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|October 23 2011, 10:38 PM||#1|
Star Trek: Lambda Paz - Reinventing the Wheel
Cholera and bubonic plague were two diseases easily treatable in the twentieth century. Not only that, they were easily preventable in the twentieth century. Yet in the twenty-fourth century, it was no surprise to Aurellan Markalis that outbreaks of those diseases were happening on Betazed. The Dominion invasion had destroyed the infrastructure of many cities contaminating the water supply and creating infestations of disease spreading insects and rodents.
First off, a recap of previous stories in the series:
Seeing as putting all my novella-length stories for this series in one thread was not a good approach, here some links to those previous stories.
Revenge a Dish Best Served Cold (where it all begins)
The Tides of War, Part I
The Tides of War, Part II
Faces in the Crowd (you've been forewarned that this story contains spoofs of cable news pundits on opposite sides of the political spectrum-- so not everyone will agree on the accuracy of those spoofs)
Religion To Do Good
A Cause of Greater Worth
Especially the Lies
Notes on this story: The narrative contains references to the events of earlier works. Aurellan Markalis was recruited into Section 31 in “Midnight Ride” to infiltrate a group of human augments who had broken away from “The Bureau”. Her captain instructed her to accept the assignment as part of an anti-Section 31 cabal, as depicted in the DS9 novel “Abyss.” These rogue agents sought to use a biological weapon on Ventani Two hoping to achieve a psychological victory by striking at the home of Tret Akleen, founder of the modern Cardassian Union. The augments were thwarted in "A Cause of Greater Worth", yet Markalis was left with deep emotional scars, especially over having to infect four of the augments with sample viruses to learn which one human augments were immune to in "Religion To Do Good".
The briefing lounge of the USS Semmelweis was a small, but efficient area for the on-board medical teams to gather and confer on various medical needs and emergencies. It was situated in one corner of the primary medical facility, which filled nearly the entire upper half of the ship’s spherical primary hull. Some of the doctors, nurses, and technicians at the briefing were usually assigned to Starfleet warships in the Seventh Fleet; Markalis being one of them, as was the Denobulan female nurse seated on her right. It was an efficient way for the Fleet’s medical practitioners to pool their resources. Although she was chief medical officer of the USS Lambda Paz, she and the other practitioners were now subordinate to Commander Ziminske Aris, first officer and medical team leader of the Semmelweis.
Ziminske took a seat at the circular meeting table and gleaned a light grin at her team, hoping to keep a cool head, as the blond-haired Bajoran woman had put it, in dealing with a rather grim situation. While knowing her CO’s intention, Aurellan could not smile knowing of the kind of suffering taking place on the recently liberated planet below. It was a way to set the tone, as one of her instructors once put it, for the officers and crew under her charge. On an intellectual level, keeping subordinates at ease seemed like a good idea, but Aurellan still needed much practice walking the fine line between empathy for the sick and dying and medical professionalism.
“As you all well know,” Ziminske announced to the rest of the group, “the Dominion invasion of Betazed has left behind considerable damage to the planet’s infrastructure. Many homes have been left without basic lighting and environmental controls, and worst of all, without internal plumbing. Part of our relief mission will involve treating the rampant cases of cholera and bubonic plague, two diseases preventable in the utopian Federation. Fortunately, Starfleet keeps medicines to treat such illnesses on hand for errands of mercy to worlds that don’t have it so well.”
Aurellan could hear an air of condescension in Ziminske’s voice, but she couldn’t blame her, knowing of the condition Bajor was in when the Cardassians withdrew. In a technologically advanced time for most Alpha Quadrant races, many sentient beings still suffered from easily preventable illnesses-- something many Federation citizens could easily forget in the twenty-fourth century.
“All the antibiotics you will need are in the replicator files,” Lieutenant Commander Chi’lek, a middle-aged Vulcan male added. “Your briefing packets indicate the most effective cocktails for Class One humanoids. Bear in mind, however, many classifications of humanoids reside on the planet so…”
“So we should make sure to keep many more other antibacterials on hand,” Aurellan interrupted. “Significant percentages of the population comprise Vulcans, Andorians, Denobulans, and several species of Xindi.”
Everyone else in the briefing looked in her direction, as often happened after she spoke out of turn. She leaned back in her seat with a repentant look in her eyes. At least the Vulcan in the group showed no visible signs of annoyance at having been interrupted. “Exactly,” Doctor Chi’lek said calmly and dispassionately. “Needless to say, that information is also specified in your briefing packets.”
“We have lives to save, people,” Ziminske proclaimed. “Prepare your medkits and report to your assigned transporter in one hour. Dismissed.”
The group quickly filed out of the room. Aurellan, however, remained in her seat hoping that everyone would leave without bringing up her own perceived breach of etiquette.
A number of native Betazoids of varying ages filled a swiftly built field hospital. It was actually nothing more than a tent held up by four wooden sticks. Many of the occupants of the tent were sprawled on the ground writhing in pain. Others were providing emotional support to their loved ones while trying their hardest to ignore their symptoms. Those individuals were also feeling fever, chills, and various forms of nausea. The most conspicuous of plague symptoms on these people was bulging lesions on their hands. Some of the patients had vomited on their own clothing, much to the disgust of Doctor Markalis despite often being told to keep a cool head.
“Try and keep cool head when faced with this kind of suffering,” Aurellan sarcastically muttered to herself. She looked to a young male intern who was just a few years younger than her to hand a medicine case to him that was under her arm. “Are you sure we’re well protected?” she asked him. “Bubonic plague is highly contagious.”
“The transporter bio-filters can screen out any known infectious agents,” the intern calmly replied.
So she had heard many times before, but she often had a bipolar attitude towards the more advanced technology. Gone were the days of using scalpels and leaches, Of course, bio-filters, air filtering systems, and quarantine fields still had the potential to fail. “That’s reassuring,” she mumbled, rolling her eyes.
While one of the other doctors set down a portable medical monitor behind her, Aurellan kneeled in front of three pre-adolescent children, two boys and one girl, huddled together for warmth. “We have medicines for you,” she said passing out cases to the rest of the medical personnel. “They’re going to make you better, okay?”
The three kids nodded while wincing in pain. Aurellan shook up a vial of the standard antibiotic cocktail and slid it into a hypospray. “You’ll feel a sudden queasiness,” she told them, “but you’ll soon feel a lot better very soon.”
Within minutes, the patients crowded in the tent were starting to feel their symptoms subside. Each of the doctors and nurses were scanning with medical tricorders to chart the recoveries of their respective patients. As anticipated, the queasiness and the endless urges to vomit subsided. But in a split second, multiple groans filled the tent as many of the patients began scrambling for the nearby latrines. Aurellan looked to her colleagues, but they were just as baffled by this sudden turn of luck. Aurellan scampered towards the medical monitor that was suddenly chirping. She quickly consulted her tricorder to compare readings from the two devices. What appeared on both readout screens seemed almost impossible to her.
“This can’t be,” she gasped.
|October 23 2011, 10:43 PM||#2|
Re: Star Trek: Lambda Paz - Reinventing the Wheel
How could this have happened? Aurellan Markalis kept asking herself while studying samples in the research lab. Starfleet Medical had always made a point of synthesizing new anti-bacterial agents to keep up with new resistant strains of various disease causing bacteria from cholera to tuberculosis, while knowing not to carelessly dole out the most potent of anti-bacterial agents like candy. On the other hand, one of these newly mutated strains would not cause a worsening of symptoms so soon after treatment with antibiotics.
She and the other medical teams had taken blood samples from patients who had been treated with the antibiotics, as well as from those who had not been treated as a point of comparison. For many hours, even other medical personnel working in Research Lab One had gone to sleep; Aurellan was still studying how the antibodies were attacking these seemingly mutated bacteria. Furthermore, she compared pathogens from both sample categories one nucleotide sequence at a time. Eventually, she stumbled across something that seemed vaguely familiar.
“Computer,” she said, taking big gulp of coffee, which had long since turned ice cold. “Give me chemical compositions of antibacterial agents in the ship’s pharmacopoeia.”
“Specify antibacterial agents,” the computer’s feminine voice replied.
“All of them. Display on monitor L-347.”
“The Founders genetically engineered strains of cholera and bubonic plague,” Aurellan explained at a briefing the next morning. “As we all know, most antibacterial agents are composed of a mixture of partial fungi or benign bacteria with various chemical agents. These malignant bacteria we’re dealing with have been altered to function as both an antibody and a virus. It seeks out any intruding biological and chemical agents, destroying and even altering our own medicines into more a potent form of the disease it’s supposed to cure.”
“A most effective way to assure compliance amongst a ruler’s subjects,” Chi’lek offered. “Perhaps one can assume that an antidote was used as a proverbial carrot in order to quell any potential uprisings.”
“I don’t suppose we can beat this antidote out of Gul Lemec,” Ziminske retorted in reference to the former Cardassian prefect of the Beta Veldonna system. During the liberation of Betazed, Lemec had surrendered himself as a prisoner of war rather than face how his Vorta counterpart would punish his failure.
Aurellan had not for one minute considered Ziminske’s affiliation with Section 31 during this mission. No doubt, that group did probably resort to using torture even if it was never an effective means of extracting information. At least the commander’s credentials as a medical doctor were valid. But without evidence of her involvement in any criminal activities, Aurellan had been instructed by Captain Limis Vircona not to try to turn Ziminske in to the authorities.
“That would be a waste of time and resources,” Chi’lek offered. “His cooperation is a virtual impossibility.”
Thank you, Mister Coldly Logical, Ziminske wanted to say while rolling her eyes in response to his statement of the obvious. “We may as well be dealing with a whole new disease here,” she announced to the rest of the group. “At the risk of sounding redundant, we need to start looking for a way counter it and fast. In effect, we might have to reinvent the wheel.”
Aurellan and others had almost non-stop trying to come up with new ways to stimulate the antibody samples hoping she would eventually stumble on a usable treatment for the plague those Dominion bastards had engineered. Of course, the Founders had to seen through that trick when engineering their bio-weapons. For hours, most of the medical staff on the Semmelweis worked on different ways to develop some kind of workable counteragent without even taking meal breaks. Every once in awhile, one of the chefs would drop by with appetizers for the staff in the lab.
Near the stroke of midnight, Ziminske entered the main research lab to find the same people working there as when their shifts began more than fourteen hours earlier. “All right, let’s call it a night everyone,” she announced to her team. “We have night staff for a reason, so you don’t grow too fatigued to concentrate.”
Right on cue, the doctors, nurses, and technicians filed out of the room. Even after the rest of the staff left the room, Aurellan remained at one of the microscopes analyzing samples. “You, too, Lieutenant Markalis,” Ziminske barked. “That’s an order.”
Aurellan heard that loud and clear, leaving her behind on her way out of the lab. “Yes, ma’am,” she said with an obliging wave.
That did not stop Aurellan from returning to one of the secondary labs after a sleepless hour. True, she was going against her commander’s orders to call it a night. But by her own logic, disobeying the orders of a superior officer was trivial offense compared to the crime perpetrated by the Dominion against the people of Betazed. The suffering they had inflicted went against the oath that Aurellan had sworn to uphold ever since she entered medical school. Insubordination, however, was what she called a “sin of the system.”
She reviewed all of the data she and rest of the staff collected from that day’s research. There must be something that they had overlooked, she kept telling herself while double-checking and triple-checking each sample treatment that had no effect on the mutated pathogens. When the results came out the same, she began meticulous analyses of the genetic makeup of the mutated bacteria.
Throughout all that, Aurellan ultimately decided to infect herself with diluted forms of the mutated strains of cholera and bubonic plague and extract her own antibodies thinking that would give her a fresh perspective. In effect, she was using herself as live experimental subject. She had done something similar at the request of a group of human augments during an undercover mission. Those four had volunteered themselves and it was the only way to learn of their plans to target an historic Cardassian colony with a bioweapon. That didn’t make it any less morally wrong. This time, the risk was to her and her alone.
It was a decision she would soon regret.
Shortly after 0900 hours, Aurellan was vomiting profusely in the head when her doorbell chimed. “What?” she snapped. “What is it?” Then she remembered. She had locked the door to the lab while conducting further research on the Dominion-engineered plague. She trudged over to the door, keyed a sequence of commands to unlock the door and admit her guest.
Ziminske was standing on the other side of the door. “Is everything all right?” she asked, stepping inside and seeing that Aurellan had continued researching against her expressed orders. “You didn’t report to the morning briefing and you weren’t answering the comm,” she added while oblivious to Aurellan relocking the door.
“That was unbelievably stupid,” Aurellan groaned, falling backwards onto chair. “I feel like I’m going to puke out every fucking one of my internal organs before I get over this… if I get over this.”
“You’re right, it was stupid,” Ziminske said firmly as she seated herself on a chair across from the table. “And you risk infecting the entire ship.”
“I took extra steps to quarantine this lab,” Aurellan insisted.
Even so,” Ziminske continued, “could you be trying to atone for what you were forced to do while you were undercover? Maybe you’re trying to punish yourself for infecting Darcen and his group with the virus they had intended to use.”
“First of all, I am not suicidal,” Aurellan snapped, trying to sit her upright. “And second of all, since when you become a counselor?”
“One can’t be too careful. An officer with a death wish is a liability.”
“You Section 31 types have taken far bigger risks.”
“Maybe so. But I need every able body at his or her post now. And you need to be aware that you discovered the mutated pathogens. You didn’t create them.”
“Oh, yes, that old speech again. Then why do I feel responsible for finding a cure?”
“Because you are a perfectionist. That is what intrigued Section 31. But you need to step back and remind yourself that not everything is not on your shoulders. What kind of genetic alterations did you undergo as a child?”
Aurellan squinted in confusion at the sudden change in the topic of conversation. Of course, Cole seemed to know a lot about her when he first tried to recruit her, even what was outlined in classified medical records. “The doctors isolated the genetic markers that cause severe autism,” she explained, “and made me as close to normal as was possible.”
“Yet you still exhibit the behaviors of persons with Asperger’s syndrome and the very often comorbid obsessive compulsive disorder.”
“That’s it,” Aurellan gasped, rising from her seat without regard for any bouts of dizziness she would be experiencing.
“I beg your pardon?”
“A viral vector is one method of altering and removing defective genes. If these mutated strains function similar to a virus, then the solution is a retrovirus that will inject the mutated strains with new genetic information. Of course, we’d also make such a retrovirus pass for something the pathogens wouldn’t see as a threat. We have to beat the Dominion at its own game. Why did I not think of that before?” She bolted for the door, but before it could open, Ziminske positioned herself in front of the doorway.
“Hold on,” Ziminske blurted. “You have a highly contagious illness to which we have no usable treatment. You need to stay in this lab until we formulate one.”
Aurellan briefly considered Ziminske’s words and backed off. “But what about the bio-filters and other filtering system?” she asked.
“Those only screen out known infectious agents.”
“Then you were infected yourself the second you entered the lab.”
Ziminske silently nodded in agreement. “You’re absolutely right,” she said. “We should contact Doctor Chi’lek and have him set up a comm-line to the main lab, so we can still lend a hand.”
Following another three days’ worth of marathon sessions in all the medical research labs, the right gene sequence for the viral vector was found. Naturally, Doctors Ziminske and Markalis were the first people tested, foregoing the usual tests on sample pathogens. Within a few hours, their symptoms showed sufficient improvement to where their self-imposed quarantine could be lifted. The next order of business was to create enough retroviruses to administer to the sick and dying on the planet below.
Ziminske and Markalis helped distribute the new-and-improved cure at the central hospital in Betazed’s capital city. Aurellan had even insisted on personally administering it to the patients in the children’s wing. Of all the people who had contracted a normally preventable and treatable disease, she felt the most empathy for the sick children, the most innocent of the innocent victims of this semi-artificial plague. What kind of people would let children suffer when they were not active participants in this war? It was a question Aurellan asked herself over and over again. Fear and prejudice often led to many unspeakable atrocities. That was far from a justification for inflicting this kind of suffering. It was just another sobering reminder of a universe that did not completely share her sense of right and wrong.
Aurellan scanned a young girl who had recently been treated with the retrovirus for any possible side-effects. So far, scans were revealing no signs of any pathogens, natural or artificial. “Looks like your daughter will be free to leave later today,” she told the girl’s parents.
“You have our everlasting gratitude for saving her life,” the father cheerfully said.
“Just one of many,” Aurellan replied, hoping to deflect some of the credit she was due.
“This is not the time for modesty, Doctor,” the mother insisted. “You and the other Starfleet doctors have done a great service to this world.”
Aurellan was at a loss for words. She just smiled and nodded. She was no telepath, but she could sense that many others wanted to thank her in the same manner. She suddenly felt a very brief of dizziness, as if someone was looking into her thoughts. An image of a flower garden filled her mind during that moment. When the flash was gone, the girl giggled. Aurellan was at first taken aback by such a mental invasion, but she returned the child’s smile. “You’re very welcome,” she said putting her hand on the girl’s heart.
Ziminske entered the room accompanied by a male civilian doctor employed at the hospital. Aurellan said her goodbyes to the girl’s parents, while at the same time trying to hide wanting to leave the room even sooner. “You have a way with children,” Ziminske observed as they both walked out of the room and into the corridor. “Ever consider specializing in pediatrics?”
“Throughout med school,” Aurellan answered with a nod. “But, for now, my talents are needed for situations like this one.”
“I’m putting you in for a commendation for, should I say, your original thinking. Even us ‘Section 31 types’ wouldn’t normally take such risks. So I still have to ask what exactly you were thinking.”
Aurellan sighed, feeling nothing but regret having made such an impulsive decision to infect herself with sample pathogens. She stopped at an adjoining hallway and leaned against the wall. “There came a point where I felt I had to do something spur of the moment to put my finger on what exactly I was overlooking. And futilely trying to kill sample pathogens was getting nowhere. I needed a humanoid subject without violating four hundred years of medical ethics.”
Ziminske gave a wry grin while considering Aurellan’s answer as if some scheme of hers had played out as planned. “And I helped steer you in the right direction,” Ziminske added. “You deduced that the bacteria were behaving like a virus, but it didn’t occur to you approach the cure as if with a virus.”
“You knew all along?!” Aurellan hissed, wanting to deck Ziminske square in her nose ridges.
“Actually, once I came across such a solution, I stopped by the lab to help you come to it on your own. You often have very rigid mental schemas, Aurellan. I wanted to help you to realize that the practice of medicine often requires creative thinking. And you were willing to bend the rules to get results.”
“Well, thank you for doing that,” Aurellan said reluctantly and rigidly.
Ziminske smirked and walked away leaving Aurellan to reflect on the last few days. They were among the most trying in her medical career to date. She would face other challenges like this one in the future. For now, she could enjoy the fruits of this victory before going back to tackle those other challenges.
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