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‘An Honest Prescription'
Sick Bay, Deck 7
Ensign Noah Cutler could not help but be nervous. Serving on the USS Kestrel only two months out of the Academy, he still felt at a loss onboard the Miranda class vessel. In comparison to the confident, and sometimes even crude or abrasive, members of this cohesive and loyal crew, he was quiet and unsure of himself. Even his closest friend, Leoni Jex a friend from the Academy whom he was lucky enough to share this berth with, was a conjoined Trill who could call upon the experiences of two previous hosts who had served within Starfleet.
Despite his training at the Academy, he felt completely underprepared for duty within the Border Service. His posting had been a surprise and a disappointment. He tried hard to hide that fact, because he already incurred the wrath and low opinion of the Captain. His own desire had been to follow his grandfather into Starfleet, but as he imagined it, Starfleet proper, flying through the stars on a mission of exploration, scientific research and diplomacy.
Serving with the Border Service, the poor cousins of Starfleet, did not match his dreams and ambitions. Though after his first two, very rocky, months Cutler admitted reluctantly that the crew was a good one. Things shipboard were more informal and certainly certain persons, such as Captain McGregor and his Kzinti Chief of the Boat, were quite unorthodox in their demeanour as Starfleet officers and in their approach to duties.
Others, such as the indomitable XO Commander Cartwright, Eddie Gardner the grouchy engineer, and the strange almost emotional Vulcan officer he had ‘collected' inebriated from her extensive shore leave, were not so much unorthodox but did cause the ensign to be nervous. The CMO to whom he was reporting to now, however, was a different kettle of fish. She was warm, kind and supportive to the new recruits to the ship. Even going so far as to pull some strings to have them on the bridge for when the ship left space dock, knowing it was an important and proud moment for the ensigns.
Nevertheless, he approached the doors of the ship's Sick Bay with some nervousness. Because of the smaller crew size and the nature of both the Border Service and Captain McGregor's expectations, all crew were expected to help cover in other department areas to accommodate the duty rota. To that end, a fumbling and careless Cutler was reporting to sickbay for a shift duty in the ship's medical bay.
The doors parted to bid him enter and overcoming his hesitancy, the ensign entered the sterile compact environs of the sick bay. As a border patrol vessel, the medical bay was an important facility playing a vital part in the ship's mission brief to render assistance in SAR operations and to offer medical care for injured crew, hurt in the line of duty imposing the rule and law of the Federation on the border.
He took in the stark interior. Clean white panelled walls offered the space an immediate sense of sterile clinical care. He found himself facing a curving wall along which seven empty medical beds fanned out along this curving wall with medical patient status display overhead each. Opposite these on the left hand side, behind a curving desk was a nurse's station. Before this station, an entrance led into an examination room.
Cutler peeked into it. As to be expected, a large diagnostic table surrounded by walls housing equipment shelves and larger freestanding pieces of equipment and a master patient status display. A muted powered down ambience shrouded everything awaiting any possible emergency use. Even as he hovered on the threshold of the door, the lights and medical sensor computers came to life causing Cutler baulk and step backwards.
"Oh there you there!" This came from a woman in her late forties or early fifties. The brightening lights had attracted the attention of the ship's CMO who came out from an adjoining door to the examination room. Behind her, Cutler caught a glimpse of what appeared to be the CMO's office.
Cutler gave a weak welcome in return as he took in the doctor. "Hello Dr. Monroe." She had a youthful appearance but her eyes held a certain serenity and a wisdom quite intangible. Her blonde straw hair brushed straight back fell behind her shoulders. and she cut a regal profile, standing ramrod straight cradling a number of padds under her arm.
Monroe was not scary like the other senior officers. However, the ship's doctor did exude a high degree of professionalism and it seemed only appropriate that she expected the very same from all of her medical staff. So more than anything, Noah was worried about appearing foolish or letting her down in some way. Especially in light of the kindness, Monroe had shown him already.
"You found us then?" He laughed at her presumed joke. The crews' mess hall was only the floor above and he had just finished his breakfast. "You'd be surprised how many first timers don't find the way so easy. Amazing when you consider the sick bay is the one place you would want to know where it is." She rhymed off in a singsong fashion, "Deck 7 on the starboard side."
"The sad news is that there's very little for you to do. Though in actuality ensign, that is very good news. Albeit it does sadly mean little in the way of hands on experience. We just discharged our last patient from last night's encounter. Mr. Sebastian was lucky he didn't end up with a serious concussion but enough of the high jinxes you guys had on Aubrellis. Come on in."
She waved him on into the sick bay. As she did, she returned to the statement about their being little to do at present. "With that said, the unexpected does tend to occur unexpectedly. So first, we will begin with a thorough tour of the equipment and medicines and then we will test you on your basic first aid. At the very least when you do a shift in the Sick Bay you train up on your first aid skills and learn more about emergency medicine. The point is not that you will use it during a shift in medical but on an away mission, on the bridge, in a combat situation. You get the idea I am sure."
She laughed lightly. "Don't be so nervous. You are going to make some mistakes I am sure hence my using this shift as training. Better to make the mistakes now rather than when they'll count."
Gloomily Cutler pronounced, "I think I've made plenty of mistakes that have more than counted already."
"Try not to focus on that. T'Hos Likk has been a long-standing enemy of the Captain's. Par the course as a border patrol Captain. You tend to run in to the same ole faces and end up forming enmities that don't quite occur in your line of work as part of the Fleet. The fact he was seeking revenge for his brother's death means to say he was always going to come after McGregor and the Kestrel. You sadly were caught up in it. But it was the action of T'Hos and his gang of thugs that caused it. He has the blame for what happened."
Monroe placed a reassuring hand on Noah's arm, giving it a slight squeeze of sympathy. Noah nodded in return.
"Anyway, we aren't here for counselling. If you want that ... well your only option might be Gordon's bar seeing as the Captain doesn't exactly approve of counsellors onboard. Come on we have lots to do. We'll start with a tour of sick bay."
He feigned enthusiasm. "OK."
"This," she extended an arm to encompass the room in which they currently stood in, "is the main examination room. Through there," she pointed through the transparent door she had come through, "is my lab and bend your head you can see my office. Returning to this room for the moment though. Major incidents or emergencies tend to be seen in here. Unless of course it's a crisis and the bay is filled. We'll go over the equipment shortly but for now we will press on."
Monroe led the ensign out into the area he entered. "This is the infirmary. Most minor injuries and conditions can be handled here on these beds, whether by me, one of the nurses or med techs." She laid two of the pads down in a rack on the nurses' station. Before leading him on as she explained a little about the medical status display functions and purposes.
A corridor led off from the infirmary. A seal shut transparent door cut this corridor off until Monroe depressed a button allowing access into a sterile passageway. Off it, a number of pocket doors on the right led into the medical storage. There were also lockers containing cryogenic storage units and emergency equipment lockers lining this side of the wall. The other side of the corridor opened into an operating theatre. Again, a large operating table sat centre of the room surrounded by complex monitors and equipment. The passageway also allowed entrance with a key code to the CMO's office before you got the length of the operating room.
Looking through the windows at the office, Cutler noted the interior. Shelves with medical journals and pads adorned one whole wall behind the CMO's wrap around desk. Interspersed were one or two rather small potted ferns, whose leaves spilled over the shelves and books. Surprisingly, a number of old-fashioned photo frames sat atop the desk their backs to the passageway.
"Come on ensign. It's a tour of the sick bay not my personal life. Come this way through to the intensive care unit. It's more or less a mirror image of the infirmary with seven beds but with more specialised equipment and the ability to carry out haz-mat operations and decontaminations and create specialised living environments."
Cutler nodded his head impressed at how an aged vessel like the Kestrel had quite good medical facilities. "Do you have one of those new emergency medical holographic doctors?"
Monroe smiled kindly as she shook her head. "Do you see any holographic projectors?"
Embarrassed at this oversight he blushed red. "Not to worry ensign. You're fresh from the Academy and it's all the talk there no doubt. How and ever, so far they've only been outfitted on the Intrepid class ships. Though Starfleet Medical is suitably impressed enough to roll it out on all new and refitted ships of the line. However, the Kestrel is far down such a priority list. As a border cutter, all the more so. We tend to get the hand me downs from the Fleet."
She walked him through to another examination room that mirrored the one in infirmary and led into the chief nurse's lab and office. As she did, Monroe explained in pleasant tones, "Not to mention the power consumption that an EMH program would take up would sap important power supplies. That would send Eddie over the edge. Plus, the captain would be mightily peeved if steal power he'd want for his shields, phasers or tractor beams. So it'll be a cold day in hell before he gets one in. Besides, with me around Cutler, why would you need a pesky old collection of photons?"
"That's true doctor."
She laid the remaining pads on the chief nurse's office table. "Of course it is Cutler. This office belongs Nurse CH'shan. You'll meet him next time. Today is his day off. Anyway, let's make our way back to the infirmary and refresh your first aid skills and show you how to operate some of these scary looking machines."
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One hour later
"And to what do we owe this pleasure?" Her tone indicated clearly to Noah no such pleasure as she ‘greeted' whomever had entered the infirmary.
No response was forthcoming and having finished setting away equipment Dr. Monroe had been training him in the use of, Noah came out into the main infirmary only to see the surly grimace on the face of Ronak. The yeoman gave a withering look towards Noah before pointedly ignoring the doctor.
The doctor though was paying him no mind, instead taking to stride up to him and turned his face to the light where she viewed closer a graze and a bruise to his right temple and a split lip. "No point asking then how you got this? No doubt there is a long line of volunteers."
He slapped her hand away. "Look you don't have to fix it. The Captain only ordered me to report to here. He said nothing about treatment." Noah knew Vulcans did not particularly like physical contact but that seemed an overreaction and Ronak appeared to take delight in causing pain with the slap.
"No but the Captain knows my Hippocratic Oath states otherwise."
She walked to a tray of bio scanners and dermal regenerators then walked back to the Vulcan setting the instruments settings as she did. "Come over Noah. Here's your chance to perform a very simple procedure."
Both Noah and Ronak baulked at the idea. "I don't want to be his guinea pig!"
"It is my infirmary and you will do what I say. Both of you." She thrust the instrument out towards the retreating Noah. He came reluctantly over, checked the settings for himself all the time avoiding eye contact with his first ever patient.
"You've a wonderful bedside manner doctor."
"Cut the smart mouth please Ronak." To Noah she conversationally intoned as if continuing her previous lesson on the use of various medical instruments. "More often than not it is the patient with the bad bedside manner. Keep going Noah."
Ronak in a sweet singsong voice chorused, "Oh you've got such soft hands Ensign Cutler. So delicate and sensitive. I bet you're just the tenderest lover."
Cutler stepped back and lowered the medical instruments. "Ignore him; he just wants to test your reaction."
"Yeah Cutler, just checking out if you're a wannabe bum chum." Ronak gave Cutler a long sneering considered look, licked his upper teeth, and smacked his lips.
Monroe soothingly coaxed Noah to ignore him. It took a considerable effort on Noah's part to do so but his duty demanded it of him. He tuned into the guidance from the doctor and appreciated her supportive approach. All very different to the abrupt ribald manner of the Captain and the crankiness of the Chief. Even Commander Cartwright who was forthright expected those in her charge to hear something once and know what she was about.
"Ok double check the readings, almost done, a final scan then, there you have it." Monroe then turned her attention to the lip and bruised jaw. She gently probed the jawbone with her fingers.
"You do have a medical scanner!"
"Yes and years of experience and expertise that allows me to tell if a jaw is broken without recourse to a medical scanner." She moved his head as if to points of the compass and then satisfied all was well she gave him the all clear before waving another tool over his jaw and lip causing the colour of the bruise to fade somewhat and the lip to heal. "There. All done."
Ronak turned without a word and walked out of the med lab. His behaviour apparently not shocking to Monroe at all who took it in her stride. "Oh don't mind that Cutler. You quickly become very use to Ronak otherwise you would find it very tiring."
"But how can he get away with acting like that?"
"It's a very special situation."
"What like Lt. Commander T'Vel?" He regretted the slip as soon as he spoke and his face froze in shock.
"Mr. Cutler, you've been warned about not mentioning a thing. Perhaps you ought to know a little of the facts first."
"Sorry I didn't mean. But I don't know any of the facts."
"Ok so that much is true." She studied him closely wondering the best course. Should she inform him or let the matter rest only for the ensign to speculate and perhaps cause distress to T'Vel in letting the cat out of the bag. "Let's go into my office and we can discuss it privately."
Across from her desk, Cutler sat anticipating. "Sorry to disappoint you ensign but I'm afraid I cannot just divulge the personal details of Lt. Commander T'Vel. Number one as a patient of mine I am ethically obligated to protect her privacy. Number two ship gossip will eventually catch up with you at some stage and you will soon discover the story behind T'Vel."
"But if the gossips know already then surely you are not breaking any confidence by repeating what they say." Noah then corrected himself. "I'm sorry doctor. It's only because the Lt. Commander's behaviour was so strange in light of her being a Vulcan."
"You make a point. I suppose." She joined her hands and leaned across the table in resignation. "Nevertheless, the privacy of my patients is of paramount importance and it is a lesson you should learn if you are work shifts in my medical bay. I will not idly gossip even about well-known gossip. It is not befitting of my position as a doctor. What I will tell you is that there are circumstances surrounding T'Vel's conduct."
Embarrassed he mumbled his apologies. "No need to fret Mr. Ensign. I did probably indicate that I was going to divulge her history. Sorry as I could and would never do that."
"Oh I guessed as much Doctor. It is just ... well take the Captain and Stanley. Every time someone brings it up in conversation they mention ‘The Event' but never manage to explain what it is or was."
Monroe nodded her head. "I dare say that's annoying. Most people don't mention it too much for fear of the Captain overhearing. We all have our secrets and hidden parts. None of us like to have those things dissected as part of gossip."
He sighed in resignation. "I guess not. Just another frustration."
Joining her hands to form a steeple, Monroe pushed. "What with? Serving aboard the Kestrel? Or the Border Patrol in general ensign?"
He spoke a little defensively. "I don't mean offence doctor. It's just that when I enlisted, I imaged being on a starship exploring the stars."
She pursed her thin lips. "Look Mr. Cutler it might not be your dream job but don't have such a low opinion of the Border Service. Some of us serve it gladly. I actually joined up in order to serve in it."
"You did? Sorry I didn't mean to sound so astonished."
"Simple really. I lived on a border planet these guys were and are a lifeline and protectors. Shall I tell you my history at least? Then perhaps you might appreciate just how important our job is." Her thoughts flashed back to the words she had spoken all those weeks ago to on-off lover Jocum.
Their break-up fight had revolved around her absconding to Risa for some fun and how we couldn't understand why instead of spending the time the Kestrel spent on her refit cooped up on Starbase 49.
"I'm a born and bred frontier girl. I belong out there." She pointed out the window to the stars beyond and the milling craft ...
... I was born on the frontier and I didn't exactly get to see much of the Federation in my youth ...
... I wanted to practice medicine on the frontier. It's easy for you to think that the frontier is simply a bland comment bantered about living and working here at the Starbase. However, for those living on the frontier planets they are out on a limb, isolated or surrounded by hostile neighbours. On those planets, ... I can open a surgery and deal with people who don't get any other access to qualified medical care until I return. I can make a difference out there that I couldn't possibly do here ...
... I grew up in those conditions and I know what it is like for those people. I can't walk away from what I see as an obligation. Not to mention the crew needs me. Nor do I want to walk away from it."
Her saddened eyes brightened then, as she looked into Noah's face, despite the memories she would now share. She adjusted herself in her chair as if snuggling down to tell a story by the fireplace.
"The first thing you need to understand ensign is that I am a frontier girl, born and bred. I grew up not far from our current position. Punthoon 5, the fifth moon orbiting a gas giant in the Condores System."
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