Through her life in Starfleet as both a child and an officer, Eden Enigma had only been aboard a starship as it landed once, and that had been the LSN Seldon on an orbital platform during her exchange tour. But there was a landing pad for the Healer’s Hope near her family’s estate, so there the ship landed, and Eden, Ailiang, and Luvrodo walked down a ramp that extended from the deck below the bridge to disembark.
Stepping directly from the filtered air of the ship to the rich scents and sounds of a small spaceport outside a Betazoid village was a unique experience, and one Eden did not look forward to making a regular feature of her life.
The quiet joy emanating from Ailiang, though, might make it easier to tolerate.
“Lady Starling!” The voice came from the shelter nearest the landing pad, and a woman in House Starling dress approached. Leilani, Eden’s favorite of her mother’s staff. “Welcome to Betazed.” She performed a deep curtsy, and Eden matched it with a bow.
At Luvrodo’s advice, she had added her formal shawl to her dress uniform -in truth, more a long ribbon than a shawl, in her family’s traditional powder blue, the perched songbird of their crest embroidered on each end. This sat uncomfortably with the decorations she’d developed the habit of wearing when in whites during her time on the border – her Lagashi platinum rifle qualification at her collar opposite her rank pips, Starfleet honors capped with her Medal of Valor at her breast, and the 88th Marine Reconnaisance Unit flash-patch she’d earned during her exchange tour at her left shoulder. – but it seemed a reasonable nod to her position and the reason for her visit.
“Leilani,” Eden said. “I find joy in your presence.” The traditional greeting doubled as a statement of truth, and she enjoyed the flash of warmth from the Betazoid woman. “I introduce my yeoman and sister in spirit, Ensign Li Ling Ailiang an Hark an Jenner.”
Ailiang smiled at the sight of Leilani parsing the complexities of Lagashi naming traditions. “You may call me Ensign Li Ling,” she said.
“Ensign Li Ling,” Leilani replied, relief visible in her eyes and palpable in the air. “You honor House Starling with your visit.” She turned to Eden. “The Matriarch has instructed me to see you to your chambers, and to inform you that she would like to see you after you have rested from your journey. Please allow me?”
“Of course, Leilani,” Eden said. “Please, lead the way.”
As they walked Leilani looked to Eden. “Lady Starling, would you prefer that Ensign Li Ling stay in your guest room or in chambers of her own?”
Eden smiled to Ailiang. “What do you think? This isn’t exactly a normal mission, after all… your own chambers could win you more privacy to enjoy Betazed.”
Ailiang shook her head. “I’d rather be close, Commander.” Then she grinned. “Less temptation to cause trouble.”
Eden laughed. “Very well.” She looked to Leilani. “My guest room it is, then.”
They continued along the elevated path toward House Starling.