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Until We Meet Again

Posted on Sun Aug 30th, 2020 @ 11:43am by Queen of the Artans Enalia Telvan & Lieutenant Mona Gonadie & Petty Officer 2nd Class Ila Dedjoy & Ahreva Malana & Death & Az'Prel & Aiva One & Maica III 47 & Kodria Mizu & Hera & Baroness 2nd Class Schwein von Alcott & Baroness 3rd Class Sarika & Commander Rita Paris & Lieutenant Commander Mnhei'sahe Dox & Lieutenant Commander Thex sh'Zoarhi & Lieutenant Commander Sonak & Lieutenant Samuel Clemens XV & Lieutenant JG Tovanna Mah & Ensign Tanaak Sado & Ensign Weiaex & Ensign Briaar Gavarus & Ensign Fiona O'Dell & Petty Officer 2nd Class 'Big Ethel' Jablonski & Petty Officer 3rd Class S'Rina Wil'I'Ams & Petty Officer 3rd Class V'Nus Wil'I'Ams & Jaeih Dox-t'Aan
Edited on on Sun Aug 30th, 2020 @ 11:44am

Mission: The Bulikaya Particle
Location: USS Hera, Deck 10, Ten-Forward
Timeline: 2397

The decisions had been made, the plans discussed, and electronic messages had been exchanged. The secret was out, and the cat was out of the bag- the senior staff were leaving the Hera, to pursue different destinies. Rita Paris and Sonak were headed to Starfleet Academy- him to teach, her to learn what she'd missed in 130 years. Dox was headed there too, to learn diplomacy. Mona Gonadie would be teaching at a private robotics institution on Earth. Enalia Telvan was resigning her Starfleet commission to retake the throne of the Artan empire.

It was a parting of the ways. So in true Human fashion, Rita Paris had sent out the invitations and invited quite a few of the officers and crew and interested parties to Ten-Forward, to share a drink and a laugh or two, to say their goodbyes for now, to this place, this time, and this life they had led together.

Despite having been the catalyst of this series of events, Rita Paris was still dewey-eyed as she entered 10-Forward to insure that the party arrangements were to her specifications. The staff of the ship's lounge were on the job and bustling about, and she had even seen to it that anyone banned from the lounge would have their restriction lifted for the night. After all, this was a hail and farewell, and she didn't particularly care about the feelings of the civilian staff. These were her friends, her comrades in arms, and people for whom she had been responsible for the past two years. No one would be left out.

As the guests began to arrive, people clustered in small groups, tending to stick to their own. The Security officers were here, all at one high-top table sharing a drink. Long and lean V'Nus, beside stocky and muscular S'Rina, the Klingon sisters of Security were chatting with the massive Ethel Jablonski, who was there with her pal Liu.

The taller, leaner sister, V'Nus took a fairly large swig of her flagon of bloodwine as she looked over to the mountain of muscle that was Jablonski. "So, while we all serve Starfleet, and go where we are assigned, you serve two masters, of a sort, Ethel. And one of those is packing to leave the ship. Have you plans in place, yet?"

The calmer of the two Klingon women raised a brow as she spoke, referring of course to Ethel Jablonski's worship and service to the Goddess, Hera.

"Not really sure, y'know?" Jablonski replied a bit self-consciously. "She's going to live with the Commander and her family, so not like I can go stay in the spare room. Plus Hera hasn't invited me, so... I guess I'll stay on the ship and stay in Security. I need to protect her, but.... she didn't ask for protection this time, so I guess... stay with the ship, offer my morning prayers and keep on, eh?" It was clear to anyone who knew her that the normally upbeat Jablonski was unhappy about this turn of events, but given the situation, she had only been out of training for a year or so at this point, and her Starfleet career was just begun. Throwing it all away to serve and protect a Goddess dwelling on Earth who had no enemies left alive seemed silly, despite the fact that the heart wanted what it wanted.

Silently, Liu patted the mountain of muscle on her beefy forearm. The two were friends and worked together often, and Liu knew the deal.

Most unusual was the presence of Sonak at this gathering, highlighting the importance of this occasion. As a Vulcan, he was not one to partake into such social gatherings; even less as a Kolinarh master, as he could neither feel nor give any of the mandatory emotional contribution to such events. The fact that alcohol was poisonous to his physiology did not help matters either. So no one was surprised that he invariably preferred to spend time in quiet meditation or intense research between assignments.

Thus, his presence at the party now was a testament to his profound respect for this crew that his wife Rita Paris and himself would soon part from. And so, he stood at one end of the bar, a prune juice at his elbow, nodding politely to everyone who entered. He looked quite solemn in his dark, gold-sigil etched robes. For to him, this was a solemn occasion, light laughter and gay banter not withstanding.

He was long acquainted with the emotional needs of other species, even the repressed ones of his own kind. He hoped his unique attendance would satisfy them as much as serving with them all had deeply honored him.

At the other end of the bar, Lieutenant Commander Mnhei'sahe Dox was finishing up something of a pep talk with the woman who had been her assistant chief for the last few months, Ensign Jessica MacNielle. The brown-haired human pilot would be taking temporary control of the flight department after the ship arrived at Earth, as Dox was resigning her active commission to undergo an intense crash course in intergalactic politics, and diplomatic procedure.

After her recent experiences meeting multiple versions of herself across different timelines, Dox had come to the decision that she had struggled with for months; to follow the path set in front of her, due to her dual nature as both a Starfleet officer and the granddaughter of a powerful Romulan senator. As such, MacNielle was more than a little nervous with taking on those responsibilities for however long Starfleet and whoever would be taking command of the Hera would allow.

Nursing a glass of Romulan Ale, Dox had a smile on her face that was a bit warmer than she was generally known for as she finished her conversation. "You've always been one of the best officers on the Flight Deck, Jessica. You've proven yourself good at managing the responsibilities and I'll be putting all of that in my report for Command."

"Thank you, Lieutenant Commander. I really appreciate all the help you've given me. It really means a lot," MacNielle said, blushing just a bit and smiling awkwardly, trying unsuccessfully not to let her anxiety show through.

"Taking care of each other is the job. And please, just 'Mnhei'sahe'. I'm not going to be 'Lieutenant Commander' much longer. Just know that you have this."

Looking over to where Sonak was standing, Dox nodded respectfully to the Junior Officer that had risen to the occasion a few times and reminded herself to recommend her for the Lieutenant's exam in that recommendation. "And Thank you. If you'll excuse me."

Smiling, the two women parted company as MacNielle mixed in with the rest of the somewhat busy lounge and Dox made her way over to Sonak. Walking across the space, she noticed one of her other pilots, the orange shelled Edosian, Ensign Wieaex, sitting at a table with the stone-based woman, Ahreva Malana. The observant Romulan had noticed the two becoming close friends over the last year and, judging from how close they were sitting and the smiles present, even on the usually stoic Malana's face, Dox suspected that their friendship might have become more, with the silicone biologist appearing more than a little pregnant.

Shifting her attention back to Sonak, Dox walked up to the Kohlinar master to speak. "Good evening, Lieutenant Commander. I know that we will both be in San Francisco shortly, so I'll likely still be seeing you somewhat regularly, but I wanted to take the moment to thank you again for everything you've done for me."

Talking, Dox knew expressing such sentiments were wholly unnecessary for the stoic and logical Vulcan to hear, but they were important for her to express.

''We come to serve,'' Sonak answered simply. ''The value of a relationship is in the measure of what is contributed to the other's growth and well-being. In that regard, I must state that you have done just as much for me. Your presence is most appreciated, and I look forward to resuming our relationship outside of starship duty. Said relationship will, I suspect, help each other grow even more.''

"Well... normally, my predilection towards being self-effacing would have me saying something about how I've learned far more from you, then you from me." Dox said with a slight smile for the man who had helped train her mental defenses and so much more. "But if you said it, then it is clearly accurate. That said, without your guidance and assistance, my initial efforts at diplomacy would have gone... very differently. And likely poorly."

''It is difficult to make such an estimation with any degree of accuracy,'' the Master of Gol objected. ''Variables are simply too numerous and fluctuating. Regardless, even the best seed will rot without good, fertile soil in which to flourish. As in all things, as it is for all of us, you needed only a minor amount of support; your achievements are all your own, and promise even more to come.''

He raised his glass to her, in the human fashion he had learned so long ago from a friend, who now lived on in his soul.

''Like all good students, you have surpassed the master. No greater honor or satisfaction could you have ever offered. May it be but one step in your journey, for you, and hopefully for your own people. My own journey has already been enlightened and enlivened with your presence.''

With the logical Vulcan, there was no need to say much more, so Dox simply smiled, bowed her head a bit to him and raised her glass in reply.

Thex stood apart from the others, nursing her own drink. Her own trip through alternate realities via the Bulikaya particles had been something. Now with the crew breaking apart, the ship's engineering head was having to think it all through. She'd be captaining the Hera, at least until Starfleet got a new head and second officer to take charge and from then... she had no idea what she'd be doing.

Sidling up to Thex, Rita offered a supportive smile. "So how goes the reintegration of all of your sisters into Andorian society? Are you championing their cause and helping them acclimate to their new lives? Are they even out of the tanks yet? What with all that's been going on, I'll admit I haven't read the after-incident reports. With the crew breaking up, will you be heading to Andoria to help with all that, as the most successful and adapted of your sisters?"

"I'm heading to Andoria after I drop the god artifacts off at Starbase 13, but I have no idea how I'm going to do it, Rita. The Andorian government at least agreed to move them out into the proper storage, but as for the debate on what to do with them..." Thex said as she fished around for the two padds in her pockets containing her opening statement on her clone sisters. Both padds were completely full. "My people had a thirty-year argument in the council on which shade of grey to paint our starships. How am I going to be able to persuade them to integrate them?" She said the titanic task of tackling a behemoth of bureaucracy and paperwork that was the Andorian government showing clear in her blue eyes. Fighting a god would be easier, but Thex's determination was still shining through. She was going to do everything in her power to help them.

"Use your leverage," Rita replied, having had plenty of time to have given it some thought were she asked. "They are victims, they did not choose this lot in life. And they are all fertile, clearly, so there's that. Honestly, some study probably wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, given the purposes that they were put to, but if you persevere... well, they aren't exactly getting any older right now, so there's that. Stay the course, make careful choices and persevere, Thex. After all, it isn't just them you are fighting for. If the Andorian government declares them to not be citizens, that reflects on you AND your children. So if you think you can't do it, just remember- you're fighting for your girls too, Thex."

"Yeah... can't let my girls down can I?" Thex replied with a smile. Given her kids were part Anear they might have some protection from the Anear council, so there was that. "I've asked Starfleet command to run a DNA search of any of me that have previously served in Starfleet. Always good to have some shining examples to call upon for the argument."

"Now you're thinking! Well, good luck with it all Thex- I'm sure you'll do your best," Rita offered before moving into the crowd to continue socializing.

Making her way through a crowded party was always more than a little uncomfortable for the introverted Romulan, as Dox looked around at the friends she would be leaving the next day. Taking a sip of her drink, she looked over her shoulder, having the strangest sensation of being watched. Then, her sensitive ears picked up something that one generally didn’t hear in a crowded room on a Starship: the excited sounding whinny of a horse.

Raising a brow, it took a moment before Mnhei’sahe had noticed that it seemed as if ONLY she had heard the sound, and she smiled lightly as she realized what it meant. Putting her now empty glass on the edge of the bar, the crimson-clad officer quietly slipped out of the din of Ten-Forward to the corridor.

With a light smile, her suspicions were confirmed. Standing a bit from the door, was a pale, spectral horse with legs that faded to mist, rather than hooves. And standing next to him, a thin, pale Japanese woman dressed all in black.

The horse was named Taxes, and his mistress was the embodiment of Death. The woman who, in life, 1,500 years ago on Earth was named Masato Rei. “Rei, Taxes. I’m glad you could make it.”

“I wouldn’t miss this for all the plagues in the universe,” the shorter woman replied with a haunting smile as she brushed the mane of her equine companion. “You’re moving on to better things and it’s time we moved on as well.”

Nodding a bit, Dox smiled. "Well… 'better' remains to be seen. I could easily be making the biggest mistake of my life, but I'm hopeful. And with so many of us leaving, it's not as if Starfleet will keep the room open, unfortunately."

The pale woman nodded solemnly for a moment before continuing. She already knew what path her friend was on and had just given a hint of a spoiler, but thankfully Dox had missed it. “They won’t have to. I think my little vacation here is over. Though if you don’t mind a visit once in a while... When no one is watching that is.”

Patting Taxes on his snout, the ethereal equine neighed a bit, leaning into the redheaded Romulan. “Rei… you have been a good friend. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Besides, I know for a fact that with Taxes here, you can be pretty much anywhere you need to be in all of creation... basically instantly. So please do.”

"What about you. Do you have someplace?" Dox asked, an eyebrow raised as Taxes nudged her with his snout. "Where will you be going?"

“There’s a nice abandoned shopping arcade that’s largely automated that I’ve gotten to work for me on a planet in the middle of a civilization suffering from a techno-virus right now.” Rei chuckled softly as she casually mentioned a people that was likely galaxies away. ”I figure I’ll go hang out there and witness the collapse of their civilization. The closest thing to pizza is in a tube, but what can you do?”

“I’ll be fine. I’ve done this before and I’ll do it again. But I get the feeling there’s something else you wanted to ask about,” prodded the pale woman, reaching up to rest a gloved hand delicately on her friend’s shoulder. “Something about how all this affects our choices about you accepting either mine or the Rabbit’s position? Or maybe another version of you?”

“I’ve… seen a lot of versions of myself lately.” Dox said, shrugging a bit and pursing her lips as she replied. “Lots of different choices, and the more of them I saw, the less random it felt overall. That said, I don’t know that I want to know if it was or wasn’t.”

“I don’t know if my decision to leave the ship has changed the… cosmic opinion of my fitness to potentially succeed you.” Dox added, nodding. “But as long as it doesn’t affect our friendship, that’s all I’m concerned with, really.”

“You have always been and forever will be my friend. Trust in that and know that whatever other forces are working against you, you’ll always have me on your side.” With as warm a smile as she could muster on her pale face, Rei pulled out a small, palm-sized journal that looked like one of the books of the dead that they had worked from before from one of her many pockets and handed it to her friend. “Don’t worry, there’s nothing otherworldly about this one. It’s just a memento of sorts. Or a lucky charm if you believe in that sort of thing.”

“As for those leaps...” Here Rei actually glanced away sheepishly, wondering just how much she should tell her friend. “They were through the White Rabbit’s domain so... a few of them may have been... Like your captain’s... I really shouldn’t say, she’ll chew me out.”

Looking at the small journal, Dox smiled lightly and raised an eyebrow at the gift. Flipping through it and noticing that the pages were blank. There were a number of ways it could be interpreted, considering the source, but in the moment, Dox chose her own meaning. “NO fate but what we make for ourselves. As for what you shouldn’t say, unless it needs to be said, don’t. You’ve gotten in enough trouble helping me in the time we’ve known each other. Breaking rules for me. So… this time… It’s enough that I believe there was a reason I saw what I saw.”

“That’s good enough. Thank you, Rei. For everything.” Dox smiled, leaning over so her cheek was far enough away from Rei’s and giving the dark woman… whose skin could take a mortal life with a single touch… a warm hug.

Wide-eyed at the riskiness of what her friend was doing, the pale rider returned the hug, taking the opportunity to whisper one last warning. “Beware any whom are able to redirect the powers of one of us - especially one of the Rabbits.”

As they parted, Rei composed herself and patted down her black floor-length coat, sending fine dust out in small poofs. “Earth doesn’t have need of me often, but whenever I have reason to stop in, I will. Romulus... I think I’ll have more reason to visit.”

“Unfortunately,” Dox replied with an awkward grin. “But in San Fransicso has Pizza and Sushi. So… I look forward to your visits. That said, I should probably get back in there. Thank you again, Rei.”

“As always, it’s a pleasure. And thank you as well,” Rei replied, a soft smile on her face as she and Taxes faded back into the aether. Standing there a moment, Dox looked at the memento a moment before slipping it into her pocket and slipping back to Ten-Forward.

As she strolled the party, looking around, making memories, Rita spied Kodria looking awkward off by herself. Launching in her direction, Rita nodded to catch the young person's attention, then offered a peekaboo smile. "Kodria? I'll bet you thought I forgot about you in all of the hubbub of the crew going their separate ways."

The young woman from another era chuckled nervously as she looked up at her aunt. "With everyone going their separate ways and surviving the timeframe that I was originally left here to help with... It feels like a lot is changing, you know? I mean, a lot has changed already, but..."

"You hid until I found you. Then the idea was that as long as you remained hidden, you were tolerated. Which wasn't ideal, so little by little we've brought you out, and presented you with responsibility. Which you've handled marvelously. The captain and I talked it over, and you're getting a field promotion. A naval tradition from the sailing ships of old, that has carried through to modern Starfleet."

Drawing herself upright, Paris looked as though she considered calling the assemblage to attention to recognize the moment in military tradition. But it was a party, and the only one who needed to recognize the moment as special was Kodria herself.

"Lieutenant Kodria, you are hereby assigned to the USS Hera as her Operations chief for the foreseeable future. You and Maru seem to get along well, and if you and this starship are all tied up with our destinies... it's been decided that we feel safest with her in your hands. If you don't mind...?"

Tears and surprise were in Kodrias eyes as she came to attention and offered a salute to Rita. "I won't let you down, Ma'am."

Coming to attention, Paris smartly and respectfully returned the salute, then smiled and hugged the young person. "I never had any doubt, Kodria. You're going to do great.

It was at that time that the double doors opened and in strode Captain Enalia Telvan in her finest white starfleet diplomatic uniform. On her right arm was Baroness Schwein von Alcott dressed in the blue and gold Asgardian livery of her new station as Thor's betrothed. Behind them was Baroness Sarika in her black and gold Artan livery complete with oversized hat that she was so fond of. On Sarika's arm was Enalia's wife, Maica, dressed in a glimmering red sequined dress. Finally, behind them was Aiva One in her maid outfit, carrying little Moira and smiling a genuinely bright smile even as the little tyke bopped her on the head with a green plastic sword.

Nursing a fresh glass of ale, Dox smiled to see that Baroness Sarika looked happier than she had seen her friend in months, which in turn made Dox happy.

"I had to move the heavens, but I made sure one of our most important companions were here!" called out Enalia as she and her entourage made their grand entrance.

"Baroness!" Rita Paris cried as she ran through the crowd to launch herself at the petite pirate, landing in outstretched arms as an overstuffed armful for the surprisingly strong swashbuckler. "You made it for the going away party!"

Planting a quick kiss on the buxom first officer, the silver-haired woman grinned like the cat that ate the canary. "Ja, I would not miss this for anything! Now let us drink and be merry!"

With a bit of a grin, Sarika transfered Maica's hand over to Enalia's arm and headed over toward Dox, motioning towards the barkeep for her usual. "So I hear there have been a few career changes around here. You wouldn't happen to know anything about that, would you?"

Taking a swig of her drink, Dox mock shrugged with a wry grin that looked a bit more natural on her mother's face than her own, but it was truthful. "I might. I might have had a little to do with it. A number of us had something of a unique form of... out-of-time experiences. We got to see the paths our lives could have gone but for a few, key moments along the way. For me, that clarified that my path was heading back to Romulus to try and help there. To hopefully make things better."

"For Enalia," Dox continued, referring to her Captain now in a much more informal manner speaking to the two women's friendship and mutual respect, "It clearly had a similar effect. One that, I was quite sure, would make you quite happy. Am I correct?"

"Well, you know... She's the symbol of everything myself and many others have been fighting for almost all our lives. Without her finally at the head of the Artans..." Sarika paused as her drink was set before her. Rather than downing it in one swallow as usual though, she decided to nurse it and try to savor it for once. "Nothing against Elysius, but with Enalia back as Queen there's just more hope and... Something... You know?"

"The missing piece," Dox said, almost matter-of-factly, indicating that it was a thought that had been on her mind a lot of late. "A sense of a thing being... more complete. More as they needed to be in a way that wasn't quite there before?"

The cybernetic pirate snapped her fingers, which was quite the feat considering her black metallic arms. "That's it exactly. By the way, did you notice anything else different about me?" she asked, lifting her hat slightly and fluttering her eyelashes, which were a much more natural brown color rather than the exposed dull cybernetic red.

Noticing, thanks to the somewhat exaggerated display, Dox smiled and chuckled slightly. "Your eyes. Are those new cybernetics, or did you get cloned transplants?"

"My own cloned eyes," replied the shorter Baroness, taking another sip of her drink. "Doc says she can replace almost all of my cybernetics, though I'm thinking of keeping the arms. Good place to hide my scanners and weapons, you know? Besides, I'd feel unarmed, if you'll excuse the pun."

Sonak, standing not so far off as to not hear or be heard, nodded.

''It is a fact that genetic and regenerative medecine has been perfected for well over two centuries within the Federation. They expanded the lifespan for many species, eliminated many physical and mental debilitating diseases and allowed for confortable aging. And they also allowed to recover from almost any injury and enjoy a far less traumatic life afterwards than one with parts of themselves forever lost or crudely replaced with mechanical prosthetics, however useful or perfected they may be. Just like the Eugenic Wars taught Earth the darker side of bioresearch, the Borg has shown us the undesirable upper limit of cybernetics.''

"On the other hand, it's your body. In the 25th century, we are customizable to a very considerable degree. I suggest you spend some time talking with someone you trust about it, and finding a balance between humanoid and cybernetic that's right for you," Rita chimed in, appearing off Sonak's elbow, extending her index and middle fingers toward him, which he reciprocated in kind. "Make your body look and feel how you want it to be, Sarika. I'm sure your Queen wants you to be happy more than anything else, and she's got deep pockets for good surgeons."

"Yeah, but it's been something that we haven't had regular access to so I kind of feel guilty accepting it. Especially since biomimetic gel is so highly controlled and all and I think almost a liter of it's been used just on me." Sarika looked between her friends and smiled sheepishly. "I just hope that one day we'll be able to bring this level of medical treatment to the rest of the Artan Empire ourselves rather than relying on the Federation."

"That's all part of the infrastructure I plan on building up," interjected Enalia as she came up alongside the others. "Upgrading our shipyards, building an Academy, Command courses, dedicated science and medical corps, several humanitarian projects, an actual homeworld rather than relying on the Kabul system and the fortress, eventually a Senate..."

''Individual choices are what enriches a society, which in turn provides the fertile soil for every individual to flourish with life, freedom and prosperity, '' the Vulcan added, touching the extended fingers of his wife with his own. ''Denying choices is denying responsibilities. This would be illogical. Make your choices, live with the consequences and let others benefit from it all is a noble goal for one's existence. You are already proving to be such a model to follow... with all present company included.''

It was at this moment that a rather sinister-sounding bass guitar riff began, slowly accompanied by the building blare of trumpets. At the main entrance to 10-Forward, the unlikely duo of Gavarus and O'Dell appeared- the tall Tellarite and the midget Mariposan both clad in ancient-Earth style black slacks and blazers, with narrow black ties around their necks, distinctive black sunglasses and stylish Trilby hats on their heads.

Beside them, holding Briaar Gavaris' rough and calloused three-fingered hand, was Minnie O'Dell, clad in a miniature version of the same outfit. In the other hand the space swine had a briefcase handuffed to her wrist. Making their entrance, the two waved and made gun fingers at the crowd, particularly the staff of 10-Forward, who had not long ago banned the two reprobates for their unruly behavior. As Gavarus opened the briefcase, she removed a microphone/earpiece that O'Dell slipped onto her ear, then she climbed on a stool to scamper up onto the bar. When she spoke, her voice was amplified through the local speakers, making the tiny test pilot easily heard throughout the lounge.

"Well hello alla you Starfleet people! Welcome to the goin' aweey parrrty, where ye'll be convincin yuirselves of how much ye like one another, and tryin ta make a fond memory or two before ye get on wi' wherever yuir goin next. I'm Fiona O'Dell, this here's me partner Briaar Gavarus and our wee Minnie, if ye dinna know. And we're here to cloose oot the show, and give ye all a proper send-up, aye?"

"A proper send-up?" Dox muttered, partly to herself, as she carried a cup of Miradonian tea and two fresh glasses of Romulan Ale back to the table where her wife and mother were sitting. Hearing the question and noticing the quizzical look on her daughter's face, Jaeih Dox smirked ever so slightly to herself.

The R&D duo had all but insisted that Jaeih find a babysitter for Dox and Mona Gonadie's three girls that night so the retired Intel operative could be there, and as the primary form of communication between the patrician elder Dox and Fiona O'Dell was generally a back-and-forth of cutting barbs delivered, Jaeih Dox now knew exactly what was about to happen. Even if her daughter was clueless.

"So we got the scuttlebutt that the crew was breakin oop, so we decided to crash the party. Now before ye go callin Security on us, Captain Telvan gave us special dispensation to be here, so alla you 10-Forward civilian services folks that dinna like us? Ye kin eat shite and die. The girls are back and we'll have our say, and the lotta ye snooty fooks can all choke on the devil's pecker when ye get to hell, alreet?" While her words were harsh, O'Dell was grinning widely, obviously a little intoxicated already, and just getting warmed up.

"So let's see who's here and oop to what, aye? Hey, there's Commander Lookitmearse, alternately known as Commander Thunderjugs, Is She Fookin Lost Again, the Transporter Menace, Puss in Boots, the Golden Glamazon- Commander Paris. Now I know, why the nicknames? Partially because of that stupid uniform a'yours. I know it's from when you came from, ye throwback to the days of rampant sexism in Starfleet, but seriously. Me eye level is doown there and that skirt has NIVVIR covered yuir arse! That, and one time when I literally stood close enough to ye and ye couldnae see me over that dairy farm yuir luggin around there. That's not even countin when ye put on short shorts and a teensy top and go joggin in the halls. Commander Whiplash, the Den Mother, the Security Slu... uh, Siren," O'Dell amended quickly. Shaming and roasting were a fine line to ride, and the Mariposan menace was trying hard to ride that line.

"No human man could keep up with ye, is that it? Ye had to go find ye a fella who can keep going for weeks at a time joost to keep ye off the streets, izzat it? Plus ye get a man wi' no emotions, cuz then he dinna notice everybody checkin oot his wife while she's flashin her arse all over the ship." O'Dell paused at this, to see if there would be any rebuttel.

"Say what you will, she isn't wrong," the curvaceous commander raised her glass in a toast, taking it in stride. Paris knew what was said about her amongst the lower decks, and allowed it. Besides, nothing that had been said was untrue to her way of thinking.

"Then over here we have Lieutenant Commander Murderpunch. Noow, when we faaaarst got to know our resident redheaded Romulan, she was scary as fook. Then we got to know her, and found out she's even scarier. Ye watch her beat on those Klingon security gals and ye have to stop and wonder- is she gettin hot an' bothered takin that punch? Because she looks INTO it. Like, SCARY into it. Then she comes trotting down on the flight deck and she reaches for ye and wonders why people flinch, aye?" Looking out over the crowd, O'Dell waved. "Aye, I see ya blooshin there, LC."

At the tall table that the security team was sitting at, V'Nus's smile curled into a shark-toothed grin at her more aggressive sister's expense. With eyes just a bit wide, the shorter, more thickly muscled Klingon growled to V'Nus, "You KNEW, didn't you Sister!? Ughhh! Lesbians everywhere on this accursed starship!"

"Then there's her birdy bride. Nae one, nae two, but THREE chicks at once," O'Dell held up fingers as she counted them off. "Way to make sure they stay close to home, Mona. Make sure that gal's comin home for a chicken dinner everynight, aye? Now Mona, she's been our boss in R&D, and I'll nae say innything bad aboot her save she canna hold her liquor and she's a bloody genius. Gavarus, you got innyting to add s'far?"

"Not for the chief. The chief is the frickin' SHIT!" Gavarus smiled with a bit of a grin, still holding Minnie by the hand. "But even if I wanted to, I'd probably piss myself first between worrying about what the Romulan Death Squad over there would do to me."

Hoisting up little Minnie to hold her up like a furry, horned minotaur version of a human shield, Gavarus mugged from behind the giggling child who waved excitedly at her favorite babysitter. "You can't kill me, Jay! The kidlette likes you too much."

Sitting at the table, Jaeih simply grinned and raised her glass and allowed a slightly evil looking grin to creep on her olive face. "You keep thinking that, my dear."

"Oh aye, and let's naaaaay forget aboot Granny Murderpunch over there. The only non-lesbian Romulan gal we've met s'far. Or at least we assume so. There's still bets that the LC was an accident after Granny Murderpunch there froze some poor bastard's junk and snapped it off, then a year later along comes her bouncin bundle of Baby Murderpunch. Who'll grow oop to be joost as twisted as her mum- which is to say, bein trained by the Tal'Shiar dinna make ye particularly warm and fuzzy, aye?" Grinning over at the table in question, O'Dell waved. "Aye, ye canna kill me til everybody's nae lookin, nyah nyahhh..."

A mostly silent chuckle came from Jaeih's chest as she took a sip of her ale, raising her glass to Fiona to allow the two women she had become quite fond of their well-earned moment.

For his part, Sonak listened with a slightly raised eyebrow. Intellectually, he could understand how this whole absurd play was only meant as emotional relief among emotional beings affected by the string of events involving them all. They were all to part ways and it was affecting them deeply. Even he perceived how his life would be different from now on, deprived of the richness they had so far provided to him and between them.

And so, like a rock in a raging river, he watched the flow of unbridled passion and feelings rush among all of them, totally unconcerned; except for his wife.

But Rita was riding all the waves like a master surfer... just as he had expected. And so he contended himself to observe and learn a bit more about all those emotional beings he had shared so much with... and soon would be apart from him, some maybe never to return and others to return deeply changed.

it was all... very interesting.

"So I could make fun of our Doctor over there... I dunno aboot ye, but when a doctor hands me a lollipop I'm assumin she thinks I'm five, aye? Which doesnae inspire confidence when yuir askin aboot birth control. And what do ye call it when ye make a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy and it gets fuzzy and sooch? Hey Thex!" O'Dell paused to let that one lands, then continued. "You gotta love an Andorian girl who devotes her life to dancin like an Orion slave girl. Cultural appropriation, whoever heard a'sooch a thing, aye?"

As O'Dell reached down, Gavarus handed up a flask, from which O'Dell took a swig, made a face then shook her head and continued. "Now the Intel department, that's been a lot of fun. Granny Murderpunch killed the Walrus last year, had him stoofed and mounted, and she's been usin him like a ventriloquist dummy for over a year now. Funny thing is, folks say he's more personable now! Also easier to understand..."

"Oi, lookit there, the pirates have arrived I see. Come to carry off yuir pirate booty back to Herself's throne where her empire awaits? Aye, well, Queen of the Artans, formerly our commanding officer. To you we offer a tip o' the hat, for lettin us do this," at that,, O'Dell, Gavarus and Minnie Moo all tipped the brim of their hats respectfully- obviously a rehearsed move. "Ye let me be a bluiddy test pilot, ye let me shoot at people and ye let me shoot me way onto the bridge of a starship to capture yuir own bloomin' mother. So to you, busty buckler of swashes in space..."

Tugging down her sunglasses, O'Dell winked broadly. "Ye've our number. Ye know who to call when ye need somethin epic done, mum."

Turning back to the rest of the crowd, O'Dell waved her arms wide. "Tis a wake for yuir friends, for this time, this place and this crew. This night will end, and we'll go our separate ways. But when our children tell our stories... they'll tell the story of tonight. Raise a glass, ye Starfleet swabbies!" Reaching down and snatching a beer from the surprised server passing by, O'Dell raised her glass high in toast. Seeing the mood of the room, O'Dell backpedaled, speaking quickly.

"I could say alla this because we resigned our commissions. We're civilians noow, so ye kin all kiss this one's big brown arse. Alla ye are goin' your ways, and so're we. If the Chief is oota the game, we are too. So alla ye reprobates and misfits, raise a glass to freedom! To the winds that'll carry us and the destinies we've yet to discover!"

As the murmur of assent went through the crowd, O'Dell squatted on the bar, bringing her back down to Gavarus' level. "Stole that line from Admiral Hornblower. Is the ship packed, kin we run oota here afore they get the torches and roasting spit?"

"Bags, Minnie's toys, my parts bins, Cueball, everything." Gavarus said, a slightly nervous grin as she looked around the room. "We c'n be outta here as fast as we need to..."

"Not so fast, you three." Came Jaeih's voice, who had inexplicably sidled up next to Fiona. "You are not leaving this ship that easily. I will have my say first."

The two-meter tall Tellarite nearly leapt out of her black suit, while the miniature Minotaur's face lit up with excitement. "GRAM!"

"Great, now I've soiled meself. Christ on a pogo stick, woman, are ye tryin ta send me to an early grave? Oh wait, y'are boot the challenge ye've set for yuirself is 'fright'. I actually expected ye to show oop when we were boardin ta scare the pess outta me." As usual, the two engaged in sarcastic barbed banter, but there was a bit of regret knowing it would be the last for a while, at least.

"I had considered it, but since you would have expected as much, where is the challenge?" Jaeih replied with a cricked brow and the faintest hint of a smile that few could recognize.

"On the subject of challenges... you three are about to face an entirely new one." The elder Romulan's tone became more serious as she continued. "And I will not always be near to help you dig yourselves out of whatever trouble you find yourselves in."

"However..." She knelt down closer to O'Dell's level, but instead turned her eyes to the brown furred child who was biting her bottom lip with barely contained emotion. "Know that I shall never be far."

At that, Minerva launched herself toward the older Romulan woman and hugged her fiercely.

"Never far, little one. Now, you take care of your mothers. They will need you to be a strong girl." Jaeih whispered in Minnie's ear. "Will you promise me, little one?"

"Aye... Ah promise, Gram. I'll be a good girl." Little Minnie said, her voice barely a squeak, with Fiona's Irish brough coming out more and more the bigger she gets.

"Well then." Jaeih said, standing back up and looking the closest to emotional the pair had ever seen. "You two... stay out of too much trouble, if at all possible."

"Nay trouble at all, mum. We're to set up shop, and Briaar's got some ideas for designs, and we'll make a name for ourselves. The trouble'll find us, but ye know how 'tis. Be... be careful oot there, aye?" Fiona's eyes watered as she held back the tears. "Yuir me favorite crabby old lady. And I'm lookin forward to ye still bein' a crabby old lady, someday when I'm one too, y'ken?"

At that, like her daughter before her, the diminutive daredevil launched herself at the reformed Romulan smuggler and spy.

"I'll miss ye, Mrs. Dox." O'Dell whispered as she hugged the stern matron. "Visit the wee one, she'll look oop to ye til her dyin' day, aye?"

"GYAAGH! I hate this part!" Briaar all but bellowed as the ponderous pig reached in and enveloped all of them in the massive hug. Making zero effort to not cry, the inebriated engineer snorted as her snout filled up and she bawled right there in Ten-Forward.

"Oh... for Al'thindor's sake..." Jaeih said with a grunt as the massive woman squeezed them tight. "As.... as I told young Minerva... I shall not be far... nor shall I... Ugh... you are dripping on me, Miss Gavarus... shall I give any of you much opportunity to miss me."

"Alreet... I'm g'win ta take that as a promise from ye, and if ye dinna make good, I'll haunt ye like a banshee, make no mistake," O'Dell murmured in the family huddle.

Pulling out of the ham hock hug, Jaeih's own eyes betrayed her, being a bit shiny and green on the edges. "That said... I shall not overstay this little interlude, as it appears the Captain would have words with you as well and you have... a ship to get to. Good fortune to you all, and I-jol au."

"Uh... yeah... *sniff*... the shuttle's ready to go." Gavarus said, wiping her snotty snout on the hanky from her jacket pocket. "Jolene True t' you two, Jay."

"Yes, the shuttle." Jaeih said as she stepped away back to her table, smiling slightly and knowingly at Enalia as she passed, leaving the ship's departing mistress her moment.

Unlike the unconventional pair, Enalia Telvan spoke fluent Romulan and knew full well that Jaeih had not said the traditional Romulan greeting of 'Jolan Tru', but instead had found a way to say 'I love you' without betraying her calm demeanor.

With a knowing glance to the matronly Romulan woman and a nod to the unlikely pair, the pirate queen held up an Artan datapad and offered it to them. "I officially offered my thanks as Captain Telvan of Starfleet already, however I don't think I ever rewarded you properly as Queen Telvan of the Artan Empire for your actions during the Tribunal. The Baronesses and I have agreed to offer you a ship of your own along with a free trade agreement with the Artan Empire."

While Enalia continued, Gavarus took the offered PaDD, looking over the data on it.

"She's not the fastest, nor the most advanced ship, but she's got plenty of space and she'll take you to wherever you want. Also, you'll have to go pick her up at the Artan shipyards." The buxom Trill woman shrugged slightly as she continued. "They're still finishing the refit and last I heard they're getting ready to install the reactor core so if there's anything special you want, call ahead and let them know."

Leaning over to skim the data, Gavarus made eye contact with O'Dell, and both nodded in unison. Drawing themselves erect, the odd couple in the Blues Brothers black suits drew themselves up straight and tall, and both snapped off a surprisingly neat military salute to the departing captain. "This is... vurrah generous of ye mum, and we appreciate the gift and the spirit in which tis intended. Noow that we're n'longer under yuir command... ye'll know where to find us. Joost call if ye need somethin... the Queen of the Artans is bound to have work for specialized independents from time to time, and yuir name will allays be spoken with respect and appreciation at our table."

"And you will always be welcome for a drink at my table," replied Enalia with that trademark grin of hers as she, Schwein and Sarika all returned the salute.

"Awwww. We're g'win to miss ye, mum. Without Mona we mighta stayed with ye in the big chair, boot... if the lot of ye are headed off, well, our loyalties are to people, not institutions nor starships. So ye and yuir baronesses have allays done right by us, and we'll be there fuir ye." Realizing she was being entirely too sombre and serious, O'Dell wagged a finger at the one-eyed pirate in the very fancy hat.

"Cept fer ye, yeh crazy reprobate humpin a god!" O'Dell grinned at Schwein von Alcott. "We're still comin to the weddin, aye? I heard some somesuch aboot different time flows and so forth, but ye joost let us know and we'll be there in our Sunday best, aye?"

"Ja, we will make sure you make it one way or another," Schwein replied with an exaggerated wink to make sure it made it across. "You have to be there for the party favors and the post-wedding battle, after all."

"Fook yeah!" O'Dell grinned and nodded. "Alreet, well, know when to leave a party, aye? And tis time for us to take our 'to go' drinks and get oota toown. C'mon Briaar, grab Minnie and let's get this adventure rollin', aye?" It was abundantly clear to all involved that O'Dell was choking up and far more emotional about departing than her words would let on, but she took the large, calloused three-fingered hand of her partner, and the odd little family made their way out of 10-Forward for the last time.

With a soft chuckle, Enalia saw an opportunity to let everyone else mingle a bit longer, and snag Rita for one last heart to heart before they truly went their separate ways. Reaching behind the bar to grab a small bottle of Aldebaran whiskey and a pair of glasses, she headed over to her buxom first officer and hooked one arm around Rita's guiding her over to one of the far tables.

"What do you say to one last drink, just you and me?" the Trill woman said, flashing one of her best smiles.

"For you? Of course," Rita replied with a warm smile. "I can always get it flushed out of my system in Sickbay later, so a real drink with the Captain? I'd love to." Settling on a barstool, Rita eyed Enalia. She wasn't that great with emotions or expressing them, so Rita knew to let her take the lead, and just encourage her. She was never fond of leaving people behind, and with her returning to her people, they would no longer be close. Thus this was likely a very hard conversation for her, and Rita appreciated that.

From his end of the bar, Sonak watched his wife and his captain come together for a last shared time together.

It was an indisputable fact that there were things he could never provide his wife with; emotional connection, true empathy and true sharing of feelings. Even if a mind-meld was deeper than any conversation could ever provide, even if their mating bond was stronger and more meaningful than any physical touch. The fact that, contrary to other Vulcans, he was utterly void of emotions, there was a realm of existence that was forever barred to him. At best, he could vicariously experience it through melds with his very human wife. But that was like being on a holodeck; he could somewhat experience it, but the experience still was not real. And it only left an intellectual impression in his mind, as he had no emotion at all to actually grasp the experience.

For he could never give what he did not have.

For a Human being as alive as Rita Paris, this could only be a loss in their relationship. Sonak postulated that her trademark 'sexiness' as those of her people would call it, was a way for her to compensate this deficiency of his by provoking emotional reactions around her, be it only by her very presence. Her empathy and friendliness did the rest. It was just a hypothesis; but observable facts supported it.

Even back in the days of their shared adventures on the USS Exeter of another universe, she had exhibited this behavior. But amongst hundred of other women, mostly human like herself, dressed and acting like her, it had been much less impactful than in this universe. A sterner, soberer, more serious and varied universe where women, men and beings from over a hundred worlds endeavored to look and act the same... where she was bonded with a completely emotionless being, coldly indifferent to one of her most defining traits; being one hundred percent woman.

Her deep rapport with Captain Telvan was more than just the result of shared duties and survival; it was the buoy she needed to stay afloat as a human being. She would often call him her anchor; but as her anchor, he could also drag her down into cold emotional emptiness detrimental to her fulfillment as a human being... if she did not maintain a connection to that emotional buoy that the Trill woman could so well provide.

Thus watching them from afar, he would have smiled if he had been able.

"What's on your mind, Enalia?" Rita asked gently. "We'll see each other at the holidays, which aren't that far off. And you know you can always call me- I may not always be able to take a subspace call, but you know I will get back to you as soon as possible. So I won't be as far as you might think. But, honestly, you're going back to your own people. I somehow doubt you're going to need anyone to remind you of the Starfleet way of doing things, so you won't need me nearly as much. Part of why I thought this was the right answer- you KNOW what to do as a pirate queen. You don't need a Jiminy Cricket in a minidress on your shoulder to navigate those waters."

The Trill woman chuckled softly as she poured each of them two fingers of the yellow whiskey and slipped the bottle away. "Yeah, but knowing you has made me a better queen. You know that right?" Pausing long enough to hold up her glass and wait for a clink from Rita's, she sipped hers and continued. "Which is one of the reasons I couldn't leave well enough alone. I started a foundation in your name for people with transporter issues, victims of, families of, etc... Turns out there are a lot more people than most people think with quantum vibrational issues."

"I also bought a house," Enalia admitted, her grin widening. "I hope you don't mind."

"A charity is wonderful, and genuinely thoughtful- thank you, Enalia," Rita replied, genuinely touched by the gesture. "As for me making you a better queen... I think you never needed any help there, save wrestling the crown from your mother's claws. You may have needed a little help being a Starfleet captain, but you never needed any help being Queen. That part comes naturally to you, and I think it always will." As always, it might have sounded hokey or obsequious, but that wasn't Rita, and Enalia knew if she said it, she meant it. "And why would I mind if you bought a house? You have holdings all over the galaxy, don't you?"

"I do... but this one I wanted to make sure ended up in the right hands," Enalia replied, pulling out another Artan datapad and sliding it over to Rita. "I had to pull a few strings, cut a few deals... but in the end, I'd like to think everyone is happy."

Looking at the tablet Enalia handed her, it showcased a wood-frame Queen Anne Revival-style house with red slats accenting the house. The stained glass windows in the attic were both striking and familiar to her, and Rita gasped in genuine surprise. "This... this is my father's old house, in San Francisco on Bleeker Street. I've been tracking it for months now... you bought it?"

"I did," the buxom captain replied sipping her drink again, in full seriousness mode. "Technically I paid for it and registered it in your name, so you're the owner. I hope you like it."

The anachronistic astronaut's eyes filled with tears, as she struggled to form just what to say. In the end, she simply reached over and hugged the woman tightly. Releasing her, Enalia Telvan had managed what most in the universe could not- to put Rita Paris at a loss for words.

"Enalia... this means.... this means the world to me. I didn't realize you were monitoring, and... I would never have asked you, but... oh Enalia, this is my house. My home, the one I worked so hard to get away from all those years, but... it's where I wanted to come home to, and where I wanted to raise our children, and... I can't believe you got it for me." Blinking around the tears, Rita was clearly deeply moved, and struggling to . "I can never repay you for this, Enalia. You know what this means to me, and... thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I'll get to raise my children there and host Starfleet parties and... I can't believe you did this, you crazy pirate."

Mopping at the freely-flowing tears, Rita sniffled mightily. "And here I swore I wasn't going to cry at this party..."

The crazy pirate in question softly rested a hand on Rita's shoulder. "Hey... it's our party and you can cry if you want to. As for repayment, this is me repaying YOU. Maru may have tipped me off and Maica may have helped make it happen, but this is a thank you not only from me personally, but as a queen. Without you, I wouldn't have a home to return to... so the least I could do is make sure you have a home as well."

"And I know you don't drink, but Maica and I insisted on making sure your wine cellar was well stocked. Around half of it is cooking wine though, so..." With a shrug and grin, Enalia loosened up her expression a bit. "To add a bit of extra flavor to your sauces."

"I don't drink, that doesn't mean everyone around me won't," Rita paointed out, then shook her head as she looked at the image of her childhood home, in her own name. "Really... I... I honestly have no words, Enalia. Thank you... you saved my life, you gave me a chance and a home and a purpose, and you let me run the ship my way. I know I stood for you at the Tribunal and got the Baroness married off and whatever else I did for you, but... you're a good captain, Captain. I know I am the one who said you needed to pursue your true destiny. But for the pirate who wanted to be a 'fleeter, you did great. Thank you- for my life, for my family, for everything. Our kids will all know one another growing up, and... well, here."

Snapping her wrist slightly, a battered green metal sword appeared in the hand of Rita Paris, a crudely hammered scimitar of sorts, a top-heavy blade that nevertheless looked quite sharp and deadly, despite or perhaps because of it's crudity.

"This was my sword, on Kathoom, when I was trapped there all those months. I named it Telvan, because it was strong, flexible, lightweight and got me out of more scrapes than I would care to recall. I want you to have it... it's a poor gift in the shadow of yours, but... it meant life or death to me then, just as you did for me here. I want you to have it, to remember me by." Placing the blade on her palms, Rita presented the crude and primitive blade to the sophisticated pirate queen.

Running her fingertips over the blade, the experienced pirate hummed over the gift for several moments as she inspected the scimitar. "This is a good sword - hand made using old techniques I've only seen once before. I will treasure it always, my friend. Thank you."

With a flick of her own wrist, the sword vanished and Enalia lifted one of the cuffs of her white Starfleet dress uniform. "After that interdimensional fiasco, I finally gave in and started wearing the Asgardian bracers. Still feels like cheating, but..."

"It feels like cheating til you are floating in hard vacuum in deep space," Rita replied, referring to one of her own experiences. "I may have explored the galaxy in a miniskirt, but these have saved my life more times than I can count. It never hurts to have an ace in the hole, right?"

"We won't be that far, Enalia. And you can always call me, and I'll always respond. If you need me, you know I will be there. So this isn't goodbye- this is just goodbye for now. You'll see us again in 4 months when the holidays arrive. And I am putting together a newsletter to keep us all in the loop with one another. You won't lose us, Enalia. I promise you that." Reaching over, Rita took the buxom Trill's hand in her own. "You will always be in my heart, and never far from my thoughts. My children will grow up knowing their flamboyant auntie is a pirate queen, and heaven help me if they want to follow that banner, so be it. But us... your friends who are family to you... we will never be far away. Because you will carry us with you wherever you go, too."

"And if you're ever in need of a bunch of rambunctious rabble rousers, just let me know. I'll be at your doorstep as soon as I'm able," Replied Enalia, with that signature grin of hers as she finished off her drink. "Because one of the things I'm taking back to the Artans is the promise that you'll never be alone."

"And Rita? You and yours will always be family, so you're included in that."

"Amen to that, sister," Rita replied, clinking her glass against Enalia's "See you at the holidays."

 

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