This was, quite simply, an idea that wouldn't leave me alone. Live long and prosper really could be a Ferengi greeting...

I own nothing and stuff... Read and review if you have a moment?


Don't Die and Get Rich

Rule of Acquisition 79. Beware of the Vulcan greed for knowledge.

When the Vulcan walked into Quark's late one evening, he didn't know what to expect. He watched him warily out of one eye while listening to Morn with one ear. The Vulcan looked lost. Quark didn't doubt that. Most Vulcans wouldn't touch the place with a ten-foot lirpa. He would have had to be lost to be here.

Well, far be it from Quark to be an unwelcoming host. He strode over to the Vulcan, threw his arms wide, and announced, "Welcome to Quark's! I'm Quark, the proprietor of this fine establishment." He realized a moment later that Morn looked quite put-out that he'd so unceremoniously walked out of their one-sided conversation. Quark gave him a look out of the corner of one eye that was meant as an apology. He wouldn't have been able to get a word in edgewise anyway. Besides, it wasn't as though Morn couldn't find someone else to talk toward.

Quark looked back at the Vulcan. "Can I help you with something?"

The Vulcan lifted one of those pointed eyebrows and said, "No. I am waiting for someone." He spun, walked to the nearest table, and sat.

He stared straight ahead and didn't move. A Vulcan did not come in here waiting for someone. And he obviously wasn't waiting for someone anyway. He was looking at the dabo tables, and not like a regular Vulcan would look at them. Vulcans could be, Quark was sure, disgusted, and (as illogical as it was) that disgust was usually directed at such inanimate objects as dabo tables. If the Vulcans cared about how rich they could get with dabo, he was sure over half the Ferengi casinos in the quadrant would be cleaned-out. Vulcans never watched the girl, always watched the wheel.

Not this Vulcan, though, no. He wasn't disgusted. He was looking at the dabo wheel with sincere scientific interest which, as far as Quark knew, was as close to affection as a Vulcan could get. If the Vulcan was interested in dabo, well, what other vices might he have? Quark had never fleeced a Vulcan before…

Quark pulled a bottle of Vulcan port from beneath the bar and asked the replicator for Vulcan spice tea… just in case he wasn't prone to the dubious benefits of alcohol. Loading up a tray, Quark sashayed over to the table and smiled down at his guest.

The Vulcan looked up at him, at the drinks, and then commented, "I do not recall ordering anything."

"It's on the house," Quark assured him, setting down the tray and indicating each of the drinks. "Vulcan port—an impressive vintage, I might add—or Vulcan spice tea?"

The Vulcan inspected each of them from a distance, blinking with glassy indifference that Quark was more used to seeing in Vulcan eyes whenever he brought up anything that might cause a few bits of latinum to cross his palm. So he wasn't a drinker… "Very well," the Vulcan agreed with a nod. "Spice tea."

Quark handed it to him while his mind worked at something to say, anything, to figure out what he was actually here for. The Vulcan had already looked back at the dabo table and watched, Quark thought, with surprise when a patron made a particularly bad bet. The dabo girl spun the wheel with an ill-contained smile of triumph and then pretended to be sad when the customer lost all his latinum.

"Could I interest you in a… um, intriguing holo-suite adventure?" Quark asked. If he wasn't interested in the ladies, there was always that rule of thumb regarding Vulcans: they could never get enough of a clever puzzle. Quark had one or two, but they didn't exactly rake in the latinum like A Picnic with the Pleasure Goddess of Rixx did. And prophets forbid he should bring up Vulcan Love Slave.

"I have no interest in such entertainment," the Vulcan answered, not putting any particular emphasis to tell Quark what he really thought one way or another. Guess What the Vulcan's Thinking, Quark pondered. That would make one irritating holosuite "recreational" program for sure. He was still looking at the dabo tables, though…

"So you like dabo, huh?" Quark asked, gesturing lazily in the dabo girl's direction.

The Vulcan looked up at him, this time with something akin to annoyance. "I do not like dabo," the Vulcan corrected. "I find it interesting."

"Oh, pardon me," Quark laughed. "Perhaps you'd like to take a spin?" he asked, thinking there was probably no harm in it. Most Vulcans were too busy watching the wheel to figure out when Quark was cheating. Cheating just wasn't in their rule-book; they never thought to look for it.

"I have nothing to wager," the Vulcan replied, looked away, and took a sip of his tea. If it was bad he didn't say anything, but he did set down his cup.

That wasn't a no, Quark thought. But it also meant he had nothing Quark would want and therefore nothing to rob him blind of. But Quark had never seen a Vulcan spin a dabo wheel before. What was strip of latinum to watch a Vulcan gamble? "First spin, then, also on the house," Quark offered.

But he'd gone too far. "You are attempting to trick me into something," the Vulcan said, picking up his tea again. "You will be unsuccessful."

Quark grinned. He simply couldn't help it. So, he couldn't rob this Vulcan completely blind. The Vulcan would totally know what he was doing. That just meant that Quark would have to be sneakier. Quark loved a challenge and Vulcans seemed to at least appreciate them, too.

"Don't be ridiculous," Quark said with a flippant wave of one hand while producing a strip of latinum with the other. "I'll bet you'd be good at it. Besides, what do you have to lose?" he reasoned. Vulcans liked that, too. Reason. Logic. "If you bet with this, you can't lose any of that nothing you have." Except Quark knew that secret. Everyone had something. Even the poorest Bajoran orphan. Of course, he would never think to swindle one of those poor children…

"Your reasoning is sound," the Vulcan agreed, rising from his chair and taking the strip of latinum from Quark's fingers. For a moment, just a moment, Quark didn't like this look he saw in the Vulcan's eyes. He wasn't sure what it was, exactly, since it lasted for not even half a second, but he thought the Vulcan looked… pleased. Pleased about what, he couldn't be sure.

It was silly anyway. Vulcans can't be sneaky, Quark knew. It wasn't in their nature. He followed the Vulcan to the dabo wheel and watched for the auspicious moment in history when a Vulcan would gamble. A revelation hit him just as the wheel started spinning (and on a particularly good bet) that if Quark could convince a Vulcan to spin a dabo wheel, he could probably convince anyone to do just about anything.

It was an even better bet than Quark had thought. "Dabo!" the girl announced, waving her wand in the air. At least, Quark thought, it was just a strip he'd bet. The more latinum put in on a dabo, the more it multiplied… He'd tripled Quark's latinum. Or, rather, reduced Quark's latinum, tripled his gift.

The Vulcan looked from the dabo girl, to Quark, and then said, "Thank you for the latinum." He held his hand out to the dabo girl. So he didn't want to play anymore… it was probably for the best. It could have gone better for Quark, of course, but it just as easily might have gone worse. The Vulcan might have simply kept winning, winning on Quark's own strip of latinum.

The dabo girl handed the Vulcan his winnings, and then the Vulcan turned to Quark, presenting him with one of the strips of latinum. Quark looked from his eyes to the latinum, and then back again.

"Your latinum," the Vulcan said.

"It wasn't an investment," Quark argued, but took it anyway. "But," he added, punctuating his words with a wave of the strip of latinum, "I'm not opposed to investing if the return is reasonable." This, however, wasn't even an investment.

"I'm sure you aren't," the Vulcan agreed with a nod. He turned his eyes all around Quark's bar, from the ceilings, to the flags hanging from the bannisters above, to the line of alcoholic beverages in cubbies behind the bar. "Thank you for the entertainment." He turned toward the door.

"You're leaving?" Quark squeaked. And before Quark could figure out a way to con him… how disappointing.

"Yes," the Vulcan said, clasping his hands behind his back. "But I will return. I have business on Bajor."

"Is that so?" Quark wondered. "What kind of business would a Vulcan have on Bajor?"

The Vulcan merely raised an eyebrow at him and left.

The question still stood, but it wasn't as though it was any of Quark's business what he was doing down there. It was probably something dull and non-profitable, anyhow. Best, Quark thought, to forget that Vulcan that he'd almost swindled, and go about his business.

.:.:.:.:.:.

The Vulcan didn't look lost this time. Quark hadn't expected to see him again, but he would have remembered that Vulcan anywhere. The Vulcan that had taken his tea, taken his latinum, given it back, and left without a word. The place was considerably busier today, but that was a good thing. It meant that Morn had someone else to talk to and everyone else was too busy to notice a very out-of-place Vulcan and the Ferengi trying his best to take advantage of him.

Quark hurried over to the door and lightly tapped the Vulcan in the arm, grinning as he said, "So you did come back, huh?"

"You remembered," he said, as though he were surprised.

"I never forget a customer," Quark explained, sounding slightly hurt. In truth, he was. It was his business to know his customers, no matter how infrequently they came in. The more he knew about them, the better he knew how to give them what they liked. In exchange, they gave him what he liked: bars and bars of gold-pressed latinum. "After all," he said, "'A good customer is as rare as latinum. Treasure them.' Rule of Acquisition number fifty-seven."

The Vulcan looked away, put his hands behind his back and observed smugly, "Ironic, considering you acquired nothing upon my last visit."

Quark snickered and shook his head, wagging a finger at the Vulcan. "Not yet, my friend. Not yet."

"It appears no good deed goes unpunished," the Vulcan went on. His eyes were on the dabo table.

"Rule of Acquisition… number two-eighty-five." Quark frowned.

No Vulcan could walk into his bar and start quoting the Rules of Acquisition to him! But! Quark quickly calmed himself. A Vulcan could quote anything that he wanted. It didn't mean that he was onto Quark's game. And, even if he was, what did it matter? Quark's was a 5-bars-of-latinum-a-day enterprise. That was no small game, not in this part of the galaxy. And Quark was certainly the most conniving Ferengi on the station. He could out-think a Vulcan any day.

"Here to study dabo some more?" Quark asked, regaining his good humor.

"It appears," the Vulcan said, pulling two strips of latinum from some pocket in his shirt, "that I have something to wager this time."

"How fortunate," Quark grumbled, following him to the dabo table. Let him win a few times, Quark thought, and then get back what I gave him. He owes me that, at least… He nodded to the dabo girl, a hint that this guest was not of the ordinary variety. Of course, that was obvious: he was a Vulcan. What Quark meant was that he was allowed to win.

His strip of latinum was good for three spins of the wheel, and the first bet was a shoe-in. Quark watched one of his bets land a double, one busted, and another brought back half. Not a bad win, but not a dabo. The Vulcan changed his bets, expertly, nodded to the dabo girl to spin again, and in the meantime looked at Quark.

"You are a businessman, of course," the Vulcan commented. "Most Ferengi are."

"Yes," Quark said with a nod, bracing himself for whatever he was going to say. "Why?"

"Quite by accident, I have acquired a spacious tract of land in the Dahkur Province on Bajor," he explained. "I was only visiting Bajor to research the Bajoran War Orphans Fund and the subordinate organizations."

"How did you manage that?" Quark wondered. Did this Vulcan just have some kind of face that said "give me things!"?

The Vulcan looked utterly befuddled. "It seemed logical at the time," he said, slowly. His latinum increased again, and Quark decided to let him keep winning for the time-being. "It is, unfortunately, useless for its previous application of farming. As you might know, much of Dahkur was poisoned when the Cardassians left Bajor."

"Yeah." Quark nodded. "But they're fixing the soil with reclamators."

"The soil is of little importance if my colleagues could build a research complex," the Vulcan pointed out. "A permanent research post, not only for Vulcans, but for other exosociologists interested in my work."

Quark pondered this. A "businessman" would absolutely not build a research post in the Dahkur Province. The profit margin was far too small. But the Dahkur Province, though traditionally home to artists and tall, impassible mountains, it was also a province once capable of producing great amounts of cash crops. Quark was no farmer, but any reasonable bar owner would know what valuable foodstuffs were being exported from the planet below.

"You don't want to do that," Quark said.

"I don't?" The Vulcan placed more bets after winning again. "Why not?"

"Because," Quark said, his mind racing. He was about to explain that the land was far more valuable as farmland—after all, the Bajorans were still trying to rebuild their economy and any farmer selling valuable crops could write his own ticket. Then, he decided that wasn't such a good idea, after all. "How much land are you talking about?"

"Twenty-seven tessipates," the Vulcan answered.

"Twenty-seven," Quark breathed. That was a lot of farm land. With a small investment in a few reclamators, the land could be ready for resale in a little less than a year.

"What would I do with it instead?" the Vulcan asked. "I have no use for twenty-seven tessipates of Bajoran land otherwise."

"Because the Dahkur Province is pretty far-flung," Quark explained. "No scientist is going to want to go back and forth from a little research post in the wilderness to the cities, right? Here's what you do: sell the land, buy a little smaller plot closer in to the cities… then build your research post."

The Vulcan nodded, slowly, considering everything Quark said, apparently, very hard. "That seems a logical course of action," he allowed.

"I might know a few buyers…" Quark pondered. "It might take a while to get ahold of them." He hesitated. The Vulcan still seemed to be thinking about it. He seemed to have no time-restraints, after all, he was considering coming back. Perhaps indefinitely. "Or I could buy it," Quark suggested.

The Vulcan didn't get a chance to reply. "Dabo!" the girl shouted happily. They both looked at the girl and then Quark looked at the reading on the wheel to see how much the Vulcan had won. He apparently hadn't been paying attention: the Vulcan had just landed a dabo and a multiplier. Five bars, seven strips, and thirteen slips of latinum.

"That's… um… a lot of latinum," Quark muttered, watching the dabo girl put the latinum in the bag. Now he wasn't even sure he wanted to buy anything from this Vulcan…

"Yes," the Vulcan agreed. "Perhaps I won't have to sell to you after all, Quark. Thank you for the entertainment. And the tea."

For a moment, Quark wasn't sure what had happened. And then he figured it out: he'd still never conned a Vulcan. But now he could say he'd been conned by one. He laughed, even though he couldn't quite believe it. "Wait a second," he objected as the Vulcan tried to leave. "Aren't you going to buy something?"

"No," the Vulcan answered. "I was going to sell you my land on Bajor, but it seems I have profited from visiting this establishment enough for one day." He walked toward the door before turning back briefly. "May I suggest that, from now on, you watch the wheel and not your mark?"

"My… my mark?" If Quark wasn't imagining things—and, granted, sometimes he did… but usually massive piles of gold-pressed latinum and that usually not disappearing with customers out the door—he would have sworn that the Vulcan smiled, slightly, as he raised his hand in the Vulcan salute. A Vulcan saluting Quark of all people.

"Live long and prosper, Quark," he said with a diminutive nod.

Quark grinned back, nodded. He didn't mean the greeting like the usual Vulcan did, either. "Live long," he said with a twinkle. "And prosper."

Rule of Acquisition 284. Deep down, everyone's a Ferengi.