Part of USS Phoenix: Consequences

Chapter 2 – Two Beings Far from Home

U.S.S. Phoenix - Sickbay/Life Sciences Lab
August 24, 2288 - 13:26
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Doctor Deni Valaja stood in the Phoenix’s small sickbay, frowning and picking at her lip nervously as she studied the patient record on the datapad in her hands. Opposite her, hovering above the deck was a metallic grey sphere affixed with sensors and a central blue “eye” at the sphere’s equator and a what looked like a speaker grille below it. Four appendages extended out from the sphere, two from each hemisphere.

“Forgive me, ensign, I’ve never met a Medusan before,” she said after a few moments.

“There’s no need to apologize, doctor.” The voice emitted from the speaker. “There aren’t many of us in Starfleet.”

The Medusan spoke with a sedate, feminine voice without much modulation. If the Medusan had not been right in front of her, Doctor Valaja would have thought she was listening to the ship’s computer.

“In fact, I’ve never met any noncorporeal lifeforms. I’ve only been out of medical school a few years. This is my first deep space assignment.” She glanced down at the datapad and then placed it on a tray of surgical instruments, picking up a tricorder and Feinberger. “Ensign Zarrus. Did I pronounce that correctly?”

“Your pronunciation was accurate, however my classmates at Starfleet Academy took to calling me ‘Zee.’”

“A nickname? You’re lucky. They must have liked you.” She waved the Feinberger over the sphere containing Zarrus’ energy.

“Eventually. At first there was understandable fear. After all, we are the only known species whose natural form can drive humanoids to insanity.”

Even without the natural inflection, Valaja could tell that Zarrus had practiced the subtleties of humor, and she chuckled. She returned the Feinberger to its spot on the instrument tray and consulted the tricorder.

“These readings line up with Doctor Setal’s recommended baseline for a healthy Medusan.” She replaced the Feinberger on the tray. “If you don’t mind my saying so, ensign, I might get a decent research paper out of you.”

“Not at all, doctor,” Zarrus replied. “Though I don’t know what could be explored that Doctor Setal has not already written about.”

Valaja picked up the datapad and a stylus and made notes on Zarrus’ file.

“May I ask a question, doctor?”

“Certainly.”

“A moment ago you called me lucky for having a nickname. Did you not have a nickname at the Academy, doctor?”

Valaja chuckled again. “No, I did not, ensign. No one expects much from you when you come from a resort planet.” She pointed to the Risian family emblem affixed to the center of her forehead.

“I recognized the emblem. I am familiar with Risa from an academic standpoint. I have not had occasion to visit. Should I?”

“Well, you may not enjoy it as much as corporeal beings.” She continued entering notes on the datapad. “Honestly, I don’t miss it all that much. It’s home and it always will be, but when you grow up on a planet that is engineered to provide every manner of pleasure, a natural side effect is that you lose a desire to leave. We don’t yearn for…” she paused a moment and gestured around the small sickbay, “…this.”

“This?” Zarrus asked.

“A life off Risa. A life out here in space.”

A long moment of silence hung between them. Valaja wondered for a moment if the concept of reaching beyond one’s grasp was alien to Zarrus, who, by their very nature, was confined to the small floating habitat.

“I believe I understand,” they finally said.

Valaja smiled and walked the datapad over to the nurse’s station, handing it to Jix, her K’tarian head nurse.

“That does it for your physical, such as it is,” the doctor said. “I’ll continue studying Doctor Setal’s notes with regard to your physiology and how to monitor your health. In the meantime, I’ll tell you what I tell all my patients: if you feel sick, I don’t know unless you say something.”

“I am well attuned to what you would call my ‘personal health,’ doctor. If I notice any changes, I will alert you immediately.” Zarrus hovered toward the sickbay door. “I have enjoyed the conversation, and would stay, but I must meet Ensign Robinson in the astrometrics lab. He requires an updated weather report.”

The sickbay doors parted and the sphere carrying Zarrus passed through easily.

Valaja left the ward area and stepped into her small office. There was a desk and a chair and that was it. Not even a place for a visitor to sit. The cup of tea she had made still sat on the desk top. She lifted it and took a sip. It had gotten cold. She touched a control on her computer console.

“Computer, begin recording. Patient notes: Ensign Zarrus, Medusan. Using data from Doctor Setal’s texts on Medusan physiology, I will establish baseline norms for patient every two weeks for the next twelve weeks. Will contact Setal if —”

“Doctor, your next exam is here!” It was Jix calling from her station.

Doctor Valaja sighed, closed her eyes for five seconds, and stood up.

“On my way.”