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Chapter One

An alarm sounded, getting the attention of Markalis and two of the nurses.

The unconscious patient Aurellan had been attending to just a few short minutes ago was beginning to seize. His head bobbed back and forth as he was grunting in pain. Aurellan manically entered commands on the biobed monitor in order to assess his present brain activity. She gazed in horror seeing on the display that neurons were firing at random and various blood vessels were in hyper-drive. “Oh, hell,” she gasped. “He’s hemorrhaging all over the place. I need two CC’s of nitrophorozine!”

The human female intern who had been monitoring the patient obligingly sprinted over to the nearest medicine cart. She nervously fumbled with the hyposprays while locating the requested drug. She jammed the vial into the bottom end of the hypo and Aurellan impatiently snatched it from her hands.

Aurellan injected small doses of nitrophorozine in varying increments throughout the patient’s neck and head depending on the severity of each hemorrhage. She also activated a laser device in order to counter increases in blood pressure. The two nurses, a Vulcan female and a Ktarian male, were beside themselves watching Aurellan try to take up saving this patient on her own.

“Some of them have stopped,” she told the nurses, “but others keep popping up. Damn it! Four CC’s thiazine.”

“He’s already been given more than he can normally handle,” the Ktarian nurse insisted.

“He’ll be dead a lot faster if we don’t stop these hemorrhages,” Aurellan shot back. “Thiazine, now!”

Without another word, the Vulcan nurse handed her a hypospray loaded with the set amount of thiazine. But before Aurellan could administer the treatment, the cardiac readings flat-lined. “To hell with that,” she snapped. “He’s in cardiac arrest. Cardio-stimulator!”

The human intern handed Aurellan the device use to stimulate heart function. Aurellan then ripped open the patient’s gray undershirt to expose more of his chest and attached the stimulator. “Clear,” she called before applying electrical stimulation to the non-functioning heart muscle. The readings were the same. She tried it five more times, applying the stimulator with increased vigor each time, but it made no difference.

“Doctor Markalis!” the younger human woman shouted as Aurellan was about to try yet again.

Aurellan sighed, swallowed her pride, and decided to call it. “Time of death, 1418 from rampant cerebral hemorrhaging and cardiac failure,” she said numbly. She then flung an empty hypospray to the floor to vent her anger at this latest failure. “Bollocks,” she sneered at no one in particular.

###

His breathing became slow and labored. His wrists and forearms were wrapped around her shoulders. The muscles in his face tensed, and his grip on her tightened.

Her lips and cheeks locked up as she felt his breath on her neck and waves of euphoria across her body from her chest downwards. She rubbed her hands across his stout shoulders and down his muscular arms. She slowly leaned backwards, landing softly on her back, while he leaned forward on top of her.

Mandel Morrison rolled over on his back, breathing contentedly. His bare chest was drenched in sweat. He stroked a strand of Lisa Neeley’s red hair and smirked as he stared at the beads of sweat trickling down her shoulders and her chest.

“Amazing as usual,” Lisa moaned pleasurably, holding the sheet up to her shoulders. She took a few moments to catch her breath, and then lunged out of bed, sorting through undergarments scattered about the floor. “I have a battle drill that I’m going to be late to,” she remarked as she slipped on her bra and panties. She then gathered up various articles of clothing on the floor and flung them towards Mandel saying, “You’re in my quarters, and that means get dressed and get the hell out of here.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Mandel deadpanned. He sorted through the pile of garments while he was reminded of another woman who said that to him after a moment of carnal bliss.

###

A trail of garments, including two Starfleet uniforms, was spread haphazardly on the floor of the living area and bedroom of a set of crew quarters. Two sets of women’s undergarments hung from the foot of the bed as Sara and Rebecca held each other in their arms, a cotton blanket draped up to their shoulders over their naked bodies.

Sara rolled over on her back with a look of both confusion and elation in her eyes. She looked at Rebecca and took slow and deep breaths as she rolled away some of her half of the blanket to reveal beads of sweat on her shoulders and chest. Both of them were at a loss for words as they stared up at the ceiling.

“Some shore leave,” Sara remarked. “Even if guest quarters on a starbase are not exactly what I had in mind.”

“At least we won’t have to worry about any interruptions,” Rebecca replied with a chuckle. “Unless the Jemmies plan another sneak attack on the starbase.”

“I’m sure they can take a few days off,” Sara retorted while stroking Rebecca’s dark hair with her left hand and clasping Rebecca’s right hand with her right hand. “A few days won’t make a difference between who wins or loses.”

“Doubtful,” said Rebecca as she angled her head towards Sara’s and planted a few soft kisses along her cheeks. “But we should still savor these moments for as long as we can.”

Sara rolled over on her left side, letting her eyes meet Rebecca’s and they kissed each other on the lips. “What does your day look like?” she asked while Rebecca’s kisses moved down the side of her chin and along her neck.

“Replacing some of the linear memory crystals and overhauling the ODN relays,” Rebecca said between kisses. “Just another day of getting the ship battle ready again. You?”

“Rebuilding the deflector assembly, recalibrating the navigational array,” Sara replied with a grin reacting to Rebecca’s lips along her bare shoulder. “Rather mundane.”

“I can live with mundane for a while,” Rebecca quipped, stroking strands of Sara’s still sweat moistened hair.

Sara caught a glimpse at the clock on the nightstand while stroking the contours of Rebecca’s left cheekbone and clamping her lips on Rebecca’s upper lip. “I don’t want to keep you from your mundane duties.”

“Is it 0800 already?” Rebecca jokingly asked, as her lips met Sara’s.

“0747 to be precise,” Sara corrected.

“Don’t do that,” Rebecca sighed in reference to Sara’s sometimes annoying need for precise verbal expression, among other rigid mindsets. She nudged Sara’s shoulder for that.

Rebecca slowly rolled away from Sara and towards the edge of the bed. She threw the bed covers aside and arched herself upward into a standing position. Since she was heading for the shower, she didn’t bother to cover herself, and so just casually strutted naked towards the bathroom.

Sara, meanwhile, sat up on the bed, making sure the blanket still covered much of the front of her body. She wrapped the blanket around her back while separating her undergarments from Rebecca’s. After untangling two black strapless braziers, she set one aside, slipped the other underneath the blanket, and hooked it on her chest. She then grabbed one of two pairs of panties and slid them up her legs. It seemed ridiculous to be this discrete in dressing herself, especially around someone who had seen her naked. She never put much thought into stripping off all her clothes or to Rebecca taking off all hers in the heat of passionate bliss. Now that it was over, Sara again had this irrational fear of being seen naked and of seeing other people naked.

“Assuming we could get away for a few days,” Rebecca called from the bathroom after she set the shower to dispense water. She walked over to the doorway--unfettered by her complete nakedness--and saw Sara in nothing but bra and panties gathering up her uniform. “I thought we could go to Betazed; check out the real Janaran Falls.”

“Isn’t Betazed still under some kind of medical quarantine?” Sara rhetorically asked, acting as if she was still gathering up the rest of her clothes, hoping to avoid eye contact with her lover.

“Good point,” Rebecca replied, heading back for the shower.

***

Mandel Morrison paced down a corridor of Starbase G-6 when he saw Sara Carson exit one of the crew quarters just as he turned a corner. This was the last place he'd expect to see her, as her temporary guest quarters were not in this section of the station. He backed away slowly. The two former lovers kept a united front on the bridge during the alpha shift, but other chance encounters were still awkward.

He froze upon seeing Rebecca Sullivan exit the quarters. The two women exchanged long, soulful gazes while clasping each other's hands. Sara used to look at him that way. Mandel may have been a little jealous seeing Sara with a man, but the idea that she was now romantically involved with another woman excited him.

"Well, I don't want to be late for my shift," Rebecca murmured.

"Bye," Sara replied gleefully. She was letting her partner walk away when she saw Morrison peering from the adjacent corridor. She grabbed Rebecca's shoulders and kissed her on the lips. In the midst of that, she opened her eyes and glared in Mandel’s direction.

He immediately got the message and headed back the way he came. Once he was gone, Sara pulled away and giggled playfully. She waved goodbye to Rebecca again and skipped off on an emotional high she hadn’t been on in years.

###

After the ordeal in the intensive care unit, Aurellan was staring out of a viewport alone with her thoughts. It was all she could do to calm herself from her latest failure. At least she would not have to face any of the deceased’s relatives and tell them he was dead. No, that was of little consolation. Official messengers were tasked with traveling to the home of his next of kin, if he had a next of kin. But she had his life in her hands, yet came up empty.

Commander Ziminske slowly walked towards Aurellan, making her presence known by the reflection cast on the transparent aluminum surface, letting Aurellan know that this was not a formal visit, while not startling her at the same time. “I heard what happened back in ICU-Three,” she calmly began.

“I know, I know,” Aurellan said with an embarrassed sigh. “I cannot save every patient. But I can try.”

“Yes, you can,” Ziminske assured her. “But you shouldn’t punish yourself for every patient’s death.”

Aurellan gave a remorseful nod, hoping to shake off the remaining embarrassment at her performance. “It’s all part of maintaining a professional distance,” she said, repeating another platitude she heard over and over since the first day of medical school. “On an intellectual level, that makes sense.”

“But it can still be emotionally wearing on all of us,” Ziminske finished.

“Exactly. When Neeley almost died, I could tell how devastated Morrison was. Their relationship is just coitus and nothing else, but during that minute when she actually was dead, he may have realized his feelings were a lot stronger.”

“You’ve been carrying a heavy weight on your shoulders these last few weeks, Aurellan. That much is evident when you foolishly chose to infect yourself with a Dominion-engineered pathogen.”

Aurellan chuckled. It was something she could look back on and laugh now that a cure had been devised for genetically altered strains of cholera and bubonic plague. The Dominion had engineered the bacteria to resist standard antibiotic treatments and even alter their chemical structure to worsen symptoms. Those not faced with suffering on such a grand scale would have called it a brilliant method of deterring any uprisings on Betazed. Aurellan even infected herself with one of the samples to get a better understanding of differing immune responses. In retrospect, it was a foolish decision, but she could now laugh at herself now that an effective retrovirus had been devised.

“I have a new project I wish to include you in,” Ziminske continued. “But first, I want you to take the next three hours off. What you do with that time is up to you.”

“You may need me with all the new patients coming in,” Aurellan insisted.

“That’s an order, Lieutenant,” Ziminske sternly replied, anticipating the exchange of words that would have happened had she not put her proverbial foot down then and there. “And I better not catch you in any of the labs until 1730 hours,” she added with a friendly smile.

Aurellan turned her head to face the commander and gave a barely noticeable smirk. “Yes, ma’am,” she conceded. And with that, she sauntered away and headed for her quarters.



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