Characters: John Carter

It was the end of the second shift. The nurses who were going off-duty smiled and traded pleasantries with their relief. People made plans, paired up, and headed towards their various destinations in the company of friends. Everyone was trying not to gossip about Security having taken Dr. Brannon to the brig only an hour before. Mr. Carter, the head nurse, bantered with them all. But, in the end, he walked off alone, grabbed a bagged meal from the mess hall, and headed back to the solitude of his quarters.

Carter stretched his shoulders as he walked down the corridor. I can’t believe she sent me to bed like a tired kid, he thought. I can’t imagine what got into her. I hope she doesn’t do anything that I can’t fix after she goes back to her schedule. It’s taken so long to whip the others into shape.

With a swipe of his identicard, a door slid open to reveal a bed, a desk, an armchair, and a bookshelf that consumed an entire wall. The quarters were small and cramped, but they were his. To a man who grew up the middle child of eleven brothers and four sisters, privacy in any quantity was a precious thing. He often told himself that it was for the sake of that privacy that he didn’t encourage the people who tried to get close to him. He often lied to himself.

Pushing aside some papers and activating the computer terminal, Carter set his dinner out on his desk. He had long ago convinced the mess hall to break its rules and pack his meals to go. He told himself that it was because he worked rotating shifts. He didn’t have time to contend with the lines and the crowded tables. He needed to go straight to his quarters or back to MedLab and work on the paperwork that he never had time for while on-duty. He needed his sleep more than he needed more people. It’s better to be alone than to surround yourself with people who might not measure up, he reminded himself. And excellence is essential. You have to stand out from the crowd or you’re nothing. It was like a litany that constantly slid through the background of his mind.

Carter took off his greens. Before he tossed them in his laundry pile, he removed his folded pike from the pocket and placed it on the desk. As he mechanically ate the food, Carter read the reports from his three Shift Leaders. Every seven days, he switched shifts and worked directly with one of the three. They were all good people. He trusted them, respected them, and still never spent personal time with any of them. Every fourteen days, he worked seven days on Mira’s shift. He enjoyed the time. She had so much potential. He started writing his summary of the three reports for her.

As a doctor, Trassano was skilled, compassionate, and willing to admit when she was wrong. Those were three characteristics that Carter had rarely seen combined in a CMO. He hoped that the pressures of the job wouldn’t beat the compassion out of her. He could see that scenario happening before she ever became an arrogant pinhead. Her temperament seemed all wrong for evolving into the overbearing pinhead type of CMO. But, he could easily see her becoming a cold-hearted-bitch-CMO. Yeah, that wouldn’t take much. But, not on my watch. He would do everything in his power to keep the pressure on, but manageable, for Trass. It would hurt too much to watch the little Centauri crash and burn. He liked her. If things were different….

His finished report was sent to Trass and cc’ed to Brannon. Now, Hellecat Brannon is a piece of work. Carter admired her skill and guts. But, he despised the fact that she was an alcoholic. He saw it as a weakness, a failure. She was what any doctor or nurse easily ran the risk of becoming. Alcoholism and drug addiction were some of the best ways for a person who cared too much to stop caring. In his 20 years as a nurse, Carter had seen pressure and compassion drive many of his co-workers over the brink. Very few of those who fell ever managed to get back to their feet again. At least, not before they made a mistake that cost them their jobs.

In his opinion, Helle was lucky. Rangers looked out for their own. But, she had also made the choice not to cut and run. The Head Nurse thought that was a shame, because now he was going to have to drive her out. Hopefully, without causing the patients too much damage, but a casualty here or there was vastly preferable to having a sub-standard doctor or nurse on the staff. Carter had thought, at first, that Lynne Travis was going to have to go, too. But, she was shaping up nicely. Helle, though, was a lost cause. Best to get her out of here fast. Calling Security on her when she was in isolab with the Abbai was a good call.

Carter packed the food containers back into the bag. He’d return them to the mess hall on his way to the gym. I’ll spend two hours or so on paperwork before it’s time to hit the gym, he decided. Then, I’ll swing by the MedLab for an hour or two to check up on third shift. Can’t let them slack off. I’ll just be careful not to let Trass see me. What she doesn’t know, she won’t object to.

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

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