Dr. Chris Patel carried his bags through the station, his eyes adjusting to the dark lighting and his body adapting to the heat, filling the new physician with memories of his parents' summer home in India. With some of the lights flashing like crazy and debris all over the floor, the whole place looked like a bomb went off. Although, considering that the Cardassians just abandoned the station after a fifty-year Occupation of Bajor, that would not have been outside the realm of possibilities.
As Patel walked along the hallways, he saw a few officers, some Bajoran and others Starfleet, trying to clear some of the rubble and a few civilians packing up to leave. The scent of dust, grime and alcohol filled the air and the neutral tones of the station clashed with some of the more bright red and yellow of Cardassian architecture. The doctor stopped midway and put his bags down. He pulled his PADD out and studied the blueprints on the screen.
"Are you lost?" a man with an Irish accent asked in front of him.
Patel looked up to see that the voice belonged to a Chief Petty officer with curly hair and a heavy built.
"Yeah, could you tell me where my quarters are?" he asked, angling the device at the enlisted officer.
"Sure," the chief said amiably, peering down at the PADD in the doctor's hands. "Take a left and use the turbolift to go to the Habitat Ring."
"Thank you, sir," Patel told him, turning left and heading forward as if his very life depended on it.
"You're quite welcome!" the chief shouted at the retreating figure. "And don't call me sir!"
The doctor entered the turbolift and called for the Habitat Ring, setting his bags down and resting his back on the wall. This was his first posting and he was still a little nervous, only grateful that he was the second string medical doctor rather than the CMO. In his mind, it would be less pressure on him and the last thing Patel wanted was to feel overwhelmed.
It wasn't long until the turbolift stopped, a cue for Patel to grab his bags and leave. He walked through the gently curving corridor until finally reaching the door to his quarters. Instead of walking right in, the doctor just stood there as if he were hesitant to open it. He would be rooming with an old friend and—after what happened last time—Patel was a little scared to face her. He took a deep breath, reminding himself that it was Candy Marino, the shy girl from high school who always retreated to a corner with her nose in a book. The one who would throw herself into fictional worlds and write stories about them. There's no way she would hold a grudge.
Patel walked through the open doors, greeted to the sound of loud pulses accompanied by a light buzzing ringing through their quarters. The design itself was simple, surrounded by the same gray walls found on the station. There was an orange tabby sleeping in the corner on an unzipped (and as yet unpacked) old-fashioned suitcase, and a fan blowing through the room, making the heat less oppressive. In the middle of their quarters was a young woman in her late twenties sprawled out on a brown couch reading a Cardassian styled PADD. Her chestnut brown hair was tied into a ponytail, a few loose tendrils escaping to frame her round yet sunken face with emerald eyes. In stark contrast with her mustard Starfleet uniform was a necklace with a twentieth-century American quarter worn as a pendant and a flask equipped to her hip.
"Candy?" Patel said, the surprise evident in his voice.
"So, the former Parisses Squares star graces me with his presence," Marino said sardonically, her thick New Jersey accent shining through.
"I guess I deserved that," Patel said with a nervous laugh. "So, what's with the music?"
"It's Cardassian classical," Marino said nonchalantly.
"Your taste in music certainly has changed," Patel remarked with slight humor. "I remember when you wouldn't even listen to Earth classical."
"Actually, I never hated classical, I just prefer it as background music," Marino explained. "When I'm listening to music, I want something I can dance to."
"So, what's this music supposed to be a background for?" Patel asked.
"Isn't it obvious?" Marino asked with a condescending tone. "I'm reading a manuscript on a Cardassian station written by a Cardassian torturer who loved this music and, let me tell you, torturers from all around the galaxy love classical music." The ensign shrugged her shoulders. "Don't know why."
"Oh..." Patel said with understanding. "So, you're trying to get into his head."
"Give the guy a medal, he got it on the first try," Marino said as if she was an announcer for a Parisses Squares tournament.
Patel's lips formed into an amused smile as he walked to the right.
"I already took that room," Marino told him without looking up.
"Couldn't wait until I showed up?" Patel asked, turning to his roommate irritably.
"You snooze, you lose," Marino said unapologetically as she pressed a button on her PADD. "Besides, you wouldn't have wanted it."
"And why would you think that?" Patel demanded to know, his bags feeling heavier.
"Because that room belonged to the writer of this manuscript," Marino explained to him. "And one of his favorite pastimes was peeling the skin off of Bajorans as if they were freshly plucked fruit,"
"Are you serious?" Patel said, looking at Marino as if she lost her mind.
"Says so himself right here," Marino said as if she just told Patel that their former occupant loved steak and then spoke rather psychotically, as if she were Ramsay Snow himself. "'There's nothing more enjoyable—'"
"Thanks for the offer, but I really don't need to hear it out loud," Patel said, feeling grateful that his medical training kept him from hurling on the carpet.
He turned around the couch and picked up the pace, walking straight ahead to the second room.
"You won't want that room either," Marino told Patel, stopping him in his tracks.
"How do you know which room I'm going to?" Patel asked her challengingly, his shoulders tensing partly out of frustration.
"Because your footsteps are sounding further away from behind me," Marino explained, as if an Gorn would have figured it out. "And, from the way you're picking up the pace, I can tell that you're getting irritated with something."
"Can you figure out what's irritating me?" Patel asked Marino sarcastically with a hint of anger.
Either Marino couldn't figure out what it was, or she didn't care.
"Why wouldn't I want that room?" Patel asked more solemnly.
"Because that's where our pazzo Gul conducted his experiments," Marino explained with a shrug. "If you want to take it, I won't stop you." She added a bit of sarcasm to her voice. "Just try to forget that Bajorans were having their eyes gouged out in that room and you'll be fine."
Patel went to the left and set his bags near the door.
"Is there any trouble in this room I should know about?" he asked, trying his best to keep calm but still letting some impatience seep through his voice.
"Nope," Marino told him confidently. "Just the room where the Cardassian Ramsay kept Bajoran women. It gave them a false sense of security."
"Then it's the least offensive," Patel remarked with a relieved sigh.
He turned around and crossed his arms, leaning on the closed doors. He found himself puzzled by Marino's behavior. If Patel had arrived first and found that manuscript, he'd be begging Starfleet for a new assignment, or at least a room change.
Yet here was Marino, the girl who couldn't say Bloody Mary in a bathroom mirror three times, treating finding out that the Cardassian who resided in their room tortured innocent Bajorans as if she won a trip to Casperia Prime. Despite Patel's horror at Marino's newfound personality, he couldn't help but feel a slight intrigue towards the woman lying on the couch. So many psychiatrists would kill to be in his position right now.
"Hey, Candy, can I ask you something?" Patel said hesitantly.
"Ask anything you want," Marino told him nonchalantly. "But that doesn't mean I'll answer."
"All right," Patel said, removing his back from the closed doors. "Why doesn't anything our former occupant did bother you?"
"Give people power and, more often than not, they'll use it for evil," she said nonchalantly. "You see it all throughout history, Marquis De Sade, Mengele, Lex Luthor."
"Isn't Lex Luthor a fictional character?" Patel pointed out as if he was explaining to a child that Santa wasn't real.
"Yeah, but he's historically famous for being Superman's arch-nemesis," Marino explained, as if she were oblivious to Patel's tone. "Superman and Lex Luthor are both fictional representations of powerful people, the former uses it for good and the latter for evil." Marino's voice turned bitter as the kitten jumped on her skinny stomach. "Though I'm starting to wonder why I have to explain that to you."
Patel's face fell. Then he cleared his throat, preparing himself for a long overdue apology.
"Look, Candy," Patel began in a sincere tone as Marino put her PADD down on the nearby night stand. "About what happened in high school." Patel struggled as his eyes met Marino's. "I'm really sorry."
"It's in the past," Marino said casually as she pet her kitten.
Patel let out a breath he didn't know he was holding.
"So, what's with the cat?" Patel asked, feeling as if a weight had been lifted from him.
"His name's Shere Khan," Marino said, petting the orange ball of fur as if Patel hadn't spoke. "His former owners abandoned him, so I took him." Then adopted a cuter tone as if she were talking to a baby. "Isn't that right, wittle boy?"
Patel smiled as he heard Shere Khan purr loudly enough to be heard over the fan and the music while Marino stroked his fur, glad that some things about the girl he used to know hadn't changed. Though he had to admit, Shere Khan was a cute kitten. Patel walked over to Marino, his hand out to pet Shere Khan, who only scratched and hissed at him, causing Patel to quickly withdraw his hand.
"Yeah, he doesn't like strangers," Marino explained, continuing to pet Shere Khan absentmindedly.
"Now you tell me," Patel said bitterly as he grabbed his bags and headed for the door.
"Tell Cathy I said hi," Marino told Patel's retreating back.
* * *
Marino gave all of her attention to Shere Khan, feeling the vibration of his purrs. All it took was one sneeze for him to get off. She still had time before her next shift to make one call, even if it was one she dreaded. Marino took a sip from her flask, enjoying the bubbly substance going down her throat, then finally entered her room on the right with another fan set up in the middle. She set her personal computer on the desk and opened it.
"Computer, connect to T’Mara on Vulcan, Priority One connection, authorization Marino-Alpha-6359-Rose," Marino ordered, taking a seat.
It wasn't long until a caramel face female Vulcan with her raven hair tied in a long braid appeared on Marino's screen.
"Ensign Marino, I was expecting your call," T'Mara said, noticing the flask in Marino's hand with a disapproving gaze.
"Don't worry, it's just synthehol," Marino explained as she put it on her desk.
"Acceptable," T'Mara said with a nod. "I suppose you have just finished making yourself at home on Deep Space Nine."
"Actually, I haven't even started," Marino admitted with a wave of her hand. "I got caught up reading this manuscript left by the previous owner."
"What was the content of this manuscript?" T'Mara asked with clear intrigue.
"It was about looking into the mind of a Cardassian who loved torturing any Bajoran he could get his hands on," Marino explained with a smile and tone equivalent to a five-year-old girl who just tried on her first princess dress. "Rebels, collaborators, civilians, you name it." Marino's smile faded and her tone grew more condescending. "Though it does talk a bit too much about Cardassian superiority over other species. Other than that, it was like reading something written by Ramsay Snow. Only thing missing was the sigil of a flayed man."
"Considering the character of Ramsay Snow, I would imagine that Roose Bolton would be more likely to write such a tale," T'Mara told her.
"No, Roose Bolton wouldn't be stupid enough to flay a collaborator. Remember what he told Ramsay?" Marino recalled and then adopted a serious stance. "'If you acquire a reputation as a mad dog, you'll be treated as a mad dog. Taken out back and slaughtered for pig feed.'"
"Logical," T'Mara acknowledged in a voice only a tiny bit away from being complete monotone. "Speaking of Game of Thrones, when we last talked, you described being assigned to Deep Space Nine as 'being sent to The Wall without having to take a vow of celibacy and no Jon Snow to make it bearable.' I am pleased to see that your opinion has changed."
"I'll say one thing," Marino said with a confident smile. "You never would've found anything like that manuscript on the Prometheus." Then she pointed to a suitcase with isolinear chips, one of them containing Game of Thrones. "Plus, I made sure to bring that gorgeous bastard with me."
"Ah yes, your last posting," T'Mara acknowledged, completely ignoring Marino's last remark. "I remember you compared the Prometheus to serving on a dollhouse in outer space."
"With everyone all sunshine and roses, you always knew who was good and who was bad and everyone went around talking about how we're so superior and have found the right way," Marino said, rolling her eyes and crossing her arms.
"To which you believe that there's no such thing as 'the right way,'" T'Mara said, raising her eyebrow at the last part.
"And anyone who believes that is deluding themselves," Marino said with a scoff. "This is turning into less of a check up and more of a counseling session."
"Considering the nature of these 'check-ups,' a counseling session is inevitable," T'Mara informed Marino. "Or are you forgetting about the incident that nearly resulted in your expulsion from Starfleet?"
"Trust me, I haven't forgotten," Marino said, taking a sip from her flask. "It's the whole reason I got assigned to this shit bowl."
"From what you've told me, I can logically assume that the assignment is a good fit for you," T'Mara told her positively.
"Great, then the conversation's over," Marino said, about to cut the connection until T'Mara raised her hand.
"Unfortunately, you and I still have some issues to discuss," T'Mara told Marino in as harsh of a tone a Vulcan could muster. "For instance, were there any temptations when you arrived on the station?"
"Just one," Marino said distastefully. "When I walked into the station, I smelled booze. I'm talking the smell of stardrifters, kanar, blood wine, Saurian brandy, and something that smelled like a citrusy wine. Even if the smell of dust and grime mostly covered it up. Not to mention the heat."
"Does the heat curb your cravings for alcohol?" T'Mara asked in a helpful manner.
"You'd think, but no," Marino said sardonically, resting her chin on the back of her hand. "Don't get me wrong, thanks to living on Vulcan for a few months, I've gotten used to three-digit degree weather. It's Shere Khan who truly suffered." Marino's voice filled with distress as she remembered her kitten's meows and his attempts to bathe himself with his tongue repeatedly. "I had to set up fans all around my quarters to keep the poor little guy from overheating!"
"Considering Cardassian physiology and the average temperate of their home planet, this does not surprise me," T'Mara informed Marino.
"Then I hope Cardassian animals don't have fur, because that would be pure torture," Marino remarked bitterly. "But we both know I didn't call you to talk about Shere Khan's suffering."
"Yes, I can sense that you are troubled by far more than your feline's suffering," T'Mara told her. "Care to tell me what that would be?"
"I had a little run in with a blast from my past," Marino told her.
"I didn't think anyone from the Prometheus would be assigned to Deep Space Nine," T'Mara stated with confusion.
"Actually, this one isn't from the Prometheus," Marino informed her. "He goes much further back."
* * *
Patel unpacked everything and then set his computer on the desk, seeing a message from the one member of his family he could count on. It only took a few seconds for the face of a jet black haired young woman with a toffee complexion to appear on his screen.
"Hey, Chris," she said with a smile. "By the time you view this, you're probably settling down in your new posting. You know, the rundown Cardassian station you were dreading. Well, I kind of envy you right now. I'm still interning on Andoria," Cathy said, pouring herself a drink. "Which makes New Jersey winters look like Gujarat."
Patel looked at the alcohol with a disapproving glance.
"I know, you don't like your baby sister drinking," Cathy said, rolling her eyes. "But cut me some slack, I'm living on a giant ice cube."
Patel drew back with a jolt. It was scary how well Cathy knew him.
"All right, the internship's not all bad. I got to watch Redbats nesting in a cave!" Cathy said excitedly, putting her hands on her chest. "Though one of them freaked out and nearly crawled through my brain."
Patel found himself peering at the top of Cathy's head, at least as much as he could see, for signs of scratches.
"Thankfully, Areliv helped me get it out," Cathy said with a dreamy smile. "He even offered to take me out to dinner."
And Cathy's got a new boyfriend, Patel thought with both pride and worry. Though I don't think Mom and Dad will like their daughter dating an Andorian.
"I know what you're thinking and Areliv is not my boyfriend!" Cathy insisted, though her bright red face told another story. "He's just a friend! A very handsome and charming friend!" She laughed. "All right, I'm kind of hoping that it will turn into something more." Cathy smiled brightly. "Who knows? Maybe Areliv and I can double date with you and Ian."
Patel's face fell.
"Anyway, I've got to go. I'm meeting my boss in a few minutes," Cathy told him. "Try to make the best of your assignment and, remember, our summers on Gujarat prepared you for Cardassian heat, even if it made Andorian cold almost intolerable."
Cathy closed the connection, leaving Patel staring at a black screen.
* * *
"His name's Chris Patel," Marino answered.
"Ah, yes," T'Mara said with a nod of her head. "The childhood friend who you separated from in high school."
"We both fell into different crowds," Marino explained bitterly. "He belonged to the hotshot squad and I belonged to the social outcasts."
"I recall you saying this during your time at the monastery," T'Mara noted. "However, I do not recall you ever telling me that Chris did anything to personally attack you."
"Oh, he didn't," Marino stated, hoping she wouldn't have to clarify.
"Then I fail to see the problem," T'Mara said, shrugging her eyebrows.
"The problem is that I'm trying to make a new life for myself and I don't need some childhood friend telling everyone about the 'sweet little girl' I used to be," Marino said crossing her arms and rolling her eyes.
"Again, I fail to see how a childhood friend would cause you personal strife at your new duty position," T'Mara told her.
It was at that moment Shere Khan chose to jump on the desk.
"Is that the transient feline you found outside the monastary?" T'Mara asked, her brown eyes following Shere Khan. "The one you retrieved the fans for?"
"You mean the one who was abandoned on Vulcan?" Marino said, her eyes narrowing as she remembered seeing him panting on the hot desert of her former retreat. "He didn't really have anyone else who could take him in."
"So, you chose to make him your pet," T'Mara recalled.
"What was I supposed to do?" Marino said defensively as she took Shere Khan off of her desk and held him in her arms. "Help the poor kitty and then abandon him to the shelter?"
"You always did have a compassion for animals," T'Mara told her, raising an eyebrow. "People are another matter."
"Yeah, animals rock, people suck," Marino said, setting Shere Khan down on the floor, meowing loudly as he rubbed against Marino's legs. "Sorry, wittle boy, but your mama's in the middle of something."
T'Mara raised an eyebrow.
"Yes, I'm one of those nutsos who treats their pets like their children," Marino said, folding her arms. "Can we get back to the matter at hand?"
T'Mara raised her right eyebrow.
"Perhaps Mr. Patel will not divulge sensitive information without your approval," T'Mara told her helpfully.
"You might be right about that," Marino conceded hesitantly. "But he might get defensive when people insult me." She recalled his apology before contacting T'Mara. "Plus, Chris would still have questions that I really don't want to answer."
And one of them will be answered when the CMO arrives with my medical file, Marino thought sardonically. That'll be fun.
"I'm sure if Mr. Patel respects your privacy, then he will not force you to share information that you are uncomfortable divulging," T'Mara told her reassuringly.
"You've got a point there," Marino agreed with a reluctant nod.
"Is that all that concerns you?" T'Mara asked.
"Actually, there's one more thing..." Marino asked hesitantly, holding up her right index finger.
"Ensign Marino, Vulcans do not 'change their mind.' You are still not permitted to imbibe any alcohol," T'Mara told her firmly.
"Wow, am I really that predictable?" Marino asked, her eyes widening.
"Yes." T'Mara answered in her usual matter of fact tone.
She has me there, she thought. When she spoke again, her voice was a little more relaxed. "Though, you have to admit, it's going to be hard for me to 'curb my cravings' when I'm assigned to a place that smells like booze."
"Your argument is illogical since the synthehol and blitz should curb your cravings," T'Mara told her sympathetically. "Additionally, consider the manuscript you found. It may be logical to conclude that Deep Space Nine could give you the mental stimulation the Prometheus could not."
"Yeah, but even Deep Space Nine can't keep my brain entertained all the time," Marino concluded with her arms crossed and her head tilted to the side. "So I might need a little pick-me-up on those slow days."
"As your sponsor, I must advise against that," T'Mara told her firmly.
"Fongool," Marino said angrily, putting her arms to her side. "Chat with you more, but I need to unpack."
"Very well," T'Mara said with a nod. "Remember to contact me if you feel any urges."
"Sure thing," Marino said as T'Mara held up her right hand in the traditional Vulcan greeting.
"Live long and prosper," T'Mara told her.
"I can try for the latter, but I'm not making any promises about the former," Marino told her honestly.
"Ensign Marino..." T'Mara told her in a slight warning tone.
"All right," Marino said, putting her hand up in the Vulcan salute. "Peace and long life, Counselor."
Marino cut off the connection and looked around her quarters. It seemed pretty standard with a desk, the typical Cardassian mattress, her bags near the door and silhouettes of paintings owned by their former occupier. Like everyone else on the station, he left in a hurry. She unzipped one of her bags and pulled out a few isolinear chips that contained recordings of all of her favorite songs, some of them having their own playlists. She used her personal console and installed them all in her quarters, instructing the computer to play one at random.
"Journey," Marino exclaimed with a bright smile as the music started playing. "Awesome!" Emptying the contents from the rest of her luggage, she lazily threw them in the correct places in her quarters, singing along to "Don't Stop Believing," relishing in the antiquated style.
* * *
Patel turned on the connection, ready to record his outgoing message.
"Hey, Cathy," he greeted. "Really liked hearing your message and glad to hear you're doing well, in spite of the freezing cold. Though I might have to check this Areliv out to see if he's good enough for my sister." He smiled to let Cathy know that he wasn't serious. Well, not entirely. "Things on Deep Space Nine aren't too bad and trust me when I say the heat's the least of my worries."
The doctor's smile disappeared. "The whole place looks like a shipwrecked ghost town and knowing the history of this station doesn't help. Let me put it this way, Candy found a manuscript of the Gul who used to live here and, by the way she talked about him, things didn't sound pleasant." Patel's smile returned, imagining the look on Cathy's face. "Yeah, you heard that right, Candy's my roommate. Though, she's a little different from how we remember. As for how, let's just say that she finally got that backbone you always said she needed to grow."
Patel's face fell. "Also, there's something I need to tell you. Ian and I broke up. I know you liked him and you're sad to see him go, but it's better this way. Our careers were taking us in different directions and we both felt that it would be better to, in archaic terms, rip the band aid off rather than leave it on until it naturally falls. Anyway, I have to go. Plenty of unpacking to do and I need to get the Infirmary set up for when the CMO arrives."
He closed the connection and unzipped one of his bags. He meticulously placed everything where they belonged and realized he could hear Marino's music from across his quarters. He had to admit that the ensign had a beautiful singing voice, but he had a hunch that he'd be listening to it way more often than he wanted to.
* * *
Marino walked through the corridor, on her way to the constable's office, smelling the same liquor that greeted her when she first arrived on the station. She turned her head to see a Ferengi packing up to leave.
"We're closed," The Ferengi said, turning to look at her.
"Yeah, I can tell by the lack of customers," Marino said sardonically as she walked in.
The Ferengi turned to face her and just stared at her intently.
"Have I seen you before?" the Ferengi asked.
"If you're trying to hit on me, pick a better line," Marino said with a scoff.
"Believe me, under normal circumstances, I would be hitting on you," the Ferengi told her. "But, right now, I'm not in the mood."
"Yeah, I can tell by all the boxes you're packing up," Marino said, noticing the packed up suitcases and boxes all around save for a few products of liquor. "Not that I blame you." she indicated to the mess around them with rubble all over the floor and the stench of the former corpses that were rotting. "Especially when you consider the fight that took place earlier."
"What do you know about the fight?" the Ferengi asked, peering up at her.
"I know that a few disgruntled Cardassians didn't like ceding the station to us," Marino said, once again pointing to the rubble and imagining some very angry Cardassian soldiers rampaging through the station as if they were mini-Godzillas stomping through Tokyo. "A few Bajorans stood up to them and got themselves killed." The stench of the former corpses brought Marino to mind of Bajorans standing up to the Cardassians and paying the price. "And you got caught in the crossfire."
"You've got quite the imagination, Miss..." the Ferengi said with a nervous laugh.
"Ensign, actually," Marino corrected for him. "Ensign Candy Marino."
"Well, Ensign Marino, let me be the first to tell you," the Ferengi told her. "I don't stick my neck out for—" the Ferengi did a double-take. "Wait a minute, did you just say that your name was Candy?" he burst into hysterical laughter as if Marino just told him the funniest joke in the galaxy. "What was your previous job, Dabo Girl?"
"Actually I was a stripper on Risa. I took Candy as my stage name and it stuck," Marino told him sardonically, rolling her eyes. "There, we got it out of the way. Are you done laughing now?"
"Hold on," the Ferengi told her and, after a few minutes of laughter, turned his attention back to her. "As I was saying, I'm not a hero and I don't stick my neck out for anyone."
"Then explain those red marks around your neck that look like humanoid fingers, Mister...," Marino said with a smug smile, looking at the Ferengi's neck.
"Quark," the Ferengi told her, feeling his neck and letting out slight gasps.
"Well, Quark, one of the Cardassians tried to throttle you in the disaster," Marino said confidently. "Lucky for you, security put a stop to it before you joined the corpses."
"I thought Hew-Mons were supposed to be compassionate," Quark told her. "Not psychopaths who take joy in other people's misery."
"Again with the stereo-types," Marino said with an exasperated sigh. "Also, I'm not a psychopath. I'm a high-functioning sociopath. Trust me, I've been diagnosed."
"Do, I look like I care?" Quark asked her. "All right, answer this. Why would the Cardassians want to kill me? I'm not Bajoran and I already told you that I don't stick my neck out for anyone. I'm just an honest businessman trying to make a living."
"Or so you want people to think," Marino said, with a scoff as she looked over the Promenade. "You've got the Dabo table in the center, the holosuites are all located in your establishment, meaning you own every single one, and the place smells of Kanar, Stardrifters, Saurian Brandy, Bloodwine and another wine with a citrusy smell." She took a sip from her flask. "I can also detect a hint of incense used to cover up the smell of Blitz in places where selling the stuff is illegal. So I'm guessing you're not above breaking the law to make a quick strip. No wonder the Cardassians tried to kill you."
"Ensign, you've got no proof I've done anything wrong," Quark told her. "And, as I said before, I'm leaving. So I won't be a problem for anyone."
"Oh, you've got me all wrong," Marino said, rubbing her pendant between her fingers. "I don't want you to leave."
"Why, so you could get enough dirt on me to lock me up?" Quark said with a scoff.
"Relax, I don't bother with small fry," Marino told him, looking around the Promenade. "I prefer to go after the big fish." In the hallway, she saw a tall Cardassian male with blue eyes and civilian clothes observing her with an intense gaze.
"What makes you think I'm not a big fish?" Quark asked her, snapping Marino out of her daze.
She looked back at Quark to see that he was scowling at her, pride obviously hurt.
"I only had to look around your establishment once and I already figured out your deal," Marino told him with a scoff, giving a glance back to see the Cardassian had disappeared. "The only reason you haven't left yet is because you're still looking for anything else of value you can get your hands on." Marino rubbed her pendant between her fingers. "It's why you keep staring at my necklace."
"How do you know I'm not staring at your breasts?" Quark asked her with a devious smile full of pointy teeth, making Marino think of the shark from Jaws.
"Because there's not much to look at," the ensign told him, indicating how small her breasts were.
"Don't put yourself down like that, Ensign," the former barkeep said, keeping his perverted stare on Marino. "Your breasts may be small, but they do look firm."
The ensign took her pendant off, holding it to the right and watching Quark's eyes alternate between looking at the quarter and her breasts. Marino swung her pendant side to side.
"You are getting sleeeeepy," she said in a hypnotic voice.
"Is that supposed to hypnotize me?" Quark asked her as if it was the most ridiculous thing he's ever seen.
"Couldn't resist," Marino said with a light chuckle. "Okay, it's clear that you were looking at both," the ensign said with a shrug. "Probably thinking of all the latinum you could make selling this relic from Earth's twentieth-century, and sex, of course." She put her necklace back on. "Maybe you wanted me to fuck you in the back of the bar and give you my pendant as a parting gift."
"You do have a dirty mind," Quark told her appreciatively. "Not what I'd expect from a Starfleet officer."
"And you also have a tendency to stereo-type," Marino remarked bitterly.
"Usually, they're true," the barkeep told her. "But, if you want to prove me wrong, I'm always up for it."
"Oh, I have every intention of proving you wrong," Marino told him with a slightly suggestive tone. "Just not in the way you want me to."
"Then why do you want me to stay so bad?"
"I just think you're missing out on a great business opportunity," Marino explained with a shrug.
"And what do you know about business?" Quark asked her condescendingly.
"Nothing," Marino admitted. "But I do know that people drink more when they're depressed."
"Really?" Quark told her as if she just said that space was black. "Where have you been hiding this valuable information?"
"If you already knew that, then why are you so determined to leave?" Marino said, her eyes narrowing.
"You're the one who said I got strangled before you arrived," Quark said as if he were talking to a child. "Why do you think I want to leave?"
"Because you're so blinded by fear you can't see a good opportunity right in front of you," Marino said, some anger seeping in her voice but taking great care not to let it fester.
Quark laughed. "Then tell me, Hew-Mon, what's this good 'opportunity' I can't see?" he asked her.
"You're standing on a gold mine of misery, one you refuse to take advantage of," Marino told him as if it were obvious. "And I think the two of us could form a working relationship." At the sight of Quark's lecherous grin, Marino made a quick correction. "A platonic one."
"All right, what kind of working relationship did you have in mind?" Quark inquired, his tone making it clear that he was merely humoring her.
But Marino wasn't going to give him the satisfaction that he was rubbing her the wrong way. "Stick around and maybe you'll find out," the ensign told him, taking her leave.
Marino walked briskly to the Constable's office, not knowing if her anger was because Quark treated her like an Earth bimbo or because Marino was surrounded by the smell of booze and couldn't touch a single drop. Maybe it was a little of both. Though her earlier hallucination of the Cardassian wasn't improving her mood either. Even if he was real, he'd have to be an imbecile to stay on Deep Space Nine, a place that would have that man tarred and feathered for having ridges on his neck. On the heels of the thought process was that perhaps the Cardassian was incredibly desperate. Either way, she decided he wasn't worth her time. The ensign stood outside the door of the Constable's office, hoping he would appreciate what she had to offer this station.