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JP Lieutenant JG Elizabeth Snow & Lieutenant Commander Ishkabella Journs - A Difficult Autopsy

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I have to give props to @Elizabeth Snow. Such a hard scene to write, but written so well. :) One of our up and comers. ;) Best keep an eye on her. She's a keeper for sure.



OOC: This post contains content that might be emotionally distressing for the reader. Continue with caution. 


((Morgue, Deck 10, USS Chin’toka))

{{Time Index: Day 27 of Shoreleave, Evening}}


Elizabeth watched as the Captain's body was brought in. A white sheet covered him. She stared at the sheet as she approached the table. She knew what awaited her once she was to pull the sheet back. The pain of having to do an autopsy was almost unbearable. She wasn't sure if she had the strength to look at him as she cut him open and examined him. 


She glanced up as she heard the doors slide open. Iska had come to help her. It didn't make the task any easier. But she was glad for the extra set of eyes and expertise. Elizabeth hoped that together they would uncover the mystery of what happened. 


She took a deep breath through her mask, her body was shaking from all the emotions that were flowing through it. Her hands trembled as she reached out to pull down the sheet, stopping just shy of it as she hesitated.


Ishka entered the room serious and business-like. To someone who didn’t know better, it would have looked like she didn’t care that she was about to cut into her late Captain’s body. Just the opposite. It disturbed her to the core of her being. But the only way she would get through this was by pretending he was just another dead body, like the dozens she’d autopsied in her career.


She washed her hands in the nearby sonic sink, using a liberal amount of soap clean up to her elbows before donning a pair of latex gloves. She’d dressed in scrubs before entering to avoid bodily fluids and such getting on her uniform. She approached the sterilized table, her gaze flickering to Snow. 


Reaching for the sheet, she pulled it down, not looking at his face.


Elizabeth did her best not to look at the face of the Captain as she helped pull the sheet down to his waistline. But it was inevitable. This would be the last time she would lay eyes on his face. A face that she would absolutely miss seeing around the ship.


She looked at Ishka not exactly ready to begin the procedure, but it had to be done.


Snow: Are you ready? 


Journs: oO Not remotely. Oo ::nods:: Ready.


She reached over to the nearby console and entered the series of commands that would start the audio recording. Though the morgue had various cameras and audio devices, it seemed different using the console to record.


Journs: Autopsy, Stardate 239710.08, Time Index 2232 hours. Leading doctor Elizabeth Snow with Doctor Ishkabela Journs assisting. Patient is a Human Caucasian male approximately 27 years of age.


She turned to Elizabeth and motioned for her to begin her examination of the body.


Snow: ::nods:: Proceeding with the autopsy of Captain Jarred Thoran. Starting with the outside of the body to try to determine the cause of death. Beginning at the head. 


She began examining Thoran's head, looking for any signs of trauma or needle/[...] marks. Elizabeth examined the inside of his mouth, eyes, behind his ears, neck, and looked through all of his hair. But came up empty. 


Snow: The examination of the subject's head turned up no evidence. Moving on to the torso. 


As Elizabeth continued her work, Ishka stepped up and leaned forward, studying the body for any kind of inconsistency. Her gaze flickered to the area of his abdomen where she’d performed emergency surgery scant weeks ago. She felt the anxiety creeping in, so she shook the thought away. In this room, he was just another body on the table. Thinking any other way could cloud her judgement.


She knew Toryn and others had their own ideas on what had happened because it was their way of processing the unexplained. As a physician, she knew there were sometimes mysteries that would never be solved. Even after centuries of studying how the body worked, there were things that they just didn’t understand.


Shaking the thoughts from her head, Ishka refocused on examining the exterior of the body for anything out of the ordinary.


She proceeded to examine the torso area, again nothing. They moved onto his arms, his legs, his feet, they covered every inch of his body and still had no answers. There was no visible sign of foul play or trauma on his outer body. oO Maybe the answers lie within.. Oo


Elizabeth prepped his chest area to be sliced open. She grabbed the exoscalpel and looked at Ishka to make sure she was ready to begin the procedure. 


A final scan revealed nothing new since Ishka had performed the surgery. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Elizabeth standing ready with the surgical implement and nodded.


Journs: Doctor Journs. I agree with Doctor Snow’s assessment. No signs of anything on the exterior of the body that could indicate cause of death. ::looks at Snow:: Proceeding with interior examination. 


Elizabeth took a deep breath and proceeded to make the incision. Her hands were surprisingly steady. Once the incision was made, she set the instrument aside.


Journs: Doctor Snow is making a y-incision in the chest to open the breastplate.


Snow: Pulling back the layer of skin.


After they pulled back the skin and pinned it, Elizabeth scanned the area for any anomalies that could have contributed or caused the mystery on their hands. After finding none, she began cutting the breastbone and opening the rib cage to gain access to his heart and lungs. 


Snow: Removing breastbone now.


Elizabeth carefully handed the breastbone off to Ishka and they began the examination of the inner body, beginning with the heart.


Ishka accepted the removed bone, placing it in the tin tray as Elizabeth continued her examination. While the other woman studied the interior, she scanned the breastbone for any unusual chips or markings that would indicate possible cause of death. The fact that it was whole made it less likely, but she had to be thorough. Her pride in her profession demanded nothing less. Besides which, she owed it to Serala and the rest of the crew to explore every avenue, no matter how minute or absurd.


Not surprised when she found nothing of note, she returned her attention to Elizabeth as the woman continued the internal study.


Even with the breastbone removed it was still a hit tight examining and scanning the internal areas of his body. Elizabeth focused her mind on the tasks at hand, keeping a clear head as she was determined to find answers.


Snow: Could you hand me the clamps, please, Doctor Journs? 


She nodded and retrieved the clamps that would hold the chest cavity open for the woman to take a closer look. As each organ was removed, studied and then handed to her, she placed it on the digital scale and took note of it on her PADD. She also took note of Elizabeth’s observations and entered those in the notes section for each organ as well.


After putting the clamps in place she began scanning the inside of the body. She removed each organ one at a time. Careful not to damage them in any way as she observed them for answers before she handed them off to Ishka. She would pause in between them giving Ishka time to assess them as well.


Elizabeth was beginning to feel another sensation of defeat creep in as they had examined many organs already and were still left with no cause of death. But she shook it off. There were still many areas left to examine and they would certainly double check their work. Possibly even triple check or keep working until someone ordered them to quit. 


She knew that sometimes there weren't any answers. No visible sign for the cause of death. Some deaths would remain a mystery. But she didn't want that for their Captain. She wanted answers. For herself. For their friends. For his family if he had any. She wanted justice to be served for him if foul play was involved.


The examination was more disturbing with each passing moment, neither of them any closer to understanding what had happened than they’d been in Sickbay. She hadn’t missed Serala’s distress. The woman had hidden it well—for someone who didn’t know her better. She hadn’t resisted when Toryn had hugged and fussed over her, something that had shaken Ishka to her core. It had only intensified the feelings of defeat and guilt when Elizabeth had announced time of death.


With the examination and holophotographs of the organs complete, Ishka handed Elizabeth the exoscapel and the tin tray for the next part of the process—examination of the stomach contents. It was Ishka’s least favorite part of an autopsy and it often made her nauseous. She didn’t consider herself squeamish, but something about the bile and a person’s half digested meal set her stomach turning. Thankfully, that duty fell to Elizabeth.


It was a good thing Elizabeth hadn't visited the snack bar before the emergency or those snacks surely would have found their way back up during the next procedure. One she wasn't looking forward to. The thought alone made her stomach churn as she took the exoscalpel and the tin tray. Her eyes caught sight of Ishka looking at her. 


Journs: ::gaze flickers to Snows and murmurs:: Better you than me.


She grimaced as she realized how the statement must sound. Neither of them wanted to be doing this. But they were duty-bound to discharge even this most gruesome task to the best of their ability.


Snow: Ha ha.. 


Elizabeth prepared herself for what was to come. Making sure her face shield hadn't slipped and that the rest of her was still completely covered. Even still, she would most definitely be showering after she left the morgue. She placed the stomach in the big tin tray and sucked in the last bit of fresh air.


Snow: Beginning incision to examine the contents of the stomach.


Once the incision was made, the contents slid their way out of the opening into the tray. Elizabeth looked away and held her breath as they did. Taking a moment to regain herself.


She turned her attention back to the tray and began scanning and sorting through the pieces. The scans revealed nothing new as did her self examination. Anger coursed through her body. They had been at this for a few hours now and had nothing to show for it. 


The frustration in Snow’s features was clear and Ishka had to bite down her own. As much as it already was personal, they couldn’t allow that fact to influence them. They needed to remain objective. She paused, laying a comforting, bandaged hand on Elizabeth’s shoulder, but said nothing. Instead, she offered a soft smile that she hoped was reassuring. The curve of her lips felt unnatural, as though it shouldn’t be there, but she held it just the same.


She’d been fighting to restrain her own anger and hurt at the situation after shattering the window of the CMO’s office. Her hand reminded her constantly of her lost control and the price she’d paid. 


Turning toward the tray, she grabbed one of the sample containers and offered it to Elizabeth.


Elizabeth felt Ishka's hand on her shoulder in a comforting manner. She turned to look at the other Doctor to see a slight smile on the woman's face. Elizabeth hadn't realized she had let any emotions show. She returned the slight smile and checked her emotions. 


She took the offered sample containers. Using the Microtome, she cut samples of each organ and the stomach contents. Elizabeth then put the samples she had cut in their individual containers. Then she moved on to the bodily fluids and put them in their respected containers. Once she completed the sample collecting, she handed them back to Ishka for testing. 


Setting the container aside, Ishka mentally prepared for the next stage: examining the head and the brain. Her throat tightened and she struggled to keep her breathing even. This was the most invasive part of this procedure. The other organs were just that--organs. For the most part, they were the same in every humanoid with only minute differences. 


But the brain was something else altogether. It held everything that made their Captain him. She almost felt like they were desecrating something sacred by dissecting it like he was some common animal for their curiosity. There was also a finality to it. By removing it, they were closing the door on hope. 


The autopsy was so soon after his passing and she hadn’t had time to fully comprehend that he wasn’t coming back. It was making this the hardest such procedure of her career. Exhaling a shaky breath, she first studied the head for any external injuries or markings of note, comparing them briefly against his medical records. With them recording on the PADD, she reached for the exoscalpel that had been set to the side earlier and her gaze locked with Elizabeth’s. 


She was certain the other woman could see the maelstrom of emotions in her eyes as she slowly held the tool out for Elizabeth to take. Her gaze flickered to the Captain’s head before again meeting the other woman’s.


After Elizabeth handed off the samples, she realized they were done with his torso. oO The head is the next part. Oo It gave her pause as the words ran through her mind. But she had come this far, there was no stopping now. She took a deep breath and pressed on.


She put a block under his head to support it as they worked. Then she reached for the offered exoscalpel. Her eyes locked with Ishka’s and she could tell Ishka was fighting an emotional battle within herself. She squeezed Ishka's uninjured hand to comfort her. This was certainly tough for Elizabeth, but she could only imagine how much more difficult it was for the Doctor assisting her. Ishka had certainly known the Captain longer and was no doubt close to him. She wished she could have saved him to spare the ones who knew him best the heartache they were all experiencing. The least she could do now is give them answers as to what happened, but the way things were looking she may not even be able to give them that.


After taking the exoscalpel, Elizabeth made a cut across the crown of his head, from one ear to the other. She then cut open his cranium and handed the piece to Dr. Journs. Elizabeth sat the exoscalpel aside and began the examination of his brain.


Again nothing. The autopsy itself was a strange one. Something had caused the Captain's body to shut down, but they couldn't find out what. Elizabeth removed his brain to be weighed and examined further. Though she had become doubtful they would find anything. She shook them off, she couldn't afford to think like that. She couldn't let this mystery get to her. She needed to be patient. The answers would come and if they didn't. Then that would be something she would have to learn to accept. 


Ishka visibly shuddered as she carefully accepted the piece of bone and flesh. It took everything she had not to drop it. Her hands shook as she placed it delicately into the nearby tin tray. That had been more disturbing than she’d expected, the room spinning around her for a moment. She closed her eyes to push the sensation away, focusing on keeping her breathing even.


Eventually, the dizziness faded and she did her best to avoid looking at his head, instead focusing on entering notes into the PADD connected to the console. She noticed the recording was still going, but that they’d stopped talking at some point. It was a testament to how difficult it had been on both of them to perform this particular autopsy. 


Ishka knew she herself had struggled with maintaining her focus and professionalism. She’d be more than glad when this was over, though she’d likely relive memories of this in her dreams. She grimaced at the thought.


Journs: Anything?


The question stung a bit. oO Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Oo 


Snow: I'm afraid not.


She didn't look at Ishka when she responded. Instead she was looking down at the table. Not at the body or anything particular. She was lost in thought for the moment. Asking herself again what happened? What did she miss? She was searching her mind for some clue, something she might have seen, but it didn't register at the time. Something just slightly out of the ordinary. 


Maybe someone had slipped him a new form of bio weapon that took months, maybe weeks or days to take effect. One that would leave no trace in the body. Maybe one that took minutes or seconds to act. But she couldn't think of anyone at the celebration that would want to harm the Captain. Which brought her back to the months. Could he have contracted something from Illara Prime? Perhaps during the conference? He had been injured. But she would need evidence of that.. No concrete proof of any kind. She had other theories as well. That’s all they were though. Theories. 


Ishka nodded. She’d expected as much. Of course, she’d hoped for something to offer the crew...something to give them closure. But it looked like they weren’t going to get more than the mystery they’d had prior to the autopsy.


Journs: ::pauses:: Do you want me to go with you when you present your findings to Commander Serala?


She half expected it to be a short conversation. As she didn't have anything to present to the Commander. Ishka had performed admirably and Elizabeth was pretty sure she could handle the next step without her. 


Snow: I think I can manage that part alone. I'm sure if the Commander needs you, she will call. 


She smiled and nodded, laying a hand on the woman’s shoulder in a gesture of both comfort and support.


Journs: I know this was no easy task, especially given how new you are to the ship. You did very well under the circumstances. This crew is fortunate to have you aboard.


Elizabeth smiled. The words meant a lot to her. Especially under the circumstances. She just wished she could have done more. 


Snow: Thank you, Ishka. That means a lot. You did admirably yourself and I'm glad I had you at my side through this. I know it wasn't easy for you and if you ever need a friend, know that you have one right here. 


Journs: ::smiles wanly:: I appreciate that. I think all I really need--all most of us really need right now--is time.


Snow: ::nods:: I agree. ::beat:: I'll finish up here and meet with Commander Serala. I'm sure your other half is awaiting your arrival.


Once upon a time, it would have given her pause for someone to be so aware of her personal relationships. Somehow that didn’t seem as important in light of the present circumstances. In fact, it gave her a pleasing amount of confidence in the fact that most aboard this ship were monogamous and knew Toryn was hers. Though there were those that wouldn’t be bothered by that fact, she could at least rest in knowing that the senior staff and most of the junior officers wouldn’t be making any passes at him.


She smiled and nodded, exiting the room.


As Ishka left the room, Elizabeth prepped the Captain for transport to his family so they could have a proper burial for him. She placed the organs in individual bags, so they wouldn't leak, and put them back inside. Once everything was back in the proper place she closed him up and washed the body of any bodily fluids. She pulled the sheet back over his body and paused when she got to his head. 


Snow: Safe travels, Sir, and I hope you're enjoying your view. 


With that she covered his head and put him in a drawer to store him until time for his departure back home. 


She cleaned up the autopsy area and then herself a bit before returning to sickbay. Happy to be back in her dress whites. She made her way into the CMO's office and updated his death certificate. Then she set out to find Commander Serala. 




Lieutenant JG Elizabeth Snow

Assistant Chief Medical Officer

USS Chin’toka NCC-97187





PNPC Lieutenant Ishkabela Journs, XnP/GS

Medical Officer 

USS Chin'toka, NCC-97187


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