In a glorious victory for Cardassia, Space Station Terok Nor was wrested from the Federation invaders, and restored to the people of...

Whatever. The only reason anybody wants this place is the wormhole to the Gamma Quadrant, but it's full self-replicating mimes—mines, I mean mines! I had a lot to drink last night, all right?

Anyway, the station, the planet, the wormhole, they're newsworthy—on the front line of the war, and so forth. Subscribers to the Cardassian Information Service deserve the best field reporting. But all the best field reporters are dead, so they sent me. Here I am.

This morning I discovered that the walls in my quarters are wafer-thin and my new neighbor is an insomniac Ferengi. That required no investigative journalism on my part; said neighbor woke me from a well-earned rest by ringing the door chime at a hideous hour.

I opened one eye. I'm a cautious man. If the sight of something is about to scar me for life, I can at least keep it monoptic.

Pillow. Blanket. Bed. So far, so good. I sat up, opened both eyes, and looked around. Gray walls, gray carpet, and a port with a view of my least favorite planet ever. At least I didn't sleep alone.

There went the door chime again. I'd have to get that disabled. As soon as I got rid of whoever was making it ring. Which I would do as soon as I located my pants.

Pants on, I went barefoot out of the bedroom, through the windowless, unfurnished living room, and opened the door.

"You're exceptionally loud," I told the dapper little Ferengi who stood fuming in the corridor.

"What a coincidence. I came to tell you the same thing."

I rested my aching head against the cool doorjamb. The pounding dulled very slightly.

"You just got here yesterday," he informed me. "Evidently you make friends quickly."

"I'm told I have a certain inexplicable charm. However, I don't feel charming at the moment. I'm going to dedicate an entire blog to how much I hate you, unless you tell me right now what the hell you want."

The Ferengi said something under his breath. I didn't quite catch it, but it sounded like, "Are any Cardassians not sex addicts?"

Out loud, he said, "My name is Quark. I have eardrums the size of Bajor. You and your very enthusiastic lady-friend made enough noise to keep me awake half the night!"

"I need fish juice," I muttered, turning to the replicator. "Fish juice with a shot of raktagino. And some painkillers. Also a cigarette, Terran tobacco. Menthol."

The replicator spat out a cup of juice with a cigarette sticking out like a swizzle stick. "Oh, for gods' sake!" I said, loudly enough to restart my headache.

The Ferengi had followed me. I held out the cup in accusation. "Federation engineers tinkered with station systems, didn't they?"

He cackled. "You don't know the half of it."

"The Federation wouldn't understand nuance and sublety if they hit them over the head. Computer, try again. I want one cup of fish juice. I want one shot of raktagino in the fish juice. I want two doses of the strongest painkillers you have in memory. I don't want them in the fish juice. I also want one cigarette, and I don't want that in the fish juice either."

My usual breakfast made me feel a little better. "So, Mr. Quark, which noise did you object to in particular?"


Throw an unusual question at them. Every interviewer knows that trick.

"The scream," my neighbor avowed.

"That was my favorite part."

"I could tell." Quark scowled. "Also the moaning."

"Her favorite part."

"For the sake of my ears, maybe you could find a quiet, demure woman-"

"Quiet, demure women activate my gag reflex."

The timing then was theater-perfect. My partner of last night stepped out of the bedroom, showered, dressed, suffering no ill effects of alcohol poisoning, and looking (if I may be so smug) thoroughly satisfied.

She kissed me, purred, "Nice meeting you," and sauntered out the door.

Quark stared after her, slack-jawed. "That-" He pointed at the closed door. "That was a human!"

"So?" I ordered another fish juice.

"You're at war with them, remember?"

"Hello, photographic memory." I tapped my temple, then winced. "Ow, my head. Anyway, she's from a neutral planet. And she's a civilian and so am I. We're free to come and go here."

I could all but see the programs running in his greedy little brain. What could he get from her, from me, and what would it cost him? Therefore, I was suspicious when he asked, "So you'll be seeing her again?"

Not if the other Maquis found out, I wouldn't. I shrugged, poker-faced. Interesting game, poker, but I digress. "Not really my style. We go our separate ways."

"What?" The Ferengi's face was a comic mixture of bewilderment and disgust. "So there's no investment in the relationship? No obligations? No undue influence, no leverage, no networking? No return on capital?"