Crazy Cyber Chick
Heart and Soul
Location: Ten Forward
Having been in the Hera's lounge for most of a day now, Sarika had been tossing back shot after shot in an effort to get drunk to no avail. Her cybernetics were on high alert due to her mental state and processing the alcohol almost as fast as she took it in, leaving her with the barest hint of a buzz on her lips and that was it.
After what felt like an eternity in what the 'fleeters were calling Undrheim, she really needed a drink to take hold, especially after the nightmares. The fact that they weren't only frustrated her more and she wanted to smash up the bar. However, as a Baroness and a guest aboard a 'fleeter ship, she had to set a good example at least in that regard. After all, she wasn't just some nobody in the Artan fleets. She was Enalia's adjutant now. Plus she had her own fleet and responsibilities to consider.
Turning to look out the massive bay windows, she was just glad that there were stars back outside like there should be. Starships should have stars outside the windows. It's in the name. Turning back to her drink, she found it was still empty and waved her glass at the barkeep who just shook his head. It seemed she'd been cut off for one reason or another.
With a sigh, she slid her glass aside and called out. "How about something at least wet then? Bolian melon soda? Maybe some Deneb nachos?" That got her a nod. With another sigh, she settled in and waited for her order, the events and nightmares of the past few days rolling through her head once more.
Heading to the ship's lounge, striding down the corridors of Deck Ten, Lieutenant Commander Mnhei'sahe Dox had overheard Ensigns Fiona O'Dell and Briaar Gavarus mention that there was "Some silver-haired Pirate chick" in Ten-Forward drinking enough to "make them look bad." And while the Romulan Flight Chief had more than enough on her plate to keep her busy, she had a tendency to over-worry and take every responsibility she could onto herself.
Particularly where Sarika was concerned.
After all, both women were also Baronesses in the Artan fleet. And while as a Baroness, Sarkia outranked Mnhei'sahe, on a Starship Dox had the greater responsibilities and rank. Plus, as a woman who had her own problems with drinking too much, she knew that it was likely a sign of another issue. And Sarika was a headstrong woman who rarely came to others to help with her problems. Especially the emotional ones.
Something else Mnhei'sahe could easily relate to.
Walking into Ten-Forward, she saw Sarika looking bleak at the bar as the bartender delivered a soda and nachos. Tucking the PaDD she kept on her at almost all time, an affectation she picked up doing her level best to Emulate Commander Rita Paris, into her read pocket, Mnhei'sahe took a breath and walked over and sat next to her comrade in arms and friend. "Hello, Sarika. Mind if I join you?"
"Ah, someone with some sense. Please tell this fine purveyor of beverages here that I can't get drunk and that anything I drink I'll replace so he can at least serve me synthehol." The barkeep didn't even glance back at Sarika so she just waved him off and slid the blue and green nachos between her and Dox. "I mean, yeah, I could use the distraction. What's up?"
Since Sarika waved off the bartender, it saved Dox from the awkward moment of having to back the bartender's decision. Instead, she picked up an offered nacho and took a bite, which was a little bland for her tastes but good enough. "That was to be my question. For me, I just finished two performance reviews, reset the Flight Deck duty schedule, have 6 support craft under repair and refurbishment, stopped in to check on my family, and had some time before I have to check back into duty and thought I'd check-in on you."
"I've read all the reports about what happened while I was off-ship, and I've... heard a bit about the Undrheim. Considering I normally deal with rather... intense nightmares, I can't say that I'm not just a little glad that I wasn't on-ship during that." Mnhei'sahe said with a raised eyebrow. "So, I do know how troubling and disorienting a serious nightmare can be. And that sometimes, you just need to vent a bit."
"Which we can do here or go to holodeck 2... which I have on hold... or the gym, if you really need a distraction. Your call." Finishing her statement, Mnhei'sahe nodded and held her hands out a bit in a 'ta-da' fashion with a smile she hoped was disarming.
"Well, working holodecks are a pretty rare luxury in my fleet... I don't tend to get the more modern ships since I prioritize scientific and cargo capabilities..." Sarika considered the point as she munched on several of the nachos, making a face as she too found them to be bland and flavorless compared to what she was used to. Washing them down with her melon soda, she nodded.
"Yeah, I'll have to give these people a proper pattern for Deneb nachos later, but for now let's check out this holo... you said deck? Not suite? I need to get a ship half this size somehow..."
"Yes, holoDECKS. We have some rather large facilities as the holodecks are used for both recreation AND special training scenarios. As such, we often need to accommodate full-sized landing parties for training maneuvers and the like. But for now, Holodeck 2 is reserved for us." Mnhei'sahe said with a light smile.
On Deck X, Mnhei'sahe walked Sarika down the broad corridors where the few crewmembers that passed paid neither of them any undue attention. After all, silver-haired pirates were no out of the norm for the Hera. At the larger, double-doored entry, the red-headed Romulan stopped at the control panel. "Here we are. The computer has a massive catalog of scenarios to pick from and can also be fairly inventive with even a minor description to work off of."
Calling up her own personal menu, Mnhei'sahe stepped aside to let Sarika get to the display. "So, since you're needing a distraction, I figure it should be... what's the expression... dealer's choice. I use the room largely to either train with the Captain, jog with the Commander, or do flight maneuvers on different starship classes."
The menu was broken up into sub-categories that were easy to work through. Sword Training, Morning Jogs, Flight Deck Sims, EVA suit training, Calisthenics, Sparring, and a more cryptically named 'Private' file. Most of Mnhei'sahe's saved programs were clearly focused on one form of training or another.
"Elements... The door is almost as big as the holosuite on my flagship and I haven't been able to get any time in it in over a year..." The silver-haired cyber-pirate marveled at the sheer size of the room they were now in, wondering just how big these things even got. Surely this was the largest mobile one Starfleet had. Then again, as soon as she had that thought, she knew that they had bigger since this was far from the biggest ship in their fleets.
"Ah... Something shooty? I could go with something shooty," Sarika decided on, not even sure what was or wasn't possible.
Walking in behind Sarika, Mnhei'sahe nodded solemly as the doors wooshed shut behind them. "That is easily arranged."
Looking up, the stout, thickly built young Romulan woman spoke to the room. "Computer. Please call up program... Private files. Dox tactical combat sim... Warbird escape scenario 3. With a floating menu for range weapons, please."
As she spoke, the computer replied with a friendly chirrup, the room shimmered for a moment and suddenly, the two women appeared to be in the center of a darkly lit corridor of a D'deridex class Romulan Warbird. To the left of Sarika, a floating pulldown menu glowed white with a visual listing of various firearms. Everything from phasers to disruptors to old Earth muskets and crossbows appeared to be available to choose from.
Sarika muttered to herself under her breath at the selection as she scrolled through the choices, pausing eventually as she stared at the holo-screen a moment. Did she dare? I mean, it was literally in her nightmare... Gulping audibly, she hit the selection and the Orion Mining Consortium CR-221 Mining Laze System shimmered into existence in front of her, two-handed Gatling laser, backpack, and all.
"The last time I used one of these, I had my own arms..." the cybernetic woman muttered as she ran her black durasteel fingers over the red metal pack unit.
The observant Lieutenant Commander watched the selection play out silently, picking up on all the cues from Sarika. Then, as soon as Sarika was done, she stepped over and scrolled to a modern Romulan hand disruptor and called it up. As she did, the menu vanished and the dark, greenish-gray weapon materialized in her hand.
As Mnhei'sahe adjusted the settings and the thin strip on the side began to glow green, she spoke softly to her friend. "And the last time I was here, I was a prisoner for a month. Almost broken on more than a few levels. I set this up to teach myself how to fight my way through one of these because I have... very little doubt that I'll eventually have to. More than a few of my nightmares happen in a place like this."
"The objective is to either get to the bridge or one of the three shuttle bays. They are all about 32 decks away in multiple directions. The turbolifts are all guarded. The crew complement is 1,500 Rihannsu and they are all armed. And in this scenario, they are aware we are trying to get off the ship." Dox looked down at the weapon again and nodded. "What do you say? Work through some old ghosts together?"
"If that's how 'fleeters do therapy, I can think of worse ways," Sarika replied as she tossed the pack unit on and plugged it into the minigun mining laze canon. "This thing is probably not the best choice, but since it's made for cutting magnesite apart, I'm sure it'll melt through the enemies." With a quick flick of the trigger, the six barrels all lit up and cut a glowing swath of destruction through one of the warbird's walls. "Yeah, this will do. I'll handle the groups, you get the singles."
"Sounds like a plan to me." Mnhei'sahe said, raising her disruptor, picked because it's what she would have access to in a scenario like this. "Computer... begin program. Level three of five."
With a Chirrup, the corridor suddenly shuddered slightly and seemed to come alive. Small lights began to flicker or blink on door entry pads. The hum of a Romulan Singularity Drive could be both heard and felt through the simulated deck plates, and in the distance, boots could be heard on the move. And with a silent nod, both women began to move.
"Bridge or Flight Deck?" Dox said, as she put her back up to the corridor bulkhead behind her.l
"Normally I'd say the cargo bay, but let's go flight deck," the silver-haired woman replied, hefting her mining minigun at a group of centurions that rounded a corridor and opening fire on them, easily slicing through all but one of them. "Yeah! Get some, bitches!"
"So when I lost my arms when I was a slave, Enalia bought me and helped me get going again," Sarika offered as she spat out another burst, melting through the corridor wall and taking off the head of the Romulan she had missed even as they fired back wildly. "When you were a prisoner... Do you ever think about what your life might have been like if she hadn't come for you?"
Walking along, the passed over the simulated bodies of the first wave and came to a junction in the corridor. Without looking at anything, Dox listened around the corner and lead them to the right. "This way." It was clear that she had memorized the layout of the ship and could likely find her way through its corridors blindfolded. As the walked, a cluster of three Romulan Centurions rounded the corner coming up behind them, and Dox swung her arm over Sarika and, her Disruptor set for short bursts rather than continuous beams, squeezed three times, and in quick succession, all three dropped.
"Every single day." Dox said in a flat, almost creepy voice.
"My wife had just learned she was pregnant. Triplets. I had just learned I was going to be a parent when I was taken. At first, they offered the open hand. The proverbial carrot. My Grandmother is a senator. A powerful one, and in her mind, they were rescuing me. But she also made it clear that I had no choice but to accept what she was offering. Be her heir. Learn the ways of the Senate. Be a LOYAL Rihannsu and my mother would live. I would have what I had always been denied. My family. My homeworld. She offered me everything I had grown up wanting, and all I had to do was give up everything I had become. Give up Mona. Give up my CHILDREN."
They began walking faster and as they did, Sarika noticed that the program was throwing up disruptions that meant that even with her artificial eyes, she couldn't map out around corners or see-through surfaces. It was a pure line of sight exercise, which made it easier to get ambushed, which happened when a small group of three rushed them from an access panel along the wall. The first rammed Dox with a tackle, sending her Disruptor out of her hand. But as they fell to back against the opposite bulkhead, Dox jabbed the Centurion hard under the ribs and twisted, causing the figure to seize up and spit out a stream of simulated green blood onto the Romulan woman's shoulder before collapsing in front of her.
Even taken by surprise, Sarika was able to backpedal enough to get the barrel of her weapon aimed back at one of the remaining two Centurions and bring it around into the other one, cutting them both in half at the crotch. Thankfully, as smart as the simulation was, it left the screams and the smell of burnt flesh out of it and for that, Sarika was thankful.
"I feigned acceptance. Tried to play along, but I wasn't good enough to play that game. Not on her level. I was losing myself. Going along willingly. I was giving up. And when I was made to see that... I resisted. From there, it went from carrot to stick. And every night I struggle with both. Where I would be today if I had relented. Or where I would be if I had been broken. Likely wearing one of those uniforms." Dox said, looking down at the felled Centurions seeming to be unnaturally calm. "Or worse. After all, slavery is still practiced on ch'Rihan as well, and Rendal owns her fair share. She owned her own SubCommander."
"I've heard stories from some of the Rihannsu in the other fleets. Those that have joined us don't paint a pretty picture of what it's like over there." As another trio of guards came out of seemingly nowhere, Sarika lazed a swath through them and straight through the turbolift they were guarding, destroying the doors and the controls inside. "Oops..."
"The Orions I grew up with were... decent... As long as you were a useful or knowledgeable slave. My mom was an astrophysicist so she was able to teach me a fair bit and by the time I was eight I was able to work most of the mine's scanners better than the owners." As she looked over the torched turbolift, the silver-tressed pirate just shook her head. "Then when I was in my mid-teens, some idiot transport operator dumped a load of molten magnesite on top of my station. Last thing I saw as my arms were molten off and my eyes exploded from the steam was the red of transporter sparkles."
"Fucking hate transporters..." Sarika muttered as she pulled the trigger on her mining laser and didn't let it go until the latest group of Centurions, this time in heavy armor, were no more than bite-sized chunks. "If it weren't for Enalia several months later, I'd have died long ago from starvation. They liked me but not enough to get me new arms, eyes... Let alone a new face..."
Barely registering the damaged turbolift, Dox knelt down in the corridor to the right of the lift doors and began feeling along the lip of a ridge coming off the middle of the wall until she found what she was looking for. With a click, she pulled down the small hatch for an access tube. "The lift's are traps anyway. These tunnels are narrow, and it's a long climb down, but it's easily defensible, just ramp down the output settings on your weapon so it won't cut through the hull. Follow me."
Crawling into the tube, Dox felt around and found purchase on the rungs of the ladder. There was minimal lighting coming off of dim green strips every meter or so as she climbed down to give Sarika room to crawl in above her. "Get the hatch behind you. A short pulse at low yield off of that thing should weld it behind us for good measure."
Sarika was easily able to cut the power back for a more delicate beam in a tighter grouping and had soon climbed in and welded the hatch shut behind her. "Been so long since I've done anything like this..."
Once in, Dox kept her disruptor trained down as they began to climb down. And as they climbed, Dox could properly reply to Sarkia's comments. "Was that what you saw when you slept while the ship was in the Undrheim? Were you forced to... relive that?"
"That was the start of it, yeah. Then it just kept cycling into worse scenarios with Enalia and the other Baronesses... My former Second..." The silver-haired cyber-pirate paused a moment, resting her head against a rung of the ladder.
"You've never really talked about that much. I understand if you don't want to, of course. But the offer is out there." Dox said, leaning her back against the bulkhead behind her, balancing her feet on the ladder rungs and looking up at Sarika. "What's the expression? Quid Pro Quo. I'll tell you something for each thing you tell me? Sound fair?
After pausing for a moment, Dox started climbing back down, hoping Sarika would continue to follow. Her hope was that the activity would distract a little from having to think about what they were talking about, and as such, maybe make it easier to get the words out.
"There's a lot I don't talk about so you'll have to be specific," Sarika replied, making her way down the shaft after Dox. Her smaller frame made it a bit more difficult for her, especially with the larger weapon, but she was getting there. "If you mean my former second... We were quite intimate before the tribunal. Unfortunately, he was part of Arennara's camp and had infected myself and half my command crews with that malware... And the other Baronesses had found him guilty of treason... Since I was emotionally involved and he was from my crew, I abstained as is custom, but..."
She paused in her descent and pulled her hat a bit lower over her eyes out of habit. "There's only two punishments for treason in the Artans under Enalia. Collecting on any outstanding bounties on you plus ex-communication, or a life sentence in the dilithium mines we use as a penal colony."
Nodding silently, Dox looked down and listened for a moment to make sure there wasn't anyone else in the tube below them as they kept moving. "So... would I be correct in thinking that this is eating at you from... multiple angles. That you allowed it to happen? Doubting your ability to trust your decision-making skills? Wondering how you missed it? Wishing you had been involved in his punishment? Guilty at maybe being a bit happy you weren't involved with his punishment, whatever it was?"
"Or... are you just angry at yourself, because... in spite of everything you did, you still care? You wish you could reach into your heart and pull out the part that still cares, but you can't?" Dox asked at the end, plainly. But the tone of her voice shifted to a very knowing, more sympathetic one.
"The last words he said to me..." Sarika was starting to lose it now as a bit more than moisture filled her eyes. "He said... No matter what... what happened... he forgave me... Why would he say something like that? After all we'd been through... After what he did... Why that?"
As they descended, they reached a horizontal access level. It was narrow and small, like a Jefferies Tube, but it gave them a place to stop and sit down on the same level. Dox checked for more Centurions, but it was still clear, and though she could have easily paused the simulation, she was hoping that the immersion was proving helpful as a needed distraction.
Climbing in, one after the other, both women sat next to each other, but on opposite ends so they could see each other. After a moment, Dox took a breath and crossed her arms over her knees. "I don't know. I... I can try and surmise based on what you told me, but it would be guessing. And considering that you are my friend, it would be extremely biased against him, in all reality."
"From here, it sounds like he knew you would be torturing yourself and wanted to set that seed in you. It's a horrible thing to do, but he did a lot of that, it seems. He manipulated you when you were together, and made it possible to do the same when you wouldn't be." Dox continued. "My grandmother. After everything she did. Kidnapped me and my mother and tried to kidnap my wife. Locked me up against my will and tried everything she could to manipulate me into becoming what she wanted me to be. After the isolation and the torture and the pain and the death. After everything... I still care about her. I still want to see her again. I still want to make her proud."
"Here we are. I'm free. I escaped. Enalia and Rita and the others rescued me and I have my life back. My children have been born, and I feel for them more than I thought I could for anything. But still... I'm ashamed to admit that there was a large part of me that wanted to give up on this ship. A part of me that... that still wants to go back there."
"They both got into our heads. And we're both still letting them live up here, torturing ourselves over our feelings for them." Dox leaned in and put her hand on Sarika's knee. "Beating ourselves up over what we did or didn't do with people that victimized us. But... no matter what, you weren't wrong to risk loving someone. As much as you may want to believe it, it wasn't your fault."
The silver-haired Baroness nodded silently, thinking it over as best she could with tears tinged with oil running down her face. "I don't want to believe you... But I think you're right. He was a rather manipulative Caitian. And now I have a bunch of cats in my quarters back on my ship. My new second passed a fleet background check so hopefully she's actually ok, but I still don't want to get too close. She was my former Fleet Activities Coordination Officer so the job isn't entirely unfamiliar to her, but..."
"But you've been burned... and burned hard. And that makes it difficult to trust anyone again. Believe me when I say, that I am extremely familiar with." Dox said, allowing a light smile to cross her lips. "And for right now, you have a unique advantage. You're here, so you don't have to risk getting too close before you're ready. Similarly, I'm here, so I CAN'T just waver with my Grandmother. She wants me back and she's doing everything she can to make me a part of her world politically. But to just talk to her is a rather... what's the phrase... Herculean effort, so I have that... buffer. And I will admit, that I'm happy for that."
"So, for now, take the time. Observe from afar. Sometimes, just having the IDEA that you can control a situation helps." The red-headed Romulan slapped the bulkhead behind her. "That's what it is. The illusion of control. I know this ship inside and out. What we're playing at... it's not possible. Security measures make everything we've done impossible. Sensors would have deactivated our weapons, had us beamed into the brig. There are force fields in these tunnels. I've learned how to counteract... maybe 15 percent of the defenses, like the force fields. But it feels good to try and get a little better. To exert just a little more control each time."
"Then perhaps you need a little pirate training," Sarika replied as several ports on her cybernetic arms cycled open and closed. "Most of us don't go off ship without a suite of sensor and transporter scramblers, not to mention ghost access chips for terminals to automate hacking. How do you think I got a cloak for my ship? Under Arenara how do you think I got funds and spare parts? Energy weapons don't work? Use a blade or your body."
"But in this, you're absolutely right. When you're dealing with equals and you can't exactly take what you want by force, even if there was something you wanted..." Sarika nodded solemnly.
"So... now that you've helped me work through some of my emotional issues, how about I help you learn to exert a bit more control over yours, one Baroness to another?"
Nodding, Mnhei'sahe smiled just a bit. "From one Baroness to another, that sounds like an excellent idea. When I was here... all I had to fight back with was my resistance. My words. And that feeling of... utter powerlessness... was something that still hurts."
"So, yes. A little pirate training just might be what's called for here." the Red-headed Romulan said, her smile turning into something of a smirk.
The cyber-pirate had a matching smirk as she replied. "Excellent. Then pull up the ballroom deck of the HMS Avante Garde luxury liner, grab a pirate costume and your preferred blades, and I'll teach you how a pirate pilfers precious knowledge and cargo from the exceedingly rich and politically untouchable while making them feel good about handing it over."