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The Aldrin had arrived, he heard. They had done their own investigation and came up with the same results that the Lusolan officials had. Fleet Captain Cersei Naal, Commander Yari Nazir, and Ambassador Erik Vaeros were escorted into a small meeting room where Gideon awaited them. He was free of restraint but sat quietly in the chair he had been directed to. His eyes focused on the table and his hands were held in his lap. One leg bounced with his agitation.
Cersei glanced toward the guard that had led them into the room and then nodded to dismiss him. The door closed behind them and her chocolate gaze shifted to her chief of security. “Commander,” she addressed him crisply. In the time that they’d worked together, the captain knew Gideon to be a man of regulation, of code, and of honor. Only in recent weeks had she heard of any disturbance in his character. It was still hard to swallow the idea that the half-Bajoran could cause harm to the woman he had once obviously loved. “Tell us what happened.”
His mixture of emotions had only grown more unsteady as he waited for the Aldrin's arrival. He floated among grief and anger, despair and disbelief. The half-Bajoran ran his fingers through his hair. In four days, he had gone from handsome to haggard. Thick brown hair was tangled and became greasy from lack of care. Four days worth of stubble marred his square jaw. His linen leggings and Bajoran cut tunic had been traded for a prison jumpsuit that overwhelmed his slumped form. Gideon had used the time in isolation to think back on the evening. He inhaled deeply and then looked up at the three officers in the space. “We argued,” he answered truthfully. It was all he remembered. “That’s all I know.” The admittance was softly spoken.
The counselor took one of the seats across from the prisoner. It took considerable effort for Erik Vaeros not to reach over to wrap his thick fingers around the half-Bajoran’s neck and to not squeeze the life from his body. His jaw was clenched tightly, so much so that he could taste blood. He didn’t want to be in the room with Gideon Massimo Salieri and it was only out of duty that had him agreeing. He also owed it to the deceased researcher to sit there. He had failed to protect her. He turned his chin and nodded subtly to the Angosian to indicate that the security chief was speaking the truth.
The Trill sat down across from her security chief and folded her hands in front of her. “We’ve confirmed everything that the Lusolan officials found.” Cersei paused as she studied the half-Bajoran. “Tell me how we’re to defend you.” Her request was sharply made. It’d become obvious that they would be unable to paint him as a loving fiance to Marielle Deniaud. Every report she received was detrimental to her defense. There was yet to be one person who had a kind thing to say about the accused.
He slumped forward even further, his shoulders falling in as he rolled his eyes and raised his hands to cradle his head. “I blacked out. I don’t remember.” Gideon’s voice was weak, telling of how flimsy he knew the defense was. It was all he had. There was no other excuse. He could tell them they were wrong until he was blue in the face, but it wouldn’t change any of their minds.
Erik hissed under his breath and his interlaced fingers tensed so that he kept a firm grip on his own hands. “You black out the other times too?” he growled menacingly under his breath. Riley Higgs had warned him and he had intended to inquire, but he had been too late. More than anything else, he wanted to punch the Dumoe in the face. Their three week residency on the Aldrin had caused a delay Marielle apparently couldn’t afford. He didn’t want to think of how long she had suffered.
Nazir remained standing. His hand rested on the back of Naal’s chair, his gaze firmly on Salieri. In the other, he held a PADD. His grip was firm, fingers blanched with how he firmly held the device. He leaned forward slightly and threw it onto the table towards the prisoner. “Does that jog any memories?” There was the briefest break to his calm, his tone dipping to much of the same dangerous levels as the counselor. The tablet carried the case against him - the autopsy reports, crime scene photographs, the witness accounts, the recollection of those who resided in the bungalow nearest to the couple. “There was an eyewitness. Apparently the account was graphic. The Lusolan government won’t reveal who it is. Apparently watching you pummel Ms. Deniaud frightened him enough that he doesn’t want to be named.”
The half-Bajoran jumped with surprise and moved his hand to catch the device before it slid of the table. His gaze lifted toward Nazir and then shifted to Erik before he dipped his irises to look at the PADD. His brows furrowed as he looked through the information. He stared at the pictures of her body, horror seeping into his features. Gideon shook his head and lifted a hand to cover his mouth. “She’s gone,” he whispered incredulously. “I didn’t do this. I couldn’t-” The tablet fell from his fingers and he pulled his hands away, continuing to shake his head in denial. “No,” he murmured morosely.
The Draconian didn’t care in that moment. He only cared that the woman whose soul sang was no longer alive. “Months,” he hissed. The little control he had was quickly diminishing. “You broke her down. You started killing her months ago.” His body trembled. “Higgs knew something was wrong. Winnetka. Graves. I knew something was wrong- She changed so much. Stopped singing. Stopped baking. Stopped dancing.” His knuckles turned white as he kept a firm grip on his own hands to keep from sending a fist in his direction. “Stopped laughing.”
“She changed for me. She wanted to.” His chin dipped so he could lift his hand to comb through his hair. Dulled cobalt were focused on the table as he tried to piece together what had happened. Gideon pushed the PADD aside and turned his chin away. His chest started to move with his quickening breaths. He still couldn’t believe that he was capable of it - but all the evidence pointed squarely at him. He shook his head slowly.
“Look at it!” snapped the Draconian. Unable to hold his anger much further, he roughly pressed the PADD towards the prisoner. He lifted slightly off his seat to let his finger smash over the glass. He swiped to the side to bring forth the last crime scene photograph - the gruesome image was indescribable. She was more pulp than she was body.
Cersei moved her hand to grip Erik’s forearm. Her gentle squeeze was a silent request for the man to sit back down and calm himself. In this moment, she needed to be the stoic captain, responsible for the safety of nearly 800 souls. Within the privacy of her quarters, she had cried to K’hevok and held Khelina close, assuring the young girl that she would be safe. Such violence on her own ship jarred her faith in people. “Look at it, Commander. I need to know if it jogs your memory so we can defend you.” The Trill kept her cool palm on the ambassador’s arm to keep him grounded, but also to support herself.
Gideon sighed heavily and forced his eyes open. He turned his chin so that he could look down at the PADD. His elbow propped on the table and he rested his forehead in his hand. A soft groan slipped from his lips as he slowly dragged his palm down his face. When he saw the image of the woman slumped against the wall, the half-Bajoran winced and started shaking his head. His jaw dropped and his hand covered his mouth to muffle his gasp. He looked, mortified, at the battered body that had once been Marielle. A sob caught in his throat and he pushed the device away. Nausea overwhelmed him and he turned to the side, one hand gripping the back of his chair, the other grasping the edge of the table as he felt a wave of heat move over him. He wanted to continue to deny that he was involved in the physicist’s death but there was no more questioning it. The evidence was all right there and it was damning. “Fanculo, cosa ho fatto? (What have I done?)” he whispered to himself. His head continued to shake with his disbelief. “No. She’s not dead. I couldn’t have.” He lifted his gaze toward the visitors.
Nazir straightened and crossed his arms over his chest. A hard stare settled on the sulking half-Bajoran. “Per Lusolan beliefs, a soul lost to violence must be burnt immediately so it is not doomed to wander.” He paused. “She was cremated hours after her autopsy.” The Angosian leaned forward, leaning over the captain’s shoulder, and grabbed the tablet. “The only thing we can hope to do is build your character profile. Provide doubt. Unfortunately, we’re having problems.”
His chin dipped slowly as his eyes shifted to the table. ‘Everyone on that ship alienated themselves from me, from us. I have no friends there- El was all I had left.’ He lifted his hand to cover his mouth when sorrow crashed over him. A sob caught in his throat and he started to shake his head. His eyelids fell closed and he pulled away from the command team, as if distancing himself from them could make the whole situation disappear. “It wasn’t me- I didn’t- I couldn’t.” Cold fear had him shivering and his gaze snapped toward the captain. “What’s going to happen?”
The Trill woman tilted her chin slightly as she continued to regard the half-Betazoid. It chilled her to hear his question. Most would have thought of lost love, he was more concerned with himself. “The trial takes place the day after tomorrow. Lusola III is a Klingon territory, thus is governed by Qo’noS.” Cersei motioned toward the PADD. “You are guilty in their eyes, I have to provide evidence of your innocence. I need you to remember what happened that night. If there’s no way I can provide a plausible defense to your innocence, you need to decide how remorseful you’re going to appear to be so I can have your sentence transferred to a Federation penal colony.”
Erik growled under his breath but said nothing, he pushed his chair back. The metal legs scraped along the floor and the seat threatened to topple over with the force of his shove. He sneered down at the Trill captain before turning a dangerous glare at the half-Bajoran. “Frakking Federation penal colony. He should rot in a Klingon prison.” The counselor stalked away and banged his fist heavily against the door. Without looking back, he disappeared into the hallway.
“I’m didn’t do it!” he called out after the Draconian, as if he needed to have Erik believe him. Panicked cobalt settled on the command team and the color drained from his face. “Tell me what I need to do, I can’t go to prison! I don’t remember! I can’t be guilty if I don’t remember.” He focused on Cersei, pleading with the woman for an answer. When the captain raised a brow at his actions, he shifted his gaze toward Yari. “I didn’t-”
The commander shook his head slightly, his lips formed a thin line. He glanced down at the woman beside him. “The evidence is too strong against him- Even if he didn’t do it, he’s not showing any remorse. He’s more worried about his own skin. That won’t do us any favors. Are you sure you want to risk our relationship with the Klingons for this?” The Angosian frowned. “Relations have already been difficult because we helped the Dumoe.”
She sighed heavily and turned her chin slightly so that she could see Nazir from the corner of her eye. “Innocent or guilty, he deserves representation that will serve him to the best of their ability.” The captain focused her gaze on the security chief. “You’ll have tomorrow to think it over, Commander. The Klingon court will want blood.” Cersei paused to let the statement sink in. She placed her palms on the table and lifted to her feet. “If you’re convicted, Starfleet will strip your commission. You’ll be dishonorably discharged and your personal effects will be sent to your next of kin. Take care that your grandmother doesn’t also receive your remains.” She stepped aside of the chair and turned to walk to the door.
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” he shouted in disbelief. Anger quickly surged through him that they would abandon him in such a way. Gideon jumped to his feet and quickly rounded the table, intent on escaping with the Trill and Angosian. “I didn’t kill her! It’s a fake!! I wouldn’t hurt her!” The excuses ran together as he neared them. “I blacked out! I don’t re-”
Nazir was quick to place himself in a defensive position in front of the captain. His hand grabbed Salieri by the arm and he twisted away from Naal. He used momentum to his advantage against the bulkier man, placing his foot behind the half-Bajoran’s ankle to trip him. His other hand pressed flat into his back as his grip slid down his arm to his wrist. The table rattled as he forced the prisoner’s torso onto the surface. His hand tightened around his wrist as he pulled the arm further up along his back to lock the limb into a painful position. His eyes narrowed as he leaned over slightly. “You will not speak to the captain in such a manner,” he spoke plainly but there was a dangerous tone to his words. He leaned closer so that he could whisper. “I was unable to stop you from hurting Deniaud, but I will make sure you won’t hurt another one of my officers again.”
His yelp of surprise and pain was cut off by the air being forced from his lungs. “I didn’t hurt her!” he hissed as his body tensed to fight back against the Angosian. “That wasn’t me- it was the liquor! She drove me to drink again! She did this!” Gideon nearly screamed with agony when the commander twisted and shoved his arm further up his back. His body writhed in his attempt to escape. Relief was brief as he felt Yari pull away from him. The half-Bajoran was about to straighten when he felt another set of hands on his arm. Restraints secured his wrists behind him and he turned a glare over his shoulder. He noted the Klingon guard that had taken over in his ‘care’ and shifted his gaze to his superior officer. “You may as well forget about the trial! I’m as good as dead!” The guard lifted him from the table and dragged him toward the door. “It’s going to be quite a spectacle if you don’t get me out of here!”
The captain watched as Salieri pulled and fought the Klingon that guided him out of the room. Her thoughts raced with the interactions that she’d had with Marielle Deniaud, the chief of security, and Commander Nazir in the time that they’d served together. Cersei knew better than to believe that the physicist had done anything to bring her fate upon herself. ‘All she did was remain silent. Just as too many of us did.’ A frown tugged at the corners of her mouth and she shook her head. She quietly whispered an apology to the once bubbly researcher. The Trill promised not to fail her a second time by letting her murderer go unpunished. She would see that it was done humanely, however, and that he received help for the demons that plagued him.
The first officer took a step to stand beside his captain and he glanced down at the Trill as the half-Bajoran was escorted out of the interrogation room. “Are you alright, Captain?” While he openly made passes at the woman, there was a genuine concern as to her well-being. It wasn’t that Salieri had come close to possibly hurting her, but he was certain the woman was as troubled by the circumstances as he was. Deniaud had apparently silently suffered and no one had been willing to get involved. ‘A domestic issue.’ While murder and violent crimes were unheard of in the Federation, there were still fringes who happened to stand outside of the norm. It shook at the foundation of their belief system and even he found trouble coping with what he had seen - and he was no stranger to violence. He stepped forward to grab the PADD from the table before rejoining the commanding officer.
There was the slightest shake to her hand as she lifted her fingers to massage her temple. She nodded in response to Yari’s concern and turned to make her way out of the room. “We’ve lost two officers this week,” she whispered sadly. “Contact High Command. We’re going to need more counselors available to the crew.” Chocolate brown irises shifted briefly to the commander and she nodded before crossing over the threshold. She wasn’t in the right frame of mind to notice Nazir’s hand on the small of her back but she appreciated the comfort that came with the touch.