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Checking up on a friend

Posted on 05 Oct 2023 @ 11:53am by Commander Kristiana Petrova & Crewman Apprentice Unknown 'Weirdo'

2,440 words; about a 12 minute read

Mission: Miranda
Location: XO's office

After his visit to Sha'mer, he decided he might as well call upon some others before making his way to Sickbay. One person he hadn't seen there, for one, was Kris, and he wondered how she was doing.

The computer obligingly told him where he could find her, so he headed to her office and pressed the chime. In his typical fashion, he had completely forgotten that he still was wearing the plague doctor outfit, even though it partly obscured his field of vision – he had become quite accustomed, through his recent training, to rely on more senses than sight alone.

"Come!" she called out, though wincing as she did. Loud noises weren't really 'her', right now. Even if they came from herself. Upon seeing a plague doctor enter she just stopped whatever she was working on and quirked a brow. "... Well, that's appropriate."

"Hmm? Oh, right…" He took off the mask again, realising only then just how hot it was. He ran a hand through his damp curls, which made them dance briefly around his head, and shook them back. "Yes, I thought so too! I just wanted to see how you are doing," he added, and the sea-coloured eyes took her in, all of her, giving her his full attention. It was like standing in the bright beam of a search light.

A rare, though very tired, smile as she saw who it was. She was honestly glad to see him. A small speck of joy in the ocean of misery. Though perhaps that was the disease talking. "Hm? oh. I'm - hanging in there," she motioned idly to the stack of padds she'd been working on. "This thing that's tearing through the crew, I've got it too, but not as bad as some others. I can still do some work. And with this disease going around, there's a lot of work as well."

He smiled back at her, not without a hint of concern. "Oh, that I'll believe. Much to do and not enough hands and heads to do them with. Anything I can do to help?"

"For my work? No. But I could use the company if you don't mind," She added, "And if you don't mind me working while we talk," as she turned back to the padds, to pick one up and start reading. More reports of sick crew, unable to work. It was a good thing a lot of the ship was automated and more could be automated to relieve crew, but they were getting dangerously close to just having a skeleton crew to work with, which meant even the day-to-day operations of the ship were starting to suffer. "Oh, and I could use a cup of coffee, strong. Replicator's over there~" she motioned with her hand.

"Sure, no problem." He called up the requested item, and, after a quick look, some nibbly bits: tiny sandwiches and pieces of toast, some cookies, chocolate beans. Things which could be eaten in between PADDs, tiny things which could be easily stomached. He put the tray on a corner of her desk, careful not to disturb the way the PADDs were arranged, and sat down himself. "I don't mind. So, tell me what you're doing." The fact that she was working didn't mean she wasn't all here, he thought, remembering a previous conversation with Callisi. True, she had seemed to be in worse shape than Kris, but still.

She reached in to a pocket and produced a small flask from it, dripping a few drops from its contents into the coffee. At the snacks though she actually smiled, warmly. "And snacks too? You're pampering me," she offered, as she flicked a tiny bit of cheese into her mouth. "I'm just doing paperwork. It's very boring, all. Everyone who gets sick gets a report and I have to review and accept. And with several hundred people getting sick in the past twenty-four hours, that's a lot of reading the same thing over and over and signing off on it."

"Well, you need food as well, and I know how easy it can be to forget to eat while you're working." It had happened to him more than once, while he had been absorbed in his studies and only later wondered what that empty feeling was. "If you give me one you have reviewed as template I can read them through and give you the ones which have the proper format to sign, that way you only need to worry about the ones which haven't been properly filed."

"Thanks, but no. This is my job, and it keeps me working," She looked up at him for a moment. "I'm not sure what I would do if not for this stack of boring, but necessary work. Probably just go to bed or something. And I need to be available for people. It's - " she considered her thoughts, how to phrase them. "I know, it sounds like a weak excuse, but right now, for me, this is working."

"If it works for you, that's good," he said with a smile. "I just want to make sure you don't get overwhelmed by it. That's a risk, if they come in faster than you can process them. And if you don't take enough rest, the illness might hit you harder than you like at some point." He'd seen the results of that in sickbay, over and over again.

"Thanks. That's actually really thoughtful," Kris quietly said, looking for a moment like a lost girl rather than a strong woman. This didn't last long though, her tough persona showing through again - though diminished by the affliction. "Doesn't happen very often, someone think of my well being like that," she mused. "How've you been holding up? You don't look ill, are you one of the lucky ones unaffected?"

If he saw that vulnerable moment – and few things seemed to escape his attention – he didn't show it. "So far so good. And I've been helping out in sickbay, so I've had plenty of exposure. I figure that since I haven't fallen ill by now I do seem to be one of the lucky ones."

"I suppose I am as well, in that I can still sort of think and do my job," Kris mused, setting the padd aside for a moment, taking a sip of her vodka infused coffee. She closed her eyes, enjoying the taste, letting it permeate. Eyes still closed, she added "Some people aren't so lucky. Multiple reports of delirium, people reliving memories, seeing and hearing things that aren't there."

"I noticed," he replied with a nod. "Brought Lieutenant Veera to sickbay earlier when she was trying to compose letters about people who, I guess, have died long ago." And in sickbay itself, well… He rubbed his forehead, showing his own weariness in turn.

Kris frowned. His tone had changed, almost imperceptible but definitely. All the suffering around them was affecting him too. Little of his normal cheer remained, in his seriousness. She reached for his hand, to give it a soft squeeze. "Bringing the Lieutenant to sickbay was a good deed. And something a security officer would do," she offered. "You made a difference."

"That remains to be seen." There was no telling how this sickness would progress. The infected ones might get better. They might get worse. There was simply not enough information yet. All they had been able to do thus far was treat the symptoms and make the people who were ill as comfortable as possible. "But I guess we're all doing the best we can. It's all we can do."

"You made a difference to Lieutenant Veera," Kris replied readily. She let go of his hand again and took another sip of her drink. "I'm very much certain she appreciates your help and that you didn't leave her where you found her. And you're making a difference to me. That's two people already. Don't discount yourself."

"I don't," he replied with a smile which still showed his weariness. "But even though I'm not part of Starfleet's crew, I am part of the group which mans this whole ship, and even in this situation the sum of the total is greater than the individual parts." He walked over to the replicator again, stretching himself on the way. "Let's see… something with a strong taste. Anything you can recommend?"

"And it's the thoughtful actions of those individuals, the going above and beyond, that people remember, that brighten their day, that make them smile," Kris replied, matter-of-factly, face buried once again in a padd. Signing off on sick people. It helped her to be doing something productive. "Try hot'n'sweet, it's a vodka drink mixed with crushed pepper candy. Spicy aftertaste. Sweet."

"That sounds good. One hot'n'sweet, replicator dear. Thanks!" He picked the drink up and strolled back to where Kris was working, pulled out a chair and sat down. "Oh yes, lovely," he said after the first sip. "That'll kick you awake alright."

"Mmh. It does, yeah," Kris mused, still buried in her padds. "So, a plague doctor, huh. Appropriate, but why'd you pick that outfit? Just because of the disease, or is there something more behind it?"

"Interestingly enough, the figure of the plague doctor occurs on three separate worlds, on Earth, predominantly on the continent known as Europe, on Arcadia, and on Delb II. On all three worlds they fulfilled similar roles. Additionally, on Earth they became incorporated with the most fascinating commedia dell'arte, as a character actually called Il Medico della Peste – which literally means plague doctor, only there it looks like this." He touched something on the inside of the mask and the black surface turned white with some small decorations, while the eye holes became sparkling, transparent gems. "All in all, quite a rich history." His radiant smile, as sparkling as the mask itself, had returned as he spoke.

Kris gave a low whistle as she looked up from her work. "Impressive knowledge. Memories? Or did you learn all that aboard the ship?" she asked, setting the padd aside for now.

"No memories," he said, shaking his head. "No news on that front. No, it's just stuff I picked up left and right… I remember reading about plague doctors somewhere and decided to do a bit of light reading during a break."

"Remarkable," she said, leaning back in her chair, her attention fully on him now. She took another sip of her drink, letting the taste linger for a moment before continuing. "Your ability to learn and your curiosity are - remarkable. You're going through your curriculum in record time, never miss a beat, your scores are top class. How do you do it? I've never seen anyone with such an ability to absorb, process and understand information."

He shrugged, as usual quite unabsorbed with the riddle he himself was. "I don't know. Maybe if we ever encounter others of my race it'll turn out that I am rather mediocre. Maybe I was even sent away because I was dumb compared to them." He grinned. "Part of it is probably because I require little sleep. Gives me a lot of extra time to do things. Good thing you paired me with a Denobulan roommate. Though the other day he complained that I snored! I suspect he might also be a touch delirious there." He sipped his drink, relishing the taste."

"Are you sure you don't want to go into the sciences?" She asked, still observing him. She seemed tired, her voice a bit raw from the illness, her words soft, as not to overstress her throat and exacerbate her headache. "You easily have the brain for it."

"Oh, I might look into some sciency stuff as a hobby," he said airily. "But as a ship's position, no. I'd get bored too easily when there's nothing to do. With security there'll still be stretches where I have nothing to do, at least I most sincerely hope so. I hope I'll be the most bored security officer ever. But at least I can prowl the whole ship and call it 'keeping abreast of the security protocols' instead of 'trespassing'." As he still only had official guest status on board, there were several areas of the ship which were officially off-limits to him. "And I can get people in shape and follow some courses myself. And, well, plenty of time to branch out and visit other departments in the spirit of cooperation."

"You know, I was gonna say something about how I envy you, learning all new things, instead of being caught in the drudgery of the same thing every day, but then I realized, what's stopping me from learning new things?" she tilted her head a bit, still looking at him. "So, tell you what. When this whole sickness thing is over and when we have some time, I'm gonna learn a new thing. Maybe pick up a new hobby. You pick. How 'bout that?"

His face lit up again. "Oh yes, that's a brilliant idea! You get better first and I'll drop you some suggestions, see if there's anything which captures your fancy. Do you have anything in mind? Something physical, something mental, combination of both?" He finished his drink and mused, half-aloud: "Orbital skydive sudoku competition?"

An honest to god gigglesnort from Kristiana, though the headache spike made her regret that. "Maybe not something that out there. Maybe something like - Idunno - hiking? Climbing? Spelunking? Something like that. A physical activity that can be taken slowly and enjoyed."

"Spelunking and climbing can absolutely be combined. Sounds fun! Or maybe we can find some hikes which take place in and around your native country. Though it would be fun to do an actual climb or hike on a real planet, I don't recall ever having been on one."

"That does sound like fun," Kris admitted. He had a strange way about him that brought out a part of her she'd thought she'd lost. Which, in and of itself, was low key scary, she thought. "But I really should be getting on with my work. Thank you, for coming to check on me. And for the company."

"Then I'll leave you to it," he said and stood up, picking up the empty glass so he could send it back in the replicator to be deconstructed again. "And don't forget to take some rest. I don't want to see you in sickbay later as one of the worsening cases."

"Yeah yeah, I'll be fine," she waved dismissively, before reaching for the next padd.


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