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Story Notes: Takes place in June 2375.

For the first time in almost nine months, the U.S.S. Orion wasn’t going anywhere, thanks to a ‘hiccup’ with her warp drive. Given the age of the ship and the fact she’d only had two weeks of repair time before being launched, it did surprise Clarissa DuMont that there weren’t more problems with the warp engines. It was a testament to the hard work and ingenuity of Lieutenant j.g. Lanali and her staff, somehow they kept the ship going against all the odds; with one or two exceptions—though those had become few and far between over the last fifteen months.

Fortunately, they had been returning from a mission in a region that hadn’t seen any fighting for four months, and had been all but ignored by the Dominion since then, so they weren’t in any immediate danger and the delay wouldn’t cause any holdups for anyone other than the crew. The problem had been traced to a faulty diagnostic sensor, which had detected a dangerous surge in the power transfer conduits and shut down the drive as a safety precaution. They were now left with having to replace the circuit and run a full check of the system, just to make sure there weren’t any problems—better to be safe than sorry.

When they had first dropped out of warp, it had been all hands on deck, but after the problem was identified, the engineers remained at their posts and the rest of the crew not on shift went back to either their beds or whatever recreational activity they had been up to—which included beds for a few. DuMont had been on watch when it had occurred and once again resumed command of the ship, though there was really little she could do. She had given up the command chair when Captain Reihyn had come onto the bridge, favouring her customary place at mission ops, and had remained there after he’d gone back to his quarters. Though it was expected of her to sit in the ‘big chair’, she found herself far more comfortable off to the side—at least from her station she could keep on top of the repair and diagnostic work.

“Commander,” Ensign Moq spoke up from tactical, glancing over at her, a puzzled look on his porcine face.

“Yes Ensign?”

“Sensors have just picked up a ship, just point-seven light-hours away, bearing two-one-one-mark-zero-zero-four.”

She looked from the dour young Tellarite to the garish Rigellian-Sirad at ops. “Lieutenant Yorthau?”

“Got them, sir!” he replied excitedly, which was just his usual tone. “Sensor silhouette is Starfleet! Looks like a Yeager-Class!”

She frowned slightly. Whilst the Orion was what had been dubbed the ‘zombie fleet’ (old ships resurrected for duty once again), Yeager’s were an example of the ‘Frankenstein fleet’—hulls cobbled together using parts from multiple different ships. They weren’t pretty or matched up to the specs of the classes they’d been made from, but they were relatively quick to construct allowing them to fill voids in the ranks. Though a few had been used in some engagements, they were typically held back in defensive positions, so finding one of them in this sector was unusual.

DuMont accessed the command intelligence application on her station and checked for a transponder code. Once she had it, she ran it through the database and was given a result within a couple of seconds.

“The computer says it’s the U.S.S. DeVier, which went MIA two weeks ago near the Argaya System.”

“We’re eight light-years from Argaya, what would she be doing here?” asked Petty Officer Wang from the conn.

“I don’t know,” she admitted. “Bridge to Lanali.”

“Go ahead, Commander.”

“How long until we have warp drive restored, Lieutenant?”

“Another couple of hours, I’d say. Is something wrong?”

“We’ve picked up a Starfleet ship that was reported missing.”

“Well get finished as quickly as we can, Commander, but I don’t want to push it.”

“Understood. DuMont out.”

She paused. Part of her felt the need to call the Captain to the bridge, but it wasn’t unusual to find derelict ships along the Cardassian border, even ones said to be missing—more often than not they would turn up, either as debris or heavily damaged. She glanced at her hand and saw it hovering above the intercom. Slowly, she moved it away and stood up. Stepping into the centre of the bridge, she took a breath and looked down as the conn.

“Wang, set a course and take us to full impulse. Mr Moq, begin continuous scans for other ships. Lieutenant, I want a full report on that ship.”

“Aye sir,” the bridge crew replied, almost in unison.

Without warp it would take almost three hours to reach the vessel, which gave them more than enough time to gather data on the ship and assess the situation before the engines were back online. Once they knew more, then she would know whether or not it needed the immediate attention of the Captain or not. Or at least, that was what she hoped.

* * * * *

Captain’s log, stardate: 52482.3.

Whilst our warp drive was out for essential repair, sensors detected the starship
DeVier. However, instead of a wreck the ship looks to be intact for the most part, though power emissions are almost non-existent. If we hadn’t been at sublight it’s doubtful we would ever have detected them. They haven’t responded to any of our hails.

Lieutenant Lanali has managed to restore main engines, though has advised against such a short warp jump, so we remain at impulse and will be alongside within the hour.

There is a general feeling of trepidation among the crew, one I share. Something about this just feels…off.

End log.


* * * * *

“Sensors are showing eighty-eight life-signs,” reported Lieutenant Jachim from his customary place at ops. “However, there is only minimal damage to the ship. They have got life-support.”

“Records show there were one hundred twenty-five onboard,” added DuMont .

Reihyn frowned. If the ship had little damage, both external and internal, how had over quarter of the crew lost their lives? “Escape pods?”

“All escape pods and shuttles accounted for, sir.”

“Maybe the missing crew were abducted? Or beamed down somewhere?” suggested D’Kehra.

Both were possibilities, though each presented even more questions, the main one being: why only abduct/evacuate a fraction of the crew? Also, what was preventing the rest from making contact with them? Everything about the situation seemed wrong.

“No other ships on sensors?”

“All’s clear, sir,” responded Ensign Mecell.

“Perhaps there’s some kind of sickness,” suggested Doctor Baxx, leaning on one of the railings, studying the ship on the viewscreen.

Reihyn raised a tattooed brow. Of all the possibilities, that was the way he was leaning. Was this something new the Dominion were employing? Had they resorted to biological weapons? In all the intelligence briefings he was privy too, he’d never once read of them using such a tactic, though that wasn’t to say it wasn’t beyond the realm of possibility.

“If there is a biological or viral agent over there, sensors aren’t detecting it.”

“All the more reason we beam over and help them,” Baxx stated. Whenever there was ever humanitarian aid needed or suffering to be eased, the old Bolians position was always the same, no matter what the stakes were.

It took only a moment’s thought for him to reach the same conclusion. No matter what the circumstances, those people were Starfleet and they were in need. “You’re right, as always, Doctor. Commander, get two relief teams together, full biohazard protocol. Assess the situation and render assistance wherever needed.”

There was a moment of hesitation before DuMont replied, “Aye sir.”

* * * * *

The relief teams were beamed into one of the emergency transporters onboard the DeVier, being good sized spaces and centralised, the teams could spread out from there and assess what was going on. Sioll Baxx was once again in a full EVA suit, his eighth time since his commission was reactivated—more times than the rest of his decades-long career. Though in this situation there was breathable air and standard gravity, the suits were the only way to ensure that they didn’t contract whatever pathogen might be at work onboard.

As the four security personnel swept the room with their phasers, everyone else did the far more useful thing of opening their tricorders. Scanning range allowed him to take in the entire ship; no adverse radiation or energy anomalies impeded them. The eight-eight crew were scattered throughout the ship, with larger concentrations in sickbay and the mess hall—which only gave more evidence to what had befallen the ship being a medical emergency.

“Alright,” DuMont began over the comlink, her voice shaking slightly, “we’ll split into three teams, cover more ground. Doctor Baxx, Ramirez, Vaand and Ytog; head for sickbay. Lanali, Carr, Doren and Anders, get down to engineering, see if you can restore main power. D’Kehra, McGuire and Patel, with me; we’ll head for the bridge. Keep the comlink open.”

Though he would’ve preferred to keep his medical team together as they headed for sickbay to help out, he understood the need to spread the teams experienced and skills. Ramirez was a jack-of-all-trades, so could easily help out with whatever technical problems them may have faced, as well as a dozen other tasks, whilst Crewman Ytog was for their safety (and carry anything heavy).

The teams grouped together and filed out the transporter room, scanning as they went. In the corridor they split up, Lanali heading aft whilst the other two groups headed forward. They would diverge in time, each heading their own way. They had barely gone fifteen meters before the approached the first member of the crew, a Delbian woman, lying on her side in the hallway, back up against the bulkhead.

Baxx moved to the front, the rest of the team parting to let him through, McGuire and Vaand close behind. At the body he crouched down and removed the sensor wand from his tricorder and swept it over her still form. Given the position of the woman in blue, he expected to see zero life-signs, but his scanner was picking up brain activity, heartbeat and respiration, all very weak however.

“What the frell?” he asked no one, trying to make sense of the readings.

“Doctor?”

“She’s alive, just barely though. She’d suffering from severe malnourishment and dehydration. Her body is wasting away, but I can’t see any reason why.” He turned his torso so he could look up at the First Officer. “We need to get her to sickbay.”

DuMont nodded. He motioned for Vaand to take her, the strapping Rhaandarite more than able to carry the frail woman.

“Sir, I’m getting another life-sign from inside,” stated Chief Ramirez, scanning a doorway they stood next too.

“Check it.”

Ramirez tapped the control panel then stepped inside with Ytog. Baxx headed after them and paused in the doorway when he saw a Vulcan man lying on the bed, not moving. He was just skin and bone, like the Delbian in the corridor. The Chief ran a scan and looked back at him.

“Minimal brain activity, pulse and breathing are barely registering. Severe malnourishment and dehydration.”

“What could’ve happened here?” asked the Tellarite guard.

“I don’t know,” he admitted.

“Should we take him as well?” Ramirez asked.

Baxx thought for a moment and shook his head. “This could be the effects of the contagion, if it is the entire crew could be suffering, we don’t have the manpower to get them all to sickbay. At least he’s in his quarters.”

He stepped back into the corridor as D’Kehra and Patel emerged from another cabin opposite. “We found a body, just like her but he’s been dead for days.”

“There is definitely some kind of biohazard present onboard, but it’s like nothing I’ve seen before.”

“We’d better keep moving,” said DuMont, sounding shaken.

The team and the sick Delbian carried on. Their progress was a silent one, except for DuMont informing the Orion of what they’d found and Lanali saying her team had found two dead and one unconscious. He’d checked with Corpsman Carr and found that the survivor and one of the dead, both human, were the same as the ones they’d found. The second dead crewmember, a Tiburonian, however wasn't. She had been at a healthy weight when she had died, two weeks ago. He’d asked Carr to run a full scan and send the data through to him—when they got to sickbay he’d run a comparison between those results and what he got from the others, though as they headed there he was already engrossed in the readings.

“Hold up,” DuMont told them as the rounded a corner.

He looked up from his scanner and found the reason why they’d stopped. The corridor was filled with furniture from quarters or laboratories and cargo containers, packed in so tightly that he couldn’t even see beyond it. Some of it even looked as though it’d been melted together with weapons fire.

“What in the world?” Patel asked.

“A phaser should be able to burn through that, though it may take a few minutes,” stated D’Kehra, raising her weapon.

“There could be something volatile in those barrels, Lieutenant,” highlighted Ramirez, “or something worse buried behind what we can see.”

“Agreed, we’ll find another way around.”

Baxx had been near the rear, one of the closest to the junction they had come down to reach the barrier, as he turned back towards the perpendicular corridor a shifting shadow caught his eye.

“What was that?” asked Ytog, who was rear guard for the team.

“You saw it too?” he asked the Tellarite, who nodded through the faceplate.

He glanced at his tricorder, noting the distinctive change in readings. “Commander, I’ve got an active life-sign, heading away from us,” he called into the open channel as he headed after it, Ytog by his side.

“Doctor? Baxx, get back here!”

They rounded the corner and charged after the only person they’d found so far who could’ve answered their questions. Why they were running away made no sense, but once they caught up then he would be sure to ask. Part of him knew that it was madness to chase after them and could well be dangerous, he silenced the questioning voice. This pathogen could well have a psychological element to it that could distort the sufferer’s perceptions, making a friend appear as a foe, so they could be running scared. He was there to render aid, which was exactly what he would do, even if he had to stun them to do it.

The life-sign, an Andorian, had stopped in a room up on their left—an environmental processor station if he wasn’t mistaken. He darted in as soon as the doors opened, before his escort could protest, but as soon as he’d taken a step inside he say a flash of silver and felt an impact snap his head back and hit the inside of the EVA helmet, making him stumble back, the room spinning.

He smacked into the bulkhead opposite the door. His vision was blurred for a moment, but cleared in time to see an Andorian emerge from the room and lunge at Ytog as the guard had his back turned, focused on Baxx, who slumped against metal wall. He heard the Tellarite cry out over the comlink, just as a phaser beam cut through the air towards their attacker.

The Andorian, a shen in sciences blue with the rank of chief petty officer on her collar, managed to avoid the beam, as she fell to the deck on top of the crewman. In the blink of an eye she was all her feet, snarling, brandishing a piece of railing in one hand and a vicious-looking dagger in the other, deep red blood dripping from the serrated blade.

Before a second shot could connect with her, she scarpered into the room she’d ambushed him in, with D’Kehra and Patel hot on her heels. As they pursued, McGuire and Vaand hurried over to their two fallen shipmates. Baxx tried to tell the Rhaandarite he was alright, until he saw the look of shock and dismay on Vaand’s usually serene face. It was then he realised that although his vision had cleared, it still wasn’t right, and focused on his helmet and saw a spidery crack.

“Warning, suit compromised,” the inbuilt computer warned.

Whatever infection was loose on the DeVier he’d been exposed to it.

* * * * *

The Andorian had scrambled through the Jefferies tube and disappeared into the ship. As much as D’Kehra wanted to pursue, she didn’t know the ship and didn’t have the people she needed to launch a full-scale manhunt. Stepping back into the corridor she saw just how bad things were; Doctor Baxx sat on the deck, his cracked helmet next to him, whilst Crewman Ytog was bleeding from a wound to his ribcage, which meant they were both now infected.

DuMont and Ramirez stood on either side of the injured being treated, phasers out and keeping an eye open for any other attackers. She wasn’t sure what the XO was thinking, but D’Kehra knew she wanted to chew the physician out—but the look on his face, as he focused on her crewman being seen to by McGuire, she suspected she couldn’t make him feel any worse. He’d done possibly the stupidest thing possible, abandoning his team and running off half-cocked, fortunately, Ytog had stuck with him, or it could’ve been far worse.

“She got away, sir,” she said, stepping over to DuMont.

“Lieutenant, go secure.”

D’Kehra frowned as she switched from the open channel to a security connection with the First Officer. “Go ahead.”

“What’re our options?”

“As much as I’d love to hunt down the person who did this, there’s no way we can cover the entire ship with the numbers we have even with tricorders, and I wouldn’t want to risk anyone else over here—we already have two exposed.”

“And we can’t even get them beamed back.”

“Agreed, until we know what we’re dealing with we can’t ensure the bio-filters will catch it.”

“So what would be out best course of action?”

D’Kehra thought for a moment, weighing up their situation. “I suggest we all head to sickbay, at least there then Ytog can be treated thoroughly and Baxx can be looked at closer—he could also look through their files, see if they have any idea what it is we’re dealing with.”

DuMont nodded in her helmet. “Agreed.”

She turned back to the team, switching back to the open comlink. “Mr McGuire, can Ytog be moved?”

“The knife when into muscle, no major arteries of blood vessels hit, no organs damaged, so he’ll be alright until we get to sickbay, sir.”

“Alright, we’re heading for their sickbay, which should be on this deck. Ramirez, carry the woman we found earlier.”

D’Kehra took point, phaser sweeping back and forth as they headed out once again. With injured they were slower than before, more cautions, as any of the life-signs around them could be lying in wait to attack them. She wished she’d insisted on taking rifles, but since it was a Starfleet ship, they hadn’t suspected any major dangers that would require anything more than their hand phasers.

They warned Lanali in the engineering section about the crazed Andorian, but aside from dead and near-comatose they hadn’t seen any other crewmembers. D’Kehra had privately warned Crewman Anders about the attackers crazed state and that there could well be others, as well as telling her Ytog had been injured, though didn’t say just how badly or about his suit. The last thing she needed was the third groups’ only guard being distracted by the news about teammate, especially when they didn’t know conclusively that he’d been exposed.

She ran a quick visual sweep of the last corridor before stepping out, phaser up. No movement, no signs of life. “Clear.”

The others followed her and they headed over to the sickbay entrance. But as she approached the doors remained sealed. DuMont stepped up beside her and aimed her tricorder at it. “The doors are sealed and I’m reading ten life-signs inside.” With that she moved to the door controls and pulled it off, reaching inside for the manual release.

The doors popped open. As soon as they did D’Kehra felt the familiar prickle in her mind and leapt to the side, covering DuMont as a phaser beam whined through the air where she’d been standing a second earlier.

“Hold your fire!” she roared.

“Who’re you?” a frightened female voice replied from inside.

“We…we’re from the Orion we’re here to render aid,” said DuMont, looking relieved.

“Okay,” the woman replied, sounding unconvinced.

D’Kehra stepped away from the XO, held up her hand, keeping the rest of the team back, then stepped into the doorway again. There was a young, redheaded ensign taking cover behind a freestanding console, whilst all the biobeds were occupied and a couple of stretchers were on the floor. The threat was gone, so she beckoned for the others to approach. DuMont hesitated for a moment then stepped beside her.

“I’m Lieutenant Commander DuMont, who’s in charge here?”

The ensign stood at attention, holstering her phaser. “That’d be me, sir. Ensign Natalie Jurex, junior ops officer.” She looked over to the adjacent office. “It’s alright.”

From behind a wall stepped out two other young-looking crewmembers, both securing their weapons. One was a male Vulcan ensign in blue and the other a red shirted Napean female, both of whom stood at attention in the presence of senior officers.

“This is Nurse Sedik and Crewman Kullil Hendricks, navigation technician.”

DuMont stepped into the ward, D’Kehra close behind and the others filtering in slowly. They all quickly took in their surroundings. She, for one, noted how much more advanced it looked compared to what was on the Orion. When Baxx and Ytog entered all three of the DeVier crew looked shocked, even the Vulcan medical officer.

“What’s going on here? Two of my team were injured by an Andorian. We’ve also found several of your crew unconscious or dead on the deck or in rooms.”

“The DeVier has been hit by a biological weapon,” Jurex began as they saw to their injured. As one of the biobeds were cleared (with both the previous patient and the one Ramirez carried being laid on stretchers on the floor) for Ytog, and Baxx was made to sit down for a full assessment, Jurex filled them in on what had happened.

“We were on patrol near Argaya, when we detected a Son’a ship on the outskirts of the system.” Though the Son’a were little more than thugs, they were the quadrants largest producers of ketracel-white, which made them a valuable ally of the Dominion—so their ship movements were being more rigorously monitored than ever before. “They spotted us they bolted, so we pursued to ascertain what they were doing. After a few hours, they dropped out of warp suddenly and attacked. It was brief but their weapons were highly effective. They opened up a hole in our shields and hit us with a torpedo, which didn’t explode, then turned tail and ran.

“Captain O’Shea didn’t want to continue the chase with unexploded ordnance in our side, so a DC team was sent to deal with it. When they got there they said it opened up and expelled some kind of gas. That was the moment the crew were exposed, though at first none of the repair team showed any ill-effects and there was no sign of the gas after it was released.”

“What’re the initial symptoms?” Baxx asked, shooing Vaand away,

Sedik stepped forward. “All those who contracted the virus reported an elevation in body temperature and profuse perspiration. The first instance these were reported to sickbay was two-point-three-seven hours after exposure.”

“Less than two and a half hours for the incubation period?” the Bolian quizzed.

“For the first reported case, others may have felt the symptoms earlier but not sought diagnosis.”

“And every species onboard had the same symptoms?” The Vulcan nurse nodded. “How many are there?”

“Fifteen, sir. The increase in temperature then led to a state of delirium for all, which included problems with short-term memory. It was after this stage that species began to be affected differently.”

“How so?”

“For most, their higher brain functions and nervous systems began to shut down. They remained conscious but unable or unwilling to move, report for duty, even feed themselves, whilst their metabolic rate was increased.”

“My gods,” Baxx gasped.

D’Kehra and DuMont had been looking between the two men, but since she wasn’t an expert in medicine or biology she was lost. “What does that mean?”

Baxx looked at her. “Since they weren’t taking in any nourishment, their bodies would’ve started on their own fat and muscle, which is why all the crew have looked so emaciated.”

“They remained conscious through all of this?” asked DuMont.

“Yes Commander,” replied Sedik. “Some were more responsive than others, but they remained unable to help themselves as their bodies withered. Doctor Ra-Gheiiv called the condition a ‘living death’.”

“What about the others?” Baxx enquired.

“For some species, the delirium led to paranoia and then into some form of madness. They became dangerous, aggressive and unpredictable.”

“Andorians being one of those species,” stated D’Kehra.

“Yes, so too are Napeans, Saurians and Tellarite.”

Immediately, the away team looked from Ytog on the biobed to Hendricks standing next to the CMO’s office. D’Kehra reached for her phaser, wondering if maybe she’d misread the situation.

“Crewman Hendricks has shown no signs of the infection, nor have myself or Ensign Jurex.”

“Are you sure?” asked DuMont.

“We have run blood tests every twelve hours and shown no signs of infection. Doctor Ra-Gheiiv surmised it may have to do with our mixed heritage, all of us are fifty percent human.”

“I’d like to run tests of my own, just to make sure.”

“Of course.”

D’Kehra scrutinised the nurse for a moment. “What else haven’t you told us?”

They all looked at her and then at Sedik, but before he could answer Jurex stepped forward. “There were two races affected in another way, they didn’t go crazy or shut down, they died within hours of being infected. Tiburonian and…”

“Bolians,” Baxx finished for her. She nodded, her large black eyes filled with sympathy.

The room fell silent.

* * * * *

“No,” Captain gasped, unable to keep the horror, disgust or disbelief from his voice.

On the bridge the assembled officers and crew stopped what they were doing and looked at him, none of them quite believing what they’d been told over the comlink with the away team. There was a virus loose onboard the DeVier, one that had drastically different effects on different species, including being fatal for Bolians just hours after they contracted it, and Doctor Sioll Baxx had been infected.

He felt cold to his core, numb, barely able to think let alone react. It couldn’t be true, there had to be something they could do. We wouldn’t let one of his crew just die whilst another went insane, there had to be some kind of cure.

Jachim was the first to turn back to his station, clearing one screen and starting a search of the medical database, inputting all the information they’d been supplied. He then looked down at Ensign Mecell, who looked on the verge of tears, the baby-faced Bajoran seemingly unable to comprehend just what had been said or what it meant—Reihyn just hoped his exact same thoughts weren’t quite so obvious on his face. He then glanced at Counsellor Myza, who sat where DuMont usually did, who appeared to be taking the news better than anyone else—or who was at least better at keeping her feelings in check.

“We can beam you to an isolation room in sickbay,” he suggested, trying to push through the mental block the shock had caused.

“Like frell you will!” countered Baxx. “Effective immediately all those infected onboard this ship are under a level ten quarantine, myself included.”

“Doctor, there has to be something we can do!”

“Captain, it was my stupidity that led to getting myself and Ytog infected. I will not put anyone else at risk, that includes beaming any of the sick there or anyone else over here. As Chief Medical Officer, my authority outstrips yours in this matter.”

“Lanali can get the ship’s systems restored and we could escort her into a facility that is better equipped to deal with it.”

“Sir,” DuMont spoke up, “From what Ensign Jurex has said, this virus hasn’t just targeted the crew but the ship’s bio-neural circuitry as well. They were able to bypass environmental controls to an isolinear backup but everything else was too far gone for them to work around.”

Reihyn, who’d managed to stay on his feet as he’d been told the gut-wrenching news, slumped back into his chair. Everything he could think of wasn’t enough. He was going to lose two of his people and there wasn’t a single thing he could do—no matter how much he may have wanted too.

“I’ve been looking over what research the DeVier’s medical staff were able to carry out before succumbing to the virus, but there isn’t much. It looks like within forty-eight almost the entire crew were suffering. Just Jurex, Sedik and Hendricks look to be immune, which I’d chalk up to their inter-species parentage, though couldn’t tell you exactly why. I’m having Vaand run their blood work and look at all their previous results.”

The Rigellian-Enex swallowed heavily, unable to stomach the next question he needed to ask. “How long...?”

There was a brief hesitation before Baxx replied, his voice tight. “From when the virus was released to the time of death, the average for the nine Bolians onboard was seven hours. Commander Brek lasted the longest at ten hours but Crewman Zois died after just three. I was exposed almost forty minutes ago. Mr Ytog will last a little longer before he turns violent.”

“Is there anything you need, Doctor?”

“I’ve got to record a message for my family, could you make sure it gets to them?”

“Consider it done,” Reihyn assured him, trying to sound strong for his crew.

“Thank you, Captain.”

* * * * *

As Lanali’s team entered sickbay it was obvious to all the Chief Engineer had been crying, her eyes red rimmed and cheeks still damp, though she may have looked like a Vulcan the young Rigellian-Tomal wore her heart on her sleeve. The others all looked shell-shocked at the news, which was the stage DuMont was still wading through.

Sickbay was where the three conscious crew had holed themselves up in, being one of the safest locations on the entire ship, so the teams had made it their base of operation. D’Kehra, Patel and Hendricks were in the corridor, watching for any more of the aggressive crew, phasers on full stun, so were joined by Crewman Anders when she returned from engineering. McGuire was seeing to Ytog and helping keep the ‘living dead’ crew as comfortable as he could. Baxx was working in the adjacent medlab with Sedik and Vaand, going over the research that had been carried out and trying to further it. Corpsman Carr joined McGuire in the ward. DuMont was working with Ramirez and Jurex, trying to recover all the information they could from the computer. When Lanali and Doren returned, she had them take over from her, wanting to give them something to focus on—they were the worst affected by the news, Lanali as she felt everything and Doren because without his suit he would face the same fate as Doctor Baxx.

As they all saw to their duties, DuMont stepped away from the ward into a storage room. Once in some relative privacy, she cut her comlink and rested the faceplate of her helmet on the bulkhead, her head dropping as low as it could as she let herself weep. This was all her fault, her mission so it was her failure. It was her responsibility as First Officer to instil and reinforce discipline and protocol among the crew, had she given a damn about any of it then she’d have kept him in check and he wouldn’t have broken away from the team.

It should’ve been me! she told herself. She had coasted through her career, rarely pushing herself, never excelling, just doing her job and not looking for any recognition. Baxx had saved thousands of lives over the years, had done so much good in the galaxy that he deserved to enjoy a long and quiet retirement. He’d been robbed of that whilst she would carry on. Even now, as he faced death, he was still looking after the lives of others, imposing quarantine and wanting no effort to be made to save him and risk exposing the crew. But there she was, crying in a cupboard, feeling sorry for herself.

A steady hand rested on her shoulder and she quickly spun around. Baxx stood behind her, kindly blue eyes looking at her as beads of sweat slowly started to roll down his brow and cheeks.

“It really does suck doesn’t it?”

She had to laugh, despite the situation. “That’s the biggest understatement of the century, Doctor.”

He gave her a sad smile. “True.”

“How are you feeling?” she asked, trying to blink the tears away as she couldn’t rub her eyes.

“Like I’ve been having jamaharon with three Risians in a hot mineral pool under the midday sun, just without the sense of satisfaction.”

“That’s a...vivid...mental image.”

He grinned to himself. “Good times.” He shook his head and handed her his tricorder. “I’ve recorded a message for my family.”

She took the device from him. “Thank you, Doctor. I’ll make sure it gets to them.”

“Also, I’ve gone over all the test results for Jurex, Sedik and Hendricks. They’re right, no sign of any viral, bacterial or parasitical infection; they’re all as healthy as can be expected given the circumstances. Under my authority, I permit them to be transported to the Orion, though kept isolated in a level-five quarantine field and monitored continuously.”

“Of course, I’m sure arrangements are already being made as we speak. What about your work on the pathogen itself?”

“I’ve gone over what the original staff had, but there isn’t much more I can add to it with the time I’ve got. I’ve made a few notes, given my symptoms and perspective. There will be enough data to help the bio-filters screen for the virus, so it won’t spread to the ship, and hopefully some researcher at Starfleet Medical can make some headway without a ticking clock hanging over them.”

“I’ll need to check with Lanali, make sure we have a secure datalink and start uploading the files to the Orion .”

He set his hand on her shoulder again. “I’m sure they have that well in hand, you should take a moment for yourself in here; they’re going to need you to be strong once you step back onto the ward.”

“If only I was.”

He fixed her with a stern look. “You are, Clarissa. Also no self-pitying remarks in the presence of a dead man walking.”

She straightened her posture a little, holding his look. “It has been a pleasure and an honour serving with you, Sioll.”

* * * * *

All of the away team had taken a moment to say goodbye, telling him how much he would be missed and not sure what they would do without him. Baxx was overcome by the outpouring, knowing that it was tougher on them as it was him—he’d faced death in war or through disease several times over his many years of service, so part of him had always understood that there could be one day he would wake up and not know that he wouldn’t see another. Now it was upon him, he wasn’t sure just what he should be feeling, the stifling heat that radiated from within him made it difficult to really focus any longer.

He was sat in the office, thinking just how uncomfortable the chair was, when Ensign Jurex stepped in, her limpid, onyx eyes fixed on him.

“Doctor, I just wanted to say how sorry we are—”

He waved away her apology. “There’s no need, Ensign. We’re all going to die of something eventually, unfortunately this is how I’m going, but at least I went out helping you.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Just promise me to enjoy what life you have, embrace it and all it has to offer.”

She gave him a firm nod. “I will, I promise.”

“Good, you’d best get going.”

As she headed out to join the other survivors, ready to be beamed over to the secure containment room that had been set up for them, DuMont and D’Kehra stepped in

“We’re ready to transport, Doctor, I thought I’d see if there was anything else you needed?”
He shook his damp head. “I don’t think so. I gave you message, didn’t I?”

“You did.”

“And I did say about putting K3 in charge until you’re assigned another doctor.” DuMont nodded. “For some reason she loves the paperwork as much as the actual work—deranged Nasat. There was one more thing...” he trailed off, the thought he’d had slipping away from him.

“Well we’ll be on the comm if you remember.”

It suddenly swam to the surface again. “Torpedoes! This virus may have resulted in my death, but I don’t want it to be the cause. Once you’re ready to fire, just go ahead and do it!”

The Orion lieutenant fixed him with a level look. “I will.”

“Good, now get going or you’ll have me blubbering.”

The two women headed for the exit but just as DuMont returned to the others he stopped D’Kehra, “Lieutenant.” She turned back to him, stepping back further into the room. “Reihyn will think he has to press the button, but I’m worried what it’ll do to him.”

“Don’t worry; I’ll look out for him.”

He gave her a knowing smile. “I’m sure you will, D’Kehra.”

She returned it. Though it was a lot to place on her shoulders as well, he knew she was someone who could bear the full burden. The Captain was strong, stronger than he really knew (there weren’t many who could turn a mishmash of individuals into a unified crew), but D’Kehra was more resilient. The actions would take a toll on her, but she would always rather face it than let someone else pay the price. It was one of the things that made them right for each other, at least in his old romantic eyes.

Baxx stood and followed her through to the ward just in time to see the three survivors vanish in a blue haze. The relief team, short two members, stood in the centre of the ward waiting to transport. Since they were beaming out of a biohazard zone the system needed to go through multiple checks before and after every cycle, ensuring that the transporters were safe and ready.

“The survivors are secure,” stated Jachim over the channel. “Away team standby.”

“We’re ready when you are, Lieutenant.”

All eyes were on him as they dematerialised. Alone in sickbay, he felt his own well up.

* * * * *

DuMont, Jachim, D’Kehra, Lanali and Ramirez stepped onto the bridge; the four members of the away team had all forgone changing into uniform and stayed in their EVA under-suits. As they all took their stations, Reihyn kept his eyes forward, locked onto the DeVier which filled the viewscreen. The mood was sombre; the chatter that could usually be heard was silent whilst even all the chirps and beeps of the various systems were muted.

It took them all a moment to look over their various displays and monitors, confirm their status before readying themselves for what needed to be done. Slowly, the Captain rose from his seat and stepped down to stand behind the joint conn/tactical console.

“Mecell?” he asked softly. After the team had beamed aboard, he ordered them to move back to a safe distance.

“We are in position, sir.”

He nodded to himself. “Tactical, load forward torpedo tubes, set to maximum yield.”

“Torpedoes loaded, yield at maximum.”

“Lock onto their warp core.”

“Target locked, sir.”

“Commander, open a channel.”

“Open.”

Orion to Baxx, are you reading me?”

“Loud and clear. I’m ready here.”

Reihyn had to wonder if that was true, if Baxx was actually ready to die. If their roles were reversed, he didn’t know if he would be so calm—in fact he doubted he would, he was fairly certain he would be raging against the cosmos. He stepped down to the lowest level of the bridge well, next to D’Kehra’s station, with a quick glance just to reaffirm where the fire control was.

“It’s been a privilege, Doctor.”

“That was mine, Captain. It’s been fun,” he replied, the smile evident in his tone.

Reihyn reached for the button that would launch their torpedoes, but as his hand neared it D’Kehra’s took it and stopped him. She looked at him, her mahogany eyes telling him more than words ever could. She rested her hand next to the stud, finger hovering above it. Pulling back his, he gripped the edge of the console, steadying himself, looking at the screen again.

“Fire.”

* * * * *

Captain’s log, stardate: 52485.6.

We are en route to Starbase 360 to transfer the survivors of the
DeVier to more appropriate medical facilities. So far the three of them have shown no signs of infection, whilst air samples have been negative for the virus.

Two photon torpedoes were used to destroy the
DeVier, which was successful. Scans of the debris show no signs of life. We left a marker buoy behind, alerting others of the biohazard nature of what remains.

In addition to the loss of one hundred and twenty-two from the
U.S.S. DeVier, the casualties also includes:
- Lieutenant Commander Sioll Baxx M.D., Chief Medical Officer,
U.S.S. Orion,
- Crewman Ev glasch Ytog, Security,
U.S.S. Orion.

Both will be gravely missed by all those who knew and served with them over the last fifteen months.

A…a memorial will be held at nineteen hundred hours.

End log.


* * * * *

END


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