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Headstone Prophets [FLASHBACK]

Posted on Sat Jun 1st, 2019 @ 11:14pm by Lieutenant Nora Morrison M.D. & Lieutenant JG Murril Na
Edited on on Thu Jun 27th, 2019 @ 8:57pm

Mission: Mission 5: Arising From the Ashes
Location: Counselor's Office
Timeline: 15 November, 2394 - 1300 Hours


"How are you doing?" It was a simple question and not expressly clinical, but after all they had been through, Nora didn't particularly feel like beating around the bush. Frankly, memories of her own experiences, though not nearly as dramatic as others, still flittered through her mind as she met with members of the crew. It had worn her down, changed her in ways it would probably take her a while to process, but all she knew in this moment was that reaching out to others was healing in its own right.

The Betazoid chemist appreciated the approach. Murril Na smiled, although it wasn't a particularly beaming or symmetrical smile. It was an Arlan Harlan smile. Na inhaled, calculating how much to expose her to at once. Her time was valuable. She surely had plenty of other crew to go through today.

So, Murril caught his superior officer up to speed. "Well, I've read up on Survivor's Guilt. I've read up on PTSD or whatever we're calling it these days. I know it's not Stockholm Syndrome because I still hate that Klingon's guts for pounding me to a pulp. You probably took one look at my file and read the abstract of my study on the use of holodeck combat simulations on telepathic and empathic species to mitigate post-traumatic events."

Murril was never sure where to go with ships' counselors. They meant well, but they only have so many hours per day. The ones back on Deep Space Four all got themselves transferred to other posts before they could really drill to the core of the matter.

Her smile was genuine even as she asked, "I believe my question was 'How are you doing?', not what are you doing." She paused for a moment, then offered, "I can appreciate the desire to take control after a trauma by trying to make sense of everything. At the risk of sounding completely like a counselor cliché, sometimes the way to heal from difficult stuff isn't just to make sense of it, but to work through it by feeling."

Murril didn't trust that word. Feeling? "I'm not superstitious, but I'm feeeeeeling that I'm cursed. This is the second vessel I've served on where we were all ordered to the lifeboats within a week of boarding. Back on the surface of Far Wanderer, when we went through the Firebird's wreckage for our personal belongings, I couldn't even remember whether my quarters were on the port half or the starboard half of the ship! I only recognized the lab by its location and all the tiny little lids scattered around!"

There were two conflicting ideas being offered, but she recognized the common thread of self-blame in each of them, the belief in being cursed and the inability to recognize familiar surroundings. "Self-blame can be a really powerful emotion and make us see the logic in things that are more random than we are comfortable with. You've told me you feel cursed and you seem to be blaming yourself for not recognizing your lab back then, but do you really think you're responsible?"

Murril kept wanting to stand up out of his seat, to pace around the room. Instead, he stayed seated. "Responsible, eh? There's not much a chemist is good for when New Maquis ships are ambushing us. I wasn't responsible for that, certainly. I wasn't generally a liability to Oggt or Fhiri during or after planetfall, but I sure wasn't in my element, either. As for feeling cursed..."

Murril continued, ", ah, probably already spoke with Kalel about what we encountered on the holodeck?" This would be so much more easier if you weren't human. You can't even read half of my thoughts or emotions, can you? There was no polite way to state it out loud to his superior officer; compared to psychiatric services on Betazed, mere human counselors were well-intentioned optimists at best. Eyeless surgeons poking around in our innards.

So, Murril kept his emotions from spewing and splashing out. He kept it at her level, just like he had with the other Starfleet counselors before Doctor Morrison. Fortunately, she had already sussed out the self-blame issue and the oft-universal issue of finding patterns when there are no patterns to be found. That was impressive to Murril.

She hadn't spoken to Kalel in fact, but to confirm or deny anything about another person would be a violation of professional ethics, so instead, she offered, "Perhaps you could tell me about your experiences?"

"I encountered a ghost on the holodeck." Looking in the direction of the wall to the right of her desk, Na blinked at nobody in particular.

He continued, "It would make sense that a two-time survivor of similar events could have a mental hallucination, except Kalel witnessed the whole thing too. Kalel wasn't even born when Wolf 359 occurred. I had a look at his records after the encounter, and while he's seen some action, there's no indication that he's ever encountered the Borg himself." Hey! Usually, ships' counselors tend to glaze over by now. This Morrison is staying right with me. "Her warning was to me, but what am I supposed to do with that warning? Resign and spend the rest of my days making a public nuisance of myself in front of Starfleet HQ? "The Borg will return! Your doom is nigh!" Murril stuck his arms straight out in front of himself in a physical parody of zombies.

Murril took a long breath and put his arms down. If it wasn't for Kalel seeing everything I saw, I'd have been removed from command and transferred indefinitely to a psych-eval facility. He made eye contact with Dr. Morrison again.

Nora took in his words carefully, evaluating not just their content, but his demeanor. He seemed rational, but frustrated, understandable feelings considering the circumstances. The truth was, she didn't understand the situation any better than he did, but as she always did in such circumstances, she focused on putting herself in his shoes. "I'll be the first to admit I don't understand what you experienced and what it all means, but I've been in Starfleet long enough to know that things aren't always what they seem. You're right, it doesn't make sense the two of you would experience the same hallucination, so to speak. More than that, if you are experiencing some sort of psychosis, it's unlike anything I've ever heard of. As I said, I don't know what this is exactly, but right now, I don't think we can rule out some sort of toxic exposure or even some sort of astronomical event. Were the two of you examined in Sickbay?

With wincing embarrassment, Na answered, "I, uh, figured that no tricorder would have detected spirits or possession. So no." He sighed, realizing that he had bungled some pretty elementary steps in the scientific method there. Immediately after the ghostly encounter, he should have had scans recorded of the holodeck itself, of himself, of Kalel, of the corridor outside ...just to cross variables off the list.

"Oh. I did try to have a look at the holodeck logs at the end of that event, to replay what I had seen, but the logs were already erasing back to the previously saved setting. I told this to a couple of engineers and gave them each access to the original program while I saved a copy for myself, buuuuut I don't think it's too high on their official priority list to debug a holodeck program. The memories of Kalel and myself seem to be the only evidence that this encounter even took place. Mostly, I figured that psychiatry would be the best tool to sort it out." The chemist gestured reservedly around Morrison's office.

Na got himself back on track, "Mostly, it's not the ghost itself that bothers me. It's what I'm supposed to DO with this knowledge that bothers me." He coughed a couple of times, and said, "Whether the information came from a ghost, a recurring dream, a time-traveler, a Vulcan prophet, a self-aware supercomputer, a rumor in a DS bar, the information itself isn't something I can just sit on. If our XO had walked into the holodeck and briefed Kalel and myself with all these Highly Classified charts concluding that the Borg would assimilate the Federation within our lifetimes, I'd have the same reaction. What should I DO with this warning?" Finally, Murril ran out of breath.

Nora had not meant to create feelings of incompetence or embarrassment within the chemist and she could only suspect she had, given the way he offered all of the logical steps he had taken to find a solution to this experience. She was glad to see, however, he hadn't seemed to allow those potential feelings to prevent him from talking with her further. "Well, why don't you brainstorm the potential actions you could take? The great thing about brainstorming is it's an opportunity to let your mind consider all solutions to a problem without passing judgment immediately." Of course, Morrison couldn't entirely agree with the idea the source of the information was irrelevant when considering the way forward. After all, if they determined the experience was purely psychological, then the action required was a great deal more personal than professional. Even so, she didn't want to press the point and she didn't want to create more feelings of incompetence or personal weakness.

Murril stewed on that for a few seconds before agreeing. "I can DO that, but I'll need a week to gradually come up with enough alternatives." He nodded. This wasn't a debate or a one-time hypospray in the neck. This was a long-term project. That was fine. Murril grinned, "Well, are we done here for today? I'm good with where we are."

She had to admit, she wasn't expecting him to brainstorm ideas on his own, but upon reflection, she could understand his desire to take more time than the session offered to consider his options. She felt confident she had established a sufficient therapeutic alliance with him for the future if his smile were any indication. "If you are satisfied for now, I am," she replied with a smile of her own. "Just reach out when you want to get together and discuss your progress."


Lieutenant JG Murril Na
Assistant Chief Science Officer
USS Firebird NCC-88298

Lieutenant Nora Morrison M.D.
Chief Counselor
USS Firebird NCC-88298


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Comments (1)

By Lieutenant JG Yikete Oggt on Mon Jun 10th, 2019 @ 7:13am

It's always so nice to read a Nora post, she's such a great counselor. This one was a fun little read. I appreciate how Murril is building from his character's experiences and not just showing us the nice, glossy side of Starfleet, but that there are real psychological after-effects that continue on awhile after. That's an aspect we don't often get to see in the shows, but it works so well in this format. -Liam