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Other than energy and data, each ring was functioning on its own. Dean took comfort in knowing that they could do that. Theoretically each pod was a life spending habitat on its own. He took comfort in knowing that, too. Sub alpha was now segmented, pods that were not afflicted by the virus had been sealed off, their inhabitants hopefully secure. Pods with afflicted people. That included the command centre.

In the ready room he had just laid down a member of the nightshift crew, who had broken down with a high fever at the end of his shift.

Lieutenant Lynch.

“When will your solution be ready?” Francesco administered a fever dampening drug to the man. “Soon, I hope. Franz is confident he can roll out the updates by tomorrow evening.” Grumbling Dean acknowledged that information, checking his gun. Like all others on Explorer it had no functioning laser at the moment, but he theorised that enough charged darts might overload the implant if Lynch should die and turn.

Through the open door he heard the alarming ring on the console at his station. Someone answered the call. “Oh, Admiral?” It had been Franziska. “You should come down to the infirmary!”

“Crap!” Francesco sprang to his feet, hurrying out with the Admiral. After a few moments the two arrived at the infirmary. A group of off duty personnel stood outside, they had their guns drawn, threatening the guards posted outside the infirmary, who in turn had their guns drawn. A few twitching people around told the two that the situation had already escalated.

The darts fired at the guards bounced off or stuck in the armor without harming the wearer, while most of the attackers were without such protection. “Hey!” Dean yelled, not wanting to believe what he saw. A dart whizzed by him, the shooter was hit by a blow from the guards.

“Admiral O’Neill!” A distraught doctor from the infirmary squeezed through the guards protecting him from the mob. “It’s okay Doctor, return to your work.” turning from the man to the others, who for some reason had stopped fighting. “What the hell is wrong with you people? Do you think they can develop a cure faster if you start rioting?” He glanced behind the guards. “They have sick people here, for crying out loud! If you are down with a heavy fever, asking yourselves whether you’ll see the light of day again, would you want a noisy violent mob at your bedside? That aside, do you think you’ll stay healthy much longer if you go to where the sick people are?”

Not waiting for anyone to reply Dean turned to the guards. “Disarm these people and throw them into the brig!” Voices grew loud that they needed a weapon in case they needed to defend themselves, but still they surrendered their weapons, after the Admiral told them what they needed was a lawyer, not a gun, to defend them, and that medical attention in the brig was excellent.

Securing his gun in his pocket Dean left the scene, in his stomach he felt a load of anger he couldn’t possibly hope to overcome.

The vibrating glasses in his pocket didn’t help him, especially after he saw it was his wife Moira.

In critical situations she tended to be really easy to panic. “What is it hun?”

He pause in between paces. “Diana’s sick?” He felt his blood rush faster, a cold sweat formed all over his body. Every fiber of his being tensed up.

“I’ll be there asap.” He grabbed Francesco by the elbow, a glance into Dean’s eyes told the doctor everything he needed to know. “Of course.” He smiled calmly.

 

Clearly struck by the concern on the doctor’s face Dean felt the urge to punch a wall. “How long has she been like this?”

“She came down with the fever two days ago, and”

“Two days? And you’re phoning me today? My work and stress still allow me to be a man, and father!” Moira replied with a gaze that could freeze the raging fires of a star. Dean didn’t even get to ask why she hadn’t contacted the doctors.

Meanwhile Francesco administered a shot of the fever dampener, and continued his scan. “The implant has already multiplied, I’m reading four of them.” Still his expression grew darker. Amongst his dark prognosis for Diana O’Neill, he was also astonished how quickly the implants made a copy of themselves.

“I gave her a cocktail of fever dampening drugs, vitamins, antiviral agents and hope.” He tried smiling convincingly, failed miserably at that. “That bad?” Moira clutched her hands in front of her face, glad that she had left her other daughter with her sister. Francesco bowed his head.

Dean shoved him aside, went to the bed of his daughter. Gently he caressed her head. “Daddy’s here my little angel.” He kissed her forehead, tears welded up in his eyes. “I will always be here when you need me.” He hated himself for not having been home those last two days. When that crisis was over he would resign, spend more time with his family. “Frank?”

“Dean?”

“Get to work.”

 

Unable to walk at a normal pace to the infirmary, Francesco found himself running as fast as his legs would carry him. He almost ran over a bunch of people in front of the infirmary. Quickly regaining his posture he hurried inside. “Please tell me you are done!” He pleaded as he almost hit the door which was sliding away too slowly for his liking. “Thanks to the sequencer, I have the complete viral strain in the system, and I’m ready to beta test it. What’s the hurry?”

Catching his breath Francesco told him of Diana.

Only moments later Francesco was running again, to his disliking he had to inject Diana with a new implant, as the old implants wouldn’t accept the new programming once they were corrupt.

Again, he found the door was opening too slow as he stormed in Dean’s quarters. Moira sat at the door to the kids room, Dean at the side of the bed.

Both were crying. An almost tangible sense of sadness filled the rooms, overwhelming Francesco. Dean wasn’t facing his daughter anymore. He still held her hand but he was crying silently, facing the door. “She stopped breathing. I tried giving her mouth to mouth, but she wouldn’t come back.” Whimpering he told his old friend what had happened in those fifteen to twenty minutes he had been gone.

Now Francesco too felt tears welding up in his eyes. “We better,” he gestured with his hand, the injector in it. “Yeah.” Dean sobbed.

With shaking hands he took the device that Francesco pulled out from his pocket. It deactivated the implants in Diana’s body, so Dan wouldn’t have to see his daughter jolt up, spew mucus, or scratch him with the hand he held.

Silently gliding the device over her, Dean also turned his implant off following a silent nod from Francesco.

The doctor then gave a new implant to the Admiral.

Later Moira would receive one as well. Production would begin by the next day, to provide everyone on Explorer with a new implant.

 

But Francesco couldn’t feel glad for that.

 

He had failed rescuing his best friend’s daughter. He knew that Dean felt as if he had failed Diana, as did Moira for not bringing her to the infirmary.

Solace came to him in the fact that others wouldn’t have to go through that experience. That Dean’s other daughter, Anna, was safe, and safer after she had received an updated implant.

 

Contrary to what Dean had intended, he remained Admiral, as the outskirts of the target solar system were reached. Not two years down the road, the Admiral would become more or less obsolete. Dean hungered to settle down, near a lake, or river, and teach Anna, all about fishing.

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