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Games People Play

Posted on Tue May 17th, 2011 @ 5:32am by Ensign Tem Par
Edited on on Thu May 19th, 2011 @ 7:02am

Mission: Into The Scorpion's Nest. Season 2, Episode 5
Location: Starfleet Haedquarters - Earth
Timeline: Two months ago

The room was quiet. Sterile. Despite the best efforts of some interior decorator, it felt more like a facade of some comfy home than it really was. A rec room. That's what the staff had called it. Although Alex Winters knew better than that. The moment he had stepped into it, he knew he was trapped. The closed door and one way mirror along the wall were just two of the many signs that showed he was still a prisoner. It didn't matter how nice or how friendly they pretended to be. Alex knew that he had no choice, but to play their games if he ever wanted to get out and resume his personal quest. At least Craig Munroe was kind enough not to pretend that Alex was nothing more than a prisoner when he held him. Here was worse. By pretending he was a guest, Starfleet was toying with one of the most important keys to life. Hope. It was a cruel game and one he was beginning to remember far to well for his liking. Dangle hope in front of your target in order to get the responses you wanted, then take it away before they became complacent. Needless to say, Alex was not exactly thrilled with being the cat on the other end of the ball of yarn.

As far as he could tell, he had been here for nearly four months. Four non-productive months in which the only thing he felt he had accomplished was wasting time. He understood the need for recovery. From what he had been told he was nearly a vegetable when he was brought in, but the months of medical testing and psychological profiling were getting to the point that he felt more like a lab rat than an actual person. In the beginning he had thought that maybe he was in a holoprogram or that there was some other conspiracy at work. Alien possession. Robot duplicates. Drug induced hallucinations. But those notions all passed in time. He now understood that for whatever reason, Starfleet Intelligence wanted him under lock and key.

He picked up another piece of the well worn puzzle he had started. An edge piece. Find the borders first and then work your way in. That was how he had been taught to do it. At least as far as he could remember that was how it was taught to him. His mind was still a bit of a blur since his surgery. Pieces of his past contrasting with memories that he thought were his past. All things considered, he was still having a difficult time figuring out what was real and what was not. Not that he could believe anything given where he was. Even his own thoughts. He had worked for Starfleet Intelligence and was all too aware of the way they guarded their secrets and manipulated the pieces of their never ending chess game. It was all out of his control now. All he could do was bide his time and wait for the opportunity to move into check. Then, hopefully, he would be able to get back to his own work.

He was not aware of the other person entering the room, until they were standing at the table opposite to him. He continued to do his puzzle, but used the time to appraise the new comer. He was Vulcan and young; not that that really meant anything for Vulcans. He wore a standard blue uniform of science and medical and carried a PADD. Unusually this one seemed to be trying to smile, though the effort was a practiced muscle moment rather than any real humour.

"Hello, Alex. Do you know where you are?"

Alex didn't bother to turn any attention toward the Vulcan short of his initial glance. He knew the game had once more resumed. A fencing match of words. Feint and advance. Give and take. The puzzle piece in his hand suddenly seemed to elude him its position even more than he had originally thought. A byproduct of the replicated food he supposed. Between the surgery and the replicated food his body was most likely loaded with things that would scare even the most fearless of Klingons. "It's not Risa," he remarked in a deadpan voice, "but I would imagine humor is lost on you, so I'll just cut to the chase and say that I am in an inhospitable hospital."

"Very good. Do you know why you are here?"

Short clipped questions. Right to the point. Alex had to give Starfleet credit on this little experiment. A Vulcan medic was an interesting challenge. Not to mention a good test of his abilities. Alex turned in his chair with a broad smile. The puzzle piece in his hand held out in front of him where he turned along it's edges as he spoke. "Well that's a rather broad question wouldn't you say? There are an infinite number of answers I could give you. Each just as true as the next depending on your perspective and of course your ultimate expectation of responses. You see I could say that I am here because just a few months ago I was in desperate need of medical attention and this is all part of my recovery. I could also say that I am here because there is some kind of conspiracy out there trying to get me. Maybe I'm here because this is where I'm destined to be at this point in time in my existence. Or perhaps it's far simpler than that. Perhaps I am here because this is just where I happened to end up. You see, we all believe we have free will and can make decisions and choices that drive our lives. And yet, here I am with no choice, but to remain here until someone lets me go. Certainly I could attempt to escape, but that would seem counterproductive in the long and the short run. Granted one could just as easily say that my choices in the past are directly related to my current predicament and that because of those choices I ended up here, but I tend to think that each choice we make in life has certain consequences and responsibilities that comes with them. This place happens to be one of the consequences of my actions and thus by my own free will I have put myself in this place. Not that this place is where I want to be mind you. If it were, I would have to say that I am here because I might just be certifiable. Although if I am certifiable you have to ask yourself by whose opinion am I such? After all you can read all the books you want and find some kind of psychological condition in every being in the universe. Does that mean we live in insane times? Possibly. The point is that the reason I am here is irrelevant from my perspective. It is what you and your superiors believe that will ultimately decide my Fate in the matter."

The Vulcan made a note on his PADD, "My name is Tem. Do you know why I am here?"

"I can guess," Alex replied tilting his head slightly to the side as he watched the Vulcan's features carefully for any sort of tell, "Most likely you are here because you were ordered to come here and diagnose me. Then again, maybe you are here because you learned that I was here and saw a unique opportunity to try to get into my head, which truth to tell is not a pretty place to be. At least I'm fairly certain it isn't. Kind of difficult to tell sometimes. Anyway, back to you. Because we both know this is just as much about you as it is about me. You see given the fact that I've seen a number of guys wearing gray collars I would assume that the boys in Intelligence have decided that they need something from me and since your predecessors had no luck in the matter they decided to change gears and try someone new... and different. I do have to give them credit. I never expected a Vulcan. Much less one that smiled. I have to wonder how much you've practiced that smile in the mirror to get it down. At least down as well as someone who belongs to a race that aspires to repress emotions can. I wonder if it gives you a feeling of power to see how much smiling actually unnerves your patients. It's an interesting technique to say the least. It definitely puts people you are talking to in a position of vulnerability right off the bat. Of course, you probably don't want to talk about your methods. So let me tell you a story. A dog and a cock decided to go on a journey together. They were traveling through a forest when night fell. The dog went to sleep in a hollow at the foot of a tree, and the cock rested in the branches above. It crowed at its usual hour to welcome the dawn, and its cry awoke a fox who lived near by and who hurried to the forest, thinking he would find a meal. When he saw the cock, he began to praise its voice and invited the bird to come down from the tree so that he could congratulate properly. 'I will come down' said the cock, who saw through the fox's plan, 'If you will first speak to the porter below to open the door' The fox not suspecting the trick, did as he was told. When the dog awoke he soon put an end to fox and dog and the cock continued their journey safely. I'm sure you understand what I'm trying to say here. Now then, why don't we make this easy and you tell me why you are here."

"Some people here are concerned with how you are faring. It seems you have been anxious and depressed lately. There are indicators of repressed violence in the scans of your aggression centres. I try not to trust machines though. Why don't you tell me how you are feeling?"

Alex felt his brows furrow as he thought about the question for a moment. It wasn't a difficult question and yet, it was somewhat more complicated than it sounded. "Well let's see. You already have heard that I am anxious and depressed and seemingly holding in some aggression. Which is all quite normal for someone in my circumstances when you think about it. No one likes to be held against their will and be put on someone else's schedule. Just being trapped is enough to make anyone anxious. It's been months since I had any true fresh air. I see it per se. When I look out the windows I can see freedom and yet I can't get to it. Now just being in that kind of situation is enough to depress anyone. The lackluster decor in this place doesn't exactly stir up the imagination. At least not in a good way. Instead it causes one to introspect to the point of driving one to think there may be something wrong even if there isn't. This contradiction in thoughts and emotions brings with it a level of frustration that can surely be expressed in anger, but since anger is not exactly the kind of emotion a well adjusted individual should be showing while in a place like this it only acts against me. Now there is always the possibility that my aggression could come from some childhood memory, but unfortunately I'm not exactly sure which memories of my childhood are real and which ones are implanted. I could tell you about growing up on the Isle of St. Thomas just as easily as I could tell you about growing up on the lunar colony of New Berlin. Both places at the same age and time and at least a dozen more, but I think you get the idea. What I would suggest is to follow your own advice and not trust the machines. Machines can be changed just as easily as you or I can change an opinion. Instead try putting yourself in the place of the person you are speaking to and try to understand through that thick logical Vulcan skull of yours how others might feel given their environment. Now we don't need to get into the debate of environment vs. relative genetic factors in this because we both know they both have an effect. Still, if you want a simple answer to how I feel I guess I would have to say.... bored. At least until you showed up."

Tem failed to react to the rant, just allowing Alex to get out whatever he wanted to.

"You have mentioned freedom a number of times; freedom of choice, freedom of action, freedom to go where and when you please. Can you think of a time when you were truely free?"

"I would think a logical mind like the one you should possess would already know that there is no real answer to that question. It is like asking if one could purchase a full chess set in a pawn shop?" Alex commented as he continued to rotate the puzzle piece in his fingers, "Nevertheless, there is no true freedom save for death. We all have ties that bind us. Whether that is a person, a place, a thing, a time, a memory, an ideal, a concept, whatever the case may be. None of us is what you would so simply call truly free. There are degrees of freedom that we all strive to achieve. Each of those degrees can be given and taken by those who have the power to do so. That has always been the crux of freedom when you get down to it. It's nice concept, but there are always those with the power to take it away if you don't quite fall in line. Sure there have been heroes and legends in the past who fought for it, but in the end we are only fighting for that comfort level of freedom we selfishly desire."

"If Freedom is so important to you what made you give it up?"

"Perhaps I am punishing myself. Perhaps this is just some means of me using the resources at my disposal in some strange twisted way to get what I truly want. Maybe just maybe it is as simple as circumstances being out of my control that have led to my current predicament," Alex answered letting his eyes narrow at the Vulcan. He wasn't sure where this line of questioning was going, but he had no problem playing along, "The thing about us all is that we are no different than this puzzle piece. We are all looking for our place in the overall picture. Some of us are edge pieces. Some of us belong in the middle. Sometimes we may look like we fit in one place when in fact an edge is off just a bit or perhaps the colors don't quite line up. We don't always find our position right away. Sometimes we have to put ourselves in the wrong place to discover we don't belong there. Sometimes a grouping of other pieces together can help us see the overall picture and our place in it. Sometimes we are left on the edge waiting until the picture becomes clearer for us. While I may think I know where I belong, I obviously have a different opinion of it than other people, people with the power to keep me here, have of where I belong. Granted, it is only a matter of time before one side or the other tries to put the piece that is me in place. Whether that means they give me my freedom or I go out and get it myself is all dependent upon what happens here."

"Will you allow me to help you be free again?"

"You already know that you don't have the power or authority to do that. At least not in the literal sense of getting me out of this place. Not without jeopardizing your career for a total stranger which would be quite illogical," Alex said setting the puzzle piece down and leaning forward to close the gap between himself and Tem, "Then again you are more likely to be talking about freeing my mind or soul or whatever you consider the path to good mental health. So... if you want to help me, then the best thing you can do is write about how well adjusted I am and how keeping me here violates a number of Federation laws. Granted the laws can be interpreted any number of ways and used in a way that is most convenient for adding that little extra persuasion necessary to get one to bend to one's will, but that's a discussion for another time. Tell me something Mr. Par... have you ever found yourself in the position of having to perform a mind meld with a patient in order to understand them better. And if not, would you ever consider doing such a thing given the risks involved in such an endeavor? It would seem that you have the tool at your disposal, but yet there are the moral and ethical implications to consider in using something that could quite possibly save a life. Surely you have considered it at some point in your profession or at least had the foresight to think about it. How did it make you feel? And don't tell me you didn't feel anything. We both know that Vulcans feelings run deep and while they may try to suppress those same feelings, they only tend to bottle them up inside until something happens to release them such as the time of Pon Farr."

Tem reached into his folder and pulled out a plastic chip. Alex knew it by site. It was a pass key. It had his name on it.

"I am impressed that you know my last name, despite me not mentioning it. Perhaps some memory of our previous conversations is resurfacing. You should know that I DO have the authority to buy you freedom, but I am not going to give it to you. This pass key needs to be ratified by me to become active. At that point you are free to leave the base, but not till I activate it. Take it, hold it if you wish."

Alex reached out and took the key from the Vulcan setting it down on the table precisely even between himself and Tem. His other hand continued to twirl the puzzle piece as he said with a smile, "Your name was easier to ascertain than you wold think. People talk. They just don't realize some of us are always listening." He nodded his head to the side as if indicating one of the staff going about their rounds, "However, authority is merely something authored. And those who have it often don't realize how fleeting such a power can be. Still, it would be foolish to think that you would be deceiving me. For as good as your species' poker face may be, lying is not a strong suit. You, for example, have a practised smile and yet for all the practice in the world, you will never truly be able to smile in such a way to put someone at ease until you are able to feel what is behind that smile. Otherwise it is no different than an actor attempting to portray another person. It might look good, but in the end it is nothing more than a performance. It doesn't matter how honest the performance is. It is still an act. Still, the bargain is quite literally on the table. So let's talk."

"So, now that I have established that this isn't just another game of words, perhaps we can have a conversation about you, and not about Vulcan emotional states, or the ephemeral philosophy of freedom, or even my unorthodox practices. Enough deflection, Alex. You want out? Tell me why?"

Alex smiled broadly this time. He had seen enough to know what he needed when dealing with the Vulcan and how to get what he wanted. It didn't mean that this would be easy, but at least he now felt that he was on track to finally stop wasting time and get back to what was important. "It's always a game. You just don't know that you are playing it. Understand, you and I both know there is no such thing as getting out. At least not without great sacrifice. So... what we have now is the bargaining table. You have shown me what you have. In return you want what I have. Information. And perhaps even a shiny little feather for your hat if you are successful. And yet, my bargaining posture is highly dubious. You see, I could tell you everything you want to know and still not be able to get out of here that way based upon your interpretation of me. It is only a matter of time before I get out of here whether by my own actions or with help from someone like yourself. So here is what I suggest. An exchange of information. You tell me something about yourself and I will tell you what you want to know. Once we have traded enough information about one another, we will see which way the key will go... Deal?"

Tem's smile never faltered, "I am not as skilled at games as you, Alex, but I am good with questions. Let's play."


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