Episode One- The Fifth- Chapter Four

Chapter Four

The medical wing of Atlantis is unusually calm.  It would have been buzzing compared to a regular hospital, maybe hyperactive for a military one, but for Atlantis it was calm.  Nurses were going this way and that, either fetching medical supplies like thermometers or syringes or running files.  Other doctors were tending to other patients or doing final checks on some equipment necessary for the furtherance of whatever medical studies they were working on.  The usual fervor that accompanied an urgent medical unit to the gateroom had died down now becoming as it always was with an SGC installation, second-nature.  There hadn’t been any serious injuries with Sergeant Stackhouse’s team.  There was a medical bed required, but that was temporary until the swelling in one of Stackhouse’s marine’s ankles went down.  Two hours tops.  As for the others, one did get clipped by a Wraith stun blast but only in the pinky.  The man’s hand twitched at odd times, but it was nothing more than the nerve-endings trying to fight off the stun effects.  When he had first gotten to the medical wing, his arm up to his elbow had been numb and barely usable, limp as a rag doll’s, but now it was just his pinky that was suffering.  He had been excused ten minutes ago.

Doctor Jennifer Keller sat on the stool at her desk with the computer on it running it’s screensaver of a shiny silver rotating, moving Atlantis Expedition emblem.  She checks her watch then scribbled some more on her medical report on Stackhouse’s team as the Sergeant himself stood behind her waiting for it.  From the corner of her eye she could see Stackhouse bend over and examine a large beaker full of pink, clear liquid capped with a piece of thin, red rubber stretched over it and sealed with a yellow rubber band.  Jennifer smiled to herself.  It wasn’t exactly a high-tech way of keeping sterilization liquids where they were supposed to be and free of debris that might fall into it from some attack on the city or other disturbance causing the usual ensuing mayhem and destruction and ruining the solution.  Finally Jennifer reached the bottom of her report and signed.  She put down her pen, straightened the papers then put them in their folder, and closed the file.  She spun the stool around, Stackhouse came to attention, and she extended the file to him.

“Here you go.  That Lieutenant should have feeling and control back in his pinky by now and I’ll release Sergeant Mathur to light duty in a couple of hours when his swelling goes down.”

“Perfect,” Stackhouse nods as he steps forward and takes the file from her, “I’ll stick him with report duties.  That should keep him off his feet for a while.”

Jennifer smiles.  It was notorious how much every soldier, whether high-ranking or not, tried desperately to shove the report writing and reading off on anyone they could and an injured teammate was as good a victim as anybody, but the tactic very rarely worked.  Richard Woolsey was a stickler for reports coming from who he ordered them from.  Everyone thought it was bad enough they actually had to write them on the computers and input them into Atlantis’ SGC database before but when Woolsey came, he insisted on everyone filing the originals as honest-to-God pen and paper reports and the copies as computer files.  It made Woolsey feel better and Jennifer could tell anyone about how the military personnel felt about making Richard Woolsey feel better.  She simply nods at him.

He shook the file at her with a grateful smile, “Thank you Doc,” then turned on his heels, the military members always turned on their heels, it was the training, and left.

Jennifer sat up.  As Stackhouse left, the new arrival, Lieutenant Ursula Kenmore, passes by him and walks in.

Jennifer had been both looking forward to this and fearing it all at the same time.  When she read the list she got of the new arrivals due to her for their physicals, both her mind and her heart skipped at the sight of the infamous rank and name:  Lieutenant Kenmore.  She immediately scrambled to the page listed that gave a quick rundown of that crewman’s medical file.  And she read the name “Kenmore, Lieutenant Ursula” with a huge sigh of relief.  Ever since then, she’d been waiting to meet the woman and now here she was wearing a black t-shirt and a pair of green, SGC BDU pants.  Whatever Jennifer had been expecting by means of physicality, what was heading towards her was not it.  The Lieutenant was a plus-sized, full figure, not what she’s use to seeing from the military.  She had tan skin, in keeping with her ethnicity.  Her hair was long and a rich espresso brown that Jennifer envied because when the natural light hit it, highlights of bright coppery auburn, brilliant gold, shining silver, and deep bronze suddenly showed up and it had a natural curl that given enough length turned into waves that reminded her of an ocean’s rolling waves.  How fitting she should be assigned to Atlantis then.  Her eyes were a richer, more fascinatingly golden mahogany brown than anything Jennifer had ever seen before.  And the woman had a kind of swagger that, if she hadn’t noticed the slightly stiffer subtleties of it, Jennifer would have mistaken for Colonel Sheppard’s regular, on-duty/off-duty saunter.  No this woman was not at all what Keller had been expecting.  Lieutenant Kenmore stopped in front of her.

“I was told you needed to see me.”

It was hard for Jennifer to keep her smile up.  She could feel it straining.  She hadn’t expected the Lieutenant to sound so…mean.

“Yes, it’s required that all SGC personnel get a physical before they go on a mission.”

“I’m not going on one.”

Wait, what?  Jennifer’s brows drew together in confusion.  She turned and searched all the other files and papers on her desk until she found the one she had been looking for, read it, and then spun back around to face Kenmore with it still open and a page lifted up in her hands.

“I have an order here from Mister Woolsey that says you do.”

“I don’t take orders from Richard Woolsey.”

Jennifer’s head shot up.  Well that was new.  She never heard anyone in uniform shoot down Richard Woolsey like that before even if he wasn’t around.  Usually the soldiers obeyed the orders of the base commander whoever that was, civilian or military.  They took orders from Doctor Weir.  They took orders from Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter.  They take them from Richard Woolsey, perhaps a little irritated, but they still took them.  And why not Woolsey—other than the obvious reasons?

“But he’s the Base Commander.”

“He’s not my Commander.”

Keller paused.  Okay, so that was that.  Keller sucked in her lips a little and looked away.  New tactic.

“Well, whether or not you’re going on a mission here.  I still have to examine you for any infections you might have brought through the gate with you.”

The Lieutenant considers it for a moment then walks over to the nearest examination table and hops up on it.  She gets comfortable then looks at Keller.  Jennifer’s strained smile returns.  This was going to be a tough one.  Jennifer had become used to patients, military or scientific, fighting her on the physical with excuses ranging from absolute confidence in their country’s military’s standard training regiments to fear of needles to, and this one was her personal favorite, fear of exercise equipment.  Rodney had tried that one on her the first time they ever met.  Before Jennifer could call him on it, warning sirens went off, alerts went out, she freaked out because it was her first day on the job in Atlantis and already bad things were coming to get them, Rodney raced off, and Jennifer didn’t get him to take his physical until six weeks later.  And even then she had had to rely on the then Base Commander, Doctor Elizabeth Weir, to personally bully Rodney into letting Jennifer take it:  Elizabeth had sent Ronon with Rodney.  She had even given the great big, intimidating Satedan orders to either physically hold Rodney down while Jennifer took his blood or stun Rodney into unconsciousness in order for Jennifer to take his blood.  Either way, Atlantis’ new Chief of Medicine was getting some of his blood.  Weir had even gone so far as to say that if Rodney was going easy on the treadmill that Ronon could take potshots at the scientist’s feet to force him to run at his best.  The memory touched Jennifer’s heart.  It was both the first time she had ever meet Ronon Dex and it was also the first time she learned that to work in Atlantis meant that who had to be a strong person and not the mouse she frankly had been at the beginning of her tenure here…But she had never before gotten the excuse of denying even being a part of Atlantis for refusing the standard pre-mission physical.

Jennifer picks up her clipboard, clips a brand new standard-issue physical form to it, and scoots a tray of equipment over to Kenmore.  Jennifer slips on a pair of latex gloves.

“Okay, let’s get started here.”

Kenmore looks down at the contents of the tray, “I will not require any blood tests.  I won’t be here long enough for the effects of any blood intoxicant to be carried on to anyone else.”

Jennifer stares at her.  Well at least she knew something about medicine more than the standard-issue military triage procedures.  But still…

“It’s standard procedure.”

“If you require my blood tests, I took my physical back at the SGC before I came here.  You can coordinate your efforts with them.”

“With all due respect, two week old blood tests—“

“It was two hours ago.”

Jennifer started.  Kenmore had a growl on her that almost reminded the physician of Ronon.  Okay, so…Jennifer decided that she would switch her tactics yet again and act as if she were trying to get Ronon to take his physical.

“That may be but we don’t exactly have those records here,” Kenmore opens her mouth but Keller doesn’t give her the chance to interrupt, “I know I could have a message sent back to Earth for your records but the energy drain on the ZPM would be too much just dialing back to Earth willy-nilly,” Kenmore opens her mouth again but Keller stops her again, “I know that your blood work is not willy-nilly but here in Atlantis, dialing back to Earth just for some test results is not considered worth the energy expenditure.  That is why we have our own blood and DNA database.  In case something goes wrong, we need that information here with us not in another galaxy.”

Keller finishes and Kenmore allows her to catch her breath for a moment then, “Do you anticipate something going wrong in the course of the next few hours I will be here?”

“You’re the soldier in the SGC, you tell me.”  One thousand one.

Kenmore extends her arm, palm up.  Keller nods.

“Thank you.”

Jennifer reaches over to the tray, takes up a strip of thin, bright neon pink rubber, and ties the band around Kenmore’s bicep then she grabs a little square package from the tray, tears it open, and starts rubbing the antiseptic pad over the inside of Kenmore’s elbow.  Then Jennifer picks up a needle with a yellow cap at one end, “This will sting,” Kenmore nods, Jennifer nods back then pushes the sharp end of the needle into the little bump of vein that has popped up in the middle of the wiped area.  Keeping one hand holding the needle in place, Jennifer removes the band from Kenmore’s upper arm, releasing her nice blood flow again, then reaches over to the tray and picks up a clear vial with a pale blue stopper at the top of it and pops the stopper into the needle’s yellow cap.  Almost instantly dark red blood spurts out of the blue stopper and into the bottom of the vial.  For a moment it looks to Keller like poured wine hitting the bottom of a glass.  The blood follows the curl of the bottom of the vial and splashes over onto itself like the curl of an ocean breaker just waiting for a surfer to ride inside its crest.  But it only lasts for maybe a second at most before the blood, continuing to spurt from the penetrated cap, begins to fill the vial and overtakes the breaker movement.  Three seconds later the vial is filled, Keller pops it out, lays it on the tray, picks up a duplicate vial, and pops the new vial into the yellow cap.  Again, the deep red blood just flash floods into the little glass vial.  It was an ironic thing to think, but at least she was a good and fast bleeder.

“So…how do you like Atlantis so far?”

“I’m not staying here.”

Well that was flat.  Keller wants to roll her eyes at the quickly filling, little glass vial.  This woman was perhaps a bit more rude than Ronon.  Well that wasn’t entirely true.  Ronon wasn’t rude so much as tactless, occasionally flirtatious when he liked someone, but blunt, always blunt.  He says what he thinks when he feels he has to and says it with brutal honesty.  There’s no mean intention behind it.  This Lieutenant Kenmore though…Keller didn’t get the feeling of mean intent like “I’m trying to hurt your feelings,” she got more of the mean intent as in “Stay away from me.”  Ronon had that sort of a feel to his whole manner and way of talking but it wasn’t the dominant feel.  And the same thing could be said of Rodney, he said things without thinking how they came across because they needed to be said.  Jennifer felt a smile tug at her lips, but fought it off.  It was one of the things she loved about him, had fallen in love with him for:  telling her what she needed to know despite how it came across.  Although they had been working on putting those things not necessarily sugary but more gently than he had been.  Humility, or at least that’s how she had put it to him.

“You don’t have to stay here to have an opinion on it,” Keller said.

“I don’t see why you would care.”

Ouch.  There was something more to that line.  Was it…suspicion?  Why would anyone be suspicious of Jennifer?  When the second vial is filled, Jennifer pops in a third one and watches it begin to fill.

“I don’t.  It’s just small talk,” Keller tries to smooth over, she glances up at Kenmore’s face, and sees the Lieutenant glaring at her.  Her eyes go back to the vial.

Jennifer decides not to push the matter.  After all, if you pushed anything with Ronon about his feelings or the ones he was letting leak through and didn’t know it, he had a great tendency to become even more hostile and irate and besides, Kenmore is right, why should Keller care what somebody else thought of Atlantis…but it was just nice to hear someone who didn’t live in the place, who hadn’t lived in the place, to say that they could at least see why it was worth fighting for.  Perhaps something about the beautiful architecture, the Ancients sure liked angles.  It wasn’t to Jennifer’s preference, but it was pretty.  Someone could at least admit that.  Keller pops out the third and final vial and lays it on the tray beside the other two, then picks up a cotton ball.

“I don’t need that,” Kenmore speaks up.

Jennifer stops and looks at her, “Yes you do.”

“No I don’t.  I’m a fast healer.”

No, you’re a fast bleeder.  Now this was what Keller was used to encountering, childish bickering back and forth of ‘Yes you do, No I don’t.’  ‘Fast healer’ or not, the Lieutenant was getting the cotton ball and everything else that went with it.  It’s called a bandage.

“It’s protocol,” Jennifer says.

“I don’t care about your protocols.  I don’t need it.”

“You can take it off as soon as you leave here.  I just can’t let you leave here without it on.  It’s protocol.”  And according to any and every military installation’s protocols, the Doctor’s word is law.

Before Kenmore can object any further, Keller puts the cotton over the needle’s tip still underneath the Lieutenant’s skin and slides the needle out.  Jennifer puts the needle back on the tray and, for putting up the fuss, picks up a strap of bright, neon pink woven rubber and uses it to strap down the cotton ball to the inside of Kenmore’s arm.  Then checks through the Lieutenant’s file again.

“Well, you were right about one thing.  I was forwarded the tests results of your physical back at the SGC.  I must admit the running results were pretty impressive.  You can keep up a good pace, almost as good as Colonel Sheppard.”

“I know,” Kenmore’s expression didn’t change.

Keller shoots her a quick look again, the doctor highly doubts that Kenmore knew the Colonel’s physical capabilities, but she continues on, “I need to take your temperature.”

Kenmore doesn’t move.  Keller just goes with the flow, again the same way she would if this was Ronon.  She picks up the needle and walks it over to the hazardous material disposal, drops it in, takes off her gloves, drops them in, and puts on a new pair of gloves before returning to Kenmore.  Well at least she had the courtesy to not run for it when Keller’s back was turned, unlike some people…Rodney…and frankly Carson.  Jennifer picks the thermometer up off the tray, Kenmore dutifully opens her mouth revealing her already lifted tongue, well that’s good, and Keller puts the thermometer in.  Kenmore closes her mouth and Keller watches the hands tick away on her watch.  It’s silent.  Jennifer never really liked silence in a medical ward.  It made her anxious like everyone’s just watching and waiting for her to screw up and not live up to the job or worse, that everyone’s just watching and waiting for the next round of casualties to come through the gate.  It also spooked the hell out of her.  It got to her more than the sound of a heart monitor flat-lining.  The silence usually meant that the heart monitor had finally been turned off.  Jennifer fought the urge to shudder.

Forty-five seconds.  Jennifer thought about just running her mouth.  Start babbling like there’s no tomorrow because she rarely had time like this in the medical ward.  Thirty-five seconds.  Would that really be so bad if she just started yabbering?  Thirty seconds.  No.  And it isn’t like there’s anything Lieutenant Kenmore can do about it either.

“The mess hall is pretty good.  The food not so much, but the hall itself is pretty nice.  It has a waterfall,” Kenmore’s eyes narrow but Keller just keeps on truckin’, “You should really try taking a nice walk of the perimeter of the city.  The piers get the most wonderful breezes and it’s really nice to just stand there and listen to the ocean splash up against the city.  It’s like being on the ocean,” she had of course been thinking of the ocean back on Earth but, “Of course, we’re on an ocean,” Jennifer chuckles to herself.

If Kenmore’s eyes narrowed any further, she wouldn’t be able to see.  Jennifer quickly checks her watch again.  Time.  With a smile worthy of any recovery, Jennifer reaches up for the thermometer and Kenmore let’s her have the instrument.  Keller checks it.

“Well your temperature is normal.”

Kenmore doesn’t respond.

Why should Jennifer keep this going, “All I needed was your blood to check for toxins and the database.  You’re free to go.”

Kenmore nods, “I’ll send my son to you later then.”

Keller starts, “Your son?”

There was nothing in her files about a son.  Who would bring their child here?  Without a second word, Kenmore hops off the examination table and walks off.  She passes by Rodney just coming in on her way out.  He turns and starts to walk backwards as he watches Kenmore.  As she nears the door to the medical wing, she reaches up and yanks the pink rubber fabric off, cotton ball and all, and throws it in the garbage just before she walks out the door and out of sight.  Rodney turns back around and walks up to Jennifer putting labels on the filled vials.

“Hey,” Rodney greeted, “what’s that?”

“Lieutenant Ursula Kenmore’s blood.”

Rodney stares down at the vials.

“You needed that much.”

Jennifer’s shoots him a wry smile, “It’s the same amount I take from all of you when you get your physicals.”

“I know.  You really need that much?”

“I run your blood through every possible test I can imagine to ensure that none of you are who you say you aren’t.  I was here for a whole four days when I figured out that’s why the SGC’s policy was that way,” Jennifer flags over a passing nurse and hands her three of the vials, “Standard physical,” the nurse nods then Jennifer holds the fourth vial up, “This is for the blood and DNA database,” the nurse nods again, takes the fourth vial, and walks away.

Jennifer turns and sits back against the edge of her desk and sighs.  Rodney leans over and kisses her shoulder, trying to perk her up.  She smiles.

“I don’t have much time.  I’ve got fifteen more of those to do.  Wait, sixteen, Lieutenant Kenmore’s son,” Jennifer looks up at him, “Who would bring their son here?”

“Yeah, we’re still trying to figure that one out.  Say if you need some help, when you get the findings back on the blood, I can help you input them into the system.”

Keller smiles at him.  Impressed.  Rodney didn’t usually volunteer for paperwork-like things.  No one did.

“Don’t you have others that do that for you?”

“Yeah, well…,” Rodney played coy.

“You would do that for me,” she asks already knowing the answer.

“Sure.  Why not,” McKay turns on the charm for his girlfriend, “Like you said you don’t have a lot of free time today.  So it’d give us a chance to spend at least some of that time together.”

Keller’s grin broadens, “You know I could time it so that I’m doing some extra file work at that time too…Just to make the time last a little longer.”

McKay grins, “I was hoping you’d say that.”

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