Sebastian nodded to several people he crossed paths with on his march along deck 6 until he reached the entrance to sickbay. As he crossed the threshold and entered the medical facility, he noted the somewhat unusual presence of two security officers keeping a beady eye on events as they transpired. Coming to a halt outside of the ‘range of annoyance’ for the CMO, the Captain watched intently as the medics worked their magic. He would, for now, bide his time until Doctor Zinn was ready to talk with him; the patient was the priority at present.
Treating this patient was no easy task. Her body was so thoroughly irradiated that she was actually giving off low levels of radiation. Not enough to cause damage to those around her but only as long as exposure was kept to a minimum. The EMH was doing the bulk of the treatment while a containment field was erected around the biobed to keep the rest of Sickbay safe.
Doctor Zinn stood with his arms folded, a large PADD held against his chest, watching as the EMH conducted another series of tricorder scans. He could sense the man’s presence but didn’t take his eyes off his patient. “You’re lurking.”
“Yes, I… I’d like… when you’re,” Farrell was slightly caught off guard by the Doctor’s statement and had to take a second to compose himself and offer a coherent response. “I’d like a report when you are ready, Doctor. I can wait.”
No sharp witticism? No barbed riposte? That wasn’t the Commanding Officer that he knew. Zinn turned, approached the Captain and quietly asked, “You okay?”
“Fine,” Sebastian nodded, his eyes betraying him somewhat as he looked at the Doctor briefly and then back to the lifeform, who he couldn’t really see much of. “What can you tell me Doctor?”
Zinn turned back to face his patient, folding the PADD into his arms once more. “She’s alive, for now.” He told the Captain. “For probably the first time in days, she’s resting comfortably.”
“What are her injuries?” the Captain questioned, stepping forward to catch his first real glimpse of the survivor. It took every ounce of his strength to suppress the gasp of shock that nearly erupted from him. Scarred skin, disfigured and burnt, she was far from the Human she was when she arrived on the planet, that was for sure.
Doctor Zinn wasn’t surprised by the Captain’s reaction to their guests’ appearance. “Yeah. It’s difficult to see.” He spoke softly so just Farrell could hear him. “The radiation burns and,” the first word that occurred to him was ‘disfigurements’ but he quickly decided on a softer one, “changes are only the beginning.”
“Every cell in her body is saturated with radiation and as a result, she’s now giving off low levels of radiation. That’s why we have the isolation field, why I’m limiting the time my staff spends working with her and why the EMH will be doing the heavy lifting on her treatment.” He reported, pausing to let that sink in before continuing. “There’s scarring on both lungs, which is causing breathing difficulties and there are a number of what look like tumours. We’re currently running a more in-depth analysis on them but I’m guessing it’s not good.”
“Can we talk to her?” the Captain asked as softly his gravelly tone would allow, looking down at the almost lifeless figure from behind the safety of the isolation field.
The CMO sighed. “I’d rather allow her a little more time to rest. But, I know how you Starship Captains like to get your own way,” he cast a sideways glance at the Captain and smirked, “so I will allow you five minutes.”
“Thank you Doctor,” Farrell smiled, nodding in both respect and thanks to the Doctor. Stepping forward, as close to the isolation field as he could get, the man wasn’t quite sure where to start until words just fell out of his mouth. “Hello there… my name is Captain Sebastian Farrell. Can you hear me?”
Edme remained motionless for a while, even when she heard the voice. Her mind would not allow her to interpret anything the Trill was saying. Her dried lips finally parted slightly, “Esma…” she whispered. Even though she was heavily medicated her entire chest burned as the single word escaped. She swallowed hard, but as much as she focused, she could not open her eyelids. Her bloody fingers on both hands reached outward against the biobed, her broken nails gripped into the fabric as she fought to awaken.
Farrell glanced at the Doctor for the briefest of seconds before speaking to their patient again. “Esma… is that you? Is that your name?” he asked, his tone as quiet and calming as he could possibly make it.
The fog from her head lifted. She finally gained control of her entire body, all at once, it was like a switch flicked on and had fully awoken her. Edma’s body snapped up quickly, without warning, her entire mass lifted from the bed and dashed across the isolation area in the direction of the voice. She brought up on the forcefield, her hands lifted to bang against it flat palmed. “ESMA!” The woman screamed in the Captain’s face. “ESMA! Where is ESMA?” Her pupils widened as her eyelids parted. She could hardly see, her vision was a blur and obstructed by flaps of deformed skin. She could only make out the alien’s silhouette.
Farrell held up his own hands and pleaded to the woman for calm. “Please! You must remain calm. We will help you as much as we possibly can, but you must stay calm and talk to us,” he appealed to the woman.
Edme fell to her bottom and wrapped her arms around her knees. She began to rock erratically as she sobbed pitifully. Tears rolled down her deformed face as she lifted her head to look toward the Captain, “Esma,” she whispered again, “Esma… please… Esma…” She now turned her eyes toward the floor again, she tried to steady her rocking as her eyes closed shut.
Sebastian turned away from the patient for a moment and took Commander Zinn by the arm, guiding him away briefly so they could talk in private. “So, I guess we know that she isn’t called Esma. Family member maybe?”
“Sibling, child, parent? Your guess is as good as mine.” Zinn mused quietly. He turned back and stepped towards the edge of the isolation field. “Computer, deactivate isolation field.” The computer beeped in response and the hum of the field ceased as it lowered the field.
The CMO slowly approached the woman and lowered himself onto his bum, wincing and letting out a sound as he did. Once upon a time he’d given superiors a hard time about making ‘old man noises’, it was rather disconcerting that he was now making those noises himself. Sitting beside the woman cross legged, he didn’t try reaching out to her. “Is Esma a person?” He asked softly. “Your child?” Given the state of distress she was in when calling out what they were still assuming was the name of a person, Zinn figured it was a reasonable first guess that Esma was the woman’s child.
The doctors’ voice fluttered around her head; but, it might as well have been the noise of a running stream as she could not fully comprehend his questions’ meaning. Edme slowly stopped rocking as the man approached her, she fixated on his COMM badge. She lifted her pointer finger, her fingertip was raw and blistered, her nails chipped and broken. A calmness washed over her as she moved her eyes closer to the man’s chest to see better. She placed her finger on his badge and began to trace it as she whispered, “Starfleet…” Her voice was hoarse; but, more gentle now, more articulate.
Zinn watched as she reached out and began tracing the commbadge. When she spoke, he glanced up at the Captain, sharing a hopeful look with him. “That’s right.” He told her, keeping his voice soft. “My name’s Zinn. I’m a Starfleet Doctor.”
Stood at a safe distance, the Captain watched in absolute awe as the Doctor made the connection he had been unable to. He hoped the physician would know all the right things to ask.
Edme blinked as she heard the man for the first time, she continued to look at the badge still not making eye contact. A few rogue tears rolled down over her face still. “Zinn…” she repeated. “I want Esma. Find me Esma, Zinn…” She began to look around down, she could just barely make out the outlines of her new surroundings. “Esma. Please…” Her voice was riddled with defeat and hopelessness.
“I’ll try.” Zinn reassured her gently before pushing himself off the floor and slowly getting to his feet, ignoring the protests of his joints. Walking back over to the Captain, he let out a frustrated sigh. “I’m no closer to figuring out who Esma is,” He said in a low voice. Running over the events of the away mission again, he hoped that some detail would come to him to help them connect with the woman.
It struck him that before he and Noli had lifted her, he’d removed a piece of tree bark that she had been holding, cradling even. “The bark.” At the look of confusion that the comment drew from the Captain, he continued, “When we found her she was cradling a round piece of tree bark, like it was precious to her. Maybe if we give it back to her, it may ground her to reality a little and we can find out who Esma is.”
At this point, the Captain had no better solution to offer and so, nodded in agreement with the Doctor. They had nothing to lose, after all.
Zinn moved into an adjacent section of the medical facility, a room with various storage lockers. He quickly retrieved the piece of bark, after making sure that touching it would cause no lasting damage to him, and returned to Sickbay. Walking past the Captain, he slowly lowered himself beside their guest once more. “You were holding this when we found you.” He told her softly as he held the bark out for her.
Edme reached out like a Ferengi for a lost bar of gold-pressed latinum and took the piece of bark into her hands. She examined it for a moment then turned it over, she had two small notches made in the underside which looked like eyes. “Esma, Esma!” She looked up with genuine pride in her broken eyes, “Thank you, thank you,” she repeated. She held it close to her chest then started to look around the room again. “Starfleet… Where am I?”
At this point, Sebastian took a gentle step forward and in the most soothing tone he could muster, he explained what he could to the woman. “You’re on the starship Santa Fe. We responded to a distress call from your planet,” he revealed as he crouched down.
The woman survivor looked up, “Distress call from your planet,” she repeated. “Yes… They attacked us…” she added before she looked away. With the piece of bark in her hands she reached down between her knees and started to tap the floor with it’s edge. Her head slightly cocked to one side as she started to hum. The melody was soothing, lullaby-like.
“Who? Who attacked you?” Sebastian probed, as gently as she could. What she had to say would hopefully tell her where everyone had gone.
“Who, I’ll tell you who…” She looked up with a wide grin, “They come nimble, they come quick. They open their eyes and shine pure darkness. They speak without a mouth. They appear and disappear at their whim. Their bodies come alive when the wind blows.” She reached up and touched her temples with both hands as she dropped the bark, “You’ve seen them! I’ve seen them! The galaxy has fought them. Foot soldiers. Ferocious like a Klingon. They are there! They are here. They are already here. Don’t you know? LOOK!” Her voice raised as panic washed her face, “Starfleet, they are HERE!” She screamed now as she buckled backward, her eyes rolled back to reveal the bloodshot whites of her eyes. Her whole body began to shake and convulse violently. Spit and blood splattered from the corners of her lips as her limbs trashed around. Only soft mumbles escaped her lips now.
Zinn moved to cradle her head as her body convulsed. “Ten CCs of improvaline.” He barked at Nurse Michaels. The young Petty Officer already had a hypospray in hand and loaded it with the requested sedative. He quickly set the hypo for the correct dosage and handed it to the CMO, who immediately pressed it against the survivor’s neck and injected the sedative.
Within seconds the survivor’s body became still and Zinn let out a sigh that was equal parts frustration and relief. “Help me get her back onto the biobed.” Together, Michaels and Zinn lifted the still unknown woman off the deck and carefully placed her on the biobed. “Step out.” Zinn instructed as he moved outside of the isolation field’s perimeter. “Computer, activate isolation field.”
Zinn stepped over to where the Captain was standing but said nothing. His heart was racing and his breathing, which had become heavy, was returning to normal. “I hope that was worth it.” He said, finally breaking the silence.
So, too, did the commander of the ship as they shared a tense moment before he turned and began to walk away. “Let me know when she is well enough to be revived again, Doctor. I have more questions,” he told coldly. Gone was the warm, sensitive soul of before. In its place, the almost frozen exterior he was known for.
He hoped the exchange was worth it too, for all their sakes.