Medical Maladies, Mishaps, and other Delta Quadrant Menaces
A Camping We Will Go
Timeline: Mission Day 6 at 0930
[Sickbay - Deck 2]
[MD 6 - 0930 Hours]
For as often as Emni had made the trek down the hallway to Sickbay, it still felt like an odd thing to be arriving as a visitor. Her emotional barriers were high today, ready for the return of more than half of the crew as the day went on. It was an unnecessary preparation, but she did it anyway--more a matter of discipline than anything else. And so, with barriers high and a quiet ship, she very nearly felt alone in her own head. Not as if this was my Sickbay for very long, she chided herself. It really hadn't been. She'd been promoted to Acting XO partway into their first mission and fully XO before entering the Delta Quadrant. It had been Kennedy's Sickbay far longer than it had been hers.
Still, the place where people were helped, healed even, had always in her life felt like a natural home. She came to the larger double doors of Sickbay and paused just out of range of the sensor, tucking an errant strand of long brown hair behind her ear and squaring her shoulders. The last thing she wanted was for Xex to get the impression that she saw his domain as her own, even if she was comfortable there.
Features appropriately schooled and what she was becoming to think of as her XO mask in place, she took a step forward and the doors to Sickbay parted.
"Don't mind the mess!" came a disembodied voice from somewhere just out of view, apparently having heard the doors swish open. Indeed, sickbay was both in some significant disarray, and in a flurry of activity. Nurses and medtechs-- seemingly all of Alpha shift-- were busying themselves with all manner of medical materiel, and nearly every visible screen was scrolling a diagnostic of some kind. The very much embodied voice of one of the nurses who had looked up from his PADD at the XO's entrance followed the disembodied greeting with a smile of his own for Emni. "Welcome back to the madhouse, Commander," he said with the good-natured amusement of someone asked to do something he felt was unnecessary, but not entirely unreasonable. Belatedly, he added as an aside, to someone out of view, "Ah, doctor? Commander t'Nai is here."
"Who?" came the muffled reply, followed by, "I'll be right--" Xex's voice got stronger as he stepped around the corner from the cramped cabinet in which he'd had half his body, and then cut off completely as he spied the visitor. His arms were full of the same sort of equipment his subordinates were working with, and he froze mid-step. It appeared the new head of the Sojourner's medical corps was making a full inventory, nevermind what the comprehensive computer inventory showed. Perhaps he simply wanted to put his hands on everything he would be working with for the foreseeable future.
"Oh!" he exclaimed, glancing up at the nearest chrono, a large, luminous thing that was extremely difficult to miss. "It's zero-nine-thirty already?" he asked rhetorically, and edged over to the nearest biobed, carefully laying his haul upon the remainder of its available surface. "Time flies when you're in the closet," he said, seemingly oblivious to the Terran innuendo. His gaze cut to the first nurse and with an exaggerated out-the-side-of-his-mouth side whisper, he said, "You could've have warned me it was so late," but his expression belied the chagrin, his features settling into the usual easy smile and sparking gray eyes. He schooled his expression enough to nod solemnly to Emni, "Commander," he greeted her, brushing his hands off on the thighs of his trousers, with just enough wryness to his tone to take some of the edge off the formality.
Surveying the disarray, Emni couldn't help a small grin. "Inventory?" she asked, not waiting for an answer before continuing. "I'd do the same. Let me know if you find anything missing or anything you need. We should coordinate with Lieutenant Gar'rath sooner than later if we need to request anything from Starfleet."
"So far so good," Xex assured her. "The LMH was just saying--" he paused, glanced at the chrono and winced. "Earlier," he corrected himself, "LMH was mentioning Lieutenant Gar'rath. The only items we've found lacking he has already managed to get onto the lieutenant's regular order." Xex paused, raising to tip-toe to peer around the bustling area, a frown creasing his brows. “No Marwol?” he asked, presumably of the nurse beside him. The man shook his head with an apologetic shrug.
Xex grunted, but the frown cleared as his expression became apologetic. “Unfortunately Lieutenant Marwol was called away to deal with a situation in engineering-- nothing life-threatening,” he assured the XO, “but it seemed better not to move the patient. I'm sure I can fill him in on any pertinent details when he returns, if you'd like to get started?”
With a nod of greeting to everyone, Emni nodded in the direction of the small CMO's office. "Shall we move to the office?" she asked before turning to the LMH and with a warm smile added, "LMH, if you could join us. I believe your experience would be valuable for this briefing."
"Please," Xex said with an expansive gesture. He fell into step behind Emni and the LMH, murmuring something to the nurse as he passed the man on his way into the office. The nurse nodded equably enough and turned to the pile Xex had dumped on the biobed, sensibly waiting to release his sigh until the CMO was safely out of earshot.
The double doors to Sickbay swished open again, this time admitting Doctor Jennifer Bracco. A PADD tucked under her arm, the ship's therapist opted today not to embrace the relaxed attire permissions for Counselors. Under the purview of the new Chief Medical Officer, Jennifer wanted to make a good impression upon their first meeting. Thus instead of her customary charcoal suit with a smart skirt, the woman was clad in her Starfleet issue uniform, combadge perfectly aligned and affixed. A pair of old-Earth style glasses graced her face but the glasses -- much like Bracco herself -- were non-de-script to the point of being barely noticeable.
Spying the XO leading the CMO and the LMH into the Chief's office, Bracco followed in their wake. As the threesome shuffled in, Jennifer slipped in, too, smiling at those gathered. t'Nai and the LMH she knew, but Xex was a stranger -- at least, for the moment. That would change soon enough, though. "Good morning," Bracco offered in a voice that held a bit of warm grit. She sounded relaxed; neutral was the name of Jennifer's game as she reached out a hand to Xex. "Dr. Bracco," Jennifer introduced herself, "ship's Counselor. Commander," she nodded to t'Nai. "Hello there," she offered to the LMH.
Xex edged past the LMH to round the corner of the desk. He held up a finger as he did so, fixing the man with a mock-severe stare, "Not. A. Word," He warned the LMH, apparently in reference to some earlier conversation, as he tucked himself behind the desk and turned his attention to Bracco. "A pleasure, doctor," Xex replied. He reached across the cluttered surface easily enough now to grasp Bracco's hand. His palm was dry and slightly cooler than hers, its texture subtly off from the human norm. "I guess that makes me Dr. Wang, but honestly, Xex is fine," he said, by way of introduction himself. Glancing down at the continuation of the disarray from the main sickbay that was scattered across his desk, he did manage to look a touch abashed. "I really do apologize for the mess. Time simply got away from me," he said, as he bent to the task of sweeping the various accoutrement-- supplies, PADDs, even what seemed to be a specimen container?-- off the desk's surface with one arm, into a bin which he then kicked behind his chair. He gestured expansively at the limited seating. "Please, make yourselves comfortable."
Emni didn't hesitate to take one of the seats, furthest from the door, after nodding a warm greeting to Bracco. She'd asked the counselor to join them as well. With this much change it seemed best all of the medical department heads be well apprised of some of the Delta Quadrant considerations that she'd originally shared with the team. The nurses had already had this briefing, so they kept to themselves, likely happy not to have to endure it again.
"Thank you all for taking some time," Emni began, folding her hands in her lap. "With a changing of the guard so to speak, it seemed pertinent that I share with you some of the medical experiences that I encountered when I was last posted to the Delta Quadrant. Hopefully these aren't considerations we'll need with immediacy, but better prepared than not," she began. "Is it alright with you if I pull some things up on the holo display?" Emni inquired of Xex.
Xex seemed surprised by this request, momentarily at a loss for words. He blinked rapidly, and then made an expansive gesture. "Be my guest," he said, and slowly lowered himself into his own seat. He remained on its edge, however, as though poised for swift action.
Bracco lowered herself into one of the chairs, falling into silence as the XO began explaining the purpose for the day's meeting. As part of the medical staff, she was certainly no stranger in Sickbay. After all, medical needs both physical and mental did sometimes overlap and some degree of coordination was needed. She'd certainly collaborated with the previous Chief Medical Officer and anticipated she'd do much the same with Xex. Gazing briefly at Doctor, Jennifer found herself looking forward to getting to know her new cohort, both professionally and personally. In the meantime, though, t'Nai had things to tell them and Bracco was ready to listen.
"Certainly more information is always going to be our ally," Xex said, folding his silvery hands on the desk in front of him. The fingers drummed against their partners in a complicated rhythm, never still. He flashed her a grin as she set about manipulating the holo, "I'm just lucky to be posted on a ship with such a depth of experience."
Though the comment was well meant, Emni felt herself tense inwardly. Her outward demeanor, remained businesslike, but if she were to be truthful she would prefer not to have the depth of experience that she had. Instead she dropped her barriers slightly, letting Xex's ever present curiosity wash over her in a way that cleared some of her own disquiet.
For the first fifteen minutes she outlined the various species that she and a small portion of the Sojourner's crew had encountered while stationed aboard the now derelict USS Adelphi. A much larger ship, the Adelphi afforded a much larger Sickbay, however, it was also an older vessel which meant that much of their equipment had aged with it. She explained the request for asylum from the Talaxians from the oppressive Haakonian Order, and described the medical condition of those who came aboard as well as the destruction wrought by the metreon weapon that was later deployed. Paying particular attention to the deficiencies in their information she turned to the LMH and asked for his input as well, falling quiet while he gave his own account of the encounter. They had done a thorough evaluation of the encounter later with Dr. Grey and Emni had considered the implications of everything many times over since, so for all accounts and purposes the information presented was succinct and to the point.
Xex proved to be an avid listener, occasionally making quiet monosyllabic interjections meant only to emphasize the t'Nai's points. He restrained himself from interrupting with a practiced effort of will. His brows arched with interest as the LMH took up the narrative, expanding on a few salient points.
When the LMH had finished adding his comments Emni's thoughts turned to the next encounter--the one that still impacted some of their current crew with regularity.
"When I shared the next case with the medical team some months ago," she began, "I explained that this wasn't meant to alarm so much as demonstrate how truly frontier our medical practice is. Even on a ship with equipment and systems as new as the Sojourner, there are races in the Delta Quadrant that we cannot truly be fully prepared to confront." She sighed then, bringing up the case file of the away team from that fateful mission. With carefully studied doctor's neutrality she laid out the situation--the Ocompans that they had tracked to the planet, the Vidiian technology signatures and the pre-warp civilization.
Xex's eyes raced over the holo as she brought it up, attempting to move through the information quickly enough that he could turn the full of his attention to t'Nai. There was the edge of grimness to his otherwise interested expression that suggested he had an inkling this report was not going to end well.
"We took a sizeable team," she began before pausing as the form of Gwenwyn Marwol filled the doorframe.
"Dr. Marwol," she said in acknowledgement, offering the other man a smile. She wondered, briefly, if Xex knew that she and the younger man had previously served together, but guessed that the information was readily available. Perhaps that Gwen and Xex had even discussed it on the trip to rendezvous with the ship. "I had just shared with Dr. Bracco and Dr. Wang about our encounter with the Talaxians and Haakonians." For Bracco's benefit she added, "Dr. Marwol was aboard the Adelphi during that mission and was injured such that he had to return to the Alpha Quadrant."
Gwenwyn returned the smile back, raised his right hand to show the large scaring almost covering the back of his hand "I lost my surgical licence because my injured hand is now an infection risk, should be careful." Then he looked to his right and saw another woman staring at him which made him quickly drop his hand, he thought she was a shrink and after 6 months at Starfleet Medical, he had no interest in dealing with them. "The case in engineering. The one with tummy trouble? She didn't eat today. Case open and shut. Excuse me, I've got to help with the search." Then he quickly he could walk backwards out.
With a nod Emni turned back to the holodisplay, picking up where she left off. "As I was saying, we took a sizeable way team, nearly all disguised under medical prosthesis. I did most of the procedures myself. And we did well blending in, until we didn't. The Vidiians had been secretly siphoning off members of this society for years, working to address a new strand of the Phage using the same techniques they had used before. When they identified some of our crew the biological variety was too tempting for us. Many of us were held, myself and Mr. Oliveria among them. Others, were experimented on."
Here she brought up Karim's file, sharing only what she knew was pertinent to the circumstance and not the details of his ongoing and excruciating recovery. "Mr. Karim, who is aboard our ship, has suffered severe PTSD identified in part by a break in his Vulcan emotional control. Out of respect for Mr. Karim and for the Vulcan caretakers," here her voice turned bitter, turning the word to something unpleasant, "I won't go into great detail about his treatment, however, he is here only because he is agreed to be under my care. That doesn't mean, though, that he won't have cause for either of you to care for him. There are simply some unique elements that make me the best option, for the moment at least." She breathed out a sigh. "Of particular note is the fact that Mr. Karim remained, largely, physically unharmed. He had burn marks and a series of clear puncture wounds where samples were evidently taken."
Although-- or perhaps because-- Xex's specialties did not run to mental health, his brows knit together with some negative emotion-- disapproval, perhaps?-- as t'Nai described one of the victim's particular experience. Karim's name jangled a few recognition bells, but Xex could not immediately put a name to face, and made a mental note to run through the man's file with the LMH later. Now however, his gaze slid to Bracco, whom he would have assumed to be a PTSD sufferer's primary care provider; he couldn't hide his interest in her reaction.
For her part, the therapist looked nonplussed as discussion turned to Karim. "He's not my patient," Bracco clarified, "though, of course, I would be happy to help if I could. The agreement about Karim's release to Commander t'Nai's care is something I respect deeply. I'm here to consult with as needed, though," she tipped her head to the XO.
t'Nai looked around at the assembled again, expression grave though she gave a nod of her head back in appreciation to the ship's counselor. "Other members of the crew have also experienced lesser symptoms of anxiety and depression from this encounter. It was a long trek back to the Alpha Quadrant on very low power with systems failing. That wears on the best of us." Taking a deep breath, she fiddled, almost absently, with the cuff of her uniform jacket's sleeve. "Before I share the last of my files from this encounter, do you have any questions?"
As though he were a racing hound just slipped from his lead, Xex immediately leapt at the chance to speak. "What percentage of the Sojourner's current crew was aboard the Adelphi for her return to the Alpha quadrant?" It seemed a simple enough question-- perhaps easy enough he could have asked it of the LMH or even the shipboard computer-- but the intensity of his gaze suggested he had good reason to ask it here.
"Eight percent of the officers," Emni answered. "Split nearly evenly between senior officers and junior officers. There are 11 of us from the Adelphi, including Dr. Marwol. None of Adelphi's enlisted crew were reassigned to Sojourner."
Xex’s restlessly drumming fingers stilled then, and his openly curious countenance closed— just a touch. It was less a shut-down and more an ever so slight hooding of the eyes. He sat back abruptly in his chair, steepleing his fingers. “Huh,” was his ever-so-pointed observation. He was silent for just another moment more before visibly shaking himself from his thoughts with a sharp movement of his head, and then gesturing for her to continue. “Thank you,” he said, “Please, continue."
Though the new CMO's body language remained subtle, his emotional state, which had shifted from exuberance to a more weary curiosity. Emni's answer, though, seemed to bring on a wave of foggy suspicion, obscuring the remains of his earlier enthusiasm with something more reserved. She couldn't say what brought on the man's shift, but she noted it quietly all the same.
"Dr. Bracco?" she asked instead, turning her attention to the counselor before continuing.
"No questions here. I read the mission reports," Bracco responded. "However, I will mention that, of those who did come from the Adelphi, hardly anyone has really availed themselves of my care. Not the Captain, not the XO," she looked briefly at t'Nai, "and certainly not most of the rank-and-file beyond Lieutenant Irynya. I can't help people work through trauma if they aren't willing to help themselves, too." Though her face was neutral, the emotions radiating off the woman were decidedly not. This was, it seemed, a bit of an affront to her. "I try to keep my ears out for trouble, though, and will order office visits if I think it absolutely necessary. In any event," she tipped her head, "I suspect there's more to cover?"
This lack of counseling participation brought Xex's eyebrows up with surprise. He looked on the verge of asking more, when Bracco turned the subject firmly back to the remainder of the briefing. He deflated somewhat in a slow, measured exhale of breath, visibly schooling his expression to turn his attention back to t'Nai.
Like Bracco, Emni's expression remained neutral, however unlike Bracco she was privy to the counselor's emotional response and made a note to touch base with the woman privately. It would be best if she set a time to meet with her anyway, knowing that much of leading was doing so by example rather than dictation. Turning, instead, to the last details, Emni nodded her agreement to Bracco. "There is, unfortunately."
A few quick taps brough up Commander Kora Lenek's file. Blessedly the more gruesome details were contained below the scroll line. "The most egregious harm, beyond the loss of life of two of our crew members, was done to our XO, Kora Lenek. The Vidiians must have found something particularly encouraging about her physiology because when we reached her they had already removed several organs. They were keeping her alive in some sort of stasis, presumably to harvest further organs, but the Adelphi was too heavily damaged to ensure ongoing stasis for the ride home. We borrowed a technique from Voyager to keep Commander Lenek stable, and Commander Karim and I traveled with her to earth where Dr. Nathan Cowell was able to perform the procedures necessary to save her."
Although Xex had not batted an eye throughout this report-- if anything, he leaned forward slightly, as though to get a better look despite the most graphic images remaining hidden from his view-- mention of the Terran doctor stole his attention entirely and he turned his gaze from the holo to t'Nai, studying her face intently.
Emni hesitated there, her own memory of the tension and uncertainty of that long trip reviving more freshly than she would have anticipated. Too much time spent with Karim, she found herself thinking a bit unfairly. "The images and records in Commander Lenek's file are... gruesome to say the least. But they stand as a reminder that we are facing races with technologies that we are unfamiliar with and ethical codes that differ greatly from our own." She looked between the two grimly. "It is my hope that we do not encounter the Vidiians again, but hope is not a plan for a worst case scenario and so we should be prepared for that possibility."
Xex finally settled back in his chair, his fingertips drumming on its arms. His earlier suspicion had ebbed, and the bright sharpness of his curiosity was back in full force. "Well, I for one, appreciate your candor, Commander," he said. "Whomever said 'seeing is believing,' certainly had a way with words. Reading reports does not really reveal the full scope of Delta Quadrant ah... hazards. A case study such as this one certainly sheds a harsher light on the reality out here. I certainly would prefer to be prepared, rather than rely on hope, as you so eloquently put it."
He shifted again, nearly leaning forward, thinking better of it, and settling back once again. "I've read through Doctor Ryan Walsh's files and handover notes. They were extensive and detailed, but any other ah-- insights-- you can give me now, or at any other time, would be much appreciated, Commander." He shifted his gaze to Bracco, "Your take would be most valuable as well, Doctor."
Emni considered the question for a moment, but her new role kept her largely divorced from the day to day goings on of Sickbay and she wasn't sure she could contribute more to the conversation than Kennedy already had through his notes. "I don't have anything immediate, but should something arise I will be sure to share," she commented. "Dr. Ryan Walsh's notes are likely far more detailed than any accounting I can give of the two encounters with alien life we have had since arriving in the Delta Quadrant."
Bracco nodded as well. "I wasn't here for the events in question but I can certainly advise as needed," she said, her thoughts again going back to the holdovers -- minus Irynya -- not seeking her out. She tried not to let it affect her personally -- after all, many people had a stigma about therapy -- but she did earnestly want to help if past trauma was still affecting people. "Just let me know how I can help and I will," she said, smiling politely. "Commander, your thoughts are very much appreciated. Thank you for sharing them," Jennifer nodded yet again.
Emni nodded to all three doctors, landing on Xex last. "If there's no other immediate questions I should head on to my next task. But I can't stress enough, that if I can be of help or if anything comes up you need from me, please don't hesitate for a moment."
She stood then, hands brushing her thighs in a completely unnecessary smoothing gesture. Wrinkling was, in so many ways, a thing of the past and yet habitual mannerisms lingered all the same. "Doctors," Emni said with a smile around the room before she turned and made her way out of Sickbay, considering what was next up on her docket for the day.
Xex stood as well, so quickly it was almost as though he had merely been waiting for her to stand so he could be freed from the sitting position. "That puts many anxieties at rest, Commander, I appreciate it," he said, and shifted his weight restlessly as he watched her depart, a thoughtful expression on his silvery features.
Bracco also rose, nodding to the Commander as she swept out of the small office. "It's good to meet you, Doctor," she turned, offering Xex a practiced, polite, and professional smile. "I look forward to collaborating with you. LMH," she included the hologram in her smile before exiting the office herself.
=/\= A Joint Post By =/\=
Lieutenant Commander Emni t'Nai
Chief Medical Officer
Lieutenant Jennifer Bracco
Lieutenant Junior Grade Gwenwyn Marwol
Assistant Chief Medical Officer
Longterm Medical Hologram