Part of USS Polaris: Infiltrate and Liberate Nasera (The Lost Fleet – Part 1) and Bravo Fleet: The Lost Fleet

Dissonant Perspectives

Counseling Department Briefing Room, USS Polaris
Mission Day 3 - 1600 Hours
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“Aren’t you afraid?” asked Lieutenant Emilia Balan, approaching the front of the room as the rest of the Polaris’ counseling staff and ASTRA’s behavioral specialists cleared out.

“Come again?” Lieutenant Lisa Hall, Ph.D. looked up from her PADD.

“During the departmental briefing you just gave our staff, you said you weren’t going to be here with us, that you’re going ahead to Nasera with Commander Lewis,” Balan clarified. Usually, the young cultural affairs officer loved away missions, the opportunity to mix and mingle with other cultures, to see their world through their eyes, but the Dominion? Nope, she’d pass on that. Even the optimist in her knew they were bred for a singular purpose and that she’d find no beauty in the souls of the Jem’Hadar or the Vorta.

“Oh yes, that is the plan,” Dr. Hall confirmed with not even the slightest hint of concern in her voice. After reading so much about the Jem’Hadar and the Vorta, she looked forward to the opportunity to observe them firsthand and, if the opportunity presented itself, to interrogate and break them. Their genetic coding, their addiction, their conditioning, it would all make for an interesting experiment. She didn’t have any worries about what could happen to her. At worst, she’d be captured and killed, but death would erase the neural pathways of any pain she’d suffered along the way.

Lieutenant Balan looked at Dr. Hall like she was crazy, fear evident in the younger woman’s eyes for what her colleague was off to do. Lieutenant Balan was no fighter, but here she was, about to go to war, and she was utterly terrified. The woman in front of her seemed completely unphased. And while Balan was going to be tucked away behind the regenerative shields, ablative armor, and dozens of security and tactical officers aboard the USS Polaris, Dr. Hall would be going into the belly of the beast, creeping around the streets of Nasera City surrounded by legions of Jem’Hadar with little more than the clothes on her back.

Dr. Hall set down her PADD, sensing this conversation wasn’t just going to go away unless she took it head on. 

“Lieutenant, we come from different worlds,” Dr. Hall explained. “You grew up listening to your mom sing opera at Teatro alla Scala, and you joined the Polaris to find magic in the stars. I spent my early years on Turkana IV, knowing nothing but the grotesque conflict that had subsumed my world and invaded my home. I joined the Polaris because, after Starfleet told me that I lacked appropriate compassion and care for my patients, Reyes offered me an opportunity to analyze, interrogate and manipulate for greater purpose.” Unfortunately though, she spent way more time offering a shoulder for these children to cry on than she’d been led to expect.

“But all that talk you just gave us about caring for the crew and their mental health?”

“Hate to break your idyllic vision of a ship’s counselor, but that care and feeding is just part of the job description,” explained Dr. Hall bluntly. “It is my duty – and yours – to ensure that our shipmates keep their heads on straight, and that when the time comes, our people will be combat ready, not crippled by anxiety over the possibility of death or grief from the reality of it.”

If she was trying to help Lieutenant Balan’s psyche, it certainly wasn’t working. But that wasn’t her intent. She expected the Lieutenant to handle herself like the officer she was, and she just wanted her to go away. Dr. Hall had exotic cocktails of psychoactives to prepare before she set off with Lewis and the covert ops team in the dead of night.

“That is a very pessimistic way to describe our job as counselors.”

“But is it not an accurate one?”

Lieutenant Balan frowned. That certainly wasn’t how she saw her non-ASTRA role. Before she joined the USS Polaris, Emilia Balan had been a mediator and diplomatic attache, but never a therapist. Nonetheless, she’d taken to her secondary duties on the counseling support staff with vigor and passion. There was something so fulfilling about healing the wounds of a person’s soul, watching them overcome their pain and blossom into a greater version of themself. She loved it, and she certainly saw it as more than just a job description.

“Look on the bright side Lieutenant,” Dr. Hall added grimly. “If I don’t make it back, you can rewrite the definition of counseling psychology to your liking.”

That didn’t help.

“And don’t worry about me. If I’m dead, I won’t be alive to know it.”

Again, her words offered no comfort.

How could someone think this way? Emilia Balan wanted to find a way to take away the excruciating pain that must have existed to turn her colleague into the shadow she was today. She had to believe that, somewhere deep down, there was a normal human heart beneath her colleague’s tough exterior. She’d be wrong though. Turkana IV had taken all of that away from Lisa Hall before she’d even come of age.

Disquieted and discomforted, Lieutenant Balan retreated from the briefing room without another word. She had no idea what to say. Lieutenant Hall, for her sake, returned to her work without another thought.

As Emilia Balan walked the corridors, she started to tear up. She wasn’t ready for this, wasn’t ready for war, wasn’t ready to lose her shipmates, wasn’t ready to relinquish her humanity. There were beautiful days ahead, and she wanted to see them. This would pass. Or would it? What if none of them made it back? Or what if it turned them into shadows like Dr. Hall and Commander Lewis?

She sat down on the cold floor and began to cry.

Comments

  • The hardship of war is already tearing through the crew. To see a Lieutenant bluntly accepting the fate that awaits her while Balan tries to understand but is confused is really touching. Wonderful work on this personal character development post, it touch my heart.

    May 6, 2023
  • Wow, I liked that the two officers are basically polar opposites from each other while one is ready to take the danger head on the other isn't ready to face the necessities of war. I am enjoying the character development you have going on between the different chapters, seeing how each one reacts to what lays ahead of them. Can't wait to see how everything plays out!

    May 7, 2023
  • This was truly an effective and affective character-study of two vastly different people, finding themselves in a similar situation. This tug of war between their philosophies, emotional bearings, and the change they wanted to see in each other dragged me in, it was so compelling. Each character's private reflections were just as evocative as their conflict through dialogue. I have apprehensions about how a mission like this will change Balan, take something away from her. Great work!

    May 8, 2023
  • Lisa Hall, Ph.D.

    Squadron Counseling Officer
    ASTRA Lead, Cultural & Psychological Research

  • Emilia Balan

    ASTRA Staff Researcher, Cultural Affairs
    Diplomatic and Cultural Affairs Officer