Caveat Emptor

Summary: Let the buyer beware, because you know Harry Mudd had to turn up in the AU sometime.

Rating: T

Disclaimer: I own nothing but an odd imagination and my love for Star Trek.


Captain James T. Kirk strolled through Grimaldi Station feeling enormously pleased with himself. He had accomplished one of his more difficult personal missions: dragging both his Vulcan XO and engine-obsessed chief engineer off of the ship to enjoy shore leave for a change. He happily steered them toward the station's observation lounge.

"Gentleman!" A large and garishly dressed man with an outrageously affected accent nearly leaped in front of them. "Starfleet officers – no doubt seeking rest and relaxation after the rigors of long and arduous duties protectin' the galaxy - what diversions may I, a humble merchant, offer for your pleasure?" The man gestured grandly toward his wares with an exaggerated half-bow.

"We're just heading to the lounge. Thanks anyway." Kirk tried to wave him off politely while maintaining a straight face. The guy looked like he was auditioning for a role in 'Gay Space Pirates of the Beta Quadrant'.

"But sir, ah, not just 'sir' but Captain!" The merchant enthused, moving to block their progress away from his stand. "Gallant Captain, surely you know all station lounges are the same, whereas I have gathered the most interesting wares and delightful curiosities for the discerning customer." He produced a small spray bottle. "This for instance contains a scent that will make you irresistible to women."

Jim caught his hand before he could offer a sample. "I do fine on my own, thanks." The last thing he needed was another allergic reaction especially since Bones would never let him hear the end it if he found out what the substance was supposed to be.

"Of course, Captain, but perhaps there's a special lady for whom you might wish to obtain an enchanting gift?" A box of jewelry instantly appeared in his other hand.

Scotty snorted. "Listen laddie, unless ye've got some rare editions of Warp Mechanics in thair, quit wasting aur time."

"An engineer, I should have known, and you, Mr. Vulcan, no doubt you also appreciate items of scientific and scholarly curiosity." He turned with a flourish and began rummaging in a satchel. "Indulge me but a moment, and I shall show you a rare find, a near, even, as it where, legendary technological marvel suited to your inquiring and pansophic minds." After some muttering and tossing aside of unsought items, he finally extracted a small box covered with glowing designs.

Spock's eyebrow ascended as his head tilted in interest and the merchant beamed like a whole coastline of lighthouses at the prospect of having delivered a sales pitch that had actually hooked a Vulcan. He opened the box dramatically. Inside was a carved crystalline cube winking with spectral lights. "Behold: a Zagarian Tessera Cube."

Spock's other eyebrow joined its partner to proceed together toward his hairline. However, Scotty was having none of it. "It's a luvly thing, but a Tessera Cube - yer having us on. They're naught but an old spacer myth."

"If a myth, my good engineer, then one based like many a famous legend in fact. A fact you may own and investigate at your leisure for the trifling sum of 300 credits." He held the box just beyond reach.

"Sir," Spock said. "If this is in fact what you claim, then it is a rare artifact from a vanished civilization and should be turned over to a reputable science academy for preservation and study."

"Which you may of course do at your discretion …for the paltry sum of 300 credits." He smiled hopefully.

Spock's eyebrows returned to half-mast. "I would point out that an actual Zagarian Tessera Cube would, by Federation law, fall into the category of protected antiquities and therefore the sale of any such item would be subject to penalties for dealing in contraband."

"200 credits?" The smile below the merchant's considerable moustaches wavered under Spock's unflinching gaze. "Well, of course, there's nothing official certifying its authenticity - only the word of a poor, lost archaeologist who vouched its identity whilst placing it among the stakes in a friendly game of fizzbin."

"R-i-ight." Kirk said. "So basically what you have is flashy cube and a cliché story. Nice try. C'mon, guys."

Scotty turned to go with him, but Spock remained briefly, taking one last look at the cube. The merchant held it up a little. "100 credits?"

"Spock, are you coming?" Kirk held his hands up in a gesture of let's go.

As Spock turned to leave, the desperate merchant pushed the box at him. "50 credits - my final offer!"

The lights in the cube altered their spectrum and sequence as the box came in contact with the Vulcan. "Fascinating." He raised an eyebrow at the merchant. "Were it offered at a more acceptable price, I might consider purchasing it simply for the sake of curiosity."

The merchant pursed his lips in a near pout. "I'm cutting me own throat here, Vulcan, but in the interests of placing it in the hands of one who would give it proper scientific consideration, I believe I could see my way clear to giving it away ...for but 30 credits."

Spock clasped his hands behind his back. "That still seems a considerable profit for an item won in a game of chance. However, I might be willing to pay an amount commensurate with your time and costs for transporting it to the station."

"Well now," The man stroked his chin. "What with fuel and, um, the hazards of travel …hmmm…, let us say …20."

Spock turned to go.

"15?" The merchant offered weakly.

Spock inclined his head and allowed the man to scan his card, accepting the box in return.

Kirk laughed as Spock joined them in the lift to the observation lounge. "I didn't know you could haggle."

"One cannot properly understand a language without some knowledge of its cultural underpinnings. As many cultures consider such bargaining a staple of economic interaction, I would have been remiss in my linguistic studies if had I not attempted to develop a grasp of the concept."

"Ye seem to ha' grasped it alright." Scotty observed. "Forgery or nay, it's sure an interestin' bit. Kin we ha' a proper look at it now?"

Spock opened the box and the cube flared to life, the color sequences becoming almost hypnotizing as they danced across inner prisms.

"Will ye look at that? Those flashes aer repeatin' like some sort o' code."

"You're right." Kirk reached in to point and his finger brushed the cube. In a flash of brilliant light everything changed...


AN: My dd has become obsessed with the TOS episodes featuring Harry Mudd – charlatan, ham and fashion disaster extraordinaire - so of course he jumped up and finagled a way into one of my stories.

Love it? Hate it? Please r&r.