Summary: When a medical mystery interrupts Phlox's sickbay tour, Beverly finds Phlox has the key to the cure.
Notes: Written for chacusha.
"It's very advanced." Phlox turned to glance back over sickbay, an approving expression on his face. "But very quiet."
Beverly smiled. The Enterprise had the best of everything, including in sickbay. "We don't have many patients." Which was a good thing because it meant she'd had time to spend with Phlox, giving him a tour. Although she knew he would understand if there had been a medical emergency she'd needed to tend to.
He hadn't been entirely clear in any of his letters about how he'd ended up in this century. And she hadn't asked a second time. Despite him being a regular correspondent there was so much to talk about that the subject hadn't come up again. Through their letters he'd learned a lot about the advances in medicine in the last two hundred years. Since he had experience with some species that she didn't, she was learning in return.
Phlox inclined his head. "On Enterprise sickbay was never quiet, even at night. Some of the animals I kept there were nocturnal. None of them were particularly noisy, I grant you, but there was never this level of silence."
"Ah, yes." Beverly's tone was a little condescending, hearing about the animals in sickbay, which she immediately regretted. Phlox was from the past and from another culture. They did things differently there. There was nothing to suggest they were unhygienic.
However, his expression hadn't changed. It had stayed an excited one since he came on board. She was beginning to wonder if anything could dispel it. But she didn't want him to think she was disparaging his medical methods, so she asked, "Did you use your animals often?"
"Oh, yes." He nodded. "There was hardly a week that went by when I didn't need to get my osmotic eel out. Did I tell you about the time I used it to remove some neural parasites?"
She immediately wished she hadn't said anything. He had told her that story, along with many other instances of the animals he'd treated patients with. That had been a long letter, that she'd taken days to get through. After the first day she'd regretted asking the question. And now she'd repeated her mistake. He hadn't needed any encouragement to re-tell the tale, and acting like she was listening was hard work.
The sound of the red alert siren was almost a relief. Phlox had to stop talking when Jean-Luc contacted her immediately after.
"An alien being of unknown origin has penetrated the ship's shields and is causing some odd effects."
After a few moments, when he didn't elaborate she asked, a little impatiently, "What sort of odd effects?" They were obviously of a medical nature or he wouldn't have called her. It would be nice if one day she didn't have to drag the details out of him.
"Everyone who comes into contact with it has shown signs of illness. But they're all different. And it's affecting the computer too. It's giving us unreliable information."
So no checking anything with the computer. At least the tricorders were on a separate system, so they should be fine. "Send them to sickbay, we'll see what we can find."
"That is unusual." The news had dimmed Phlox's cheeriness a little. Although he still sounded energized, like he was looking forward to solving this.
She made a sound of agreement. If she was honest she enjoyed medical mysteries too, so as long as no one died.
The first thing to do was to update the medical staff. It didn't take long, since she didn't know much. As soon as she'd finished, their first patient walked through the door.
Ensign Cardenas managed to make it to a biobed before collapsing onto it, breathing heavily.
Beverly scanned her, then frowned. "There's something wrong with my tricorder. This says she has Rop'ngor." If she couldn't trust the tricorder it was going to be much harder to treat anyone. If Cardenas had been a Klingon, Beverly would have had no such hesitations.
"Rop'ngor?" Phlox asked.
"It's a Klingon disease. It's only found in Klingons," she emphasized. "Humans can't catch it."
They both peered down at Cardenas who was definitely human. The only thing they could do for now was to treat the symptoms, which she left in the hands of Dr Selar, as another patient arrived.
"If he wasn't human I'd say this was Rigellian flu." Phlox sounded confused as Lieutenant Hughes sat on a biobed, nose red.
The tricorder had reached the same conclusion. Except it was impossible for humans to catch Rigellian flu, no matter how much they were exposed to it. Clearly there was nothing wrong with the tricorder; the problem was with the diseases themselves.
They both stepped away to think, while Nurse Ogawa tended to Hughes.
"Perhaps," Phlox suggested, "something is altering their DNA to make them susceptible to alien diseases."
"Not according to the tricorder." Although she still didn't completely trust it. "But if that's true, how would we fix it without computer access?" Tampering with DNA was not a simple process that could be done on the back of an envelope.
"No," she decided, "we can't guess. Let's work with what we have and find a way to treat the diseases. They all have cures, we just need to adapt them to the species." Which wouldn't be easy either: without the computer that would be up to the medical staff's memories.
"If only we had some of my Immunocytic Gel Worms," Phlox mused.
He had mentioned those before although she couldn't recall the details. However, the name was enough to give her an idea of what it did. Anything that boosted people's immune systems and enabled them to fight these alien diseases would help.
Of course, they didn't have worms of any sort on the Enterprise, immunocytic or not. "Maybe there's a chemical equivalent." Except they wouldn't be able to look anything up on the computer. That was fast becoming a major problem.
Phlox frowned for a moment before his face lit up. "Iphigenius! We aren't far from it. A sub-species of the Gel Worms live there and all we need are their secretions."
She hated the idea, but she hadn't come up with anything better. There were two people in sickbay who needed her help, and likely more to come. This was the only idea that had any chance of working, so she had to go with it. She called Jean-Luc with the request.
"We're heading that way anyway," he replied. "It seems that the alien being wants us to go to Iphigenius."
It sounded ominous, but she put it to the back of her mind. She had enough things to worry about already. To Phlox she said, "You'd better brief the Away Team so they know what they're looking for."
More patients arrived as Phlox left and she was kept busy, diagnosing them and checking it with the tricorder. It agreed with her every time, but the disease never matched to the patient. The only bright side was that none of the illnesses were serious. At least in their original species. Although even then, if left unchecked, they could lead to complications.
Despite being kept busy she was still impatient for the Away Team's return. She'd only had a moment to realize Phlox had been gone a long time when he returned with the Away Team, all carrying sample boxes. And all covered in what seemed to be mud, if mud was a sickly pink color.
She went over to them and raised her eyebrows at Will. He sighed in response, which she took to mean Phlox had managed to talk his way onto the Away Team. And likely been relentless cheerful about the whole thing. He was grinning now.
"How's it going on the bridge?" she asked Will. She'd ask him later about the mission, when Phlox had left.
He relaxed a little at her choice of question. "Deanna thinks the being is curious about sickness and how we react to it."
"If its curiosity gave people diseases from the wrong species it would be helpful if it would cure them." She sighed. If they weren't sure of their understanding of the alien being, they wouldn't be able to convince it of anything. At least not soon enough for her patients, potentially.
Will gave her a small smile. "I'll leave you to it, Doctor." He scrunched up his nose as he handed over his sample box, which told her to take a deep breath before she opened it.
She waited until they were in her office, so as not to stink out the whole of sickbay. The smell reminded her of diaper changing when Wesley was small. Some shallow breathing was required while she and Phlox separated out the contents of the sample boxes into something she could inject.
As much as she hated to try something untested, Cardenas's temperature was dangerously high and not responding to medication. In Klingons, if this was allowed to continue the complications could be serious. And all the symptoms in all the diseases were running a lot quicker than usual.
She took a deep breath and injected Cardenas. Then pulled the tricorder from her coat pocket. She only had to wait a moment before Cardenas's temperature began falling and her vital signs were returned to normal.
Her eyes fluttered open and she peered up at Beverly.
Beverly smiled at her. "How are you feeling?"
"Tired." She yawned. "But much better."
"Get some sleep." Beverly touched her shoulder. To Phlox she said, "Let's inject the rest."
Sickbay was full of patients, but there was enough of the Gel Worm's secretions to cure everyone, with some left over for anyone else who hadn't made it to sickbay yet.
With perfect timing, Jean-Luc arrived as soon as they'd finished. He had the weeping ears typical of Dorek Syndrome, which was only found in Ferengi. Beverly went to him with her tricorder out, which he waved away.
"Everything all right with the alien being?" She assumed it was, or he wouldn't be here, refusing medical help, but she wanted to know how many more patients they might get. And needed to keep Jean-Luc occupied while she conducted her scan without him noticing.
He nodded. "Deanna felt pride from it. And then it went home. To Iphigenius."
She frowned. "It wanted us to go there to cure everyone?"
"I don't know." He spread his arms out. "It's a mystery."
He liked mysteries, she knew, just as she did, but solvable ones. Before she could say anything sympathetic, Phlox pressed a hypospray to Jean-Luc's neck.
Jean-Luc turned to glare at Phlox. Whose smile merely grew.
"You're sick, Captain," Phlox said. "The longer you ignore it, the worse it'll get."
Beverly tried not to smile. "Phlox came up with the cure," she said, hoping to endear Jean-Luc to Phlox.
"Involving some sort of worm?" Jean-Luc asked, with a worried undercurrent.
Phlox nodded. "I wouldn't have thought of it if Beverly hadn't asked about my osmotic eel. I owe my inspiration to you." He nodded at her.
She smiled at him. "It was a joint effort."
"Debrief at eighteen hundred." Jean-Luc glanced at Phlox. "Senior staff only."
He turned to leave, and she let him go because his ears were already going back to their usual color and the pinched expression he'd had when he came in had gone.
Once the door had closed behind him Beverly couldn't hold the laughter in any more. It took a few moments to catch her breath, then she could respond to Phlox's confused expression. "I'm really looking forward to telling him we injected him with worm poop."
Phlox stood up straighter. "Their secretions are a little more complex than that."
She shook her head. It didn't matter: it was enough to tease Jean-Luc with. She placed a hand on Phlox's arm. "You were right, sometimes unusual methods really do work. I will remember that in future."
His smile grew. "I'm glad I could help. Now, did I tell you how I used my Calrissian Chameleon to heal the captain's dog?"