The Test Patient (Day 1 Evening, Infirmary)

Dorian squeezed the little rubber ball pump several times to bring up the pressure. The stethoscope pressed into Marisol’s bicep, just inside the elbow. He listened to her pulse as the cuff hissed softly, his eyes upon the blood pressure gauge. “One-thirty-two ovah eighty-six,” he pronounced. “Not surprisin’, given our recent encountahs. Ah’ll chalk it up tah stress, but Ah want yah back in a week.”

“You know where I work,” Marisol replied.

Upon seeing the cargo bay reopened and having bent the knee for permission, the pair had foraged about in search of the remaining VCM crate. To Dorian’s displeasure, the Alliance had chosen to steal that equipment as well. It was a stroke of fortune that Marisol had crated the old gear, which the purple bellies in their infinite mercy chose to leave behind. Now, as the mechanic undid her coveralls and lifted her undershirt, the defrocked medic looked about Lunar Veil’s infirmary. As if I’d never been here, he mused as he taped each hard wired electrode to the woman’s chest.

“At least your hands aren’t cold,” she quipped as the last bit of tape met the flesh above her ribs.

Dorian feigned a smile as he clipped the pulse ox to her left index finger. “Alright,” he said, “let’s see what we have.”

Lunar Veil’s medical bay now relied upon its’ aging electrocardiograph and pulse oximeter, both of which were housed in a squat rackspace the mechanic had bolted into place upon a counter. Dorian flipped the power switches, watching as a fuzzy green wave form pulsed across the small circular screen that had been reset into the bulkhead. After a moment, a varying percentage number appeared beneath the sinus rhythm of Marisol’s heartrate. “It’s workin’,” he said to the mechanic who was now his test patient. “If Ah remembah correctly, yah heart rate’s up a bit.”

His files were gone, all stored within the VCM database on Valentine. Even if they hadn’t stolen the workstation, his removal from the system would curtail access. He was officially dead toVCM, and if Monique’s assessment were accurate, the Bush Doctor program had died with him. His credentials were gone. As Dorian watched the slightly elevated heartrate of his friend, he pondered a future in which neither he nor Lyen could serve beyond only the most fundamental of practices. At least he had his dentistry, but given the Alliance’s singular effort to erase all that he was, Dorian thought that he’d best verify the status of that as well, before reporting to Riley.

Riley…a whole new level of uncertainty swirled around his relationship with her. Since Verbena, the woman had become a ghost to him, only turning up if conditions demanded a visit from The Lieutenant. He understood that his support of Marisol in the wake of her being fired by a hung over Vas Jat could provide causality for a rift between them. Indeed, her ghosting did seem even more pronounced after Beaumonde. The strangely wooden reconciliation on Silverhold came off as more contract renewal than lovers reunited. And now? When even a stolid personality like Riley should be seeking at least a modicum of comfort with a man she’d offered those words? Parade rest and an angry dismissal were all he’d been granted by The Lieutenant.

Presently, locked doors stood between them. Keller was gone. Riley was officially captain. Nobody was talking. If it weren’t for Marisol…”Yeah,” he finally said when the silence grew unnaturally long, “if memory serves, yah heart rate’s up. Sistah Lyen might teach yah some relaxation techniques…”

“I never see her,” Marisol said quietly. “She’s with those monks and nuns all the time.”

“Ah’m sorry ‘bout that.”

“Don’t be.” She shook her head. “I can’t really think about that right now,” Marisol’s eyes were lowered, boring into the floor as her ECG increased its’ reading. “Dorian, I’m terrified.”

“About what?”

“My kids,” she lifted her gaze. “When they trashed my room, they stole the usual kind of stuff. The guns, jewelry, all my money. But the kids,” her jaw tightened. “They took their pictures away…I know, I know,” she waved a hand. “Basic psych warfare…but I keep thinking about that interrogator and what she asked…’you kept it strictly business with Kau’li.’ The picture she was trying to paint…”

“Yah know they were fishin’,” he replied as the electrodes came off one by one. “Jackass who came aftah me tried tah have me point tha fingah at half tha boat fah anythin’…Ah don’t know what they had on Keller, but…”

“Look around,” Marisol waved an arm. “They’re targeting you…hard. They’ve eradicated everything you’ve built here. Took your whole medbay, the program, your guns, your pocket watch…it’s like they’re just begging you to go away.”

“It might appear that tha Alliance is tryin’ tah force mah hand,” Dorian acquiesced. She had a point, though. He hadn’t been shown the door…but he’d been handed his hat. “Tell yah what,” he offered. “Let’s head intah town tomorrah. Gain a little clarity.”

Marisol lowered her undershirt. “Can’t,” she shrugged the coveralls back over her shoulders. “I’ve got tons of scheduled maint…and I’m still undoing Alliance fun all over the boat.”

He nodded his understanding. “Very well. Ah’ll go alone…let yah know what Ah find out. And thanks fah all this,” Dorian gestured as Marisol hopped down from the old table. “Hopefully we nevah have tah use it.”

< Prev : Hot and Sweaty (Day 1, Afternoon, Cargo Bay) Next > : Dr. Charcoal and the Tag-a-long (Day 1 Late Afternoon)