Location: Ten Forward
Having explored some of the ship over the past few days, the Artan Baroness Sarika had come to grow a bit fond of the large vessel and all of the amenities. Everything was perfectly maintained, there was a full crew complement, Everyone was pleasant and good at their jobs... If this was the utopia of Starfleet, she didn't think that it was so bad after all. In fact, there were gears turning in her head. Wonderings on if the Artans could do something similar, if on less of a scale. Right now, they had understaffed ships across the fleets and training was on the job. Discipline was unregulated. Regulations were unregulated...
But if she could convince the other Baronesses to help her start an academy of sorts... and to recruit from the worlds which were under their protection? Now that they were no longer pirates, but privateers founding an empire, it was quite possibly doable.
Perhaps this was Enalia's endgame for the Artans after all.
But for now, she was here in the ship's lounge to try and relax. She'd been at paperwork all day and she needed a stiff drink. Thus when she sat at the bar, she took off her hat, set it on the bar, and placed her order. "A tall glass of Aldebaran whiskey, if you don't mind." Rotating on her barstool, she stared out the large windows as she waited for her drink. Even the view of space from inside one of these fleeter ships felt different. More at peace and one with the universe or something.
Entering the ship's lounge, her head buried in a PaDD, Mnhei'sahe Dox walked in with a quick pace and made her way to the bar where she flagged down the bartender and waited as she looked up to notice her silver-haired, fellow Artan Baroness at the bar. "Sarika? I read the onboarding schedule that you'd come aboard. How are you doing? I'm sorry I haven't had the chance to see you before now."
Accepting the glass of brandy from the barkeep, Sarika nodded to her Romulan and fleeter counterpart. "I think we've both been busy enough with our duties that visits of state can be excused. After all, this is a big ship and there's a lot of work to be done to keep it ship-shape, after all. So how have you been? I haven't seen you since... Was it..."
"The wedding at the Captain's fortress. Just after the Tribunal. I've been... somewhat preoccupied since then." Dox said with a light, if awkward grin at the woman she had only met a few times, but was nonetheless quite fond of. However, the generally anxious young pilot couldn't help but notice that Sarika, who tended to favor hugging and broad displays of affection, was decidedly more reserved at the moment.
As the bartender brought over a glass of Kali-fal, better known as Romulan Ale, Dox took a sip and cricked an eyebrow. "Well, visits of state weren't on my mind, per say. I'm just glad to see you. It's rare to do so where there isn't some degree of calamity occurring. And at least for me tonight, it's just my normal calamity. Well, more or less. How are you adjusting to the ship?"
"You fleeters almost have me brainwashed into thinking this is..." Turning to look back out the large windows again, Sarika paused and dropped the snark and looked introspective. "No... I think I'm seeing Enalia's dreams in a new light. I knew she wanted to found a new nation with the Artans... But now... I think I see how she might actually be able to do it in our lifetime."
"This ship... she's Starfleet, but she's more than that, too." Dox said, taking another sip and setting her PaDD down. "The Captain brings her experience with the Artan fleet to what we do here. And she brings what she learned here as a Captain to the Artan fleet. In doing so, she can measure both against each other and find a balance. At least, that's the hope. But it's a hope that I share with her and do my best to help implement where I can."
"I think she can do it. Especially with people like you." The red-headed Romulan woman said, raising her glass to Sarika.
Raising her own glass, Sarika smiled softly. "Then here's to the hope of that future coming true. We'll need a lot more work than we're putting in now... But I think we can do it. We just need a bit more help, I think." Knocking back half of her glass of brandy, the silver-haired woman exhaled a sigh of delight at the flavor. "That's the good stuff there. Now, speaking of dreams, how's yours coming along? Married life treating you well? Got your fleet built up yet? I heard you've been named an ambassador too now, eh?"
"More work, indeed." Dox said, finishing her own drink and letting out a light sigh with an awkward grin. "Not quite an ambassador. I'm not quite sure exactly how I would define my... position. Except to say... it's extremely complicated. TOO Complicated, really. As for my fleet, It's grown to... one ship. The Golden Ghost is an exceptional ship. A refit T'liss class Bird of Prey commanded by Helev t'Liun. She's helped us more than once and I... I admit I've put a lot on them."
"Married life..." Dox said, blushing as she held up her empty glass to the bartender with a nod for a refill. "That... that is simple. That has made everything else worth the struggles."
"That's good to hear. You deserve someone special in your life like that. I can't believe Schwein's getting married too. I figured she'd have to find someone made in a factory or in the heavens..." Sarika finished off her drink before finishing her thought. "And I guess I was right, aye? Norwegian god of thunder or something?"
"Apparently," Dox said, rolling her eyes slightly. "I only met him once, and I'll admit that my knowledge of Earth mythologies is... spotty at best. I used to not believe in such things until coming here. Now... I don't have the luxury to be ignorant of the gods. Any gods, really."
As the bartender brought the red-headed Romulan her refill, she took a swig, trying to not think about her connections to such forces, and instead thought about her more mortal ones. "I admit that I never got to know Schwein as well as I should have, but she seems genuinely happy. Much happier than when I first met her, and I'm glad for that."
Taking another swig of her drink, she pursed her lips slightly as the notoriously strong blue liquor burned her throat. A familiar and comfortable sensation she had been denying herself of late that she had missed. "But, thank you. I don't know that I deserve her, but I'm grateful every minute of every day that she seems to think I do, as well."
"Well, I'm told that's how it works, so there you are. Family." With that, Sarika accepted a refill and downed almost half of it. "For me, I've got thirteen holographic cats."
"Well, I have it on good authority that holographic cats are always welcome on the Hera." Dox said, taking another drink and smiling as she thought of Maru, the sentient holographic cat that lived in the Hera's computer core. "So, since Baroness Von Alcott is moving on, will you be staying with us as adjunct to the Captain? I won't lie. It will be nice having you aboard and I think it would do her well to have you with us as well."
"I won't be... Well... I built Aiva to do the job for me remotely, but I think I'll have to make the time to spend a few days here now and then." The silver-haired woman took another drink as she thought it over. "Yeah, plus Aiva will need guidance and all that and you know... She doesn't even have a hundred hours of run time."
"I know that you have a lot on your plate, but having someone she can trust will be important to the Captain in regards to making this all work. Being a queen, rebuilding an entire government and Captaining the Hera. It's a lot. It's arguably too much. But, that's how we all make it through what we have to do here." Dox said as she finished off another drink and held her empty glass up for another. "We have each other. We depend on each other. Even if it's only occasionally, I know she is glad your here."
"But... that's business and neither of us are on duty." The Hera's Chief Flight Control officer said, the Romulan accent that she generally worked to cover starting to slip out as the alcohol kicked in. "How is the transition going with the acting queen and all that? I admit... with everything else going on in my life, I've not kept up with my responsibilities as a Baroness as much as I should. Though, in my defense, I've been Hhakh busy. Heh."
"I think she's doing pretty well. Enalia couldn't have picked a better person, honestly. What with insisting on Elysius attending the academy and paying Starfleet out of pocket for it herself, I'm starting to see where a lot of her more odd plans come into play." Sarika finished off her brandy and waved her glass for another refill, swirling the greenish liquid as soon as it was poured. "She's always been a bit more cunning than most, you know. So is the acting queen, but she idolizes her father, Magnus, and Enalia."
"I was at the coronation, but I never really met her. But Magnus..." Dox paused slightly, taking a moment to think of the oddly paternal Pirate that she was quite fond of. "Magnus is a good man."
Finishing the rest of her drink, Dox was certainly starting to show it a little more as she went and her posture, usually very professional and stiff, began to loosen along with her accent and the more liberal peppering of Romulan words into her sentences. "So... if I may say, you seem... different. A bit more... reserved then I remember. Imirrhlhhse... much more reserved really. I know how I'm managing with everything on my proverbial plate. What about you?"
"I um... Yeah... I'm trying not to curse so much for one," Sarika replied before finishing her drink and reaching behind the counter to refill it herself, downing the entire glass and refilling it again before gathering up enough liquid courage to explain what had happened. "The malware you found in my cybernetics? Did I tell you it was put there by my Second?"
Raising an eyebrow, Dox was genuinely caught off guard for a moment by that statement as she took a sip from her refilled drink. On one hand, she was embarrassed to have not known, figuring that if she had been more attentive to her responsibilities as a Baroness, that she likely would have known that. But she also could sense how difficult it was for Sarika to say what she already had, and her tone shifted to show her genuine concern. "I... no, no I didn't. I knew that the Captain's Mother was using your Cybernetics to spy... but I had no idea. What's happened?"
"He was one of Arenara's spies... When he went to trial after the Tribunal... Because of my involvement..." The pain in Sarika's voice and eyes was clear as she downed her entire drink in one go and emptied the rest of the bottle of Aldebaran brandy into her glass. "Because we were lovers... I recused myself from the trial. The others settled on immediate execution."
"Tlhei'nouhha..." Dox muttered in Romulan, the equivalency of 'oh my god', as she looked at Sarika, eyes wide. "He was... using you to get to Enalia? The Captain? How..."
Pausing, the young Romulan woman still trying to come to grips with her own conflicted emotions for the Grandmother who had her kidnapped that she was still trying to impress, thought about the scenario that was so different, and yet had the painful sting of familiarity to it. "Usae'arhem... I am so sorry. How... how long were you together?"
"He became my Second when I became a Baroness almost twelve years ago, but officially? I think four years?" Doing her best to recover and her words starting to slur, Sarika finished off the last of her brandy and looked into the now empty bottle. "My new second was my science lieutenant for seven years. She's good, but... Sometimes I want to strangle the Selarian bitch."
Smiling slightly at the more familiar Sarika for a moment, Dox chuckled slightly. "Well, sometimes that's a good thing. I've wanted to... well... there are some exceptional pilots on this ship that have also driven me nohtho as their supervisor."
Looking around, Dox made sure that there wasn't anyone in earshot as the ship's lounge was mostly empty at the moment and she shook her head as she continued, "I try to do the right thing, but sometimes I think Commander... Fvadt, the Commander, The Captain, My Grandmother, everyone. I think that they've lost their minds trusting me with so many responsibilities."
"Aye, yer right there, you are," Sarika intoned, finally a bit more animated. "They expect us to take on all these extra responsibilities because we... We're responsible an... Respectable... or somethin'... I've got like a hundred ships and crews to vet and reassign to the fleets an no one wants em but me an Merelith. You want like... twenty or thirty ships?"
At which point, Dox almost spit out her drink as she looked over, eyes wide. "Vah? What? Ships? What are you talking about?"
The petite Baroness got a semi-serious look on her face and turned to address her junior a bit more seriously. "The ex-queen's and the two traitor baroness fleets. They've been disbanded and the leadership of each are still on trial, but I've been assigned the task of vetting the crews and reassigning the ships to whomever will take them. Merelith and I are the only ones that have welcomed any so far."
Taking another drink, Dox's tone became a bit more serious as she considered Sarika's words. "So, you're serious? You're thinking that some of these crews should fall... under my Barony? As it is, I have the one ship that I... I don't pay enough attention to. And my Starfleet duties make it impossible to directly oversee their activity. My mother was named my adjunct, but she's here as well."
Suddenly, the weight of what Sarika was saying began to sink in. "I would have to arrange a meeting with Commander t'Liun. Well, Doctor. She hates being called commander, but I trust her. If I did this, it would be increasing her responsibilities as well." The anxious aviatrix's eyes went to the floor as it was clear that she was working out the problem in her head rather seriously.
"How many crewmembers are we talking about, Sarika?"
"Most of the ships are small so 'round thirty-seven hundred folk across ninety-six ships," Sarika clarified as she rummaged for another bottle of brandy and fighting with the barkeep for a moment before he game in and poured her a fresh drink, much to her delight. "About half are light smuggling and freight haulers while the other half are fast attack craft. Good for picket runs and cargo and the like... but not much else. Apparently the bitches were running drugs across the Klingon border."
"Seha'llihhu?" Dox muttered, still slipping into Romulan subconsciously as she repeated the number. "Sarika... are you serious? I don't even... what would I do with two dozen or so ships?"
Even as she protested, the young Romulan's mind raced with the possibilities, especially concerning her other mission as a representative to the Romulan Senate, representing them in talks with reunification colonies. Properly vetted, those ships could serve that cause very well. And immediately, the thought made her feel cold. It was a calculating and VERY Romulan moment for the young woman who wanted nothing to do with politics, suddenly finding herself plotting and planning in her head. Grandmother would be SOOO proud, Mnhei'sahe. Dox thought as she downed an entire glass of ale in one hard swig.
"Hell if I know," Sarika replied as she downed some more brandy, completely oblivious to her companion's internal thoughts. "Probably about what's happening to the other eighty or so that have been accepted? I'm having most of mine fitted with sensor platforms and Merelith took most all the Miranda and Saratoga ships to help with police work. Magnus took all the ore haulers for the fortress. Still got that mining money coming in."
Silently, the young Lieutenant Commander thought on what Sarika had said, taking a long drink as she did. Dox needed this responsibility added to her pile like she needed a Ceti eel facial, but once in front of her, she didn't know how to not think about it. With a resigned sigh, she let her head hang back as she rolled her eyes. "What kind of data do you have on them? Ship classes? Crew manifests? Anything. I'll need to work out my own vetting process if I'm going to do this, Sarika."
"Emphasis on IF."
A squee could be heard from Sarika as she left her drink on the counter and tossed her arms around her fellow Baroness in a hug. "Thank you sooo very much! I have ship inspection records for each IFF and for each person I have medical and criminal records as well as Artan personnel records if they warranted one prior to the tribunal. I'll forward them to you and your Second first thing in the morning."
"Ugh. Take your time. Please. I still need to finish training my new assistant chief here and prepared a written report for the Romulan Senate. It all makes me miss the academy." Dox replied, taking a drink and sighing. "["Fuck, I'm an idiot." in Romulan, which I'll look up tomorrow. Lol]."
"I was just thinking I should put together a proposal for starting an Artan Fleet Academy. Nothing fancy, mind you. Maybe two years for officers and a year for the regular crew to teach them technical skills and get them trained up in skills beyond drinking and stabbin'." Sarika retrieved her drink and took it a bit slower by only taking a large gulp of it this time before continuing. "Do ye think Rita would be willing to look over such a proposal? See what she thinks of such a thing?"
Taking a drink, Dox smirked lightly as she thought about how much Rita didn't care for pirates as a general rule. "I think anything that helps move the Artans away from the route of Piracy into a more structured and straightforward organization will be met with her approval. And... while I'm no expert in such things... I would be glad to pitch in as well in that regard."
"Thank you. Enalia's dream... It's pretty big, isn't it? Bigger than her great grandmother's, I think." Sarika turned to look back out the grand windows of Ten Forward and sip at her drink. "That woman was a visionary though. Do ya think she woulda thought her namesake would have the power to make it a reality?"
"Her Hu'nanov? Her Grandmother?" Dox stammered slightly, translating herself as she spoke. "Sorry. It's tricky to stick to Federation Standard when I'm drinking sometimes. Still, I suppose I must claim ignorance. I don't know anything about the Captain's Grandmother. But if it's anything like you're saying, then I have no doubt that En... that the Captain will achieve everything her Grandmother might have imagined. She can do it. We can help, ie?"
The young, somewhat overburdened Romulan held her glass out towards Sarika's.
Clinking her own glass against Dox's, Sarika explained a bit about the history of the Artans. "It happened in the... ah... 2200s I think... Seventy-six were decimated and the founder of the Baronies and the first Queen, Enalia Artan, made a fortune on salvage and mining, as well as counter-piracy against the Syndicate and Orion Pirates that she was able to outright buy an orbital fortress and found the beginnings of the Artan Empire with seven baronies. Enalia Artan's personal ship is docked in the Fortress museum and those with permission may visit it. It's quite something, you know. Old Trill warp sailer. No impulse. Hand-carved panelling. Photonic cannons. Crew of seven, other than her and barely room to sleep, let alone work. It was said that she could detect a cloak of the day just on the disruption of ions around her ship."
"Nothing escaped her eyes," Sarika sipped at her drink as she idolized the first queen. "And she dreamed big."
"Sounds like quite the legacy to live up to." Dox said, also looking out the windows into the heavens as she thought of her own grandmother and the legacy that Verelan t'Rul had for her. Bit she put that thought out of her mind and looked back at Sarika. "I'll start reviewing those files as soon as possible. My duties to Starfleet come first, but I have some... loose thoughts to consider. And if I can help, I will. Sound fair?"
"More than fair," Sarika replied with a nod. "And remember that you've got people you can trust too, aye? You do have a Second and an adjunct, right?"
"I do, yes." Dox said, pondering Sarika's words as her mind started working the situation through. "But... I'd prefer to not bring my Mother into this if I can avoid it. She's found something ... Special here. And given the opportunity, she might take it and turn her back on what she's building. But I have... another thought."
"Oh? What's that?" Sarika asked curiously, always interested to hear about what another was planning. It gave her ideas of her own.
Once I review the data and determine who might be best, I wish to contact Maenek Helev t'Liun. She's the Commander of the Golden Ghost, which is currently the only ship under my Barony. We've mind-melded and she and the Ghost crew has assisted me twice now without question."
The young Romulan woman took a sip. "My responsibilities to Starfleet forbid me from taking much direct action as a Baroness. I couldn't directly take control of a ship, per say. But the Ghost is a refurbished T'liss class Bird of Prey with a crew of 158. They've had two opportunities to betray us to the Tal'Shiar and remained loyal to us and the cause of reunification. They and Maenek... Doctor t'Liun have supported the movement for years, doing supply runs and getting refugees from Romulus. To make a long story short, I trust them."
"Hnaev..." Dox peppered in a Romulan expletive as she spoke, taking another drink. "A major chunk of her command crew is only free because of the work my mother and I did when I was younger. I will be calling her for a meeting, but if she agrees, I plan to name her my new second and adjunct. She runs the Ghost with the efficiency of a Romulan military vessel tempered with the compassion of a doctor. And of we promote a few key officers to command role, and redistribute them to Commanders of some of these vessel's, we could create a viable fleet to help keep these reunification colonies safe and supplied."
"It's a Longshot, as she... bristles under the responsibility of command... but I think that might be what makes her as good as she is at it." Dox finished.
Sarika nodded approval and finished her drink, setting her glass aside. "Sounds like you have a good plan forward then. A word of advice though? Don't name your Second and adjunct as the same person. An adjunct is like a secretary or a cabin girl without the ah... sex and stuff... Anyway, fancy word. Perhaps Doctor what's her name could recommend someone."
"Ahh, of course." Dox said, blushing a slight green hue as she smiled awkwardly. "That makes sense. Thanks. And thank you for being here. I'm sure this synthetic Adjunct assistant will be useful, but I know that En... The Captain... could use more than a secretary. And you can provide that. Friendship and a positive link to her other responsibilities that shows her that the Artan fleet is in good hands that will support her goals. It will mean a lot to her, I'm sure."
"Yeah, I think I'll come by every so often. I kinda like this place, ya know?" The silver-haired petite Baroness eyed her companion for a moment. "And I have to keep an eye on you. Make sure you're not working yourself to death."
At that, Dox almost spit out her Romulan Ale as she thought about her bizarre friendship to Death herself. "Yeah, well... we have a strong support system here on the ship. But it's always good to have friends to help."
Slightly taken aback at Dox's slightly odd reaction, Sarika gave her an odd look. "Yeah... Someone you can talk with is important. I get the feeling there are a lot of people aboard you can talk with and the crew here is a good solid family. That was another part of Enalia's dream, you know. Something a lot of the Artan crews don't do so well at when they try to move to other ships or such."
"THAT'S something that I think we can work on. Where Starfleet training and structure can benefit the Artan ships." Dox said, letting herself get pulled a little into the topics from earlier. "When I look over the other ships and data, I think it will help us organize a plan to present to the Captain."
"I've been keeping her apprised of the basics of how the fallout of the Tribunal has been going. I'm sure she'd love to hear your thoughts on it as well, now that you're involved, unlike a third of the other Baronesses." Sarika sounded a bit bitter about the ones that kept to themselves, but they were completely free to do so by Artan law - as long as they didn't violate Artan policy or business, that is."
Taking a drink, Dox sighed lightly and nodded. "Well, we will be able to talk to her and see what we can do. But for now, we don't need to discuss work anymore. And if there's anything you need on the ship here, don't hesitate to ask me."
"I need..." Sarika began, looking at her still empty glass. "A refill. Now let's get shitfaced and see who hits the floor first! I bet a case of booze I can outdrink you! Barkeep!"
With a light chuckle and a very warm smile, Dox held her empty glass to the bartender. "You're on, Baroness. I have a crate of Praetor's choice on my ship that says I can take you. And if I win, maybe I'll be able to get the details of just why you and Schwein both have silver hair, eh?"
"Oh, now that's a story..." the silver-haired pirate rolled her cybernetic eyes as she remembered that fateful day Enalia scared her entire command crew so bad all their hair turned silver. Then she grinned and held up her glass up in challenge. "Aye, then I have a good reason to win! Bottoms up!"