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Stardate: 1701.27 [27 January, 2017]
The Good Uncle
- George Eliot [Adam Bede]
Her fingers wrapped around her teacup as she stood in front of the floor-to-ceiling window. On much warmer days, Marielle would have ventured outside to enjoy the temperate Northern California weather. Although the winter proved to be warmer than normal, there was still a chill in the air and the idea of bundling up didn’t appeal to her in that moment. Her eyes focused on the hazy outline of the Golden Gate Bridge, the brassy brown outline appeared like a massive beast in the fog. The engineer brought the warm mug to her face, her eyes closing to relish the steam that kissed her face and the aroma of jasmine that filled her lungs.
“Your transfer should be here in three days time.”
Marielle turned enough to find her uncle, one Aldéric Grégoire Deniaud, standing beside her with a mug of tea in his thick calloused fingers. Her eyes lingered on the wrinkles that graced his hand. The lines appeared like the dry desert, and she wondered what stories his hands alone could tell. Emerald hues, warm and vibrant, swept over his face. She couldn’t remember if he ever looked so aged. His hair was unkempt, silver strands mixing with black. Her eyes moved from the man beside her to the scenery beyond the window. “That’s good,” she murmured.
There was a beat of silence as Alderic stared at his niece. He could remember when he had joined her on the short transfer from Earth to her first commission. The joy she carried with her on that day was gone, and the admiral couldn’t help but wonder who the shell of a woman was beside him. There had been some hesitancy in allowing her to join the famed Legacy starship. The vessel had a reputation for getting into the worst situations, and it seemed to live up to its namesake. The patron of thieves and vagabonds, indeed, he grumbled to himself angrily. He had been livid when he discovered that Marielle had been allowed to remain on Atlantis without so much as a follow-up. More so, they had failed to inform him of her disappearance until she was recovered. If it wasn’t for her insistence that she just wanted to forget, heads would have rolled. Then Malahakir. He sighed softly as he wished he could protect her from the horrors of the universe. He took a sip of his tea, his eyes focused on the shadowy lines beyond the fog.
The engineer nodded to some silent thought that passed through her mind, her eyes focused on the fog. She worried her lower lip. “I was thinking, maybe, that I could just remain here on Earth?” The words had been uttered softly, nearly a whisper. From her peripherals, she caught him staring down at her. The surprise was apparent in his expression. Marielle looked into her cup. “I- I don’t know if I’m cut out for Starfleet, Uncle Greg,” she muttered softly.
Alderic turned to face her completely. “Come on, Short Stack. Talk to me,” he urged softly. Marielle had arrived the day prior in tears. He hadn’t questioned, though he wondered if perhaps it had been one of the many arguments she had with his brother. As a child, the diminutive engineer had a tendency to run away from home only to land at his doorstep. “Is this about Atlantis? Malahakir?” he asked softly. The admiral watched as she shook her head only to pause then nod. He sighed, his arms encompassing her tiny frame as she began to cry. He held the mug in one hand, pressing the warm porcelain against her back, while the other hand played with her hair. “What happened, Short Stack?” he asked softly into her hair.
“It was my fault,” she sobbed softly, her hand gripping at her uncle’s green tunic and her near empty mug of tea. Marielle buried her face into his chest as she cried. “It was all my fault.”
His brow furrowed at her words. “What are you going on about, Mariëlle?” he asked soothingly. “How is any of it your fault?”
The engineer pulled away from her uncle to take a seat at the sectional couch near the wall of windows. She wiped her tears with the back of her hand and sniffled softly. “Papa is mad at me for Atlantis,” she revealed softly. “If I hadn’t gone snooping around-”
He growled softly and fell into the seat next to her. “Your father is an idiot,” Alderic grumbled as his arm draped over her shoulder in a sideways hug. His cheek rested on the top of her head. “If it wasn’t for you, no one would have known that your crewmate was in danger.” The Admiral kissed her temple. “The situation on Atlantis belongs to one man, and one man alone,” he insisted. “Words cannot describe how happy I am that you’re not marrying that psychopath Vatia. Could you imagine? You’d be giving me a nephew named ‘Marcus’?” He tried to find light in the situation. The reports from the counselor, Erik Vaeros, had been depressing. Alderic smiled a little when she laughed just enough for her shoulders to shake. “There we go,” he muttered. “You cannot blame yourself for falling for someone only to discover he wasn’t the man you thought he was. I saw that transmission, Short Stack.” His voice wavered with emotion as he recalled the frantic recording, her plea replayed itself in his nightmares. “You were so brave, and I am so proud of you.”
Marielle leaned against her uncle as she shook her head. “I’m not brave,” she muttered. “I got so many people killed on Malahakir-”
“That’s enough,” Alderic insisted with a stern tone. He pulled away enough to stare down at his niece, his thumb wiping away the tears from her eyes. “That is the weight of rank, Mariëlle. You lose people. No matter how well you plan, something can and will go wrong. You los-”
She shook her head furiously. “I didn’t just lose people, Uncle Greg. It’s because of me that- that they got tortured.” The words barely managed to tumble from her lips, her tone brittle as she failed to stop the tears from falling. “It was my fault, and I’ve got to serve with them on the Aldrin. I can’t bare to look at him after what I put-.”
“Him?” Alderic straightened and stared down at the engineer. The admiral’s eyes lifted to the ceiling as he sighed to himself. Of course. It had to be about a boy. His dark green hues moved back to stare at the top of Marielle’s head. It never ceased to amaze him how a willful woman could find herself completely lost whenever it involved men. Adam had thrown her for a loop for most of her teenage life and - much to the admiral’s chagrin - her adult life. That Marcus character had her dropping everything to live on Atlantis. Now, apparently there was another - he’d have to make inquires as to who this ‘him’ happened to be. Not for the first time, Alderic was happy that he didn’t have any children to call his own - let alone a daughter like Marielle. While he loved his niece, Alderic was sure the mere idea of boys would have given him an early grave. He leaned forward and placed his mug on the edge of his coffee table before taking Marielle’s and doing the same. “Okay. Let’s start from the beginning.”
Marielle lifted her gaze enough to look at her uncle from under her lashes. She sighed. The look he gave her was final. There was no way she would be able to escape a full explanation whenever the stern expression graced his face. “He- he was the one that saved me on Malahakir,” she muttered softly, her eyes falling to her fingers as they fidgeted with the skirt of her dress.
Alderic’s brows furrowed as he tried to recall the report. “He- That security officer that was on your security detail for Drikaana? Salami?”
“Salieri. Gideon Salieri,” Marielle corrected, giggling softly despite herself. She took a breath. “Gideon and I are, were, friends. He insisted on going on the mission. Well, you read the report.”
He nodded. “You were the only survivor that day,” he muttered softly. Alderic felt his heart wail at the memory, at how he had cried with relief that his niece had been spared that day. The admiral studied her carefully. “Your report mentioned that he had pushed you inside that compound. He saved you that day.” When she nodded silently, he took in a long and quiet breath. His forehead pressed into the top of her head. “Then I know who to thank for bringing you back to me,” he muttered softly.
“They took so much from him, Uncle Greg.” Marielle sobbed softly. “You didn’t see what they did to him. How could anyone do that to another being?” Her question was desperate, her eyes searching his for answers he could not give. She wiped the tears that fell with the back of her hand. “His team blamed me for it-”
“I don’t think they’d-”
“You weren’t there,” the engineer sniffled as she shook her head furiously. “Ryan, Gideon’s best friend, told me that they get shot at so that people like me can do our jobs. That that’s all they’re good for.” Marielle pressed on before her uncle could argue. “And, when Gideon came back, he wouldn’t see me. I tried to see him, to talk to him, and I couldn’t. They wouldn’t let me. His team. The medical staff. I- It was like seeing me just set back his recovery.” Marielle’s tears began to flow once more, the trail following the lines of her cheek. “Then- then he told me he needed me to go, and I knew. I knew it was my fault.” Her voice broke as she tried to say the words, her sobs filling the silent apartment. She covered her eyes with her hands as she cried.
His mouth dropped open, and Alderic found himself unable to find the words to comfort his niece. He looked down at the woman as she bent forward, her head buried into his tunic. He could feel her tears seeping between the fibers of the fabric. Shaking his head, the admiral’s arms wrapped around her tightly and he let her cry as he held her.
She sobbed. “All he’s done is save me, and all I’ve done is hurt him.”
Quietly, he pressed a gentle kiss on the top of her head. “Short Stack,” he called out to her softly as he tried to pull her from the depths of her sadness. “Listen to me.” Alderic waited for her to move, to indicate that she could hear him. When she didn’t, his hands found her shoulders and he pulled her away enough to look at her. “Listen to me.” The admiral waited a beat to see if she was aware enough to actually hear the words he was about to speak. “I bet you all the latinum in this universe that this boy doesn’t blame you for what happened to him.” His green eyes searched hers.
Marielle shook her head furiously. “You don’t know-”
“I do know,” he insisted. Alderic kept his gaze locked with hers. When she attempted to turn away, his head moved in line with her eyesight. “He is a Starfleet officer, and he did his job that day. He would have no hatred for you for it, and I’m willing to bet he would do it again in a heartbeat. It’s part of the uniform, Mariëlle, and it doesn’t do you or anyone any good if you dwell on this.” He shook his head at her when she opened her mouth to argue. “No,” there was a finality to his tone, “you dishonour his sacrifice, your team’s sacrifice, by blaming yourself.”
The engineer grumbled under her breath, her eyes falling to her hands as they played with the fabric of her dress. She sighed as finally nodded.
Alderic smirked slightly. “That was a little too easy,” he muttered loud enough for her to hear. He shook his head at her. “I don’t know why he stopped talking to you-”
“He started again before we got to Earth,” Marielle revealed softly.
He smiled. “See. It sounds like he just needed time,” he urged. Alderic sighed when she simply shook her head at him. “I don’t know where you get this stubbornness. Aubert was such a prissy pansy when we were younger,” he muttered wryly.
“I don’t know where that leaves us,” she straightened as she took in a deep breath. When her uncle gave her a questioning glance, Marielle waved her hand in the air as a blush coloured her cheeks. “We were- I don’t know- Maybe, well, not maybe-”
Alderic blinked. Then he laughed. When Marielle’s head snapped up to stare indignantly at him, his laughter only grew louder. He shook his head at his niece, his thick hands patting her dainty ones gently. “I’m not even going to touch that one.”
“What?” Marielle watched as her uncle stood up and took their mugs with him as he moved to the kitchen. “No! You can’t just laugh and not say anything!” She sniffled and wiped the last tears away. The engineer jumped to her feet, fully intending to follow him into the kitchen, but stopped as Alderic exited the kitchen.
“Nope. Nope. Nope,” the admiral repeated as he shook his head at his niece. “I’m not getting involved with your twisted love life.”
“What?!” She wrinkled her nose as she tried to follow after her uncle. “I don’t have a twisted love life! I don’t even have a love li-”
“Sure. Because I had to threaten at least half of the boys in your class with commissions in some mining colony.” He snickered.
“WHAT?!” Marielle chased after Alderic as he made his way to his bedroom. “When did you-”
“I always want to wring the necks of your boyfriends. I’ve got my own damn career to think of here, Short Stack. Just keep Salami away from me, and we’ll be fine.” He disappeared into his bedroom, his laughter booming despite the closed door.
Copyright 2017. 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.