The alarm started beeping at 7:00 causing Cynndle to groan as he rolled over and turn it off before laying in bed and staring at the ceiling of his room. After a few moments, he mutters to himself, “Right, time to get up”. Getting up he quickly showers, dresses and has the replicator make him a small breakfast before heading out. It was his first day off in over a week – Operations was keeping him very busy running all over keeping things on track. He had mixed feelings about today, it was a day off and he was on his way to the pool which would help clear his head but he also had to see the new Counselor who has arrived on Starbase Bravo. He knew it was standard policy especially after the incident on the USS Dawnbringer a couple of months back and appreciated that. Nevertheless, he was still a bit apprehensive as he had yet to meet Ensign Rex; opening up about his feelings was always a trick especially when he doesn’t know the person.
Looking up he realized he was already at the pool shrugged, he didn’t realize that he had even gotten into the lift… After an hour he left and double-checked the location of her quarters and set out.
Heriah was in her quarters straightening, restraightening, positioning, repositioning, organizing, reorganizing, standing back and looking upon her work. Spread about the living space were several seats and a sofa, some small tables and displays. Her twin vase with the red and black lilacs stood in the middle of the room atop a table surrounded by chairs. Her bat’leth was displayed over by the door, the slow but ever-rotating image of Trillius-Prime hung on the far wall, her pair of sharp Andorian ushaan-tors hung near each other across the way. She also added her personal piece of art “My Inner Struggle” hanging on the wall nearest the replicator. The place appeared both jovial and threatening, inviting and foreboding at the same time.
The faint scent of the Trill sabrebeast perfume hanging in the air was present. During her counseling exercises back at the Academy, her student patients always enjoyed the scent saying it made them more comfortable. Heriah smiled at the thought knowing the irony of what the perfume of the Trill sabrebeast was really meant for.
She was out of uniform at the moment as she was not on duty. Her attire simply comprise a red, loose fitting shirt, and a black flowing dress ending half way down her calves providing evidence that, yes, Trill spots did in fact venture all the way down to the feet. Her choice in clothes matched the color scheme of her lilacs, red and black. The color pairing resonated with Heriah.
She smiled at the harmony of her living space. Though both peaceful and combative, it was harmonious all the same.
There came a chime at the door.
Looking toward it, “Now who could that be? My first patient?”
‘Or your first victim.’
‘Rex, stop it.’
She ventured to the door and it opened as she came in close proximity. “Yes,” she said gingerly to the man standing before her.
Standing at the door Cynndle was in a loss fitting burgundy t-shirt, dark grey pants and carrying a duffle over his one shoulder casually. “Ensign Rex? Or do you prefer Heriah?” Cynndle says a bit briskly, making passing eye contact and smiling faintly before looking up and down the hall.
‘Rex will do.’
“If you are not here on official Starfleet business,” she responded, “Heriah is fine.”
She did notice his lack of maintaining eye contact. Though the thought of him being yet another awkward and uncomfortable little boy forced itself to the forefront on her mind, she repressed the thought back to where it came from; Rex. This could have been someone with a legitimate issue that needed a professional touch.
‘I bet you want to touch…’
“Can I be of assistance?” she asked.
“Hope I am not too late? I lost track of time in the pool this morning.” His hair was still damp and small droplets of water could be seen running down his neck and others had recently fallen onto his t-shirt.
Heriah took a quick inventory of her appointments. To her knowledge, she was still at zero. At least she did not make any appointments herself. This one must have been autoassigned in some fashion. Shrugging it off, she stepped to the side. “Well, come on in and make yourself comfortable.”
Cynndle walks into the quarters and looks around. He nods towards the bat’leth and ushann-tors, “More than just decoration?” Without pause, he turns and slowly takes in the rest of the room noticeably stopping to look at the twin vases and then the painting for a couple of seconds before inhaling sharply and cocking his head as if trying to figure something out.
“I have used them in combat…well sparring matches and training exercises,” she said. “Not actual combat.”
‘Combat sounds better. Impress the little boy.’
Heriah brushed a lock of hair over her shoulder but was more motioning for Rex to be quiet.
Turning back towards Heriah Cynndle appeared relaxed but his eyes suggested that his outward demeanour was not necessarily the truth. “You have done a lovely job decorating your quarters. I like how the room is centred by the flowers; it’s a nice touch. Mine are still barren even after the last few weeks”. After a noticeable pause “What is the scent, it is intriguing, but I cannot place it…sorry I am rambling. How shall we proceed?”
“Yes, but first,” she took a step forward toward Cynndle. She could see in his eyes there was a bit of inner turmoil that he was otherwise not showing. Proximity sometimes helped a great deal. She did not get too close to him but also did not want to appear as though keeping a degree of distance. “…ramble all you want. You are here for you. I am here for you. We are all here for you.”
‘I am most certainly not. Tell him he’s a loser and…’
“Trill sabrebeast,” she broke in on Rex’s thoughts. “That is what you smell. At least, the musk of one made into a perfume.” She did not go into any more detail than that. “Chair or sofa?” She held out a hand directed at either, offering him to make the choice.
Cynndle nods as you tell him about the sabrebeast and then looks to the sofa and chair. “Ah yes. I’ll take the chair thanks.” He walks over and sits down and fidgets for a second before noticeably realizing what he is doing and stops.
Heriah sat in the chair across from him. The table with the twin vase atop stood between them. Each of the two Trill lilacs stood erect and leaned this way and that, giving the two clear view of each other between the red and black buds. She noticed his fidgeting; common with someone fighting a nervous disorder or someone facing troubling and menacing thoughts.
“Computer,” she said, “lower illumination by 25%.” And, as the lights began to lower, “It occurs to me that we have not exchange introductions. I am Heriah,Khatain Rex, Ensign and Counselor for Starbase Bravo. You may call me,” she smiled at him, “whatever name you like.”
A thought surfaced that if he chose anything other than ‘Rex’ that she should strangle him. Ignoring the thought, Heriah maintained her smile.
Internally chastising himself ‘Such a idiot, how could I not introduce myself’, for his lack of manners when he first arrived at Heriah’s quarters.
“Oh, right. Please forgive my rudeness Counselor.” He says as he sits up straight. “My name is Lieutenant Cynndle Oin’sun, operations officer on SBB. I should have explained at the door. I have been instructed to speak to a counselor regarding my last posting.”
‘Instructed to speak to a counselor,’ came the thought from deep inside. But, Heriah suddenly realized that she had actually spoken those words. Sometimes, it appeared Rex’s thoughts were too powerful for her not to vocalize. But, she said it. Now she needed to follow up.
“It is my experience that when people are ‘instructed’ to speak with a counselor, they do not always speak all that is on their mind, all that is troubling them; that such a meeting is simply a means to check a box and say ‘Yes, I did that. Now I can move on.’”
She noticed his hand fidgeting again. It stopped. Heriah made sure she was sitting up straight, that she was smiling but only a degree, and that she maintained eye contact with him even when he looked away.
“I ask that you want to be here; that you want to speak to me and to tell me what it is you want to say. I will be honest with you, I will not judge, and I certainly cannot tell anyone what you tell me. Unless, of course, if I have your permission or I deem you a safety risk to yourself or to Starfleet or the Federation in any way.”
Looking back towards the painting he sighs and looks back towards Heriah who never took her eyes off him, “I have put it off since my last posting, for various reasons” he says with a bit of a dismissive gesture of his hands as he if was trying to push the thought away. “I got a notification last night after my shift that I had been scheduled in but I gather you weren’t notified?”
Heriah gave a nasal laugh. “Yeah, well I am new here myself. I have not even finished in-processing and do not yet have access to the counseling schedule. They must already be giving me appointments regardless. I suppose I need to get that in-processing complete. By the by, you have the honor of being my first appointment.
Cynndle, snorts quietly and shakes his head and places two fingers (pointer and middle) of his left hand to his temple stroking it counter clockwise as he sighs and closes his eyes. “You would think by the 25th century that the left hand would know what the right is doing…”
‘Or the host would know what the symbiont is doing.’
‘I know what you are doing Rex; being a nuisance.’
“Time counts,” she continued, “and technology evolves, rather quickly I might add. But we, as a people, we cannot speed up time and we certainly cannot evolve faster than we are. The left hand; the right hand,” she brought her own hands up and displayed them, “they do not know what they themselves are doing, much less what the other is doing. They can only act based on the desires of a central thought center,” she brought her hands together, “and hope that the other acts accordingly.”
Thinking back to the Dawnbringer and his last couple of months he shrugs absently, ‘Maybe I do need to talk this through…what’s the worst that could happen’ he thinks.
Sitting back in the chair with a warm but slightly pained smile he visibly tries to relax. “So, Counselor, how shall we go about this?”
“First,” she also relaxed herself a bit, after he did of course. The counselor is to never fully relax before the patient. “First you can not call me ‘counselor.’ That keeps you in a doctor/patient mindset where you are the patient. I do not want that and I think you do not either. Pick a name for me and think of me as a friend.”
That makes Cynndle smile the first genuine smile you have seen. “Just any name, that could be fun” a hint of mischievousness flashes across his face before he drops back into the slightly more rigid manner again. “Heriah works for me, if you call me Cynndle, or Cyn that is. I like the idea of talking to a friend. All my old ones here have now moved on…”
“And people generally open up more to a friend than they would a doctor or a counselor. And yes, people do move on; friends do come and go with only but a few remaining for the long haul. And it is always advisable to make new friends. Second,” she continued, “tell me a story. Something regarding loss; the loss of something that cannot be returned to you. The loss of something that you think would still be with you if you had but acted more quickly, thought more quickly, or if your life experiences at the time had better prepared you for that incident and said loss. Not something recent mind you. Not something from you last posting. No,” Heriah thought a quick second, “something from your childhood or teen years, a favorite toy, a best friend, a blooming romance, loved one, anything. Could even be something you have not thought on in a long while.”
At that Cynndle cocked his head to the side and and his eyes looked towards the ceiling lost in thought. “A story of loss, hmm, let me think.”
And she could tell he really was thinking about it. Considering the incident that landed him on Starbase Bravo; that landed him to be ‘instructed’ to see a counselor, she felt there would be some kind of connection between the two.
You could almost see the gears turning in his mind as he began sifting through memories. Cynndle looks at you and gestures to your replicator. “Do you mind if I get a drink? Would you like anything?”
Heriah smiled and went from shaking her head to nodding between his two questions.
Cynndle gets up and talks to the replicator, “Tarkalean tea and a…”
“Alle’Ke’Zonda’er, green,” she spoke up so the replicator would hear.
He grabs the drinks and returns, sliding the nearly unpronounceable concoction to Heriah before sitting down in the chair and takes a sip.
“I find a nice drink can help one relax” he takes a sip and leans back into the chair, crossing his legs; placing his right cafe on his left knee.
“As for a story. Well one jumps to mind and I really haven’t thought of this for years. I grew up in the rookie mountains in what was British Columbia, formerly part of Canada, in a small town called Fernie. It is a bit of an eco/skiing tourist town so the locals are a pretty tight knit group.” Cynndle shifts and looks down into his tea as he continues. “There was a friend of mine, her name was Katy; we had been friends since we were born basically. Parents being friends and all. Did everything together but grew apart a bit as we got older as you do. When I was 16 I realized I had feelings that were more than just friendship and wanted to ask her to the school dance. Well I fretted about it for ages wondering if I should tell her and worried it would ruin our friendship. Even though it wasn’t what it used to be we were still pretty close. In the end I waited and she went with someone else. I remember walking towards her in the hall intending to ask and seeing James ask her, I knew he was and I was so angry at myself. It was a major disappointment and I only had myself to blame. I ended up going without a date just couldn’t bring myself to ask another. I had fun with my friends who were there and even had a dance with Katy but it wasn’t the same. Never did tell her in the end either…I guess I wonder what if I had not waited, what if I had told her after James asked or even after the dance how I felt. Who knows if it would have made a difference to where I am in life….” With a shrug Cynndle looks up from the tea and smiles. “I don’t think it would have changed anything in the end. I was already on track for the academy and that was my goal.” He looks back at his tea and takes a sip, “But I guess you never know …”
He laughs “A bit cliche isn’t it. Missed opportunity with high school crush.”
“A bit cliché? Yes. But that does not mean it is a bad thing.” Heriah laughed a bit as she said, “It does, however, mean when our parents say”, she lowered her voice in a mimic, “‘Well, when I was your age,’ that perhaps you should listen. Sometimes words of wisdom are to be had.”
Heriah thought a moment; having a thought about her own parents. Almost too long of a moment. She took a sip of her green tea. “Cliché also has a way of being insightful and relevant, even in the wake of recent events. Cliché can bring back long ago feelings and guilt. It will even attempt to convince us that, after all these years, we really have not changed or grown or bettered ourselves.” She leaned forward toward him only but a few inches but enough to drive home the point that, “only the opposite is true. Whatever the incident that landed you here on Starbase Bravo, whatever it was that made you be ‘instructed’ to see a counselor, is it really the event you are struggling with? Or is it that you lost someone, did not act fast enough, had the opportunity and hesitated even if it was a fraction of a second, always told yourself you would get to it tomorrow, only to find tomorrow a day too late? Are you struggling with the thought that what could have been is now and forever going to be an unknown; another What If?”
Heriah let him stew on her words a bit but not long enough for him to vocalize any thoughts before she continued. “Now take the rebirthed feelings from that event those years ago back in high school and apply them to recent events. And tell me, what is it that brings you to me today?”
Listening to her words Cynndle cannot help but feel that she is right, “I need to get this off my chest, it’s her job but I think she gets it, could be a friend”. Glancing at the weapons on display he thinks “Similar interests and all…”
With that, he let out a sigh and leaned back in the chair cupping his tea in both hands. “Honestly, all of that, none of that, I am not sure really. Do you know about the Dawnbringer and what happened to her a couple of months back?”
“I did review the incident in brief detail. I am certain you understand, there are lots of similar incidents happening regularly. I will review it though, paying closer attention. Please, proceed.”
Taking another sip of the tea he sets it down and leans forward resting his elbows on his knees and his chin on his intertwined fingers. “It’s all in my service record if you want to check but I was an ensign on the Dawn assigned to bridge duties; had been there for two years right out of the academy. She was a great ship, good crew, not at full complement either; 35 of us, including officers. When we were attacked I reacted quickly and did what I needed to do. Hell was even given a citation for my work….” He trails off for a few seconds and leans back clearly uncomfortable talking about this. “But what if I had cleared up the sensors quicker, noticed the ship on approach, would Flagstaff have survived, been able to disable or destroy the ship faster…saving those lives? We lost 8 of us that day. People I lived with, worked with. Friends; close friends.”
Pausing for a moment clearly upset at this though he continues “Don’t get wrong I know this is part of the job but…it is hard, they were the first people close to me I lost in the fleet. I know they won’t be the last either.”
As he spoke his eyes wandered the room, passing over Heriah but the longer he spoke he settle on her face and maintained eye contact. “It just drove it home for me that it is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That doesn’t make me weak or that I failed. But it is hard to push through.”
“You are absolutely right,” she said. “That does not make you weak or mean you have failed. You need to repeat that to yourself, at least once a day.”
Reaching for his cup and taking a sip he straightens in the chair, “I guess I am worried about those connections; a real connection and making them again.”
“What was,” Heriah started as she sat back in her seat, “what could have been, what isn’t, and what will never be. To me, that is the root of your struggles. Then there is the concern over having to endure this type of loss all over again if you but allow a similar connection in the future.”
Cynndle looks at Heriah as she speaks and tilts his head to the side slightly contemplating what he has said. “What she says makes sense. I know I cannot change the past but isn’t it normal to second guess past actions….”
“Loss is pain,” Heriah pressed on. “And pain only means you are alive. I have seen many and,” she looked down at her abdomen, “Rex, well he has seen many, many more with nothing to lose, no pain, no connections, no friends, and, though physically alive, they were already dead inside. Your loss,” she pointed at Cyn, “your pain means that you Cynndle…Oin’sun,” she spoke his surname in a questioningly manner hoping she pronounced it right, “you are alive. You fear future connections because you fear similar loss. Avoiding connections is not advisable. You should not seek to avoid the pain and the loss because you would be avoiding fear. And fear…fear can be a useful and educational tool. Fear helps you better understand what is important, how to act, and what is more important to hold on to.”
Again, she let him stew on those words.
“Answer me this,” Heriah continued, “would you rather bury a crewmate you had a strong connection with, or would you rather bury another personnel aboard the same ship as you but you feel okay about it because you did not know that person? Would you rather fear a loss and fight that much harder to hold onto what you fear to lose, regardless if you lose it or not, or would you rather have nothing and fear nothing, so that, when you step away from the bodies and the flames, you feel okay about it all?”
Heriah was not smiling, she was not sitting back and relaxed, she was not sipping her tea. Heriah was leaning forward resting her elbows upon her knees, giving Cyn her complete attention, her peridot eyes staring him in the eye and awaiting his answer.
“I know, intellectually that you are right, I have known since the incident. I don’t want to bury a friend or a crewmate but I know it happens and would prefer the memory of them to live on. But knowing this and accepting that is the trick.” He says as he brings his right hand to his head and massages his temple. “I guess a large part of it is that I miss them. I tried to mourn them after, still do, and even took time off back to Earth that I had saved up to clear my head. It helped but coming back here reminded me of them.”
Seeming to get frustrated Cynndle leans back in the chair, his hand now rubbing his forehead. “Tell me Heriah, how does one get past something they know is not helping them on every level? Get past that block? I know I haven’t been here long since my reassignment and can be slow to make friends but I see people on the promenade chatting and remember having coffee with friends when I was here as a cadet, remember relaxing with friends on the Dawn be that sparing, or whatever. I miss that, you know. Part of me wonders if I have just focused too much on the job since I got here so I don’t then have time to think about this….”
“That is a possibility,” she said. “Focusing too much on work to fill your time so that you will not have the time to think about this, to get back to making friends, to get some real R&R. As I see it, your previous commander had you transferred here from the Dawnbringer, after the incident of course. Seems your previous commander was pretty smart. You seem to be dealing with a bout of PTSD. Or perhaps PCOS, similar to PTSD but…temporary. As for how temporary, well…that remains to be seen. I am not a psychiatrist like my boss, LT Weld, so I do not have the authority to actually make that diagnosis. This is simply based on my observations. And your previous commanding officer was perhaps already seeing this, hence your reassignment here.”
Leaning back, Heriah pondered his first question, “’How…does one…get past something…they know is not…helping on every level?’ Well, first of all if you happen to find something that does help on every level then you have found the mother lode of gold-pressed latinum. In other words, there is no one thing that is going to help on every level. What we do have, unfortunately, is trial and error; see what does help and what does not. And it is apparent that a lighter work load aboard a starbase, in a relaxed environment is not the answer. Then again, neither is an assignment aboard a starship. Similarly, burying yourself in work has provided zero resolution.”
“Here is what I can prescribe,” Heriah said. Her smile returned. “And even your direct supervisor cannot countermand this. If he should try, he can speak with me and/or LT Weld. I am prescribing your work load and your duty shift to be reduced by, at least, one-third. One-half if your supervisor will allow. The remaining time of your duty shift is to be spent cross-training. You know what that means right? I want you to provide an additional hand in Engineering helping to work on ships and shuttles. I want you to put in some time as a nurse’s assistant in Sick Bay, assist in flight control. This starbase needs to maintain orbit and we have plenty of ships out there who need to be told where to dock, how long to wait, etc. I want you spend some time in hydroponics, astrometrics, security. Pretty much,” she leaned forward toward him again, “I want you to pick something you are unfamiliar with and go help out for a time each day. Surely every department has work that does not need to be completed by specialists who were at the top of their class. We are still burying you in work, but this is other work, in other departments, to get your mind off of your work and to think a little bit differently. You will also be working with other personnel, possibly wearing a different color shirt from time to time. Do not concern yourself with making connections with others, but also do not actively attempt to avoid connections.”
Heriah could see his mind working that through. “How does that sound to you?”
Listening intently Cynndle nods. “Well, I cannot fault that idea in any way. You had me a bit concerned about the reduced work but if that is then picked up in other departments to broader my scope I would be happy with that. I think it will be beneficial not just in the personal sense but I think it would be good to have that additional experience within my career.” Pausing for a moment and running his hand along his short beard strumming his fingers on his cheek, “How long do you anticipate this would last for?”
“As long as it takes,” she said with a smile.
“It might be just what I need at this moment actually, get out, meet new people and broaden my horizons. Get me out of this funk so I can look after myself a bit. I will have a chat with my CO about this and get started on it right away.”
Looking around the room again Cynndle relaxes back into the chair and smiles. “This has helped. I do feel better already Heriah. Thank you.”
“Keep in mind,” she spoke up on the coattails of his praise, “this may not help on every level as you say. Again, we are in the trial and error phase. Healing takes time. So do not walk out of here believing all is well and good. This is just the beginning of your path. You will still struggle, but it seems we both are in agreement that this is the first step forward in reducing your struggles. Should an issue arise aboard the base or out there,” she waved a hand toward the vastness of space, “you could be recalled to your post without warning.”
Heriah stood as he did. “I want you to make an appointment for…two weeks from now, sooner or later if you want, so we can discuss your progress and experience.”
Cynndle nods, “Two weeks? I will get that put onto the system today. As you said this is a start but I feel it is a good start; even just talking about it has helped I feel” He snorts a laugh “Longest non-work conversation I have had since stationed here.” He holds out his hand to Heriah, “Thank you Heriah.”
She took his hand. “You are very welcome. And hopefully you will have many more non-work conversations. If you ever need me,” she said, “remember I am always only a tap of the commbadge away.”
Cynndle turns to leave her quarters before pausing and gestures bat’leth and Andorian ushaan-tors hung on the wall and smiles faintly. “If you ever need a sparring partner let me know. They are not my personal choice but always good to spar against another who has a different weapon preference.”
‘Oh our weapon preferences are quite vast. Blunt…blade…projectile. Pick the instrument of your demise.’
Heriah smiled, both at the thought and at Cynndle. “Let me work into a daily routine and I will get back to you. I am always up for a sparring partner.”
He smiles at that, “To echo your own words Heriah, I am only a tap of the commbadge away. Thanks again.”
With that, he turns and leaves the quarters with a quick glance back and a slight wave. Once in the hallway he stops and thinks for a moment.
‘That was more helpful than I thought, maybe I should have just gotten it out of the way right after the Dawnbringer….though I guess then it wouldn’t have been with her.’
With a smile, he heads down the hall towards the turbolift.
‘I wouldn’t mind seeing her again.’