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Part of USS Olympic (Archive): Diffuse Memory

Diffuse Memory – 2

USS Olympic, Counseling Office
February 2401
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The sound of the life support systems was all Holmgren could hear.  Most days, it offered a soothing, if forgettable, white noise.   On this day, the sound of cycling air washed over Holmgren with all the intensity of river rapids.  His gaze had become lost somewhere in the middle distance; the noise was so intense, his other senses faded to the background.  His mind wandered, imagining his body being sucked into the life support system and tumbling through the pipes and tubes that connected the counseling office to the atmospheric processor units.

Holmgren blinked.

He took a breath.

“I’m sorry, doctor,” Holmgren remarked, “did you say something?”

Dr. Binshou Ang adjusted his reading glasses and made a note on his PADD about the patient’s reduced audiovisual awareness. Holmgren had no apparent notion of the intense scrutiny he’d been under for the past minute and a half. “I said that your medical record makes no mention of any dissociative disorders–in fact, no mental disorders of any kind–before your coma last year. Would you say that’s accurate, or are the records incomplete?”

Holmgren started to answer, “I’d say…” but he quickly trailed off.  His gaze wandered to the overhead, losing himself in thought, and he drummed his fingers on the side of the armchair where he was sitting.

Blinking, Holmgren met Binshou’s eyes to continue, “I’d say the records are complete.  Until last year, I’m afraid I mostly looked at counselors as a friend whose birthday you don’t have to remember.”

Binshou chuckled. “My birthday’s in the fall, otherwise I’d be tempted to submit a reminder to your personal calendar.” He paused for a beat, and seeing that Holmgren’s gaze still appeared focused, he pressed on. “In the period between recovering from your coma and the attack on the Olympic, do you recall any feelings of disorientation? As if you’d lost time, or forgotten something especially important or commonplace?”

Through a thoughtful frown, Holmgren nodded at Binshou.  “Feelings of disorientation were the norm when I first returned to duty aboard D-S-17.  Moreso in the afternoon than the morning; probably exacerbated by fatigue if I wasn’t taking enough breaks.  Since I took command of the Olympic, those feelings have been less frequent.  Maybe once a week, instead of once a day.  Usually when I first wake up or in the late evening.”

“Mmhmm.” Binshou scribbled some quick notes on his PADD with a stylus. “Tell me about your interactions with your family since your coma. Have they felt strained, or are they grounding for you? Possibly both?”

Nodding gently, Holmgren crossed his arms over his abdomen.  “Lalla, my girls, they’ve been my tether to the man I used to be.  When I couldn’t… concentrate the way I used to, when I couldn’t always remember specific words, they always knew how to melt the embarrassment and frustration away.  They reminded me how little the small mistakes mattered.  I don’t… I don’t think I would still be in Starfleet if it wasn’t for them.”

Binshou smiled as he continued to jot down notes. “That’s great, that you have their support and that you can accept their support. We’ve learned a lot about the way strong interpersonal bonds can strengthen neural pathways in the past couple of centuries. Has it been difficult, been separated from them recently?”

“It’s been difficult and it’s been…” Holmgren trailed off, bobbing his head from side to side.  He leaned forward in his seat and he whispered, “It’s been helpful too.”  His eyes widened in a pained expression, having said that.  Sinking back in his chair, he explained, “I feel guilty not having them here, but I would have felt just as guilty having them here and neglecting them, while I learn” –he corrected his tense– “while I was learning all I thought I needed to know about commanding Olympic.”

Binshou paused and nodded. There was a thread in Holmgren’s statement that needed picking at if he could set the family issue gently aside. “That’s not an uncommon sentiment in Starfleet, broadly speaking,” he reassured. “If there were an easy compromise between wanting to keep one’s family close and wanting to keep them away for their own wellbeing we could make half the counselors in Starfleet redundant.

“But your first command, right on the heels of having your consciousness transferred and the subsequent coma.” There was a question in there–a fairly indignant one–that needed to be answered by the people who had put Holmgren in command in the first place, but the phrasing and intensity of that question would depend very much on how the rest of the session went. “That surely must have made for a steep learning curve. What made you want to take on the challenge?”

“I wanted to captain a science ship because it was the scariest option,” Holmgren answered insistently.  “If I kept doing the same thing I’ve been doing for a decade, that would mean I’m not growing and enriching myself as a being.  Working as a science officer hasn’t had the same spark that it used to– not since Camus Two.  How can I be worthy as a twenty-fifth century human if I’m not pushing myself with a growth mind-set?”

“Hmm. So was command a goal of yours upon entering Starfleet, or did that ambition come later?”

Holmgren opened his mouth and then he squinted and he sighed.  Trying again, he said, “There wasn’t a desire to command a starship exactly.  It was more… You know, before you join Starfleet, you can’t accurately imagine what it’s going to be like.  All I had was the iconography and the newsfeeds and the holo-novels.  I craved that old-school role of being the Executive Officer slash Science Officer.  Command through intellect.  That trusted second opinion.”  –Holmgren shrugged– “I lost that dream somewhere along the way.  By the time serving my duty as a science officer felt so misaligned, so Sisyphean, it felt natural to reconnect with that goal.”

Binshou tapped his stylus rapidly against his chin before stabbing his PADD with it, bringing up Holmgren’s personnel file in one corner of the screen. “How did you reconnect with that goal? Did you put in a request for a command or did the fleet offer one?”

“My mentor tapped me on the shoulder for Sarek Squadron,” Holmgren replied.  He paused, his eyes following Binshou’s movements and facial expressions.  “My performance ratings were good; medical had declared me fit for duty.  Captain Taes said she hoped I would discover all of hidden depths of meaning in starship command that she had uncovered for herself.  She said she wished someone had done the same for her sooner.  I was… I was too impulsive.  I hardly even thought it through.  I normally live by pro and con lists, but I was too excited to want something, to genuinely want something new.”

Holmgren’s gaze drifted again, his thoughts drifting back to what Taes had said to him that day, drifting back to his last day in command of the USS Olympic.

“I wonder what I’ll want next…”