739: No One Shouted 'Stop!'

by Lance Hartcort and Azalea Adams
Concurrent with Sage Advice


The trio stood together outside of the imposing, impressive high-rise structure.

The weather was much warmer here, in this location, than it was on the opposite side of the planet from which they'd come. It may be wintertime in Altaan Province, but in Sondall it was summer.

Their overcoats felt cumbersome and stifling as tropical sun bore down upon them, its rays stoked to the baking point as the day neared its midway point.

"This is it." Azalea sighed and with a shrug of her shoulders, gracefully slipped out of her jacket. "Relanon Bio-medical Engineering." She turned toward Jariel, who had been silent and fuming ever since she had shared her findings with him, first thing this morning. "Think they're going to be happy to see us?"

There was an uncomfortable silence from Jariel that prompted Lance to speak up to fill the unanswered void.

“Are you kidding? Everyone is always happy to see me.” He proclaimed with a warm smile.

Then he held up his finger and frowned. “Of course in this case they would be wise not to be fooled by my roguish good looks and charming smile.” He raised one eyebrow in a distinctively Vulcan fashion. “I am most ‘put out’ buy this situation.”

"You and I both, Doctor Hartcort." Jariel spoke at last, his voice sounding as neither physician had ever heard it. His usual, quiet and gentle spirit was sorely grieved by all that he'd seen, and the thought that the cause of that suffering may be as simple as old fashioned avarice and greed, sickened him to the point of blind rage.

"Do we have an appointment or are we here as a lovely surprise?" Hartcort asked.

"Surprise." Adams said, taking a step forward at last.

"I love surprises!"

"They're not going to love this one." Camen concluded, falling into step behind Adams and following her in through the darkly tinted glass doors.

She approached the Security station at the center of the large atrium which served as the lobby and spoke to the burly man seated behind the desk.

"Good afternoon," she smiled, but her eyes did not match the pleasantness of her lips. "I'm Doctor Azalea Adams, from Starfleet Medical. I need to speak briefly with Vettan Brel."

"Vettan Brel is a very busy woman."

Lance scoffed. “Not as busy as she is going to be.”

The man opened his mouth the protest but Lance cut him off. “I am Commander Lance Hartcort, Chief Medical Officer of the USS Revolution. We are here under the direct order of Admiral Luis P. Guther, the Commanding Officer or Starfleet Contagious Diseases Research division. We are operating under article 17B subsection C of the infectious event reaction procedure.”

The guard's mouth hung open, as he was not exactly sure what to say.

Azalea and Camen both exchanged looks, unsure what was happening themselves but ready to play along. Apparently, Hartcort was even more terrifyingly brilliant than they'd suspected.

Lance’s demeanor was stern and no-nonsense. His stare was unwavering.

“Um, I don’t think she has any open time to…”

“She better make some.” Lance cut him off again. “I’m assuming that you must not be familiar with article 17b, subsection C of the infectious event reaction procedure?”

The guard blinked. “No.” He answered sheepishly.

Lance folded his hands across his chest and huffed most importantly. “Well then unless you would like to take credit for the quarantine of your entire planet I suggest you GET Vettan Brel on the horn and you tell her that we are here.” Lance glared at the guard.

The man glanced at each of the persons gathered in front of his desk and swallowed.

“Ah…um…you can take the lift over there.” He nodded quickly to the silver doors of an elevator off to the right of the desk. “I’ll let her know you are one the way up.”

Without so much as a thank you Lance spun on his heel and marched to the lift Camen and Azalea quickly falling in behind him.

"My dear Doctor Hartcort," Adams gave him a wry smile after the lift doors closed. "Why is it that I have never heard of article 17b, subsection C of the infectious event reaction procedure?"

"Well, it is a very obscure part.” He said innocently. “It covers the proper procedure to sterilize eating utensils in a contagious environment.”

"All utensils?" Azalea inquired playfully. "Is the procedure different for spoons and knives than it'd be for, oh I don't know, a spork or a pair of tongs?" Before waiting for his response, she added, "You're good, Hartcort. Very good. I'm glad you're on our side."

He turned and grinned. “Never forget I play poker.” He winked. “A lot.”

They made their way down a long corridor, their footfalls echoing eerily with each step they took as they made their way to the only door they could see, at the opposite end. The door opened with a quiet swish to greet them, which was a lot friendlier than the reception that they recieved once they had moved through it.

"I'm sorry, but Doctor Vettan is not going to be able to-" An older woman rose from the secretary's desk, waving her hands and shaking her head. "There is absolutely no way that she can see you today. She's in a very important meeting."

"We represent the most important meeting she's ever had in her life." Adams replied. "Doctor Hartcort and I are here on behalf of Starfleet Medical and if we are not allowed to speak to her immediately, we will have no choice but to-"

"It's all right, Lenda," A tall, skeletal woman appeared, an apparition as if from nowhere. She folded her arms and nodded to the assembly, "I am Vettan Brell. You are?"

"Commanders Azalea Adams and Lance Hartcort," Lance piped up. "Starfleet Medical."

The woman nodded in greeting and then turned her attention to the Bajoran man dressed in plain, black clothing.

"And you, Sir?"

"My name," Jariel said very slowly, his eyes never moving from hers as he fought back barely contained rage, "Is Jariel Camen."

The smug smile on Vettan's face disappeared.

"Vedek Jariel," she stammered. He looked very much different from the time she had met him years ago, on one previous occasion. "I was unaware that you were back on Bajor."

Usually whenever Jariel, who was so well known among his people as a fearless voice for the voiceless within the Vedek Assembly and as an Ambassador to the Federation, it made the headlines on the evening news. This time, there had been no such fanfare announcing his arrival.

"I have found that the most good is often accomplished quietly." Jariel said softly. "It would seem that is also true of the most harm."

"Won't you step into my office?" Vettan invited with sickeningly false cordiality. "Would you like some refreshments?"

"What I would like, Madame Executive, are answers," said Jariel.

The office that they were led into was dimly lit, making it difficult to see where they were going.

"You shall have them," another voice spoke up from the darkness, "Computer, increase lighting by twenty percent." The overhead fixtures shined brighter, and Camen's jaw set as he saw that they were not the only ones who had come to see Vettan Brell this morning.

"Vedek Jariel," the man greeted Camen, rising slowly from his chair, "It is good to know that the plight of those on the world of your birth still matter to you."

"Someone you know?" Azalea whispered softly, as Camen's face reddened.

"Doctors Adams and Hartcort," Camen replied to all present, "May I introduce you to Dendre Hald. He is the Director in Charge of the Bajoran Health Ministry."

"Such a cold introduction, Camen," the man approached Jariel and extended his hand in greeting, but Jariel refused to accept it. "We are old friends, are we not?"

Camen's eyes bored through him.

"You see, Doctors, the Vedek and I have worked together extensively in the past, to achieve great things and make great strides in helping those who have suffered most on this world." Dendre had, it seemed, none of the humility that precluded Camen from often listing the things he'd done in his life to help other people.

"We've rebuilt cities and hospitals with the funding we were able to wring out of the government, a slip of latinum at a time. We've made sure that those who were most vulnerable were best protected. We've done a great deal of good."

"When," Camen raised his eyes to meet Dendre's at last, "Did you lose your way, Hald?"

"I'm sure I don't know what you mean."

"Well, if you don't mind my interrupting this touching reunion of old buddies," Hartcort replied, clapping his hands once, "Maybe I can help you with that."

He made his way to the wall and commandeered a computer terminal. He plugged in a PADD and then transferred the information to a holographic image.

As the split image of two DNA chains came to life in front of the group Lance made his way to stand in front of it.

“Look familiar?” Lance asked.

Dendre had paled at the site of the image but never lost his composure. “It’s a DNA sequence.”

“Ding ding ding! Give that man a prize!” Lance chirped sarcastically.

He then turned and pointed at the strands. “This one on the right is the strand that should have been found in the inoculations that were delivered to the plains. It is the same DNA code that was registered, and approved by, Starfleet medical” He stepped back and looked at it. “Pretty good looking, In fact perfect for what it was designed to do.”

He moved to the other side of the image. “This one on the left is what was actually in the vaccinations. Not so pretty, is it? In fact this DNA strand has been corrupted by a virus that could have cost the lives of hundreds, thousands, heck even the whole population.” He turned and looked at both Dendre and Vettan.

“How do you suppose this could have happened?” He asked.

"Why, I don't know, it's shocking information to say the least," Vettan stammered, doing her best to play the innocent but failing in spectacular fashion.

Camen's patience was at an absolute end. With visions in mind of Tress' small hands signing because she could not hear and Fleur and Timal thrashing as they suffered, burning with fever, he crossed the room and forcefully took hold of Dendre's ear, clamping his fingers down hard.

"How is the strength of your Pagh these days, Dendre?" Camen knew that Dendre had always considered himself to be an exceptionally religious man even among typically religious Bajorans, and he was to the point where he didn't care what it took to get the truth out of him. If fear of the Prophets would do the job, than that was fine with Camen.

"Do you dare to tell me that you can stand at the entrance of the Celestial Temple when your day comes with a conscience that is clear?"

For just an instant, Dendre flinched. Then he reached up and pulled Camen's hand away. "You should worry about the state of your own Pagh, Camen. I hear that you and the Prophets may not be on the best of terms these days."

Camen stood tall, shoulders back, eyes unwavering.

"If I may, I'd like to present a theory to you as to how I believe this happened." Adams spoke up, stepping forward toward Executive Vettan. "I think that, whether intentionally or by accident," her tone clearly indicated she doubted that such a thing was even possible, but that she was trying her best to be diplomatic.

"...a large batch of vaccine was corrupted during the manufacturing process. Compromised." She narrowed her eyes. "Tainted."

She drew a breath and continued. "I also think that this came to the attention of people in the Quality Control Department of your fine facility. It would have to, because I know that every single Federation world is expected to have such safeguards in place in their medical communities to prevent disasters such as what has happened here, from taking place."

Adams turned away and took a few steps, arms crossed over her chest.

"Someone, probably a junior scientist or low-ranking doctor on your staff, comes to you one day and says, 'This vaccine is damaged, and it should not be used'. In fact, I would wager that the moment the problem was discovered, that there were additional tests run on the serum. Scenarios calculated, as to how great a risk the vaccine actually posed. Because you see, Doctor Vettan, we all know how expensive it is to manufacture such a product. There is never a desire to waste it once it's created unless there is valid reason."

"It's vital that our population is protected by the proper vaccines." Vettan replied. "Our concern is keeping the people safe from harm."

Camen and Lance let Azalea continue uninterrupted- she was on a roll. She nodded slowly to Vettan to acknowledge her comment. "Of course it is."

"This is ridiculous," Dendre tried to interrupt, but Azalea carried on.

"Further, I would even suggest that the Health Ministry itself was at some point notified of the risk." She was, in fact armed with proof that they had been, courtesy of the snooping around that Dane had done for her into the Ministry's central computer core.

"Warned that there could be a danger. I suspect that they were then reassured by someone very powerful at Relanon Bio-Medical that the risk to the population was in fact, very small. So small, that there was really no need to halt shipment of the vaccine, since payment would not be forwarded from the receiving agencies until it arrived on their doorsteps."

She felt her stomach burn with righteous indignation as she struggled to finish. "The risk was said to pose a danger to an estimated ten percent of the population of those who received it," She clenched her teeth. "The actual figure, though, in my estimation, was a hundred percent risk of infection to those who did not have a preexisting immunity."

"A hundred percent?" Suddenly, Dendre spun on Vettan. "A hundred percent?"

"She's delusional." Vettan responded. "She doesn't know what she's talking about."

Hartcort jumped back in.

“Oh yes she does.”

“Did you hear what the good doctor said? ‘A preexisting immunity’ That means some sort of antibody in a person blood, in laymen's terms.” His eyes scanned the group. “In this case it would be having a come down with a case of the Bajoran chicken pox.”

He held up a vial. “Or you could have gotten this version of the vaccine. The version that was distributed to certain parts of the population.”

Dandre flushed red. “Careful doctor of what you say.” He wrung his hands together. “There is no difference in those vaccines.”

Lance smiled. “Really? Well then explain why certain parts of your populace were sickened?” He quickly held up his hand to stop any reply. “Know what? Allow me. This version has a certain peptide added to it that isolates the virus, makes it dormant and eventually degrades it. So on inspection it looks like these batches where never tainted.”

“I almost missed it.” Lance admitted. “I only figured it out from blood samples from those who had been given this version of the vaccine. You see, the peptide is hard to see in the vaccine but stands out in the blood samples. All I had to do was reverse engineer the path.”

Vettan sputtered. “So what are you implying?”

Lance grinned knowing that he had the information to deliver a crushing blow to any alibi that they might had constructed.

“This peptide was custom engineered, specifically designed to stop this particular virus.” He glared at Vettan. “That takes time, money, knowledge of the virus, and talent. Plus it implies that someone had knowledge of the virus in the first place to create the peptide.”

Vettan paled to the point of translucence. “Once we knew of the problem we worked to fix the problem in the batches!” She blurted.

“You’re lying.” Lance deadpanned.

“How dare you suggest that…”

“Madam I play enough poker to spot a fibber.” Lane grabbed the PADD and hit a button. A list of dates flashed onto the holographic image. “Plus according to these dates you sent out the fixed vaccines two weeks before the corrupted ones.”

He folded his arms across his chest and stared.

“Well, we’re waiting?” He admonished.

Vettan and Dendre offered nothing more. After a few moments stalled at the impasse, Azalea once again breached the tense silence.

"I have a dear friend," she said softly, wringing her hands. "He has a favorite saying. That saying is 'No one shouted 'Stop!''."

Her eyes faded in their brilliance for a split second, as she remembered Captain O'Sullivan saying that when no one was willing to speak an unpopular opinion in a crowd, disaster followed.

"I think that is what happened here. Things got out of hand. There was an immense amount of money on the line, and instead of doing what was right," she shuddered, "you did what was convenient. Well, it's not going to be convenient anymore, and neither will what you've done remain a secret."

"You should know, Commander Adams," Vettan's voice was sweet, but her words were poisonous. "You have a choice here. You have the ability to make friends, powerful, influential friends upon this, your newly assigned home world, or you can make powerful enemies." Apparently she already knew enough about Adams to know she'd been posted here by Starfleet, meant to remain on Bajor.

"She already has friends that are powerful on her newly assigned home world." Camen assured, placing his hand on Adams' shoulder.

He never liked to make a show of his power or point out how far reaching it really was. But he was powerful, and held great sway within the Vedek Assembly, and the Bajoran government. Never in his life had he ever used the full weight of that power before, but if ever there was a time to do so, he thought, that time had come now.

"That sounded curiously like a threat," Hartcort interjected.

"Just a bit of advice." Vettan concluded, waving her arm and smiling once more. "Because sometimes the decisions we make have consequences, not only for ourselves, but also for those who matter to us most."

"That sounded specifically like a threat." Adams stood tall, confident, unafraid.

"You have a choice, as well, Vettan," Jariel spoke again as he and Lance stepped forward, one each at Azalea's side, since she seemed to be the focus of Vettan's attempts at intimidation.

"You can either take the first step toward repentance by admitting what has happened and stepping down, or you will find that the whole of not only Starfleet Medical will be knocking upon your door demanding your arrest, but you will also incur the...displeasure...of the entire Vedek Assembly."

"Get out." Vettan spat. "Before I have security escort you out."

"Our people will call your people," Lance responded, "They won't do lunch." No one but Adams understood the curious remark, but that didn't matter. The tone of his voice said it all.

Moments later, they stood again, together outside the now much more menacing building that housed Relanon Bio-Medical Engineering.

"I'll contact Starfleet right away," Azalea said without hesitation, "Bring them up to speed on everything. I don't know, though, how quick they'll be to get into this fight."

She worried that, with ties between the Federation and Bajor still being as strained as they were, that since no deaths had occurred due to the 'incident' that Starfleet may decide this was a battle that wasn't worth charging into.

"It may be easy for them to turn a blind eye, from their comfortable offices, far away," Camen said softly. "Even if they do, Doctor, please take heart." He squeezed her shoulder.

"I meant what I said before. You have already made more powerful friends on Bajor than you know. These people," Camen fumed, barely able to refer to them as 'people' because that implied that they had souls.

These were not people, these were monsters.

"These people have condemned Gillan Tress a life sentence of silence," His jaw set with determination, as his eyes burned with anger, "I will not stop until those responsible are imprisoned to a life sentance of their own."

Commander Lance Hartcort
Chief Medical Officer
USS Revolution


Commander Azalea Adams
Starfleet Medical
Currently on Bajor

NRPG: You've done absolutely brilliant work on the Bajor plot arc, Doctor Hartcort. Loved every minute of it Bravo, and thank you.

Oh, and- 'relanon' is the word in Bajoran which means "protect". I thought that worked well. Oh, the irony. -ZL