Location: Starfleet Academy, San Francisco, Earth
"I can assure you that he's an excellent psychiatrist and counselor." Captain Maureen Duschene was a handsome woman, with a round face and a shock of gray hair in an otherwise jet black coif. She'd experienced a long and distinguished career aboard starships, but the thrill of space eventually gave way to the relief of being in one place for longer than a few days. Now Chief of Counselors at Starfleet Academy, she oversaw two dozen full-time teachers and more than twice that many counselors in training. She stopped outside a classroom, the door closed. "Commander Wallace has extensive experience in space, but I'm afraid the memories of that time are spotty for him. For lack of a better term, his abilities remain from his previous training remain undiminished. We once put him into a sparing match with a Klingon exchange officer and he held his own; however, he couldn't tell us anything about what type of fighting techniques he was using. Given the right stress and situation he even once was able to navigate himself and a team of ten successfully around a simulated battlefield. Again, he was unable to recall what tactical principles he used, which makes his use as a tactical planner all but pointless. Quite remarkable to think that his brain endured that much trauma, but still retained all that knowledge buried in its..." She cleared her throat; given the chance she could prattle on about the brain for hours without stopping.
"In any case, Captain Moreno," Maureen looked to her companion. "I'm not sure he'd make the best choice for your ship's chief counselor. He's passed all of the psychological examinations, it's true. I know, I signed off on it, but I was thinking he'd probably only find a position on a patrol vessel of some sort far from the heavy strain of exploration missions."
"If you don't feel he's fit for duty aboard the Nimitz, or any exploration vessel, then why sign off on him returning to active duty at all?" she challenged. "Why not relegate him to private practice on Earth or some other world in the Federation?" Daniela's gaze was piercing; she wanted to know the answer, not because the woman's answers seemed inconsistent, but because it mattered to her that her counselor could withstand the stresses of a shipboard posting without cracking.
Maureen thought for a moment. "I suppose I was hoping for more of a baby step, I don't want to run him out of the Fleet. To be frank, when he originally returned to duty no one in Starfleet Medical thought he'd last very long. He'd come back and discovered that he just couldn't function at the level an officer should. But every challenge that he was presented with, he tackled with gusto. He showed a great resilience; if he failed, he simply picked himself up and pressed on. That can be a critical quality in an officer aboard a starship, don't you agree?"
Daniela nodded slowly, processing all the information. The truth was, her list of counselors was relatively short, not because of lack of effort, but because she was looking for a very specific breed of counselor to be on the Nimitz. She knew from her time in deep space that a counselor can be one of the most vital members of the crew on some missions, so half-assing this choice wasn't an option to her.
"Plus, he's a fine counselor, very responsive to his patients needs, whether that's a shoulder to lean on or a swift hit on the head. Figuratively speaking. And he's not awed by authority - in my experience that's an important quality in a counselor when dealing with a ship's captain, who can often be very obstinate."
"I spent 2 years in deep space, trust me, I understand the importance of a counselor. Still, you've specifically called out the stresses of being on a ship of exploration for a counselor. Is there something specific you've seen that makes you doubt his ability to endure that?" Moreno pressed.
She sighed and held up her hands. "None of this is in his official pscyhological reports simply because it's a minority opinion among all of the psychologists who've been on his case. In fact, it's a minority of one. Me. We've interviewed people he served with from his past, going back even before the Dominion War. Crewmates prior to the war remember him as a jovial companion with - and this is a quote - 'a glib tongue.' The death of his wife during the Battle of Sector 001 and the loss of his baby daughter in the opening days of the War caused a marked shift in his personality. He became withdrawn, moody, quick to anger, and - this is another direct quote - 'unconcerned with the carnage around him,' or in the words of another, 'a capable killer.' Discipline became his stock and trade, sometimes harsh. He...well, you've seen his record. He went from model officer to barely surviving two JAG investigations and a charge of conduct unbecoming."
"There has been no change in his personality and no more memories have resurfaced for the past three years. He remembers only snatches, sometimes longer episodes, of his life for the past twenty-five years. But none of that is really my concern. If I knew nothing about him other than what I've witnessed, then I would have no qualms sticking him on a ship going to the center of the Galaxy, Captain. We've put him through rigorous simulations and nothing has happened. He's passed all of his psychological examinations, and we went far beyond what was required."
Daniela had done her homework. She nodded. "The war deeply affected a lot of people, Captain. I've known my fair share of officers who still suffer from what they saw, but it's been a long time since then. I'm still not seeing the issue here."
Her opinion was divided, and Maureen knew it best of all. She'd talked to Wallace about this all before, and he was a fine officer. Very good, in fact. A piece of her felt like she being unfair to him. "My concern is this: what happens if in the midst of a high-stress situation something triggers all those lost memories and reasserts the 'capable killer' his brain has locked away? You might need a counselor and be stuck with a battle-hardened killer who would rather crash heads together than negotiate. It's very complicated. I thought you deserved all the information before you decide if you want to select him for this assignment."
Moreno shifted in her stance and let a smirk hang on her lips for a second. "You're assuming I want a touchy-feely counselor. In fact, it's those very experiences that I think make Commander Wallace the perfect candidate to be in deep space. I've been in the room with far too many counselors who do nothing but coddle their patients. I have neither the time nor the patience for that; sometimes what a crew needs is a swift kick in the ass and Commander Wallace is just the boot to do that."
Now Maureen wore a smirk. "I see. Then I'll let you judge him."
She pressed the keypad next to the door and the door slid open to reveal a large classroom filled with cadets. It was an easy feeling classroom; the cadets weren't taking notes, but rather engaged in a debate with the professor at the front of the room. His physique betrayed his previous role in Starfleet. Large and imposing, he sat on the edge of his desk, legs dangling just about the floor. "Cadet Sh'lak says that what I say is stereotyping. Not all Vulcans are logical, not all Humans are impulsive...not all Klingons warriors. What do you think, Cadet Oroc?" In the back of the room heads turned to the only Klingon in the room and a few people nervously chuckled. Cadet Oroc wore a displeased look on his face, but said nothing. "Yes, I thought you might not like it. When treating our patients or considering our adversaries we must first and foremost know their cultural. That's why future counselors course loads are heavy with sociology and anthropology. The twenty-third century philosopher D'ao noted that, 'Only a fool ignores culture. It does not define the individual, but it does inform their actions.'"
A single clear chime that emanated from the walls sounded. Class was over; however, the cadets remained seated. "Still, Cadet Sh'lak makes a good point. The singular individual can surprise. On top of your readings, write a thousand-word analysis of Jer'Son and Yaz'Lor, the two negotiators of the Tythica Peace Conference of 2271. Describe their characteristics and why they were probably the only two Tythicians who could bring peace to a planet that had waged a war so long that it had become part of their culture. The cadets are dismissed."
Wallace's eyes at that moment swung toward his guests and he smiled. The rush of students exiting delayed his formal greeting, but as the last trickle of cadets left the classroom he hopped off his desk. "What can I do for you, Captain Duschene?"
"Commander, this is Captain Daniela Moreno, commanding officer of the USS Nimitz."
The counselor's eyes flared with momentary interest, before he held out a hand. "It's a pleasure. Apparently, I served on the predecessor USS Nimitz at one point. My memories for that time are...well, a bit like swiss cheese, with more holes than cheese."
"From what I've read, you're probably the lucky one," Daniela said with a quick nod. "Teaching suits you, Commander," she said, motioning back toward the classroom. "Not quite the hard-ass I imagined from reading your personnel file."
It was a common refrain for him, and Wallace grinned as if he'd just pulled off a very good trick. "At a restaurant about two years ago I ran into a former Marine who served under me. Surprisingly, I remembered him and his name - not a typical occurrence - but couldn't remember when I knew him. I was ecstatic I could remember that much about him and began to ask him how his life was, what he was doing in San Francisco, and the other normal gab. The entire time he looks as if he expects me to rip his arms out of their sockets and beat him over the head with the detached appendages. I find out later that he'd made a mistake during an exercise and not only had I made the entire company do a sixteen-mile forced march with full packs in the middle of the night, but I marched beside him the entire way screaming into his ear about how he was letting the Corps down." He chuckled appreciatively at his own story.
"Sounds to me like you're lucky to not remember some of that stuff," she said with a slow nod. "I'm not a counselor, so I'm not here to psycho-analyze you. I leave that to smarter people than me. What I am here for though is to talk to you honestly about if you believe you're ready to serve on a starship again."
"Yes." Wallace caught Maureen's eye and shrugged. "Captain Duschene and I have had the conversation I'm sure she's had with you, but this is not where I'm supposed to be. I remember everything crystal clear before the age of twenty-one. Crystal. All the training and the preparation for service in space my first go-around at the Academy. Now I've done more training, and again it's been for space. What am I without an assignment aboard a starship? What would you be?"
It wasn't a question Daniela was going to answer for the man, but it was one she'd had to answer for herself just days, weeks earlier. It was then that she'd decided to take matters into her own hands. The consequences of that were far-reaching, none more evident than the fact she was in San Francisco and hadn't (nor would) see her father before she headed back to Starbase 414. Her nod was delayed and slow. Her gaze jumped between Wallace and Duschene as silence grew between the trio.
"That's good enough for me. You've got an assignment if you want one, Commander."
"You've got yourself a counselor," Wallace replied. He shook both their hands. If he moved the way he felt, he would have floated out of the room instead of the march that he'd retained despite the amnesia. Halfway through the door he turned back around as if he'd forgotten something in the room. He had: an answer to a question. "Captain, think on that question. What would you be without the Nimitz? Now that I'm in charge of your psychological health, I will expect an answer." The slight grin returned, the light glimmered in his eye. Yes, today was a very good day.