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A Troubled Mind

Posted on 03 Oct 2023 @ 5:40pm by Lieutenant Commander Cintia Sha'mer & Lieutenant Commander Harva Taliborn

2,225 words; about a 11 minute read

Mission: Deus ex Machina

With a proverbial stone in his heart Harva reached for the terminal, like he'd done several times before. This time though, he actually rang up the person he wanted to talk to, rather than chickening out. This wasn't going to be an easy or comfortable talk, he knew. He looked like crap, he knew, but he felt even worse. The disease - or whatever was ravaging the ship's crew - had done a number on him, and sitting up was all he could do. His ears lay slumped, his fur had lost its subtle shine, and his eyes were half lidded, without their normal fierceness.

Sha'mer had given up on trying to get some sleep. She had tried, she really had, but even though she really was tired she couldn't. The slashes in her leg burned, a sharp kind of pain quite unlike the usual dull ache there. That was one factor, the other was that she felt restless. A restlessness she would normally deal with by going to the gym to train, or go to the holodeck and run some simulations. But here she was with nothing to do. Paperwork was done perfectly, out of sheer boredom, down to the last comma and dot.

It was almost a relief when her terminal sounded, announcing a call. She hobbled over to it and sat down, lifting the tightly bandaged leg with a wince to rest it on another chair, and summoned a mug of raktajino from the replicator before answering.

"Hey," he began, his voice low and tired, a raw rasp to it. "How you doing?"

"Better than you, by the looks of it," Sha'mer said with a wry smile. She wrapped both hands around the mug and took a sip. Hot and strong, perfect. She relished the warm feeling between her hands, and brief sensation of the warm fluid streaming down towards her stomach.

"Good to see you're still…" she trailed off. There seemed to be no good way of ending that sentence. Lucid? Here? Awake? She shook her head at her own thoughts. "This isn't just a social call, is it?" She had a fair idea what was bothering him – the same thing she had been wondering about earlier. Only, where it still was a theoretical abstraction in her case (and, stars willing, would remain that way), in his case it had become reality.

"Not really, no. Migrator knows I'd rather just be in bed, this disease is - " he trailed off, shaking his head a bit. "It's hitting me hard. But then, you knew that," He paused a moment, trying to form thoughts into words. "You saw something in my mind, didn't you. When - "

"Yes," she said simply. Denying it wouldn't help either of them. She wondered just how deeply buried this part of his past was, it if was part of his records on a level which the captain would know or if it was sealed with a higher classification than that.

He nodded, remaining quiet for a moment before continuing. "I need you to tell me what you saw. It's potentially a matter of security."

Sha'mer nodded and closed her eyes for a moment, calling up what she had seen during those brief flashes. There was more than she had originally thought. "You were… you thought you were on a mission. Being sent by a handler. Thought you were… well, you were expecting Romulan resistance. On some kind of base? You wanted it taken care of, one way or the other. This wasn't your first mission."

Another nod from the large engineer. He actually seemed relieved at her answer, though he did not show it much. "Alright," he rumbled. "That's - we can work with that. Yeah. We can work with that," Another nod as he gathered his thoughts, though they did their best to escape being wrangled. "It's not good that you saw what you did, but - you saw nothing real. Just what I thought was real," A pause.

"I was not always an engineer. What I did before is not in my files, and is highly classified. Even the Captain does not have the clearance to see it," the Sirran explained. "I can't tell you any more than this, obviously. Though I suppose you can fill in the blanks on your own. But I have to stress, what you saw, what I've told you, falls under the same top secret classification. I'm - ... sorry, to lay this burden on you."

"Thank you for answering that question," Sha'mer said calmly. She didn't seem to be unduly bothered with what he said. "I think I can, and I won't ask you any further questions. I just want you to know that if at some point you want to talk more about… what you did, about your past, you can come to me. For two reasons. One, no telepath can get that information from my mind without me noticing it… or running into some defences. Two…" and now it was her turn to gather her thoughts, considering the best way to put them into words. "Well, I'm not from around here. And before I came here, before I joined Starfleet… let's just say I, too, have a history."

A soft chuckle. "Yeah. I'm probably not going to be talking to you about said history. Classified means I can't tell you more than you accidentally found out on your own," though he seemed in good humor about it, despite the splitting headache. "Though I'd be more than willing to listen to you about your history. Just - one more question, first."

Sha'mer raised an eyebrow. "Which is?"

"I don't want to make it sound like I don't trust you - if anything, I've dented your trust in me - but I still have to know," he hesitated a moment, knowing this was not a friendly question, though he did his best to phrase it that way. "You've accidentally seen some things you shouldn't have. What are the chances of something like that happening again? And is there anything I can do to help you prevent it from happening again?"

Sha'mer sipped her raktajino again, taking the time to reply. "The only reason I saw it was because I entered your mind. Normally, no telepath would do that… then again, I'm not sure not every telepath can do what I did. But… well, telepaths shield their minds. People who aren't can be trained to create one, but it won't be as good as the ones from trained telepaths unless- well, that's not relevant here. Point is, non-telepathic minds are loud. Your minds shout your thoughts and your emotions, broadcasting them all around, which is the very reason why telepaths wear these shields – to keep them from getting overwhelmed by this flood. And though your memories of this time are usually kept hidden, buried, they are still there and can be read. And in the state you're in now, with what happened, they are quite on the forefront of your mind."

She set the mug down and looked at him. Sha'mer rarely looked directly at people, others tended to find it unsettling. But now she did. "What I can do, and this is an offer I don't make lightly, is to go in and wall them off. Set up a shield around those memories so that nobody else will be able to access them. Except for you, obviously, it being your mind. But it will mean, inevitably, that I'll catch more of what you have there."

"See, the problem with that is that through my actions and choices, someone without sufficient clearance would learn things they are not allowed to know, and that's a court-martial offense," Harva countered, his voice calm, still with that sickly raw rasp to it. "I do like the idea though. I'm gonna think on it for a bit, maybe run it by the captain. Who, I'm sure, is also going to have many questions of both of us."

Sha'mer nodded. "That's a real risk," she said. "And right now, there are two strong telepaths on this ship, besides me. One of them has no clearances whatsoever. The other one is the ship's counselor, someone you're bound to encounter soon considering this situation. Now I don't know the first one well enough, so I don't know if he has any mind-rules or mental etiquette or not. The counselor will have strict rules against entering someone's mind… but that might not necessarily prevent her from picking up stray thoughts, images, emotions. So by all means think it over. The offer stands."

Harva flicked an ear, then chuckled softly, seemingly amused. The whole discussion had seemed to perk him up a bit from the slump he'd been in. "Just realized, we're talking about the moral complications of you installing a firewall in my brain and how it might impact my career," he snickered before sobering again. "Though I think I might've fucked it all up already by sabotaging the ship and seriously hurting a fellow officer - and a friend. Speaking of which, how's the leg?"

"Nobody can fault you for what happened during a delirium," Sha'mer replied instantly. "And, well… what I propose to do will have the added benefit of preventing something like this from occurring in the future. Once they're behind a firewall, you can only consciously access these memories, they won't leak out." She shrugged at his question. "Best place you could've hit me. It hurts, but nothing new there. It was pretty useless to begin with, so nothing new there either. Mainly annoyed that the brace needs to be fixed now, since I can't walk without it." Good thing she still had the crutches in her quarters, for really bad days.

"You seem alright, with it. Glad to see the blood loss doesn't have you too affected," he offered, matter of factly. "I was - .. well, you probably felt this, but I was trying to kill you. I'm glad it was you that found me and not someone that doesn't pack a brain shove like a runaway starship," he smirked at his own play on words before becoming more serious again. It was evident this actually bothered him. "Whether I can be blamed for what happened or not, doesn't change that I did those things."

Another moment's pause as he tried to find the words to his thoughts. It wasn't easy to collect them and filter them, with the headache he was having, along with everything else. "I appreciate you saying that nobody can fault me, but truth is, if it had been any other of our engineers with a delirium, nothing that bad would've happened. And there will be questions. Inquiries. Possibly a court martial. People are going to prod and poke my past and run into that wall labeled top secret. Even if I'm found innocent and acquitted, nothing good is going to come from this. People don't like walls. It was best when nobody knew it existed in the first place."

"True. But is that your fault or the one of those who sent you out there, then released you and let you join Starfleet without making sure these situations couldn't happen? And, well… when this ship returned from the Mirror Universe, it brought several people with them." She remembered the former Chief Security, Indi Hawk, and what she knew about her past. And that of her own counterpart, still on the other side. "Íf they can accept what they have done and still allow them to enter Starfleet, I wouldn't search for a different career just yet."

"Like I said, it doesn't matter who's fault it is, who did what and what did who. There'll be questions from people about things I'd rather not have questions asked about and people didn't know it was even a thing," He shrugged a bit. "I'm not planning another career. Just saying nothing good will come from this, no matter how it goes."

"We'll cross that bridge when we get there. Let's see you get better first." Sha'mer looked at him with concern. "You really need to lie down and get some rest."

"Yeah, I probably should," he flicked an ear, shrugging softly. "Before I do though, did you have any more questions? You mentioned we should talk, before, and we did, but I don't know if we covered everything you wanted to talk about."

"This covers it, at least until you've made up your mind," Sha'mer said with a nod. "Now get some rest before you become sicker still. I'll keep an eye out on you in case something… well." She smiled briefly and without much humor. "Just in case."

"Yeah, alright," he gave a tired nod, letting out a big yawn, displaying a very impressive set of razorsharp fangs with dagger-like canines. He looked like he wanted to say something more, but thought better of it, offered a brief and tired smile, then closed the call.

Sha'mer sighed as the image faded from the screen. She wished she could do more to ease Harva's mind. But she had done what she could – stop him before he could do more damage, and offered to place a blockade in his mind. The rest was out of her hands… and for some point in the future.


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