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Just Another Day in the Infirmary

Posted on Sun Aug 30th, 2020 @ 11:33am by Alden Loxley & Alison Bliss & Karen Dawson MD & James Thomson
Edited on on Sun Aug 30th, 2020 @ 1:00pm

Mission: The Milk Run
Location: Serenity Valley - Fortune's Echo Infirmary
Timeline: Day 12 Late Evening

Noah's body had been cleaned, dressed and wrapped. Placed reverently in a long box and sealed up in the cargo bay. That didn't in any way mean the engineer was forgotten, but there were others needing some of Karen's time before the doc could go get some of that well-deserved rest.

The cousins were both covered from head to toe in a mix of Valley earth and blood, underneath which were multiple bruises and a couple of non-terminal gunshot wounds. James had taken a shotgun to the upper legs and a blast to the left foot, Alden was rocking a rifle shot to his upper left arm, a bullet lodged somewhere in his torso and a black eye underneath a messy looking wound that marred the right side of his forehead. Just another day in the Verse.

Alden leant against the doorway of the Echo's infirmary and watched Karen take stock of James' injuries, a thousand yard stare in his eyes. "I should go take a shower," he said to the room in general, his gaze moving then to rest upon Alison's own. Alden didn't make any move to do so though, too worried about James to leave the room for the moment.

"Go." Alison was sitting outside, barefoot, with her pistol stripped down and was cleaning it, keeping an eye on the infirmary through the doors. Next to her feet was a glass of whiskey that she was sipping from time to time. She kept her face neutral, eyes focused, and clearly unwilling to give in to the sombre moment. "Better think how we can fix the Echo. I can fly it to the nearest port, but we need a mechanic. And a good one. And parts. Lots of parts as we lost a third of the engineering." She informed Alden.

"Not yet," Alden told her gently. His head was as muddy inside as it was on the outer surface, it felt as if his skull had its own heartbeat all of its own, but he wasn't leaving until he knew how bad his little cousin's injuries were. A clear thought formed though, as Alison pushed his thoughts in a second direction. The ship.

"Boneyards," said Alden. There were junkyards here on Hera, here in the Valley's vicinity itself, large plots of land bought after the war by enterprising folk with credits aplenty. Ship graveyards. His voice was flat as he continued. "Noah knew a guy. I've got the details. Just get us there. I'll handle it from there."

"If you have a bullet still inside, stay put," Karen ordered him some-what impatiently while she used tweezers to gently remove some of the shotgun pellets from James' groin region. "I don't care if you sit outside on the couches, but you are to stay within my sight."

She lost Noah on her watch. Gorram to hell if she was to lose someone else today.

Alden didn't argue, he was just too damn tired. He sat down on the sofa just across from the infirmary door and watched Alison strip the weapon. It was strangely soothing despite the drumming beat that loudly collided with the interior of his skull.

Alison's long and thing fingers were moving purposefully, of someone experienced at it. One by one the pistol turned into a set of meticulously placed parts. Alison looked at Alden, assessing his state, but seeing that for the moment he was all right, she reached for the glass and took a big swig of whiskey. Then picked a cloth and began carefully cleaning the first part. Only from time to time, her blue eyes darted at Alden.

"He won't- go- anywhere" James bit out as softly as he could manage, staring intently at Karen whilst she went about fixing him up. There was a time he'd be able to manage the pain a tad more successfully, but after months with the crew of the Fortune, the ex-enforcer felt himself getting soft.

"He'll- not leave- until he knows I'm okay" he assured hoping the doc wouldn't be working on his exposed flesh for much longer. It had always seemed so abstract hurting others, he had to admit it didn't feel as nice on the other foot.

James was plenty correct on that score, thought Alden quietly in amongst the noise of his own head. He wasn't going anywhere until the kid was deemed to be okay. Not even if his skull exploded right here and now. Which, might, in fact, be a welcome relief.

"You're lucky these were shotgun wounds," Karen confessed as she pulled out the fifth pellet ball from James' skin. "Range you were shot from, on any other type of ordinance, you'd of bled out."

A morbid fact, but one the Doctor felt was worth sharing, before she moved to James' foot. "That... and the wounds also heal better overall. Your foot seems to of taken only surface damage. Nothing in the bone."

Alison leaned a little to see better inside the infirmary.

"If he can get an erection, I think he will be fine. We don't want our James to be less manly than he is. A few extra scars though could give his boyish face a nice rugged look though." She said jesting as she put away the first cleaned part, picked the glass, and took another sip of the whiskey.

"Oh he can still get erections," Karen shared matter-of-factly. "...Why anyone with pellet wounds all around the groin would want an erection, is beyond me. Would be terribly painful."

"Why is my ability to maintain an erection matter right now?" James bit out incredulously, although there was no fire behind the words. He just wanted to rest, today felt like the longest day of his life, "Although I imagine there'll be plenty of lads and lasses who'd be eager to take care of me whilst I rest up" James added in an attempt to continue the banter, it was as good a distraction as any. Not that he cared if anyone wanted to take care of him, James was content with his own company and it always became complicated. James hated complicated.

"Calm down James. Calm down." Alison said amused and leaned back picking up another piece to clean up. "You heard the doc, don't get an erection just yet. It will be painful. Right now, you should try to rest, count the rams or something. But I am sure we can chip in for a whore when you get better, as the reward. You did save the captain, didn't you?"

Dimly in the back of something resembling his own mind, Alden was aware of a lot of references to erections. And James. He opened one eye, winced, and closed it again quickly. Kid didn't look like he was causing any trouble. If anything, it was the other way around.

It took a considerable amount of constraint to prevent the guilt that threatened to consume James, he had the pain to thank for that. Had he saved Alden? Or had he stumbled them both closer to an earlier grave by not being able to keep his trap shut. He meant everything he had said, soon as he was able he had a couple of blades with Zan's name on them. Had he have just gone after James it'd have been a different story, it would have just been work. But Alden was harmed, so the line had been crossed. He kept it to himself though, too tired to argue should anyone disagree.

"I made things worse..." James finally commented, "but it did feel nice getting a bit stabby with Zan's buddy" he admitted as he recalled the woman's face when she realized James wouldn't be the only person leaving the dig site with a limp.

"You did," muttered Alden, but he wasn't sure if anyone was listening to him right now. "Much gorram worse. Big time."

After she had irrigated and disinfected the wound, Karen dried it with sterile gauze, then placed some butterfly stitches across it. Last, she wrapped the foot in a light layer of gauze and started to place James' foot in medical boot to give it support.

"So..." Karen finally spoke. She took in every word and it did not take much to conclusions. "The Echo's attack wasn't some random pirates then. Those guys were here first. And James knew them. They had beef with James, so they tried to shoot Echo down to get to James?"

Stages of grief and all, Karen wanted to be angry with someone. Someone to blame all their troubles on the last day on. Someone other than her, for the guilt of her shopping trip, was starting to set in. Anger toward James was the best option now.

James almost did a double-take, really? he thought. "Had nothing to do with me. They wanted what we wanted and they came better prepared" James glared, "If any of my old friends had beef with me we wouldn't be having this here conversation" He added matter of factly, trying his best not to move; he wasn't angry enough for the pain to be worth it just yet.

"Had something to do with you," Alden said, his voice a little louder this time, carrying just a bit better. "You knew them," he grumbled. "One of them anyway. But..." he continued slowly and with effort. "He's right," he said to Karen and Alison. "If they'd wanted us dead, we'd be dead. This wasn't personal, least not to start with." He winced, resting his head in his hands so his next sentence was muffled. "It might be later though."

"You're free to go," Karen said as she waved off James, picked up a pack of bandages and walked outside to Alden, where she proceeded to unshirt him before she could clean his wounds.

Alison eyed Karen coming out of the infirmary and looked at Alden.

"Do you need help with getting him inside?" She asked briefly looking down at her fingers as she was finding nooks and crannies of the part she was holding to properly clean it.

"Looks like his bullet wound has managed to clot," Karen acknowledged to Alison, "So it's just a matter of wrapping his ribs, removing the bullet, and stitching the wound... Nothing I can't manage on a battlefield."

Alison nodded.

"Yeah, sure, I don't doubt that... but maybe not on the sofa?" She pointed out.

"Fair point," Karen nodded and gestured to James. "Alden, you switch spots with James and we'll patch you up quickly."

He hadn't protested the removal of the muddy shirt, but he waved them both out of his personal space as each woman in turn mentioned moving him. "M'fine right here," Alden muttered, looking up from under a filthy brow, eyes dull, face bloody. When it became clear they weren't going to let him stay where he was, he pushed himself upright and immediately sat back down.

"Head hurts," he complained. "M'gonna'stay'ere, k?"

"Nope. We get you to the bed," Karen pressed on and walked him over. "Were you kicked or punched in the head?"

"Siddown," Alden protested mildly, as he half co-operated with the Doc. If he and James hadn't been buried under all that Valley soil they'd dug up, Karen would have been able to see what was wrong. Since she couldn't, he aimed his right palm over his left eye and winced. "Ry-fulinface," Alden said. "Cup-platimes."

"Concussion," Karen nodded instantly. She wished she'd known that first-hand.

The doctor helped him lay on the exam table before she loaded an anti-inflammatory drug into her injector. Then pushed the drug into Alden's arm.

"That should help with the swelling," Karen spoke. It was, however, a guess. She did not know how badly the strike to his head was. "I need you to look toward Alison while I clean your head wound."

James hung behind the trio, his face awash with concern as he watched Karen go about her work making it look as easy as breathing. Seeing Alden vulnerable had him reconsidering Karen's harsh, but potentially true, accusation. It felt like his fault at the moment, if he'd have just shut up they'd have been fine. He said nothing, there was nothing he could say.

Alison paused briefly cleaning the pistol and watching things unfold. But since Karen seemed like doing very well on her own, she remained a passive observer.

"The human body is an enigma when it comes to healing itself," Karen spoke as she irrigated Alden's head wound, catching the water with a pink catch-tray. "Gunshot wounds, for instance, can be the life or death of a person."

She pointed to Alden's shoulder wound, and then the wound on his abdomen with the hand that held the saline irrigation utensil.

"Gunpowder heats the barrel of the bullet - or their casings - and sometimes, depending on where the bullet enters the body, begins to cauterize the pathway to which the bullet entered." As Karen began to close up the head wound with a needle and stitches, she explained in closing, "That is why he hasn't bled out... Retrieving the bullet, however, may be the tricky part."

She pointed to the mass of purple around the wound, indicating there might be a bit of internal bleeding or other damage.

Alden had done what he was told - looked towards Ali while the doc worked - but as the analgesic kicked in and the pain eased just a little he grizzled some, then swatted a wayward hand at Karen's as she started to stitch his skin. "Ow!" He complained. "Gerroff!" Then as his pretty, multi-coloured abdomen was shown off to the others, Alden sat up and brushed her away. "No." He said, certain of himself despite a dark grimace taking up residence on his features. "No digging about in me today. Not happening..."

"I can hear that you do like your job, Doc." Alison commented leaning back, and resting against the sofa since she was sitting on the floor next to it, taking a moment of break. She reached and picked up the glass, then downed the remaining whiskey from it before putting it down slightly louder than one normally would. It looked like they all were beaten, but, at least Alison didn't feel broken by the events. Though she felt it was close to that. "Karen, while you're at it, can you make our captain smarter?"

"Hey..." muttered Alden, moodily.

James let out a deep sigh as he pulled himself out of his wallowing and approached his cousin and the doc. He let out a dry chuckle at Alison's suggestion but made no comment, instead, he lightly rested his hand on his cousin's wrist. "Please, let the doc do her job" He didn't plead, James never pled. "Gotta get you back on your feet, there are coals for me to be drug across and I'm not sure Alison could drag me on her own" he added, his tone gentle and his expression was wracked with concern, completely betraying his attempt at humour.

"It might take another bonk to his gorram head to make Alden smarter," Karen agreed with Alison, but then with a forceful hand, guided Alden to lay down. "I promise you, Alden... you do something stupid and die because you won't let me treat you, and I'll come after you in spades. Now please, be still."

Alden didn't fight this concerned effort, his younger cousin's hand on his arm a comforting means of support in amongst the friendly verbal abuse from Ali and the Doc. He didn't argue, or protest beyond a roll of his eyes and a half-hearted cursing under his breath as the motion of his lying down sparked a whole new wave of pain signals.

"I'm plenty smart," Alden told them all. "And I ain't gonna die, so stop fussing at me. M'good." He winced, glared up at Ali and then grimaced and let his gaze lock with James' before he closed his eyes. This was gonna hurt. "Being still, Doc," he told Karen through gritted teeth, but he couldn't promise that the theme would continue when she started her work.

James squeezed the grip he had on Alden reassuringly, "If he doesn't me and Alison can make him" He smirked offering his cousin a pointed look, his eyes awash with relief upon hearing his cousin string a sentence together properly.

"If he doesn't want to listen to the doctor, leave him be James. He dies and I become Echo's captain, you can be my first mate." Alison said from over her place.

James' smirk widened, growing mischievous, "and you're not going to unleash that kind of chaos out into the 'Verse, right?" he joked, glad that the vibe was shifting back towards something more positive.

"The love and respect y'all have for me is Gao Guhn (awesome)," Alden muttered pointedly, but he did appreciate James' physical support despite the banter. "No plans on dying just yet, right, Doc?" He winced as he listened to Ali and James talk and kept his eyes closed. "We doing this?" Alden asked, just wanting it all to be over to he could pass out.

"Yup," Karen answered simply before she pulled the bullet in his shoulder out gently with a pair of tweezers. She dropped it in the catch tray before she grabbed the thread and needle to stitch the hole.

Alden breathed a sigh of relief, exhaling the breath he'd been holding while the doc had negotiated that particular removal. One day, he told himself, there'd be a job that didn't end up with him being stitched up. Literally, or figuratively.... He grimaced and made a seriously uncomfortable sound behind closed lips as the needle entered skin.

"... I'll drain the abdomen wound," Karen told Alden as she worked. "If the drain shows nothing but a really bad bruise, you can go. You start vomiting up blood or spike a high fever, and you come back here - then I open the wound up to find the leak."

He nodded, expression now seriously uncomfortable, but Alden didn't move. It hurt, everything from his heart to his body to his soul, and all he could think about as he lay there and listened to the doc work and the words speak of grim reality, was that the last person who had been on this table... was Noah.

"Kay, Doc," he said through clenched teeth as his gaze sought James' and his uninjured arm reached out to try and gain some emotional support from either his cousin or the sarcastic blond pilot.

James returned the unspoken request wordlessly, returning his hand to the space it had occupied when Karen had started her work. He offered him a sad smile, “We’ll keep an eye on him right Alison?” He finally said. Though he didn’t know how much of the keeping an eye on Alden James would be managed, it was gonna be a challenge enough getting up and down one set of ladders. He almost winced as he considered the struggle a second pair would introduce. He’d try though, Alden would do the same for him.

Alison just shrugged, focusing back on cleaning her weapon.

Karen did not speak much after that. She wanted to be dead inside. To escape all the guilt running through her mind. Her auto-pilot kicked in, in which she patched Alden up. Once she had sat him up long enough to wrap the upper part of his ribs, she did the final test.

Gently, she inserted a syringe into the stomach wound. When she pulled a healthy shade of red blood, Karen seemed satisfied.

"You can go. Bed rest, both of you," Karen spoke with a dismissive wave of the hand. However, there wasn't much persistent intensity in her voice. "Jacob stocked the kitchen with fresh produce. If you're hungry, I'm sure Alison or I can get you some food, before you lay down."

While she said this, her back was turned, fighting tears as she began to put away her tools and trash the biowaste.

He looked punchdrunk as he struggled to stand, and Alden leant heavily on James for a moment as he stablised himself to being upright. Pain signals chimed in along with the heavy mixed weight of guilt, exhaustion and responsibility, and he tried to manage that ugly trio with a grimace before evening out his support system (his cousin) to one side.

Once they had a familiar rhythm going, arms about each others's shoulders, body's jammed up against each other in a mutual balancing act, the two meandered out of the infirmary, faces bound in deep concentration.

"You 'k? Hungry?" Alden asked his little cousin. "Or shall I get ya to your bunk so you can rest up?" The words were slightly slurred, but no less filled with concern for their minor blurring into each other. "M'tired," he confessed. "Sad..." Alden added, as they faded out of earshot of the two women. "Really... just... sad..."

Alison waited for both Alden and James leave. Finishing her cleaning, she began to reassemble the pistol, which she ended with a securing the slide in place before she reloaded the clip. Standing up on her feet, she quietly approached and stood in the door to the infirmary.

"You ok Karen?" She asked quietly.

Still with her back turned, to hide her own turmoil, Karen shook her head to the question. "Given the events of the last four hours, I doubt any of us are fine."

Alison didn't answer immediately, looking at Karen's back.
"We aren't that fragile. This is not the first time and probably not the last time when something like that happened." She finally said with the same quiet tone. "We survive."

Karen feigned looking up medical records on her medical cortex on the countertop to maintain no eye contact as she gruffly shook her head, "Oh I know. Probably better than most, I know... This is not The War, though. There, innocent bystanders were killed wantonly. Noah? Greed for treasure, and ghosts of my past got him killed - and James' connections with the Underworld made him and Alden a target of revenge."

It was that moment in which Karen looked to Alison and shook her head in disgust, "Most of the crew may want to live in moral ambiguity in service to a large payday, but not me... So I think I'm well within my rights to be angry at the situation. I don't want, nor require your platitudes right now."

"And I am going to give you none." Alison replied softly holding the gaze, calmly and unflinching, standing there with hands behind her back. "I also take your words as anger talking. So get yourself a drink, clean your bunk, or infirmary... or whatever calms you down, Karen. Because we still need you."

With that, Alison stepped back and turned to leave.



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