In the dead silence of sickbay, Alan Christopher and Erin Keller stood, contributing to the silence as they watched Sarah Hartman perform the final phases of Doctor Bentic’s experimental procedure. It had proven to be a long wait—if her calculations were correct, the last time Erin recalled standing in sickbay was nearly fifteen hours ago when Hartman had warded them off so she could work without interruption.
But finally, fifteen hours later one of Hartman’s nurses contacted Erin and gave her the word—it was almost over. For weeks, they had struggled to keep Rachael Meyer alive, and now, it seemed as if their struggle was about to come to an end. The procedure was nearly complete, and Rachael was still alive. If she were going to die, it would have happened long before now. But even at this point in the operation, far past the most critical stages, Erin felt a dizzying array of nauseating butterflies in the pit of her stomach. She had no doubt Alan was experiencing the same thing.
Finally, Erin watched Hartman administer the last of the antibiotics into Rachael’s body, and proceeded to lower the sleek black walls of the surgical support frame back into the biobed.
The procedure had ended.
Hartman made one final check of Meyer’s systems to make sure nothing terrible would happen and then, satisfied with the results, she snapped her tricorder shut, dropped it into the pocket of her flowing white lab coat, and headed over to greet Erin and Alan.
The look on her face wasn’t a dead giveaway as to the results. Erin knew the Doctor wasn’t very emotional, but she could have at least provided a smile…but she did not. “It went as well as could be expected,” said the Doctor.
“But if her mesiofrontal lobe hadn’t been so well developed, it would have been a lot worse. I don’t think I would have been able to adapt the procedure to a human or a Bolian.”
“Perhaps those telepathic experiences of hers last year were more beneficial than we thought,” said Alan, referring to Rachael’s numerous bouts with telepathy, including the Yelss, Species 8472, and the beginnings of something he didn’t quite understand…
Hartman shrugged. “Maybe, maybe not. I’d have to look at other Marians to be sure…but I don’t think I’ll be performing this procedure again any time soon.”
“Why not?” asked Erin.
The Doctor glanced at the chronometer on the computer station nearby. “Fifteen hours might have something to do with it,” she muttered.
“No argument there,” said one of her nurses.
Alan smiled. “So when can we see her?”
Hartman again referred to the computer behind her, and looked over Meyer’s bio-readings yet again. She sighed, and then decided, “Everything looks fine. You can see her as soon as she wakes up.” She paused, then added, “If she wakes up.”
“Then we’ll wait,” Christopher decided.
Erin nodded her agreement. There was nobody she would rather spend her time with. And waiting for Rachael to recover was definitely a worthy cause. She smiled, and turned to him. “ Do you want to wait here…or what?”
Alan considered it for a moment. “Here,” he decided. “I want to be here when Rachael wakes up.”
“If she wakes up,” Hartman stressed once more.
“She will,” said Erin sternly. Hartman’s pessimism—or realism, as the good doctor described it—was beginning to get on Erin’s nerves.
And so they waited.
Alan paced back and forth between biobeds counting ceiling tiles. He was convinced there were ninety-seven, but Erin herself counted eighty-nine, claiming he cheated by counting the half-tiles as whole. He grumbled, and agreed she was right.
Brought into submission by his defeat, Alan retreated to the island in the middle of the facility and alphabetized the cortical analeptics Hartman had on display. “From alazine to zetarynaphine,” he proudly proclaimed while Erin hopped up onto a biobed and engaged herself in an exciting round of Metrix—the portable version she created after encountering the game on Aurillac VII last year during the Romulan attack.
After winning six games in a row, Erin decided to take a head-to-head challenge with Alan. She noted that many of Alan’s tactics involved more than a small amount of cheating, but out of politeness, Erin remained mute on the subject. He wasn’t winning in spite of those extralegal efforts in the first place.
And they waited.
“Hah!” exclaimed Christopher. “I beat you!”
Erin tossed the game on the bio bed. “You cheated,” she said firmly, giving him an evil glare. “I saw you creating blue cubes before the turbo round.”
“They were spheres,” protested Alan.
“Those were the boxiest spheres I’ve ever seen!”
Alan looked up at the lights. “Glare. You saw wrong. It was the glare from the lights.”
“I’ll show you a glare,” she said, strengthening her evil gaze on Alan’s face. He sighed, and turned away in shameful defeat.
And they waited.
Until finally, Rachael Meyer blinked for the first time in weeks.