Of the pair of automatic doors at the clinic entrance, one opened part way and the other twitched, stuck in it’s slide. Zephyr let out a sigh, shoulders sagging. “I swear, we need that funding soon.”
“Not a matter of funding on this one, Chief Warrant Officer. More a matter of resetting the panel.” Fane waved at the sensor. The doors closed up tight at the action. He and Zephyr charge shared a glance before they pressed the emergency open latch and manually jimmied the glass impedence out of the way. “I take that back. The whole building can be replaced.”
The gloomy lobby of the on site hospital did nothing to save that opinion. Ceiling tiles sat stacked up in a corner under a torn up tarp. Cabling hung down between the backet system, vines in an urban jungle. The waiting seats were stuffed into a small, dusty corner, and all were full. The noise, the dry powder of drywall, the ticking lightbulbs that set the receptionist in disbursed illumination and shadow. It all made the knot in Fane’s stomach tighter.
“Go sit. I’ll get you checked in.” Zephyr pointed Fane to a deep window sill, one wide enough to lean into.
“Chief Warrant Officer, really, I can do it myself. I’m not a kid.” Fane walked to the receptionist. Zephyr refused to leave his side. “Chief?”
“I’ve watched over you for eight, nine years now, kid. I’m the one there to make sure you wake up after each surgery. Of course I’m concerned if something’s happening.” Zephyr signed a visitor’s log while Fane wrote down his name and time. The receptionist snapped a white plastic bracelet on Fane and a red on Zephyr.
“Not a kid, Chief. I’m already in my thirties.” Fane set the pen down, nodded to the receptionist, and went to lean against the window sill, well away from the conglomeration of other patients waiting to be seen. He leaned against the wall, the cold plaster pulling heat from his burning skin. Maybe I’ll get an all-clear and be able to still get the test done today.
“Still a kid to me at that rate. Especially if you can’t see yourself to the infirmary for a fever and instead get it in your steel plated skull to show up for a physical assessment test. If you aren’t a child, you’re an idiot. Then again. How’s that old saying go? Idiots never fall to sickness? That can’t be quite it. Anyways. You’ll be all right.” Zephyr yawned.
“You wanted to get out of watching us run around a track ten times, didn’t you?” Fane brushed off moisture built up on his forehead. “The plaster’s wicking. Gross.”
“What? No. Never.” Zephyr’s tone turned sarcastic.
“You’re ditching,” Fane pressed.
“And you’re catching my emotions. You don’t do that unless you’re trying to deflect your own issues. You’re stressed out more than that fever. What are you worried about?” Zephyr studied his soldier.
“They’re gonna test me, and I’m gonna be discharged twenty times over,” Fane studied the empty drop ceiling brackets. “You know something, Zephyr? I think I’d be okay with that. Don’t know what I’d do for work. Maybe join a troller off the cost and gut fish for a while.”
Zephyr quirked an eyebrow at him. Fane’s pupils dilated at irregular intervals, and his face kept going from a ghostly pallid complexion to red splotches. “You’re not acting right, Fane. What all did you take last night?”
Fane thought for a moment before responding with a shrug, “a lot.”
Zephyr stopped leaning against the window sill to lean over Fane, acutely observing the man’s face. “Like what ‘a lot’?”
Fane raised his hand and started counting on his fingers. “Started with that Tuaca double shot toast everyone had and that nasty blunt you told me to try. Somewhere in that high, I know there was a quarter bottle of cheap Vodka shared with Berlitz and Gunner over a badly run game of Rummy. Bloody hell, why Rummy? Probably four shots of tequila. I think you were there for at least two of those and a round of darts. I want to say there were a couple glasses of box Merlot, but that was back at Mar-Mel-Mir…jeez, I don’t even remember her name now. You bloody know I hate blank spots. That was before we got back to her room. After a glass of some sweet lemon stuff, I can’t hope to pronounce, everything kind of gets fuzzy around the edges.” He rubbed at the back of his head to relieve the tension shooting ice shards through his left eye.
Zephyr stared at him in disbelief. “That’s enough alcohol there to wipe me out, I know that.”
Fane snorted. It sure had wiped him out.
“Were you willfully trying to kill your liver? ’cause it sure sounds like you might have.” Zephyr stuffed his hands into his pockets in an effort not to shake the man.
Fane shrugged. “I figured when you’re told to find happiness, it’s faster to start at rock bottom and not expect too much.”
Exasperated, Zephyr failed at stifling his annoyance, grabbed Fane about the shoulders, and shook him. “I told you to go have some fun and find out who you are. Jeez, I hope you never have to give children advice.” He let go before Fane could puke on him.
A nurse appeared at their side. “Anson, we have a room available for you now.” She motioned them through an automatic door, this one worked. They followed her through a winding corridor into a tiny room.
“Thank you.” Fane ducked politely.
She placed a heart monitor gauge on his finger before leaving. He hopped up on the exam gurney and folded his hands in his lap to wait. Finding a lack of chairs, Zephyr leaned against the worn cabinet that housed a counter and sink. Aged posters of anatomy cross-sections littered the two doors. A stained plaster model of a human hand perched precariously on the edge of the broken Formica. Zephyr poked at the hand to watch it rock back on its pedestal.
A knock at the opposing door announced the stocky doctor, greying at the temples, with his laptop and notepad. He set his materials on the counter and opened up the laptop. “Morning, Anson.” He shook Fane’s hand. “Morning, Abbadelli.” He shook Zephyr’s hand and returned to his computer to sign in.
“Morning, Doctor,” they both replied, waiting for him to work through login and get into the hospital’s medical application terminal.
“Well, Anson, it looks like your heart rate is a bit faster than we’d like to see. It’s also showing some irregularities. Have you been checked for a murmur recently?” The doctor poured over the notes on his screen before taking down a blood pressure cuff. He took the oxy-monitor off of Fane’s finger and applied the cuff.
“The nurse did that already, sir.” Fane pointed at the cuff and bore with the increasing preassure.“No murmur that I know of. It never came up in any of my other medical exams, sir, but Doc Safid might have something from the surgeries.”
“We should probably get a few labs running then.” The doctor took the cuff off and jotted a note down on the clipboard.
“You’re not gonna like what you find, sir.” . Fane pulled his shirt sleeve back down.
The man looked up at him sharply. “Do you suspect you have something?”
“I suspect I’m going to royally fail your drug test.” Fane tucked his fingers away into his fists, their needless desire to pick at the edge of his running shorts irritating him.
“Ah. That might explain your fever. Yeah, we’ll have a nurse come and collect a sample from you before we waste your time on a bunch of other tests.” The doc pressed a call button near the door he had come through. “What did you take recently, if you don’t mind me asking?” He raised his pencil to the paper.
Fane sighed and stared up at the ceiling, thinking. A slight twitch ran across his face. “A liquor store of alcohol, and a couple hits of haze-kush strain. I know that one definitively ’cause Abbadelli went on and on about that.” Fane shot a glare at his commanding officer. The doc raised an eyebrow at Zephyr, who shrugged and nodded. “After that…let me think. Red room lady gave me a glass of a sweet lemon-flavoured liquid, and it all went hella fuzzy about that point, so not sure if it was doped or what.”
The doc nodded, madly typing away at his laptop. “Do you know what you might have had access to during your blackout?”
“Honestly, I have no idea, sir. I wouldn’t be surprised if I tried all the things. I don’t have vein blow out, so I doubt I took anything with a needle.” Fane lifted his arms to show the doc. The man in the lab coat looked over his scarred skin carefully.
“How’s your breathing?” He put a stethoscope to Fane’s back.
Fane accommodated the breathing test at the doctor’s direction. “As I said, there was the cannabis. My lungs don’t sting or hurt when I breathe in deep, and I was fine pacing my warm-up run; so, not sure if I inhaled anything else.
“All the scars hurt the same way that they normally do, so I want to say I didn’t get near any opioids, though, the long one on my left oblique hurts worse than usual. It’s radiating all the way into my thigh and up over my shoulder. It doesn’t get worse when I exercise or enter into a different position. It’s just there.” Fane touched the errant scar under his shirt.
“Here, lay back and let me see.” The doc motioned. Fane laid down and let the man palpate him. Nothing hurt in a defined manner that revealed a bruised or injured organ. The older man helped him sit back up and continued going through a list of possible suspects.
“I spent the night in a red room, so I could probably do with a checker, make sure I didn’t pick up any nasty infections on top of my horrible idea of a party night. I can’t even say for sure if I used any protection with the woman. Wallet’s empty, so I want to say I did.” Fane slumped forward, his thumbs twisting against each other. The farther away from the field he was, the better he was beginning to feel. Maybe it was something random and not what he had taken last night. He could hope.
The doctor sighed under his breath. “All right, we’ll get a checker pulled on you too. At least for your worry, alcohol isn’t illegal. You’re not supposed to show up to work drunk. Weed isn’t illegal, so that won’t get you dismissed, again, as long as you don’t show up smashed.
“Thank you for being honest with me. It does make it so that I can make more informed decisions and better guesses at what is going on with you,” the doctor told him. “You know, I get these guys through here with all of the classic OD symptoms, and they’ll straight up lie through a charcoaling that they never touched the stuff that is coming out of their stomachs.” The doctor rose to leave as the nurse came in.
“Do whatever you feel necessary. I’ll take it,” Fane mumbled apologetically.
“You don’t present with any symptoms of having consumed a life-threatening dose of anything like carbamazepine or phenobarbital, so I’ll avoid shoving activated charcoal down your throat for the moment. Right now, other than a low fever and that scar hurting, you aren’t giving me any real symptoms for having taken anything. You might have a torn adhesion, a pulled muscle, maybe a dislocated rib, or you might have hit your head, and your cerebral cortex is futzing. We’ll get you figured out and back on the field as soon as we can figure it out.” The doc smiled encouragingly as he left the room.
The nurse handed Fane a small plastic cup and deposited a tray of tubes and phlebotomy materials on the counter. “I’ll have you leave a sample in that. There’s a bathroom through that door.” She pointed to what Fane had initially thought was a storage closet. “When you’re done, ring that bell. I’ll come back and get the blood samples.” She left with barely a second glance at the men. Fane held the plastic cup, blue twist lid glistening under the halogen lights.
“Uh, I’ll …” Zephyr pointed to the other door and eased himself out.
The nurse, miraculously, was rather good at what she did. He sure as hell did not feel like having veins in both of his arms blown out.
Zephyr hadn’t come back. Fane suspected he had returned to the training field. He was supposed to be overseeing the testing today anyway.
Fane sat and watched the clock tick by. He suspected that he should have been dismissed after the testing samples. They’ll get back to me about what was going on, right? Half an hour later, he was getting antsy. It’s not like the hospital has a plethora of tiny waiting rooms. He had been told that they were busy today. Well, if I’ve been forgotten, he thought to himself as he laid down on the gurney. A couple minutes of shut-eye wouldn’t kill him.
Chapel Orahamm (C) 2022-2023. All Rights Reserved.
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