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“I’m a doctor, not a programmer!” Francesco threw the tablet on the table. He was tired, hadn’t slept at all since the outbreak. “How the hell am I supposed to fight this thing?”

“Perhaps you should become a programmer?” Trying to lift the spirits with his jokes Dean leaned back, to avoid being hit with something, as his old friend tended to become quite passionate and physical when stressed or enraged.

“Not funny, Dean.” Francesco pointed at a display in the wall.

Displayed was the que outside the gamma hospital. It was going halfway through the the ring. Francesco put in another feed.

“This was the third victim of last night.” A man in the que broke down, hastily people ran away from him, once he jolted upwards, spewing a spray of mucus out. A few times he twitched, until one man ran towards him.

Forbidden by regulations the man drew his gun, switched the laser on and fired at the dead man’s head, severing it in two, then again disconnecting the limbs.

Horrified Dean fell silent. “Get me a programmer, before they start shooting at anyone with a running nose or so much as a headache!”

 

After the incident at the gamma ring hospital Dean had all communication lines with gamma restricted. Surely plenty of people had filmed the incident, and surely more than enough of them tried to get that video out of gamma.

It had been too late, as Dean discovered. The same footage that Francesco had shown him soon was all over the news, and soon people all over Explorer were spooked and close to panic. As a precaution he ordered the retrieval of all guns, the laser units were disabled and handed back out.

A curfew was posted, for all civilians, and non essential personnel.

“It is our duty to uphold the functionality of this ship.” Dean stood in front of his nav officer Oleksander Filipow. “Your misconduct, your cowardice, can not be tolerated. However,” he smiled, “I can not blame you. You did come forward and showed up today. Therefore your punishment will be for a tribunal to decide, once this situation is over, in the mean time you will be demoted a rank. Report to your post.”

Saluting the man turned on his heel and hurried off. “Harsh.” Lucy commented, low enough for only him to hear.

“Yeah. I think that demotion will be enough. Unless he does something else stupid.” Waving her to follow Dean marched off the command centre, after a few turns they reached the barracks.

Suited in full body armor and combat helmets was a small portion of the security force. After the first encounter with the Harpies on Horizon the fighting forces on all the ships was increased. Even after the two species had reached a peaceful solution, there were still the patriarchists.

“Alright, you know why you have been assembled. Riot control. You have to ensure that nothing on board this ship happens, that shouldn’t be happening!” A few eyebrows were raised, was the Admiral trying to be funny again?

“See that the curfew is obeyed, people can, and will, go to the infirmary, but other than that, well, you know.” His words were also transmitted to other security teams all over the ship, restrictions in travel inside the ship meant that now the rings were isolated from on another, except in true emergencies.

 

With a salute he dismissed them and turned with Lucy to head back to the command centre, when a nerdy looking man in his late forties, flanked by two strapping guards approached him. “Franz Hardwick reporting as ordered.” He was obviously a civilian, but at least he knew how to stand in front of the Admiral, surely his mother had something to do with that. “You’re going to head to the infirmary.”

“I’m healthy. And not a medical doctor.” He quickly reacted, seeming almost panicking. “I know. But your expertise is needed there, you see the virus interacts with the programming of the implant, and that’s where you come in.” Dean had his arm on Franz’ back, patting him kindly, like he would a friend. “You can be a hero!” He added, clearly striking a cord with the man. From Franziska and Franz’ documents he knew that he was single, and a loner. A walking cliché almost.

“A hero? Me?”

“Yes, now get to it.” Dean shoved him in the direction of the infirmary.

As the man, still flanked by the guards, walked off, Dean mused for a short moment why he knew so many people whose first name began with an F, but dismissed it.

“We have a problem, Sir. The Virus seems to have jumped rings, the quarantine was too late.” Rotating around to face Lucy, Dean moaned. “Where?”

The face that she made, made him cringe. “It’s everywhere, isn’t it?”

“Except subgamma. I took the liberty of locking it down. Nothing can reach subgamma physically now.”

Devastated by the ill news Dean rubbed his face. “I need to make a statement. What do the governors say?”

“Nothing really, they’re turning to us for information.”

Typical! Stern faced Dean marched on to the command centre. About everything these pin headed mouth breathers fight me, and now they want information and help!

 

Lit only by a display the room was drenched in cold blueish light, Francesco leaned in his seat. Over the couree of the day he had left the confines of his office to help treat people who either felt sick, or truly were sick.

Then he talked with doctors from various rings, they managed to help develop a vaccine, but until it was ready for use there was a long way ahead of them.

The programmer, Franz, had made little progress. Apparently the implants analysed the virus, deemed it as a normal strain, released normal antibodies, and then went haywire. Franz hadn’t gotten behind that part yet. He assumed it was the a software glitch, that made the implant reproduce, and later try to resuscitate a brain dead individual by jolting the nervous system.

One suggestion of his was to deactivate the reproductive algorithms in the implants, which would mean that children would need to be implanted at birth. Somehow Francesco wasn’t too fond of that idea, but he wouldn’t dismiss it right away.

About twenty minutes before he had sat down to draft his report of the day, he had received a shocking video call from his colleague on alpha ring.

There had been this twleve year old girl with severe epilepsy in his clinic. When she had a spastic attack, some other patients thought she was jolting.

They had beat her to death.

Still the page for his daily report was empty.

Glad that there was no footage of the actual incident, he still couldn’t get the mental image out of his head.

A snoring woke him from thought. On the other desk was Franz, haunched over the table, fast asleep.

Perhaps they should tackle the algorithms for resuscitation in case of brain death or heart failure?

Again Franz snored, but sat up one heartbeat later. “I’ve got it! We need the make up of the new strain, and feed it into a new subroutine. That should keep new infections from happening!”

“And the already infected?”

“Uhm.” Snipoing his fingers he paused, rubbed his eyes, looked from the ghostly image of Francesco back to his screen. “A temporary fix would be deactivating the algorithms for reproduction, and resuscitation. But that won’t heal them.”

Francesco yawned, sat up straight and stretched. “Your idea might work, actually. Fever dampeners, and the update might give the implant the time it needs to fend off the virus. Combined with the deactivated algorithms, this might work.”