The Bulikaya Particle
Location: USS Hera, Deck 8, VIP Quarters 11
Making her way down the corridor, the anachronistic astronaut considered what to say, how to say it and internally debated bringing a gift. Instead, she resolved to just spell it out and put it out there, and see how it went. Having discussions like these were always fraught with tension beforehand and seemed silly afterward. But in this case, the topic was one of vital personal importance to Rita Paris, and she was determined to get it out there for discussion.
Stopping at the doors to VIP Quarters 11, the honor guard came to attention. Petty Officers Jablonski and Liu, the perennial odd couple of Security, were on duty this shift. Jablonski was a mountain of a woman, over two meters tall, who was seen ducking through doorways regularly, and she appeared to be nearly as wide. Muscles bulged beneath the gold Security uniform, and her service to Hera was quite evident. Amazons were called to serve the goddess, she had once explained, and were they to choose to avail themselves of it, enhanced strength, speed, and durability were theirs for the offering. Many of the Security force rejected the gift of the Goddess' aura- Rita amongst them. But it was as if Jablonski just helped herself to the refused portions, and gobbled them all down.
Liu was a five foot fireplug of inscrutability, who was Jablonski's physical and personality opposite, but they often worked as a team. Liu was apparently a brilliant strategist, while Jablonski was a nigh-unstoppable she-hulk. Strong and quick, Liu nevertheless was one of the most taciturn of security officers, saying little to nothing, save when it was necessary. Unlike Jablonski, who was the very soul of a friendly farm girl.
"Oh hey, g'day Commander. You here to see Hera?" While she was relaxed and cheerful with Rita, the feisty first officer had seen Jablonski in battle, and had no doubt that were she anyone else, the reception would not be so friendly.
"I am indeed. Computer, please unseal the hatch on VIP 11, authorization Paris, Rita, LTCDR 867-5309."
"Access granted, Commander," the computer's voice replied as Jablonski shuffled to the side to allow Rita sufficient room to pass. As she did so, smiling, Liu snuck a peek at the miniskirted rear and long, shapely legs of the curvaceous commander. As the door shut behind her, Jablonski and Liu resumed their posts, even as they muttered out of the sides of their mouths to one another.
"She's gonna catch you looking one of these days."
"When she does, you know she can't blame me."
Inside the VIP quarters, Rita had stepped into the foyer to announce herself to Hera. While she had begun as a prisoner onboard the Hera, and was technically still under guard, in truth, Rita had done her best to accommodate Hera as an honored guest. Which had in turn led to her being instrumental in saving lives on the starship that bore her name more than once. So in rearranging her quarters, a minor but significant point had been to provide the woman with a lobby. If they were going to barge into her quarters on a regular basis, Rita reasoned, they may as well give her a modicum of privacy, even when they were already inside.
"Hera? It's me, are you decent?" Rita called out. There was no need to identify herself, after all. Hera tended to be aware of Rita Paris most of the time, as Rita was one of the faithful who invoked her name rather often, which also drew Hera's attention.
"I am, my dear. I sense that much has shifted since last we spoke." As Hera came out of the kitchen, she bore a tray of her usual earthly delights and treats and a pitcher of lemonade, setting both on her dining table. "And I sense that you have much to say on that matter, so I am here to listen, and offer sage advice if you so wish it."
"Not so much, in this case," Rita replied, indicating for the older woman to be seated before she sat herself, picking up a roll of ham and cheese off the plate. "We're going back to Earth... Sonak and I. We're going to settle down in San Francisco, get VERY involved with the Academy and Command, and raise our pointy-eared offspring."
"Simply put, I want you to come with us."
With it out there on the table, Rita let it hang for a second before qualifying.
"Yes, I know it will be an uphill struggle to convince the Asgardians and Starfleet, who is still pretty vague on your nature and status, to allow this. I don't care. You made me a promise, and you have lived up to it every single day, and I believe you always will. But letting them shove you into a cell to rot isn't going to do anyone any good. I need you... there, with me, while I restart my career, while I start my family... while I establish a home." Reaching over, the astronaut of another age took the hand of the Olympian goddess of myth. "Please... come with me, Hera."
The matronly goddess was silent for a long moment as she thought it over, picking up one of the tiny pickles and chewing on it as she did so. "That's a difficult request to wrap my head around... returning to Earth. For you... I will, of course, but... It's been at least an aeon, right? It won't be the same Earth I left."
"It isn't the same Earth I left, either," Rita pointed out. "I've seen and done and explored, and I've been so very far from where I started... but I think it's time to go home. Back to my planet, lush and green and blue and filled with so many different lifeforms than when I left it. Because I want to go home now, to start a family. To continue the tradition of the Paris clan... and I want you there, to be a part of that family."
"Then I suppose, Odin willing," Hera began, collecting her thoughts as she spoke. "We should boldly go forth together, form new traditions, and see what modern humans have made of our old home together."
"I do profess a desire to make myself useful during our time there, however," the elderly woman continued. "Perhaps as a mentor of the Roman Empire and the Mediterranean era? I could learn much from the contemporary scholars of the era while providing my own wisdom, having lived in that era."
"I feel confident that we can find a way for you to contribute," Rita nodded, caught slightly off-guard but tacking into the wind as she tended to do in such moments. "Plus... well, I mean, I'm probably going to be needing a lot of help with kids and housework, entertaining and my own classload. So it may be a bit selfish, but... really, I'm the one who really need your help, Hera. My family will need someone beyond Sonak and myself. They'll need a grandparent. I'll need someone I can blather my insecurities to who can help me house shop and decorate it when I find it... assuming Daddy's old house is still unavailable. We can definitely get you a higher calling that takes advantage of your unique knowledge and experience, but... I'll admit, I just asked... well, for myself."
Hera chuckled softly as she reached out for Rita's hands. "Then I'll be the selfish grandma and spoil you all rotten with the hobbies I do have. Baking, cooking, sewing, reading... And maybe I'll write a book or two over the years."
"I don't want to stifle your contributions, Hera- you have a lot to offer, and between herbology, ancient history, and all the other things you have picked up over the centuries, I'm sure that you can make a difference. And I do want to encourage that, because I want you to be fulfilled, and to get that feeling of knowing you are making a difference. But... I am selfish, I admit. I want to go home, but I don't want to lose you." Tears filled the eyes of the emotional executive, as she spoke plainly from her heart. Hera had filled a void Rita had never acknowledged in her life, and now that she was preparing to embark on the next great adventure of her life, the curvaceous commander found that she was unwilling to leave behind the woman who had come so far and changed so much at her behest.
Which brought up Dox in her mind, but that was another conversation she was yet to have.
The elderly Ambrosian smiled a bit brighter, also remembering her transformation over the past few years since her relatively recent resurrection. "My dear daughter, I too am selfish. You've given me a freedom and a peace that possibly no Ambrosian has ever enjoyed before, and if I have any say in it at all, I would spend the rest of my days with you and your family. You have also welcomed me into something I could never truly take pride in before. A family."
The close-lipped smile was one that struggled to remain there, as Rita rose from her chair and wrapped the matron goddess in a fierce hug. "We won't turn into assholes like your last family, I promise."
"And I'll hold your future generations to that," Hera replied as she wrapped her own arms around Rita to return the bear hug in her own archaic manner. "Of that I promise."
"Speaking of which..." Hera continued, "there were heroes who were worthy, and they used your gifts wisely and well on Kathoom," Hera mentioned casually, then her voice turned solemn. "For your first time as a deity, you did pretty well. Few would have shown your restraint, on a number of levels. I know you're uncomfortable with it, but as you saw, we don't always get a choice in who worships us, and how. There's a lesson to be learned there... but I think you've learned it already."
"Thank you, Hera. Trust me, I got a taste of what it's like and... let's just say I'll leave deific presence to the professionals," Rita rolled her eyes at that, and sighed, her mood turning contemplative as she held the hug. "I'm glad heroes rose, and I appreciate that you helped them. I know I should have removed them, but... the hero's journey often involves gifts of the gods. If I was going to help them, I felt they needed to have the possibility to perform a miracle or two. Which I could do, thanks to you. These bracers have saved my life more times than I can count, and it's because you allowed it. Thank you for saving me, Hera."
"You saved me- three times, as I recall. Let's just say that I intended those for heroes- and you have fulfilled the role every single day I've known you," Hera replied, which only made Rita's eyes tear up a bit more.
Holding the hug a bit before releasing it, Rita reached into her top and pulled out her collapsible PaDD she stored in there, amongst other things. Snapping it open like a fan, she brought up real estate listings for San Francisco.
"What do you say we do a little house hunting, hmmm?"