Seeking Counsel, Part 2
Posted on Thu Dec 22nd, 2016 @ 3:01pm by Lieutenant JG Tate Sullivan Ph.D.
Location: Chief Counselor's Office, USS Langport
(Continued from Part 1)
"I'm pretty scared, actually." Echo admitted. She wasn't a fool to hide such a feeling. Rinika Lin had vowed that one way or another, Echo would be hers. Whether that meant lover, property, or plain old victim she couldn't say. They'd been cellmates the first time Echo had been ambushed. Echo had known she was dangerous then, but perhaps she'd underestimated Lin. This time, the slaver had ambushed her aboard a Federation starship! "The woman who brought those thugs is criminally insane. I honestly can't say why she's so out to get me... but I think she's going to try again."
Sullivan's expression revealed her surprise. "Are you saying you've encountered the woman before?" Tate was already feeling protective of Echo, in part because of what she'd been through and in part because of her willingness to be honest about her feelings.
"Yes, we were... cellmates." Echo admitted with some hesitation. She knew that would probably require some explanation. "I was incarcerated for two months following my last assignment, It went badly enough for there to be criminal charges filed on me. After those two months the charges were dropped.
"Anyway, this Boslic named Rinika Lin was my cellmate. Cute... purple hair, exotic looking. We got along pretty well, at first. I was lonely, and upset over being there. And I cozied up a little too close. We played a few kissing games and stuff... it didn't go far beyond that. I felt guilty about not being loyal, to my wife. That, and I didn't want to get into any more trouble getting caught messing around with other inmates." Echo shuddered. It wasn't pleasant talking about all this to someone she'd just met.
"After I backed off, Rinika got mean. Not right away, but things deteriorated quickly. Two days later she attacked me, started punching me while I was sleeping. We fought. The guards separated us, threw us in isolation. Only then did I find out from one of the guards that she was suspected of sentient trafficking and all kinds of nasty stuff. I don't know why she's not still in jail...
"I know, I screwed up." Echo said. She should've known better than to get close to anyone in there. It just seemed that, if Echo was there, anyone could've would up in the same place. She didn't exactly think of herself as a criminal or a bad person.
"I'm not here to judge you for your past," Tate assured matter-of factly. "Whatever mistakes you made, you didn't deserve to be attacked then or now, and you don't have to deal with this alone. I know it isn't easy talking about these types of things or asking for help, but I'm thinking, the best way to protect yourself is to surround yourself with people who are aware of the danger and can help take steps to back you up. To that end, I'm wondering who else knows the identity of your attacker, and would you consider confiding in someone in security?"
Echo shrugged, still feeling a little embarrassed. "I filed a report with security. The XO knows. One of the doctors in medical knows the basics. I think only the report has her name... or at least the name I was given." For all she knew the name could be an alias. Or this could have been Rinika's extra-evil twin.
"I'm not really keen on people knowing the specifics." Echo admitted. Saying that some criminal wanted her dead was one thing, but the idea of telling the people around her, namely her marines, that her former jail squeeze was obsessed about putting a leash on her was hard to stomach.
"I appreciate your desire for discretion," Tate said. "When you filed the report with security, did you share that your attacker represents an ongoing threat to you? I can see this is not easy for you to talk about, I'm just thinking of security knows the nature of the threat, they'll be in a better position to protect you."
"I think they know all that, yeah. But their hands are full." Echo said, trying not to frown. So far security had been... less than helpful in the matter. But they weren't entirely to blame. There were murder investigations, violent assaults, gang wars... and a whole range of felonies still being committed aboard the ship on a daily basis. It was rather absurd, if not alarming to think that her kidnapping attempt didn't rank high on their to-do list.
Echo looked at the counselor subtly, wondering why she was so focused on this one thing, that really didn't have anything to do with her specifically. Most of the mental health professionals she'd met with--and there had been many--had regarded her as a an endangered species... something in dire need of study before it was lost forever. Then she realized that this woman had many other crew to help as well. To her, Echo was probably just another uniform. Which in a way was comforting.
Sullivan nodded. Given the nightmare she knew the ship was when she arrived and when the command team took over, it wasn't inconceivable other issues were rated higher priority. As insensitive as it seemed, several factors could contribute to such a conclusion, including the fact Echo had escaped relatively unharmed. Of course, emphasis was on "relatively." After all, on the ship where the former CO had been found murdered, bumps and bruises and a potential vendetta probably seems like a mere convenience to the security staff.
"If you like, I can help you follow up with them in a day or two to find out what reasonable steps they can take to help you feel safer." As if sensing Echo's curiosity as to why Sullivan was focusing so much of their conversation on her safety, Tate added, "Given what you've told me, you have a legitimate reason to feel anxious and focused on your safety. I would be remiss if I dismissed those concerns or left safety issues for you or the security staff to handle alone, especially since you confided your fear to me. Obviously, anxiety about your physical safety will have a significant impact on your overall mental health, so unless you're really opposed to the idea, I don't mind taking some time to discuss the efforts you've made or are considering to protect yourself as much as you can."
To Tate, it was no different than working with someone in an unhealthy romantic relationship. Sure, they could spend their time talking about the past and potential future choices, but it was somewhat universal that people had basic needs which had to be met before other issues could be addressed. A person's physical safety was one such basic need.
"My options are bit limited at the moment." Echo said, not sounding too optimistic. "I don't have the resources to pursue her, and even if I did, my orders run contrary to personal concerns." Echo laughed... was it out of frustration, or was she brushing it all off? She didn't even know.
"You can't plan for crazy, Counselor. I would like to get my hands on her dossier, though. Maybe there are patterns." Echo shrugged.
Tate realized belatedly she should have anticipated Echo wanting to investigate the woman out to kill her. She also couldn't deny on the whole it was a logical idea. Still, normally when she talked to people facing such circumstances, a safety plan involved telling people of the danger, coming up with a code phrase to summon help and other strategies. "I think that's a good start," Sullivan offered with a nod. "I know you don't think security has time to make your safety a priority, but I'm thinking they might even help you get her dossier if they know you're taking helpful proactive steps to protect yourself. They are busy, but not so busy they can't meet you halfway. Besides, if she's after you, who's to say she isn't a threat to the entire ship in the process? Besides helping you look for behavior patterns, what about making an effort to minimize time spent alone? There's safety in numbers."
Echo had nearly fifty marines under her command, all trained for combat. That would've been the obvious comeback to Tate's comment about safety in numbers, but she knew what the woman meant by it. They didn't share meals with her, accompany her on shore leave, or accompany her to the gym, or myriad other places aboard the ship.
"My wife wants me to request a transfer for her here. She's also a marine. I don't think that's likely to happen though, considering she would then be a subordinate." Echo wondered what Tate would have to say about that. Mika would of course have no problem watching her back, and would be capable in defending it, but Echo didn't think the chain of command would have a positive or healthy effect on their marriage. But them again, neither would distance and separation.
"I don't think she would be pleased to hear why another woman is out to get me though." Echo winced.
"Under the circumstances, I'm not sure a transfer for your wife would be approved either," Tate acknowledged honestly. "That said, you deserve and need emotional support to get through this difficult time. Keeping this from your wife seems to be added stress and added punishment that you don't deserve. In your mind, what is the worst case scenario in terms of your wife's reaction?"
Echo shrugged. She'd only known Mika for two months before getting married, and they'd spent their entire marriage--another four months--apart. Echo barely knew her wife... the woman could be just as crazed and vindictive as Rinika. She doubted it, but she couldn't discount the possibility. She didn't really want to admit any of that to the counselor though. Her decision-making was under enough scrutiny, it seemed.
"Divorce, I guess." Echo said after a moment. That did seem like the worst case scenario. Also the most likely scenario. But then again, Mika had joked around about Echo's time in jail, which she hadn't told her about either. Still, Echo didn't really see what talking about it would accomplish in terms of easing her own emotional burden. And it paled before the other secrets she lived with.
"How likely do you think it is that she would want to divorce you if you told her the truth?" Tate asked.
"I wouldn't bet against it." Echo said without much thought. "I mean... would you stay? If you found out your spouse had a secret jilted lover that was now out to get them dead or alive?" If the roles were reversed, Echo would be a liar if she said she wouldn't consider cutting loose.
Tate would be the first to admit there could be no minimizing of sexual infidelity. Even though Echo had described the interaction with her cellmate as being fairly transactional and cold, she understood that many women didn't buy into there being degrees of sexual activity, Sullivan included. 'Playing around' could be just as detrimental as full-blown sex and exchanges of love in any relationship. "I think I would be incredibly hurt and incredibly angry if and when you ever told me the truth, and I think I would need a great deal of time to work through that. I also think any expression of the truth will have to include a description of the feelings and the circumstances that led you to make the choices you did, not because they excuse what you did, but because they help to explain it. I don't know if your relationship will survive, but I do know keeping the truth inside is only going to eat away at you and eventually eat at your relationship. The truth hurts, there is no doubt about that, but in many cases, the cover-up hurts worse."
Echo winced. Damage control wasn't going to be pretty. If she got around to it. She wasn't sure if she had the courage within her to get that conversation started. It would no doubt lead to other lies... and more lies still. She preferred to think of them as obscured truths.
"Unfortunately for me, Counselor, I am a walking, talking cover-up. I can't even tell her the name I was born with, or introduce her to my... parents without a security clearance." Echo didn't like to think about those things, but that name, those parents were a part of her... or at least, the body and DNA the transporters had put back together.
Granted that security clearance wasn't exactly top secret, and Echo would probably be granted authorization to tell her spouse about what had happened, but her policy on her own issues kind of clashed with the Counselor's advice. Past is past. She had to move on.
Tate shrugged. "I don't see how it takes a security clearance to admit making a mistake out of a sense of loneliness. The truth is, most people can't absorb a lot of detail anyway, but what they'll remember is the sincerity or lack of it."
Captain Echo Solaris
Marine Commanding Officer
Lieutenant JG Tate Sullivan, Ph.D.