Title: Spin Doctor
Summary: Claudia, a journalism student with a mysterious past, joins the NIH team and gets a crash course in media manipulation from her cousin, Eva Rossi. Runs parallel to the existing series.
Disclaimer: Medical Investigation was created by Jason Horwitch and produced by NBC and Paramount with absolutely no input from me whatsoever.
Stifling a yawn (the lingering effects of jetlag), Claudia Alessio dug a hand into her jeans pocket and pulled out a black passport. The jaded security guard squinted at the kangaroo and emu on the front and raised his eyebrows. "Australia, huh?" he said, emphasising the first syllable in a way that reeked American. "Pretty far from home, aren't you? You here on business?" The guard looked Claudia up and down, most likely taking in her casual appearance and checking it with the grave-looking passport photo.
"Sort of," said Claudia, wondering if she should have invested in a dress suit. "I'm meeting Eva Rossi from Press Relations."
"Alright, Ms… Alessio. Here's your visitor pass. Have a nice day."
When Claudia finally made it into the building, a face she vaguely remembered from photographs greeted her.
"Claudia?" Eva Rossi flicked her dark hair behind her ear and leaned towards Claudia, dazzling her with a row of even white teeth. "I'm Eva." She held out her hand.
"Hi," said Claudia, shaking it. "Nice to finally meet you properly."
"You've grown so much," said Eva. "I remember when I was about 10 years old and my mom came into my room to tell me Aunt Sara and Uncle Mat had had a little girl in Australia. And you were, what, seven when you last came to visit my parents?"
"Yeah, it's been a while."
"You get here alright? How was your flight?"
Eva smiled. "I can imagine. I've always wanted to go to Australia though. How… How are your parents?"
Claudia glanced down and shuffled her feet on the spot. "As well as can be expected, I guess."
"I… I'm sorry, I didn't mean to…"
Claudia looked up and shrugged. "No, it's alright," she said with a tight smile. "So where are we headed, cuz?"
Eva looked visibly relieved. "Come with me."
Claudia followed Eva through the maze of endless halls, trying her best to absorb her surroundings. She wondered what it would be like to be trapped here at night, imprisoned by frosty walls and unknown killer diseases without so much as another inmate to keep you company. A small involuntary shiver escaped her.
"Come on. Let me introduce you to the team."
Claudia blinked as Eva guided her into a laboratory. Three people – a brunette with straight shoulder length hair wearing a white lab coat and leaning over a microscope; a casually dressed young man with dark tousled hair holding a thick textbook; and an older African-American man with a mobile phone against his ear all looked up as Claudia and Eva entered.
"Connor's on the way," said the African-American, hanging up the phone. "Who's this?"
"This is my cousin from Australia, Claudia Alessio," said Eva. "Claudia, this is Frank Powell; Dr Natalie Durant; and Dr Miles McCabe. Dr McCabe's new too; he's only been here three weeks."
Claudia shook hands with them and exchanged pleasantries.
"Claudia's going to be with us at NIH for awhile," Eva went on. "Well, with me mostly. I've made arrangements with the Director."
"Have you made arrangements with Connor?" asked Powell, with a smirk.
Eva blushed, a hint that she hadn't, as Powell started to chuckle. Claudia bit her lip, wondering who this Connor guy was and how he was going to react to the sudden presence of a girl he had never seen or heard of.
"So Claudia, what brings you to NIH?" asked Dr Durant.
"Well, Dad's working in Baltimore at the moment," said Claudia carefully. "And I always wanted to visit the States, so I deferred my journalism course for a semester and followed him." She gestured towards her cousin with a smile. "Figured I might be able use some of my connections and get a little bit of work experience in and Eva agreed to help me out. Plus I think Dad's hoping I ditch the whole journalism idea for something that pays a little better. How's public relations?"
Eva laughed. "Yeah, I've been the struggling reporter. Someone's out to get you no matter which side of the fence you're on."
"Alright, people! Chopper's ready! Get moving!" Claudia jumped a little as a pale-haired man marched into the lab, rapping out orders. The others scrambled to their feet and towards the door.
"Stephen—" began Eva.
"Eva, we don't have time for…" The pale-haired man squinted his impossibly blue eyes at Claudia. "Who the hell are you?" he barked.
"Uh, I-I'm… Claudia. Claudia Alessio," she stammered. "I'm…"
"She's my cousin. She's doing work experience with us," Eva explained. "Claudia, um, meet Dr Stephen Connor."
"Why wasn't I told about this?" Connor demanded. "The last thing we need is some greenhorn getting in the way!"
"Sir, she won't be in the way, she'll be with me," said Eva.
"Well, you are coming to New York City with us," said Connor, glaring at her. "What about her?"
"With all due respect, sir," Claudia said slowly, "I just want to learn about how things work in the real world, and I'm not going to learn anything standing around an empty office for God knows how long."
Connor frowned down towards Claudia and pursed his lips. He sighed. "Keep your head down. I don't want to see or hear from you." He looked back at Eva. "Or it'll be your head."
Connor turned marched on past the rest of his team. "Why are you all standing around? We've got a job to do!"
A/N: Started this a long time ago and recently stumbled across it again on my hard drive. Leave some reviews if you're interested in seeing me continue it.