Convert Retreat Into Advance

Characters: Klevetati Yoshino, Dr. Hellecat Brannon, Dr. Mira Trassano, Tianmun

A look at the alcoholic in your organization is many times illuminating. Is he not usually
brilliant, fast-thinking, imaginative and likable? When sober, does he not work hard and
have a knack of getting things done? ... Is he worth salvaging?
– Alcoholics Anonymous (The "Big Book")

The Centauri doctor’s name seemed to trigger something in Helle. She used the desk to pull herself unsteadily to her feet, running a shaking hand over her hair. “No. I can’t.” Seeing the door over Yoshino’s shoulder, she started towards it. “I can’t and furthermore I won’t.”

Yoshino deftly put herself between Helle and the door, blocking her exit. She wasn’t sure how she had suddenly gotten herself into this battle, but now that she was in it, she had no intention of losing. “You can. You can, you must … and you will.”

Helle raised an eyebrow and gave Yoshino a strange little smile. “Is that right? I think you forget yourself. This is my medlab, and I what I say goes in here.” She smothered a laugh at the thought of being in charge of anything and stepped to Yoshino’s left, trying to get past. “Now get out of my way.”

“I think you forget me, Doctor. We are going to Medlab One, or we’re staying here.” Yoshino kept a calm face, but she was tensed for action, however it might come. She had the dual challenges of a completely unpredictable opponent — and one Yoshino didn’t want to put a hand on if she could avoid it.

Not surprisingly, Helle chose to mishear. She stepped to the side again, her features frozen in a look of mule stubbornness. “That’s fine with me. You stay here and I’ll go somewhere else. I wish I could say it’s been fun… but it hasn’t.”

“Believe me, I’m not enjoying this one bit either,” Yoshino said, keeping the door blocked. She slipped her hands behind her back, and touched her link, activating the emergency Medlab page.

“Hmmm… you’re not enjoying it? Well, I don’t appear to care but I have a simple solution to the problem. You get out of my way and I leave. ”

“It’s too late for that. I can’t let you go.” If not for the threat of violence that hung in the air like a thunderhead, Yoshino would have wept. “You’ve done enough harm to yourself as it is, you don’t need to make it worse.”

“Get — out — of — my — way!” With a snarl, Helle rushed at Yoshino, swinging both fists. Yoshino blocked one blow but took the second square in the left eye. She stumbled back, giving Helle the chance to get past, but the doctor was now so enraged she simply growled several obscenities and rushed Yoshino again.

Trying to ignore the pain in her eye, Yoshino threw out both hands to meet Helle’s rush, boxing the doctor’s ears as hard as she could. Helle yelled in pain, dropping to the deck, then grabbed at Yoshino’s ankles and yanked one foot out from under her.

Yoshino rolled, coming to her knees and rapidly pivoting to face Helle, who was wobbling, still trying to get to her feet. Yoshino grabbed the doctor’s head in both hands and slammed it down toward the deck. It rang off the smooth plating and Helle went limp.

“Sorry, Doctor Brannon,” Yoshino murmured, pushing her hair out of her face. As she was getting ready to pick Helle up, Mira came running down the corridor, lab coat flapping.

Mira stopped dead in her tracks. She couldn’t believe what her eyes had just told her. Why would Yoshino need to beat on Helle, her baffled mind wondered. She knelt beside her fallen colleague and checked her vitals. Then she looked up at Yoshino. “Can you explain this to me? I don’t understand.”

Yoshino looked back with one eye. The other had already swollen closed, and the growing bruise beneath her colorless skin made it seem a purple-black pit in the middle of her face. She was about to answer when the sound of another approaching made her pause.

“Tianmun,” Yoshino said, making a small bow to the Minbari, ranking security officer aboard. She must have come in response to the emergency med-page as well. “I’ll try to tell both of you at once,” she said, looking to Mira again.

“Perhaps it should wait until Doctor Brannon has been seen to in Medlab,” Tianmun suggested, “as well as yourself, Anla’shok Yoshino. You have been injured also.”

Mira nodded her agreement and picked up Helle’s limp form, realizing with some alarm that it was far too easy. I know I have been exercising more, she thought, but this woman is underweight. How could she be malnourished, here?

“What in the world?” Mira murmured as she carried Helle back through the door of Medlab Two. Tianmun deftly flicked debris out of the way to give the doctor a clear path to the nearest exam table. Once Helle was stretched out, both women looked back to Yoshino.

“Doctor Brannon is ill,” the Ops officer said, leaning against a bulkhead. “I came to check on the state of this Medlab, and found her here, upset and not entirely coherent. When I tried to keep her from leaving, she became very agitated and attacked me. I was forced to subdue her.”

“Ill? What sort of illness?” Tianmun asked, even as Mira began examining her colleague.

Yoshino paused a moment before answering. Helle would appreciate this even less than getting knocked senseless. But she would have to face all the consequences of her problem, and covering up wouldn’t help her in the long run. And if you couldn’t trust a Minbari to be discreet, who could you trust?

“I believe Doctor Brannon is suffering from alcoholism — a chemical addiction to alcohol.”

Tianmun’s eyes widened as she looked toward Mira, catching a glimpse of her frown. “I know most other species can absorb alcohol, of course. But this is the first time I’ve ever seen one who had the physical dependency. I don’t know of any means to treat it. Other than the obvious.”

Mira nodded, looking down at Helle. She was still unconscious, and might have a slight concussion when she woke, but there was no permanent damage. At least from what Yoshino had done …

Tianmun’s voice broke through Mira’s reverie. “Can you confirm that Anla’shok Yoshino’s supposition is correct?”

“Yes, although it may take some time. My understanding is that it is a psychological as well as a physiological problem. It’s also something that humans are quite ashamed of.”

Tianmun nodded, taking the point. “Please notify me when you have a confirmation on this so my report can be complete,” she said, and bowed briefly to both Mira and Yoshino before leaving.

Mira looked over at the Ops officer, then scanned across the debris around her feet. With a quick motion, the doctor picked up a small sealed bag, slapped it hard against her hand, then tossed it to Yoshino. “Hold that against your eye,” she said. “It should help the swelling.”

As she did so, Yoshino asked, “You’ve never had to deal with an alcoholic before? Not even a Centauri?”

“No. The Centauri do not become addicted to alcohol. If someone is a drunkard, they have chosen to be so.”

Yoshino uttered a sharp laugh before biting her lip to silence herself. “Ironic. The truth is, even after over two hundred years, many humans believe the same. That’s where the shame you talked about comes in, I imagine. And you were quite right about that. She tried to leave after I told her she should come see you about this.”

Mira looked stricken. “But, why? Why didn’t she tell me? Come for help… I would have tried.” She faded into silence and patted Helle’s hand softly. “I would have tried to help.”

“I know. And she’ll need a lot of help, from all of us,” Yoshino said, as she turned to leave. “Even if she doesn’t want any.”

(c) 1999 Denise Cox, Mona Hinds and Jamie Lawson. All rights reserved.