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Part of USS Hathaway: Episode 12: Redemption and USS Hathaway: Season 3: Prometheus Squadron

You Feelin’ Alright?

Sickbay, Deck 5
Stardate 24011.8 (Jan 8th, 2401); 0930 Hours
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Psychiatric practices in Cardassian culture must be utterly horrifying is the first thought that jumped to Binshou’s mind, but it wouldn’t make for a very good conversation opener. And a bit of conversation would ease the tedium of calibrating the medical tricorder he’d received from Dr. Iddar for use during his assignment.

After a long journey to Deep Space 17 and his last-minute arrival on the Intrepid yesterday, he’d slept like the dead and didn’t bother setting an alarm. It had been exactly what he’d needed and seemed further justified by allowing Commander Kauhn time to brief the former Ulysses crew on their impending psychiatric evaluations. But eventually, food, a shower, and personal correspondence did have to give way to work, which meant going straight to sickbay to requisition supplies and review inventory and medical files. 

“Thank you again for your help this morning, Dr. Iddar. You certainly know your way around this sickbay. Have you been on the Intrepid long?” Yes, that was definitely a better opener.

Pottering around the recently redeveloped sickbay, the Cardassian assistant shrugged as she picked up a fluid sample and began to analyse it. “A little over a year I guess,” the grey-skinned youngster told, smiling at the newest ‘member’ of their crew, “and please, it’s Keshah,” she added.

“You’ll have to start calling me Binshou, then,” he said in a mock-warning tone. “Well then, Keshah, was this your first assignment out of the Academy?” Binshou plucked his glasses from where they hung on the front of his uniform and donned them as he held the tricorder closer to his face. “And to hell with subtlety, what’s your opinion on your new CMO?” He looked up from the tricorder and gave her a contrite, lopsided grin.

“Oh, I see. Not really interested in me after all…” the Cardassian smirked playfully, returning the fluid sample to its protective encasement and plucking another from her experiment for study. “To answer your first question, no. This is my second assignment post-Academy. My first was to Santa Fe, which coincidentally is where I first met the Doctor,” she revealed, her eyes trained on her work despite the casual nature of her words. “Josue used to be quite relaxed, quite a positive person, optimistic,” she concluded, returning the sample back to its container and picking up a data PADD.

Binshou nodded slowly in acknowledgement of the crucial “used to be”. “Well, I’m glad to know he has a familiar face onboard in addition to his Ulysses crewmates.” His tricorder chimed in–quite literally–to signal that calibration was complete. Closing the top flap, he attached it to its strap and slung it over his shoulder, then removed his glasses and tapped them on his left palm as he turned to address Keshah. “And I would be genuinely interested in hearing about what inspired you to practice medicine, in Starfleet of all places. We should dine together sometime. Especially since you’re the only person I’ve met on this ship outside the captain and the first officer.”

“I’d like that…” Keshah playfully grinned, swanning past the man, her ponytail swinging freely behind her head. “Speak of the devil…” she nodded towards the sickbay doors and the presence of the onrushing Chief Medical Officer.

“Oh! Dr. Torres.” Binshou watched the other man approach and briefly wondered if he was in a rush or just a brisk walker. “I’m Dr. Binshou Ang, the visiting psychiatrist. I’m all done in here so I can get out of your hair if necessary; I’m sure you have a lot to do now that we’ve gotten underway.”

Josue had to practically slide to a halt in order to prevent himself from hurtling into the newcomer, but once he was stationary, the chief physician shook his head. “Commander Kauhn told me you would be looking for me,” the Canadian male smiled, forced if ever one had been seen. “He told me that I’d be the first on your list for an evaluation, so why don’t we just get the show on the road?” the doctor suggested, almost rubbing his hands in mock glee at the suggestion.

Ah, and there it is. Binshou’s posture shifted ever so slightly, his movements became more methodical, and he offered a broad, placid smile as he hung his glasses back on his uniform. “Of course! I anticipated that your schedule might be the most difficult to work around, so we should take this opportunity.” He began to make his way out of the sickbay and gestured for Josue to follow. “The office they’ve set me up with is just around the corner here. Apparently. I haven’t seen it yet myself.”

Down the hall and around the corner was a small door numbered 5-1-7, just as the memo this morning had informed him. He pushed his thumb to the panel and it slid open with a soft hiss, revealing several chairs, a desk, some lamps to soften the ubiquitous overhead lighting, a handful of plants from several mismatched ecosystems, and a small frame with stars streaking across its length that was probably meant to mimic a window on the hull. “Well, this is rather nice!”

He stepped aside and gestured for Josue to enter first.

Wandering across the threshold, the Doctor looked around the small ‘office’ and frowned. Standing in the center of the room, he looked at the visitor. “This used to be the private rec room for the medical team,” he told, “you know, so my team could take a moment in the event of an emergency. There used to be a bed just there,” he pointed to an area where a plant stood.

Binshou frowned as he stepped into the room and crossed to the desk. “Well, that’s not right. The medical team needs downtime. Thank you for telling me,” he said, making eye contact with Josue. Best to respond sincerely to honesty right from the start, even if we technically haven’t started yet. “I’ll talk to the quartermaster and if necessary the executive officer after this session. I could make do with a closet as long as it has two chairs and a door that shuts.”

He retrieved a PADD from the desk, replacing it with the medical tricorder he’d just calibrated. With the push of a button, he activated the device, then took his seat.

“Before we get started,” he said, donning his glasses again and squinting at the PADD, “Any impending appointments or obligations I should be aware of so that we don’t run this session too long?”

“Not unless the Captain flies us into a disaster zone,” the Doctor shook his head, pulling out a chair and taking a seat. His words were short and to the point, everything he secretly hoped this meeting would be.

“Alright.” A few keystrokes, then he lowered the PADD and considered the man seated across from him. “Well, Dr. Torres, as you are a fellow medical professional I think I can approach this session from a more meta-level. If Commander Kauhn didn’t explicitly tell you that this is about the death of your former captain then I’m sure you’ve at least inferred it. It may have been a while since your psychiatry rotation at Starfleet Medical, but you know what I’m expected to do here, right?”

Josue scoffed as he listened to the psychiatrist’s words, his posture becoming more relaxed, but exhibiting a little hostility. Of course he knew what was expected, he wasn’t a grad student or a cadet. “You’re right, I had inferred the intent of these sessions,” he answered, “and you’re here to make sure my responses to matters of grief and trauma are healthy, reasoned responses, and I’m not about to become some pathological serial killer on the hunt for revenge,” he was smirking whilst shaking his head in mock disdain. “Am I right?”

“Well, essentially.” Binshou chuckled. “But I’m less concerned you’ll go on a murder spree and more concerned about depression, or psychosomatic illness, or burnout. Burnout is common enough in the medical field as it is. Have you ever considered leaving the medical field before? For any reason? Whether due to complications in your personal life, a poor work environment, whatever. Internal and external factors are all perfectly valid.”

Oh, so it was straight down to business then? Josue sat up and gave his colleague the respect he deserved, taking the question, and thus the session, more seriously than he had the third. “Never,” the younger man smile, shaking his head and causing his dark mop to move freely and at speed. “I’m in my early thirties, it took me an age to get where I am and I sure as hell aren’t about to give up anytime soon. Unless…”

Binshou did his best to suppress any outward expression of satisfaction as his patient began to truly engage. It was less of a battle than he’d been expecting, frankly. Instead, he shifted in his seat and leaned forward a bit as he listened, giving Josue space to finish his sentence, but the other man remained lost in thought. “Unless?” he prompted.

“Unless I get shafted out to some ridiculous backwater posting,” the physician smirked, relaxing back into his chair. “Although, that happened to the very famous Julian Bashir, and his posting became one of the most famous in the galaxy!” the younger man recalled, losing himself in the moment again.

“Ah! True…” Binshou nodded slowly and tapped some notes into the PADD. “Speaking of work, have you talked about the loss of your captain with any of your former Ulysses coworkers? Or perhaps any friends or family members?”

And here it was, the topic he had expected but didn’t particularly want to address, despite the show he tried to put on for the people around him. “I don’t really speak with my family,” he shook his head slowly, “but yeah, I’ve talked about it with colleagues… those that want to talk about it.” His tone grew quieter as he addressed the death of the captain, and the reluctance of others to do so.

“That’s good, I’m relieved to hear that.” Binshou shifted in his seat as he recalled the grizzly details of the medical reports attached to his mission briefing. He hadn’t had a chance to read them all in detail, but even the summaries were hard to stomach. “Though I imagine the view from sickbay gives you a distressingly unique perspective.”

“You could say that,” Josue shuffled uncomfortably, tucking his hands between his legs that were pressed tightly together. “Only three other people saw what I saw: one left Starfleet and two… well lets just say they won’t be on active duty for a while,” he divulged, being careful not to share anything he shouldn’t.

Binshou’s eyes lost focus for the briefest moment as he thought back to some of the worst trauma, both physical and mental, he’d seen over the course of his career. “Have you felt compelled to describe what you saw to anyone who didn’t witness it firsthand? And to be clear, I’m not asking about the ethics of doing so, I’m only interested in your feelings and impulses.”

Josue shook his head, tears welling in the corners of his eyes for the briefest of moments, so much so that he felt compelled to close his eyes. “No one needs to know what I saw…” he whispered, fighting back the tears. 

“Maybe not your other crew members from the Ulysses, no, but it’s not something you have to keep to yourself either. Starfleet has support groups for exactly this sort of situation: other medical personnel in virtual meetings discussing the death of colleagues in a way that they can’t with non-medical personnel. People who don’t personally know you or Captain sh’Elas but can still directly empathise with your experience. You could start there…”

A slight flutter in his peripheral vision caught his eye, and for the first time, he noticed the old-fashioned box of paper tissues on the small table to his right. Fresh from the replicator no doubt. The quartermaster may have made a poor choice in room assignments, but they clearly knew how to stock a psychiatrist’s office.

He grabbed the box and leaned forward to offer it to Josue. “Or you could start right here.”

Josue whipped a tissue from the box and crumpled it in his hand as he tucked both between his legs and squeezed them tight. He stared at the ground in silence for what felt like an eternity, sniffling away the tears, until eventually, he felt ready to unload.

“It was awful,” the Doctor whispered, his gaze still on the deck plating, “I’ve been in Starfleet for a while, and been in the field to deal with trauma, but this was unlike anything I had ever seen before,” he explained. As he recounted the sight that had befallen him on the day of the Captain’s death, he could picture it so vividly. sh’Elas, throat slashed from ear to ear with a cut so deep she had been practically decapitated, had her chest ripped apart and her entrails dragged across the floor of the brig. 

Binshou nodded. “It was physically extreme; it occurred under intense personal circumstances; it was someone you knew. That impact upon impact upon impact is a lot to contend with. The fact that you’re still here in Starfleet, taking on promotion aboard a whole new ship, is impressive.” He smiled. “It shows resilience.”

“I’m a medical professional,” Torres looked up at the psychiatrist, a scowl on his face, “you of all people should know that we have to be some of the most resilient people out there.”

“Survivorship bias. Medical professionals are resilient because the ones who aren’t, stop being medical professionals. Like what I said at the beginning about burnout.” Binshou had restrained his smile somewhat, but it was still peeking through at the corners of his mouth. “So when I say you’re resilient, you’ll just have to accept my expert opinion on the matter, because it’s going in your file.”

Torres shrugged. “If you say so,” he frowned, and then a heaving sigh followed. “So what now?” he asked.

“Now? For now, I’m going to forward the details of some of those support groups I mentioned to your personal access station, and I’d like you to seriously consider whether or not that’s something you could find helpful at this juncture. Maybe it is, maybe it’s not. Otherwise, I think we can cut this session short so that you have some time to decompress before you have to be back on duty. I’ll have to speak to you again before I leave anyway.

“Unless there’s anything else you’d like to address before we walk back out that door.”

Josue stared at the man in a sort of stunned silence, finding it tricky to comprehend how much the man had managed to get him to divulge in such a short space of time. “I think we’re good for now,” the physician finally spoke again, his voice quiet and a little croaky as he rose to his feet.

“Great!” Binshou’s demeanour was bright, but his movements were slow and careful as he followed Josue out of the room. Once he was sure the other man wasn’t going to walk into a wall or wander into an unsecured Jeffries tube, he carefully took Josue’s hand in a parting handshake. “Once again, very good to meet you. Now I think I’ll be on my way to the quartermaster to get this office situation sorted out.”

And with that, he departed down the corridor, purposely heading in the opposite direction of sickbay.