Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

First Consideration

By Gabrielle Lawson

This story won second place for Best DS9 General Story in ASC's 1999 Awards.


Paramount and Viacom own all things Trek, including DS9, the main characters thereof, the Defiant, etc. I only borrow their characters and settings. The stories are mine. Do not copy without including this disclaimer and my name. Do not post without permission.

It's almost cliché, Bashir thought as he drew in a tentative breath. Runabout crashes, leaving its crew stranded on some forgotten moon. He heard a groan from across the wreckage and pushed those thoughts away. Cliché or not, he was a doctor and there would be wounded to care for.

He found his med kit even before he sat up. It was beneath his hand. But as he looked over at it, he felt a pain in his chest. It was broken, impaled by a beam that had split it open. Its contents were spilled. He could feel liquid on his fingers. Another groan. He sat up anyway, dismissing the ache in his stomach.

Tricorder. The tricorder was fine. The beam had missed it. He snatched it up quickly and pushed the debris from his legs. Testing the tricorder, he ran a scan of himself. He stared at the results for a few moments and then snapped it shut, satisfied that the scan was accurate. He'd inventory the rest of the supplies later. First, he needed to assess the crew. A wave of dizziness hit him as he stood.

He could see then that it was Garak who had groaned. He was just coming around. There was blood on his leg. Bashir moved closer, stumbling over the fallen chairs and broken equipment. He could see now the gash that had split Garak's thigh and the hint of bone protruding from it. "Lie still, Garak," he told him. "Don't move around."

"I wouldn't dream," Garak replied haltingly, "of disobeying, Doctor."

Bashir ran the scanner from his tricorder over the leg and then the rest of Garak. Minor injuries except for the leg. An open fracture there. Painful, of course, and dangerous if he should bleed too much. "This is going to hurt, Garak," he said, taking hold of a loose strap from something now unrecognizable in the debris. "I'm sorry."

"No need to apologize," Garak assured him. He closed his eyes and nodded. Bashir wrapped the strap around Garak's thigh above the gash. Garak bit down and did not scream when Bashir pulled it tight. He did pass out though, when the doctor tightened the tourniquet even more, stopping the flow of blood.

Bashir realized he'd have to hurry. He needed to see about the others. Triage and all. He checked Garak's vitals and then moved on, searching for other signs of life. There was a crewman a few meters from Garak. A woman, Security. She was hanging from what was now the ceiling, still sitting in her chair. Like his med kit, she'd been impaled. Her unfocused eyes stared blankly back at him. He used the tricorder anyway, just to make sure. But she was dead. He closed her eyes and then moved on. There were only two more on board. Another Security officer and Captain Sisko.

Sisko awoke to a shuffling sound and then screaming. He felt groggy and tired. He wanted so much to close his eyes again, but his mind wouldn't let him. He remembered where he was and what had happened. He was Captain. He had responsibilities to his crew. He couldn't sleep now.

He tried to sit up but found his head too heavy. His arm hurt and he felt a wave of nausea. He half expected to see Dukat standing over him in the dim firelight of the cave. No. That wasn't now. That was different. He tried to keep his memories sorted out in his head but it wasn't easy.

He couldn't sit, but he could push. He used his good arm to push himself backwards. That took a great deal of effort, but it lifted his head. He could see better now. The runabout was upside down and he could see sky through the broken deck. He could see Bashir kneeling, leaning over something or someone. Must be where the screams were from.

Abruptly, Bashir stood leaving the screaming man behind. He crossed to the other side of the runabout and dropped to his knees again. He seemed to be wrestling with something there. Beneath the screams, Sisko could hear the clang and screeching of metal on metal. "Damn it!" Bashir swore as he struck the beam in front of him.

Sisko felt he needed help, but he couldn't sit up. "Doctor?" Sisko said, and pushed himself a little higher.

Bashir's head snapped around to him. "Sir!" he called. "Don't move!" He held out a hand in Sisko's direction. "Stay right where you are. I'll be there in a minute. Just don't move!"

Bashir seemed adamant. Must be pretty bad, Sisko thought. But then he refocussed his hearing on the screaming and decided it must not be as bad as the other person. Bashir stood up again and moved away from Sisko and the screaming patient. Sisko followed him with his eyes.

At the back of the runabout--the front actually, he decided since he could see the forward viewscreen there--Bashir raised his arms and spun one of the chairs around. Crewman Lestat was sitting in the chair, or rather hanging from it. The front of her uniform was stained with blood. Bashir seemed unaware of the blood. He reached up toward her, past her waist. Sisko could then see that he had retrieved her phaser. Bashir turned away from her.

"She's dead," Sisko mumbled.

"Please, Captain," Bashir told him. "Just lie still. Don't talk."

The screaming continued. Bashir returned to the point of his struggle with the recalcitrant beam and fired the phaser. Satisfied, he put the weapon away and resumed his crouch there. One by one, he held up vials and equipment. Some he threw away beside him. Others he tucked into his uniform. Now he returned to the screaming man--Garak or Masaryk, Sisko deduced by elimination. After a few seconds, the screaming stopped. Bashir worked there a few minutes more and then came to where the captain was laying.

"Report," Sisko ordered.

Bashir had his tricorder out, but he obeyed. "The runabout's a wreck, but I'm sure you can see that. One dead." He motioned with his head in Lestat's direction. "Garak's got an open fracture. He's unconscious. Masaryk is a bit worse off. I think he'll lose his arm. And by the looks of it, you have a head injury, a broken arm, several broken ribs. And you've hyperextended your knee."

"Is that all?" Sisko quipped. But he looked down at his knee just the same. He hadn't felt anything from his leg until that point. But now that he saw it, the unnatural angle that it was laying in, it filled him with immense pain. "Oh," he groaned and fought back the nausea he felt.

"Don't worry," Bashir reassured him with a smile. "You happen to have the best doctor in the fleet on board."

"What about you?" Sisko asked.

Bashir's smile widened. "Nothing to write home about." He held up a hypospray. "I don't have much of this," he said, "so I'm going to have to ration it out. Masaryk needs it the most. I've got to get you all out of the runabout. I'll give you some for the pain before I move you. Alright?"

Sisko nodded. "Who's first?"

"Masaryk. I've got a tourniquet on what's left of his arm, but that won't hold for long. I'm going to have to amputate it just to get him out. Garak will hold out for awhile." He looked around to each of them as he spoke. "And you," he said, turning back, "will be just fine if you lie very still. Understood?"

"Yes, sir," Sisko replied.

"And you've got to stay awake," Bashir continued, seriously. "Can you do that?"

Sisko's heart dropped. That was exactly the opposite of what he wanted to do. Still, Bashir wouldn't have asked if it wasn't important. Head injury. He remembered Bashir saying that. "I'll give it my best."

Bashir didn't look convinced, but he nodded anyway and went back to Masaryk.

When Sisko became aware of him again, Bashir was lifting the unconscious security officer onto a large brown and green object. Sisko tried to focus his eyes. Branches, he saw before his vision faded to fuzziness again. Travois.

"Captain." A hand was touching his face. "I asked you to stay awake."

Sisko didn't remember sleeping. "I did." He opened his eyes. Bashir was hovering above him, checking the tricorder again.

"That's a matter of opinion," Bashir replied. "Look, do you see that light there?" Sisko followed his hand to a panel on the wall. Most of the panels were dark now, but a few controls were still lit up. Past the tip of Bashir's finger--now red with Masaryk's blood--one light was blinking. Sisko nodded. "I need your help," Bashir continued. "I need to you to tell me how many times that blinks. It's very important. Masaryk's life depends on it. Can you do that for me, for Masaryk?"

Sisko concentrated on the light and tried to reason why it was so important for Bashir. But he couldn't see the panel well enough to see what the light indicated. "Starting now?"

"Starting now," Bashir confirmed. He snapped the tricorder shut and left Sisko's line of sight.

"Well, Captain," Bashir's voice broke in. "How many times?"

Sisko found it hard to pull his eyes from the blinking light. "Seven thousand, six hundred, fifty-four," he answered. "Give or take."

Bashir was beside him, smiling again. "Good." He snapped shut the tricorder and Sisko realized that the sound of it snapping tended to echo in his ears. He'd have to ask Bashir to close it more gently. But Bashir was a busy man today. Perhaps he'd let it slide. Bashir was already moving away. Garak's turn.

"Ah, Doctor," Garak was saying. Sisko couldn't see him. "So good of you to return."

"I've got a proposition for you Garak," Bashir spoke. "I get to set that leg and patch you up, and you get to live. And to sweeten the deal, I'll throw in a trip out of the runabout."

"Sounds too good to pass up," Garak smirked.

"That's what you think now," Bashir teased. "Captain," he called over his shoulder. "What color was that light?"

"Color?" Sisko mumbled. "I didn't think there was going to be a test."

"It wouldn't be a much of a test if I had warned you ahead of time, would it?" He was still working with Garak and he didn't turn his head to look at the captain. "This is going to make that tourniquet feel like a picnic," Bashir told Garak. "I'm going to give you something, but you'll probably still feel it. Let me know when you're ready. Color, Captain."

Sisko had been listening intently, glad that he wasn't Garak. He was surprised when the doctor spoke to him again. "Do you need a hand, Julian?"

Bashir almost laughed. Almost. "Firstly, you only have one hand to offer. Secondly, you're trying to change the subject. What color was the light?"

"Let's get this over with, Doctor," Garak said. Bashir apparently forgot about the pop quiz and concentrated on Garak. He gave a sharp jerk. Sisko heard the bones--or he heard something--crack. Amazingly, Garak did not scream, but neither did he say anything. Bashir sat back and took a deep breath. Then he continued his work. "Light!" he snapped.

"Yellow," Sisko answered, suddenly remembering. "You making a splint?"

Bashir's head, fuzzy now in Sisko's sight, bobbed up and down for a moment. "I found a grove of trees about fifty meters from here. I'll make a lean-to and get a fire started once I get you all there. Then I'll come back and see what there is to salvage from the runabout."

"Masaryk's there?" Sisko asked, remembering the security officer had already been carried out. "His arm is gone."

"Yeah," Bashir sighed. "Garak's turn. You'll have to count again."

"Yes, sir."

"Your turn, Captain."

Bashir was back. "Who'll count the light?" Sisko asked, suddenly worried.

"No one," Bashir admitted. "It was just a trick to keep you awake." He had a hypospray with him. "This time you get to sleep."

Sisko felt the cold tip of the hypospray on his neck, heard the hiss as it was depressed, and then, thankfully, let the blackness of sleep overcome him.

Bashir got the fire going, and when he was satisfied that it wouldn't be blown out by the wind, he returned to the runabout. The sun was hanging lower in the sky and he knew he didn't have much time. He felt a little dizzy and had to put his hands on the trees as he passed them. The runabout was, of course, still upside down when he reached it. Chairs, equipment, and supplies were all scattered on the ceiling which was now the floor. Mixed with all of that were pieces of the runabout itself. Bashir looked again at the remains of his med kit. His dermal regenerator was running low on power. He only had a small amount of anesthetic left. There were two small vials of anti-biotic. One hypospray. And bandages. He'd gotten the bandages from the beds in back, torn them from one of the blankets. But that was it. He was practicing medicine the old-fashioned way.

He'd need the rest of the blankets, he decided. The weather wasn't cold yet, but with the sun setting, the temperature was bound to drop. And food. They'd need food. He found the field rations in the back. There were only three packets. At least they contained enough nutrients for three days. It would have to be enough. There was no water. He'd have to find some outside. There were lots of trees around. There had to be a stream somewhere nearby. He hoped.

His hands were now full. He judged that he still had time for one more trip before dark. He'd look for the emergency transmitter then.

"So why is it," Garak's voice cut into the blackness, "that you're the only one who isn't injured?"

"Good fortune," Bashir answered. He was not tending to Garak. Masaryk then.

"Perhaps it has nothing to do with fortune," Garak countered, "and more to do with engineering."

Sisko could see them both clearly now. There was less light, but firelight flickered at the corner of his eyes. "He's not inhuman, Garak," Sisko said, in Bashir's defense.

"I break and bleed just as easily as the next man," Bashir retorted. "I just got lucky, and so did you. You need me."

Garak chuckled. "I assure you, Doctor, I was not complaining."

"Good." Bashir stood and sighed before he turned away from Masaryk.

"How is he?" Sisko asked.

"Not as good as Garak, apparently," Bashir answered evasively. He sounded tired.

It's no wonder, Sisko thought. He's had a busy day.

"How about you?"

"Have a headache." Sisko found it an effort to speak. He still felt groggy, but less so than before.

"Well, that's to be expected," Bashir said as he knelt beside the Cardassian. He took in a sharp breath and closed his eyes for a moment as he did so. Then he opened them and went about his examination. "Well, I got the bleeding stopped. That's a good sign. And I've put you closer to the fire than the others. I've got one more blanket. If you need it, let me know."

Bashir came to Sisko next. "What's status, Doctor?"

"Not bad really." Bashir did not sound convinced of his own statement.

Sisko smiled, trying to reassure him. "Could be worse. You could be Dukat."

Bashir almost laughed again. "Thankfully, for all concerned, I'm not. You thirsty?"

Bashir held up a canister of some kind and helped Sisko to drink from it. The water was cold and sweet. But now, Sisko became aware of his hunger. "You got any food?"

Bashir sighed. "One ration for each of you. Should last for three days. You want yours now?"

Sisko nodded. "Thanks."

Bashir moved around behind Sisko's head and gently lifted him up. When he set him back down again, Sisko was raised into a reclining position. His head and shoulders were resting on what felt like a log. Bashir tore open a pouch and handed it to him. Sisko's right arm was immobilized by Bashir's splint, but he could now easily use his left to eat.

"As soon as I'm satisfied you'll stay awake, I'm going to go back and see about the emergency transmitter," Bashir told him.

"You can go," Sisko said, between bites. The rations didn't taste any better than when he'd last had them, but they did settle his stomach. "Garak and I will keep each other company."

It was dark when Bashir returned. The transmitter was heavy and it had been hard to find his way in the dark. The dizziness hadn't helped. And on top of it all, the transmitter was broken. He'd have to fix it. No one else was in any shape to do it.

The fire was dying, and so was Masaryk. Bashir had stopped the bleeding, cauterized it with coals from the fire, but he'd lost too much blood already. If help didn't come soon, the security officer would die. Garak would hold out. He was stubborn. Sisko, too. He had a concussion, but it could have been a lot worse than that. But, even then, they'd both only last so long out here. They needed a hospital or at least better shelter. Without the transmitter, they'd get neither.

"Back so soon," Sisko teased. But Bashir could hear the fatigue and the pain in his voice. "Did you find it?"

Bashir tried to take a deep breath. It had been easier when there was no one to talk to. But Sisko needed to talk. "I found it," Bashir replied. "Did you and Garak find a lot to talk about?"

"Oh, a few things," Sisko answered. "He's asleep now though."

Bashir tried to set the transmitter down gently, but it still fell the last foot or so to the ground. "That doesn't surprise me, but I think I'll check on him just the same." Actually, he would check them all. As always, he started with Masaryk, who still had not regained consciousness. His pulse was thready, his blood pressure too low. Garak was alright, unconscious, but no more in danger of dying than he had been. Cardassians were a hardy species. Still, they thrived better in hotter climates. Bashir tucked the blanket more snugly around him. Then he moved over to Sisko.

"How doing?" Sisko mumbled. His eyelids fluttered.

"Captain, I still need you to stay awake," Bashir told him. "Maybe tomorrow you can sleep, but not now. Please."

"It's hard."

"I know," Bashir replied. "But I need you. The transmitter's broken. I think I can fix it, but I need your help. You have to stay awake."

"How bad?"

"Bad enough to kill you if you sleep," he admitted, pleading. "Captain, I've already lost one crewman. I'll probably lose Masaryk. There's only so much I can do. There's only so much I can take."

The captain's eyes were open then and for a moment they focussed clearly. He put his hand on Bashir's arm. "I'll stay awake, Julian."

"Thank you, sir."

Sisko watched him all night. He sat near the fire, using its light to see the inner workings of the transmitter. Occasionally, he'd ask a question, helping Bashir to stay awake even as it helped himself. The transmitter was their only real hope. Sisko wished he could help. Bashir's brow was constantly furrowed, but he never complained. He never asked for anything beyond Sisko staying awake.

Bashir stopped to rub his eyes. He looked as tired as Sisko felt. "Why don't you sleep, Julian?" he asked.

"I don't have time," the doctor answered. "Besides, I won't sleep when I won't let you sleep."

Masaryk groaned and Bashir left the transmitter to check on him. After scanning him and giving him a hypospray of something, Bashir carefully propped his legs up on another log. He poured some of the water onto his hands and rubbed the security officer's forehead. He spoke to him, too, but too quietly for Sisko to hear. He stayed with him until the groaning stopped. When it did, he picked up the tricorder again. This time, when he closed it, it didn't snap. He returned to the transmitter.

"You're really very good at this," Sisko told him, speaking quietly. He didn't want to wake the others.

"Maybe you should tell that to Starfleet Medical," Bashir returned in the same tone. "I don't think they've quite forgiven me yet."

He continued working for a few more hours. They didn't talk, but Sisko watched and Bashir periodically looked over to make sure he was still awake. Just before dawn, Bashir made his rounds again, checking each of the patients. He said nothing about the other two, but when he got to Sisko, he smiled at the readout from the tricorder. "Thank you for staying awake, Captain. You can sleep now. It'll be alright."

"What about you?" Sisko whispered.

"I've almost got it," Bashir answered. "I'll work on it a bit more."

Sisko wanted to argue and order him to sleep but it was too much effort. Now that he'd been given approval, his eyes refused to stay open. They closed quickly and sweet sleep engulfed him.

Bashir felt more alone when Sisko fell asleep. No one left to talk to. No one to help. The only hope was the transmitter. Now that the sun was coming up, it should have been easier to see. But his vision was blurring. He needed sleep, too. But he didn't have time.

Sisko woke in the morning and found Garak sitting up. "I wouldn't let him find you like that," Sisko warned.

"I haven't seen him all morning," Garak replied. "Do you think he went back to the runabout?"

"Maybe he went for more water," Sisko suggested.

Masaryk groaned and both men looked over at him. His eyes fluttered open and he looked around with wide eyes. "Rest easy, Lieutenant," Garak told him. "You're in good company."

Bashir had him so tightly wrapped that the poor man could barely move. A wise decision, Sisko thought. "It's alright, Lieutenant. How do you feel?"

Masaryk ceased his struggles but his eyes were still filled with fear and pain. "Where are we, sir?"

"We had a little accident," Sisko admitted. "But you'll be fine. Just lie still and try not to move." He didn't want Masaryk to upset his arm and start it bleeding again, especially when Bashir was not around to stop it.

There was a rustling in the woods nearby. Sisko instinctively reached his hand down beside him, where he would have put a phaser. He was surprised to actually find one there. But when the leaves parted, it was Bashir who emerged. Sisko lowered the phaser. "Good morning, Doctor."

"Thank you for not shooting me, sir," Bashir said, trying not to smile. But Sisko could see that he was exhausted. He probably hadn't slept all night. His face was pale and his hands shook just a little so that some of the water he held spilled out of the little container. "I had to scavenge a power source from the runabout and get some more water. I hope I didn't worry you."

"Not at all, Doctor," Garak broke in.

Bashir looked at him for the first time. "What are you doing up?"

Garak only smiled and gave Sisko a glance. "We have one more guest for breakfast this morning, Doctor." He inclined his head toward Masaryk.

For one moment, every unwanted feeling left Bashir's body and soul. Masaryk was awake. He hadn't thought the man would wake again. He took a breath and it all came back again. Reality. Awake wasn't everything. He still had to get off this moon. He still needed a hospital and more blood than Bashir could give him. Still, it was a happy sign.

"How do you feel, Lieutenant?" he asked, picking up the tricorder.

"My arm hurts," Masaryk answered. "I can't move it though."

Bashir felt a thousand times older. He could tell the man the truth, and maybe he should. But maybe the impact of that truth would drive the man to shock. His chances were not all that good. Shock would kill him for certain. "You were injured. I can give you something for the pain, but I don't want you to try and move it. I want you to lie still and rest. Okay?"

Masaryk's eyes met his, filled with pain but also with trust. "Okay." Bashir felt guilty for withholding the truth about his arm. Masaryk would feel betrayed when he found out. But he'd have to be alive to feel betrayed. And that was all Bashir really wanted. Bashir gave him the hypospray and helped him to eat. Before long, he was asleep again.

"You're not lying down," Bashir scolded.

"I'm eating," Garak countered. "If I were lying down, I'd be choking right now."

Bashir glared at him half-heartedly and then came over to give the Captain his attention. "And how do you feel, Captain?"

"Better," Sisko told him. "You look terrible."

Bashir stopped his scan and met his eyes. "Thank you." He sighed again--He'd been doing that a lot--and returned to his ministrations.

"Masaryk?" Sisko wanted to know if the man would live, but it was a long sentence. Bashir would understand what he meant anyway.

"It's not certain yet. If he gets help."

"Isn't that what you are?" When he looked up again, Bashir's eyes held guilt. Sisko regretted the question. He'd only meant it lightly. But it had obviously affected the doctor.

"I don't have the equipment," he said finally.

"It's alright, Julian," Sisko let him know. "You've done everything."

Bashir gave him a small smile. "That's my job." That said, he pulled the blanket back over Sisko's leg. "I'll get the transmitter working, sir. I promise."

Sisko believed him. He trusted him. But he also worried about him. Bashir needed sleep. It was obvious. He really did look terrible. "Then sleep. That's an order."

Bashir looked down. Sisko knew he'd disobey the order. "Julian. . . ."

"I don't have time, Captain." Bashir stood and returned to the transmitter. "I don't have time."

The sun was high overhead and the transmitter still refused to transmit. And the fire was going out. "Garak," Bashir asked, looking over his shoulder at the Cardassian, "do you think you could tend the fire if I brought more wood?"

"I think I could manage, Doctor," Garak responded brightly.

Bashir knew he was still in pain, but he did a good job of hiding it. He understood that. He tried to stand and nearly fell, but he caught himself on the transmitter. He had a stack of wood only a few meters away. His head swam when he knelt to retrieve it, but he didn't let that stop him. His patients needed the fire. Garak could tend it, and that was one less thing he had to worry about.

Masaryk was still sleeping, which worried Bashir. Sisko was sleeping again, which he was thankful for. Rest was what the captain needed most now. Garak needed it, too, but he'd just woken up. Bashir needed it, but he didn't have the time.

He set an armload of wood down beside Garak. "I thought you said you couldn't fix transmitters," Garak said, picking up a piece of kindling. "Back at the internment camp, you made me do it."

Bashir went back to the transmitter and began working again. "Well, they don't teach Dominion engineering in the extension courses at the Academy. Besides, I'm not doing so well with this one at the moment."

"You're tired," Garak stated. "Maybe you should lie down like the captain suggested. Worked for me, those breaks you made me take."

"I don't have time for breaks, Garak," Bashir reasoned again. Time was short and he had to get the transmitter working. There was power to the unit now, but it still wouldn't come online.

"Why not let me have a look?"

Bashir looked back at him. He probably could help to find the problem. Garak was a multi-talented individual. Such characteristics came in handy when one was a spy. Or a doctor, he told himself. But the unit was heavy. He'd had a hard time with it the night before. Even moving it around the fire would take a lot of effort. Still, what was effort when there were lives to be saved?

Using the unit for support, he stood. Then he lifted it. The whole camp seemed to spin around him for a moment, but he ignored his eyes. He knew the layout. He knew just where Garak was. He didn't need to see. In less than five steps, he'd reached Garak's side. Garak even helped him to set it down. "Careful of your leg," Bashir said, absently.

"Speaking of my leg, something for the pain?"

After sitting down again, Bashir was able to focus. Pain. Of course, Garak was in pain. A lot of pain. Bashir had only been able to patch his leg together after setting the bones. Only surgery or time could really put it right, and he was sure Garak wouldn't want to wait six to eight weeks for his bone to knit. Bashir looked him in the eye. "I'm sorry, Garak," he replied honestly. "It's all gone."

Garak sighed, but made no other show of his disappointment. "Well, then I shall have to live with the pain." He turned the transmitter to get a good look at its insides. "As you are."

Bashir caught that. "What do you mean?"

"I mean that not even you could stand falling through the atmosphere in a broken runabout and crashing into rock without at least a few bumps and bruises."

Bashir nodded. "Not even me."

"But without the proper equipment," Garak continued, "you can't treat your bumps and bruises. You saved the equipment you had for the rest of us."

Bashir's gaze never wavered. "I'm a doctor. What are a few bumps and bruises?"

"Or perhaps you think you're only being heroic," Garak concluded. He motioned that Bashir should hand him the tool he had in his hand. "You could get a medal out of this."

Bashir laughed, actually laughed, but only for a moment. "I'd settle for lunch on Wednesday."

"It's a date," Garak said. He flicked his wrist and the transmitter began to beep pleasantly.

"It's been a date for nearly six years," Bashir threw back. "Since my first week on the station."

"With only a few minor interruptions, yes."

"Not so minor," Bashir returned. "Maybe I will take that nap now."

"Doctor?" Garak's voice. But he was far away. Bashir ignored it. "I really do hate to wake you, Doctor," it insisted, pushing itself closer in Bashir's mind. Garak. Garak was a patient.

Bashir's eyes flew open. He saw stars. Garak's voice met his ears. "I'm really very sorry to wake you after such a short nap, but Mr. Masaryk's voice is unfortunately too weak."

"Masaryk!" Bashir mumbled. He rolled himself over and lifted himself up onto his hands and knees. Masaryk was there. Bashir had stayed close to him, just in case.

"Can I have some water?" the man asked so politely. His eyes were not quite focussed, but he was trying.

"Unfortunately, the water's all gone," Sisko commented, letting Bashir know that he was also awake. Bashir understood. It was a small container. It only held so much. Not enough for three men--four men--for a whole day.

"I'll get some more," Bashir said. He found the transmitter--still beeping--with his hand and used it to stand. Garak handed him the container. Unsteadily, Bashir left the camp and the protection of the lean-to and headed out into the dark woods. The stream wasn't far. He could find it.

It was very dark, and the sparkle of the transporter beam lit up the edges of the camp where the fire couldn't reach. "Someone call for room service?" a male voice asked. The man stepped forward. Actually, there were two of them. Both men, in gold-trimmed Starfleet uniforms. Sisko let the phaser drop to the ground.

"That's a Cardassian, sir!" the second man exclaimed, pointing to Garak.

"He's on our side," Sisko told him, shaking the sleep from his aching head.

"You don't look so good," the first man concluded. He touched his comm badge. "Sterling to Balthazaar. We need a medical team down here. I've got three wounded. Runabout's approximately fifty meters west of our current location. You might want to send a salvage team there as well."

"Acknowledged, Commander. Medical team is on its way."

"Four," Sisko told him. "There are four of us." He looked around. Garak was awake, sitting up beside the transmitter that had saved them. Masaryk was asleep or unconscious again. But that was it. Three men. "The doctor."

But Sterling didn't understand. "The doctor's on her way." Even as he said it, the transporter beam was lighting up behind him.

"No, our doctor," Sisko insisted.

"He went for water," Garak clarified. "More than two hours ago by my estimate."

"You had a doctor?"

"They certainly did," a woman's voice broke in. She was scanning Masaryk. "Someone patched these men up, Commander." She shook her head and closed the tricorder.

"Then we'll find him," Sterling said, looking right into Sisko's eyes. "We'll find him."

Sterling and the other security officer set out with a med-tech in tow. But they didn't find him. Not by the time the Balthazaar's doctor had determined it was safe to beam up her three newest patients.

The Balthazaar was a big ship, and she carried two doctors in her crew. It only took one of them fifteen minutes to take care of Garak's leg. He was conscious when they brought Bashir in. Sisko was not, as his condition required more attention. He awoke a couple hours later.

"Did you find him?" was the first thing he asked.

The doctor tending him, a man in his mid-forties, nodded. "He's in surgery now, Captain. Just lie still."

"Surgery." Sisko felt better. Bashir was good at surgery. "Masaryk?"

The doctor shook his head. "I'm sorry, sir. Lieutenant Masaryk is dead."

Sisko looked around. Garak was there, lying on a biobed not far away, but far enough to be excluded from the conversation. So that ruled him out. "Then who's he operating on?"

"Oh," the doctor said, finally understanding. "He's not operating, Captain. He's being operated on. Abdominal trauma. Internal bleeding. He's been in there for ninety minutes. But don't worry, sir. Doctor Nasarra is as good as they come." The doctor walked away, leaving Sisko to ponder his statement.

"He hid it well," Garak said. He'd heard after all. "They found him twenty meters away. He never made it to the stream."

"He didn't have time," Sisko said, remembering the doctor's words. Bashir had known all along.

Sisko was tired, but he didn't sleep. He watched one of the lights on the panel beside his bed and counted as it blinked. At seven hundred forty-three, the doors to surgery opened and Bashir was placed on the neighboring biobed. Sisko didn't ask, for fear of interrupting the doctor. But he stared hard at Nasarra and at Bashir's face until she was done.

She felt it. "He lost a lot of blood, but he's going to be fine, Captain. Just give him time."

Sisko waited until she walked away. "Why didn't he tell us?"

"What good would it have done?" Garak answered with his own question. "What would our morale have been if we knew we were injured and stranded on that moon with a dying doctor? We survived because he didn't tell us. He did his job."

"The health of my patients will be my first consideration."
--Hippocratic Oath


copyright 1998 Gabrielle Lawson

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