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Strange Interlude

By Cami
Page 2 of 8

Cally attached sensors to Avon's forehead and chest. "Perhaps the virus isn't communicable. If it was short-lived, it might have died out before you arrived."

"As the probable purpose behind this atrocity is to give the Federation unlimited access to mineral-rich Pel, the virus undoubtedly has a finite lifespan. However, less than two weeks is extremely unlikely."

Tarrant sat on the other examining couch, his long legs dangling over the side. His right hand pressed a square of gauze to the small wound on his left arm where Cally had drawn a blood sample. "Don't be such a pessimist. It's been over four hours since we were exposed and I feel fine."

*The information from their data files indicates that the incubation period for the disease is three to seven days,* Orac informed them. *Therefore, even if you were infected, symptoms would not yet be discernable.*

Avon bared his teeth in Tarrant's direction. "You were saying?"

"That Orac should stick to analyzing the samples we brought back and formulate a cure."

Cally adjusted Avon's couch so that he was half reclining. "Is that comfortable? This will take close to half an hour."

"I'm fine," he answered.

"Good." She activated the diagnostic scanner. "I'll get Tarrant hooked up while this is collecting data."

* * *

"I think I'm getting a rash," Vila grumbled, his hand scrabbling over the area of his suit above his ribcage. His eyes were trained on the glass of adrenaline and soma resting on the table in front of him. He'd poured it before realizing he had no way to drink it. Only specially packaged rations could be attached to the suit's dispenser, and there were no intoxicating beverages in the available menu. "And I can't even manage a proper scratch."

"Then take your suit off," Dayna suggested, her face dimpling.

Vila hastily grabbed up the glass and transferred it to the console behind him, where he wouldn't have to look at it and mourn its inaccessibility. "No thanks. I'd rather be itchy than dead. What's taking so long?"

"They've only been gone forty minutes. Now quit your fidgeting and worrying. Even if they are ill, Orac will take care of it. Remember how quickly it devised a cure for the Auron plague."

"Orac isn't infallible. Besides, it's not as if it's at risk. That scruffy piece of plastic can't be trusted unless it's a matter of self preservation."

Giggling, Dayna walked to the couch and plopped down beside the gloomy thief. "Do you want me to call back to medical and see how they're doing?"

"Would you? Avon would snarl at me if I bothered him, but you could get away with it."

Dayna reached over to activate the intercom channel. "Everything is clear up here. How are things there?"

"We're expecting a report momentarily," Cally answered. "I'll get back to you when we know anything."

Vila twisted his gloved fingers about each other, then crossed his ankles for good measure. Not that he was superstitious or anything...

* * *

Cally skimmed over the first page of the diagnostic report while the rest was still printing out. "According to this," she summarized, "neither of you have any evidence of the virus in your system."

Tarrant couldn't resist clapping Avon on the shoulder. "I told you to be optimistic."

"I thought you had urgent business on the flight deck."

"Dayna and Vila seem to be handling it. Is there anything else, Cally?"

"Yes, as a matter of fact. Although there is no active virus present, the computer doesn't rule out the possibility of it residing dormant in your bodies. The scanners do not have the capability of determining that."

"In other words," Avon said, looking pointedly at Tarrant, "infection hasn't been ruled out."

Cally nodded. "I'm afraid so."

"Still no problem." Tarrant refused to succumb to Avon's pessimism. "We'll just have Orac devise a treatment or vaccine or something. Then everyone can get out of those confining garments and we'll be on our merry way."

Avon turned to the flashing box. "Orac, have you completed your analysis of the pathogen?"

*I have. The virus does not match any known patterns. Since no record of its existence is available, no known cures or treatments exist either.*

"Are you saying you can't cure it?" For the first time, Tarrant felt real concern.

*I did not say that. I cannot understand how you humans continuously misinterpret the simplest of statements. I said that a cure does not exist at the present time. That does not preclude the development of one in the future. I am currently involved in further research on the subject.*

Tarrant placed his right hand on the computer's casing, in what would have been considered a threatening manner if Orac had been a flesh and blood entity. "How long will that take?"

*A shorter time if you would stop interrupting my efforts.*

Resisting the urge to drop a circuit wrench into Orac's innards, Tarrant spun about on his heel and pointed himself toward the door. "I'll be on the flight deck."

* * *

Two hours later, Orac had completed its research. The five members of the crew were congregated on the flight couch, listening to Avon and Cally recount Orac's report.

"Orac believes it can produce a serum to cure the infection if we can obtain the necessary raw materials," Cally explained. "But the closest source for the required extracts appears to be Jenestren."

Tarrant rose from his seat. "That's halfway across the galaxy. Shall I program in the course?"

"Not yet," Avon said with a wave of his hand. "Zen, what is the nearest uninhabited planet capable of supporting human life?"


"Set course for Chalize, standard by seven. What is the estimated flight time?"

+One point two hours.+

"Why are we going there?" Cally asked, surprised. "We need to get to Jenestren as quickly as possible."

"It would be impractical and uncomfortable for the three of you to live in isolation suits for the fifty-eight hour trip to Jenestren plus the additional two days Orac estimates it would need to process the serum."

"It certainly would," Vila agreed. "But you said Orac only promised a probable cure. I don't want to take any chances."

"You won't have to. Tarrant and I will stay on Chalize while the three of you go to Jenestren and gather the necessary materials. Orac can complete the development work during the return journey. Once we are on Chalize, Zen will be able to decontaminate the ship and it will be possible for you to remove the suits."

"But that's not safe for you and Tarrant," Dayna objected.

"I think the two of us can stay out of trouble for less than a week, especially since the planet is uninhabited."

Cally looked dubious. "What if you get sick?"

"If that is destined to happen, being on Liberator wouldn't change it. What is important is the safety of the ship. The three of you in those suits can't effectively operate the controls. The route to Jenestren crosses Federation space. You will need all of your dexterity if you are spotted by a patrol."

"You and Tarrant could handle the ship," Dayna pointed out.

"We might be ill. I will not risk Liberator."

"Avon's right," Tarrant said. "Those suits are claustrophobic nightmares. I'd rather be vacationing planetside than watching the three of you go slowly crazy."

Dayna still wasn't convinced. "There is no need for us to wear the suits at all. Orac can cure five as easily as two."

"It is only a probable cure," Cally reminded her. "This is the best way. I'll pack a supply of food. Dayna, would you locate a portable habitat and any other equipment you think they might need?"

"Right away!"

* * *

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