Posted Dec. 5, 2023, 10:36 p.m. by Lieutenant Junior Grade Brenner "Bren" Satis (Doctor/specialty in neuroscience) (Charley Gilmore)
Posted by Lieutenant Cara Esmé O’Farrell (Counselor / Education Specialist) in Alt Timeline - Counselor
Posted by Lieutenant Junior Grade Brenner “Bren” Satis (Doctor/specialty in neuroscience) in Alt Timeline - Counselor
Posted by Lieutenant Cara Esmé O’Farrell (Counselor / Education Specialist) in Alt Timeline - Counselor
Posted by… suppressed (27) by the Post Ghost! 👻
Bren had an undergraduate degree in psychology, a doctorate in neuroscience, and the empathic abilities of a Betazoid. Outside the requirements of the job, he’d spent little time on a counselor’s couch. Still, as he palmed the chime alerting Counselor O’Farrell of his arrival, he had a nagging sense that he was entering a meeting whose outcome he wasn’t confident he could control. He chalked it up to the fact that, although he’d been out of the Academy for a number of years, this was his first ship assignment. It was a shift in his career trajectory to move from the Daystrom Institute to the Atlantis.
Had he sorted out his reasons enough in his own mind to explain it to a trained professional?
A woman, wearing a blue medical uniform, with curly bright red hair, green eyes, and classic pale skin marked her as having strong Irish Terran heritage stood in the open doorway. A very strong Irish accent flowed from her, “Lt Brenner Satis? I’m Lt Cara O’Farrell.” She stepped back from the door. “Please come in.” She offered her hand for a firm shake that seemed to put people at ease and make them feel welcome.
When the door opened, the Counselor would see nothing that outwardly gave away any inner conflict or doubt. Instead she would see an officer whose blue, grey and black uniform fit well over his trim frame and who combined eyes that crinkled slightly in the corners when he smiled. And he smiled easily.
The counselor returned his easy smile as he stepped into her office. Immediately to the left of the door was a desk sitting catty-corner. A variety of places to sit, including a large reinforced couch, and low tables dotted the rest of the open area. The right wall was taken up with a wall to wall, floor to ceiling storage until. Books, various pieces of art, and nick knacks covered the shelves. The office was filled with shades of green and blue, brown and orange. “Help yerself te the replicator and have a seat.” O’Farrell grabbed a glass of tea off her desk and had a seat in one of the chairs.
During long shifts in the lab Bren tried to balance the need for caffeine and hydration. As he entered the Counselor’s warm and inviting office he opted for the latter. Glass of sparkling water in hand he took a seat on the couch across from O’Farrell.
“Nice to meet you Counselor,” Bren made a point of looking around his surroundings. “This is quite the relaxing sanctuary. I have to admit I’m a bit jealous. I’m afraid I spend most of my time in far more sterile environments.”
“Thank you. I canna say I take credit for the decor. The previous counselor did that, but I liked it and kept it this way. When one is battlin’ the monsters that silently haunt us, a sanctuary is necessary. Donna ya think?” O’Farrell smiled, it was the same with patients battling illness. “And when we have these mandatory check-ins it’s nice ta break up the monotony. And it makes for a pleasant place ta spend my duty shift.”
“That it does. I remember learning during a Psych 101 class back at the Academy how something as simple as the color of a room’s walls could make a significant difference in how patients felt. Blues and greens were popular colors for creating a calming environment, if I’m remembering correctly.”
OOC: so sorry for the delay. RL has been a monster.
“They are. Though there are exceptio s of course. Green isnna a calmin’ color for Vulcans nor Blue for Bolians. It depends on their culture.”
“Where are ya joinin’ us from, Lt?”
“The Daystrom Institute,” Bren relaxed into the back of the couch he was seated on as he maintained eye contact. “This is my first ship assignment post Starfleet Medical. Space was the goal when I joined Starfleet, of course, but it’s taken me a bit longer than expected to get here. What about you, Counselor? How long have you been aboard the Atlantis?”
“I’ve been here goin’ on two years. Atlantis is my first ship assignment as well. Before this I was stationed at Star Fleet Medical on Earth and before tha’ Starbase K7.”
Cara sipped her tea. “What prompted the change?”
“The end of a project. It diverted me from my original path for a few years, but now I’m confident things are back on track. How did you adjust? I mean, moving from a planet-based assignment to a starbase and finally to a starship must have been a transition. Any insights to offer on how best to acclimate to life aboard a ship?
“Are ya lookin’ forward ta bein’ back on track?
Bren nodded. He was looking forward to this new chapter in his life and career. He knew intrinsically that if his present self could go back and talk to his past self, try to convince a younger Bren that moving from Starfleet Medical directly to a ship assignment, he’d be unsuccessful. There was no changing the headspace his younger self had been in, but here he was. He’d returned to the path he’d started.
“Well hopefully ya don’na have my problem. I get space sick at warp speeds. I was more busy dealin’ with that. I would suggest though, get involved in everthin’. Try it all out and then pick what ya like. Planet or Starbase postings have a lot ta do, a lot of people. You stumble upon things when ya are no lookin’. On a ship there is not as much, and space is premium. Things are hidden all over the place. So go look for them.”
“What do ya think will be yer hardest adjustment?”
“Space sickness hasn’t been a problem, yet. I imagine it would have reared its ugly head by now if it were going to be. No, for me the challenge is likely to be the isolation of a ship. You say that there a things hidden if I just look. I hope that’s the case. Right now almost every face I see is new, but I imagine that changes pretty quickly. When I was younger I went on an ocean cruise, traveled around the southern Alaska coastline. By the end of the ten day voyage it seemed every face was one I’d seen a number of times. There was a certain claustrophobia to it.”
“I can understand that sense of claustrophobia,” Cara commebted. “Luckily the Atlantis is a Mythology class ship. 45 decks and at least half is dedicated ta recreation. We affectionately describe her as a Starbase with warp drive. We have on average 1100 souls on board. 17 and 18 forward are divided inta several sections, and in addition ta those social areas we have several restaurants on board and a punk bar. Most of the general purpose areas are geared for recreation and 3 arboretums if natural soaces are yer thing. The promenade and holodecks. With the chargeable mission modules those areas can go ta crew support and moral functions. I suggest lookin’ for things but if ya get bored easily try ta pace yerself and don’na try ta do it all at once.”
“That is very reassuring,” Bren responded as the counselor listed off all the options available to keep one from going stir crazy.
“Other than keeping yerself occupied in yer off time, what do ya think will be yer hardest adjustment?” O’Farrell asked.
“That’s hard to say.”
It wasn’t. The personal dynamics between Bren and Aurra would undoubtedly be the most challenging aspect of his new assignment, but Bren wasn’t about to broach that subject here.
“Starship life is unpredictable. In my former posting I could largely control the flow of my day. The project to which I was assigned was long term and rarely was there an urgent matter that interrupted my work to demand immediate attention. To be honest, while that shift will take some adjustment, it’s one I’m looking forward to. Part of it is the nature of patient care, something I did very little of over the last few years, but it’s the missions I’m most anticipating.”
“That unpredictability can also help relieve the cabin fever though. It’s good ya recognize that it will be an adjustment. Give yerself some grace to adjust when things seem to not go the way expected.” However, Cara didn’t need to be a telepath to notice the signs of someone who was avoiding a topic. “Lieutenant ya do know that anythin’ ya say here is confidential. If there is a problem or a concern this is the place ta address it. Before it festers out of control and becomes an infection.”
Lieutenant? That was another adjustment Bren would have to make. He’d held a rank since he graduated the Academy, but it was rarely, if ever, verbalized in his previous posting. There he’d been Doctor Satis. The Daystrom Institute was just as hierarchical as a starship and most doctors there outranked him and yet they were all addressed with the same title. Bren supposed there was a level of arrogance to the superficial equality to the practice. Rank was for others. We were doctors.
It was refreshing to recognize the shift and one more reason for him to do his best to hold on to this posting.
Bren leaned forward in his seat, elbows propped on his knees, “As you’ve likely seen in my file, I’m Betazoid and I hold an undergraduate degree in psychology. I fully appreciate the sanctity of a counselor patient conversation and my species isn’t necessarily known for holding things back. Why would we, when the emotions and thoughts of others are such a constant presence in our lives.”
Cara nodded but was unswayed by the argument, “That may be the cultural norm, but that does’na mean that ya follow it. I find makin’ such assumptions ta be detrimental in gettin’ ta know someone. However, yer tells say there is somethin’ ya aren’t sayin’. If it is somethin’ ya want ta talk about, that is what I am here for.”
He leaned back and took a sip of his sparkling water. “I’ve learned over the last few years to be a bit more reserved than I may have been in the past. It isn’t that I don’t trust you to keep what I say confidential, it’s just that I don’t know you.”
“Fair enough. So why don’na ya choose our next topic then. Feel free ta flip the tables on me. The Sidhe now it’s been awhile since someone did’na try ta rush out of my office.”
Bren noticeably relaxed into his seat. She hadn’t pushed and that patience was worth it’s weight in therapist gold. Besides, he was always a fan of a smart redhead. The way he saw it, he had two avenues of questioning he could put to the counselor with a lilting accent. One, he could choose to learn more about her. Two, he could see if she would help him learn more about the crew. He opted for the first choice, knowing it’d make her more likely to be amenable to the second.
“I’ll admit my expertise on Human accents is limited, bit I did spend a very nice holiday in County Cork a few summers back and I’m noticing some similarities,” Bren’s eyebrow raised questioningly.
Cara smiled, “County Waterford. Cork is our neighbor. O’course Cork is one of the bigger areas. Where abouts did ya visit?”
“I spent a whole week in this low-ceilinged, white-washed cottage outside Schull. It felt like heaven. It was quiet and the smell of the sea was always present. For a moment I thought it’d make a good home, but the locals assured me I’d feel differently come winter.”
That last comment made her laugh. “Grew up about 200km from Schull. As for the winters, it’s no too bad. Rains a lot and bein’ so far North there is less than 8 hours of daylight. Wind makes it feel colder than it is.” She picked up her cup, “It’s the mud and damp from all the rain that gets ya.” She sipped her drink. “Ah, but there is norhin’ like an Irish sea.”
“Mud and damp aren’t my favorite, but a good pair of boots and thick jacket could make it manageable, I would think. A part of me still thinks the locals made it sound worse than it is so they could keep it for themselves. I may have only spent a short time there, but the Irish Sea has a natural power that is hard to find elsewhere. It’s raw and unabashed. It makes it feel real. I don’t know if that makes sense, but they’re the words that came to mind when I was there. I imagine it was a…stirring place to grow up.”
“Oh yer right on the money about that. Some communities don’na mind visitors, but they get jittery when they talk about stayin’. The weather is’na too bad once ya learn ta be prepared for it.” She sipped at her tea as he talked. “It was very stirring. I know exactly what you mean.” She nodded and set the cup down. “Many o’ our mythological stories in Ireland begin in the sea. Some still believe. Even if ya don’ the sea holds a primal power that can’na be denied even by those that don’na live on the coast. I learned ta swim at Ballyvoyle Cove. Ya learned early ta respect the sea.”
There was a flash of convivial envy in Bren’s expression. He hadn’t been to the specific cove the Counselor referenced, but he could picture it. Tall, rocky cliffs forming a semi-circle, or perhaps more dramatically, a sharp V. In his mind’s eye there were the requisite sharp stabs of rock pushing up from the surf at varying intervals out into the sea. At the shore the waves were more manageable than the frothy maelstrom several yards out, otherwise a young O’Farrell wouldn’t have gone in. Or would she?
The image was a figment of Bren’s imagination. For all he knew it was a protected cove with calm, cold, blue water.
“I learned to swim in a pool,” his deadpan delivery of this fact displayed an underlying, and hopefully humorous, self-deprecation. “In fact, I’m pretty sure I had those puffed up floaties on my arms until hair started to sprout on my chest. Well, that might be an exaggeration, but only a little.”
She grinned, “No a thing wrong with that. We wore life jackets until we were old enough that Mam and Dadai couldn’a ground us. That is ta say, until I joined the Academy and I still wear one when I go home ta visit. I guess I should say my parents took us ta Coumshingaun Lough and taught us. But it was Ballyvoyle Cove where we really learned. It isn’a too bad on a day with no wind. If my parents knew we’d gone swimmin’ at the cove, I’d still be locked in my room.” She laughed.
It wasn’t completely surprising that the Counselor had an adventurous streak. There were few in Starfleet who didn’t. Even in the relative comfort of a ship like the Atlantis, it was hard to forget one was light years away from an actual atmosphere with oxygen and gravity that occurred naturally. Bren’s gaze drifted momentarily to a window. There were stars swimming through the inky blackness beyond. It looked peaceful, but one extended moment outside that window would be the end of him.
“Do you ever have a moment when you look out a window and find it hard to wrap your mind around just how close you are to the vacuum of space?” Bren returned his gaze to the Counselor. “I imagine it’s important to find the balance between knowing how dangerous space can be and not fixating on the fact?”
“Sometimes it is. We are accustomed ta our level of technological advancement. That technology is only as good as the scientists and engineers that create and use it.” She sipped her tea, “Balance is good. Some can find it, some struggle, and some never do. Those folks don’t usually last in service. A planetside assignment is no guaranteed. Really it comes down ta respect for the danger and trust in those that built and maintain the ship.” She glanced out the window and back. “But that is everythin’ in life. Respect for the risk and trust in those around ya.”
Bren nodded along as the Counselor spoke, “Exactly. You said it so well. We really do have to trust other people everyday, mostly people we’ve never met. I don’t know who was responsible for installing that window or who created the systemic oversight to ensure that small mistakes don’t turn into large ones, but I have to trust in those people and those systems. I enjoy history and was recently reading about the early twenty-first century and more specifically about World War III and the conflicts that led up to it. It amazes me how such a sudden collapse in trust of political institutions and eventually our neighbors led to such a tragedy. I’m glad Humans were able to get past that. I suppose my own people were blessed to have our empathic abilities. There’s a level of trust that engenders.”
Cara nodded, “But that doesn’a guarantee peace and understandin’. Betazed’s own history has it’s share of strife. The early contact with the Terabian for instance. Or the Occupation by the Dominion and now the Enlightened Mind Movement. Strife is inevitable because even among species we are all individuals and are shaped by our experiences. They form how we perceive things as right, wrong, necessary, injust, and righteous. What matters is how we approach that strife and bring it to conclusion.” Her words carried the feelings of temperance and open mindedness. “I am very grateful that humans found a way past that point in our history. Though I think it was a miracle we survived at all.”
Bren paused, his attention leaving the window that shown with stars and returning to O’Farrell, “I’m sorry, Counselor. I’m rambling and I know that’s not the point of our time together.”
Bren nodded his understanding at the Counselor’s points on Betazoid history and, for a moment, hoped he hadn’t come off in the same vein as his ancestors who had viewed there empathic abilities as a sign of superiority over others.
There was gentle amusement and understanding from her. “Actually, it is. It is through our ramblin’s and discussions that we learn about ourselves and others.” She smiled gently. “Unlike physical medicine, I can no look at a set of scans and determine where ya need care. And I can no do that in one one hour meetin’. Also like physical medicine, it can take several appointments ta get ta the heart of the issue and decide on how best ta treat it. Think of taday like a new patient appointment. Some times the things a patient rambles in about can lead ta clues in how best ta cate for them. My goal taday, is ta get ta know ya, so if ya need care I know where ta begin. So by all means, ramble away.”
He didn’t know if he wanted to go here on the first visit, but the Counselor seemed open to his random tendrils of thought and he felt confident he could rein himself in when needed.
“I’ve always found the Code of Sentience established by my homeworld after the conflicts with Terab IV with interest. It made sense at the time and brought peace, but as we’ve discovered an array of new species and our understanding of the galaxy has grown, I wonder if it isn’t outdated. I suppose my question is this, if humans were to encounter a species without the ability to hear, would they then commit to remaining silent in their presence? The variety of humanoids across our galaxy means there is a diversity of strengths and weaknesses. Why should empaths, like me, limit the abilities of our own senses?”
Cara didn’t answer right away. She contemplated for a long moment. “Ya make a good point. Though I would say that me talkin’ ta those that can’t hear isn’a forcin’ them ta hear. Usin’ yer empathy is no makin’ others feel what ya feel, but feelin’ what they do. Unless I’m misunderstandin’ how it works?”
Bren just nodded, not wanting to interrupt, but wanting to acknowledge that she was understanding things as well as him.
“However,” she paused, “I don’na think that ya should have ta not use all the senses ya were born with. Betazoids understand the desire and practice of ‘privacy’. Ya can keep yer thoughts and feelin’s ta yerself when ya want. How do ya know when the line between usin’ yer senses crosses the line? How do non-empaths decide what is acceptable and what is invasion of privacy? How do both sides come ta an agreement?” She met his dark gaze, “There is no easy answer there. Neither side should deny what they naturally are, but they shouldn’a require that others do either. It is said that a good compromise means everyone feels like they’ve lost. I don’na think that’s true, but it can feel that way.”
Bren chuckled a bit at O’Farrell’s idiom, “I suppose that sums up compromise as well as anything. I do understand the bit about privacy. I’ve lived off Betazed long enough to have realized that most other species draw a line of privacy that is more, let’s say bolded, than we do. I suppose part of it is simply being respectful and responsive to others’ cultures. I’ve found humans often have a habit of smiling at strangers. I suppose it’s a way of showing that they’re friendly, but I know of more than one species where a smile is akin to a laugh and if you smile at them without context they assume you’re laughing at them. With the diversity of our part of the galaxy as it is, it must be very difficult for a counselor such as yourself to navigate the individual needs of your patients.”
“The Cairn find even the lenient Betazoid practice of privacy very restrictive, and Zaldans hate manners and courtesy.” She added to his examples. “It’s very challenging. One must be aware of cultural practices and then also of the individual. Not all people conform to their society’s structure for various reasons. It certainly makes everything challenging and very interesting. I spend as much time reviewing notes and doing research as I do with my patients.”
As someone who always approached his work with as much preparation as he could manage, Bren respected O’Farrell’s admission of her workload. He was enjoying his conversation with the ship’s counselor, but sensed his time with her was coming to a close.
“Well, I hope you’ve managed to add a few more details to your notes in my file after our session today. Is there anything else we need to touch upon?”
Cara knew very well there were things he wasn’t saying.That could be for several reasons. Allowing the switch in topic from himself to her seemed to have eased some of his tension. She felt she had a solid beginning for future evaluation. “I can’na think of anythin’ else. I hope this has been if not a pleasant encounter for ya, it was at least painless.” She grinned and laughed. “Anything else that ya want ta discuss? About yerself or the ship?”
Bren couldn’t put a finger on what he was sensing from O’Farrell that let him know she saw through his diversions. He wasn’t so keen an empath that he could read her thoughts, nor was she so unreserved that her emotions flowed freely. O’Farrell was in control of herself.
“I have enjoyed meeting you, Counselor. I suppose I’m at the point where I’m too new to even know which questions to ask, but I’ll be sure an make an appointment when that changes.”
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