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Lt. (j.g.) Serren Tan: "The Waiting Room"


Alleran Tan
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Waiting Room

Surgical Suite

Sickbay

USS Ostrov Kartografov

“Miss Kasula sh’Xaltikalanna, I just want you to know that you’re the bravest eleven-year old on this ship, and I am here for you no matter what happens.”

Despite his blue collar, it was so uncommon that Commander Peter Martinez actually worked in Sickbay. Counselors had their own suites, and while they were doctors (real doctors with real PHDs, as he insisted during playful banters with the Medical staff), they rarely went into sickbay unless they were patients themselves. When things were going well.

Today they were not going well.

His patient today was an Andorian shen pre-teen perched on the edge of the comfortable-looking chair in the surgical suite’s waiting room. In stark contrast to her people’s traditional garb, she wore a Tellarite-style robe, a yellow and rose coloured piece that hung off her like petals from a flower. When it caught the normally harsh light of sickbay, it reflected and refracted it in a way that seemed to almost make her sparkle.

Her hair was styled in the stereotypical Vulcan bowl cut, further bucking the species trend; she had three PADDs spread out in front of her, one balanced precariously on each small knee, the third clasped firmly in her hands. Each of the electronic screens was covered in a dizzying array of text in English.

Such fusions of the stylings of the four founding members of the Federation were not entirely uncommon these days.

“The medical staff told me I could wait here,” said Kasula, defensively, grasping her PADD close, as though it were an anchor holding her in place. For an Andorian, she had a strangely Vulcan-accented voice, flat and full of tension but without emotion. “They promised.

Martinez knelt down on the cold deck plating, bringing his eyes to her level. “No, you can stay here. It’s okay.”

Kasula’s eyes were on him, watching and listening to his words, but her Andorian antenna were affixed on the door that led to the surgical suite, bent over like waves, straining like tiny trees blown by an unseen wind.

How much of the doctor’s chatter could she make out through the thick metal?

“Good, agreed,” said Kasula, the tension in her muscles clearly refusing to abate. Her antenna twitched, still affixed on the door, eyes ever-so-briefly flicking to the sealed metal portal and then back. She spoke plainly. “Is my mother going to die?”

Being the ship’s counselor was his dream job almost every single day.

Almost.

“I ... don’t know,” he confessed, as honest as he could manage. “A better picture of her prospects will emerge in the next few hours.”

“Because of the antiprotons,” said Kasula, almost as though she was explaining some great wisdom she had only recently acquired. “They take hours to dissipate. Their presence inhibits wound treatment.”

How curious.

Starfleet brats tended to absorb an entire mountain of entirely age-inappropriate general knowledge, living out in the black of space where a violent death was a persistent reality of frontier life, but the exact effects of disruptor blasts on living creatures was specialist knowledge that had been imparted to him in his Starfleet first aid courses. How had Kasula known of such a thing?

This thought joined another swirling around in his head. Why did Starfleet allow children onboard their ships, again?

“Because of the antiprotons,” he confirmed. “That’s right.”

As though reacting to some noise he couldn’t make out, Kasula’s antenna twitched again, her eyes once more following her twin head-stalks, drawn to the door.

During the momentary distraction, Martinez risked a swift glance down at her PADDs to see what she was researching.

uoᴉʇɔnɹʇsuoɔǝɹ lɐɯɹǝpqns ʎɔuǝƃɹǝɯǝ sᴉ ʇɐɥʍ

¿ǝƃuɐɹ ǝsolɔ ʇɔǝɟɟǝ ɹoʇdnɹsᴉp

sɹoʇdnɹsᴉp puɐ ʎƃoloᴉsʎɥd uɐᴉɹopu

uɐᴉɹopu sᴉsɐʇsoɯǝɐɥ

Below the search terms were long, lengthy explanations from medical textbooks. Two and two were put together.

The medical staff had asked Kasula to wait outside for a reason. However they, most likely, had not anticipated the extrasensory ability of the Andorian shen. For her to have a real-time look into the treatment of her parent was probably not ideal.

“Maybe we should go wait in your quarters,” he said, gently.

The suggestion came like a slap on the cheek. The child straightened up, bolt upright, her antenna jerking toward him. “No! We had an accord!”

“Okay, only.” There was no sense pushing it. “I just thought you would be more comfortable away from all-”

“I am perfectly comfortable.

She couldn’t possibly be, perched on the edge of that seat like she might fall off and half buried in semi-juggled electronics, but Martinez didn’t push the point. “Let’s talk here then.”

“Only about my mother,” she said.

A reasonable request. “Okay. Let’s start from the beginning. What do you know about her status?”

“I know my mother has been struck by a disrupter at close range, likely of Romulan manufacture based on the presence of antiprotons.” Her Vulcan accent cracked as the Andorian below it seeped through. “She was shot by a Romulan.

“We don’t know who shot her,” he said. “Romulan weapons are not biocoded. It could have been anyone with a Romulan-made weapon.”

That answer didn’t seem to satisfy her very much. Kasula bit her lip and looked away.

“Does it matter who shot her?”

Kasula leaned back cautiously. “N- … no. I suppose not.” There was the briefest of pauses. “I live with Vulcans. School says that Vulcans and Romulans are the same thing. At least, the schools in Little Andoria say that. Presumably the others do too.”

Good. Keeping her thinking of other things was useful. “Do you want to tell me about Little Andoria?”

“Why?” Kasula narrowed her eyes. “There is not much to tell. It is the Andorian community on Vulcan. It is small and the gravity is uncomfortable, even with the persistent grav-tile mitigation. But we have found a home there. How does this affect my mother?”

“It doesn’t.” Such a terrible conversation to have with a young child. “But … I just wanted to talk to you. I want to get to know you better.”

“Why?”

“You and I may be talking a lot, in the future,” he said. There was no easy way to say this and the shen seemed to favour directness, so he didn’t muddy the message. “You should prepare yourself for the possibility that your mother will not survive.”

The briefest of silences.

“Type III Disruptor,” murmured Kasula, almost to herself, as though she hadn’t heard him. “Struck between the thellan metaplate one point six centimetres from the stomach.” She squirmed about in her chair, tapping on the PADD in front of her, entering more search terms.

¿lɐʇɐɟ ʇoɥs ǝʇɐldɐʇǝɯ uɐllǝɥʇ

uɐᴉɹopu ʇɔǝɟɟǝ ɹoʇdnɹsᴉp Ɛ ǝdʎʇ

“You shouldn’t be listening in,” said Martinez. “It’ll only worry you.”

Her antenna twitched, then with obvious deliberate effort, returned to the front. “I’m not.” Slowly, as though an unconscious action, they pivoted back to the closed door.

Time to give up on that front.

“What about that robe you’re wearing?” he asked. “Is that from Little Andoria?”

“No,” said Kasula. Her antenna twitched, her eyes absently drifting. “It was my mother’s.”

“I’m sure she would like that you are wearing it for her, in support of her, during this difficult time.”

“No, my other mother,” said Kasula, her Vulcan accent slipping once more as frustration crept in, the Andorian replacing it.

Right. Because there were two involved, typically. And two fathers. Complicated stuff.

“Tell me about her. Your other mother.”

“She doesn’t have eyes made of buttons,” said Kasula.

Martinez didn’t understand. Some kind of Little Andorian in-joke? “I’m … glad to hear that,” was the only answer he could give.

“Yes.”

Another silence. Trying to avoid dead air, Martinez pressed on. “So, the robe,” he asked. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Kasula held up her small wrist, the dainty fabric spilling down like water, shimmering as it reflected the light around her. “It’s woven in a pattern that was invented after Tellarite First Contact. The sleeves are Tholian silk. That’s why it moves so strangely.”

Strangely, yet beautifully. “It’s lovely. I suppose that’s why Tholian silk is so prized.”

“This is correct. However, to be honest, I mostly just appreciate the texture. It feels good on my skin. And I hope that it ...“ Kasula’s voice trailed off. Her antenna twitched. Suddenly she began typing frantically.

sǝʇɐɹ lɐʌᴉʌɹns uɐᴉɹopu ʇsǝɹɹɐ ɔɐᴉpɹɐɔ

“Kasula?”

She didn’t answer, scrolling through the information frantically, her eyes widened the more she digested it.

“Kasula, it’s important that you try to-“

“Mum!” She leapt out of her chair, sending PADDs clattering all around her. Fast, faster than he thought was possible for such a small one, Kasula darted toward the closed door. “MUM!”

He didn’t have the heart to stop her.

* * *

Forward Torpedo Room

USS Ostrov Kartografov

 

“And so we, the crew of the USS Ostrov Kartografov, commend Lieutenant sh’Xaltikalanna’s body to the stars.”

The torpedo, silent and calm, drifted out past the forcefield and into the inky black. Martinez watched, as they all watched, as the photon torpedo casing shrank, becoming a camouflaged black sliver against the black of space, a tiny dot joining the millions and billions of stars all around, and then nothing at all.

Gone forever.

Kasula clutched the folded flag to her chest so tightly it looked like it was about to rip. Her Andorian strength was just now starting to come in.

With the funeral over, eventually everyone else left, leaving only Martinez and Kasula behind. The latter staring at the distant, invisible point that represented her mother’s body, and the former watching the latter.

There was a question in the counselor’s toolbox that was at once useful and insulting. Are you okay?

Of course Kasula was not, and could not be okay. Nobody in their right mind would be or should be. The question was not a genuine attempt to ascertain emotional wellness, but simply to invite discussion of the issue. So he used it.

“Are you okay?”

The shen did not answer, holding that flag close to her chest, a seething, snarling visage painted on her face, one so unbecoming on someone so young and who so proudly embraced the ideals of the Federation.

“I’m here if you need to talk,” he said. “We have a session booked in tomorrow morning, and I can be available all week if you need me to be. You are my only priority right now. Even the other away team members will have to wait.”

 “Little Andoria is wrong,” said Kasula, finally, her voice dripping with venom.

“I don’t understand what you mean.”

Romulans,” she hissed, the sound escaping like air through a crack in the hull. “They aren’t the same as Vulcans at all.”

“We still don’t know for sure who did this,” said Martinez, fully aware that this was not the time and place for this conversation. “Whoever attacked the away team was not caught. All we know is-“

“I know who it was.” Kasula’s fingernails dug into the cloth, the sleeves of her robe swaying gently as though pushed by some invisible force. “And I won’t forget.”

fin

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