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Lingering Effects

Posted on 18 Nov 2016 @ 10:27am by Lieutenant Avery Stuart Ph.D. & Lieutenant JG Felix Langston

Mission: Click Three Times
Location: Chief Flight Controller's Office, USS Black Hawk
Timeline: MD 8, 1600 hrs.

It didn't take long for Avery to find her way to the Chief Flight Controller's office with her ever present large basket of goodies. She hadn't yet met Felix Langston, but had a great deal of admiration for him. She knew it wasn't easy to maneuver the ship during the battle and to keep calm in the process. She also had to admit she had known of several flight control officers who'd been through similar experiences and had learned to cope in some fairly unhealthy ways.

Maneuvering ships the size of Black Hawk and beyond required a certain level of confidence, but also a certain veneer that reflected that confidence. As a result, when flight control officers were faced with extreme stress and the trauma of service, she knew there could also be the pressure to not reveal it at any cost, lest they be perceived as weak. Stuart also knew fighter pilots faced the same risks.

This was the reason Avery elected to meet with Langston personally before she did her standard morale check amongst the junior flight controllers. She wanted to assess Langston's overall mental state and get an understanding of his attitude toward mental health in general. She pressed the chime and waited, ever hopeful she would be surprised.

Felix was lost in paperwork again. He hadn't anticipated the amount of administrative work that went along with his new post as Chief of Flight. He did his best to keep his mind from wandering by shuffling a deck of cards with his left hand while his right went from scrolling on a PADD to scrolling on a terminal.

The Black Hawk was in unfamiliar and uncharted territory and her pilots had to fly her from an unfamiliar console in the former StratOps center. Felix hoped the bridge would be repaired soon. He hated the feeling of flying in an unfamiliar place. He tried to shift his mind back to his task at hand, trying desperately to fight off the monotony of the minutiae.

The door chime jarred him from his working made him sit up straighter in his chair. He set the deck of cards neatly by his terminal. "Ahem," he said while clearing his throat. "Come in, er...please." He winced at that last word.

The doors opened upon Felix's command and Avery entered. She got the distinct impression the CFO had forgotten all about her visit. "Hello," Avery greeted. "Counselor Avery Stuart," she offered by way of reminder. "I contacted you about discussing the welfare and morale of your department?" Stuart wouldn't blame him for being distracted and forgetting all about it, as he wouldn't be the only one. She was simply trying to jog his memory.

Felix quietly cursed and slapped his forehead in frustration. "Begging your pardon, Counselor," he said apologetically, "I completely forgot. I'm so sorry." He walked around the desk to greet her at the door and properly invite her in. "Lieutenant Felix Langston, Chief of Flight," he said while holding out a hand for a handshake.

Avery smiled and returned the handshake. "There's no need to apologize. I understand you're busy." She held up her basket of goodies. "I'm here because I brought food and beverages, but more importantly, I'm making the rounds to each department to do a check in of sorts to see how people are doing emotionally," Stuart explained.

Felix gladly took the basket, smiling at the thoughtfulness from the counselor. He motioned to one of the seats. "Well I'm glad you came by, won't you have a seat?" he asked.

Stuart did as he requested and offered her thanks. "How are you doing?"

Felix nodded a bit and sighed softly as he sat down. He hadn't time to even ask himself that question with all that was going on. He felt himself spacing out. "I'm doing okay," he weakly answered. "Things are going okay." He foolishly hoped that the counselor wouldn't pick up on his tone, but he knew otherwise.

"Where did you go just now?" Avery asked gently, her tone indicating she wasn't buying he was well, no matter how many times he repeated it, and they both knew it.

"I'm sorry, counselor," he said, pinching the bridge of his nose. "I wasn't completely honest. Truth be told, I haven't really had the best couple weeks of my life."

Avery nodded. "There's no need to apologize for that. These have been really rough times, and it's perfectly understandable if you're struggling. That's why I'm here," she added with a weak smile. "I figure everyone needs at least one person they can be completely honest with when it comes to how they're really feeling. Is there anything in particular that's weighing on you? I know that's a bit of a loaded question, but everyone is troubled by something unique to them, it seems."

Felix swallowed hard and thought for a second. His mind flashed back to the time spent as commanding officer onboard the Cochrane. He heard Ensign Turner's agonized scream played on repeat as red alert klaxons sounded in his head. They were mixing with the alarms on the civilian ship from that day, that awful day he didn't like talking about. He put his right hand behind his head and started gently scratching behind his ear. "It's, um, a little hard for me to talk about," he began, measuring his words. "But it came to a head on the Cochrane. I didn't lose it or anything, I just have a hard time getting what I saw out of my head."

Watching Felix's behavior, Avery got the distinct impression his mind was elsewhere for a few moments. It wasn't clear to her whether he was flashing back to something he had witnessed on the Cochrane or another experience entirely, but his next response seemed to confirm it was in fact the latter. "You mentioned 'it' came to a head on the Cochrane. Do you think you can share a little of the 'it' you were referring to?"

"The Cochrane...brought back a lot of unpleasant memories, and the fact that I had to be in command while the whole thing was happening..." Felix trailed off again. He looked at the counselor and breathed deeply. She seemed to be listening intently and silently encouraging him to search inwards for the hidden source of pain. "A lot of people died, and I feel like that was on me. People died right in front of me, ma'am, and I had to just 'soldier on.'"

"It reminded you of another time," Avery said, making more of a statement than asking a question.

Felix looked away for a quick second. "I...I guess so..." he said softly. He picked up the deck of cards and started shuffling them again without thinking. "I'm sure you've read my personnel file and the incident regarding my mother."

Avery nodded. She'd read how he and his mother had been on a ship that had been attacked by pirates. Felix and the other children on board has managed to escape, but not before Felix himself apparently witnessed his mother's capture."You relived that experience," Avery said, again more as a statement than a question.

Felix slowly nodded. "Yeah," he said softly. "There wasn't much I could do. I was just a kid, ya know? And I had to get my siblings out safely. But I can't help feeling that I could've done more to save her. I coulda bought her more time, and maybe I could've maneuvered the ship to not get hit by that thalaron weapon..." His voice trailed off as he used his free hand to pinch the bridge of his nose.

"I'm sorry, Counselor," he said, "this probably isn't how you expected this meeting to go."

"You've nothing to apologize for," Stuart replied gently. "I had no specific plans for this meeting other than to give you an opportunity to express yourself." She paused, then added, "What could you have done to possibly save your mother? What power would a child have in that circumstance?"

Felix looked away. She was right, he never had any power to change that circumstance, just like he never had any power to avoid any of the thalaron discharges during the battle in the nebula. The best he could do was to try to move past it, somehow. "You're right, counselor," he said, "no one really has any power in something like that. I just wish I could do more."

"That's understandable," Avery replied with a nod. "I think we all wish we could do more, a sentiment born out of our own pain and grief. I think you can agree, though, that's different from believing you could have done more, but failed, yeah?"

Felix sighed a bit. "I guess you're right, Doctor." He gave a slight smile. "Thank you for that."

Now it was Avery's turn to smile. "I appreciate the thanks, but if that sigh is any indication, I haven't exactly told you anything you can believe. Have I?"

"No, Doctor, you have," Felix said, "I think I just need a little time to process this. I appreciate all you've said so far. It's really helped me, even in just a few minutes."

"I'm glad to hear that," Avery replied. She smiled and then offered, "I assure you, I wasn't looking for a compliment, I was just concerned about how you really felt. I'd be happy to give you time to process all of this. Shall we go ahead and schedule another appointment or would you prefer to reach out to me when you're ready?"

"I've got quite a bit of work to do in preparation for the away mission," Felix said. "But this has been really helpful. I think I'll let you know when I'm ready for another session. Thank you."

"Any time," Avery replied with a smile.


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