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Part of USS Edinburgh: Mission 1 – What Burns in the Darkness and Bravo Fleet: Sundered Wings

A Beautiful Mind

USS Edinburgh
May 18, 2400
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USS Edinburgh – Prentice’s Quarters – 0945

Harris tapped the button outside and waited.  He frowned and hit the button again.  Further silence.  Another tap.  At last, a tired voice, =^=Ensign Prentice’s quarters.”

“Ensign, it’s Commander Harris.  I’m here because you said this was a good time?”

=^=Oh…oh…shit.  I mean…crap.  I mean…give me a moment…sir.  Be..uh…right with you.=^= It took five more minutes before the door opened revealing a panicked and sweating Ensign Prentice.  “Uh, Commander…come in.”  The room had been hastily cleaned and smelled of an unshowered ensign who was scrambling to make a place for his CO to sit.  He cleared off the couch and pulled a chair over.  Harris nudged Prentice to the couch and took the chair.  Prentice didn’t speak and looked as if he might pass out at any moment.

“Ensign…I wanted to check in with you and see how you were doing.”

Prentice gave an energetic nod, “I’m doing well, sir.  I’m feeling better and ready to return to duty.  I’m doing much better.”

Ambrose shook his head, “Bullshit.”  

He watched the ensign’s face go through several reactions from startled to shock to amusement and back to shock before going with, “I’m sorry sir?  I said I was doing better.”

Once more, “Bullshit.”  He held up the PADD he had brought with him, “You’ve missed your appointments with both Doctor Reid and Doctor Court and have missed the rescheduled appointments.  They’re not going to let you back on the bridge without talking with them.  Ens…Will.  You…you’ve gone through something.  You don’t get to wake up the next day and come back to work.  Something in you changes…and you have to figure out what.”

Prentice looked ready to fire back at Harris but thought better of it.  He sank back into the couch, “Damnit.  You’re right…it’s just…I don’t think I can ever get it out of my head.  It’s there – the long-range picture of her body just…tumbling through space.  What if I can’t ever stop that nightmare?  I…I can’t lose this position, Commander.  It’s all I’ve got left.”

Harris stood and sat down next to him, forcing the younger officer to scoot over.  “You ever hear about what happens when you put a bunch of crabs in a bucket?”  The helm officer shook his head and Harris told him, “Crabs in a bucket…one tries to escape, and might make it…but for whatever reason, the other crabs pull ‘em down.  No matter which of them tries to get out, they always pull ’em back down so they can’t escape.”  He touched the side of Prentice’s head, “You’ve got a crab mentality brewing in there, Will.  This thing…this experience – it’s not wrong to feel what you’re feeling.  What you do with it…how you handle it…how you ask for help…that’s what matters.”  He tapped his head again, “Don’t let the crab mentality tell you it’s over and pull you down to the bottom of the bucket.  With help, you can climb out of that bucket, find your way to cope with your experience…and find a way to put your mind and body back to work with the rest of us.”

Prentice thought on his words, “You talk like this ain’t your first rodeo, sir.”

His CO nodded, “We all have our scars, Will.  I’ve been through it before in my own way.”  He leaned his shoulder into Prentice, “I’ve been down in the hole where you’ve been…a couple of times.  I know the way out.  Dr. Reid knows the way out.  Dr. Court knows the way out.  You should never do this alone, Will.  Don’t ever try.  You’ll end up here.”  He smelled the air, “And you do not want to be here again.  I don’t want to be here again.”  

For the first time since the commander had entered, Prentice smiled, his voice thick with emotion, “I…don’t like it here, sir.”  

“Nobody does, Will.”  He stood, “Take a shower.  I’m gonna walk with you to Dr. Court’s office.”

Prentice cringed, “Uniform?”  Harris shook his head.  “Will…you…stay in there with me?”

The CO nodded, “I’ll stay until Dr. Court kicks me out.  She’s my first officer and I’ve got to listen to her.”  The helm officer chuckled and enjoyed the warmth that came from that moment.  He went to the bathroom and went about following his CO’s orders.

USS Edinburgh – Counselor’s Office – 1015

“I don’t think a shower has ever felt that good, sir.”  Prentice and Harris stood outside the office of the counselor.

“On the plus side, you smell better.” Prentice felt the smile return, and it felt good.

“Sir…you called me Will a few times in my quarters…why?”  It had shocked him out of his funk when the CO had done it.

Ambrose looked him in the eye, “My mom taught me about that, if you can believe it.  The speech she gave me every so often went something like this”, he thought for a moment trying to remember it all, “…in the end…we’re all just humans and aliens traveling through the vacuum of space playing at trying to make some order from the chaos.  Rank matters at most times…but in our shared moments of need…our moments of hurt…you can’t let rank and title get in the way of helping someone.  The shared experience of the galaxy is in the humbleness of helping others without pretense…without devotion to rank…just sitting next to someone who needs you.”

Prentice let the words soak in him for a moment.  A second later the door opened and Dr. Court stepped out, “Ah, yes.  Will Prentice, I presume.”

Prentice accepted her handshake and turned to his CO, “I…think I need to do this on my own, commander.”  The counselor entered the room and he went to follow her but stopped and turned to Harris, “Your mom’s…a smart lady, sir.  Wish I’d had someone like her.  Thank you for the kind words, sir.”  One last look and he vanished behind a closed door.

Harris stood there a second longer before heading to the bridge.