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Cornered

Posted on 09 May 2020 @ 2:04pm by Ensign Quinn Mackie & Lieutenant Commander Tivan

Mission: Sentience
Location: Mackie's Quarters
Timeline: MD 1 || 1900 hours

Some people could be so stubborn. Tivan had spent a month on board the ship, and that time had been fairly well spent tracking down everyone who had been possessed by the Dolmoqour. Most of them had been noncommittal at best while others had been downright hostile. Ensign Mackie had been neither--he had been a ghost. Multiple counselings requests had been ignored; his duty roster had been difficult to pin down as well. It was clear the man did not want to be found.

Naturally that made Tivan desire to speak with him all the more.

Hence the house call. This was the man who hosted the second-in-command of the Dolmoquor interlopers, or so the story was told. Tivan wanted to know for herself. Deep down, that wasn't the only thing she wanted to know, but all things would come in due time.

Tivan approached Mackie's quarters at the wee hours, hoping to catch him between shifts or whatever he was doing to fill his hours. The chime sounded, and so the die was cast. There was nothing to do but wait.

Unfortunately for Tivan, Quinn wasn't inside. Both Quinn and Kelly had been assigned to later shifts, and Quinn wasn't adverse to losing himself in his work. After all, an occupied mind kept him away from trouble, never you mind that this terrible adventure from the previous year began while he was on an Away Team.

And, unfortunately for Quinn, he was just coming off a long shift. The last person he'd expected to see when turning the corner to approach his quarters was the one person on the ship he was avoiding.

"Hello, Ensign!" Tivan called out. "So good to see you! Might we go somewhere to talk?"

Quinn froze. The Vulcan woman stood in front of him, and Quinn clearly had no way to run. And, the last thing he needed was for Kelly to come home and see him conversing with the ship's newest counselor, especially one that was so interested in particular members of the crew. "Not here," he simply told the higher ranking officer. I... uh..."

"My quarters are located just a few corridors down," Tivan said. The man's shock was palpable, which meant he was ripe for answers if only properly squeezed. "Or perhaps we could see if a recreation room or briefing room is available?"

He considered his options for a few moments. Quarters would certainly be more comfortable, but he didn't feel right going into anyone else's cabin, especially the woman who'd been known to take her clothes off in front of the cabin. And, recreation rooms would just put him further under a spotlight since they tended to be crowded after hours. "The briefing rooms are usually only ever occupied during alpha shift. That might be our best bet for now."

"Very well." Tivan appeared as if amused by an unspoken joke, but turned to lead the way to Briefing Room 3. "So. How are things?"

"The ship is fine," Quinn reported. "As all ships should be after a premature refit."

Tivan let out a dusky chuckle. "We both know that I was referring to you, Ensign Mackie. May I call you Quinn?" They reached the door to the briefing room, which opened on their approach. "Here we are. After you," she said with a sweeping hand gesture.

Quinn nervously entered the room. He'd been in several briefing rooms before, but this one certainly felt smaller than usual. Perhaps it was an onset of claustrophobia after being sought out by the questionable Counselor. "I... uh... Well. It's another day done. Or, almost done."

The doors to the small room closed behind Tivan, giving her smile and overall disposition an air of finality. "I won't take up any more of your time as is necessary, so let us get right to it. My data says you spent the most amount of time with the Dolmoqour. Your debriefings and psychological batteries are in my office, but I wish to hear it from your lips: how do you feel?

He leaned against the table, crossed his arms, and looked down at his boots. "I feel like no matter what I do, I will never find forgiveness. There are still people on this ship who look down on me for my... for what happened."

"And why do you feel that is?" Tivan turned her head askance with a probing look.

"Because of me, more than eighty people are dead," Quinn simply replied, still looking down. "And, yes, I have been looking at this from other angles. The whole ship could have been destroyed, and I know the Captain came close to doing that, killing us all. And, if... if that thing had been successful, everyone would still be alive, just puppeteered."

Tivan's brow quivered with interest. "Do you mean to suggest the condition of being enthralled to the Dolmoqour is preferential to being dead? Why, then, do you regret being a puppet? The Dolmoqour could have just as easily killed you. If your inclusion in their scheme was better than death, then by the token of your guilt over what they did to others, perhaps you should thank the Dolmoqour..." She paused for effect, ever studying the ensign for any subtle cues. "... unless you're ready to admit the truth."

Quinn's eyes narrowed and changed their view from his boots to her brown eyes. "What truth are you talking about? I never said being a puppet was better than dying. I can't tell you how many days I wanted to simply die when that thing was in my head! Most of this crew had to deal with being infected for just a few hours. I had that thing in my head for five months! What they went through was... was nothing."

"Then should you not be deserving of the most pity?" Tivan queried. "Why should you sympathize with others more than yourself?" She raised both hands, palm upward. "On the one hand, you suffered a grave injustice that few creatures can ever fathom and on some unconscious level, like many trauma victims, you console yourself with the lie that you consented in some way, even perhaps deserved what happened. This lie of consent insulates you against the ugly truth that your very best was inadequate. Such truth can feel as hurtful to the psyche as the original injustice. But on the other hand," she paused to wiggle her opposing hand, still palm up, "that false consent generates feelings of guilt--for if you had not done everything in your power to prevent harm to yourself and others, then you are indeed a deplorable individual and worthy of scorn. Deep down, your subconscious knows the truth, so it rejects the shame and the guilt that your unconscious mind clings to, all to avoid the truth."

Leaning forward, Tivan adopted a gentle tone and widened her eyes to project greater warmth. "What happened to you and to others through you could not have happened any other way. The simple calculus of cause and effect means you were powerless within your own body through no failure or lack of foresight on your own part. You must come to terms with this, otherwise your false guilt and shame will destroy you."

Quinn didn't know how to respond to the woman. Her non-conventional methods were already fabled among the crew, but to see a Vulcan speak so passionately, emotionally, and logically certainly did a number on Quinn's thoughts. "Powerless?" he questioned her. "I was awake... the whole time. It continued to parse my mind for information, and it took every thought I had captive. Every time I thought of a plan or a way to protect people, it had a fantastic way of hijacking that plan and spitting in my face."

He shook his head. "Powerless, no. But I am responsible for some of the things that happened. Targets were made because *I* thought about them."

"But what is conscious thought?" Tivan pressed. "Is it not merely the manifestation of unconscious values compiled through sense data? That begs the question, then, whether the Dolmoqour identified targets because you consciously thought of them or if you consciously thought of them because the Dolmoqour parsed your unconscious mind for targets like the database it is?"

She let the proposition hang in a pregnant pause before continuing. "It is a horrifying thing to lose one's agency. It is downright terrifying to realize that agency may not have existed in the first place, at least not as idealized. Your will is not as free as you want it to be, nor has it ever been, hence your current state of self-loathing. Everything you do or say feels as though it was predetermined by another, perhaps greater intelligence. When faced with the notion that we are merely an actor in someone else's dream, then we resist by conjuring up false feelings of shame over things which we have no control. Thus, as I've said, you punish yourself with the lie that you have responsibility for things outside your control because the truth is even more painful: control is a fallacy because you are a sentient automaton of behavioral processes operating under the illusion of choice."

At that, Tivan arched her brow in a challenge. "If I'm wrong, then prove it: choose here and now to stop punishing yourself for illogical reasons. If you can't or won't, then you're tacitly admitting your lack of agency...your bondage to a predetermined will."

Quinn blinked and stared at the Vulcan during her monologue. The information dump was far more than he could have ever anticipated, and he did his best to process it all. "While... While that may be true, you didn't experience it. I really do appreciate you trying to help, Counselor. I do. I've spent several months trying to bounce back from this, but every corner of this ship is a reminder of what I was witness to."

He sighed and looked down at his boots, finding a grease stain to focus his eyeline on. "Captain Geisler has personally told me that he doesn't hold me accountable. He went to bat for me with the Guardians and with Starfleet. I know others have vouched for me, but it doesn't help the fact that I feel like I could have done something. Leave a trail of breadcrumbs, a message, something. That's they trained us to do at the Academy... but they don't train you for losing control of one's body."

"No," Tivan said pensively. "They don't." She then stared at Quinn in a prolonged moment as one might a body when trying to decide if it was dead or alive. Was it premature to make a determination? The ensign had seemingly played the hand he was dealt. Was there any more to be gleaned from him? Could there be? Tivan was unsure.

"I want to thank you for finally agreeing to see me. I understand it must have been difficult." Her head canted in observation, looking for a sign of... something. "If you decide the time comes to move on from here, do not hesitate to see me immediately. My door will be open."

He looked up at the Vulcan and blinked. His face betrayed his feelings, granting Tivan the chance to see him perplexed. Quinn had heard rumors of the wild and crazy Counselor, yet the person he was seeing here was nothing like what he had heard. "You cornered me, so that's not really agreeing, but what's the difference really? And... yes... it is difficult. But... what do you mean when you say move on? Is there a way to stop feeling like this? Is there hope for someone like me?"

Tivan gave a knowing smirk. "What's the difference indeed? When you can answer that, Mr. Mackie, you will find the answers to your other questions too."

Before heading towards the door, she rose to her feet, held up her hand with fingers spread, and said, "Farewell."

Moments later, Quinn was left alone in the briefing room, wondering what had just transpired. He sighed and lowered his head, left with more questions than answers. Quinn stood there for a few moments, sighed once more, and then left the room. It was time to go home.

 

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