Getting To Know You
Location: USS Hera, Deck 12, Sickbay
It had not been six hours as yet, and according to Doctor dael, Az'Prel would sleep for the next 10-12 hours. But the night had been a sleepless one after a bad day for Rita Paris, and when she came to sickbay, she encountered resistance. The Doctor's orders were that no one see the patient, and that was that.
Which prompted Rita Paris to explain the facts of rank and life in the military to the young corpsman on duty, demonstrating the relative positions in the hierarchy of orders between a Commander and a Petty Officer Third Class. There was some discussion of control over assigned duties, transfer orders that could be conjured with a few taps of a finger... the list went on.
"Mister Squ'zuod, I would very much not like to be the type of first officer who has to bully the enlisted into obeying my orders," Paris said calmly, drawing herself up to her full height. "I understand the room needs to be sterile- fine, decontaminate me, slap a forcefield belt on me, put me in a hazmat suit if you need to in order to obey the chief medical officer's orders. But make no mistake, I am going in that room, and I will come out when I am good and ready. Now, do we understand one another, corpsman?"
A moment later, having been sterilized, Rita Paris entered the hospital room of the refugee of another universe.
"Az'Prel? It's me, Commander Paris? Computer, lights, dim," the curious commander called out, waving from the doorway so as not to startle the veteran.
Az'Prel was slightly startled, but not so much that she left the biobed that she was laying in. She had decided to trust Commander Paris and that meant fighting back her fight or flight instinct. However, she was now wide awake. "Commander Paris. It is amenable to see you again. You have questions?"
"Sure, I have a few. Let's start with the basic one- how do you feel?" It was a Vulcan joke as far as she knew, but it worked for humans pretty well as an inquiry into one's well-being.
The displaced Vulcan looked up and stared at Rita for a few moments, weighing the question carefully before answering. It may have been a joke, but in her case she felt it deserved a serious answer. "I feel... Good... For the first time in my memory, I feel good."
That brought a simple smile to the human woman's face, and she nodded. "Doc Dael is very dedicated, very thorough and very compassionate." Rita pulled up a chair and settled down into it, the fatigue of the day clear in her body language. "Their holographic fellow practitioner is the sum total of a lot of accumulated medical knowledge. A remarkable individual made of photons and forcefields, a very complex program with a delightful accent and can appear anywhere on the ship."
"Welcome to the future," Rita chuckled. "So a bunch of those aches and pains you've been pushing past are gone. Just the burns alone... I read the medical report. You are a singularly determined survivalist, Miss Az'Prel."
Az'Prel rested her head back on the pillow and did her best to relax. "As a logician, you face many extra foes in your life starting at a very young age. I've been imprisoned, tortured, and left in an agony booth for several years of my life for following a different way. I cannot remember a time when I was not hungry, hurting, or wanting for security, and yet I now have those needs met. I must admit that there is a part of me that believes this to be a trap of some sort, but nothing about this universe says that it is."
"I suspect there will always be a part of you on the lookout for a trap, and that might save your life. But the Prophets apparently decided that you were the redeeming quality of your universe. Food for thought, that," Rita leaned forward, clasping her hands together. "Of course, you may not be the only survivor- you're the one we know of, in the modern day. Traveling dimensionally and not chronally, any escapees of the Mirror Universe into this reality would have been at most maybe a hundred and ten years in the past. So, I guess take comfort in the fact that... well, kind of grim, but all of your tormentors are likely dead if they made it here, and definitely deleted by paradox if you left them behind. So you are free, from anyone in your life who ever hurt you."
"That is indeed a calming thought," replied the refugee Vulcan. "Even though I am one of the few that follow the teachings of logic and abandon emotion, I have to admit a certain level of satisfaction in that my enemies and torturers are now either dead and gone or now never existed."
Az'Prel then turned her head to look Rita in the eyes solemnly. "I feel a need to repay these kindnesses I have been shown in whatever way I am able. What is there that you desire of me and my body?"
At that Rita’s eyes grew wide, and she held out her hands, palms first. “Whoah whoah whoah whoah whoahhhhh, hold on there, Miss Az’Prel. We’re not that sort of Starfleet,” Rita chuckled. “You owe us nothing for our help- we’re Starfleet, this is what we do. Elevate, repair, fix, heal, restore, and move forward together into the future. If anything, I’d like that for you.”
“According to procedure, we should send you back to Earth, to work with the psychiatrists and therapists at Starfleet Psych. They are pretty amazing at what they do, and they can help you deal with living in a universe that is far more at peace and calmer than the one you have known your entire life. But that would be sending you to what was in your reality the heart of the Terran Empire amongst strangers. Well, not that you aren’t already amongst strangers,” the curvaceous commander admitted.
“However, I don’t feel that going to the heart of the United federation of Planets and home base of Starfleet’s necessarily what’s best for you. I will admit- I’ll never know the horrors that you endured in getting here. If you would like to talk about them, I’ll listen, of course. I think discussing them with Dr. Dael will most likely help you, as will connecting with Sonak,” the fulsome First Officer smiled a bit as she said his name, a wry sort of smile. “Here, Vulcans embraced logic millennia ago, and they have mastered their emotions, some even purging themselves completely, as he did years ago. I think you will find your logician mindset is much more the norm than emotional Vulcans.”
“Point being, I think you should stay here, on the Hera, with us. We’ll find a way for you to contribute, to find purpose and direction amongst the crew here. If nothing else, the Prophets entrusted you to me, so I feel responsible for you. I’ve been the stranger in a strange land, and I know it is terrifying and lonely and you spend so much time worrying about pressing the wrong button or saying the wrong thing…” Paris trailed off, then sighed.
“I’m sorry, Miss Az’Prel. I always swore I would be better at this than I am, and I am afraid I am not doing a very good job reassuring you.” The buxom bombardier shook her head ruefully, then her bright blue eyes met those of the Vulcan refugee from a universe of horrors. “You are free to go where you will and do as you wish. If you would like to return to your homeworld, here, it is intact and filled with like-minded individuals. If you wish to travel the galaxy and see the sights, you are free to do so. We have helped you because you were in need, and that’s what we stand for. But you owe us nothing for it. We would, however, like to at least help you acclimate, and if I let you out of Sickbay before Doctor Dael is through tending to your injuries I’d likely never hear the end of it.”
The displaced Vulcan thought on it for a moment, a small chuckle building within her that she could barely contain and eventually lost the battle against, revealing that her emotional barriers had worn down just that far. With that slight chuckle, a slight grin, and a tear in her eye, she spoke from her heart. "Thank you, Commander. I have never known such freedom before. I must think on what to do with my life. But for now; it may be a leap of logic, but I believe I may be meant to be here. To aid you and your crew in some way."
"Oh, I don't doubt it for a moment, Miss Az'Prel. It may be presumptuous, but for now at least..." Rita Paris stood up, and offered one of those winning smiles, genuinely glad for the turn of events. Spreading her arms wide, Rita made a presentation of it. "Welcome to the USS Hera, Starfleet Intelligence vessel NCC-79010, Prime Universe. The year is 2396, the closing days of the 24th century, and Starfleet has once again undertaken their mission to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life, and new civilizations. To boldly go where no human has gone before."
"We, ah, actually don't do a lot of that, to be honest. Starfleet is, though, and that's good." Rita looked a bit sheepish and that wide-armed showmanship turned to hands held behind her back bashfully. "The crew of the Hera are more... troubleshooters. We follow around an adventurous admiral who finds trouble, figures out the situation then calls us in as the cavalry. So the crack freedom fighter who could use a hot meal will actually be welcome. And I assure you, we are on the side of the angels. We always try diplomacy, good manners, and sometimes cowboy diplomacy. We'll kill if we have to, but we do our best not to meet force with greater force."
Az'Prel thought on this for a moment, trying to view things from the eyes of this universe rather than her own. It wasn't easy to filter out the hatred, but she did her best. "But where it is necessary, you are prepared to make the choices that the rest of Starfleet is unprepared for and ensure the well being of all parties because they focus on science, and diplomacy and as an Intel vessel geared for combat you are better equipped for the unexpected. Is this assumption correct?"
"We're troubleshooters, as I like to put it. But yes, your assumption is correct, Miss Az'Preal." Paris grinned then, a mischievous affair that made her look rakish as she paced slowly around the bedside of the freedom fighter who was finally free. "We are the explorers who find the abandoned base that's been infested by the undead, only to rescue a stranded time traveler inside. We're the the errand runners who get caught when they run into a dark matter ion storm that plays hob with the holographics to run the crew through mazes. We're the planetary liberation team brought in to make contact with the resistance, and lead a rebellion to overthrow an alien tyrant. We've been to worlds that weren't really there, and seen thought manifested as reality. We keep company with beggars and gods. We, Miss Az'Prel, are the USS Hera."
With that, Paris fished a piece of jewelry out of her bra. Access into her top, as the only real pockets in her uniform, was a very big reason she'd asked for her old uniform back. Working with that collar had been killing her. Producing a shiny gold and silver delta, she held it up for the Vulcan woman to see.
"The delta... that comes from my day," Rita pointed to her classic Command delta, the Starfleet emblem of her era. "The twin towers behind them are supposed to be for inclusiveness? I don't really know, honestly."
"At any rate, this is your comm badge. It enables the ship to keep track of you at all times, which sounds a lot more sinister than it is. That means the computer is listening, and if you tap it, you activate it. You then speak, because someone is listening, and they will process the request. If you want to talk to the computer, it will answer. It has some rather remarkable control over the ship, so I would advise- be polite to her. You'll have limited access until you're cleared for duty, but you have all the libraries of the ship to draw upon, which you will find are remarkably comprehensive."
"You have an entire history to learn, Miss Az'Prel. I suspect you will be a better student than I."
"Material goods are produced by replicators, which are conveniently located in a surprising number of spaces, are open for most requests for any sort of matter- food, clothing, tools. You get a remarkably large matter ration to pull things out of the replicator to your heart's content. Kind of changed society and they'll kind of change your life. But to finally get to the point of this very long-winded introductions..."
Rita Paris offered the comm badge to the hard luck heroine, lone survivor of a grim and doomed reality who had been delivered to a paradise by the Prophets of Bajor.
"Welcome aboard the Hera, Az'Prel of Vulcan."