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In Search of a Cure [PLOT]

Posted on Fri Jun 22nd, 2018 @ 10:01am by Captain Malcom Llwyedd & Lieutenant M'ndi M'rron & Lieutenant Laree Desai & Chief Warrant Officer (Grade 2) Amara Vaun Jr.

Mission: Mission 3: The Galilei Conundrum
Location: SS Galilei - Science Lab
Timeline: 26 June, 2394 - 0830 Hours


Sparkling chandeliers and mahogany furnishings. Orion sculptures and Bajoran paintings. People felled by a gangrenous illness... When Amara Vaun, Jr. materialized on the Titan shuttle, her caramel eyes opened wide. The same old Starfleet interior of the shuttle only heightened her anticipation for what awaited them on the plagued luxury cruiser Galilei. Vaun turned to M'ndi as she shimmered into solid form next to her. She had seen the victims of Dominion experimentation on the Monterey only a few weeks before and her stomach still wasn't fully settled back to normal. She swallowed and looked to her friend for reassurance that she wasn't the only one feeling a dizzying mix of anxiety and determination to help the afflicted, and she wasn't disappointed. The science team was geared up in protective hazmat suits, and her sleeves crinkled as Vaun lifted her tricorder to test the air quality. Docked against the cruise liner like a benevolent barnacle, the Titan access door gaped open, and through it the dark halls of the Galilei greeted them with silence.

As the others crossed the threshold into the derelict cruise liner, M'ndi felt a pang of fear for what she might find. She was momentarily paralyzed by it, shaking in her hazmat suit, eyes wide. It wasn't until Desai turned back to her and motioned for her to come along that she broke free, shaking her head to clear it as she joined the rest of the science team.

Well, we're in it now, Desai thought, for better or for worse. No one was going back to the Firebird until they figured out what exactly was going on on this ship. And they had six hours of battery life in the sequencer. The microscopes, maybe a bit more, and of course their tricorders would last almost forever. But without the sequencer there was no way to analyze proteins, and if they couldn't analyze proteins their chances of figuring this thing out were almost zero.

Desai had decided to walk through the ship in order to get to the science lab, rather than transport directly there. She wanted to see what there was to see. So she led her team out of the shuttle and down the dark corridor, their headlamps punching small holes in the darkness. The thick carpet cushioned their footfalls and the wood paneling softened the whisper of their suits and they advanced down the corridor like ghosts. She spoke into the microphone as much to break the eerie silence as anything else. "The entrance to the Jeffrey's tube is just up ahead."

Her tricorder told her a lot of what she needed to know. Levels of airborne microbes were much, much higher than they should be--the air filtration system must be overwhelmed. The tricorder was able to identify about 98% of the microbial life, but that still left dozens of viruses, bacteria, and microscopic animal species that they would need to sort through. On a hunch, Desai tapped her tricorder and pulled up the maintenance records for the Galilei's air filtration system. Sure enough, the filters were switched out on a rotating basis through the ship. "Vaun," she said, "When we get to the science lab, I'd like you to go collect some air filters from different parts of the ship. We might be able to get some time series data on the airborne microbiome by sampling the filters. If we match that up with the medical logs, it might help us narrow down our search for whatever is causing this."

"Yes, sir." Vaun nodded inside her hazmat suit and pulled up an HVAC floorplan of the Galilei on her visor's HUD. She swallowed a nervous lump in her throat, and her quickened breath fogged her visor for a second before the suit caught up with the change in her respiration and adjusted its dehumidifiers. The last thing Vaun wanted was to stump around this stricken vessel alone in the dark. It was like something out of a holo-horror. But there were only three of them, and they needed those filters. Any airborne pathogens would have been caught by one of the filtration levels. Once she gathered a good sampling from around the ship, she could get back to her comfort zone, with her eyes on a microscope, scouring the filter detritus for anything out of place.

They arrived at the panel to the Jeffery's tube without incident--no dead or dying bodies lying in the corridor, no monsters dropping from the ceiling or Jem H'dar materializing from thin air. Desai had seen what she wanted to see, for now, and was anxious to get the lab set up. Stepping into the Jeffrey's tube, Desai whistled under her breath. Even the maintenance corridors were luxurious--spacious, with ladders that felt more like a staircase. They descended the three levels to the deck with the science lab, and emerged from the Jeffrey's tube, and froze in their tracks.

Ghosts, indeed. The Galilei's science lab was on the same deck as the infirmary, and the corridor to Sickbay was littered with humanoid forms. The hallway moaned and coughed, and when Desai stepped out of the maintenance tube heads lifted and turned. Their eyes pleaded with her silently, Help me. A quick scan of her tricorder told Desai that many were dead, but many were still alive.

Vaun felt a scream rising in the back of her throat. The shadows of sluggish limbs slithered along the corridor ahead like benighted worms. A clawed hand slashed her suit leg open like shrapnel flying from an explosion of necrotic flesh. Vaun wrenched her thoughts away from her fearful imagination and focused on the dispassionate science she was brought there to do. The headlamp from her hazmat suit cast a spotlight on a body so still it didn't seem to even breath. Green-stained hands cupped in an arthritic curl. A once elegant pink blouse strained against a row of sharply protruding vertebrae. Vaun's mind tripped on the what before getting to the how. Countless maladies caused soft tissue discoloration. But how did skeletal changes happen so rapidly to these people? The passengers were in full health when they left Empok Nor the week before.

A pit opened up in M'ndi's stomach. She scanned the hallway for her parents, but they weren't there. She knew it was callous of her, but she was relieved. Still, she had to turn away from the scene.

Desai pivoted on her heel so she faced M'rron and Vaun. She spoke into her helmet, her voice all professionalism. "Our first priority is to get the lab set up. We can't help anyone until that happens. It's the second door on the right."

Desai didn't like turning her back on the people they were here to help. She needed to say something to those pleading eyes, but she didn't know what she could tell them yet. Still with her back to the hallway, she opened a comm link to the medical team.

=^=Desai to Lieutenant Tajor. I've got a hallway of dead and dying in front of me. What's the situation in medical?=^=

Beddite sighed. =^=Lieutenant, Doctor Tajor and Lieutenant Savin have both been infected and are incapacitated. Dr. Morrison and I are holding down the fort, although we should have some limited power on here soon. At that point, gods help us, the EMH will be coming online.=^=

When Desai heard the news that Savin and Tajor were down, her first thought was that now her team could get good data on the progression of the disease. I'm a horrible person, Desai thought, but didn't dwell on it.

=^=Thank you, Nurse Beddite. You can expect a visit soon from a member of my team.=^=

Desai looked through the clear visor of her helmet into the eyes of M'rron and Vaun, full of trust in her ability to lead them through this. She nodded at them, turned back toward the dead and dying, and keyed the external mic on the suit so that everyone in the hall could hear her. "Ladies and gentlemen. My name is Lieutenant Laree Desai of the USS Firebird. We're here to help." She motioned to the two women behind her. "This is Lieutenant M'ndi M'rron and Chief Warrant Officer Amara Vaun, members of my science crew. We've brought state-of-the-art research equipment with us, which we're about to set up in your science lab. We're going to figure out what this thing is. We also have the full medical staff of the Firebird in your sickbay right now, working on finding a treatment and a cure.

"You're no longer alone," she said. "We're not leaving until we've helped everyone who needs helping."

She keyed off her mic, then marched down the corridor to the second door on the right.

They entered the Galilei's "science lab," and Vaun's heart rose for a second before it came crashing down. The room was tiny. A single lab table sported a childlike chemistry set of dangling beakers and dramatically spiraling glass tubes. Bottles of garishly colored powders and liquids crowded in front of an optical microscope on the supply counter behind a pair of stools. "Is this some kind of joke? We'd be lucky to make a baking soda volcano with these toys."

Desai laughed. It was probably callus of her, but really what else was she going to do? Vaun was right. Fortunately, they had prepared for this. Still chuckling, she winked at her two companions. "Amateurs. Good thing we brought a real science lab with us." She set her backpack with equipment down on the counter, and began unpacking. "Let's see about getting our mini Kilauea built."

Shrugging a pack from her shoulder, Vaun swung the bulging canvas up and set it on the lab table. It was more awkward than heavy, but she rubbed her shoulder to ease a cramp out of it after carrying the ungainly pack for so long. She had brought exactly two pieces of equipment. Working the second most important one out of the bag, she unfolded its legs and switched the portable work lamp on.

Light rose to filled the lab like a sunrise. The scientists squinted as the brightness ramped up faster than their eyes could adjust. Vaun stacked a set of graduated beakers one inside another like nesting dolls and moved them into a cabinet below the long tabletop. Biting her bottom lip incredulously, she lifted a retort flask. It's theatrical neck sloped downward like a glass anteater. She had never actually seen one. They were the stuff of history books and mad scientist holonovels. Vaun slid it into the cabinet and sighed with relief at the clearing she had made on the black table. Gently, as if opening an antique book, she pushed down the sides of the canvas bag and bared an old friend to the laboratory, transforming the hobbyists' playground into a serious workplace. A Gibson microscope worth more than her annual stipend. Vaun smiled and shifted it just so. She leaned over the eyepiece and switched it on, watching the startup messages begin to scroll.

Let there be light, Desai thought as she unpacked the SEM/TEM and the protein sequencer. The science lab was small but as earnest as a roadside shrine, and with it they were going to perform miracles.

"All set," Vaun said with muted cheer. She stood still for a moment, reorienting herself for the next task, and an itch started in the center of her back. Her voice came out quiet but steady, and she took that half-victory as better than none. "I should go get those filters."

"Thank you, Amara," Desai said. She turned to M'ndi. "Shall we pay a visit to the infirmary? I want to see what's going on with Savin and Tajor, and collect some samples so we can put this gear to good use."


Lieutenant Laree Desai
Chief Science Officer
USS Firebird NCC-88298

Lieutenant M'ndi M'rron
Assistant Chief Science Officer
USS Firebird NCC-88298

Chief Warrant Officer (Grade 2) Amara Vaun Jr.
NPC (by Yumi Han)


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Comments (3)

By Cadet Freshman Grade Gianna Djokovic on Tue Jun 26th, 2018 @ 6:09am

Nice post! I love M'ndi's trepidation and Desai's little announcement to the victims in the hallway and the Vaun's disappointment in the ship's tiny lab. What a great teamwork post. -Liam

By Warrant Officer Arlan Harlan on Thu Jun 28th, 2018 @ 1:22pm

Great language for an active imagination in this post!

By Petty Officer 3rd Class Max Tragar on Fri Jul 6th, 2018 @ 9:34am

Amazing descriptions here! I love how positive Vaun is even when she's afraid, and my heart goes out to M'ndi!