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  Lt. Commander N'Tazzia & Ensign Sierra Gar, SD
 
A Journey of Merit JDL: Counselor N'Tazzia and Ensign Sierra Gar
 
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A Journey of Merit
JDL: Counselor N'Tazzia and Ensign Sierra Gar

(These events occur quite soon after the rescue mission into Madoran space.)

Only a short time had passed since the SFI shuttle piloted by Captain Trellis had returned from Madoran space and docked safely with the Excelsior.

Sierra paced her quarters like a cat on a midnight prowl of its' home territory – alert and searching for any intruders. Each time she neared her desk, she paused briefly to stare at her terminal.

The conversation she'd had with the shuttle's captain on the way back in weighed heavily on her mind.

Why was she resisting contacting her parents so much?

Taz thought about comming Ensign Gar in advance but she chose not to. Arriving unannounced bordered on rudeness, even from the counselor, but it could offer her a more honest interaction.

Taz approached and then paused with her hand poised to activate the chime. She was sure that she felt sound or a vibration coming from within but that made no sense. The Excelsior's bulkheads were designed to absorb the normal range of noise and unless the person inside was experiencing a great deal of mental distress, her abilities wouldn't detect anything empathic or telepathic. The counselor shrugged aside her puzzlement and rang.

The strident sound stopped Sierra's pacing dead in her tracks. She wondered who it could be as she queried, "Who is it?"

"It's Taz." The Tesshuan replied. "May I come in?" She knew the ensign could easily say "No" , but then that reply would serve as a very telling answer.

Sierra turned towards the door. She continued pacing as her eyes fluttered back and forth between it and her terminal. "Come on in," she said. There was a certain tension in her voice. A tension that only someone who was a trained observer of human behavior might notice as she invited the counselor in. She had tried to sound casual about the invite, and to the untrained ear she might have succeeded.

Taz went in and quickly perched on the nearest chair. She HAD detected the tension. But in itself, it might be nothing more than annoyance at the counselor's unannounced arrival. But she felt something more lingering in the air.

The ensign's quarters were cramped, as were those for all junior officers but Taz doubted that the "caged tiger" vibe she was picking up on was due to the lack of space.

"Commander Carishai must be wearing off on you." She said with a light chuckle, trying to lessen the tense atmosphere. "She always circles the bridge like a bird looking for a roost." The counselor did her best to put the young woman at ease. "You'd think with all of those kids, she'd have less excess energy...but nope, ten minutes into shift and she's up and at 'em."

Taz paused to give Gar a few seconds to process and reply.

The ensign blinked, shrugging slightly. "Perhaps," she had said, turning her head slightly to stare at her monitor as if demanding it reveal some life changing truth. Then she turned back to Taz silently.

"Expecting a subspace communication?" Taz asked with a bit of curiosity.

Sierra shook her head. "No," she said simply. "I'm... trying to figure out..." she sighed softly, "What's preventing me from sending one, myself."
Taz nodded. "I could offer my opinion or take an educated guess...but I'd not going to pry. Right now that is" She gave Gar a wink. "Especially since I once carried a handwritten letter from my sister around for a year before I got up the nerve to read it."

The ensign shrugged. "You can probably guess easily," was her simple response. She looked stiff, and awkward as she just stood there.

"Do you WANT me to guess?" Taz asked.

"I can't stop you," was the response Sierra gave as she simply shrugged again. She moved towards a chair near her visitor and lowered herself into it with a sigh.

"Yes, yes you can stop me." Taz stood. "The most important thing that you and I can do right now is establish a relationship based on trust." She moved toward the door. "Even if it means hours or days just sitting in the arboretum watching the plants grow, or in an art class, watching the paint dry." She smiled softly. "I do know one thing, something that requires no guessing or force. That when you're ready, those words WILL come."

A frown. She looked over at Taz. "Do you know the shuttle's owner?" she asked, seeming to suddenly change the subject.

Was this an attempt to throw the counselor off? Or was there a purpose to this line of questioning? In her history, Sierra had never tried to throw Taz off before. Then again, she'd never been in a situation quite as uncomfortable as this one.

Captain Trellis?" Taz asked curiously. "Yes, he served as the Excelsior's first officer and then as her captain while I've been aboard."

A nod. "On the return trip," she began. "...he heard I'd requested immediate placement here. He wondered why I didn't take any of the offered leave time to reestablish family connections. When the Excelsior came for me... there were moments when I thought I was dreaming." She continued. "I didn't think about it. I requested assignment here first thing. I told myself I would contact my parents once I was familiar and set up here... but now I'm not sure if that's actually what I was thinking."

"You spent a lot of time away, convincing yourself that for all intents and purposes, you were dead."

There didn't seem to be a question in the counselor's statement. "Dead to your parents that is."

"Or... they were," added the junior officer. "I didn't think I'd see them again." She folded her arms in her lap. "How can I explain that to them?"

Taz sat back down. "You adapted to the circumstances in which you found yourself. A big part how you reacted was instinctual, you compartmentalized your personal feelings so that in the sadness and despair about what you'd lost, your distress didn't prevent you from being able to function."

The counselor tried -- unsuccessfully -- to establish eye contact wit the young woman. "If you had just curled up in a ball weeping and had not been successful in convincing yourself to get up and carry on, it would be very likely that you wouldn't be here today."

Taz remained unable to obtain more than the slightest amount of eye contact. She realized she was deviating far from her usual style of counseling and was doing more more speaking instead of actively listening like she normally did. Situations such as the one Sierra had survived were far from common, certainly not common enough to be covered more than cursorily in Starfleet training. Given those things, Taz thought it made sense to go on speaking.

"It was because you were able to accept what you believed to be inevitable, even though it was horrible, that you made it. And here you are now, adjusting all over again." The counselor said speaking from her heart. "If and when you make contact, your parents are going to experience their own period of adjustment to an alteration of their reality. They may shake their heads, check the message that tells them you're okay over and over and try to convince themselves it's not a cruel joke or a mistake....But in the end, what will matter is that you are ALIVE."

The ensign nodded, sighing a little as she finally made eye contact with Taz. "Hopefully they understand my reasons for delaying," she said softly. "My father has always been the, 'Think with your heart, not your head.' type of person, while my mother was the more systematic one. They were always afraid of something like this."

"Of course they were worried. No matter if you're 5 or 105, you will still be your parent's little girl. Family is an enduring bond they're not going to stay upset...."

Sierra turned to look at her terminal again, before her head slowly turned back to Taz. A look of uncertainty crossed her face as she said, "I suppose I could send them an automated message... let them know I'm alive. I don't really know what else I'd say, for the moment."

"Do you think that you might be being a bit too hard on yourself Sierra? In the end, the words you choose will far less important than the sound of your voice saying them."

"It's entirely possible," said Gar with a slight shrug. "In any case, reestablishing contact won't get any easier the longer I wait to do it, so I may as well do it now."

Taz stood again. "Then I'll stop talking and to leave you to your thoughts." She paused couple of steps from the door. "You'll find the words you need."

"Thank you, counselor," said Sierra simply, as she watched the other woman leave.

TBC...

"A journey...is of no merit unless it has tested you."
-- Tahir Shah


   
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