Episode III: Part IX - A cure is discovered
Stardate: Dec. 16, 2096
“Doctor Rivera would like to see you and and your First Officer,” a lab assistant informed Foxwell. The white coated assistant had just walked through the auto controlled double doors connecting the emergency room to the colony’s main sickbay corridor.
“Is he in the lab?” Foxwell asked.
“Yes,” the lab assistant answered. “Follow me, please.”
Foxwell and Beta accompanied the lab assistant back to the Colony’s laboratory, entering through the hermetically sealed doors. Rivera was seen talking with several other scientists and physicians at the far end of the lab.
Approaching the Stargazer’s Chief Medical Officer, Foxwell blurted, “excuse the interruption Doctor, but we were told you wanted to see us.”
“I do,” Rivera answered, a weary but elated smile appearing.
“Good news, Doctor?” Beta asked.
“Better than good news,” Rivera replied. “Not only have we developed a vaccine, but in the process I’m almost certain I have discovered a cure for the virus.”
“That’s fantastic,” Foxwell exclaimed. “The best we were hoping for was an effective vaccine.”
“That was my position as well, Captain,” Rivera conceded. Glancing at Beta, the Stargazer’s Chief Medical Officer noticed a familiar facial expression. “Well, aren’t we curious,” Rivera needled. “I can make out that expression a mile away.”
Furrowing her eyebrows, Beta replied, “I am the Stargazer’s Science Officer, Doctor. It would be totally unreasonable if I were not curious about your discovery regarding a cure.”
Exchanging his smile for a playful, but serious expression, Rivera locked eyes with Beta. “Tell you what I’ll do. Your arrival on the Colony has exposed you to the virus; if you agree to volunteer to be the first patient to receive the vaccine, I’ll fill you in on how I developed a curative treatment for the Ares Viral Contagion. What do you say?”
Rendering a blank expression, Beta looked around, exchanging glances with Foxwell.
“Don’t look at me,” Foxwell exclaimed, throwing his hands up in the air.
Beta shifted her gaze back to the Doctor. “A reasonable proposal — agreed.”
Rivera grinned. “Step this way, Beta,” he said, gently coaxing the Stargazer’s Science Officer into a large cubicle just a few feet away. “I need you to lean forward against the table,” Rivera instructed. Several small refrigerators lined a wall of the partitioned-off enclosure. Opening the closest medical cooler and removing a vaccine ready syringe, Rivera grinned again. “You'll need to expose your left or right buttock, Commander,” Rivera directed. "I cannot administer the injection into your bionic arm."
“It’s not available in a hypospray?" Beta asked”
“When the vaccine is produced in quantity on Earth, it will be,” Rivera answered. “Right now it’s administered as an old-fashioned intra-muscular injection, just like in earlier times.”
Removing the needle cap, Doctor Rivera took careful aim, jabbing the needle into Beta’s right ventrogluteal muscle before pressing the plunger on the syringe until it was empty.
“Wow, that looked like it went all the way to the bone,” Foxwell declared. “Looked more like you were throwing a dart than giving an injection.”
Rivera continued to grin. “There, it’s all over. That didn’t hurt — did it?" he asked in a disingenuous manner, hoping she would express at the very least a minimal amount of discomfort.
"A rhetorical question, Doctor,” Beta replied as she re-adjusted her uniform. “It felt like an injection, nothing more,” her tone and expression deadpan.
“Wipe that silly grin off your face, Captain — you’re next,” Rivera spouted.
Vaccinations were administered to all colonists not displaying symptoms of the virus; curative injections and supportive treatment were provided to those who were actively ill or showing beginning symptoms of the disease.
“We’ll have to vaccinate all personnel aboard the Stargazer, Captain,” Doctor Rivera advised. “Our return will expose the entire ship’s company to the virus. I recommend we not return to Earth or receive any new personnel aboard the Stargazer for a minimum of ninety days while the medical department monitors the health of the crew.”
“I absolutely agree,” Beta chimed in.
“Those same requirements will apply to the Martian Colony as well,” Foxwell stated. “No one leaves or arrives for a minimum of ninety days.” Pivoting in Rivera’s direction, Foxwell directed he forward information regarding the vaccine and curative treatment to his Assistant Chief Medical Officer. “Instruct him to disseminate that information to all departments and to prepare a vaccination schedule for the crew.”
“Consider it done,” Rivera replied.
"You’ll need to assume the duties as the acting provisional Governor during this period, Captain,” Beta noted.
Foxwell nodded. “I’ll forward a recommendation to Galactic Fleet Command that the Stargazer remain in our solar system for training and orbital surveillance of our closest neighboring planets. We can quickly return to Mars for our vaccinated crews' use of their recreational facilities, and to allow them the feel of solid ground.”
“Acknowledged,” Beta replied. She turned and exchanged glances with Rivera. “Now Doctor, please brief me regarding the cure you developed.”
"Oh, uh, yes, Commander,” Rivera mumbled, remembering Beta’s earlier request for an explanation regarding a cure. Guiding her out of the cubicle and into the lab’s working area, they walked while Doctor Rivera briefed her regarding the technology. “It’s called DRACO, an acronym for ‘double-stranded RNA activated caspase oligomerizers,’ he explained. “It’s based on anti-viral technology developed approximately 80 years ago.”
“I’m vaguely familiar with that research, Doctor," Beta affirmed. "Please go on with your explanation," she requested, her level of interest piqued.
"Basically,” Rivera continued, “when one end of DRACO binds to dsRNA, it signals the other end of DRACO to initiate apoptosis, killing cells before a virus has a chance to replicate."
Walking next to Rivera, her arms folded, Beta continued to nod in response to Rivera’s explanation. “Incredibly interesting,” she said. “Can this same technology be applied to other viruses as well?”
“I’m convinced it can be,” Rivera replied.
His Science Officer and Chief Medical Officer walking further away and out of earshot, Foxwell grinned. He removed his communicator from his utility belt, flipping the antenna open.
“Foxwell to Stargazer.”
“Stargazer, Chief Engineer O’Donovan here.”
Foxwell smiled at the sound of O’Donovan’s voice. "I see Beta left you in command.”
“Aye Captain, that she did,” he replied.
“Stargazer and Crew status?”
“All departments secure and operational — all personnel present and accounted for. No crew members admitted to sickbay or confined to the brig,” the Chief Engineer happily replied.
“Excellent,” Foxwell responded.
“Can I do anything for you, Captain?” Chief O’Donovan asked.
“As a matter of fact, you can,” Foxwell replied. “Make arrangements for Ensign Roberts to return in the shuttle with four security officers. Inform the security detail they’ll be vaccinated and briefed regarding their assignment upon arrival.”
“Acknowledged. Will you be returning, Captain?”
“I will, along with a very tired Chief Medical Officer and happily vaccinated First Officer."
“Aye Captain. Looking forward to your return -- all three of you, O’Donovan out."
Two hours later - aboard the shuttlecraft prior to departure:
“Wait a minute. Why is she piloting the shuttle?” Doctor Rivera asked, pointing toward Beta. “It was Roberts who brought the Captain and I to the Colony, and Roberts who returned in the Shuttle,” he nervously pointed out. “Why isn’t he piloting the shuttle back to the Stargazer?”
Foxwell craned his neck in Rivera’s direction. “You seem to forget, Doctor, Beta’s first assignment was with the Shuttle Fleet Command Center in Houston at the beginning of her career with Galactic Fleet,” he explained. “She was a shuttle test pilot. You won’t believe what she can do behind the controls of a shuttlecraft,” he snickered.
Taking that as an ominous warning, Rivera checked his five-point restraint.
“Don’t worry Doctor — I made certain you were strapped in tight when we boarded,” Foxwell grinned.
Gazing in the direction of the pilot’s seat, Beta turned her head and locked eyes with the Stargazer’s Chief Medical Officer. It was the first time he had ever seen her render any emotion via a facial expression. She was sporting a wicked grin.
“Shuttle pre-flight checks complete,” Beta shouted. “Prepare for departure.”
Rivera gripped the armrests and closed his eyes.
“Ay caramba,” he muttered.