News of the World
The Bulikaya Particle
Location: USS Hera, Deck 3, Commander Paris' office
As she had arrived at a decision and she was busily plotting her course, there were of course hazards and dangers to consider, In this case, the danger was in hurting her friends and shipmates with her decision. The hazard was how to break the news to them in a way that would not be devastating, and make their lives worse.
Rita Paris was a fan of the 'everyone wins scenario'.
As she considered just how to approach her next hurdle, the door opened and there stood Lieutenant Commander Mnhei'sahe Dox. Who was just who she had been considering in that moment.
"Miss Dox! Please come in. There's something I'd like to discuss with you, if I may..." Rita said it all with a smile, because she didn't want Dox to immediately assume she was being called on the carpet over something.
Stepping in, Dox looked a bit more anxious than was usual, even for the somewhat regularly anxious young Romulan woman. "Thank you, Commander. I... had something I wanted to talk to you about as well."
Both women had been through the experience of having been exposed to the mysterious Bulukiya particles that had been unleashed by the mystery man that had claimed to be the grandson of both of them from some distant future. Both women, along with others among their crew, had been thrown into the mysterious multiverse where they had encountered various different versions of their own lives. Potential paths not taken, that clearly had both of them thinking, and thinking hard.
Reading Rita's smile, Dox stepped over to the chair opposite Rita and, as always waited for the cue to sit as was both protocol and just polite.
"Please, Mnhei'sahe..." Paris gestured to the chairs opposite her desk. "Just us for this one. No ranks, this is a conversation between friends, alright?" Rita did her best to defuse the tension she sensed, but a lot of that would come from Dox getting whatever it was off her chest, in Rita's experience.
Taking the seat in the vintage-styled plastic chair, Dox couldn't help but smile a bit considering her own recent misadventures in time, as she sat in her friend's office that was such a wonderful anachronism, as much as was it's owner.
"So, shall I go first or would you like to?" Rita asked, offering Dox the chance to unburden herself, unless she wanted to wait. Somehow Rita wasn't that worried about the conversation, despite Dox's anxiety.
"Well... no... that's okay. You can go first." Dox said with a nod, clearly appreciating the extra moment to collect herself and push her nerves back into their proverbial box.
"All right. Recently I've... spent a little time here and there, and it really reminded me of just how much I miss Earth. Which is ironic, I know, given how hard I worked to get off Earth, yet..." Rita paused, folding her fingers on the table before her. "I haven't spoken to Enalia, but... I'm going home, Dox. Back to Earth. Settle down, get a big house in the city and start a family. Go to the Academy so I can stop asking 'What's that?' quite so often."
"I'm telling you because... well, you've become quite an officer. When I leave, they may just promote you to full commander, and you'll take my job. Which you're more than ready for, whatever protestations you may have to the idea," Rita deflected. "Since this will likely affect your life quite a bit, I thought we should discuss it, just the two of us. So...?"
Listening, Dox had not known exactly what to expect, but what she had just heard was not it. Not bothering to put on anything resembling a facade with Rita, her eyes showed her surprise unguarded. Along with that surprise, an unexpected chuckle escaped her chest as her anxiety lessened just a little.
Smiling, Dox nodded her head slightly. "Well... first off, I appreciate that you would even suggest that I could succeed you in any capacity. That... truly means a lot. And... I understand."
"It may have been a... bit of a mess... our shore leave on Earth in that first year. Between my mother and the DTI business you had to deal with. But... when I think back on that, what falls away in my memory were the problems. And what comes to the surface... what I remember the most, was seeing the planet through your eyes. I... don't know that I could ever feel the same things you do for it, honestly. But that's your home and that love you have for it is evident," Dox said, honestly. The smile on her face for Rita was genuine in the moment.
"Yeah... I do love it. I been there and back again, trekked across the stars, through time and space and dimension, to the edge of the galaxy and back again... and I kind of want to go home now, I think. Teach the next generation how it's done," Rita smiled genially, then cocked her head slightly. "You had news though. What's going on with you, Mnhei'sahe?"
Taking a breath, Dox ran a finger nervously over the tip of her ear as she sat up a bit straighter. "Well... I told you a little bit about the different leaps that I experienced. The different realities, and throughout so many of them, I found myself going back on a path that Ive... been trying to ignore here."
"I've... been thinking about this for a while now, and when my grandmother made her formal request for me to meet with the senate, it... forced me to begin re-evaluating things." Dox's anxiety began to lighten as she spoke. "During my debriefings and evaluations at Starfleet Command after the kidnapping, when I volunteered to use my position to communicate with the Senate regarding the reunification colonies, there was some degree of pressure for me to stay there and transfer for Ambassadorial training. I've talked with Mona... and I've decided that the paths of my life have been telling me that I need to try."
"I'm going to request a transfer back to Earth myself, actually."
"That's... actually a bit brilliant, Dox," Rita Paris replied, her mind already turning, plotting a course in her own unique style. "You could get a letter of recommendation from Enalia, which might carry even more weight if she listens to my advice. Then you could get a direct request placed for you by the Imperial Senate requesting you as their ambassador. I'll be happy to write a recommendation as well, for what it's worth, but with those two it ought to do the trick. OH!"
Snapping her fingers, a wide grin spread across her face. "Mrs. Dox, Hera love her, is going to be all sorts of bent out of shape over what this means for her, and watching you achieve and advance always lights a tiny little flame of resentment in her heart to see you outdoing her while she has no authority. So, what if you made her your 'aide de camp'- that would grant her your diplomatic immunity, while giving her the opportunity to watch your back and advise you, even on Romulus."
"There- I'll just tell you so that I can avoid the tense confrontation when she comes to talk to me about it. Just offer her the solution up front and hopefully that won't be another one of those conversations," Rita grinned. In truth, she was overly fond of the middle-aged spy who had made so much progress in the past few years, and as with anyone in her life she cared for, Rita wished her well. But she knew equally as well the woman hungered for authority- which was always exactly who one did NOT want to have it. If this plan came to pass, she would finally have authority, checked by working directly for her daughter. To Rita, it seemed a simple yet elegant solution.
Listening, Dox was legitimately speechless for a moment. Part of her half-expected Rita to object or tell her it was a terrible idea, but then she remembered who Rita Paris truly was, and not the false version she had imagined in her mind to justify her own anxiety. At her core, the woman who Dox had chosen as her bond-sister had a few very direct and very focused wants. She wanted Dox to be happy and fulfilled in her goals to be a better woman. And she wanted the galaxy to be a better place for everyone. Period.
In her just under a decade of serving in Starfleet, Mnhei'sahe Dox had never met a more ardent example of just what Starfleet and the Federation was supposed to represent than Rita Paris, and today was no exception. And it was IN that example, that Dox found her inspiration.
As the momentary surprise wore off, Dox began to consider Rita's very specific and extremely well thought out ideas. In truth, Dox was the most terrified to break this news to her Mother. "I had been struggling to find a way to tell my mother this. I... couldn't imagine how she would react and my concern for the fact that ON Romulus, she is still classified as a traitor and an escaped prisoner but... but it could work."
"My grandmother wants me working with her... and this... might be the perfect compromise. And it would be an end run around whatever the senate might have been scheming for our proposed 'visit'. This way, I can do something... no matter how incremental... for the things I saw there in those leaps."
"Here, on a starship, I can put out fires. I can do tremendous good for the galaxy. We have done tremendous good... but on some level... I have been struggling with this for a long time." Dox admitted to her friend and confidant. "I've always known that Romulus was fundamentally broken. I knew that since I was a child. But leaping there. Seeing so many sides of the problem... Seeing a world where my Father lived, and took my grandmother's seat, struggling to work within the system to fix things. Seeing a world where I took my grandmother up on her offer to become her heir. Seeing a world where you weren't there to rescue me and I became a terrorist, because of the injustices, I was forced to hide to survive."
"I saw all of that... and just couldn't pretend that I wasn't in a unique position to do something different. Something that I DIDN'T see: work to break down the barriers between the Imperium and the Federation." Dox said, rambling a bit, but speaking from her heart. "And... I don't know who I would become if I didn't try to at LEAST plant a seed, Rita. Does that make any sense?"
The smile on the face of Rita Paris was one of unguarded pride. To hear this fine officer who sat here expound on what she must do to better the galaxy, to assume her place in it and effect change was a far cry from the anxious and self-conscious officer whom had once walked aboard the USS Hera. This was a woman who was going to make a difference. This was a woman who heard the call, and would rise to the challenge.
This was not Lieutenant Junior Grade Melanie Dox. This was Mnhei'sahe Dox, and she was going home to help her people.
Tears began, as the emotional executive could not contain herself- not that she tried that hard. "Mnhei'sahe, I have never been prouder of you than in this moment. I will miss you desperately, so you have to come visit when you are on Earth. But representing your people, working to make a difference, trying to bridge the gap between our cultures... you have my full support."
With her own eyes beginning to tear up, Dox pursed her lips and nodded a bit frantically. "You... I cannot say what that means to me, Rita. I really can't. I couldn't have even conceived of this without you."
Then, the anxious energy that had been building in her stomach popped with a laugh and a smile. "Heh... If this works... I suppose you won't be missing me right away. I'm... fairly sure that the training I will need won't be all THAT quick. You'll have time to show me around that city you grew up in."
"I would love that, honestly," Rita admitted softly. "I know you have never cared for Earth, but if you are going to represent us to the Romulan Star Empire it might not hurt to be at least a little fond of the place..."
"It certainly couldn't hurt." Dox said, only half-joking. "But I couldn't ask for a better guide... a better teacher. For everything, really."
"I know this wasn't what I set out to do when I joined Starfleet." Dox said, taking a bit more of a serious tone. "In truth, I wanted to be free. Free from my past, and the life my Mother had laid out for me. But really... nobody at the Academy prepared me for what Starfleet and the Federation could really be. Not like you have. And I feel like this way... I can do much more to live up to that ideal. Or, at least try."
That earned the Romulan redhead a peal of gay laughter. "Oh my goodness... that's actually my plan, honestly. Attend the Academy, see it from the inside, then take it over. I saw so many officers like you who came to the fleet so thoroughly unprepared, and so many were just... lost, abandoned. Starfleet Academy is supposed to take the best and brightest, and make them into excellent officers, not anxious shufflers who have no idea how to lead. No offense to current company, but you were the first and not the last that told me something was wrong. Suffice to say, I am not at all pleased with what's coming out of Starfleet Academy these days, and I plan to do something about it. I think maybe they forgot how we used to do things back in my day, and it's high time the Academy was returned to the level of excellence it once stood for."
The fact that the speech sounded a lot like one component of a commencement address was not lost on Dox.
"If that assessment of me then wasn't so fvadt accurate, I might object." Dox chuckled a bit, with a bit of a grin. She was well aware of how damaged she was when Rita decided to take her under her proverbial wing, and the statements were both true and spoken with zero condescension or malice. "Still... you know better than most how miserable my academy experience was. So... knowing you'll be there in any capacity can only make it better."
"Rita... this is... I think this is perfect for you. I can't imagine anything better for Starfleet." Dox said with an honest smile. "And... on a somewhat selfish note... Mona is committed to supporting my decision with the girls, which means a lot. But I have to admit that knowing that you'll be around when I go back there as well... helps. Helps the decision feel just a little less heavy."
"Our home will always be open to you and your family, and when you come back to Earth, we'll make time for one another. Just because our lives go in separate directions, it doesn't mean we have to lose touch. Not like you are in another time period or another dimension, you know. It's only space," Rita smiled, genuinely happy that once again, she plotted the course as she moved, and as she did so, the course only became clearer.
"Look, I have to talk to Enalia... I've got a pretty strong suggestion for her too, and..." Pausing in her statement, the lost navigator course corrected. "You know what? It's high time I stopped treating you like the junior officer. You have just as much stake in this, and I'm bound to do better with your help than without it. If we're both leaving..."
Taking a deep breath, Rita laid it out for Dox. "I'm recommending to Enalia to return to her people. Take up the crown and lead the Artan fleet into a genuine merchant empire amongst the stars. She's miserable here, and I swear she's stuck it out since the Tribunal only because she's afraid of losing me if she doesn't stay in Starfleet. But I want her happy, and despite what she says, she's never happier than when she has a big, excellent hat."
"Hmmm..." Dox said as she thought about the situation Rita had laid before her. "That makes sense. She officially handed the reins off months ago just after the tribunal, but keeps holding on to parts of that position. Like Avia One... finding reasons to keep Sarika on board."
"I think you're right. Her heart is still with the Artans. She joined Starfleet to be free of the role her mother wanted for her. Free of what her mother had made them into, which isn't entirely unrelatable." Dox added, before another thought occurred to her and her face dropped a bit. "But, if she agrees... Me, Mona, You, Sonak, and the Captain? What does that mean for the ship?"
Smiling beatifically, Rita Paris gestured to the abundance of knicknaks and artifacts that filled her office. "The starship goes on, Miss Dox. She gets a new captain and a new crew, and she boldly goes. The crew will stay or go as they and Starfleet decide. What happens to the ship isn't our concern, because she was never ours. She was on loan to us, to use, from Starfleet. Now they'll send her out with other adventurers and explorers, to seek out... well. You know the rest."
The smile on Dox's face was a melancholy one, but she knew that Rita was right, as usual. "I know. At least... I know it in my head. I got so used to thinking of this ship as home."
"But it was never just the ship. It was you and everyone here. That family I never expected to start building." Dox looked around and smiled a little more comfortably again. "Now... she can be someone else's home. Carry them to where they need to be, to learn who they are."
"And I suppose I know for a fact now that home is where we choose to make it. With the people we choose to make it with." Dox smirked a bit, looking at one of the models of an older, Constitution-Class Starship on the shelf to the side of Rita's desk. One from Rita's native universe that, nonetheless, reminded Dox of the ship she had found a version of herself living happily a century in the past in the story of one of her leaps that she had told Rita about.
"C'mon," Rita said, rising from her chair, her hands instinctively smoothing out her short skirt, through years of habit. "Let's go talk the Queen of the Artans into reclaiming her throne. Let's go change the universe for the better, shall we?"
Standing up with a smile, Dox tugged down on her crimson tunic. Of all the ways this particular meeting could have gone, she would never have predicted this. "Indeed. But, uh, when I go to pitch all of this to my mother..."
"...can we go do that together, too?"