Part of USS Arcturus: Counseling the Arcturus

Timothy Marshall and Arco Armstrong

USS Arcturus, Plowman's Tap
Spring 2400
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Part of any good counselor’s role was to get to know the general atmosphere and feel of the ship she served on. Aboard Artemis, Counselor Sharma had found things, for the most part, to be relatively sedate. The Obena-class ship had been assigned to diplomatic duties and had a large number of social scientists, protocol specialists, and staid personality types aboard. She could already tell that Arcturus was different, and not just because it was such a larger vessel. Most of the crew were at the top of their fields, and the median age was somewhere around 30; it wasn’t quite the youthful energy you’d find on a scout or frigate, but the reputation aboard Arcturus was one of hard partying as much as hard work.

As one example of this, one of the two forward lounges was unabashedly a gay bar. The Plowman’s Tap was run by Miss Nomer, a drag queen from San Francisco picked personally by Captain Lancaster. Sharma had a hard time squaring that decision with Lancaster’s reputation for being so reserved and even isolated, but she knew that meant there was far more to him than his files might indicate. Far from the neutral pastels and ochres of many Starfleet facilities, the bar was bright, colorful, and very busy even at 1930 hours on a night where nothing, in particular, was planned.

Sharma had changed from her standard on-duty grey suit to a saffron-colored sari for the evening. Most everyone else, despite the atmosphere being joyful bordering on frenetic, was in their duty uniform, so she stood out. This was partly by design; she felt that the crew had to see her, to know that she didn’t just exist on the other side of the therapist’s couch like some sort of holoprogram.

“Could I please have a glass of red wine?” Sharma asked once the proprietress walked over to her at the bar.

Miss Nomer snorted. “I suppose you go to a salon and ask for ‘a haircut,’ too, huh? I’ll lead a little more detail, babe. Earth? Vulcan? Betazed? Synthetic?”

“I suppose I was attempting to be low maintenance. Not synthetic. Otherwise, whatever you have open,” Sharma offered.

“You’re our new chief headshrinker, right?”

“Sure, if you like. Counselor Kora Sharma.”

“Miss Nomer, but I’m sure you already knew that. I’m sure you’re used to giving the advice, but since this is my bar, I’m pretty used to dispensing it myself: Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. This is the 25th century: no one should have to sit in my place with a drink they don’t like or only kinda like,” she said bluntly. 

It wasn’t bad advice at all, though Sharma was initially caught off-guard by the boldness with which it was given. The suggestion that she was used to giving advice resonated at least. 

“Now, if you’re asking for recommendations, we have a very bright 2378 Barolo if you’re looking for something a little lighter, or we have a big, bold 2390 Cab from Penthara IV.”

“The Barolo, then,” Sharma replied. 

“Good choice,” the bartender replied. She disappeared for a moment and then returned with a very healthy pour. “Does anything particular bring you to my little corner of the ship tonight?”

“Just getting the lay of the land, really. I’ve got some catching up to do,” Sharma replied, sliding the drink over and taking a sip. As advertised, it was bright and cheerful, without being sweet. “I’m told this is the heart of the ship’s social scene.”

“For the most part, yes. I think everyone on the ship ends up here, at least occasionally. There are a dozen other bars, but they’re all a little more… standard,” Miss Nomer said. As she said that, two men approached the bar with empty glasses. The bartender quickly took the two glasses and replaced them with brand new, quite full glasses of whiskey. “Counselor, these two fine specimens are Timothy Marshall and Arco Armstrong. Two of your bridge officer colleagues.”

“Kora Sharma,” Sharma offered to them.

She recognized the two of them from her scrutiny of the senior officer dossiers. The man in red was surely the ship’s helmsman; he fit the stereotype quite well, with an impressive physique and bright smile. His counterpart was also quite handsome, but there was something about his general demeanor that served to cloak that in a way.

“Welcome aboard!” Marshall said, seeming to show off even his molars with his enormous grin. “I’m sure you’ll have your hands full with all of the personalities we have aboard Arcturus,” he teased, elbowing Armstrong in the ribs.

“A pleasure, Counselor,” Armstrong noted in a much quieter voice.

As Armstrong said that, Sharma noticed Marshall slip his arm around him and give him a quick squeeze. There was nothing in their files about a pre-existing relationship, so she found herself curious to unpack the nature of their interactions.  

“You should join us. We have a table by the windows,” the pilot suggested.

Sharma initially demurred, not wanting to interrupt or intrude, but Marshall wouldn’t take no for an answer. The three of them settled in at one of the tables near the floor-to-ceiling windows on the leading edge of the bow. Marshall was more than happy to talk enough for the three of them, though Armstrong would sometimes step in when he felt that Marshall was being too modest for his part in recounting the adventures of the starship Arcturus.

“So, how long have you two been dating?” she asked during a break in the conversation.

Marshall chuckled. “Oh, we’re not dating…”

“Oh! I’m sorry. I just… You seem very close.”

“Well, we are definitely having sex, so maybe that’s what you’re picking up on?” Marshall clarified.

All of the color had drained from Armstrong’s face, and he looked sullen for a moment, as if that was a reminder of something he was unhappy about or if that was as much an announcement to him as it was to her.

“Ah, that clears things up,” Sharma replied, regretting asking the question at all.

Armstrong was quiet for the rest of the conversation, though Marshall seemed oblivious to any lingering awkwardness. Sharma glanced over at the scientist a few times, but he didn’t make eye contact. 

“I need to check something down in the science department. It was nice meeting you, Counselor,” Armstrong said abruptly before grabbing his empty glass and leaving the table. 

“See you, Arco,” Marshall said, watching him leave and then turning his attention back to Sharma.

“I think you upset him,” Sharma pointed out.

“Oh. Really?”

Sharma wondered for a moment if the young man was serious, but she couldn’t detect any guile in his eyes or in his voice.

“Are you two on the same page about ‘not dating’?” she asked.

“Well, we’ve never said we were dating, so I thought so.”

“Well… you might want to clear that up with him. It doesn’t take a counselor to see that he has feelings for you.”

“Yeah, I know that. He’s really sweet. I just don’t think we have to be ‘dating’ to have a good time and be friends. I didn’t mean to hurt his feelings,” Marshall said, finally seeming to get it. “I guess I should apologize.”

“Probably,” Sharma agreed, studying him for a moment. “Even better would probably be having this whole conversation with him rather than me. I could help with that if you wanted.”

“Like couples’ therapy? Isn’t that for couples?”

Sharma chuckled. “Counseling is a good idea for any type of relationship, romantic or not.”

The pilot nodded his head. “And you’re sure I can’t just apologize, and we go back to the way it was before? Because that would be great.”

“Yeah, I don’t think there’s any un-ringing that bell, at least not in any healthy way,” she replied.

Marshall looked thoughtful for a second. “It’s probably better not to get sexually involved with your co-workers, I guess,” he said as if that were something that had never occurred to him before.

“There’s no rule against fraternization on a starship, but, yes, let’s also try to maintain a healthy working relationship on the bridge. As a good start, you might want to run after him,” Sharma suggested.

“Right. Nice to meet you, counselor!” Marshall said before running off.

Sharma finished her drink, and a few moments later, Miss Nomer appeared with another one for her. 

“Looks like you either earned that or need another one,” the bartender said.

“Normally, I’d say that’s not a great coping response, but I think I’ll just go with the flow this time,” the counselor quipped.