Sarika Introduces Aiva
Location: USS Hera Flight Deck
Leaning back in her chair, Sarika sighed in relief as the Hera's tractor locked onto her small shuttle. She could have taken any number of methods of getting to the large vessel that would have been faster, like her actual cruiser, but it was wrapped up in a survey mission right now, and she didn't want to pull it away from a once in a lifetime stellar event. Besides, the Bastilla's docking ports weren't exactly Federation standard, so she'd have probably end up having to transport over or something. Best not think about that...
Rather, she thought about the humanoid cyber body in the co-pilot seat next to her. It was far from perfect as a prototype, but she was happy with where it was, and how far she had gotten with it. The issue she had with holographics was that they needed emitters and lenses and all this other hardware, as well as a core with lots of power. But with a little help from one of the Queen's crew - her Yeoman or something, she had been able to miniaturize the holomatrix core sufficiently to build it into one of her cybernetic servant cores and build enough of those emitters into it that she was pretty sure that her Adjutant initiative vehicular assistant project could begin testing.
Hence why Sarika had placed her new Second in charge of her fleet, at least until she got back. Because she certainly didn’t plan on spending more time than necessary aboard the USS Hera.
Sighing again as her shuttle thunked against the deck plates, she tapped the environmental controls to release the seals and open the large rear door. She then grabbed her large military style cap, plonked it on top of her head and headed to the rear ramp to greet the Queen’s fleeter friends, who in her experience were not exactly welcoming to Artan privateers.
Waiting for her on the flight deck was an oddity, one she had met somewhat in passing thus far, but from whom she could already sense the disapproval. Fleeters tended to have a stick jammed up their backsides all the way to their brains, with few exceptions. This one looked born for that mindset. Wearing a uniform that consisted of a long-sleeved minidress with a skirt that didn’t make it halfway to her knees that nobody else she’d seen wearing, the buxom blonde Amazon was patiently looking out from under her brows expectantly, with a PaDD clasped behind her back.
“Baroness Sarika?” she asked with a pleasant enough smile.
"The one and only," she replied, pausing just at the end of the ramp of her shuttle, her face scrunched up as she tried to remember something important. She then raised one finger into the air and walked back into her shuttle for a moment to disarm herself, pulling several phaser pistols out of her uniform and stowing them. She also took the katana from her belt and stowed that under one of the benches.
Returning to the ramp, she thought for a moment longer before nodding, her face still scrunched up in thought. "Yes, that's it, I'm disarmed. Ah... Fleeter protocol... Baroness Sarika of the Artan Privateer Empire, requesting permission to board the Queen's Royal Vessel."
“While it’s appreciated, there’s no need to disarm to board, Miss Sarika,” Paris explained with a slightly bemused expression. “You are here operating as the Captain’s adjunct to the Artan Privateers. That being said, you are considered somewhat of an ambassador- thus many of the rules and regulations of Starfleet don’t directly apply to you, and that would be one of them. Hopefully you don’t need the weaponry, but you are under no obligation to divest yourself of them.”
“As for permission to come aboard, permission granted, although while she is the Artan queen, the USS Hera is a Starfleet vessel, not the Queen’s Royal Vessel despite her presence and command. One of those dualities of her existence that can be a bit perplexing at times. So, with all of that said, hello… I’m Rita Paris, the First Officer of the Hera. Welcome aboard,” Paris smiled and offered her hand in greeting.
"We met briefly, I believe. For the tribunal." With a grin, Sarika extended her own cybernetic hand and accepted the handshake, the cold plasteel a stark contrast from Rita's warm flesh. "I'm glad those traitorous bitches got what they deserved and I heard that you gave that bitch queen her just deserts personally, may she rest in peace. To think that my own Second was a spy for her."
At the first mention of the word ‘bitches’, the nose of the pretty woman wrinkled, and at the mention of the death of the Artan queen at her hands, it was clear that Sarika had brought up a sore subject for the Starfleet officer. When she had spoken before, there was warmth and cheerfulness in her voice, and a smile on her face. That was now gone, and in it’s place it was abundantly clear that this was now all cold professionalism. “Yes… an unpleasant business all around. Shall I show you to your quarters?”
Having noticed the change, Sarika paused and studied the golden dressed Commander for a moment before replying. "I'm going to have to mind my words while aboard, aren't I? Should I grab my own luggage and the Aiva prototype or will you have someone bring them later?"
Stopping where she was, Paris slowly pivoted in place. "I... dislike that word. Considerably. In my time, if a woman spoke her mind or was opinionated or successful, that's what they called her. Or we were warned not to be one... always to smile, be polite and accommodating so as not to be taken for a shrewish woman. I would personally appreciate some restraint, if you can find it within yourself, in regard to that particular word. I know how to curse like a sailor, as do we all, and there's a time and a place. We're adults, and this can be a stressful life. But that word in particular, Miss Sarika... I will admit, I do object."
The cyber-pirate couldn't help but look up at the buxom lass strangely. "Bitches? That's... oddly not where I expected you to object. I suppose that's where our cultures differ though. For me, being raised a slave, those that were loyal and earned their place and their keep were good... Well, I think you get the picture."
She then grew a bit morose as she looked down at her arms. "I... Well, I lost my arms and eyes early on in a smelting accident. The only reason I survived was because Another slave gave me an eye and Enalia bought me straight up. I had a knack for geological scanners and she needed someone like that I guess."
She then gripped her metallic hands tightly and looked around at the rest of the flight deck, trying to blink the moisture in her eyes away. "Ach! The air is dry in here! I'll need a humidifier in my quarters. As for my language, I'll do my best."
"Just that, really. Curse, although try to- well, no, the kids on this ship swear and their parents swear in front of them to teach them. So really... just that one word. That's all I chafe at, I think. If you'd like to call someone something in particular, that's between you and them. Beyond that..." The anachronistic officer eyed the cyber pirate with no small degree of guilt evident.
"Arenara Artan's death was an accident. I fully meant to stun her. On my honor I just..." Gazing off for a second, Paris caught herself, and drew herself erect once more, the stiff posture of an officer. "I was cleared, but... I'll be frank with you, it still... well, it's not something I intended at all. I know you meant it as a compliment, and I do appreciate that. But... I didn't mean to kill her. So I take no pride in it... I'm guessing you can understand that?"
As the silver haired cyber pirate gazed up at the Starfleet bombshell, she saw the truth of it in her eyes, as well as a bit of herself. "Aye, I can understand that. You did your duty as best you could in the heat of the moment, from the report I read, and while I think she got what she deserved, I also know there's no pride to be taken in taking the life of another. It's one of the reasons the flagship of my fleet is covered in sensor arrays and built for scientific discovery, and not for combat."
"Though with all that's happened with the Tribunal," Sarika continued, glancing around and rolling her shoulders as if trying to stretch them as if she hadn't relaxed properly in ages. "I'm one of the Baronesses folding the ships and crew of the traitorous ones into her fleet and the logistics... On top of training a new Second... Following up on the trials and voting on executions or not... Keeping the Queen apprised of everything..."
"So, with all due respect..." Sarika then pulled off her cap and bowed respectfully. "I humbly apologize for the offense I have caused. It's my hope to learn more about the fleeters that the Queen... Enalia... Spends..." She then set her hat back on her head and sighed heavily, her cheeks slightly red with frustration - she was definitely not a diplomat. "I wanna learn more about you bi... People! Damn it!"
Clasping the woman on the shoulder, Paris beamed a smile at the pirate. "I'd like that. No offense was meant, so none caused. We just communicated a bit, that was all. Please don't let it concern you, and let's put it behind us. And I recognize your efforts already- thank you. It's considerate of you, and I appreciate it. We'd like to learn more about you as well. Although you were supposed to be bringing aboard some sort of experiment, I believe? I'm not very technologically savvy, so please forgive me for any ignorance I may display."
The shorter woman smiled softly, relief washing over her. "Thank you. Yeah, I've been working with one of my autonomous cyber-servants and a miniaturized holo-matrix to create a... Well, she's a standalone version of the maids on the fortress that I hope can act as a secretary or adjutant for Enalia in regards to Artan business. I should be able to activate her so we don't have to carry her, if you prefer."
"Carrying her sounds awkward, so may as well activate now. So is she an AI or more of a talented droid?" Paris asked solicitously. She might not be able to program or build one, but she understood application.
As Sarika headed back into the shuttle to activate Aiva, she tried to explain what she was in as simple terms as possible. "She's... It... Well, I took a copy of one of the maid units, used some of the data the Queen's yeoman sent me for cybernetics, added secretarial and autonomic subroutines, cobbled the whole thing together... The whole thing isn't as complex as one of your holograms like the EMH or Maica, but she shouldn't be too indistinguishable from a normal person. Plus, with a cyber body as a framework, she can travel freely as long as she's near a plasma based power grid for at least... I think... three or four hours a day?"
With that, she finished her preparations and pressed an indent in the back of the torso, causing the body to shift and the holo-emitters built into it to shimmer to life, creating a holographic form around the framework. Now, rather than a metallic body sitting there, it was one of the Artan fortress's Trill catgirl maids, complete with ears, tail, and maid uniform. "Autonomous Initiative Vehicular Assistant, Aiva one, now online. Please state the nature of the..." The hybrid synthetic life form paused for a moment as if searching for what to say next. "It seems my initial startup instructions are still incomplete."
"That's fine. Welcome aboard the USS Hera. This is Commander Paris, the Queen's Second." Sarika motioned towards the Starfleet vixen as she spoke, prompting Aiva to rise from her seat and bow respectfully. "Ah, sorry. Fleeter terminology is... Executive officer?"
"Yes, that's correct... although personally, I prefer to be referred to as the First Officer. A bit more how it was done in my day, and a bit less like the last person to hold the job," Paris explained, offering a brief nod to Aiva. "Hello there... do you recognize me in your chain of command, Aiva?"
Standing back up, Aiva studied the golden clad commander for just a moment before replying in a soft and rhythmic, yet strangely considerate tone. She was definitely a base copy of one of the Fortress maids, but you could tell there was a lot more added to her just in how she spoke and the little extra animations she had in her face and body. "I have identified you as Commander Paris. You are the Se... You prefer the term First Officer. My apologies, Commander. I am programmed for Artan protocol and etiquette and it will take some time for adjustments to Starfleet."
The hint of a nervous smile as Aiva bowed her head and the slight fidget as she clasped her hands before her definitely set her apart from the regular holo-maids at the fortress by this point. They were designed with precision of movement in mind and didn't even have a pulse or breathe to cut down on processing power. "As for your place in my own command hierarchy, your orders are equal to that of any Baroness and secondary to that of the Quee... The Starfleet data loaded suggests that she prefers the title Captain while aboard her own vessel. Is this correct?"
"That is correct, well done Aiva," Paris replied with a smile, encouraging the android as she would a biological crewman who was onboarding. "Captain Telvan prefers her Starfleet titles and protocols in effect when aboard the Starfleet starship USS Hera. On this ship, I would be secondary to the Captain in authority, and that does likely make me equivalent of any Baroness in that regard. Now, what are your prime directives? Do you obey Asimov's laws?"
The hybrid synthetic being paused a moment to process the question before answering. "Ah, Asimov's laws are referenced in the morality subroutines that have been loaded into my core programming. They are there as a reference to guide me rather than strict guidelines as many in both the Artan Fleet and Starfleet are far more capable than I am. I am not built for combat, but for protocol and etiquette, after all. However, if my sacrifice is necessary in the completion if my clerical duties, then so be it."
The silver haired cyber-pirate cleared her throat and pulled her large military cap closer down over her eyes. "I got a copy of the morality subroutines that are for free use from the Federation... Ah... Day-Strong? Institute? Something like that. I tweaked them a little for our use, what with pirate bi... Business and all. I figured it fitting she use fleeter morality at her core."
"Very appreciated, Baroness. She'll be among us, so very good thinking on your part. Plus she'll be interacting with the Captain's wife and baby daughter, so best that we are all on the same page when it comes to behavioral expectations." Turning to address Aiva, Rita nodded. "Thank you for the explanation, Aiva. While I am sure that the Captain and Maica will have their own questions, their safety and well-being are one of my prime responsibilities, so you understand I must always be a bit cautious with new personnel who will be in close contact with her family."
"Your caution is noted and logged for future use," replied Aiva almost monotonously before returning to her slightly more emotional voice. "I am equipped with zero tactical capabilities and I seem to be loaded with no knowledge of more than basic defensive tactics. If you desire an upgrade to my abilities for the defense of Captain Telvan and her family, I will strive to better myself."
"I do not," Paris replied quickly. "Zero tactical capabilities is fine. It is the responsibility of others to defend the Captain- from you she will only require service, and better you fulfill that role, I think. Leave the defending to us, hm?"
"I loaded the learning module the Day... People sent out as well. So she can actually be taught things," Sarika clarified. "But for now, how about we get out of this shuttle? I've spent far too much time in it already and I could use a shower. Aiva, would you please grab one of my bags and bring them?"
"Of course, Baroness. Where are we going?" The innocence with which the new life form asked the question as she picked up one of Sarika's small duffels sounded almost childlike. The silver-haired woman that was almost as short as a child simply looked to Rita for an answer.
"Deck 8. The senior officers are quartered there, as well as the VIP guests, and the Captain has indicated that you're to be quartered in VIP Quarters number 7. You'll have some reasonably distinguished neighbors who may help you adapt to life on the Hera," Paris declared as she began leading the way off the flight deck.
"Aye, Commander," came the reply from Aiva as she fell into step with Rita and Sarika grabbed her other small duffel.
"Distinguished neighbors? I knew this vessel was big, but you're not running a hotel are you?" Sarika tried looking up at the much taller Starfleet bombshell, but the brim of her hat got in the way.
"Not exactly," Paris laughed musically as she led the way off the flight deck, through the olarge pressure doors and into the starship proper. "But there is a room reserved for a sometime guest, the ship's namesake goddess resides aboard, and of course the headmistress of our specialized child daycare in the R&D department lives in one of those rooms. Anyone who isn't Starfleet who comes aboard, the Captain likes for them to be treated well and put up in expansive, roomy and comfortable quarters so they feel welcomed and honored rather than an inconvenience who is put up in the next available billet. As her Adjunct, she will expect for you to be housed in quarters comparable to those of the Baroness... ah, the Baroness von Alcott, of course. So no, not a hotel.... but certainly quarters for important guests."
"I assume you are in good standing with the Captain, thus I assume we're to put you up in style," Paris added with a small smile as they arrived at the turbolift. "If I'm wrong, I'm sure I'll be corrected."
"I do not know what my current standing with Captain Telvan is," Aiva replied, looking between the two other women. "Do either of you know what she thinks of me?"
Sarika couldn't help but burst out laughing, having found the newborn synthetic's innocence hilarious in its own right. "I'm sorry but there's no way to tell until you meet her. Once you get to know each other, I'm sure she'll love you like another member of her crew and family. As for me, I think the only one left alive that's known her longer now is the great Schwein herself. If I'm not in good standing after all we've been through, there's something seriously wrong."
"I'm sure she and Maica will both be very fond of you, Aiva. Raising a child between them has become quite a chore for which they were both a bit unprepared, so your assistance will be most welcomed, I have confidence," Paris explained as they loaded into the turbolift and she called out, "Deck 8, VIP quarters, please."
"Then I will request databases on childcare be added to my subroutines immediately to enhance my utility to Captain Telvan and her family." With an expectant look, Aiva looked down at Sarika.
"Aye, look at the perpetual single woman with thirteen holographic cats for info on babies?" Shaking her head in dismay, Sarika just scoffed it off. "I'll see if someone in the crew can help you with that one."
"We'll get you in touch with Doctor Mah and Doctor Power. I'm sure he has extensive files he can share with you on the subject, and he'd be more than willing to share. "We'll get a few experts to work with you so you'll have the tools you need to perform your duties, Aiva," Paris responded, even as she tapped at a PaDD, sending messages to the relevant parties to get those data transfers set up and in process.
Given how hard the childrearing had been on the Telvans, Rita was actually a bit grateful Sarika had brought the artificial maid aboard. She would likely be a huge boon to the Captain, although the annoying little voice in her brain insisted that she be thoroughly scanned and vetted, and her programming cleared before she was given full access to the Captain's family. Thus Lieutenant Clemens would be brought in to facilitate the programming aspect of the artificial life form, while ensuring that she posed no danger.
"Thanks, Commander. I'm a scientist, not a programmer. Getting her up and running to the point she is with all my other responsibilities has been a bitch..." Not catching herself in time, Sarika sighed and leaned against the wall of the turbolift. "Sorry. It's been... yeah. I wanted to keep everything under my direct control and all that, you know? Especially what with all that's happened. Someone might try to slip something in. At the very least, I know she won't bring harm to anyone, and she's good at what I put in. Etiquette, protocol, handling the Artan paperwork, making tea and drinks, translations..."
"Oh yes, I am skilled at preparing over fourteen thousand drinks both with and without alcohol," Aiva insisted proudly.
Sarika waved one hand grandly in front of Aiva. "And there's one thing that was simple to import from the maid database. Priorities, of course."
"Proper hydration and nutrition is critical to the healthy continuation of biological life," the maid declared with a nod.
"I'm sure the Captain will be pleased," Paris declared as the turbolift doors opened and they departed into the VIP quarters, where a few doors had Security personnel placed on them- rather large female security personnel. "Why so exasperated, Sarika? You seem to be under a lot of stress here, and I'm not sure I understand why?"
"Aye, the responsibilities have been building. Before a Baroness could just sit on her laurels and run her own fleet and leave the nation building to the royal fleet and the Captain. Now... since the Tribunal... I've been asked to share findings with half a dozen different institutes, play diplomat, help figure out where the remains of the two traitorous fleets go... Surprise, half of them are being folded into my own fleet so I have to review the vetting process of those bi... beautiful ships and people. Not to mention trials to attend, votes to cast as a juror for the crimes of the officers of those fleets..." With a bone weary sigh, the short pirate seemed almost glad to be away from it all, at least for now. "We're building Enalia's dream for real now, but it's exhausting. I haven't even slept enough to recharge my cybernetics properly since the tribunal. I've just been swapping out power packs."
“Well, you’re here now,” Paris offered. “It’s my understanding that the Captain chose you to be her next Adjunct, although I am starting to get the feeling you were trying to set Avia up to do the job. Is this not a posting you find desirable, far from your own ships and fleet and trapped on a ship full of stiff-necked Fleeters?” While the words might have been acrimonious or sarcastic, paris spoke them with humor, indicating that she did understand and had some perspective of how the crew of the Hera might be viewed by the pirates.
"Well, I admit that I don't know the fleet as well as I'd like. I think your actions during the Tribunal went towards bringing us together in the hearts and minds of a lot of people and... Well, my cruiser is comfortable, you know? But this... This place is spotless and nothing is out of place or patched up or rebuilt... And this deck looks like a hotel. You even have uniformed... mountainous women... guarding a couple doors." Sarika motioned towards the VIP quarters they had passed moments before. "We guard a door, we normally use a physical lock and some newbie with a stun baton and he might have a targ that smells of piss."
"Fleeters... You shower regularly and clean behind your ears and press your uniforms and it shows. Most of my own personal crew... I wish I could get some of them to wear proper clothes, let alone uniforms." With another wave of her hand, Sarika reached up and unbuttoned one of the clasps of her overbuilt uniform. "You're stiff necked... But only because you've got the discipline and training. The people I'm used to are all spacers and know the job well, but the only thing keeping them in line is the threat of no booze rations or brig time or worse."
"From their perspective, now... I think they see the crew of the Hera at the very least as the Queen's crew and part of us, but with fleeter efficiency. As for me?" The petite Baroness thought on it a moment more before giving her final response. "I think I'll take this as sort of shore leave and enjoy a few weeks here. Especially if you don't ration your booze or showers."
“Booze and showers are unlimited according to your replicator allowances, but the captain has likely left you a generous allotment,” Paris fudged the truth slightly in this regard- in fact, Enalia had asked her to make Sarika feel welcome and well received, so she made a note to submit a request for additional replicator allowances for extra-long hot showers and bottles of liquor. “You are more than welcome to stay as long as you like, and even stay on as Adjunct should you so choose. No pressure, just putting it out there that the opportunity exists, and that you are welcome.”
“Surrounded by Fleeters, the captain does sometime have need to reconnect with her roots, as it were. And a civilian asset unanswerable to Starfleet has more than once figured into her plans. As part of her original crew, I am sure she’d like to have you close. But, I also understand if this isn’t your cup of tea.” With that said, Paris approached VIP Quarters #7, and the door whisked open. “These are your guest quarters for the duration of your stay. If you need it and the replicator cannot provide it, feel free to call Operations and request what you need.”
Gesturing inside, Rita swept her arm across the spacious and nicely appointed if a bit generic quarters.
Slightly taken aback, the silver haired Baroness's jaw dropped at the sheer size and splendor of the VIP quarters and it took her until Aiva took both bags and set them on the bed in the bedroom and reported back to register that they were indeed all for her. "These... Are quarters... For one person? Not shared? I mean, Aiva will be here... but... holy..." As she wandered the quarters and looked over them, a solid stream of muttered expletives in at least forty languages coming from the salty space woman as she tested every panel and measured every width with her arms.
After several minutes, she returned to Rita, her cap in her hands and tears in her eyes. "Thank you, Rita. This is better than even my lodgings on the fortress. A little smaller, and no wood paneling, but so much nicer amenities like a replicator and my own refresher. If there's ever anything you need that Sarika's Science Stalkers can provide ya, just name it and it's yours. And if you ever might know where I can get a decommissioned ship similar to this, please... I'd love to make it my next flagship."
"I think this one might be one of a kind, but I'll keep an eye on the decommisionings for you, surely." As she spoke, Rita Paris strode over to the replicator, to produce a PaDD. Once she had it in hand, she began logging into it as she looked around the immense VIP quarters.
"As for the quarters.... yeah. My old quarters were four by nine, which included the reclamator, and that was great big officer's quarters, because I was a department chief. So I know how you feel. I put up some walls in mine to break it up, otherwise it's kind of like living in an auditorium, y'know? You can customize them as you like, so long as there are no safety hazards." As she spoke, Paris had produced a tablet and was tapping away at it. When she finished, she looked up, and her eyes sought Avia.
"Miss Avia, I need to have you vetted by our intelligence chief before you go on active duty. Standard onboarding procedure. if you will, please meet Dr. Power and Chief Clemens in the Intel pod along in Yeoman Dedjoy's lab 2." Turning to Sarika, Paris inclined her head in a small bow.
"I will report there immediately," replied Aiva and with a polite bow, she headed out of the VIP quarters towards the turbolift they had come from. In the corridor, they could hear her politely asking the computer for directions before the door closed.
"I understand if you'd prefer to be there for the vetting, Baroness, but for security reasons this needs to happen independently of you. I hope you understand. I believe the Captain expects you for dinner at 20:00, and between now and then your time is your own. You have VIP run of the ship, here's some basic maps and floorplans and you already have 'guest' access in the ship's computer." The buxom bombardier handed over the tablet in her hands.
"Perfectly understandable. Honestly, I'd do the same," Sarika replied, plonking the hat back on her head and looking over the PaDD. "I can provide source code for almost everything. There's some firmware in the cyber-body I don't have but I'm sure your people can analyze that easy enough."
Tapping at the PaDD a bit more, she found it difficult to control with her metallic fingers so she gave up for the moment. "So where are the transporters so I can avoid them?"
"Deck 6, unless you count all of the transporters in the runabouts on the flight deck, Deck 4, or the cargo transporters on Decks 11 and 18. Sickbay on Deck 12 has medical transporters, and the Captain's Yacht, on Deck 9... I think that may be all of them aboard. Here," Taking back the PaDD, Paris tapped at it for a few seconds before handing it back. "The Paris guide to every transporter onboard. Not a fan, I take it?"
"It's how I lost my arms and eyes..." Sarika muttered, memorizing the locations. "I know your people are far more competent, but... Some things you can't forget, you know?"
The anachronistically uniformed officer literally, physically shuddered at the explanation, her calm professional demeanor evaporated as she shook off the horror of the thought of losing parts to a transporter. While she'd always felt as though she was leaving a bit of herself behind, she'd always come through with all her limbs intact. This was a horror she'd never particularly considered, and it triggered her own transporter phobia rather acutely. Breaking out into a sweat, Paris stammered through her attempt at a reply as her skin paled. "Oh... oh, my stars, yes. Yes, I expect that is the sort of thing you'd never forget."
The shorter woman pulled her hat lower over her eyes and wrapped her arms around herself, having noticed the change in demeanor in her fleeter companion quite acutely. Working up the nerve to at least share most of the story, she sat down on the couch. "It was right before Enalia saved me. The console I was on... Idiot on the transporter controls was off a few meters and dumped molten magnesite all over me... I uh... Last thing I saw was the red transport shimmer before the gasses... And the burning..." It took her a moment to compose herself before she could continue. "They told me it was only three weeks before an Artan had bought me. When they turned on my new optics, Enalia's face was there, telling me I was free."
There was only minor internal debate- this was in quarters behind closed doors, after all. The woman was a stranger, and they didn't know one another well. But compassion was never the wrong answer to Rita Paris, and she pulled the smaller woman into a hug, holding her there for a moment. "That's a horrible story Sarika, and I'm sorry that happened to you. But that was then, and in the here and now, you're safe. I promise, if there is any way to avoid transporting, I'll find it for you. Starfleet won't beam you unless there is absolutely no choice, okay? And you might be surprised at the lengths we can go to in order to accommodate not beaming someone..."
"Thank you," the smaller woman mumbled, gingerly accepting and returning the hug. "Enalia... She was always understanding. Thank you for also understanding. I... You... You're not fond of them, either... Are you?"
“No, Miss Sarika… I most certainly am not. Maybe we’ll split a bottle sometime, and I can tell you some stories. Suffice to say, I’ve never had an experience quite like yours, but… yes,” Paris admitted, pulling back to make eye contact with the smaller woman. “It can most definitely be said that there are a great number of reasons why Rita hates transporters. So you may rest assured that I will literally do everything in my power to see to it that we find another way to get you from point A to B, if it is at all possible.”
"Thank you," Sarika replied, the moisture in her eyes messing with her optical cybernetics so that they constantly readjusted trying to focus on the much taller woman's face. "I'll hold you to that, you know. I can drink just about any... sentient under the table. Other than Schwein, that is."
“Well, I won’t present that much of a challenge, I assure you,” Paris offered with a smile. “Now why don’t you settle in, have a nice long shower, and get yourself ready for the Captain’s table. If you need anything, it’s a comm call away, and last but not least…"
"Welcome to the Hera, Baroness Sarika.”