Suddenly, the door to sickbay whooshed open and in bounded Ensign Nikki Barclay, panting from the long run through the corridor down to sickbay. "Doc... Doctor..." she managed to utter between gasps of air. "I need... doctor..."
Paiga had been laying on an unused biobed, skimming her PADD as she went over the scheduling and latest rounds of physicals that needed to be performed before the Portland left spacedock. The sudden explosion from the door of the other woman startled the doctor as she immediately jumped to her feet, ready for some sort of emergency.
As she looked again at the incoming Nikki, she was surprised at how well the woman was running. She motioned to the row of biobeds. "Take a seat, and tell me what is going on," Paiga pleaded, concern in her voice. As the doctor joined her patient, she pulled a medical tricorder out of her labcoat pocket, removed the flashing red sensor, and began to scan the Ensign.
Nikki fell forward, collapsing onto the biobed as she gasped for air, hyperventilating uncontrollably. "This morning... coughing, shortness of breath... joint pain..." after taking a few breaths, she looked Paiga dead in the eye. "It's Cartalian fever, I know it. We need to quarantine ourselves and return to starbase for baryon scans. Before... before..."
With that, Nikki's face turned to dread. "This is it, isn't it. I'm going to die, out here in space, no family, no children..."
The medical tricorder was definitely picking up increased adrenaline, heart rate, and brain activity. To Paiga, her patient was display the classic signs of a stage four panic attack. As the medical tricorder read the molecular makeup of her patient, one thing began to become apparent. "Ensign Barclay," she began, "You have the common cold. There are no signs of the Cartalian Fever, in fact there have been no reported cases of the disease with fifty parsecs from anywhere the Portland has been recently."
"When was the last time that tricorder was recalibrated?" countered Nikki, knowing in her heart that she was sick and that it was bad. "The Denebian flu can, in certain stages, disguise itself as a common cold to all but the most detailed scans."
Paiga tapped a few commands on the medical tricorder to bring up her diagnosis on the view screen behind the biobed. "Here, we see your blood cells," she indicated. "Those small specs floting around and near them are classic of the rhinovirus that causes the cold in Humans." The screen then split, Nikki's image went left as the right side of the screen showed the Denebian Flu, which was much different. "Also, all Starfleet officers are inoculated against it while at the Academy and during your physical every five years," she tried to reassure the engineer.
"But those vaccines are only ninety-nine point nine nine seven percent effective," protested Nikki, quickly growing tired of this new doctor. It was so hard to find one who would take her seriously; it seemed like most Starfleet doctors were more concerned with paperwork than the possibility of a life-threatening infection. It was a miracle she was still alive, given all the germs throughout the galaxy. With all the traffic from every corner of the quadrant, some of the stations the Portland stopped at were floating petri dishes of the worst infections known to Starfleet.
"You know, you may be right," Paiga countered as she feigned interest in a particular shadow around Nikki's red blood cell. She then walked over to the mixer for inoculations. "I had better take all precautions, this could be the early stages," she announced as she tapped some commands to create a Vitamin-C shot. As the machine quickly mixed the shot, it let out a short ding as the hypospray popped extended from the top.
She then walked back over to Nikki and showed the unmarked device. "I can give you this now and you'll be set. It's based around Dr. McCoy's breakdown of the Denebian Slime Devil mucus that created the cure." Nodding toward the hypospray, Paiga added, "Just one dose and you're cured. You'll immediately feel a bit more energized, but the full symptoms should be gone by the morning."
"You're sure?" asked Nikki, breathing heavily. She hadn't made the connection, but ever since Marcus and Sera had left, the frequency of these little episodes had been increasing. She was lonely, which only made her more vulnerable to the sort of anxiety attacks that would trigger extreme hypochondria, among other things.
“Absolutely,” Paiga stated confidently. As she closed in with the hypospray to Nikki’s neck, the doctor added, “During my residency, I was part of the team that cured the Ragolian Plague.” She said that to help give Nikki more confidence in her as a doctor. She then clicked the hypospray and the placebo was delivered with a hiss.
"Really?" asked Nikki, her eyes growing wide. "Wow, that's..."
As Nikki grasped at air for the proper words, the door to sickbay whooshed opened again, but instead of a panic-stricken Ensign, in strolled a dark-haired Bajoran woman in command red. Seeing the doctor putting away the hypospray, Meru took an educated guess as to what had happened, based on the rumours she had been aware of during Dr. Silverton's tenure. "Ensign Barclay," she called out as she casually strolled over to the biobed where she sat. "Feeling better?"
"Yes... I am, captain," replied Nikki as she hopped down from the bed. Evidently, the hypospray had been working faster than she had expected, as the illness she was feeling quickly evaporated. "I... er... best get to work," she added as she headed for the door.
As Nikki left sickbay, Meru shared a sympathetic glance with the slightly shorter half-Cardassian woman. Her facial structure; the combination of the forehead and nose ridges and the spoon-like indentation on her forehead betrayed a lot about her past. Mixed children from the occupation were rarely the result of a genuine romance, and often ended up being rejected by both worlds. Of course, this was all material that Meru had studied in great extent, having carefully familiarized herself with the doctor's personnel file during the recruitment process. "My apologies for Ensign Barclay; she is a talented engineer, however she has some... anxieties."
Paiga glanced over the Captain's shoulder to ensure Nikki had left, then reassured Meru, "I gave the Ensign a Vitamin C shot. I've had a few patients who make monsters out of windmills, helps to break up the paperwork." Trying her best to avoid drawing attention to the fact that she noticed her Bajoran commanding officer had noticed her obvious Cardassian features, she changed the subject to business, "The last doctor kept a good Sickbay. It's fully stocked and the last diagnostics were run recently on the equipment."
"Yes, doctor Silverton was quite the professional," replied Meru before straightening her tunic; a nervous tic that she had developed for delicate, formal situations. And just about any situation where she had to interact with a Cardassian qualified as such, even if the Cardassian in question was only half-Cardassian and she were her senior officer. "I saw you had checked in with Commander Rouse yesterday, so I didn't get a chance to meet you in person."
"Yes, I believe you were having a discussion with Starfleet Command, I didn't want to be a bother," Paiga replied. She was becoming more aware that the Captain was growing uncomfortable, though decided to play that she couldn't see the true reason behind it. "If I'm not mistaken, your checkup is almost due? I know most Captains avoid them like I shy away from gagh."
"You should try it sometime; it's kind of like Bajoran shrimp," said Meru as she took a seat on her biobed. As she did so, she brushed her hair back, revealing for a brief moment her traditional earring. "I know my file says I was dead, but as you can see, I got better," she added, a halfhearted attempt at a joke to lighten the tension.
"I read that," Paiga responded as she removed her trusty medical tricorder from her lab coat pocket. "You were brought back by the Orb of Time if I'm correct," the doctor added, barely able to hide her amazement. Had this not been her commanding officer and had this been away from the job, she would have added thank the Prophets to the end of her remark. Even now, she was tempted to ramble a bit about the Prophets' path after seeing Meru's earring, but now was not the time.
The red pulsing flash from the tricorder's sensor probe scanned the Captain as well as created a holoimage in the database. Everything seemed to check out, though the Captain's blood pressure and heart rate were slightly elevated. That was probably due to her being uncomfortable. "What was it like?" Paiga asked, letting her curiosity get the best of her.
Meru paused for a moment to think of how to relate her experiences, but quickly found that the words did not exist. "It's hard to explain, at least not without any shared frame of reference," she started. "I mean, without any corporeal understanding of time or space..." she added before trailing off.
Paiga simply nodded her head, the Prophets had a tenancy to be a bit mysterious. "Well, you check out well for a person who's recently been dead," the doctor tried to joke. Shifting her stance as she pocketed her medical tricorder, Paiga asked, "Are there any concerns or anything that you'd like to go over?" It was a standard question at this point in the exam, but with her patient being the commanding officer things could go anywhere.
"If you're giving me a clean bill of health, then that takes care of most of my concerns," replied Meru before taking a deep breath. "I did, however, have a bit of an ulterior motive with my visit. I wanted to make sure you were settling in nicely, Ensign Barclay aside."
“I am,” Paiga nodded with a smile. “I have my own, great quarters, my own office, and meaningful work. There isn’t much else I could ask for or need.” Looking back at her Captain, she added, “I hope I can fit in with the crew and can become a dependable part of the crew.”
Lt. (JG) Ori Paiga
Chief Medical Officer