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When Something is...Something

Posted on 09 Nov 2023 @ 2:36pm by Lieutenant Amelia Warner & Lieutenant Commander Derek Martin

1,117 words; about a 6 minute read

Mission: Miranda
Location: Sickbay

The medical staff was getting spelled as often as possible, but they were still all bone-weary. Amelia was reading this report for the second time, and she was convinced that she was reading something wrong just because...well, she was exhausted and getting paranoid about making mistakes.

This report was a multi-patient cross-analysis from scans taken when they first reported into sickbay some days ago and then taken earlier that morning. There was something. She saw something. Her tired mind was having trouble understanding what she saw, or trusting that she was interpreting it correctly.

Although they weren't on duty simultaneously much during this crisis, this happened to be one of the plot-convenient moments where they were. "Doctor Martin?" Amelia called as she got up from her desk, PADD in hand, and walked to find him.

It was all a dream. He pinched himself.

"Yow!" Derek squealed a bit. "Ow..." No. It was a nightmare. A medically induced one from a comatose state. He'd decided. It was the only logical explanation for a disease which defied literally every type of classification and study known to medical science.

"Yes? Have you come to turn into an Alsatian and dance around my office? That would complete this whole nightmare, Doctor Warner," Derek replied. His lack of usual wit was attributable to fatigue. They were all bone and, in his case, brain-weary.

Is my hearing going now as well? Can I no longer correctly interpret auditory input? Panic raced briefly through Amelia's mind before she caught back up with herself. "Uh, no?" she managed. She moved the rest of the way into the office and handed the PADD over to him. "Would you look at this, sir? I don't trust my eyes, but there's something wrong with this protein."

"Oh. Well I suppose then that this is all too real," Derek surmised and reached for the PADD. He reviewed the data and then reviewed the computer modeling done. He frowned and pinched the bridge of his nose. Scroll scroll scroll. He went through the data again and shook his head.

"I'm not sure I trust my own eyes. This protein isn't reacting as if it's a protein, Doctor. Not by any definition of protein we have for species in the known galaxy, regardless of quadrant. And heck, we have living silica rock biology in our databanks," he said, referring to the species known as the Horta.

Derek handed the PADD back over to her. "It looks like the protein itself is somehow alive or otherwise acting with a consciousness the way it's avoiding particular enzymes but only after getting close to them. That shouldn't happen," he said.

If they were hallucinating, at least they were hallucinating together?

"Many elements of this illness do sound like prion diseases, except for the transmission, which is very much like a virus," Amelia said, half thinking out loud. "Could...could we have an illness that is transmitting between people like a virus and then acting like a different type of illness once in the body?"

Derek frowned and leaned back into his chair, tilting it back as he stared into Amelia's eyes. At first he looked at her and then he looked through her as his brain turned over the puzzle for a few moments.

"What you're describing is a sort of intelligence. It is either a totally new vector that has never been encountered in this galaxy by anyone before, and therefore represents something totally new as it's not a fungus, virus, bacteria, prion, amoeba, protozoa, or anything else we've ever run across, or..." Derek trailed off for a moment and he blinked and snapped his gaze back to hers and connected with her eyes. "Or this was created and programmed to do exactly what it is doing," Derek said. He let the ominous words hang in the air between them. He desperately wanted her to challenge him, to tell him he was wrong, to say that his logic was flawed in a thousand different ways!

But she did not argue with him, because that idea--so awful an idea that none of them even wanted to consider it--made everything become crystal clear. She swallowed hard, feeling her breath go shallow. "That's what it is," she said with more certainty than she'd felt in days. "It has to be. It's the only thing that makes sense. It's why it's so virulent but acts like something else in the system. How it must be existing outside the body for longer, to infect more people..." She covered her face for a moment, feeling almost lightheaded. Not illness, though. Just horror.

"Bioweapons are nothing new... But where? How? Who? Why? Were we a target? Or just an unfortunate bit of collateral damage? Or were we a floating petri dish for whoever created this?" Derek asked the rapid fire questions. "I suppose none of that matters now. The question is, now that we know what we're looking at, how do we treat it and how do we stop it from spreading? We have to eradicate it and find out how it's programmed," he said, looking at Amelia, once again speaking more out loud while staring through her. He was never particularly good at keeping his thoughts to himself.

"If it works in the body like a prion disease, then let's--for this part--ignore the viral vector and look at the way it affects the body," Amelia said, pretty much also just thinking out loud. "What if we start with Morton's Serum and work out?" Historically, prion illnesses had been untreatable until the mid 2100s, when a doctor named Morton had discovered a treatment that worked on some malformed prions to reverse such conditions.

"It should speed the recovery along and hopefully help begin the real treatment. If we can get the crew to functioning status the reinfection rate appears low," Derek said, referring to the lack of casualties.

Amelia nodded. Her mind was racing, but at least now it felt like it was racing toward something. "But what do we do about it clearly hanging around outside? I mean...reinfection is low now but we can't count on it to stay that way. Especially not if this was created as a weapon..."

"Indeed. If it's adaptable, or programmed in some way, it could surprise us and start becoming far more lethal and far more infectious," he agreed. "We'll have to figure out a way to cleanse the ship."

"I'll start researching," Amelia said with a decisive nod. She was about to rush off to do that before coming back to her thoughts. "We...should probably tell the captain." She didn't thinnt that would be a fun conversation.


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