Forum for the U.S.S. Atlantis, running every Wednesday at 2100 ET. Talk about your missions and your crewmates here, and post your logs for everyone to read.
Thu Jan 17, 2019 11:28 pm
Emily walked into her quarters, paused briefly to check that the door had swished shut properly behind her, then let out a high-pitched happy squeal that startled her bitter, fluffy white cat so badly that he got about three feet of lift before spontaneously vanishing.
Right on cue, she spotted a flashing white indicator on the monitor attached to the desk in her quarters. Expecting her best friend, confidante, and older sister’s usual nightly call she scrambled over to her desk, grabbed her chair, and sat down with a spin. She took a deep breath, ready to scream something incoherent at her sister the moment the line connected. She pressed the button and--her smile faded, replace by confusion.
“Dad?” she blinked. She wasn’t disappointed, just… confused. She seldom spoke to her father over subspace, he ‘wasn’t fond of communication like that that lacks a real connection’, or so he put it.
“Good evening, Lieutenant,” the man smiled broadly, and she felt her own smile return.
“Wh--you know already?”
“Let’s just say I have a man on the inside,” he half-joked, then he continued, saying something in Betazese. A bit clumsy at first from being out of practice, Emily replied, eliciting a laugh from her father. She had pronounced a difficult word wrong, which he then gently explained in English.
“What sort of gift, though?” Emily asked in English, referring to what he had said.
“It’s a holoprogram. I’ve already sent it over so you wouldn’t have to wait on the download, it’s called Acacia 52,” he said softly, his demeanour growing a bit solemn, “I’ve made one for all three of you. Always said I’d give it to you after your first promotion.”
“I see,” Emily smiled softly, “So Averi already has hers, I take it?”
“And Tori will get hers when she graduates,” that statement hung in the air like a weight. Both of them felt their necks pulling downward, and they couldn’t help but share a moment of bitter sadness, though neither of them wanted to acknowledge it.
“I hope you like it, Laina,” it was then that she noticed that her father was not only in uniform, but in the sick bay on the ship he was posted on. His sick bay. And someone was trying to get his attention. He tried to shake them off, but Emily nudged.
“Go on, dad. I won’t hold you up. See you soon?” The man laughed at her question, and waved at the monitor.
“Well, good work, kiddo. I’ll see you soon,” the screen went dark, and Emily sat back in her chair for a moment.
“Computer, how big is holoprogram Acacia 52?,” she glanced up at the ceiling, an odd little habit when asking the computer for something.
“Holoprogram Acacia 52 contains one Betazoid character,” the computer beeped back.
“No settings? No props? Just a person?” Emily was slightly confused, but only just. Her dad had always been a bit quirky by her standards.
“Correct,” the computer replied.
“Huh,” she kicked to her feet, heading for the door once more. She made her way down the hallway, into the medical research lab, and into her office. She sat at her desk, and began, “Computer.. store my console, engage holo-mode, and play program Acacia 52.”
The computer screen on her desk receded downward, storing itself. The desk also sunk slightly, though only by a few inches. The windows of her office blacked themselves out, and the lighting dimmed. Then a hologram appeared, standing on the other side of her desk. She tilted her head. It was her dad.
“Good evening, Lieutenant,” the hologram repeated, and Emily was slightly unnerved, though only because the unfeeling thing had greeted her the same way as the genuine article.
“Good evening, Commander,” she replied slowly, amused, “What do you have for me?”
“Plenty of things,” the hologram turned, examining the wall. He pressed a button, and the chair in front of her desk folded out of the wall. He sat down, making himself comfortable, “Advice, stories.. I have something for most occasions.”
Emily felt her brow furrow slightly. She wasn’t sure how this made her feel, and that was an unusual feeling for an empath.
“First promotion?” Emily grinned. The hologram flickered, and the details changed slightly. While the hologram was a good approximation of her father in most ways--it did his voice, it looked like him--this part was obviously an actual recording of the man, spliced in between the holo programming. Most notably, in this recording, he looked about ten years younger.
“Emilaina,” the man began, and Emily felt her hand jerk up to cover her mouth. How old was this? “I am so proud of you. I always have been. I record this..” the hologram twisted in his chair, glancing behind himself, “as you have just left for the Academy.”
A quiet gasp answered his words, and Emily was very intent to listen, sparkling eyes fixed on the hologram as she tried not to cry.
“I know you will go far in life, Laina. But don’t let a promotion get to your head. Don’t forget about the patient that seems to be doing well. If you don’t like your captain yet, invite them to dinner.”
Emily laughed at that, a single tear listing down her cheek which she quickly sleeved away. She could tell where her father was sitting when her recorded the video, at the kitchen bar in her family home. It wasn’t supposed to be visible, but artifacting from the video as he would shift in his seat, and the hologram would not, gave Emily flashes of her childhood home just from seeing the color of the wooden countertop overlaid on his forearm.
“Treat everyone like they’re having the worst day of their life, and never forget,” her dad raised a wagging finger, speaking in Betazese that would roughly translate to, “to command as if those beneath you are your younger self.”
“Good luck,” the recording finished, and the hologram took back over. Emily took a deep breath, wiped under her eyes, and rubbed her hands together thoughtfully.
“Holo-dad,” she addressed it, musing thoughtfully, “How many recordings do you have?”
“Three thousand four hundred and twenty one,” it replied. Emily was stunned, it took her a moment to recover. She ran a hand over her desk, thinking it through. That would mean at least one a day for around ten years, or.. it could have been spread over longer.
“What’s the oldest one?” she said softly, though she expected she knew the answer. The hologram replied with her birthdate, making the oldest recording about… 28.
“But isn’t it a little twisted that he didn’t give us holo-dad when we got in to the academy? Or like.. when we were kids?” Averi mused, the side of her body appearing on the screen in Emily’s office, where she was using the holo-projectors in her desk to work on one of the projected clusters of dots of light that somehow represent a humanoid immune system. She used a special pen, picking up dots, pulling them out, and manually manipulating their internal data. The screens on the flat part of her desk were also in use for once, displaying more streaming lines of data.
“You call it holo-dad too?” Emily snorted.
“Yeah,” Averi laughed. She, too, was at work, hence the side view. She was repairing a panel deep in the plasma conduits on her stationed ship. She had carried a small laptop with her for the video, because the two sometimes kept each other company during tedious work that would otherwise be agonizingly silent.
“I don’t know, maybe he wanted us to… strike it on our own first? That was the impression I got anyway,” she then grimaced at the thought, though it also amused her just a bit, “And I think it might have been more twisted to have been raised by a hologram of our father.”
“Touché, kai’i,” Averi nodded thoughtfully. The two both let themselves get a bit distracted, their conversation naturally ebbing and flowing as they would take time to focus more intently on their work.
“It’s really sweet, I think,” Emily shrugged.
“Oh, no, definitely sweet. I mean it’s thousands of audio letters, it’s like, the sweetest gift you can give. It’s just…” Averi paused, turning to the screen. She waved a hand, indicating that she couldn’t find the words.
“It’s just that you’d think a man who doesn’t like to communicate verbally over subspace because it’s impersonal would realize that a walking, talking, non-empathically-readable, life-sized photon approximation of himself would be a bit unsettling for his half-empath daughters?” Emily grinned, slowly turning to look at the screen. The two burst out into laughter, which lasted for a few precious, cathartically satisfying moments.
“I think it’s just extra weird because he’s still alive,” Averi shrugged. The thought made Emily shudder.
“So what was your first promotion message like?” Emily went back to picking up dots and editing them, and Averi went back to trying to pry out the right piece of metal with increasingly menacing-looking tools.
“Kind of funny,” Averi smiled softly, “Recorded the day I left for the Academy. He gave me some good advice, then told me the secret to making Captain by the time you’re thirty-five is ‘good looks and good luck’.”
“Inspiring,” Emily smirked. The longer she worked, the more edits each dot needed. She was getting closer to the center of the cluster.
They went on a for a while, but eventually decided to end their chat and gave each other the usual goodbyes. Emily worked for another thirty minutes or so before deciding to take a break for her eyes’ sake and, when she did, she decided to summon holo-dad.
“So what sorts of messages do you have?” she tapped her fingers together.
“I told you, all sorts,” the hologram offered unhelpfully, once again taking a seat across from her.
“Birthdays? Holidays? Graduation? I guess--how many things do you have recordings for where I’ve already passed the milestone?” Emily smiled thoughtfully.
“Eight hundred and forty four,” the hologram said simply. Emily whistled a low note, nodding lightly.
“Well…” she turned to the replicator in her office, “A glass of chardonnay, a box of tissues, and… a big bowl of drakberry ice cream.”
With a whirr, the computer produced the items, which she moved to her desk. She smiled at the hologram, leaning back in her chair and gesturing to him before taking a big spoonful of ice cream, “Time and a place for everything, as you always say.”
“Indeed,” the holo-dad smiled.
“Start at the beginning,” Emily said softly. And so they did.
The hologram stood up, and lifted his arms. He held Emily as a baby, and he was a much younger man. He smiled thoughtfully, pacing around what little bit of floorspace there was in her office.
“Emilaina, you are a beautiful baby. Eight pounds, seven ounces. You already have a full head of hair, and of course.. you have my eyes. We knew that would happen,” Emily sighed softly, content. The hologram suddenly stopped, glancing behind him. No second figure appeared, but she heard her mother’s voice.
“Is this the recordings again?”
“Yes, dear,” the man laughed, “Do you want to say something to Emilaina?”
“Oh, wow.. I don’t know,” her mother wavered, “I’m not sure what to say.”
“Anything you want,” he urged her, and she began.
“Well, just know if you leave your socks on the floor like your father, I’m going to--”
“Janessa!” he exclaimed with mock indifference, and she laughed.
“I’m kidding. I’ll teach you better than that. I love you, little bean. I’ll think of more to say on a day I feel better.”
“Fair enough,” Emily’s father made a motion with his arm that indicates that he grabbed the holo-camera, and walked to where her mother couldn’t hear, “Oh, you hear that Emilaina? Give your mother some sweets on your birthday. She deserves it.”
Emily laughed, taking a sip of her wine. She was in her office for quite a while listening to the hologram. When it got too late for her to ignore her body she finally made her way to bed, and slept better than she had ever slept. There was something different about her the next day, and it wasn’t just the promotion. She came back to work with a renewed sense of presence, and of peace.
Fri Jan 18, 2019 6:27 pm
This is heartwarming, and you offset the serious emotional tone with the two sisters talking about the gift so that it doesn't turn too saccharine. Wonderful log!
Thu Feb 07, 2019 9:58 pm
Captain Harper had done a lot to earn Doctor Acacia’s trust in the relatively short time she’d been aboard the Atlantis. Every time Emily had been confused by the Captain’s orders, things had worked out for the best. She was starting to learn better than to question Harper, still, in the moment when she had a hand hovering over a patient with all the symptoms of a neurological crash and the Captain had just belayed her transport, the Doctor was… fighting every instinct in her body to do something. Her eyes were fixed on the Captain as Harper looked hopefully, yet skeptically, at the great bear approaching Ilaihr’s unconscious body.
Doctor Acacia looked up, and she was face-to-face with the great bear, Name. She froze, her knees stiff in her crouched position, as she let out a shaky breath. She’d been watching since she’d joined the away mission, and she thought the bears were cute and fascinating and all, but she hadn’t been ready to… talk to one, or anything. She wasn’t exactly enjoying the idea of delaying treatment for Ilaihr on the hope that a spooky psychic bear could help, and she didn’t really feel qualified for this kind of diplomatic responsibility, but... Emily cast a last uncertain, perhaps hopeful glance to Harper, but the Captain had made up her mind, and the Captain couldn’t do it herself.
Taking a deep breath, Emily closed her eyes, and tried to reach out to the bear in front of her with simple words, "Can you help?" Surprised by her probing, the bear grunted and turned, unleashing a stream of sensation back upon her to test her abilities. For a moment Acacia left her body, her soul suspended over the flashing images of beautiful landscapes, ancient ceremonial sites, even memories of homely firepits. She saw bears, space, trees, symbols, time, and she barely had a breath to take it in. The half of her that touched the earth brought her back slowly, her head spinning. She swallowed down a nauseous burp.
She met eyes with the bear again, a new appreciation for their sapience coloring her confused but humbled expression. Her eyebrow twitched as her vision blurred slightly, but she reached out again, asking for help. She had to hum softly to herself to focus, trying to drown out sound and relax to allow herself to form a connection, going to her happy place.
The Acacia family home always had a cluttered feel to it. It was a mix of books, trinkets, and old machines missing 'a part or two', but most overwhelmingly there were plants everywhere. Flowers, cacti, herbs, and vegetables spilled out of pots and bowls hanging from the ceiling, sitting on the floor, and were even perched on some of the walls. There was probably no need for all of the plants inside, given that they had an entire farm and an additional vegetable garden behind the house, but some people just couldn’t be satisfied, and Emily’s mother was one of them.
Tori was seven, Emily was ten, and Averi was fourteen. They had always been close, but the had a daily routine going by that time of ways to make their mother feel better. Emily helped Tori get into her wheelchair in the mornings, but on this morning Tori couldn’t even get out of bed. Emily helped her sit up, and the girls brought their usual morning tea and sandwiches into Tori’s room instead.
They quietly played go fish, their favorite game to play over tea as it was simple enough that it didn’t require much thought. Not a word passed verbally between them, and they were practiced in eating their snacks almost silently. They all sensed their mother wake up, walk to the kitchen, make breakfast, and find the note Averi had left on the fridge that said they’d gone out to the library. They felt their mother experience a joy she didn’t usually feel, surely assuming Tori was feeling well that day.
Their mother took the opportunity to go out to do some shopping, thus the girls’ plan was complete. They loaded Tori into her wheelchair and rolled her around the house, helping her water every single one of the plants as she loved so much to do. On a bad day for her health like that one, Tori could hardly lift her arms, but Emily and Averi would stand behind her holding the water can to help her along.
The girls would sing songs together with their telepathy on days when Tori was too tired or sore to speak because she loved to sing along, and they were careful about what they ever said out loud within earshot of their mother who they wanted to believe worried about Tori too much. The silence also helped them hear their mother’s car return up the gravel road in time to get Tori back to her room. Somehow, a soft tune always made telepathy easier since then.
At her next regularly scheduled counseling session that was less than a day after the mission, Doctor Acacia sat with her head in her hand, staring at the wall distantly. She’d been bothered by this since it had happened, but she’d been doing a decent job of going about her day as if everything was fine. She’d briefly resisted the line of questioning from Talla, the ship’s counselor, but didn’t often put up much resistance to therapy anymore by this stage in her life.
“It was just… degrading. Well. Humbling, maybe. It looked at me--he.. looked at me, and I was some sort of primitive lifeform to him. And he wasn’t.. wrong. He tested me,” the words came out, and their tone finally made her realize that she felt somewhat violated, “it was overwhelming. Like a god looking at you naked under a magnifying glass. I had a dream about the b-.. er. Name, already, his eyes.. His voice. His... power.”
She left that therapy session feeling refreshed, finally having gotten the experience off her chest, and having received some good advice. Still, she would go on to have a few more dreams about the bear, including vivid memories of the visions she’d seen.
She did a few scans of her own brain out of curiosity and found very little, aside from a few microns of growth in some of the neural pathways associated with telepathy. These magic bears were so advanced as to be able to use their energy to move or heal mortals, as evidenced by them waking Ilaihr after he had nearly exhausted himself to death. They had connected with her, and she had seen into a terrifying infinite void.
There was something to be said for realistic nihilism. Doctor Acacia had a pretty firm grip on her own mortality, but it took a bit of time to get over the overwhelming sensation of feeling primitive and helpless in the face of a species her Captain, who couldn’t even experience what she had, had trusted. Emily wondered if she would have ever spoken to them as equal, let alone as it had happened, if not for Harper. If it had been up to her, would Ilaihr have made the same recovery? Those dreams would haunt her for a while as a stern reminder from the universe never to trust your instincts over your principles.
Fri Feb 08, 2019 7:35 am
Wonderful! The minor details, such as the nauseous burp, made it seem much more authentic. It's also nice to see the effects these things have on people, even if they do require therapy. Nicely done!
Tue Mar 05, 2019 1:54 am
~Emilaina Acacia Featuring Riley Grey~
Doctor Acacia had just helped the nurses lift the two unconscious marines onto biobeds. Chief Medical Officer Tailor was tending to the Captain. Sickbay was abuzz, and Acacia had a strong empathic feeling in her gut, the twisting kind of feeling that people around her were in a lot of pain… and that something bad was about to happen.
“Stable,” she reported curtly to the Chief Medical Officer as she looked at the marines’ vital sign readouts. The Captain coughed up blood and passed out, drawing both of their attention. Doctor Tailor ordered Lectrazine, and almost numb from sensation and tension, Doctor Acacia obliged, setting the hypospray in Tailor’s hand. Acacia was turning away grab another piece of equipment when a nurse stepped deliberately in front of her, a PADD displaying an image of a scan in hand.
Doctor Acacia took the PADD. She managed to keep a completely neutral expression while looking at it despite her heart skipping a beat. She said softly, to confirm, “This is Second Lieutenant Grey?”
Nurse Hastings nodded, “Yes, Doctor.”
Acacia looked back at Tailor and the nurses helping her tend to the Captain. For a brief moment they met each other’s eyes. Little known fact, Doctor Acacia didn’t like surgery. At all. It came with plenty of bad feelings and a lot of risks. What’s more, now that she was on a ship with a surgeon for a CMO, she had thought she might get to get out of these things more often than not. But with the Captain and another crew member in bad shape, and a finite number of capable hands within thousands of lightyears, Doctor Acacia stood face-to-face with what Starfleet Academy had tried to prepare her for.
While surgery may not have been something she wanted or liked to do, she was still trained to do it, and so it was her responsibility when necessary. A responsibility she took very seriously, and in stride. Doctor Acacia took a deep breath, her demeanor becoming icy as she slipped into the headspace it took for her to cut someone open. She began to point one by one at nurses who weren’t helping Tailor.
“Hastings, D’ari, scrub up. You three, get Grey to surgical suite two, lay her on her stomach. And when you two over there are done with Wolfe.. get suite one ready in case the Captain needs it.”
Doctor Acacia looked solemnly through the back of the one-way mirror into the surgical suite as she washed the outside of her red surgical gloves for the final time. The nurses were inside preparing, and the Doctor was, as usual, displeased by the way the red robes made her feel. She stopped in front of the quarantine door, closing her eyes, taking a final deep breath, and blocking it all out.
Riley was inside the surgical table, and attached to an IV that was giving her a cocktail of surgical drugs to make sure she stayed unconscious, and didn’t bleed out, among other things. Unusually, Riley was laid on her stomach, and the pillow of the table was replaced with an o-shaped attachment akin to a massage table head, so that her face was exposed on the underside of the table, allowing her to breathe as well as keeping her head secured.
The Doctor began, looking around at all of the displays, scans, vitals, heart rate, flashing lights of all variety, “Begin recording. Emergency surgery on Riley Grey, performed by Doctor Emilaina Acacia, assisted by Nurses Julia Hastings and Votrak D’ari. We’re going in to secure and reattach a floating piece of skull. Biggest risk factor is a jagged edge within a quarter inch of the brain. Nurses have prepared the patient. Incision to be made at the back of the head. Are we good to go?”
She took only a moment to look around the room, the nurses both offering a curt nod. It was standard to review just before a surgery to help avoid mistakes, but sometimes it just felt like a waste of precious seconds.
The surgical table was a medical marvel in its own right, it could practically perform a number of operations on its own if people would trust it to. It was a little scary with all of its movable hydraulic arms extended, but it had incredible control over each of them. Doctor Acacia, like many doctors, still did a number of things by hand, though. With a hand wrapped around the attachment at the end of the surgical table's hydraulic arm, Doctors could be incredibly precise as the arm would both steady and correct their already well-measured movements.
Acacia first used the machine’s laser cutter to make the incision, because no hand tool was ever so precise. The arm stood up, aiming at Riley and firing a red lazer at the back of her head that cut a slit of just enough depth, exactly long enough to fit in the necessary tools into Riley’s skin just above the broken piece of skull. Acacia then grabbed a silver pen at the end of one of the hydraulic arms in her right hand, and a two-paddled prong-fork thing that was about an inch wide in her left.
She took a final deep breath to center herself, and rested the heels of her hands on opposite sides of the injury. She carefully pulled the skin of the incision open with her thumbs, before gently sliding in the thin pen. It activated, suctioning itself to the loose piece of bone just below the incision, first gently, then with enough force to pull on as the power increased slowly to avoid sudden movements. Getting a steady grip on the bone the Doctor slowly, tentatively pulled it up into place. With the rough edge no longer pointed precariously down at Riley’s brain, Acacia allowed herself a moment to breathe.
The Doctor then switched hands, holding the bone in place with the pen in her less dextrous left hand and sliding the paddle-fork into the incision with her right. She slid it in a few inches, one paddle on the skull, one on the chip. A monitor in front of her rendered the inside of Riley’s head in 3D with the skull and bone chip illuminated, allowing her to make sure she stayed on the line. The surgical arm hummed softly, blue light shining ominously out of the wound as the device generated and wove new bone to bind the piece back to the whole.
Acacia slowly released the suction of the pen, pulling it out and handing it to one of the nurses to detach and clean. She carefully moved the paddle-fork around inside the incision, trying not to cause any more damage while also wanting to maximize the binding on the bone. When there was only about 10% of the original fracture left and reaching the final crack would have widened the incision, she pulled the paddle-fork out and handed it to the other nurse.
The Doctor glanced at the surgical table and her nurses, thinking for a moment. Normally she’d just tell the nurses to close for her, but she had a brief vision of Riley waking up with even an inch diameter bald spot from the dermal regenerator and screaming until she turned red. With a faint smile from finding the idea amusing, she ordered a PMHE, not too unusual, and Nurse Hastings scurried off to get it.
Doctor Acacia carefully attached the Personal Medical Holo-Emitter, a device only about the size of a SIM card, to the back of Riley’s head just above the incision. She used the interface, a separate, wirelessly connected screen, to input a bit of math. The device created three holographic stitches that snaked into reality and gently pulled the wound shut before locking themselves, which would mean Riley would have to do a bit more of her own healing, but she wouldn’t lose any hair.
Feeling better but still pretty tense, Acacia stood up, stretching her arms. She told the nurses to bandage Riley up and take her to the ICU for monitoring and post-surgical tests when she woke up. Finally, she smiled, “No apparent complications at time of closing. End recording.”
The Doctor went back out the door to take her gloves off and dispose of them.
Tue Mar 05, 2019 6:12 pm
What a wonderful, detailed description of the surgery and her feelings toward having to perform it. I quite liked the extra care to prevent Riley from losing hair. Bravo!
Wed Mar 13, 2019 11:50 pm
~Emilaina Acacia Featuring Riley Grey~
Doctor Acacia breathed with relief as she finally disposed of her second set of surgical gloves. She hadn’t expected to be in surgery once, yet alone twice in one day.. but she’d been there when her CMO needed her, and now everyone who’d been injured was improving. So why did she still have that nasty, twisting feeling in the pit of her stomach? Why was something still… wrong? For the first time in a long time, Emily kind of wished her human half wasn’t muting her empathy so she might get something a little more specific than vague looming badness.
Just as the Doctor sat down on the bridge to take a deep breath, having announced that the Captain was awake, there was a thud as Riley’s head hit her console. Every muscle in her body still alive with tension, Acacia was at her side in seconds.
This time Emily even surprised herself--she kept a completely straight face as everyone on the bridge crowded around, worriedly watching Riley regain consciousness. Knowing her duty in the chain of crew morale she seamlessly said, “I’m relieving you of duty. Go take a nap.”
Now, the scan did show that Riley was exhausted, but it also showed some abnormal neurological activity. Thing was, the whole crew was waiting on their Captain who had just gotten out of surgery.. so Emily lied. A small lie. Or.. an intentional omission of information. She let them all believe Riley was going off to nap, and she stayed on the bridge for a few more minutes so as not to arouse suspicion before mumbling something about checking on her research specimens and excusing herself.
Starfleet Medical had prepared Doctor Acacia for the fact that marines (among others) could be notoriously Doctor-averse, but nothing had quite prepared her for Riley Grey. See, Doctor Acacia wasn’t exactly the kind of Doctor who took patients, if she could help it. She preferred her research, or consultation on someone else’s patients with extremely rare and complex conditions. She liked numbers, cells, and germs, they didn’t have patient consent forms and they didn’t feel pain.
Of course, she figured a few of the crew would end up her responsibility once she was on a starship, but she’d expected Tailor to hand her a list--instead, Acacia found herself instinctively chasing down people who were trying to slip through the cracks because it just came as naturally to her as bringing soup to someone with the flu. Doctor Tailor was great with patients that wanted help… and Acacia’s half-breed brain was programmed to hunt down the ones that didn’t.
Emily had started to get used to Riley’s… behavior. In fact, she’d known full well that Riley wasn’t going to go take a nap, she was even betting on it as she hadn’t yet ruled out conditions that would make sleeping unsafe, the Doctor had just put off convincing her to cooperate until the crew’s attention was diverted. She was almost annoyed at herself for thinking she’d managed to get all the pieces into place too soon as she found herself staring not at the door to Grey’s quarters, but at the door to the ship gym. She held a small silver tray with a cup of warm tea and a tin of cream from her personal possessions that she had planned to bring to Grey’s quarters, her expression betraying for a few long moments that she wasn’t amused.
The door swished open, and Riley was running on a treadmill near the back of the room. She didn’t spot the Doctor so she just kept running, it had only been about ten minutes, and she was just working up a light sweat. Emily sat the tray down in the corner and walked over, calmly snatching the safety out of the treadmill, causing it to shut down.
Riley looked at her, eyes widening slightly at being caught out. She stood up a bit straighter, puffing out her chest, putting on the air of fine-ness as best she could.
“Riley,” Emily began slowly, her tone bit more chiding than she intended for it to be, “I want to be clear, when I said take a nap.. I was telling you that you need to rest. You’re physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. I could understand if you didn’t want to sleep, but of all places, what the hell are you doing here?”
“I swear, I’m not exhausted, Doctor,” Riley began, grinding her teeth together to manage her own tone, which came out a bit more aggressive than she meant for it to, but it also didn’t bother her if it might mean the Doctor would go away… “I know I blacked out, but it’s basically nothing. I’m fine.”
“Basically nothing?” Emily blinked incredulously. She took a deep breath, then thought for a moment, pinching the bridge of her nose, “Look, I don’t know what to tell you. Health isn’t a switch on or off, something wrong or right with you.. it’s something you do--or don’t do--every day, and then we keep fucking it up until we die. You and I both know randomly losing consciousness isn’t normal, and you should probably get that figured out, for your own sake. I want to help you *do* that. Are you going to let me?”
Riley sighed deeply, her shoulders deflating slightly. She nodded, “Yes, ma’am.”
Emily shook her head, retrieving the tea and the tin, offering the mug to her, “You can call me Emily. Or any of the dozen other variations of my name. How much sleep do you usually get?”
Riley took the tea, sipping it with a deep, grateful breath and thinking for a moment, “Two, maybe three hours on good nights. What’s the tin for?”
“It’s called oraki cream, it’s a Betazese herbal remedy, helps me sleep. You rub a bit under your nose before bed. It’s not a prescription, nor a drug, just.. a personal recommendation,” Emily realized, adding, “Ah, Betazese is like.. hah, Betazed Australia. Where my dad is from. Anyway, have you always slept that little? Since childhood?”
Riley took the tin and slipped it into her bag, laughing at the idea of Betazed Australia and then taking another sip of the warm tea, “Not usually. I used to get ten to twelve hours of sleep a night before I joined the marines. That’s just what we got during basic, and.. I got used to it. And I’ve been.. sore. And a little blurry, even earlier, before I blacked out.”
“Sore where?” Emily asked, drumming her fingers together thoughtfully, “And how’s your diet?”
Riley placed a finger on her incision, drawing it along to her temple, “Along here. Um.. pretty good, I eat a lot of fruits, veggies, meats. I have to eat more than normal because I burn it off fast.”
“You have a pretty heavy exercise load, yeah?” the Doctor took her tricorder out of her pocket, asking without making a move first, “Mind if I scan that soreness?”
“Scan away,” Riley twisted, turning the sore side towards Acacia. She sighed, “But please don’t send me back to sickbay. I hate it there.. plus, I’ll always escape.”
Taken off guard Acacia laughed so hard she snorted, slapping a hand over her mouth briefly as if to contain it. She shook her head, grinning, “I don’t want you there. I want you healthy,” she began scanning, “So I know it’s contrived to tell you to get more sleep, because trying to relax is one hell of an oxymoron. But a human sleep cycle takes about ninety minutes. If you’re averaging under three hours, you’d be waking up mid-cycle, which makes you feel more tired sometimes, but it also means you lose the benefit of that second cycle. If possible you want to sleep in 90-minute blocks, so three hours would work. A good way to do that is to note the time before you sleep, and set your alarm for three hours later.”
Riley laughed at Acacia’s snort, her smile lingering. Off guard, she blurted, “But why should I change my sleep schedule, I didn’t faint because I’m tired. It was the pain--” she grimaced, immediately regretting her words, “--ah, forget that part.”
The Doctor’s hand paused, and she slowly lowered the tricorder wand. She thought for a moment then spoke, her voice silky, “I will. If that’s what you really want. But… do you want to be in pain?”
Riley hesitated visibly, “No ma’am.” Being the lowest ranking member of the main Atlantis crew, the Doctor could have ordered her to the medbay and she’d have to obey, so what use was lying? She sighed, “I’ve felt kind of.. off for most of the day so far, since I woke up from the surgery.”
“That’s okay,” Emily replied simply, wanting to put Riley at ease, “Surgery is a form of trauma. Every body reacts differently to every kind of trauma. It would really help me figure it out if you could explain, in detail, what’s been going on.”
Riley rubbed her arm guiltily, “It’s been.. sensitive, sore, definitely painful,” she murmured, “We… just sort of slipped past the nurses, went back to duty while you and Tailor were in surgery. So I don’t know if they even checked… over the hours, it just felt worse and worse. Blurry, a little.. fuzzy, maybe.”
Acacia scrunched up her nose, trying and ultimately succeeding not to roll her eyes. She couldn’t fathom the lack of self-preservation instinct these marines had, “They may’ve done while you were still out. But a basic tricorder scan comes back normal. Surgery is painful, could just be that.. could be soreness, bruising, or something really serious. Don’t know yet. Do you have any personal or family history of clotting disorders? Blood disorders of any kind?”
“No,” Riley replied immediately. A few seconds passed, and she snapped back, “Wait, yes, my maternal grandfather had a clotting disorder. He took twice as long to heal as a normal person.. I don’t remember the name, but he died from an undetected bleed in his heart.”
The Doctor raised an eyebrow, and before she even spoke, her expression said, ‘well that might have been nice to know’, “Now see, that’s not fun. I definitely need to run some of the real tests… you don’t want to go to sickbay? Honestly, I usually don’t either. Have you seen the medical research lab?”
Riley nodded rapidly at the prospect of not going to sickbay, “Sickbay reminds me too much of a hospital,” she finished her tea, holding the warm mug in both hands to warm her fingers, “You can test me there?”
“If you can stomach it. It’s my home turf, I promise it’s not so bad. Plus we have way cooler toys than sickbay,” Acacia gestured for Riley to follow her, and she did.
The two made their way down to the medical research lab. True to the Doctor’s word, it was full of big machines, metal, glowing blue lights and science crewmen working with samples. It definitely felt a bit more like a scientific operation than a medical one, which could be useful for putting someone like RIley at ease.
Riley looked around at all of the machines, wondering what they did, “Sssooo… what tests are you gonna run?”
“I’d like to run blood factors if you don’t mind, ah--a machine that separates your blood into everything that makes it up, all the different little parts, looking for.. well, anything. Then the main thing I need is a live tissue scan of your brain around the surgery site, maybe your heart, spinal column, or other places if we don’t find a problem there,” the Doctor stopped next to a table with a bunch of gadgets on it, turning one on and fiddling with it.
Riley glanced around Acacia at the table, eyeing all of the gadgets. She raised an eyebrow, “So, hop up, or…?”
“Just.. configuring..” the Doctor smirked, giving a small “hah” of triumph, spinning the device around to face Riley, “Put your hand on this and it’ll take the blood for factoring. I’ve finagled the medical transporter to be able to do blood draws in here so it shouldn’t even pinch.”
Riley put her hand on the pad, looking around suspiciously before slowly taking it off. She looked back to Acacia, “How bad off was I?”
“Bad off? Meaning?” Emily grabbed a chair, putting it on the big display pad at the center of the room, her white lab coat billowing slightly as she hopped back off the pad. If her hair weren’t up any time she was on duty she’d look a lot like a mad scientist, wide grin on her face from enjoying the cool toys her grueling education gave her access to. Acacia grabbed one of the thin translucent program nodes out of the wall near the front of the lab and stuck it into the machine, the white light of the pad turning to a pale blue.
“Like.. could I have gone without surgery?” Riley’s eyes were fixed on Acacia as she stepped up to the controls of the device, translucent blue computer screens appearing around her at elbow height.
“Oh, um..” Emily was caught off guard, an exceptionally human moment as she was visibly uncomfortable, “No use dwelling on the past, but… no. We had to.” She cleared her throat, gesturing to the pad and moving on, “Now this thing here is either the most fascinating or horrifying experience of your life depending on your stomach. It’s gonna project a live 3D image of your innards we can peel layers off of to look for anomalies. You can keep your back turned if you don’t want to see it. Thoughts?”
“Sounds interesting,” Riley replied, looking at the pad, “How do you want me?”
“Sitting,” Emily gestured, and Riley stepped up, sitting down in the chair, “I’d say you can stand, but it works better the less you move.”
The Doctor began punching in a bunch of commands into the controls.
Riley hoisted herself into the chair, watching the doctor’s every movement, before she relaxed slightly, “So, if you find something... what would that mean? More procedures or what?”
“Depends on what I find,” Emily said softly, “could be anything from bedrest to a gene edit--err, rarely that, mind, though I am one of the few who can do it. Weird and unusual and hard to find is what I actually do. My specialties are cross-species hybrid genetics and immunology. Three of my recent patients’ treatment plans are now published as studies because they were the first of their kind. I.. guess what I’m trying to say is... I hope you can forgive if I don’t make promises. It’s not you, it’s... statistics. I see an unusual amount of the worst possible things that can happen, and I do a lot more germs and genes than blood and bruising.”
The machine whirred to life, the pad illuminating a little brighter, thin beams of blue light hitting Riley in a few places from above. An image of a sitting woman appeared mirroring Riley—due to the nature of the program, some features were obscured. The figure was blue, had no face, wore no clothing, and didn’t have many outside details.
Riley nodded, finally deciding aloud, “I trust you.” Her expression confirmed her words, her expression absolute gratitude for the Doctor’s help. Riley looked at the mirror image before straightening up, which it also did. Riley nodded, “Okay. Let’s see what’s causing the issues.”
Emily smiled softly, punching in the last bit of math. The figure’s body disappeared below the head, and the head enlarged. It peeled back the blue skin to reveal skull, the site of the injury clear from the small cracks leftover.
The skull then peeled away, and below a semi-translucent layer of white fluid, the grey brain became visible, pulsing in random spots with colored activity, electrical pulses showing up as blue sparks across the brain.
Acacia still typing, the image peeled away the layer of cerebrospinal fluid, leaving the pulsing brain image exposed. On the surface, all appeared normal, if not unnerving. Then the program peeled away the top layer of brain, leaving a strange shaved shaped of the brain missing about a quarter inch of tissue. Emily grabbed a pen and stepped onto the pad to get a closer look.
Riley tilted her head, causing the image to flicker out. Realizing, she immediately straightened up, grinning crookedly. Her smile was wiped instantly as she spotted something, pointing at it as the Doctor walked up next to her, “Is that a bleed? A… big one?”
Emily looked at the image, frowning as well when she saw the bubbling red pouring out of a spot on the image, “That’s what it looks like to me. you’re perceptive, most people assume they can’t read these,” the Doctor used the pen to zoom in on the bleed, grimacing, “Now we can talk options. You need a graft, basically we put an artificial blood vessel in place to stop the bleed. We can go in surgically. There’s also a method, it’s becoming more accepted but it’s still experimental, where a graft can be done with a medical transporter without surgery.”
Riley hesitated, thinking over both offered options. “Can I ask what would the surgical option entail?” she asked slowly, “I don’t know if I want to attempt something fairly new, you know? Nothing against your skill as a doctor, just... I think I want to go with the surgical option.”
The Doctor waved a hand almost to dismiss the sentiment, “It’s more about whether your trust a machine to make subatomically precise calculations inside your brain, but I appreciate your confidence,” she nodded, “Surgery is similar, I make an incision big enough for the needle, and graft on a bit of artificial tissue to repair the blood vessel. I just do it by hand. Really, up to you.”
Riley pursed her lips in thought before answering, “Surgery. I underwent it once, so a second time shouldn’t be hard.”
Emily bobbed her head lightly, unable to help a small smirk as she felt deeply self-satisfied at having gotten her to willingly agree to treatment. She turned off the device, the holo-brain disappearing as she stepped off the control platform, “Then to the ICU we go, unfortunately we do need the sterile environment. I’ll have two nurses meet us there. Shall we?”
“So, Riley, if you want, you can stay conscious. I have to give you a heavy sedative so you don’t feel anything, and you do have to be restrained to be sure you don’t move, but this can be fairly minor if we move fast and I prefer not to knock people out if I can, what do you think?” the Doctor tied the string at the back of her neck to secure on her scrubs, her fingers aching as she wished she could at least change the color of the damn things.
Riley’s eyebrows raised, and she thought about it for a moment, “I won’t feel it?”
“No,” Acacia assured, “If you do you can say so and we’ll up the dose.”
“I’d really like to try that,” Riley nodded eagerly, and the Doctor glanced to Nurse Hastings, who got up to prepare the IV. Once Acacia had her gloves on she took Riley back into the surgical suite, and had her lay down on her stomach. The head of the table was fitted with metal straps, and as the nurses brushed her fingers and toes and Riley confirmed she had no feeling, the Doctor carefully tightened the straps.
“Alright, begin recording, emergency surgery on Riley Grey, performed by Doctor Emilaina Acacia and assisted by nurses Julia Hastings and Laura Ortez. We’ve detected a brain bleed, presumed post-surgical complication, and we’re going in to graft. The articulate needle is loaded with the artificial blood vessel, are we good to go?”
The nurses nodded.
“Do you always do that?” Riley mumbled a bit drunkenly, her vision blurred from the drugs.
“We do. Helps prevent mistakes. Julia, aim the laser scalpel,” Acacia took a moment to pin down Riley’s hair around the spot, leaving the spot bare. She then double checked the nurse’s math--which was correct--and fired the laser scalpel into Riley’s head, creating a linear hole for the needle right through the skull without boring any deeper.
“Feel anything, Riley?” Emily purred.
“Feel what? I feel great,” Riley mumbled happily.
The Doctor smiled softly, grabbing one of the strange tools at the end of the surgical table’s arms. It had a long needle on the end, and she pressed the button to test it, causing the needle to bend and snake freely as she manipulated the thumb pad. She took a deep breath, practicing the correct snaking a few times before leaning in, resting her elbows on the table to steady herself, “Alright, here we go.”
Both Riley and Acacia took a deep breath. The Doctor pressed the needle into the incision, carefully manipulating the needle around the bump of the brain she was trying to avoid, allowing it to reach the bleed while breaking the smallest possible amount of brain tissue. A screen on the table showed a simple image of the brain, allowing her to see when she reached the depth she needed to.
She flipped a switch on the arm and the device lit up with a blue light. She began slowly pulling the needle out, and the light shining out of it fused the artificial blood vessel it was delivering to the damaged tissue. When the needle came back out the vessel was in place, and the light briefly reactivated to fuse the bit of brain it punctured to get in.
“Alright. Julia, get the live scan up. Riley, it’s done. We’re checking now to see if it stuck,” Acacia handed the tool off to the other nurse for cleaning, walking around to see the screen the nurse had pulled the scans up on. She flipped through them, nodding slowly, “Looking good…”
The computer bleeped, thinking for a second. The scan image switched to live, showing pulsing blood and sparks of blue light around the tissue. Doctor Acacia leaned against the table, sighing with relief, “Okay. It took, she’s pumping blood. Undo the straps.”
Riley rolled over, sitting up slowly with the help of Nurse Ortez, who was holding a cotton ball to the site to wait for it to stop bleeding. She smiled a half-drunk crooked smile, “hwell I feel better already.”
“You’d still be feeling the drugs,” Nurse Hastings chided, poking and prodding Riley with tests, “Try not to move too much until you can feel everything.”
Doctor Acacia checked briefly that the door to her quarters had shut behind her before stripping off her uniform, replacing it with a clean one. Well, her uniform might have been clean and in fact probably was, but it still felt, in the spiritual sense, that it had the Captain and Riley’s blood on it. She tossed her uniform into the sanitizer and fell onto her bed. A small light on one of her consoles caught her attention.
“Computer.. notifications?” she gritted her teeth, already sitting back up to get back to work.
“One new message in program Acacia 52,” the computer replied. Emily raised an eyebrow.
“A new message from dadbot? What’s it called?”
“Hat trick,” the computer replied. Emily snorted. She smiled, shaking her head and getting back to work.
Some indeterminate amount of time later in the medical research lab, the blood factoring test would complete, a small green light ominously signaling its job done...
Thu Mar 14, 2019 4:47 pm
This is simply fantastic. From the wonderful description of the futuristic medical imager, to Acacia's handling of Grey's hangups, to the ominous foreshadowing at the end, absolutely stellar. Wonderful log, you two!
Sun Apr 07, 2019 3:30 pm
25 years ago...
Due to a number of unflattering events in Earth’s history, genetic enhancement was strictly outlawed in the Federation. Exceptions were of course made in exceptional cases, but the Federation Medical Review Board (theoretically) saw every case sooner or later.
It was only mildly unusual for a petitioner to be, themselves, a Doctor, but Darokkatan Acacia was hoping that arriving at the meeting in Starfleet blue might give him an edge. At the time he was just a Lieutenant himself, and still green enough to be incredibly nervous. He had a rolling box stuffed with files, pictures, and even samples. He had a laser pointer. And he was prepared.
Janessa, his rock, was not there to give him strength… she was at the hospital in San Francisco, where she would remain for months to come. Darok took a deep breath, following after the young Human woman who was leading him into the meeting room.
The room resembled an old courthouse and featured a curved table at the front seating the fifteen members of the review board, Doctors of many Federation races. For the most part they seemed bored, though the Vulcan woman who sat at the center, clearly head, seat had attention fixed directly on him. Darok swallowed, and adjusted his collar.
“Good evening,” T’keren Pallena, who Darok also had a file on, being that she held all but final say over the decision, said, “You are… Darokkatan Acacia, yes? You’re a bit late.”
“Cargo ship malfunction,” Darok croaked inaudibly, before having a coughing fit. He waved a hand, grimacing, “My… wife’s in the hospital.”
“Yes…” T’keren looked down at the file in front of her, skimming it, “Let’s not delay, then. You have quite a number of requests, more than most petitions. Ah--” she looked up at a shuffling sound, to see Averi and Emily standing just outside the doorway. Emily was seated in a small wheelchair, at this point just barely three years old, “Hello there.”
Darok looked over, flushing and fiddling with his papers as if to find the solution, “Oh, forgive me, I asked the woman in the lobby to--”
“No,” T’keren corrected firmly, and Darok shut his mouth, “They have a right. Come in, girls. Sit.”
Averi looked up at the Vulcan with beady black eyes for a long moment, before slowly pushing Emily into the room. She found a seat in the empty once-courtroom audience seats, and left Emily beside her. Emily just… sat there, staring off into space. She blinked a few times, though it was hard to catch, and that was all she moved the whole time she sat there.
“How much time do I have?” Darok asked first, and T’keren thought about it for a moment.
“As long as you need, but why don’t you give us the short version first?”
Darok looked down at his notecards, and his laser pointer, and back up at the people in front of him. He took a deep breath, and he tried his best to trust that everything would be fine. After all, these people were only Human.. or at least, in the ‘they have a heart’ sense. He slowly sat down, and began telling his story, man to man as it were. He told them how he met Janessa, how she worked at a coffee shop near Starfleet Medical Academy and he went there every morning for almost three years to win her over.
He couldn’t help but tear up a bit as he thought about her, young and happy, expecting their first child. At the time, Averi was found to have a very minor genetic error. She would have had webbed hands and feet, but the Medical Review Board was quick to approve such a minor alteration, and everyone involved thought that would be the end of it.
Darok paused for a long moment, holding his face in his hands to collect himself, “And then, when we found out she was pregnant with our second…” He couldn’t even bring himself to begin, but everyone on the board had a copy of the file in front of them. T’keren looked at Emily’s ultrasound, a thing even smaller than it should have been at eight weeks with no arms, finned legs, and half a brain. There was also a long list of treatments already rendered, including dozens of surgeries, and even a few small gene edits already.
“She’s three now?” T’keren said softly. Even being a Vulcan, there was a bit of compassion in her voice. She could recognize that this was a very emotionally charged case for those with emotions, let alone the father of the poor girl. The longer Emily sat, unmoving, staring blankly at them, the more unsettling the idea became, “Nonverbal, doesn’t move on her own?”
“Right..” Darok exhaled, the idea visibly taking its toll on him, “Well, the Doctors did manage to save her. Then, I had a sterilization procedure, but… it was, evidently, ineffective.”
T’keren took the cue, and flipped to Torinessa’s ultrasound. It was, well… even worse.
“We assumed it was me,” Darok’s voice wavered, “I’m Betazoid, she’s Human, so it made sense that it was me. I even had genetic testing, because of Emily. It didn't come back until after she was born, and I was clean, then we thought it didn’t matter, but now.. we just found out Janessa’s great grandfather was Vulcan.”
T’keren stared down at him with unwavering neutrality, but somewhere deep down, her heart twinged. Genetic combination problems were pretty common, but some of the worst cases shared a common thread in which one partner in a mixed-race couple had a very small amount of some tertiary alien DNA. These issues were hard to pin down and study for a number of reasons, but there was one thing T’keren was pretty sure of, the Acacias weren’t trying to genetically enhance their children for any of the wrong reasons.
“Well, I’ve seen my fair share of people who come in here to try to trick or manipulate us..” T’keren began, and Darokkatan felt his soul leave his body, “but I’ve never seen a clearer case in need of approval. We’ll review your file after the girls are treated, but… I see no reason not approve unlimited genetic editing in this case. Do what it takes.”
A few members of the board nodded in approval, and Darokkatan shot up out of his seat, bowing out of reflex and thanking them profusely. He ushered the girls out of the room, and once they were back in the lobby, he grabbed his holocamera and started recording.
“Emily,” he smiled warmly, his eyes red as he tried not to tear up, “I was right. You’re approved. We may get to hear your voice one day. I want to.. play sock-core ball with you. And pick drakberries. Or, if it’s too late and we never do… that’s okay too. I love you, Laina. I don’t know what your first memory will be, but someday we will make some good ones. Promise.”
Sun Apr 07, 2019 11:17 pm
Awwwwww that is so stinking adorable. Like the relationship and applications of Emily’s father to get her the needed medical attention/genetic changing!
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