A few days later, I was surprised to receive a summons to the infirmary to meet with Hermiod. What could the Asgard possibly want with me? I didn't know anything about engineering, and he presumably didn't know much about surgery. Then I overheard voices in the hall outside the infirmary.
"Oh, Carson. Hermiod's just beginning initial calculations on the extraction." Rodney sounded rather smug about it. Go figure.
"The calculations are impossibly intricate," the physicist was now saying. "You don't want to go beaming out a chunk of his brain!" Oh. Now I was beginning to understand what Hermiod wanted, but didn't know why he wanted me. Brain surgery isn't my specialty.
"Lovely, Rodney!" I didn't have to see Carson to know that he was either glaring or trying not to laugh. But before he could say anything else...
"Ah, there you are," said a quiet voice at my feet. Hermiod was carrying a device that looked like a cross between a portable television and a toaster. He didn't beat around the bush. "This is for containment. We have to remove the symbiote intact, otherwise the Colonel's body will react negatively."
It would kill him, I translated silently.
"Of course, if we overestimate the amount of biological material that needs to be removed, we will inadvertently extract cerebral matter."
In other words, we'd beam out a chunk of his brain. This was sounding more fun than repeating internship! I looked down at the little guy. "You want someone to help you decide exactly what to 'beam out.'"
"And help keep the patient alive, yes. Crudely put, but effective."
"Why me?" I could be blunt, too. "I'm not an expert on the human brain."
He was unimpressed with the excuse. "You are a surgeon, are you not? And you are one of several humans who does not have suboptimal intelligence."
"Um, thanks... I think." Definitely an Asgard version of McKay!
"What precautions to we need to take to ensure that Colonel Caldwell survives the procedure?" Hermiod asked.
Well, we'd need to make sure that Caldwell remained absolutely still. Any movement, no matter how small, could result in the beam removing brain tissue instead of the symbiote. This would require both deep anesthesia and chemical paralysis. I also wasn't thrilled about the effect the taser bursts might have had on his heart. I explained what I was thinking, and added, "I'd also like to consult with Dr. Beckett on this."
"Consult with me on what, lad?" The gathering in the hall had broken up, and Carson had come back into the infirmary without Rodney or Laura. For some reason, though, the CMO was looking very amused. I'd have to ask him later.
"How to keep Caldwell alive while the symbiote is removed." He nodded as I filled him in on what Hermiod and I had been discussing.
"That sounds spot-on to me. We can get some non-invasive tests of cardiac function, such as an echocardiogram, but otherwise I think we just need to get rid of the damn bugger as fast as we can."
Now that sounded spot-on to me.
The whole thing took about twelve hours, from the time Hermiod began programming the transporter to the time Colonel Caldwell awoke from the anesthesia. He wasn't conscious for long before falling into a more natural sleep, but it was enough. A repeat MRI showed that he was now parasite-free.
There was much discussion about what to do with the isolated symbiote, which Ronon cut short by vaporizing it with his oversized gun. Everyone was upset after that: the biologists had wanted to study it, Dr. Weir had wanted to bargain for intelligence, and the Daedalus crew had wanted to kill it themselves. It was amid all this sulking that Caldwell again awoke. He looked confused at first, then grimaced as he remembered what had happened.
I was busying myself with checking monitors and drips when I heard his voice croak my name. "Yes, Colonel?" I asked. "Do you need anything?"
"No. How did you get that thing out of my head?"
I eyed him, wondering how much to say. Then I shrugged. "It was Hermiod. He figured out how to use the Daedalus' transporters to 'beam' the symbiote out. Then Ronon played Dirty Harry with it."
The corners of Caldwell's mouth twitched a little. But he brought himself back to the subject at hand and said, "It couldn't have only been Hermiod. Someone must have helped him with knowledge of human anatomy. You?"
"Mostly," I replied. Then it was my turn to suppress a laugh. "Dr. Beckett was there, too, of course. And Dr. McKay... put in his two cents at times." That he did. Mostly to say that medicine was less than useless as a science and Carson and I were less than useless as scientists. After one particularly unfortunate comment about sheep dip, sheepskins, and John Sheppard, Carson convinced Rodney that his talents would be better used elsewhere... by threatening to plant his foot firmly upon the physicist's posterior.
Caldwell could obviously imagine the scene quite well. He snorted faintly and shook his head, then gasped as the movement caused a wave of pain. I winced. "A little too late, Colonel, but you might not want to move very much."
"I'll take that under advisement," he rasped. He looked like he was about to fall asleep again. "Anyway... thanks. Thanks for not writing me off." Startled, I looked at him closely. "Yeah, I know what you think of me. I remember our conversation during Sheppard's retrovirus infection."
Well, so much for my poker face. "Now you know how I felt," I said softly. Caldwell nodded but didn't say anything else. After a minute, I saw that he was indeed sleeping again. I headed toward my office, hoping that his change of attitude would last but not holding my breath.
I never reached the office. Instead, I turned a corner and was nearly bowled over by an angry Kate Heightmeyer. I put a hand on the wall to steady myself and managed to avoid falling on my ass, but poor Kate wasn't so lucky. She made an exasperated noise as I helped her back to her feet. "That man is infuriating!" she snapped. "How did he even manage to be included on the expedition team?"
Well, gee. I wonder who she was talking about. "Kavanaugh?" Only he could get the base psychologist that riled up. And wasn't she supposed to be able to stay calm with annoying people?
"Who else? He wouldn't talk to me at all except to say that his lawyer will be getting in touch with all of us."
"Charming," I said. "Good luck finding a lawyer with a high enough security clearance to take the case!" I really couldn't blame him, though. If I were Kavanaugh, and my boss had given a walking mountain permission to torture me, I'd be pissed, too.
"If he could only see that an attitude like this is what got him into trouble in the first place!"
Hmm. Kate was being unusually dense today. Probably because of the whole "ten minutes away from doom" thing. Or maybe because she's got a relative testosterone deficiency. Make all the jokes about the male ego that you want, but Kavanaugh had been totally humiliated. Of course he was going to respond like this.
Kate left, and I took a detour through the part of the infirmary where Kavanaugh was staying. His bed was partially curtained off, but he was still visible. His posture was slumped and he was resting his head in his hands. Now that nobody was watching him, he'd lost his bravado and just looked haunted.
It was a very pathetic sight.
After all the crap that had already happened, I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised at what I found waiting for me on my desk. It was a memo from the Pentagon. Seems like they'd read the reports filed by the senior staff, and were quite disturbed by the incident with Kavanaugh.
But not for the reasons you might imagine.
It turns out that they had data suggesting that physical force wasn't that effective in obtaining useful information. (I don't know where they got the data, and I really don't want to find out.) If we were ever in this situation again, they wanted us to try interrogation drugs. After all, how bad could it be if a doctor was monitoring the situation? It was horrifying on one hand, but after witnessing the defeated look on Kavanaugh's face I couldn't help but wonder if it was a better option.
Anyway, we can now add "questionable interrogation techniques" to the list of ethically questionable things we've done since arriving in Pegasus. Have we reached critical mass yet? I have a sinking feeling that there's worse to come. And the explosion, when it finally happens, won't leave any of us unscathed.