Heart and Soul
Location: USS Hera, Deck 8, Captain's Quarters
When the door chime rang, no one was expecting company. Yet someone was at the door, asking to be let in, rather than calling through the comms. Which was unusual in their shipboard society, but not unheard of.
Since Enalia and Maica were both in the small nursery with Moira, it was Aiva that made it to the door first to answer it. The person on the other side hadn't been added to her registry yet, which likely meant they were a new arrival, especially considering the unusual biological configuration of the visitor, but she greeted them just the same.
"Welcome, Lieutenant. Mistress Telvan and Lady Maica are currently preoccupied with their infantile unit Moira at the moment. Would you like to wait inside while I announce your presence?"
"That would be fine," Ironhooves nodded as she stepped inside, making careful footfalls so as not to vibrate the deckplates and potentially disturb the baby, even though she was likely a dozen meters away on this collossal starship with it's enormous quarters. In her own, the four-hooved healer had cleared the furniture and made herself a track of sorts, with most of her belongings in storage in the center. But bipeds lived differently, and she respected their need for furniture and such.
"Please tell the Captain that I'm here to raise a toast to the past. I think she'll know what I'm talking about." Under one arm, the Kutachi healer had a rather large drinking horn slung, which looked as though it had been pulled from storage. She looked around at the decor, taking it in. Personal space said a lot about people, and she was curious what the Trill woman and her hologram had chosen to do with the place.
It was a few moments while Aiva announced the arrival of a quadrupedal Lieutenant with intentions of lifting double baked goods to history, which Enalia and Maica both couldn't help but chuckle at while they finished up with Moira's diaper. Soon though, Enalia came out of the nursery with Aiva while Maica headed to the kitchenette.
"Doc Ironhooves, to what do I owe the pleasure?" Enalia asked, greeting the centaur with a smile and a handshake.
Clasping the other woman's forearm in a warrior's greeting, the four-legged filly slung the drinking horn about to present it. "I heard the news. Starfleet sent me out here to put the pressure on, so you dropped it, all of it. Walked away from the pirates, the Empire, everything. So, given what a huge life change that was and easily not a simple decision, I come bearing the mead of my people, to commiserate your loss, and celebrate your course. Seemed like somebody ought to, and I seemed to be the best candidate. Given how they sent me out here to determine where your loyalties lay."
"That was all just coincidence, actually. I've been planning this for some time now, so it's more of a relief than anything." The Trill woman then glanced around the quarters - there was plenty of room, but it wasn't exactly furnished for entertaining such an unusual guest. "Perhaps we should reconvene in my private mess next door? The accommodations are holographic and can be changed to suit our needs."
The equine officer snorted, then settled her rump onto the floor, with her forelegs still up. Which gave her the unique appearance of being both seated and standing at the same time. "I'm a 2 kilo mammal, lady. I can sit where I want. If you'd rather be out of your quarters I'm good with it, but I figure this is your home, this is where you're comfortable. Your den, with your mate and your young."
"So, I brought drink. Because when you lose something, whether it's taken or you give it up, it hurts. So, we drink. Simple, no?" It was somehow not that hard to see the simple shaman in the medical doctor, who may have gotten started without her.
"That is indeed simple," Enalia replied, grabbing a pair of drinking glasses, a bottle of Artan brandy, and slipping into a nearby chair. "You know, I grew up in the Artan Fortress. Rather than a world to call home, I had a transparent dome and a controlling mother. Eighteen hours a day I trained from my earliest memories until I left home."
"But you know..." The Trill woman thought it over as she poured a couple drinks and handed one of the glasses to Tyra. "Back then I was running from something, but it's still my home. It does feel kind of odd to think that I might not ever return there again."
"Are you unwelcome there, now?" The bay mare held out the horn, offering some of the homebrewed mead even as she took a swig of the brandy, smacking her lips in appreciation. "Won't they still recognize and honor you? The past is not lost to them, just your titles. You they still respect, no?"
Enalia took a draught from the horn and handed it back, nodding solemnly as she followed it with a sip of the brandy. "Oh I'm still welcome. I'd be honored and still treated like royalty. My whole crew would be. But that's just it, isn't it? I go back even for a visit or shore leave and suddenly Elysius is planning a banquet, events, meet and greets... No, that's the other thing I wanted to get away from with Starfleet. Here, the weight of everyone's life is equal."
She then pointed a finger at the centaur before her. "And I had Elysius go to the Academy so I know she knows that as well now."
"So... you might not return there, but because you don't want to be an honored guest. Not because you can't, or you are an exile, or your choice will have negative repercussions for you. Sounds like a terrible problem to have," the centaur laughed, a bit of a whinnying affair. "Who's Elysius?"
The former pirate queen put on her best piratical grin and spread her arms wide. "Elysius Magnus, Daughter of the Captain of the Artan Fleets- Delor Magnus, Heir to the Artan Empire. She was trained to be the next Captain of the Artan Fleets, who coordinates the Baronesses for official duties and functions before I named her my heir. I also asked her to go to Starfleet Academy for that reason. I signed her papers and made a rather large donation to the Academy museum on her behalf, but she got through the accelerated program on her own merits."
"So the successor you had been grooming has been placed where you wished her. You are out from under the responsibility, yet still get to be treated like royalty should you return. Your divided loyalties have been addressed and Starfleet has no grounds to harass you over them. So... why are you still unhappy, woman?" The Arborean native did not mince words, nor did she particularly defer to rank. She spoke as being to being, taking no familiarities with the woman she barely knew, who had not invited her to do so. But nor did she defer to the higher rank of the starship captain. As the Trill woman had yet to object, the Kutachi granddam felt her gait was good and her footing secure.
The former pirate queen furrowed her brow and stared down into her glass, thinking it over. Something had been bothering her as of late and she hadn't quite been able to put her finger on it. She had everything she had dreamed of - freedom to choose her own path, a family, a good crew... "I don't know. Maybe it's something my mother once told me. Those in power must sacrifice for the greater good. She said a lot of narcissistic things, but that's one thing my grandmother said too, so I trust it. I know Elysius will be okay, and she's okay with taking over."
"But I'm wondering if my own happiness is worth it - if I shouldn't have retired from Starfleet and taken the full reigns of Queen and Empire instead... and if I'm lying to myself when I say I can do more good here."
"Why did you choose this? That's something I don't understand. You had an empire, a fleet and wealth beyond imaging and power limited only by your enemies. But you gave it all up for one starship that you command at the authority of others, and your word here is far from absolute. Why would you make such a choice?" The black-socked dam took a long swing off the drinking horn, then frowned and went back to the brandy.
With a grin, Enalia downed the rest of her glass of brandy and poured them both some more. "If I told you I could hand you your every desire... every wish you could ever imagine on a golden platter every morning and all you had to do was wake up and take it... Would you do it? Or would you rather go out and do something that you feel like matters and actually see the galaxy around you change as you work?"
"The first path is a lot of training and hard work initially, yes... But then again, what rich or royal parents don't train their children within a millimeter of their lives? The other path... The path of the Starfleet Captain..." The Trill woman paused a moment remembering why she ran off to Starfleet all those years ago. "Why did I choose it? Because of personal choice. Because of the hope and dream of Starfleet itself perhaps. Because as a princess, I normally felt alone. Put on a pedestal by almost everyone around me. And here? Here I'm never alone. Even when people treat me like a captain, they don't treat me like some sort of object you put on a shelf to be worshiped."
"Better to be a participant than a figurehead. Makes sense," Ironhooves nodded as she held out the brandy snifter for a refill. As Enalia poured, when she made to stop, the centaur's brows cane together and her free three fingered hand came up in protest, indicating her equine lower half currently supine on her living room rug. As the refill continued, she nodded appreciatively. "So with the resources and the chain of command and the exceptional people, you zip around the galaxy making a difference. All to keep you from being bored to death as a pampered queen in a high castle."
"And being independently wealthy in the greater universe as a whole, I have yet other resources to pull on should the need arise." With a soft chuckle, Enalia sipped at her brandy and continued. "Even without being a queen, I still have the largest collection of teacups in the galaxy. I also have a healthy tea and brandy brewery company and Maica has a steady income of latinum from her brokerage, not to mention our investments. If we wanted to retire somewhere off the beaten path, we can."
"But the Federation eschews the materialistic lifestyle, thus there is no need for wealth, as needs are met and desires can be accommodated. All that you have surrounds you, which is truly all that you need." The somewhat large brows of the centaur came together as she took another healthy swig of brandy. Savoring the flavor as she swallowed the mouthful in a few gulps, the appreciation of the liquor's warmth was evident as it traveled through her. Ending as it did in a flourish of her black tail, which was shot through with a few threads of silver.
"Where is your mate, and your child?" the older woman slurred a tiny bit. After all, the captain drank rather good brandy, and Ironhooves was enjoying it, getting her buzz on in the spirit of having a drink with the woman. "We share drink and make calm talk, here in your den. I have the hands of a surgeon, and am sworn to my Starfleet oath, under your command. Do you not yet trust me with your other and your colt?"
"It's bath time. They should be back soon. If not, I'll go check on them." Enalia motioned towards the small nursery where the sounds of water and giggling could barely be heard. "You're my guest though and you were asking about materialism? Because a replicated teacup is not of the same quality as a handmade one. A replicated painting is not the same as one painted by hand. Art can not be created by replicators. It's created by artisans with blood, sweat, and tears."
And that's something you have to exchange something of equivalence for," Enalia explained motioning towards a china cabinet filled with stasis emitters holding the teacups and saucers steady. "Those are some of my favorite pieces. Each has sentimental value and yet I normally only drink from replicated versions of each."
That was when Maica returned from the nursery holding Moira with Aiva behind her. Maica was wearing one of her red sleek masseuse dresses still and was rather wet, while Moira was in a gold onesie that read 'I've Boldly Gone' with a delta shield outline behind it. Aiva was of course in her maid outfit and somehow dry.
"Bath time went... as usual," Maica declared wearily, handing Moira off to Enalia and poking the green toy sword into the baby's hand to help settle her down.
"As usual. Thank you, my love," With a quick kiss, the Trill woman nodded to Tyra. "Tyra, I'm not sure if you've met them yet, but the emerald beauty is my wife Maica. The one in the maid outfit is my assistant from the Artans, Aiva. And this little lady is our daughter, Moira. Everyone, this is Lieutenant Tyra Ironhooves - I believe she's our newest member of the medical staff."
"You know I am, we talked about this," the cranky centaur grumbled, her rear legs in motion to get her flanks off the deck. Taking something of a full body shake afterward, she approached Maica, then placed her hands together and bowed. "I am Tyra, of Clan Ironhooves. I come as friend and counselor to your mate, not as an officer. So I greet you as the mate of my friend, whom I will not dishonor with a touch. But..." The granddam eyed the little green-skinned toddler meaningfully, her eyes sliding back to Enalia in a silent plea for permission.
For just a moment, Maica looked confused before she caught onto the meaning as Enalia slid little Moira into Tyra's arms. "Then I greet you in kind, Tyra, of Clan Ironhooves. Welcome to our home." Placing her own hands together, she bowed respectfully as well.
"She's a cutie, isn't she?" Enalia asked with a wide grin as now it was Tyra's turn to face the brunt of Moira's mighty swordplay.
As the tyke batted her with the foam rubber sword, the granddam smiled, reaching out with a thick finger to tickle the belly of the toddler, fighting unfairly against her assault. That in turn produced a series of shrieking giggles and a fart, which led to the four-legged physician to cradle the babe expertly in one arm, as if she had done it thousands of times, as she reached down with her free hand to interact with the child, to give her a sense of who she was, and that the person holding her was different than her parents. "Hello, little one. You are Moira, and I am Doc Ironhooves. You will know me in time, and I will care for you while I am here. I will protect you from harm as best I am able, and I will heal you when you are broken. That is my pledge."
With that serious statement made, the sentimental centaur turned to place the babe gingerly on her back, placing a bit of her long hair in the babe's hands like reins to hold on to maintain her balance. With the tyke securely placed, the centaur who earned her reputation as cranky promptly started gingerly trotting in place, simulating the motion of a horse in motion for the wee one. It tended to be a hit, particularly with female younglings.
As the young girl shrieked with untold glee, her parents looked on with fascination, Enalia reaching over and taking Maica's hand with a grin and making one more declaration. "You know, I think this is the biggest reason to stay in Starfleet. Moira deserves a normal, happy upbringing, and a right to choose her own future."
"I don't know if this is considered normal... in most places in the galaxy, your steed doesn't offer advice or drink your brandy," Ironhooves observed, taking another healthy swig of the rich liqueur. While Rita Paris eschewed drinking for her logical mate and stuck to synthehol unless she was angry at him, it appeared the grand old dam of the Ironhooves clan was perfectly at home drinking dry whatever fine spirits the Captain offered. If it was affecting her, it apparently was a positive effect, as she was happily trotting, simulating a pony ride while not threatening to run her parents over. The warm smile she offered the child was clearly more invested than she had been in any adults so far, save the troubled starship captain herself.
"Now, we can do this from time to time, but you must keep it a secret. If others find out I give you rides, then everyone will want them. And i only give them out to very special people. So we can keep doing it if you keep our rides a secret. Understand?" The gruff centaur held out her lower finger from her three fingered hand to the level of the child's eye and crooked it toward her in invitation.
Without hesitation, Moira reached up and grabbed the offered pinky with her whole hand and blew the happiest raspberry she could followed by more happy squeals and giggles, eliciting soft chuckles from her parents.
"I think that means she agrees," Enalia interjected as she finished her own brandy and set her glass aside for now, instead opting to pull Maica into her lap.
"Well sworn, little warrior," Ironhooves smiled at the little pirate in training, then looked around the quarters as she resumed the horsie ride.
"You do look happy here... home and hearth, fine command. I've snooped around," Ironhooves paused in her bump and jump pattern that was keeping the toddler amused to shoot a dirty look at the bemusement that was evident from the concept of the heavy-hooved healer 'sneaking'. "Nothing's broken, everyone seems to know their jobs, and everyone seems to get along. 750 souls and you are keeping them all content and flying and working. Easier than an empire, even if you did keep the help."
"So what now, Enalia Telvan? No longer queen, but captain in Starfleet, righting wrongs and lending aid. What's next for you in the chapter to come of the saga that is your life?" The centaur had a rather epic and literary way of looking at things. Which was unsurprising, given her background.
"Well, that's another thing I love about this life," Enalia declared with that piratical grin of hers. "As a queen I was the only one in the empire that didn't have the freedom to choose my own fate."
"Here? I think I'll see where the stars and Starfleet take me for a while. Find my own freedom."
Trotting over with her empty glass, the celebratory centaur held it out for a refill, and grinned.
"I'll drink to that."