Unbelievable. Simply unbelievable. It was 0600 on a Friday night, the holosuites were all vacant, and only one Dabo table was occupied. Quark had more staff sipping drinks than he did customers, and now that they had workers' rights he couldn't even charge them!
It was clear - the war was bad for business.
It certainly didn't help that he had a cabal of Romulans sipping ale at a front-facing table. Looking around with those severe faces and barely talking amongst themselves. Even the Dabo girls avoided them.
The only person at the bar was a human named Stephanie Michaels. Not even Morn was drinking. Where was he!
The little blond slammed her blood wine down and coughed.
"Another," she said.
"Hey now, easy on the counter," Quark said as he went to pour her drink.
"Sorry-" she said as she took another dried tube grub from the bar bowl and crushed it between her fingers.
"Those are for eating, ya know," he said.
"Ew," she replied as he leaned towards her.
"You've been here for forty-five minutes and have yet to look up. What's got you so upset?"
"Nothing," the girl said, dipping her head. "Just a bad day at work."
"O'Brien working ya too hard? I could talk to him—"
"No!" the girl practically shouted. "Just leave me alone, ok?"
"Can do," Quark said as he slid the chalice over.
From across the room he saw the Romulans had finished their drinks. The main one, Senator Levant or Letant – he couldn't remember - caught his eye and motioned for another round. Well, at least there was one full table.
Quark filled five glasses with their (practically toxic) blue ale and brought it over.
"You know, I have some holosuites if you gentlemen are so inclined."
"Do you have the Bird of Prey simulations?" one of them said at the same time as Senator Letant replied with "Fanciful waste of time."
The lower ranked Romulan looked shame-faced, and Letant just sighed. Quark zeroed in on the opportunity.
"In fact, we do have Bird of Prey simulations," he said, but the Romulans didn't reply.
Letant shook his head. "You may go," he said with an impatient flick of his wrist.
"Room 4, boys. Alita can show you the way," Quark said and motioned for the girl to come over.
Everyone except Letant left the table. In the back his two gaurds remained stationary, but they were out of ear-shot…
Quark sat next to Letant, and the Romulan senator immediately backed away, a look of annoyance on his face.
"I also have some non-war related simulations."
The Romulan quirked a brow.
"Something to help relieve the tension after negotiations," Quark said.
The Romulan leaned in and with a lowered voice replied -
"Go peddle your pornography to a weaker male, Ferengi."
Quark sat bat and pretended to be offended.
"Even the strongest males need release, Senator."
"I do not require it," the Senator said.
"Not even a demure Romulan woman? Perhaps a group of them?"
The man sipped his drink, ignoring the Ferengi. But Quark wasn't about to lose the sale.
"Klingon? Betazed? Bajoran?"
That earned him a scowl and offended stare.
"All right, all right," Quark said with a half-smile. The Romulan had made no indication that he wanted one of the strong females…perhaps he needed to try another tactic.
"What about human?"
The Senator laughed.
"What would I want with a weak Human?"
Quark shrugged, faking confusion.
"Seems to me Romulans and Humans have a long history of conflict. Especially interesting since, as I see it, they've gotten the better of your people time and time again."
The Senator frowned. Before he could speak, Quark kept going.
"Clearly Romulans are the superior species. But those humans. They have a way, don't they? They can be infuriating—"
"Are you suggesting a battle scenario?" Letant said, the disagreement clear in his voice.
"Nothing so barbaric," Quark leaned in. "There are other ways to discipline inferior species. Perhaps you could show one of their females how to use her human mouth-"
Letant leaned back and laughed.
"You are ridiculous," he said and took a deep drink of ale.
Quark sighed and stood.
"Understood," he said, dejected.
When the Ferengi turned to leave, the Senator caught his arm.
Quark looked down to the man in question. The Romulan threw back his remaining ale.
"Set it up," he said. "And get me another drink."
Quark was exuberant. He waved over another Dabo girl and went to get the Senator's refill.
"And that's how you do it!" he whispered to himself.
There was still no one new at the bar, but he was emboldened.
He sized up the blond in the dark corner. Her eyelids drooped, and when she caught his stare she tapped on the chalice for another.
He grabbed a bottle of blood wine and strolled over.
"What would you say to a discount holosuite experience?" He asked, feeling generous.
"Not really in the mood to reenact an historical event, but thanks."
"Who said anything about history?" Quark asked.
The human's lips were even redder than usual from the wine. She shrugged at him.
"What about something more stimulating? Vulcan Love Slave has a male version, you know—"
The girl grimaced.
"I can't think of anything less stimulating, Quark."
"I took creative license with it—" he said. "He is very skilled, I promise you."
She waved him away while chugging her wine. Quark wasn't close to done yet, but behind her he saw a visibly flustered Rom coming towards them. With a sigh he left her alone, for now.
"Brother—" Rom began.
"What," Quark said, already annoyed.
"There's a problem with the holosuites," he said.
"Are you kidding? I just booked two of them!"
Rom shook his head.
"It's only partial. The scenes are fine, but the character programs are messed up—"
"How does something like that happen?" Quark shouted the question.
"Well, I haven't singled out the exact issue, but I think it has to do with the program we ran last week – the one from Qo'noS-"
"Klingons... They can't program worth a damn," Quark said. Rom nodded with enthusiasm.
"I told you we need to beta test every program before running it—"
"This isn't my fault!" Quark shouted. Rom shirked back, worried his brother would hit him for the fifth time that day. "The customer wanted their program, so I ran it."
"Well, now everyone sounds like an angry Klingon. It's particularly unnerving for the female characters."
Quark scowled, thinking of the Romulan Senator's program that was likely just getting started. At least his underlings could play their game uninterrupted.
"Fine. Shut off Holosuite number 3. Guess I'll break out the real Romulan ale as a consolation."
Rom nodded and walked off. When Quark heard the slam to his right he couldn't stop himself from yelling –
"I told you to go easy on my bar!"
"Sorry," the Human female said again. For the love of latinum, that girl was clearly frustrated. Humans were so emotionally volatile.
And the brilliant idea dawned on him in an instant.
"Rom!" he shouted from across the bar. "Wait just a moment…"
Stephanie certainly felt lighter after that third glass of blood wine.
Fucking Vulcans. She thought.
Everything had been looking up. O'Brien had just trusted her with recalibrating the main circuits, and Suvok had invited her to his room for a game of Kal-toh.
In a mere three days it had all fallen to pieces.
"You know I have to cut you off after five," Quark said as he slid her another chalice of blood wine.
"So give me another," Stephanie said, gulping down half the glass. But Quark remained stationary.
"Sweetheart, that is your fifth."
"What?" Stephanie practically shouted the question. "I barely feel it!"
Quark raised his hands in surrender.
"Take it up with Odo. These are his guidelines, not mine."
Stephanie looked at the remaining wine in her chalice. It wasn't enough to get drunk. She was buzzed, but that wouldn't stop the memories from resurfacing.
My apologies if I have misled you, but I am betrothed. Suvok's words echoed in her mind. Her face burned in embarrassment.
"I need a distraction, Quark."
The Ferengi grinned, and her guts tightened in response. A happy Ferengi was never a good sign.
"How about a Romulan love slave?"
Blood wine nearly came out Stephanie's nose.
"You have a Romulan love slave program?" She asked. Who would want such a thing?
"Yes, but it's for the …experienced… user," Quark said.
Quark began polishing a couple shot glasses with vigor. He refused to meet her eyeline, which let her know whatever he was peddling had to be just shy of legal.
"It's a capricious program. Sometimes it's gentle. Sometimes it's rough. But no matter what…" He stilled and captured her stare. "…it's certainly diverting."
Stephanie swallowed hard.
"…well, you did say discount, right?"