USS Vesta

A Play-by-Nova roleplay game.

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Unpacking

Posted on Tue Jul 28th, 2020 @ 6:50am by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tarel Rilem & Commander Martin Sorenson

Mission: When the Bough Bounces
Location: Counselor's Office
Timeline: MD -5 : 1028 Hrs
3141 words - 6.3 OF Standard Post Measure

Martin had seen Tarel come and go a number of times over the last week. Izzy was still under medical observation but eager to get her clearances reinstated as quickly as possible so the Counselor had obligingly come by her room for the interview and required follow ups. There had been a couple short friendly drop ins with Yoshi too, either to spread a bit of cheer or establish some level of comfort for when he was well enough for his eval, or both. Most of the time, Martin had nodded to the counselor and found something else to do. Tarel had been with the medical team on the colony, and he probably owed her an apology of some sort but he didn't really know what to say. 'Sorry I couldn't get back.' seemed inadequate to whatever had been so bad that Ildri had practically requested transfer on the spot. (And there was the somewhat guilty sense that any apology he offered would have the ulterior motive of trying to learn why she had gone without so much as leaving a note to him).

But he was starting to think he should speak to a counselor for other reasons. He hadn't been sleeping. That wasn't unusual when he'd had two patients barely past critical, but as they both improved his ability to sleep had not and even when he managed to settled into slumber, it didn't last. Worse, after nearly a week more coffee wasn't hiding the effects from staff, who had started to watch him for signs of being the sort of doctor who hid an unhealed injury rather than submit to the treatment from others.

And eventually it occurred to him that he was doing exactly that, only the injury wasn't physical. So, he dropped by the Counselor's door - which was technically still within the medical department, if not medbay proper. "Excuse me, Counselor, do you have a moment?"

"I have multiple." At the far end of a modestly-sized desk sat a white-furred, blue-eyed ragdoll cat, staring attentively at Martin. "Just sit down, Doctor. I should be there shortly." Another, similarly colored cat darted out from under the desk, pausing right in front of the door at the sight of Martin. It looked him up and down, before making for one of the big chairs in the other room.

"Oh no!" Tarel hopped up from underneath the desk in alarm, eyes wide, before she relaxed upon realization. The cat on her desk whipped about toward her, staring in confusion. "... Oh good. I'm sorry, Doctor. I've been gifted these cats and I haven't had pets in awhile... The little one there might not be used to me quite yet. Or ships. I don't think she's used to ships. What can I do for you?"

"They seem like a good addition." Martin smiled at sight of the balls of fluff and came in, letting the door close behind him to prevent the cats form escaping, but didn't reach for them. In his experience cats were more likely to come to you if you ignored them. "Well, a couple things," he answered taking a seat. "First, I'm sorry that not making it back for beam out put you in a difficult position. I know how angry the Captain was with me and I hope you didn't have to take too much of that." He glanced down. "The second is that I've been trouble sleeping. It's not a medical issue, and while I could deal with it medically, self-prescribing is generally a road to avoid."

Tarel gave him a soft smile, reaching to pet the cat upon her desk. "Doctor Sorenson, I do appreciate your apology, but if you think a little wrinkle like that upset me, then that must be indicative of the sign that I need to get out and have more personal chats more often." She moved around her desk. "That does sound like a concern, and I'm certainly not going to turn away someone coming to me voluntarily. I'd rather that than the jeffries tubes I'm going to have to visit in a few hours. Would you care for something to drink? I have a few Bajoran teas chilling - not the replicated kind, of course. Sweetened, unsweetened. I think one has a little spice to it..."

"I wasn't sure if it was just a little wrinkle since Ildri apparently left because of it." He frowned. Maybe he had read more into the idea of dinner after this all this than was there. Or he had not understood her at all, which seemed increasingly likely. "In any case, unsweetened tea would be good, thank you."

"... Oh I don't think that had anything to do with you at all, Doctor." Tarel admitted, moving to the fridge she had set up next to her desk and preparing the misty, light blue liquid into a a pair of glittery glasses. "I did not get much of a chance to speak with Ildri myself, but there was a lot weighing on her. I think she just had other matters to attend and didn't get a chance to explain herself. Who knows?" As she approached the table that sat in front of Martin, she set one of the glasses in front of him. "This tea is supposed to be incredibly soothing. Petalune. I've been told on it's own it's subtly sweet, but I can't taste it at all. Which is why I add a hint of jumja to the sweetened one. And while you do, how about you tell me how you're feeling after all this... hubbub I think is the Human expression? The hubbub that surrounds what occurred. If that's where you'd like to start. Or we can start anywhere else."

Martin took a sip of the tea. It looked quite refreshing, and it was - just a slight hint of sweet that reminded him of hibiscus, which was nice. He was from the part of North America that took tea unsweet, so anything beyond a faint touch of sweetness wouldn't have tasted right to him. "Thank you, this is good." He took another sip, gathering his thoughts on the main question. "As to how I feel, well, first of all relieved that the Commodore and Ms. Cerin will be okay. But also... tired, frustrated, confused." He shook his head. "Sorry. I'm not sure how to express it, or even if the things that come immediately to mind are really the heart of the problem."

In the time it took for Martin to bring up the heart of the matter, Tarel had made herself comfortable, bringing her legs up in her seat and crossing them together to provide a small 'nest.' The cat that had originally sat upon the table was now stalking her lap, waiting for the moment to plop itself down in the lap-made cat bed. It would not take long for the cat to accept Tarel's silent invitation, curling up nicely for a good nap. "Well, we could... perhaps start with what happened when we parted ways?" Tarel asked. "Maybe you'll find something when you talk about it out loud?"

"Hmm. Okay..." Martin thought back, glancing toward the other cat halfway hoping it might come over. "I followed Milly - that was the little girl's name - back to her house, well, hovel really. It wasn't much and set over nearer to the reactor. If I'd known what I do now, I might have walked another half mile and found a way in to Yoshi and Izzy..." He shook his head, putting the thought aside. "In any case, it was a winding route and about halfway I knew wasn't going to make it back if I kept going, but I just couldn't stop. I couldn't. And when I got there, the smell of urine and stale sweat, and her mother was so still... I thought we were too late. But she was warm, hot in fact, and there was a weak pulse, but she was drowning in her own fluids. So I sent Milly for ice, and once she was gone I had to do some field surgery to drain the mother's lungs. I gave her triox and antibiotics and antivirals, plus a booster for the low level radiation there. It was all I could do, but Milly came back with neighbors and one had a son with a truck. They were going to set it up to transport her to the clinic, while I went back to make sure it was still functioning." He paused and took a sip of tea, and looked down into the glass frowning. "I still don't know if she made it."

Tarel was quiet for a long moment, scritching at the top of the first cat's head. The other cat in question peeked out from underneath it's chair, curiously eyeballing the conversation. "I'm a little remiss I didn't decide to disobey the Captain's order myself," commented the counselor, but did not let the thought rest. "It sounds like you have a vivid memory of what occurred. Is this on your mind a lot?"

"I appreciate the sentiment, but it wasn't even my intention to disobey it. When I knew I'd miss beam out, I tried to comm, but there was too much interference." Martin sighed heavily. "I wish that had worked, honestly, because then I could have beamed Milly's mother to medbay. I do think a lot about if she ever got the care she needed, or even made it to the clinic. One of the neighbors walked me back while they were trying to organize the truck to transport the patient and she saw the angry crowd and the big guy attacking me. I don't know if she was still there when the marines showed up, but I imagine the whole thing will keep a lot of people away..." He brushed a hand over his hair, frowning. "There was disease starting to burn through that colony, and now containing it will be that much harder even with a dedicated medical mission, fear and distrust can be as contagious as any virus." A hand clenched in his lap. "I've seen it before."

"Have you?" Tarel asked, voice delicate. As she leaned forward to listen, the second of the pair of ragdoll cats slowly padded out from under the chair, warily eyeing the pair of large humanoids in front of it. "Were you in a similar situation previously?"

Martin looked down into his tea and nodded slowly. "Lai Aethl. It was supposed to be a waystation - in Romulan the name is literally 'place between' - but after ...things feel apart... there wasn't anywhere for them to go and no more supplies to keep them going, and yet more had kept coming, especially after Hobus. By the time we got there..." He frowned, closing his eyes as the images rose in his memory - gaunt children dressed in little more than rags; adults with hollow cheeks and sunken eyes, painfully thin from starving themselves so the children would have something; and the newer refugees, suffering from radiation exposure or festering wounds from their desperate scramble to flee the supernova. "...it was bad. Worse than what you saw on the colony. No one living there called it Lai Aethl. It was Lai Aaith - place of woe, of wretchedness."

"Still, we were hopeful, determined. We'd brought supplies, medicine - and Federation officials were supposed to arrive in a couple weeks to process refugees and start to find places for them." He swallowed, hands tightened on his glass. "But that was before the virus. Or we think it was - so many people died from adjacent causes, from things easily attributed to deprivation - it might have been there, and mutated ...or spread because so many congregated where we set up, desperate to get food..." His throat tightened and he swallowed. "I don't know. Maybe the ones who blamed us were right, or at least not entirely wrong. God knows they had reason to distrust the Federation after being left there, but it meant they didn't come in. Even knowing they were dying and we had treatments. Even once we had a vaccine ...it kept spreading. Exponential growth..."

The doctor took a sip of tea, holding it in his mouth, focusing on the taste to reorient before continuing. "We started going out, door-to-door. It wasn't always welcome. Or safe - a girl once stabbed me with a broken bottle, trying to keep me away from her grandfather." He puffed a breath, half in wonder at a memory that still seemed surreal. She had been so determined to defend the last member of her family; it was hard not admire her courage, even if what she was defending against was the treatment he needed to live. "But we had to," he insisted adamantly. "We'd find whole households - grandparents parents, children, all dead..."

By this point, the second of the two cats had found it's way upon the table, sniffing the air cautiously around Martin and Tarel before peering into one of the glasses of tea. Tarel reached over with a hand slowly, letting the cat poke at her fingers with it's nose. "... Doctor, if I may... you have quite a penchant for finding yourself in similar situations. Where your abilities are limited by what you can and cannot do - and, as we've all discovered, a Captain's order does not tend to deter you from your goal. But even so, I'm noticing a trend. Typically I would let someone who comes to me come to their conclusions; such as the case with some of the more wily members of the crew here, but I can offer my perspective if you think it would help?"

Shaking the memory off, Martin looked up, an eyebrow raised at the observation. "I'm not sure I'd say 'penchant'. I signed on to work with a group that served in crisis regions, and therefore found myself part of a team handling crises. Eventually we did get that one under control - though it probably helped that there was no Captain ordering us not to," he added acerbically, then frowned; no matter how frustrated he was with Ewan that hadn't been fair. He shook his head. "Sorry. Go ahead. What is your perspective?"

Tarel sat herself back in the chair as she smiled across the way at Martin. "While I do not believe you've had such a severe trauma that it warrants any serious measures, what I'm getting off of you is that you have a passion for helping others, made obvious not just by the fact that you're a doctor but simply in how you've spoken on the topic. But I also notice that you pour so much of yourself in that what you've seen is starting to take its toll. Which is not to say that you're doing anything wrong. I've met enough medical officers in my life time to know a good one when I see one, but I've also seen enough to know that, at least in your case, it means you're throwing yourself into danger for the greater good. Sometimes it comes at a complete disobeying of an order. Sometimes it doesn't. But the feelings you're feeling now, and the vivid description you've given me of memories that happened years prior just tells me that this has all stuck with you, and perhaps at a cost to your mental health. Does this sound right? Please, if it doesn't, I'd like to know."

The doctor paused and gave that some thought. He'd thought his lack of sleep was stress, or frustration, or guilt, but as he'd talked and the memories rose up from wherever he'd kept them buried, he had to wonder. "Maybe. As a doctor, especially one who works in areas where you see a lot of emergencies or crisis situations, you learn to compartmentalize - you have to, if you're going to keep functioning and be able to go on and handle the next one. But..." he ran a hand over his hair, stopping to pull at the nap of his neck. "...maybe that compartment wasn't sealed as well as I'd thought. I don't know what to do with the insight though. Being aware of it wouldn't have changed any decision I made, except maybe that I'd have defied orders more intentionally," he added wryly. "I have struggled with guilt over agreeing to abandon the clinic at all."

"I don't believe you should have done any differently, awareness or not. If you struggled with any sort of guilt over either instance, a hovered guilt of 'what could have been if I stayed' may be worse." As she spoke, the more sheepish of the two cats padded from Tarel to Martin, leaning forward as close as she could without actually moving off the table curiously. "In times like this, where you have a reprieve between one event and what could potentially be a next, it might be a good time to try unpacking some of your compartments. You already seem to have started. There isn't anything wrong with compartmentalizing of course, especially in the moment, but there are times where if you find yourself doing it too much... it might start to overflow. And then you'll need to let it out somewhere at some point. I find it better to do so when you have control over your environment. A counseling session may work best for you, but it may not. You might find that you need to take up another hobby, one absolutely unrelated to the field of medicine. A musical instrument? Drawing? Reading? Don't let my suggestions stop you from finding something that suits you."

She sat upright. "From where I'm sitting, it sounds like you've found what you needed to find, at least in terms of an answer. I can suggest all sorts of avenues for you to take, but there's always time for that."

Martin had to admit that she was right, though unpacking all of that might require a lot more time than he actually had. Still, the idea of a hobby had merit. He did read, but lately that reading had been mostly catching up on all medical research he'd missed due to the time skip. And he listened to music when he worked out, but an instrument... he'd played piano once. It had been years, but he remembered finding it relaxing. "Thank you, Counselor. Just talking has helped, but I will try to unpack and maybe find something to let me shift gears a bit." He reached across, holding out a hand, and getting a momentarily tough of fur before the cat decided to be shy again and dart back. "For now, I should probably get back to medbay."

 

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