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Part of USS Denver: Mission 7: Pandora’s Warp

Hard, Cracked Earth

Sickbay
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[[Content warning: panic, reference to domestic abuse]]

Sickbay

 

Lavender flopped into her office chair wearily. The last half hour had been manic and filled with adrenaline, but Aiofe was safe. Lavender had repaired all of the damage done by the bullet, the projectile was removed, the exit wound closed and the damage to her heart and lung rectified. Now the Ensign was sedated and resting with pleasingly stable vitals. Lavender wanted to keep her under a while just to make sure her heart wasn’t stressed as the repairs bedded in. There was still much to be done, her team were still in Lupherian hands down on the planet, but Lavender just needed a beat to regroup. The doctor rested her head back and closed her eyes with the intention of a few seconds respite. But there was to be none. Images of her ascent from the planet in the fighter greeted her with every shut of her eyes. The normal calming blackness of the inside of her lids was punctuated with stars that moved and swayed with the motion of the fighter that in reality it was now somewhere many miles away.

“Fuck…”

Lavender opened her eyes. The relative comfort and security of the vast Starship Denver was entirely stripped away when in such a small craft. The starship was stable, vast, a huge building or even a small village in space, comfortable, composed and reassuring, with powerful shields and even more powerful phaser banks. The Fighter on the other hand bucked and jerked, the vast, cold hostility of space just inches from where she had sat cradling the ailing Ensign McKenzie. Lavender closed her eyes again. Even when she tried to wipe the dancing stars from her mind’s eye, they were replaced by the blackness of the stricken Starship Manitoba’s sickbay. Lavender’s balance buckled as her mind told her she was weightless again, drifting about with only the light of a PADD to stop from crashing into walls and biobeds. Lavender gripped the arms of her chair. The wondering of how she would eventually die in that situation returned with force. It haunted her nightmares but she rarely felt it during the day. Her eyes popped open again and her vision blurred, the lights of the computer readouts on the opposite wall casting lines of colour across her Vision like a swaying camera.

“Get a fucking grip, Lavender…”

The Doctor started to breathe more intentionally, to setup a calming rhythm. She had learned the 4-7-8 technique years before that did still help to calm her in moments of anxiety. She thought of something cheerful. She thought of Arin and her jokes to try to calm herself.

“Grape juice and torpedo coolant. Grape juice and torpedo coolant.”

Thoughts of Arin inevitably led to thoughts of fighters. It was only then that Lavender’s brain clued her in to the concept that she may need to return to the planet. She may need to return the way she came up, in a fighter.

“No no no no no no no no no…”

Lavender gripped the arms of her chair hard, her nails digging into the cushioned upholstery. Her eyes were wide open, but the comfort of the bright lights of sick bay was null. Sweat started to appear all over, making her shiver in the cold. Lavender didn’t notice it much. She was more concerned with the fact that the colour seemed to have drained entirely from her vision. What had been an orange and blue ACARS panel, blurred by panic but coloured none-the-less was now greyscale. She gasped, her breath shuddering in her chest.

“Lavender, I just wanted to check with you…” it was one of the nurses who approached the office door and took a step inside.

“GET OUT!” Lavender screeched, her voice gutteral and wild and utterly alien to how she usually sounded. It was sadly familiar though, it was the sound her mother had made when her father had been beating her, or was just about to. The nurse turned-tail and departed hastily without a word. You’ll get complaints about me. The words she had spoken to Captain Talon echoed again in her confused mind. She couldn’t even apologise or explain. What would she do, admit to having a complete and fall-apart panic attack in her own office in the middle of the day in the middle of a crisis? Lavender tried to breathe. Her mouth was dry as hard, cracked earth.

 

The office was a black and white movie still, and this only served to fuel Lavender’s panic even more. She gasped for breath, her heart hammered in her chest. Beads of sweat formed on her face even through her foundation, ruining the smooth, unblemished facade of her mask. Lavender’s vision tunnelled. The edges were a blur, all she could see was the ACARS panel now, but it seemed much further away than the three metres or so it actually was. Lavender’s hand rose from its comforting grip to hover over her com badge in a move that was jarring to what grasp remained to her of reality and yet may become necessary. She may need help. Doctor as she was, Lavender wasn’t entirely sure what was happening to her. Perhaps a sedative would help but there was no chance she could get to a hypospray unaided. She sat a moment, her hand hovering two inches over her badge. Things had stablised. They were still bizarre and petrifying, but they were stable.

Lavender listened to her own breaths a while, she felt the beads of cold sweat on her face, she felt for the first time the wetness of sweat between her back and her uniform. She listened to her own exhales, made artificially loud by forcing the air through her teeth, 4-7-8 style. The hand returned to the arm of her chair, slowly. She felt the band of her sports bra exerting pressure on her rib cage, usually a feeling dialled out by her mind, consigned into irrelevance for her day-to-day work. She felt her toes in her boots, her toes in her socks in her boots, she felt the warm comfort and softness of her socks, somehow saved from the moisture of sweat.

The C.M.O. had no idea how long she sat, taking in every feeling she could feel, using each to solidify her grip on actuality. Her brain reasoned with her that in the moment, she was in no danger.

You’re just sat in your office. Nothing’s going to hurt you. Nothing’s going to hurt you. Nothing’s going to hurt you. Nothing’s going to hurt you.

In time, her periphery came back into focus.

Good, that’s progress. Keep going. Breathe slow. 

Lavender could now read the text on the ACARS screen opposite. She looked to the computer terminal on her desk which was now also legible. She listened to her breaths, fast, but slowing. The sixteen millimetre Kodachrome film of her office slowly graduated to Technicolor, starting in the middle, until her surroundings looked vaguely normal again. Lavender thanked whatever deities may or may not exist.

 

She felt sick. Shakily Lavender stood, grasping the edges of her desk and she sidestepped slowly around it like an old movie star backing along an impossibly small ledge part way down a deep ravine. An experimental step, then another, another and another, her hand now released from the stabilising edge of the desk. Pride at being able to operate somewhat normally again. Her arms were out to her sides, regaining basic balance like a toddler learning to walk. Arm outstretched, she felt the surface of the wall opposite. Lavender stood, braced by her arms, facing the empty wall a while longer, making sure her balance had fully returned.

“Computer, water, room temperature.” Lavender snatched at the glass as soon as it materialised, creating waves in the surface that lapped over the edge and on to her shaking hands. She drained it in one, gasping for breath afterward. A bead of water ran down the right side of her chin and she wiped it away, smearing pale foundation on to the cuff of her uniform.

One more deep breath, come on.

Lavender pushed off from the wall. Without a single word to her staff she made for the door and exited sickbay at pace, making for her quarters.