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Healing Strategy

Posted on 05 Mar 2022 @ 10:33am by Commander Calliope Zahn & Admiral Zavareh Sepandiyar

Mission: M2 - Sanctuary
Location: Environmental Deck
Timeline: Aftermath of "Milk Run" following day
3585 words - 7.2 OF Standard Post Measure


Spilling out of the turbolift into the open air of Environmental Deck struck Calliope as surreal. She leaned into a new cane, exactly like the old one, as it was likely some common medical replication pattern which was adjusted only for the height and reach of the patient. Her old one was somewhere in Kalara’s Northern Quarter at or around that dusty old watering hole. There was little dust here. The cellular shedding of people and plants, the dirt folks kicked up underfoot was all just caught up in the air filtration system and put through the scrubbers. It looked like a convincing park, but if anyone over thought it like Calliope did, the air still tasted more of starship than of sky.

She walked the purposely designed meandering path for a little bit in thought. People needed meandering paths, she supposed, even if they were faked. You had to lose the sense of traveling in simple geometry to help you pay attention, to help make sense of nonsense.

She hadn’t walked long before encountering people camping in the trees and realized they were likely the refugees that Winslow had told her about. She leaned on a tree for a while, watching these families as children called out to one another in makeshift games among the artificial forest while adults prepared food or laid back in rest. Calliope found herself afraid for the possibility these people might get their wish and move to the world below. The fresh experience of watching the Refugee men run through with swords made her jump internally and cringe sympathetically. She looked away from the refugees, knowing that her anxieties for their sakes came more from the recent terror than any real likelyhood. Especially now that Starfleet knew what was going on.

At least as soon as they took all the debriefs. Hers was yet to be filed. She’d just spent hours on a rehydration line sitting under bone knitters and cellular regenerators under an induced sleep. She’d stood up from the bio bed with some stiffness and nothing much more than what she’d been dealing with anyway- the fatigue, weakness, and touchy stomach. At the first reflection she came upon, she’d stopped to double check but there were no bruises or cuts or broken bones. She was as good as when she’d left the day prior, and it made the whole ordeal further dreamlike. When she had been released just now, she knew she needed to write her full debrief on the incident, but she felt in a daze and had stopped on the Environmental deck for a bit of air and a chance to gather her thoughts, walking herself through a mental replay of events to the best of her memory.

Most difficult was the malevolent content of the account, even beyond the violence itself. She knew from past experience that she had the ability to do what counselors and therapists in her teens had called self-preservation, inasmuch as she’d rescued herself from fear, insecurity, and depression by doggedly imagining her abuse to have happened to someone else, to the girl she thought of as ‘not-Calliope’, and to be able to put it away and move on. It was a kind of productive denial many survivors used to rebuild and move on. As time passed it became a kind of memory that she almost doubted had actually happened, even if her reflexes never forgot. She’d learned it even moreso about herself recently while unpacking herself in sessions with Walker. It was a strength that allowed for healing, like cordoning off an inoperable tumor and rendering it powerless deep within, but it was also a potential blind spot, such as right now, when she needed to look it in the face and capture it in a report.

She thought about the accounts she had to give when she was a teen, the ones the advocates had wanted for testimony. It was humiliating, but the better the details, the more secure the outcomes, they’d assured. Still she felt every place, time, name, description, and word choice being scrutinized; even though her testimony was taken out of court, she’d no less felt the fear of misremembering, or embellishing, or leaving out the wrong things and being accused of lying and destroying other people's lives with false testimony. Afterall, she had lied before the testimony. Lying had been a part of how things had gotten as bad as they had when she’d been too afraid to tell the truth and her abusers had implicitly threatened against it. She’d been shamed into thinking no one would believe her anyway. What was the use of telling a story no one would hear?

She’d been young, and she’d long since recovered from that anxiety, or so she’d thought. She’d considered herself as very honest for her entire Starfleet career. Few had ever said otherwise about her, at least where there wasn’t some other obvious motive to accuse her, at least that she knew of. Not anyone of lasting consequence. But Corvus’ words weeks ago rang over and over. She’d lied. To herself, to Lance, to Corvus. She’d been living a lie about herself. Now she feared nothing she did or said would be trustworthy.

She sat down at a stone and glass chess table on the manicured lawn and stared into the sheen where the outline of her created a ghostly cut out of her face and left her feeling missing all over again.

Calliope was keenly aware she was going to be picked apart and that Corvus trusted her very little. She would need to be thorough and careful when making the full report. Not that she wouldn’t have been normally, but she was afraid from the way Corvus had pressed that if she explained something poorly or failed to include some detail, Corvus would feel she was catching her hiding something.

She wondered in hindsight if there had actually been as much urgency as she’d felt to update the Captain; a few minutes over subspace could hardly cover the details of the situation. Zayne was the Executive Officer, not her. Calliope wondered if she should have left the initial update to him and not been in such a rush. She’d just assumed he’d already been in contact since the search had to have gone overnight… In either event, now that she was healed and the height of the moment had passed, reflection told her that her own report about the Nuroc Tchuru and the Turani persecution was certainly important, but maybe not as time urgent as she’d felt in the moments immediately following the incident at the Devil’s Golden Bowl. And her report wouldn’t be the only one. Even as she’d been released from sickbay, there were Security officers taking statements from all of the patients in sickbay capable of speaking to them. Winslow’s people would have them compiled and there would be a master evaluation to boil down the accounts into one primary narrative. Who better to explain the persecution than the persecuted themselves?

No, Zayne had likely decided not to inform Corvus until the results of the operation had come in. And Calliope would have been wise to refrain as well, at least until she didn’t look like she’d been pulped. She had even known it when she’d been placing the call, but her instinct to report quickly had overridden the concern not to upset Corvus. She wished she could take the miscalculation back. It was a nuance, and not a terribly important one in the scope of everything that had happened, but she felt even further away from Corvus than she’d been before. She ached for simpler times when they’d been senior staff together and faced each mission with nothing but implicit trust. Even that past seemed tarnished by the secret Calliope had been holding through those same years. Calliope felt a dual shame and hurt.

She looked back to the chess board, at the way the pieces had been left mid-game. Someone else must have had to call it quits part way through. She tried to move a few of the pieces as if she could guess what moves had been played and ‘rewind’ the game. Lance would likely have been able to deduce it, she thought. He could see things like that, end to beginning, root cause, probability. But it didn’t exactly work out as she went. She just made a snarl that wouldn’t stack back into place easily. She frowned.

“May I join you?” asked a man, hovering just behind the chair hopefully.

The voice was familiar and Calliope didn’t look up right away, biting her bottom lip as she exhaled and gathered herself. “Of course.” She agreed. Doctor Llwyd had been somewhat more pleasant than she’d expected when she’d first spoken with him. She still wasn’t sure what to make of him, considering his part in the report that led to her removal, when he'd passed on al Havash's version of the story to the Admiral.

“Thank you,” he replied, drawing back the chair and sitting down. He looked like a civilian, not just because he wore civilian clothes, but because of the general way he carried himself. But that was a misrepresentation simply because he was relatively new to the world of Starfleet. Doctor Llwyd had spent his career in the service of the Federation Medical Corps, only joining Starfleet a year earlier. As he sat down, he began to carefully move the black pieces on his side all back into position.

“Do you play much of the classic version?” she asked, sliding her own pieces into place. “I ask because I can never remember where the bishops start.”

“The bishop’s the one that looks like the castle, right?” Alwyn smirked, nudging his rook. “Actually. If I’m honest, I’m more of a checkers lad. I don’t have a head for strategies.”

Calliope smiled in spite of herself. He had to be overstating his naivete about the names of the pieces. “Finally, someone I have a chance of beating at this game. We’ll just pick a space.”

“You’ve finished a game?” he asked in playful awe.

“They aren’t usually that long with the people I play with.”

Settled with the pieces in their right places and both sides ready to go, he moved a pawn and declared, “Check mate,” then smirked and sat back to let her play.

“Well, that’s officially the shortest game I’ve ever played.” She said, tilting her king for a moment before righting him again and moving the matching pawn to block the advance. “You obviously aren’t here to play chess.”

“This is my first time in the Environmental Ring,” he confessed as he surveyed his side of the board as if it mattered greatly this early in the game. “There was supposed to be a pickup game of football on the pitch, but it must have been rescheduled,” he said, finally moving another pawn one square forward. “In case you’re wondering why I’m dressed this way,” he added, gesturing to himself and his soccer shorts.

“What position do you play?”

“Midfield, if there’s enough for it. Otherwise, just up front. But,” he chuckled, watching her moving her bishop, “I’m getting a little old for it, truth be told. It’s a bit of a young man’s sport.” It wasn’t a lie, every time the exertion cost him a little bit more and more. One standard pick up game would have him applying regenerative shots to his knee joints for the rest of the week following. It wasn’t so much the impact of the running, but the constant change of directions, the slides and the inevitable tangle ups that would send him and his opponent tumbling to the ground.

Calliope shrugged one shoulder. “Stay active. Keeps you young. Maybe you can start a game in your age bracket.” She contemplated a short series of moves while Alwyn took his turn. She hated waiting very long between turns and wanted to be prepared.

“Maybe,” he shrugged. “Or maybe it’s time to take up another hobby. Doctor Pembroke, my supervisor on Alexander is training for a triathlon,” he smiled, half staring at the board, half looking up at Calli. “Could be fun. Interested?”

“What’s the tri in a triathlon? Running, swimming, and something? I could take up swimming again.”

“Biking,” he supplied. “Relatively low impact all around. If you’re a relatively competitive person like me, it’s just the kind of thing to scratch the itch. Competition and challenge,” he smiled. “But I get it if you think it’s too much. It’s not for everyone,” he added, playfully goading her into wanting to.

She said nothing for a couple of turns, wheels turning on the idea of biking. With the visits to the yoga studio, her balance had been a hell of a lot better, even if she was still wearing down quickly. Besides, she could probably just start out stationary. “Why not. Someone has to come in last.”

“Next to last,” he shook his head, “I’m sure the old fart will be at the end,” he said, thumbing to himself. He reacted suddenly to what he thought was a good counter and moved his knight. He looked up at her proudly, his eyes flicking to the cane at the side of the table, and then back. “Are you doing ok with your therapy? Good progress?”

“I thought so.” She said rubbing her chin with her thumb. “I’m doing better than expected. I just can’t seem to make recovery go any faster.” She captured the knight with the other bishop.

“No, you can’t. And there’s always a plateau right after that initial. It can be frustrating,” he nodded in understanding. Everyone wanted to be treated and back to a normal life in the same day. But even 24th century medicine had progressed to the point of magic wands for all that ails you. If they had, he’d have to find a different line of work. “If you’d like, we could arrange a time for a consult,” he added.

An incredulous breath escaped Calliope before she could help it. She tried to blink it off and shook her head. “That’s really kind of you.” She said in exactly the same way as receiving an ugly gift. For a moment she’d liked him, but now she was conflicted again. He'd done her enough favors. “Thanks for whatever part you played in my initial care. I know it was complicated.”

“We’re Doctors, that’s what we do,” he shrugged. “But my door’s always open if you change your mind. I’m actually here on the starbase for a little while. Doctor Mazur’s asked me to help fill in some shifts. Even she has to admit defeat. If she could, she’d walk a full patrol carrying that baby,” he chuckled. “Which reminds me…” he said, moving a pawn and realizing as he did that it was a lamb to the slaughter. He frowned and sighed at his own shortsightedness. “You might want to avoid Doctor Mazur as much as you can for a while. After… whatever happened on the planet…” he smirked.

“I rarely see her for most of my appointments anymore anyway. Nurse Lorne just takes my stats for her.” She had to admit that had proved way less stressful. Now taking his rook, Calliope started a series of moves that would force Alwyn into defense responses, as long as she managed to play it out the way she saw it, she was fairly certain leaving herself open wasn’t going to matter while he had to respond.

Alwyn stared at the board blankly, clueless as to what his next move would be. He sighed. “This is why I’m terrible at Chess,” he said, gesturing at the board futilely. “Can I ask you a question?” he posed distantly, staring at the board as he asked.

Calliope wasn’t sure she was going to like the question, but she lifted a palm. “Sure, why not?”

“How did you handle marriage, long distance, for so long?”

“Oh.” She chuckled and sat back, surprised at the question. “Not a lot of people ask me that. I think it makes more sense if you know Lance. He spends a lot of his energies on advancing physics theories. It’s nearly impossible to get him out of the lab. We did married life like… a series of honeymoons.”

He looked at her as she answered, then nodded and tried to glance back at the pieces but was clearly stuck on the question. “But how did you handle just the simple things? The, ‘honey, how was your day’ things?” he pressed. Marriage was a new thing for him. In fifty years he’d never found a woman that got him or that he got just as completely. But he had now, and it’d been a surprise from the start. His friends and colleagues didn’t believe it was real, or that it would last, but he was determined to. He’d never felt this way, nor had the drive to be with someone and start his own family before. He didn’t want to lose that now because of a simple duty assignment.

She swallowed as she took another piece, slowly switching it out on the square. “I missed it.” She still missed it. Every day. “I just looked forward all of the time to our next plans.”

That wasn’t really the answer he wanted to hear, but that was the way it was sometimes. He retreated his last remaining knight and shook his head, “I’m worried about that,” he confessed. “I joined Starfleet so my wife and I wouldn't have to try and lead a life apart from each other. And we haven’t… but Minka asking me to be here is challenging that. I’m not sure how long the Admiral’s going to be content lurking in orbit. The crew’s already getting stir crazy.”

Calliope became less interested in the game and looked concerned. “Does your wife have any interest in transferring to the station with you?”

“Well that’s it, isn’t it,” he chuckled, “I’m not transferred here. I’m just a temporary helper. If I was, well then that’d be easier wouldn’t it,” he shrugged, “She’d just transfer with me. It’s just bad timing. We were just getting into a rhythm in our new assignment. Getting into a rhythm with one another. Technically, still newlyweds,” he smirked.

“Congratulations, codger,” she teased. “It took you guys long enough to find each other. You should probably keep the act together.”

He blushed slightly with embarrassment, but more so because he knew the reaction when he explained it. “In fairness, it took me long enough. She’s… considerably younger than me. But. It works. Against all odds,” he said, as much to her as himself. “But I agree. I don't want to lose this good thing, after it took me so long to find it.”

“That’s why Lance and I are here at all. After fifteen years we thought we could try sharing a home. I’m just not sure it’s working the way either of us had hoped. If you’ve got the rhythm going, you should keep the beat. It's not easy to find again.” She looked at the board, two moves away from checkmate. “Draw?”

“Sure,” Alwyn agreed, leaning back in his seat away from the board. He sighed and looked out towards the pitch that should have been where he was playing. “We should do this again,” he joked dryly.

Standing, Calliope moved around the table to shake his hand in a kind of mockery of the idea that they had played some difficult and respectable game and there was some sportsmanship to be signified, even while her heart burned over his part in her professional downfall. When he took her hand she felt a kind of over surge of something that had been quietly welling up in the duration of the encounter. “I hated you.” She admitted, her voice coming out a croak. Once she said it, she felt like she had to say the rest of the truth she hadn’t been able to say before, even to herself. Clearing her throat, she looked down at their hands, clasped. “I still want to, but I can’t. I couldn’t have gotten out the rest of the poison myself. I… I see that now. Everything else might have gotten better, but I would have had to keep that to myself. It would have festered forever.”

Doctor Llwyd stared quietly back for a moment and then smiled gently, “That’s quite possibly the best compliment I’ve ever received,” he said, giving her hand a squeeze. “And so damned important for your recovery. To understand that there’s only so much any Doctor or Counselor can do. The rest is up to you.”

 

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