Episode II: Part VIII - Tragedy and Triumph on Luyten b
“The Medical Assistant reported Leia missing from her private cubicle approximately ten minutes ago. I’ve notified the bridge as well as security,” Doctor Rivera explained.
“How was she able to walk out of sickbay?” the Captain asked.
“We believe she donned a set of standard medical PPE garments, to include a mask and headgear. That equipment is located in a locker in every cubicle for use by our medical personnel; that would make slipping out of sickbay easy.”
Foxwell walked to the nearest comm panel and tapped the bridge key.
“Bridge, Lieutenant Huett here.”
Pausing for a moment, Foxwell remembered Lieutenant Huett listed on the duty roster as the conning officer scheduled to relieve Xuriya.
“Lieutenant, this is the Captain. Access the interface control panel on A deck and close the plug access door. Contact Beta and make her aware I’ve instructed you to do this; let her know she’s in charge of the surveying expedition until further notice.”
“Aye Captain, right away.”
Foxwell tapped the security key on the comm panel.
“Security; this is Assistant Chief of Security Roberts; state the nature of your contact.
“Lieutenant, this is the Captain. Provide a status on the search for Leia Athena as reported by Doctor Rivera.”
“I have three teams searching the ship for her presently,” Lieutenant Roberts replied. “Updates are provided as they complete their search of each assigned sector; there have been no sightings nor other evidence of her whereabouts at this time.
“Lieutenant, proceed to the bridge. I’ll join you there shortly,” Foxwell ordered.
“Captain, before you leave, there’s something I need to tell you.”
“What is it, doctor?” Foxwell asked, a frown appearing on Rivera’s face.
"As part of his initial search, Lieutenant Roberts dispatched a security team to Leia and her father’s stateroom on the hunch she might have taken refuge. She wasn’t in either, but they did locate a micro disc in her father’s quarters that he brought to sickbay. I viewed it just before I asked you to return to the ship. I strongly advise you view it as well,” Doctor Rivera suggested, handing Foxwell the small diskette.
Opening the computer’s disc tray by voice command, Foxwell inserted the micro disc. “Close tray,” Foxwell repeated, the medical department’s monitor illuminating as it began to display a recorded video by Professor Adana.
“Pay close attention, Captain,” Rivera urged.
After viewing the ten minute video, Foxwell sighed, then walked toward an adjoining island in the middle of sickbay; he placed both hands on the edge of the island top, extending his arms and looking down at the table. “She’s seriously ill, isn’t she doctor?”
"Yes, Captain, she is." Rivera stood next to Foxwell at the island. “According to her father, she suffers from episodes known as, 'brief psychotic disorder.' He stated her treating psychiatrist diagnosed the condition approximately six months ago following years of exposure to high amounts of ionizing rilidium radiation."
“I’m confused doctor — what’s the connection?”
Rivera walked slowly around the front of the island. He turned and faced the Captain. “I’m not a psychiatrist, but I’ve read all the medical literature and journals on rilidium poisoning, and how it can affect both mind and body. If her father quoted Leia’s treating psychiatrist correctly, then what he’s saying is that she is the victim of radiation-induced schizophrenia.”
Foxwell pushed away from the island. “But she knew the dangers, doctor; she knew the rules and procedures regarding safety and the protocol to be followed. She had to know in order to avoid overexposure,” the Captain emphasized.
Doctor Rivera took in a deep breath. “Perhaps her passion for her work clouded her judgment. She struck me as quite ambitious,” he continued. “I’m sure you, Beta, and the other senior officers came to the same conclusion. Ambition is a positive trait when channeled properly. But there can be a negative side as well if the motivation behind it is improperly channeled. I'm only guessing, but perhaps she was working toward perfection instead of striving for productivity.”
Foxwell thought for a moment. “Do you mean in an attempt to seek recognition?”
“Possibly, it’s as good a hypothesis as any,” Rivera replied.
Foxwell was aware his Assistant Chief of Security awaited his arrival on the bridge. He turned toward his Chief Medical Officer. “Doctor, I know the ship’s communication system can be accessed in sickbay. I want you to contact Beta and inform her of Leia’s disappearance, that every effort is being made to locate her. Let Beta know I'll attempt to keep her updated."
“There's something else, Captain."
"Foxwell looked at Rivera. What is it, doctor?"
"The hypospray is missing."
Exiting the turbo elevator Foxwell joined Lieutenant Roberts at the security station on the bridge. “Status, Lieutenant?”
“Just received word one of the security teams believes she may have been spotted in the vicinity of the Captain's quarters on D deck; another possible sighting was reported in the shuttle bay on A deck. If it’s the latter, she might be attempting to retrieve something from one of the geological labs that was set-up earlier by the surveying teams,” the Assistant Chief Security Officer surmised.
“Or attempting to access the rovers -- or worse, the shuttle,” Foxwell added. “Lieutenant, proceed to A deck; I’ll run a security sweep of D deck and meet you in the shuttle bay in fifteen minutes.”
“Aye sir,” Roberts acknowledged, entering the turbo elevator and issuing a voice command for the shuttle bay. Foxwell turned and walked back to the command chair. “Officer of the deck Hewitt, disable all security codes for the shuttle, rovers, and rover access ramp.”
“D deck,” Foxwell shouted, the turbo lift beginning its short two deck descent. Exiting the elevator, Foxwell walked cautiously through the deck’s corridor, paying close attention to anything out of the ordinary. Nearing his quarters, the pneumatic doors opened as he stepped out of the corridor and into a narrow hallway leading to his stateroom. It was at that moment he felt a stinging blow to the back of his head, driving him forward and into an adjoining bulkhead, sliding down the compartment wall and onto the deck, face up. Unable to stand or think straight, his vision a blur, Foxwell felt the sensation of being pulled by his arms; he could vaguely make out the outline of what appeared to be a female struggling to drag him through the pneumatic doors of his stateroom.
"Yes, Captain Foxwell, "I arranged for the rilidium circuit boards to fail on our journey to Luyten b," she yelled, out of breath after dragging Foxwell into his quarters. "You see, Captain, natural rilidium requires three to five percent enrichment for use in fusion power drives, but I discovered a new, proprietary method of creating one hundred percent enriched rilidium. But my father repeatedly alleged highly enriched rildium is violently dangerous, and insisted I abandon my research. He even threatened to expose me if I refused — and to reveal that I was the one who sabotaged the Stargazer’s rilidium circuit boards — so naturally I had to eliminate him," she admitted, laughing hysterically.
Foxwell could hear the faint sound of activity as he tried to gather his senses. Instinctively moving his hand to the back of his head, he tried to push upward, attempting to examine his surroundings. His vision clearing, Leia slowly came into focus. “Allow us to work with you, Leia. Let us help. Let me help," Foxwell implored, his words barely audible. “It’s not too late,” he continued, raising his head and reaching out slowly with his hand. He was still too weak to stand or move further.
“You and my father ruined everything. I could have been the next Hyman Rickover of Galactic Fleet,” she screamed. Leia reached into a small molle pouch attached to her utility belt, removing a hypospray. Turning her attention back to Foxwell, she knelt down on the deck next to him. “I administered a small dose of rilidium to myself, just to make things interesting," she admitted, "then injected my father with a lethal dose as he slept in his quarters. I’m surprised he made out into the corridor,” she snickered maniacally. “Now I’m going to kill you the same way I killed him. It’s not a very pleasant way to die, but with you two out of the way I still have a chance to continue my research.”
“You’ll never get away with it,” Foxwell blurted out, still too weak to fight off Leia as she grabbed his arm and prepared to administer the hypospray.
“STOP,” another voice shouted in the hallway just outside the Captain's quarters. There was a blur of activity, followed by the sound of two people struggling in the background. Foxwell lifted his head, catching the first glimpse of Xuriya and Leia grappling near his desk. Employing a short round house kick, Xuriya managed to knock the hypo out of Leia’s hand and onto the Captain’s desk. Leia feigned a grab of the hypospray, picking-up a heavy book end and smashing it into the side of Xuriya’s head. The Communications Officer dropped to the floor like a lump of coal.
“So, you want interfere and ruin things too, do you?" Leia raged, wild-eyed and blinking. " Well, missy, I have just the cure for that," her eyes filled with hatred as she stood over the unconscious Galactic Fleet Officer. Snatching the hypospray off the desk, she knelt down next to the unconscious Xuriya, pushing her head to the side to expose her neck. Just before the hypo touched her skin, Leia arched her back, her body's muscular and central nervous system contracting forcefully to the sound of a laser pistol firing; she dropped the hypospray, falling on her side and away from Leia. Moaning, she managed to roll over before struggling to push herself up onto all fours. She reached for and grabbed the hypo, focusing her attention again on Xuriya.
“Don’t do it, Leia,” Foxwell sternly ordered. He pushed himself up off the floor, still woozy and unsteady from the prior blow to his head, his fusion laser pistol still pointed at Leia.
Leia continued to crawl closer to Xuriya.
“Don’t do it,” Foxwell pleaded again, simultaneously increasing the power setting of the laser pistol to its highest level.
Ignoring the Captain’s order, Leia again moved toward Xuriya, hypospray in her hand.
Foxwell fired his fusion laser pistol a second time, striking Leia and slamming her against the bulkhead. He staggered to his desk, pressing the bridge key on the comm panel.
“Bridge, Lieutenant Hewitt here.”
“This is the Captain. Send a medical and security team to my quarters -- priority response.”
“Acknowledged, Captain -- medical and security team on their way.”
“She’s dead,” Doctor Rivera declared, kneeling next to Leia’s body. He turned off the scanner and closed the medical analyzer, then stood. “I’m sorry, Captain.”
Foxwell sighed deeply. “What’s Xuriya’s condition, doctor?”
“She’s got quite a bump on her left temple. I’ll need to examine her in sickbay, run some tests. We’ll place Xuriya on a gurney and accompany her to sickbay. Speaking of which, I need to examine you as well; you’ve got a nice-sized goose egg on the back of your own head. Oh, and that’s an order, Captain.”
Foxwell acknowledged with a nod.
“Enter,” Foxwell uttered, responding to the door chime of his quarters.
Beta walked through the open pneumatic doors, finding Foxwell at his desk. The expression on his face was somber, distant. “May I speak with you, Captain?”
Foxwell looked up at his Science Officer. "What’s on your mind, Beta?”
"The Chief Engineer just informed me of a priority sub-space transmission received regarding delivery of new rilidium circuit boards."
The Captain appeared oblivious to Beta's message.
Changing the subject, Beta relayed what she was told by the Chief Medical Officer. "I understand Doctor Rivera cleared you to return to duty.”
Foxwell nodded. “Xuriya wasn’t quite as fortunate," he said. "She’ll be in sickbay for a few days. She was diagnosed with a grade three concussion.”
"The doctor briefed me about what happened after you returned aboard the Stargazer. He also offered reassurance Xuriya will make a full recovery," Beta divulged.
“She saved my life. When she discovered Leia had disappeared from sickbay, she followed her intuition and proceeded to my quarters.”
Beta furrowed her eyebrows. “If I may quote the phrase, 'A woman’s intuition,’ Captain, an almost psychic — and sometimes amazing -- knack for knowing what others are thinking and feeling, based on an ability to read facial expressions and body language. It would be reasonable to assume Xuriya’s intuitive feelings manifested themselves during the evening of the formal dinner.”
Indifferent to Beta's explanation, Foxwell sighed. “I wish there was more I could have done to help Leia. It’s all such a waste.”
Beta placed a consoling hand on Foxwell's shoulder. “Captain, based on everything I know and have been told, there’s nothing else you could have done.”
“Tell me about the survey, Beta. How’s that proceeding?” the Captain asked, redirecting the conversation.
“Better than expected, Captain. Not only are rildium ore deposits confirmed in the coordinates provided by the Galactic Fleet Geologists, the evidence gathered so far seems to indicate the deposits are of a much higher grade than anything previously mined on earth.”
“You mean a natural enrichment?” Foxwell asked.
“Exactly, Captain.” If proven correct, it’s possible this grade of rilidium will reduce the need to refuel Starships by half; that would include the current replacement schedule of rilidum circuit boards. The surveying party has returned to the ship. They are meeting currently to review their findings, and to formulate a plan for extracting several core samples for testing.”
Foxwell managed a half-smile. “It would be a major breakthrough for Starship propulsion, and a major plus for Galactic Fleet Command, not to mention the possible applications for civilian use.”
“A very reasonable assumption, Captain,” Beta added.
“Of all the planets I’ve ever known or visited, this is the absolute loveliest,” Xuriya said, smiling and turning her head in the direction of the driver. "Don’t you agree?”
Foxwell stopped the two person rover in front of a waterfall, approximately five miles west of the Stargazer. It was day four of their touchdown on the planet. Doctor Rivera had given the okay for Xuriya to return to light duty. Captain Foxwell felt it would be appropriate to personally take Xuriya on a local tour of the never before explored exoplanet.
“I’ve never seen anything more beautiful,” Xuriya exclaimed.
The waterfall was Luyten-Blue and magical. It was swishing over the rocks joyfully, thundering down into the pool like a gigantic water spout. When it toppled into the ecstasy-pool, it foamed at the bottom. It smelled fresh and natural, including the leaves and all the natural vegetation. The flowers and small trees surrounding it nodded gently in the wind.
Xuriya smiled. “Thank you for showing me this,” she said, both exiting the rover and beginning a short walk around the falls. She held tight to his arm as they continued their excursion around the flowing cascade of cyan blue water.
“You can thank Beta. She noticed it during an extended scanner sweep of our current position,” Foxwell replied.
They sat on the ground in a clearing at the edge of the waterfall’s enormous pool. Holding the Captain's arm with both hands, she gently leaned against him.
“The Gates of Paradise,” she declared happily, gazing misty-eyed at the waterfall.
Click to read Episode III Part I "Star Voyagers: "THE MARS PLAGUE""