By Carol Sandford


Chapter 07


As the away team's shuttle landed on the planet's surface the Enterprise was forgotten as their eyes swept over the scene before them. Never-ending stretches of make-shift dormitories had been erected to hold the ever increasing number of dying Lanaarian's. Beverly gasped with shock as the true impact of the devastation filled her sight, the reality much worse than what she could ever have imagined. The doctor and the commander took stock of the situation together, and then, taking a deep breath, they stepped forward into the turmoil.

Beverly entered the first dormitory she came upon and Will warily tagged on behind unsure of what the worst case scenario would be. The low mewing sounds filled their ears were ones of agony, pure agony as they seeped into the air from each and every Lanaarian that lay prone on the precarious beds writhing in pain.

Before Beverly could stow her things and shimmy her sleeves up to get stuck in they were approached by an oldish, grizzly looking man who had more hair on his face than the rest of his body. His head was totally bald, but the shaggy beard he sported was at least a foot long.

"Ah, Doctor Crusher, I assume? Thank you for coming so promptly. I am Professor Jagla." He turned towards his patients indicating with a sweep of his arm the seemingly futile task of helping the people before him, "And these poor unfortunates are the result of, we believe, genocide."

Turning back to the stunned faces of the Starfleet officers, he smiled grimly, "Yes, we are almost certain that that is what we are dealing with here. New evidence has arisen that strongly suggests that some...alien life form has taken it upon themselves to rid this world of its race, presumably because they have discovered there is something here that they want."

Will stepped out from around Beverly, holding out his hand as he introduced himself. "Commander Riker, sir. Do you have any idea who these aliens might be? Are they from this planet, or are we looking at another planet in the system? The Enterprise didn't pick up any traces of a ship."

Taking the officers by the arm, Jagla led them back outside of the dormitories. As soon as he hit fresh air, he dug deep in his pocket, pulling out a dark cheroot and a lighter. Will and Beverly watched fascinated as the old man lit the cheroot and took a deep satisfying drag. The threesome watched the thin plume of smoke erupt from his lips and Will and Beverly smiled at Jagla's following words. "God, I needed that. It takes away the stench of death from my nostrils."

Embarrassed, he suddenly remembered his guests. "Ship?? Oh, you would have no chance of catching anybody now. This poison has been festering on this planet for some months. My guess is that another few weeks and every Lanaarian on this planet will be dead. Then I guess we'll soon see the perpetrators. All they've got to do is sit back and wait. Rather ingenious, don't you think?"

Beverly felt sick with the inhumanity of it all. "What sick animal would annihilate a whole peaceful race? Surely there could have been another way, any other way but this. This is inhumane!" She cried passionately.

Jagla shrugged his shoulders, the futility of the situation evident in the simple, painful movement. "Beats the hell outta..." A voice from the doorway had them all turning towards its source. A harried looking nurse looked dejectedly at the Professor. "Sorry, sir, we're just about to lose another one."

Somehow the older man's shoulders slumped even more as they all stepped back into the dorm, Jagla's voice rumbled angrily as he made his way between the makeshift beds, "This is the ninth today. I don't know if Starfleet has got anything up its sleeve, but I sure hope if it has that it's a miracle."

And as the three of them stood by the poor creature's bedside watching and listening as his last breath rattled within his chest, Beverly and Will could only look at one another as it finally sunk in just what they had taken on.

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