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4


He had to admit that he was quite pleased with the work his team, as well as the engineers under Lieutenant Hopkins' competent supervision, had accomplished in very little time.

The facility was mostly operational just twelve hours after the first foundation piece had been laid down even without the assistance of Eaglein orbit.

Some work still remained, not all isolation wards were fully functional yet and crew quarters had been de-prioritized in favor of more essential medical facilities on Elijah's instructions, meaning that for now sleeping arrangements had been mostly relegated to the shuttles, the runabout, and tents, making it an adequate albeit uncomfortable fit for most of the away team.

Naturally, for Elijah, a bit of discomfort when dealing with a crisis was nothing new, or of course, was a rapid medical deployment under difficult circumstances. He knew that Eagle’screw lacked some of his significant experience and yet he had to admit that they had performed admirably when setting up the hospital to his specifications.

Administrator Chella who had remained highly skeptical of Starfleet’s efforts on her world, hadn’t changed her tune much since they had first met her less than a day earlier and it was mostly thanks to her chief physician, Doctor Urnea Turee, who was clearly much more attuned to the value Elijah and his people could bring to the table in their fight against this plague, that the field hospital received their first patients even before the facility was fully up and running.

Elijah estimated that the facility would reach full capacity by the end of the day, considering the pace at which new patients were being admitted, which perhaps didn’t so much speak to the trust the locals were beginning to place in him and his team, but rather the desperation they felt and the urgent requirement for more space to house the increasing number of people affected by the Piqus Plague.

He had thrown himself into work, taking blood and tissue samples, cataloging data and carrying out research even while the proverbial hammers were still banging away all around him, but he had long since learned to filter out the noise.

Along with his team of doctors and researcher, he had already made some early progress by the time Chella unexpectedly arrived at the facility, asking for a full inspection.

Naturally, he wasn’t exactly enthused about the idea of having to stop work while showing her and Doctor Turee around, he at least understood that they would require her further cooperation if they wanted any chance at making real progress.

As such he had agreed to personally tour the installation with both of them. And while he was convinced that what they had built here, in pretty much record time, was still superior even to the medical facilities he had seen in the nearby capital city, Chella remained unimpressed. Even when he pointed out the triply reinforced force fields to maintain quarantine protocols, the various airlocks between each section to provide an extra layer of isolation, the state-of-the-art research labs in which his people were working tirelessly to analyze samples with the assistance of a computer core with enough processing power to control a starship, and the much more organized observation wards, one for patients of each stage of the disease.

It was mostly Turee who nodded and asked questions as Elijah led them through the hospital and who showed some appreciation for what the Starfleet team had been able to accomplish in a very short time frame.

Elijah, still the only non-patient in the facility without an isolation suit, had purposefully left the best part for last as he guided his two visitors along with Tazla Star to a set of observation windows which looked into yet another patient ward.

Differently to the ones they had already visited and which had contained Krellonians of various degrees of deteriorating health, the five patients in this ward looked fairly healthy, sitting up on their beds, some even standing, and talking to each other.

“A control group of some sort?” Turee asked as he carefully studied the two women and three men inside the room.

“Good guess,” said Katanga with a smirk. “But no.”

“So then what am I looking at here, Doctor?” Chella asked with much less patience. “Are you telling me that you are keeping healthy Krellonians confined in this facility for no good reason?”

He shook his head. “Oh there is a very good reason for these people to be here, I assure you. You see, up until last night, four of these patients had been diagnosed as early stage one. Berina over there,” he said and pointed at the young woman now laughing with another patient, “was closer to stage two.”

That left both the Krellonian doctor and the chief administrator speechless for a moment.

Elijah took the opportunity to explain further. “It is too early to say for sure if the remission is permanent but the signs so far are encouraging. At least for these patients. Unfortunately, we have seen no improvement in a dozen others who were subjected to the same treatment. But it is a start.”

Turee turned to Katanga. “What kind of treatment?”

His smile widened a bit. "Well, Administrator, you were quite right to point out that Krellonian physiology is rather unique and that it was unlikely that we had come across a similar physiology or genetic makeup in other races within or without the Federation. However, we did find a surprisingly similar DNA match in our database. It belongs to a non-sapient insectoid species which developed on Archer VII over the last few million years. There aren't many obvious physical similarities between that species and Krellonians but genetically the differences are minuscule. We were able to replicate certain nucleotides based on that species’ DNA which have proven to be resistant to the active retrovirus which spreads the infection.”

“Are you telling me that you’ve taken some insect DNA to alter the genetic makeup of Krellonians?” Chella said, sound anything but pleased. Even Star looked at Elijah with obvious concern at the implications.

He quickly shook his head. "We have not altered the genetic makeup of these patients. That would be immoral and highly illegal within the Federation. Instead, we used the replicated nucleotides to create a vaccine to help fortify the infected cells against the virus."

“I still don’t like it,” said Chella. “The notion that you used some primitive life form’s genetic material for a vaccine for Krellonians doesn’t sound right to me.”

“A great many of those so-called primitive life forms are very close genetic matches to higher, sapient races like ourselves,” said Tazla Star who had kept mostly quiet while Elijah had shown them around the facility. “On Trill, for example, a species of small and furry anthropoid primates share nearly ninety-nine percent of our DNA. I wouldn’t be surprised if the same was not also true for some sort of animal on your homeworld which nowadays probably shares very few if any physical resemblances to Krellonians.”

Turee nodded in agreement but Chella seemed to have a more difficult time accepting this. “I don’t like it,” she said again. “But if there is a chance that this will slow down or even stop this epidemic, I suppose I’m willing to give this a try. I expect to receive regular updates on your progress, Doctor.”

“Of course,” Elijah said quickly.

“Administrator,” Star began. “Before you leave here, I was wondering if we could talk about another visit to the city. I think we should take this opportunity to learn more about each other’s people. This could be a great first step to demonstrate to our respective governments what we can accomplish if we join forces and cooperate.”

Elijah had to give Star credit for the attempt of trying to improve relations with the notoriously xenophobic Krellonians but he had to wonder if this really was the best time to push for interstellar relations. He would have preferred if she kept her focus on trying to cure this disease instead of making diplomatic inroads.

Considering his strained relationship with her at present, he decided to keep those thoughts to himself for now.

"I've already made it clear that any further visits to the city or any other population centers are out of the question. You are here for one purpose and one purpose alone, Commander. I have no interest in learning more about your people and to be quite frank, I'm already unhappy about the extra strain on our resources in order to provide security for your facility."

Star got the hint that she was not going to make progress with her current approach and quickly shifted gears. “I understand. Of course, if we are a strain on your security resources, I’m more than happy for you to redeploy your security teams elsewhere. I am certain our own security is more than adequate to handle the occasional group of Outlanders drifting by.”

“The fact that you have even brought armed personnel onto Piqus soil is still a thorn in my side, Commander,” she said bluntly. “And I certainly will not keep you here unsupervised. Besides, you are dangerously underestimating what the Outlanders are capable of. They may give the appearance of being hapless and disorganized but don’t let that fool you. It’s the Outlanders who have brought this plague upon us.”

Seeing that the Trill first officer could not win with the administrator, no matter what tact she was employing, Elijah decided to speak up. “It would be incredibly beneficial for our efforts to learn exactly how they have accomplished this,” he said. “Any evidence you could provide on how the virus has been dispersed would be helpful.”

“We are still working on collecting the evidence,” offered Turee. “But since we are yet to fully understand how this virus operates, we are not really in a position to determine how it was weaponized in the first place.”

Chella aimed her dark eyes at the Federation doctor. “I expect you to come up with some valid theories, Doctor. You have made a strong case for your presence here and I will not be satisfied until you can show me results.” She pointed at the recovery ward beyond the observation window. “That is not a bad start, but you will need to show me much more than a few people walking around because of some insect serum you concocted before I am willing to consider tolerating your continued presence on my planet,” she added before she turned on her heel and headed for the nearest exit.

Turee stayed just a moment longer as if to silently disagree with his superior before he followed her to the exit.

Star looked at Elijah. “Not easy to impress her, is she?”

“We are not here to impress her. We are here to find a cure.”


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