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.