Title: The Right-Hand Man (2/10)
Fandom: Star Trek TOS
Pairing: Kirk/Spock/McCoy (eventually)
Summary: Bones uncovers a deadly experiment which is killing a colony of innocents; it’s his mission to save them, so that’s what he’ll do… despite those out to stop him—permanently.
Previous Parts: 1
“The situation on Kaus V is grime. More than 35% of the colony shows signs of infection and a rising count of confirmed fatalities reaches the high hundreds…”
A series of desolate shots interrupts the commentary—an abandoned farmhouse, barren fields, rows upon rows of occupied hospital beds, the funeral service for a child attended by grieving family, some of whom are blatantly wasting away with illness.
“…the livelihood of these people suffers.” Another report chimes in, “Absolutely right, Sue, I think we’ve only seen the beginning. The Federation Board has yet to address—”
A tall, tailored man cuts off the screen mid-report. He fixes his eyes on those around a long oblong table. “The media is hunting for prey like a pack of dogs, gentlemen.”
“No more than they usually do,” quips a man on his left. “They blame the Board for everything… the draught on Vaxis III, or when the Orion pirates pinched those supplies slated for the Sigma-Phi colony—or how about the time that Andorian ambassador made off with a Thelian princess! A real riot, that one.”
“Commodore, you give us all a laugh. Thank you,” says an Andorian consulate with little humor.
“I’m just pointing out that we cannot be held responsible—”
“That’s enough! The fact is that we know who is responsible for the state of affairs on Kaus V. And I want it cleaned up. Heger,” the Human directs his attention to someone farther down the table, “we’ve got a squealer in the ranks. You’ll take care of it.”
The (non-descript) person he addresses nods without a word.
He folds his arms behind his back, paces across a line of windows. “The Federation will have to show good faith, be adamant in ‘finding a cure.’” He gives them all a hard look. “We need candidates who can keep their mouths shut and follow orders.”
“Yes, Mr. Weston, there are plenty of volunteers.”
“Good. Enlist the most expendable. We may need to… dispose… of them if the situation is not suitably contained. Dismissed.”
Really, it’s old. He’s old.
And if Jim admits it to himself, he does wish that he can sail in on his Enterprise and fix things up. Or rather, get the best people in the universe (Bones and Spock) to perform the miracles while he does the commanding. But those days are long past, even for a man too young to be an Admiral.
He is certain, though, that there will be a miracle on Kaus V. After all, they’ve got the best doctor in the ‘Fleet working on the cure. Jim is not worried—he’s not.
He rearranges the PADDs on his office desk before he is satisfied that they won’t fall over. He hates paper-work; he should have remembered that at the end of the Enterprise’s five-year mission, but instead he saw another rung to be climbed, another star to reach.
What a fool he is. (McCoy was right.)
Any other thoughts that might include Bones are abruptly eliminated because that is a sore spot he prods too often.
The door chimes quietly.
Right on time, as always.
He lets Spock in with a small smile. This has become habit, since Spock’s return to Earth, their bi-weekly gathering in his quarters. They generally do not discuss Starfleet business, but rather make use of the 3-D chessboard (and a glass of brandy for Jim—not a tribute to Bones, not at all) to idle away a few hours.
Spock is in need of company as much as Jim, though he denies such human sentiment.
They do not discuss their missing counterpart.
“Doctor McCoy, do you have those tissue samples of Stage Three?”
“Right here, darlin’. I got what you need.” Leonard shots a little grin at Dr. Barnes.
She laughs at him. “You scoundrel, I’m a taken woman!”
“And I’m a lonely, lonely man, ma’am.”
“Well, Nurse Salim has been giving you the eye—”
“Lord in Heaven!” he exclaims while adjusting the medical scanner in his hands. “Spare me her attentions, please. That woman,” he stresses it like another word, “caught me coming out of the supply closet and pinched my bottom!”
This sends Dr. Barnes into gales of gleeful laughter.
“It ain’t funnah! I have half a mind to report sexual harassment—”
She’s wiping off tears with the sleeve of her blue tunic. “Len, it’s those gorgeous blue eyes of yours!”
McCoy is somewhat mollified. “I got my daddy’s eyes—real McCoy tradition, blue eyes.”
“You can tell me all about your McCoy traditions at dinner. I need to run these babies back to Science for the plasma test.”
“Alright. Stop by later an’ remind me, Joy. Or I might drown myself in these confounded readings the rest of the night.” He waves her off good-naturedly and returns to his work.
Dr. Joy Barnes makes this mission more tolerable for McCoy. She didn’t tell him to shove-off after they landed on Kaus V; rather, she complimented him on his stamina to keep up an hours-long diatribe about the dangers of space travel.
She is a very young woman fresh out of the Academy with a new doctorate and a bright future. And since not all Kausians are Human, she’s handy to have around for the more difficult medical consultations. Leonard knows a great deal about non-Human physiology (from serving on the Enterprise) but he can be hard-pressed to recite the anatomy of a Tellurite. (He’s used to encounters with beings that don’t have anatomies—like the Organians—or any quantifiable body parts).
They get along famously. (It makes Leonard think of Christine in moments like these.) She misses her boyfriend back in San Francisco (he’s command-track), and Leonard is heart-sore and lonesome. They provide each other with good company and a leaning shoulder. Joy has already discovered his tenacious attitude for work, so she wrangles him into resting periods and meals. McCoy knows that she feels nervous (inadequate) for the kind of work they need to do, to save lives, so he coaches her through the rough spots and nips her back into place when she strays or wilts.
Later that evening, after Leonard comes across an odd reading in his data, she is the first one with whom he discusses it.
Their light bantering has come to a standstill over the after-dinner coffee. Joy is fiddling with handle of her mug, lining it just-so with the edge of the table. Leonard watches her with a raised eyebrow and tolerant expression.
“Y’all done?” he drawls.
“Almost, Len, I think—there! Perfect!” She grins at him from across the table, a Joanna-like grin.
He smiles in return. Pulling out a PADD, he hands it to her. “Tell me, Joy, what do you make of this?”
She takes a few minutes, scrolling and murmuring quietly to herself. “I’m not really a microbiologist, Len, but isn’t this bacteria found only on an ice planet?”
“This one is specific to the Exo system—one of their Class P’s, Exo VI. I read up on the data when—” He winces at the thought of Exo III and the fate of Chapel’s Dr. Corby. (How sad she’d been.) “—the Enterprise made a detour there.”
She does not ask about the story in his eyes.
“The bacteria thrive in a high-pressure, nutrient-poor environment. There’s a neat little article about how they have adapted their biochemistry to survive deep in the ice.”
“And you’re saying that this is the cause of the plague?”
“No! I am not drawing conclusions on anything at this point, not without more tests and more knowledge.” If he thinks of Spock fleetingly, he can forgive himself the slip. “It is a common link between the cultures I’ve been testing.”
Dr. Barnes considers him before offering some hope. “I know a fellow back at the Academy. He’s keen on these kinds of microorganisms—ultra-micro’s he calls them.” She smiles at that. “I will contact him, see what he knows.”
“Okay,” McCoy says. Then he crosses his ankles, pours a little bourbon into his coffee, and grins mischievously like an up-to-no-good adolescent. “Did I ever tell yah about the time my mama came home with a two-headed chicken?”
After issuing a few last-minute directions, he meets with Dr. Barnes in his office.
“I contacted that microbiologist, and we had a very enlightening conversation. Here is some data he sent along,” she pats a PADD perched on the edge of his desk. McCoy peruses the data while she summarizes the findings. “Jimmy says that the ultra-microbes have a somewhat limited ability to reproduce due to low-temperatures but become extremely aggressive once introduced into a warm, moist environment.”
Leonard almost misses the rest of Joy’s sentence because his heart heard Jimmy and started pounding like a drum. He takes a deep breath, shakes it off.
Pacing helps clear his mind. Once all of his thoughts are organized, he tosses out the foremost one while bouncing on the balls of his feet. “Destructive like Legionella was centuries ago—the kind that can resist the immune cells, kill ‘em. I figured that the Kausians suffered from an immunological deficiency ‘cause of the toxics neutralized in the soil before colonization—it’s happened before. But that was a long time ago, Joy.”
“So the Exo bacteria is introduced into the body—which jumpstarts its reproduction—”
“—and causes a massive infection that the body has no way to combat.”
“But we’ve tried the typical treatment for bacterial infections. None of them work, Leonard! You know—”
“Yeah, I do.” His shifts in the clinic are agonizing, because no one has discovered a very effective treatment. Hell, they can’t stop Stage One from progressing! And after that, the Kausians enter a fast decline after Stage Two. There is little help to provide, except easing the pain and fever.
“This kind of bacterium is nasty, Joy. It leeches all the nutrients out of the body; eats at the epithelial tissue until the organs fall into pieces. Hell, it’d be the perfect way to kill a man! At this point, no doctor could save him.”
“That’s what disturbs me, Leonard. How does a unique type of bacteria from thousands of miles inside a glaciated planet get on a farming colony like Kaus V?”
“I don’t know, Joy. I really don’t. But I’m damned well going to find out!” Leonard reaches for his comm-unit.
Leonard figures if he has to stir the hornet’s nest to get some answers that’s what he’ll do. He is on Kaus V to stop a plague, and no damned official is going to deny his questions! So far he’s been fed lines about privacy laws on pharmaceutical research by the Kausian government, which makes little sense because if Leonard licensed in anything—it’s medical treatment. One doesn’t introduce tissue-eating microorganisms as drugs, unless for torture. Certainly not for healing.
Someone wants to pull the wool over his eyes. So they ignore all the rules of play and tell him to be a good little doctor—focus on the cure. Well, he sure as Hell isn’t going to find the cure if he doesn’t understand what he’s up against!
They are idiots, every last administrative Head he has conversed with. Bureaucratic fools with ice cold hearts.
“How many more of these poor people have to get buried before they pull their heads outta their asses!” A smattering of agreements from his colleagues follows his outburst.
Joy puts her hand on his arm. She says, “We’re with you, Leonard. We’re all with you.”
As his face transforms into very-grave, Weston straightens his shirt cuffs and brings in his secretary. “My dear, put me through to the Federation President, full security encryption please. I am afraid that the status of Kaus V is critical.”
The meeting goes on for the better part of an hour in which the administration talks standard shop but does not indicate any real reason for the attendees’ required presence.
Finally, Admiral Cartwright jumps right in. “If there’s a point to this meeting, get to it.”
No wonder the cadets call him Admiral Klingon. The man lacks manners, which makes the nickname more ironic because Cartwright deplores Klingons.
At that thought, Jim bits the inside of his cheek.
Ah, the fine lines of disobedience. McCoy could certainly go toe-to-toe with this man.
“You are aware of the situation on Kaus V. A recent development has come to our attention. A new bio-security threat puts the risk levels beyond regulation tolerance. Therefore, in the interest of the welfare of our Starfleet officers, we are ordering all personnel to evacuate Kaus V. They will continue their research here on Earth, and we will send a specially-equipped Emergency Ops Team in their place.”
The uproar is instantaneous.
“You’re pulling out! But—”
“—better than killing our own—”
“—abandoning Federation members! The Kausians will perish!”
“SILENCE! This is not a discussion committee. Kaus V is officially Critical. Dismissed.”
Jim closes his eyes—blocks out the voices, scraping chairs, and outrage.
Bones is coming back.