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[PL Deniaud] The Breeding of Sorrow

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by Ensign Marielle Deniaud
[Stardate ]

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Stardate:
16008.01 [01 August, 2016]
The Breeding of Sorrow


一*足成千*恨,再回頭已百年身
yī shī zú chéng qiān gǔ hèn, zài huí toú yǐ yǐ nián shēn

Translation: A single slip may cause lasting sorrow.



Marielle huffed heavily as she reached the last meter towards her quarters. As it did for weeks, her uniform stuck to her skin uncomfortably as sweat collected between the fibers. Her normally neatly styled chignon loosened itself throughout the day as she spent her time moving between decks in the jefferies tube, droplets lingering at the very tips of her hair. There was a haze in her eyes as her body moved on its own, arms and legs moving on instinct as muscles crawled quickly towards her destination. Pathos had long been overwhelmed by the daily exertion and isolation, and the normally vibrant sounds and colours of her soul had dimmed to a constant static white as her fight-or-flight responses numbed everything else. Logos had been diminished into the bare minimum of thought processes, algorithms and theorems abandoned so that her internal workings could function. It took effort to move and to breathe.

Her hand slammed into the hatch as soon as she neared it, shaky as they reached for the latch and her shoulder pressed against the cold surface to push the door open. The weight seemed enormous as she tried to open the hatch, panic lingering close to the surface when it seemed like she wouldn’t be able to escape the confines of her prison. The rush of cool air kissed the droplets of sweat on her forehead and neck, and the intense heat that had her body overheating disappeared to allow for a chill to hit the center of her bones. She tumbled out of the jefferies tube to collapse onto the carpet, as she normally did the moment she could release the burden of decorum. In the confines of her quarters, no one could watch her shake or cry or scream. Marielle’s eyes closed tightly and she barely recognized the sensation of carpet pressing into the side of her cheek. Heavy breaths pulled at the tightness of her lungs painfully, and Logos steadily reminded her to slow her breathing as black dots threatened to overwhelm the edges of her vision.

“You made it. I made it. Breathe. Breathe. It’s safe. Breathe.”

The trip from Engineering had taken her longer this time. Somewhere between decks eleven and twelve, Marielle’s knees couldn’t take anymore and she took refuge in the far corner of the junction. She had curled into a tight ball, with her knees pressed against her chest and her fingernails digging deep into her palms, to sob openly behind the metal ladder. All sense of time had disappeared in that moment, and she wasn’t entirely sure if she had fainted or fallen asleep in the middle of her crying. Marielle only recalled stopping, losing time, and then hearing the soft yet meek internal voice in her head stirring her to move.

Exhausted, she closed her eyes as she flopped onto her back with her arms spread wide apart, still trying to slow the rapid beating of her heart and near-hyperventilating level of her breaths. Every minute in the jefferies tube had the dark memories in the very far hidden corner of Pathos roaring, nearly tearing the small yet solid wooden door open as the metal barricades buckled. The emotional side of her soul struggled to keep the memories at bay as she was forced to face the jefferies tube throughout her day. The most treacherous experience had been the first day, when she had been ordered to pull her personal items from the Chief Engineer’s office after frightening conversation with the Commodore.

It had taken six trips with a rickety antigrav sled that leaned to one side. ALICE had removed any ability to use the turbolifts or the transporters. While Marielle hadn’t blamed the sentient program for her anger, the engineer had hoped that the being would have allowed her the use of the turbolifts or the transporters after she had left the Commodore’s ready room. She had sobbed openly when she was in the jefferies tube, especially when towers of books tipped off the sled along the way. Somewhere between trip two and three, while dragging her things between one junction to the next and internally weeping at the sound of the antigrav sled scratching against the metal grating, Marielle had bitterly concluded that the ship’s designers must have mapped out the jefferies tube for some sort of psychological experiment - a giant maze for humanoids in order to test their resolve in tight spaces.

Marielle failed at every attempt.

The lights in her quarters kept her shrouded in the darkness, and the whispers from her memory filled the silence around her ears. It had been weeks since her fallout with Sen and her demotion, and the timing had resulted in a storm of rumours. Engineering, which had once been her comfort zone, suddenly became the one area of the ship she dreaded the most. She had become the proverbial pariah of Engineering, and an ironic smirk graced her lips as she bitterly thought about slapping a bright red “A” on her uniform. It seemed appropriate considering the reputation she had seemingly gained overnight.

The rumours weren’t all that discreet, though many were simply absurd. The winning theory for her demotion involved a betrayed husband and his admiral of a wife. Apparently, she had seduced said admiral for a fast promotion, and he had found them in a compromising position with a Breen while on Starbase 83. It had resulted in an ultimatum and her eventual demotion so that the admiral could save her marriage and her own reputation.

The damaged reputation and rumours bothered her, but they were nothing compared to the lewd looks and passes that she had grown accustomed to ignoring. Marielle had taken to keeping her eyes low to avoid catching anyone’s eyes. It was difficult enough listening to what they thought of her. The looks of pity or loathing were too much. In a way, she was happy Peterson had thrown her into the deflector array room, especially after she had been once trapped by Crewman Norman Fisher in a secluded corner of the shield grid. It allowed her to hide away from the whispers, the stares, and the unwanted advances. Though, it was difficult escaping Peterson’s smug expression and tone whenever he spoke to her, which he seemed to go out of his way to do since she was again an ensign. She also had difficulties catching Sen’s satisfied expression whenever they passed one another. She hadn’t expected the Orion and the fool to chat with one another like they were old friends. Seeing it every day was enough to chip away at the little strength she had left.

Marielle turned to her side and pulled her knees to her chest, curling into a loose fetal position as she sniffled. Her tears had dried days ago, but the urge seemed to be ever present since that fateful day. The chime from her computer console had her whining audibly. She didn’t have the strength to deal with anyone, so she chose to ignore it. Marielle remained on the floor, spotlighted by the soft glow of the open jefferies tube hatch.

“Mariëlle Antoinette Deniaud!”

She whined softly despite herself, not moving as his baritone voice - booming with rage - filled the entirety of her quarters. The lights flickered on without her permission.

“I know you’re in there! ALICE told me as much before I called you! Get over here! Now!”

ALICE. Of course. The program must have answered the call for her. The idea had her heart aching. Marielle knew that ALICE was upset, but she had to question the program’s sense of justice. After weeks of moving through the jefferies tube, Marielle wondered if the A.I. knew - or ever cared - that she was being cruel. She had expected the call much sooner, and as the weeks ticked away, she had made herself believe that the lecture would never come. Pulling at the nearly drained well of energy, Marielle stood and slowly made her way towards the desk. She couldn’t bring her eyes to meet his as she fell into her seat, though she could feel the near scathing anger as she waited for him to speak. There was a beat of heavy silence, and she shrunk into her seat at the weight of it.

“What. Did. You Do?” Aldéric hissed out slowly through clenched teeth. His eyes narrowed, dark eyes only growing darker when she didn’t answer him. “Answer me!”

Marielle’s eyes watered instantly, and she sniffled. Throughout her childhood, she couldn’t remember a time when he had ever used such a tone with her. She had never truly pushed beyond the limits of his jovial demeanor. She had been the perfect niece to match his boisterous and bright personality, and their bond was built on it. There had been looks of disappointment, and Marielle had taken care to avoid those at all cost. Yet. As she remained pinned to her chair in front of her display by the heated glare he kept on her, Marielle shuddered at how his voice was far too much like one from her youth. It pulled so easily at the frightened little girl she used to be, powerless and unable to move.

“If anyone finds out, you could be sent to the penal colony on Maxia!” Aldéric’s voice boomed over the speakers. The sound of his hand slamming onto his desk reverberated as loudly, and it was followed by the sharp clanging of glass and splashing on his desk. “Frack!”

Her eyes moved up to stare at him through the strands of hair that shadowed her eyes. She caught the swift movement as he pushed himself away from the desk and jumped to his feet, his lap soaked by the deluge of hot coffee. When he hissed in annoyance, Marielle tried to shrink even more.

Aldéric sighed and ran a hand roughly through his messy locks. “You’re damn lucky that Billings contacted me directly and that I was able to convince ALICE not to inform anyone of your stunt. Do you know what it means for us to hide this from Starfleet Command? To protect you?” He waited a beat for an answer, his face turning red as he was only met with silence. His voice increased in volume and tone. “Do you know in what position you’ve placed Billings?! You’ve placed me?!”

The tears pooled around her eyes before they started to spill freely, and Marielle could only catch the first sob that escaped her lips before her chin dipped deeper. Her head shook without her permission, her hands tightening on her lap. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I’m sorry. I’m so so sorry.” It was all she could do as her body shivered. It seemed as if those were the only words she could utter, and she crumbled under the weight of it.

Saying nothing, Aldéric could only drag his hand over his face. Dark eyes regarded the sobbing woman and his lips formed a thin line. “Why?” he finally asked. When she shook her head and said nothing, he stopped himself from screaming at her. “Answer me, Mariëlle,” he demanded, using the proper pronunciation of her name. Tired of the anger that he had been holding onto for weeks, his tone softened as if to beg her. “I deserve that much.”

The familiar softness of his tone broke through the barrier Pathos had pathetically erected around her heart, and Marielle cried openly in front of her screen. A hand gripped the fabric of her uniform tightly while the other moved up to roughly wipe her eyes clear of the tears. “I didn’t know,” the words tumbled quickly from her lips as she bawled, “The numbers for our energy output didn’t add up, and I was worried something could go wrong during an emergency if I didn’t know it was.” Marielle sniffled and wiped her nose with the back of her hand, her face swollen from crying.

“There was a damn warning on the door!” he growled out. “You didn’t have clearance, and the big red words on the door should have been your clue to stop!”

Marielle nodded and her eyes fell to her hands as she continued to cry. “I know, and you’re right,” she admitted with a hiccup, “but I still needed to know what was causing the power drain.”

“So this wasn’t about doing your job. It was about your damn curiosity?!”

She winced at the surge of anger that had his voice rising again.

“You have never been able to let things go, and now look what’s happened!”

“I know!” she wailed, a new wave of tears tracing lines over her cheeks, “I was curious. But, I went in there because I believed that it was the right thing to do!”

“I can’t believe you’re trying to justify this!”

“Yes. No,” she sniffled, the tightness in her lungs threatened to overwhelm her. “I mean.” Marielle stopped again and covered her face with her hands. There was a tense silence between them and she made herself look up at him. Their eyes met briefly, and her heart dropped at the look of anger and disappointment that met her gaze. She chewed on her lip and tried to coherently explain as she hiccuped through her tears, “You can’t hide this sort of secret and think that all the safeties have been in place. Lives are on the balance here,” her jaw clenched before she continued. “There was a trail of data that didn’t make sense, and I had a moral obligation why the pieces didn’t fit. I went looking because I can’t do my job when I don’t have all the information. I get that no one in Engineering had high enough clearance to find out, but someone in that department should have known. Even if you had to plant someone on this ship to do it, someone should have been here.”

“You don’t get to determine that, Ensign!” he barked

She winced openly but pushed forward despite the desire to hide in the far corner of her quarters. Her tears had dried momentarily, though she still sniffled and hiccuped softly. “You’ve got conduits crossed throughout the ship, mingling with primary and secondary systems. You’ve got power being rerouted all over the place just to run her program and to hide the fact that she physically exists. No one else noticed because they never bothered to watch the power readings or even bothered to compare those readings with the schematics.” Marielle paused as she twisted her fingers nervously together and continued before she could lose her strength. “What if we were in the middle of those binary black holes and I had noticed that power drain when we were running on reserves? I was in a mess to find all the power possible to get us out of there, and I would have tried everything to get to that power source just to give us basic shields and life-support. I would have literally killed her, and I wouldn’t have known it.”

“You wouldn’t have been able to,” Aldéric immediately interrupted to contradict her.

“Are you completely positive? You’re absolutely certain that I wouldn’t have been able to access her primary power systems?” Marielle carefully asked and felt a small amount of satisfaction when he couldn’t answer her. “Uncle Greg, this ship gets into a lot of trouble. I mean. A lot. I don’t know what it is, but the probability of us running into something that could potentially harm ALICE is amazingly high. Something is bound to happen one day.”

“Ellie-” He stopped, not sure how to argue with her points or if it was even worth it.

The weight over her heart lifted at the use of her name, though disappointment still coloured the tone of his voice.

He sighed. “You swore to abide by the rules, regulations, and spirit of Starfleet,” Aldéric lectured finally, a hand moving over the length of his face. “I didn’t have to tell you this was expected of you because I thought it was a given, but apparently it wasn’t. You can’t pick and choose which regulations to follow.”

“I understand what is expected of me,” Marielle’s voice was soft, almost inaudible. “I should have turned away the moment I saw the warning on that door, but you were wrong too. You’ve hidden away something important from the one department that actually needed to know about it.”

He was quiet. Anger swelled at the accusation, but exhaustion had him keeping quiet. “I’m too tired to deal with you and this crap of worms you’ve opened up, Short Stack. ALICE is royally ticked, and rightfully so. You’re right that someone on that ship should have known about it, but you shouldn’t have pushed it this far.” Aldéric grumbled. He leaned over the desk and hid his face into his palm.

“So I’m just supposed to take the A.I.’s word on everything?” she countered softly. “If she wasn’t ALICE and was just the computer, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. You taught me to do the work and to never be satisfied with just being told the answer.”

“I can’t believe this. You’re not even sorry,” he muttered into his palm.

“Don’t,” Marielle interrupted, her voice suddenly finding strength. Her brows furrowed. “Don’t. Of course I’m sorry. I violated her most intimate secret, and in the process I’ve lost a friend. I hurt ALICE, and no amount of punishment I receive will ever make that guilt disappear.” Her eyes started to shine again as tears began to pool at the corners. “She’s amazing, and now she’s too angry with me to even acknowledge my existence.” The thought had Pathos wailing and she gasped for air through her tears. “Don’t tell me I’m not sorry. I don’t care about Sen or Peterson or having to deal with the jefferies tubes day in and day out, or the stupid rumours or the ruined reputation or having to work in the stupid deflector array room or Fisher’s grubby hands or the stupid demotion. ALICE hates me, and there’s nothing I can do to fix it.”

Aldéric peered between his fingers to look at her, finally taking a moment to study his niece. He was only able to get a few words as she blubbered incoherently through her tears. Her normally bright face was shadowed by the disheveled hair that had fallen out of the chignon near the nape of her neck. She looked significantly thinner and far more haggard than he had ever seen her. “Hey. Hey. Short stack?” he tried to calm her. “What are you talking about? What rumours? What about Sen? And who’s Fisher?” He frowned when all she did was shake her head furiously and didn’t answer. “Hey! Breathe!” he instructed in a panic as he watched her hyperventilate. “Mariëlle, talk to me! What do you mean you’re working in the deflector array room? And what about the jefferies tubes?”

Marielle shook her head furiously. “Nothing,” she sobbed as she desperately tried to get control of her breathing. Pathos had flared in reds. She had said too much, it told her. She had bothered him enough, caused too much annoyance to the man who had only shown her love and support. Logos was quick to save her, making her hand move without permission. “I’m sorry, Uncle Greg. I’m so sorry,” she managed between breaths as her finger tapped the display to end their communication before he could ask her more. She caught the quick protest, the concerned call of “Short stack!” before the display turned black.

“Ensign Deenie-ood,” Peterson’s voice called over the comm system, “report to Engineering. Crewman Yao is sick, and you’re to take his shift.”

Her head snapped in the direction of the jefferies tube as she blanched, and she curled over as she covered her face with her hands, her sobs barely stifled as the tears spilled from between her fingers.





Copyright 2016. All works involving Mariëlle A. Deniaud, including character biographies and published stories, are the property of the United Space Federation and its author. It cannot be reproduced, imitated, and copied without written permission from the authors. All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction using aspects of the Star Trek universe as created and copyrighted/trademarked by Gene Roddenberry, Paramount, and their affiliates.
   
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