Saturday, March 6, 2010

Project Unity

Chapter 4

The initial exam of Dr. Finn provided more questions than answers. While stable, he had not improved and every attempt to waken him seemed to make his body weaker. With no other doctor available, Freya - an untested medical student - was left to cure whatever ailed him. Unfortunately she still didn't know what exactly that was.

She ran a hand through her hair and felt every minute of her sleepless night as she looked over the test results again. Everything in his body seemed to contradict each other. Truth be told, he ought to be dead by now and yet he wasn't. The only thing she knew for certain is that the wound marks on his hand had been where some sort of toxin had entered his body. A toxin she couldn't isolate...

Someone cleared his throat and Freya jumped. She hadn't heard anyone come into the ward. She looked up and tried to muster the energy to come to some sort of attention but her mind and body wouldn't allow it. "Captain." she said following his gaze to where Dr. Finn was motionless.

"Report." Captain Hunt said snapping her attention back to his face. Even though he spoke sternly, she could see a glimmer of hope in his eyes.

"No worse." Freya said. "He was stung or bitten by something on the moon. It seems to have administered some sort of toxin that I can't isolate. It's not like anything I've even heard of before." she said, knowing she had very little real experience to draw on but she had lots of medical history to draw on. "If I had a sample it would probably help." she said quickly and biting her lip. She didn't like the idea of sending anyone back to the moon but it really would help - she hoped.

Captain Hunt was considering even as he nodded his understanding. Like Freya, he didn't like the idea of returning a team to the moon's surface but he recognized the medical need.

"The wound was shallow Captain." Freya was saying as she walked over to Dr. Finn's bed. She uncovered his hand and showed the marks to Hunt. "Had he been wearing protective gloves..." she paused and looked at the wound. "There's a good chance he would have been fine."

"Understood." Captain Hunt said making up his mind. He stepped aside as Freya began another exam of Dr. Finn. She was taking several blood samples from the doctor as he placed a communication. A few minutes later, Freya finished and recovered Dr. Finn as the doors opened. She turned and was surprised to see Julian there. She was about to walk up to him when she saw the Captain was still in the ward and Julian was approaching him, not her. "Ah, Mr. Ice." the Captain said.

"You are going to take a team of Commander Katou's scientists down to the moon. Show them where Dr. Finn was at the time he was..." he paused and looked in Freya's direction. "Attacked. We need samples of whatever might have attacked him."

"Attacked sir?" Julian said looking from the Captain over to Freya and back again, clearly confused.

"I suspect it was a plant." Freya said speaking up and coming forward. "A natural defense mechanism perhaps. Or a very large bug - but since you didn't mention any very large bugs in your report - I would guess whatever plants he was reaching for at the time he was afflicted."

"Right." Julian said looking only slightly less confused.

"Commander Katou should have assembled a team for you already in the science lab." Captain Hunt said. "Oh, be sure that everyone collecting samples wears protective gloves - just in case."

Julian nodded and turned to leave. "Wait!" Freya said quickly. Julian and Captain Hunt turned to her in surprise as she scrambled to pack a small medical case. She looked around and her eyes settled on Nurse Atayo. She handed the medical case to her and thrust her forward. "Just in case. She has generic anti-venoms and anti-toxins as well as basic medical stuff, it won't cure anyone who gets stung but it might delay the toxin."

Captain Hunt nodded. "Ms. Ryan - I am making you the acting chief medical officer until either Dr. Finn has recovered or Dr. Hasberg is fit to return to duty." he said and left the ward before she had a chance to reply.

Freya stared at the door stunned for a few moments. "But...but...." she muttered looking over at Julian who was grinning at her. "But I'm not a doctor." she finally said.

"Only because they won't let you test." Julian said coming over and giving her a quick kiss. "Congrats...Chief." he said with a wink. "Gotta go get you a some flowers - how does dangerous and toxic sound to you?" he said laughing his way out of the ward.

Julian got an icey nod from Commander Katou as he walked into the lab with the nurse in tow. Three scientists were ready and waiting for him, each carrying a bag with collection equipment. "Let's go." he said, not returning Katou's nod.

The trip to the surface of the moon was quick, although a little rocky due to the atmospheric conditions. Julian tried not to laugh as he noticed one of the scientists clutched her chair tightly. He landed smoothly and unbuckled. "Let's go." he said leading the small team out onto the moon. "Don't forget gloves, the natives aren't friendly it seems."

"I thought this moon was uninhabited?" Ida Washington asked nervously.

"Right, I meant the plants." Julian said and shook his head. He led them to the area Dr. Finn was at the time. "There." he said pointing. "I was too far away to see which plant exactly he was looking at but he had three clustered punctures in his hand." he said and the trio of scientists converged on the area while Julian and the nurse hung back.


Back on the ship, Freya checked Dr. Finn one more time and then prepared to leave with a bundle of blood samples and test results in hand. She gave the nurse on duty specific instructions and looked at the still doctor once more. Everything available to her in the medical ward had only frustrated her more so she was preparing to get she really didn't want ask for.

She straightened her shoulders as she walked into the science lab, met by the steely gaze of Commander Katou. "I need your help. I need another pair of eyes." Freya said commandeering an empty table and spreading out what she'd brought. "He's stable but every hour his body is getting weaker -even without being woken. The changes are minute but they are there." Katou continued to look at her, clearly disapproving of Freya's general presence. "He's going to die!"

Katou said nothing but took the test results and the blood vials. She plugged several of them into a machine for extensive analysis and then start looking over the results. "This will take some time." she finally said and Freya was about to leave - eager to get away from Katou's cold presence. "Since your here, I need you to check a few things. Medically."

Freya turned and nodded and went to where Katou directed. When Unity had been prepared for launch, one of the science experiments of the team was to test the viability of frozen embryos when exposed to deep space over a period of time. Some feared that the DNA would degrade, making the probability of use on colony ships unlikely. As it turned out, the embryos, safely stowed on the Unity prior to the emergency launch, survived fine as long as kept in deep freeze. They had proved a vital role on the ship, providing the genetic diversity that 25 original inhabitants simply couldn't maintain for long. Three hundred years later and there were only a handful of samples left but the crew was fairly diverse now. Freya started the freezer scanners which has been designed to test each samples viability. "They appear to be fine Commander. No abnormalities or degradation detected."

"Very good, now can you check the chambers." Katou said not looking up. She motioned over to a bank of tall tubes. Freya couldn't recall those being here the last time she'd come in - of course she couldn't really remember the last time she'd come to the science lab either. She walked over and examined the control panel and data screen. It was clearly meant to do with humans but she wasn't sure for what purpose.

"What do these do?" she asked pressing a few buttons to bring up the biological readings. Before Katou could respond - assuming she intended to - Freya gasped. "There is a baby in here!"

"Medically it's a fetus." Katou said calmly. "A 30-week fetus."

"Okay it's a fetus - why is there a fetus in here? Why isn't it..." Freya looked at the readings again. "Why isn't SHE in a carrier mother?"

"A more interesting and prudent question would be HOW don't you think?" Katou said with a smile - a disturbing smile - on her face.

"No, I'd rather stick with why." Freya said coldly. Every minute with Commander Katou made her dislike the scientist more.

Katou's smiled disappeared. "The few remaining embryotics will be grown in these chambers." she turned and looked at Freya with a piercing look. "So they aren't a burden on their carriers."

Freya glared at Katou and refused to speak, afraid of what she might say. She was about to give a terse report on the baby - and it was a BABY - in the chamber when her communicator chirped summoning her back to sickbay immediately. She didn't spare Katou another glance and hurried from the lab.

The sickbay was in a panic and alarms were going off as Freya rushed in. "He's crashing!" Arabella said frantically. Freya ran over to Dr. Finn's bed and started working, diving into it and pushing Commander Katou from her mind. "I don't understand this!" Arabella said watching the readings fly across the screens. Dr. Finn's body had been seizing only moments before and now he was still but his vitals were still registering as if he were crashing.

Freya put tuned out the blaring machines and checked his vitals manually. He was stabilizing once again despite the machines' evidence to the contrary. Freya flipped off the machines and left them off for a minute before turning them back on. When they came back up, the machines detected the same things she did.

"What was that about?" Arabella asked

"I'm not sure." Freya said beginning to take more blood samples and complete another exam. As before, he appeared to show further deterioration, accelerated by the recent episode.

Freya's communicator chirped again and Katou's voice echoed around her. "I found your toxin." she said and the comm ended immediately. Freya tried to resist the urge to roll her eyes and looked at Arabella. "Stay by his side, I'll be back." she said.

"Have you slept?" Arabella called as Freya left. Freya didn't respond. She hadn't slept in almost thirty six hours and her whole body was beginning to feel it.


"I think we got the culprit" Cameron, another scientist, said. She was holding a containment unit up that had a average looking plant encased in it. But it did have the three prongs.

"And if that's not it, one of these might be it." Julian said indicating the collection of plants, bugs and even a couple of fish the scientists had insisted on taking 'just in case'. They were a quick bunch of gatherers so Julian didn't complain. Within an hour, they had samples of just about every plant in the area.

Cameron grinned at him and shrugged. "I'll start taking these to the shuttle." she said and Julian helped her. They were halfway through their second trip when they heard shouting. They started racing back to the site with the rest of the team and found Rahman on the ground. "What happened?" Julian bellowed as the nurse leaned over him and administered a dose of anti-toxin.

"He took his gloves off and then saw something else he wanted to collect..." Ida explained.

"Let's go!" Julian barked. He put and arm around Rahman and lifted him easily while the other collected the remaining samples. He had them up and in the air in a matter of minutes.


"There." Katou said pointing to a readout and a vial.

Freya scooped it up and read over it quickly. By the time she'd read through it a second time the words were starting to blur from lack of sleep. "Thank you." Freya said tersely. She took the rest of her stuff and the new vial which hopefully contained the actual toxin and left before Katou could comment on her weakness.

Arabella met her at the door and took it all from her hands. She thrust a clean pair of scrubs into Freya's arms. "Get changed and lay down."

"I have to analyze..." Freya protested scooping up the toxin vial.

Arabella took it from her hands. "I'll get the test started, it will take about an hour anyway. You need to sleep or you'll be no good to anyone."

Freya tried to think of a response but she couldn't formulate a reason to fight the sleep anymore so she did as she'd been told.

An hour and a half later Arabella woke Freya quickly. "The team is back and another one was attacked."

Freya jumped out of the bed and scrambled into the main ward. Although an hour and a half wasn't enough sleep to make up for almost two days without it - it gave her a temporary boost. She was halfway through the tag team brief from Julian (on what happened) and Arabella (on the medical status) when Katou rushed in to check on her scientist.

'So she does care about something.' Freya noted to herself.

"We have samples of half the moon." Julian said to Freya and Katou. "They should be in the science lab"

"Compare them to the toxin you may have isolated. Find me the attacker." Freya said to Katou, stunning both Katou and Julian with the tone of her "order". Katou didn't argue though and quickly left the ward to get to work.

Freya turned to Arabella. "Let's work him up. Maybe we can find similarities. And get me the result of the toxin analysis." They worked together for an hour and both Dr. Finn and Rahman were stable in the end but both were showing the same deterioration from the toxin. "I'm going to go check in with science. If your shift ends before I get back, brief the next person." she said leaving Arabella with the two medical mysteries.

Freya tried to hide her general annoyance and disgust for Katou and what she was doing with the embryotics as she entered the lab but one look at the chambers made her flush with anger. 'Burden...bloody hell, they're people!' Freya thought to herself. Katou's attitude toward embryotics was sadly common as a gulf continued to grow amongst the population.

"Who's my attacker?" Freya said looking over the collection. She wanted to lash out at Katou but she was more concerned with curing her patients.

"That one." Katou said pointing to the last sample collected by Camera. "The toxin in it is nearly identical to the one isolated. It mutated a bit in Dr. Finn - evolved to attack his body specifically - it's a fascinating plant actually."

"Thank you." Freya said. There was a vial of toxin and a read out next to the plant in question which she picked up. As much as she wanted to leave, the science labs resources were more extensive. She worked in silence at a computer near Katou and felt her eyes on her most of the time. "There!" she said to herself and kept going. She was breaking down the toxin trying to predict it's next mutation and figure out a way to fight back.

Eventually she could feel people behind her, she turned to see Cameron and Ida hovering behind her, watching her and glimpsed Katou behind them as well. She turned back to the computer and tried to ignore their presence unless they spoke up. The computer was quickly recompiling simulations as she entered new orders trying to find the exact sequence she needed. She could use the toxin to fight the toxin if she could mutate it...if....

"What if you did this?" Cameron said suggesting a series of changes. Freya's fingers flew across the board as she entered in the suggestion. It wasn't right but it was closer. Soon Cameron, Ida and Freya were working together and talking faster than the simulations could be run.

"That's it!" Cameron said as Freya entered another series of changes. The simulation concurred with Cameron's enthusiasm. Less than half an hour later, Freya stormed into sickbay with two vials of what she sincerely hoped were anti-toxins. She took one final blood sample from each of the patients and then treated Dr. Finn first. Arabella should have left already but she'd stayed around well after her shift to help. They waited together silently watching the monitors.

"He's improving!" Arabella said watching the readings. It was slow but they could see that the anti-toxin was doing it's job. Freya decided to take the chance and give a dose to Rahman as well, the sooner he was treated, the better he would recover. Hopefully.

Freya watched the monitors for another hour before she dosed off in her chair, seated between the two of them. When she woke up, she was laying in the bed of a side room and her uniform was draped over the chair waiting for her. She stood and looked around. She quietly changed and was pulling on her boots when she realized she'd been asleep for seven hours. She rushed into the main ward and saw Katou and Captain Hunt standing over Dr. Finn's bed. And Dr. Finn was awake.

"Well done Ms Ryan." Captain Hunt said as she joined them. "Dr. Finn appears to be quite recovered. As does your other patient."

"I'm glad Captain." Freya said looking over the recent readings. "The toxin appears to be all gone." she said happily, ignoring the fact that Katou and Finn said nothing. "You're body took a lot of damage but I think with some rest you'll recover fine." Freya said to Dr. Finn.

He grunted in acknowledgment and Katou took her leave quickly. Freya said nothing as she turned to Rahman's bed and looked over his readings. Like Finn, he was recovered and eager to get out of bed. "A little longer if you please." Freya said with a warm smile for him. She could tell he was about to protest when the alarms from Dr. Finn's bed went off and a red glow illuminated his area.

"What's happening?" Hunt demanded.

"He's crashing Captain!" Freya said as a couple of nurses rushed over. They all but pushed Captain hunt out of their way to get to Dr. Finn's side and assist.

"Is it the toxin?" one of them asked as she handed Freya medicine.

Freya administered the medicine directly into Dr. Finn's chest as it was intended to regulate his heart rate. "No, the toxin was eliminated." she said. Dr. Finn's body seized and bucked against her hand violently.

The alarms silenced save for one, monotonous tone. Freya looked up and saw the flat line. "No!" she shouted and began to pump his chest. With each push, the line jerked roughly up once but nothing more.

After several attempts the nurses stepped back sadly but Freya refused to stop until Captain Hunt put a hand on her shoulder. "Let him go." he said quietly. Freya stared through him, not seeing him for several seconds but she finally backed away from Dr. Finn's lifeless body, still staring through Captain Hunt.

Freya was clearly still in shock as Dr. Finn's body was removed and the quiet rustle of activity settled around her. She couldn't be sure how long she stood in the ward, seeing everything happening around her and yet seeing nothing.

Julian was at her side then. Had he been there for long? She wasn't really sure. "No one blames you Freya." Julian said quietly, slipping his hand in hers, or maybe it had been there all along.

End Chapter


  1. No one else may blame her, but I bet she blames herself although she did everything she could.

    That was another great chapter!