Return to Valjiir Stories
Return to Valjiir Continum
Return to Valjiir Continum
I've been looking over some of the log entries for the last few months. They're depressingly similar. When I compare the first ones with the later ones, yes, there is a difference, there are changes. But so slow!
James is so childlike sometimes. At other times, he merely retreats, deep back. Sometimes, his body will go rigid and the neural sensors will indicate some kind of extreme pain. But he'll be unable to show it, and he'll simply lie there with almost Vulcan-like stoicism. Except that in his case, of course, it's not by effort of will, but simply by having lost control of his muscles. Still, those episodes are becoming increasingly rare. He's lucid now for long stretches. Sometimes he even smiles. He made up a little joke today . . .
James Kirk was seated at a small desk, gazing at a portable tape viewer. He liked looking at tapes, particularly those with lots of pictures of fish and oceans. Sometimes he'd sit for hours, just paging through the pictures. If he found a particularly interesting one, he'd sometimes try to puzzle out the description beneath. At times, that was very hard work and made his head hurt all over.
There were lots of tapes to look at. When he couldn't find the ones he liked, he'd settle for pictures of cows and trees and farms. Even the pictures of elephants and lions were okay. But there were tapes with nothing but words, and those hurt. And there were others with pictures of strange animals and odd plants, and those were scary. And once he'd found a tape that showed pictures of stars, and they were beautiful ... but sad. But there was also a big, strange, white place, and it made him scream and cover his ears and run.
But he wasn't thinking of that now. He was contentedly stepping the viewer through pictures of the ocean and of fish.
The door hissed open. Dr. Han came in. Jim looked up and smiled at her. She was very pretty, with her jet-black hair and eyes and high cheekbones and gentle porcelain skin. He liked Dr. Han.
"Good morning, Jim," she said.
"Good morning, Dr. Han."
"You really can call me Jade," she said. "That's my name."
"I know. But you are a doctor."
She sighed and sat in a chair next to him. "What are you reading about today?"
"Sharks," Jim said, and pointed. He squinted at the screen and pretended to read. "The great white shark is a ferocious beast. He can grow to over six meters in length. He will eat nearly anything he can find. Although attacks from great whites are rare, they can be defastating, and . . ."
"Devastating," Dr. Han gently corrected.
"Devastating," Jim repeated.
"That's really very good, Jim. I'm proud of you."
"Thanks," he beamed. "I remembered it from last time you read it to me."
Dr. Han laughed. "You sneak! I thought you were reading that!"
He scowled. "I'm not a sneak. I didn't say I was reading."
"That's okay, Jim. I didn't really mean that. And besides, it's very good that you can remember something that well. I'm still proud of you."
"Good. I'm glad someone is."
Jade frowned at him. "Is anyone unhappy with you?"
"Well, I don't know. But I don't think Mr. Baker likes me much."
"Was he here again this morning?"
"Uh-huh. He came in and said 'how are we today?', and I said 'I'm fine'. And he was looking through his notes on that tri . . . tri ..."
"Yes. And he shook his head and said something about me not always being able to read well yet and he asked what you'd been doing with me all this time. He's always grouchy."
Jade sighed and picked up Jim's hand. She held it gently, but firmly between her own. He looked back at her again, and saw her staring into his eyes. "Now you listen to me," she said. "Don't you let Mr. Baker or anyone else bother you. You're doing very, very well, and you have every right to be proud of yourself. And remember, I'm very proud of you."
Jade's hands felt warm and soft, and started to relax. It surprised him sometimes that she could make him feel so calm.
"Besides," Jade went on, "you're right. He is a grouch. He'll bite nearly anything. Like a shark."
Jim shook his head gravely. "No," he said. "Mr. Baker can't be a shark."
"Attacks from sharks are rare," he quoted. Then he smiled.
Some days, of course, are far better than others. Some days he can remember almost everything. Or at least his old personality is almost intact. That's not new, though. He's had times like that all along. And that's good, it may provide a starting point. But it always ends the same way...
"I'm having trouble concentrating," Jim said. "And I don't quite understand why."
Jade looked up from her com terminal. She'd been recording more reports and observations and he'd been struggling with a new tape. He'd taken a short rest, rubbing his eyes. But he was now looking at her, puzzled.
"Trouble, Jim?" she asked noncommittally.
He nodded. "I'm confused. What am I supposed to be doing?"
"Just relaxing for a while."
"Am I on... leave?" He started rubbing his temples.
"Take it easy, Jim. A rest would be good for you. "
"But I have things to do. I'm..." He glanced nervously around. "I'm... not on... the ship..." He was rubbing his temples fiercely now, his eyes closed, frown lines deepening.
Jade hesitated. Do I help him remember? Or do I save him pain and let it come at its own pace?
"... engines," he said, "I don't hear... the engines." And then he looked at her and his eyes were filling with the pain and the fear. "Why aren't I on the ship?" he demanded.
"You've been ill..."
"I want to know what's going on. You're a doctor. Where's Bones?" And then he buried his face in his hands and shook once, convulsively.
Jade was next to him, her arms around him, holding him up in the chair. "Try to stay calm, Jim. It doesn't matter right now. There's time..."
"There's no time!" he screamed, and he started shaking uncontrollably. He slipped off the chair onto the floor and kept screaming. He curled his legs up, his arms flailing about as if trying to ward off unseen attackers.
Jade stepped away. She'd been bruised often enough by his wild flailing and knew by now that there was little she could do to help. Until this attack was over, she was helpless and impotent.
Until it was over? Was she any less helpless between attacks?
The door slid open and an orderly rushed in. "Do you need help, Doctor?"
Jade shook her head. "He's not dangerous, you know," she said.
The orderly looked down at Jim, obviously unconvinced. "He looks violent. Should I get a muscle relaxant?"
"No drugs. You've read my orders, damn you! He was kept sedated too long already. Get out!"
The orderly shrugged. "It's your hide, Doctor." He left.
Jade closed her eyes for a moment, to let the frustration and rage dim a bit. She'd learned enough mind control techniques on Vulcan to bring the emotions down to tolerable levels. But she couldn't shut out Jim's screaming or the vision of his body writhing on the floor. And when she opened her eyes again, she realized that her cheeks were damp and then she had to control that, too.
Jim finally did calm down. And when he did, when the fear had ebbed, he returned to his almost child-like state, for when he did, the phantom memories couldn't burn him.
...Sometimes I worry about myself. When I'm with James and he's doing well, I feel so ... warm and joyous. But other times, when he backslides a bit, I can feel it all caving in, and it's all I can do sometimes not to collapse in tears next to him.
But that's ... that's not like me at all. I know I'm strong and capable. I can handle this. I've had tough cases before. If I were a doctor (which I am) I'd diagnose me as becoming bipolar. Bipolar and obsessive. Labels are nice. At least they let you know where you stand.
I tried again today to ask James what he wanted to be. It's a game to get him to remember something of what he was and of what his hopes were. But he just gazes off and says "cheers". It's most infuriating. Does he remember making a toast at a party? Receiving accolades for something? Going to a sporting event? Being cheerful? A pet skunk with that name? I just don't know. And he won't answer any questions about it. Maybe it's just a joke. He's doing it on purpose. Bipolar paranoid obsessive. That's what I am.
Speaking of paranoia. I've got another status meeting with Rear-Admiral Baker tomorrow. It is absurd to give non-psychologists the decision-making power over a psychological situation, but such is the nature of bureaucracy. At least he's got the good sense to make the status meetings informal, even if they are taped. I don't need a military court-type atmosphere.
The office was imposing. It was done up in mahogany and leather. There was a desk large enough for a formal dining room and rows of awards and commissions on the walls. The office was meant to be imposing. It was, after all, a Rear-Admiral's office.
The Admiral would have been imposing even without a large office. He was a huge bear of a man. He had thick, dark eyebrows and hands like baseball mitts. His back was so stiff and broad that Jade was sure a game of table tennis could be played there, if Admiral Baker were to lay on his stomach.
The only flaw in his imposing image was a tendency to think out loud, often in low, muttering tones. But even that gave the impression that he didn't much care if you heard him or not. He himself was far too important to care what mere underlings heard or didn't hear. Provided, of course, his orders were carried out.
He sat muttering on his side of the desk in a huge leather chair, and Jade patiently waited. She wasn't allowing herself to be intimidated; she was a psychologist first and a Starfleet officer second. Besides, this man really had little power at Jude, regardless of the size of his office.
Finally he looked at Jade with a gaze as piercing as a hand phaser. "I visited your patient a few days ago," he said.
"I know, Admiral. He told me."
"To be honest, I didn't see that much improvement."
"Of course not. You're there at least once a week. You can't compare progress on a weekly basis..."
"It is my duty to keep current on this. Captain Kirk was one of our most valuable officers."
"I know that, Admiral. That's why we're both here."
He turned his attention back to his viewscreen and started muttering again. From her angle, Jade couldn't see what he was looking at on the screen, but most likely it was her official reports.
The Admiral looked up again, "Kirk keeps mentioning "cheers". It comes up several times. Any clues at all?"
"Not so far..."
"I don't think it's a Klingon word. Possibly related to what happened when he was trapped in the past...." And his voice faded again to bare audibility.
The other effect of that damn muttering, Jade realized, was to keep everyone else silent until he was ready to speak to them.
"I'm going to consider," he said suddenly, "recommending a time limit on the duration of this project."
"Admiral, you can't possibly..."
"We have already sunk a great deal of Fleet's resources into this one man."
"An extremely valuable officer, as you just said. . ."
"But one man, nevertheless. Fleet officers all know the risks, Dr. Han. We allowed the Enterprise to search for the better part of a standard year..."
"The Enterprise performed all tasks assigned..."
"... not to mention your own not inconsiderable talents, which are being confined to a single patient..."
"Can you think of anyone better?"
"Absolutely not. That's why, if no progress is made, I begin to see little reason to continue. Wouldn't you feel better working where you'd have some impact?"
"It is my professional opinion, Admiral..."
"Captain Kirk has been examined by several doctors and teams of doctors, including, of course, yourself. You are also very knowledgeable as to the damaging effects of a Klingon mind-sifter. Have you ever heard of a useful recovery after an experience like the Captain's?"
"Jilla Majiir, Kevin Riley, Monique Dubois..."
"Those cases required the assistance of an Antari Keheil, did they not? Have you considered requesting such resources for your current patient?"
Jade shook her head. "There are only about a hundred Rhiannol keheils in the entire galaxy. None are available right now. Ruth ani Ramy is still recovering..."
Baker waved his hand impatiently. "Then that doesn't help matters, does it?"
"Those others did recover, and the contribution of conventional psychology was considerable..."
"I don't doubt that for a moment. But those other cases were also not nearly so severe. James Kirk was kept sedated for the better part of a year in painfully primitive conditions, after a most thorough experience with a Klingon mind-sifter. You are trying to heal damage from the Klingons, the sifter, the drugs, and Lord knows what other traumas he may have picked up along the way. This is a unique situation. Have you ever heard of anything like this case before? Anything really comparable?"
"There's no such thing as precedence in psychology."
"You're being evasive. It is my responsibility to make certain that the most reasonable allocation of resources are made."
"Screw your resources. Admiral. Sir."
"Pithy and to the point. But it doesn't advance our conversation, Doctor."
"You know as well as I that these things take time. You can't work it on a schedule. The welfare of the patient comes before any other consideration. This isn't a snake pit."
"Are you through reciting clichés?" he asked. Jade nodded. "Good," Baker continued. "What's a snake pit?"
"Archaic reference to ancient and inadequate Terran asylum facilities."
"Right. That's exactly my point. These are the best facilities in the galaxy, the best in all of history. And I haven't noticed sufficient progress to warrant..."
"Have you already made up your mind, Admiral," Jade thundered, "or are you interested in my professional opinion?"
"Is it really your professional opinion you’ve been giving me, Doctor?"
"I beg your pardon? What the hell does that mean?"
"Are you losing your objectivity? Are you becoming personally involved with your patient?"
Jade stopped and blinked. "Of course not. That would be... unethical."
"It would also get in the way. Your professional ethics are your own business. Your effectiveness is mine. I see military resources; you see people. That's what you're supposed to do. You're a doctor. You're supposed to be compassionate. But if compassion goes too far, your efficiency suffers, and efficiency is the field in which I am the expert. And that, Doctor, is my professional opinion."
For once, the Admiral fell silent without muttering. And for once, Jade had nothing to say to fill that silence.
The Admiral finally spoke. "I'm not going to make any recommendations yet. But I want to see some reason to hope, Doctor. I have to justify your assignment here with something more substantial than 'the patient comes first'. Give me some reason to hope."
Oh, my dear James, we are in deep, deep trouble.
Admiral Baker is pushing for results. I don't need that. We don't need that. If you could only call him "admiral" instead of "mister", maybe his feathers wouldn't be so ruffled. Or if he could wear his uniform around you instead of having to change into civvies. Oh, I forgot. Sharks don't have feathers. So they can't get ruffled.
But that's not the worst of it, dear James. Pressure, I suppose, I can handle. I'm a doctor, and whatever Baker thinks, that gives me some prerogatives when it comes to the progress of the treatment of my patients.
But Baker accused me of becoming... involved. I know better than to do that. For one thing, Baker could have me removed from your case. For another, it wouldn't be healthy for you. Or for me.
But I know better than to become involved with somebody in my care. Sure, I'm madly in lust. But that's not the same thing. Lust can be healthy and invigorating. Great source of energy and encouragement and incentive. Nothing wrong there.
Emotional involvement is different. I know better. Look what happened to... to Richard. No, you don't know him. Didn't know him. Doesn't matter, James, you won't ever see this. But just look! I won't do that again, to you or to anyone.
I need some more Rigellian, my pipe's empty.
So if we don't show some progress soon, Baker will think it's because you're incurable. And then he'll get me taken off, transferred away from Jude and you'll never be cured and I'll never see you again. Or Baker will think it's because I’ve fallen in love and he'll get someone else assigned and you'll never be cured because I'm the best there is and I'll never see you again.
But the worst of it, James...the worst of it is that he's right. And because I'm the best there is, I'll help you, and you'll get better. And then, because Baker is right, you'll fall in love with me and then you'll die because everyone I love dies and I'll never see you again and I don't think I'm stoned enough yet to handle this.
I'll be all right by the morning, James, I just need to relax a little now.
"Do you like that tape?"
"Yes, Dr. Han."
"You really can call me Jade."
"Why do you like that tape?"
"I like the ocean."
"Have you ever been to the ocean?"
He scowled. "I think so. A long time ago. "
There was something there, something that should be obvious. Somehow, she'd been missing it all this time. "What do you like about the ocean?"
"Fish. Sea birds. And it's deep and goes on forever. And dark, dim inside. At night, you can see the stars in it. And starfish."
Forever? Jade's pulse started quickening. There’s something important there. Stars? He likes stars. And the ocean. "What else is there in the ocean?"
His answer was slow, careful. "People, sometimes. Sailing. In boats."
Boats? Ships? He can't say 'ship', can't even think it. But boats, ocean, he can think. The Klingons didn't make the connection between sailboats and starships. That's a Terran analogy, not a Klingon one. They didn't see the connection so they didn't burn it out. But the mind has a marvelous capacity to heal itself. Any thread that's left, any piece that's still there can be made to grow. And the mind will hang on to that piece through the roughest weather...
"What is on a boat, Jim?" she asked slowly.
"People," Jim answered. He was hesitant, tense. Then he smiled. "Cheers," he said.
Damn! Why bring that up now? It made no sense and we were so close! Jade sighed. "Cheers? What is that?"
"Hooray!" Jim answered.
So it is a cheer of some kind.
"Another word," Jim said. "A man."
A man? "On a boat?"
He nodded, then scowled again. "I can't quite remember. But I wanted to be him."
"A man? On a boat?"
"Cheers," Jim insisted. "Hooray."
A name? Wait -- "Horatio?"
And then the sun came out. Jim smiled so big and so broad and with such sunshine: "Hornblower," he said. "I remember now."
Jade almost laughed. "Horatio Hornblower!"
"On a sailboat," Jim elaborated. He was grinning. "He sailed all over, traveled the ocean, explored, had adventures. I wanted to be him. And I was. For a while, once upon a time."
"Yes, yes you were."
Jim reads a lot now, everything we can find about 19th century sailing ships. I hadn't known that Star Fleet had borrowed so much from the ancient British navy. But then, I'm not a historian or a military enthusiast.
It's also wonderful that Starfleet ignored all the things they did. Gods, that age was barbaric.
Way back somewhere, some tortured part of Jim's unconscious has been fooled into thinking that 19th century Terran sailing is all that he's studying. I never cease to be amazed at the capacity of the mind to heal itself. Or to fool itself, perhaps. To build a tough layer of scar tissue over the broken parts. Would that will happen for me, perchance.
Even as a professional, there's so much I don't know. But I console myself that no one else knows, either. I'm not alone in my ignorance.
Maybe the funniest part is that Baker is trying to take credit for Jim's progress. Lit a fire under me, he says. That was his plan all along, he says. I really don't care. None of the credit is mine, anyway. Jim's doing all the work. I'll let him deal with Baker when he gets better.
When he gets better. Gods, that sounds good! He's given me reason to hope now. I know he'll make it. We have a long, long way to go, a lot of work to do. But I know he'll make it.
With luck, so will I.
To go to the next story in chronological sequence, click here
Return to Valjiir Stories
Return to Valjiir Continum
Return to Valjiir Continum