on a break."
Quark sighed. Instituting breaks was the biggest mistake he'd ever made.
Treir continued. "Look at those two." She pointed at the officers to whom he'd just given the synthales. "They can get those same two synthales for free in the replimat or in their quarters, but they're willing to come here to pay for it because they like the atmosphere. Let's face it -- Quark's is the hot spot of the Bajoran sector, and everyone knows it."
Bowing his head, Quark said, "Thank you for that lovely demonstration of the Thirty-Third Rule, but -- "
"I'm not sucking up, Quark. I gave that up when you and Ro took me off Malic's ship. I'm telling the truth."
That brought Quark up short. Telling the truth went counter to every instinct he had. "You see, you've just perfectly demonstrated the source of my problems."
"I don't understand."
"Of course not, you're a female. And -- "
Treir pointed at Quark, which was disappointing on two fronts. For one thing, it was a fairly menacing gesture from a two-meter-tall Orion; and it meant she unfolded her arms, thus reducing the drool value of her cleavage. "So help me, Quark, if you quote the Ninety-Fourth Rule at me, I'll rip your ears off."
Quark refused to be intimidated or aroused, though it was a close call. "Well, it's true! Females and finances don't mix, no matter what my mother or my brother says." He shook his head. " Yes, we've got more customers and we've got more revenues. But the only reason we're able to stay in business on this Federation station with their" -- he shuddered at the very thought -- "moneyless economy is because dear old Grand Nagus Rom decided to make my bar the Ferengi embassy to Bajor."
The sweet smile came back. So did the folded arms, which made up for it. "I know all this, Quark. The bar's Ferengi soil, so you can -- "
Treir frowned. "Huh?"
"My brother has continued the 'reforms' that Grand Nagus Zek put forward before he retired." He walked over to the back of the bar and pulled down a bottle of Aldebaran whiskey. "That includes income tax," he said as he poured the green liquid into a glass. "I didn't lower your wages. I have to take a certain amount out for taxes, which I didn't have to do before this bar became part of Ferenginar."
Rolling her eyes, Treir said, "So now you have to actually pay taxes to support your government."
Quark rolled his eyes right back. "I don't support my government. My government is run by an idiot -- I should know, I was raised with him. He's driving Ferenginar to ruin, and what's worse is that I have to help pay for it!" He took a sip of whiskey, the emerald beverage burning his throat as it went down. "And the only way I'm going to be able to pay for it is for you to stop wasting my money by standing at this bar and distracting me and getting back to your dabo table. Break's over."
She leaned over again. Quark's eyes involuntarily went to the cleavage. Her voice now sounding like a waterfall on Bajor, she said, "What makes you think I haven't been working all this time, Quark?" Ever so gently, she traced a finger along the edge of his right lobe.
Then she sashayed her way back to her dabo table.
Seven men and one woman followed her as if she'd hit them with a tractor beam, and within seconds, all eight were putting money down on the table.
For several minutes, he just stared at her. As good as Hetik had been with that Boslic woman, Treir was several orders of magnitude better with all her customers. She was like a Terran chameleon, always changing to suit the needs of whoever she was speaking with. She could be seductress, best friend, confidant, opponent, herald -- whatever was necessary to get people to play her game.
Let's face it, Quark, he admitted to himself as he slugged down the rest of his whiskey, without her, the profits wouldn't be holding steady, they'd be in the waste extractor. Rom managed to save my bar and destroy it at the same time.
He sighed. The truth was, Rom did save the bar. If he hadn't made Quark's into the Ferengi embassy, there would be no Quark's at all. He wasn't some Federation stooge who could somehow survive without profit. A Ferengi without profit is no Ferengi at all, and I'm nothing if I'm not a Ferengi.
"What was that, Quark?"
Quark looked up to see Elias Vaughn. He hadn't realized he'd been speaking out loud. This is what happens when you drink on the job. "Just quoting the Eighteenth Rule, Commander. What can I get you?"
The old human squinted at the bottle Quark held in his left hand. "What's that you've got there?"
"Aldebaran whiskey." He put the bottle down on the table in front of the commander so he could examine it.
"Don't think I've ever had it."
Before Quark could extol the drink's virtues, he saw a very small Ferengi with very large lobes enter the bar, holding a package under his right arm.
It's about time. He'd been waiting for this for weeks.
Without even looking at Vaughn, he said, "Have the bottle on the house, Commander."
It was rare that Vaughn looked surprised, though the expression barely registered with Quark. "That's unusually generous."
Still not looking at Vaughn, busy as he was observing the new arrival's perambulations through the bar to a back table under one of the staircases, Quark said, "It's an unusual day. Excuse me."
Signaling Frool to once again take over the bar, Quark worked his way to that same back table. Before he arrived, he made sure to inhale deeply several times, so he could hold his breath as long as possible.
Gash was the best forger in the Ferengi Alliance, but he had never been well acquainted with the concept of bathing.
Or, Quark noticed as he approached, dressing. The green shirt he wore was out of style ten years before it was first replicated. Not that he could see it all that clearly, since Gash's body odor was making Quark's eyes water. The two Sulamids at the next table over skittered away within thirty seconds of Gash's arrival.
However, Quark could forgive the lost business. If the package -- which Gash had placed on the table -- was what Quark thought it was, the loss of the drinks tab of two Sulamids was a drop in the proverbial bucket.
"I hope that's what I think it is."
"Well, whatcha think it is, eh, Quark? Heh heh." Gash sniffled, then ran an ugly green sleeve across his bulbous nose. "Course it's whatcha think. Toldja I'd get it, didn't I? When've I ever letcha down, eh? Heh heh."
Quark could, in fact, think of half a dozen times when Gash had let him down, but didn't think it would be politic to bring them up now. Besides, those complaints were always related to timeliness, not quality.
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