Diana: D plus 00h : 30m : 15s and counting

pg | no warnings apply



Her first task at Dcom was to collect samples from all the participants to establish a baseline. It was always fascinating watching different people and their reactions to having blood taken. But she worried about the fact that, although they had all been briefly introduced to each other a half an hour before, this was their first time interacting with her. Their first impression would be unavoidably linked to something they may find terribly unpleasant. With blood samples being taken three times a day - which seemed excessive to her - it was undoubtedly an experience they would come to dread.

Akane appeared to be a bit mysophobic. She requested that Diana sterilize the needle in front of her, even though Diana assured her she had just taken it out of the packaging and it was already sterile. But being a little extra cautious never hurt anyone, so she carefully cleaned the needle, with Akane scrutinizing her every move. When she was satisfied, Diana proceeded to take the sample, watching as the other woman's calm countenance remained the same the entire time.

After surveying the wide variety of bandages, Diana chose a pale purple one with a white flower on it to cover the small red dot on Akane's arm.

Junpei looked angry when he entered the infirmary, but a lot of people who were actually nervous tended to look that way when they were about to do something they found unpleasant. She gave him a small smile and apologized for her cold hands. Although patients usually couldn't feel the warmth (or lack thereof) in her hands through the medical gloves, an apology sometimes broke the ice - no pun intended - and helped them feel more relaxed.

It didn't really appear to work on him, though.

He winced slightly when she stuck the needle in, but didn't avert his eyes. He watched along with her as the vacutainer slowly filled up.

"We'll be running a CBC on this, a complete blood count, which is why the top is lavender. You'll see the collection tubes that I'll use for later samples will have green and black caps, but you don't have to worry about losing too much blood. As you can see, I only need a little. I still want you to let me know if you feel faint, though."

"Nope, I'm good."

She applied a black bandage to his arm and sent him on his way.

Carlos was the exact opposite of Junpei, expressive and cheerful, but then again, she had met him the day before, when the two of them had a meeting with Dcom administrators to go over the expectations of the project. While the participants would mostly be left to their own devices, Carlos was in charge of overseeing various tasks and Diana was to monitor the participants for any health concerns. They were both to compile reports every night on the day's events.

The briefing had left her anxious. It had lasted four hours and mostly covered things that could go wrong, like the proper procedure if a participant fell ill or seemed to be having a psychological breakdown. Carlos had put a hand on her shoulder and reassured her everything would be fine, and that the most serious thing she might be treating would be a hangnail.

His clotting time wasn't really where she would have liked it, but he told her it wasn't unusual for him and had never been a problem. She knew if there was any history of hemophilia or Von Willebrand or any other coagulopathy, he wouldn't have been let into the experiment, and probably wouldn't pass the physical to be a firefighter, so she didn't worry too much.

She put a red bandage with a white cross on his arm.

Mira was next, clad in incredibly tight shorts and a low-cut turquoise top. Diana felt a brief twinge of jealousy; she had always been somewhat shy, and her unhappy marriage had done nothing to help her feel more comfortable in her own skin. Even though there were no bruises or cuts on her at the moment, almost every inch of her body from her neck to her toes was covered with clothing, and Diana didn't think she'd ever be as self-assured as Mira clearly was.

Mira watched with rapt attention as the blood flowed out of her arm and into the small tube.

"I've just realized that I don't think I've ever seen my own blood," she said as Diana finished up.

"You've never cut yourself?"

"Oh, I've seen the tiny bit from paper cuts or minor scrapes, but I've never watched it flowing out of my veins and splashing onto a surface like that."

She sounded excited, which was a bit odd, Diana supposed, but the human body was a fascinating thing, especially if someone had never really thought about how it worked before.

There was a bandage with a blue and black abstract pattern on it that came close to matching the colors of Mira's outfit, so Diana carefully applied it over the draw site.

Eric was already trembling slightly when he came in. She gave him a comforting smile as she took off her gloves and tossed them in the medical waste bin. He reluctantly sat in the chair, after asking her if the blood samples were really necessary. Instead of putting the padded flip arm down - and potentially making him feel trapped - she sat on the stool in front of him and leaned forward, making herself seem smaller and less threatening.

"Have you ever had your blood drawn before?"

"Uh, maybe when I was a kid in the hospital. I was in the hospital a lot."

There were only a couple of explanations for that, neither of which were particularly good, so she didn't pursue that line of questioning.

"I promise I'll be gentle. My hands may be a little cold, though."

That got her a smile. "Isn't there a saying about that? Uh, something about cold hands..."

"Warm heart," she finished, when it was apparent he was stuck. "My mom used to say that all the time."

The smile on his face morphed from a genuine Duchenne smile to a feigned one, the orbicularis oculi no longer contracting around his eyes. Nervousness, perhaps, or maybe his mother was a touchy subject. His hands were out in front of him, fingers interlaced as if he was praying, and she put hers over them in a reassuring gesture.

"I won't say it won't hurt, because it probably will, a little, but it should be over fairly quickly."

She maintained eye contact until his posture relaxed somewhat, and his expression was no longer so ... plastered on. She lowered the padded arm and put on new, clean gloves out of his field of view, and when she went to stick him, she asked him to tell her about why he had joined the Dcom project. His face lit up when he spoke of his feelings for Mira, and he didn't even notice when she put the needle in.

She gave him a bandage with smiley faces on it, as well as a cookie, which he took only after she said she had requisitioned them because she wanted to have something sugary to offer them to keep their blood glucose levels up.

Eric brought in Q next. She kept up a steady stream of small talk if only to make herself more comfortable. She had been told he could communicate by tracing letters with his finger on other people's palms - and vice versa - so she spelled out b-l-o-o-d-d-r-a-w on his hand and saw him nod. She thought she saw his arm move slightly as she brought the needle towards it, but it must have been her imagination.

She was drawn to a bandage with a triangle pattern on it. As she placed it on his arm, he put his hand over one of hers. She thought he was trying to tell her something, so she turned over her hand. With a shaky finger he traced "t" and then "y". She took his hand and traced "y" and "w" in return before calling for Eric to wheel him back out.

Phi entered the room with what could only be described as a suspicious expression on her face. Like Akane, she asked her to sterilize the needle before she would let Diana start the draw. She couldn't imagine people with a germ phobia would last very long in space.

"You're good at this," Phi said as Diana finished up. "But I guess you do this a lot."

"It's not uncommon in the ER."

"You work in the ER?"

Diana wasn't surprised that Phi was surprised. Most people who met her were; they envisioned an ER as a place with shouting and people running around, and couldn't see her personality fitting in there. In reality, anyone running through the ER would get a severe tongue-lashing from any nurse or attending with half a brain.

For Phi, Diana picked a bright yellow bandage that read 'crime scene - do not cross' on it.

It was several minutes before Sigma arrived at the infirmary, which was okay with her. When they first met, he had stared at her for at least ten seconds. He seemed familiar, so she initially thought he was just trying to recall where he knew her from; she was trying to do the same thing. After the introductions were over with, she had excused herself to go to the restroom. After locking the door behind her, she sat on the floor - it seemed clean, although the way her legs had been trembling, it didn't much matter.

Then she had apparently slipped into some sort of dissociative fugue state.

She hadn't passed out; she knew that much. It was like she had gone into a daydream, except she couldn't remember anything about it. Seven minutes were missing from her memory, and her first thought had been that it was a panic attack. But she didn't feel panicked or distressed when she came back to herself. She was ... oddly energized.

She had rejoined the group, half-expecting to hear someone make a joke about her needing more fiber in her diet, and kept mum on her little episode. She needed the money too much.

When Sigma finally entered the room, he barely moved away from the doorway.

"I can take my own blood sample," he said, not meeting her eyes.

"I'm sorry, but we have to maintain the same procedure with all participants."

She braced herself for an argument, but he silently moved to the chair, pulling down the padded arm and exposing the inside of his elbow to her. The moment she touched him, though, he jerked away. Maybe he had some sort of medical phobia; Dcom staff had introduced her as a nurse, after all. His arm went rigid, his fingers clenched into a fist.

"I'll need you to relax a little." Her instinct was to put a hand on his shoulder, or his arm, but she resisted. Normally, her touch seemed to soothe people's anxieties, but it apparently had the opposite effect on him. It was impossible to do a blood draw on someone without touching them, though, so she tried to distract him with small talk.

"Do I -?"

"Just get it over with." He was staring intently at the window. It wasn't a real window; instead of the desert outside, it showed a hologram of the Martian surface. He did manage to relax his arm, so with as little contact as she could manage, she gently pricked him with the needle, silently praying he wouldn't make any sudden movements and break it off inside him. As soon as she had enough blood, she withdrew as quickly as she dared. She reached for the box of bandages and he flipped up the padded arm so hard she thought it might break off.

"Oh, wait, you need a bandage!"

He didn't respond. She crossed the room with a quickness he apparently didn't think her capable of, blocking his exit.

"Look, you can be as macho as you want when you leave the room, but in the interest of being sanitary, you need a bandage so you don't bleed all over the place."

Sigma could have just pushed her out of the way easily, but he didn't. He displayed his arm, where a tiny amount of blood was oozing out of the draw spot. Despite his resistance, she found herself pressing her luck as she thumbed through the box of bandages.

"Do you have a preference? I have cats -"

"N-N-No!"

It was the closest he came to looking at her. She was tempted to give him the white one with black cats anyway, but didn't. After she applied the chosen bandage, she stepped out of his way. Instead of walking right out, he regarded the spot on his arm, the grey bandage with multi-colored robots on it. For a moment, she thought he was going to say something, but he only shook his head and left.

There was only one participant left to sample. She should have gone to get Carlos to help her, but she managed on her own, so he wouldn't see the scar on her arm. She doubted he would judge her - she had seen the scars on his arm - but she didn't want to have to answer if he asked how she got it.

She added her vacutainer to the other eight and stared at them for a moment before taking out Sigma's, staring at it as if it would give her answers.

"I know you from somewhere," she murmured to the empty room.

(fin.)