Aurellan Markalis tended Geordi LaForge’s injuries in the sickbay’s surgical bay. First, she applied a laser device to both his temples in order to remove the micro-implants the Sindareen had placed there. She then ran a quick tricorder scan, placing the hand sensor near both his temples to make sure the devices had been removed. Afterwards, she applied an ocular diagnostic scanner in front of his eyes in to make additional checks to the cybernetic implants that allowed him to see.
Doctor and patient had not spoken at all during these medical procedures, something LaForge was not used to from Beverly Crusher on the Enterprise
. This younger doctor just went about treating him without saying a single word. He had heard that this ship’s medical officer tended to be aloof and distant, but Geordi didn’t put much stock in those rumors because of his own exceptionality.
“You wore a VISOR before you got these implants,” Aurellan remarked, in reference to the prosthetic device Geordi had worn over his eyes for much of his life until recently, as he had sat up to leave.
“Yeah,” LaForge answered with a friendly smile. “It was the most feasible at the time I got the first one when I was about five years old. Why do you ask?”
“In my experience as a trauma surgeon,” Aurellan meekly replied while she was adding notes on a padd, “I’ve gotten used to replacing all kinds of damaged organs with cybernetic implants. Some of them are like having the real thing, but others have very noticeable differences.”
“Being born blind, I never really got to experience the difference between having normal vision and how I see the world around me.”
“Lucky you,” Aurellan quipped with a sheepish grin. “What made you decide to switch?”
“Well, for one,” Geordi said with a candid nod, “the VISOR was a pain to wear. None of the alternatives really stood out until these implants were perfected. And Starfleet considered the VISOR a security risk after some rebel Klingons used it to gather information on the previous Enterprise
’s defenses. I can still see the entire electromagnetic spectrum, but visual stimuli looks a lot more, should I say, real.”
“Fascinating,” Aurellan said, at a loss for any other words on the subject. She looked down at the padd during an awkward silence, and then looked back at her patient. “Well, you’re free to go, Commander,” she deadpanned.
“Thanks, Doc,” LaForge replied with a smile.
He headed for the main entrance when he saw Logan step into the ICU from the corridor. LaForge nodded and put his hand out directing Logan back into the corridor. “The doctor just gave me a clean bill of health,” he said as they both sauntered out of the sickbay and into the corridor.
“I’m… relieved,” Logan said with some hesitation, which made LaForge somewhat uneasy.
“I’d expect Data to say something like that,” Geordi retorted. “I understand it was necessary to go through what I did, considering all the tough breaks I’ve gotten over the years. I still wish it didn’t have to be that way after Captain Picard’s ordeal with the Cardassians and mine with the Romulans.”
The two of them stopped at an intersecting corridor. Logan took both ways down the corridor and the intersecting one while clearing his throat, not sure how to word what he was about to say. “You and I haven’t exactly been friends when we served together,” he plainly stated, “but you have my sympathies, especially after the Romulans employed similar tactics in brainwashing you.”
“At least you didn’t have to witness
that,” Geordi offered. “That you and Captain Limis held out as long as you did is just as commendable.”
“Thank you.” Logan then put out his right hand.
LaForge grabbed it firmly and they quickly shook hands. “Until next time, sir.”
Markalis sat at her desk, staring at her medical reports on the monitor regarding those injured and killed during the battle and on the mission to Minos. She was stuck on one sentence she didn’t like the wording of, but was not sure how to improve it. Maybe it was one of her obsessive-compulsive tendencies, or maybe it was the mixed emotions of having to prepare statements on deceased crewmates. Reminding herself that it was part of her job was not too hard. Neither was carrying out that part of the job with diligence. While others often saw her as emotionally distant, noting the deaths of five of her crewmates in her log, even with those she had never interacted closely, was still emotionally draining.
She used the keypad to rewrite the sentence that had gotten her stuck for the last couple minutes when the EMH walked into the office from the sickbay’s primary intensive care unit. Aurellan waved him in with her left forefinger while keeping her eyes on the screen, hoping to get the edit done while the changes were still fresh in her mind. The holographic doctor set the padd in his hand down on the desk to Aurellan’s left. “The full post-mortem reports on Sergeant Thompson and Corporal M’Zak,” he said.
“Sure, thanks,” she muttered, keeping her eyes on the screen. She quickly perused the full text of the post-mortem report she was filing before selecting “submit” on the monitor. Aurellan leaned back in her chair and watched the EMH as he paced out of the office. “It never gets any easier, does it?” she rhetorically asked.
The hologram turned around and took slow steps back into the office. “Judging from the tone of your voice,” he responded, “I would guess that’s a rhetorical question, correct?”
“Of course, it is,” Aurellan confirmed with a grudging smile, finding she could easily identify with not always being able to recognize sarcasm and rhetorical questioning. “Each of these post-mortems I write up makes me worry that I’m one step closer to becoming completely indifferent. Then I think of how each of those people is someone’s son, daughter, brother, sister, husband, wife… after having been worried sick about my own family.”
“You should be commended for having such empathy for your patients,” the EMH remarked flatly.
“If only,” Aurellan muttered with a light nod.
“If only what?”
Aurellan shook her head in embarrassment. “Never mind.” She stood up and circled around the left side of her desk, looking into the holographic doctor’s eyes. “But you get that, don’t you?”
The hologram shook his head, not sure what she was asking.
“People often think of me as emotionally distant,” she explained. “It’s considered a virtue in my field… our field. I still feel for my patients and their families. I just don’t always express it in ways that humanoids usually do.”
“Yes, people on the autism spectrum often do appear to lack any capacity for empathy,” the EMH said with a professional demeanor.
“Of course,” Aurellan nervously replied. “My point is, though, I first thought you were just like the previous two EMH’s. But you understand me better than anyone else. And that’s helped me think of you as a person rather than a computer program and to appreciate the better parts of myself.”
“I’m not sure what to say,” the hologram said with a look of confusion.
“Say you’re flattered.”
“Okay, I’m flattered.”
Aurellan snickered. She took a quick look through window looking out at the ICU and was satisfied that no one was looking in the direction of the office. She leaned closer to the EMH, standing on the tips of her toes and planted a kiss on his lips.
His eyes widened in shock, not sure what to make of this. “Fascinating,” he said, unsure of how to respond to that sudden gesture of affection.
Aurellan shrugged in surprise. “Really? That’s all you have to say?”
“My programmers did make a point to make me more sociable than the earlier models,” the EMH reminded her, “but I wasn’t exactly programmed to respond to… that.”
“You mean kissing?”
“Yes, kissing. I didn’t exactly expect that. But thank you.”
“You’re welcome?” Aurellan replied with a look of both amusement and embarrassment. A long and awkward silence followed before the holographic doctor walked out of the office. Aurellan still felt a sense of triumph, having displayed a more concrete gesture of appreciation and affection, not to mention having done something spontaneous.
Chaz Logan was not sure why the captain had summoned him to the ready room. Limis had already told him that he was being recommended for a commendation for his quick thinking during their escape from the Sindareen on Minos. And the ship didn’t have any major mechanical problems that Lieutenant sh’Aqba couldn’t handle. So the reason for this summons was very much unexpected.
He stood at the bridge’s entrance to the ready room holding his forefinger over the door chime panel, uncertain as to whether he wanted to face Limis. Knowing, however, that being here was not entirely his choice, he let his finger glide towards the panel and tap the button.
said a familiar voice on the other side of the door.
Limis turned off her desk monitor, where a text communiqué from Starfleet Command was on the screen. She took a sip of raktajino
while she saw Logan step into the office. “Come in, Commander,” she said pleasantly. She extended her hand indicating the guest chairs on the other side of the desk.
Logan quickly obliged, sitting in the chair on his left. Despite her friendly tone and demeanor, he was certain what was to come would hardly be indicative of a social visit.
“Our escape seemed a little too easy, don’t you think?” Limis bluntly stated.
“I don’t know what you mean,” Logan replied with confusion and uncertainty.
“For one, we met heavy resistance upon arrival at Minos,” Limis said with a neutral expression on her face. “We were shot down by the orbital defenses. Our transporter beam got scrambled. You, LaForge, and me were ambushed by a couple of the demo drones. The yacht should have been smashed beyond repair. Yet Neeley and her Marines were easily able to repair the vessel, free us, and get off the planet while meeting no resistance what… so… ever
“A lucky break, I guess,” Logan coyly offered.
“I don’t believe in lucky breaks,” Limis retorted. “I’ve learned to be suspicious of unexpected easy victories. I asked sh’Aqba to run a systems check on the yacht. There was no evidence that the transporter array, the orbital thrusters, or auxiliary power transfer circuits were damaged by weapons fire. Only someone with her engineering experience could notice that. So what damaged them? Some kind of cascade virus?”
Logan stared straight at Limis, keeping on his best poker face. “There’d be no evidence of a cascade virus after it did its job,” he attempted. “You wouldn’t be able to find any type of residual evidence of such a virus having been planted in the computer system.”
“Add to that,” Limis persisted, “Starfleet has been able to keep pirates away from Minos for eleven years, but the Sindareen got there with no obstacles.
“I got a message from one of my former Intelligence colleagues regarding a secret organization called the Excavation, devoted to reverse engineering advanced technology left behind by long dead civilizations. Intelligence can’t definitively prove such an organization exists within Starfleet, but it has kept a close eye on a number of shipyard supervisors at Utopia Planitia, including people you still keep in touch with. I think Tor Vot wanted us to escape, as long as he got a cut of the loot.”
“An interesting theory, Captain,” Logan said stoically. “Except, there’s one hole that’s a big one. Tor Vot and all his henchmen were killed during our jailbreak.”
“Maybe so,” Limis replied with a stern glare. “But those other factors are too coincidental to be attributed to a ‘lucky break’. I may not be able to prove the existence of a secret branch of Starfleet that raids dead planets, much less your membership in it, Mister Logan. But if something like this happens again, I won’t hesitate to turn you in to the highest authorities. Am I absolutely, crystal clear, Commander?”
Logan slowly rose from his chair and stood at attention. Limis arched her head upward so they were still looking eye to eye at each other. “Yes, sir,” he answered.
Logan nodded in acknowledgment and quickly paced out of the room. After the doors opened and closed, Limis took a sip of her coffee. It had already gone cold. She was about to go to the replicator to order a fresh warm mug when the comm chimed.
“Captain, we’re receiving a News Service bulletin,”
Kozar said with strong apprehension. “The Breen have pulled off a successful counteroffensive in the Chin’toka system.”
“Pipe it through on my monitor,” Limis replied. She tapped a control on her desk monitor to receive the transmission.
“Following the arrival of escape pods at Deep Space Nine and other outposts along the border of Dominion-held, the News Service can now confirm that the Breen Confederacy has forced the Federation Alliance from Chin’toka and three adjacent star systems.
“Survivors of the battle bring back grim reports of how the Breen managed to achieve total victory. Using plasma torpedoes containing high-yield energy dissipaters, Breen heavy cruisers annihilated a total of three hundred eleven Federation, Klingon, and Romulan warships.
“While a five second long recharge cycle in the Breen torpedo launchers provided the First and Third Fleets a slight advantage during the attack on Earth, ship captains returning from Chin’toka have indicated the Breen have overcome that deficiency.
“So far, no countermeasures for the energy dampening weapons have been devised…”