Part of Starbase Bravo: Q2 2400

Biting the Bullet

Starbase Bravo
March 2400
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Lihran stood motionless outside an office door, glaring at it, as if staring at the door will miraculously solve all his problems. He was being pushed by multiple people to come see a counsellor to try and sort out his head about his sleep avoidence issues, as it was starting to impact his work. He lifts and lowers his hand multiple times, reluctant to push the chime. He lets out an aggitated huff and rather aggresively pushes it, nearly punching it, just to get it over and done with.

From the receptionist desk, Jamie took her attention off of her computer terminal and focused on the door as a chime rang and the doors slid open.

Lihran winced. There was no going back now. He stepped through the door. He clammed up, struggling over his words, “I uh… help…” He visibly winced, ‘Did I really just say that?! Such an idiot. Great first impression.’

“Hello sir, I am Crewman Jamie Chadwick, receptionist for the Counseling office.” She stood from her desk. “I am afraid our counselors and LT Weld himself are all out of the office at the moment. I can take your name and create an appointment for you or,” Jamie looked at her computer terminal, “…sorry sir, we do have one available counselor.” Jamie reclaimed her seat at the desk. “Ensign Heriah Rex has no appointments right now and likes to receive her appointments in her quarters.” Jamie returned her attention to Lihran. “I can direct you there if you like.”

Lihran sighs. That means he’d have to muster up the nerves to approach another door all over again, “I… yeah, I will go there. Thank you.” He glances at his PADD, furrowing his brow. He mumbles a half-hearted ‘Thank you’ and headed off towards her quarters.

Jamie tapped away at her computer terminal and directions for getting to Heriah’s quarters were sent to Lihran’s PADD.

Lihran mutters to himself, “Time to do this all over again, dammit.” He stops outside Heriah’s door, closing his eyes for a moment. This time it was a lot less fighting with himself. He aggressively slams his fist into the chime once more, tucking the PADD under his arm and folding his arms over his chest.

‘Just get this over and done with. It gets Sol to stop nagging you.’

Heriah had just finished aligning a new display on a bare spot of the wall. She had hung a Vulcan lirpa and a Romulan dirhja together and angled toward each other, but not touching or appearing to strike each other. Neither was on top of the other.

She was standing back and admiring her work when the chime came. Of course, the chime came in the immediate wake of what sounded like someone punching the wall outside.

‘Another hapless sort without direction? And a violent one at that.’

“He just needs to learn how to channel that anger Rex.”

‘Channeling is for losers.’

“Which is what you would have been if I have not come along.”

Heriah entered within proximity of the door. From the pounding from a second ago, she half expected the door to hesitate and grind a bit before opening. It did neither and opened invitingly.

Being on duty, Heriah was in uniform and reached overhead to touch her hair to ensure it too was within regulation.

“Yes,” she said to her…’Romulan’…caller. “May I be of assistance?”

Lihran gripped his PADD tightly with one hand, his knuckles turning white, “Chadwick redirected me here. Said you like to receive appointments and all that here.” He tries to offer a smile, but it likely looked more like a grimace. He adds as an afterthought, “Ensign Lihran…”

“…of Romulus.” Heriah understood his smile-like grimace.

‘Oh, does poor rommie no longer have a home?’

Heriah brushed a few strands of hair over her left ear, but was really throwing away the thought Rex pushed forth.

“Starfleet Engineering,” she finished. “Do come in,” and she stepped to the side, motioning for him to enter. “Yes, I do enjoy receiving my appointments here when I can.” If she was going to hear a lot of personal baggage of her patients, then she might as well invite them into her personal living space.

Lihran stepped into her quarters, “Yes, thank you. A particular matter of comfort I am to assume?” He was momentarily distracted by the dirhja, studying it for a long moment, “I take it you know how to use it?” He turns to face Heriah, brow raised.

“Admittedly, I do not, but do have an interest in learning.” She also had, more precisely one of Rex’s previous hosts had, the ability to look at a melee weapon and deduce how to use it fairly adequate based on sight alone. True skill though would take time. “Do make yourself comfortable. Can I get you anything to drink,” she asked, “anything from the replicator?”

He considers this for a moment, “Please. Coffee, black. Thank you.” He was surprisingly less anxious than he thought he would be in her quarters as opposed to her office. He scanned the surroundings thoroughly with his eyes, and only then does the tension ease in his shoulders slightly and he relaxes his grip on his PADD.

“Please sit wherever you like,” she said as she approached the replicator, “or stand if you prefer.” She spoke her order and the replicator produced.

“I am here for you,” Heriah spoke as she returned with two mugs, what Lihran desired and her cup of Alle’Ke’Zonda’er black tea, “you are here for you,” she handed him his mug, “we are both here for you,” she finished her little introductory catchphrase. Then, “oh where are my manners? I am Ensign Heriah Rex, Counselor for Starbase Bravo.” She knew he already knew that but wanted to get that out regardless. “Are you skilled with the dirhja?”

Lihran looks around before slowly taking a seat. He takes the cup of coffee with a gracious nod, then nods once more, “Yes. I was required to pass an exam on its use to get promoted from Gekha to Lieutenant. I am no master, but I can offer to teach you.” He sips his coffee slowly, keenly watching her expression for a reaction when he mentioned Tal Shiar ranks

“Ooh, Tal Shiar and Starfleet,” she said with a bit of bewilderment. “Quite the merging of disciplines. As for the…”

Lihran lets out a soft sigh, “I, regretablly, did not come here to discuss the dirhja and hand to hand combat. I am…” He pauses, like any proud Romulan, he struggles to admit he needs help, “I am having issues.”

No small talk. This one seemed to want to get straight to the business at hand; a very Romulan trait. Heriah grabbed her PADD and prepared it for taking notes. This one also did not seem the type to want to be on a first-name basis with her. He seemed very military-oriented; another Romulan trait.

“Very well, Ensign. Before we start, know that I am not authorized to repeat anything you tell me regarding your issues to anyone. The only instance where I do have the authority to tell someone else is if I have your express permission or I deem you a threat to yourself, to Starfleet or the Federation. I will not judge, I will be honest and I will do my best to help you in any way I can.”

With that little speech out of the way, “Now tell me, what brings you here today?” Heriah thought to say add a ‘please’ to that question but decided to remain straightforward with Lihran. No ‘please.’ No begging.

Lihran closes his eyes, formulating his thoughts. “I am having severe nightmares; about the Tal Shiar, about the supernova, about my ex spouse. It is to the point where I am avoiding sleep for days on end, taking stimulants and submerging myself into work till I collapse from exhaustion. Several have encouraged me to come seek… help… It is starting to impact my work, this avoidance of sleep.” He said ‘help’ as if it was distasteful, and he meant ‘fear’ in place of ‘avoidance’.

This man was a Romulan, of Romulus, and by every definition of the term, he…was…Romulan. Still, the very essence of Romulan discipline, especially as it was formulated by the Tal Shiar, did not have to define Ihran to the dot. Still, Heriah felt that asking him to view her as a friend in the stead of a counselor was a tall order. So, she decided on another measure.

“Let us begin with you not looking upon me as a counselor, but as a tool. In short, I am no different than a tricorder that you can pick up, perform a scan and put down. As a tricorder has functions that you yourself cannot perform, I have functions and skills that may be foreign to you. Look upon me as a tool and use my skills and functions to your benefit. You utilize stimulants to avoid sleep. So then, utilize me to avoid further struggles.”

Lihran stared at her for a solid moment, “Isn’t ‘tool’ a human insult? At least I have heard it used as such at the Academy.” The corner of his lips twitch in amusement. He appeared to have a sense of humour at least. He bit his lip to refrain from commenting further, listening.

“Referring to someone as a ‘tool’ can be an insult, yes, but only if it is meant that way. I do not see that as being the case here.”

Heriah sat back and thought a brief second before deciding to tackle the elephant first. “Hobus,” she began. “It exploded and took Romulus, Remus and the entire system with it. Many Romulans still feel betrayed as Ambassador…Spock(?), if I am not mistaken, had actually sworn to save the system. In the end,” she trailed off as everyone knew how it ended, “Ambassador Spock and his ship were missing and the supernova was mitigated. I do not know how you feel about support groups ensign,”

‘Probably cold toward them.’

“…but there is a support group here on Bravo for those who have lost their homeworlds. I happen to know that there are some Romulans in this group, El-Aurians who lost their home to the Borg, humans who identify as Martian as their planet is still on fire, Vulcans even who claim to be from another reality where an Imperial Federation destroyed their planet. This group is widely varied, they do not ask for proof, they meet weekly, and I highly recommend you at least consider taking part at least to sit and observe.”

Lihran frowns at the mention of a support group, “I will… consider it. I am not exactly a socialable one. Nor do I like to take time away from work, Heriah.” He used a first name! “But I will consider it.”

Heriah rather enjoyed his use of her first name. Already some progress was being made, albeit just a little. “After your duty shift then. You do not want to take time away from work, so see about it after. You say you bury yourself in your work. I take it that means you may continue to work once your duty shift ends. Yet you are here. So, something about that is not working for you.”

“As for these nightmares…”

‘Oh you know all about nightmares.’

‘Quite Rex.’

“…I…cannot say I know what you are going through but I think it is safe to say that I may have a better understanding than most. Nightmares are simply dreams and dreams are usually nothing more than wild imaginings of the subconscious mind. Hence why most dreams spin out of control. And that is where nightmares generally come, out of a lack of control. That, and the mind creating a near visual reality of things you would rather not think on.”

“Tell me, ensign,” she continued, “have you ever attempted lucid dreaming? It is no secret that Romulans and Vulcans share a common ancestry. Since Vulcans practice a high degree of mental discipline to include mind melding, I do not see it as impossible that Romulans could also attempt and even achieve an increased level of mental discipline. This could include lucid dreaming and lucid dreaming is simply you remaining conscious while you sleep and are dreaming. You can call forth a dream, a nightmare even, and maintain control through to conclusion. Another method of th…” and she avoided using the word ‘therapy’ with him, “…this…could be you taking every detail you can remember and programming it all into a holoprogram to be relived on the Holodeck. You can then incorporate other personnel. I know you have met others during your time aboard Bravo that you might already be considering asking to take part, even if their role is only to observe. What I am getting at is this. The Tal Shiar, Hobus exploding, your ex-spouse, they all have a common denominator that we need to locate, identify and explore. This common denominator can be the loss of something or the desire of something you have never had and/or may now be impossible to ever have.”

Lihran couldn’t help but grimace at the mention of Vulcans. Some habits are hard to shake. “I have not attempted, no. Romulans aren’t as mentally disciplined on the same level as Vulcans are. I have never heard of this lucid dreaming before.” He pauses, sipping his coffee again, “I’ve never considered a holoprogram though. A loss of a home, a love that never existed, the Tal Shiar…” he sighs and leans back slightly.

Heriah saw that he was returning back to square one. “Do not worry about those things right now. Right now is the time to worry about finding that common denominator. I strongly advise an attempt at a lucid dream. I can even off assistance if you desire. It is, however, one of the counseling techniques taught at the Academy and I have been wanting to put it into practice.

‘But not try it yourself. Coward.’

“And,” Heriah spoke up, attempting to drown out Rex’s thought, “I may have information on another home you may not know about. And, no,” she continued immediately, “I am not going to mention Vulcan. It is some place else and a place you might not…dream…possible.”

Lihran heaves a sigh, “I would need assitence, yes. I do not even know how to do this lucid dreaming.” He lifts a brow as she continues, “Now you have my curiousity. Where are you speaking of? The entire purpose of me joining Starfleet is to try and find a home, so to speak.”

Heriah smiled at him, and at both his admittance to needing assistance and his desire to find a home. She decided to touch on the latter first.

“Earth,” she said and then spent a short moment letting that sink in and his curiosity deepen. “There is a city called Rome. It resides in France, no Ital…Italy. That’s it. Legend has it that this city was founded by a pair of twin boys named Romulus and Remus. Sound familiar? Upon founding their great city, in an attempt to name it, the twins fought over who would be the founding father of the city and the prevailing empire. Romulus is said to have killed Remus and named the city, Rome. The Roman Empire followed thereafter and it proved the largest Earthly empire the humans of the time had ever seen. It is said to have encompassed almost half the known planet.”

“Could there be a connection there,” she added, “or is this a case of wild coincidence?”

Before Ihran could speak, Heriah continued. “Vulcans are often tight-lipped about their own history regarding the struggle for pure logic. It is true that a band of Vulcans were exiled because of their resistance to embrace pure logic. Vulcan legend says the leaders of this band were best friends named Romulus and Remus. There is a theory on Earth, you see, that Romulus and Remus went to Earth first, after their exile from Vulcan. The Vulcans eventually realized there was a population on Earth and went there to remove Romulus, Remus, and their followers, but apparently the influence of Romulus had already taken hold. Still, they were driven away eventually finding their own planets, Romulus and Remus. In the centuries that followed, the Vulcans kept an eye on Earth. Up until First Contact, they did not really have an interest in Earth save to ensure the humans did not become like Romulus. In theory, this is why the Vulcans were so prideful and arrogant toward the humans during the early years of exploration, before the Federation. Even now, the city of Rome is still there, there is a whole category of languages regarded as Romance languages. The root word being ‘Roman’, stemming from Romulus. Again, this is all conjecture and theory but could remain a wild coincidence defeating impossible odds if it is not true. If historians have anything to say about it, however, you may have an ancestral home on Earth.”

Heriah could see his raised eyebrow. His interest in her words were almost tangible and, for this short time, it seemed as though all his worries and struggles and concerns had vanished.

“As you may have deduced,” Heriah said with a smile, “I like to learn the ancient histories of places I visit.”

Lihran nodded slowly, “I’ve never heard of it. Then again, my time on Earth was spent trying to adapt to a new culture and technology. The parallels and similarities are quite interesting. I may have to look into this ‘Rome’.” He hesitated and seemed to struggle with his words for a moment, “Thank you, Heriah.” He was also unused to thanking people it seemed.

Heriah felt there was something of a breakthrough, perhaps not enough to rid Lihran of his struggles but it was definitely a step in the right direction.

“You are very welcome, Lihran,” she decided to also use his name. Now was time for her to touch on the prior; his admittance to needed assistance. “And for this attempt at lucid dreaming, I will avail myself and provide assistance. Do set up a time, here soon, in your quarters, preferably alone, and I shall help you get started. I cannot guarantee this first attempt will provide results. All we can do is trial and error; see what works and progress from there.”

Lihran nods, “Sooner the better I would think. I will set something up shortly. And unless a stuffed bear toy from earth counts, alone will not be a problem.” He said this far too seriously, then his expression cracked into an amused grin.

Heriah was unaccustomed to seeing Romulans smile. It appeared almost painful for Lihran to do so. Still, another breakthrough. “Allow me to look over my notes and make other preparations,” she said. “It will not take long. Let me know when and where and I will be there.”

Lihran nodded in response, “I’ll let you know when… And uh… Thank you once again, Heriah.” A small flush crossed his cheeks, signalling the sincerity of his words. He pushed himself up slowly to his feet.

Heriah stood in kind. “We will tackle this thing together. And we will prevail. I look forward to hearing from you soon.”