Day 13: Cold Compress/Infection
From this line in Joining Forces:
"Sometimes with the wrong meds, he'll get lost in his own mind. He'll need someone to talk him out of that." John pulled up his wrist comp. "I can send the list to you if you would like?"
"Ah, perfect." Fawn pointed to the auto-nurse monitoring Scott. "If you can transmit it to the auto-nurse it'll update his records. Any triggers or topics to avoid?"
Warnings: Drowning, Medical treatments, Fever, drug-induced hallucination
It was a lesson learned the hard way.
International Rescue was on the brink of going live when Scott fell ill.
At first he ignored the niggling sore throat and the occasional shudders. He'd had worse, he could and would work through this.
And so he did.
That morning they were testing Gordon's drysuit. The modifications that had been put into the suit's new tank and helmet duo needed calibrating for the aquanaut's safety, but since he wasn't yet fit enough to risk, well, to risk anything, Scott as the next best swimmer, had volunteered. He still had trouble with water in enclosed spaces – still couldn't manage to use his ensuite, but the open water shouldn't pose a problem.
Virgil hadn't wanted Scott to be the tester, had wanted to do it himself or get John to be the guinea pig, but his Dad was clear – Scott was the trained Test Pilot, let him put some of that training to use. There was more implied but Virgil wasn't going to give it room in his head.
As the boat Brains and Virgil had fitted out to carry the equipment flew across the water Scott went through a series of poses, getting used to the range of movement the suit would give him. He marvelled again at how Brains had built so much into such thin fabric. The tank was so small! The rebreather built into the helmet was also an amazing feat of engineering.
They passed over a small swell, and while usually Scott would be fine – his body had a remarkably immunity to Earthly forces – this caught him as he was standing on one leg and as a consequence he found himself pitched forwards.
The helmet saved him from cracking his head open and he checked it over and marvelled once more that there wasn't a scratch on it. After reassuring Virgil and Brains he was alright and that the helmet had done its job they finally let him into the water.
A tiny submersible pulled him down. Scott watched the various fish, most scooting out of his way, although a shark was curious and swam beside him for a short while before getting bored and swimming off.
'How's it going, Scott?'
His father's voice came over the comm and Scott supressed a sigh. The man had been micromanaging them – him – every second since he'd agreed to this venture. But International Rescue had such promise, there was no way that Scott wouldn't want to eb a part of it, despite his father being at the helm. Besides, he brothers were already on board and there was no way he was going let them rush headlong into danger without him.
He'd protected them all his life and he wasn't about to stop now.
'Tell Gordon he's really in for a treat. I just had a close encounter with a Hammerhead.'
'Focus on the gear. Mind on mission, if you can.'
Scott bit his cheek to stop the reply he wanted to make and kept it professional.
'No issues at all so far, Sir. Can't tell any difference in the air. Vision is clear, lights on the helmet work well. The small tank isn't impeding me at all.'
'Good. Ready to do the tests?'
The submersible returned to the surface while Scott swam alone, listening and following the instructions so that they could test the suit limits.
He was almost through the first set of manoeuvres when there was the tiniest cracking sound. It was a tiny sound but it was audible over the comms.
'Err – Scott?'
But Scott was too busy being transfixed by the crack slowly spreading over his visor to hear his brother. It was like time had slowed and he hung there in the water watching the crack spread and he didn't even hear the worried voices of his family.
Until a small spurt of water hit his face.
Scott sucked in a shaky breath. The water around him was gone and he was back in that tiny cell strapped to a tilt-table. The water was choking him and he couldn't breathe. He was completely unaware of what was going on until a hand touched him.
And all hell broke loose.
Thank goodness this was water because if they had been on the ground Virgil would still be there after being thrown over Scott's shoulder. He managed to turn in the water, which meant he was facing Scott as his brother began to panic due to the water filling his helmet.
Knowing he couldn't just touch Scott Virgil went for the next best thing – he tackled him around the waist, throwing him over his shoulder and relaxing minutely as his brother didn't fight back.
Thankfully they had not gone deep enough to worry about decompression sickness, and Virgil held on tight to the rope as Brains quickly reeled them in.
As soon as they had broken the surface Virgil had virtually ripped the damaged helmet off and began rescue breathing immediately while they still bobbed there until Brains was ready to help them aboard.
Blessedly Scott coughed up a lungful of water after only a couple of breaths before losing consciousness and Virgil held him tightly while they rushed home. Brains and Virgil installed him in the infirmary and hooked him up to all the new equipment. Their father had not spared any expense to keep his dream going. But the man himself didn't appear.
Virgil wasn't sure what he thought about that.
'I don't like the sound of his breathing.'
'W-W-What is it, Virgil?'
'He took some water in, sure, but I wouldn't expect his lungs to sound so congested. Plus, he's burning up.'
'You th-th-think he was already sick b-b-before he went into the w-w-water?'
'Yeah, though I think he might not have realised how badly. Even Scott's not stupid enough to risk everything now.'
'Alright, w-w-what do you need me to d-d-do?'
'We know how to treat him, let's just hope it doesn't get too bad.'
They all knew that Scott had trouble being ill since…since Bereznik, and that hell had left him with weakened lungs, at least at the moment. The water on top of being ill was going to do a number on him…
Over the next few hours Scott's temperature ramped up and his breathing got worse. Virgil and Grandma, online from their ranch where she was looking after Alan and Gordon, talked about whether he'd need hospitalising or if they could treat him at home. Home it would be until they couldn't treat him, which both hoped would never happen.
Antivirals were given to combat the infection that was raging through his body and pain relief in the form of the lowest dose of morphine for the drowning, and Virgil didn't know whether to be grateful that Scott stayed unconscious through the worst or more worried that he hadn't woken up.
He didn't know until that evening.
Blue eyes regarded him from the bed, but they didn't hold the usual warmth in them. Instead, Virgil saw something he couldn't name. But it worried him. He worked around the bed, checking the machines and replacing the drip and chatting but Scott didn't talk to him at all, just regarded him with those wary eyes.
As Virgil turned to leave Scott's drip-free hand suddenly shot out and grabbed his wrist. The hoarse, hollow voice that spoke worried Virgil even more.
'I'm sorry, Virg. I'm sorry.'
'What are you sorry for, Scott?'
'I – I don't remember. For not being there.'
'Scotty, you've always been there for me.'
'I wasn't. I'm sorry.'
As the spoke the hold on Virgil's wrist tightened and it looked as if Scott shrank in on himself as he just repeatedly voiced those two words, not seeming like he heard any of Virgil's reassurances. Gradually his grip weakened and Virgil saw his eyes beginning to close.
Eventually Scott fell asleep again, and Virgil perched on the bed beside him and watched his big brother toss and turn. His temperature was at breaking point, and Virgil repeatedly applied a cold compress to help tip the balance.
It was the early hours of the morning when Scott next woke up. Virgil had just gone to the toilet when the monitors suddenly began screaming.
Cursing his brother's timing, he hurriedly zipped himself up and crashed through the bathroom door.
The bed was empty.
Virgil skidded to a halt in front of it, mouth open in shock. How on earth? Scott hadn't been well enough to move earlier, now he was gone?
But then Virgil stiffened. A hand had snaked over his shoulder and gently but firmly clasped him around his mouth. His eyes went wide as Scott whispered in his ear.
'Don't make a sound, Virgil. I'll get us out of here, but I need you to follow what I do exactly or we'll both be in trouble. Do you understand?'
Virgil nodded once and Scott's hand disappeared as suddenly as it appeared. His brother padded through the infirmary, silent as a cat, and Virgil suddenly realised he was seeing the soldier his brother had been – still was. Discretely he activated the watch, knowing John and Brains would be online. Thankfully their Father had already flown out for one of his meetings.
Nothing happened. John sent a signal to Virgil's phone and he relaxed slightly. He must have breathed out funny because suddenly Scott had whirled around to face him. His eyes were black and this time he rushed at Virgil, his arm at Virgil's throat, until he had him pinned against the wall.
'Oh, very clever. Very clever. Make me believe my brother is here, see what I would do. See where I would lead you.'
The pressure on Virgil's throat increased as Scott leant forward and whispered in his ear.
'Do you want to see what I can do to despicable lowlifes like yourself?'
'Stand down, Captain.'
John's voice was firm and strident. Scott automatically paused, but he didn't let up.
'I said, Stand Down, Captain. This man is not your enemy.'
Virgil kept his eyes on John as Scott's arm loosened a little. John was dressed in his iR suit, must have not long got back, thank goodness.
'I will not tell you again, Captain Tracy. Stand down, Now.'
And Scott stepped back, releasing Virgil. As Virgil rubbed at his sore throat and looked at Scott closely he could see the sweat standing out. Scott did a perfect parade turn to face John and took two steps towards him.
And then he stumbled.
John and Virgil dived to catch him before he hit the floor, John reaching him first and cradling his head in his lap. Virgil wasn't too far behind and he saw Scott's eyes suddenly show clarity.
'You back with us, Scotty?'
'Yeah, big bro. Just you me and Virgil. Like the old days.'
Scott said their names so quietly if they had been any further away they would have missed it. And then he went limp. As John called all-clear to Brains their friend brought in a stretcher and they took Scott back to the infirmary.
It may have been scary, but that extra exertion had done the trick and Scott's fever broke within the hour.
Virgil had drawn bloods as soon as they had hooked Scott back up to the machines and tested them while John took his turn with the cold compress. Their brother had lapsed into a more natural sleep when the results came back.
It was the combination of antivirals and the morphine that Scott had been given that had caused the issue. They had always known Scott was a little sensitive to morphine but had never had been more than slight confusion. Something about this particular combination had pushed Scott over the edge into full hallucination.
A note was put on Scott's file so that this would not happen again.