The doors pulled aside and Tumaini Calumn didn’t step in. It was force of habit for the Lieutenant to visually scan the room before he committed to enter an unfamiliar compartment. He didn’t stand impassive for terribly long, but there was a noticeable halt before he stepped through the doorway. In a couple of heartbeats, Tumaini assessed Sickbay to be without imminent risks: an assortment of biobeds and a medical personnel in their efficient dance, moving around the perimeter. The only risk he walked into was one of social anxiety.
Perhaps there was a differential in the life support exchange between compartments –or perhaps he hadn’t drunk any water that morning– but whatever the cause, Tumaini felt a tickle in his throat the minute he strode into Sickbay. In the holonovels, a character letting out a cough usually meant certain death. Similarly, a cough was never just a cough when being observed in Sickbay. Closing the distance to the nearest empty biobed, Tumaini took a deep breath and he swallowed the urge to cough. He refused to make a spectacle of himself. Clad in a Starfleet uniform much like anyone else, Tumaini sat himself on the foot on a biobed and folded his hands in his lap.
Claudia noticed the Lieutenant and set what she was working on down and approached him. She looking over the top of her old fashioned glasses she inspected the young man sitting before her. He appeared to the the pennical of health. “And what’s the matter with you young man?”
Something in Claudia’s question caused a little spark, and then a chain reaction, in Tumaini’s mind. That racing thought was visible across his eyes when he opened his mouth, but he didn’t answer right away. Any thought of the tickle in his throat, or even the tightness in his hips, floated away into the ether. Leaning into his immediate curiosity, Tumaini replied with a question of his own. “Is that a foregone conclusion, Commander?” Tumaini earnestly asked, as he met her gaze. “Does the crew only seek you out when something terrible is the matter?”
“Not to put too fine of a point on it, yes,” she replied. “This is sickbay, not a social club. And call me Claudia, please. Doctor will do in a pinch, but rank isn’t important to me and is more of a function of my time in service rather placement in this chain of command.”
Responding with a single, heavy nod in recognition, Tumaini said, “Claudia. Yes,” and he offered a high-old Betazoid greeting that the universal translator shifted into, “How do you do?” As before, there was a voice in the back of Tumaini’s mind that told him to introduce himself or explain his presence in Sickbay, but the words time in service rang in his ears too loudly. He couldn’t ignore the ledge to which his curiosity was leading him. It may not have been entirely obvious to a stranger, but Tumaini asked the question wide-eyed, all reverence and awe. He said, “You really are very old to be in active service, aren’t you?”
She shook her head, “Niño tonto. Not so old I think.” She then conceeded, “But, maybe for a human, but I am not the oldest. Or at least not the oldest ever. Didn’t your mama tell you it’s not polite to comment on a woman’s age?”
“My mama is Betazoid,” Tumaini replied, with a small shrug and a knowing wink. He was intentional about using the same diminutive for mother. “She already knew everybody’s ages,” he said, and then he blinked hard. Tumaini heard himself saying the words, and couldn’t entirely remember how he’d ended up talking about his mother in Sickbay. “But I’m Tumaini,” he said, flattening his palm on his chest; “I came aboard Achilles with the crew replacements and now I’m due for a physical exam. I did come in with a reason other than to comment on your age, of course.”
“Aw, that would be why.” She went to a computer terminal, asked a few key questions and pulled up his health records. “Any changes to family history, or concerns I should know about?”
Tumaini nodded at Claudia’s question with a wry half-smile. In the security division, injuries were a little more common than in other Starfleet occupations. “My hips have been feeling tight. I’ve noticed it especially when I’m squatting or lunging,” Tumaini said matter-of-factly. “I was assigned to a protection detail on my last ship. A lot of sitting and waiting… punctuated by moments of panic and running.”
She notated the information, but didn’t offer any diagnosis. Pushing the computer terminal away she picked up an old-fashioned stethoscope from a nearby tray and placed the bell into his chest gently in various key places listening to his heart and breathing. She moved to his back and only gave him short commands on how she wanted him to breathe. Satisfied she removed the stethoscope from her ears and wrapped the tubing around her neck and picked up his left wrist taking his pulse counting the heart beats carefully.
She released his wrist and nodded, “Let your legs hang free over the bed please.”
Perched on the end of the biobed, Tumaini shifted his weight at Claudia’s command. He continued to watch the good doctor’s ministrations and then he let his legs hang loosely. Claudia arched an eyebrow as he observed Claudia, but for all his curiosity, he found her expressions inscrutable.
She then tapped the joints at a specific spot on his knees, first the left then the right. Each time there was an involuntary jump of the leg. “Good.” She stepped back and picked up a medical tricorder and scanned him from top to bottom collecting a full metabolic panel, other pertinent information including a cursory scan of his brain functions.
Stepping away from Tumaini she set the tricorder down and crossed her arms standing before him, “I could hear a little popping in your lungs. Could be some excess mucus. Have you been coughing?”
“No coughing, but I suppose I woke up feeling a little phlegmy,” Tumaini replied, offering Claudia a slow nod. His dark eyes narrowed when he spoke again, his brows furrowing too, as concern clearly washed over him. “I’ve been through the transporter biofilters, but my last assignment was on an alien planet. Our– our science officers thought the environment was safe, but…” –His gaze drifted into the middle distance– “Do I have Rigelian fever?”
“No, but we’ll want to watch that mucus. It’s more than likely nothing. Just your lungs adjusting to different environments. But then it could be something more such as viral or bacterial. It also could an autoimmune disorder. Let’s not panic just yet. Other than that you look good. No indication of cardiac arrhythmia, blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose levels are all within normal ranges. It appears there might be some arthritis developing in your hips and knees. We can address that later. But, for now,” she dug around in a nearby cart and pulled out a clear bottle half filled with white circular tablets, “take two every six hours as needed. They can be a little bitter so I would afterwards. And above all, don’t ask your people to do something you wouldn’t do.”take them with water.”
Clasping the pill bottle between both of his hands, Tumaini acknowledged the instructions with a contrite, “Yes, doctor,” as if he’d done something wrong. He braced his palms against the biobed, shifting his weight to stand up. Before anything else happened, before he went anywhere, he hesitated. His eyes were already on the doors out of sickay, when he said, “Achilles is going to be my first assignment as a department head, Claudia. What advice could you offer in another pill bottle?” At that question, Tumaini looked to her with hopeful eyes, and he shook the pill bottle like a small maraca.
She considered it for a moment. “Always be consistent. Don’t make exceptions. Find your line in the sand and never cross it. Make sure your people know where that line is, so when they do cross it and you come down on them they expect it, but always be fair. Listen before you speak. Don’t be a boss, be a leader. Don’t do the work for your people, and don’t micromanage them. Expect them to get the job done and leave them alone to do it, but always follow up afterwards. Don’t ask your people to do something you wouldn’t do yourself. And above all never ever lie to your people or place blame on them. You are their leader if they fail, it’s on your not them. You can pursue corrective actions after you’ve received your own licks.”
Listening to each of Claudia’s recommendations, Tumaini nodded in acknowledgement. At the same time, his legs began to fidget from sitting for so long. His eyes, though, his eyes remained with Claudia and her pearls of wisdom. “I would be very proud to show up as even half the leader you describe on our first mission,” Tumaini said. “Thank you kindly for both prescriptions.”
“I’d like to say that it will be easy, but unlike that aspirin, leadership is a much harder pill to swallow. Just like learning to walk you have to fall a few times before you figure it out. But, if you have your people’s respect the good ones will forgive you. Now, I have work to do and I don’t get around like I used to. Have a good day Mr. Calumn.”