Authors: J.M. Dillard
“Captain James Kirk. I assume you were told you're aboard the starship
“Yes, I spoke with Dr. McCoy earlier. Where are we? Still orbiting Tanis?”
“At the moment, but we'll be leaving shortly. Your signal pulled us out of our way. We were mapping in the Sagittarian arm a few parsecs out. Dr. McCoy's been taking care of you, but I presume we'll be receiving orders shortly to drop you at Star Base Thirteen.”
“I'm very lucky you happened by.”
“I can't say we expected to find anyone out here. It's
Adams, isn't it? Are you a physician?”
“A microbiologist. Botanical diseases.”
“Is that the type of work you're doing down there?”
“Yes, of course.” Adams seemed puzzled. “Is there some sort of problem about the base?”
“As a matter of fact, yes. Dr. McCoy reported that you were using some sort of isolation method”
“Containment procedures, yes.” Adams nodded congenially. “I see. You probably thought we're doing work with life-form pathogens. I assure you we aren't. If you check Federation records, you'll find there was a tragic case of contamination from a base like ours near Deneb. A worker leaving the facility spread a plant disease that virtually wiped out agriculture in that system. Since then, containment procedures such as ours have been the law.”
Kirk made a mental note to check it out, then said, “I see.” He let the disbelief show in his voice to see what kind of effect it would have on his prisoner, but Adams only smiled, his eyes focused on a spot about six inches to the right of Kirk's ear. “Dr. Adams, Dr. McCoy tells me you've been unwell for some time.”
Adams nodded. “I've never been robust, if that's what he was referring to, Captain. Shuttle accident. I suffered some internal damageâhad most of it replaced without much problem, although the doctors had a devil of a time getting the small intestine to absorb nutrients.â¦ Feel free to check that out with Dr. McCoy.”
“Actually, I was referring to the infection.”
Adams dropped the locket. “Infection?”
Kirk shifted guiltily. “You mean you weren't told?”
“No, I wasn't.”
“McCoy says that the organism causing the infection seems to be very rareâthe computer knows nothing about it.”
“I don't understand,” Adams said softly.
“I'd like to hear your explanation of how you could have become infected. You've been isolated for some time on that base. How could you have been exposed to a rare disease?”
Adams shook his head. “I'm not sure.â¦ It's extremely unlikely that one of the organisms could mutate into something that could affect humans. And containment was never brokenâthat is, unless”
“One of the researchers down thereâYoshi Takhumara. He he went insane.”
Adams became suddenly irritable. “How should
know? Sometimes it happens, for God's sake. You obviously don't trust me.”
“Sorry,” Kirk said shortly, without trying to sound as if he meant it. “Keep talking.”
“He murdered the other researcher there with us” He stopped, as if unable to say the name, and then hurried past the thought. “I think it was a case of unrequited love. It would have been possible for him to sabotage the alarm and the instant seal-off of the lab that would occur in the case of a break in containment.” He paused briefly, considering. “Yes, that would make sense. After all, he sabotaged the lighting system.”
“I heard about that. No lights. Why would he want to do that?”
“So he could stalk us more easily, I suppose.” Adams turned his head toward the wall. “Don't ask me what happened to him, Captain, because I don't understand it myself.”
“The other researcher”
“I assume Yoshi killed her. I stumbled over her body in the dark.” He looked back quickly, his voice stronger and more passionate. “If you don't believe me, if you want to arrest me, go ahead.”
“There's hardly any need for me to do that,” Kirk answered. He had already decided that McCoy was right: the man seemed too lucid to be a murderer, but not too lucid to be involved in something illegal. “After all, you're confined to isolation until McCoy can figure out what's wrong with you.” He paused. “What I'd really like to hear is your explanation of why your colleague suddenly decided to take leave of his sanity.”
“How am I supposed to know?” Adams' voice rose in sudden anger, but he continued. “After I found Lara's body”
“Dr. Lara Krovozhadny, physician and microbiologist,” Adams said miserably, in a way that let Kirk know she had been more than just a colleague. “The three of us had been working together for two years. After I found Lara's body I went to her office and sealed it off with the manual controls. Thank God Yoshi hadn't thought to sabotage those.â¦ That's when I signaled for help. I left the intercom on so that when your people came, I heard and came out.”
“I see. Would you be willing to tell all this to the computer?”
“You think I'm lying, don't you?” For the first time, Adams' tone hardened. “What do you want from me?”
“Did it occur to you that I might not know what the hell is going on myself?” Adams grimaced suddenly, so that Kirk could see his pale gray gums, so receded that the teeth appeared hideously elongated. “You think I'm lying, don't you?”
“I have no idea,” Kirk said smoothly, though he felt repulsed by the sight of the man. “Would you be willing to tell your story to the computer?”
“Of course.” Adams' head dropped back on the pillow as if he were suddenly weary from the outburst. “I haven't done anything illegal, Captain. I certainly haven't killed anyone, and as far as our research on Tanis, we were doing work approved by the Federation and Starfleet. Go ahead and check it out.”
“I'll do that,” Kirk said. “One last question. Can you explain why Starfleet told us
to respond to your distress signal? And why Tanis is listed as uninhabitedâif you've been there two years?”
Adams did not reply immediately. “No. I can't explain that.”
It was an ambiguous answer at best.
ON THE TERMINAL screen in the conference room off sickbay, a man sat frozen at a cluttered Fleet-issue desk. His face was severeâbut it was not so much his expression as the configuration of his features: ominous black brows and coarse, exaggerated lips and nose. He was stocky without being fatâmuscular, with a short wide neck and powerful shoulders. He leaned forward over the desk, his thick fingers meshed together in a gesture of sincerity. Above the deeply carved lines in his forehead, his scalp was pink and smooth, hairless as a newborn's, and the surviving fringe of wavy black hair had just begun to silver.
Kirk had never met Mendez before, but he was struck by the strong physical resemblance the admiral bore to his younger brother, JosÃ©. Jim Kirk and JosÃ© Mendez had been on a first-name basis for years, since Commodore JosÃ© Mendez was in charge of Star Base Eleven, where the
often took leave. Jim didn't know JosÃ© all that well, but he thought warmly of the man. After all, it was JosÃ© who had once convinced the brass to drop the charges against Spock for violating General Order Seven.
But there was something Kirk instinctively disliked about the brother perhaps it was the intangible air of arrogance, or the fact that the elder Mendez had the look of a bully.
McCoy fidgeted in his swivel chair and peered impatiently at the screen. “What's keeping Spock, anyway? It isn't like him to be late.”
“Blame it on me.” Kirk stood next to the terminal, arms folded in front of his chest. “I've got him looking at their records. How's the lab coming on that virus?”
“They agree with meâthe thing's been genetically engineered.”
“Any way of proving that?”
“Not really, no. But I'd swear to it. We're all working on the vaccineâno harm in it.”
“What about a cure?”
McCoy sighed. “We're working on that, too, of course. I've made it top priority for sickbay and the lab. But it doesn't look good for Adams.” He looked up as the door to the conference room opened.
Spock entered and took the chair next to the doctor. “I regret the delay, Captain.” The Vulcan's expression was typically inscrutable, but there was something in his tone that boded ill. “I'm afraid that I had some difficulty retrieving the records. Most of them were lost.”
Spock shifted almost imperceptibly in his chair. Anyone unfamiliar with Vulcans would never have noticed. “When I initiated a scan, it activated a virus program on the Tanis computers which immediately erased all records.”
“A virus program.” McCoy jabbed in Jim's direction with an elbow. “Get it?”
Kirk grimaced but otherwise ignored him. “No one thought to anticipate something like that happening?”
“Actually,” Spock continued without gracing McCoy's remark with so much as a glance, “our computers are programmed to anticipate such a possibilityâbut the programming. on the Tanis computers is extremely sophisticated. It was obviously done by a class-one expert.” Spock paused, and this time Kirk was more certain that he caught a glimmer of disappointment on the Vulcan's face. “I was able to Save some of the records which were not overlaid. It will take some time to reconstruct the data, since it is not in any coherent format. I'm afraid we were left with isolated bits of information. As for the rest, the damage was irreversible.”
“You did what you could,” Kirk said, not quite able to keep the bitterness from his voice. “We still have Adams. He's scheduled for a computer verification scan. We can still find out what we need to know.”
“Doesn't look too good for him, does it?” McCoy finally spoke up. “Wonder how he'll explain away that program?”
“I wonder.” A muscle in Jim's jaw twitched; the doctor's suggestion that the Fleet might be involved in biowarfare research was becoming uncomfortably plausible. He pressed a control on the keyboard in front of the viewscreen and sat down.
The man on the terminal came to life. His eyes pierced intently from the viewscreen, as though he sought to catch the eye of the viewer, and when he spoke at last, the voice was as deep and authoritative as Kirk expected.
“Admiral Mendez responding to your taped message. It is unfortunate that your party beamed down. In response to your questions, Captainâyes, Tanis is an agricultural colony. However, the work being done there is classified; in light of the incident with the Klingons on Sherman's Planet, perhaps you can appreciate the need for secrecy. However, we found your report most disturbingâit indicates to us that the researchers were deviating from their assigned project. As you know, research on bioweaponry is expressly forbidden, and Starfleet upholds that law. From what you've told us, it sounds as if the researchers were infected with some type of madness-inducing illness, and Adams should definitely remain isolated. Those who beamed down to the surface, I hope, took the proper precautions upon their return. If not, they, too, should be isolated.”
“Give that man a prize for stating the obvious,” McCoy said,
“Hush,” Kirk murmured. “It starts getting interesting about here.”
“If in fact the researchers have been infected with a microbe of their own making, samples of it must no doubt remain on Tanis; you are to retrieve it and bring it aboard the
” under strict containment, of courseâalong with any other microbes in the lab, since it is essential that any virulent disease not be permitted to fall into enemy hands.”
“I love these guys.” McCoy was full of angry sarcasm. “Enemy hands. As if we were at war with somebody. What do they expect, that we're going to broadcast this to the Klingons and the Romulans and auction it off to the highest bidder?”
“Perhaps not intentionally.” Spock's voice was barely audible. “But if there is in fact a microbe on the surface, it is a possibility that third parties might express an interest, should our transmissions be monitored.”
“analysis, after which we will advise you as to the disposal of any harmful organisms,” Mendez was saying. “As for Dr. Adams, he is to be placed under arrest and brought immediately to Star Base Nine for questioning in connection with the deaths of the other researchers.”
McCoy complained. “Typically ignorant bureaucrat. Someone tell that man to take a look at a star chart”
Kirk shot him a dangerous glance, and the doctor fell silent as Mendez continued.
“Since he is already in isolation, that should present no problem for you. In addition, you are to impound any and all computer records located on Tanis.”
Kirk leaned forward to press the control, and Mendez's image, thick lips slightly parted, froze once more. “Well, gentlemen?”
Spock sat back in his chair, arms folded, frowning. “As the doctor pointed out, Star Base Nine is considerably out of the way of our present course. I fail to understand why the admiral did not direct us to Star Base Thirteen, which is far closer. I am not aware of any difference in containment facilities at either base.”
“Is that all?”
“Not quite. I find it rather difficult to share the admiral's enthusiasm for bringing a dangerous microbe on board.”
“My sentiments exactly,” Kirk said.
“You heard him. He wants to keep the Romulans and Klingons from getting it,” McCoy offered.
“Then why not simply destroy it on Tanis?” Spock asked.
Kirk shook his head. “I think Mendez is more concerned with recovering the
than he is with the safety of the
. Otherwise, he would have no real evidence of what the researchers were really doing.”