Chapter Twenty (cont.)
“Care for a cup of tea?” Andrea Trincullo asked the nervous Operations Officer sitting in a couch in her office.
Grace shook her head. “Look, Doctor Talbot has already cleared me for duty, Andrea . . . so why I am here?”
Andrea picked up her hot steaming saucer and cup and she walked back across the office and sat down on in a comfortable chair opposite Grace. She took a sip of the drink, heavily sweetened with honey, and then she set down the china cup.
“You know why you are here, Grace.”
Grace’s face turned red, and she shook head. “Look, I froze, okay? I was surprised and I froze: is that so hard to understand? It won’t happen again.”
“Are you certain?” the counselor asked. “Was it because the Nephkyrie surprised you—and the rest of the ship, or was it because of what happened on Delta Pavonis II?” The operations officer flinched, but Andrea pressed on. “Isn’t that incident what is really bothering you, Grace?”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” Grace whispered, as the color slowly faded from her skin, and beads of cold sweat started to appear on her forehead.
“Of course you don’t. No one wants to talk out things like this, Grace. But whether you choose to talk about it or not, you are still waking up in the middle of the night gasping as you relive your nightmares time and time again, aren’t you?”
Grace trembled, but she directed her best command glare at Andrea—a glare that the counselor ignored completely.
“I thought so,” Andrea continued. “And no, no one has spied on your quarters, Grace. I have dealt with other officers going through what you are right now; so I know.”
“You know? You know
? When have you fought the Jem H’dar, Doctor?” Grace spat bitterly.
“I haven’t. And I haven’t got your experiences to further complicate the situation, Grace. But I read your file, and I know how troubled you are over this—how it is tearing you up inside. And, if problems in dealing with this are interfering in the operations of this ship, then it is my job to make certain you are ready to return to duty.”
Andrea picked back up the cup and took another sip. She sat it back down in the saucer and wiped her lips. “Are you sure you don’t want some?”
Grace lowered her head and rubbed her forehead with a thumb and two fingers, and then she at last nodded. “Two sugars and cream. Thank you.”
Andrea stood and walked over to the replicator and punched in the order, and a fresh cup materialized. She brought the cup of tea back over and set it down in front of Grace, before she sat once again and crossed her legs.
“The caffeine helps with the headaches, right? And it keeps you awake until you are too tired to remember your dreams—but you still dream. Talk to me, Grace.”
The blond-haired woman took a sip, and then she sat back, still looking at the floor.
“I almost resigned, you know,” she whispered. “I had just finished filling out my papers when a friend at Headquarters commed to let me know that I had been selected for this slot here, on Republic
. I figured it was karma, the garbage ship of the Fleet for the officers suited only for the trash-bin. I didn’t expect that we would be assigned anything important
. I didn’t think we would be out here with a Captain demanding our best—I took this assignment because I thought it was the end of the road, Andrea.”
The counselor nodded her head, but didn’t say a word.
“I never thought I would have to pick up a phaser again,” Grace finished as her voice trailed away.
For several minutes, the two women just sat there, sipping their tea, neither saying a word.
“It was supposed to a rescue mission,” Grace said bleakly. “Exeter
had orders to evacuate a science station that was in the line of the Dominion and Cardassian offensive. All we had to do was get there, beam up the research team, and leave . . . but the Jem H’dar got there first.”
“I was part of the away team, and we got into a fire-fight with their ground forces—we didn’t know the scientists were already dead. I’ve always been good with weapons, Andrea; I was on the Academy Marksmanship Team, you know.”
“I know,” the counselor answered. “And you took the Bronze at the Summer Olympics back in ’68 for competitive shooting. Which makes your current aversion to weapons . . . peculiar, to say the least.”
Grace shuddered. “I hated them, Andrea. I hated
the Jem H’dar for all the death and destruction they caused; I hated them and the Founders and the Vorta and the Cardassians for unleashing this senseless, bloody war on us. So my phaser was locked on ‘kill’. Because I didn’t want Jem H’dar prisioners, I wanted them dead
,” she said flatly.
“We were in cover, exchanging fire with the Jem H’dar. And I got a shot at their leader—my adrenaline was high, and I was in the zone, tuning out everything else but my weapon and my target, and I remember, oh God, I remember
my feeling of absolute certitude as I pressed the trigger.”
Grace drew in a deep breath, a tear crawling down her cheek. Andrea didn’t say a word.
“I didn’t even see Lieutenant Rasgon, Andrea. I was so fixated on my target, I never saw Paul get up and move into my line of fire until it was too late. My phaser beam caught him in the shoulder, and I watched him dissolve away into nothing! My shot killed him. Not the Vorta, not the Founders, not the Jem H’dar; it was my shot
that robbed him of his life! And I heard him scream
as he was vaporized
Andrea stood up and she crossed over to the couch where Grace sat, and she sat down, rubbing the Operations Officer on the shoulder and back.
“I don’t remember the rest of the fight,” Grace whispered as the tears fell like rain. “Someone hauled me back aboard, and I came to in sickbay as Exeter
was leaving the system.” Grace looked up at the counselor, and her lips twisted. “Did you know that you were sharing a couch with a murderer, Andrea?” she asked bitterly.
“It was an accident, Grace,” the counselor said soothingly. “You didn’t mean to shot Lieutenant Rasgon, and you aren’t the only one who did hateful things in this war. What we have to do now, is get you to pull yourself together. You can’t change what you did on Delta Pavonis II, Grace. We can’t go back in time and take a mulligan on our actions—we’re only human. No, what we have to do is get you to a point where you can live with yourself, and accept that your past actions aren’t a prophecy for your future.”
Grace let out her breath, and she sobbed. “In a psych ward at Starfleet Medical, right?”
“Do you think that you are the only member of this crew carrying baggage from the war, Grace? The Captain alone has many, many dark secrets in his past—and he’s the one who suggested that I have a talk with you.”
“Yes, the Captain. He said to me,” and Andrea sat up straight, cleared her throat, and made a reasonably good impersonation of Matt Dahlgren’s tenor Southern drawl, “Counselor, she’s going through a bad time and she thinks she’s alone. Don’t judge, don’t tell her she should have done things differently; combat veterans don’t want to hear that from head-shrinkers. Just listen to her, and help her recover her own balance. Let her know she’s not alone—that we all did things that we regret, and that we can’t change
Grace burst out with a combination of a sob and a laugh. “That sounds just like him!”
“Well, while you were training for the Olympics, I was on the Drama Team at the Academy,” Andrea answered with a smile. “And you are not alone, Grace. We are going to get you to the point where you can live with yourself again, where you won’t freeze when you in a situation like the one on the bridge.”
Grace nodded sadly. “I’ll brief my assistant to take over the department and we’ll get . . .” she began, but Andrea cut her off.
“Absolutely not. Lieutenant Commander Grace Biddle, you will be resuming your duties on board this ship. We will be meeting twice a week—more if you need to talk—and we will work through this, together. But you aren’t getting off easy with a vacation in your cabin while the rest of us have to work for a living!”
Andrea extended a box of tissues, and Grace took one and wiped her face. “Thank you, Andrea,” she whispered. “I didn’t really want to leave.”
“I know,” the counselor said. “And we don’t want you to.”
Grace stood and she adjusted her uniform. “In that case, Counselor, perhaps I had best report for duty.” She paused, and then she turned back around. “About the Captain? What does he regret?”
Andrea shook her head. “His confidences are as sacred as yours,” she answered. Or they would be if he had opened up even once
to me, she thought sourly.
The operations officer nodded. “Okay. Do I need to set up an appointment with you?”
“Check your schedule—it’s already there. And if you need to talk, Grace, at any time, day or night, you just come by.”
Grace nodded and then she exited the counselor’s office.