Episode III: Part IV - Closing in on the virus origin
Stardate: Dec 14, 2096
“Pleased to meet you, Chief,” Foxwell said, shaking hands after being introduced by the Colony’s Governor. Chief of Security Dalton Gareth was taller than average, over six and a half feet, built like a rock with wide shoulders and tapered abdomen beneath a jumpsuit similar to those worn by his Titan colleagues. Closing the door of his large, rectangular shaped office, he invited the Galactic Fleet Officer and the Titan Colony Governor to sit by waving his hand in the direction of two visitor chairs in front of his desk. “I’ve heard a lot about you — and the accomplishments of the Stargazer,” he continued.
“Thank you, Chief.” Foxwell replied. “It’s kind of you to say. Just to clarify, however, all accolades belong to the brave men and women who crew the Stargazer. Without question she’s manned by the best people in Galactic Fleet.”
“No doubt, Captain,” Gareth replied with sincerity, taking a seat at his desk. “Considering the risks involved, we are grateful beyond words for your presence as well as Doctor Rivera. His knowledge and assistance could mean the breakthrough our scientists and researchers are seeking.”
Foxwell shifted anxiously in his seat. “Doctor Rivera will do his part, I can assure you. Having said that, let’s — the three of us, get down to brass tacks. A private conference with Galactic Fleet Intelligence just prior to departing the Stargazer with Rivera alluded to the possibility that Ares Viral Contagion may have been intentionally manufactured and released by an enemy agent from the Eridani Star System.”
Governor Duelow swiveled his chair to face Foxwell. “Captain, the Martian Colony has been in operation since the early 2040’s, subsequent to the first crewed mission to Mars in 2034. Nothing like this has occurred in almost six decades of operation. Our scientists and researchers do not believe the virus originated on Mars or was brought here by any of its inhabitants. Our scientists and lab personnel analyze surface rock and soil samples as well as core sample extractions taken hundreds of feet below the surface. We also analyze and test ice crystal, fog, frost, and water samples on a regular basis as well as samples of the Martian atmosphere. To date no pathogens indigenous to Mars have been discovered. And we do not experiment or attempt to artificially create viruses or pathogens of any kind."
“Noted, Governor. However, it was you who forwarded these allegations of contagion to Galactic Fleet Command,” Foxwell pointed out, "based on what you believe to be solid evidence." A pause. "May I see that evidence?” Foxwell asked.
Governor Duelow looked in the direction of his Chief of Security, then nodded. Gareth stood. “Follow me, Captain.” Walking to the end of his office and toward a row of weapons safes, he entered a code on the first safe’s biometric circular keypad. Swinging the door open, he moved past the stowed weapons, miscellaneous accessories and maintenance manuals to a second row of adjacent shelves. Removing a cardboard box, Gareth turned around, setting it on a table behind him. “You wanted to see evidence, Captain? Take a look inside,” the Security Chief invited.
Foxwell reached for and removed the top of the box, holding it momentarily as he starred at the contents inside. Rendering an incredulous expression, he slowly placed the top down on the table. Reaching inside, he grabbed a familiar object, removing it and slowly raising it upward, his attention and eyesight locked on the device he held firmly in his hand.
“Do you know what that is, Captain?” Governor Duelow asked.
Continuing to stare at the device in his hand, Foxwell answered. “I do. It’s a hand held phaser — clearly of Eridani origin. I’ve seen them before. Several were captured during the battle of the Epsilon Eridani Star System in 2092. They are phased array pulse energy devices. These weapons fire particles known as nadions. At its lowest setting it disrupts a life form's nervous system, rendering it unconscious or causing it to become dazed. At its highest setting, it's enough to dematerialize the targeted object. Galactic Fleet Scientists and Engineers are still analyzing and studying these phasers, attempting to reverse engineer in an effort to duplicate the technology.”
Chief of Security Gareth turned and gazed at Foxwell. “Your analysis is unerring, Captain. It is also the joint conclusion of Titan Security and Galactic Fleet Command after they studied the weapon via video conference.”
“How did you happen upon it?” Foxwell asked.
“The phaser was discovered in our hanger bay around 2300 hours during a routine patrol by a member of our security team. The officer discovered it stuffed in a dead junction box attached to a supporting beam next to the transporter platform used by our Vulcan colleagues. The Vulcan Starship Soval beamed a team of ten scientists and two crew support personnel approximately three weeks ago to assist Titan’s permanent staff of medical researchers and scientists. The Soval departed immediately for return to Vulcan."
Foxwell walked and pondered quietly around the security office. “Smuggled into the colony most likely via transporter from the Vulcan Starship along with the virus, either by an Eridani agent surgically altered to resemble a Vulcan, or perhaps knowingly by a Vulcan official or crew member sympathetic to their grievances with Earth,” he postulated.
“The virus began to make its appearance approximately a week before the phaser was discovered,” Governor Duelow explained. “Our scientists carefully examined and tested its surface components, comparing the results against those of infected inhabitants for the virus’ genetic material using nucleic acid testing, as well as antigen testing, which detects the presence of viral proteins that spur the production of antibodies — the immune system's response to invaders.”
“What were the results of the comparison?” Foxwell asked.
"The analyzed samples allowed for a full sequence of their genome, or genetic material using the most advanced methods. Based on information contained in our data base, it proved conclusively the virus is of Eridani origin,” Duelow asserted.
Foxwell turned, gazing at Duelow. “That would have been the result of testing blood and tissue samples taken from wounded Eridani prisoners captured during the short war of 2092.”
“That is correct, Captain.”
“Have you narrowed it down to individual DNA?" Foxwell asked.
“We have, Captain,” Gareth replied. “Touch DNA testing was conducted by obtaining skin cells transferred to the phaser by the Eridani agent. Fortunately, the security officer who discovered it made that process a little easier by securing the weapon without contaminating it.”
“Have you compared the results to the DNA of all Vulcan inhabitants and recent arrivals?” Foxwell asked.
“Yes,” Duelow answered. "Virus testing and treatment protocol required blood and other fluid samples from every human and vulcan in the colony. As part of this, we discreetly conducted separate DNA testing. This remained confidential per orders from Galactic Fleet. As a precaution, they ordered us to await your arrival before taking the primary suspect into custody."
“Who is it?” Foxwell asked.
“A Vulcan crew member by the name of T’kor,” Gareth said.
Foxwell rubbed his chin pensively. “That would mean the real T’kor is dead; probably murdered on Vulcan by a surgically altered Eridani, or a Vulcan sympathizer — carried out before the Soval departed for Mars.”
Duelow nodded slightly. “Your hypothesis appears logical.”
Noting the irony embedded in the Governor’s reply, he turned and faced the Colony’s Governor and Chief of Security. “Where is T’kor presently?” Foxwell asked.
Gareth walked back to his desk. “Computer, what is the current location of Vulcan inhabitant T’kor?”
“T’kor’s last known location was in the Transporter Room,” the computer’s audible voice answered.
“When did he arrive?” Gareth asked.
“Less than one minute ago,” the computer voice replied.
Alarmed, Foxwell walked hurriedly toward Gareth’s desk before shouting, “disable the transporter.”
Working a control interface linked to the transporter room, Gareth suddenly stopped. He craned his head in Foxwell’s direction. “Too late Captain,” he shouted, his voice laden with frustration. “Someone just beamed off the Red Planet.”
Click to read Episode III Part V "Star Voyagers: "THE MARS PLAGUE""