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Dante could not have crafted a more explicit version of hell than the one that existed in this place. As a doctor, Julian Bashir was used to trauma and suffering -- he had dealt with severe episodes of both during the Dominion War -- but those chaotic, bloody moments had not been entirely unexpected.
Here, however, in the bedlam of Trill's Manev Central Hospital, things seemed very different. As the overflowing triage center filled with cacophonous screams and tortured wails, Bashir and the other physicians and medics struggled against a tide of death whose source had been both surprising and invisible.
And though Bashir's medical conscience did not want to admit his own personal fears, the worst part for him was having no way to know whether Ezri had survived the initial bioelectric attacks -- or even if she was in danger at all. But as Trill society continued to collapse around him, and reports kept coming in of hundreds -- or maybe thousands -- more casualties, he could only respond to the unfolding crisis as best he could, while striving to avoid considering the personal loss he might have to face in the very near future.
A pair of med-techs attempted to move a hover-gurney through the corridor as panicked personnel moved quickly out of its path.
"I'm a medical doctor. Can I help?" Bashir blurted out as they passed him. He had already asked this question six times during the last few minutes, and had been ignored or pushed aside each time. He imagined the lack of spots on his face made them distrust his claims of medical expertise. Why should he expect them to let their guard down sufficiently to allow a non-Trill to help them?
One of the med-techs, a young woman, called back to him, either unmindful or unconcerned about his species. "In here! Help us, please!"
Bashir followed the nurses and their patient into a vacant treatment alcove. One of the medics locked the hover-gurney into a wall unit, transforming it into a stable biobed, complete with a detailed display screen.
"Who is he?" Bashir asked. He noticed that the med-techs were treating their unconscious charge with a degree of deference that few of the triage center patients were receiving.
"Doctor Rarn just transported here from the Symbiosis Commission," the first medic said as she monitored the man's thready vital signs. "We don't know if he was injured in the attacks, or if the transporter sent him into neural shock."
Of course, Bashir thought. Some symbionts don't tolerate transporter beams as well as Dax does. Once again, he had to actively banish his worries about Ezri.
Bashir tapped at the keypad of the wall-mounted scanner, his eyes quickly absorbing the statistics and numbers displayed there. "His dreoline levels are spiked. It's definitely related to the transporter." He turned to the second nurse. "Three hundred cc's of drenoctazine."
His eyes wide, the male medic punched a code into a keypad mounted in the wall, and a fine mist sprayed into an attached hypospray device. "Are you sure that's not too much? Trill physiology is -- "
"Yes, I'm sure," Bashir said firmly. "If he's going to live, he'll need at least this much. Possibly more."
"He was told not to transport," said the first medic, her eyes flicking back and forth from the scanner to Bashir. "There's so much comm traffic right now that the transporter network isn't reliable."
"The subspace bands are probably filled with emergency chatter," Bashir said, nodding. "The government needs to shut down the public transporter grid, or else there'll be a lot more of this. Can you get them to do that?"
"I can try," the med-tech said. Then she hesitated, obviously unwilling to leave Rarn's side.
"Go!" Bashir barked. "We're doing everything we can here. More lives will be in jeopardy the longer the public transporter system stays up and running."
As the woman left, the male medic injected the patient with the hypospray. For a moment, the man convulsed, then arched his body before landing back on the biobed. Rarn's breathing quickly resumed a normal pattern, and only minor twitches in his fingers betrayed the fact that he had just had a seizure. The medic smiled grimly, pointing to the scanner. "It worked. He's back."
Bashir felt some measure of relief, though he was well aware that many more such battles lay ahead. "Good," he said, instinctively taking charge. "You need to stay with him for a little while to make sure his condition remains stable. Then I'd like you to get back out there to help with the others." Heading out of the alcove, he added, "I'm going back to triage now."
Stepping into the corridor, Bashir had to quickly sidestep another passing hover-gurney. He winced as he moved, feeling the pain in his side from the beating he had experienced a short time ago. Cautiously rounding a corner, he saw a black-garbed policewoman carrying an unconscious preteen boy in her arms. All of the bustling medical personnel appeared to be ignoring her, despite the fact that she was bleeding profusely from her forehead. Bashir saw that the boy, too, had livid facial lacerations.
"This way," Bashir half-yelled as he neared them, pointing back in the direction from which he had come.
"Thank you," the policewoman said, her voice ragged. Bashir took the boy from her arms and started to turn, then noticed that the officer was turning to go back outside, wiping the blood from her eyes as she weaved toward the door.
"I meant both of you," he said. "You can't go back out there in your condition."
The woman turned back to him, her clumsy swaying prompting Bashir to wonder if she had suffered internal injuries.
"You know what's happening out there?" she said. "There are others like him all over the street. There are people lying dead everywhere. Or dying."
"You can go back out after you've been treated and stabilized," Bashir said, trying to maintain an emphatic tone. "Please."
Her shoulders fell slightly as she accepted his gentle logic. Although she was unsteady on her feet, the woman followed Bashir back into the alcove he had just left. The male medic there looked up in surprise.
"Is he stable enough to be moved?" Bashir asked.
"I think so."
"Then please move him over to one side of the gurney. This boy needs immediate help, and space seems to be at a premium."
The medic hesitated. "But he's..." Bashir saw something flicker across the man's features. Doubt? Fear? And then he did as he was told, carefully moving the Trill doctor as close to the edge of the conveyance as possible, leaving barely enough room for the unconscious boy.
Bashir set the child down, then turned to the medic, who was already recalibrating the scanner for the second patient. Bashir read the medic's name tag. "It appears you're to be my nurse for a while, Mister Jenk. So, whatever Trill medical secrets you may believe need to be kept, please leave those aside. We are in a crisis situation, and given the current overflow of patients, you're going to have to trust that I know what I'm doing."
Jenk eyed him for a few moments, his expression guarded. Then he gave Bashir a curt nod. "Understood, Doctor."
"How did this happen?" Bashir directed his question to the policewoman with a glance, then returned to viewing the multicolored monitor.
"When the bomb went off, a lot of people were injured, even those who were standing fairly far away from what we assume to be the epicenter of the flash," she said, still holding one blood-soaked sleeve up to her head. "Several of the skimmers and hovercars nearby crashed, either because of the electromagnetic pulse waves, or else because their drivers passed out. This boy was the only survivor of a three-way hovercar pileup. His mother and sister died."
Bashir quickly finished his initial trauma scans, both of the boy and the police officer, the latter of whom showed no evidence of internal injuries. The boy, however, had not been so fortunate.
"It appears that in addition to severe multiple fractures throughout this child's body, a fragment of one of his ribs has entered his spinal column." Bashir took a closer look at the biobed monitor, tapping the console so that the scanned X-ray graphics rotated for a view from the underside.
Jenk inhaled sharply. "Can you extract it safely?"
"Even if I can, it's possible he'll be paralyzed for the rest of his life," Bashir said.
The policewoman stood shakily, all color draining from her face. "I didn't...I didn't make it worse, did I?"
Bashir pointed back toward the chair. "Sit! You're making it worse on yourself." He turned to the medic. "Get sterile instruments ready. We're going to try to save him."
"Are you -- " Jenk didn't finish the question, as Bashir shot him a look that was meant to remind him of his earlier admonitions. The med-tech entered a sequence of numbers into the keypad on the wall, and hidden trays slid out.
"I'm going to need more people helping," the medic said quietly.
"We don't have more people available," Bashir said curtly. "It's going to be you and me. And the officer here. Do you have a dermal regenerator?"
Jenk handed Bashir the requested instrument, then began donning a surgical gown taken from a sealed package that lay on one of the wall trays.
Bashir moved over to the policewoman and crouched beside her. "This won't hurt nearly as much as it already does," he said with a grim smile. Activating the instrument, he moved it over the woman's lacerated scalp and watched as the skin quickly sealed itself. Unfortunately, he lacked the time to do more than a cursory job. She can get the scar removed later. Right now, I'm going to need her help.
"What's your name?" he asked.
"Rame Sagado," she said, wincing slightly as she rubbed her newly repaired scalp.
Bashir set the dermal regenerator down on one of the trays. Pointing to a nearby washbasin, he said, "Well, Officer Sagado, I need you to wash up, put on a sterile gown, and get some gloves on. You're going to help us here."
"But I need to go back to my post," she protested.
Bashir steered her toward the basin. "Not to be pessimistic, but you're in no condition to face rioters, or to drag more injured people out of the crowds. For now, let's concentrate on saving one life at a time."
Bashir once again checked the monitor, and then began to carry Dr. Rarn from the biobed. Before Jenk could react, he said, "His condition is fully stabilized. He may even be conscious within the hour. He doesn't need this bed as badly as the boy does. And we need this space to work." He gently deposited the unconscious doctor on the wide chair that Sagado had vacated, then moved to get himself gowned, gloved, and prepped for surgery.
Minutes later, the trio began operating on the young Trill. Bashir made an incision through the pouch below the boy's stomach, the place where the symbionts nested in the joined. Sagado was helping keep the pouch flap open with retractors, while Jenk administered drugs as needed, handled the surgical instruments, and watched the vitals on the monitor.
It would be easier to go in directly through the stomach, but with this much chaos going on, I can't risk an infection from a nonsterile environment, Bashir thought, focusing past the screams he heard coming from the triage room outside the alcove. He was so deep in concentration that he almost drowned out the cacophony from the rest of the hospital, not to mention the occasional phaser bursts and explosions that were still audible from the street.
But even as he worked delicately to finesse the broken bone from the boy's spinal column, Bashir's mind was awhirl with questions. "Officer Sagado, do they have any clue what happened out there? I know it was some kind of radiation-producing bomb, but I haven't seen many of the concussive injuries one would expect from a weapon of that type."
"The comm channels are still pretty scrambled," the policewoman said. "But we think that the blasts were some kind of neurogenic radiation, along with an electromagnetic pulse. Leran Manev wasn't the only city hit. There were reports from Gheryzan, New Scirapo, and Bana the last I heard, and there are fears that some of the symbiont spawning grounds have been attacked as well."
Bashir felt his blood chill. Ezri was at the Caves of Mak'ala right now. If a bomb had been detonated there, she could be dead. And there is so much left unresolved between us.
"Did you hear anything about Mak'ala?" he asked, his voice barely above a whisper.
"No," Sagado said simply.
"Do they know which of the radical groups is responsible for this?" Jenk asked the officer.
Sagado seemed relieved to continue discussing something other than the emergency surgery she was assisting with. "Given their choice of targets, I'd bet on one of the anti-joined groups. Probably the neo-Purists."
From what he already knew about the chaotic political situation on Trill, Bashir thought that was a safe bet indeed.
"Widen that spreader," he said to Sagado, then spared another quick glance at the monitor. He was forced to move millimeter by millimeter now; the smallest twitch of his hand could cause fatal neurological trauma.
Bashir heard feet scuffling at the entrance of the alcove, but didn't divert his attention from the delicate task at hand. He heard a harsh male voice. "We need this alcove."
"It's in use," Bashir said, his voice stern and clear. "I'm trying to save the life of this child."
The voice grew closer, became more demanding. "From the looks of the scans, this child is beyond saving. We have a very important doctor from the Symbiosis Commission that needs to undergo surgery right now."
Bashir kept at his exacting work, sparing another glance at the monitor. In the glass he could see ghostly reflections of a pair of medics, a security guard, and a body on a hover-gurney. The guard was apparently the one who had been speaking.
"This child will survive, sir, because we will keep working until we save him," Bashir said in his most commanding voice, though he remained bent over his small patient. "And if you want to save your commissioner, I suggest you find another alcove before it's too late." Uncertain how the guard would react, he tried to keep his breathing steady.
Bashir knew that if the man were to try to physically remove him, his patient would almost certainly die.
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