Helle Brannon suppressed a sigh when she heard Mira calling. Somehow, over the course of the last day and a half, she’d actually managed to get through all her messages, and all but one of the items on the list Mira had left behind.
Missed developing a cure for death by old age, she thought, though I think maybe I’m dying of old age myself just now.
But she still felt only shame. And when she answered Mira’s call, to see the little Centauri grinning like a maniac didn’t help any. She tried to keep the grimace off her face as Mira said, “Ah, Doctor Brannon. Mr. Carter tells me that you are doing excellently well, so I thought to give you a special assignment!”
“What is it?” Helle asked, startled at how wearied her voice sounded.
Mira’s grin almost faltered. Perhaps, Helle isn’t doing as well as Carter would have me believe. Should I allow her to rest a bit more, maybe I should–Stop it, Mira. You think that you had hovered too much before. You need to stop hovering now. Coddling her won’t make this easier for her.
Mira’s thoughts ran like mercury, even as she continued with the explanation of her plan. “During our trip to the planet, Pe– Mr. Carlacci and I brought back an Abbai female. She is presently suffering withdrawal symptoms, presumably of a new ‘designer drug.’ I want you to stay with her in the isolab.” Mira pointed helpfully at the young girl shivering on a mat on the floor of Iso1.
“For as long as it takes. I am still analyzing the exact composition of the drug, so the effects may be unpredictable. But she seems to be suffering from hallucinations at least some of the time. I know you speak Abbai, so you seemed the ideal person to handle this. Keep watch over her and don’t leave her alone. When you have to leave for food and rest, then have Lynne stay with her. She speaks Abbai also.” Mira offered Helle a quick pat on the shoulder, then was gone.
Helle turned and walked slowly over to the isolab, her mind in turmoil. She opened the door and took two steps toward the young Abbai woman. The room’s bed had been removed, leaving the girl on her mat. She was curled into a fetal position and sobbing in pain.
Crouching beside the girl, Helle gently touched her shoulder, intending to roll her over and make a preliminary examination. With a speed that would have caught Helle off guard even if she hadn’t been half-dead on her feet, the girl swung both her body and her fist around, collecting Helle square in the eye.
Landing awkwardly and heavily, she felt a jarring pain snake up her arm from her wrist but had no time to dwell on it as the girl reared up, following her fist, all banshee howling and flailing limbs.
She fought like a girl — all open-handed slaps and fingernails, but the sheer strength behind the blows had Helle’s vision swimming. One vicious swipe raked down her cheek, drawing a burning trail of red-hot fire that she knew had drawn blood.
That did it.
Ms Nice Doctor took a sudden back seat to Ms Not Real Happy About Being Slapped Anymore and she swung her arm back and hit the Abbai girl as hard as she could.
The girl screamed and paused for a brief moment, the look in her pain- and delerium-crazed eyes saying clearly that the fight was far from over.
Helle launched herself up at the girl, putting her entire weight behind the next punch. It was a good hit to the solar plexus and Reeakiss dropped to her knees, clutching her stomach and gasping for breath.
Grunting with pain, Helle quickly reached into her pocket, wincing as her bruised fingers fumbled over the hypo wand. With no small amount of satisfaction she pressed it to the girl’s throat and administered a knockout dose of tranquilizer.
“Damn it!” she yelled, throwing the wand across the room. Cradling her damaged wrist against her stomach, she rifled one handed through her coat pockets, still cursing loudly.
Hearing the door open behind her she continued her search, her temper making her words even sharper with sarcasm than usual.
“Oh. So very glad you could join me Mr. Carter. Now if it wouldn’t interrupt your day too much, perhaps you could…”
Her words fell away as she turned around to see one of the Minbari nurses, flanked by two very unimpressed looking security officers.
“What the hell is going on here?” she asked curtly.
Security people and nurses alike, gaping in shock as if a bomb had just gone off, let Darquin pass. Putting a datapad down on the nurse’s station counter, he marched straight to her and, hand under her good wrist, led her to the nearest exam table with a gentility that didn’t match the look in his eyes. In a low ominous tone, he told the other security people, “Stand by, I got new orders for you.”
Helle fished a topical pain-killer out of her lab coat and sprayed her wrist with it. “Darquin, it’s under control, so just get–”
“You gave me that message almost a year ago.” His voice turned to ice. “I can’t believe I was stupid enough to buy it for so long.”
“If you’re going to put me on report, then just go a–”
“Report? I’m revoking your command access codes, to hell with reports!”
“How the hell am I supposed to get anything done–”
“You can’t and you’re not. Starting now, I’m declaring you a security risk and a threat to the safety of this ship. Congrats, Helle, you’re officially relieved of duty! I’m locking you out of the computer system and every command-level area on board. That includes going planetside. You don’t get to go anywhere, you don’t get to do anything. If I see you anywhere near a shuttle bay or a computer terminal, I’ll ship you out to Minbar myself.”
Carter bolted toward him. “You can’t do that!”
“Watch me. And I don’t care what Mira or the Captain says. In fact, tell them. Flag it top priority so they’ll be on top of it. Doctor Brannon’s quarters and effects are going to be inspected for controlled substances, and if I find any, they’re gonna be spaced and that’s NOT A REQUEST by the by!”
He glared at the security personnel as they shot out into the corridor, then flagged two of them down. “Not you, get back here! One person stays with the patient, 24-hour watch.” Shaking, he shut his eyes as if trying to blot out the moment. “The other … takes Doctor Brannon to the brig.”
Darquin stormed out of Medlab, swiping his datapad from the nurse’s station and slapping it under his arm, not responding whenever anyone called out to him. He headed for the turbolift down the corridor and fought to keep his eyes and his attention straight ahead. He didn’t want to give any thought to whatever that was happening behind him. His conscience had enough ammo.
Waiting for the lift, he pulled out the personal log he had been writing before he’d gotten the word that the Abbai patient was aboard. He read over his last addition: “I’m tired of keeping up the happy front, being strong all the time. Trying to keep despair off our backs. I want to give into it, just for a while. Till I got the strength to hold it off again. A little while in a safe place.”
Darquin sneered at his own words. He could forget about that stuff happening anytime soon.
Outrage sent the datapad flying into the nearest bulkhead just as the lift doors opened.
Copyright (c) 2000 Denise Cox, Mona Hinds, Jamie Lawson and Joe Medina. All rights reserved.