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Capt Daniel Cooper

Progress by Dawn ((Lepage/Cooper))

The lights in the lab were still dimmed since alpha shift wasn’t about to start for another two hours. Only two workstations were activated and a few monitors displayed different strands of DNA. Nick was hunched over a microscope, micropipette in hand, adding some liquid to a solution in a petri dish.


“Doctor.” A voice and light step sounded behind him; Captain Cooper had just entered sickbay and been directed to the lab as the location where the CMO had been working for some time in the mid-level dimness. “Early riser as well, I see,” he commented with a sort of wry pleasantness, stepping through the door and letting it shut behind him.


Nick gave a start and turned around, surprised to see the Captain. “What time is it?” Nick asked. As always he had completely lost track of time. Cooper’s statement, however, suggested it must be early in the morning rather than late at night - not that this didn’t depended on the point of view anyway.


Daniel smiled. “About 0500, give or take,” he answered. “You must have been having a busy night, if you have to ask.” Lepage had the worn look of an all-nighter written all over his face. Daniel doubted anyone on the station (at least anyone aware of the Breen situation in any particular) had had a very peaceful rest, really.


His smile faded a bit, and he asked more seriously, “Has there been any progress? I heard your report to Commander Chirakis yesterday, or got the gist of it at any rate; it sounds like a bad business.”


“Wow, 5 am. I’m going to regret that later. It used to be easier ten years ago.” Nick took a deep breath and exhaled audibly while he started digging through a pile of PADDs stacked up on the desk. When he had found the one he was looking for he handed it to Cooper. “I have, indeed, made a few very interesting discoveries.” The CMO paused to give the Captain time to read the PADD.


Daniel took it, chuckling. “If I comm down later and hear that you’ve napped on one of the biobeds, I’ll know why.” He liked Lepage; he’d had a few short discussions with the doctor since coming aboard the station and the other man seemed both intelligent and affable; those characteristics seemed in no way dampened by the strain of medical’s current load, though they were both feeling the tension of the early hour and the current potential crises.


Looking down at the PADD he quickly ran his eyes over the data Lepage had been working on. “Right, what am I looking at, here?”


“You, sir, are looking at the root of the problem,” Nick answered much more cheerfully than he actually felt. “I’ll give you the easy version if you promise not to court martial me if you find me napping.”


Daniel’s eyes crinkled at the corners in wry amusement. “I’ll take that under advisement,” he answered lightly.


“I’ll rest more peacefully then. Anyway, the root of the problem. If you look at this screen,” Nick pointed at the biggest screen occupying a large section of the bulkhead to the left. “You’ll see two strands of DNA. At first glance they look exactly the same. But -,” he pressed a button on the console in front of him and the image zoomed in on a small portion of the strands. “Spot the difference?”


Daniel gave the screen a long thoughtful look and then said cautiously, “Yes.” He reached out and tapped the screen at about the midpoint of the strand segment currently visible.


Nick nodded and contemplated the image for a few seconds. “I’ll skip the biology lesson only so much. This region right here should be inactive, something called an intron or intragenic region. Now it is an exon, expressed region if you will. I’ll spare you the details as to how I found this since originally I only had the sample with the active gene.” He gave Cooper a questioning look, making sure the Captain would know exactly what they were talking about.


Daniel nodded, indicating that he was following. “So some of their...inert genes have been reactivated in a way that shouldn’t have naturally occurred,” he said, repeating the idea aloud to orient himself.


“Actually, not quite. It turns out that if you alter the concentration of carbon in the surrounding air and add a bit of silicon the gene become inactive. However, I suspect that initially this gene was inert and only became active once the Deosi fled. Once I’d found that out I took a closer look at the molecular structure of this part of the DNA and I found that the sugar in these nucleotides is not deoxyribose but ribose which technically makes this small segment RNA and not DNA. To make a long story short, their DNA has been altered.” Nick could hardly hide his excitement over the results. Finally they were getting somewhere with his research. The question that remained was how to treat the Deosi’s condition.


Daniel tried not to look as blank as he felt at the more technical terms and settled for a slow nod. Lepage’s energy at the discovery was clear, which was the important thing. “Altered to keep the gene inactive as long as they stayed in one place,” he echoed thoughtfully. “A built-in autodestruct.”


“Or an anti-theft-device. In any case, as soon as the silicon’s gone the gene is activated and leads to a rather drawn out and painful death. I took hair samples from some of the Deosi and I found traces of silicon. Whether it was in the atmosphere or the food and water supply is anyone’s guess.” Nick tapped a few buttons and the image on the screen returned to its previous size. “The problem is that we have no idea how to stop this whole process once it has begun.”


“We never did get the impression the Breen were a particularly kind or merciful people,” Daniel said, just a bit bitterly. “I imagine they would have wanted to make it as difficult as possible to reverse.” He glanced sideways at Lepage. “Are others of the Deosi population showing symptoms at this time?”


Nick nodded somberly, digging for another PADD. “I’ve had a few in here. At this points it’s not easy to tell whether their symptoms are caused by other diseases and malnourishment rather than this but we’ll make sure the Deosi will get food supplements containing silicon. That’s all we can do for now.”


“Well, it’s more than we had last night,” Daniel answered with a nod. “Progress is certainly something, and I’m impressed with how much you’ve made, albeit at the cost of your sleep schedule.” He rubbed his jaw thoughtfully, his expression pensive. “This could make the idea of transferring them off the station considerably more complicated.”


Nick shrugged. “Yeah... well, as long as they get the supplement they should be ok. I’ll try to figure out a more elegant solution. But that’ll take time. What’s important now is that they’ll stay alive.”

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