Business As Usual


"-- not invalid as a hypothesis. I'm only saying that it's not a theory that I'm willing to accept as axiomatic." Yoni pinched the bridge of his nose and tried not to look like he was staving off a headache from Prochnow's misguided belief that repeating an idea ad nauseum would make it true.

"But it fits every single element of the classic profile!" Albert Prochnow had two decades of brilliant -- absolutely brilliant -- work on the historical aspects of virus transmission under his belt. His first book on smallpox in Africa had been one of the reasons Yoni had chosen epidemiology over pathology in medical school and Yoni'd been thrilled when he'd heard that Prochnow had been recruited into the Stargate program as part of the project to help the Jaffa build a life without either Goa'uld parasites or tretonin. They had been communicating by email for the last few months and he'd been looking forward to Prochnow's brief visit to Atlantis.

"Except for the part where they have near instantaneous access to any point in the galaxy," Yoni replied, keeping the sigh out of his voice. It was a little disappointing (a lot disappointing, actually) to realize that one of the most innovative minds in the field had... ossified into a much less flexible and stubborn one. Especially when he was now part of such a world as the Stargate program, where outside-the-box thinking was required. "We don't have an Earth analog for this."

"We can extrapolate from the advent of the railroad or the automobile," Prochnow insisted, gesturing vaguely with his left hand. "The airplane is tempting, but it is ultimately too problematic with cost and recycled air and whatnot."

"There are too many other factors that distort the picture." Yoni looked over at the wall where he kept his timer; his samples still had forty-five minutes before he could so much as check on their progress. "The car and the train are still disproportionately inaccessible when compared to the stargate, the discrete nature of the origin and destination points of stargate travel is potentially too complete, and the differences in social and technological advancement too diverse. Put them all together and we are starting from scratch."

Prochnow's visit had become one long disagreement. Yoni had no illusions as to his own place in the world of epidemiology; he was good -- very good -- but almost everything he'd done in the last few years, almost all of his best work, was classified. His necessarily limited output since his focus had shifted from Africa to aliens, coupled with the inability to network or attend most conferences, had kept him largely off the radar and one or two journal articles a year wasn't enough to let him stand eye-level to giants. Anything he'd done before joining the SGC was tainted by the sweat and tears of a junior researcher trying to make a name for himself and gave him only so much ground to stand on when challenging his intellectual forebears. Prochnow thought he was worth arguing with, but not always worth listening to.

All of which made Yoni rue the fact that Prochnow should have been gone more than a week ago -- he was only around for the duration of the Daedalus's port-of-call -- but the ship's departure had been delayed because of an electrical system malfunction and the continued presence of the Daedalus felt like a splinter under the skin for everyone in Atlantis. Lorne had scheduled a mission for later in the week that seemed mostly for the purpose of getting away from the city for a while and Yoni, who normally didn't like those sorts of interruptions, found himself looking forward to it.

"If you'd only--" Prochnow was cut off by a sharp knock on the door jamb.

"Yoni," Mike Abelard poked his head in. "It's 1430 AST. Do you know where your clinician-on-call is?"

Yoni blinked, then looked on the wall where he had taped that month's calendar. The days on which he had shifts in the infirmary were marked in bright purple. "Today is Tuesday?"

"On this planet it is," Mike agreed. "You were supposed to replace Metzinger half an hour ago. Carson's sending out search parties."

He cursed a lot more than he used to before he started spending so much time with marines, but at least he still did so in Hebrew. On the other hand, now Suarez and Reletti were attempting to learn choice phrases.

"That means 'I'll be right down and tell Carson to call off the dogs', right?" Mike asked with far too much amusement as Yoni booted down his laptop and impatiently gestured for Prochnow to get out of his way so that he could collect the files on his desk.

"Close enough," Yoni replied, going to the drawer where he kept his stethoscope.

Abelard disappeared from the doorway and Yoni grabbed his things and followed before Prochnow could offer to go with him, throwing a hasty goodbye behind him and nearly tripping over a trolley laden with plastic totes full of equipment.

"Doctor Safir, how good of you to show up," Carson said with disturbing (and false) enthusiasm as he ran into the clinic. A marine was sitting on an exam bed, stripped down to tank top and dog tags and an angry rash down the inside of one arm.

"I'm sorry," Yoni apologized as he put down his things on the table and went for his white coat. Metzinger was gone already, which meant that he'd have to rely on Bill's notes on their inpatients and get the rest from Carson, who was undoubtedly going to talk to him about a lot more than just treatment updates once his patient was gone.

"You're lucky I know you're not trying to take advantage of our friendship," Carson began once Sergeant Matero had been sent off to the pharmacy with his prescription. "Because between your history of doing just about anything to get out of clinic hours and your recent poor attendance, one might be tempted to draw another conclusion other than simple preoccupation."

Yoni sighed and dropped his head in contrition. The previous week, he'd returned eight hours late from an offworld mission, which had in turn been three hours before his shift in the clinic, and he'd slept through half of it before Nancy Clayton had knocked on his door and then barged into his quarters. He'd also switched shifts twice this week to accommodate training sessions (land-nav and then a team thing Lorne had devised) and shown up late to one of the make-up times.

"I know you're doing your best to juggle everything, Yoni, and I'm not going to say that you joining Major Lorne's team was a bad idea," Carson went on, "Because, frankly, you're a lot easier to deal with now that you're going offworld more often. But you have to remember that you're not the only one scrambling to make everything fit when you're absent so much."

Lorne was very good about giving Yoni enough advance notice for missions that he could arrange coverage when necessary. But not all missions were planned and Yoni knew that he couldn't continue to rely on his colleagues' largesse. Carson could joke, but he and Yoni both knew that Yoni simply wasn't well-liked enough to have an endless reserve of forgiveness and good humor in the medical unit from which to draw upon.

"I don't know if I should cut your clinic responsibilities or force you to live up to them," Carson said as he washed his hands. "You put everything aside to run the department and lead the cleanup in my absence, plus we have so many more people now and your research is the reason you're out here, after all. But you have spent your entire time in Atlantis brazenly doing whatever you can to get out of the job and there is going to be quite a bit of resentment at what would appear to be a reward for your failure to play nicely."

"I've been... very bad at handling everything," Yoni agreed slowly. He didn't know what to say to Carson. He would like fewer clinic hours -- apart from his dislike of being a practitioner, he was stretching himself a little thin in order to make up enough of the research hours he missed being offworld. "Today there was simply no excuse."

Carson chuckled. "No, there wasn't. Although I'd have thought that you'd have taken any opportunity to avoid spending more time arguing with Dr. Prochnow and been early for once."

"If the Daedalus is here much longer, I will be volunteering for extra shifts," Yoni retorted, picking up the tablet that the inpatient notes were kept on.

"You may be doing that anyway," Carson said mildly. "Come, let's round so I can get out of here."

Twenty-three hours later, Yoni was wondering if Carson would count extra shifts that took place on other planets, or if humanitarian missions didn't qualify anymore because he was part of an offworld team and it was a hazard of the activity. Humanitarian missions had always been good for a missed shift or two, even after Carson had put a limit on how many clinic rotations he could swap out of in any one month.

"Reletti, you are such a fucking blond sometimes."

"Shut up and get me out, dickhead."

Yoni listened to the exchange taking place over their radios and coughed. He was across the village from where the marines were investigating and it would not do to break into seemingly spontaneous laughter while conducting check-ups. The local populace, which had thus far proven friendly but serious to the point of humorlessness, would probably not approve. Would definitely be shocked by the profanities uttered by the nice young men they'd met earlier.

"What did-- Jesus, Reletti, how the fuck did you end up down there?"

If caught, the marines could always blame Lorne, who had set them free without a task while he'd gotten sequestered by the local leaders.

"I fell through the fucking floor! Tell Suarez that it's not my fault."

They'd gone on a visit to M4P-G92, the next planet on the list of possible allies or trade partners, with hopes of finding them to be one or the other. The Daedalus would bring them whatever foodstuffs they asked for, but the citizens of Atlantis had gotten used to fresh supplies that didn't come from cans or require reconstitution or rehydration or a long thawing process and it was still a three-week trip from Earth. The ersatz cows may be uglier in the Pegasus galaxy, but they still made better steaks than anything that came out of the Daedalus's hold.

"You fell through the floor because you stepped exactly where I told you not to step, you 'tard. What part of 'don't go over there, the planks are dry-rotted' sounded like 'go step exactly where the floor won't support your weight'?"

Teyla had had very little information on the Bicasians, Lorne had explained ruefully during the briefing. The Athosians knew of them, but had no dealings with Bicas -- they had no basis upon which to establish a trade relationship. The Bicasians was uninterested in furs or leathers, had ample supplies of meat, and the Athosians didn't have enough of a surplus of anything the Bicasians were interested in acquiring. The population was standoffish -- never rude, but completely uninterested in pursuing alliances that weren't directly beneficial to their cause. Which, considering the Pegasus galaxy, wasn't that surprising -- the Wraith made long-term investment a fool's game.

"It's a fucking tavern. Why would there be an entire area where you can't stand?"

The initial meeting had gone a little stiffly, but they'd passed whatever test the Bicasians had set for them. Yoni wouldn't pick himself to be part of any first contact, but the marines had handled it better than he'd have expected. All of the Marine Corps formality that Yoni privately found a little excessive was much appreciated by the Bicasians, who nodded approvingly at each instance. The instinctive politeness and respect for rank shown by Ortilla, Suarez, and Reletti were big sellers as far as establishing their credibility went. That Lorne was the second highest ranking officer in Atlantis also pleased them -- or at least it fed their ego; they were apparently used to receiving representatives of ragtag militias or middle-rank officials. In general, they seemed to like Atlantis as much for the orderliness of its society (an irony not lost on any of the team) as for what it potentially had to trade.

"Reletti, the average Bicasian weighs about sixty pounds less than you do and isn't carrying thirty pounds of gear. It's no wonder why you went through the floor. Suarez, give me your rope."

What they had to trade turned out to be a mixed bag of goods and services. The Bicasians, it turned out, were interested in furs and leathers of high quality, apparently just not from peoples they found inferior (Yoni wanted to see how Lorne explained that to Teyla). The Bicasians were very interested in medical care and medicines and here Yoni was well acquainted with the dog and pony show that went with proving just how valuable a commodity those could be; he'd done this before on a half-dozen other worlds in the first year. It always left him feeling part snake oil salesman -- everyone come around and see the wonders of dental floss and calcium pills -- and partly like he was back in Africa, where he'd spent time saving children from rickets and parasitic infections with full knowledge that the odds were that they'd die of AIDS or in bloody combat before they turned twenty. Except instead of tribal warfare or communicable disease, here it was the Wraith.

"I got it. Am I climbing or are you pulling?"

"What are you without your gear? One-ninety? Two hundred? Fuck if I'm hoisting that up without help."

He'd spent the afternoon examining babies and treating the ill that the Bicasian physician he'd been handed off to couldn't cure. (Reynalth called himself 'medicus' and was probably a hundred fifty years behind the standard of treatment Yoni would expect in Europe.) Differential diagnoses without any sort of tests were something between a wild guess and a nightmare out of medical school, but if the Pegasus galaxy had taught him anything, it was to make do. That said, some of the answers were obvious and Yoni looked like a genius more often than he had to explain that he didn't want to make a wrong guess. It galled him that some of these people's lives depended on Lorne securing a trade agreement -- a clear case of lymphoma, for instance -- but this, too, was part of the mercilessness and mercenary nature of the Pegasus galaxy.

"Jesus, Reletti, how much did you eat today?"

While he'd been ushered off to play Paracelsus, Lorne had continued his negotiations. Yoni assumed things were going well -- Lorne hadn't recalled him -- but didn't know beyond that. The marines had been left loose to wander about the town and, despite the combat gear, seemed to be making a good impression. At least until Reletti had wandered in to an abandoned taproom -- it was a building scheduled for demolition -- and then proceeded to fall through the floor.

"Ow, fuck, watch the nose."

"Do I want to know what you're up to?" Lorne asked over the radio.

The real answer, of course, was no. On the other hand, Lorne did want some sort of answer that imparted information, even if it was just that he had to start preparing a formal apology and offering to effect repairs. Or, in this case, all of the above, even if the place was going to be torn down anyway.

Yoni smiled politely at the woman whose teeth he had just inspected. "Just business as usual."

feed me on LJ?


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27 April, 2008