Memory's Echo

Memory's Echo

Status: Finished

Genre: Fan Fiction

Details

Status: Finished

Genre: Fan Fiction

Summary

On a diplomatic mission, Picard is bitten by a venemous creature. Crusher too falls ill. It takes cooperation from the aliens to help.

Summary

On a diplomatic mission, Picard is bitten by a venemous creature. Crusher too falls ill.
It takes cooperation from the aliens to help.

Chapter1 (v.1) - Memory's Echo

Author Chapter Note

On a diplomatic mission, Picard is bitten by a venemous creature. Crusher too falls ill. It takes cooperation from the aliens to help.

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: January 18, 2012

Reads: 656

Comments: 1

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Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: January 18, 2012

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The woman sat quite still, curled up in the big lounge chair, her face illuminated by the stars at which she gazed. Sighing, she looked at the man sleeping quietly in the bed. Her musings were bitter sweet, the memories of the past three days warming and arousing her...the contemplation of the days to come, cold and forlorn.

This was a fairly straightforward assignment. The captain had been specifically called for by the ruling families of a distant star system, strategic enough for Starfleet to agree to send him, to fill the position of mediator in a long running dispute over the disposition of the mineral wealth of all three planets in the system.

His brief included the insistence that the captain present himself in the company of a mate. The gender was irrelevant, and although Beverly Crusher, as Chief Medical Officer, was his first choice, he had to weigh how much of his decision was based on his personal feelings toward her. However, the dilemma solved itself when a subsequent request for medical assistance was made, and so it was Beverly that accompanied Jean-Luc to the third and ruling planet in the system. The past days became a blur, she busy with the local medical facility only just coping with a virulent viral infection. It was spread in multiple forms, each outbreak tailoring itself to have the maximum effect on the population. Centuries of misuse and over prescribing of pharmaceuticals had brought about a situation where the virus was outsmarting the doctors.

Jean-Luc’s task was just as onerous, the stakes just as high. If he couldn’t bring about a satisfactory result it would mean great hardship to millions of people. Daily he countered greed, vanity and nepotism, none of the participants willing to abandon their own avarice to serve the people they represented. In the last three days Jean-Luc had enjoyed only seven hours sleep, Beverly not much more.

On this night he had come in almost asleep on his feet, informing Beverly that he would be required to spend seven days alone, at the insistence of the rulers, to contemplate his decisions and commune with the life force of the land and sea. Despite Beverly’s protest, he had told the ruling parties he would take the time, although he stipulated it was against his better judgement.

While Jean-Luc took a soothing shower, Beverly replicated a meal for him and when he came out from the shower wrapped only in a soft white towel, he smiled his thanks as Beverly had laid out his pyjamas and robe. She returned to the lounge and Jean-Luc thoughtfully dressed in his nightwear. Coming out to the dining room he was touched to see the meal and cup of tea she had replicated. He moved to stand in front of her and said quietly,

“Thank you my friend.”

Beverly ran her hands up the muscular wall of his chest and smiled sadly, muttering,

“Well, Jean-Luc, someone has to look after you...you don’t look after yourself.”

Very softly, so quiet that she had to strain to hear his words, he whispered,

“I always hoped it would be you...”

Her eyes closed as his forehead touched hers, his clean masculine aroma breaking her shield. Her mouth dried and butterflies took flight in her stomach. Seemingly without her control, her mouth whispered the words...

“I’m not afraid any more.”

Momentarily frozen, Jean-Luc’s hushed voice felt like a balm on a burn, soothing her...her mind and her soul.

“Beverly?...Do you mean it?...Are you sure?”

She looked at him...this wonderful man; those incredible hazel eyes, this man who had loved her so long and she saw tears brimming in his eyes.

“Yes, my heart...I love you.”

The tears fell then unheeded by the man. His heart had taken flight as a great load had lifted. Hugging Beverly and lifting her off her feet, he twirled her around the room, laughing with delight. Beverly was taken aback; this wasn’t quite the reaction she’d imagined. Jean-Luc put her down and kissed her playfully, then soberly, then passionately. He took her hands in his and asked what was in his heart.

“Beverly...may I make love to you...please?”

All she could do was nod; so happy she was without speech.

They made love heatedly and again later in the night, gently. Beverly awoke sometime later and rose from the bed, careful not to wake the sleeping man.

And so she found herself in the big lounge chair next to the bedroom window.

She sighed then and couldn’t stop the tears that flowed freely down her cheeks.

“Why do you cry, my lovely?”

Beverly looked up to see him sitting on the side of the bed.

“Tell me, ma cherie, do you think we’ve done the wrong thing...do you regret what we did, because I don’t. I’ve loved you for so long...this must be right...”

Moving to sit with him on the bed, Beverly took him in her arms and kissed him.

“I love you Jean-Luc. My tears were for all the times I hurt you, all the time we wasted...and here we are, and you’ve got to go on this...retreat...and I want to be with...”

More tears flowed, the force of her sobs shaking her body.

“Shh, hush Beverly, it’s alright. You’re tired and, yes the timing is appalling, but it’s only for a week...and you’ll be better able to work with the medical personnel without me to pester you...”

Beverly laughed at that.

“Pestering you? Is that what you were doing... ‘pestering’ me?”

More chuckles bubbled up from both of them, Beverly was still grinning when he kissed her, the next hour spent in delicious pleasure.

 

 

 

 

The morning broke warm and clear, the couple still in a tangle of arms and legs.

“I must go soon, my love.”

“I know Jean-Luc...me too.”

They rose and showered together, promising each other the delights in store at the end of the mission. Having further to go, Beverly left first, her goodbye kiss lingering and sweet. Jean-Luc closed the door and rested his head against it.

*Mon Dieu, give me strength.*

He gathered his thoughts and began to pack the few items he would need, finishing quickly. With his bag over one shoulder. He left his lodgings and strode briskly to the parliament buildings, greeted by the Prime Minister of the outer planet, Essrin Dok.

“Good morning Captain! Did you sleep well?”

Jean-Luc hid his smirk, instead touching his forehead in the method of the Husst.

“I slept well, Prime Minister, and you?”

Having completed the forehead touching, Dok looked down at the Captain and grinned, his head seemingly split by the rows of enormous teeth that filled his mouth. Jean-Luc held his own grin, trying not to breathe in the fetid, sickening odour emanating from the dignitary’s mouth.

“Did I sleep well? I slept like a...what would you say?...Like a branch...a tree...”

“Log.”

“Ah yes, thank you Captain. I would’ve got there eventually. Well, you’re packed I see. I hope you followed the instructions carefully, it’s important to us that you observe the contemplation time in the appropriate manner. I suppose you become weary...meeting so many demands of a large variety of species.”

Jean-Luc smiled gently, warming to this gregarious creature.

“I have had some...interesting...things to do in my time, it certainly broadens the mind.”

Nodding his head ponderously, Dok showed his numerous teeth again.

“I bet you have, but you are a better being for all your experiences, it’s one of the reasons we requested you. Your mind is open.”

Jean-Luc inclined his head in thanks. Shall we go, Prime Minister?”

The two leaders made their way into the council chambers to be greeted by the other two Prime Ministers. Arrex Ho, the tallest being there, introduced his compatriot, Kinna Ber. Remembering to put the last name first, the Captain exchanged pleasantries as the group made its way into a suite of rooms off the main chamber.

“Prime Minister Kinna, I believe your planet has vast quantities of Dilithium. After your admittance to the federation perhaps we could set up a trade mission on you planet?”

Arrex stopped in his tracks.

“His isn’t the only planet with Dilithium, Captain!”

Jean-Luc halted and looked up at the agitated Prime Minister.

“Of course sir. I was merely making conversation. After the retreat and your admittance, delegations of many sorts will visit all three worlds. Any negotiations will be open and fair, I can assure you.”

Seemingly mollified, the four came to a screen at the rear wall of the biggest room. Jean-Luc recognised a small transporter.

“Are you sure you are ready, captain?”

Nodding his head, Jean-Luc smiled.

“Yes sir, I’m ready.”

In a swirl of sparkling light, he disappeared from view.

 

 

 

 

 

Beverly sat back and rubbed a sore spot on her shoulder. She had noticed several joint aches and had been meaning to apply a regenerator but had not been able to find the time. Sighing, she bent again to the lens of the computer and growled at the millions of microbes she could see.

“You little beasties...where did you come from...and how will we tame you?”

She had been so close to the answer to this biological mystery, yet every strategy had failed. The disease simply reinvented itself. I was fatal in some cases, although none of the humans involved had yet been ill.

“Som, how are those cultures coming along?”

The tall, yellow Husst ambled over to the doctor.

“It’s managed to grow on all of them. Tell me...these ‘cultures’...I’ve never seen this method of virology...is it a new germ protocol?”

Beverly straightened her aching back.

“Good heavens no, it’s a very old method of identifying bacteria and virus. I resorted to it as a long shot. Who knows, it may work...nothing else has. Let’s go and see if they’re going to unlock the damn bug.”

Beverly rose quickly from the computer lens and promptly sat down heavily on the seat, then toppled off the side of the stool, hitting her head on the foot stand.

“Doctor Crusher! Are you all right? Brun! Come quickly, we need help!”

Beverly gently shook her head, then slowly began to rise noting her back was complaining rather loudly. Reaching up, she felt the tell tale stickiness of blood and held her hand on the wound she found at her hairline. Looking up at Som, she managed a wan smile and requested him to help her to her feet. He bent to offer his clawed hand, when Brun and two orderlies arrived and began fussing.

“Stay where you are doctor, we will treat your laceration and check your vital signs as you are.”

Beverly held her cutting remark that was teetering on the tip of her tongue and looked up at Som.

“I’m fine, I just got up too quickly...I’m a little tired, that’s all.”

Brun looked sceptically at her.

“And you do this every time you rise...every time?”

“Well, no...not every time...”

Shaking his maned head, Brun sighed.”

“So how often does it happen, and what medication do you take?”

Swallowing and feeling nauseous, Beverly capitulated.

“This is the first time doctor, and I’m not taking any medication at this time.”

His face softened, he lowered his voice.

“I see. Do you have a medical tricorder that will give the human standards...mine doesn’t have human inputted. Reaching into the pocket of her lab coat, she produced the instrument and gave it to Brun. He took it at scanned her thoroughly, handing it back to Beverly when he was finished. She shook her head in frustration.

“Low blood pressure? That can’t be right. Will you let me up now?”

With the two enormous Husst helping her, Beverly thought they were going to lift her from the floor altogether, but they stood her up, then gently held her steady as she regained her balance.

“Thank you, I’m sorry I worried you.”

Brun, obviously concerned, asked Beverly again...

“Has this happened before?”

Sighing, Beverly sook her head.

“To be honest...it’s never happened before. With your permission, and please don’t be offended, I will call the Enterprise and request one of my staff to come down.”

“That, doctor, is a very good idea, and we’re not offended at all...in fact I would like to ask your consent to be on hand, learning the physiology of another race would be a fascinating experience. We rarely allow...aliens...(if you will excuse the term), to visit, so our databases are severely lacking in external biological information.

Smiling at her colleague, Beverly nodded her acceptance, then called the Enterprise and requested the attendance of doctor Selar and head nurse Alyssa Ogowa. They arrived within minutes, a small pile of equipment appearing on the floor beside them.

The cool Vulcan approached Beverly, her tricorder open and scanning. Alyssa set up the equipment, aware of the scrutiny of several Husst medical officers.

Beverly, growing impatient, queried Selar.

“Well...what does it say?”

She was greeted with silence as the Vulcan frowned and turned to nurse Ogowa.

“Take a swab of the mucous membrane in the mouth and run a level four screen. Look for the mutated virus, strain theta.”

Beverly’s head shot up sharply.

“The mutant virus? But I thought we were immune!”

“It would seem otherwise doctor Crusher.”

Nurse Ogowa finished the scan and gave the tricorder to doctor Selar.

“The diagnosis is proven, doctor Crusher. You, along with nurse Ogawa and myself are now quarantined and must remain on the planet until a satisfactory treatment is found. We cannot risk infecting the ship.”

Beverly sighed and shook her head.

“How the hell did it happen? I was certain humans were resistant.”

Serenely, Selar looked at her superior and cocked her head.

“Apparently not. It would seem the virus is very adaptable.”

Suddenly Beverly’s hand flew to her mouth.

“The Captain! He’s probably infected too. Brun, can we contact Captain Picard? He will need to come back for treatment.”

Brun frowned affording his face a fearsome cast.

“I will enquire doctor, but it’s doubtful, his retreat is of deep spiritual significance to us. If he were to return before true enlightenment occurred, the work of the past weeks would be for nothing...the accords would be declared nullified.”

Beverly felt the first stirrings of anger, making her face harden and her jaw clench.

“Well, could we just contact him to make sure he’s alright?”

Feeling his own impatience rising, Brun looked down at Beverly and said tightly,

“I’ll ask.”

He left and Beverly noticed the hackles had risen on the back of his neck. Som, feeling a little embarrassed, tried to make amends.

“Doctor Crusher, we had better get you into bed and take a culture. We’ve no idea how the virus will manifest itself in you. I really don’t like surprises.”

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc looked around his beam in site. He had materialised on the shore of a small cove. Beside him was the equipment he would need consisting of basic camping gear and dried food. He went through the items, noting it was the bare essentials, nothing else.

*Well, so much for luxuries.*

It took only a short time for him to select his site, well above the high tide mark, and to erect his small dome tent. Then he paid closer attention to his surroundings. It was a beautiful site and quite similar to the tropical beaches of his home planet, Earth. Inland, he could see tall trees and flowering shrubs and closer to the shore, flexible palm-like plants swayed in the gentle onshore breeze. At each end of the little cove, large boulders lay like huge marbles, heaped up in picturesque disorder. Coming from the undergrowth and curving around some of the rocks, a small stream made it’s way to the sea and on further investigation; Jean-Luc was delighted to find the water fresh and sweet. He stood quietly, listening to the wind in the trees and the small sounds of the wavelets as they broke upon the shore. With a satisfied sigh, he went back to his tent and laid out his sleeping gear emerging from his little home and, undressing on the beach, entered the water for a swim.

Some thirty minutes later, he noticed a soreness in his shoulders and, frowning, left the water and waded into the stream to wash himself. Standing, he flexed the muscles of his shoulders and arms, finding the stiffness was extending from his neck and down both arms. He returned to his tent and dressed, devoting some thought as to why he was feeling the stiffness.

As the day began to draw in, he made a small fire on the sand and reconstituted his evening meal, then sat by the fire sipping the coffee he’d been supplied with. It wasn’t until he stood, that he realised the soreness was now in his hips. With nothing better to do, he retired for the night, deciding to do some stretching exercises in the morning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The day dawned in the capital bright and warm. The loveliness of the day didn’t reach the state hospital where Beverly lay uncomfortably in bed. Overnight her temperature had climbed to dangerous heights and the pain in her body had worsened, as had her elevated blood pressure. Alyssa Ogawa was beginning to feel unwell and now occupied the bed next to her superior. Doctor Selar was treating them both with limited success, only able to treat the symptoms, not the disease. Beverly still insisted on seeing the readings and offered her advice in the ongoing effort to defeat the illness. Her worry for the Captain continued, escalating when Brun had reported the council had decided to wait to see how the situation progressed. She had learned that Jean-Luc had his communicator with him; she also heard that he had insisted on taking it...putting a few noses out in the process, so she was somewhat mollified and agreed to wait, pleasing Brun.

 Towards late afternoon, with worsening symptoms, Beverly had sat up to try and ease the thick congestion in her lungs and fainted, causing a panic with the Husst medical team. Selar restored order, but Beverly’s return to consciousness was sluggish, her temperature up to sinister levels. She was stripped and placed in a bath of cool water, which helped somewhat and returned to her bed when her heat abated.

Selar, knowing that the Captain was probably infected, approached Brun and suggested it was time to call the Captain, explaining he would need medical help. Brun scowled, but left to speak with his ministers. Selar watched him go, then turned back to the computer to continue her search for a cure.

 

 

 

 

 

At the little cove, Jean-Luc awoke to pain. His whole body ached and he found breathing was distressingly painful. He slowly left his hot tent, wishing to cool himself in the water. The stream was invitingly close and, after picking up his communicator, he went to cool off. He stayed in the water some time and felt his temperature decrease. When he felt able, he left the water and went to a jumble of rocks at the fringe of the bush. There he sat, holding the communicator, trying to decide whether or not to call for help. Attempting to get more comfortable, he experienced a sharp stab of pain in his back, making him feel dizzy and he dropped the communicator. When the spasm passed, he looked for the badge, finally spotting it lying among leaves and twigs held together with a web-like gossamer, on the ground between the rocks. He turned over to lie on the boulder to afford maximum reach, and wriggled his hand into the narrow space. He came up empty on his first try, only managing to scrape at the detritus on the sandy floor. He thought he heard a quiet hissing sound, but put it down to the nearby water and reached in again. This time he reached as far as he could, lying on his side, his arm fully extended. He brushed the badge with his fingers and he adjusted his body to try and gain the few centimetres he needed. With fingers outstretched, he felt the badge and was just beginning to smile in satisfaction, when something grabbed his hand tightly and bit him...repeatedly. Yelling in pain and fright, he tried to pull his hand back, only to find his shoulder had become wedged between the rocks. Frantically, he squeezed his head down and found he could see what had attacked his hand. A huge, inky black, hairy spider-like creature had wrapped itself completely around his hand and responded to any movement by sinking three wickedly curved fangs deeply into the back of his hand. The intense pain from the bites was nauseating him and he felt his vision blur. He lay perfectly still and tried to relax his hand. Sweat began to run from his body...and down the arm extended between the rocks. As he lay, he again heard the hissing, this time from a different area. It was answered by the creature so firmly attached to his hand. As the hissing increased, bands of colour appeared at the joints of its many legs and it raised itself up in a show of aggression, baring its two centimetre long fangs, the venom forming evil drops at the tips. Not daring to move, Jean-Luc could only watch in sick fascination and another huge spider made its appearance. His hand still tightly trapped in the spider’s back legs, it hissed and spat at the intruder, lunging repeatedly. He waited, hoping the creature would let him go to fight the rival, and his wishes were granted when his captor made a pre-emptive strike and released him.

Tearing the skin of his shoulder in the process, he yanked his arm forcefully upwards and, with the skin wet with his sweat, the arm came free. Wasting no time, Jean-Luc tumbled from the rock and, in a stumbling run, made it to the stream and plunged his hand into the cool water.

Already, angry red welts marked the bite sites, the pain increasing insidiously. He counted five sets of puncture marks and knew he had to stop the progression of the venom through his system.

With faltering steps he made it to his tent and looked for the first aid kit. His vision had again started to blur as he found it and his good hand was sluggish in its attempts to open the kit. As he started to wind the bandage firmly about the bites, a strange taste invaded his mouth and he abruptly vomited. He lay on his side, retching piteously, until he passed out, the bandage trailing down his body.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beverly, for the third time, tried to take a breath without coughing. There was a terrible, painful tearing sensation in her chest accompanying the coughing, making her feel light headed and dizzy. Doctor Selar wiped Beverly’s face with a cool, wet cloth, and consulted her tricorder...again.

“It has been two hours doctor. It would seem this inoculant has not worked. Your temperature continues to climb and your lungs show increased congestion. It’s time we...”

Selar’s words were cut off as Alyssa coughed and cried out in pain. Immediately at her side, Selar administered a hypospray of decongestant, hoping it would ease the pain, if only for a short while. She was getting nowhere. The symptoms continued to worsen and the virus still eluded the dedicated doctor. She knew, if she didn’t find a solution to this viral mystery soon, her friends could die.

Brun entered the ward, his covered feet making little sound. He approached the beds with his mask fitted around his elongated, scaly mouth, more to spare the patients than to protect him.

“How are they?”

Not looking up from the computer screen, Selar said dispassionately,

“Bad and getting worse. We still can’t hold the virus long enough to stop it mutating. All I can do is treat the symptoms, a stopgap measure at best. I have instigated an uplink with the medical database of the Enterprise and reconfigured this terminal to interface with it. I hope to find a pathogen with which I can mask the virus, effectively blocking the mutation process...I can only hope we have enough time.”

Brun looked down at the suffering patients and sighed.

“Are you receiving all you need from us?”

Selar nodded, then turned to the Husst.

“What about Captain Picard? Have your fellow ministers agreed to contact him?”

Ponderously nodding his large head, Brun answered,

“Yes. As a matter of fact we attempted to contact him just on a standard hour ago. He didn’t respond, obviously he was in a state of communion. We decided to leave him to his contemplation. That is what he’s supposed to be doing.”

Selar noticed the condescending tone, but decided not to respond to it. Instead, she looked up at the tall Husst minister and said,

“Then I can only hope that he has no other, more...serious...reason for not responding.”

What started as a sneer quickly changed to one of concern. He placed a four-clawed hand on her shoulder and stooped to look into her eyes.

“Do you think he could be infected...like them?”

“It’s certainly possible. The Captain and doctor Crusher had spent a lot of time together. Even with a short incubation period, it’s still highly possible that the Captain had been infected...and if that is so, then he will be exhibiting symptoms like these...with no one to help him.”

A look of pained discomfort passed over the tall Husst.

“But what can we do? He has been given a great honour in being offered the week of communion; it’s never before been bestowed on an alien. We need him to be pure of thought to ratify the treaty. No one who is sullied in mind or body may even enter the chamber, let alone be a signatory of the royal documents.”

Selar lowered her head in thought. Moments passed without inspiration and she raised her head resignedly.

“Well, minister Brun...short of surreptitiously checking on him, I don’t see how you can be sure he’s safe and well. Surely things will be much worse if you find he has died as a result of negligence.”

This plainly irritated the Husst, but he refrained from replying. He turned to leave, then stopped and spoke over his shoulder...

“I will ask the ministers for their thoughts...I’ll let you know our decision.”

The doors hissed shut, leaving Selar and her patients alone again.

 

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc was in pain. He was in so much pain, it seemed he had always been this way. Every joint, every muscle screamed at him, the pounding in his head blocking out his thoughts, leaving the only input, the pain. He had wakened to the insane agony and lay, in his own filth, helplessly shivering on the ground. Thirst raged, yet he couldn’t reach the cool water of the stream. Movement was denied him. Control over his body was lost somewhere in the pain. He felt tears, he felt the nosebleed, he felt his lungs burn and tear with every breath, but all he could do was lie there immersed in hell.

Perversely, he had heard the call on his communicator, the voice sounded bored and only repeated the call once before closing the channel. In an almost dream-like euphoria, he saw himself reach down, brush the spider aside, pick up the badge and calmly request a beam out to hospital...to Beverly...he knew if he could reach her, everything would be all right. The pain would go away and she would make him well. It was really so simple. Why did that elude him now? Hadn’t he asked to beam out? What was taking so long? Couldn’t someone give him something for the pain? In his mind he called out, in reality he whimpered. Lying on the ground in a semiconscious daze hovering somewhere between the real world and the demons in his mind. Had he been able to see his grossly swollen hand, he would’ve most certainly been alarmed. Angry red lines travelled from the bites up his arm, almost to his armpit. The venom had escaped and was wreaking havoc through his body. As well as causing the searing agony, it was also closing down his nervous system, compromising his muscles and attacking his internal organs. Bit by bit it was killing him, it was almost a race...which would kill him first, the venom or the virus?

 

 

The sparkling light of the transporter faded to reveal a junior clerk of the imperial court, nervously looking around his surroundings. His job was simple enough...locate the captain and determine his state of health, without being discovered. Stepping back into the undergrowth, he looked left and right, until deciding to move down the beach to the spit of land that jutted gently out into the sea. Moving from tree to tree, the young man slipped into a well-used fantasy. He was a secret agent, sent to rendezvous with a fellow spy to retrieve the stolen plans and save his planet. As he broke from cover to traverse the open ground to the rocky shore, he looked to his right and realised nobody was there. Feeling a little foolish, he retraced his steps until he came to a jumble of boulders he crossed with care and ducked for cover when he spotted the small domed tent, pitched under some shady trees. Listening carefully, he was about to move back into the undergrowth, when he thought he heard a moan. He stilled immediately and prepared to move back to the beam out area. How a person communed was their own private business, certainly not something they would care to share with anybody, especially a junior clerk. The time spent communing was intensely personal, even hearing a moan was a very embarrassing disclosure, one the clerk wished he hadn’t heard. He moved quietly back to the beam out point and surreptitiously requested recovery. He was back at the imperial court minutes later, reporting to Brun, relieved the tasteless errand was over.

“So, he is alright...Captain Picard is in good health?”

“Yes, Lord, he is well.”

Nodding, and dismissing his clerk, Brun left for the hospital, pleased to have such a welcome report to deliver.

 

 

 

 

Beverly was trying to mount a horse. A beautiful bay, she could hear Jean-Luc’s gentle laughter as she tried again. She had refused his offer of a leg up, insisting she could get her foot into the stirrup, not realising how tall the horse was. She tried again, but this time her hip hurt. Thinking she had pulled a muscle, she turned to Jean-Luc for help, when the horse pulled back, knocking her off her feet. She called for help as pain reached up from her shoulders. She was confused, where was Jean-Luc and why wasn’t he helping? Searing pain lanced through her neck and hot agony accompanied each breath. She tried to call for help, but only a strangled cry issued from her mouth. Her vision began to darken at the edges and turned oddly black and white. In the deep recesses of her mind she clinically noted that she was about to loose consciousness, welcoming it when it happened.

Selar noted the change on her tricorder and gently sponged Beverly’s hot face. She then moved back to the computer and requested some files from Starfleet Medical and was informed of a delay of two-day waiting period. Confirming the request, Selar moved to Alyssa’s bed and took yet more readings. She was dispassionately reading the data when Brun entered.

“Doctor Selar, how are your patients?

Selar finished downloading the information, then turned to the senior minister.

“They are alive, minister. I cannot, however, guarantee that they will continue to be so, unless we have a breakthrough soon. Did you ascertain the well being of captain Picard?”

Brun frowned and looked down at Beverly, seemingly sidetracked.

“So...they might die then?”

“It is a strong possibility.”

Brun rubbed his clawed hands nervously together. Watching Beverly, he spoke to Selar.

“It seems to be abating here...the number of cases is falling and the recovery rate is rising. May this not also be a chance for these humans?”

Selar cocked her head in thought.

“The virus here was very virulent, infecting thousands quickly and efficiently, changing just enough each time to keep ahead of medical practice. With so many people affected, the virus ran its course, eventually dying out. Doctor Crusher and nurse Ogowa are human. The virus is at it’s strongest with them, it’s not mutating so much, just very potent. My best prognosis is that, providing we can keep them alive, it should run its course just as it did with the Husst.”

Brun stroked his scaly snout and sighed.

“Can you do that? Can you keep them alive?”

“Unknown at this time.”

Looking up at the doctor in alarm, Brun gasped,

“And you? What about you?”

“I am Vulcan. I am unaffected at this time.”

“Oh good...that’s good.”

Turning to face the tall Husst, Selar again asked her question.

“Did you check on captain Picard?”

“What?...Oh, yes, yes we did. He’s fine.”
“Minister, I do not mean to meddle, but did the contact involve actually speaking with the captain?”
The tall minister frowned at the doctor.

“I hope you’re not suggesting we don’t take this seriously.”

“Of course not minister, but you must agree that it’s most likely the captain is afflicted. You know how quickly the doctor infected nurse Ogowa. How do you know for certain he is well?”

Taking a timepiece from his pocket, Brun looked bored as he glanced at the watch.

“I sent on of my trusted aides and he reported all was well.”

“Did he actually see the captain?”

“Well, no...not exactly. Look doctor the retreat is an intensely private matter. My aide wasn’t going to brazenly walk into the captain’s campsite and run a tricorder over him. Be reasonable, we are treading on a very sensitive subject here.”

“I see. Then can you tell me on what the verdict was based?”

Huffing with impatience, Brun shuffled his feet in annoyance.

“My young clerk heard him.”

“Heard him? Did he speak to your aide?”

“No!...My clerk heard the captain...moan.”

The silence between the pair stretched uncomfortably.

Decisively, Selar snapped her tricorder closed and looked up at Brun.

“I officially request to be transported to the captain’s co ordinates. Failure to do so can and will be taken as an act of aggression.”

Within five minutes, Selar was on a transported pad, a medical tricorder and med kit in her hands. The minute she felt the grip of the transporter leave her, she deployed the tricorder and scanned in a small arc, stiffening as the target was found. She traversed some boulders and found the tent and almost immediately she saw a foot protruding from a clump of bushes.

Seconds later she was kneeling next to the shivering, whimpering, wretched man curled up on the ground. Taking an analgesic hypospray, she administered a dose then called for beam out directly to the hospital.

She was still scanning the captain when Brun came rushing in.

“How is he?”

“Captain Picard is dangerously ill. He has the virus, but he also seems to have been bitten by something with a potent venom.”

Frowning, Brun stepped up to the biobed and peered down at the stricken man.

“Bitten by something? Can you show me the bites?”

Selar lifted the light covering and gently raised the affected hand.

“Whatever it was, it had three fangs and it has bitten at least five times.”

When no reaction from Brun was forthcoming, Selar looked up at the tall Husst and tilted her head, unsure of what was going through the minister’s mind.

“Minister..?”

“What...oh yes...look I need some time to reflect on this...this is unheard of.”

Selar blinked and looked again at the shivering captain Picard.

“I do not understand. What is unheard of?”

Brun lowered his large, angular head and sighed.

The creature that bit him is called a thussok. We believe thussoks are the living embodiment of our glorious dead, to be bitten by one is considered immense good fortune.”

“Why?”

“Well, it’s such a rare occurrence. The fangs cannot puncture our scales and, under normal circumstances, we cannot access their lairs...our hands are too big. The bite of a thussok is said to bring enlightenment and serenity, it certainly doesn’t make us sick.”

Running a tricorder over the captain, Selar noticed the swelling in the armpit and the angry red marks up the inside of his arm. Turning to Brun, she said,

“Is there an antivenom? Do you have any treatment for the bites?”

Slowly shaking his ponderous head, Brun sounded apologetic.

“Well no, I don’t think so...but I will call our minister for health and a entomologist friend of mine. How sick is he...he’s not going to die, is he?”

Squaring her shoulders, Selar closed the tricorder.
“He is dangerously ill...either the venom kills him, or the virus, either way it will be sooner rather than later.”

‘Then I will make haste. Goodbye, doctor.”

Selar turned her attention to her desperately ill patient. Taking a cool wet cloth, she wiped his brow and again checked the swollen armpit. Under closer scrutiny, she noticed the faint red ribbon of poison was working its way slowly across his chest and up his neck. She administered another dose of anti-inflammatory and again checked his temperature.

 

 

 

 

Beverly lay on an open beach, stretched out in the sun. She had swum until the chill of the water slowly made its way to her bones, so she decided to bask in the bright sunshine to warm up. Although her eyes were closed, she could see the brightness through her lids and she sighed with contentment. Having warmed her front enough, she attempted to turn over, only to find she was unable to move. Fear crept into the edges of her mind as she tried again and again to move. The thought of paralysis terrified her and as she fought ineffectually she realised the heat building on her skin. Unable to open her eyes in the burning sun, she struggled with increasing panic. The heat was increasing, the sun swelling in size and blistering her fair skin. Screaming, she couldn’t bear the pain, she couldn’t move, she couldn’t escape.

The moment Selar heard the cries; she left the captain and hurried to Beverly’s bed. On it, she was writhing and screaming, sweat streaming from her pores. Wasting no time, Selar poured the contents of the water dish over her and called for more, whilst doing her best to prevent Beverly from hurting herself. The Husst nurse was unsure as to what she was witnessing.

“Doctor...why does liquid come through her skin?”

As Beverly began to calm, Selar looked up at her colleague.

“Humans sweat through the pores of their skin as a cooling mechanism. When illness strikes, their body temperature rises in response, to kill the invading pathogens. In cases like this, the body’s defence system is overwhelmed and becomes dangerously unbalanced.”

The nurse changed hands and continued to sponge Beverly down.

“So we can expect the same reaction from these other humans?”

Selar finished calibrating a hypospray and administered the dose into Beverly’s neck.

“So far, the two females have exhibited identical symptoms, however the male’s illness is exacerbated by the venom in his system. I do not know how this will affect him, at this time we can only wait and watch.”

Selar moved to Alyssa’s bed and then collected three bowls of water and set them aside.

“She should begin to manifest the same symptoms approximately four hours after doctor Crusher. Watch her carefully, perhaps we will find a cure before she worsens.”

 

 

 

 

 

Brun was not a happy Husst. The council had been less than forthcoming about the thussok problem. The general feeling was that the Federation personnel were becoming an expensive embarrassment. First they catch the virus they were sent to eradicate, then the mediator himself manages...somehow...to be bitten by a sacred thussok as well as falling ill with the virus.

*What do they expect from us?*

He was still fretting when he breezed into the isolation ward containing the ill humans.

“Well, now...how are we today?”

Selar raised her eyes momentarily and acknowledged his presence.

“Minister. The condition of doctor Crusher and lieutenant Ogowa has stabilised. I believe they may have reached a turning point...I will know more in the next twelve hours. Captain Picard, however, remains in a critical state.”

Brun sat on a nearby chair and sighed.

“That is a shame. I was hoping you would tell me they were all on the improve...it was such bad luck for all this to have happened.”

Gently wiping Jean-Luc’s face with a cool towel, Selar looked speculatively at the minister.

“What was the outcome of your meeting?”

Brun shifted on his chair and avoided eye contact with doctor Selar.

“Let’s just say, there were some ...difficulties.”

“Difficulties?”

“Well yes. Look, we mean no harm for any of these people, what has transpired here is a dreadful pity, but it’s not that easy a puzzle to solve. Thussoks are sacred to us; to be bitten by one is seen to be a divine event. As a creature, thussoks are shy and passive, they actually have to be threatened before they bite...it’s purely a defensive reaction. Even when we are bitten, the venom had a markedly different effect on us. For us, it imparts a period of euphoria after which comes a short time of intellectual clarity...anything said by someone under the influence of the venom carries great weight. For the duration of the venom’s effect, the individual involved is given the status of a saint. Of course, having your captain under the influence of the venom causes some consternation.”

Selar rose to check the biometer over Beverly’s bed then returned to sit with Brun.

“Minister, I find the information about the thussok interesting, but how does it equate for captain Picard? Is there an antivenom?”

“No. We don’t need one...and we never envisioned anyone but the Husst being bitten. I’m sorry doctor, we cannot be of any help in this matter.”

Selar straightened and nodded decisively. Standing, she went back to the captain’s bed and again read the scans as they imparted their information. Making no complaint at being dismissed, the tall Husst exited quietly, an idea forming in his mind.

“Selar to Enterprise...”

“Enterprise here.”

“Commander, I would like to request Mr. Data to aid me in the ongoing treatment of captain Picard, I believe he will be unaffected by the virus.”

“Understood, permission granted. How are the patients?”

“Doctor Crusher and lieutenant Ogawa have reached a plateau...I believe the may soon start to recover, however, captain Picard is still gravely ill.”

“How did the meeting with minister Brun go?”

“Not well, sir. Because of the god-like status given to the arachnid, they are unwilling to help. I did think that Mr. Data might be of help in this area.”

“Understood. Enterprise out.”

Selar stood and waited until the distinctive whine of the transporter ceased.

“Commander, thank you for coming.”

Not wasting any time, Data requested all the current information pertaining to the thussok and their relationship with the Husst. It took several calls to the ministry and one tight conversation with Brun’s secretary before the information was grudgingly given. In all it took four and a half hours for Data to begin his investigation and during that time the captain continued his downward plunge.

 

 

 

 

The gentle glow of the shaded light and the soft glow of the computer terminal were the only lights in the otherwise dark room. Data was engrossed in his research, the medical monitors humming and chirping, offering him some sense of company, at the very least reminding him of his ill comrades. He worked diligently, his ability to continue without rest never more appreciated than now. He was comparing information when he detected, at the very edge of his hearing range, the telltale whine of a transporter. He moved immediately, making his way to the Captain’s bed and was stunned by what he found. The captain was gone. Without hesitation, he called security.

 

 

 

 

 

The human body, naked and unconscious, was gently lowered into the bath-like tub, the thick, viscous pale blue fluid covering him with an almost sensuous touch. He was immersed until just his head was above the fluid, support coming from the contoured base, which moulded itself to become a perfect profile of the captain’s body. The watching attendant added

information to the floating touch pad then stood, momentarily engrossed in studying the form in the tub.

*So different...so frail.*

The attendant attached three medical monitor probes through the bone of the captain’s skull, referring frequently to the pad to help her guide the probes successfully. Having achieved the desired result, the being picked up a wet cloth from a nearby tray and wiped away the trickles of blood that had flowed down over Jean-Luc’s head and face. Checking once again the body temperature and snorting with satisfaction, the being left the captain to report to her superiors.

 

 

 

 

The fog that had descended in Jean-Luc’s mind shifted, giving him a taste of clarity, before closing in again to carry him into the grey mist of his thoughts. He tried desperately to fight his way to consciousness, but it proved, at least for the moment, too tenuous to hold. Instead, he focussed on his body. The pain was still severe although he was able to separate himself from it. He found he could actually visualise the pain as a dark smear in his mind and soon discovered he could shrink its potency by applying his mind. He also acknowledged his temperature was stable...still too high, but not getting any worse. In all, he felt better than his previous state and was glad Beverly had finally been able to treat him. Two hours later things took on a markedly dissimilar bent. It started as a dull ache in his chest and grew, radiating out to consume his complete torso, tendrils of agony sliding down his limbs and genitals. Only his head remained free of the crushing pain. He tried desperately to summon help, in his mind he screamed inarticulately, spending precious energy in an effort to get help...he was terrified he would die...alone and in unspeakable agony. His mental shouts became weaker, sliding down a narrowing tunnel until he was capable of only ragged sobs as the all-encompassing torment engulfed his body completely.

 

 

 

 

Beverly’s eyes opened and she took a moment to remember where she was. Mentally, she ran a systems check of her body, ascertaining she was functioning, albeit sluggishly. Risking unknown repercussions, she attempted to raise her head. The sudden monitor alert hurt her ears with its intensity, masking the quiet approach of a concerned doctor Selar. Shutting off the alert, she scanned Beverly then spoke gently to her patient.

“How do you feel doctor Crusher? Is there anything you would have me do at this time?”

Swallowing painfully, Beverly closed her eyes momentarily and sighed gently.

“I have a mild headache and general malaise, my glands are painful, as is my throat. How long have I been unconscious?”

Selar snapped the tricorder shut and glanced at the biometer.

“Three days doctor.”

“Three days?! How is my white cell count? What treatment have you used for the systemic trio...”

“Doctor Crusher! You are being treated correctly and you will recover fully. Please refrain from telling your doctor how to treat you.”

Beverly’s eyes darkened and narrowed as her anger sparked. She was about to remonstrate with her colleague when doctor Selar reminded her of her ill nurse.

“Nurse Ogawa is still unconscious, however I expect her to follow you in the course of the virus...she should waken in approximately four hours.”

Trying to rise on her elbow, Beverly tried to look at her friend, only to be gently pushed down by her fellow doctor. The hypospray’s hiss caught her unawares and she looked questioningly at Selar.

“That, doctor, was to treat your general discomfit and to ensure you remain calm. You are by no means recovered and I intend to see you get all the rest you need.”

Beverly glanced speculatively at her Vulcan friend and decided to acquiesce. Instead, she asked the question that burned in her mind.

“Has captain Picard been brought in? How is he?”

“Doctor Crusher, much has happened while you were unconscious. The captain was retrieved and brought to this facility; however, his condition was complicated by the presence of venom in his body. Apparently he was bitten several times by an arachnid. We were not having any appreciable effect in treating him, so commander Data was beamed down to assist us. We were just beginning to analyse the venom when the captain was transported out. We do not know of his whereabouts at this time.”

“Beamed out? How could that be? I take it it wasn’t one of our transporters...have you been able to find the trace?”

“I will summon commander Data, he will be able to furnish you with the information you seek.”

Touching her communicator, Selar contacted the android and requested his presence.

He came with his usual expediency and immediately showed his concern for his friend and shipmate.

“Doctor Crusher, how are you? It’s so good to see you awake at last.”

Beverly had to smile. Data was always solicitous, his emotion chip finally allowing him to be as human as he’d always striven to be.

“I’ve seen better days my friend, but it would appear I will live to fight another day. Tell me Data, is there any news on captain Picard?”

Data looked surreptitiously at Selar and, receiving a small nod of approval, made himself comfortable on the edge of Beverly’s bed.

“We know very little as to the whereabouts of the captain. The transporter trace was strong at the point of beam out, but we were unable to track it. I have summoned minister Brun, perhaps he may be able to shed some light on all this.”

“The venom, Data...have you been able to find a antitoxin?”

His face a mask of sorrow, Data replied,

“No, not yet.”

Beverly looked first at Data, then at Selar and snorted with anger.

“Selar, help me up. Maybe all you need is another pair of hands to work on this!”

Beverly reached out and gripped Data’s arm, trying to pull herself upright. The hypospray was administered swiftly and, as she subsided, she managed one small snarl of defiance before the drug took her in its gentle grip. Data, still watching Beverly and holding her right hand, spoke to Selar without looking at her.

“How is she doctor?”

“I can tell you sir, despite her show of strength, doctor Crusher is still quite unwell. Her temperature is still well above normal and we’ve been unable to lower her blood pressure. He chance of heart failure or stroke are still significantly high, at least as long as we stay here.”

Turning to face Selar, Data spoke the obvious question.

“When can they be beamed aboard?”

“As soon as they both are free of the virus. A swab taken an hour ago showed the virus was still active, although with much less potency, but it’s impossible to predict when they will be no longer infectious.”

Standing, Data looked deeply into the eyes of the Vulcan.

“I will return to the lab to continue my work with the venom. When minister Brun arrives, please bring him to me.”

“Yes, sir.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

He had been sleeping. He knew this, just as he knew he was blind. He looked into his mind and found perfect clarity, each thought crisp and sharp, effortless. Feeling the hand that touched his face, he summoned speech and tried to speak. In his mind he asked,

“May I have a drink? I’m very thirsty.”

In reality he croaked,
“Drink?”

He felt the hand that gently lifted his head and he was aware of the cup as it touched his lower lip. The water was sweet and cold and he was sure he’d never had a more delicious drink in his life. The water gave him strength as well as relief. He opened his sightless eyes and thanked his benefactor.

“Thank...ver hot...sore throat...”

The disembodied voice spoke.

“Are you in any pain?”

He thought about that.
“Am I in pain?”

Running a quick check, he found that he was indeed in pain, but, like his missing sight, it really didn’t matter. It had always been there. He did decide, however, to be truthful to the voice.

“Yes...head...chest...hand...”

The hand left his head and the voice spoke,

“I will get you something for your pain. Rest my friend, your journey is not yet over.”
And it was gone. Jean-Luc was disappointed, he’d been hoping to talk to someone about the things he’d seen in his mind...odd things, disturbing things...terrifying things, not that it mattered, not really. He would see them again, he was sure...those things and more, much more.

When the owner of the voice returned, she took a moment to watch the man in the container. The human appeared to be dreaming. The tall green, hooded being lifted her gaze to the screen and watched in fascination and fantastic images flashed across the terminal, fascinating her. Looking down, she watched the rapid eye movement occur, knowing that her charge was dreaming. Next she reached down and gently lifted the bitten hand. Grossly swollen, the skin had split in several places, oozing pus and serum, the bites each ulcerated and turning necrotic, the fingernails all black and lifting from their beds. Looking over his body, she noted the swollen glands and the odd yellowish cast to his skin. He had lost weight giving his body a gaunt appearance. She replaced the hand into the blue gel and stood quietly watching the monitor with growing fascination. She would have much to ask him when he recovered...if he recovered.

 

 

 

 

 

Minister Brun entered the hospital ward and waved imperiously at the attendants who rushed forward to see him. Leaving the main room, he breezed into the private suite of rooms that Beverly and her friends were ensconced.

“Well, how are my guests today?”

Data stepped forward and introduced himself.

“I am commander Data sir. We requested your presence yesterday, why has it taken you so long to see us?”

“What!...how dare you! I’ll have you know...”

“Yes sir, I’m sure you will, but we have more urgent matters at hand. Are you aware that captain Picard was transported from his bed?”

Brun had the good grace to at least look embarrassed. Lifting his clawed hand to his head, he rubbed the dome at the top.

“Well, yes. I received the information last night.”

Selar stepped forward.

“Then why did you do nothing?”

Finished with his head, his hand had been gently rubbing the lapel of his gown. He stopped and the hand slipped inside the robe then reappeared holding something.

“Do you remember I told you of the spiritual significance of the captain’s retreat?”

The Starfleet officers all nodded.

“What captain Picard was sent to do, was to commune with the life force of our world. We were unsure if an...outsider...would be capable of achieving this, but we thought to at least give him the opportunity to try. The bite of a Thussok is considered a blessed event. When it was your captain that was bitten, well, we took it as a sign that he had indeed achieved enlightenment. How were we to know that the bite would be so life threatening? Perhaps if he hadn’t had the virus as well...still, that’s pure conjecture. Yesterday I contacted the chief prelate of a religious order who deal specifically with thussok bites. Your captain was transported there yesterday and is there with the order as we speak. He is in good hands, I assure you.”

Beverly had been quietly listening, growing more perturbed as the minutes passed. She had reached boiling point and let off some steam.

“You did what! How could you be so foolish? The captain doesn’t need a religious order dammit...he needs the sick bay of our ship. I insist you retrieve him immediately!”

The Husst straightened his back and stood to his full, intimidating height.

“How dare you speak to me like that? You forget where you are, madam. You are the guest here and I am in charge!”

“Guest!? You *asked* for medical help. We risked our lives to help you. The kidnapping of a Starfleet officer is considered to be a hostile act. Return captain Picard to us now or suffer the consequences.”

Data stepped forward then and stood between the antagonists to try and defuse the situation.

“What doctor Crusher means, is that we would greatly appreciate it if you could see your way clear to return our captain to us.”

“Do it yourself if you must.”

Data looked at his colleagues and sighed.

“We cannot. The transporter trace was not strong enough. We have scanned extensively and cannot locate captain Picard. We will, however continue to search. Minister Brun, doctor Crusher was quite correct, the abduction of a Starfleet officer is a very serious offence. Would you see all the good work undone over this?”

Brun allowed his massive shoulders to relax and he sighed.

“I know what you must think of us, but I implore you to let us try and rectify the injury done to your captain. He is safe and has improved since he was treated. No one knows more about thussok bites that the Mer’et, our spiritual guides.”

Data looked at his companions and shrugged his shoulders.

“You say he has improved. Can you be more specific?”

“Mr.Data, is it true...what they say about you...that you’re


© Copyright 2018 Heather Smyth. All rights reserved.

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