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Voices of a Distant Star

Posted on Wed Feb 22nd, 2017 @ 4:56am by Lieutenant JG Jai & Lieutenant Eiri Ashshy

Mission: Refined Relations
Timeline: MD 03
Tags: Jai, Eiri

...the hallways and corridors extended in all directions. Roads to nowhere, twisting and winding in paths which seemed to have no end. Red lights illuminated the smoke which hung in the air, creating a dark haze through which the small boy ambled.

There was a voice. Distant. Indistinct. It called out to him. It cried for aid, so he ran toward it. Sprinted through this corridor. Or that corridor. Turn around, left at the bend.

He never seemed to get any closer. Always just the echo of something far away.

He wasn't wearing the uniform. Moving up and down the passageways, the young boy was once again the simple monk he had ever been. Yellow robes, lined in undyed wool, flowed and shifted about his slight frame as he moved.

As he continued wandering through the endless labyrinth of halls, the boy heard the voice again as he passed by a doorway. Turning around, the youth approached the entry. The doors parted, the boy's initial step over the threshold greeted with a fire bloom. Jumping back, the child was mystified at the touch of flame.

It was cold.

Extending out his hand, the boy touched the fire, expecting his skin to crack and peel. Except there was nothing there.

"Please..."

At the sound of the voice, the young monk raised his eyes to find a Gyalwa Lamapa monk standing on the other side of the flames. As distinct and recognizable as the attire was, his face was unrecognizable. Altered. Discolored, with blue lesions seeping with open boils on the skin.

Another fire bloom. The boy jerked his head away as the light became too intense.

When he'd looked back, the monk was gone. In his place, a man was lying, bleeding, on the floor. It was the man from the freighter fire. Jai had later learned that his name was Alec Varnadoe. He held a burned, mangled hand out toward the child and said...

"Don't let me die."

The boy bolted upright in the bed. His breath was ragged, echoing like a howling wind in his ears as his heart pounded in his throat. In his mind's eye, he was still in that hellish hallway, and startled to be ripped away from that reality.

Slowly, realization dawned as those perceptions gave way to the here and now. The familiar, spartan confines of the quarters he'd been assigned. The faint glow of the meditation lamp illuminating the contours of the seated Buddha statue.

He was in his bed. He was safe. It had only been a bad dream.

=========
DECK SIXTEEN
Several hours later...
=========

The medicine of pscyhology was as much about the psychology of medicine as it was the psychology of the medical practitioners themselves.

So, Jai imagined that he wasn't the first member of Vesta's medical staff to cross that threshold from the primary medical care facilities to the counseling offices that were located just across the hall.

Eiri had just sat down at his desk when the buzzer sounded at the door. He stood again, stepping out from behind the desk to greet whoever it was. He hadn't remembered making an appointment today, but he also never turned down a walk-in. At least his office was finally the way he liked it. "Good morning, Lieutenant." Eiri nodded politely to the seemingly young man. "Is there something on your mind?"

Eiri knew already that something was on Lieutenant Jai's mind, but he never liked to put that foot forward. For the most part his telepathic abilities made so much noise in his head that it was often hard for him to pick out individual thoughts from the jumble to make it very effective, but some people, only some, he could hear clearly. Almost, like a voice in the dark. His husband was one. He could always find Ayan. This Lieutenant, with his closely shaven head, was another.

As he stepped into the counseling office, the Tibetan boy's faun brown eyes fixed on the person standing just inside of the threshold. The man there was humanoid without being entirely human, if he was human at all. It was rather fascinating to behold, actually. Silver hair framing a youthful face, that was almost akin to elves of some fantastic fiction for the angular structure of the cheekbone. Everything from the skin tone to the skeletal structure that was hinted at made the boy instantly curious about him, yet it was a thought he immediately dismissed as rude.

As the young and ancient monk approached, he had to crane his head back in order to look up at the silvery enigma that stood a full foot taller than he. The boy averted his eyes away a moment, as he placed one hand up over his heart and gave a short bow in lieu of spoken greeting. When he had straightened back up, the child forced a smile and said, "My name is Jai. I was hoping to... make an appointment, I suppose."

That was meant to be more of a statement, but it came out as something far less certain. Even while he'd been to counselors before, it was always somewhat awkward the first time meeting one.

One Vulcan-like eyebrow twitched slightly in amusement at being compared to an elf. "I am Eiri Ashshy and you may make an appointment if you like. Although, I do have time available now." It was sort of fascinating to Eiri to be taller than someone for a change. He was used to everyone around him being taller. "If today is not appropriate, when would be a better time?" He turned to retrieve his PaDD from the desk. The boy had an interesting mind, if he could call him a boy. His mental process was much, much older than a child's, but it was also still full of the wonder of an innocent. Eiri had to admit to himself that he was very curious about Jai as well.

The room around them was subdued. The lights a little lower than what was normal in a regular room. Eiri had plants and art and all sorts of little items on shelving on the walls. The art was mostly abstract, the colors soothing, or intended to be without a lot of hard lines. In the center of the front part of his desk sat a rock in a bowl of clear liquid, that almost seemed to be hovering in said liquid. The furniture was not standard Starfleet issue, rather it looked overstuffed and comfortable. There was a low, ornate table between the sofa and a set of chairs. All were a dark caramel color.

Stay or leave..? He'd come this far, might as well just get the awkwardness done with rather than make an appointment and dread the notion of returning. "If you have time now, that would be..."

Fantastic? Great? Perfect?

"...that is, sure," the boy decided finally. When in doubt, always take the third option. Unless the second option was better. Then do that.

Fidgeting slightly, the boy looked at the furniture with some uncertainty. Should he sit down? Was there a particular place he was supposed to sit down?

Eiri turned back, PaDD in hand, with the tiniest of smiles on his lips. "Then please, have a seat wherever you would like. Would you care for something to drink? I have tea and coffee made and the replicator can produce anything else." He motioned to the unit on the wall. "If you feel more comfortable standing then you may do that as well." Eiri waited to see if the Lieutenant would settle or stand.

Take a seat... he could do that. "Right," the boy remarked, starting toward one of the chairs. He'd only gone a step when the next question came. Coffee or tea? Well, that was a no brainer... Sit or stand?

"Sit," the boy answered, autonomously reacting to more recent question. Or had that been a statement? Anyway, with a shake of his head, the boy caught the flub and said, "I mean, tea. Please."

And then he went and took a seat.

Eiri chuckled softly and made them both a cup of tea. It was Vulcan spiced, Eiri's personal favorite, but he didn't think that his current company would mind either. He brought both cups and a small tray with cream and sugar to the low table and sat on the couch, across from the Lieutenant. His ice blue eyes studied the person across from him for a moment. Jai was definitely interesting. The tattoos made Eiri think of ancient cultures, mostly Terran. Very quickly, he pulled up the Lieutenant's service record on his PaDD as he settled in his seat. "What is on your mind, Jai?" Eiri asked simply. He leaned forward and put a tiny bit of sugar and cream in his tea and lifted the cup. "Please, help yourself."

"Thejay che," the Tibetan offered, allowing the universal translator to supply his thanks in whatever language Eiri might prefer to hear.

Leaning forward, the boy reached out to accept the cup of tea with both hands. Reclining back, he brought the cup close to his face a moment. The aroma was different even if it was familiar. He tested it with a small sip, discovering a flavor that was reminiscent to tea he'd had on Vulcan some decades before. At the invitation to make use of the cream and sugar, the boy gave a shake of his head. Tibetan tea being more salty than sweet had left Jai with a preference for more bitter tastes.

The question was a familiar one. But it was difficult to discern for the same reason. What was on his mind? Three hundred years of abandonment issues? Post traumatic stress? Survivors guilt? All of the above? Really, his psychological profile must read like a CliffNotes version of whatever diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders might be presently in fashion. "I'm not really sure," the boy answered finally, looking up from his tea. "I've been having some bad dreams lately."

Well, more so than usual that is. But that went without saying. Three hundred years of abandonment tended to do that to a person.

Eiri leaned back in his chair and sipped his tea. He glanced down at the service record on his PaDD but the Lieutenant had already told him everything he needed. His eyebrows furrowed a little at the slew of questions that ran through the boy's mind, but they weren't anywhere near ready to address any of those issues. He reminded himself to stick to the topic at hand. "Would you like to talk about those?" Without really waiting for the answer, he went on, "What are they about?" He cleared the data on the PaDD and prepared to take notes. Besides, he felt that often too much information could be distracting from helping the patient, sometimes even leading to a certain amount of therapy failure. Written reports and summaries could be misleading for all parties involved.

"Uh... fire, mostly..." the boy supplied, now looking down into his tea. Somewhere between the liquid and the steam, he could imagine it. The way fire moved in zero gravity.

"Before I came to the Vesta, I was doing a residency in emergency medicine at Starfleet Medical," the boy explained. Why? Another very good question. He was supposed to be a pediatrician. He was a pediatrician. But he was also a doctor, and it seemed a good idea at the time to have the requisite knowledge and experience of trauma medicine so to be of use beyond the science of pediatric surgery or adolescent medicine.

"Toward the end, there was a freighter carrying spent warp cores out of Utopia Planetia. The Marseilles. Commercial super freighter. Massive like you couldn't imagine..." the boy remarked, even though he didn't remember much of what it looked it. His recollection went to the first time he'd seen a corpse floating in space, as the ambulance shuttle ferried him toward the freighter. "Some residual antimatter had gone unnoticed when they'd packed the cargo hold. The ship made it out toward Titan when the fire broke out."

He'd been at a party.

They'd been celebrating the latest group of medical student residents receiving their letters of certification from the board of Starfleet medical examiners. Halfway into the first series of toasts, the call had come in through the communicators.

"That much charged energy... transporters couldn't make sense of any of the readings. So we flew out in ambulance shuttles, trying to get close enough to pick up lifesigns and hopefully beam in, beam out. Get to Starfleet Medical and just... do our job." It was a damnable thing. To be a ship in distress in the core world of the Federation, and no one had been able to help. Not Titan. Not Luna. Not Mars. Not Earth. "I got beamed into the forward hold. The fire was already burning through the duranium, but there were two people still alive in there..."

He paused, unable or unwilling to finish whatever thought had been behind those words. When he'd taken a breath, he started again. With a name this time. "Alec Varnadoe. Forty-three. Wife. Two kids. He'd been impaled through the abdomen, suffered horrific burns to over sixty percent of his body. But he was conscious and communicative. He... spoke... to me," Jai noted, softly. Had that been the reason? Had he let his emotions pull him toward a patient simply because he'd been responsive?

"The other was Gordon Strange. Fifty-one. Married. Divorced. Married. Divorced. Three child support payments each month, but he made them. He had second and third degree burns to the aveoli of the lungs. His respiratory system was failing. He'd lost consciousness as the oxygen levels in his blood were dropping." In a hospital environment, that would have been rather easy to manage. Ambulance shuttles weren't really equipped for that kind of invasive blood-oxygen management, though. The man was suffocating to death, his lungs no longer capable to functioning.

"The fire was breaching the compartment I was in. I had less than a minute to make a choice..." And he'd chosen Varnadoe. Except, the transport had happened ahead of schedule, because the fire breached the compartment before Jai could isolate the arteries compromised by the object impaling the man's body. He'd bled out in the ambulance, even as Jai had fought desperately to stem the tide. "In the end, it didn't really matter," the child noted somberly, looking up from his tea.

He felt like he was confessing a great crime. He'd been put in a position where he might have saved two lives. One at the very least. And he'd saved neither.

Maybe he never could. Maybe that wasn't the point. But, if there was a lesson in this, then it had escaped Jai that day. And every day since.

Eiri listened, in more ways than one. He could feel the rush of emotions from the Lieutenant with each part of the story he struggled to tell. When he stopped speaking Eiri leaned forward a little bit. "I know that you have probably heard this before, but I would like you to really think about what it means. It was not your fault." Eiri let that phrase sit for only a moment between them before starting again. "You made a choice." He said softly. "Yes, I am certain that it was a difficult one, but you made it. For good or ill. Many people could not have even made it so far as to make that choice. You committed no crime," he said, using the boy's own thoughts about the event. "Why do you think you continue to return to this event? Even after so many months?"

The child's mouth hung open. He moved to speak, but found he didn't have an answer. Or he did. It just wasn't easily said. "It just seems... wrong." So wrong. So very, very wrong. That shouldn't have happened. Not in the Federation. Certainly not in Sol. No transporters. Starfleet Medical turning away patients due to the surge overcrowding the trauma facilities. It was... unfair.

He didn't know what anyone was promised, in this life or the next, but certainly not that.

Eiri nodded in agreement, forgetting for a moment that listening in to people's private thoughts was not always popular. "It is unfair. Very unfair, but we are not gods. We do not have control over life and death, we only have what is here, right in front of us. I know that this is easier said than done, but the event is over. It is in the past and nothing can change it now. Living there, for that one decision, will not change it. All the guilt in the world, will not change it. It simply is what it is. Have you ever heard of a dream journal?" He lifted his gaze to the boy and tried to hold it.

The Tibetan boy gave a tilt of his head. "A dream... journal?" the young monk echoed, as his mind tried to work out what that might entail. It was not a concept he'd heard of in the 1960s. And he didn't think he'd heard it any time since. "Is that, like, a personal log for dreams?"

Eiri nodded and brushed a silver lock of hair out of his eyes. "It is. It helps keep track of your dreams. When you wake up, you write down everything you remember from your dreams. Sometimes, after a few weeks of doing this you can start to see a pattern of when you have good dreams and when you have bad ones. The other reason for this... is... how do I explain?" Eiri was thoughtful for a moment. "Think of dreams or nightmares as energy. Energy that you have stored up, like data on a computer. In order to process the data and keep it moving, it is often wise to store it in another format. Energy from this event is trapped in your mind. If you write down your feelings or your dreams sometimes it can help you move that energy out of yourself and into somewhere else... if any of that makes sense. I know it sounds a little old fashioned, but journaling can be very useful for processing and moving past things that have happened in our lives."

"Oh," the boy uttered, as the concept connected with one he was more familiar with. "Yeah, we call that karma," he explained. The Tibetan concept of which was very much based around the idea of every action having an equal and opposite reaction.

Eiri smiled, knowing that the Lieutenant understood him perfectly. "Will you try that for me? And check back in... two weeks? I'd very much like to know how it is progressing. There are other things we can try as well. There is something important though that I would like to leave you with. Please, try and forgive yourself. No one is above mistakes."

 

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