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Bleed In... Bleed Out...

Posted on Friday March 5th, 2021 @ 11:54pm by Wraet tr'Melanth & Tiandith 'Tia' Tobru & Cleo Ortega

Mission: Marauder's Map
Location: Unknown Planet
5559 words - 11.1 OF Standard Post Measure

"If I didn't know any better..." she said wincing as cold began to settle in. Her breath ragged and visual due to the temperature drop. "I'd say you were trying to kill me Mr. Planet." she gave herself a little laugh as she slid down the shuttle hull to a sitting position.

Tia had been in search of food, shelter as she had noticed the temperature begin to drop earlier but had found very little here to help her. A few edible leaves, some water from the shuttle had kept her going but she had been unable to stop the bleeding coming from her wound. The bandage she had wrapped around herself was more red than white now and was not fit for purpose. Unfortunately she had no fresh ones to rewrap and she was fresh out of replicators and suitable clothing.

From her inside pocket she pulled out a small flask. "Thank the Goddesses for alcohol." she said taking a sip. "If I am going to die it will not be sober." Tia tipped her flask to the sky as a couple of moons popped up to say hello.

A small cloaked ship settled into a low orbit as its pilot checked and triple verified the signal and associated signature. It was one Wraet knew - The Listener was well-known within Resistance circles, and unfortunately outside them as well. It was level of fame and/or infamy Wraet himself assiduously avoided despite some of his aliases carrying a degree of what humans might call 'street cred' among certain cells, but it had its uses and the owner of that moniker had helped in cause in myriad ways. Enough to merit some extra effort at rescue. Provided this wasn't a trap.

Satisfied with the signal's authenticity, he scanned for life signs, finding only one: El-Aurian and growing weaker.

"I hope you have rested Ms. Ortega," he called back to his sole passenger, a recently liberated medic, even as he keyed in a response to the SOS. One carrying his best known signature, Sargon. "I believe there may be occasion for a test of your skill."

"What? Who?" Cleo said as she woke with a start. The tablet she'd been reading from earlier slid off of her lap, clattering on the deck. Though a seemingly coherent response, Cleo's confusion was clearly evident. She looked around, remembering where she was and what was going on. She was fairly well rested, however, so it did not take long for her senses to sharpen.

"Where's the medical kit?" Cleo asked simply as she stood, assuming that the ship would have one.

"An old friend, one whose shuttle appears to have crashed," Wraet answered with the even composure that would have fit his Vulcan persona. "There is a medical kit in the compartment beside the the transport pad."

"Brother of a Descun (SOB), why did I leave that transmitter inside?!" Tia almost shouted at herself when she heard a small ping emanate from the shuttle. "Over 200 years in this life and you did not think to make it easier for yourself to get to." she rolled her own eyes and pushed herself up on to her feet.

As she moved herself towards the beacon she slipped and heard a snap. It was part of what was embedded in her shoulder breaking on impact. A swell of pain flew through Tia's body and she almost began to cry. However, she pushed forward as he wound opened up a little more. "Pretty sure that is more alcohol now than blood." she laughed to herself as she checked to see if the Dominion were coming to finish her off.

"Sargon... well if the Goddesses aren't smiling on me today." she said with a wry smile. "Hope he brings a box to put me in..." she said as she felt quite drowsy.

A moment later a brief shimmer enveloped her form.

"Fvadt!" Wraet cursed as the woman's form still impaled by a ragged piece of metal half obscured in bloody bandages appeared on the shuttle pad. "See what you can do for her. We cannot linger here." He went straight to the helm to break orbit, saying no more on that - no need to distract the medic with worries over an approaching blip on the long range sensors. It might be from some other faction of the Resistance responding to the SOS, he had no intention of lingering in orbit to find out.

Well this is awkward. Cleo thought as she knelt next to her patient. She knew neither her name, nor whether she should reveal her own. She didn't even really know where they were. Sargon's ship, but where? There was little she'd be able to tell that a patient would want to know, and a lot that was really better left unsaid. Like that she would be using medical equipment and medicines used by a people whose language she could barely understand.

Cleo attempted to give the other woman a reassuring smile as she raised the Romulan medical scanner. She was not familiar with the device, but it was not a whole lot different from a Starfleet-issue tricorder. It just took a moment for her brain to translate the words, numbers, symbols and units of measurement. The woman was an El Aurian, that much was clear, and her vitals were stable, if not as strong as she'd like to see. There had been some blood loss, but blood pressure and heart rate were still fairly normal... for the moment, at least. The major blood pathways were intact, and there was no nerve or significant mechanical damage to the shoulder joint that Cleo could detect. That was all good, but of course the hard part would be extracting the shard without making things worse.

"You'll be fine. Easy fix." Cleo said, hoping to sound reassuring. Overall she was confident, but she did have to think about just how long it had been since she'd done this. Medical treatment could definitely be considered a perishable skill. She'd have to be extra cautious. "Before we get that out, I'm going to prepare a blood and fluid transfusion, as well as a local anesthetic. Do you have any allergies, or anything else I should know about?"

"Just allergic to dying, Doctor." Tia said with a small grimace. A mixture between a smile and clenched teeth from the pain.

She looked around her surroundings, there was a distinct Romulan decoration but from the floor she could see little. "Thanks for picking me up Sargon." she said loud enough for the other occupant to hear. "I am going to guess that there were no other lifesigns around the shuttle apart from mine?" she asked rhetorically. "Sadly the landing was not as smooth as I'd have liked with no engines..."

"That does tend to present a challenge," Wraet remarked with dry humor, as targeted a micro-torpedo with a timed charge to the lost shuttle - no need to give any pursuers more to study than necessary - before jumping to warp. "You were the only life sign. Fortunately, you appear to have a sufficiently strong allergy to dying."

"Has kept me alive for over 2 centuries now, although that has been more difficult the last 25 years or so." She said with a hint of resignation. What she has just lost, who she had just lost, was more painful than she let her face show.

Current injuries aside, Cleo did not pick up on her patients other, more emotional pains. In another life she might have been a skilled empath, but her telepathic powers had literally been locked away from her, and the innate sense of empathy that Betazoids had been known for was neglected and buried deep. Empathy wouldn't help keep her patient alive. Not in the immediate future, anyway.

"Allergic to death. Noted." Cleo deadpanned as she stood up and stepped away for a moment to replicate some saline solution and synthetic blood. She also set out the instruments, medicines, and other items she would need. It would've been nice to have an assistant, but fortunately she would be able to perform this procedure on her own. She carefully thumbed through the vials in the medical kit until she reached the anesthetic she was looking for. She knew the labels of Romulan medicines and chemical compounds pretty well, as during her informal medical training the hologram had taught her to be able to operate out of medical kits used by a variety of other factions.... just in case.

"I'm going to apply the anesthetic near the wound site. It shouldn't hurt too much, but try not to move." Cleo cautioned as she gave her patient a heads up. Even the gentle touch of a hypospray on skin could be enough to trigger a wave of pain so close to the wound, and the last thing she wanted was for her patient to tense up and possibly aggravate the wound further.

After administering the anesthetic, Cleo rolled up her sleeves and went through the next few steps of her treatment plan in quick succession as she waited for the pain killers to take effect. This was not a fully equipped medical bay, so she would have to act quickly. If the anesthetic wore off too soon, things would become very unpleasant for her patient. She pulled out an intravenous catheter and deftly inserted it into the median cubital vein on the woman's inner elbow. Thankfully she found the vein the first try, and plugged in the tube connecting the bag of blood to the IV. She pulled off the cover of the adhesive patch and stuck the bag of blood onto the nearest bulkhead so it was out of the way, and gravity could do the rest of the work there.

The next step was to apply some saline solution, both to hydrate her patient, and also to clean off the wound site, so that she could get a better look at the wound without dried blood and debris potentially hiding the extent of the injury. Yes, the medical scanner did give her a clear look, but she couldn't exactly hold it in front of her while she was operating. She didn't have three hands, or an assistant. And at least one of them needed to be crewing the ship. She gently pressed the hypospray with the saline solution against her patient's neck and put most of it right into her bloodstream for hydration, saving just a little to see if she was ready to begin with the next phase.

"Can you feel this?" Cleo asked her patient as she carefully removed the dressing and gently prodded near the wound with the hypospray, letting out a few controlled pulses of saline to clear away the dried blood. The question was semi-rhetorical, as if the anesthetic hadn't taken effect, her patient would probably be yelping with pain.'

Tia watched, albeit sluggishly, how the woman prepared for what was to come her way. She had been through her share of physical injuries over the years. Some healed by themselves over time, some still lingered from lack of medical facilities where she managed to succumb to unforeseen obstacles that landed in her path.

"Feel a little sensation but nothing too bad." Tia replied to the good Doctor. "I've been through worse, just pull the thing out and patch me up. If there is anything I hate more than being injured it is being stuck on my ass when there is work to be done." Tia said a bit impatiently.

"You have nowhere else to be stuck for the next several hours, so I suggest you lay back and let the medic do her work," Wraet called back. "Ms. Ortega, if you need assistance I have some experience with restraining difficult subjects."

So Ortega was the name of the Doctor, that was good to know as the woman had kept this to herself up until now. Tia was always listening, maybe another reason why her alias was The Listener, but she continued to keep her eyes open in case this turned out to be a trap. "Several hours?" she asked rhetorically. "Well at least stick on some music or give me a map so I know where in the Hells I am..." she said through to Sargon. "And Doctor Ortega, all I really need is this thing out of me and closed up. Who knows what's around the next star..."

"This won't take anywhere near that along." Cleo assured her patient, after a momentary pause. She'd been shocked, just a little, at being addressed in such a manner. She couldn't remember anyone ever calling her Doctor Ortega before. Not a living person anyway. Only her mentor, the Pacifica's emergency medical hologram had called her by that title. To the rest of the crew, she'd been a teenager with medical training. Yes, patients had called out the word doctor when they needed help, but... well, it had been a long time ago. A long time for her, anyway. She quickly pushed her memories aside, and concentrated at the task at hand.

"Some assistance might be necessary, just to keep the arm immobilized. We'll see how this goes for now." Cleo said to Sargon. Normally she could just kneel with some of her weight on her patient's arm to keep it from moving, but that would limit her own freedom of movement; it could also be risky simply holding the other woman down with some metal still sticking out of the back of her shoulder. It would be much safer for someone to simply keep the arm steady without holding it down. But Cleo still didn't think it would come to that.

Cleo held the scanner up again for a more thorough study of the wound, and the metal fragment inside of it. The shard was smooth, not jagged, which was a very good sign, and it looked like she could easily pull it out the same way it had gone in--the anterior entry site. That meant she could simply cut off the length sticking out of the posterior exit site with a laser scalpel. Then she would be able to lay her patient down for the rest of the procedure. That was always preferable, as it lessened the risk of hypovolemic shock... and many other kinds of shock really, as well as a number of other complications that could arise during surgery. She quickly did so, and then helped her patient to lie down.

The only real problem that Cleo could see was that the fragment was positioned almost perpendicular to the surrounding muscle fibers. If it was parallel she could simply pull it out. But the way things were now, the shard could cut through some of them unless she moved the still-intact muscles out of the way. That wouldn't be too hard, but it would take time. The shard was also right up against the El-Aurian's clavicle. That wasn't a problem, per se, as it was much better than it being near a nerve cluster, tendon, or major vein or artery. But when she moved the shard against the bone, her patient would definitely feel it. Not pain, but an unpleasant sensation for sure. Cleo would have to warn her about that before she got started.

"I'm going to open up the wound a little, that will make it easier to remove the fragment without damaging the surrounding muscle and tissue. I also want to warn you, you will feel it scrape against your collar bone. That will be the safest way to extract it, but it may feel weird... definitely unpleasant. That's why we may need to have Mr. Sargon immobilize your arm. Try and keep your arms and hands loose. Focus on clenching your toes instead, should you feel yourself tightening up." Cleo seemed poised to begin, but after only a brief pause she remembered one additional thing.

"Oh, and one last thing. When I remove the fragment, you may see a lot of blood. This is normal. There's going to be a lot of it still inside the wound, and the fragment will have cut some smaller blood vessels and kept them sealed until now. You will not bleed out, I promise." Cleo offered one last reassuring smile before she donned a surgical face mask and assumed a guise of clinical anonymity.

The procedure itself was extremely quick straightforward, when compared to the preparation. She used a laser scalpel to elongate the dermal incision caused by the fragment. That allowed her to use retractors to hold the skin apart, as well as the underlying muscle tissue. This gave her a clear pathway for extracting the fragment. Cleo took hold of the fragment with a pair of forceps and gently started to pull it out, also using the flat end of a scalpel to even more gently hold back the surrounding tissue. She angled the fragment closer to the collar bone than anything else, just as she said she would. As predicted, quite a bit of blood began to escape from the wound, some of the spray even reaching Cleo's mask. Most of it was darker in color though, which meant it was older seepage.

"Okay, its coming out now. Remember... clenched toes, not fists." Cleo said as she pulled tentatively at the fragment to see how her patient would react. She was not going to just yank it out, even if that's what the other woman might prefer. If her patient stayed still then she would pull it out in earnest. If not, then she was prepared to call for Sargon's assistance.

Tia was already in some discomfort as Ortega began to move the fragment. It was not pain but a numb 'feeling' under the skin. "If I clench my toes anymore they will snap off in these boots." Tia commented at the Doctors instruction. This was not to get at the Doctor but she still felt a little pain from the other cuts and bruises she had gotten in the shuttles crash landing. She was trying her hardest to keep her fingers straight, to keep the hand unclenched like a good soldier, a good patient. Truth be told she missed her time as an Admiral even if it was all spent fighting. The ability to give orders and people follow them, even having good tech near by was great but now it was a fight for every day, every marker that got them forward was important. Every Dominion solider that fell was a victory, no matter how small.

Wraet had set the autopilot as soon as it was practical to do so and come over, but had not moved to restrain Tia yet as Cleo seemed to have things in hand and he was interested in observing her in action. So far he was quite impressed. However, from the El-Aurian's comment and her expression, he judged it good time to more actively assist. "We do not need broken toes to deal with on top of everything else," he remarked, kneeling and taking hold of the arm near the shoulder and at the wrist, using pressure points to thoroughly immobilize it. "Proceed, Doctor."

Cleo nodded, thankful for the assistance. With the arm and shoulder secure, she was much more confident in steadily pulling out the fragment in a way that would ease her patient's stress. Even with her buried empathic abilities she was able to sense it, whether she wanted to or not. She wasted no time in finishing the extraction. The fragment was approximately eight centimeters in length (after the two she'd already shaved off of it), and roughly the shape of a stiletto blade. It had an oily sheen on it, which concerned her, but she made it a point to ease some of her patient's stress first, before she addressed that potential complication. She held up the medical scanner, quickly checked her patient's vitals, and confirmed that there were no additional metal fragments still inside.

"You did good. It's all out now, and your vital signs are looking good." Cleo said as she took off her disposable gloves, which were by then covered in blood. With a bare hand she gently rubbed her patient's uninjured shoulder for a couple of seconds, hoping that that would help to ease some of her tension. Then she donned a clean pair of gloves, free of any potential contaminants the fragment might have had on it.

"Mr. Sargon, would you please run a spectroscopic analysis on the fragment? The scanner will warn of anything we need to be concerned about." Cleo probably could've done that herself without too much trouble, but she wanted to focus on stopping the bleeding and closing up the wound before the anesthetic wore off. Plus, she wasn't familiar enough with the Romulan language to access the scanner's more advanced functions, and she really didn't want to have to admit that in front of her patient.

Cleo turned back to her patient, whose name she still did not know. "I'm going to start closing up the wound now. In a moment I'll remove the retractors, and then you can sit up and move your arm into a more comfortable position. Then we'll take a look at those other cuts and scrapes. Let me know whether you'd like to keep any of the scars." She held up a dermal regenerator and quickly reconnected the blood vessels she could identify. The rest would sort themselves out and regrow in time. In no time, actually. El Aurians had a regenerative biology that was far above average...a key to their longevity. Within a minute she had the retractors removed, and helped her patient to sit up so she could treat the exit wound on her back.

Nodding to Cleo, Wraet had released her patient and taken the fragment for analysis. He kept one eye on Cleo, not out of distrust - though he had not known her long enough for that to be entirely dismissed - but to continue to observe her technique. She might hold no degree, but he felt justified now in referring to her as a doctor. At the soft tone from his instruments he checked the read out. "It would appear there is nothing about the fragment that requires treatment, beyond removing it."

"Thank you, both." Tia said as she moved forward a little to let Ortega moved to close the wounds on the other side. "I know I have not given my name yet and well I usually wait to see if I can trust someone first before doing so. I think based on the fact that you've seen my insides, well it doesn't get any more personal than that and if you were going to kill me you'd have done so. I'm a good judge of character, even if YOU are a Romulan." she joked towards Wraet. "And I have always found Betazoids fairly trustworthy company, although the older ones are definitely less withdrawn." she remarked at the slight reserved nature of Cleo. "But times are tough and I do not blame you for being careful. I am Tiandith Tobru, but Tia will do." she said with a slight head nod as she could not properly bow with the work being done behind her.

"Most perceptive," Wraet replied dry humor. " 'The Listener' was always name enough for me, I am pleased to call you Tia if you wish." Which didn't mean he hadn't taken note of the name to check in older Tal'Shiar records at a later time. "You already know me as Sargon, which is a name I have used long enough that is as good as my own."

Cleo nodded in response to Sargon's assessment. Whatever that oily sheen on the fragment was, at least it wasn't something highly toxic that she'd have to counteract. There was only so much she could do with a basic medical kit and light-duty replicator, both in a language she had only a rudimentary grasp of. She was reminded of what she'd said to Sargon during their earlier conversation, about how she wasn't going to conduct a train of walking wounded while working out of a field kit. Yet there she was. She'd have to give them some leeway though, as it had been... what, hours, no more than a day since that conversation had taken place?

"You are welcome, Tia." Cleo said, not sounding too distracted as she continued to work with the dermal regenerator, but she was clearly focused on her work. "I'm Cleo." She added as she closed up the exit wound and moved back to finish up with the front. Since Tia had made no mention of her preference toward scars, Cleo opted to do the best she could in removing any trace of them. She wondered how many other Betazoids Tia had met, and what her interactions with them had been like. Cleo had never met another Betazoid, not knowingly, anyway. By the time she was born, the remaining crew of the Pacifica were nearly all Human, Tellarite and Andorian. When her abilities activated during puberty, a holodeck program and been her only guide in trying to figure them out. Unfortunately, the captain, her birth mother, had many other needs for the ship's precious energy reserves.

"Just about done. I'll let the anesthetic wear off on its own. No need to waste supplies if you don't need sensation restored immediately. You might notice a slight loss of strength or range of motion, due to the muscles that were cut. There's not much I can do about that with this..." Cleo said with a shrug as she held up the handheld dermal regenerator, which was made to stabilize wounds. It wouldn't be sufficient for fully rehabilitating a load bearing joint, and it was very likely that Cleo would only aggravate the shoulder by trying. "Both will return in time, if other means don't present themselves sooner." She shrugged again, then sat back to give her patient some room to move.

"I think the one bag will be enough. I'll take the IV out shortly. I'll close up that cut on your scalp, but the others look like they can wait a few minutes if you'd prefer a meal or just something to drink first." There were at least a dozen small cuts and scrapes that Cleo could see, and possibly more under Tia's clothing. It would take only moments to take care of each, but with the number of them Cleo reasoned that Tia might actually feel better getting her energy level back up first.

"Well Sargon, you can call me either. The Listener is never something I have openly called myself, others gave me the alias during the late 70's when I was part of the resistance on Earth and it stuck. Boy, what I would give for my old ship." Her mind cast back to the Sovereign class, USS Cavalry. She was a sight to behold, even after fights with the Dominion she still held her dignity to the last before she was destroyed by Earths moon. Thinking about it, it probably crashed on the Moons surface.

"Thanks Cleo. I think the rest of my injuries can just heal on their own. Little cuts and bruises never killed anyone." She commented. It was true she was littered with cuts, head to toe, from the fight at her base, the escape and then crash on the planet she was found on. Tia looked like she'd been rag dolled through a hedge face first and then threw down a rocky hill to land on solid ground much like belly flopping in a swimming pool BUT she got one with it. You had to these days. "I wouldn't mind some water if you have any?" She asked. "And I cannot tell you the last time I ate..."

"There's a replicator," Wraet said, nodding to a small alcove. "Most of the settings are for Romulan food, as you might expect, but I have added a few others over the years."

Cleo nodded, half expecting the reply. Part of her wanted to remind the other woman that little cuts might not kill, but infection could, but she held her tongue. She really had no idea what kind of access to medical supplies she would have, and also no clue as to how many people she would be responsible for. Maybe it would be best to conserve supplies. If a cut got infected, she would deal with it then. She took off her second pair of gloves and used some sanitizer on her hands to make sure they were clean. "I know just the thing." She said in a cryptic tone before standing and moving off to use the replicator.

The former medical officer didn't really have a favorite food, and after nine years of prison fare, she couldn't even begin to imagine what a decent meal might be, let alone a favorite one. But ever since childhood she'd had this fascination with one day going to a Terran North American-style diner. Her birth mother's parents had run one, in a place called Arizona. She and her mom had never been particularly close, but they talked about going there one day, when everything was over. Cleo had known from the start that that would never happen, that it was just wishful thinking. For an empath it had been hard to ignore the waves of soul-crushing guilt coming from her mom, likely over the belief that her actions had probably led to dire consequences for her family.

A minute later Cleo came back with a bottle of water, slightly chilled, and plate with what appeared be a a breakfast sandwich--a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich on an everything bagel. It had been her mother's favorite, though not quite the same as the version from her home region. She held the meal out toward Tia, a difficult gesture that fought against every instinct. Cleo had recently eaten, but she wasn't used to having a semblance of choice in when or what she ate, or faith in the belief that later there would be more.

Empathy wasn't a characteristic most people associated with Romulans, and especially Romulans who were agents of the Tal'Shiar. However, it had practical application, and despite being far from an empath Wraet had been involved in liberating enough Dominion prisoners to have some sense of what Cleo might be feeling. "If your hungry, give yourself a treat, doctor. You've earned it."

"I had one a couple of hours ago." Cleo admitted with a wry twist of the lips, not quite a smile, but close. "She needs it more than I do." The breakfast sandwich had not been among the various Terran meal offerings in Sargon's replicator, but all of the ingredients had been, in one form or another. It had not taken much work to program it in. Her sandwich had tasted delicious, but then again, most anything would compared to nutrient paste in various configurations of shape and solidity. Unfortunately, she could no longer remember what the same sandwiches aboard the Pacifica had tasted like for comparison.

Tia smiled and accepted the food. The smell was something to behold, she hadn't seen a working replicator for years. There was one back at her base but it had stopped working years ago and they scrounged whatever they could from the surface or on runs to other sectors. Tia saw the look in Cleo's eyes, the hunger and fear over the food she was so openly giving. "Here, take a piece. I don't eat much any way." she said breaking a piece off and offering it. The leader in her was always present and she would lead even now.

'Feed the troops' and all that.

"Honestly, I do not mind. What I have here is enough to hopefully get us to where we are going?" she asked looking at Sargon.

"Half a day's journey,, and I cannot guarantee the provisions there" Wraet replied with an unusual (for him) level of frankness, but by this point he could write several dissertations on the psychology of those subjected to extended deprivation. The anxiety that went with it needed to be managed carefully, but it could also result in surprising altruism, as well as some odd blind spots. "However, as you have noted this is a Romulan ship. The replicator works and under normal use should continue to do so without issue for the next 11.24 years. You may take that as an invitation to, as humans say, 'help yourselves'."

Cleo didn't quite snatch up the little morsel of food as soon as it was offered, but she certainly showed no hesitation. If someone offered food with no obvious strings attached, best take it before they changed their mind. She sat back and immediately took a bite. Another lesson she'd learned? Food that was already in her belly was food that couldn't be snatched away.

"I'd start with some new clothes." Cleo deadpanned between bites of her food, noting Tia's bloodied, torn and singed attire. She might have learned a lot in the way of medicine from the hologram, but table manners and subtlety? Not so much.


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