Doubting Tomas

Characters: Dr. Mira Trassano, John Carter

Mira walked back from the turbolift and her confrontation with Darquin slowly. All of her doubts and self-accusations were chasing each other around in her head. Stepping into the too quiet MedLab, she paused at the door to catch her mental bearings. Everyone was much too interested in whatever they were doing and trying, very obviously, not to look at her.

Surely, Mira thought, Darquin can’t be right. If he is, it must be something in Helle’s personal life. She hadn’t been working for long enough. She saw a nurse flinch under her gaze. That reaction combined with Darquin’s comment that Helle had been pushed to the brink spurred Mira to look closely at her staff. For the first time, she saw the exhaustion, the nerves, and the apprehension. It seemed to glow from the eyes of everyone who would not meet hers. When did my staff become afraid? she wondered.

Her feet lead her blindly to her office. Carter must be doing everything he can to keep the staff relaxed. Surely, it is recent developments that have lead to this tenseness I see in their shoulders. How could I have worked with these people for so long and not have noticed it before if it had been there?

Mira sat down behind her desk and called the only person she knew of who might have answers. Tapping her link, “Mr. Carter, please come to my office.” She stared at her paper-strewn desk until she heard the door open. “Please sit down, Mr. Carter. I hope you can help me discover what happened just now.”

“Sure, doc. You alright? You look a little pale.” Carter settled into the chair with the ease of an old campaigner. He was in his late forties. He had been a nurse for twenty years and had steadily worked his way up the ranks to his current position. Mira knew that he was capable and confident. The staff that worked for him had always been the best. The single-minded dedication to his work that drove him to seek perfection had also lead him to lose a marriage, cross the galaxy, and join the Anla’shok.

Mira knew this. She had read it in his files and seen the notes on his demanding nature in the margins. She had never thought that this trait would be a problem. Surely, I must be wrong. She nodded. “Yes, I’m fine. I’m worried and distracted by Helle’s predicament. I simply cannot understand how she could have become so nervy so quickly. She had only just returned to work.” Mira rubbed her eyes and missed the look of self-satisfaction that flashed across his features. “Do you think I should have allowed her to remain in hiatus until I found her a better placement?”

“Well,” Carter considered his words carefully, “I’m not sure that Helle would have ever been ready to return to work.”

Mira looked up at him sharply. “Are you saying she’s unfit?” Suddenly, her newfound doubt in Carter’s ability to manage her staff flared to the front of her mind.

“No, not unfit. Just, maybe, unsuited. She doesn’t seem to handle the normal everyday stress of this job very well. You have to admit, Doctor, she shouldn’t have reacted as strongly as she did to that Abbai girl.”

“Perhaps. But, that could just as easily be the result of a lack of experience in that arena. I myself would not have reacted any better, I fear.”

Carter shrugged. “Maybe. Maybe. But, she’s in the brig, now. Everyone saw her taken off. The staff will gossip and conclusions will be made. It will be very hard for her to gain the trust of the staff again. Are you going to allow her back to work after this?”

“Hellecat Brannon is welcome in my MedLab until I decide that she is a threat to the safety of her patients. If any of the staff have an objection to that, they can come in here and offer it to me.” Mira pursed her lips into a grim line. “I will not tolerate insubordination.” She waited to see Carter nod in agreement before she broached the topic of her doubts. “On another step, Carter, I notice that the staff on this shift seem tired and jittered. If second shift has too much work, then some of it should be delegated to another shift.”

“Oh, there isn’t any more work on this shift than the other two, doc. The nurses can handle it. They’ll be fine.” Carter tried to put as much charm and conviction in his voice as possible. He waved his hand through the air as if to shoo away the CMO’s doubts.

Mira stared at him. She was beginning to become more and more unsettled. If Carter had a demanding nature and was accidentally overestimating everyone’s capabilities, that was one thing. But, to intentionally overload a person until they crumpled under the weight of the responsibility, she could not forgive that. “If all the shifts are this stressed by their work, then surely some of the less technological tasks can be “farmed” out to the hospitals on the planet surface. A constantly stressed and overworked person makes mistakes, Carter. In this field, we cannot afford to make mistakes.”

“Of course not, Doctor. But, the staff isn’t stressed any more than they should be. Medicine is a stressful field. We hold the power of life and death and good health over a lot of people. A certain amount of stress is normal and healthy. In fact, it’s necessary. It adds a little speed to everything you do.” Carter smiled reassuringly. “Trust me on this.”

The pieces were beginning to click into place for Mira and she didn’t like the picture that was emerging. She backed away from the topic. But, it took all her ability to not allow the frown of displeasure to form on her face. She would wait this time. She didn’t want to jump to conclusions as she had done with Darquin.

“Yes, well. That may be so.” Straightening in her chair, Mira shrugged off her doubts and drew a mantle of authority around her. “I’ve been spending a lot of time on the planet surface lately, acting as a liaison to the Abbai medical professionals. But, now things are much more settled here, I’m needed less on the planet surface. I think I need to spend some time with all my staff. So, I’ll be working odd shifts for a little while.”

Carter’s smile became a little fixed. “That sounds great. Make your presence known again, get to know the new people, reinforce your standards and all that. Do you want help figuring out your schedule?”

“No, I think I’ll keep this impromptu and more or less unscheduled. I like to have people acting naturally around me. If they know I’m coming to work their shift with them, they might try to impress me.” Mira leaned forward and smiled disarmingly. “I’ll just pop in whenever I get a chance. That will mean that I’ll be a little hard to find sometimes, of course. So, I’ll always answer my link. Don’t worry about waking me. I’d rather lose sleep than leave an important question unanswered.”

“Well, don’t you think it would be better to have a schedule? That way you wouldn’t have to lose any sleep.”

“No, I’m sure that this is the best way. Thank you for your opinions, Carter. And, to be honest, I think you look a little tired yourself. It’s the end of second shift. Why don’t you get some food and rest? I’ll stay and work third shift.” Mira made shooing motions with her hands.

“I’ve actually got some reports and things – ”

“Nonsense. They can wait. I don’t want to see you here until tomorrow, Carter. That’s an order. Out.” She softened her command with a smile and a wink.

Carter opened his mouth to offer another reason why he couldn’t and thought better of it. He nodded. “See you tomorrow, doc.” He slipped out of the office.

Mira stared at the closed doors for a while as her smile slid off her face. A certain amount of stress is necessary? How much stress do you think my staff need, Carter? How much stress did you think Helle needed? I should have been here to supervise her return to work. I forgot to ask you who called security. I’ll have to ask Darquin. I should not have doubted him. Mira rested her face in her hands. I never should have become CMO. I’m too young, too new to the field, too inexperienced in managing people. I thought I hovered too much and now I fear I have abandoned my staff to a zealot. S’ran-to, how could I have failed so completely?

She glanced into the isochamber and saw Lynne with a sedated Reeakiss. The Abbai girl had been strapped into magnetic restraints. They would keep her on the pallet and glued to the metal floor until she was through with her ordeal. How could I have so misjudged her reactions? I’m a doctor. I’m supposed to think of these things.

It was an hour before a quiet, composed Dr. Trassano emerged unexpectedly from her office. The third shift nurses and staff hadn’t realized she was in there. This was to be only the first of many surprises for them that night.

Copyright (c) 2000 Mona Hinds. All rights reserved.


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