Chapter Nine (cont.)
Matt stood and took two steps forwards as the main viewer blanked and then revealed an image of the interior of the Kraal ship. The lighting was low, but he could clearly see the other captain: a grey-skinned humanoid who lacked any visible hair and possessed an elongated face and jaw, sloping to a high bony crest sweeping back over his brow, several shades darker than his flesh.
“I am Captain Matthew Dahlgren, of the Federation starship Republic
“You have violated the territorial integrity of the Kraal Hegemony, Federation! Withdraw at once or we shall use lethal force to make you regret this incursion!”
Matt frowned at the screen. “You have already attempted to use lethal force against my vessel, Captain. It failed. And you have witnessed precisely
the level of lethal force that I can use in kind, should you press me too hard.”
The alien on the screen blinked, and the flaps of skin that covered his nasal passages opened and closed several times.
“Why are you here, Federation?” he finally asked. “We have told you, time and again, we desire no contact with you or any other outsider!”
“I have questions, questions which the Kraal might be able to assist me in answering.”
“Questions? You cross our marked borders, you fire upon my vessel, for questions
“I think you can recall that it was you
who first fired into me
. And my torpedoes never touched your ship, did they? Of course, if you had simply responded to our hails, we would never have crossed your border.”
“If your questions are answered, you will depart?”
The Kraal raised his head, breathing deeply, and then he lowered his head, the color of his crest lightening.
“My ship was dispatched to Cauldron after the Lorsham asked for the Federation to intervene—they claim that you have attacked their colonies.”
The Kraal’s crest lightened still further and the nasal flaps snapped shut; he leaned forward, with his eyes growing wide.
“You are allied with the Lorsham, then?” he whispered.
“No. This ship is here to mediate the crisis and avert any further casualties—on either side. We have heard Vorshun’s truncated version of the events that lead to the attacks on his worlds, and we would hear what the Kraal have to say in answer.”
The alien began to breathe again, and his crest slowly regained some of its color. “Do you know Ordan, Federation?”
Matt paused, carefully choosing his words. “I am aware that the Lorsham considers Ordan an angelic being; I do not know
“Tell me, Federation; you appear to be injured. Is that a recent injury—one since you visited Hak’ta-thor?
“It is an old wound. From before I arrived at the Cauldron.”
“You have not received medical assistance from the Lorsham, then?”
“I have not, nor has any member of my crew.”
The Kraal sat back and he looked off screen, he appeared to be considering his next words, and then he lowered his head, the counter-balanced crest rising in unison.
“We attacked the Lorsham colonies, Federation; we attacked in retaliation for Lorsham interference with the Kraal people.”
“For many decades, the Lorsham and the Kraal have bickered amongst ourselves. They are deluded, putting their faith in myth and legend. We have had . . . skirmishes in the past. But always have we settled our differences in a fashion that both our peoples could agree was just. Until now.”
The crest began to darken again. “Recently, our scientists have discovered an ancient device, left behind on one of our worlds by space-farers from long ago. The Lorsham are convinced it is a relic of Ordan—and they demanded it from us. We refused. It is ours to study and learn from, dug from the soil of our worlds, not the Lorsham’s. They grew angry with us, and then they struck.”
“Forgive me, Captain, but I have seen the Lorsham ships—and your own. I cannot believe that the Lorsham posed such a threat militarily that you would have to respond as aggressively as you did.”
“Their ships are mere toys, Federation! But their knowledge of bio-chemistry is unsurpassed. They subverted a portion of the Kraal, through their missionaries devoted to spreading the word of Ordan—they enslaved them to their will, making them betray every being they owed their allegiance to, forsaking their loyalty to the Kraal, to their families, to their oaths, for blind faith in Ordan. The Lorsham do not dirty their hands, Federation; they have their thralls
do so for them. Thousands upon thousands of Kraal died, as those converted to the worship of Ordan fought brother and wife, father and daughter.”
“Did they retrieve the relic?”
“No. And we destroyed their colonies as a warning. And now they seek to use you, Federation. To take what is not theirs.”
“The Federation does not lightly side with any race that asks, Captain. We seek the truth, and we would see justice done.”
“Ahhhhh,” the Kraal hummed, the crest quickly blending back into the creature’s skin color. “If it is justice and truth you seek, Federation, then know that the Kraal have spoken true here today. We will defend ourselves, and our actions against the Lorsham were that—self-defense of our own wills.”
“How did the Lorsham turn your people into these . . . thralls
?” Matt asked.
“The Lorsham might trail behind the Kraal in propulsion and weapons, but they are master at molecular chemistry and genetics. Their biological scientists—their doctors—have gleaned much knowledge of this ancient being they call Ordan. From scattered and broken pieces of its technology. They tailor their medicines for each individual, crafting them so that they rewrite the genetic code to repair damage suffered. We were not aware that they could rewrite one’s personality and beliefs through these drugs as well. And we suffered for accepting their aid.”
“How did you manage to overcome this conditioning?”
The Kraal looked down, his crest blanching, and Matt could hear a low moan from off the screen of the Kraal ship. The alien Captain’s nasal flaps flared and he breathed heavily.
“It cannot be removed, Federation. Those infected by Ordan are now dead.”
“Might I request a copy of your records of these events; so that my people can study them and stop this war from escalating further?”
The Kraal turned off screen and barked a command. “Our files will transmitted now, Federation. What are your intentions?”
Matt looked down at the deck, and then he turned to Chan. “We are receiving their records, Captain Dahlgren.”
“To go in peace, and leave your territory.”
“And the Lorsham? What will your Federation about them?”
Matt frowned. “That is a matter for the Federation Council to decide.”
The Kraal rocked his head back and forth. “Then go in peace, Federation. And beware the manipulations of the Lorsham.”
The screen blanked.
“Miss Montoya, plot a course back to Hak’ta-thor, Warp 9,” he said as he limped back to his chair. “Miss Tsien, I want Science and Medical to thoroughly study the medical records. Go over every bit of data the Kraal have transmitted and see if you can find out what exactly the Lorsham have managed to do.”
“Aye, aye, Sir,” a chorus of voices answered. Chan walked over next to Matt, and shook his head. “If they have used this on the Klingons, Captain Dahlgren . . .” his voice trailed off.
“Yes,” Matt answered quietly. “The Lorsham may be planning to send Captain Krull after this artifact—and if that happens . . .”
Both officers grew silent as Republic
came about and surged into warp.
“The data received from the Kraal clearly indicates that this agent is tailored for specific individuals, not at the DNA level, not at the chromosomal level, not at the individual protein level, but at the sub-protein pattern, bypassing the normal immune system, and then self replicating throughout the patient’s cellular structure,” Amanda said as she shook her head.
“But that is impossible,” Dr. Janice Morgan said, as her eyes grew wide. “You are talking about retrograde genetic engineering on the macro level. It’s never been done; it’s never been attempted!”
“Not by the Federation, or the Klingons, or the Romulans, or any other race that we have encountered,” Amanda answered, “but the Lorsham appear to have that technology.”
“It gets worse,” Quincy added. “Somehow, the Lorsham drug also encodes memory ingrams into the sub-structure of the proteins, like a virus. The encoded ingrams than overwrite the patient’s own personality center like it was an organic computer receiving a software upload.”
“Memory ingrams are unrelated to physiology, Doctor Talbot!” One of the Betazed scientists from Amanda’s Biological Sciences Division protested. “My people and the Vulcans have worked with memory ingrams for decades: they can be recorded, they can be restored, they can even be altered, but not through purely biological and physiological means.”
“Nonetheless, Dr. Tan,” the lone Vulcan scientist at the table said, “the data appears to support that the Lorsham have—despite their otherwise primitive levels of technology—managed to achieve precisely that. The implications, and the potential for abuse of this pharmaceutical, are staggering.”
Quincy nodded. “IF, that is, we discover how they encode ingrams on the sub-protein pattern in the first place. And I am not all that certain we are advanced enough to do so; or that we would have any business attempting to unlock that knowledge in the first place. This is a real Pandora’s box.”
“That’s beside the point,” Amanda said. “Can we update the transporter biofilters to screen out this agent?”
Slowly the Vulcan shook his head. “The sub-protein pattern is far smaller than any virus or parasite we have ever encountered, we would have to increase the transporter buffer resolution by at least two orders of magnitude. Further, there is no specific viral configuration for which to search; each individually tailored agent, for every infected individual would have to be programmed into the biofilters in order for the transporter to detect its presence. Even then, removing the agent might not reverse its effects, which have been transferred to the patient’s cellular and neurological structure. Perhaps, in its earliest stages before it has successfully replicated itself . . . perhaps not. There is insufficient data to draw a conclusion, Doctor Tsien.”
The doors to the Medical conference room whistled open and Matt limped in. “Stay seated,” he said as the doctors and scientists began to rise. “Quincy, what have got for me?”
“This is so far past current Federation technology, Captain, that I’m not sure where to begin. It’s the most dangerous drug I’ve ever encountered.”
“We’ll be in orbit in just over an hour, gentlemen, ladies. How grave a threat does this pose to the crew, the ship, and the Federation?”
The Vulcan cleared his throat, and Matt nodded. “Go ahead, Dr. Turovik.”
“The limiting factor appears to be that the agent must be tailored to a specific individual; which would imply that a DNA sample, at the very least, must be necessary to craft it. Without a sample of the DNA to create the agent for each individual, I believe the agent is useless.”
Matt saw that each officer at the table slowly nodded in agreement. “And delivery systems?”
Quincy frowned. “The Kraal recovered injected, inhaled, ingested, and contact samples when they overran the Lorsham compound on their homeworld. The agent itself is odorless, tasteless, and can be administered without the knowledge of the pat . . . the victim.”
“Can the Lorsham be producing this through their own technology? They don’t even have replicator units.”
“No,” answered Amanda firmly. “Without replicator technology, they could not craft this agent.”
Matt considered. “Did the Kraal include any information on previous artifacts recovered, artifacts linked to this Ordan?”
Dr. Turovik raised an eyebrow. “Actually, yes. Are you suggesting that the Lorsham are using alien technology to produce this agent, Captain?”
“It is the only logical solution, correct Doctor?”
“There are other logical solutions, but in this particular circumstance, your particular supposition is highly probable.”
“I want a complete analysis on the artifacts themselves; let’s see if we can dial in the sensors to detect any particle or substance they might emit.”
“And if they do, and we can adjust the sensors to detect those particles, Captain, then what?”
Matt stood a bit straighter. “In that case, ladies and gentlemen, I will beam down an away team to destroy the artifacts.”
And chaos erupted.
“Captains Log, Stardate 53750.6, USS Republic. We are preparing to reenter the Hak’ta-thor system after our meeting with the Kraal. The information we received on this mind-altering agent of the Lorsham is extremely . . . disconcerting. I fear that the Klingon reaction to the use of this drug on Captain Krull will be extreme, to say the least. And the possibility that the Klingons might obtain the technology for themselves puts me in a difficult position here in the Cauldron.”
“Neither the Lorsham or the Kraal are members of the Federation, and thus by the letter of the Prime Directive I am forbidden from interfering with the internal workings of either race. And yet, I believe that this agent is potentially far more destabilizing in the long-term than the awareness of the penetration of our government by the Dominion Founders. The use of a drug that can completely and—to the best of our current knowledge—unalterably change the basic loyalty and belief system of an individual is . . . repugnant at best. It holds the potential for abuse on a massive scale, should this technology spread beyond the Cauldron.”
“That the creation of this agent is not an offshoot of Lorsham technology, but instead is a result of salvaged alien highly-advanced technology, is a supposition which all of my officers agree with. It is a technology beyond the native capacity of the Lorsham, beyond that of the Federation, and it is a technology that I believe is simply too advanced for our society to cope with. It is a technology that I feel I cannot, in good conscience, leave in the hands of a race of beings who have used
it to force
members of other races to do their bidding.”
“By the letter of Federation law, I cannot interfere with a non-aligned race with whom the United Federation of Planets remains at peace—but I intend to do so nonetheless. This decision is mine, and mine alone—my officers have not been consulted or their opinions asked. Should we be able to pinpoint the location of the artifact that allows the Lorsham to create this mind-altering agent, I fully intend to see it destroyed.”
“Several members of my science and medical departments were aghast at the mere suggestion of taking such an action. They believe that the if the Federation is allowed to study this technology it might revolutionize medical treatments. It might. But in this instance, I believe that I am using the Prime Directive in the manner which it was intended: by keeping a society, a culture, from having access to technology that it does not understand and has not yet obtained the knowledge to use wisely. I believe that destroying this artifact will protect the Federation—from itself
, as well as from external threat that the misuse
of this technology might bring to its member systems.”
“What will happen if the Klingons or the Romulans or the Gorn or the Tholians or any of a thousand other species that we have encountered in our expansion; what happens if they
learn that the Federation is now possessed of this mind-altering agent—and has the capacity to manufacture it?”
“What would the Federation Council do if we
discovered that a race not friendly towards us possessed such a technology?”
“We are neither ready nor prepared for this—and neither are the Lorsham.”
Matt stopped. “Computer save log, and seal the record under my personal authorization. Access to this log is hereby granted only to the Chief of Star Fleet Operations, personnel authorized by him, and the Federation Council.”
“Log saved and sealed.”
slowed to impulse speed, and the stars visible through the window in Matt’s ready room were reduced from streaks to single brilliant points of light.
“Bridge to Captain Dahlgren
,” Matt heard his XO over the ship’s intercom.
“On my way, Chan,” he answered as he hit his comm badge and stood, grasping his cane firmly as he limped towards the bridge.
“Sick Bay to Captain Dahlgren
,” the intercom in the turbolift broadcast.
“Go ahead, Doctor,” he answered tapping his comm badge.
“Matt, I think I know what they mean to do, with their drug
,” the ship’s surgeon said rapidly. “I didn’t put the pieces together, under I brought Commander Malik in to help look through the data-banks for emissions profiles. They mean to infect our ships
“Stop,” Matt ordered the turbo-lift. “Our ships?”
“The bio-neural gel-packs, Matt. They are biologically based systems, they have their DNA—the same DNA sequence—Matt, and they can become infected. If the Lorsham have managed to get one that the Ferengi stole, or that the Klingons ‘acquired’, they have the template to infect every single Intrepid- or Sovereign-class in Star Fleet
“And the Luna
-class, and the Prometheus
-class, and the Bradbury
-class, and all the older ships were are converting to the more efficient computer systems,” Matt whispered.
“We have evidence
,” the Doctor continued, “that our computer cores are complex enough to assume personalities under the right conditions. Suppose this agent wakes up the core and gives it the personality of a fanatical zealot devoted to Ordan
“Thank you Quincy, for adding to my nightmare scenarios.”
“Matt, the damage an infected ship could do before it gets put down . . .
“Understood. Quincy, I think you need to prepare to receive casualties. I’ve got a bad feeling about this. Dahlgren out.”
“Resume,” he ordered the turbolift.