Infirmary 4 – 0745
“You see the report I flagged for you, Sensai?” Asata Hiro sat across the desk from Dr. Longfellow with a PADD in her hands. They had taken to meeting first thing in the morning to go over the previous day and look to the day ahead.
Henry tapped at the PADD, “You’re talking about Ensign Rex’s readings, Hiro-san?” He centered the text that referenced a metallic implant on the patient as well as ongoing concerns about isoboramine levels. “The levels appear to have been an ongoing issue…but the metallic implant?” He remembered the concerns he had about the ensign when she had been in to see Dr. Murphy. Asata was a good nurse who didn’t miss much when it came to patient care. “What do you think?” He glanced at her.
Hiro shifted in the chair, “There are many reasons that it’s not mentioned in her primary file. As you know, Trills are notoriously shy with medical personnel in any fleet but especially Starfleet.” She leaned forward, “Your gut instincts were famous among the staff back in the day.”
The physician smiled quietly, “It was helpful. I’m just concerned about the Ensign and her continued willingness to cooperate with us.” He leaned forward on his desk, “Notify her of a follow-up standard evaluation and conversation with me. Reference a need to check her isoboramine levels…but leave the metal implant out for the moment.” Asata stood and gave a slight bow before leaving.
Rex’s Quarters – 0830
Heriah had just returned to her quarters from the gym and was still in her Starfleet issued PT uniform. This particular day was one for kickboxing and she spent the session kicking and punching at the padded torso and head of her male counterpart. She did not catch his name, though he did give it, many times. It was one of Davmorda’s traits; to be a man-eater. To lead them on and then leave them dry. It was definitely not Heriah’s intent to channel the intents and traits of a previous host. Something had been eating at her all day to the point that she took the rest of the day off. She had completed her appointments and her duties anyway so Dr. Weld did not mind at all.
Upon returning to her quarters, Heriah found out what it was that was eating at her. It started with a soft and continuous chime from the computer. Upon inquiring, the computer alerted her to an appointment with Dr. Longfellow.
“So it has been that long.”
“Mol told them to make regular visits.”
“And they certainly don’t forget.
“It’s probably just a few short questions. Answer them and get out.”
Heriah practically tore off her PT uniform and changed into her casual wear. Taking a sonic shower was an option but she decided not to. Perhaps they would tell her to go away and return later, hopefully without being specific as to how much later.
Pocketing her commbadge, Heriah made her exit and ventured forth toward the Sick Bay.
Infirmary 4 – 0845
It did not take long before she found herself inside and at the desk of Nurse Hiro. Looking at the pips, Heriah saw that Hiro was one grade above her in rank.
‘When you get the pips, you get to make the orders.’
“Hello nurse,” Heriah said, “I have an appointment with Dr. Longfellow…apparently. Is he in?”
‘Say he isn’t.’
Asato glanced up and gave Heriah a warm smile, “Good morning, Ensign Rex! A pleasure to meet you. Nurse Asato Hiro”, she gave a slight bow from her chair before she stood and snagged a PADD, “Follow me and we’ll go ahead and get the vital readings out of the way.” She led the ensign to one of the exam rooms.
‘At least this one got the name right.’
Heriah watched, with just her eyes as the nurse stepped away. With a sigh, she followed after.
Hiro gestured to the bio bed as she pulled out the standard medical tricorder, “How are you feeling this morning, ensign?”
‘Again with the reminder that she outranks you. If only there was a bonesaw. With that we could…’
“I am feeling well…lieutenant,” Heriah said as she hesitated but did hop up onto the biobed. “Just got finished at the gym a little bit ago. Today was kickboxing.”
‘Go ahead and tell her what you had to eat last night while you are at it.’
“So, if you read an increased body temperature or unspent adrenaline…” she said in a slightly raised voice as she was really attempting to put down Rex’ irritation. “That is why.” She laid back to let the nurse do her thing. “Will this take long?”
Asata gave her an approving look as she continued to read the Trill woman’s vitals, “I could never manage kickboxing. Legs aren’t my strength. Straight boxing is my particular joy.” She did a blood pressure check, “Father wanted a boy, so I got to try all the rough stuff.” She put the equipment back, “Found something in the violence and release of it all – made father pleased so it worked out in the end.” She motioned for the ensign to sit up and she showed her the PADD with the readings she had taken, “You were right on the effects of the workout. Body temperature is within normal and your adrenaline levels were elevated but as you lay there they slowly dropped and absorbed.”
Heriah sat up and looked back and forth between the nurse and the PADD. She never did answer Heriah’s last question but proved all the same that it did not take long.
The door to the exam room opened and Dr. Longfellow stepped in with a nod to Asata, “Hiro-san, good morning.” He turned to the patient, “Good morning Heriah Rex. Good to meet you.” He accepted the PADD from Hiro and she departed, leaving the doctor and the counselor alone.
‘Ah. Good doctor bad doctor routine. Good doctor gets you in here, leaves, bad doctor comes enters. Now comes the real questions.’
“It is good to see you too, doc.” Heriah saw the he did not refer to her by rank, so she followed that up likewise. She could not help but to feel Rex’s concern that this was all a ploy to make the environment a bit more comfortable. She, however, resigned herself to whatever he needed…to get this over with.
Henry pulled up a rolling stool, “Dr. Henry Longfellow.” He tapped at his PADD, “Just a standard follow-up. Vitals look good. You’re keeping an active work out regiment. That’s something I’ve never been good at.” The doctor smiled as he put the PADD on the counter and offered up a hypospray, “With your permission, I’d like to pull a sample for an isoboramine level check.”
“As long as I get that isoboramine back,” she said as something of a joke. Heriah tilted her head to the side, exposing her neck, whilst also extending her arm, giving him the option of which to pull from. “So, how long have you been a doc…doc?”
Henry chuckled at her humor and returned her joke, “We try and return all parts and pieces to our patients.” He gently placed the hypospray on her arm and activated the device. A few moments later the tube was full and he slid over to the analysis unit in the room. “Eighteen years. Sixteen of those years were spent in Montana at various major hospitals. Then me and the wife decided to give Starfleet Medical a try.” He tapped at the console on the equipment as the readings displayed on the screen. “Assigned here after two years of the Academy.” He gestured to the room, “…and here I am.”
“Montana,” repeated Heriah with a hint of a question in her voice. “I do not know that planet. And your wife…?” she asked as she inclined her head toward the door, therefore the nurse who recently exited.
The physician chuckled quietly, “Montana is a place on Earth – they call it Big Sky Country because the sky isn’t blocked by man-made stuff…you can see the stars at night and for miles. You should take a visit using the holodeck one day.” He paused, “I’d be happy to show you around one of these days. As for my wife, she’s assigned to ship side medical out there. We talk once a day to stay connected. It’s been an interesting journey so far,” he shrugged as he pulled the data and entered it into the PADD with Heriah’s file. He turned the PADD to face her, “You can see here the graph of your levels. Pretty good, although that drop there,” he pointed to the data point,”…with this level today is something to keep an eye on. It’s always a delicate balance with Trill biology – keeping a regular schedule of checks makes sure nothing unpleasant can occur.” He turned the PADD back, “How do you feel about that?”
Looking at the graph and the information displayed, Heriah recognized that as being a little of what had been eating at her all day and why Rex had been especially irritating. Lowered isoboramine means more separation of the minds. Isoboramine drops too low and the joining between symbiont and host fails; one rejects the other.
‘I think the rejection would come from me.’
“I feel OK about that,” she replied, looking away from the PADD and to the doctor. “I have a stash of Benzocyatizine in my quarters should I ever need it. If you need the replication matrix for it, I can…”
Longfellow pulled the PADD back to himself and nodded, “That would be helpful. I’ll add a note to your file regarding access to it across the station in case of emergency.” He tapped away at the PADD for a moment and returned his attention to the ensign, “One last thing, Heriah.” He accessed the files on the PADD as he spoke, “While I worked in Bozeman, we had a community of Trills who had made the city home early on when species were migrating from homeworlds to Earth and beyond. I got to know plenty of them and care for them in their times of need.” He leaned back on the stool against the cupboards, “Something I had to learn about Trills is they’re understandably resistant to sharing everything with Starfleet or even Federation medical.” He nodded to her, “It usually isn’t anything critical or life-threatening that is held back, but it’s still a thing we have to work on as medical professionals.” He turned the PADD around to show her the scan detailing the metallic implant on her symbiont. “I wanted to ask you about this.” He let her look at it for a moment before he continued, “I’ve been a doctor for long enough to know that humans and aliens don’t hide stuff maliciously. It often is out of fear, worry, lack of trust, or even suspicion.” He gave her a nod, “I’m asking just to ask, Heriah. My first duty is to your health and your symbiont. That’s how long I’ve been a doc.”
Heriah closed her eyes and took a breath. There came a flinch deep inside her abdomen and she forced herself to relax. Of course, this would come up sooner or later. Of course, there would be questions. “It is a Borg implant,” she said immediately and without further hesitation. It also took an entire breath and her entire will to get that out. She opened her eyes and looked at the doctor. That hurdle had been jumped. Now for the rest, at least some of them.
Longfellow leaned in, thankful that she had trusted him enough to strat the process.”
“A previous host,” there came a twitch of Rex’s tail, “Refkin was his name,” and another. Heriah crossed her arms over her belly. It was her way of hugging Rex. It generally calmed him down. It still worked…a little. “Refkin was leading a Trill Spec Ops mission into a Sphere. The mission went sideways and he was captured…assimilated. Another operation was immediately run to rescue Refkin. It worked so he was not fully assimilated. Trill doctors were able to undo what the Borg had done but they found that the Borg attempted to assimilate Rex as well.” Rex flinched within and it made Heriah visibly move. She tightened her arms around herself. “They stopped, the Borg that is, when they saw that they were going to kill Rex, but the implant was already in place. As long as Refkin was assimilated,” she said with a whimper, “Rex would certainly fall in line right?” Her eyes began to water. “They…still the Borg…did not remove the implant.” She wiped a forming tear away. “They…Trill doctors now…saw that they too could not remove the implant. There is a tendril from the implant going into Rex’s brain,” she said as she traced through the air with her finger.
Heriah sniffled, composed herself and looked at Dr. Longfellow. “Removing it will kill Rex…kill me.” She let a short pause stretch between them. “To become joined is the highest honor in Trill society. And I…” she looked down at herself, “I got a damaged symbiont.”
It felt as though Rex had flung himself against her insides. She flinched again at his movement. “Traumatized I mean. Permanently scarred and traumatized.” Heriah finished and looked back at Dr. Longfellow.
Longfellow scooted his stool closer to her carefully. He looked into her eyes and extended his hands to hers that were tightly wound around her stomach. He knew it was probably instinct driving her actions. The weight of the history of her symbiont together with her own had left a still fresh scar on her physically and emotionally. “You haven’t told many people this, have you?”
‘So who counsels the counselor, eh?’
Heriah only gave a nasal laugh and shook her head. It was the ironic situation she was shaking her head at but used that also to answer the doctor’s question. She disconnected from his eyes. “No one. Only a select few in the Joining Commission, some military personnel and a few doctors know of this.” She shrugged. “I am free to tell who I want so this is not classified.”
Henry nodded, his hands still extended. “The things you’ve seen, that your symbiont has seen…and those that hosted him…what they’ve felt, experienced.” He held his words for a beat, “It’s not something you get over or through quickly. Someone once gave me the advice that ‘grief is a monster that you can’t ever fully kill’, and I’ve come to understand the truth of it. Advanced as we may be…we still have emotions – Human to Vulcan to Trill to Betazoid….and on and on.” He looked her in the eye, “Does that make sense Heriah…”, and he tilted his head a little, “…and Rex?”
“I am a counselor,” she replied immediately. “I know all that. And what is this,” her voice grew agitated, “some kind of pity party?” Her eyes reconnected with his, her arms tightened around her torso, her brow began to furrow and all the pain visible in her eyes started to turn into anger. “And let me guess,” she twitched again. Her voice gave the slightest crack and almost sounded as though another was trying to juxtapose itself on top of hers. “…you are going to fix me.”
Longfellow didn’t flinch. If he’d been twenty years younger, he’d have fully stood up and nearly tripped over himself feeling the room. But that was what eighteen years of medicine did to you. It prepared you for moments when a patient snarled, cried, or threatened to throw you out a window or two. His hands remained extended, “No, I’m not going to fix you, Heriah…or Rex for that matter.” He shrugged, “Medicine of the heart and of the mind is a lifelong journey. You don’t defeat that grief monster… trauma monster… loneliness monster…or whatever monster you’re doing battle with on the inside. You wake up every day and arm yourself with your coping strategies, your treatment plan, your support team…and you go out there…and you fight it every inch of every part of your day.”
‘Fight? Now that is more like it. Let’s get out of…’
“Quiet,” Heriah nearly growled.
Longfellow didn’t speak or interrupt. He just listened.
Her breathing was deep and controlled. Air bending heat seemed to nearly emanate from her nostrils. Her right eye twitched.
Heriah closed those eyes and took a deep breath.
“I will not fear,” she began. Her words were barely audible but she mouthed them all the same.
‘Oh not this crap.’
“Fear is the mind-killer and the little adversary that brings about destruction and death.”
‘I am not the adversary.’
“I know that, Rex!” she exclaimed aloud then when back to her litany. “I will face my fear, let it pass through me.”
‘And when your fear has consumed you…’
“When…my…fear,” she spoke up, then lowered her voice again, “is gone. There will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
Her breathing became more shallow, less focused and intentional and more instinctual; comfortable. Heriah opened her eyes and felt more in control of herself.
Longfellow felt a smile cross his lips, “That was incredible, Heriah. I’m a doctor…and sometimes a counselor when the moments fit. Do this long enough, you get good at figuring out how to talk to people and most importantly, listen.” He gestured his extended hands to her once more, “You’re not alone in this thing, Heriah. You’ve got Rex, you’ve got yourself…and you’ve got me.”
‘Not even Rikata, the mole, said that. He always referred to me as something to be controlled.’
“You are correct,” she said and her answer was to both Rex and the doctor. “You do realize,” and Heriah gently unwrapped her arms from about her torso and lent them to the doctor’s hands, “that if you tell anyone about this,” she looked down at her belly then back up at Longfellow, this time with an honest grin, “I might have to cut your heart out.”
‘And tell him that is not a joke. Go on, tell him.’
Henry felt his smile grow as he lightly gripped her hands, “In my professional opinion, I think that’s an acceptable proposal, Heriah…”, and he looked at her stomach with a seriousness, “Rex – you have my confidence in this.” He returned his gaze to hers, “You are more complete than you know, Heriah. Come see me every so often to check in – I won’t mandate an appointment slot or anything.” He squeezed her hands lightly and released her. Henry stood and tapped his PADD, “You’re free and clear.”
Heriah hopped down from the biobed. “Thank you doctor. Just…bear with me a bit. I’ve…never liked doctors. Well, not since…” and she had a hand on her belly. “Just keep that in mind please.” She stepped away a bit uncomfortably as it was a new experience to walk away from a doctor or an examination or the Sick Bay itself and she not feel like tearing the place down. She was at least happy that he did not inquire about any details of the botched mission where Refkin was capture.
‘I refuse to talk about that anyway.’
She approached the door separating the examination room from the rest of Sick Bay. It opened and she was through. As few steps later and she was away.
He watched her leave and felt some sense of hope for the ensign. She was a work in progress, but she wanted to stay on the path to recovery. He finished up his notes and returned to the nurse’s station in the infirmary. Asato glanced up from her ongoing notes and scheduling, “There’s a group of daycare kids waiting for you. Stomach illness spread pretty quickly and they need stabilizing.”
“You’re not getting out of this one, Hiro-san. Get the kits and follow me.” She squinted her eyes at him in mock anger while she grabbed what she needed from the cupboards and they headed off.