Opening Up

Characters: Dr. Mira Trassano, Peter Carlacci

Mira stopped staring in horrified fascination out the shuttle port at the large ships that really did seem to be much too close to their little shuttle. The good doctor shut her eyes.

Carlacci glanced over. “It’s all right, Doctor. I’ve been flying these things a long time, haven’t crashed yet.”

Mira kept her voice low and steady. “Actually, I wasn’t concerned about you so much as these other ships that are whipping all around us. I’m usually back there where I can’t see all this.” She jerked her head towards the seats in the back.

He smiled, then looked thoughtful for a moment. Reaching across the console, he flicked his comm. “Qbru’kiwis Central Flight Control, this is Anla’shok Shuttle Olmec. Request permission to land directly within the Government House complex.”

After a moment, the reply came back. “Shuttle Olmec, permission granted.”

Carlacci shut down the comm and smiled over at Mira. “There, now we can avoid the big jam over the spaceport, and the ground traffic, too. It’ll be just a few steps to our destination.”

Mira cracked one of her eyes open. “So, we shall go to the Morgue first?”

His expression sobered. “I think so. Unless you want to look at some of the places where the bodies were found, but I don’t think there’s much to be gained there.”

Mira nodded, then after a moment offered Carlacci a reassuring smile. “I’m sure I will eventually become accustomed to all this.” She paused and added a bit softly, perhaps to herself, “Sometimes I wonder that the Rangers even let me past their gates.”

“You’d said you were recruited as a doctor. Were you training on Minbar at the time?”

“No, actually, I was working in the Clinic in Mereldor on Minbar and was recruited during the crisis the Rangers were having for Medical Personnel. Are still having, I should say.” Mira shrugged delicately. “I suppose they thought I would fit in.”

Carlacci smiled again as he started the landing cycle, guiding the little craft down to land among several Abbai vehicles. “Who says you don’t?”

Mira’s eyebrows would have touched her hairline, if she had had one. “Oh, truly, Mr Carlacci. You must admit that I’m not exactly what people have come to expect of Rangers. It is one of the reasons I don’t often wear this,” she gestured at her browns. “I don’t wish to raise strangers’ expectations of me.”

He shrugged, the gesture accentuated by the gentlest of bumps as the shuttle finally touched ground. “I don’t know,” he said. “They trained me to believe that we all serve as we are called to. Other people’s expectations, that’s their problem.”

Mira smiled back. “Ahh, there’s the problem… I haven’t been trained.” She suddenly noticed that they were on the ground. The doctor laughed. “I didn’t notice the rest of the flight!” she exclaimed in delight.

“I was hoping you’d say that,” he said, unstrapping himself and climbing out of the pilot’s seat. “Now then,” he added, brushing his white lock of hair back into place, “I can get us into the morgue and set up. The rest of it … I’ll be in your hands.”

Mira got out of her seat and retrieved her kit. “Excellent. You’ll have to decide whether you want to be present at the autopsy, of course.” She waited for the door to open and tweaked her clothes into place again.

“If there’s some way I can help you with it, definitely. I don’t have any kind of training, but I do follow directions well.” He opened the hatch, and locked it down again after he and Mira had stepped out. The cooling air of an Abbai evening greeted them.

Mira nodded. “It will depend on the facilities available here. If the local attendant has already left, I might need to you to lend a hand.”

He nodded. “Come on, let’s find out. It’s about a quarter mile to the main hospital from here.” He pointed to a cluster of taller buildings at the end of the landing field.

Mira smiled at the sight of the large hospital complex. “Oh good! There’s bound to be a nice autopsy room, then. That always makes things easier.” She followed Carlacci.

After several minutes of walking, she asked, “Do dead things bother you, Mr Carlacci?”

He lowered his eyes, a haunted look crossing his face for a moment. “I was in Earthforce duing the Earth-Minbari War,” he said slowly. “Lord knows I had to deal with plenty of dead people then. And a few since.” The image of Tanisval, lying on the deck of an Abbai mining station with his skull smashed in, came unbidden and unwelcome to his mind’s eye. He blanked it out with an effort. “I don’t think I’d call myself squeamish, if that’s what you mean.”

Mira looked at her companion, sizing him up and wondering how hard she should press. She simply nodded. “Most likely, there will be no need to find out.”

They reached the doors of the main hospital building, a clean, modern-looking structure. Carlacci spoke to the receptionist at the desk, and the two Rangers were quickly ushered to the office of the hospital’s chief administrator, a female Abbai named Amassarassu. “Welcome again, Anla’shok,” she said. “You have returned more quickly than I anticipated.”

Carlacci smiled and bowed slightly. “We didn’t want to waste time, when lives are at stake. May I present Anla’shok Doctor Mira Trassano.”

Mira tried to look as professional as she could, bowing respectfully. “I wish we could have met under better circumstances.”

“As do I, Doctor,” Amassarassu said. “Perhaps when the crisis is over we may have some time to share information in a less formal setting. Still, we are grateful for your help. I assume you will wish to get right to work?”

“Yes. I think that would be best. Have your staff already left for the evening?”

“Unfortunately, yes. The second shift staff is occupied on some other necessary work, so I fear I cannot spare you an assistant. But all our facilities are at your disposal. Come, I will show you.”

“Thank you.” Mira suppressed her sigh and followed Amassarassu.

They were shown to an autopsy room that was as up-to-date as any that Mira was familiar with from Minbar. A short corridor just outside led to the storage for the bodies to be examined. Amassarassu gave Mira a data crystal. “This is all the information we have on these poor unfortunates. You can use it to cross-reference to the storage drawers. If you need any other assistance, you may contact me directly.” She pointed to an intercom on the wall. “I will be in my office for many hours yet.”

“Thank you, I am most grateful.” Mira bowed to Amassarassu again as the Abbai left the suite. Then, the doctor sighed. “Well, I suppose you shall have to help me, Mr. Carlacci. Don’t worry,” she flashed the man a toothy grin. “I won’t abuse your sensibilities.”

He felt his face warm as he saw her smile, and hoped she didn’t notice. “Let’s find out what they are,” he said, taking off his long outer jacket and hanging it up in a corner, then rolling up his sleeves. “We’re in this together.”

Mira’s grin softened to a smile. “Good.” The doctor then trotted over the to scrub station and dropped her kit on the counter. She took off her robe and hung it up on a peg. “You’ll want to wear these surgical scrubs to protect your clothes.” She showed him how to put them on and then put on her own. “If you would remove and hold the gloves for me from the dispenser, I will help you put them on after I’ve got mine.”

He nodded, shaking out a set of the scrubs with a frown. “This is going to be a bit tight,” he murmured. “I’m a bit taller than most Abbai.” He dressed quickly enough, though. In short order they were both fully suited up, complete with face shields and extra strong gloves to prevent infection.

Mira smiled at Carlacci’s ill-fitting garments. “Well, some is better than none. How many victims do we have here?”

“Not sure,” he said. “Try the crystal.”

Mira popped the crystal in the slot of the suite’s recording terminal and pulled up the data. “Well, let’s see. Nice of them to put this in Interlac.” She muttered some more under her breath as she scanned. “We only have two, both males. Unknown identities but thankfully found only 12 hours or so after death.

“Very nice. They are in units 35 and 36. Could you bring a gurney while I find the first unit?”

“Sure.” Carlacci found it in a corner of the room and followed Mira out.

The short Centauri woman opened the door to 35 and pulled out the drawer. The Abbai male had a pale waxy look to his features after death and was a rather large specimen. “If you put the gurney right next to the drawer here and put the brake on, I’ll shift the body.”

Carlacci did so. “I’m not going to try to be gallant, because you’re probably stronger than I am,” he said. “I confess, though, I’ve never met a Centauri woman quite like you before.”

Mira transported the body, considerably larger than herself, from the drawer to the gurney none too gently. The body ended up face down on the gurney. Mira used the opportunity to check for distinguishing marks. “Oh? Do you meet many? I confess I haven’t met more than five Centuari since boarding the Phoenix.” She double checked the ID bracelet on the corpse’s ankle.

“Before I joined the Rangers, I worked on passenger liners — navigation, security. I met quite a few Centauri that way.”

“Let’s take him back to the main room now and get him on the table.” Mira led the way and grinned back over her shoulder. “I see now. You more accustomed to the Wives in their Court Manifestation.” She chuckled. “Most Centauri women aren’t the same at home, than they are while traveling or at Court.”

As they returned to the room, she said, “You can park the gurney right there,” and pointed to the side of the autopsy table. Then she glanced around. “Why is it that people don’t set up their autopsy suites in the same manner?” she muttered.

Carlacci smiled as he rolled the gurney into place. “Takes all kinds, I suppose,” he said softly. “So at home, would they all be as … unassuming … as you are?”

Mira got down on her hands and knees and pulled a largish black block from under a counter. “Hah! Found it. Unassuming? Ahh, you mean not ‘toyed up to within an inch of my life’?” She came back over to the table and shifted the body from the gurney. “I suppose, though, some women simply enjoy all that frippery.” She shifted the body around until it was arranged to her satisfaction. “I will admit that I do love my dresses, but they get in the way at work.” The body was now on its back with the block placed at the small of its back.

Carlacci smiled. When she was on a roll, he hadn’t a hope of getting a word in edgewise, that much was clear. “Well, yeah, but mostly I meant in attitude, even more than looks.”

Mira paused and looked at her companion. “I suppose that I try not to attract attention to myself. It’s a habit from before the Rangers.” She went over to the wall and began the computer recording the session. Then she opened her kit. “I was different before I left the Homeworld, I just don’t think about it any more.”

“Got it.” Carlacci’s words, and the look he gave Mira, clearly conveyed that he’d want to hear more — in a different time and place. She pulled out a measuring tape and a very large sheathed knife.

Carlacci’s eyes opened wide at the sight of the knife. “You don’t use laser scalpels or something like that?”

“Of course I do. But for some things this works better.”

Mira began speaking her preliminary findings into the recording. Measurement, weight, external markings all went into the computer. This was the beginning of a very long night.

Copyright (c) 2000 Mona Hinds and Jamie Lawson. All rights reserved.

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