Written for fun, Paramount/CBS owns the boys... you know the drill. Betaed by the lovely and talented LoyaulteMeLie. Reviews are much appreciated!
6 – Popsicles
Captain Archer was sitting in his quarters, bouncing his water polo ball off of the wall above his desk and not really paying attention to a Stanford vs. Yale game which was playing on his monitor. Two Alpha shifts had come and gone since Enterprise had first tried to contact Commander Tucker and Lieutenant Reed about the changed rendezvous. They were well into Beta shift of day two, and there was still no answer from the pod. On that first day, Jon had stayed on the Bridge after his shift ended and he was tempted to stay longer, but when he realized that Hoshi and Travis were going to follow his example, he handed the reins over to T'Pol and 'invited' both ensigns to join him in the turbolift. He smiled tightly at the thought. On the Bridge or off, as long as he was within reach of a comm panel he could get a situation report any time he liked. Senior staff and Bridge officers though they were, the ensigns weren't as fortunate. Of course, considering the efficiency of the ship's grapevine and how in tune with it Hoshi was, he was fairly certain that there would be less than an hour's lag time between T'Pol reporting any news to him and his Comm Officer hearing about it from someone.
Lieutenant Hess and her repair team had finished replacing but not installing the starboard door of Launch Bay Two that morning. Jon was sure that they had done a fine job, but until the situation with Shuttlepod One was resolved he was unwilling to drop out of warp in order to complete or inspect the repairs. He smiled to himself. That could easily wait until Trip and Malcolm were back, and he was sure that his Chief Engineer would be pleased with the work his second had done while she was in charge. His smile faded. Assuming, of course, that Trip was in any state to be pleased.
"T'Pol to the captain."
Jon paused the playback on his monitor with one hand while the other hand simultaneously thumbed the comm panel.
"Go ahead." Jon winced when his forgotten water polo ball bounced off of the wall and hit him in the side of his head. He grimaced slightly, rubbing at the area while he listened to his SIC.
"We're within scanning range of Shuttlepod One," T'Pol announced, and she seemed to anticipate his response, because she continued without pause. "I am reading two human bio-signs aboard, but they are faint."
The captain stood and headed for the door to his cabin, grabbing a communicator so he could keep talking to T'Pol while he made his way through the ship. He resisted the urge to ask her just how faint the life signs were, since he knew well enough that their scanners weren't calibrated for medical precision. "How long till we reach them?"
"Ten minutes at our current speed."
Jon shook his head as he stepped into the corridor. "Go to warp four-point-eight. Are they answering hails?"
"No. Their transceiver appears to be damaged, which may account for the lack of communication."
Jon nodded, walking faster and hoping that the transceiver and not his officers' faint bio-signs were to blame for the silent treatment that Pod One was giving them. "Use the grappler and bring it into Launch Bay One. Have Doctor Phlox and a medical team meet me there. What is the status of their other systems?"
T'Pol's voice came over the communicator steady as ever. "Their impulse engine is missing and I have detected traces of an explosion, but the craft is intact. Scans show two sealed hull breaches, an atmosphere aboard and that the pod's life support system is operational, however, the internal temperature is 23°F."
"Tell Phlox to be ready for two possibly hypothermic patients."
Sickbay was a flurry of activity. Phlox, Jean, Liz Cutler, Isaac Jenkins and another corpsman were gathering supplies and piling them onto a pair of gurneys. Liz helped Jean put a warming unit full of towels and IV bags onto one of the gurneys. Jean moved mechanically, trying to focus on the job at hand instead of worrying about the two officers who would most likely become their patients in a few minutes.
Liz put an oxygen mask and heating apparatus on the gurney they were loading and then took a container of heating pads from a drawer.
"Do we need anything else?"
Jean blinked, realizing that she had spaced out for a moment, and then looked over their supplies. "Just an IV port and needle." She smiled nervously, glancing down at her hands. "I've got 'em right here. Let's get moving."
The exobiologist nodded and turned to notify Phlox that they were heading out while Jean started pushing their gurney towards the door.
The Denobulan made a pleased sound as he continued to bustle around. "Excellent, Crewman. Comm the captain and inform him that we are on our way, and then I need you to go ahead of Jean and make sure that we have a clear path to Launch Bay One."
Phlox and two of the corpsmen were loading up the other gurney with identical supplies, and after the doctors had examined the officers, each team of three would be responsible for getting one of the officers to Sickbay.
Jean was barely out the door when she heard Phlox start moving his own gurney towards the hall, and she sent up a silent prayer that they wouldn't need to use the cardio stimulators on either Trip or Malcolm. She wasn't religious and never had been, but she figured that any help was welcome. She had become close to both men, but much as she liked and respected Trip, her feelings for Malcolm were much deeper. She hadn't had the nerve to say anything about it to him, at least not directly, always telling herself that the timing wasn't right or that he didn't need the distraction, but deep down she knew that the delays were really because she had just been afraid of what he might say. Or worse, what he might not say.
She knew that he cared about her. It had been obvious ever since their first mission to Chalderon, but she didn't know if his feelings for her were strictly platonic or not. She knew how seriously he took the regulations on fraternization, so it stood to reason that their differing ranks were likely to be an issue. When the Starfleet brass had promoted her to lieutenant before their return trip to Chalderon, she had thought that the rules were no longer an obstacle to them having a relationship, but then there had been the Enchilada Debacle. When Hoshi told her about the Englishman's stated reluctance to become involved with a crewmate and had confirmed that he didn't even mention their differing ranks as being an issue, Jean had been discouraged. She hadn't considered that Malcolm might have personal rules about who it was appropriate to date, although in hindsight she knew that it was something she should have expected. Hoshi had pointed out later, while helping her pick apart everything Malcolm had said during that exchange, that he had opened with the fact that they worked together, which might make matters awkward. Hoshi encouraged her, adding that since Jean only worked with him on away missions, it shouldn't be a problem. Ever since then, Jean had been dropping hints and hoping he would catch on. The fact that he still hadn't made a move could mean either one of two things: he got the message, but was choosing to ignore it, or for some unfathomable reason he hadn't caught on yet. Now, as she double-timed through the corridors, she realized that it didn't matter. Either way, it was up to her to make the first move, and she sure as hell was ready to do just that. Always assuming that he was still… no. She shook her head, refusing to even consider the possibility that Malcolm might not survive.
Liz came from behind her after Jean rounded the first turn, making the doctor jump as she started down the curved corridor, and Liz continued on in a uniformed blur until she was a couple of meters ahead of Jean's gurney. The crewman smiled at her and nodded back towards Sickbay, walking backwards for a few steps. "Isaac's on his way. Guess who gets to play crossing guard?"
Jean smiled back dutifully. "Too bad there's no direct route to the launch bays. I'm taking us there via the starboard corridors, since I've got a feeling that cutting through Engineering just wouldn't be kosher."
The crewman gave a nervous chuckle, checking that the next junction was clear and then nodding that they could proceed. "Probably not. Still, it's only about ninety meters from here. We'll be there in no time."
The lieutenant shook her head, hanging a right turn at the starboard deuterium conditioner room. "Right, the same 'no time' it took us to get all this stuff ready." Jean gestured to the equipment on the gurney with her chin, sighing. "Almost five minutes down the drain. ETA to the pod was ten minutes…"
Corpsman Jenkins joined them and helped her push the gurney along. He shook his head slightly, joining the conversation. "The pod still has to be brought on board and the launch bay has to re-pressurize before we can go in. That adds about five minutes. We'll probably get there before all of that is even done, and we'll end up just standing around waiting for a while."
Jean sighed again as Liz went on to check the next junction. "I know. You're probably right, Isaac, I just..."
He gave her a knowing look. "You're worried. We all are." The corpsman shook his head slightly. "I feel like I've had this conversation before, with Lieutenant Reed when he was worrying about you."
Isaac nodded when Liz gave the all clear and they turned onto the corridor which ran alongside the starboard isolation labs. Liz joined them and gave Jean a reassuring nod. "If their life signs had changed, we would have heard about it, and you know how good our medical team is. If the guys aren't okay right now, we'll make sure that they are okay before too long, and then, with any luck, one of you will make a move."
Cutler grinned at her after the last part, and Jean couldn't quite manage to hide an embarrassed grimace. "That obvious, huh?"
Isaac shrugged. "Pretty much to everyone who spends time with you… except for Lieutenant Reed, of course."
"Right." Jean shook her head. "'Cause that would only be helpful."
They arrived outside Launch Bay One less than a minute later and found Captain Archer pacing outside. He apparently didn't notice that anyone else was within earshot, because he was muttering to himself. The medical team couldn't tell what he was saying, and they didn't have time to puzzle it out because the captain noticed them as he turned on his heel and looked up.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't see you there."
Phlox came forward, pushing his gurney until it drew even with Jean's and smiling benevolently. "It's quite all right, Captain. We are all concerned for the well being of Commander Tucker and Lieutenant Reed," he went on, not seeming to notice the look that Jean shared with Isaac and Liz. "Rest assured, we are capable of dealing with the situation at hand, whatever it may be."
There was a bifurcated indicator light by the door, similar to the ones at each airlock. The top half of it was green and the bottom half was red, and shortly after Phlox finished reassuring the captain, the green half lit up.
"Thanks, Doc." Captain Archer triggered the doors open and then stood aside to let both medical teams into the bay. Phlox and his team went first, and Jean followed.
The pod sat in its usual spot in the bay, but it looked strange with its engines missing. The four circular ports where the engine attached were visible, flanked on either side by twin triangles of duranium hull behind the wings. Jean pushed her gurney to the starboard hatch while Phlox staged his on the port side, both making sure to leave enough room for their teams to manuever. The doctors opened their respective hatches and were greeted by a gust of cold air.
A lump formed in Jean's throat when she saw Malcolm's unconscious form slumped on the deck of the pod. He and Trip were huddled together at the base of the pod's rear ladder, both wrapped in blankets and sitting on the padded lid of one of the rear storage benches, and Malcolm was loosely holding a phase pistol in his right hand. It looked like they were breathing, but she couldn't really tell. She had paused in the middle of climbing through the side hatch when Phlox called out for the captain to open the shuttle's upper hatch in order to let more heat into the small craft. Hearing the Denobulan speak snapped her back into action and she climbed the rest of the way into the pod, moving to crouch in front of Malcolm as she took out her scanner and then ran it over the Englishman. She bit the inside of her cheek while she waited for the results to come up and touched the back of her hand to his face. His skin was ice cold, and he didn't react to the contact.
"Doctor, Lieutenant Reed is dehydrated, his heartbeat is irregular and his core temperature is 84.2°F."
Phlox nodded beside her. "I'm showing the same readings for Commander Tucker, as well as signs of metabolized alcohol and elevated levels of carbon dioxide in his bloodstream."
Their temperatures were dangerously low, and she knew that it was urgent for the doctors to get them warmed up and back to Sickbay as quickly and carefully as possible. In their current state, even a slight jolt during transport could lead to cardiac arrest, so she knew it was imperative that they start the rewarming process right away.
"Liz, get me the oxygen mask and heating unit. Set the air to a temperature of 107°F, and get a mask ready for Phlox, same setting."
"On it," Liz called from outside the pod, and she handed the items through the hatch a few moments later. "Anything else?"
Phlox accepted one of the masks from Crewman Cutler and made a thoughtful sound as he scanned Trip. "I'm not detecting any signs of frostbite in either man. Crewman, please turn the shuttle's heating system back on to increase the ambient air temperature."
"Yes, Doctor." Liz climbed into the shuttle and headed for the pilot's seat. Once she was sitting, she pressed a few buttons and shook her head at the console. "It won't be simple without the engine. These displays are running on backup power, but I don't know if that'll be enough to get the environmental systems working. The power cells are pretty drained."
"Do the best you can, Liz. Any heat would be a big help." Jean gently looped the oxygen mask's elastic cord around Malcolm's head and made sure that the mask was seated properly before giving Phlox a nervous glance. "Do you think we should just use the masks for now? Try to make sure their temps hold steady before trying to move them?"
The older doctor nodded, smiling as he secured the second mask over Trip's face. "I think that would be wise. Considering their status and the cramped space in the Shuttlepod, we risk inadvertently causing cardiac arrest if we try to move them right now. Best to stabilize them first. We'll also use heating pads on their torsos and heated intravenous fluids. Once their temperatures have risen to about 92°F we should be able to move them safely."
She nodded back and gave a smile of her own as the shuttle started to warm up. "Thanks, Liz. That should help a little." Jean looked down at her hand and saw that it was resting on Malcolm's shoulder. The unconscious lieutenant still hadn't moved and she gave his shoulder a slight squeeze, mostly to reassure herself that he would be all right.
"Phlox?" She turned her head to look at the other doctor, who was studying his scanner readout. "Do you want to prep the IVs and heating pads while I monitor their progress, or would you rather stay to keep an eye on them?"
The Denobulan gave her a fatherly smile. "You should stay." He stood with more grace than a portly man in a smock ought to have and headed for the port hatch. Just before he climbed back out of the pod, he turned around with a wicked gleam in his eye. "Do check on Commander Tucker as well, if you have a moment."
"Oh, I don't know if I'll have time." She managed to play along with the teasing for a few seconds, then shook her head and made a shooing gesture with one hand. "You are worse than any human matchmaker I've ever met."
Phlox only chuckled and climbed the rest of the way out of the pod.
Jean checked her scanner readout, which showed that Malcolm's temperature was holding steady. She shifted her body slightly to get an angle on Trip and then scanned him. His temperature was also the same, and she let out a relieved breath. A slight movement caught her eye, and she saw that Liz had followed Phlox out of the pod, leaving Jean alone with the two semi-frozen officers.
"You guys," she said, shaking her head and giving a breathy, nervous laugh. She gently uncurled Malcolm's fingers from around the phase pistol with one hand and slid the weapon from his grasp with the other. She held on to one of the lieutenant's hands and leaned away slightly to put the weapon back into its case.
"Why were you holding a weapon, hmm? Not that you need a reason, Mal, apart from being you." She knew better than to expect an answer from him, but talking to unconscious patients was a habit that she had picked up in med school, and she had never bothered to curb the impulse.
"Are they coming around?"
The sudden question gave her a start and she smiled shakily at the captain, feeling stupid for not noticing that he had joined her inside the pod.
She took a steadying breath and shook her head again, gesturing to the phase pistol. "No, sir. I was just wondering what Mr. Reed was doing with that in his hand."
Archer smiled at her, laugh-lines deepening around his eyes. "You can ask him soon enough." His smile faded as he looked past her and his worried gaze settled on Trip. After a moment he nodded at the oxygen mask on Trip's face. "What are those for?"
Jean glanced at her scanner readouts before answering. "The masks are giving them heated air, which stops them from losing any more heat through respiration and also helps to warm up their central nervous systems at the brainstem. It's the best non-invasive way to stabilize their temperatures."
The captain seemed to understand and he moved closer, glancing from his officers to the doctor monitoring them. "Can I help at all?"
"Yes, sir." She nodded at the captain encouragingly, moving over a little so he could join her. "Start to unwrap the blankets, but only enough so that we can unzip their jackets and uniforms. Try to move their arms as little as possible –"
"To prevent re-warming shock, I know." The captain cut her off, then he let his head drop forward and sighed. "I'm sorry, this is just…"He trailed off and sat on the rear bench next to Trip, shaking his head.
She nodded, not thrilled about being interrupted but understanding that the captain was stressed and that he hadn't meant to be rude. "I know, sir. We both have best friends who are doing good impressions of popsicles right now, but that's why Phlox and I need to get them stable instead of just whisking them off to Sickbay. We have to make sure that we give them the best chance of defrosting without any drama."
"I'm all for that." Archer leaned forwards in his seat and started gently uncurling Trip's fingers from the edges of the commander's blanket. He frowned, probably at how cold the man's skin was. "They must have had one hell of a ride out there."
"Yes, sir. I have a feeling that there may be more than just physical repercussions from whatever happened to them. As for treating their physical symptoms, Phlox and I will be putting heating pads on them, so when he's gotten everything ready and he comes back here…"
Archer smiled tightly as she trailed off. "I'll let you two work. I think… that does it." He had managed to free both edges of the blanket from Trip's hands and let the cloth fall loosely around his friend's shoulders. Jean had done the same with Malcolm's blanket while they were talking.
She almost wished that the captain would leave so that she could touch Malcolm's face again, but since Archer didn't seem to be going anywhere just yet, she settled for holding the Englishman's cold hand. She absentmindedly ran her thumb over his knuckles while checking the scanner readouts of his and Trip's vitals. If Archer noticed the affectionate gesture, he didn't comment on it.
"How are they doing?"
She was about to answer the captain's question when Phlox came back to the port hatch, talking half to himself and half to his SIC. "I had to find some way of keeping the IV bags warm while we are in here, which took some doing, but Crewman Cutler was most helpful with devising…" He trailed off when he saw the captain crouched in the pod and his face settled into an expression of mild concern. "Well, this will certainly make matters a bit more interesting."
Archer moved from his spot on the bench, giving Trip's shoulder a gentle squeeze as he stood. "I'll get out of your way, Doctor." He moved toward the pilot's seat and started pressing buttons on the console. A few data chips slid out of their ports and Archer picked them up, his expression grave as he put them into one of his uniform pockets. "Maybe Hoshi can find a clue to what happened by looking in the comm logs. I'm sure T'Pol will find something useful in the sensor data."
Jean was only half listening to the captain. On some level she knew that ignoring her CO was rude, but just then she couldn't manage to care. Her focus was on stabilizing the two officers.
Phlox had hung two IV bags from the rungs of the pod's rear ladder. Each bag was held in a heated pouch set to 99°F, and Phlox was in the process of putting a peripheral IV line in one of the veins on the back of Trip's left hand. Jean started to do the same for Malcolm's right hand, since she could reach that one more easily. She cleaned his skin with a sterile swab, then inserted a needle and catheter into the largest vein she could find, trying not to think about how cold and limp his hand was. He didn't even flinch when the needle went in. She pushed her concern aside, focusing on doing her job instead of indulging in useless worrying. Jean disposed of the needle and taped the connecting hub in place before starting to hook the IV line up to it. Once she was done, she glanced over at Phlox and saw that he had nearly finished setting up his patient with warmed fluids.
The doctor glanced over at Jean as he emptied a syringe into Trip's IV port. "I'm giving Mr. Tucker an IV push of 400cc's of 5% dextrose in normal saline, and setting his drip for 85cc's per hour. I recommend the same dosages for Mr. Reed."
She mustered a faint smile and did as the doctor instructed. "Understood." She was nearly done putting Malcolm's drip at the proper speed when she heard a soft 'click'. A quick glance towards the sound showed her that Phlox had closed the sharps container which held the needles which they had each used to insert the IVs. "So, hot packs?"
The Denobulan studied his scanner for a moment and then nodded at her. "Yes, I believe we are ready for that. However, we must be very careful when moving their arms. Even with the warm fluids, they are still in a fragile state, so we should only move the limbs into which we inserted the fluid lines."
Jean nodded her agreement. If the doctors moved either man's extremities while their core temperatures were so low, the even colder blood in Trip's and Malcolm's limbs would be pumped into their hearts and cause the rewarming shock which Captain Archer had mentioned, which would lower their overall temperatures and affect cardiac rhythm. At worst, rewarming shock could even cause a fatal heart arrhythmia, which was why the medical team had brought a set of cardio-stimulators along with their other equipment. Of course, everyone hoped that they wouldn't need to use that particular tool, but they wanted to be ready for any eventuality.
Phlox made a pleased sound. "Aha, Mr, Tucker's temperature has risen to 86.9°F."
Jean checked her scanner and smiled, feeling relief wash over her. "Lieutenant Reed's temperature has risen as well. I'm reading exactly 87°F." She looked down at the deck and spotted one of the warming units by Phlox's knee. A pile of heating pads was resting on top of the unit. The heating pads were large enough that only three of them would fit on each man's torso, so the doctors had a total of six pads.
The other doctor was nodding happily. "Yes, the warmed air and fluids are doing a fine job. We'll start using the heating pads now." He looked up at her and gave one of his characteristic grins. "At this rate, we should be able to transport them to Sickbay in less than twenty minutes."
She started to move from her seat on the bench in order to grab some of the heating pads, but found that Captain Archer was handing half of them to her before she even stood up. She smiled at him gratefully. The pads were warm in her hand, and she realized that the captain had already switched them on. "Thank you, sir."
Archer nodded to her. "Anything for my officers." He looked at the port side hatch and turned to Phlox. "Doctor, should I tell Cutler and the rest of your team to stand by?"
"Thank you, Captain. That would be most helpful."
The captain nodded again and reached past Phlox to give Trip's shoulder a light touch. After a moment he removed his hand and headed for the open hatchway. "Take care of them for me, Doc."
Phlox nodded solemnly. "Of course, Captain."
Still holding the heating pads, Jean checked that they were set to the right temperature and then she unzipped Malcolm's jacket and his uniform with her free hand. Working quickly, she unzipped his uniform jumpsuit as far as she could without moving him and carefully placed one of the pads on the lower part of his abdomen. She pulled up his jumpsuit's zipper far enough to hold the first pad in place, carefully put two more pads side by side on his chest and positioned them so that one upper corner of each was tucked between Malcolm's side and his arm. Her hand stilled for a moment against Malcolm's chest as she felt the steady, reassuring rise and fall of his breathing. She slipped out of 'professional' mode and reached over to brush a bit of his hair back from his forehead, murmuring softly, "You're going to be okay."
He didn't react at all and she shook her head, scolding herself for getting carried away. This wasn't the time or the place for affectionate behavior.
She zipped Malcolm's uniform up and made sure that the jumpsuit was holding the heating pads in place. It was, and she gave a pleased nod before zipping up his jacket most of the way to help keep the heat close to his body. She left the top quarter of his jacket undone and moved towards the warming unit.
When she got close to her superior's elbow, she felt that she should say something to him so he would know that she was in such close proximity. He seemed to take everything in stride and she had never seen him jump in surprise, but there was always a first time and she didn't want to risk startling him when they were in such cramped quarters. "Everything going okay, Phlox?"
The doctor smiled as he finished putting the remaining heating pads between Trip's uniform and the man's black undershirt. "Yes, yes. Splendidly."
Pretty much anyone else would have used a sarcastic tone when they said that, but not Phlox. Jean smiled and shook her head a tiny bit. When she was first working with him, Phlox's enthusiasm had occasionally annoyed her, but over time she had not only gotten used to it but had actually grown to find it oddly comforting and even amusing at times. She didn't know if the cheerfulness was a Denobulan cultural thing or part of his individual personality, but the reason didn't matter. It was just his way.
She took a towel out of the warming unit and moved back towards Malcolm's still form. His breathing had improved during the last couple of minutes, and as she got closer he started shivering. She knew that change meant that he was warming up and she wanted to scan him again to see what his vitals were, but the towel in her hands wouldn't stay warm for very long and she wanted to put it into place while it would still be useful. Fortunately, there was a second pair of hands at her disposal.
"Liz?" Jean raised her voice slightly, turning towards the starboard hatch when she spoke. "Please scan Lieutenant Reed's vitals."
"Of course, Doctor." Crewman Cutler climbed into the pod a few moments later and picked up Jean's scanner.
Jean wrapped the warmed towel around Malcolm's neck like a scarf and tucked the ends of it into the front of his jacket, which she then zipped up to his chin. "Liz? What's the word?"
Cutler was running the scanner over Malcolm. "Doctor, his temperature is 89.6°F and climbing steadily at a rate of 0.1°F every minute."
Jean nodded and her worry continued to decrease as Malcolm's temperature climbed. "And the Commander?"
Liz aimed her scanner at him and gave a nod of her own. "Exactly the same, 89.6°F and rising 0.1°F per minute."
Phlox sat back from checking Trip's oxygen mask and smiled. "Excellent progress. Crewman, have the team stage one gurney on either side of the shuttle and position them so that the IV holders are as close to the hatchways as possible. By the time everything is in position, we should be ready to begin transport."
"Understood, Doctor." Liz handed the scanner back to Jean and picked up the warming unit before she exited the pod.
Jean accepted the scanner and turned to look at Malcolm for a moment. When she spoke, her voice wasn't nearly as steady as she wanted it to be. "Phlox, do you think they'll be okay?"
"Certainly." The Denobulan nodded, glancing down at his scanner readings as he spoke, and at first she wasn't sure if he had picked up on the worry in her voice. However, after a few seconds he turned to look at her with a calm but determined expression on his face. "We will make sure that they are."
Layout of E Deck courtesy of and Android Monkey. Pretty pretty pictures of the NX-01 for useful and geeky fun.
Procedures for rescuing and treating hypothermic patients courtesy of hypothermia dot org, a very informative site.