This story takes place shortly after the conclusion of the Deep Space Nine series. For commentary, click on the links in the text.
Each time Quark visited Ferenginar, the more he detested his native planet. A wetter and more miserable place he couldn’t imagine. A fine mist filled the air, shrouding the distant Tower of Commerce, and rainwater trickled around the cobblestones on which he walked. The slippery path led from the landing pad to the Nagal Residence, crisscrossing up the side of a grassy hill. It was too long, in his opinion, and lacked the canopy most walkways in the city were supposed to have for keeping pedestrians dry.
BOOM! A tremendous explosion blasted his sensitive eardrums. The concussion threw him to the ground. He scraped his face on the stony pavement and tore a hole in the elbow of his overcoat. A shower of debris pelted over him and he tucked his head under his arm for protection.
He was here on the account of his idiot brother Rom. Quark shook his head in dismay as he huddled in terror. How could the former Grand Nagus Zek appoint such a moron to be his successor? It was Moogie’s fault! Quark blamed his mother. Her incessant meddling impaired Zek’s judgment.
Quark dared to take a glance backwards. The shuttle on which he arrived mere minutes ago was now a blazing wreck on the landing pad. The leaping flames sizzled in the misty air. The crew, who had become his escorts for his arrival at the Nagal Residence, helped him to his feet and hustled him towards the building.
A group of screaming females ran along an intersecting path. Clothed females. Disgusting, thought Quark. Zek’s reforms, instigated by Moogie and continuing under Rom, were wreaking havoc on Ferengi society. As if his mother wearing clothes and conducting business wasn’t bad enough, now all females had those rights.
These specific females shrieked louder as a secondary explosion rocked the landing pad below. O Blessed Exchequer. Quark screamed. His life was in danger. What was he doing here?
He had been minding his own business on Deep Space Nine when he received an urgent plea for help from the new pretender Nagus. His first reaction was to wonder why he should lend assistance. Let Rom fail, he thought. Then his people could get a competent Nagus, one such as himself. His brother was a clever idiot, however, by sending the Nagal Shuttle to transport him to Ferenginar. Rom knew he couldn’t resist the prestige of traveling in the lavish style the shuttle provided.
Had provided, Quark corrected himself. A final turn of the path before reaching the Nagal Residence provided him a good sight of the vehicle’s smoldering remains. He and his party arrived at the door a few steps later, and were met by a security force under the command of a DaiMon. Mercenaries. Rom is in trouble, Quark thought. These protectors owed the Nagus no loyalty other than what he could buy from them. He was a prisoner inside his own house.
At least the place was dry. The floors and walls shimmered with inlaid latinum, bringing joy to Quark’s greedy heart. The sight of latinum, even somebody else’s latinum, excited him.
His entourage led him to a closed door at the end of a corridor. The DaiMon barked an order to one of his underlings, who promptly stepped forward to open the unadorned portal.
“The Grand Nagus awaits you,” said the DaiMon, while the door swung inward.
Quark rushed inside. “Rom, you idiot!” he shouted. “Are you trying to get me killed?”
Somebody’s thick forearm struck a blow to the side of his neck, clubbing him to the floor. Oh, the pain! He struggled to his feet, clutching the aching spot and whimpering. The room didn’t have much lighting now that the door was closed, and a pair of burly Nausicaans blocked the exit. Rom stood before him in front of a maroon curtain, holding the Nagal Scepter.
“Rom,” he whined. “What’s going on here?”
Rom thrust forward the scepter for him to kiss the brazen head of the Blessed Exchequer on top of the staff.
“Is this the proper way to address your Nagus?” he said sternly.
Quark rolled his eyes. “Don’t be ridiculous,” he said. “You’re my brother.”
He had no inclination of paying homage to an idiot.
Rom startled him with a stamp of a foot. “I am your Nagus!”
Okay, okay, Quark realized his brother needed to save face in front of his muscle-bound minions, and the image of the Blessed Exchequer certainly deserved his subservience. He covered the sculptured head with kisses.
Rom pulled the staff away from Quark’s lips. Now he whined. “Brother, I need your help.”
My help? Quark asked himself. What can I do? His brother, idiot that he was, needed his encouragement though.
“You’re the all-powerful Grand Nagus. You don’t need my help.”
“I’m broke,” said Rom. “A Nagus without money is a Nagus without power.”
The lament sounded like a new Rule of Acquisition to Quark. Perhaps Rom could exercise his right as Nagus to add it to the canon of two hundred and eighty-five other Rules. That wouldn’t be needed, however, since the notion of a Nagus not having any assets simply was preposterous.
“What about your franchise fees?” he inquired, “and your market share?”
Rom waved his hands over his head, almost sticking the end of his staff into Quark’s left lobe. “I have to buy this place from Zek. It costs a fortune! The payments take up all the earnings I have left after taxes.”
Ugh! The mention of the abominable T-Word hurt Quark’s lobes. Moogie! He cursed the name of his mother. She had brought down this disaster on the Ferengi economy.
“Won’t Moogie give you a loan?” he asked.
She had plenty of profitable enterprises, after all, and wouldn’t hesitate to subsidize her son. Her favorite son, he thought with no small amount of jealousy.
“Oh yes, she has,” said Rom. “I need the funds to pay my security forces.”
Quark perceived the presence of the two goons behind him, which wasn’t a comfortable feeling for him. He had to be diplomatic.
“Well, Rom. I’m afraid I can’t help you. Business at the bar hasn’t been too good lately, and I’m running a little low on cash.”
“I don’t want your money, Brother. I brought you here to get Auditor Brunt off my back.”
Quark was confused. Since when did the Liquidator have a new title?
Quark’s blood curdled at the sound of the last voice in the universe he wanted to hear. No! His long-time nemesis, Liquidator Brunt, appeared from behind the curtain. Make that Auditor Brunt, he corrected his thoughts. Liquidator or not, Brunt displayed the same malicious smile. He was tall for a Ferengi, and possessed the most crooked teeth of any member of his race Quark had ever known.
“Haven’t you heard?” said Brunt, taunting him. “I have a new position with the Bureau of Taxation. Granted, I still liquidate, but now I have even greater confiscatory powers. The new reforms must be adequately funded.”
This was a nightmare. Quark prayed to the Celestial Auctioneers that he could wake up in his bed safely on Deep Space Nine. How did Rom expect him to get Brunt off his back?
The recently-proclaimed Auditor continued to torment him. “According to my records, Quark, you haven’t paid any income tax on the proceeds of your bar.”
“I don’t have any proceeds,” Quark countered, “and even if I did, my bar isn’t in your jurisdiction.”
“We tax losses, too,” Brunt said with a sneer, “and you are subject to the regulations of the Ferengi Commerce Authority. Grand Nagus Zek reinstated your license, in spite of my objections.”
At that moment, the true horror of the situation overcame Quark. His association with the hewmons had taught him, curiously enough, of their own Rules of Acquisition. One of them applied here. Possession is nine-tenths of ownership. And Brunt had him; his very own person was in his hands. His dear and loving brother had lured him to Ferenginar in order to betray him.
He lunged to strangle the traitor’s throat, but a brawny arm crashed down on his neck again and consciousness escaped him.
* * * * *
A cool, damp cloth dabbled across his face. He opened his eyes to see a female before him. A naked female. He moved to sit up. Oh, his neck was sore! But here came another unclad female from behind him to rub his shoulders. The first female put some sweet berries into his mouth, and then moved her hands to his lobes to give him oo-mox.
Of course this was too good to be a dream. His nightmare, Auditor Brunt, strolled into the chamber.
“Good evening, Quark. I hope the accommodations are to your liking.”
Indeed, he found himself in posh surroundings rather than the prison cell he had expected. He was surrounded by colorful pillows, soft cushions, and intricate embroideries; but the Auditor’s unnervingly pleasant demeanor aroused his suspicion. Waving off the pampering females, he bolted upright.
“You’re not going to (1) crush my eye socket again, are you?”
This time Dr. Bashir wouldn’t be around to repair the damage.
“Of course not,” Brunt cooed. “Why would I do such a thing to an ally?”
“Yes, ally. Remember when (2) we thought you were going to be Nagus? We came to an understanding.”
Quark gazed dreamily at the tapestry on the ceiling, recalling the fond memory. He was master, and Brunt his servant. What an understanding!
Brunt continued, “We agreed that the reforms had to be stopped, and then reversed. No more income tax. No more government programs.”
“No more rights for females!” blurted Quark. He shot furtive glances at the unclothed pair standing by his cot. “Sorry, ladies.”
“As you can see,” said Brunt, waving a hand to indicate the females, “I want to restore our traditional values. Our current Nagus opposes going back, so he must be removed.”
“You want me to betray my brother?”
“He betrayed you.”
Quark only pretended to understand. Something wasn’t quite right. Who tried to blow him up? Not Brunt, if the Auditor actually needed him to execute his plan. He couldn’t think of a reason why Rom would order the destruction of his own shuttle. Perhaps a third party was involved. He decided to play along until more facts presented themselves.
“What do you want me to do?”
Brunt snapped his fingers for the females to make a departure. When they were gone, he leaned over to whisper into Quark’s lobe, “Get insider information.”
Quark was intrigued. “What sort of insider information?”
“The kind I need to ruin your brother,” Brunt answered. “The only way to bring down a Nagus with the popular support that Rom possesses, is to bankrupt him.”
“Go on,” said Quark. He didn’t want the Auditor to stop talking while he so willingly blabbed his plan.
“I’ve already taxed him all I can, and I’m siphoning off more of his revenues to bogus charitable organizations. Before long, my proxies will purchase enough holdings in your mother’s corporations to make me the majority shareholder in all of them.”
“Hostile takeover,” said Quark. “That will cut off his last source of funding.”
“Exactly!” exclaimed Brunt. “But there’s a problem. My sources in the Congress of Economic Advisors tell me that Rom is about to close the Mother of all Deals, something that will solve his financial woes forever. You have to find out what it is. We must foil your brother’s plans or our lifestyle of greed and avarice will be lost forever.”
This was big! The entire Ferengi civilization was at stake. No wonder Brunt confided in him, Quark realized. But what great enterprise could be concocted by an idiot like Rom? It had to be Moogie, working behind the scenes.
“I’ll do everything in my power to get to the bottom of it,” he told the Auditor. “Our way of life depends on it.”
“I knew you would see things my way,” said Brunt, with a grin that pointed teeth in every direction. “But before you do your part, I have to do mine.”
“What do you mean?” asked Quark, dreading the answer.
* * * * *
Before the next day was over, he was brought before the Bureau of Taxation’s Board of Auditors, presided over by Brunt himself, and convicted of tax evasion. His license to engage in commerce was revoked and all of his assets were liquidated, including the bar on distant Deep Space Nine. Such was the sacrifice Quark was willing to make for the benefit of his people, although he thought Brunt enjoyed his staged demise more than he should have.
At least the ploy worked to generate Rom’s sympathy for him. His brother was apologetic upon his return to the Nagal Residence, not even requiring him to kiss the Blessed Exchequer when they met in the same curtained room.
“I’m sorry, Brother. I had no choice. Auditor Brunt threatened to foreclose my mortgage on this Residence and bribe my guards to turn against me if I didn’t do as he asked.”
Quark forced himself to act angry. “You betrayed me. How can you call me Brother?”
“I’ll make it up to you!” Rom was so excited that he hopped from one foot to the other. “I’m working on something that’s going to make all of us fabulously wealthy.”
Here it came, thought Quark. The idiot was going to spill his whole plan without him even asking for it.
“I’m listening,” he said.
“I sent Leeta to Risa to make the final arrangements,” said Rom.
Quark knew it! Moogie was behind his brother’s scheme, and Rom was using his Bajoran wife to communicate with their mother, who was spending a comfortable and apparently productive retirement with Zek on the vacation planet.
“What final arrangements?” He was eager to find out the details.
“Brother, I can’t tell you. It’s not safe for you to know.”
Quark’s face turned hot with rage. “Rom!” he screamed. “It’s not safe for me to be here! Do you know how close I came to being blown to smithereens yesterday?”
“I’m sorry, Brother. That’s why I can’t tell you. The assassins will become even more determined if the news of my proposal comes out too soon.”
“It’s that controversial?” said Quark. What in the name of the Divine Treasury was it?
Rom’s entire body shook. Quark recognized the symptom from his brother’s tongo-playing to mean he was more nervous than excited.
“When do you make your move?” he inquired, more than anything wanting to know how long his life would remain in danger.
“As soon as Leeta comes back, I’m going before the Congress of Economic Advisors to make the announcement.” Rom became less agitated as he spoke. “The proceeding will be broadcast to all of Ferenginar.”
* * * * *
All of Ferenginar? Quark later mulled over the conversation in the quarters Rom assigned him, tapping his finger on the empty table behind which he sat. Business deals were supposed to be made in secret, not publicized to the whole planet, he brooded. The reforms had to be stopped, or how could an unscrupulous Ferengi business owner such as himself hope to make a profit?
An unusually tall female entered the chamber, bringing his supper. Like all of the females at the Nagal Residence, this one wore clothes. In addition to covering her body, she hid her face behind a veil. She set down the tray of tube grubs in front of him, somewhat ungracefully in Quark’s estimation, and turned back the gossamer cloth from her features. Yikes! The shifty eyes and toothy grin of Brunt peered at him.
“What have you found out?” the Auditor whispered.
“You don’t make a very good-looking female,” said Quark. Ugh! Brunt didn’t even wear makeup.
Brunt scoffed, “I look better than you did as a female.”
“I was a female. (3) Dr. Bashir changed me into one.”
“All right,” said Brunt, waving off the discussion. “I don’t want to bicker. I came here to get the word on what you’ve learned from your brother.”
Quark tossed a glance over each of his shoulders, as if checking the chamber for eavesdroppers who weren’t there, and then leaned forward for dramatic effect. “You’re right,” he said. “Rom’s planning something, and it’s huge.”
Brunt’s eyes opened wide. “What is it?”
“He wouldn’t tell me,” said Quark.
In a way, he was glad he didn’t have the information to help Brunt topple his brother. Except for Rom’s misguided notions of honesty and fairness, he was a non-threatening figure as Nagus. No doubt, Brunt desired to hold the Scepter of the Blessed Exchequer himself. Now there was a threatening figure! How could Quark be certain he would return Ferengi society to the old ways? The Auditor would have little incentive to give up his powers of taxation.
The familiar scowl returned to Brunt’s face. “You’re not holding out on me, are you Quark?”
“Of course not,” said Quark, feigning shock that Brunt didn’t trust him. “Why would I do that?”
“Let me see,” said Brunt, pressing a finger against his lips in thought. “You may be thinking of foiling Rom’s plan by yourself, thereby making yourself Nagus. If that’s so, I would advise against it.”
Quark decided to play along with the Auditor’s suspicion, in order to glean more information from him. “And why is that?”
“You’re obviously aware of the act of sabotage perpetrated against the Nagal Shuttle yesterday, are you not?”
Aha! Here comes another piece to the puzzle, Quark thought. He threw out a line to bait Brunt, “You don’t frighten me. I don’t think you tried to blow me up.”
“Correct,” Brunt agreed. “It was Krax.”
“His disgraced son.”
“Of course, that makes sense,” said Quark. Krax thinks he can take his rightful place as Nagus by assassinating Rom. “He’s never been known for subtlety. That’s why (4) Zek disowned him.”
“You got it,” said Brunt, “and I protect Rom by bribing his guards not to be bribed by Krax. Now do you see why you need me?”
That’s how he could sneak into the Nagal Residence disguised as a female, Quark realized. “Okay, I’ll tell you what I know,” he said.
Brunt flashed him a gnarly-toothed smirk of victory.
“I don’t know all of the details,” he began, and the Auditor’s expression reverted to a scowl. “Honest,” he continued. “He’s working with Zek and my mother. He’s going to present the deal, whatever it is, to the Congress of Economic Advisors in a few days.”
“Umm,” muttered Brunt. His eyeballs shifted through various positions in their sockets, betraying the rapidity of his thoughts. “I think I know what he’s up to.”
Brunt’s face lit up with the brilliance of recognition. “Oh, that is the Mother of all Deals!”
“Tell me,” said Quark, desperately wanting to know the secret. “What is it?”
“No need for you to fret over it,” said Brunt, putting the veil back over his face. “Thank you, Quark. I’ll remember you when I’m Nagus.”
And so the Auditor left him with more unanswered questions and a supper that had gone cold.
* * * * *
He slept on the problem, hoping his subconscious would solve it and he would wake up with the answer. No such luck. He was no closer to figuring out what deal possibly could generate fabulous wealth, or how the meager facts he had given Brunt enabled the Auditor to deduce what it was. Out of desperation he called Risa, but his mother refused to talk about the matter with him. Her rebuke still stung in his lobes. Quark, what kind of idiot discusses business on an open channel?
When he asked for Leeta, he learned that she already had left for Ferenginar. This told Quark one thing; whatever was going on, it was happening soon and he had a decision to make. One option for him was to do nothing and permit events to run their course. This probably would result in Brunt replacing Rom as Nagus and repealing the reforms. On the other hand, if he warned Rom that Brunt was on to him, perhaps his brother could save himself.
In short, he had to choose between restoring the principle of unfettered greed to Ferengi society, or his brother’s welfare. What’s the matter with me? Quark asked himself. For a true Ferengi, the choice was a no-brainer. Never allow family to stand in the way of opportunity. So stated the Sixth Rule of Acquisition, and the Rules were sacred to him. But the thought of turning against his family created an unpleasant twinge in his soul, something the hewmons called guilt. He had lived with them for too long, he knew, and allowed himself to be tainted by them. Perhaps Brunt had done him a favor by dispossessing his bar, thereby removing him from their influence.
“Good morning, Brother.”
Rom’s voice jolted him out of his reverie. He hadn’t noticed his brother entering the chamber.
“Did you sleep well?”
“No Rom, I did not.”
“What’s the matter? Are you still worried about getting blown up?”
“No, it’s not that,” said Quark, passing off the notion with a wave of his hand.
Why didn’t he go away? Having him just standing there, so innocent, so stupid, only made matters worse. Oh hell, he could end up in the Vault of Eternal Destitution for this, but he had to get rid of the nagging pang of guilt that tormented him.
“Rom,” he said, grabbing his brother by the shoulders. “Brunt knows your plan. Don’t ask me how he does, because I don’t know, but somehow he’s going to try to stop you.”
“I know,” said Rom, with that idiotic smile of his. “Don’t worry, Brother. I know what’s going on.”
“Yes, Brother!” said Rom, laughing. “I may not have lobes for business, but I’ve discovered I do have lobes for politics.”
“I see,” said Quark, although he really didn’t. “You’ve been getting advice from Zek.”
“Sometimes,” admitted Rom, “but I’ve also learned a lot from the hewmons. They’re very good at politics. Nog gave me one of the books he had to read at Starfleet Academy, written by one of their best politicians.”
So Rom also received guidance from his son, the Starfleet cadet. If anything, Quark admired his brother’s resourcefulness.
“What is this book?” he asked. Any book that could make Rom smart, he had to read.
For the rest of the day, he had nothing to do. Rom claimed to have the situation under control, and Quark was nothing more than his brother’s unwitting pawn in some elaborate tongo game of politics, so his conscience was clear. He looked for The Prince by the hewmon Niccolo Machiavelli in the Ferengi database, but it wasn’t there, so he called Deep Space Nine to transmit him a copy.
* * * * *
The next morning he woke up to the news that the Federation Starship Enterprise under the command of Captain Jean Luc Picard had entered orbit around Ferenginar. This was the endgame, he realized, and he should have guessed that the Federation would be involved.
Rom had arranged for a new set of clothes to be delivered to him. Very nice, Quark fingered the quality fabric. Hopefully, no explosion would tear a hole in the elbow of this suit.
He pondered the morning’s latest information as he put it on. Rom planned to announce a deal, the Mother of all Deals, with the Federation that day. What was it? The unresolved puzzle frustrated Quark, a person who usually prided himself on knowing every little secret. Nothing on Deep Space Nine escaped his attention. He was determined to sit back no longer. Did he not have his own network of sources on Ferenginar to tap for information? However, he discovered the door to his chamber to be locked from the outside when he attempted to leave. Rom! He cursed his brother’s name in his thoughts. The little Machiavellian had him under house arrest. His only access to the outside world was the news feed.
He watched a live view of the Great Marketplace below the Tower of Commerce, jammed full of the Ferengi populace who gathered for Rom’s historic address to the Congress of Economic Advisors. The panorama appeared unusually bright, and then Quark realized, the sun was shining!
He listened to the commentary. The pundits discussed endless theories about what the Nagus was going to announce, but they had no more clues than he did. He switched off the feed in disgust, but soon turned it back on for lack of anything else to do. The morning hours dragged on, each one passing more slowly than the last as a dull ache in his stomach worsened. Quark wondered. When was he going to be fed lunch?
Finally, he heard the unlocking of the door, and he salivated over the prospect of a tasty delivery from the Nagal kitchens. A security contingent appeared instead, led by the same DaiMon who had escorted him on the first day of his visit. They took him to the Grand Hall of Divestiture in the center of the Nagal Residence. The Hall was a testament to decadence. Rows of multi-tiered chandeliers lined the vaulted ceiling, each comprising thousands of luminescent gems that glittered in a brimming spectrum of color. Speckles of amber, amethyst, aqua, azure, burgundy, carnelian, crimson, cyan, emerald, indigo, jade, mauve, maroon, ocher, onyx, orchid, ruby, sapphire, scarlet, teal, topaz, turquoise, and a myriad of other hues glittered from the latinum-embedded walls and tiled floor. A more visible manifestation of the Divine Treasury Quark couldn’t imagine.
Several dozen Ferengi, including clothed females, mingled with other hewmonoid races among the ornamented columns, dwarfed by their surroundings. To Quark, the proceedings had the appearance of a formal reception. The Starfleet officers from the Enterprise wore dress uniforms. He saw his sister-in-law Leeta in a ravishing ebony gown, standing next to Rom.
His escort abandoned him at the entrance, except for the DaiMon who stayed with him. He wondered. Who exactly was the fellow protecting? Much to his surprise, the first group he approached included Dr. Bashir and Deep Space Nine’s psychologist, Ezri Dax. The petite Trill clung to the doctor’s arm, indicating a somewhat-more-than-cordial relationship between them.
“Julian. Ezri,” he addressed the pair, while the Ferengi females they had been talking with scattered to join other conversations. “What are you doing here?”
Bashir shrugged. “We were on Risa when we heard the Enterprise was coming here, so we decided to tag along.”
“O Julian, you’re so modest!” said Ezri, giving the doctor a playful slap on his shoulder.
She looked at Quark with enchanting blue eyes, making his heart go aflutter just as the host of the Dax symbiont always had done to him, whether Jadzia or Ezri.
“Julian played a key role in the negotiations,” she said.
“I simply had some contacts that nobody should know about,” said Bashir.
Quark resisted a smirk that would have betrayed to the doctor how much he knew. Garak, the resident Cardassian spy on Deep Space Nine, had told him of Bashir’s involvement in the clandestine Starfleet operation code-named (5) Section 31.
“I did nothing more than introduce people to one another,” Bashir babbled on, as was his habit. “Oh, hello Captain,” he added, as a stately bald man approached.
Quark recognized the newcomer to be Captain Picard, whom he had seen at the space station on occasion.
“Greetings,” said Picard, extending a hand to Quark. “You’re the barkeep from DS9, right?”
Strange custom these hewmons had, Quark considered the shaking of hands, and although he didn’t care for the condescending tone he detected in the captain’s words, he accepted the hand.
“I am,” he said. “Quark’s the name.”
“Very good,” Picard replied with a stiff nod. (6) "One of the most valuable members of my crew keeps the bar."
That’s more like it, Quark thought. He deserved respect.
Picard took notice of the other Ferengi whose presence Quark had forgotten about, breaking a smile.
“Hello Picard,” said the DaiMon, coming forward to pump the captain’s arm.
Quark wondered. What makes them so friendly?
Picard must have noticed his puzzled expression, because he explained. (7) “The DaiMon and I established the first face-to-face contact between our races fifteen years ago.”
“Given the hostility of that first meeting, who would have thought we would see this day?” said Taar. “Thank you for coming with your ship, Captain. It’s (8) not the same Enterprise, but the vessel’s a powerful symbol nevertheless.”
No! Quark found himself overwhelmed by a sudden panic. Ferenginar was joining the Federation! A more horrible prospect he couldn’t imagine. The Federation had no entrepreneurial spirit, no speculation, and no profits. They didn’t even have currency! No wonder Rom had kept his intentions such a guarded secret. Ferengi society could accept a few reforms, but not this!
Quickly, he composed himself. “I wasn’t aware relations between the Federation and Ferenginar had become so cordial.”
“The Federation is encouraged by the changes being made here,” said Picard.
More condescension, Quark scoffed to himself.
“We’re confident the Ferengi people will reach their full potential, and frankly, we need what they have to offer.”
“Like what?” Now Quark was intrigued.
“The Dominion has been defeated, but not before the destruction of whole planets. Entire populations have been displaced, and our economic infrastructure cannot handle the strain. We require financing; an infusion of good old capitalism, to be honest.”
Music to Quark’s lobes! This was the fabulous wealth Rom had talked about, but who would change whom? He feared that the Ferengi would become too much like the Federation.
“Excuse me,” he said, announcing his own departure. “I have to find my brother.”
He left the group, and thankfully DaiMon Taar didn’t follow him. Scurrying among the columns, he looked for Rom. Where was he? After a minute or so of frantic searching, he spotted the black-gowned Leeta and hence Rom.
“Rom!” he called, interrupting whatever conversation his brother was having with a group of hewmons. “We have to talk.”
He grabbed Rom’s left arm, the one not holding the Nagal Scepter, and pulled him aside. Fortunately, no Nausicaans were around to club him on the neck, although Leeta moved to stay close.
“Leeta, please,” he said. “I must talk to Rom alone.”
She acquiesced, and he turned to face his brother.
“How could you?” He grabbed Rom by the shoulders, but refrained from shaking him. “I see the potential for wealth beyond our wildest dreams, but consider the cost. We can’t join the Federation!”
“We’re not joining the Federation, Brother,” said Rom. “I hope we can do so some day, but today we’re merely signing a free trade agreement.”
Quark paused for a moment, allowing the idea to settle into his mind.
“That’s good,” he said, drawing out the words while his thoughts raced. He envisioned only good things. “'Free trade increases wealth for all,'” he quoted the Seventieth Rule of Acquisition. “The Federation is a gigantic free trade zone. There are no tariffs between the hundreds of member worlds.”
“I know,” said Rom, shaking with excitement. “It’s a virtually limitless market!”
Quark was about to kiss his brother on the forehead when a holographic image of the Tower of Commerce appeared on the pillar before him. Rom turned to watch, too. The same image appeared on the other columns in the hall, grabbing the attention of everyone present. Then the scene switched to the inside of the Tower, where the Congress of Economic Advisors was currently in session. Quark felt a tightening in his throat when he saw Auditor Brunt speaking at the podium.
“Our Nagus has sold us out to the Federation,” he ranted. “At this very moment, their most powerful starship orbits our planet. They come to ban commerce. They come to ban profits! They come to ban latinum!”
These words threw the Congress into bedlam. Over the din could be heard cries of, “Treason!” and, “Destitution for Rom!”
Brunt used a wooden head of the Blessed Exchequer to gavel the assembly to order.
“Entrepreneurs! Speculators! Profit-loving Ferengi everywhere, listen to me! I will lead you to the Divine Treasury and boundless wealth. Permit me to be your Nagus and I will usher in a new age of avarice.”
A tremendous commotion drowned out any more words from the holographic image. Quark cowered as dozens of security personnel burst into the Hall of Divestiture and lined the walls. Most of them were armed with phasers, although some carried the electra-plasmic whips which had been prevalent before contact with the Federation.
Quark immediately recognized their leader. Krax!
“Everyone here is under arrest for high treason and defamation of the sacred Rules of Acquisition,” Zek’s son announced. “All females are required to take off their clothes, now! Federation personnel will be detained until arrangements can be made for their ransom.”
O misery! Quark lamented. By duping Krax into doing his dirty work, Brunt was going to become Nagus. Some of the Ferengi females started to remove clothing.
Another commotion resounded throughout the hall with the arrival of dozens more guards. Wasn’t this overkill? The new forces formed lines in front of the others, then turned around and trained their weapons on the back rows.
Now DaiMon Taar called out. “In the name of Rom, your true Nagus, disarm yourselves!”
Quark looked at his brother, and saw him grinning from lobe to lobe.
“You see, Brother? I have everything under control.”
“I’m impressed,” said Quark, as the sounds of Taar’s minions apprehending Krax’s troupe surrounded them. “You’ve learned your lessons from Machiavelli well. I read the book last night, and I honestly didn’t think you could be as ruthless as you needed to be.”
He had been proud of Rom at times before, usually when he displayed some engineering expertise, but for the first time he thought of his brother with respect.
“To be ruthless is only one interpretation,” Rom said, with a wink. “I prefer manipulation.”
Rom laughed, displaying rows of crooked teeth he never brushed. “Somebody that predictable is easy to manipulate. I knew he would incriminate himself, and look. Now he’s under arrest.”
Sure enough, the hologram showed the Nausicaans escorting Auditor Brunt away from the podium at the Congress of Economic Advisors.
Rom waved the Nagal Scepter, indicating the ongoing removal of disloyal guards from the Hall of Divestiture.
“As a bonus, we caught Krax,” he said, continuing to gloat. “Zek and Moogie were right. They knew that leaking news of a free trade agreement to Krax’s people would get word to Brunt.”
At last, Quark deduced the full extent of his brother’s scheme to consolidate supreme power as Grand Nagus. Brunt had infiltrated Krax’s organization, of course, so he knew whatever Krax did. No doubt, the double-agent Taar had informed Brunt of the impending arrival of the Enterprise. Brunt wouldn’t have made any move based solely on this information, so a rumor of the Mother of all Deals had been planted in the Congress of Economic Advisors to get his attention. All Brunt needed to think he had the upper hand was Quark’s tidbit about Rom making an announcement to the Congress.
A brilliant plan, but even more amazing, Rom had pulled it off. Quark gave his brother a heartfelt pat-on-the-back of congratulations.
Leeta came over. “Husband, are you ready to speak to the Congress?”
“Just a second, Wife,” said Rom. “One more thing, Quark. I promised to make things up to you for your trouble. Ask me for anything, and it’s yours.”
Quark’s thoughts raced. Here was his chance to exploit family ties for personal gain, still considered a virtue in Ferengi society even after the reforms, but his pride wouldn’t allow him to accept a hand-out from Rom.
He sighed. “I just want my bar back.”
“Done, but is that all? I’ll give you any position on Ferenginar you want. How about taking over Brunt’s job?”
“No, thanks,” said Quark. “I don’t want to live on this rainy planet.” It may be sunny today, but it wouldn’t be for the next hundred.
“Very well,” said Rom, taking Leeta by the arm and walking away.
Suddenly, an idea popped into Quark’s mind.
“Rom,” he called after his brother.
The Nagus, his Nagus, turned to look at him. “Yes, Brother.”
“I want the exclusive rights to distribute root beer on Ferenginar.”
Once the general population got a taste of the (9) Federation’s sweet, bubbly beverage, they wouldn’t be able to get enough of it. He was going to be rich!
(1) This happened in the Deep Space Nine episode, Bar Association, when Brunt wanted to impress on Quark that a union among his bar employees was not to be tolerated. Return to the story.
(2) Rom became Nagus instead in the Deep Space Nine episode, The Dogs of War. Return to the story.
(3) A reference to the Deep Space Nine episode, Profit & Lace. Return to the story.
(4) In the Deep Space Nine episode, The Nagus. Return to the story.
(5) Depicted in the Deep Space Nine episode, Inquisition. Return to the story.
(6) Guinan, played by Whoopie Goldberg. Return to the story.
(7) A reference to the Next Generation episode, The Last Outpost. Taar was also played by Armin Shimermann. Funny, Quark wouldn't see his own resemblance in the guy. Return to the story.
(8) The other Enterprise was destroyed by the Borg in Star Trek VIII, First Contact. Return to the story.
(9) Quark admitted to liking root beer in the Deep Space Nine episode, The Way of the Warrior. Return to the story.
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