“Buried Treasure – Part II”
Ignoring the inquisitive stares of passing crewman, Lt. Leon Athalla, pressed on down the corridor pushing an antigrav sled ahead of him with minimal effort. The sled contained a recently discovered crate bearing the regal crest of the Federation Diplomatic Corps. There was only one person aboard the Charon who could be the chest’s owner and Athalla felt compelled to return the property to its rightful owner. Walking down the near empty hallway, Athalla had seldom been on Deck 2. The entire deck housed most of the ship’s senior officers and given Leon’s unique issues with authority being around the Charon’s top brass was hardly an ideal situation. And yet, here he was on deck 2 – and finally at his destination.
Leon looked down both ends of the corridor before adjusting his wrinkled flight jacket and tunic. His hair was a tangled, sticky mess of blond from hauling cargo crates the past few hours – punishment for one of many unique issues he had with authority. Reaching out he pressed the door chime at the entrance to Ambassador Ian Lamont’s personal quarters and waited.
[ Moments Earlier…]
Lamont closed the channel as the image of a past associate faded to the mirror finish of his computer terminal. He had called in a few favors in recent hours. His decaying networks of contacts and pawns had been of some marginal usefulness despite his inattention and lack of maintenance. Those favors had uncovered deeply troubling news. It indeed appeared that old family rivals were quietly plotting against him from the shadows like stealthy assassins patiently waiting for an opportune moment to strike. Old enemies thought to be dead or gone had quietly resurfaced from their slumber and were now directing their tireless gaze upon the last heir of the Lamont family line. They felt threatened and yet Lamont was at a loss as to why. He was a junior diplomat on a starship lightyears away from the Federation’s heart and utterly removed from most political intrigue. He lacked any real political power or direct influence. They knew that and yet still old rivals had begun to again conspire against him and his family name. What did they fear and why? Ian had no answers – only questions and vague inferences from a few trusted contacts. He needed more information. Most of all he needed to remain vigilant. His enemies were numerous and they had set their sights upon him.
He was but a child the last time they had moved against his family. His father was their target and they succeeded in ruining his political career and ambitions as well as tarnishing the flawless reputation of Lamont family name. They destroyed his father and the resulting fallout had cost both of them nearly everything generations of Lamonts had toiled to obtain. Ian slammed a fist onto his desk. “Not again”, he shouted between clenched teeth. His father had attempted to fight them spending most of the family’s fortune and wealth in the process. The attempts had been abysmal failures. However, Ian’s father had attempted to reclaim that which had been lost – honor, prestige, and political clout. Ian had been a child and had been spared most of the personal humiliation – he had much less to lose and that was a key difference. If past enemies wanted a fight he would only be too happy to give them one, but this time, the fight would be on his terms, by his rules, on the playing field of his choice. Being on the Charon, dozens of light years from anywhere, they could not reach him – at least not for the moment. That gave him time to prepare. He had no intentions of underestimating his opponents – he only hoped they would grant him the courtesy of vastly underestimating him, his resolve, and his tenacity.
An unexpected ring at his door snapped the Ambassador from his passionate thoughts. Looking up he wondered briefly who aboard had any reason to interrupt him. Suddenly, Ian was gripped with paranoia. Could they possibly have someone aboard? A spy? An assassin? “Just a moment”, Lamont shouted as he fumbled through a desk drawer. He finally located a type-I phaser whose capacity to function was in question given its age and lack of use, but the ambassador retrieved it nonetheless. Moving to the door he stood just outside the doors, phaser at the ready.
“Come in. Its open”, he called out masking the tension he felt from his voice.
The doors slid open and an unfamiliar face appeared. Lamont reacted to the intruder grabbing the man’s collar and dragging him to the wall pressing his phaser to the man’s head.
“What the hell”, the man called out resisting the urge to react with a weapon at his head. “Have you lost your mind!”
Lamont swallowed taking several deep breaths. Recomposing himself the ambassador recognized the man. He was one of the pilots aboard. Name was Athalla if he correctly recalled. The two of them had shared a few shuttle rides and exchanged in conversation on occasion. He removed the weapon and apologized.
“Forgive me Mr. Athalla. That is your name if I recall?”
Leon turned his face contorted in an angry scowl. “Is that how your greet all of your guests Ambassador? No wonder everyone hates politicians and diplomats! Are you sure peace is really your profession?”
Lamont quickly shoved the phaser into his pocket. “My sincere apologies lieutenant. I…I have something of a minor security problem as of late. I apologize for my behavior.”
“Well you won’t get many peace treaties with tactics like those”, the pilot quipped dusting himself off.
“I’ll keep that in mind”, Lamont replied. “Is there something I can do for you Mr. Athalla. I am afraid I have a great deal of work to attend to at the moment.”
“I stumbled upon something you might find to be of some value”, Leon replied moving back into the hallway to retrieve the antigrav sled. Pushing the container into the Ambassador’s quarters, Leon lowered the antigrav to the deck and kicked open the crate revealing the crest of the Federation Diplomatic Corps.
“I take it you might have lost this sir?”
Lamont blinked instantly recognizing the container. Moving to his knees, Lamont carefully entered several codes into a lock which released the container’s seal. To his dismay the lock flashed indicating it had been tampered with.
“I assume you have seen the contents”, Lamont asked as the cover hissed open revealing the crate’s refrigerated contents.
“Of course”, Leon answered. “Why else would I have brought it straight here. I don’t know of many others aboard who transport materials under diplomatic seal. Besides, if I let a few Romulan locks stop me, what sort of pilot would I be?”
Lamont looked up at the seemingly multi-talented pilot. “Indeed.”
Gingerly lifting a bottle, Lamont carefully examined an 80 year old bottle of Romulan Rhennish. The bottle was as expensive as it was difficult to obtain. He was certain this crate had been destroyed in recent action aboard the Charon with the rest of his extensive alcoholic collection. It appeared some small fraction had indeed survived and the lieutenant had been thoughtful enough to return it.
“So lieutenant – what do I owe you for your generosity? I assume you expect some form of compensation for your troubles?”
Leon chuckled. “The thought had crossed my mind Ambassador. It isn’t everyday one happens across a chest full of rare and expensive alcohol. I must admit the temptation to retain it for myself was quite strong.”
“Yes I am sure your intentions are pure and noble.”
Lamont carefully returned the bottle to the crate closing and securing its lid. “Hmm…what would constitute a suitable reward?” Ian considered the situation for several moments as a radical idea began to form within his churning mind. He gazed intently at the pilot.
“Uh, is there something wrong sir”, the lieutenant said keenly aware of the Ambassador’s intense and unusual scrutiny.
“How good are your combat skills lieutenant?”
“Your combat rating? Hand to hand, marksmanship, - piloting even? How good?”
“Good?! I’m the best! There isn’t a pilot aboard who can out fly yours truly. As for combat skills, I’m no jarhead marine, but I can hold my own in a firefight. Why do you ask?”
“And your fellow pilots? Are they equally as cocky and full of themselves?”
Leon might have been offended if he wasn’t aware the Ambassador was toying with him.
“Indeed they are.” Leon had no idea what the Ambassador was on about but he would humor the man.
“Very well. You may have the crate and all of its contents. Feel free to share with your fellow pilots with my compliments though I recommend that you not drink everything in one sitting. Many of those bottles are worth your weight in latinum pilot and it would be a crime to recklessly consume them in a single all-night binge.”
Leon was dumbfounded. “You…you..you are giving me the crate? Everything?”
“Yes”, Lamont answered. “I have little need for such things at this time. I had assumed they were lost for some time now. Please. Accept that treasure chest as a token of my thanks.”
“Ambassador! I cannot accept this. I can’t even begin to calculate the value of the spirits in that chest. I could buy a used fighter for what some of those bottles are worth on the black market.”
“Indeed you could – but would you trade so fine and exquisite spirits for mere credits or latinum? That would be a high crime. I can assure you that those bottles contain nothing short of ambrosia.”
“Stop babbling lieutenant and accept the gift graciously and with dignity. I do not offer such gifts often nor do I give them lightly. In return I require something more of you.”
Leon laughed. “So there IS a catch! I knew it!”
Ian turned to face the pilot his expression serious and somber. “Lieutenant, I have a personal problem of unknown severity which may very well involve my immediate safety. It is not a matter for ship’s security and certainly not something I wish to be publically known. It is a private matter. I require some assistance in personal defense. I am not a soldier – you however are. You friends are as well. Should the time and need arise might I rely upon you in certain matters of personal defense, possibly even training?”
“Well that would depend on the situation, but I would say that your extreme generosity should easily procure you a few semi-sober pilots if and when you should require our unique brand of services.”
Ian nodded. “Thank you lieutenant. I appreciate your candor and honesty. I am confident I can trust you.”
“Well let’s not put the cart before the horse Ambassador, but given certain factors I’d say you just hired yourself a pilot. An expensive fee to be sure, but hey it was your decision.”
“I am confident my trust and faith are not misplaced. Enjoy yourself lieutenant. However, would you do me an additional favor?”
“And what is that Ambassador Lamont?”
“Save a bottle or two of the Romulan Ale. I much prefer drinking in the presence of friends than alone.”
Leon smiled. “Very well sir. I look forward to a few drinks in the future where I can perhaps toast my benefactor.”
Astounded by his remarkable fortune, Leon activated the antigrav sled and bid the Ambassador good day before leaving his quarters. He was still somewhat shocked the Ambassador would part with such valuable merchandise so easily – either that or the good Ambassador was in far more trouble than he had let on. Somehow, despite the immense value of the alcoholic gems he pushed before him, Leon had a nagging suspicion he had somehow received the raw end of the deal. Only time would tell he supposed. For now he had a several bottles of vintage Romulan Ale to become deeply acquainted with.
Ambassador Ian Lamont
Lt. Leon Athalla