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Time to Heal

Posted on Thursday November 10th, 2016 @ 8:10pm by Commander Magnus Sterling & Lieutenant Evelyn Lecourtier

Mission: Enemies Closer
Location: Sickbay, USS Excelsior
Timeline: MD 3, 1805 Hours

Sterling entered Sickbay, crew and nurses filled the primary facility as inoculations proceeded apace. The commander queued up behind several other officers, the few who took notice of him stiffened in his presence but Sterling merely smiled and nodded, everyone was in the same boat here.

“Commander Magnus Alastair Sterling,” a woman’s voice said behind him.

He turned around and saw the youthful Doctor Lecourtier. Her blue lab coat draped over her slender frame, her hair haphazardly pulled back while a few dark locks had slipped loose. Her gaze cast down towards a large PADD she cradled in front of her, and when she looked back up towards him and met his eyes, Sterling saw the early symptoms of fatigue on her face.

“Long day, doctor?”

“You should know, you saw and approved our duty roster,” she said and gestured towards another part of the sickbay. “Follow me.”

Lecourtier did not seem inclined towards small talk or etiquette. Whether a product of fatigue or poor bedside manner or both, Sterling couldn’t yet tell. “I approve a lot of rosters, doctor.” Sterling said wryly. “But I suppose you do have your work cut out for you.”

Lecourtier stopped by a biobed and gestured for Sterling to sit down. “I’ve been working almost nonstop since the attack,” she said while adjusting some controls on the monitor above the bed. “First treating injuries while the bulkheads exploded around me, then rushing survivors to an evacuation shuttle, trying to keep as many people alive on that shuttle for hours before we were picked up. Then working on keeping even more people alive until we arrived at Diogara Station, and then then some more and more. I’ve treated more injuries than I can count, and signed off on more death certificates than I’d care to.”

Aghast, Sterling nodded. “I think I get the picture, doctor, but if I recall correctly you went straight to work after reporting for duty here.”

“Sometimes I think if I stop, I won’t be able to start again. I eat when I’m starving, and I sleep when I’m exhausted and too tired to think.”

“Sounds like a good way to wind up on one of these beds yourself,” Sterling said and sat on the biobed.

“Then I won’t have far to go,” she said dryly. “Lay down, please.”

Sterling swung his feet around and laid back as he was instructed by his attending physician. He folded his hands over his abdomen and stared up at the ceiling bulkhead. This conversation is going nowhere, he thought. He fidgeted as he lay on the biobed.

“Are you feeling impatient?” Lecourtier asked as she began setting up for the scan.

“I’ve all the patience in the world,” he said. “But as soon as we’re done here, I’m ordering you to take a break. A hot meal and a full night’s undisturbed rest.”

She glowered at him. “You’re being ridiculous,” she said and began the scan. “Try not to move.”

“It’s not ridiculous, it’s common sense, and sometimes when we’ve been through some very stressful times, we don’t register that the stress has passed. We keep pushing ourselves. The battle is over, doctor. The crew is healthy. Time to look to your own. Time to heal.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about. And I said keep still.”

“It doesn’t take a doctor to see you’re exhausted,” he said.

Lecourtier ignored the comment and slowly waved her medical tricorder over his body from head to toe while scrutinizing Sterling’s vitals on the biobed monitor. "It’s a little unusual, don’t you think, for you to have shipboard duties? Most Starfleet officers your age have taken desk jobs.”

Sterling balked. “That sounds absolutely boring, doctor. Besides, I’m barely over the hill.”

Lecourtier frowned and recalibrated her tricorder’s sensors and began a new sweep. “It’s true that average human lifetime now include centenarians as a matter of course, but even so the human male body enters a slow and steady decline at the same point as it did a hundred years ago, a thousand years ago, ten thousand years ago. Modern medicine and nutrition have merely managed to stretch that final segment out significantly.”

“And for that, you and your predecessors have my gratitude, doctor.”

“My point being,” she continued, “80 is not the new 40.” She stowed her tricorder and pulled up an image on a display beside the biobed. “Case in point, the cartilage in your joints has worn down significantly, especially in your knees and fingers and spine. Any pain, stiffness in these areas?”

Sterling frowned. “Archaeology can be pretty demanding. Some stiffness, usually in the morning. Nothing painful.”

Several regions of recent scar tissue across his whole body became highlighted on the display. “If archaeology is that demanding, perhaps you’re better off here on Excelsior anyway.” She raised a skeptical eyebrow and turned away.

“You have no idea,” Sterling said suppressing a grin, images of adventures flashed through his mind. “But it keeps me active.”

“Well that activity has a price: onset osteoarthritis,” Lecourtier said and sorted through a tray of vials on a nearby cart. She plucked one from the tray and plugged it into the base of a hypospray. “Cartilage isn’t like most tissues in the body, when it wears away it normally won’t grow back and can’t repair itself quickly enough when it’s damaged.”

“But you doctors can knit bone back together in the matter of minutes, certainly it’s not much different.”

Lecourtier gave Sterling a disapproving glance. “The difference is that bone will heal on its own over time, and as I just pointed out cartilage doesn’t. We can easily stimulate the osteoblasts to grow new bone. However when cartilage wears away, you are losing the cells responsible for it’s growth.” She waggled her loaded hypospray. “This serum is something like a booster, it will trigger the remaining chondrocytes into high-gear collagen production to begin rebuilding the extracellular material that makes up your cartilage. This will get you started but you’ll need a series of targeted treatments to replace lost chondrocytes.” She pressed the hypospray to his neck and injected the serum.

“So, no more stiffness?”

“You’ll still experience some but it should pass more quickly now until your treatments are completed. I’ll schedule the remaining treatments in the future, we’ll need to clone-print new cells for implantation. Aside from that and your scar tissue, you do appear to be in excellent health.” She tabbed through several results on her PADD. “Heart rate and blood pressure are excellent for someone your age. Heart appears strong. Blood-sugar levels normal. Muscle and bone density is above average. Brain chemistry appears normal. Prostate, normal. Kidneys, normal.”

“Guess I’m fit for duty then, doctor?”

“Not so fast, commander. We do have more to do here.”

Sterling shifted uncomfortably in his prone position. Most physical exams weren’t invasive, almost everything could be learned from a sensor scan, computers can compare against an enormous database of baseline statistics and identify most anomalies automatically, and yet somehow doctors managed to maintain the pure inconvenience of the exams, perhaps for tradition’s sake? “Well, let’s continue, doctor. The sooner we finish, the sooner you can take that break.”

Lecourtier sighed.


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