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Randall Landers


Doctor Leonard "Bones" McCoy looked up from his desk to see into the next room. Upon the nearest diagnostic bed lay Captain James Tiberius Kirk, unconscious and barely breathing. On the other beds in the room and in the corridors beyond, crewmembers lay dying.

"Damn!" cursed McCoy at himself. "Most of the crew's dyin', and I'm helpless to stop it!" He picked up the compuclipboard and walked to his friend's side to record the readings for the log. The mediscanner panel readings were extremely low. Near death.

Beside Kirk's bed, another bed was positioned. Upon it lay First Officer Spock. "Damned Vulcan, why did you choose this time to get sick?" Even though McCoy had a facade of contempt for the Vulcan, underneath there was a great deal of admiration and affection for Spock.

Down a few beds from Spock, a klaxon sounded. Someone was dying. McCoy rapidly stepped to the source of the alarm to a bed where Yeoman Tamura's body was convulsing. He activated the cardiostimulator and gave her a shot of Masiform-D. Were she not so close to death, she could have gotten up and walked out the doors, opened or closed. But the needles indicating her body functions only rose slightly. Her condition stabilized, but McCoy didn't know how long that would last.

McCoy went back into his office and decided to dictate his log. He sat down at his desk and buried his face into his hands. "What's a doctor good for anyway? Hell, even though I know the cause, I can't stop the plague." He punched the button savagely.

Medical Log, Stardate 7002.2

The crew is dying, and there is no medication known to the Federation that will stop it. It all began on the planet Delta Ophiuchus IV. We had been sent by Starfleet to do a bio and geo survey. Helmsman Sulu, Botanist Lang, Science Officer Spock, Zoologist Brent, Geologist Carstairs and I were beamed down as the first landing party. We materialized in a...

It was a lush meadow. Tall, majestic trees lined the grassy open area. Wildflowers grew in abundance everywhere. The droning and the chirping of native insectoids added to the tranquility of the setting. In a shower of sparkling light, six figures appeared.

"This survey should not take more than an hour to complete," said Spock. "Return here by that time. Mister Sulu, you are to accompany Miss Lang; Doctor McCoy, Mister Brent and I shall remain with Mister Carstairs. Please remember to keep track of the time."

The group separated, and Sulu and Lang went into a wooded area. She began running a hand-held scanner at the flora while Sulu ran a similar device over the ground. It was not difficult work, and they should have been finished in fifteen minutes. It took more like forty-five.

Botanist Karen Lang was running her scanner over an innocuous looking plant. She noticed that in defiance of the flower on the stems, the plant had sori on the underside of each leaf. Very unusual, she thought to herself. Sori were usually found on non-flowering plants. But before she could make a closer observation, Sulu spun her around and kissed her.

After several seconds, she pulled away. "Sulu, we've got to finish this survey."

Sulu smiled. "We've got plenty of time for that later," he said as he pulled her to the ground.

All thoughts of the plant left her mind.

...I don't know how the plant was skipped. The sori of the plant release spores onto nearby animals. These form plant embryos which enter the bloodstream and take root in the oxygen-rich regions of the brain, causing a slow and painful death.

Anyway, after the initial examination of the planet was completed, we beamed back up to the ship, and Spock and I decided to convince the captain that the crew was in need of...

"Shore leave?" exclaimed Kirk to the two officers before him. Spock showed no reaction to Kirk's shout, but McCoy winced. "But we had shore leave at Disneymoon!!"

"Three and a half months ago," interjected McCoy.

"Three point six-seven-four months to be precise, Doctor," corrected the Vulcan.

"Whatever," said McCoy, slightly irritated by the interruption. "Jim, as the chief medical officer, I suggest that for the health of the crew, you grant shore leave."

Kirk turned to Spock, hoping for some support. "What's your opinion, Spock?"

"Captain, the crew is in need of shore leave. As a Vulcan, I rarely have to take a rest, but even so, there are times I must place myself in rytremk."

"I know, Spock. You've demonstrated it for us with the Kelvans."

"Yes, Captain. But you Humans, as you have said many times, sir, are only Human."

Kirk had to smile at that. "Very well, gentlemen. Permission for shore leave granted."

McCoy leaned forward and pressed the intercom button. "McCoy to bridge."

Chief Engineer Scott's voice came to him. "Aye, Doctor?"

"Beam the starboard side down immediately. McCoy, out." The doctor turned to face his captain.

"So you're all in on this, eh, Bones?" asked Kirk. He looked at his first officer. "Or maybe, 'Et tu,' Spock?"

McCoy smiled. "Hell, Jim. We're doing what's best for the crew and you." The Southerner saw Kirk's smile. "And you know it."

...It wasn't what was best for the crew, as we soon found out. The embryonic plants affected almost everyone. Part of our problem was a matter of detection. Hell, we weren't even aware of the parasites until we'd beamed back aboard...

Four figures materialized in the transporter alcove. One of them swayed slightly. It would have probably gone unnoticed if it weren't for McCoy's usual scrutiny of the crew after shore leave. He stepped off his pad and turned to Lieutenant Lang. "You feelin' dizzy, Karen?" he asked concernedly.

Sulu turned. "Karen?" He caught her as she fainted.

McCoy took out his medikit and ran the feinberger over her body.

"Will she be okay?" asked the last member of the landing party, a yeoman from security.

"I don't know," McCoy mumbled. "Scotty?"

"Aye, Doctor?" asked the chief engineer from behind the console.

"Transporter malfunction?"

"No, Doctor. I checked only five minutes ago when Yeoman Tamura said she had a headache after beaming up." The Scot looked at the instrumentation to be certain. He shook his head. "No, Doctor. No malfunction on any circuits."

"Get Sickbay up here on the double," said McCoy. "I need a litter and a medic.".

"Right away, Doctor."

McCoy looked at Lang again and turned back to the Scot. "Where's Tamura?"

"I sent her to Sickbay as standard procedure."

...At that point, a red alert sounded in my mind. I went to Sickbay to find out why Lang passed out, and I found that she wasn't just the only one affected...

McCoy turned to Doctor M'Benga, Assistant Chief Medical Officer, as he entered the room with the stretcher. "Where's Tamura, Ben?"

"I had her placed on the bed there," said the stocky black, pointing to the woman. "I asked her whether or not she'd eaten anything planet-side, and she fainted dead away. What's wrong with Lieutenant Lang?"

"Don't know," mumbled McCoy as he lifted the botanist's body onto a table. "She looked a little dizzy after beaming up, and then passed out. Have you examined Tamura yet?"

"Yes, sir."

The two doctors walked into McCoy's office. M'Benga placed a card into the desk viewer, and the screen lit up. "We've found a very strange toxin in small amounts in her brain. It seems to be affecting her nervous system, but we haven't found the source, yet," said M'Benga.

"What does the biolab make of the toxin?"

"It's similar to one on Earth. You've heard of PEM, haven't you?"

"I don't think so, Ben. What is it?"

"PEM stands for parasitic encephalitic meningitis."

"Wait a minute...Now I remember. It's caused by amoebas that live in the bottom of some freshwater lakes and ponds."

"That's right. The amoebas enter through one of the facial orifices and enter the brain, where they proceed to devour it for want of the oxygen-rich brain cells. In the process, they secrete a toxic substance which also destroys the brain cells."

"Then the toxin..." started McCoy.

"...Is similar to that of PEM," finished M'Benga. "I hope we're not up against something like that. There's only a two percent chance of survival."

"Oh my God," whispered McCoy.

...At that point, I began to set out to find a cure. I had M'Benga administer a full variety of our drugs to our patients while I told the captain the news...

"Well," said McCoy as he read from the report. "Since its discovery way back in 1963 Old Calendar, the leading disease centers have been trying to find a cure for it. The most promising area seems to be in antifungicides."

Kirk looked ill. His ship was in trouble, and he knew it. He had faith in McCoy, but the leading scientists hadn't been able to find a cure for a similar affliction in two hundred-fifty years of research.

McCoy saw the look on Kirk's face and sensed his captain's worry. "Look, Jim, there probably hasn't been much research done in the last hundred and fifty years or so because people aren't allowed to swim in freshwater lakes any more. Ever since the Eugenics War, the government has prohibited swimming in almost all lakes because they're used for drinking water. In fact, during my entire childhood, I only went swimming in a lake once. Had a real weird name...let me think...Allatoona."

"Then there's a chance?" asked Kirk hopefully.

"Absolutely. If I can get Spock to give me a hand, I could be finished this afternoon."

"Spock...I haven't seen him today." Inside Kirk's mind, a triple red alert sounded. It was very uncharacteristic of the Vulcan not to speak with his captain for a whole day.

Sensing the building worry in Kirk, McCoy said, "I'll drop by his quarters on the way to Sickbay and fill him in on it. I'm sure he'll find it 'fascinating.'"

...Spock didn't find it fascinating. When I entered his quarters, I saw him on the bed, deep in the state I recognized as rytremk. I called M'Benga on the intercom, and he said the only way to bring a Vulcan out of rytremk was to slap him around...and hard...

McCoy struggled to sit the Vulcan up in the bed but soon gave up. Spock weighed too much, and even though the doctor was used to carrying people, he couldn't manage the weight of a full-grown Vulcan. McCoy slapped him as the first officer lay on the bed. The Vulcan's eyes opened abruptly. "Doctor McCoy, I was about to return before you slapped me."

"Well how should I know?" The Georgian saw that the Vulcan had not even a simple 'illogical' as a retort. "What's the matter, Spock? Got a headache?"

"As a matter of fact, Doctor, I do. The rytremk should have relieved it. Strange, I have this feeling I am losing consciousness." And with that sentence, the Vulcan passed out.

"Damn you, Spock! You're not the one who's supposed to get sick! You're a Vulcan!" shouted McCoy, hiding his concern with a pretense of anger. "Spock!"

...Spock had it worst of all. Apparently, the copper-based blood of Vulcans is preferred by the embryonic plants, and at that point, we'd just figured out that the parasites were plants...

"Have you found it yet, Bones?" asked Kirk. He and McCoy were scanning the Vulcan's brain for the source of his ailment.

"I think so, Jim. I just found something that looks out of place." He adjusted the desk viewer so that Kirk could see. "I did a complete brainscan on all our patients and compared them. Each have one thing in common. They have a foreign body in the thalamic region of their brain."

"Where?" asked Kirk, hoping for a less scientific term.

"The thal...Well, it's the center of the brain. Near the corpus callosum." McCoy looked at the screen for a second. "M'Benga!" he called suddenly.

The Burundi native had been ministering to people all day. More and more of the crew were coming down with the symptoms. "Yes, Doctor?" he asked as he stepped into the office.

"What do you make of this?"

M'Benga stared at the screen for a few minutes. Spock's brain had the foreign body like the others, but his was more defined. "It's not an amoeba, but something different. Have you run a chem analysis on it?"

"Just about to." McCoy punched a series of buttons. "There's our toxin," he said as he saw the readout. "Just like the others. Organic material. Wait!" He suddenly shouted as the computer printed out the final chemical compound.

"What is it, Bones?" asked Kirk.

"Chlorophyll!" answered McCoy.

"Then we're up against a plant," concluded M'Benga. "Probably a spore plant with sori like a fern. The spores are inhaled, and they make their way to the thalamic region of the mid-brain."

"We'll have to beam down in envirosuits and find the culprit," said McCoy to Kirk.

"What about Spock?" asked Kirk, deeply concerned for the welfare of his friend.

"There's nothing we can do for him until we find a way to kill the plant."

"Damn it, Bones. You've got to try something!"

"I have, Jim!" snapped McCoy. "Don't you think I have tried everything in the book? Hell, I've even tried a few things that aren't!"

Kirk looked at him. "Sorry, Bones. I'm worried about Spock."

"I understand, Jim. Hell, even I'm worried about him."

...I had to beam down to the planet to collect a specimen of the plant. It would take a while to find considering that all reports indicated a lack of sporophytes down there. We knew there were some somewhere, but we didn't even know where to begin to look.

Captain Kirk decided to beam down with me rather than letting one of my staff do so because of the risk involved. Spock would've killed him if he'd found out. But I'm glad the captain did...

Two figures materialized in the tranquil setting. Neither thought the meadow to be beautiful any longer. It was a trap, and in it lurked a 'monster'. They knew they had to find the plant, or the entire crew would perish.

"Look for sori on the plants, Jim," said McCoy. "Sulu and Lang might've missed one."


"Small clusters of brown dots," explained McCoy. They should be on the underside of the leaves."

Each began examining the nearest plant. McCoy checked an evergreen, while Kirk checked a flowering bush.

"Bones!" the captain shouted.

McCoy spun around, and in the process, hit the regulator against the trunk of the tree. The pressure began to rapidly rise, but McCoy didn't notice.

Kirk's hopes were shattered when McCoy arrived. "Sorry, Jim. Those are some type of native aphids."

Kirk went on to the next plant, a willowy tree, while McCoy went deeper into the woods. It wasn't long before the doctor found the plant. It had a tulip-like flower and long, jagged, drooping leaves emanating from a central projection. Checking it with his analyzer, he called for Kirk. "Jim, I've found it!"

Kirk came up running from behind him. "You're sure?"

"Pretty sure. Let's get this thing beamed up. Hand me the specimen case."

Kirk handed him the glass container then noticed the damaged gauge. "Bones, we've got to get you beamed up immediately. You've busted your regulator."

"No wonder I was having a little trouble breathing."

"You're up to twenty-one p.s.i., and it's still climbing."

"Oh, hell."

Kirk tried to make a temporary repair, but it only worsened the situation. "It's up to two point three atmospheres and still climbing." He pressed his communicator key. "Kirk to Enterprise."

"Enterprise, Lieutenant Uhura here."

"Uhura, instruct the transporter room to beam us up. Prepare decontamination procedures."

"Yes, Captain."

Kirk closed his communicator frequency with the same button as he turned to McCoy. "Bones," he said as he saw the gauge. "You're up to eight point six."

"Why in hell does Starfleet make these things like this?" McCoy demanded angrily.

"Bones, you know these suits are designed so that any humanoid race can use them. And you know that some members of the Federation require the suits to be able to give them enough pressure when they visit our class M worlds and ships."

"But we don't have anyone aboard like the Ufjedites, needing seven atmospheres." He checked the gauge. "Sixteen point nine. If I don't get out of this thing soon, I'll need a decompression chamber."

"Well, it's about time," he said as he felt the disorientation of the transporter process, the blurring of vision and the slight nausea. When his vision returned, the doctor found himself in the transporter alcove and a concerned chief engineer behind the console.

"Decontaminate," ordered Scott to Technician Fisher.

"Yes, Mister Scott."

The chamber was filled with the pulsing whine of the process as infrared, ultraviolet, X-ray, ultra-sonic and microwave units unleashing their wrath upon unsuspecting bacteria and viruses.

"Procedure complete, Cap'n."

"Good, Scotty. Have Sickbay ready the decom chamber for Bones. His suit's malfunctioning."

"Twenty-seven point four, Jim," said McCoy.

Scott hit the button as Kirk and McCoy went out the door at a fast pace.

Halfway to Sickbay, McCoy's suit sprang a leak. The seals on the helmet popped off, and there was a great rushing sound as McCoy collapsed on the deck. "Damn," cursed the doctor.

"You're probably going to get the bends," said Kirk, going for the intercom.

"Get them? Hell, I've got them," grumbled McCoy, his voice filled with anger and pain.

Kirk walked to the nearest wall intercom and pressed the button. "Sickbay, this is Captain Kirk. Doctor McCoy's pressure suit has ruptured. Get a litter to Deck Eight, Corridor Seven."

And with that, McCoy lost consciousness.

...I got a mild case of the bends which laid me up in Sickbay for two days....The bends.... I got a mild case of the bends....Damn! I should've realized!

McCoy deactivated the log recorder. "The bends!" he slammed his fist down onto his desk. He had been laid up in Sickbay when the rest of the crew came down with the plague parasites. M'Benga had done everything possible with the plant, but it was to no avail. Even M'Benga got the dreaded disease. The only exceptions were Chief Engineer Scott, Life Support Officer Ras and Historian Aleek-Om, none of whom had beamed down to the planet.

McCoy was the only exception that had been on the planet, and he had had a case of the bends. He stood up and went to Kirk, who had admitted himself earlier in the day.

"Jim!" he whispered forcefully, while giving his captain a triple dose of Masiform-D. "I've figured it out."

"Hurry, Bones," the captain whispered. "There's not much time left."

McCoy went to the environment chamber in the next room and set it up to hold five people, the maximum number the chamber could seat. He then rolled in the five worst cases and sat them into the chairs. Once they were situated, he raised the pressure gradually to the point equivalent to five hundred feet below sea level.

"That should be enough," he said as he went back to his office to complete his log. He had set the chamber controls to lower the pressure gradually to normal.


Medical Log, Stardate 7002.4

I think I may have found an answer. When a person gets the bends, it is the result of having the nitrogen in one's blood to form gas bubbles. This occurs at great pressure like that found underwater. The situation leads to the bends if the diver surfaces to a depth of less pressure too quickly or may even lead to 'rapture of the deep,' a condition where the nitrogen prevents the proper amount of oxygen from getting into the brain, and the diver can lose consciousness. The nitrogen or the lack of sufficient oxygen in my brain from the pressure suit accident may have exterminated the plant embryo in my corpus callosum, assuming that I, too, had been affected...infected. If not, I'm afraid that there isn't enough time left to try anything else.

McCoy went back into the room and waited. What if I'm wrong? he asked himself as he sat down in a chair. He wasn't usually, but there had been some exceptions. Tragic exceptions. Could this be one of them? If so, what'll I do? And what about the brain damage? I've probably got that too since it took me so long to figure out this mess. How can I neutralize the toxin?

He dozed off, dreaming of mindless men and women. The results of the toxin.

The alarm woke him. The pressure in the chamber was now at normal range. McCoy opened the chamber and went to Spock. He'd been the worst case, and he still was. He examined the Vulcan with the ultra-encephalosensor. He had severe neural brain damage, but the plant was dead. Maybe a shot of oxipyrilene... he said to himself, thinking of the drug used to help the inmates on Elba II.

"Damn!" he said again, and it suddenly dawned on him that he had been cursing a great deal. Maybe I should try prayer instead, he thought. "The key is time. The effects are too severe after a period of time. Now how can I get everyone into the chamber before it's too late?"

McCoy went back into Sickbay. He was astonished to see that Kirk was sitting up, waiting for news of the experiment. "Well, Bones. How did it go?"

"It might work, Jim. But to make it, I've got to get everyone inside the pressure chamber in a short time, and since there are only four unaffected people for manpower, it sorta makes things impossible."

Kirk could barely smile, but somehow managed. "Bones, are you forgetting that we're in one of the biggest pressure chambers ever devised?"

"What do you mean, Jim?"

"See if you can get Scotty to raise the pressure all over the ship."

"Of course!" shouted McCoy.

The doctor ran all the way to the bridge.


"What de ye mean, Doctor?" asked Scotty, who was standing at the engineering station, monitoring the bridge systems. "What good could raising the pressure do for everyone?"

"The raised pressure," explained McCoy, "will cause the nitrogen in their blood to form bubbles. That'll kill the plant embryos in their brain."

Scotty moved to the life support station where Ras usually sat and completed the simple sequence. "Will six atmospheres be sufficient, Doctor?"

"If it isn't, we'll be the only ones manning this crate."

"What 'crate' is that, Doctor?" asked Scotty darkly. He smiled abruptly. "But I get your point. I certainly hope this works."

McCoy nodded in agreement.


Medical Log, Stardate 7003.6

Most of the crew has returned to duty. Some of the more serious cases are taking a little bit longer, but all will recover, thanks to the oxipyrilene treatments. The neural toxin is rapidly breaking down to inert matter, and according to hemotracers, it is being filtered by the liver. I have developed a chemical agent which will break down the plant embryos into bits which can be filtered by the kidneys. All in all, I think we are little worse for wear after such a harrowing ordeal.

In the recreation room facilities on Deck Eight, Kirk, McCoy and Scotty sat at a table with a bottle of scotch. McCoy had gotten quite drunk, but was still sober enough to say, "Jim, next time, don't lissen to me when I deman' shore leave."

"Aye!" said Scotty.

"Don't worry, Bones, Scotty. I won't." Kirk smiled.

Spock walked up to the three men and sat down next to the wall. "Captain, we've left orbit and are en route to Beta Aquilae Seven."

"Have a drink, Spock?" asked Scotty.

"You did last time, you know," said McCoy.

"That was different, Doctor. Flint's Saurian brandy was over one hundred years old."

"So what? This scotch is over seventy," argued McCoy.

"Perhaps I shouldn't engage in a debate with you at this time, Doctor. I wouldn't want to take advantage of you in your present state. I would rather wait until we pick up the Starfleet Surgeon General, when he can observe your present state."

"What do you mean, Spock?" asked McCoy.

"Our E.T.A. for Beta Aquilae is less than two hours."

"I think I'd better get to Sickbay," said McCoy suddenly. The doctor stumbled to the door, and after a moment of consideration, called Sickbay for an escort.

"I assume you have someone waiting to sober him up, Spock," said Kirk.

"Of course, Captain. Nurse Chapel said she'd be delighted to. After all, we don't want to see our Ship's Surgeon be reprimanded by the Surgeon General, do we?"

"I'm sure that he'll appreciate it."

"I wouldn't be so certain, Captain," said Spock, not catching the note of sarcasm in his captain's voice, or perhaps ignoring it. "His head has increased in size since he found a treatment for the plant embryos."

"That's illogical, Spock," said Kirk as Scotty nodded in agreement.

"Of course, Captain. After all, it is McCoy we are speaking about."

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