Thursday, January 22, 2015

Life of a 3rd Year Cadet

The sickbay of the USS Antares was in a power saving mode when Sri first arrived. First, the room was dark, then suddenly brightly lit. She paused to let her eyes adjust to the light, and regard sickbay. The spartan, flat biobeds with the heavy, blocky biofunction monitors above them to her more modern sensibilities looked quaint --- almost baroque.

"Computer, activate the Emergency Medical Hologram"

The air shimmered just a few meters away. The EMH was clearly designed to appear competent without intimidation -- mature and scholarly with a dash of mousy harmlessness thrown in. Tens of thousands engineering hours to create an EMH that made patients feel better simply by the sight of it and Sri merely regarded the EMH with weary resignation.

"Please state the nature -" It began until Sri cut it off briskly.

"There is no medical emergency. I just need help with my lab work."

The EMH gave her a once over, incredulous. "Lab work? Captain? What are you doing in sick bay?"

Sri sighed irritably. “Of course. Computer, please upload current scenario and parameter metadata to the EMH."

The EMH just briefly paused, as the sudden inrush of data made it aware that the EMH was actually not on the USS Antares, but was in itself part of the holodeck simulation of the USS Antares. Furthermore, the Betazoid in front of it was not the Captain. The EMH carefully designed to have a human-life personality matrix, added a little surprise to his tone.

"Fourth Year Cadet Sri," He asked, peppering his surprise with a carefully calculated amount of sterness, " Shouldn't you be preparing for the Hirogen attack, rather than superfluously activating the EMH?"

Sri gently protested, "I just need help isolating the neurotransmitter matrix using an un-matrixed peptide. I don't need to finish the Hirogen scenario for another 48 hours."

"Couldn't this be considered, cheating, Cadet Sri?"

Sri swallowed hard, for having been surprised with the EMH’s initial lack of awareness, she was well-prepared for *this* argument. " I'm allowed by the nature of the assignment to work with medical professionals for assistance. As an EMH, you are more than qualified."

The EMH seemed to consider this for a very long moment, then simply shrugged. "Very well. State the nature of the medical non-emergency." It paused and looked at Sri with a new suspicion."The required assistance *is* of a medical nature?" It added with an accusatory tone. It would not be the first EMH to suffer indignities at the hands of cadets.

Fourth Year Cadet Sri smiled in relief, then clasped her fingers together and gratefully bowed to the EMH "Thank you, Thank you!" she said emphatically. "Yes, it is of a medical nature. I'll set up the experiment, just tell me what I'm doing wrong with the isolation."

Sri set up her PADD to display her notes as she carefully acquired the specialized equipment from storage, and commenced to painstakingly assemble the components to first assemble the un-matrixed peptide, and then isolate a neurotransmitter matrix,. Satisfied with her collection of equipment, she carefully assessed each step with triple and quadruple tests. Unsatisfied with her results, she disassembled the experiment and started over. On her third such disassembly, the EMH was drumming his fingers on the medical examination table.

"Cadet, if you don't want to be referred to as 'Fifth Year Cadet Sri' I'd suggest you pick up your pace."

Sri peeked up from her work on the apparatus long enough to give the EMH a terse look. "I'm getting there."

"Eventually. Though you are supposed to be coordinating with your lab team."

Sri stopped, shooting the EMH a suspicious look. "You looked at my assignment records."

"Of course" the EMH replied, without a trace of guilt. "You're the one who made me aware that I'm a photonic re-creation *inside* a holodeck program. However, I am not programmed for existential shock as a reaction to this knowledge. However, Cadet Sri, you're dodging my question. Teamwork *is* part of the assignment."

Sri sighed, concentrating on her tricorder and digesting the readings. "I know, I know. But Jenna and Seteff are fighting." She stopped there, apparently satisfied, but the EMH didn't lower its expectant gaze. " She frowned and continued to explain. They were together..." Sri continued, with the emphasis on *together* for the EMH to understand the double meaning. "But now they're fighting. They're all wound up, and while they can manage it being barely civil to each other, I'm left trying to manage the feelings coming from both of them. They spend more time trying to irritate each other than working on the assignment, and I'm having -- " she paused, her voice slightly bitter at the admission. "I'm having trouble blocking them out." She paused, taking a small breath, hoping for a brief moment the EMH would let the topic drop.

The EMH, however, reached its conclusion with startling speed. "That, and considering you are wearing gloves in August, begs the obvious question, of how long have you had Evan's Syndrome?"

Sri blushed slightly, her mild irritation with the EMH turning into a simmering annoyance, despite the tens of thousands of hours spent trying to develop an EMH personality was soothing and articulate. Of course an EMH, with a full library of maladies from across the galaxy, would remind her of her encounter with the rare Betazoid condition which made strong thoughts and intense emotions she received cripplingly overwhelming. "It started when I was twelve."

"Most Betazoids quickly grow out of it. Your condition is chronic?" the EMH asked, while pointing to a juncture in the apparatus. Sri re-reviewed the coupling and made adjustments until the EMH nodded in satisfaction of her work.

Sri frowned. "You know, I could get this setup done much faster..."

"If you took *off* your gloves so you could work easier with the finer components?" The EMH asked.

Sri actually laughed briefly. "I suppose they are silly. There's nothing here that can generate a mental impulse." She rubbed her hands together briskly, then slid off her gloves. She flexed her fingers, the sensation of being without gloves foreign to her. "Hower,” she said, pleased to inform the EMH that it was wrong, “What I was going to say, is ‘I could get this setup done much faster If I didn't have to go through my medical history while doing so."

If she had hoped the quip would end the particular line of questioning for the EMH, she had underestimated its ability to handle snippy patients as it blithely ignored the jibe. There was little she could really do about the EMH’s attitude, though. She still needed its cooperation. Rather than go another round with the EMH, she simply decided to answer. "It lasted over a year and I had to go through training to better block out the thoughts and emotions of everyone around me.”

"A Psilosynine inhibitor might be in order."

Sri frowned at being so crudely diagnosed. "Can we please stick to the lab? Besides, psilosynine inhibitors work for short-term solutions but over time have shown to produce a reduction in paracortex activity, which can lead to paracortex atrophy or in rare cases paracortex hyperactivity as the paracortex overproduces neurotransmitters."

"A Cortical Implant-"

Sri shuddered. Borg technology. "With all due respect, *doctor* I am not that bad off as to consider such a radical technique. "

"Of course not. I was merely hypothesizing."

"The condition only comes on when I'm really tired or under a lot of stress." She explained. "I'm considered Type 2 Evan's. Certainly manageable with Vulcan meditation techniques, a reasonable diet to watch out for Psilosynine stimulants, and exercises to reduce paracortex sensitivity." She stopped, stepping back from the lab table. "There. A completed transmitter matrix."

"Not exactly in record time." The EMH commented dryly. He stepped forward to look it over. "So, manageable?"

"Yes, it can produce a stable un-matrixed peptide. Its when I try to isolate the matrix that...."

"I was talking about your condition." the EMH responded, not looking up from its inspection of her handiwork.

"Perfectly." Sri replied a little archly. "What about the isolation?"

"You tell me about the isolation." The EMH replied smoothly. You're the one who's by herself talking to a holographic system *in* a holographic system because sentient contact is overwhelming. If you were any more isolated, you'd be in cryosleep."

The chill in her initial response became a cold, hostile stammer. "That's not what I -- was talking about the neuro -- the -- look, I'm. Just Tired. I've had little sleep. If I finish this now, I'll sleep four hours before my next class. " She snatched the isolator from the table, for a moment holding it like a knife "Now let me get this calibrated."

She checked the connections and calibrations a couple time before the EMH, which had gratefully maintained silent during her work asked, "Cadet Sri, what happens to neurotransmitters when the isolator is set to nanojoules instead of picojoules?"

She stopped, looking at the isolator, her flash of anger draining away. "A matrix fragmentation. Its what I've been fighting with for hours." She adjusted the isolator, and in seconds the isolator was collecting energy readings from the neurotransmitter matrix. She watched the numbers flicker by long enough to know the data was accurate, then let the stream of numbers blur in her vision. The EMH merely looked back at her placidly. She quietly said, "Thank you."

The EMH waved off her gratitude. "You're welcome, though you'd have gotten it on your own. You do have an affinity for understanding paracortex function."

"Still, thank you. " She paused uncomfortably. "I'm sorry, but I can't keep this program running."

The EMH shrugged again. "And? Of course you can't. Worries of the future and posterity are not in my personality matrix. Do take care of yourself, Cadet Sri."

Sri paused, her reflexive response of "You too" having no meaning in the situation. She simply nodded, very carefully putting her gloves back on. She relaxed her mind and let her defenses slide just a little. She glanced at the EMH, feeling nothing. As if she was in an empty room.

"Computer, please send the data on the lab table I'm in front of to my storage." She'd update the lab team later. She was exhausted, which was going to make even a brisk walk over an empty quad ...challenging. She amended her command. "And, end program."