Captain’s Log, Stardate 5438.5
It has now been a full week since we sought the safety of Sigma Draconis 4. This is a strange planet; I am told the amino acids all have “Right-hand Chirality”, which means we cannot survive eating the native foods here, though many of them taste and smell unusually sweet. With strict rationing, we could not hope to survive much longer, but some of the crew are working on a way to convert these alien proteins to our 9 essential amino acids.
While this radiation from Sigma Draconis continues, the aurora is so intense that the night sky is bright, bright enough we haven’t had a visual of enterprise in orbit.
I’ve placed the crew on a 3 shift 8 hour rotation, which is working well so far with the 16 hour daily solar cycle. Spock continues to linger in some kind of coma, and Mccoy has finished treating radiation exposure among the crew. I’m worried Mr Scott will soon dismantle one of the shuttlecraft now that the sensors are repaired. It’s been strange to be able to see the entire crew in a single glance. I have been particularly impressed with their professionalism. On one point, at least, we’ve caught a break, the inhabitants of this planet are peaceful and welcoming.
Act 3 scene 1 walking back into the encampment
Mccoy approached Kirk with an air of urgency, in some ways the captain was enjoying this bit of shore leave, but he was anxious to hear if Spock’s condition had improved. “Can I help you, bones?”
Walking along together in the encampment, Mccoy kept his voice low. “Spock has some kind of damned rash.”
Kirk looked at him with some confusion on his face. “You mean on his skin?”
“His skin cells have some kind of damage, but I haven’t isolated it yet. It’s not from radiation, and it’s not from any kind of microorganism.”
“Is it related to his coma?”
Mccoy didn’t say anything for a moment. “No. No, I don’t think so. I’m starting to think that’s part of some kind of healing process.”
“Well whatever it is, can you treat it?”
Vulcan skin isn’t that much different from human skin. I’ve applied some topical treatments, but I need to isolate any additional pathogens before I can say.”
“Carry on, Bones.” Mccoy walked off muttering something about starving to death.
Kirk’s communicator went off, “Kirk, here”
“Chekov, here kep’tin, we, ah, we need you over at the HQ. Are you far?”
Kirk half smiled, wondering what could possibly be wrong now. “In a moment.”
Act 3 scene 2 – set at a makeshift HQ near the 2 shuttlecraft.
“Chekov, what’s going on?”
Chekov was now his first officer, which didn’t mean much other than staff assignments and report gathering. The exciting work was happening in Sulu’s task force to develop a food source. Chekov had a grim look on his face that Kirk hadn’t seen now in a number of days. “Uhura, why don’t you fill him in, since you know more about the situation.
“Captain, we have continued to speak with some of the local governments here about the incompatibility between our biology.” Kirk nodded and Uhura continued. “One of their governments has been helpful in producing a process to supply us with some of our essential amino acids. They are enthusiastic and sincere. Several smaller governments have become …upset in the past hour and began to cut off contact.”
Kirk looked at the staff in confusion “Did they say why?”
“It seems that culturally they were embarrassed by this, but apparently they are worried they will get… well.. sick from us. Some of the more xenophobic groups on this planet have begun to suggest that our alien bacteria is going to cause an ecological disaster here. Apparently in one of their cities 10s of thousands protested our presence, demanding action.”
“I see.” Kirk considered this and took in the faces of his people. “Is there anything to this claim?”
Uhura looked uncomfortably at Chekov and said “it’s certainly possible. This planet is composed of an ecosystem build entirely upon right-handed protein. They can’t eat our food any more than we can eat theirs. Our bacteria even work the other way. We may want to use the ship’s phasers to sterilize this quarantine zone after we’ve left.”
“Chekov, what do you think?”
“Sir. This looks like a very serious situation. There is a popular consensus that they should use nuclear vepons in order to completely protect themselves.”
Kirk realized why his senior officers were so shaken now, “so they’d wipe us out before we did them the same favor?” Chekov nodded. “I’ve never even heard of any alien ecosystems built on the opposite chirality, has anyone else?” Head shakes all around.
“OK open a channel to our friend,” Uhura operated some controls and after some back and forth the leader Kirk had first spoken to was on the screen, his humanoid form appearing almost human on the small viewscreen set up.
“Ah, Captain Kirk. This is a fortunate a coincidence, I was just about to call you”
“Administrator Laren. Greetings. I wanted to thank you for your help, my team tells me you’ve been very helpful in securing the necessary food for us.”
“Captain, I know by now you’ve heard some rather distressing news. You must understand that on our world we have dealt with so many diseases. We only conquered them in recent times. Still, for the people of this world, being sick, this word is a slur.”
“I completely understand, and my crew and I have planned a method to sterilize this quarantine zone after we depart. Tell me, do you have any idea when this radiation storm will end?”
There was a moment of silence punctuating the reply. “We can’t be sure.”
“Tell me, if you would, how long to they typically last? We expected this one to be over by now…”
Again the reply was slow. “On average, they last a week.”
Kirk was a bit annoyed by this response, restless as he was to put sigma draconis into the rear view mirror. “What’s the longest it could last, if you wouldn’t mind me asking?”
“The longest on record was about 2 of our solar years.”
Kirk looked to Chekov and his eyes narrowed. “About 1 and a half of our years, Kep’tin.”
“I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news. Captain let me assure you that we will not allow any other group to attack your quarantine. Please let us know if there’s anything you need.”
Act 3 scene 3 mobile hospital
“We’ve got a serious problem here Jim.” Mccoy said with a level of seriousness rarely displayed.
“Is it Spock?” Kirk asked.
“Actually Mr Spock seems to be looking better, his rash is clearing up and he’s recovered his consciousness briefly. I think he’ll be back to normal before long.”
Kirk smiled and nodded, “that’s a relief, what did you do?”
Mccoy looked incredulous, “I didn’t do a damn thing, he got better before I isolated any viral proteins or any other pathologies.”
“Well what’s the problem then?”
“The problem is that crew-members have started to show up with symptoms of some kind of disease. 15 so far and it hasn’t even been an hour yet. The worst case is over here, you’ve got to see it for yourself.” Mccoy guided him towards a subdivided section of his medical tent.
They entered to find Lieutenant Masters. Kirk instantly recognized Charlene and he had a moment of shock at seeing her. Mccoy went over to a nearby sink that was set up and retrieved a cup of water. “Lieutenant, sit up for me if you would?” A nurse in the room helped her sit upright. “Ok, now show the Captain if you would what happens if you try to drink this.” Handing her the cup of water, she slowly brought the cup closer to her lips, but her face contorted and her hand began to shake, until water spilled over the side. “Come on, give it a real effort,” encouraged the doctor…
Charlene masters was in tears when she began to spill more water than she could bring to her lips, and she shook her head. “Alright, you’re fine Lieutenant,” the captain quickly soothed, “you just rest and we’ll get this sorted out.”
“Sorry Captain. Thank you captain.” she said, the nurse quickly distracting her by telling her about their ability to keep her hydrated as the doctor and captain left the room.
Outside they spoke in hushed tones. “What the hell is wrong with her, Bones?”
“I’ve never seen it before, but I’ve read about it. It’s a damned ancient illness. It’s called hydrophobia.”
Kirk looked at him in disbelief. “What kind of disease causes a … fear of water?”
Mccoy looked at him and spoke in a whisper. “The disease that causes hydrophobia in humans is called Rabies.”
“Are you telling me that crewmembers are quickly becoming… rabid?”
“I don’t know but we need to do something quickly, I’ll need more science equipment to start isolating proteins. If this takes the same course as Earth rabies, it’ll be 100 percent fatal.”
Ok so I decided not to tie this up with a bow just yet, and continue with this episode for one more day since it’s a fun stopping point, and everyone is talking about the new trek right now. A few of you will recognize that I’m currently deep into rabies research for another project, so I couldn’t resist dropping it into this story. The resolution is something I’ve had the idea for since I started this serial.
I think it’s crazy that there are so many people who don’t receive treatment for rabies in the third world. The year that Star Trek aired the episode “Spock’s Brain” was the same year humanity got a step closer to defeating the disease forever with the human diploid vaccine.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates there are 55,000 rabies deaths every year. According to the Global Alliance for Rabies Control, the total is 70,000, with 10 million treated for bites from potentially infected dogs. India has the highest annual rate of deaths in Asia: 20,000.
In some ways it’s amazing to me that the horrific symptoms of rabies were previously unknown to me – hydrophobia is a disturbing thing to see, any doctor in this century, let alone the 23rd century would be horrified knowing the assuredly fatal nature of the infection. I don’t necessarily recommend looking at the videos of it on youtube, but it’s a hell of a thing to see.
I promise tomorrow’s entry is going to tie this up with Act 4, in fact, I already know how they’ll get out of this impossible situation, so tune in!