Lynne sat on the counter of the Nurse’s Station and laughed. Both Mira and Carter looked at her oddly. Lynne tried to smother the laugh by tucking her chin into her neck but, she almost smothered herself instead. It’s hard to laugh and breathe through your nose at the same time without snorting.
She had to bring her head up to gasp for a breath and she noticed the lift doors opening at the end of the hall. She thought to call out a warning that someone was coming. But Carter took an opportunity to snag Mira’s ankle and throw her to the floor.
Mira screamed. “AAHHH!”
Peter Carlacci walked briskly out of the lift and into Medlab, stopping short at the scene in front of him. “Hey, what’s going on here?” he cried, running in to try and break things up. Someone’s flailing foot nearly struck him in the face.
“Hey! Don’t get in the middle, sir!” Lynne cried. “You could get hurt!”
“Looks like I’m stuck there now,” Carlacci muttered as he spun around. Seeing Carter about to pounce on Mira again, he grabbed him by the shoulders and hauled him backward. “What’s the deal here?” he yelled.
Carter promptly lost his balance and fell backward, Carlacci beneath him.
“Well, that’s a new curve. I’ve never had help before,” Mira murmured. She had been knocked flat on her back. The doctor quickly sat up and propped up with her hands behind her and her legs straight out in front. Scrambling to her feet, she stifled a giggle and kicked Carter in the stomach.
Unnoticed by the combatants, Darquin quietly stepped into Medlab, the mud specks on the edge of his duster still fresh after his trip planetside. He looked on, shaking his head, tired but amused… until he saw Carlacci. He raised a hand to get his attention. “Uh …”
After a moment spent regaining the breath that had been knocked out of him, Carlacci threw the groaning Carter up and sideways, none too gently. Darquin gasped and dove to catch Carter before he hit the ground.
Then Mira, Lynne and Carter all jumped to their feet, trying desperately to look professional. Carter somewhat hunched over due to the kick to the stomach from the gentle doctor. Carlacci gave Mira a glare.
As the medics got to their feet, Darquin found himself sailing past them like the Anla’shok answer to Wile E. Coyote. Sighing, he held up his weary head and rolled onto his side, sliding across the floor. From his place on the floor, Carlacci looked over his shoulder as Darquin coasted to a stop.
“Uh … Peter?”
Carlacci quickly got up, looking around in dismay. “What the hell is all this?”
Still lying on his side, Darquin answered, “Hey, don’t look at me, I was on Abbai when they came up with this idea.”
A bright blushing-red Mira tried again to flick her hair out of her face and failed. The bun hit her again and bounced, several times. “Don’t include me in this ‘they’!” she cried. “I was accosted!”
Carlacci offered a hand to help Darquin up. “You mean…” He looked around at the others as Lynne dissolved into giggles and had to sit down. “This was all a setup?”
“Yeah, their idea.” Darquin spun into a sitting position and nodded toward Lynne and Carter.
Carter tried to look innocent. “It was a simple training exercise.” Lynne was laughing too hard to speak.
Darquin couldn’t resist an evil grin. “Right.”
“I’ve heard they have a really good gym on board, you know,” Carlacci said as he pulled Darquin to his feet.
“Would that I were so lucky,” Mira snorted. She tried to straighten her lab coat with a shake, and one bulging pocket spilled its contents on the floor.
Darquin slapped him on the back by way of thanks, then shrugged. “What can I say? I guess it’s not quite the same as the Pink Panther treatment.”
“I guess not,” Carlacci said, shaking his head before looking at the three erstwhile combatants. “I was coming here to talk to Doctor Trassano, actually.”
Lynne and Carter decided to make themselves scarce. Darquin smiled to himself, watching them go.
The next shift of nurses slowly began trickling in, casting curious glances at Mira’s state of disrepair. Mira, scowling, picked up a scalpel, some tape, a doily, and a miniature motor, then shoved them all back into her pockets. “Yes, about which?” she asked, peering at Carlacci through her fallen hair.
“I’m about to start an investigation planetside, but I need some expert help.” Carlacci turned to Darquin. “Real bad run of ODs in Qbru’kiwis City. They want to see if we can trace the source.”
“With a chemical analysis or something?” Darquin said.
“Right,” Carlacci said.
“ODs of what?” Mira asked, straightening up a little. “Do they at least know the drug?”
“The authorities aren’t sure,” Carlacci answered. “They think it most likely either a bad batch of Dust — really bad — or some new designer drug no one’s seen before.”
“God, the Gaim would love this,” Darquin said.
“They have a knack at this sort of thing?” Carlacci asked.
“Yeah, they can make new chemical compounds practically at will. Real popular Downbelow back on Babylon 5.”
Mira, forgetting all about the fact that her coat was hanging off one shoulder, her scrub shirt was torn and her bun was hanging over one eye again, joined the conversation. “Wasn’t Dr. Franklin trying to work with the addicts there?”
“I haven’t had the chance to meet him myself, but it sounds like he’s got his work cut out,” Carlacci said.
Mira looked up at Carlacci. “And what would you need from Medlab … sir? Chemical analysis? Autopsies? Research equipment?”
He looked at her and smiled. Despite being totally disheveled, the little Centauri woman struck him as quite charming. “If someone like the Gaim are tied up in this, I’ll definitely need a medical expert. Can you come down to the planet with me? Unfortunately, autopsies may have to be where we start. I’ve got a pass to the morgue.”
Darquin crossed himself at the mention of the morgue.
Mira froze, staring at Carlacci’s smile, oblivious to the alien religious ritual going on beside her, while lists ran through her head. “Yes, of course I will. I’ll go pack my kit.”
“Maybe you ought to change into your Ranger stuff, Doc!” called Carter. Mira simply glared at the shameless eavesdropper and hustled off to her office.
“Thank you, Doctor,” Carlacci said as she went.
As he watched Mira’s reaction, Darquin said to Carlacci, “You might want to check in with Station House before you go.”
“Understood,” said Carlacci, nodding. “You want to help us on this, Tomas, or have they already found another job for you? There seem to be more than enough to go around.”
“I might join ya later. I ought to file a status report before I do, though. Oh, and I can give you a list of contacts just in case.”
“That’d be a big help, thanks.”
“And, uh …. ” Darquin looked toward Mira’s office and lowered his voice. “Be nice to Mira, wouldya? Keep an eye on her.”
Carlacci’s reply was equally quiet. “Will do.”
Mira reappeared minus her bulky lab coat and scrubs. Her hair was restored to its neat braided bun and she had indeed changed into full Ranger browns, duster and all. She had her medkit in one hand and a list in the other.
“Carter!” she called. “This is a list of what is scheduled, for while I am gone.” She frowned, adding, “No more shillelaghs! I’ll be back to check up on you at least. And of course, Doctor Brannon is available.”
Darquin suddenly nodded, reminded of something. “I’ll have to touch base with her.”
Carlacci turned away a moment, unable to resist a grin at Mira’s language. As their eyes met, Darquin shared a secret shrug with him. He smiled in reply, bewildered. How the others managed to keep a straight face around her? “Well, Doctor, it sounds like we’re ready.” He turned back to Darquin. “Can we follow you over to Station House now, to pick up that list?”
“I can write it out right here, if you want. Is Minbari okay?”
“Yeah, no problem.”
Darquin started scribbling on a slip of paper. Mira first tried to look over his shoulder, without seeming too obvious.
Then she turned to Carlacci with a guilty expression. “I should be honest with you, sir. I’m quite hopeless if there’s trouble.”
“You seemed to be doing well enough when I came in,” Carlacci said, keeping his expression deadpan. “But we’ll do our best to make sure it doesn’t come to that.”
The doctor frowned as she confessed, “They won’t issue me a weapon because I lack any but the most basic training. I was recruited as a doctor.”
Darquin smiled. “When in doubt, threaten to use your extensive medical knowledge on ’em.”
“There you go,” Carlacci agreed with a grin.
“To do what? Baffle them with medical tongue-teasers?”
“Well, you’d know if where a good kick’ll hurt more, right?”
She smirked back. “We could ask Carter about that.”
“I don’t think I want to go there,” Carlacci said, rubbing his ribcage dramatically.
Mira suddenly looked guilty. “I didn’t get you by incident, did I?”
“No, no,” Carlacci said quickly. “But your — head nurse, is it? — is not a lightweight. Are we ready?”
Mira nodded. “I am ready.”
Carlacci looked to Darquin for the list. “I’ll check in before we leave the docking bays,” he said.
Darquin grinned evilly. “Have fun, kids. Don’t forget your galoshes.”
Mira hefted her bag but lagged behind. “Darquin, I didn’t catch his name,” she whispered urgently.
“Peter Carlacci. Almost sounds Centauri, doesn’t it?” he added with a wink.
Mira just threw a confused look at Darquin over her shoulder as she hurried to catch up to Carlacci. In the lift, she thought to ask, “What are galoshes?”
Copyright (c) 2000 Mona Hinds, Jamie Lawson and Joe Medina. All rights reserved.