On Shots & Shooters

JP - Sail and Blitzen

One of the rarities of Dorian’s experience aboard Lunar Veil was the aroma of good food. Remote as his infirmary was, regular whiffs of whatever was cooking in the galley were infrequent at best, yet still tantalizing enough to draw his interest. Given the hints of seasoning, he had his suspicions as to who might be wielding the spatulas and spoons. That question would be answered soon enough.

From the cockpit, whoever was cooking was making a racket out of it, the pilot hadn’t heard a din like that since that sick kid tried making Onion Soup out of nothing. Though it smelled considerably better, she was nauseous all the same, her stomach churning from both the spicy scent as well as from the lack of something that wouldn’t fill it - not from the kitchen, anyway. Hunger wasn’t supposed to happen. None of this was supposed to happen, not the dull ache in her head that would turn to sharp shooting pain, not the nerve endings which were now on fire as the pseudo not-mach Adler concocted wore off. What good was keeping yourself in top physical condition, the push ups, sit ups, chin ups - if your body was just going to betray you like a spoiled child throwing a tantrum until you gave it what it wanted.

After the somewhat manic goings-on of yesterday, life aboard el Vee had resumed a quiet normalcy. Just as well, considering the fact that the medic was a bit short on the sleep side of the equation. He’d seen no one today in the infirmary, which allowed for further cleanup and reporting to the hospital’s program database. Now, there was one scheduled patient remaining before this day would close. Dorian checked the syringe; the dosage had reached room temperature.

It was funny, actually. His patient had come in late; he’d remained at her side until the early morning hours to ensure the right therapies. From a professional stance, there wasn’t a thing out of place.

Yet, all he could see was her smile.

Forget the fact that the act was simply uncommon for her. Likewise, he had no pretense or illusions beyond his own admirations. Still, there was that memory of a fleeting moment, not to be denied. The poets would love me just now Adler mocked himself as he prepped a tray for Riley.

Beep-beep-beep… About ruttin’ time! Riley shut the alarm off and unceremoniously ditched her headset aside, making haste to the infirmary. She didn’t count the stairs, the heaviness of each footstep as they hit each one, nothing felt ‘like mach’ but it would at least stop the buzzing in her brain like the sound of hundreds of wasps boring into her skull, the concoction was actually very much like the El-Vee. A jury rigged version of something better.

She ignored the engineer in the galley, the barking and the stink of the drog kyi, and hesitated outside the med bay door, silently cursing, pissed that she literally counted the minutes, like a back alley junkie. Above all it bothered her to think Adler might think the same. She contemplated taking a run on the treadmill or otherwise occupying herself, but in the short run decided that she was military, and if nothing else, the military existed on punctuality. Two knuckles rapped on the med bay door.

“C’mon in,” he gestured toward the pilot. “Ah’m all set...this should just take a minute. Kindly make a fist.”
Dorian poured a splash of alcohol onto a cotton swab, then turned toward Riley. “There’s a decent vein,” he said easily as he wiped the skin. “So how are yah feelin’? Did tha medication hold up?”

“Medication?” She scoffed, clenching and unclenching a fist. “Right. I’ll be feelin’ a lot better once you make with shot giving. It holds up, but there’s definitely a harsh drop off point.”

He popped the cap from the syringe, pushing the plunger until a single drop rose up from the needle’s tip. “There’ll be a slight pinch,” Dorian said absently as he laid the needle beneath her skin. Once the syringe had tapped the vein, the medic pushed the plunger, beginning an easy influx of the chemical cocktail. “That drop off point,” he said as the drug slowly exited, “How long ago would yah say that occurred?”

Riley inhaled sharply with the injection. Though it’d take a bit to do its job, there was a relief that came with the reassurance that respite was on the way. She exhaled slowly, wiggling her fingers, able to better focus on Adler’s question. “Starts wearing off after about 21 hours. A solid 43 minutes after that it’s gone completely and it’s pretty much been hell until just now.”

Dorian placed a cotton ball over the injection site before extracting the needle. “There,” he said as a small piece of tape affixed the cotton. “Yah can remove that in a couple minutes. Aftah what yah’ve told me, let’s schedule tha next injection fah fourteen hundred tomorrow. That’ll be eighteen hours from now,” he added. “Ah’ll rebalance tha next dosage tah compensate. Tha plan is tah maintain from one dose tah the next without sufferin’ any symptoms. Based on what yah’ve told me tahday, Ah shouldn’t have trouble uppin’ tha potency an’ duration.”

Riley scowled, picking at the corner of the bandage. “Upping the potency really necessary?” The rush of chemicals was starting to work their magic, as if she’d been lying on a bed of nails and was finally able to stand up. She leaned back against the table resting her eyes for a quick second. “You know best, but is any of this gonna be--” she hesitated, choosing her words carefully. “Is any of this going to cause problems when I switch back?”

Masking a subtle intrigue over both her choice of words and the pauses in between, Dorian shook his head. “Shouldn’t be noticeable. Yah’ll have received four doses of our stopgap medication by the time we reach tha Skyplex. The effects of tetrahalcynate are familiar tah yah, so Ah wouldn’t anticipate any challenges switchin’ back.”

“Little too familiar. Listen, hypothetically, which do you think it’d be harder to kick if someone was inclined?”

Dorian leaned against the treatment table. “There are factors tah be considered. Length of use, typical potency, overall health of tha patient…” He folded his arms. “There’s no reason fah anyone tah suffer a full withdrawal or gut out goin’ cold turkey,” he offered. “Standard therapy is an incremental reduction of the substance in question, augmented with a tailored dose of medicines tah maintain equilibrium over time.” He removed the rubber gloves before pitching them, along with the syringe, into the trash. “Hypothetically speaking, tha goal of a longterm medicinal detox is tah keep tha patient functional during tha draw down period.”

Riley nodded as if she’d picked up each word, but she understood the spirit of it. “So hypothetically whatever medicine this is, that’s what I’d feel like while getting the other out of my system, or not?”

“Actually,” Dorian said, “what we’re doin’ right now is tha perfect example. Tha dosage we’ve put together isn’t an exact duplicate for the effects of tetrahalcynate, but we can balance it to enable yah tah work without noticeable symptoms. Any other substance can be treated in a similar fashion...we just alter tha composition of the countering dose. Was that helpful?”

“Yeah. Moot point for now, co-pilot didn’t work out as planned.” Tearing off the adhesive bandage she sat back up and scooted towards the end of the table. “But good to know for the future.”

“Yes,” he nodded. “Ah heard about Vas.” There really wasn’t anything more to say on the subject. Both Riley and Dorian were spacers, accustomed to living and working on boats whose crews were in a customary state of turnover. It was rare indeed for a crew to hang together longer than a few seasons. Joe Horton had managed...til he and Dorian got crossways… “We hirin’ on tha Skyplex?”

“Yeah, we’ll hire. We’re going to need a new deckhand, but that’s probably the best we can do until we can recoop what Keller spent on the Drog Kryi. The kid has seniority now which isn’t saying much because I’m no closer to trusting him than the day he and his sister stowed up on the ship. New mechanic has a set--” she added with a smirk, “but time’ll tell with her, too green on the El-Vee yet.”

He nodded his understanding. “Only seen her as a patient,” the doc replied. “But Gill? He’s a decent sort...get him some good muscle on deck an’ he can pick up tha rest.” Haddie was another story. The challenge remained in keeping her focused and out of mischief, which, he’d cottoned from Marisol’s account, had taken a dangerous bent of late. “Once we’re off Skyplex, tha mechanic tells me she’ll plan tah install tha new equipment in medbay. Ah’ll see how she does, an’ we can both help Gill get started, fah what that’s worth.”

“I’m the one with the drugs coursing through, Adler. I’m not moon-brained enough to make a fourteen year old crew chief. El-Vee would be a bigger laughing stock than she is already.”

The doc chuckled. “Guess Ah shouldn’t drink and derive,” he smirked. “But with Vas leavin’ and Gill bein’ tha last deckhand, guess Ah leapt tah conclusions when yah mentioned “the kid.”

“Drink and derive?” She said, quirking an eyebrow while stowing a chuckle. “It’s your professionalism I admire most. ” She slid to the floor, and shook out her hand, reaching for the doorknob on her way out, but hesitated. “A leader’s only as good as their word. If I say I’m going to do something and I don’t follow through, I lose authority. I think Jat’s gonna be just fine on his next ship.”

Dorian met her eye with a thoughtful glance. “He’s a healthy young man,” he said. “He’ll find work soon enough. Ah’m not a leader...Buddha knows Ah can barely follow, but Ah’ve known a few. One, a browncoat captain, told me somethin’ over drinks an’ poker. “Best thing about havin’ a plan is that yah can change it.” She told me a bunch of battlefield maneuvers and things that went right over mah head, but Ah got tha gist that tha ability tah change one’s mind in a dynamic situation is valuable.” He shrugged. “No disrespect tah tha cap’n, but on this boat we all look tah you...whatever tha plan.”

Riley nodded, giving it some thought. “I put my trust in you. I’d like to have that trust in Jat, and I could’ve. But realistically, if it came down to chain of command or companion, I have to question which he’d choose. And I can’t chance this crew or my ship at the whims of a little boy led like an oxen. In the alliance we had a saying too - no man is fit to command another if he can’t command himself. I have to stand by my call.”

The face he wore was impassive, but the words had struck Dorian firmly. These same concerns had vexed him just last night. Whereas he frequently chose the grey, Riley moved purposefully toward the situational black and white. In this case, he could agree. “And it is,” he replied, “your call. A damned tough one, Ah might add.”

“Always is. And this ship’s not gonna fly itself. Thanks for the shot Adler. Maybe the next one will be in the form of a glass.”

His expression brightened. “You know, as yah doctor, Ah recommend proper food intake. Lo and behold, it smells like we’ve got proper food in tha galley. Care tah come grab a plate?”

“I don’t fraternize. Dining with the crew is the Captain’s job, Adler. And someone’s gotta fly the ship.”

“You martyr, you,” he grinned. “Fourteen hundred, then?”

“The navy does pride itself on punctuality.”

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