August 12, 2008

Zion's Children - pt 19

"It's your own fault, Levi," remarked Admiral Hiawithus as the two sat in the shade of a lone maple-like tree. It was the only tree on this branch of the New Jerusalem River, where the two frequently met outside of politics and religion and were just friends.

Levi cast his fishing line out, and sighed. "I suppose you're right, Archibald. I didn't exactly set a good example letting you befriend me, did I?"

The old admiral chuckled. "Well, you certainly gave me a hard enough time about it!"

"Our life here has never been easy. We were sent away from our homes, exiled from the planet of our birth. Trusting those who came afterwards was not something that we were taught as children. Did I err in going against those lessons? Have I set my granddaughter up for failure?"

"Rubbish," Archibald replied, casting his own line out, farther to the left than his friend had. "First of all, Miriam has a good head on her shoulders, and she is firm in her faith. No one is going to lead her astray." He let the current pull his line, tugging on it only lightly to keep it from tangling with Levi's line. "Are you afraid that someone will someday talk her into leaving the planet? That she'll leave you alone?"

Levi snorted. "Miriam will no sooner leave this planet than you will. She believes in this world, in this people, as much as you do."

"And does she support partnership with the Conglomerate?"

That drew the colony man up short. "You know, I don't think she's ever said."

Archibald laughed heartily, which given his sickly appearance was startling for someone not prepared for it. "Maybe you ought to ask her some time!"

"I think I might." Levi tried not to grumble.

"Seriously, Levi...what are you afraid of?"

"I'm afraid of many things, Archibald. Mainly, I'm afraid that Miriam is going to get this disease. But even if that doesn't happen ... I'm afraid I'll lose her anyway ... that her spirit will be crushed at the sight of so much death. She's held the hand of dying friends, Archibald. No girl her age should have to go through that."

"She's your granddaughter...and your spirit hasn't been crushed one bit," replied Hiawithus.

Levi sighed. "Yet."

August 01, 2008

Zion's Children - pt 18

"I worry about you."

They had this conversation every morning. Miri smiled as she sat down next to her grandfather at their wooden table. Her father had made it from trees from the forest long before she had been born, a betrothal gift when he was courting her mother, Levi's daughter. "I know you do, Grandfather. It is how I know that I am loved."

Levi Davidson snorted. "You work too hard amongst people who do not share our faith, Miriam."

"I'm trying to keep our families from dying," she protested lightly as she bit into overcooked eggs. Not only did her grandfather overcook them, he never seasoned them to her liking either. She sprinkled salt and pepper on them even as he continued his arguements.

"Our people have always been dying. Even before Hitler Exiled us to the wasteland of space. God sent plagues in the desert long before we were sent into the desert of the stars." Levi sighed, knowing that he would loose the argument as he did each day, no matter what new twists he put into it. "This is just one more Plague sent by God to try our faith and weed out..."

"This illness does not come from God!" Miri actually slammed her fork to the table. "And you cannot tell me that God would count the children I have seen die as unworthy! I have read the scriptures just like you, maybe not for as many years, but I know that He loves the children! He scolded his own disciples publicly when they tried to send the children away."

Levi was quiet, conceding the point.

Suddenly, her breakfast no longer appealed to her. She ought to be used to his disaproval of her work in the Post hospital, but it was a tiring subject. Why couldn't he just be proud of her? She slid the plate away and stood. He caught her hand, and held her back from leaving.

"Do you go for the people, Miriam? Is it a burden given to you by God? Or do you go because you like the off-worlders? Because they praise you and stroke your ego?"

This was the newest twist to her grandfather's disapproval. And it cut her to the core that he would think such things of her. But, she answered all the questions truthfully with just one word before pulling free from his gentle grip. "Yes."

Levi sighed, unsure how to interpret her willfulness. "It cannot be yes to all Miriam...pride goes before the fall and I do not wish to see you fall."

"Yes, I go for our people...if I can help find the natural reason for this illness, then I will. Yes, it is something I believe God wants me to do. Yes, I like the off-worlders...Many of them are kind good people. I have seen Marcus...Doctor Alexander weep for the patients he has lost. Lily Bennett is a colony girl, Grandfather. She might not be of our world, but she is of our people and our faith! Yes, they praise me...they encourage the giftings in me, and make me believe that I can be something more than a man's property. It is not pride to acknowledge who I am. And it is not my pride that will doom our people." Miri sighed, then planted a light kiss on his wrinkled forehead. "We really need to find something new to argue about, Grandfather. But later. I must go now if I am to be on time."

Levi sighed in the silence. Knowing his granddaughter as he did, he had no doubt that it wouldn't be long before she supplied him with something new to argue about.

July 30, 2008

Zion's Children - pt 17

Byrin only had a few hours sleep and he was headed back to the lab. So far, all the blood samples had been as they were supposed to - with one acception. Those who weren't sick yet, had normal healthy blood. Those who were sick, varied from age group to age group. However, he had acquired a blood sample from a deceased fever victim on a whim, and was surprised to see that the virus was still active and consuming cells long after the person was dead. He had half a mind to dig up the early victims to see if there was anything left of them. He wasn't sure how that would go over though.

From his brief exposure to the people here, he had already caught on that they were a deeply religious society. Even more serious about it that Lily Bennett if he was any judge, though they were no where near as uptight about it as she was. At any rate, he didn't think that they'd react well to his request to 'desecrate' the dead.

And to be completely honest, he wasn't sure of what he would find if the virus continued to be active in a dead body. Would there be anything left at all?

Unsure of how long Miri's originial blood sample had been stored in the refrigeration unit, he lowered the temperature to a quicker freeze while he had been gone for the 'night'. Even now, it was still dark out as he walked back to the lab. Byrin paused only briefly to gaze at the starlit sky. The constellations were unfamiliar here, but on any other night, he would have found them captivating.

He slipped into the hospital as quietly as possible. Even at this early hour, there was activity. Night watch was as busy as the day it seemed, though it seemed quieter. Once in the lab, he pulled the blood samples out and prepared to thaw them.

"Here kind of early aren't you?" came a voice behind him.

Byrin turned and found Doctor Alexander entering the room. "Aren't you?"

The older doctor chuckled. "The difference is, I sleep here."

"Did you sleep well?"

"Did you?" Alexander asked in reply.


"Neither did I."

"I won't tell Miri if you don't," Byrin commented, beginning to prepare his slides.

The other doctor laughed. "Don't tell me you're afraid of her!"

"That's not the word I would choose." Byrin shook his head. "She's very good at taking care of people."

"That she is. And just to warn you - she'll be able to tell we haven't slept. Whether she'll say anything about it, is a fifty-fifty chance we'll have to take. Just, when she threatens to sedate you, go to bed and get some sleep. Trust me, it's not a pleasant experience."

"Speaking from experience?"


When Alexander didn't elaborate further, Byrin wisely let it drop. "Does she get her way often then?"

The white haired doctor sighed. "Most of the time. She's usually right." Then the doctor grinned widely. "I trained her well."

Byrin chuckled. "So you're the one we have to thank."

"I am."

There was a moment of silence as Byrin held up a vial of blood that was clearly beginning to break down. The red of the blood was streaked with darker layers. "What do you make of that?"

"Please tell me that's not Miri's new sample."

"It's not."

"What stage of the disease it that from?"

Byrin shook the vial gently, but the layers of separation didn't disappear. "Post mortem."

July 03, 2008

Zion's Children pt - 16

Byrin ate the thin slices of glazed meat on his plate, vaguely wondering what it was. It sort of tasted like beef, but he wasn't quite sure. Not that it mattered, really. It had been so long since he had eaten 'real' food that he could be eating dog meat for all he knew and it would have tasted wonderful. God, he hoped it wasn't dog meat! The bland food served in most ConFleet mess halls and on the starships were so processed that it ceased being 'real' long before it ever hit the plate. There were also long green beans and a mashed squash that he was unfamiliar with. The greens beans were seasoned well with pepper and the squash was sweetened with a sugar of some kind.

He normally didn't focus this much on food, but at the moment it was distracting him from his distraction. Miri did have a point...he couldn't cure this disease in one night, no matter how hard he tried. But each time he looked at her, he felt an urgency he had never felt before. Her original blood sample had been teaming with the cursed virus...even though her new one was clean. It was something they couldn't explain yet, but he knew deep down that it was a only a matter of time before this woman was sick and dying. And he didn't want that to happen.

And somehow he had worked himself back around to his first distraction.

It was more than her physical beauty. He had seen prettier women, though not by far. No, there was something deep about this woman. Something he couldn't put his finger on. All he knew is that he couldn't let her die. Suddenly the meat was sticking in his throat despite the thin sauce that flavored it.

"How's your food?" Miri asked suddenly, breaking into his thoughts.

Byrin looked over to her, though he had never really looked away. It looked as though she was nearly done with the blood samples. He should finish soon. "It's fine," he replied. "What exactly is the meat?"

Miri smiled. "It's beef. I doubt it tastes like anything you've ever called beef before. I've sampled ConFleet supplies before."

He laughed at how her nose wrinkled in disgust. "Our processed food does tend to be bland."

"That's one word for it."

"I have heard other descriptions," Byrin admitted. Very descriptive words actually. The price of progress he supposed.

Miri fell silent again, and Byrin let her. He dug back into his food, intent on finishing quickly so he could return to his task. Reflexively he checked the time. Miri was also right about that. He should at least let her go so that she could get some sleep. She must think him a slave driver keeping her to help him this long. Had she taken any breaks? Somehow he didn't think so.

"Miri, why don't you go ahead and get some sleep. I'll finish up here."

She tilted her head to look at him. "And when I return in the morning, will I find that you fell asleep at your computer screen?"

"Do I come off as that driven?"

"You do." Her smile took any sting out of the words. "I will stay, Doctor Gold."

He heard the unspoken 'someone needs to make sure you don't work yourself to death.' He managed to hold in his disgruntled sigh. He'd look at these blood samples and take what notes he needed and then they'd put things away for the night. After all, there was nothing stopping him from coming back early in the morning. He set his fork down, intent on his goal.

"All right then," he said. "Let's get this done so that we can call it a night."

Miri nodded as he hopped to his feet. "That's a good idea."

June 26, 2008

Zion's CHildren pt - 15

The hour was late by the time the new blood samples were collected and labeled. Miri wasn't expecting Byrin to start looking at them until morning, so she started preparing them to be put in the storage unit.

"Stop," Byrin said, seeing what she was doing. "I want to look at them first."

Without a word, she stopped what she was doing and started pulling the vials back out. It had not escaped her notice that the young doctor hadn't eaten yet, even though she had brought him a tray a while ago. On one hand she admired his dedication, but on the other hand...she wasn't sure if it was the 'nurse' in her, or whether it was the 'woman'...but she was beginning to worry that he might be overdoing things. She would have felt the same concern had it been Marcus or even Lily that she was dealing with. But she was beginning to suspect that her concern for Byrin wasn't quite the same.

"Shouldn't you take a moment to eat something?" she asked, as much to distract her thoughts as to make sure he ate.

Byrin gave a small sigh. "Probably."

"Did you see the tray I brought you? The food should still be edible."

"Yeah, I saw it... It's just..."

Miri smiled. "I admire your dedication to save my people, Doctor, but you can't do that unless you eat something once in a while."

Byrin smiled back at her. "You're right." He gave her a quizzical glance. "Is this why Doctor Alexander had you assist me instead of Nurse Bennett?"

She returned his glance, a little confused. "What do you mean?"

"Because you're good at taking care of people even while you're doing the rest of your job."

"Are you saying that Lily isn't good at her job?" she asked, a little sharply. True, she had only met the other woman earlier that day, but if Miri had any faults, one would be her loyalty to her friends.

Byrin actually chuckled. "Not at all. But she's been in this room how many times, and hasn't commented on whether or not I've eaten?"

He did have a point. Miri managed to shrug. "I can't speak for that, or for Marcus. He assigns his people where he will, where he thinks they'll work best."

"So you're saying I might be right?"

"Maybe. Why don't you go over there and eat the food on that tray, and I'll make sure you're all set up to view these samples when you're done?"

He looked like he wanted to chuckle again, but he merely smiled and walked back to the desk where the tray sat. Miri gave a mental sigh of relief when he began to pick at the food there. She busied her hands with the samples and slides, intent of having the first set ready for him when he was done.

Why had Doctor Alexander assigned her to help this new doctor, instead of the nurse that had accompanied him? Miri had never questioned Marcus' decisions before, and she wasn't now. But Byrin's casual remark did set her to wondering about it herself. Perhaps she would ask him about it tomorrow.

June 19, 2008

Zion's Children pt - 14

Miri walked into a quiet lab. Her new friend Lily stood next to Doctor Alexander, who was staring blankly at the microscope while Byrin had moved to stand near the lab's one darkly tinted window. She set down her files, the hard copy backups, onto the counter and waited to see if they would acknowledge her. When they didn't, she blurted out, "I'm sick, aren't I? I just don't know it yet."

The three officers jumped at her voice.

"Actually," Byrin said, turning from the window. He crossed the room as he spoke, his green eyes somber. "Your blood tested negative for the virus."


"We know," Alexander interrupted. "It doesn't make sense. Did you find the information you were looking for?"

It was a sign that he was shaken that he had to ask. "I have," Miri answered. "C-15D belonged to Benton Davidson. He was in his 15th year and he died one week ago. Records indicate that he became ill not long after his sample was taken. C-16S belongs to Rebekah Smith. She is nearing her third decade and is still well."

"How old are you, Miri?" Byrin asked. He picked up the files she had set down and flipped through them.

"25," she answered simply.

"Could age be a factor?" Lily wondered aloud.

"The older ones have been slower to become ill," Alexander commented. "Although they don't live as long as the younger ones do. It hits them harder and faster."

Byrin nodded. "Random blood samples, control and ill, from each age group. For both groups, I also want their complete medical background. If we have the people to spare, I want each of the Control group monitored. If we don't have the people, have them monitor themselves...what they eat, what they drink, where...what they do in their free time...everything."

Alexander actually laughed. "Don't ask much, do you?"

The younger doctor had the good grace to blush.

"I'll do my best to see that you get what you want," Alexander replied. "Lily, you split your nurses up however you see fit to draw the blood. You and Miri can work on the cataloging together. Although, Miri..."

"Marc, don't ask me to start taking it easy. I've been working right along not knowing anything was wrong with me, why should I start now? Unless we find that it's an airborne contagion, which I believe hasn't been done yet."

The older doctor laughed again. "My God woman, you've worked for me too long if you can read my mind that well. All right, but I want you to monitor yourself even more than usual. The instant you feel the slightest bit ill..."

"You'll be the first one to know about it," Miri promised. "I do believe it is nearing dinner time however, the carts ought to making their rounds soon. Do you want to break for a moment or eat in?"

Alexander checked his wrist watch. "Right on the money, as always. I promise to eat on the run my dear. Lily, Byrin, you can make up your own minds."

"I'll eat soon," Lily likewise promised, feeling somewhat amused that she was attempting to take care of them.

"I'm not hungry," Byrin said. He turned away from the trio and returned to the main computer.

Nothing was said, but Miri caught the senior doctor's eye long enough to let him know that she would watch out for the younger doctor. After all, it would do her people no good if the man they had prayed for were to fall ill himself before he could find the answer to their illness.

June 16, 2008

Zion's Children pt - 13

Doctor Alexander didn't believe it until he saw it with his own eyes. Both he and Lily followed Miri to the lab, and both peered through the microscope. Alexander looked a second time, for a long moment that was heavy with silence. When he pulled away, his face was drawn and white. "Miri, are you certain this is your blood sample?"

"Of course," Miri said, her irritation showing. Ever since these new ConFleet officers had arrived, it seemed that her abilities were being questioned. "I cataloged the samples myself."

"Have you drawn a new sample and had it looked at?"

Miri shook her head.

"That was going to be my next step," said Byrin, deciding not to comment that Miri had left too quickly for him to get a sample.

"But I don't feel any of the symptoms," Miri protested.

"Yes, and this blood sample says you should be almost dead. I'd like to find out why." Alexander looked to Lily. "Find a hypo and draw some blood from her."

Lily left without so much as an acknowledging nod.

"We should draw some more samples," Byrin said. "And have the storage unit checked, to see if it's malfunctioned or been tampered with in any way."

"Why would anyone do such a thing?" Miri asked. Such things were unheard of on this world.

"I'll make sure those things are done," Alexander said to Byrin. He turned to Miri. "Miri, darling, in times of crisis, people do the most desperate things, no matter how illogical."

"Why would someone tamper with the control samples?" argued Miri.

Byrin shrugged. "It'd be a great way to lower morale around here."

"Or mislead our research." Alexander scowled as he looked out the lab door, waiting for Lily to return.


"No, not another word. Have you found out who the other two control donor's were?" Two white, almost bushy, eyebrow climbed his forehead.

"Not yet," answered Miri.

"As soon as Lily draws a new sample from you, that is your first order of duty."

Lily returned then, hypo in hand. In silence she drew a sample of blood from Miri. Automatically closing the top off, she handed it to Doctor Alexander.

"All right, Miri. Go ahead now. We'll tell you what we know when you return with those other two names."

"And what their present medical status is," added Byrin.

The young woman made a very disgusted sound, and left the room.

Lily smiled and almost chuckled. "Not exactly afraid to voice her thoughts and feelings is she?"

Alexander answered even as he and Byrin prepared to look at her blood. "Colony world children are like that, I believe. They haven't grown up with the Treaty of Conglomerance. Especially those from America, whose ancestors had the Declaration of Independence."

"I never thought of it that way," Lily admitted.

There was silence after that, as the three split a small portion of Miri's blood and viewed the first one. They each viewed it, then viewed it again.

Byrin voiced what they had all seen...and still had trouble processing... "There's no sign of the virus. She's healthy."

Unspoken was the phrase, 'for now.'

June 08, 2008

Zion's Children - pt 12

Lily swiped the probe end of the thermometer across the forehead of the elderly women she was tending to. She hated these thermometers because the reading wasn't as accurate. The general rule of thumb was to add a degree to the results. The small device beeped once, and she turned it to see the readout. 103.3 was not a good readout, especially after adding that one degree.

"How long have you felt this way?" she asked as she prepared a hypo-shot combination of two drugs, acetominophen and a strong antiviral.

The woman was barely able to answer her. "About a week."

"Why didn't you come in sooner, Evvie?" asked Doctor Alexander as he entered the exam area.

"Not enough beds..." Evvie winced as Lily administered the drugs.

"I'd have built one for you!" Alexander admonished kindly. "I'd have given you my own!"

"You already don't get enough sleep," Evvie whispered.

"Hush," Alexander replied. "Lily, if there isn't a bed free, seriously, give her mine. It's the one in the back room."

Lily nodded. "There've been a few that have freed up since I've arrived," she said softly so that Evvie wouldn't hear.

The male doctor sighed. "Come see me when you've gotten her settled."

Again, Lily nodded. She saw the elderly Evvie to a bed and had a civilian orderly help get her settled. The old woman was asleep before Lily left her. She went in search of the doctor, and found him resting in his office. His head was down on his desk, and it took a moment for her to realize that he was weeping. She shut the door fully behind her.

"Doctor Alexander?" she asked softly.

He shuddered, then straightened, hurriedly wiping his face. "I'm all right, Lily. It's just, this is very hard on a man who has delivered their babies, set their broken bones. Every doctor sees his people buried, but it's not supposed to be like this."

"You're right," she agreed. "It's not. When I was a girl, there was a similar plague on my planet. No where near as deadly as this one is, hardly anyone died. It's what made me want to be a nurse."

"As I recall, that was the Flu Scare on Beta Talisman."

"You remember rightly, Doctor Alexander."

"Now Lily," even though he was still a little snuffly from his tears, he stressed his familiar use of her name. "I believe I told you to call me Marcus."

"Once again, you're right." Curse it! She felt herself blushing.

There was a soft knock on the door.

"Come in, Miri," Alexander called out, recognizing her profile through the frosted glass of the door.

Miri cracked the door, taking in the scene without a comment. "Marc...we have a problem."

May 16, 2008

Zion's Children - pt 11

"The first thing I want to do," Byrin stated after Alexander had left. He turned on his stool to face the woman that remained with him. Even with his mind on his task, he was still able to take note that she was a beautiful woman. "Is to rerun the blood tests. Do you still have the same samples, or do will we need to draw new blood?"

"The original samples remain." Miri could not hide the upset from her face.

"What's bothering you?" he asked, concerned.

She hesitated before asking, "Do you not trust Marcus' judgement?"

"What? Oh no, I do. I just want to run my own tests." Byrin shrugged. "I like to see things with my own eyes."

Miri nodded, accepting his reason. "I will fetch the samples for you."

"Thank you."


"Miri?" Byrin asked, several hours later. Only the first rounds of his tests were complete, but already he had run into a snag. "Do you by any chance know if these are all the blood samples that were taken?"

"Yes," she replied, coming to stand closer to him. "Why do you ask?"

"There aren't any control samples," Byrin replied.

"But, Doctor Alexander has taken three different samples from people who have shown no signs of the illness."

"Really?" Byrin looked up at her, struck by how brilliant her blue eyes were. "Then why aren't they with the rest of the tests results?"

Miri didn't hide her confusion. "They are. The control samples were numbered C-14B, C-15D, and C-16S."

His sandy blond eyebrows shot up in surprise. "You're kidding. Miri, all three of those samples show active virus cells."


"Here...look for yourself." He selected two slides. "This one is C-14B...and this one is V-1A." He set them side by side on the powerful microscope. He stepped to the side and motioned for her to look.

Miri took a step and then leaned down to look into the eyepiece. The two blood samples were nearly identical. 1A was clearly more advanced then the previous control sample, but the two samples showed active virus cells. She pulled away and straightened. "That is impossible."

"Yet - it is." Byrin didn't consider his next words very well. "How were these samples stored?"

Miri hesitated only a heartbeat before answering, "I left them out on the counter all these months."

"What?!" He hoped she was joking.

"Commander, I realize that I am not ConFleet personnel, but I still follow your procedures. The samples were quick frozen. The only time they have been at room temperature was the last time they were tested and the time before this testing."

Byrin sighed. "Miri, I didn't mean it that way."

"How did you mean it then?"

He struggled for words. "I just wanted to know how they were stored!"

"By suggesting that this facility was storing them improperly?"

"All right, I apologize."

Miri looked like she didn't believe him. "Perhaps we ought to be finding out why this has happened?"

"Yes, let's." Byrin took a deep breath. "We're going to need new blood samples. And I would like to find out whether the people who gave the controls samples have contracted the illness."

"Agreed. I can tell you that the one who gave C-14B is still quite healthy. I will have to check the paperwork to find out who the other two came from."

Byrin gave her a quizzical look. "How do you know the one off the top of your head?"

"Because it came from me."

May 14, 2008

Zion's Children - pt 10

"Miri's one in a million, Gold, "Alexander said with a pleasant smile. "If I were ten years younger, I'd seriously think about marrying her. She's bright and she works circles around others. She came in here one day, about four years ago and demanded to be allowed to help. This was before this sickness started. Her parents had died from illness when she was a little girl, and her grandfather Levi, who's the leader of this colony, raised her. I gather that her parents dying has a lot to do with her interest in medicine. Levi's a cross between a high priest and governor, and he can be as cross as a bear with a toothache, but I've seen him go all soft for Miri. He and Archie have some fine arguments, but they still go fishing with each other on the weekend."

"What do they disagree about?" Byrin asked.

"It would be better to say what they don't disagree about!" Alexander laughed. "The two spend more time arguing than agreeing. From supplies to Partnership. Archie firmly believes that Partnering with the Conglomerate would benefit these people, while Levi..."

"Grandfather doesn't think we ought to Partner with the Conglomerate because he feels that it would interfere with the people's faith," came Miri's voice as she entered the lab. "And here I would have thought that the two of you would have been in deep discussion about medical issues rather than political. Grandfather always thought you were more politician than doctor, Marc."

"It never hurts to know which way the wind blows, Miri," replied Alexander. "Besides, Byrin has all the information he needs on the screen before him."

"And it makes no sense," Byrin muttered. It was a little embarrassing getting caught discussing something other than the disease. He wondered how much the woman had overheard, and if she was angry over being part of the conversation. He couldn't help it if he found her intriguing, even in the midst of trying to figure out how to heal her people. "I can understand a virus weakening an immune system, even immune systems attacking itself. I mean, the Nazi Regime introduced viruses all the time to wipe out towns. But this virus isn't anything I've ever seen or studied before. It's not even a rogue mutation of anything known. And from what is here, you haven't found the trigger yet."

"This is why you were called in, Byrin. We're hoping you can see something we can't."

Byrin didn't answer. He did just scan the information, and from the looks of things, there were more files to go through. "How many people have died so far?"

"It has killed roughly half of the people in this region. I have not heard what the numbers are for the other two regions on the planet," Miri answered quietly.

"The numbers are about the same. The two villages are smaller than this one," Alexander said for Byrin's benefit.

Miri continued to speak. "We boil our water before drinking and cooking. We even boil the water we use for cleaning, and the water we bathe in. We have washed everything that's washable, and a few things that weren't. We disinfect everything with the supplies the Conglomerate sends. We maintain the highest possible sanitary conditions, and still we have people dying of fevers with no notice.

Doctor Alexander rose from his stool. "I shall return to tending the sick, and mollifying Archi and Levi. I'll leave the two of you to your work."

He left the two in a gloomy silence.

May 09, 2008

Zion's Children - pt 9

"The first ship landed here in 2039. They used the ship to build the first shelters, as most colonies did back then. Half the first shipment died within the first year due to starvation and exposure to the winter elements. Three more ships were sent here, overcrowded and low on supplies, before they started shipping the Exiles to Beta Talisman. It wasn't long after that the government was overthrown and these people were left on their own while Earth reorganized itself. Through hard work and some spilled blood, these people forged their own society. And you're right, it's mainly a mix of Jewish and American cultures."

"The Americans were a hardy lot in their day," Byrin commented when Alexander paused in his story. "Part of my family descends from late American Rebels."

"I know," remarked Alexander. "Information can be hard to get out here, but I do my best to follow your career. I remember well all the press reports when your heritage came out."

Byrin chuckled, trying to hide his embarrassment. "Yes, well, depending on which news channel you watched, I was either lauded for having heroes for ancestors...or 'rebel outlaws'."

Alexander made a snorting sound. "Those were tabloid scum that thought they could get higher ratings, boy. Everyone knows that if it weren't for the late American and French Rebels that the Hitler’s would never have been overthrown. The Nazi Regime was the bloodiest mess anyone ever saw."

"And if what you tell me is true, there's still traces of it left."

"Mostly attitudes," the white haired doctor said. "Some people feel that there would never have been a Holocaust if it weren't for the Jews, so they'd rather that the people just disappear. They don't seem to get that it's the same attitude of the government that they overthrew."

“But they act on these attitudes?” Byrin asked, betraying his ignorance of the machinations of the government he served.

Alexander reminded himself that the young doctor had probably spent more time in labs and hospitals than in current events. “Shipments to Colony Worlds that haven’t partnered with the Conglomerate are routinely delayed. They’re often incomplete and damaged. Food supplies that are meant to feed the colonists are often spoiled, while the rations for ConFleet aren’t. I’ve even known of shipments that never arrive. As you can see, we are short staffed. Once a Colony World, such as Beta Talisman is partnered, such things generally stop. But not always.”

Conversation lagged for a moment as Byrin was caught up in the old test results. Initial symptoms were hard to spot, as the mimicked the flu. Byrin shook his head; so many deadly viruses mimicked the flu in the early stages. And from what he was seeing from the viral was something new. It wasn't even a mutation. From the initial achiness and dizziness, the body's temperature began to rise as the virus took over healthy cells and either transformed the cell into a new virus cell, or consumed it for energy. It didn’t seem fair to Byrin that this world had to deal with a deadly disease on top of the injustices that Doctor Alexander had voiced.

"I never answered your question, did I?" Alexander mused, interrupting Byrin's study.

"Which one?"

"About Miriam."

Byrin turned his head from the computer screen before him to look at the other man. "No, not really." He smiled in anticipation and once again, waited for the doctor to share.

March 31, 2008

Zion's Children - pt 8

"This is a vicious disease," Doctor Alexander said, sitting down on a stool in the lab he had taken Byrin to. "High fever, with delirium. As far as I can tell, their immune systems are turning against them and attacking the healthy cells."

"Have you found the trigger?" Byrin asked, looking around. The high tech equipment they had brought with them hadn't been set up yet, but he could see that it would contrast almost violently with the quaint room, as did the equipment that was already present. There was a healthy array of equipment set up among wooden tables and chairs as well a as mixture of wooden and metal cabinets. At least the Conglomerate coloring was absent.

"You wouldn't be here if I knew what the trigger was." Alexander sighed tiredly. "I can't find anything in the water. The air is fine, better than anything you'll find on Earth. Pollen and mold counts are the same they've been since I landed here with the Admiral. Their food is better than the highly nutritious ConFleet ration bars. I'm fresh out of ideas."

"All right," Byrin wisely ignored the sarcasm he detected in some of the other doctor's comments. "Do you mind if I go over your data? Just in case you missed something?"

Alexander smiled roguishly. "If that were to come from anyone other than you, Gold, I'd be offended. It's all on the main computer." He waved toward the longest rectangular table and the machine that sat upon it. "Go for it. When Miri gets here, I'll leave the two of you to work on your own. And don't worry, she's well acquainted with our technology."

Byrin centered himself in front of the main computer and began to access its files. "What is it with her? I mean, you've set her above ConFleet officers and seem to prefer her. Doesn't anyone mind?"

"Other than your Lieutenant, no one minds. Because I'm not the only one that prefers her. Everyone here can see her potential, along with the countless others we have working with us. If this planet were a full partner in the Conglomerate, she'd have been sent of to the Academy before she'd finished high school. And she's just one woman. This planet is full of untapped potential. It's a waste."

"I heard the Admiral say the same thing." Byrin scrutinized an early test as he spoke. It didn't escape his attention that the older man hadn't exactly answered his question. Even if this planet was full of untapped potential, that still didn't explain Miri's favored status.

"That doesn't surprise me," replied the other doctor. "Archie's been trying to get this colony turned into a full Conglomerate partner for years. He's their biggest supporter."

"I gather as much. What seems to be the hold up? With the partnership, I mean."

"Left over anti-semitism."

Bryin turned his gaze to look at the other doctor. "Excuse me?"

"You don't know?" Alexander sounded shocked. "Zeta Muria is one of the first colonies ever formed."

The younger doctor cursed. "Which means it was formed primarily of Jews and Americans."

"Ah, so you do know a bit of history."

"Some." Byrin turned his gaze back to the computer screen, but his attention was divided. "Tell me more about the colony."

March 01, 2008

Zion's Children - pt 7

Although their backs were turned to her Miri nodded her head at Doctor Alexander's instructions. She watched their departure with interest, then turned back to regard Lily Bennett with curiosity. "You're not really upset, are you? About not working with the handsome doctor?"

Lily smirked. "Miriam, my taste finds Doctor Alexander far more handsome than Gold." Which was true. She preferred the calm authoritative men to the pompous ones. His white hair made him look older than he was, but he was still handsome.

"Then why did you question Marc's decision?"

She shrugged. Why indeed? "Old habits die hard," was all Lily decided to share. It would be embarrassing to admit that it was jealousy of the other woman.

"Yes," Miri agreed. She almost smiled. "Sometimes the old nature doesn't want to admit that it was crucified on the cross."

Lily blinked. "Excuse me?"

"Are you not a Christian?"

Now Lily frowned. "ConFleet regulations prohibit religious witness."

Miri gave a knowing smile. "ConFleet regulations prohibit their officers from sharing their faith, with each other and the people they serve. Yes, I know. I've worked closely with Confleet these past several years and know their regulations rather well. Of course, it helped growing up with them. Nurse Bennett, the regulations state that you cannot start the conversation and that you cannot proselytize. I started the conversation, and I am already a Christian. We are well within the regulations, regardless of whether my assessment of you is correct."

"Indeed, we are." That could explain why the woman had seemed familiar to her earlier. She had heard of the phenomenom before, of Christians being able to recognize one another on sight, but had never experienced it herself. "How is it you're a Christian? I mean..."

Miri chuckled. "Three quarters of this colony held to the Judeo-Christian faith long before the first ConFleet ships set down and announced that there was going to be a military outpost on this world. I've been told they were quite surprised to discover that, along with the fact that we had some semblance of 'civilization'. Come, we'll talk more as we walk and work. Marc doesn't like to be kept waiting."

Lily gave a friendly smile. This was a likable woman, and she knew they were going to be great friends.

February 28, 2008

Zion's Children - pt 6

Authors note: sorry this has taken so long, moving was a regular pain in the butt. Literally! Back to our story...

"Good!" Doctor Alexander rubbed his hands together briskly. "Now that all the introductions are out of the way, let's get to work! Gold, you'll come with me to the lab and I'll brief you. Miri, you show Nurse Bennett around. I want her to take your place so that you can assist Doctor Gold."

"Excuse me? I was under the impression that I would be assisting Doctor Gold," Lily spoke up with a firm voice. By no means was she going to allow herself to be displaced by an unschooled colony girl who had gained the favoritism of the head doctor!

There was a moment of uncomfortable silence.

"Marc, if she'd rather work with the doctor, I don't mind," said the younger woman softly.

"But I do." Doctor Alexander replied, his face as firm as Lily's tone had been. "Nurse Bennett..." He paused to look at the rank pips on the woman's uniform collar, even though her rank had already been given. It was a decidedly polite, if stern, silent reminder for the nurse to remember her place. "Lieutenant, I don't know what you were expecting, but I am the senior ranking medical officer assigned to this delightful rock. I am here in the midst of this situation and have been since the start...given that, ConFleet fully recognizes that I might be a little better equipped to make command decisions than some desk jockey in the high rises on Earth. Grand Admiral Kensington herself said that I would be free to reassign as I saw fit."

Lily nodded, recognizing authority and submitting to it. Not that the doctor left any room for argument. "My apologies, Doctor. I misunderstood my orders."

"Feel free to come to me when you have questions, Nurse Bennett, then we can avoid these embarrassing moments." Alexander turned to the taciturn Freeman...who looked as uncomfortable as a cat in a dog kennel. "Jonathan, thank you for your services. Tell Archie we're hard at work."

"I'll do that. Good day." Freeman turned and left. Quickly.

Silence once again descended.

"You were going to show me the lab?" Byrin prompted the other doctor.

"Yes, so I was. Miri, when you're done with Nurse Bennett, come find us. This way Gold." He gave one last quizzical look at Lily, then turned and walked away.