If Eden’s office and the actual throne Thot Thanget had installed in Ops were uncomfortably opulent, the quarters a station commander in a diplomatic hotbed was expected to maintain were positively royal. Helped along by the missing Thot’s own sense of self-importance, the chamber was huge, and previous commanders had installed shelves that Eden felt compelled to fill with artifacts, books, and momentos. A childhood in space, an adolescence in a small apartment above a restaurant in the French Quarter, and a career in service had taught her not to keep many possessions. The odd gifts that were sometimes sent to her she had forwarded to her father on Earth, and she had, until Roosevelt, kept a largely uncluttered life.
She wasn’t sure how to feel about how comfortable she was becoming with the clutter.
She sat at the long table in her dining room. In spite of usually eating alone or with her yeoman, the table would seat eight with room to spare. When eating alone, she sat in the middle of one side of it to keep any dimension from looking too long and too empty, and that was what she did now, tapping the pad that lifted the hidden console from within the table, then answering the call.
One of her grandmother’s servants – pretty, in her 20s, deferent, just as her grandmother liked her household staff – appeared. Leilani, Eden knew, was her given name, though she had never learned the girl’s family name. “Ah! The Young Lady Starling. I will tell the mistress that you are available.”
“Thank you, Leilani,” Eden said, then, moved by equal parts warmth and mischief, added, “After my grandmother knows, you are to take a two-hour rest. Enjoy a snack.”
“Yes, Young Lady,” Leilani said, grinning at her, then stepped out of frame.
A few moments later, her grandmother appeared in her bedroom. Even with her advanced age and slowly failing health, it was obvious where the beauty Eden had always found in her mother, had heard so many comments about in herself, came from. Meshanna Starling, Matriarch of the Seventh House of Betazed, was more handsome than stunning now, though she had only become better at commanding a room over time. Her dark hair was streaked with white, and her eyes had lost none of their acumen.
The first words she spoke to Eden in a year and a half were, “I do wish you did not make trouble with the household so often, Eden.”
“It’s how I find my comfort, Grandmother,” Eden said. “I…” She sighed. “There’s a crisis on. Fate of the galaxy. I’m very glad to hear from you, but…”
“I’m dying, Eden,” Meshanna said, and Eden’s head snapped up. “Three doctors I trust have given me the same prognosis. Advanced Otri’s Syndrome… degradation of the cardiovascular system. I’m already feeling the effects. It could be weeks. The doctors expect two months by the greater moon. If I am very lucky, I have a year.”
“Grandmother.” Eden’s mouth was dry, and she forced herself to breathe. She and her grandmother had, for dozens of reasons, never gotten along, but she treasured the woman anyway, for her stories of Eden’s mother’s youth, her vivid personality, the sense of duty that everyone who had known her parents before her mother’s death swore Eden had learned from her father. “Is there anything I…”
“You have your crisis, Eden,” Meshanna said. “Get to that. For you to say ‘crisis’ to me means Betazed is in danger, and we can’t have that. I can hold things here together that long. But after… I need to know. I need to know that you will come home. That you will keep our House from falling.”
Inheriting. With my mother gone, I’m the only blood heir to House Starling. I don’t want this. I want Starfleet and space and anything but noble obligations. But the decision was made for her the moment Meshanna’s second daughter drowned on a boating trip on the Lake of Diamonds. There was an obligation, and she would meet it, in a way that would have made Arianna Starling-Enigma proud.
“Of course, Grandmother. I’ll come.”
“Good. I can rest easy, then. Just… don’t die. I will not face my death and the end of our House after fighting with your father about where to bury you.”
Eden smiled a little – if that was what passed for affection between them, she could carry that. “I’ll make sure he knows what I want, Grandmother.”
“Less than reassuring. Now… is there any way I can help you with your crisis?”
Eden opened her mouth to say no, then paused. “Grandmother, do we still have the Healer’s Hope? I need a ship, and a fast one.”
“Are you sure? Memories of Arianna always hit you in ways that ache for ages.”
“I’m sure,” Eden said.
“I’ll have it taken to you. It should arrive by tomorrow,” Meshanna said. “Don’t tell your father you’re taking her into trouble.”
“Believe me, telling my father about any of this is the last thing on my mind.” Her mother’s death had changed the course of her life, caused pain that still plagued her decades later. But losing Arianna had broken Vice Admiral Jay Enigma, driven him to Earth and retirement.
Taking a ship built and named in her memory to Cardassia, then some likely far worse place, would not soothe his nerves.
“Very well. I will see you when this is done, Eden. Be ready for lessons.” Then Meshanna vanished from the console, and Eden closed her eyes to clear the chill her grandmother’s tone with that last word had sent through her.