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Old February 20 2010, 11:13 AM   #36
Gibraltar
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Embers of the Fire - Chapter 10

Chapter 10 <cont'd>

Sickbay was once again a crowded place. The most recent upsurge in the facility’s cycle of feast or famine owed to the destruction of Phoenix, many of whose survivors now rested in the bay’s bio-beds.

Sandhurst entered only to pause just inside the door at the unsettling sight of nearly every bed occupied. He had made a habit of avoiding Sickbay in the course of his career, as a trip to Sickbay that didn’t involve a routine checkup usually meant that somebody somewhere had screwed up. Now, he was expected to perform an obligatory good-will tour through the bay. Sandhurst quashed his own discomfort as he caught the attention of a nearby nurse from whom he inquired as to the general well being of the patients.

The Bajoran man smiled diffidently. “They’re doing well under the circumstances, sir. The Phoenix survivors are still shaken up, but that’s to be expected after all they’ve been through.” The nurse gestured behind him to one of the ship’s two medical holograms, currently with its back to them as it studied something on an oversized medical padd. “Old Doc Photonic isn’t much of a ship’s counselor, as you might imagine. I guess their psychological needs will have to wait for a starbase, sir. Physically, though, they’re on the mend.”

Sandhurst thanked him and moved on. As he wound his way between the beds, he made idle conversation with those patients who were awake and tried not to disturb the others. He spotted Juneau who slept peacefully with her left arm encased within an ostio-regenerator cuff. The device hummed softly as it worked to knit her fractured humerus back together.

The captain found Plazzi resting idly beneath a neural scanner. The device hung above his bed on an armature and emitted a greenish beam that swept back and forth across his forehead. “Elisto, how’s the head?”

The geologist grinned. “Apparently composed of duranium, or so they tell me. My brain, alas, seems to be somewhat more fragile.”

“So I see. Any idea when we’ll have the honor of your presence back on the bridge?”

The older man attempted a shrug and winced with the effort. “Tough to say. I guess I don’t heal as quickly as I used to.”

Sandhurst nodded amiably. “I’ll tell the medical staff to hurry up. We need you back.”

“Thank you, Captain.”

A few beds further, Sandhurst happened upon Taiee. The Chief Medical Officer was sitting up in bed as she pushed against an isometric pulley system as part of her physical rehabilitation. Her expression brightened as she saw the captain. “Hello, sir.”

“Evening, Lieutenant. Good to see you up and awake.” Sandhurst seated himself somewhat awkwardly at the foot of the bed. “Interesting strategy you’ve come up with for observing your staff at work.”

Taiee laughed. “Getting shot, you mean? And here I was hoping nobody would catch on.” She fell silent long enough to finish off a set of five isometric presses. “I like that idea much better than the thought of needing remedial training on away team survival skills.”

Sandhurst shook his head. “There’s no shame in being caught up in a bad situation, Lieutenant. I’m just relieved that you pulled through. The EMH said it was touch-and-go there for awhile.”

Taiee glanced over at the hologram, her expression thoughtful. “The Mark-I’s are competent surgeons, I’ll give them that. Obviously, in that regard I’m grateful to have them. As a resource, they’re terrific. I’m less comfortable having them running the whole show in my absence. If the nursing staff doesn’t up and quit en mass, it’ll be a miracle.”

Sandhurst raised an eyebrow. “You want me to modify their interpersonal communications subroutines? I could make them as meek and compliant as you’d like.”

The lieutenant flashed a devious grin. “I’m tempted, sir, but no. The consensus among the Fleet’s medical community is that the longer you leave them running, the more their adaptive programming has a chance to learn. It’s better if we let the holograms and the nursing staff work this out on their own; hopefully their dispositions will be better for the experience.”

The captain stood. “Suit yourself, Lieutenant. Just remember, the offer stands.”

“I will, sir. Thank you.”

“Take care… Doc.” Sandhurst walked on and mused that it sounded strange to call the CMO anything other than that. He made a few more stops along the way to visit with some of Phoenix’s crew, but as a group they gave him a reticent reception. He couldn’t be sure if that was because he wasn’t their captain, or simply due to the recent trauma they had all shared.

“Transporter room three to Captain Sandhurst.”

Sandhurst toggled his compin. “Go ahead.”

“Sir, we’ve located Commander Ramirez. We’re beaming her up right now.”

“Fantastic, I’m on my way.” Confident that he’d at least made the attempt, he stepped out of Sickbay and left the medical professionals to their work.

*****

The captain entered the transporter room to find both medical and security personnel giving Ramirez thorough examinations. She appeared to be suffering them patiently, and the exec directed a raised eyebrow at Sandhurst as he stood by for the specialists’ results.

“She’s cleared security screening, Captain.”

The medic, however, was less obliging. “I’m reading a low-grade concussion, sir. She’ll need to been seen in Sickbay. Shouldn’t take long, though.”

Sandhurst nodded. “Very well, I’ll walk her down there.” He turned to the XO and inquired, “You up to it?”

Ramirez grinned, still reeling from the relief of her unexpected liberation. “I think I can manage that, Captain.”

The two stepped out into the corridor. As they walked, Sandhurst glanced over at her, his expression pensive. “It’s good to have you back, Commander. We thought we’d lost you.”

He registered that the two of them were momentarily alone, and Sandhurst stopped. Ramirez went another few steps, then turned back with a confused look.

“Sir?”

“Ramirez, all evidence to the contrary, I want you to know that I’m not trying to get you killed.”

She chuckled. “Tell that to our Cardassian friends. They seem to have it out for me.” She took a moment to fully register Sandhurst’s earnest expression. “You’re serious, aren’t you?”

“Yes. Every time I give you an assignment it seems that you just barely survive it.” He frowned, not liking how that had come out. “I don’t… what I mean to say…”

Despite the fatigue that had arrived on the heels of her ebbing adrenaline she mustered a smile. “It’s alright, Captain. I know what you’re trying to say.”

Sandhurst rubbed the back of his neck absently with one hand. “Look, you’ve already endured more on this assignment than anyone could have expected of you. Whatever the outcome of our mission here, I’ll get you back to Starbase 71 and Admiral Covey. You’ve more than earned it.”

She nodded. “Thank you, sir. I’ll hold you to that.”

*****
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