Chapter 11

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“Please answer the question, Sergeant,” Dr. Kieva Melinchek requested with a fatigued tone. Only one meeting after this one. If she just stayed focused, she’d be home on the couch dozing off to a nice book soon. She could almost smell the roasted, frothy chimuyra in a mug.

“What do I think about when I have nothing to do?" The soldier patted his fingers against his cheek. "I bet a lot of men think about women. Sometimes I do. I like ‘em a bit bigger than most. But I typically sit and wonder about deep things in life like why the fluff in my belly button hole is a particular color. Blue. Green. Black. Pink? Doesn’t matter really."

Kieva took some quick notes: Typical deflection patterns. Enjoys tangents. Majority of sessions spent breaking facade down.

"What's with the look?" the soldier asked. "Sometimes that’s a tough one to solve. I can think through my whole wardrobe and not have an answer."

Kieva resisted the urge to run her fingers through her hair; she was a professional. Can’t show how he irks me. “Let's move on to another question. Do you find yourself engaging in any peculiar behaviors?”

"Well that depends. Define peculiar. Give me examples.”

"Sure. I mean odd activities. Do you check under your bed before you go to sleep? Do you talk to plants or inanimate objects? Do you open up the back of a holoprojector to let all of the little ewoks out, so that they have enough air to breathe?”

The soldier scratched his head. Then smiled. "So... would tearing the arms and legs off of dolls and setting them on fire count?"

Keep a straight face, Kieva. After all, what if he was being serious? She coughed. "Yes, that would definitely fit in the odd behaviors category. I take it you’ve been doing this?"

"Nope. Just wrapping my mind around this 'odd' business."

"Now that you've got that down, have any odd habits to share?" She tapped her tongue against the roof of her mouth, waiting for an honest response. It could be a while.

The soldier grinned. "There are a few times when people ask for directions," he continued," and I feel overwhelmingly compelled to send them the wrong way. You know, toy around with people’s gullibleness."

"That's gullibility."

"Whatever. But I figure that’s pretty normal, isn’t it doc?"

"Actually no, Sergeant." She added a note to her datapad. Client enjoys playing stupid. "Why do you do this?"

"I don’t know. I figure I’m sort of a jerk."

That much was apparent. The behavioral questions proving fruitless, Kieva set the datapad down and leaned forward in her seat. Time to dig into the heart of the matter. “Look, it’s been two weeks since you completed your mandatory month-long furlough. You still haven't been reinstated to active duty yet. Do you know why?"

“Not a clue. I'm dying without work to do. It's getting to the point where I want to tear off doll's arms. Maybe not set them on fire, but beat them with the detached limbs a little.”

"Real cute. You know I’m to ascertain whether or not you're fit to return to duty. That was why I asked you those mind-numbing questions, and now why we’ll be talking about what happened at Outpost Falna.”

The soldier folded his arms in a defensive posture. "It's all in the report."

"Which I've read about a dozen times.”

He sighed. "Then you probably know more what happened that day than I do at this point. I’ve got nothing to add.”

“Perhaps. I've spoken with Wenzlow and your other squadmates that survived the insurgent attack that day. They admitted, with an ounce of horror, that you did what needed to be done.”

The soldier nodded slowly with a far off look. She paused to let him speak. He didn’t.

“I’m not here to dispute that fact. But tell me, doesn't it bother you that your decision disintegrated many of your comrades, including Lieutenant Brem? Hard to feel like a hero, isn't it?"

The soldier tensed. Good. Thinking about that battle might have been upsetting, but he needed to face it. Come on, soldier, let my honesty cut through that ice.

"I know that recalling memories is going to be painful. It may overwhelm you. Believe me, they're something any sane person would find troubling. But you need to embrace them, not let them squeeze you in an ever-tightening vicegrip throughout the years. I’ve seen that happen to too many. Let's start today."

The soldier grunted. "I have ‘embraced’ it. Doc. Maybe not how you’d like, but I’ve accepted what happened to Brem and the others.”

“How so? Explain what you mean by accepted. What is your judgment, your takeaway, from that event?”

The soldier rolled his eyes. “Look doc, I aced the physical exam, so why don't you just give me a big sticker, a pat on the back, and send me on my way."

"Sergeant, if you don’t start changing your attitude, then I’m afraid I will be forced to recommend your suspension from further service. Got it?"

"Suspend, huh? Is this your way of spending more time with me -- securing more visits? You're not a bad looking woman doc, but you're not really my type." The feeling was mutual.

"An ounce of respect please." Kieva clenched her jaw. I should have started my own practice. Billing headaches, business taxes, and malpractice insurance aside, at least I could work with better clientele.

An alert in Kieva’s field of vision indicated an urgent call. The General Trajan? Unbelievable. She'd never spoken to him. What could this be about?

"Excuse me for a moment, Sergeant."

"Don't take long -- I get lonely."

She stepped out of the room to take the call. Any interruption from an awkward conversation with this imbecile was welcome.

“General Trajan, pardon the delay. You caught me in an appointment."

"An unfortunate intrusion. You do good work, doctor. I know countless soldiers have benefited from you helping them confront their inner demons. Corporal Vyron Harjed for instance spoke highly of you and the virtual therapy routines."

"We all do our best for the soldiers. But what can I help you with, General? I'm sure you're a busy man."

"I wish I had more time for chat, but I don't. Doctor, to be blunt, I need you to approve as fit for duty, Sergeant Fett."

"Yes, we were visiting when you called. I'm afraid I cannot recommend that he--"

"Can he aim a blaster?"

"It's not his physical capacity that's in question."

"Does he know his name?"


"Can he follow orders?"

"Well, yes."

"That'll do for me. Have him approved within the hour. I'll make sure to let your superiors know what a great job you're during for our infantrymen."

The offering was a not so subtle indication that he wanted to avoid debate on the matter. And yet... she bit her lip. "Sir, Sergeant Fett needs help. He needs--"

"And he'll get that. You can request mandatory remote sessions with him in the following weeks. For now, his government needs him. Direct Sergeant Fett to Fort Bracken, and have him contact Commander Ben Kenobi."

Should I be worried or thrilled to have him off my hands? "Very well, sir. I’ll send him over immediately.”

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