“Th–this is the medbay?”
Claudia tried, but it was impossible to keep the horror out of her voice. The module looked to be the original one installed when the ship was first built. So, it was a good twenty to thirty years out of date. It had been there so long the white plastic had yellowed, and all the colored stripes turned to a dull gray. Bond tape lay here and there, covering up places the plastic had cracked. Although clean, it smelled stale.
The back wall was storage, and housed the medical computer, sanitizers, and other necessities. A full-body scanner/examination/operating table was on the left, with two, currently folded, patient beds on the far right wall.
She wasn’t deluded enough to have expected them to have the same cutting-edge equipment she’d had access to at Clonos Labs; but she’d still not expected this.
“Do the units even work?”
Stevens opened an already loosened panel on the ceiling and flipped something inside. An audible jolt swept through the room, and lights flickered across the different boards and machinery. Most were green, but a few blinked orange or red.
“We haven’t had a medic for a while, so the unit was shut down to conserve power. Doctors and their equipment have been low on the captain’s priority list.”
Stevens’ tone was too even, almost mechanical, for Claudia to be able to make much of it. Something subtle was being implied…or hidden. She couldn’t quite tell.
“What does he consider more important than the health of the crew?”
“The ship—her engines, her armament, her hull. The crew is a necessity he puts up with.”
This was all said matter-of-fact, which somehow made it that much worse. This captain was the man who knew her secret?
Claudia felt her shoulders tighten. “I see.”
“All the manuals for the equipment are in the database. They’ll be your responsibility. Though, if you run into something you can’t fix, let me know, and I’ll find someone to take a look at it. If they can’t do a workaround, and it’s not something critical for the job, you can put in a requisition for parts. Just don’t expect anything right away.”
Stevens’ stance appeared relaxed but also ready, as if she expected Claudia to throw a tantrum. Claudia sighed, not surprised by the news or the attitude at this point. Bennet could make her life very difficult if he chose, so it wasn’t like she had the freedom to complain about anything. It brought her some relief, however, that it looked like he’d not shared her shame with the tour guide. Stevens was straight with her, as well. She couldn’t fault the woman for that.
“Anything you could do would be greatly appreciated.” She glanced around the room again. “Any idea when the crew had their last physicals?”
The pained expression spreading on the woman’s face when Claudia glanced back at her said it all. At least she would be quite busy for a while. It was something. Not much, but something.
“We can work on a timetable to get each crew member to see you. It’ll have to be on their down time, so there’ll be grumbling about that. If any of them give you trouble, or don’t show, tell me immediately.” Her hard expression said she’d brook no excuses, in either case. It gave Claudia a jolt of hope. The first mate looked to be someone she’d definitely want on her side if she could manage it.
“There should be some files on at least part of the crew in the database.” Stevens nodded toward the medbay’s computer. “Permissions should feed through momentarily. You’ll also need to rekey all the cabinet locks to your thumbprint or Identi-all. It’d be best not to present the crew with any temptations.”
Stevens’ brow rose. “Medicinals.”
Claudia looked away, feeling like an idiot. Not like she hadn’t heard of such a thing before. She’d even done a paper on addiction once.
“Yes, of course. I’ll do that before anything else.”
The first mate nodded. “Also, the sooner you can get those requisitions to me the better. Ship’s time is the same as the station’s. Shifts, meal times, etcetera, can be downloaded to your Identi-all, tablet, or your cabin’s console from the computer.”
Claudia nodded, trying to take it all in. “Why the rush? Surely, this isn’t the only port of call for supplies?”
Stevens gave her a hard look. “Not for the kind of supplies you’re looking for. So, make sure to send me that list. We won’t be back for several months or longer.”
The weight of her words settled heavily on Claudia’s shoulders. They were in the Fringes, so goods taken for granted in the United Dominion might be hard to come by here.
“I have other duties to attend to, so I’ll leave you to it.” Stevens headed toward the door.
The older woman half-turned in surprise. “Yes?”
Feeling her face flush with embarrassment at the impulsive outburst, Claudia didn’t meet Stevens’ gaze.
“Do I need to worry about Bennet?”
Stevens faced her, impassive, studying her for several moments before she spoke. “If you do as you’re told and don’t cause any trouble, you’ll be okay. As long as the captain has no reason to be displeased, he won’t bother to take the time to bother you.”
Somehow, that didn’t sound all that comforting.
Stevens nodded and left her to her thoughts.