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CH03: S [D04|1500] Strangers Like Me

Chapter 03: Supplemental [ Day 04 | 1500 hrs ] Strangers Like Me

[ Acting XO Lt. Zelosa Ejek | Corridor | U.S.S. Cayuga ] @Numen

The ship was in such bad condition that it really should be dry docked, according to every protocol she knows of. It ought to be towed off. A real engineer might be able to tell her for sure, but she suspected it was no better than scrap at this point. Shame the Theurgy wasn’t a garbage scow. All hands, even if they weren’t engineers, were required to fix what they could. The ship was top priority, and the Cardassian XO knew that.

Still, as she washed her hands in the ladies restroom, trying to scrub the last of oil and grime out from under her nails, the crew was important too. They had suffered perhaps the most traumatizing force in the galaxy, the Borg. Like the Resolve, the only people who could come to their help were obvious traitors to the Federation. The emotional state of the crew was likely as punctured and as beaten as the ship. In the same way the ship would not run with a hole in engineering, the crew would not work with holes in their hearts.

She stood up and felt her hands over one last time. She couldn’t feel any more oil, but the memory of it on her hands made her skin crawl. It’d have to do, she sighed, she couldn’t waste any more time fussing over her hands when she had an important meeting.

She stepped out the washroom and down the hall, avoiding piles of...junk, she supposed, because she couldn’t fathom what on Cardassia any of it would be used for. She made her way. Bila, she remembered the name, Izar Bila, a Bajoran-Cardassian. She would be meeting her in a block of private quarters, though it was doubtful that any of them were his. She would’ve preferred the counselor’s office, but most of medical had so many holes that she couldn’t guarantee any semblance of patient confidentiality, and she refused to perform sub-par simply because the ship was living scrap. She could be floating through space in an exo-suit and she would still be an excellent counselor.

Thankfully, she was not. She found the appropriate door and chimed, and in case the chime did not work (like most things on this blasted ship,) she knocked on the door.
“Lieutenant Izar Bila? Counselor Ejek.” She called. She noticed the door rattled in it’s frame as she knocked, but it held. She could’ve been concerned about the race of this client, but she busied her mind with the far more important matter of whether or not this room was truly soundproof.

Re: Chapter 03: Supplemental [ Day 04 | 1500 hrs ] Strangers Like Me

Reply #1
[ Lt. JG Izar Bila|  Crew Quarters | U.S.S. Cayuga ]
Att.: @Followtomorrow

As many times since the battle with the Asurian was over, Bila held one hand with the other, trying to stop his incessant trembling. The gesture was useless, as his two limbs jerked spasmodically, cold sweat soaking his palms. Restless, he drew with his steps the perimeter of the room, as he had done so many times in the last hour. Three steps from the main door to the washroom door. Four steps from there to the ruined workstation. Two short steps to the replicator, now useless. Step, turn, step and again at the front door to take two new strides and start his nervous round again. He didn't know who had shared this room that was momentarily assigned to him, but he could see chunks of what his life had been like. A handmade blanket on the upper bunk,  made of some dense and soft vegetable fabric, dyed in a brilliant shade of blue. A small decapitated sculpture dropped under the table, the head no where on sight and the body so anodyne that it was impossible to guess the species it imitated. A personal padd in the armchair, the broken screen resting on the seat, the back adorned with an incongruous schematic drawing of fluor colors. Something that resembled a star. Maybe a tree. Whatever it was, he couldn't ask its owner, since he or she and his roomie must have fallen victim to the Asurian attack. Or the Borg one. Or...

A electric hum and a soft knock ripped him off his morbid thoughts adrift, startling him like a prey animal suddenly facing an apex predator. The chemist was paralyzed for a moment looking at the door, not knowing the reason behind that meddling He swallowed, looking at the doorway, until a voice on the other side announced the presence of the Counselor. The hybrid let out the air that had been holding and crossed the room in two quick steps, pressing the command that would open the door to welcome the longed-for visitor. The door, unperturbed, remained in place. Bila repeated the movement, typing again on the screen next to the lintel and this time the stubborn doors let see a crack of the corridor, barely enough space for Bila could introduce his shaking fingers in the slot and be able to force the opening mechanism. Finally, he was able to open the door enough to create a gap that allowed the passage to the woman waiting on the other side.

"Counselor, welcome to my humble abode" He greeted with a theatrical bow and a forced smile that wrinkled his nose. When he got up, he put one of the trembling hands to his right ear, tinkling the simple earring that adorned it. A nervous reflex, unusual in him. "I'd like to offer you some refreshments but, well..." The chemist kept talking, his words tumbling out his mouth. He went through the room again in an exhalation to remove the shattered PADD from the armchair and offer the woman the seat, despite the myriad of small crystals that festooned the furniture. The hybrid left the shattered device next to the workstation, to proceed to perch himself in the office chair. His hands clutching the armrest, trying to control his trembling.

He took advantage of the circumstances to observe the officer of Theurgy. The woman owned the room, her stance fierce and inquisitive. Deep down Bila knew he was being selfish. Possibly there were other crew members on board who needed more therapeutic attention than he himself, but he couldn't miss the chance to meet another of the few Cardassian serving in the Fleet. Yeah, it was true that ensign Dumral shared starship with him, but the CONN officer was extremely reserved and chose her shift carefully, so their contact had been scarce. So the excuse was priceless. Maybe during the session he could slip some question, something that would allow him to know more about that part of himself that he didn't know about except for diffuse memories and second-hand opinions. Investigating had always calmed his nerves. Why not investigate that woman instead of a nebula?

Re: Chapter 03: Supplemental [ Day 04 | 1500 hrs ] Strangers Like Me

Reply #2
[ Acting XO Lt. Zelosa Ejek | Corridor | U.S.S. Cayuga ] @Numen

Good lord, what is that all over his face. It’s facial hair. He looked like an Efrosian! Like a tribble was attempting to take over his jaw. Like he was part targ. Ejek tried not to stare.

Indeed, she found it easy not to. Hints of his body language told her why she was here. His hands trembled, but ever so slightly, like he was trying very hard not to do so. His words weren’t as organized  as he was trying to make them. He was anxious, but there were so many anxiety-causing events lately that Ejek wouldn’t know what was causing his trembling until she pried.

He sat down on an office chair, and she was offered the seat laden with the crystal-like shards of a broken datapadd. Rather than be insulted, she understood this was probably the best chair in the room, considering the circumstances. She stepped over to the chair to clean off the last of the shards, making sure it was clean before she sat. Then, she smoothed out her skirt and her hair. There was nothing wrong with either of these pieces of her, but she did not like imperfections on her being.

“There’s no need for refreshments. I wouldn’t trust what the replicators could recreate—not until the engineering department clears them as safe, anyway. The kindness is duly noted.” She crossed her legs and sat back. Her eyes stared over his face…

She really detested the facial hair, but as she got a better look at him, she realized he had quite a distinct ‘Bajoran-ness’ about him. Perhaps, wherever he came from, facial hair was attractive. She had to consider that he, like her, wasn’t raised on the homeworld. Two of a kind, her mind added cruelly, and she pushed her thoughts of him out of the way. It was work time, not beat-down-on-my-self-esteem time.

“I suppose it’d be more apt to ask you what hasn’t brought me here today. I’m of the understanding that this ship has faced quite a lot of trauma, more than I could reasonably expect of a single ships’ crew. Would you like to start off by telling me about what troubles you?” She began, her voice gentle and kind. She liked to think that it was motherly. It was a shame she'd probably never get to be one. No, stop, focus Ejek. Focus. Her face was a perfect facade, never showing her inner thoughts and feelings. It was a well practiced act.

Re: Chapter 03: Supplemental [ Day 04 | 1500 hrs ] Strangers Like Me

Reply #3
[ Lt. JG Izar Bila|  Crew Quarters | U.S.S. Cayuga ]
Att.: @FollowTomorrow

The question made Bila snorted with laughter, giving a hint of the impish smile that used to embroidered his face. But the smirk lasted a short time, dissolved in a frightened gesture when a metallic sound echoed in the corridor, causing the scientist to startle, perching even more in the chair. It was soon evident that the sound had been produced by one of the numerous repair teams that prowled the ship, so he slumped his shoulders and exhaled raggedly. It was probably already too late to play it cool, but the hybrid tried at least to regain what little dignity left on him. Izar leaned forward, letting go of one of the armrests to run his fingers through his curly hair, loosening a pair of unruly strands from the tight bun with what he tried uselessly to keep them dominated. The strands fell over his temples, hidden the helix of his left ear. "Where I must start, where... I think they had sent my profile with the request for consultation. Maybe not, I'm not sure if the internal messaging system works at this moment. This starship is a fucking scrap right now." He apologized with a touch of irritation in his voice. He fidgetet his fingers a moment, without looking at the face of the counselor, trying to sort out his thoughts.

"I was on the sickbay when that Asurian saucer splited it in a half. I was the last one to leave the room, due I was too sedated to know what was going on. The doctors have problems with ... this " he said pointing to himself with a circular movement of the hand. He wasn't going to avoid the elephant in the room, he was very aware of what he was and the feelings that this caused in Bajorans as well as in the few Cardassian he had known. And the sooner he gauged the counselor's opinion about it, the better, it would allow him to evaluate to what extent he could trust her. The infamous reality was that hybrids like him were an uncomfortable truth for both species and, therefore, medical records about their biology were, at best, fragmentary. Or unreliable given the variability of each mixture. "I'm sensitive to anesthesia," he clarified, tilting his head. "And docs kept me in an induced coma after having sustained extreme injuries during the Borg attack. It-it wasn't my first Borg attack, in fact, I w-was in 001, my cadet cruise, just a-after join the War... ". He stammered, his voice more unsteady as he developed his record until a new shake prevented him from continuing. This time it wasn't only his hands what trembled, but his whole body shuddered with a quiver. Bila looked away from the counselor, his eyes lost in a dark place in his past. A dark and recent one.

"Prophets, what have we done to deserve all this?" He muttered in a reedy voice. He kept a few minutes staring at the wall, until he reassembled himself enough to look back at Ejek, scratching at stubble that covered his chin. "Long story short, I think that's why you are here, Liutenant. I have not needed therapy since …" Remembering the exact moment, the scientist studied the face of his partner, nailing his hazel irises into her grays. No, not yet. There were things that were best kept hidden for the moment, until he knew her better. "... since a long time ago. But I think that this time the circumstances have...  surpassed me ... a little bit." He ended up saying, a surrender smile on his face. It was ridicoulus how crazy life could turn in the blink of an eye. Bila had joined the Fleet to investigate and only the Prophets knew why he had been tumbling from one conflict to another throughout his full career.

He slowly shaked his head, trying not to fall into that spiral of self-pity again and crisscrossed his fingers, without looking away from the counselor again. So far, the woman had been concise, but there was a sweet tone in her words, a softeness very different from the cliches of those who had accused him so many times for his bloodline. Bila couldn't help but think that his intuition was true, that the Cardassians were very different from how the vets has described them during War, deformed by being the enemy and by the latent xenophobia that the conflict had exacerbated. What he couldn't deny was that he found weird the lack of ridges in her nose, and the softness of the scales in her forehead. It was strangely disturbing. The Cardassian face he was more accustomed to seeing was his own, and his feminine reflection in the Counselor returned a distorted and strange image that piqued his interest.

Re: Chapter 03: Supplemental [ Day 04 | 1500 hrs ] Strangers Like Me

Reply #4
[ Acting XO Lt. Zelosa Ejek | Personal Quarters | U.S.S. Cayuga ] @Numen

Ejek listened and watched his body language. He was trying to remain calm, but given what had happened, there was just no way. That he was sitting and talking, not running around declaring the end to be nigh was a feat So she did not mind the fidgeting, the jumping, the swearing.

He gestured to himself and looked up at her, searching for a reaction, but she remained impassive. She knew neither Cardassians nor Bajorans were fond of hybrids such as him, but...truth be told, she did not know what to think. She’d never met one until now. There was some literature on their neuropsychology, but not enough to outpace the scores of arguments on their place in society. If she were truly Cardassian, what would she do?

Her job, of course.

“Well, at least you’ve seen a counselor.” She adjusted in her seat, leaning just slightly. Getting comfortable. This was going to be quite the chat, she thought. She wished she had a PADD to take notes—a functioning one, she thought, recalled the broken screen that had previously been in this seat.

“I can see you’re suffering from some minor trembling. Can you tell me how long that has been going on, and if you’re on any medications?” She thought, her eyes glancing to the side as she recalled a long list of possible medications that may cause trembling, though she had a feeling he was on none of them.  Then she started flipping through the mental catalog of anti-anxieties that would alleviate acute stress disorder in both Bajorans and Cardassians. There were not very many that were known to work in both.  If she had her PADD, she might be able to do this faster, but her memory was sharp as ever and just as useful.

“...I can tell you’re under a lot of stress, to put it lightly.” She leaned forward, speaking as she cross referenced her mental database of drugs. “A myriad of poor circumstances come together to form the perfect traumatic storm. Are there other symptoms you wish to tell me about? Emotional, physical, cognitive...There’s no shame in having them, I should add.” Her eyes snapped back onto his. There was no fear or apprehension, no anger in them. She was doing her job, and she took pride in doing it well. “That you’re able to reach out to me and talk about them is strength.”

Re: Chapter 03: Supplemental [ Day 04 | 1500 hrs ] Strangers Like Me

Reply #5
[ Lt. JG Izar Bila|  Crew Quarters | U.S.S. Cayuga ]
Att.: @FollowTomorrow

At all times, the counselor maintained neutral demeanour, unreactive to his minor teasing. In one way or another, she was leaving his species aside, in an act of professionalism worthy of mention. Therefore, Bila released his hold on the armchairs, leaving for an instant to try to control the shaking that shook them. He watched the spasms with marked distaste for a few moments, until finally the scientist balled both hands in tight fists and let them rest on his lap. "I have this trembling since the attack," he replied, as his shoulders sank, assuming his defeat in that regard. "This is not ... the first time THIS happens" he added, a grimace upsetting his features. Battle in Sol system had been a turning point in his career and, if he hadn't been so young then, he might have asked destination in a starbase well within the borders of the Federation, as far from danger as he could be. But then he was young and thoughtless and, just like now, the desire to explore and live among the stars weighed on his chest. Although sometimes, it had very negative consequences.

"Regarding the medication, I'm mostly on painkillers, triptacederine and hydrocortilene, neither of them relieves the headache I have since I regained consciousness. If I've had access to my lab and my PADD, I could had synthesize something that would have an effect on me, but... " He extended his arms to the sides of the body, pointing out the chaos in the room. "I've been maintaining my own medical record for years, as well as the compounds that are effective with my body. I have suffered too much trial and error approaches to want to continue using ineffective treatments that depend on the opinion of the doctor on duty of whom of my parents I'm closer related" he explained, chuckled then unhumorously.

Despite the growing cynicism in his tone, the reassuring words of Ejek began to slipped in his unsettled soul. Her calm voice had a soothing effect, although it was barely perceptible in the anxiety mess that surrounded the chemist. He brought his hands to his temples, caressing them as the counselor's words slowly permeated his agitated psyche. More strands of hair left her bun, framing his angular face between two cascades of dark curls. It wasn't easy to put words to the sensations that had been suffering the last hours. "I feel irritable, I have trouble concentrating or staying still for a long time," he began to say. He bit his lower lip for a moment, hard, which made the tuft of hair under his lower lip bristle out. He was emphasizing the obvious, no matter how much effort he was making to suppress his agitation, the Cardassian had already noticed. However deepened in his own weaknesses without being able to dress them with a joke or a cutting comment was unnatural and annoying. But his wit was too frazzled to rely on it at that moment. Finally he just looked at Ejek, a forced smile hung insolently in his face. "I've been having flashbacks of 001, at the most inopportune times. And other... memories maybe? older, from my childhood ... " He pursed his lips, unable to continue. Possibly it was a topic that should be reserved for later. It wasn't the best way to ingratiate himself with someone, telling she the atrocities he maybe or maybe not remebered from her, and HIS, people. He wasn't even sure they were real. Bila looked away, and swallowed loudly. "I don't even know if those flashes really happened or it's just my brain trying to keep me alert throwing me nasty stuff. As far as I can remember, my mother and I lived comfortably under the Cardassian Union Goverment. Later things went south but i was too young to remember why ..." The chemist kept his gaze locked at the ruined wall of the room, half puzzled, half startled.

The silence thickened as the half-Bajoran tried to cling on those fuzzy memories of his past, incapable of grasping them fully, but at the same time not wanting to let them go. Finally he turned  his hazel eyes to the younger woman, and stared at her in bewilderment for a moment, as if he had forgotten how or why she was there. When the pieces fell back into place in his brain, he crisscrossed the thin fingers in front of his chest and made a small bow, while the blush colored his cheeks slightly. "Apologies, maybe I've stumbled on a sensitive matter..." He muttered. However, at the end curiosity was more powerful than embarrassment and he looked at her again thoughtfully. "Can I... ask you something, Counselor? Did you... did you have relatives in Bajor back then? I've always want to know how things looked then from the other side... "

Re: Chapter 03: Supplemental [ Day 04 | 1500 hrs ] Strangers Like Me

Reply #6
[ Acting XO Lt. Zelosa Ejek | Personal Quarters | U.S.S. Cayuga ] @Numen

At least he did not self-medicate, she thought. He could have, but how irresponsible it would have been. That it crossed his mind to do so said...something. She wasn’t sure yet. It could be he was irresponsible, and it could be that Starfleet medical was simply so useless that he could not rely on them anymore, just as he said. No assumptions, she tried to remind herself.

He was displaying more symptoms of acute stress disorder. If left untreated, this would surely turn into PTSD. She had certainty of that much, but she also had to allow that he was possibly suffering from complex trauma and would require far more than just medication and a chat. She tried to remain clinical, mentally narrowing down her choices of anti-anxiety medications. There were only a small handful approved for both Bajoran and Cardassian patients, and though she did not like the side effects of any, there was one in particular that would likely work best, considering the man’s relative youth…

but throughout this process, she kept being tugged back to her own past. He wanted to know. Likely, he wanted to explore himself, his heritage. There were not many Cardassians in Starfleet. She was likely being used to allow self-discovery. Normally this would be a good time to share information about herself. Somehow, she just couldn’t do it.
“I had no family in Bajor. That I know of, of course. It may have been I had distant cousins there and I would’ve never known. I was just a young girl, after all.” She made herself sound apologetic. He would have no answers from her this time, and it was entirely nobody’s fault. If she had family on Bajor, they were likely long dead by now. Her heart ached, but she did not know why. She didn’t want it to. She wished she could offer him some sort of connection to his past, because she knew his sadness. Well, perhaps…maybe she could. An idea brewed in her clever mind.

“That said...It sounds like you’re suffering from something called Acute Stress Disorder.” She carried on, her voice still soft and warm. “It’s an ailment that affects most humanoids after traumatic or very stressful events. It’s causing your shaking, scattered mind, fear...It’s entirely normal,” She assured him, trying to ward away the shame before it came. “It is a well-documented response among most races. A standard course of medication and counseling will improve your situation greatly. Luckily, you’ve requested just the right counselor for the job.” She allowed herself a smile. She doubted anyone else in counseling would have known to cross reference Cardassian and Bajoran-safe medications. Not that it was a complex task, but it became easy to pride one’s self in doing a proper job when nobody else was even capable of doing so.

“Kayosegranine.” She said, and the name was a horrendous mess. Although based on a Cardassian drug, it was Bajoran in origin, so of course the name sounded awful to her. “You may have heard of it, or may not, as it isn’t a widely used drug when there are so many others like it out there...” In truth, “Kayo” was not typically used because it was inferior to the side effect-less others out there.
“It’s a complex compound that will act to balance the neurotransmitters in your brain. It’s effective for both Bajorans and Cardassians, so I don’t expect there will be any ill reactions. Some of it’s side effects include daytime drowsiness, a metallic taste in the mouth...and reversal of lost or suppressed memories.”

“You see, Kayo is related to a Cardassian drug, Desegranine In Cardassians, it works to uncover suppressed or forgotten memories. Depending on your specific brain may find yourself, over the span of weeks, recovering memories buried away.” She had leaned forward at some point. She knew Bila was suffering from flashbacks, unable to sort through his memories and figure which was true, which was false. It was because of that she chose this particular drug. Also, the only other one she could think of produced seizures in a small percentage of Bajorans.
“I’ll admit, because you are a mix, there is a chance that it may not produce any memory-uncovering effect on you. But on the chance it does...maybe you will remember more about Cardassia.”

Re: Chapter 03: Supplemental [ Day 04 | 1500 hrs ] Strangers Like Me

Reply #7
[ Lt. JG Izar Bila|  Crew Quarters | U.S.S. Cayuga ]
Att.: @FollowTomorrow

Given Ejek's negative discouragement, Bila couldn't prevent that a disappointed grimace appeared on his face. He tried to disguise it as soon as it was formed, but he couldn't be sure that the counselor's analytical gaze had detected it. He only hoped that the Prophets would hide that discourtesy from Ejek's eyes. The cardassian probably had an age similar to his, if his face-reader skills didn't deceive him and if he'd paid good attention to their even ranks. Maybe at another time, in another place, he could inquire more about the counselor's background, possibly she appreciated as much as he had another gray face around.

Shortly after, the counselor began reciting his diagnosis. Although the chemist wasn't familiar with psychological sickness, the description of the disorder was too close to his own experiences. He wasn't ashamed to be afraid, fear had kept him alive too many times. He was mortified that his dread had grown to such extent that instead of an incentive to survive, it was paralyzing him. Or it was throwing him head to bad decisions. The hybrid didn't know which of the two possibilities worried him the most.

Ejek, on the other hand, ended his statement with a self-importance smirk, and the chemist could only respond with one of his distinctive impish smiles, an expression that hadn't appeared on his features since the Borg attack. "Ma'am, if I have the chance, I only choose the best of the best, ergo ..." he half-joked, pointing to the Ejek with both hands in an exaggeratedly theatrical gesture. Glimpses of his usual being, until now buried by anxiety and restlessness. Finally, Bila shook his head, tinkling his bajoran earring and letting go of the few strands of hair that his loose bun was still holding. He didn't bother to tie them back, because the counselor had caught his attention with something else.

"Kayosegranine." He rolled the word in his mouth. It was an awful designation, "I guess is a pyridine compound with a potassium cation but with that atrocity as name and cannot be sure. The name is ... I dunno who described that but she or he need some chemistry nomenclature classes. It's almost a war crime" He clicked his tongue with displeasure. Chemistry was a serious business, a hobby and a good part of Bila's life, and that deviation from the norm bothered him more than he wanted to acknowledge. However, the offense was short-lived, soon the counselor continued narrating the side effects of the compound in humanoids and... The hybrid's expresion became wide-eyed.

An unconscious shiver ran through his body from top to bottom and, unconsciously, he leaned forward, just as Ejek did. A part of his mind registered the irony of the situation, two cardassians apparently conspiring about something. But most of his brain was working swiftly. He was terrified of what he might find buried in the mists of his childhood, maybe confirming that some of his flashbacks were real and, on the other hand... On the other hand, there were things he had never managed to ask that could be answered by analyzing the images of his past with his adult eyes. It was so tempting. He knew that what he could found could be disappointing or, worse, that he would degrade the image he had of his mother and himself. And at the same time ... at the same time maybe in some crack of his memory he found the face of the cardassian soldier who had sired him. "I ..." he began to say, but his voice broke before he could continue. He swallowed loudly. "I've only been in Cardassia Prime after the planetary bombardment at the end of the War and that was a image i would love i could forget .... But maybe i could remember the place where i was raised. I believe it was a cardassian military outpost " As soon as the first sentence left his mouth, correcting the counsellor assumptions, Bila knew he put a foot on it. He tried to change the subject as quick as he could. "That Kayosegranine... will it allow me to return to the service? Right now the Cayuga doesn't have too many crewmembers to waste, I don't think I can allow myself a medical leave." He tilted his head deliberately and smile sideways despite the fact that the conceited expression was devalued by the slight tremor of his chin. "Although I will remain under your supervision as long as our vessels travels at par. I can't let escape the best therapist in the nebula. "

Re: Chapter 03: Supplemental [ Day 04 | 1500 hrs ] Strangers Like Me

Reply #8
[ Acting XO Lt. Zelosa Ejek | Personal Quarters | U.S.S. Cayuga ] @Numen

He only chooses the best, ergo...Ejek. Flattery! She was too good of a Cardassian to fall for that one. But it did make her feel quite appreciated. Bila also shared in her distaste for the name. Whoever made that up clearly hadn’t taken even the most basic of chemistry courses. How uncreative, crude, and just plain silly.

To her delight, he seemed to be interested in the treatment. She didn’t really know why she wanted so badly to offer it to him, or why the idea of letting him discover his past made her so happy. She assumed maybe she just loved her job, but even a successful client story didn’t quite feel like this.

Despite his continued flattery, she remained as she was. There was no fluttery eyes or thank-you’s. This was counseling. She was a professional. He wanted something from her, yes, but all he would get is counseling.

“Kayo will aalleviate your acute anxiety. There is another drug, Relatinax-3, that will alleviate your acute anxiety without memory-uncovering. I am hesitant to prescribe it because one of it’s side effects in Bajorans is occasional seizures…As for returning to service, that is my decision, not yours.” She sat back, her hands folded as she considered it. She already knew what the result would be, but she allowed the uncertainty of the situation to blossom. Would she make him take days off? A whole week?

“If this were any other situation, I would require that you allow yourself a few days off. Your mental health would require it. However, given the situation, and my capacity as the executive officer of the Theurgy, I will have to ask you to return to work as soon as possible. Sad, I know.” She ended with some sarcasm, to lighten the mood. She hated just letting someone with a frail mental state like this go, but she couldn’t do otherwise. She worried Bila would suffer panic attacks while at work, or go psychotic and harm someone.
“I will require that you choose a medication and take it regularly, and come back for continued sessions with me so I may monitor your progress. You could very easily develop PTSD at this stage. It is critical that we stay on top of this now.”

She also hoped that she and Bila could sit together and dig through all his past memories, find those other traumatic events she knew were there, and address them. He wasn't just suffering from Acute Stress Disorder, he had complex trauma as well. And...well, she couldn't fathom the idea of not continuing to talk to this man, even if his facial hair was absolutely revolting.

Re: Chapter 03: Supplemental [ Day 04 | 1500 hrs ] Strangers Like Me

Reply #9
[ Lt. JG Izar Bila|  Crew Quarters | U.S.S. Cayuga ]
Att.: @FollowTomorrow

"I'm afraid that if the side effects are seizures or stir my brain to found again memories of my past ... I choose the Kayo ... segranine" replied Bila after a short pondering. But the aberrant name of the compound entangled in his tongue, his bastard nomenclature was antagonistic to the seriousness with which the chemist took his job. "I think I'll follow your example and call that mess just Kayo." He added with a sideway smile in his face. Even though the counselor handled herself professionally in any moment and after any faux pass, or maybe precisely because of it, the hybrid felt considerably more relaxed than when the session had begun. Yeah, the trembling of his hands continued, but he no longer felt the need to trace the room again and again counting each of steps.

Ejek let the silence take over the messy room for a few minutes, without confirming or denying him his return to service. Her gray eyes were placid in appearance but with the fire of intelligence burning fiercely. As lead sizzling.

Before such silence, Bila noticed how the muscles of his neck tensed unconsciously, waiting for a negative response. Tom had accused him for years of not being able to enjoy any kind of R & R, dragging him to any crazy entertainment that had come to his mind during their shared time aboard the Thunderchild. A medical leave for relax himself? He wouldn't know what to do with it. Surely he would go crazy and end up cooking hasperat for the entire crew of the Cayuga. That or maybe he would end climbing the walls of his quarters. Literally.

When the counsellor finally spoke, Ejek's answer was positive, adorned with a studied sarcasm. The chemist relaxed his stance, arms loosely crossed on his lap. He allowed himself a smile that gave sparks to his eyes. "I swear i'll get the treatment to the T. I'm a scientist not a brainless birdman" he joked, infected by the slight relaxation of the environment. "You know ... I must confess this kayo stuff side effects half stir my curiosity, half terrified me. I've one of this ... flashbacks or whatever they are stuck on my head, and I can not get rid of it. Did you mind if I share it with you ...?"

He ran through the forest, a dense and dark forest, the brushwood scratching his arms, legs and face, but he couldn't stop. He must to keep running. Fast, as fast as he could. From time to time he turned to see if what was after him was in sight, but ferns and brambles blocked his vision. The distant light of the moons barely reached the thicket under the trees canopy.

One of the times he turned his head towards his back,  hestumbled over something, and fell painfully on his hands and feet. He brought one of the aching palms to his lips and felt the taste of blood. His browridges frowned slightly and he whimpered as he got back on his feet because, even though he just wanted to sit down and cry, he knew he couldn't do it. He couldn't stop now. He had to keep running. His legs were very short and if he didn't get far enough before hiding they would reach him without a doubt. So he ran again, ignoring as best he could the tears that fell treacherously down his cheekbones.

He half stumbled half running in the darkness until a bramble stopped him. The child crossed his arms in front of his face, protecting his eyes and continued forward, ignoring the scratches that the thorns traced in his limbs. Pushing forward with all his tiny strength, and after what seemed endless minutes, he managed to get rid of the thicket... only to discover that his right foot found no ground to lean on. He waved his hands in the air in an attempt to keep himself in balance, but it was in vain and he rolled down an invisible embankment. He tried to grab branches and stones in his fall, but he only managed to drag them along and scratch his hands even more.

After what seemed like an eternity, he reached the bottom of the ravine. Sitting on his backside, half stunned and blinded by the darkness, he remained paralyzed where he was, breathing agitatedly. The place where he had fallen was surprisingly soft and damp. And it stunk. Maybe it had fallen rolling in a mire? Either way, he had to keep fleeing. He tried to stand up as best he could, but the ground was so unstable that it was too difficult for him just walk. At the end he decided to crawl on all fours and his speed increased considerably. However, the shapes he felt under his hands didn't resemble any wooded terrain he knew.

A clearing above him finally allowed the moonlight to illuminate the ravine and, at last, he could see over what he had been crawling They were people. Dead people. Bloodied people who seemed to look at him accusingly with their empty eyes. He screamed in fright trying to stand up and get out of there as quickly as possible. He knew them. He had meet some of the dead. But even those he did not know showed Bajoran features. Ridged noses. Just like his.

He reached the side of the common grave, his hands scratching at the newly removed ground, trying to escape from there, but it was too steep, too high to reach the edge. However, his efforts stopped when he heard voices above him. At least he knew one of those voices.
"<Over there, I'm sure I've heard something>" growled one of the voices in Cardassian language. There was a frustrated sigh slightly farther. "<I told you, they are all dead, you are being paranoid">the other voice replied, jaded. "<To be paranoid is the prelude to a long life and the sign of a wise and prudent personality>". The exasperated snort repeated itself, only this time just above his head. He was terrified and tried to stick to the embankment as much as he could, his face crushed to the dirt. If he didn't see them, they wouldn't see him...

A flashlight pointed directly at him. He started to tremble.
"<Over there. It's that a child?>" Asked the paranoid “<Told you, told you I've heard something>". The other leaned over the edge of the pit and grabbed him by the cloth that covered his back, lifting him to the forest floor. He could only whimper, covered in blood and mud, his hair full of leaves and twigs. "<Look what we've found, the outpost mongrel>" said the skeptic, dropping him. He fell painfully on his knees and balled himself, looking to the soldiers with big wet eyes. He heard the buzzing of two rifles activating, he knew the sound well, he had observed those same soldiers practicing shooting almost every day since he had memory. The weapons aimed him. "Sorry boy," the paranoid whispered. "You should not be here"

"I always come back from the flashback at that point. I don't know what I was fleeing, or what happened later, if it is a true memory. I know I know the dead Bajorans of the grave and the two Cardassian soldiers, but I don't remember their names,and neither I can see their faces clearly, I can't describe them. I only feel the terror and defenselessness of that moment. I know I was very young, my sight in the flashback barely reaches the hips of the soldiers." Bila bit his lip, before adding. "Somehow I know that all of that is important, but not why."

Re: Chapter 03: Supplemental [ Day 04 | 1500 hrs ] Strangers Like Me

Reply #10
[ Acting XO Lt. Zelosa Ejek | Personal Quarters | U.S.S. Cayuga ] @Numen

Ejek listened. She was leaning forward, all eyes and ears. It wasn’t hard to express the right body language for the moment, because she was genuinely interested. This was… a tale of Cardassia, perhaps? Of Cardassians at least. What he was offering was more than she ever had, and she soaked it up like a sponge.

When the story had come to it’s conclusion, she couldn’t even begin to guess what had happened or where this took place. She couldn’t imagine Bila would know either, since his own memory appears fragmented and he lacked context. Yes, she confirmed to herself, he had complex trauma. No child could go through that and be expected to come out well-adjusted and whole.

“Fascinating...” She mused to herself. She had so much to think about now. Her mind was hard at work. “Well, it certainly sounds like you’ve subconsciously repressed some of your memories. When the mind does not want to face something too painful or traumatic, it can bury them away, and as you find yourself in a more stable, safe place, your brain will occasionally allow them to come back to you, bit by bit. It can be a very long process, and very confusing as you may have noticed. They don’t all come back to you in the right order, or with context.”

“With that said, it seems as if you’ve gone through something traumatic as a child. Do you have anything more about it that you would like to share with me?” She asked, still calm, but she's leaned forward again. Obviously, Bila's words and stories have brought her in and she can't break away. "I know it's not what you came here to talk about, originally, but the trauma that happened to you as a child may be influencing the trauma you're experiencing today."

Re: Chapter 03: Supplemental [ Day 04 | 1500 hrs ] Strangers Like Me

Reply #11
[ Lt. JG Izar Bila|  Crew Quarters | U.S.S. Cayuga ]
Att.: @FollowTomorrow

"I really don't know if it had influenced. No, I really don't know," replied Bila, scratching the scruff of his chin. "If I have to be honest, I remember little of my childhood in Bajor before we were forced to enter the refugee camp, that could be considered traumatic, but I remember the camp quite well." The hybrid looked at the counselor, head tilted. So far, she had not judged him at any time, neither for he himself nor for what he was, but there were parts of him that he had shared with few people and that fewer people had understood. "Before the camp, we lived in a military outpost near to Adarak. A cardassian outpost. My mother was a collaborator with what bajoran call the Occupational Goverment, I never knew exactly what she was doing for them. Neither I had the guts to ask about it, I am aware that maybe I may not like too much what I could discover about her... and about myself. " The half Bajoran had a bittersweet expression on his face. The chemist had a tendency to keep the most positive part of his past, but the conversation with Ejek had taken courses that he hadn't explored for long time, and at that moment they were facing parts of him that he didn't like to bring to light. "We lived, far better than most bajorans, but my mother used to be absent, working. So I spent most of my time with adult Cardassians, soldiers mainly." Bila looked someplace behind the therapist, his thoughts lost in his own past. Unwittingly, a warm smile brightened his features. "The commandant was... well, looking back, he must have laid an order at some point to treat me well. A soldier stopped another from giving me a kicking after I was found wandering around somewhere I shouldn't have been. And - ha - there was one time that..."

The boy looked from the lintel of the door, watching the adults gathered in the room, serious faces and frowning browridges. He had been watching them for some time, the voices had risen up to angry shouts a while ago, but Grandpa had put order and now they simply growled pointing to different parts of a datapad that he couldn't see from his position. They used big words, so he didn't understand what was happening. But it wasn't good. However, he didn't move from where he was. The CO had promised that they would play cards that afternoon and he wouldwait there until night if it was necessary.

"You got your orders, now get out of my sight," growled the commandant, the utmost urgency printed in his voice. The officers stood for a second looking at each other with forced smiles on their faces, until the senior officer rose from his chair. The subalterns left the room with measured steps, that kind of studied slow strides to hide the desire to get out of there as quickly as possible. Bila didn't move from where he was and watched as his grandad massaged his temples, lips tightly pressed together. The child waited a few more time, after which he simply stomped in the room, traversing it in an exhalation and jumping into the lap of the grizzled cardassian. The oldman expression changed almost instantaneously, the weary expression softened by a smile. "<Hello there my child, I've not forgotten you.>" The child tilted his head, a serious expression in his small face "I knew you were busy, I heard ..." He didn't finish the sentence, as the commandant shushed him with disappoval. "<What had been talk about that bajoran gibberish? You know better than that ...> " scolded, using the child's cardassian name.

The child frowned, holding the cards tightly in his hand and pouting his lips. "<I'm sorry, grandpa ...>" he replied with a tiny voice. "<And I'm sorry too my child, I'm a grumpy grown-up today. Did we have something interesting up our sleeves?>" He asked with a smug smile in his face. The child grinned widely as and answer. "<Cardassian pinochle!>" Shouted the young hybrid, placing the deck on the table and extending the cards on top of the PADDs and papers. "<Well, well, have you learned something new?>". The boy thought for a moment, biting his tongue. Finally he recited "<Glinn Trevek has a tick in the eye when he has a good hand, and Glinn Ireth tapped his little finger if the hand is bad. Soldier Ersek always smiles, that annoyed everybody. Soldier Russol cheated, hid Guls in the sleeve, but still lost most of the rounds. In the end he was angry and Joret took his place. I think Joret had plotted all that with Ersek, that's why he smiled and won the game...> "

While the child was speaking, the commander shuffled the cards, and acknowledged some of his discoveries. Next, he distributed the cards on the table, leaving a few uncovered. "<I'm afraid you're wrong, my boy. Ireth and Joret worked together but that soldier is a moron. Ersek saw the same thing you did and used it against others. That's why he'll be a good Gul someday. Now, pay attention, I'm going to teach you how to count cards. If you learn this lesson well you'll pick all of them clean in no time ...> "

"He spent the rest of the afternoon teaching me to cheat cards and to know when others did it until I fell asleep. Only because he had promised me. And probably had been watching me waiting in the door with huffy face. Later I learned that there had been an attack on the detachment that must brought supplies that morning, and that was why he was late for our appointment. But the oldman didn't want to disappoint me. He wasn't my biological grandfather, of course, but he liked that i called him like that, i guess he missed his real grandchildren. In fact, I'd love to remember what name he used with me. I had a cardassian name back then in the outpost, but I stopped using it in the refugee camp and had forget it..." The soft smiled that had adorned Bila's face during the story turned into a thoughtful one when he looked at Ejek. That story had nothing to do with what had brough her there, and probably she wasn't interested on it.

Bit shamed, Bila studied his hand for a few moments before continuing, trying to word his mind the better way he could. "Don't get me wrong, I was happy back then. I've had ... A LOT of counselling sessions when we arrived to Trill trying to found if i'd developt Stockholm syndrome or something like that. As my mother is bajoran they treated me as a bajoran child too. They guessed i must be... resentful somehow. But i wasn't. Neither I am now. I've a pretty happy childhood in the outpost. That's why that flashback is so... wrong. The forest must be the one outside the blockhouse, since it's the only one i've met so dense. But I would never have fled the outpost as scared as I feel in the flashback. I felt safe there.”

Re: Chapter 03: Supplemental [ Day 04 | 1500 hrs ] Strangers Like Me

Reply #12
[ Acting XO Lt. Zelosa Ejek | Personal Quarters | U.S.S. Cayuga ] @Numen

Billa said he did not know if his past trauma was still affecting him today. Ejek knew it was. She kept her mouth shut about it, but she knew. It was her job to know these things, after all. Everything that Billa was doing right now though, it was good. The hybrid was bringing forth challenging ideas and working with them. He was facing them. And she didn’t even have to prompt him to do it! Counselors shouldn’t have favorites, but her favorites were always the ones that did all the work for her.

She paid close attention, listening to...a story. A fond one, she thought. The Cardassian was likely not his grandfather, or if he was, it’d be a shame to publicly admit it. Nevertheless...she couldn’t help but imagine herself. If only she could pull up a memory like that, sitting in her grandfather’s lap and watching him teach cards until she dozed off. Yearning grew in her heart like mold, and she tired of constantly bleaching it out with self discipline.

Billa looked up at her again and seemed to expect that Ejek would be bored, but quite opposite. She hung onto every word, falling into the story as if it were her own. She saw him smile. She smiled back. She didn’t know why though.

“Well...In my experience.” She made herself sit back, pulling herself out of her wants and fantasies. She’d never have that memory as her own. Stop trying.

“When we are children, we don’t know many things. We’re not yet developed enough to see the complexities of real life. We think that things are just happy, just sad, just bad...but when we become adults, and we look back at those old childhood memories, we start to see that they’re complex. Things were happy—and also sad, and confusing, and many other things all mixed up. It’s good that you’re reviewing your memories today.” She offered him a warmer smile, her voice more like a mother. The mother she’d never really get to have. You’ll never have that, Ejek. Never.
“You can look back at all these things and understand them with an adult mind. I encourage you to keep exploring, keep thinking. I’ll be happy to give you guidance where you need it.”

Re: Chapter 03: Supplemental [ Day 04 | 1500 hrs ] Strangers Like Me

Reply #13
[ Lt. JG Izar Bila|  Crew Quarters | U.S.S. Cayuga ]
Att.: @FollowTomorrow

When the counselor broke her professional facade for a moment and returned his smile, Bila couldn't help himself of grinned even more widely. The counselors and he were old acquaintances but they had never been so close: first as a refugee, and later after 001, as Dominion War veteran, after his visit to the the bombed Cardassia Prime... If he began to coldly evaluate all the reasons why he had visited counselors, he would have another anxiety attack. His hands trembled slightly as he listened to the words of Ejek, but he tried to suppress the movement by crossing his fingers in his lap, the wide smile never leaving his lips or his hazel eyes.

"I will appreciate any guidance you can give me, ma'am, although I would prefer it would happen around a red leaf tea with kava juice in my hands, something that would make me feel more like a host asking for a friendly advice to a comrade, instead of having a proffesional by my side trying to keep me away of looking like neurotic vole" he teased with a theatrical gesture, feeling more like himself than he had felt since he had woken up on the sickbay. "I would love if we could agree a second session when I return from the Alligeant mission, to check that the Kato thing is working..." he suggested. It was only part of the truth. He felt at ease with Ejek, and it was something he could not easily say. Bila had many masks, cordial and fun, designed specifically to avoid conflicts and indiscreet questions. Being able to untangle part of the mess that was his past without raised eyebrows or value judgments was more valuable for him than all the gold-pressed latinum of the quadrant. That she was one of the few full cardassians he'd meet since the War that didn't look down on her nose at him did nothing but exacerbated his desire to establish a friendship with the counselor. He was convinced that knowing her he would get to know himself better. And maybe discover why she kept her cardassian demeanour so hidden.

While waiting for a positive response from Ejek, Bila ran his fingers through the narrow line of scales that adorned his neck. Unlike hers, his had no ridges, but it was practically bajoran, almost as much as his nose. Unable to avoid it, his eyes wandered over the ridges of her neck, stopping at the uniform collar. He knew that a pair of her scales, hidden under the cloth, had a bluish hue, exactly the same that adorned her forehead. "You know, I was shocked the first time I saw a cardassian woman" he said pointing to his own forehead. "I even ask her if she was sick. Looking at it with adult's eyes is even more embarrassing that it was with child's eyes ...."


Like so many mornings, the boy waited for the beginning of the maneuvers of the soldiers, perched on the fence of the big house. He was sitting on one of the horizontal wooden bars, his legs dangling far away from the ground, his elbows resting on a slightly higher bar. His legs danced in the air as his hands played with a piece of groatcake. The boy wasn't really interested in breakfast, so he simply crumbled the cake, throwing pieces of it at the blue-winged birds. The feathered animals didn't usually visit the outpost, so the child's attention was more focused on the songbirds than on the routine that was repeated every day. Because of this, he didn't discover the presence of the woman until she was already next to him, analyzing him with her cold blue eyes.

The child was so startled that he fell off the fence, unintentionally throwing the cake against the woman. The food left a honeyed trace on the cardassian's uniform. The boy stood up as fast as he could, hands on his back and head down, his mother always told him he should be submissive. However his dark eyes looked curiously at the woman, while a shameless smile was drawn on his mouth, his grandfather always told him that the best way to win a game was to look bold. "<Hi!>" He greeted. The woman looked at him, blinking slowly, as if she didn't expect such a creature to be able to speak. "<What are you?>" She asked, clear revulsion in her voice. He cocked his head, confused. After he bit his lip an instant before telling her his Cardassian name. She seemed even more horror-stricken, nausea seizing her body. The boy cocked his head to the other side, even more bewildered. "<Momma call me Bila, you could call me that way too.>" She said tentatively as he studied the officer's face. The boy's eyes roamed the face of the cardassian, ignoring the frowned browridges and focusing on the striking blue stain on her spoon. "<You are a mongrel ...>" the woman said, even more incredulous. The child wasn't upset by the insult, except his mother and grandfather, most people he knew called him that, so in his mind it was a synonymous with child. "<Yeah, I'm one... You're a woman, are not you? But you've a boy face ..., but with a blue stuff in your forehead, are you sick or something ma'am?> " Asked the boy in the most cordial way he knew. All the women he knew were Bajorans, while all the Cardassians he knew were men. That woman was a real oddity for him and stirred his curiosity.

The woman expression told it all. "<You're an insolent little abomination that shouldn't be keep alive>," she whispered. Bila frowned, the woman used big words he didn't understand and he really wanted to know what she was saying. However, he couldn't ask the questions he wanted, because strong hands grabbed him by the shoulders, placing him behind some legs encased in a military uniform.

"<Welcome to Adarak's Outpost, Gul, we didn't expect your visit so early"> said the soldier's voice while holding the child hidden behind him. "<The commander will receive you shortly>". The boy still peeked the face of the woman another time, the eyes of the Gul burning with a cold flame that made him shudder. "<Take me before him. This place has descended to depravity faster than I expected ...> "

"I remember that after that my mother and I spent several days in the town. At first I was excited because I thought I was going to meet other children. After the first hit with a stone, I realized that I preferred adults, at least they only looked at me with pity. I still have the scar of that stone, look …" Bila leaned forward, pushing the strands of hair away from his right temple, showing a small, white line at that spot. "I always wondered why my mother simply didn't use a dermal regenerator to erase it. After all these years I've several theories." Bila looked at the counselor again, analyzing her expression before continuing. "Then I had very short hair, so the scar was always visible. It was a reminder for me, that I should be careful of how I approached others. But it was also a reminder for herself and for someone else in the outpost that there was no place for me outside the military base, and that if they... ejected us again... possibly I wouldn't survive. A kind of flesh and bone blackmail. Anyway, we continued to live in the outpost for several weeks, until we had to go to the refugee camp. "

Re: Chapter 03: Supplemental [ Day 04 | 1500 hrs ] Strangers Like Me

Reply #14
[ Acting XO Lt. Zelosa Ejek | Personal Quarters | U.S.S. Cayuga ] @Numen

Red leaf tea and kava juice mixed together made her stomach queasy. What an awful, awful combination. She could think of quite a sizable number of Resolve-mates who would absolutely enjoy it, however. At least Billa isn’t alone in his odd taste.

He began another story, and she found herself...charmed. It was not a story that took place on Cardassia, and it wasn’t a happy one, she didn’t think...but it was childhood. He was just a kid then. She had to admit it was cute, the idea of a tiny Billa who just didn’t know what that blue was on an older woman’s scales. No, she supposed if she were in Billa’s shoes, she wouldn’t know either…

She glanced over his little scar. She wouldn’t have noticed it if he didn’t point it out. Even if he had, it was very faint. A small white-ish line, it could’ve been a wrinkle or errant scale in the right lighting. It was information about him though, and she soaked up what he said, how he thought of this, what he thought his mother’s intent was…

“Do you mind,” She crossed her legs, pausing to catch herself and ask if this was a smart idea. Of course it was, how could it not be? “Do you mind telling me about the refugee camp, and what it was like for you there? Or is that something you’d like to save for another time?”

She had to admit...she was captivated. No, it wasn’t an idyllic childhood, but she found the idyllic childhood to be an unattainable fantasy anyway. Billa wasn’t even a full Cardassian, damnit. But he was more Cardassian than her.

It’s a fact that brought her heart down to the floor and kept her paying such close attention, perhaps forgoing her professional boundaries and de-railing the session just so she could hear a little more. A swirl of mixed feelings that she couldn’t fully fathom until she took time to reflect…

Privately, she was looking forward to session number two.

Re: Chapter 03: Supplemental [ Day 04 | 1500 hrs ] Strangers Like Me

Reply #15
[ Lt. JG Izar Bila|  Crew Quarters | U.S.S. Cayuga ]
Att.: @FollowTomorrow

When Ejek asked him to talk about the refugee camp, Bila looked away and threw his body back. For a moment, he was busied himself tying up his hair in a tigh bun, wasting too much time taming the rebel locks to keep them in place. When he finished, he crossed his arms over his chest and hunched his posture, turning his body slightly in the chair until his right shoulder faced the counselor "How was it for me to be there?" Repeated the words of the full cardassian in a sigh. "It's not easy to define it ma'am. I don't remember well how or why we left the outpost to move to the camp. I ... was very sick when we arrived, and I got much worse there. I sailed between life and death for weeks, frozen stiff at night, sweating fever during the day, delirious and chased by nightmares. When I recovered, more than a month later, I was barely a shadow of what i'd been. From that moment until we left the camp, I could count each and every one of my ribs, I was a emaciated and pale thing that the wind could blew away at any time. After that first month, I lost most of my baby teeth." Bila snorted and shake his head without looking at Ejek. "So far I had only eaten .... fusion cuisine, a mix of Bajoran and Cardassian food. But the ingredients were fresh, it was soldier's food, to keep them ready for battle. What was in the camp was survival food. You ate it because it kept you alive and you gave thanks if you didn't get sick. The recipes had so many spices to kill the awnful taste that made my stomach sick all the time, imagine that experience with half of the teeth ... By the third month I was so weak that I could barely get on my feet. My stomach always hurt, but I didn't know if it was because I was sick or just hungry. I was always cold. Always. At night I was unable to sleep, and I shivered until I was exhausted by my mother's body. In the mornings I was so tired that I fell asleep in the sun, wrapped in a blanket, until the cold or hunger woke me up again. "

Finally Bila looked back at Ejek, the sparkle in his eyes had disappeared and his voice had a neutral, detached tone, as if explaining a chemical reaction. His story-teller streak had vanished, and only data and rough facts remained.

"Since I recovered from my initial illness, my mother forbade me to speak in Cardassian, use the name I used in the outpost or talk about that place. Since then I was simply Bila, and when my mother told a story about our past that wasn't true, I just confirmed it and tried to remember it as detailed as i could. It may seem cruel, but that made things easier for us in some way. Even so, I hardly interacted with anyone. The rest of the refugees were never hostile, but they kept their distance with me. There were a couple more of... bastards like me in the camp and I started to see what we were from another perspective. At least I had my mother, the rest of the hybrids were totally orphans, they were alone by themselves. One of them died of starvation when we had been there for six months. He refused to eat until he simply never opened his eyes again. He must have been two or three years older than me by that time, his name was Laan, like the poet."

Bila looked away again, scratching thoughtfully at the scruff of his chin. "You may think that all that could had scared or saddened me, but it wasn't like that back then. I knew I had to mature and fight if I wanted to survive. That first spring we started to grow a small vegetable garden, like the rest of the refugees. The land was poor, and it didn't give much, but it was better than eating root soup. I think I told you earlier that I liked birds, counselor. Well, in the outpost I had spent a lot of time observing them and in the camp, when the cold of dawn prevented me from sleeping, I observed them even more. When I'd been in camp for almost  a year, I was an expert bird hunter. With stones, with traps... whatever was necessary in order to have a few proteins in the menu. So I didn't have time to get bored either. Boredom kills people in refugee camps, because you think over and over again about what you have lost and how the future is very very dark if you focus on it. So I became a bird hunter out of double necessity. After a while we could exchange some of my catchs for another type of food, and even we got a PADD.  It was an old crap that broke every few days, but it had a great collection of technical books. Possibly it wasn't the best reading that you could give to a 10-year-old child, but it allowed me to forget that my life consisted basically of survival. That's when I fell in love with the stars." Despite the harshness of the story, a soft smile was drawn on the chemist's face as he remembered that old display device.

"The birds kept us alive, but it also had a negative consequence. I got lungworms from eating undercooked meat. There were days when my mother was out and I was too hungry to cook them." Bila felt the color rise to his cheeks, turning them a darker gray with a reddish undertone. It wasn't something he was proud of, but it was hard to understand the need and the hunger he suffered then. "When the second winter in the camp approached, I coughed constantly, sometimes even blood, I was thinner than ever and there were days when I simply couldn't get up from the mattress. Shortly after, my mother got two tickets on a Ferengi freighter bound for the Federation. A hell of a voyage, stuffed with another hundred of refugees in charge container. I do not feel at ease in closed spaces since then." The chemist sighed and looked at the counselor again.

"So, How was it for me to be in the camp? Solitary, physically challenging, sad and desparate. It was boring, cold and I was always hungry and sick. I stopped growing, but I left my childhood behind there. And it helped me to value everything I had afterwards." Bila rubbed his eyes, emotionally exhausted after rescuing so many bitter memories from his memory.

Re: Chapter 03: Supplemental [ Day 04 | 1500 hrs ] Strangers Like Me

Reply #16
[ Acting XO Lt. Zelosa Ejek | Personal Quarters | U.S.S. Cayuga ] @Numen

Billa...wasn’t telling a story anymore. This memory hurt him, and she could practically feel the pain herself. Nevertheless, she was leaning forward, his words had long since brought her in and she wasn’t going to be letting go anytime soon.

She paid careful attention to his voice, how it no longer navigated through a story with excellent precision. Instead he was plodding through. Not quite as enjoyable as his previous story, but this one told her far more about Billa.

He had trauma, whether he admitted it or not. The refugee camp and his experiences were called an adverse childhood event, or an ACE, within the field. Having an ACE in his history alters the way he experiences trauma as an adult.

All things considered though...he’s not that bad. She watches him closely, her eyes flickering with light as she turns over thoughts in her head. There have been far, far worse reactions to trauma. He has gone through so much shit, but he does not have a phaser in his hand, he isn’t threatening anyone, he hasn’t destroyed anything. He had resilience, and quite a lot of it.

“I’m sorry that the experience happened to you. You were just a kid and didn’t deserve to go through that.” She spoke, her voice soft and gentle like a sun shower. “It sounds like you had a lot of hardship as a child, but you made it through and became stronger for it. When you think about the things you’ve gone through now, as an adult, do you think you can make it through as well?”

Re: Chapter 03: Supplemental [ Day 04 | 1500 hrs ] Strangers Like Me

Reply #17
[ Lt. JG Izar Bila|  Crew Quarters | U.S.S. Cayuga ]
Att.: @FollowTomorrow

"Are you asking me whether I would do if i were in the camp now or that I would do it, observing the current events with the perspective of an adult that has been recalling the hardships of his past?" Bila asked with a sad smile etched on his lips, persuaded to respond mainly by the kindness that Ejek exuded. He looked into her eyes, and tilted his head to one side, observing that empathy that she seemed to project.  A small part of him knew that the woman was only doing her job and that she was goddamned good at it. Most of him wanted to believe that there was a kind of connection between the two, a connection between who has lived similar things or, perhaps, between fellows of the same kind, of shared ancestries. The full cardassian had shared very little of her to be able to cling to that belief, but it was more comforting for him than being a mere subject of study.Finally he looked away and stared at his hands, uncrossing his fingers slowly. Both of his hands were still shaking slightly, but the distraction of diving into his past had turned his mind away from what caused his inner turmoil and, therefore, the symptoms of his stress seemed to have subsided slightly. He knew it was a temporary relief, but at least he felt more in control of himself.

"I guess whatever the question is, the answer is the same. Sooner or later I'll make through it. I'm a pretty good at survive. For the love of the Prophets, I'm thirty-one standard years old, do you know how many hybrids like me have reached this age? I'll tell you, few, very few. A vedek told me one time that i have a fortunate pagh, and i swear it's true. But I don't want just survive, keep going numbed by fear and paranoia until I break completely and make an irreparable mistake. I want to live, not just waiting for the next setback that the destiny throw me. And this" he continued turning his hazel gaze at the counselor, showing his slightly trembling hands in front of his face. "This is me being unnable to cope with the feeling of defenselessness facing the Borg, wounded as i was then ... and later, that horned monstrosities, the Asurians."

Bila rubbed his temples and closed his eyelids, trying to organize the thoughts that scattered in his brain. "I'm not lying to myself, ma'am, I know I'm not a brave man. I've lived with fear half of my life and I know that many times it is what keeps us sharp to deal with all the <shit> that happens around us. But usually, before or after, I've always had a moment to stop, observe, analyze my possibilities and act accordingly. To regain control, no matter how small it is. To draw up a plan and stick to it. A plan to fall back on if panic seizes me or if I feel lost or overwhelmed. The events of the last days have rushed one after the other and control had escaped between my fingers and neither my silver tongue nor my wit are helping me out of problems this time, I'm just being dragged from one side to the other stumbling. That's why I called you, counsellor,  that's why I need your help. I don't play the one-man-army, proud and unbrokable. I know when i need help and ask for it "

Re: Chapter 03: Supplemental [ Day 04 | 1500 hrs ] Strangers Like Me

Reply #18
[ Acting XO Lt. Zelosa Ejek | Personal Quarters | U.S.S. Cayuga ] @Numen

“Bravery...” she felt herself begin, musing on the concept as she thought about this man and what he went through, “Isn’t the absence of fear, as I’m sure you may have been told. It is doing what is right, even though you are fearful. Starfleet is very fond of that concept, and for a good reason.”

“That you are here with me, asking for help, I believe it to be a sign of bravery. There are many aboard this very ship who would feel that asking for a counselor is weakness; to the contrary. It is a sign that you know your needs. I cannot promise you happiness, Billa. I can’t promise peace or comfort, but I can promise you that I can guide you towards your goals, and offer what solace I can as a counselor. It is my sincerest hope that we’ll work together to get you to a point where you do not feel this panic so severely. You deserve to live a good life.”

“Our session is coming to a close...” She admitted, keeping her regret to herself. She was keeping track of time in her mind, and she’d actually gone over her allotted time. It was a breach of professionalism, but Billa had such good stories to tell. She wanted to hear all about them. All about him. “But Billa, I do look forward to seeing you for a second session. If I ask you to take care of yourself, do you think you can do so for me?” She smiled. It wasn’t hard to show genuine kindness. She convinced herself it was all part of the act.

Re: Chapter 03: Supplemental [ Day 04 | 1500 hrs ] Strangers Like Me

Reply #19
[ Lt. JG Izar Bila|  Crew Quarters | U.S.S. Cayuga ]
Att.: @FollowTomorrow

Bila tilted his head slightly, soaking up the words of Ejek and feeling as though they didn't offer vain hopes or empty promises, they comforted him. The counselor wasn't trying to show his situation through a crystal of positivism far from reality, but still offered her best wishes to his future, and a promise of work toguether to achieve it. Which more he could ask for?. A sincere smile flashed in his face, as he nodded at her words. Before answering he looked at his hands, the tremor was then imperceptible. "Ma'am, I can't ask for more than you offer me, and your assistance and your wishes are a Blessing from the Prophets" he softly said looking into the gray eyes of the cardassian. And, despite his sweet-talker nature, his words were completely sincere.

However, like all good things, the session was coming to an end and Izar couldn't help but feel a pang of regret for it. It was selfish for him to want to hoard Ejek's time when she would surely have more patients on appointment, but he couldn't prevent that desire of spent more time with her flashed briefly in his mind.

Finally he sighed, untangled his hands and stood in front of the counselor. "I'm sorry if I stole more of your time than I should. I've felt so at ease talking with you that i forget you have another patients. " He stared at her for a few seconds, hesitant to dare to make the gesture he wanted, crossing the boundaries between doctor and patient, and his limited practice with physical contact. Finally, he summoned some courage and stepped forward and took both her hands in his. He squeezed them lightly, before shaking them. "It's a pleasure to have met you, ma'am. I look forward to our next session,maybe we could schedule it for when I return from the scouting mission " A small twitch in the corner of his eye was the only sign of the nervousness that a posible Borg encounter put in his soul.

But that slight lost of composture was kept hidden in the reverence he made before the counselor, until his forehead almost touched their interlaced hands. "If indeed my Pagh is a fortunate one, the Prophets will allow us to meet again," he said as a farewell, before letting her hands go.

There was still something he had to do before preparing for the mission. Another visit. He needed to leave all the loose ends tied. And thanks to Ejek, Bila now felt confident enough to do what he should.


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