Year One: Duquesa Bay

"Lusus Naturae"

Inside the private office of Dr. Stephanie Gates, Morrigan lies on an exam table in a blue paper gown. She glances at her watch, counts the panels in the ceiling and then stares at nondescript poster art on the wall. The doctor finally returns with an armful of charts.

Dr. Stephanie: (Shutting the door behind her) Sorry to keep you waiting, Morrigan

Morrigan: No problem, I understand how busy you are

Dr. Stephanie: (Opening up a file) I just love that name "Morrigan"

Morrigan: Thank you for pronouncing it correctly - now, without looking at the chart, can you spell it?

Dr. Stephanie: (Looking away) M-O-R-R-I-G-A-N

Morrigan: (Pleased) Excellent!

Dr. Stephanie: (Taking out her stethoscope) I'm even familiar with the Celtic goddess behind it

A surprised Morrigan smiles as the doctor listens to her heart and lungs.

Dr. Stephanie: Big breath... again... good

She checks her blood pressure and then writes down the info in the charts.

Dr. Stephanie: A few years back for my birthday, my youngest son took me to New York City to see "Riverdance"

Morrigan: How thoughtful

Dr. Stephanie: Brad was so proud of himself for getting front row seats... I'm sure you're familiar with Irish dancing

Morrigan: (Figuring out what happened) Oh, no!

Dr. Stephanie: Uh-huh - the stage was elevated, the only thing I saw for the entire show were rigid torsos and stone faces

The doctor does an imitation, causing her patient to burst out laughing.

Dr. Stephanie: My son is generally well-meaning but he can be so obtuse

Morrigan: (Unsure of what to say) Huh

Dr. Stephanie: I admire your parents, I wanted to be more ethnic with my children's names but my husband at the time wouldn't hear of it - he thought he bestowed a great gift upon me by letting me use "Griffin" - now he lets his new wife name their baby "Ivan"... go figure

Morrigan: Now, is it Dr. Gates or Dr. Martel? - I heard both when I was at Bay Valley

Dr. Stephanie (Smirking) I was Dr. Martel for most of my career, it's pretty hard for some people to forget - but, since I am no longer Mrs. Martel, Dr. Gates is preferable

Morrigan: Dr. Gates it is - by the way, I really appreciate you seeing me as a patient, your secretary said you rarely accept new ones

Dr. Stephanie: (Taking Morrigan's pulse) Between the daily chaos at the hospital and the medical insurance industry, there simply aren't enough hours in the day... but I wanted to make an exception for my favorite dog rescuer

The doctor winks as Morrigan rolls her eyes.

Morrigan: I am never going to live that down!

Dr. Stephanie: (Checking her eyes) You shouldn't... a dog saved my life once

Morrigan: (Curious) Really?

Dr. Stephanie: (Quickly) Another time - so, how have you been doing since the big Santa Conchita River mess?

Morrigan: Well, that's why I'm here - I'm not normally comfortable with doctors but I feel comfortable with you

Dr. Stephanie: Thank you, I appreciate that

Morrigan: Everything is fine except... I've been having a few dizzy spells and I'm lightheaded at times

Dr. Stephanie: I don't recall any severe head trauma from the train accident - is your vision affected?

Morrigan: No, not really

Dr. Stephanie: Any other symptoms?

Morrigan: Nope - actually, I have been under a lot of stress lately

Dr. Stephanie: A new city, a new job - that could very well be the trigger

The doctor takes Morrigan's temperature and then abruptly leaves the office for a minute. She returns moments later with a look of concern on her face.

Morrigan: (Sitting up) So, are we finished?

Dr. Stephanie: (Going through the folder) Not quite - I just needed to look at your labs and I want to recheck something

The physician motions for her to be quiet as she takes her temperature again. She finishes and goes back to her charts.

Morrigan: Is everything alright?

Dr. Stephanie: For the most part, it is

A look of panic crosses McBride's face.

Dr. Stephanie: (Reaching her hand out) Relax, relax - you're fine - I'm sorry, I didn't mean to scare you like that

Morrigan: (Exhaling) I should know better about getting all of the facts before jumping to conclusions

Dr. Stephanie: All of your tests fall into the normal range... except

Morrigan: I know - my body temperature

Dr. Stephanie: (Taking a seat in front of her) In all of my years as a physician, I have never seen such dramatic fluctuations in a person's Basal temp before - it literally happens in minutes!

Morrigan: Heh, my dad used to joke that it changed quicker than Miami weather

Dr. Stephanie: I noticed this when you were brought into the ER after the train wreck - I attributed it to the overall stress of the situation, hypothermia from being in the river, even a reaction to the chemicals from the spill - but it shouldn't still be happening after all of this time

Morrigan: It has been happening as far back as I can remember

Dr. Stephanie: (Perplexed) I've checked your thyroid, there are no signs of an immunological illness, your hormone levels are fine, no illegal drug use or obvious allergies

Morrigan: I've heard it all before - just blame it on my genes, that's what other doctors have done

Dr. Stephanie: Does anyone else in your family have this trait?

Morrigan: None that I'm aware of

Dr. Gates stares at some charts and unconsciously taps the tip of her pen against them.

Dr. Stephanie: Besides the train incident, have there been any other health-related events in your life?

Morrigan: (Looking down) I was in a car crash when I was nine - it left me with a bruised liver, a nasty concussion and my leg was broken in three places, otherwise, nothing permanent... physically

Dr. Stephanie: (Comforting touch) Anything else happen to you?

Morrigan: (Thinking) No

Dr. Stephanie: Well then, I can't find any solid reason for your abnormal temperatures - I would like to do a few more tests

Morrigan: Actually, doctor, what I'm more concerned about are the dizzy spells and lightheadedness

Dr. Stephanie: I am, too - that's why I want to do some more tests

The office phone rings causing the doctor to excuse herself as she takes the call. As Morrigan tries not to listen to the conversation about another patient, she suddenly spots a shadow right under the foot of the door. It remains there for a moment until Dr. Gates finishes her phone call.

Dr. Stephanie: (Returning to Morrigan) Now, about those tests

Morrigan: (Interrupting) I will need some time to think about it - I'm not a big fan of tests... besides, I think your next patient is here

Dr. Stephanie: I'm not seeing anyone else today - listen, Morrigan, I know certain medical procedures can seem a little daunting but I strongly recommend that you have them done - dizzy spells and lightheadedness are symptoms that cannot be ignored

Morrigan: (Getting dressed) I know, and I will seriously consider having them done, just not right now

Dr. Stephanie: Please promise me that you'll come back and see me right away if they intensify

Morrigan: (Finishing buttoning) I will and thank you again for seeing me

The two walk out of the room and into the main office where Hector Tapia sits on a leather couch, reading a medical journal. Both women are surprised to see him as he smiles and stands.

Hector: Most people believe the text in these journals is dry and dull but I find it to be quite invigorating - what do you think, Ms. McBride?

Morrigan: Uh... it can be, I suppose

Hector: (Taking the younger woman's hand and gently squeezing it) I know you're a reporter but all quality reporters are writers at heart, wouldn't you agree?

Morrigan: (A little embarrassed) One would hope so

Dr. Stephanie: AHEM, Mr. Tapia... I wasn't expecting you today

Hector: I just need a few moments of your time, Stephi, it won't take long

Morrigan: (Thinking to herself) Stephi!

Hector: (Turning back to Morrigan) I can't thank you enough for your wonderful piece on the county prison system - a lot of important people took notice and now, finally, some things are getting done

Morrigan: I couldn't have reported the story without you as my main source, thank YOU, Mr. Tapia

Hector: Call me Hector, por favor - and if you need any ideas for another segment, I'd be more than willing to help out

Morrigan: I'll be sure to do that, Hector

The petite brunette smiles at the older man with a young appearance and makes her way towards the exit.

Hector: By the way, I saw you at mass the other day at St. Brendan's

Morrigan: (Turning around) I didn't know were a parishioner there?

Hector: Normally, I'm not, but I had some business to take care of with a clergy member - I usually attend Our Lady of Guadalupe with my family

This causes a tiny snicker of laughter from Morrigan. Both Hector and Stephanie look at her.

Morrigan: I'm sorry, I just had an amusing mental image of your niece in church

Hector: (Grinning and nodding) Ah, I take it you aren't referring to Ona Rosa?

Morrigan: Anita is quite the Fiore family character!

Hector: (Biting his lip) I hope you won't hold that against me

Morrigan blushes as Stephanie glares at Hector.

Morrigan: I really should be on my way - thank you, again, Dr. Gates

Dr. Stephanie: I hope to hear from you soon, Morrigan

Morrigan: Goodbye

Hector: Hey, if you're ever interested in a Tridentine mass, Our Lady has them every Saturday night at seven!

Morrigan: (Freezing in her tracks) Did you say Tridentine?

Hector: The indult Traditional Latin Mass

Morrigan: I know what it is... I was unaware that they had them here in Santa Conchita

Hector: Well, now you know - I hope to see you there sometime

Morrigan offers a quick smile and finally takes off.

Dr. Stephanie: (Closing the door) Good God, Hector, could you be anymore obvious?

Hector: I'm just providing the pretty lady with options

Dr. Stephanie: She's young enough to be your daughter!

Hector: (Smirking) True... but she's not!

Dr. Gates takes a seat behind her Queen Anne style desk and stares at a picture of her children - Ben, Griffin, Brad and Victoria.

Hector: (Leaning over the desk) And how is your daughter doing?

Dr. Stephanie: (Scowling) Why are you here?

The man casually reaches over and takes the phone off of the hook.

Hector: You know exactly why

Stopping off at a deli to get a chicken focaccia sandwich, Morrigan returns to her car and speeds off down the coast. She pulls into an isolated turn-out by the shore and parks under a grove of shrubs and palm trees. She opens a file entitled PCOC and begins to read through the company's annual report, as well as, recent drilling proposals along the coast. A few hours later, she begins to doze off.

Morrigan: (In her sleep) Why? - where do you come from? - nosce tuam horam... NO, STOP, AAAHHHH

Morrigan startles herself out of sleep and groggily tries to recall where she is. She gazes out at a star-filled sky over the ocean.

Morrigan: (Checking her watch) Damn, how long did I sleep?

She rubs her eyes and tosses the PCOC folder into the back seat.

Morrigan: They should package that material as an insomnia cure... better call Gracie and tell her I'm going to be late

As she picks up her cell phone and begins to dial, the battery goes dead.

Morrigan: (Throwing it down on the seat next to her) THAT'S JUST GREAT - first, the doctor wants more tests, then a source falls in love with me because of a successful story, then comes a lost afternoon of heartburn, dense reading material, a never-ending nightmare, and now my freaking phone... WHAT'S NEXT?

Suddenly, a thunderous thump on the hood shakes the entire car.

Morrigan: (Cowering in her seat) NEVERMIND, I DON'T WANNA KNOW

The upside down head of Darkfin now peers at her through the windshield.

Morrigan: (Sighing and shaking her head) I just HAD to ask

Slowly getting out of the white Mustang, Morrigan is now face to face with Aleta Oscura.

Morrigan: Would you mind getting off of my car or do you want to pay for the scratched paint?

Darkfin leaps down.

Morrigan: Thank you - how did you know where to find... you know what, forget it, I won't get a straight answer out of you - you probably have "Pipi the Pelican Spy" following me around or maybe more hooded thugs... or GASP even your magic wand ITSELF, WOOOO - so, let's just get right down to it - WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME NOW?

Darkfin: (Folding her arms) Are you finished?

Morrigan: (Doing the same) Maybe

Darkfin: (Taking her hand) Follow me

She leads the petite brunette down to the edge of the shore and throws her a black and blue wetsuit. Morrigan looks baffled.

Darkfin: It is time for your swimming lesson

Morrigan: (Throwing it down) So it WAS you who IMed me!

Darkfin: Put it on, we have places to go

Morrigan: (Defiantly) Not until you tell me WHERE and WHY

Darkfin: We need to go to my lair and because I said so

Morrigan: Heh, your LAIR? - is that down the street from the Batcave or are you flying me off to Paradise Island in the invisible jet? - OH MY GOD, now I'm channeling Zach

Darkfin: (Getting in her face) I realize that sarcasm and witty wordplay are your only sources of defense and employment, but please try to restrain yourself for the next hour or two

Morrigan drops to the ground and sweeps Darkfin's legs out from under her, knocking the creature on her backside.

Morrigan: (Back on her feet) Sarcasm isn't my only defense

Quickly standing and bowing to Morrigan.

Darkfin: I apologize - I need you to come with me... please - I would like to conduct a few tests, take a blood sample from you

Morrigan: Oh, NOT you too!

Darkfin: What do you mean?

Morrigan: I just spent the day at the doctors getting poked and prodded - I'm not about to waste my precious evening doing the same

Darkfin: Which doctor?

Morrigan: You mean, Pipi didn't tell you?

Darkfin: (Eyes blazing) WHICH DOCTOR?

Morrigan: (Stepping back) Dr. Stephanie Gates

Darkfin retreats and looks away.

Morrigan: You know who she is, don't you?

McBride struts up to Darkfin and cocks her head.

Morrigan: DON'T YOU?

Darkfin: (Bearing her teeth) PUT... THIS... WETSUIT... ON

Morrigan: OR?

With a rapid, precision slash of her armfin, Darkfin sends Morrigan's blouse to the ground.

Darkfin: Or go naked

Morrigan: (Hurrying away) You are SO paying for this blouse

Morrigan strips off the rest of the clothes down to her underwear and struggles to put the form-fitting suit on.

Morrigan: I can't believe I'm being dictated to by a giant green mermaid - why the hell do I need to take a test? - I'M not the freak of nature here!

Darkfin grabs Morrigan's left ankle out from under her, knocking the woman back hard against the sand.

Darkfin: (Holding up the foot to expose the triskele birthmark) ARE YOU NOT?

Darkfin throws the leg down as a silent Morrigan unsuccessfully tries to hold back her tears.

Darkfin: (Holding out her hand) We need to go

Slapping it away, Morrigan scrambles to her feet and strides towards the ocean.

Darkfin: (Following) How long can you hold your breath?

Morrigan: (Unzipping the arms and legs of the wetsuit) I don't have the slightest idea

Darkfin: I suppose we will find out soon enough

Now with the arm and leg sections in her hand, the petite brunette flings them in disgust at Aleta Oscura.

Darkfin: (Catching them) You will need these for protection against the cold

Morrigan: (Tears still streaming down her face) No, I won't - in fact, I'll overheat... and I'm betting you know EXACTLY why that is!

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Surfaced on July 1, 2000
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