SIM:JP: Drs. Shelley & Zhou: "Today, be a doctor."
Author's Note: One of the most enjoyable aspects of SIMing I find is that while you are responsible for crafting your character's story, SIMing feels more like acting in an improv sketch than writing a novel. I certainly had an idea of how Zhou would finally confront his mixed feelings regarding his promotion and the death of Jessop, but having him do that with another character who has also had her share of loss was simply the fortuitous result of how the crew had been split up as the ship had separated into its three modules for MVAM. Similarly, the sudden lurching of the ship twice is a result of earlier SIMs by the bridge crew and the USS Ronin involving a tug of war between enemy and friendly tractor beams with the Independence caught in the middle. The loss of gravity is a gift from a post by the captain. In fact, the image of twirling medical tools floating in the air à la 2001: A Space Odyssey is my favorite part of this SIM.
As an illustration of just how the improv nature of SIMming can quickly change the best-laid plans, consider that originally it was the writer for Karynn Ehlanii who had approached me regarding a joint post helping Zhou deal with the aftermath of Jessop's death. Although we had planned to start on it, other events on the Independence kept preventing our characters from meeting up. I do hope to have Zhou meet with Ehlanii because she is a wonderfully-written character. Though she reveals from time to time her trepidation or perhaps just awe regarding the responsibilities given to her as first officer of the Independence, she remains uniquely upbeat among a ship that has its fair share of emotionally-shaken officers, including Zhou. I would love to see if Ehlanii could help him restore some balance.
But enough about possible future plans. Enjoy my first joint post, co-written by Whale. He has uploaded a few of his own SIMs for his characters which are definitely worth reading.
The events in this SIM occurred on stardate 238709.17 during Operation Bright Star.
((USS Independence-A, Main Sickbay, Dorsal Module))
::As battle casualties went, things were pretty routine so far, if such a thing could be said. With several of the Independence's medical officers sent to the other module sickbays, including Drs. Sasak, Mevra, and Wittburn, Chief Medical Officer Tenzin Zhou remained with Drs. Mike and Shelley in Main Sickbay. Together with the nursing staff, all seemed to be under control. Ensign Faryul Nishal called out to Zhou as he was looking over an injured crewman.::
Faryul: Tenzin, I'm getting reports of three more injured from the deck 5 repair team, at least one of which is critical. Seems a plasma conduit just blew.
::Zhou gave a look of disgust at the news from the Bajoran nurse. Deck 5, he thought. Just great...::
Zhou: Get teams ready on beds 7, 9, and 10. Nurse Shah?
Shah: Yes, doctor?
Zhou: Go with a couple of medics in case they need help getting here. Nishal can take care of your duties here while you're out.
Faryul: ::gives a wry smile:: Thanks, doc.
Zhou: ::shrugs:: You said you were bored.
Faryul: Ah, I believe I said I just hated the waiting.
Shah: ::ignoring the banter:: Yes, doctor. ::turns to several crewmen retrieving equipment:: Chesik, Pareso? You're with me.
::As Shah and the medics left, Zhou turned to Fiona Shelley.::
Zhou: Doctor Shelley?
::The strawberry-blonde human physician was busy tending to an engineer with minor burn injuries when she turned around.::
Shelley: Yes, Doctor.
Zhou: We're about to receive at least one critical patient, possibly more to come. I'm going to have Dr. Mike take patients tagged green and yellow. I would like you and I to focus on patients tagged yellow and red. We'll have beds 7 and higher be reserved for yellow and red status patients. Any patients needing surgery should be sent to surgical suite 3 for now. It's fully prepped. Do you want the odd or even numbered biobeds?
Shelley: I'll take odd.
::It fit well with how she was feeling. Though at least here, working in sickbay, running triage, treating patients... at least here she was comfortable. This is what she was trained for, and the medical side of her brain was able to overpower the side of her brain that couldn't stop thinking about what T'tala had said.::
Zhou: Great, let's hope we won't need too many of them.
::As Zhou spoke, the ship continued to rock from weapons fire. That was a major difference to what Shelley had been accustomed to, having spent the majority of her medical career on massive starbases or in terrestrial hospitals - having the floor moving under her feet.
The Bajoran nurse turned back to her Trill/human CMO.::
Faryul: They don't let up, do they?
Zhou: ::shakes head:: Indeed.
::In just the span of minutes, sickbay resembled its state from a few weeks prior. Injured crewmen were filling the beds, staff scurried from patient to patient, and everywhere there was chatter.::
Zhou: Nishal, grab that vascular regenerator!
::Faryul was walking back from a locker with several medications when Zhou gave her the order. Lieutenant Mitul Shah and his team of medics had remained outside of sickbay tending to new incidents as they happened across the dorsal module after the earlier injured repair team was able to make it to sickbay on their own.
As Faryul handed Zhou the tool, the ship rocked again, and the lights flickered. Fortunately, sickbay's emergency lighting was equivalent to its normal lighting scheme, but as Zhou began repairing the unfortunate crewman's gushing artery, the ship suddenly lurched back, knocking a few standing medical staff off their feet. Shelley stumbled backward, banging into a biobed - empty, luckily - before regaining her balance.::
Faryul: What was that?!
Zhou: ::remaining focused on the patient's wound:: Probably some unfathomable weapon of horrific intentions we don't want to know about.
Faryul: ::her eyes widen:: First the ship gets nearly shredded to bits. Now, we're being tossed around like a toy boat. ::shakes head:: One week's leave wasn't enough. When we get out of this mess, I'm going to-
::The nurse stopped talking just then as she and everyone else in sickbay noticed the sensation of feeling lighter. As Zhou worked on the artery, the blood flowing down the man's leg unexpectedly began floating out and into the air. And it wasn't coming back down.
On the other side of sickbay, Shelley suddenly noticed the tip of her ponytail curl up around eye level.::
Shelley: Are we losing gravity?!
Zhou: ::whispers:: Oh no... ::turns around and yells:: Everyone! Secure stations!
::It was too late for some as patients and staff alike began rising off the floor now that the gravity generators had failed. Tools on trays rose above the beds, bumping into each other and spinning away as if caught in a graceful dance. Grabbing hold of the near side of the biobed with her right hand, Shelley reached across her patient's chest with her left in an effort to hold the injured crewman in place.
And then Zhou heard it. A familiar noise. A dreadful noise.::
Zhou: oO No, not again... Oo
::The ship's bulkheads began groaning as if they were about to be sheared apart. The straining duranium metal sounded like the whale songs one might hear at the New Cetacean Institute on Earth. Except Zhou knew all too well how quickly those low, mellow songs turned into the shrieking cries of Death.::
Faryul: ::floating above the biobed, she turns to Shelley:: Dr. Shelley, are you doing all right over there?
Shelley: I'll manage, I think. You?
Faryul: Oh, you know. We're just hanging around here-
Zhou: ::sharply:: Nishal, please!
Faryul: ::caught off-guard by Zhou's curtness:: Sorry, doc.
Zhou: I need some bandages. This regenerator isn't going to do it.
::As Faryul extended her arm over the patient to hand Zhou the bandages, the two officers, as well as everyone and everything else for that matter, suddenly dropped back to the floor. The floating patient samples smashed into a mess on the deck carpeting, along with scanners, medical tricorders, hyposprays, and any other equipment not tied down.::
Faryul: ::rubbing her forehead, which hit the edge of the biobed:: Oww! You okay, doc? Doc?
::Zhou was staring at his hand covering the patient's wound, the remaining blood smearing across his palm and escaping between his fingers.::
Zhou: I'm fine! ::waves regenerator again over the wound:: And now, Mr. Taylor is, too.
::The doctor looked up at his nurse and frowned when he saw her bruised forehead.::
Zhou: Are you okay, Nishal?
Faryul: ::smiles as she wipes a few loose strands of hair out of her face:: Don't worry, doc; I'm pretty thickheaded as my dad would say...
::The doors to sickbay then opened, and Lieutenant Shah returned with a half dozen injured crewmen. Faryul quickly ran up to one of the more disheveled-looking arrivals.::
Shah: Doctor Zhou, we have two yellow tags here, non-critical but severe trauma.
Zhou: ::nods and gestures to the other side of the room:: Beds 11 and 14 are open. Doctor Shelley, if you could-
::The ship suddenly heaved again as if it had been lassoed, throwing a few officers off balance. It wasn't the abrupt change in motion though that stopped Zhou mid-sentence. It was that awful croaking from the bulkheads. It drowned out everything else in his mind.::
Faryul: ::grabbing ahold of the injured crewman she was tending to with one arm and the open doorway with another:: Ugh!
Shelley: I'll take 11, you can take 14.
Zhou: ::staring at his blood-stained palms:: Doctor Shelley, if you could be so kind as to start on the treatments. I need a few minutes in private to wash up.
::Shah gave a puzzled glance at Shelley regarding Zhou's strange request. While cleanliness was always paramount in sickbay, a quick "rinse" in the sonic hand wash sink along the walls could take care of that. Shah turned to Zhou himself.::
Zhou: ::walks to the CMO's office without looking back:: I know you're more than capable of handling the current patient load, Nurse Shah. Unless a critical patient arrives, please just take care of this for now.
::Faryul frowned at Shah, and though Shah was tempted to protest, Shelley gave him a nod to move on. She, however, followed the Independence's chief medical officer.::
((CMO's Office, USS Independence-A))
::Zhou walked into his office, but he didn't enter very far. He sidestepped to the right and leaned his back against the wall, keeping his left heel in the doorway. Unlike the main area of sickbay, the CMO's small office was bathed in near-complete darkness, with the only light spilling in from the open doorway. A few PADDs and culture samples littered the floor after the gravity had failed.
Zhou looked down again at his bloody hands and shut his eyes tight. The hull continued to groan as before, except it seemed to be getting louder in Zhou's head. Unexpectedly, a woman's voice forced it to return into the background of Zhou's mind. Zhou actually welcomed the voice. Until he opened his eyes and saw whose it was.::
Shelley: Doctor Zhou-
Zhou: Doctor, what are you doing here? There are still patients out there.
::The Trill/human realized the irony even before his sentence finished.::
Shelley: That's true.
::She looked around the CMO's office.::
Shelley: And I don't seem to see any patients in here...
Zhou: ::softly:: No, you're right, I'm sorry.
Shelley: Then why are you in here and not out there?
::Zhou thought for a moment. What he was about to say next could jeopardize his career. Maybe even Captain Riley would take back that new pip she had just given him. In a way, that didn't seem that bad, though. Just having that kind of thought, however, assured Zhou's more rational side that something was very wrong.::
Zhou: Doctor Shelley, I believe I am unfit to continue in my duties as chief medical officer. I cannot perform to the best of my abilities right now.
::The woman didn't respond immediately. She then moved her arm to the door's control panel to close them and give the two physicians more privacy. Zhou's eyes widened in horror, and he immediately called out, surprising Shelley.::
Zhou: No! Don't close the doors!
Shelley: Keep your voice down.
::The last thing they needed was for the rest of the team to get wind of even a rumour that the CMO might be... what? Having a breakdown?::
Zhou: I'm sorry. Just, please. Don't touch the doors.
::They really did not have time for this...::
Zhou: It's... a long story, but basically, a few weeks ago when I first arrived on this ship, I witnessed the death of a fellow medical officer. ::shakes his head and corrects himself:: No, she wasn't even an officer; she was a bridge medic. Out of a party of injured, including myself, she and one other member of the team were the only healthy ones among us. ::He paused again at the irony.:: And she sacrificed her life to save mine and the others.
::Zhou paused and rubbed his eyes with his fingers, the dried blood flaking off onto his face.::
Zhou: There was a hull breach, and as a cascading decompression was approaching our team, she shut the doors to seal off a passageway. ::beat:: But there wasn't enough time for us both to get through, so she pushed me through the doorway, and slammed the doors shut on herself.
::Zhou opened his eyes as well as his hands, looking at his palms once more. Shelley continued to listen quietly as the man continued.::
Zhou: I've been having difficulty sleeping and concentrating since then... I've had flashbacks of trying to pry those doors back open with my bare hands until my fingers bleed, to try to change what happened.
Shelley: I'm no engineer, but from what I understand, nothing short of a photon torpedo can force open sealed doors after a breach-
::Zhou listened to her words, but he had to interrupt.::
Zhou: Yes, doctor, but that's the very heart of it. Those flashbacks I just described? That's not how it actually happened. I didn't try to pry those doors back open. I didn't even get up!
::He sighed before he explained further.::
Zhou: Everything went so fast. She shoved me through the doorway so hard that I fell to the floor, and after the doors were closed, I just lay there, staring back... hearing the sound of the decompression heading towards me with her still on the other side. And then, it was over. Like that. She was dead. I was alive. And by shutting those doors, she had even spared me from having to watch her die.
::There was a moment of silence before Shelley replied.::
Shelley: It must have been a difficult experience for you.
Zhou: ::lets out a soft, morbid chuckle:: You know the worst part? I got a pat on the back afterward. Praised for my dedication to duty. Not even just praised, I was promoted! Her family doesn't even know she's dead, and I'm already wearing an extra pip on my collar. ::He paused and then said softly, as if talking only to himself:: This isn't what I thought it was going to be. This isn't the new start it was supposed to be.
::That last bit hit closer to home with Shelley than the rest. In fact, she was fairly certain she'd uttered those exact same words not long ago. But now wasn't the time to reflect.::
Shelley: I understand that feeling more than you know. ::pause:: However, I'm not a counselor. And you're not someone who can afford to take a time-out right now.
::Zhou thought about his first impressions regarding Shelley, how he had reacted initially with contempt for her sudden appearance in his sickbay. He chided himself internally, acknowledging how wrong he had been.::
Zhou: Doctor, I've seen you work and reviewed your file when you were transferred to this department. I know a physician with your extensive experience doesn't need me to take care of these people, and-
::He stopped as he felt Shelley place a comforting hand on his shoulder. Shelley adopted the soft, kindly tone she always used when dealing with a distressed or frightened patient.::
Shelley: I'm sorry, but we don't have time for me to be diplomatic about it - we have people on this ship who are injured, maybe dying. They need doctors. Feel free to take time off or even resign from Starfleet, but do it tomorrow. ::beat:: Today, be a doctor.
::Zhou looked back at her in silence. She hated to be so harsh with the man, especially given the already stressful situation, but the simple fact was that sickbay needed all hands on deck. They couldn't afford to have anyone - let alone the chief medical officer - sitting on the sidelines. With the ship being split into three, they were already short of their usual staff compliment.::
Shelley: Just concentrate on the job. Whatever is going on in your head... you just have to banish it. It's not easy, but compartmentalizing it is the only way. Lock it away and deal with it later. ::she paused and smiled somewhat sadly:: Believe me, I know about these things.
::Getting back to work after the death of her daughter had been... well, "difficult" was an understatement, but she'd managed, and she'd gotten past the hardest part. And now she was dealing with the situation with Lt Cmdr Whale.::
Zhou: ::slowly nods:: Yes, doctor. You're right. ::he grasps Shelley's hand on his shoulder:: Thank you.
::As if to put a further emphasis on the urgency of their predicament, Faryul stepped to the CMO office's doorway, placing her hands on the opposite sides of the frame to steady herself as the ship continued to rock from the forces outside of sickbay.::
Faryul: Doctors, there's been a severe hull breach. We've received word that at least two repair teams have suffered critical injuries. They'll be getting here shortly, not to mention any hurt pilots returning to the ship. ::She paused as she saw Zhou still holding Shelley's hand on his shoulder.:: Is everything all right?
Zhou: ::steps away from the wall and turns to Faryul:: No, everything is not all right, Nishal. ::looks back at Shelley:: We still have patients out there. Let's go.
::As Faryul went back to her station, Zhou gestured for Shelley to go first through the doorway.::
Zhou: You said odds, right?
Shelley: I did indeed, Doctor.
::The two doctors nodded and headed back to their work in sickbay. Tomorrow, they would all undoubtedly continue to face new uncertainties, but today, they belonged here.::
Dr. Fiona Shelley
(as simmed by
Lt. Commander David J. Whale
Chief of Security
Lieutenant JG Tenzin Zhou