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Old Man

Posted on Mon Jul 8th, 2019 @ 8:22pm by Lieutenant Joshua Miller M.D. & Captain James McCullen

Mission: Reaching Out in Hope
Location: Holodeck 1, USS Sentinel
Timeline: MD2, 1930 Hrs

Downtime. It was something that captains rarely got, a chance to step away from the chair and all the responsibilities it came with, but since the USS Sentinel was finally out in open space, traveling at warp towards Deep Space Nine with several days to whittle away, the captain had finally found some time to himself and he was making the utmost of it.

Sweat ran down his face, his armor was heavy and his dam skin itched beneath it. James McCullen ran, bounding up the pyramid, ball in one hand and ion mallet in the other. To his left, a blue-armored player was angling in for a strike and McCullen pushed, striving to get ahead and over the top of the obstacle before the other player caught him. Somewhere to his right, a teammate called "Open!" and the captain took his chance, wheeling around and launching the ball, surprisingly accurately, towards that voice.

Half a second later, his solar plexus was collapsing and his vision was turning red as the blue Tellarite caught him in the midriff with a freight-train of a tackle, he had the presence of mind to bring the hammer down, scoring a single point for a hit, before he landed on the padded floor.

Air. Air was necessary for life, he'd heard that somewhere, but his lungs were not cooperating as his poor battered solar plexus spasmed and tried to figure out why it had nearly been turned inside out. Blood pounded in his ears, and then as if a miracle, he was drawing a great, ragged breath of lovely, cool, recycled Starship air. Flavored just so by the holodeck to smell like the musty sweat of a Parrises Squares field.

The Tellarite in blue was reaching out a hand, James realized, and he automatically reached for it, there was a grunt as he was hauled vertical and the stocky man... or woman, it was hard to tell, thumped him hard on the shoulder and ran off to rejoin the battle. The captain reached down to pick up his ion mallet and... ow.

"Computer, pause simulation." He said, wincing as he rapidly discovered that he could, in fact, not straighten up. Something had gone ping in his lower back and it was, frankly, bloody painful to even contemplate straightening up. He was, by way of a litany of curses and very slow movements, able to sink to his knees, which was slightly more comfortable. As in, being stabbed in the back with a dagger was slightly more comfortable than being stabbed in the back by a red-hot dagger coated in salt.

It took a few minutes before he could admit to himself that he was actually stuck. There had been some critical failure of the muscles, tendons or other architecture of his back that had rendered him semi-paralyzed with pain. It took a few minutes more to resolve himself to the fact that he needed some kind of help. Briefly, he considered activating the emergency medical hologram in the holodeck, but shoved the idea aside as foolish pride getting in the way of common sense.

Eventually, the captain managed to tap his comm badge. "Captain McCullen to Doctor Miller. I could use some... uh, assistance, in Holodeck one."

Miller was in Sickbay when the Captain's call came through. He tapped his commbadge and replied, "On my way." Grabbing the medical kit he kept underneath his desk and rushed out of Sickbay. It didn't take him long to reach the holodeck where he found the Captain bent over, an ion mallet on the ground in front of him. It didn't take a genius to work out what had happened. "So, what can I do for you?" He joked as he reached into his medkit and retrieved his medical tricorder.

"Get me a new, younger body." McCullen managed, it was a lame comeback, but it was all he could manage given the not inconsiderable amount of pain he was experiencing and the sheer awkwardness of the situation.

The handheld scanner identified the problem and it came as no surprise for the Medical Officer. "A spasm in the muscles of your lower back." He told the Captain as he deactivated the scanner and put the tricorder away. "Have you had any problems with your back before? Or felt any twinges of pain in the past few days?"

"Nothing like this, I've always had a strong..." he had to pause as his muscles spasmed again, "strong back, played contact sports and studied martial arts my whole life, never had this... kind of problem before. I came here because I was feeling a bit stiff, guessed it was the stress and figured some... exercise would do me good."

Josh pulled out a hypospray and loaded a vial containing a muscle relaxant. "A little light exercise, maybe. Engaging in a full contact game of parrises squares might have been a little too...vigourous." He pressed the hypo against a point on the Captain's lower back and pressed the control, forcing the muscle relaxant through the skin and into Captain McCullen's system.

He waited a few seconds to let it take effect. "Okay, why don't we get you standing up straight. But move slowly. Don't want you pulling something in the process."

"Ah, aahhh." McCullen sighed as the pain subsided, then slowly raised himself up to a vertical position. "Doctor, I've been playing Parrises Squares since I was a teenager, I've never had a problem like this." He felt foolish as soon as the words had finished coming out of his mouth, but stubbornness was never something he ever lacked and accepting his age was the very last thing he was willing to do.

Josh hesitated for a moment. "Due respect, you're not a teenager anymore sir. At some point you have to put the ion mallet down and embrace physical activities that..aren't quite so physical."

Jim's first reaction was indignant anger. The idea that he was too old to play parrises squares was offensive. He was only... 60 years old. Realization dawned, painful realization that perhaps he was getting too old. "Damn, Doctor." He sighed, "that hurts."

"The truth often does, sir." Josh replied, opting to continue down the blunt honesty route for this conversation. "But there comes a time for all of us when we have to change gear and take things a little slower." The CMO was hardly speaking from personal experience, he was 34 and in peak physical condition. But he knew the human body and knew that the time would come when he too would have to slow things down.

"Well," McCullen paused, it was a hard pill to swallow but he had to swallow it. As captain of the Sentinel, he had a duty to maintain his health and live up to the expectations of Starfleet and his crew. That meant there was no time for self-delusion or allowing pride to get in the way of reality. "I guess I'll be playing squash instead of squares from now on." He did his best to make his tone light, as if unconcerned, but even to his own ears, it was pretty unconvincing. "What do you recommend I do for my back?"

Doctor Miller held the hypospray out. "It's set to give you the correct dosage if you have any further spasms. The best thing you can do for your back right now is to rest as much as possible. Let me know if you do experience any more spasms and I'll bring you into Sickbay for a closer look. It may indicate a deeper problem that the tricorder just isn't seeing."

The captain took the hypospray and palmed it, not having pockets in his rapidly drying and quite uncomfortable parrises squares uniform. "Thank you, doctor, I'll do that. For now, I am going to summon up an honest-to-goodness replication of a Korean sauna. I'm going to soak my aches away and try to forget how old I'm getting. I still have two hours of downtime and I'll be damned if I'm going to waste them. Care to join me?"

"I appreciate the offer but I have duties in Sickbay to attend to." Josh slung his medical kit over his shoulder. "But I can't think of a better way to spend the rest of your downtime. Enjoy the rest of your evening, sir."

"Thank you, doctor." The captain managed a smile, though he certainly didn't feel cheerful. At sixty, he wasn't old by any stretch of the imagination, but it was the first time in his life that his body had prevented him from doing something he desired to do and it was a rude shock. Perhaps, he mused, a few hours soaking in the heat would give him time to think about what that meant.


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