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Rob Morris


U.S.S. Enterprise, NCC-1701-B
December 20, 2295
2230 hours


It had been a long day, mused Chekov. The ship and its crew were on edge because of the inquiry that awaited them at Starbase 211, and because of a matter much closer to home. One of their own, someone who had been with them through thick and thin, had found life itself to be crushing her flat and making her incapable of sustaining her will to live. Thara Cox, now in protective custody, had made plans to kill herself, and was seemingly within hours of carrying out her plan. Security Chief Ch’terr and his staff, with the happenstance aid of Chief Science Officer Kirk, stopped her as she was having a tellingly large last meal.

It was quickly all over the ship, as these things usually were. How Cox had been taken to see Ship’s Psychologist Sydney Beals, Kirk and the security team all making sure she didn’t bolt. How Kirk had offered an apology for perhaps too firmly grasping her wrist in the galley when Ch’terr showed up and she attempted to flee. How Cox had yelled at the lieutenant, crying out that not everyone could brush off death and the grief that accompanied it like he did. How Ch’terr had let out a screech that stopped her tirade, handed her off to Beals, then guided a dazed Kirk well away while Second Assistant Chief Felityz took first watch outside Beals’ office.

Whether or not she would remain aboard the Enterprise-B or be dropped off at Starbase 211 was the decision Fleet Captain Chekov faced. At least he had two competent professionals to help him make this tough call.

Doctor Christine Chapel, Chief Medical Officer, shook her head as she read the pyschological report. "I’m never quite prepared for this sort of thing, Captain, so you’ll forgive me looking at the few bright spots: Cox was not able to carry out her attempt; she is alive and well save for massive indigestion from her would-be ‘last’ meal."

Chekov nodded, his face grim. "And instead of the Beta Quadrant, Starbase 211 lies right in front of us."

The ship’s psychologist then asked a question whose tone and implications raised Chekov’s hackles. "So you do intend to put her off the ship?"

Rather than the obvious ‘of course’, Chekov wisely chose another tack. "Vwhy should I do anything else vwith her, Doctor Beals?"

Beals looked directly at him. "Two of my mentors, Doctors Freimensch and Couernoveau, are experts on the traumas encountered by Starfleet officers. They’ve done in-depth studies on cases as diverse as that of Benjamin Finney to our own Mister Kirk, to junior members of Captain Kirk’s crew after the Serenidad Tragedy."

"Vwhy only the junior members? Vwe vwere all pretty badly shaken after that one."

Chapel chose to answer the question. "Captain, it was judged that the senior staff of the Enterprise had survival mechanisms and healing patterns that were unique and perhaps beyond analysis, save from an insider like Ambassador Spock or Doctor McCoy."

"Yourself included, Christine?" asked Chekov.

She responded with an arched eyebrow.

Chekov honestly did not know how he felt about such a judgment, but did not want to proceed any further away from the subject at hand.

Chapel redirected the matter to Cox before he could. "Sydney, what would your mentors say about Thara’s state of mind?"

"I think that they would agree with my assessment." Beals folded her hands together. "Putting someone like her off the ship will not only not help her, but seal her trauma in amber, maybe even putting her beyond help."

Chekov found he had trouble responding to her argument. Mainly because he couldn’t believe she was making it. "You vwant to keep her aboard the Enterprise? Doctor, vwe don’t have any real psych facilities, nor a comfortable, secure area for her to stay in long-term."

"Her quarters, once inspected thoroughly and secured with force-fields, will be enough. And she wouldn’t stay locked up for very long. My plan calls for her resuming limited..."

Chekov briskly cut her off. "Forget it."

Beals stood up, and shrugged broadly. "Captain, putting that young woman off this ship will virtually ensure a diminished career path for her and deepen her dangerous depression! Treatment right here can slowly bring her back, give you back the officer you had until it grew too much for her."

Chekov didn’t even bother with a gesture, like shaking his head. His tone needed no such reinforcement. "Nyet! On the most basic level, I cannot put the lives of my other crew into the hands of someone who so recently decided that their own life vwas vworth nothing." He stood and walked to stare out the window of his ready room. The stars were rapidly receding from view. "Doctor... Sydney, you spoke of Ben Finney. I met the man vwhen I came aboard the Enterprise. He vwas already a shell of a man in many respects." He turned to face the psychologist. "If you vwant Thara suicidal, vwait until she faces the shunning that even the best members of this crew vwill enact upon someone who could not take it, from someone they know to be mentally ill."

Sydney Beals stared up at her captain, her face resolute. "I would hope that in this day and age, we would be able to put that sort of prejudice behind us."

Chapel regarded her staffer with some sympathy. "Sydney, we all hope we’ve moved past that sort of thing, but even today, as we approach the twenty-fourth century, the ugliness in Humanity will raise its head."

"And bite us in the ass," Chekov concluded. "Finney decided to ruin the reputation and end of the career of one of his best friends, and vwhen he realized that had failed, decided to take the lives of the skeleton crew and members of the court-martial aboard the Enterprise by crashing the starship on Starbase Eleven." Chekov walked over to Beals and knelt before her. "Vwhat if Thara Cox does something vworse?"

Beals’ eyes looked away from her captain’s penetrating gaze. "You’re ending her career, Captain."

"Vwhat about it?" he snapped. "She wvery nearly chose to end her life, Doctor Beals. Had she merely come to you vwith talk of suicidal thoughts, this decision vwould be yours and yours alone, providing her suicide vwould not have harmed others. But her note, vwhether construed as mistimed or as a plea for help, vwas found mere hours before she planned to end it all. If not for some great good luck, you vwould now be taking groups in the central auditorium trying to help them cope vwith her pointless loss."

Beals breathed in, but was also losing her calm. "You just have no sympathy for her at all, do you? To you and your selected circle of death-proofed iron men, the fact that this life could crack someone wide open is just an excuse to throw out damaged goods!"

Chekov stood quickly, and strode again to the window.

"Sydney!" Chapel snapped. "You are out of line, Doctor. The very fact that the captain granted us this opportunity to discuss the matter means that you are absolutely in the wrong."

The fleet captain was still angry. He whirled, pointing at Beals. "Vwatch yourself, Doctor. Da, I have sympathy for her. But once again, I vwill not have the lives of my crew in the hands of someone who failed to comprehend the pain her actions would have wrought upon those left behind. I’ll bet your appointment list is full for a vweek just based on people coping vwith the near-attempt."

Beals lowered her chin in admission. "Thara Cox is hardly the first troubled crewmember aboard this vessel, Fleet Captain Chekov, and she will not be the last. Your own executive officer came aboard this ship on the verge of a nervous breakdown."

Chapel placed an arm on Beals’. "Sydney, that’s a horrible exagerration. Saavik was more on the verge of a mental breakthrough, not a breakdown. She was on the edge of enlightenment."

The psychologist would not concede the point. "She was on the edge of madness."

Her words hung in the air for some time.

Finally, Chekov nodded. "This is true." He saw Chapel about to argue her point. "Both of you are correct. There is often a fine line between enlightenment and madness."

Chapel added, "I would point out that at no time did Saavik desire to end her life."

Beals shook her head. "I would argue that she almost did just that when she was in contact with that powerful alien entity. She almost chose to join him."

The fleet captain sighed loudly. "I thought that our subject vwas Thara Cox, not my executive officer." He again turned his back on the women and stared out at the starboard warp engine.

Beals pushed her luck. "Captain, you yourself struggled, as a young man, with issues of self-worth, loss and worries about mental stability. You were given a chance to work those issues through."

Chekov had reached the end of his patience. "Doctor Beals, I believe ‘through’ is a good vword for you to bring up. Right now, it applies to our conversation. Dismissed."

Chapel looked down as Beals stood and stepped to the door of the ready room, but Chekov wasn’t entirely done.

"And Doctor? One of of my ‘select circle of death-proofed iron men’ vwas in to see me earlier, because you vwere busy with Mister Cox. For the record, he seemed not so immune to grief and vworry as you so casually posited."

Beals left without another word.

After the door closed, Chapel sighed, and Chekov slowly stepped toward a recliner.

"She means well, Pavel."

"Vwhat she means to do is to bully me into taking a liability on vwith us after vwe depart Starbase 211. I’m afraid that she’s going to find that I am quite stubborn."

"Almost as much as she?"

"More so."

December 21, 2295
0509 Hours

Chekov had asked to be awakened as soon as the system containing Starbase 211 was sighted on forward sensors. He sensed that this stopover would not be the in and out he wanted, but he was determined that nothing he and his crew did would lengthen the unwanted stay as much as five minutes. Not with Gretchen Jaeger running things. As he finished dressing, though, another unwanted battle seemed set to resume.

"Beals to Chekov: Captain, could you please meet me in Sickbay at when you can?"

"Give me ten minutes. Chekov out."

Okay, not a battle, he thought. But nor would he let her carry on an extended apology. She was a fierce advocate for her charges, and save for showing some restraint on her more extreme remarks, he wanted no less from her.

Once in Sickbay, he saw Beals sitting down next to a biobed containing Thara Cox. Her nose was bandaged, and she looked to be under sedation.

"Hello, Captain. Did you know she attended Ch’terr’s Security classes? That she learned that a quick way to kill an opponent was to cup your palm, and then drive their nose cartilage into their brain? Because I didn’t."

Chekov shook his head. "How is she?"

Beals stared at her patient in bewilderment. "Her angle was all wrong. Oh, she broke her nose, but that’s about it. So now she’s a little fool, and I’m a great one."

"Vwasn’t she under suicide vwatch?"

Beals slumped in submission. "I thought we’d made some progress. Apparently not." She held up a padd. "Christine’s been running a number of tests on her. Cox’s been taking mild sedatives for several weeks. Where she’s gotten then, Mister Ch’terr says he’ll find out, but they’re not approved by Starfleet. They probably worsened her mental condition, and lowered her inhibitions for this sort of self-destructive act." She gestured at Cox’s wrist restraints. "She dislocated her metacarpals and freed one of her hands to try this second attempt." She shook her head in resignation. "I’m sorry, Captain. She had me fooled completely. She’s hellbent on killing herself right now. I regret that I tore your head off, sir."

"She lied vwhen she spoke with you?"

"I heard what I wanted to hear. She told me she had realized that she was wrong, that she in fact wanted to live. I fell for it completely. Serves me right. I quote Freimensch and Couernoveau, but I act like Pangloss. Captain, a lot was said—most of it by me. If you want my resignation, I’ll understand."

Chekov wanted to laugh, but wisely did no such thing. "I have yet to understand the propensity for the senior officers on this vessel to offer their resignation at their first failure under my command. Your request, Doctor, is denied." He glanced at Cox. "I vwant her transferred off ship as soon as vwe arrive at Starbase 211. Then I vwant you to develop an out-patient program that vworks in our environment for those who are unable to cope vwith the extreme situations vwe vwill no doubt find in the Beta Quadrant. Sounds good, da, to be proactive instead of reactive?"

Beals managed a small but weak smile. "Da. That it does, Kyptin."

Chekov looked pityingly at Cox. "You are a good psychiatrist, Doctor. I know this to be true."

Beals eyes did not leave the tormented soul in front of her. "I’m just afraid she won’t be the last one to try this, Captain. So if I am good, I need to be one hell of a lot better."

To these words, Chekov found he had no argument.

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