In the Lift
Mira came out of her office as soon as the Security people appeared. She had been keeping an eye on Helle and Reeakiss through a monitor used to view the isochambers. When the altercation began, the CMO had jumped up ready to help. But she decided that interfering would undermine Helle’s already shaky authority in MedLab. I’ll just have a quiet word with her later, Mira thought. She seems to be under control. Then Security showed up. Who called Security?
From the doorway of her office, Mira was present during Darquin’s tirade, but the doctor couldn’t get a word in edgewise. Darquin even stomped off and ignored her when Mira called after him. The short doctor was getting royally pissed off.
Mira stared at the stunned Helle as the other security officers asked her to come with them. Her voice was steady and controlled when she called for Lynne to go and stay with Reeakiss. Her hands were relaxed when she told Carter to keep the MedLab under control and ran out the door. Mira appeared from MedLab just in time to see the lift doors start to close. She angrily jabbed at her link on the back of her fisted hand and her voice shook with anger. “Medical Override. Freeze Lift #42.”
Darquin had thrown his datapad into bulkhead and stepped into the open lift. Leaning against the wall as the lift shuddered to a stop, he stomped his foot on the wall. “Great. Just great.” He stabbed his finger at the keys of his link. “Computer, status on this lift.”
“Medical override command on Lift 42.”
Darquin rolled his eyes. “Here it comes.”
Yoshino was coming up the corridor. She paused at the sound of the datapad crashing against the bulkhead and quickened her pace, in time to see the developing tableau. Mira stomped down the corridor and into the lift. She didn’t notice Yoshino just down the hall. Yoshino moved quick to join them, just as the lift doors closed. “Your pardon,” she murmured, bowing.
Mira nodded tightly to Yoshino. She considered waiting, then found that she simply couldn’t. “Because I respect you, Mr. Darquin, I’m going to assume you had a reason for what you did. I would appreciate knowing what that was.” The short bald woman crossed her arms. She waited in the immobile lift with pursed lips and fisted hands.
Looking on, Yoshino was thinking to herself that this might have been a mistake. She tried to blend into the lift wall.
Mira’s accent was coming out more than usual when she snapped, “Well?”
“Mira–” Darquin caught the brutality in his voice, clenching his teeth and closing his eyes as he held it back. “Mira, in case you hadn’t noticed, Doctor Brannon lost total control in there. She decked a patient. I know she’s had a hard time, but that’s going too far.”
Yoshino gasped. “Oh, no, not again….”
“No fraggin’ kidding,” he mumbled, bitter.
Mira simply went on, not missing a step. “What YOU did not note was that the patient had already ‘decked’ Helle. She was restraining a woman who is withdrawing from some powerful chemicals. Had it been me in there, I wouldn’t have taken the first three hits!”
“If it was you in there, you would’ve gotten a nurse or someone from Security to hold her down. We’re not wearing these to make a fashion statement,” Darquin said, thumbing at their uniforms.
Yoshino started looking around almost like a trapped animal, biting her lower lip hard.
“You are making assumptions with no base. The patient was mistakenly not considered that much of a threat to others. I would NOT have done any other than Helle did. Except perhaps faster. THEN I would have called for help.”
Mira was about to add a few choice comments on people who jump to conclusions when Darquin jumped in again. “I have to make those damn assumptions….So do the rest of us.” Darquin leaned on the back wall, arms crossed over his chest.
“Fine! So, you assume Helle lost control. Now, she’s turned towards the brig and I am small a doctor. How do you assume I will run my MedLab without a backup?”
“Better than with a doctor who is still inclined to violence when crossed.” Yoshino’s voice was sharp in the sudden silence. To them both, she quickly apologized. “I’m sorry.” She looked at the wall.
Darquin said, quietly, “So am I. But this is the most I can do when a member of the crew doesn’t seem to have things under control.”
Mira glared at Yoshino, momentarily annoyed with a woman she considered a friend. “She was never inclined to violence. She was self-destructive.”
Yoshino held her hand over her eyes, nursing the memory of an old bruise. “She threw the first punch at me, Doctor.”
“She was drunk then. She is sober now. She aimed one blow to get the girl to back off and one to incapacitate the patient. Then, she stopped.” Mira rubbed her eyes, suddenly sounding weary. “If she is not trusted now, than she will never trust herself again. I trust she was under control.”
“Mira, I know what it’s like to have a short fuse.” Darquin released a long, weary exhale. “But I can’t let her slide forever. This has been going on for almost a year.”
“For a year as a drunk. People are different sober than drunk.” Stiffening, Mira could feel herself losing confidence in her stance.
“Doctor,” Yoshino said, “maybe that’s true for a Centauri, but it is not so for a human alcoholic. The things in her mind that drive her to the alcohol in the first place are always there. Drunk or sober.”
“Right, see for yourself. Dark circles around the eyes, sleeps a couple hours out of every 24, hardly eats, temper with a hair-line trigger. I saw it all the time in Earthforce. Letting her keep going till she hits bottom and screws something up in Medlab is the last thing we need!”
“So, you think she should be left in brig to torture herself with her own inadequacies? How is that ever going to help? This little incident isn’t going to help Helle stay sober. And it doesn’t matter how long you leave her. The fact that she went is enough. She will come back to useful life, any useful life, pushing herself even harder to prove she is competent. She will still drive herself to the edge. I had hoped to ease her back to the work. I was going to keep her in check with simple assignments until I could find her access to better help.”
“Well, there’s something around here she can’t handle, not the way she’s going. That’s gotta stop no matter what.”
“She needs to work with someone to change her way of thinking,” Yoshino offered.
“Most of all,” Darquin agreed, “we–including Helle–better figure out what the hell the problem is.”
“I never intended her to struggle alone,” Mira murmured, almost to herself. “I’ve been researching the Human methods of helping this. I was hoping to get her sober and transfer her to a place with a larger support network. Somewhere near a human settlement with an AA chapter. But, first I have to get her on her feet. Get her working. And find another CMO who will take her, knowing what her weakness is.”
“First things first. We have to find out what set all this off. Her patient might’ve been the last straw, but I don’t think that was the trigger. You do what you have to. I want to find it, period.”
Mira rubbed her head; Darquin’s certainty was convincing. The doctor’s doubts swelled up and she forcefully smacked them back. She would try to keep them under control until she was alone. “Yes, perhaps that is true. Perhaps she was a simmering beaker ready to react. I was hoping that having her help this girl, an addict herself, would give Helle someone to relate to. I can’t imagine what she could have been struggling with to bring her so close to breaking so soon. She’s only been back on duty two days at most. She was supposed to sort through her paperwork and help the nurses a little.”
“I knew all that before anyone started in on me.” Darquin slid his hand over his hair in an awkward, languish stroke. “Look, I have to do something. I owe it to her, even before this.”
Mira sighed. One of her niggling doubts reared up and slipped past her lips before she could stop it. “Maybe I should have waited a little longer or been here when she returned. I honestly didn’t expect her to come back after only the one asking.” Mira waved him back as he moved to leave the lift. “Perhaps you were right after all. You did what you felt you had to do. I apologize. You go on with your work. Please, tell me when you decide to release her. I hope you allow me to visit her while she is incarcerated.” She tapped her link. “Release Medical Override on Lift #42.” The CMO stepped out of the newly opened lift doors. As she made her way back to the MedLab, her shoulders were slumped under the weight of her doubts.
“Tomas, wait,” Yoshino murmured in Japanese. Darquin turned like a grim-faced automaton to Yoshino, who found herself suddenly hesitant. “I … I’ve been meaning to apologize. For embarrassing you, back at the party. It seems so long ago now.”
Darquin smirked, but was still downcast. “I wasn’t worried.”
“I … I was also wondering …” The woman’s words came out in a rush. “I have been invited to a village festival down on the planet, a few days from now. Would you do me the honor of accompanying me?”
Darquin paused to rub his eyes. “Maybe if this thing with Helle blows over in time. I have no idea what my free time is gonna look like now..”
“Please let me know if I can help in any way. I’m worried about her also.”
“Um…well, maybe you can,” he said, thinking aloud. “If Ops could help track whatever activity or data requests are getting pulled down from a particular command code….”
“Certainly. I was on my way back up to the bridge. You can send me whatever you need me to look for.”
“Good, I’ll get that to you asap. That’ll free me up to do some footwork.”
“A pleasure. I had better go then.” Yoshino bowed. “And thank you.”
Darquin waved it off. “I didn’t do anything,” he said, his voice losing energy like an old ember.
Yoshino was not quite sure what to say to this, so rather than drawing out the awkward moment, she bowed again and left, heading as quickly as she could for the bridge and her console. Without waiting for further specifics, she started calling up the duty records from Medlab — and Security. Darquin’s words about Helle’s appearance and manner seemed just as applicable to Darquin himself — a fact which troubled Yoshino deeply. The Phoenix couldn’t afford to have its Chief of Security out of commission any more than it could a doctor. And Darquin was her friend.
Even the briefest scan of the on and off-duty timestamps in computer access logs made it obvious. Both Brannon and Darquin had been pulling double-shifts or longer. Yoshino sighed, shaking her head as she started calling up details from her Ops console. Her eyes widened. Doctor Trassano’s orders were there, but they were not the only ones. While she’d been supervising medical aid for the Abbai, Mr Carter had transferred even more cases into Doctor Brannon’s workload — more than enough to account for the time she was putting in. The fact that she’d been able to finish most of it bordered on the incredible.
Yoshino summoned from her console the details on Darquin’s work logs. There was plenty of what she’d expected to see — runs to the planet for investigations, security profiles, incident reports, analyses, routine sweeps of the ship and its surrounding space, on-board drills. But there were also a number of calls to Medlab or related to its staff, to record complaints or settle altercations. Only a fraction involved Helle Brannon, but many with Medlab personnel during their off-hours. It was as if someone had shaken Medlab like a bottle and primed it to explode.
She sighed again, pushing a lock of loose hair out of her eyes. Carter, the head nurse. What had begun as an ugly business was promising to get even uglier before it was finished.
Copyright (c) 2000 Mona Hinds, Jamie Lawson and Joe Medina. All rights reserved.