Part of USS Arcturus: Ex Nihilo Nihil Fit and Bravo Fleet: Phase 2: Horizon

V – Three Bottles of Wine

Medical Section, Starship Arcturus
September 2399
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Assistant Chief Medical Officer’s Log, Supplemental. Starship Arcturus.

As we reintegrate the crew between both sections of the ship, it’s been a little bit of a headache resuming our regularly scheduled medical routine, especially when it comes to patients who receive regular treatment for any number of chronic ailments. We’re also reconciling medical and pharmacological records, and ensuring that the medical department heads are up-to-date on all patients’ conditions. What this means, unfortunately, is that we’re going to have an abnormally long staff meeting.

End Log

Not including his two deputies and the ship’s counselor, there were ten department heads under Doctor Anjar as Captain of Medicine, meaning every single seat in the medical department’s briefing room was filled. It had been nearly an hour by the time of them all ten of them had given their general reports, starting with Dr. T’Rai in surgery and ending with Master Chief Corpsman Alistair Watson in medical support. Luca Sheppard generally considered himself to be a very patient person, but it had tested even the limits of his attention span and patience when they moved into reports on individual patients, alphabetically of course.

Even with all of this information in the computer, all of them needed to be fully briefed on the details because in an emergency situation with the computer down, any one of them could be put in a position where they would need to render treatment. Not knowing the patient’s history or ongoing treatments could lead to mistakes. As much as Sheppard ruefully wished for a torpedo to hit the conference room to stop the interminable meeting, it was ironically when the medical department had its most eggs in one basket. He glanced across the table at Dr. Larc, the ship’s pathologist and epidemiologist, wondering what the reports of bedside manner would be if the Tellarite were forced to deal with living patients, should the worst happen.

“I do have one patient to report on,” Dr. Aeyrn Quinn said, with a smile.

As head of reproductive medicine, she was often not very busy aboard the Arcturus at least in her capacity as helping families through the birthing process. While Starfleet didn’t impose any policies restricting crewmembers from having children, it was encouraged to avoid having children if culturally acceptable or biologically possible while on a deep space mission.

“Commander Nehal Nayar has been trying for several months with her husband, Finn MacRory, to conceive a child. I was able to confirm a short while ago that she is now pregnant with twins,” Quinn announced, after a short pause for suspense, leading to applause around the table.

“I do love babies,” Commander Vircar, Head of Nursing, noted. “What a lovely surprise for Mister MacRory to come back to.”

“Absolutely,” Anjar echoed. “Just like the surprise we all came back to: your completion of the bridge officer’s exam, Commander Vircar,” he added, causing the room to give another round of applause at the third pip on Vircar’s uniform.

“Thank you, Doctor, and thanks of course to Luca for helping me study,” Vircar replied.

Sheppard had helped her study for several weeks, while she worked with Captain Rakan to prepare for the exam, so he’d been pleased to see she’d passed once they returned. Nursing was often a field that had rank roadblocks because most ships were just too small to need a nurse of that rank when many CMOs were mere lieutenants, but the Arcturus presented a unique opportunity for her.

Luckily there were only about thirty crew members who needed to be discussed directly. There were many more with chronic conditions under treatment, but only a handful had gone along with the stardrive section.

“Doctor Anjar, I noticed in the logs that a substantial amount of theta radiation medications were administered during the mission, but there are no corresponding notations of any diagnoses that would warrant their use,” Dr. Tenesh noted, once all of the patients had been discussed.

Tenesh was the senior of the two assistant chief medical officers, the one left behind during the saucer separation. An Orion, she was meticulous, forthright, and near-desperate to prove that she was the model of rule-following and Starfleet decorum, or at least that’s how it came across. Despite being married to him, Sheppard suspected that Lancaster preferred her to him, at least professionally, as the two seemed so eerily similar sometimes. Sheppard glanced at Anjar to see how he would field that question, the first they had received about their classified mission.

“It was administered prophylactically. All impacted crewmembers have been monitored and the drugs have left their system. Ideally, we won’t need to do that again but the Captain wants us to increase our stocks and make sure all personnel are trained in its administration,” Anjar replied, levelly.

“That’s highly irregular, Doctor.”

“Sure is, but that’s the Omega Directive for you,” Anjar replied, with a shrug. “Alright, let’s get back to work,” he said, as a way of dismissal.

As the medical team started filing out of the conference room, Sheppard was momentarily surprised when someone clapped him on the back and put his arm around his shoulders.

“Hey, buddy. Are you on duty this shift?” Austin Carver asked.

Sheppard and Carver had been roommates at the academy and then reconnected a few years prior when they were both serving on Earth. Carver was essentially a human golden retriever, full of energy and affection at all times. It had taken Lancaster a little bit to get used to how tactile he was with his old friend Sheppard, but along with Jack van Dorland, they’d developed a tight-knit friend group that they were happy to get to restart when Carver and van Dorland left Starbase 38 to join them on the Arcturus mid-year. Carver was a counselor but also had a medical doctorate, while the head counselor did not, so he held a dual role as Head of Psychiatric Medicine.

“If you were listening during the briefing, you’d know that I’m not, Austin,” Sheppard replied, with a chuckle.

“Hey, I saw you about to fall asleep a few times, so no lectures. Want to hit the gym? Tell me all about your secret mission,” Carver suggested.

“You’re not getting any details out of me, but sure,” Sheppard said.

“Don’t underestimate me, Luca,” the counselor reminded him, as they walked down the corridor, forward towards their favorite of the ship’s many gyms.

They stopped first in the adjacent locker room, which synthesized appropriately-sized athletic apparel for both of them when they each put their thumbprint on a vacant locker. When they returned the clothes, the locker would dematerialize them and sanitize the compartment. Apparently, it was less energy-intensive than having a ship’s laundry or asking everyone to walk around with their own gym bag, but it still made Sheppard marvel at how much power the ship produced if they had enough to spare for this indulgence.

“I hope you didn’t slack this week,” Carver chided, as the two of them got changed.

There was little shame between the two of them, as they’d lived together and seen each other in the buff many, many times, so much to the point that their relationship was brotherly. They were about the same height—Sheppard was a little taller—and the same build, though he considered himself to be in slightly better shape than Carver was. He was positive the other man thought the same thing about him, though, and they were very competitive with one another when it came to fitness.

“You wish,” Sheppard replied. “I’m on chest day, so I hope you haven’t been skipping any yourself.”

“Nope. Things were pretty sedate here. I’m still on my routine,” Carver confirmed, as they left the locker room and went to the weight area of the gym, which was only sparsely used. One of the reasons they liked that particular gym besides its proximity to the medical department was that it seemed to be less popular than the others.

“Sedate sounds nice. Isn’t that what we were all supposed to get this week anyway?” Sheppard noted as he configured the weights on the bench press machine. The bar itself was capable of changing its own weight with a gravity generator so it no longer needed plates on both ends.

“Hey, you’re the one with an ear—or more—with the boss,” Carver teased.

“He’s as annoyed as anyone, I think. It interrupted vacation on the holodeck pretty early,” Sheppard said.

“Must’ve been some vacation if Michael didn’t want to leave the holodeck.”

“Greek isles. He had me pick this time.”

Sheppard put his hands on the bar as Carver got behind him to spot. While the computer should automatically stop the bar from crushing him, it wasn’t worth leaving that to chance. Once he was sure of his grip, he picked the bar up off of the rack and began his workout. Exercise was one of the things in life that he was most passionate about, a trait he shared with his friend Carver. He felt that he could truly lose himself while in the gym, focusing just on his form and improving himself, and he always left feeling stress-free and refreshed.

Once Sheppard had done his set, they traded places, not really talking as both of them used settings that were quite close to their maximums. That happened more often when the two of them worked out together than when he worked out alone because either of them would be quick to accuse the other of not giving it their all at the slightest opportunity.

Once they were done with the benchpress, Carver swung around on it to face Sheppard, resting his forearms on the bar itself as he took a breather.

“Do you think Michael will want to hang out tonight… or… is he still in stressed captain mode?”

“Maybe. Being around friends might help him out of that mode. We could ask Jack, too,” Sheppard replied.

It was about 50/50 whether or not Lancaster would want to see other people, as he had been so intent on his mission that Sheppard sort of doubted whether he’d be back in their quarters before midnight anyway, but what could they reasonably do in the middle of open space? They were at least a day away from anywhere, so he had to relax at some point.

Carver frowned. “Jack has a date tonight, he said.”

“Oh, with Slater?”

“Yeah. The two of them are getting serious.”

“You don’t seem very happy about that,” Sheppard noted. “Have we reached the part in the cycle where you want him but he doesn’t want you, again.”

“It’s hardly a cycle,” Carver replied, shaking his head. “But, yeah, I guess so.”

Carver and van Dorland’s on-again, off-again relationship had gone on for as long as the two of them had been friends with Sheppard and Lancaster on Earth. They were very close friends, even closer than Sheppard and Carver were, but they never worked as a couple, not for more than a few weeks at a time before one of them would do something short-sided, or they’d realize for the umpteenth time that they’re not what either man is looking for.

“For a counselor, you’re kind of a mess,” Sheppard replied, with a small smile. “Can’t you just be happy that he’s seeing someone?”

“I’m trying to be. But it’s cuffing season.”

“What does that mean?”

“It basically means that everyone’s finding themselves to shackle themselves to right now. Jack and Slater. Windsor and Hidalgo. Those two Trill in Stellar Cartography…,” Carver listed, ticking off on his fingers. “We’re in the middle of a dangerous mission, so people are looking for a port in the storm.”

“You’ve only listed three couples, though.”

“Three that I know for sure about,” Carver replied. “I’m telling you, everyone’s going to end up coupled up by the end of the week.”

“Well… stop complaining and go find someone of your own, then?” Sheppard suggested, before glancing around the gym and following a number of sets of eyes back to Carver. “There are at least six people of three different genders checking you out right now.”

“That’s not really what I’m saying… but he’s cute…,” Carver said, glancing off towards the cardio area, and then shaking himself out of it. “What I mean is that I’m worried they might be rushing into things because of the danger.”

“They’ve known each other for months, Austin.”

“I know, because I was there the first time they met, and the three of us went out the night he came to the starbase,” Carver reminded him. “Go ahead and lecture me about being jealous.”

“I don’t think that’s an unreasonable concern, but have you tried talking with Jack about it?” Sheppard said.

“Of course not. He’ll assume that it’s because I’m trying to wreck things,” Carver said. “And… maybe I would be? It’s not like we’ve got a great track record.”

Sheppard sighed. He was almost positive that van Dorland would feel a little put out if the situation were reversed, but Carver’s most noticeable flaw—and the one that most often got him into trouble—was one that he shared with Sheppard, a sense of possessiveness. He was the same way towards Lancaster, though in that case their relationship was very stable, while in Carver’s case it wasn’t. They both either needed to be single or dating other people at the same time for either of them to be happy, it seemed like. Counselor, counsel thyself.

“It’s ok to be sad he’s seeing someone. But please don’t get worked up about this. You know how you get,” Sheppard pleaded.

“Yeah,” Carver agreed, looking off to the side. “Let’s move on before I start to spiral on this.”

They moved onto incline presses, then the incline fly, pullovers, cable flies, and dips, before pushups to complete their workout. The whole time, Sheppard noticed Carver pushing himself harder than usual, forcing him to struggle to keep up by the end.

“You really think I’ll feel better if I find someone else myself?” Carver asked, as the two were cleaning off in the communal sonic shower attached to the locker room.

“For a while anyway. You’d probably feel even better if the two of you worked out your issues, though,” Sheppard replied. When he turned, he caught a towel square in the face from Carver.

“Is it lonely up there on your pedestal?”

Sheppard picked up the towel. “Sometimes,” he said, flashing Carver a smirk. He went over to start pulling his uniform on when his badge chirped.

“Lancaster to Sheppard.”

“Go ahead. I’m with Austin, just for reference.”

“I should be free this evening if you want to bring him along to dinner. Bring Jack, too.”

“Jack has a date,” Carver volunteered from the background.

There was a pause on the other end of the line. “I see. I guess it’s a three-bottle night, then.”

“At least,” Sheppard agreed.

In Carver’s opinion, Lancaster had always acted significantly older than he actually was. Now at 35 and in command of one of the largest ships in Starfleet, he had an even more serious aura to him, with the clear weight of command settled in heavily on his shoulders. He did seem pleased to be around Carver and Sheppard, but he was pretty quiet for most of the night.

Apparently, Lancaster had put up a fight when the admiral insisted he move to the captain’s cabin on the forward end of decks two and three, saying that their original quarters were more than spacious enough, but Hayden had wanted there to be no doubts about who was in command. She’d taken the flag officer’s suite down on decks six and seven, which was a little larger but didn’t have quite the same view and was farther from the bridge. Carver hadn’t been aboard before Lancaster took command, but he could only imagine what the first officer’s quarters were like if he’d not felt the need to rush into the two-deck suite they were sitting in then.

From the seating and dining area on the lower level, the view out into space was magnificent. Above there was the sleeping loft, connected to a spacious en suite on one side, complete with a two-person jacuzzi tub. The lower level had a separate dining room (redundant, as the official “Captain’s Dining Room” was on the forward end of deck four) with a real kitchen on one side and a den on the other side. Carver’s own quarters had great views, too, but from the captain’s cabin, you really felt like you were on top of the universe.

“I can’t believe you still socialize with me, living up here in your palace,” Carver noted, looking around the room and settling back on the white leather sofa.

“It’s good to keep the little people around so one is aware of one’s own ascension,” Lancaster replied, smirking as Sheppard sat down and put his arm around him. To anyone else, they’d probably take him at face value, but Carver knew that Lancaster didn’t actually think quite so highly of himself.

They were pretty much the ultimate power couple in Carver’s imagination, both at the top of their fields. Attractive, well-matched in personality, and a natural fit together. For quite a while, Carver had imagined that he and Jack van Dorland would eventually figure out how to make a relationship work, and then the friend group would be two couples.

“Little people like you, Austin,” Sheppard added.

“Yeah, I got that, Luca,” Carver said, laughing. He put his head back on the sofa for a moment and then looked back over at them. Being the third nacelle wasn’t all that uncommon for him, but most of the time they’d spent together had been in a group of four, so he found himself wondering if he was going to get kicked out sometime soon. “How are you two doing?”

Lancaster looked at his husband. “It’s tough not being able to say much. For both of us.”

“I hope your plan isn’t to ply classified details out of him with alcohol,” Sheppard chided. “Because I’ve tried and it doesn’t work.”

“Nope, just a gentle nudge for Michael not to do that ‘I am an island’ thing,” Carver replied pointedly.

“Noted,” the captain replied. “I’ve got good people around me. On staff, and… otherwise,” he added, gesturing to the room around him to indicate both his friend and his husband.

“That’s about as emotive as you’re going to get on bottle one,” Sheppard noted. “Ready for the second, while we look through the crew manifest and find Austin someone for ‘cuffing season’?”

“Absolutely. Let’s give him the one thing he’s never ever needed before in his life: love advice,” Lancaster enthused.

“Using me as a distraction from your own problems isn’t healthy, Michael,” Carver quipped.

“Captain’s prerogative. I’ll use you how I see fit, Commander.”