Chapter Eighteen (cont.)
“Mister Philips, welcome back,” Matt said as he stood to welcome the Starfleet engineer back aboard ship. “Enjoying your first command?”
Sean grimaced. “She’s not exactly the sort of ship I was expecting, Captain. Still, I think Intelligence will want to go over her in detail—seems the Orions have been busy at acquiring proprietary technology again.”
“No doubt, Commander,” Matt answered as he led Sean out of the transporter room and to the closest turbo-lift. “Deck 6.”
The engineer shook his head. “Deck 6? Not the briefing room?”
“No, Doctor Talbot has some questions for your EMH; Mister Malik has set up a telemetry link to White Cloud
so that he can be activated in Holodeck 1. I thought it would be best to get your impressions at the same time.”
“Ah, Captain, you should know . . .” Sean began as the turbolift came to a halt and the doors opened. “The EMH is rather annoyed.”
“Yes, the Mk I tended to come across as rather abrasive, don’t worry about that, Commander.”
“No, sir. I mean annoyed at me.”
Matt stopped and he turned around to look at Sean. “Oh?”
“We had to adjust his appearance to fool Inderi. He didn’t like that.”
Now the Captain frowned. “I don’t imagine that he did. No one cares to have their body altered. And I would imagine that he told you that.”
“Yes, sir. Repeatedly.”
Matt tapped his cane against the deck, and then he turned and continued limping towards the Holodeck. The doors slid aside at his approach and he, followed by Sean, stepped within. Rather than the black plating with yellow girds of an inactive Holodeck, Dr. Talbot already had the basic program running—a duplicate the Chief Medical Officer’s office.
Matt tapped his comm badge. “Mister Malik, we are ready when you are.”
“Activating the system
,” the chief engineer said over the link.
The holographic doctor suddenly materialized. “Please state the nature of the med . . . this is different,” he finished in a surprised voice. And then he sighed and held up his massive pudgy hands. “And I am still an obese Orion crime lord.”
Matt frowned, and he turned to glare at Sean. “You didn’t restore his original programming?”
“We haven’t exactly had the time, Sir. I was planning . . .”
“Dahlgren to Crewman Zapata.”
“Mister Zapata, how long exactly will it take you to restore the Emergency Medical Hologram to its original parameters—while preserving its accumulated memory?”
“An hour, perhaps less.
“You have thirty minutes, Mister Zapata,” Matt said curtly and then he directed his gaze at Sean once again. “You could not spare an hour, Mister Philips?”
“Captain Dahlgren, it’s only a hologram—not something that has feelings.”
“Mister Philips, the Emergency Medical Hologram is an extremely advanced piece of technology. I have read the classified reports Star Fleet Command has intermittently received from Voyager
, and I can tell you that this hologram is far more than its creators ever intended for it to be. He is a member of the ship’s crew—a Star Fleet officer
that deserves to be treated with respect and common decency.”
Matt turned to the program. “You have my apologies, Doctor, for the . . . inconveniences you have suffered.”
The hologram swallowed. “Apologies accepted, Captain Dahlgren. Am I no longer aboard the White Cloud
“Welcome aboard the USS Republic
, Doctor,” the corner of Matt’s mouth twisted and then he smiled a crooked smile. “There are many doctors aboard my ship—what is your name?”
“Name? I wasn’t given one.”
“We will correct that then, Doctor . . . who? Let me think,” Matt said as he rubbed his sore leg.
“You are not get . . .” Quincy began, at the same time as the hologram asked “Is there an actual medi . . .” and then both stopped and looked at each other.
“He’s my patient,” Quincy growled.
“I was only asking, Doctor . . .”
“Talbot. Quincy Talbot, chief medical officer.”
“Ah, yes. I read your paper on neurosurgical restoration of Trill symbiotic nervous tissue resulting from improperly balanced transporter fields. Might we discuss that in detail some time, Doctor Talbot?”
Matt grinned. “How does Dr. Robert Woolsey grab you, Doctor?”
The hologram frowned. “I am not familiar with a historical medical figure by that name.”
“He delivered my three daughters, and was my family physician until his retirement last year.”
“Ah,” the hologram said, before he looked down at the deck. “Woolsey . . . Robert Woolsey. Rob. Robby. Bob. Bobby. No. Robert. Robert Woolsey, medical hologram, at your service, Captain Dahlgren.”
Sean shook his head. “Captain we don’t have time for this.”
“Mister Philips. We have ample time to greet this ship’s newest crew member.”
Quincy jerked up. “Now wait just a damn minute . . .”
“Stow it Quincy. You were telling me last week how much Republic
needs a third board-certified surgeon in case we get into combat again. Star Fleet won’t assign a third surgeon; not aboard a ship this size—and you know it. Doctor Woolsey here, he is available and he is now your third-shift on-call trauma specialist.”
“The ship isn’t set up to handle an EMH!” Sean blurted out. And Matt turned back to him and glared.
“Then it is a really good thing we still have your engineers. I want sickbay outfitted with holoprojectors, in addition to all of the medical labs and department offices, main engineering, the bridge, and the brig. And once that installation is complete, I want his program transferred aboard. You are capable of undertaking this task, are you not, Mister Philips?”
“I am,” the engineer replied through a clenched jaw.
“Good. However,” the captain continued as he turned back to the hologram. “It may be a while before we can do this, Doctor Woolsey. Right now, Doctor Talbot needs to ask you some questions about Inderi and anything she may have revealed concerning the Nephkyrie. And aboard this ship Doctor, you will be treated properly.”
“Thank you, Captain. I would honored to serve under a real Star Fleet officer. I can’t recall her mentioning the . . . Nephkyrie by name. What exactly are the Nephkyrie?”
“An alien race—the one that abducted the New Columbia colonists. Doctor Talbot will fill in all of the details.”
“Ah. She did ask me to run an analysis on a tissue sample collected in a tricorder—a sample that does not match any known species.”
“Is it still in the memory banks of the White Cloud
?” Quincy asked sharply.
“Yes. Of course.”
Matt smiled as the older doctor inhaled. “In that case, Doctors, I’ll let you both get to work. Commander Philips, Mister Shrak has a detailed briefing for you. That second-hand Klingon cloak might just come in handy.”
Matt taped his stylus against the table and frowned. “Are you telling me that we ignored another race’s claim on New Columbia, Miss Tsien?”
Looks of shock went around the table following the science officer’s statement and the Captain’s question, but Amanda shook her head.
“Not exactly, Sir. I had Lieutenant Shalmut, the head of my Social Sciences Division, go back over every record we have of the initial exploration and colonization efforts at New Columbia. USS Constellation
surveyed the system back in 2337 and her report indicates that three probes of alien origin were discovered in orbit around the planet we eventually settled as New Columbia. Or rather, that he discovered the remains of three probes. The devices were very old and had no power, but were in a stable geo-synchronous orbit over the planet.”
“No evidence was uncovered to suggest that the planet had indeed been claimed by another race—until after the initial colony settlement in 2344. Two years later, the colonists discovered an obelisk some eighty kilometers from the initial colony site. The obelisk displayed the same technology as the probes found in orbit, but the language on the obelisk proved to be undecipherable. The Science Council did dispatch a team to New Columbia to investigate the matter further, but were unable to discover any additional artifacts—and they concluded that due to the age and lack of further evidence that whatever race had left them behind did not intend on colonizing the planet.”
“Our analysis of the beacon recovered from the colony confirms that the Nephkyrie are indeed the race that launched the probes and landed the obelisk.”
Matt nodded. “Legal claims on the system aside, there is still the not-so-small matter of our colonists. Thank you, Miss Tsien. Doctor Talbot?”
“The tissue samples gathered by Inderi have been thoroughly analyzed by Medical, Captain. We have identified what is causing their chromosomal decay—and why they think that human DNA can restore it. The Delphi-3,4 protein string of Chromosome 17 has suf . . .”
“Simple English, Doctor,” Matt said dryly, causing nervous chuckled around the table.
Quincy looked up, with a stern expression on his face. “Small words are for small minds, Captain, sir. Basically, the Nephkyrie are a genetically engineered race; probably their own doing and not outside interference. They have used a very sophisticated technique to eliminate the negative physiological aspects from their chromosomal memory, leaving only the positive traits. Greater physical strength, higher bone density, increased sensory perception, enhanced reaction times—and their brains have been overclocked, to borrow an engineering phrase, allowing them multi-task on several cognitive problems simultaneously, as well as conscious control of some of their normally involuntary reflexes."
The surgeon shook his head. “It is an incredible accomplish, far beyond what the scientists behind the Eugenics Wars attempted. And the Nephkyrie were successful. But they missed something. The engineering rendered them extremely infertile as a race, a problem that they attempted to solve via cloning. And for a time, that solution was successful. However, like a . . . oh, an old magnetic tape that is has been played over and over again; the structure of their chromosomes has simply worn out. The protein strands no longer attach when they attempt to produce a new generation . . . they are dying.”
“And how will using our colonists help them to repair the damage, Doctor Talbot?” asked Chan.
Quincy rubbed his lower jaw and shook his head. “I don’t know, Commander. Our best guess—and it is only a guess—is that they intend to splice the human DNA, after it has been suitably altered to match the existing protein strands, in an attempt to restore their natural fertility. Physically, on the DNA level, they are very close to humanity as a species—far closer to us than the Vulcans or Andorians or Klingons. Or they were
before they began altering themselves. But that will only be a temporary solution; the dominant traits that are locked into their chromosomes will eventually overwrite the new DNA and force them to start over again with fresh
“Can they be aware of this?” asked Grace Biddle.
“I don’t see how they could miss it. Their survival as a species will literally depend on having access to vast numbers of humans—farmed or otherwise.”
Absolute silence hovered over the briefing room.
“Can we offer an alternative means of restoring their species ability to reproduce, Doctor?” asked Matt.
“Maybe. It’ll need some study, and the Nephkyrie might not like the option.”
“After discussing this with some of Amanda’s Biological Sciences people, and with Doctors Donato and Woolsey, we think it might be possible to reverse engineer the chromosomal damage—to restore the species DNA to its original configuration and remove all of the genetic engineering. They would have to clone their next generation, but afterwards, the species would once again be able to evolve at their own natural pace.”
“At the expense of their engineered abilities,” Matt mused.
“Yes. If it works, and it might not.”
“We’ve finished installing a second transporter inhibitor aboard the White Cloud
, sir. And I have personally seen to the repair of Inderi’s shuttle. We’re ready.”
Chan’s antennae lowered and he stared at the Captain. “I must renew my protest, Captain Dahlgren. Regulations are quite specific on this issue—as you are well aware.”
“I’ve already logged your objections, Mister Malik. But if we can manage to resolve this peacefully, it is worth the risk. We have to establish contact with the Nephkyrie, and since they already have spoken Inderi—and she is supposed to be rejoining them, I will pilot her shuttle and begin a dialogue.”
Matt looked sternly down the table. “White Cloud
will be nearby in cloak and ready to assist if I need it. However, if I am taken by the Nephkyrie—or killed—I expect this ship and every being on her to do their duty. Regardless of how unpleasant that duty might be.”
Each officer at the table nodded, and Matt joined them. “Assume your stations. If I am not back in twelve hours . . . there are sealed orders prepared that you will have to carry out. Dismissed.”
Matt’s senior staff rose and filed out of the briefing room, leaving only Matt and Chan seated at the table.
“I don’t want command this badly, Matthew,” Chan whispered. “One fusion warhead and that shuttle is gone.”
“Nat’s installed a transporter inhibitor in the shuttle, Chan. If they get frisky, I’ll activate it and run to warp. But if I don’t come back and the colonists can’t be saved . . .”
“Oh, yes. I am quite capable of doing what must be done, Matthew,” the Andorian’s antennae contracted. “Balao
is only eight hours out. We can wait, you know.”
“Every hour means it is likely that more and more colonists are being processed, Chan. We can’t wait. And I have to take this chance, if either of us are to ever sleep peacefully again—we can’t just exterminate them without trying to convince them to alter their plans.”
The Andorian let out a deep breath, and then both of his antennae bent slightly in a sign of acquiescence. And then Chan stood. “Permission to escort you to Shuttle Bay 1, Captain Dahlgren,” he asked.
“Granted, Mister Shrak.”