“A Ferengi historian, sir?” the young ensign exclaimed, “Seriously?”
“Yes, Ensign, a Ferengi historian. You will be their Federation escort while they are visiting Earth. They plan to visit the major historic financial centers of Earth in the free time around the Federation Economic Forum. They are staying in New York, but they would like to start here, in San Francisco, before the conference tomorrow. I assume you’re not above doing something like this are you Ensign?” Admiral Whatley’s tone suggested not only could she not get out of escort duty, but he didn’t appreciate her racist tone.
“Yes, sir. I mean, no, sir. I mean…” Ensign Allie Draper gave an internal sigh and tried to stand a little more crisply at attention.
The admiral’s face softened a little. “At ease, Ensign. It could be much worse. I could be making you be my security detail for the Admiral’s ball.” Allie tried not to outwardly wince too much, but also inwardly cheered. The Admiral’s ball would be much, much worse. She spared a little pity for Whatley. “Off with you now,” he said, “Degg should be arriving at 1400 at the Starfleet main transporter station.”
Allie gave a salute, and the admiral waved her out. She picked up the historian’s schedule padd and a security tricorder from the admiral’s secretary then took the tram over to the Ferry Terminal Transporter Station. I suppose I ought to have a plan to report this Degg if he starts groping me, she thought on the way there. The stories that some of her friends on ship duty and on DS9 had told her about the Ferengi were….well...not pleasant, especially for women. Even with the reforms that Grand Nagus Rom has put through, most Ferengi males were a walking Human Resources incident.
Allie went up to the main transporter control station. A lieutenant looked up from his screen and said “Where do you want to go?”
“Ah, me? Nowhere. I’m waiting for a Ferengi named Degg to beam down at 1400. Some sort of historian.”
“Ah, ok. Hang on a sec.” He scanned another screen. “Um. Hate to tell you this Ensign, but they’ve already beamed down. Hey Mac! Did that Ferengi say where they were going?” he called over his shoulder. Another lieutenant came over to join them.
Mac scratched his head. “Hmmm...I think she said something about going to the Apple and Google museums in the South Bay. Something about wanting to see where Steve Jobs once walked? Not sure why, though, the only original building left is the Apple spaceship building, and he was dead before that was built!” Mac shrugged.
“What?!” Allie said. “And you didn’t think of maybe letting Admiral Whatley’s office know that she’d beamed down?”
Mac folded his arms. “I did, since she was flagged for escort! Message must have missed you on the way here.” He walked back to his station. Allie sighed. Then she realized what he had said earlier.
“Hang on, what do you mean ‘she’?” Mac just waved back.
“Ferengi, eh?” the other lieutenant said. She tried to give him the Whatley stare, but apparently she couldn’t pull it off because he just laughed. “Listen, you have unlimited transporter travel while you’re on escort duty, so I’ll scan for Ferengi bio signs around the Apple and Google museums so I can beam you directly there.”
“Thanks,” she sighed. “I really appreciate it!”
“No worries. I’ve had escort duty myself, so I understand.”
“Yeah? Who did you get to escort?”
“A Pakled trading delegation,” he said. “Ok, got it. They’re at the Apple Museum.”
Allie gave a low whistle. “Ok! And Pakleds? You win!” She gave him a sympathetic look as she stepped onto the nearest pad.
“Hey,” he said, “At least with a Ferengi it won’t be boring! Energizing!” He started the transporter cycle before she could say anything more.
She materialized in front of the Apple museum and opened up her tricorder. There was one Ferengi life sign inside and she let out a breath. Thank you lieutenant and thank goodness they haven’t gone anywhere else, she thought. Allie went inside.
There was a woman working the front desk who had a bemused look on her face. When Allie asked after the Ferengi, she said with a laugh, “Oh, yes, Ensign! She’s in the Jobs Theater. I think you’ll find her in rapture at the moment. I’ve never met a Ferengi female before, but I suppose they’re not all that different from the males, eh?”
“Do you get a lot of Ferengi that come here?” Allie asked.
“More than some other museums, I think. Apparently, the Ferengi have great reverence for icons of business from any culture. From what I understand, after they started importing Earth historical records, many of them practically sanctified all the business moguls of the 21st century. So, yeah, I think your Ferengi is having a religious experience right now, if I’m guessing right.” The woman laughed and pointed Allie to a set of doors to her left. “Don’t worry, the show’s almost done, so you won’t disturb the holo-presentation.”
The ensign sighed and made her way through the theater doors. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she heard a man speaking and saw an old 2D advertisement on a screen:
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify and vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as crazy, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
The lights came up and there was an audible sigh from the seats. Allie walked further into the theater, and saw a Ferengi woman dressed in a long dress of shimmery dark blue fabric (that might have been Tholian silk) and ear jewelry that was dripping with titanium and precious stones. She had a very satisfied smile on her face. In the center of the stage was a holo of a man in a black turtleneck and jeans who was also smiling.
“Thank you for coming!” said the holo, “I will be available for the next 30 minutes for any questions you might have.” The image turned to the Ferengi, then to Allie, who was waiting by the door.
“Oh, honey, if you weren’t a hologram, I’d take you home in a heartbeat!” said the Ferengi.
The computer program opened its mouth, then shut it again. “I’m flattered, but this program is limited to questions about the work and life of Steve Jobs, Apple, and the technology boom of the 21st century.”
“I know, dear. Thank you very much. Computer, end program.” The Ferengi woman stood, picked up a shoulder bag that matched her shimmery dress, and moved towards Allie with a poise and grace that most Ferengi Allie had met just didn’t have. “So,” said the woman, “you’re my Starfleet keeper, eh?”
“Uh...I suppose so, Ma’am.” Allie wasn’t quite sure how to react.
“Expecting a male named Degg, right?” she asked. “That’s me. Well, that’s my pen name, anyway. Let’s start over. Hello, my name is Hippora. Nice to meet you!” Hippora stuck her hand out and Allie took it in a bit of a daze. “I apologize for not waiting at the transporter station for you, but I wanted to get here before they closed. I don't have a lot of time on this trip, you see, since I’m also presenting at several economic conferences in this part of the galaxy. But since it is my first time coming to Terra, I thought I’d hit the most famous economic sites while I had the opportunity.” She let go of Allie’s hand and started walking out of the auditorium. “Come on, let’s get out of here before they lock the doors.” And with that, the Ferengi woman adjusted her bag and breezed past Allie to the exit.
“Uh, yes Ma’am.” Allie said, and followed her out the door. Maybe this wasn’t going to be so bad after all, she thought, since, if I’m guessing right, at least I won’t get groped!
After touring the old Google buildings (with a stop at the gift shop to get couple of Googler beanies - one for her own collection and one to sell) and the Computer museum, Hippora dragged her minder to dinner at one of the most famous Asian restaurants in town. Before Allie could protest, Hippora said to her, “They’re my credits to spend, Ensign, and I’ll spend them any way I wish. I don’t know anyone else except some Starfleet Admirals on this part of your planet, and I would like some company for dinner. Now, sit down.”
Allie did as she was told and, given the quality of the food, she wasn’t sorry she obeyed.
“Uh, Ma’am…” Allie started while they were waiting for their food to arrive. She then froze, not sure about what to say. “I...uh…”
“Please, call me Hippora. I’m a historian, not a diplomat. Spit it out. What is it?”
“Well...um…Hippora...you’re nothing like I expected.” She winced a little about how that sounded. “And you can call me Allie, if you like.”
Hippora smiled sympathetically at the ensign. “Well, yes Allie, I would expect that I am not. Especially the fact that I’m female. I take it you’ve run into too many of our males, eh?”
Allie blushed and nodded.
“Ahh, yes, well, we don’t always export our very best. Most of us who are more well educated tend to stay on Ferenginar, or on one of the colonies. We stick to our own circles because the businessmen don’t always appreciate the profit inherent in academia. Although, they’re quite happy to spend their latinum on my books!” She laughed. “And considering who I am, I had to keep a low profile, obviously. I do have a husband and we have an arrangement, and a very detailed contract, that kept the FCA from arresting me before Grand Nagus Rom’s reforms. Now, I can be open about being an economic historian, although I still write under my pen name. I’m sure you can appreciate why.”
Allie nodded. “Given my experiences with some of your males, I can really see why. Not that some Terran males can be much better, especially if they’re from one of the more isolated colonies.”
Hippora laughed. “For all your moral superiority, you Terrans still can’t deal very well with your own prejudices.”
Allie gaped at Hippora. “What?”
Hippora gave her look that some of the admirals sometimes gave her. “Oh, please! You Terrans are still just as prejudiced as you used to be, it’s just that these days once you figure it out, you tend to let go of them easier.” Hippora narrowed her eyes and said, “I’m guessing you were none too pleased to learn that you were going to be escorting a Ferengi around.”
Allie opened her mouth, then shut it again, and blushed. She shook her head.
“You see? Not that we’ve really helped disabuse you of your prejudices, either. We are Ferengi, after all, and exploiting your prejudices usually makes for good profit. Also, like I said, we don’t exactly export our best talent.” The Ferengi sipped her wine as the waiter brought their dinner.
Allie realized that Hippora was right, and through the rest of dinner, she wondered just how much the Federation underestimated the Ferengi.
The next day, Allie met the Ferengi woman at the Ritz Carlton hotel in New York City. Of course she has the penthouse, she thought, when she asked after Hippora at the front desk. “Ms. Hippora will be right with you, Ensign. Would you care for a beverage while you wait?” She declined, and waited on one of the fancy chairs in the lobby. She thought over the previous day, and realized that she really had been prejudiced against the Ferengi. Maybe I’m not as open minded as I think I am. Or maybe it’s because there’s a lot about the Ferengi that is too much like humanity used to be. Focused on greed, profit, and business. We’re not perfect, but we have come a long way from the 21st century. Maybe that’s the Federation’s problem: we’re so focused on how enlightened we’ve become, that we forget that there’s not one true way to live. She made a mental note to talk to the admiral about it at some point. Whatley may be an admiral, but he also always seemed to have a little bit of time to give advice, even to confused ensigns.
“Well, my dear, you seem very thoughtful this morning.” Hippora said, coming up to the side of her chair. Today she was dressed in an even fancier dress (which Allie was sure was Tholian silk this time) and more jewelry than the previous day. She also had a fancier handbag to match. “A strip for your thoughts,” and she actually pulled out a strip of latinum from her handbag and handed it to Allie.
“Uh….thanks…,” she said, taking the latinum out of politeness, since she didn’t really need it, but Allie figured it would be rude to not take it from the Ferengi woman. “Well, I was just thinking about what you said at dinner.” She paused for a second and said, “I think you’re right. I think the Ferengi show us a side of ourselves that we don’t want to admit to actually having. Not that it’s bad or good, but it is still a part of us, so we really shouldn’t be all high and mighty about it.”
“Very good, my dear Ensign. Like I said, you humans are pretty quick to fix things once you see a problem. Now, while I’d love to chat with you more about this, we do have a very busy schedule, do we not?”
“Uh, yes Ma’am. Sorry, I mean, Hippora.” Allie pulled out her padd. “This morning you have your presentation at the Federation Economic Forum and lunch with the other delegates. Then you are free until the reception and dinner at 20:00 at the Palais with the Federation President.”
“Excellent! That means we can go to the Wall Street Museum this afternoon! Add that to my schedule please, and find out when they are doing the Alan Greenspan holopresenation, if you would?” Hippora turned and walked out of the lobby into the street.
Allie followed and, while Hippora was doing final sound checks and reviewing her notes, she looked up the Wall Street Museum and found that next Alan Greenspan holo presentation was scheduled for 14:00. She reserved the tickets, and waited with Hippora for the conference to start.
Hippora insisted on leaving the lunch early, much to the chagrin of scholars from several worlds who wanted to discuss some economics esoterica after her presentation. Allie, who was backstage during the speech didn’t understand a word of what Hippora had talked about after she welcomed the audience. This is why I’m in Starfleet Security, not academia, she thought. Hippora was pretty genial with the other delegates, but did seem impatient all through the lunch, and practically dragged Allie out of the room as soon as she found a time to leave without being too impolite.
“Let’s transport over to the museum! I don’t want to miss the show!” Allie walked quickly to keep up, and the transporter tech at the conference center gave her a sympathetic smile when beaming them out.
They materialized in the lobby of the museum. Hippora immediately went to the desk, and asked about the Alan Greenspan presentation.
As Allie caught up with Hippora, the docent was speaking. “Yes, Ma’am, we have your reservation. There’s still about 45 minutes until the presentation starts, so if you’d like to walk through the exhibits...?” Hippora nodded. “There will be an announcement when they begin seating.” The docent smiled, gave the two women their access badges (which attached to the front of their clothes), and a padd with information about the museum to Hippora.
“Thank you, my dear! I’ve been looking forward to this for years!” The Ferengi grabbed the padd, fiddled with it for a second, then again grabbed Allie by the hand. “Let’s go!” For someone as short as a Ferengi, Allie though, she sure can move fast.
They wove around other people and exhibits, speeding past the holo-replica of the trading floor and installation where a person could pretend they were ringing the opening bell with different economic leaders. Much to Allie’s surprise, Hippora didn’t slow down until they reached an exhibit next to the main theater.
Hippora stopped suddenly in front of a large picture of a man with large ears and old-fashioned eyeglasses with wide lenses. He was wearing an old style business suit, and carried a small ghost of a smile. The name of the exhibit that was “Greenspeak: the rise and fall of Alan Greenspan.” which was painted underneath the picture. The Ferengi was staring at the picture as if she’d seen a deity.
“Hippora….” Allie started as she caught her breath.
“Oh! Look at those ears! He’s even got excellent lobes...for a human!”
Allie looked at the man in the picture. She had no idea who he was, except for his name. “Um….Hippora, who is this Greenspan person?”
Hippora looked shocked. “Really? This is only one of the best economic minds that your species ever produced! When he was in charge of the Federal Reserve of what was once the United States of America, just one word from him could make the stock market rise or fall. When he spoke, people would spend days or months deciphering what he meant. Economists would clear their schedules and wait with fear and anticipation about what he might do! Some scholars even say he instigated a war!”
“Oh, ok. I suppose he’s interesting.”
“Suppose? Suppose?! If he’d been born on Ferenginar, he would have been a legendary Nagus, I’m sure of it!” Annoyed with her minder, she huffed, and moved further into the exhibit. Allie followed Hippora around while the Ferengi looked at the installations and muttered things like “That’s a total misinterpretation!” or “Oh, they really didn’t understand him, did they? Humans!” Allie kept a little distance between them, and was starting to get a bit bored, until she heard the Ferengi gasp.
Allie moved over to where Hippora was looking reverently, and a bit greedily, into a glass case. “What’s wrong?”
“Oh! They have his glasses! What an amazing relic!” Allie looked into the case and saw the same large old-fashioned glasses that were in the picture that they saw coming in. The card next to the case explained that his glasses were a signature part of Greenspan’s look, and had been donated to the museum by the Greenspan Library.
The ensign couldn’t understand why Hippora would be calling a pair of glasses a relic, but she supposed that if Hippora considered him practically a Nagus, then she could imagine that it would be like finding the crown jewels of a king or something. Allie sighed, then looked up from the glasses to see Hippora pull out a small device from her bag.
“Hippora, what is that? You know you can’t record anything in here!”
The Ferengi woman looked up from her device. “Oh, it’s just a small holo camera! I’m working on a book about this wonderful man, and to have a holo picture of these glasses will make the book sell like it was made of latinum!”
Allie eyed the Ferengi, who looked like a kid on Christmas morning. She relented. “Fine, but if anyone asks, I didn’t see you do it!” And with that, Allie turned her back. She heard a click and a faint whirring sound, and Hippora signaled she was done. Turning around, Allie was relieved to see the glasses still in their case. Hippora, oblivious to the ensign’s relief, moved on towards the theater.
“Come on ensign, keep up or we’re going to miss the show!” The Ferengi actually giggled and said out loud to herself, “Oh, Ishka’s going to be so jealous!” Allie blinked, following Hippora into the theater.
As they sat down, Allie said, “Hold on! You know Ishka? The previous Nagus’ partner who started the feminist revolution on Ferenginar?”
“Yes, of course I do! I helped secure some of her portfolio from the FCA. Quiet, now! The show’s about to begin! Candy?”
Allie took the sweet from Hippora and popped it in her mouth. It had a chocolate mint flavor that was really pleasant, like hot cocoa on a snowy day. “Wow, Hippora, these are really good!” she whispered to the Ferengi, who smiled and nodded, listening to the holo of Alan Greenspan talk about his life. “Yes, I know. I love them, so I get them specially made. Now hush.” and with that Hippora turned her full attention to the holo program.
Allie, settled in for another hour of boredom, and found her eyes feeling really heavy. Well, I don’t think she’ll mind if I take a nap, really...I think, she thought, as the dim lighting and droning voice of the economist gently carried her off to sleep. That last thing she remembered before she was unconscious was the sound of Hippora rummaging through her handbag.
A hand on her shoulder was shaking her awake.
“Ensign? Ensign? Can you hear me?”
“Wha…? Wha’s goin’ on?” Allie’s eyes felt like lead. Her mouth was dry and tasted like chocolate mint. She managed to fully open her eyes and realized that it was the docent who was standing above her. The lights were up and the theater empty, except for the two of them. She then came to the realization that Hippora wasn’t there. Allie groaned “Oh, Lord, the Admiral’s going to kill me!”
The docent took his hand off her shoulder. “Do you know where your charge could be, Ensign? We have some questions for her.”
Huh? The fog of whatever Hippora dosed her with was finally starting to lift as she remembered the schedule. “What time is it?”
“Nearly 1800. I didn’t see you or the Ferengi woman leave, so I figured you went out via another exit. We don’t usually come in here until after the museum closes to look for lost and found and turn loose the cleaning bots. That’s when we found you here asleep, but not your charge. The holo tech was in here doing some regular maintenance today after the last show, and noticed that there was an unauthorized access to the holomatrix and archive. So…uh...”
Allie was about to defend Hippora, but then remembered why she was feeling so foggy. Another thought then occurred to her, and she shot out of the theater seat into the Alan Greenspan exhibit. The docent followed after her, asking what was the matter. Allie waved the docent to follow her over to the now-familiar glass case. The docent caught up with her, looked into the case, and gasped.
“Damn it! The Admiral is really going to kill me.” she said, staring into the case as if her stare could magically transport the old economist’s glasses back into it.
Allie diligently did her duty as part of Starfleet Security and reported the incident, made many statements to the investigators, then immediately took herself to the admiral’s office for the dressing down she knew she richly deserved. How could I have been so stupid? she thought. Another part of her brain chimed in: You were trying not to be a racist jerk. She sat in the Admiral’s waiting room with her head in her hands, sure that she was going to be busted back to the academy to take lessons on how not to be gullible. It was in this fog of dismay that she heard the woosh of the door opening and footsteps.
“Yes, thank you lieutenant.” There was a pause. “Well, Ensign. Come in my office.”
Allie looked up to see Whatley holding a padd. “Yes, sir,” she said and followed the admiral into his office.
“Well,” he said. “Someone’s had a long day.”
Keeping her eyes on the carpet she sighed and said, “Yes, sir.”
The admiral chuckled. “Or maybe I should say a very long couple of days?” When the ensign didn’t reply, he continued, “We have been in contact with the embassy, and Hippora really is a historian, and apparently a great fan in 21st Century Terran economic history, from what we understand.”
Allie nodded. “Yes, sir. She really has a thing for that Alan Greenspan fellow.”
Whatley coughed. “Ah, yes. Apparently it’s more of a fetish than just a ‘thing’ apparently, at least when it comes to Alan Greenspan.” He looked down at the padd. “According to our connections in the embassy, who seem to be a bit more old school when it comes to their own females in business, she has a large share of a new themed holo-resort based on 21st century Wall Street. She did legitimately want to come and visit Apple, Google, and Wall Street, but she also came to steal copies of the Steve Jobs and Alan Greenspan holoprograms. Apparently, the contractor she hired to originally design the holos for the resort was a Ferengi who didn’t know the history, and Hippora fired them.”
Allie nodded. That sounded like Hippora. She was a historian, and most historians are sticklers for accuracy.
“The glasses, however…” Whatley continued, “well...we don’t have a real theory for why she took those. Would you have any idea, Ensign?”
Allie thought for a minute, then cleared her throat. “Uh….well….I think, sir, that was...um...personal. The way she was talking about his ears and having ‘excellent lobes for a human’ was well….” Allie cringed a little at what her imagination came up with. She looked the admiral straight in the eye and said, “Sir, honestly, you may just want to let her keep the glasses and have the museum replicate a duplicate.”
Whatley raised an eyebrow. Allie had the suspicion that he was trying really hard not to laugh. I should remember to thank him for not laughing in my face in a few years, she thought. Whatley nodded. “All right, Ensign, I’ll take that under advisement. There won’t be a formal reprimand in your file, but you will be doing transporter duty at the Ferry building for the next month.” Allie inwardly groaned, but all she outwardly said was “Yes sir!”
Whatley grinned. “Oh, cheer up Draper! You’re not the first Starfleet officer to be fleeced by a Ferengi. Although, it’ll probably be hard for you to live down getting drugged by an economic historian for a pair of old glasses! Go on home for now and report to the Ferry building at 0900 tomorrow. Dismissed!”
Allie saluted smartly and left the admiral’s office as fast as she could. She thought she could hear a loud bellow of laughter as soon as the door closed, but didn’t stick around to confirm it.
The next morning, as she was having breakfast, her console beeped, and the computer announced an incoming subspace message. She looked at the routing information, but didn’t recognize the signature. It was just a short recording, so she opened it.
Hippora’s face showed on her view screen. She was almost tempted to delete it, because she was still pretty angry at her, but then thought better of it. Starfleet will probably want it to add to the investigation’s files anyway. All right, Hippora, explain yourself. “Computer, play message.”
“Hello, my dear. I do apologize for drugging you after you had been so attentive to me. But, the opportunity for profit and my own...gratification...was something I couldn’t ignore. I am, after all, a Ferengi.” Hippora smiled. “I’ve arranged with the Nagus to make sure that you aren’t punished severely, and to make it up to you, I’ve given you a little something that you might enjoy for your next leave. Do come see me if you are ever on Ferenginar. While you may not know much about history, I did enjoy your company… for a human.”
Allie, curious, said, “Computer, show attachments.”
“Processing.” the computer said, then replied, “Attachment is one voucher for an all expense paid month-long stay in the penthouse suite at the Wall Street Hotel and Resort on Ferenginar. Food and drinks, included. The voucher is non-transferable and only redeemable by visiting the Ferengi Historian Hippora in person. It also includes free tickets for a holo-entertainment called ‘The Alan Greenspan Experience’”
While she was still angry, Allie realized that, for a Ferengi, this was a really generous thing to do. While she wouldn’t want to go to “The Alan Greenspan Experience” (she shuddered at the thought), a month of all-expense paid luxury might be worth going to visit Ferenginar. She sighed and told to the computer to save the message and attachments.
She’d think about it, anyway.
For now, though, she had to get to the transporter terminal. She probably won’t live it down, but the tech was right. Her Ferengi escort duty certainly wasn’t boring.