By Tim Stevens
The following is an excerpted transcript of a group therapy session with Ghost (real name unknown), Paul Dennis (Paladin), Eric O'Grady (Ant-Man), Frank Simpson (Nuke/Scourge), and Mister X (real name unknown). Cleavon Twain (Headsman) was scheduled to attend as well but was absent without explanation. The focus of the session is to deal with any traumatic memories or emotions that might have been raised by the team's encounter with the Agents of Atlas' siren Venus.
TIM STEVENS: Okay, it appears everyone is here so we'll get-oh, wait. Sorry. Mr. Twain does not appear to be with us. Did anyone speak to him?
The room is silent. All avoid eye contact with TS
TS: Any idea where he might be? Mr. O'Grady?
TS: Eric, if you know somethi-
SCOURGE/NUKE: There's only the mission! Stay on point!
TS: Err...fine. But my mission, Frank, includes working with all of you. So, if anyone has any information on where Mr. Twain is, it would be very helpful.
PALADIN (speaking quickly): Look, we're all pretty sure he found himself a lady and threw down some cash. You know, to unwind. But Osborn'll kill 'im if he finds out so...
TS: I understand your concerns and, again, everything here is confidential so you need not worry about stuff like that. The next person to see him though has to send him my way. He can't just miss sessions without explanation.
Mumbled assents, PALADIN looks at a spot on the wall, appearing a bit queasy.
TS: Fine then, let's talk about your encounter with the Agents of Atlas.
MISTER X: What's there to talk about? These amateurs embarrassed themselves and made such a mess of things even I couldn't save the mission?
MX: Oh, it sounds like that, does it? Damn right it would be fair to say! Man, you are as much a joke as them!
TS: I hear what you are saying, but I am more interested in what you have not mentioned. Everyone, except Ghost, experienced vivid visual and aural hallucinations due to the Agents of Atlas' member Venus's scream. I have been told that you were overheard repeatedly saying, "Not good enough" to yourself. Would you care to discuss that?
MX (crossing arms): Someone was wrong.
TS: You wouldn't care to take off your glasses and tell me that, would you?
MX only cocks head down slightly so he can stare at the therapist above the sunglasses. After a moment, he shakes his head.
AM: Hot...muggy. My costume is not built for humid missions, I learned. It rides up in all sorts of uncomfortable places.
TS: I...see. Interesting. How about when Venus attacked you...what did you experience?
S/N (standing up and knocking over his chair): Too much talk! These soldiers need to be back in the field!
TS (also standing, placing his hand on S/N's shoulder, and lowering his voice): Not right now they don't, Frank. And neither do you. Now sit down. In here I am your superior officer and those are your orders. You sit until I tell otherwise. Understood?
S/N (slowly sitting): Yes, sir.
TS: Good. Now tell me, Frank, why are you in such a rush to get out of here?
S/N: Won't be made to feel ashamed...
S/N: Our boys...we're here to win!
TS: I know, I know. What happened out there, then?
S/N: I...saw them.
S/N: Them. They wanted me. They hated me. Angry. Didn't understand what sacrifices we have to make. Have to complete the mission. And then, they were gone. Then...all gone. No war. No war.
TS: What do you mean "no war"?
S/N (quieter): No...war (silence). Gimme a red. I need a red.
TS: Frank, we've discussed this before. I won't give you drugs. I couldn't, even if I thought it would help you.
S/N (looks up, pleading): A white then? Just a white?
TS: I'm sorry Frank. You can take a moment if you'd like, but I can't give you any pills.
S/N moves his chair to the back of the room and sits quietly, head in hands.
AM: Well, like I said, it was humid and uncomfortable, so that sucked. When that red headed number first started singing, I saw all sorts of things that would make even Ghost over there blush.
AM: Yeah, that guy definitely knows what I mean. Anyway, that was cool.
TS: And when she sang the second time?
AM: Oh, right. Yeah. Umm...oh yeah, now I remember. I was at home and everything was great, but then I sat down and boom, no Rockford Files on the TV. And no one knew what I was talking about. My wife, who was totally hot, my son (pauses a long moment, speaks again, a bit slower) who just won the big ballgame...nobody had even heard of the Rockford Files.
TS: Your nightmare hallucination was a world without a TV show?
AM: Hell yeah, sir. A world without Rockford Files is a world I don't want to live in.
P: I hear that!
P: Plus expenses!
The two laugh for a few moments before the room goes uncomfortably silent again.
TS: Charming. Is there anyone who would like to speak who's willing to take this a bit more seriously, perhaps?
GHOST: I would love to talk with you about how pharmaceutical corporations are convincing people they are sick to make them use their products more and more and make them slaves to a morally corrupt system wherein corporate rights always come before those the individual.
TS: Not really today's topic, Ghost.
TS: Look, you are all here for the hour, so we can talk seriously about what happened or we can sit silently and stare at each other. That's your choice. Osborn wants you back in the field-something about fighting gods-which I know many of you, especially Mister X and Frank, want. But I can't sign off on that if you won't let me know what's going on with you.
All stay quiet. TS slumps slightly in his seat.
TS (mumbling): Great...
Doctors Jeff Parker and Wellington Alves will see if they have better luck getting the team to talk in their session, scheduled for March 24. Their notes will be available for review in the file THUNDERBOLTS #142.
Tim Stevens is a Dialectical Behavior Therapy Consultant and Doctoral Intern at a college counseling center currently pursuing his Psy D. who has had experience working with those dealing Acute Stress Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.
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