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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Warner's Disease

Links to the rest of this story may be found here.


“A particularly nasty disease,” Ramina said, rejoining the conversation. “According to the notes made by the doctors before they fell ill, the first victim, Terry Monaco, arrived in medical complaining of fever, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and general malaise. Monaco worked in the diseases laboratory on the deck below this one, researching diseases discovered during the course of the Waratah’s travels. Several days after checking into medical, Monaco developed several more severe symptoms, including bloody vomit and diarrhea and a painful rash that made it difficult for him to sit or lay still. At this point four other crew members had come in with the same symptoms with which Monaco had originally presented. Monaco was the first death; his condition worsened to the point at which he had begun to constantly cough up blood and to bleed from his orifices; any attempts by the doctors to administer medicines came back up or caused more bleeding. He died ten days after first checking into medical, of systematic organ failure. At that point fourteen other crew members had arrived in medical with similar symptoms, and despite their best precautions one of the doctors had also fallen ill.”

“But I
know that disease,” Amy said.

“Really?” Grayson said. “Because I hope to God I never do.”

de Sara raised her eyebrows. “I have never heard of it,” she said.

“It’s Warner’s Disease. Except…” Amy frowned. “I mean, it is, all the symptoms are right, except I can’t figure out how it’s transmitting. Also…” She bit her lip. “Also, it
shouldn’t be Warner’s Disease.”

“What’s Warner’s Disease?”

Amy began to pace. “It’s like Ramina said — it’s a really, really nasty disease. A virus. Except it was eradicated over two hundred years ago, years before the
Waratah went missing.” She looked from Ramina to Grayson. “Seriously. The only reason I know anything about it is because it was a huge pain the ass for the Empire for about fifty years out in the rural areas where the hygienic practices weren’t stellar and there wasn’t much in the way of trained medical staff or hospitals, so trying to stop the spread was a nightmare. They figured out a vaccine first and got people vaccinated against it so at least no one else would get sick, but it took ages before they found an antiviral that was successful.” She shrugged. “After that, it was poof, goodbye Warner’s Disease. Not exactly eradicated overnight, but they did get rid of it eventually. So this really shouldn’t be Warner’s Disease. It’s gone. Eliminated. There hasn’t been a case in over two hundred years.” She hesitated and then added, “The other thing is that Warner’s Disease was transmitted through body fluids. That’s why it was so prevalent in rural areas with poor sanitation — people who were infected contaminated the water supplies and then other people got infected through the common water. Correct me if I’m wrong, Ramina, but I don’t really see that happening here. The Waratah uses a water purification system; any contaminants would be filtered out. Even if the system didn’t recognise the specific virus it ought to recognise an unfamiliar contaminant and take it out. So I don’t understand how it was being transmitted.” She sighed. “Much less how it appeared in the first place.”

“Ramina, you said the first victim worked in the diseases lab,” Grayson said. “You don’t suppose they were stupid enough to keep a live sample of an extinct disease, do you?”

“Wouldn’t be the first time,” Ramina said. “We should check. If they did they might have kept the vaccine and antiviral as well.” She glanced at Amy. “If we intend to continue our presence on this ship for any length of time, we should take every precaution. Any exposure to this disease will almost certainly result in our deaths without the benefit of the vaccine beforehand or the quick assistance of the antiviral after.”

Grayson frowned. “If they do have the antiviral, why wouldn’t they have used it? It took Monaco ten days to die. Surely at some point during that time he would have thought to mention which disease he accidentally infected himself with.”

Ramina shook her head. “After the third day he couldn’t talk and he was too weak to write, but his initial symptoms would have resembled influenza - nothing to worry about.”

“The incubation period for Warner’s Disease can be as long as a month,” Amy said. “It can be as short as three days, but even so, whatever Monaco did to infect himself, he probably didn’t realise it at the time, cleaned up, put away, and moved on to another experiment, so even if someone had gone to look into what he’d been doing, his notes in the days around the time he checked himself into medical might not have reflected the experiments he’d been doing when he was infected, and might not have helped. Although you’d think they’d be more familiar with Warner’s than we are, seeing that the last recorded case — which was not on this ship, in case anyone was wondering — was in their lifetimes.”

“Amy, you and Ramina see if you can find the antiviral and vaccine. If you can’t, I want to head out.”

“But — ”

“If I’m going to be working on a ship full of corpses and a potentially still deadly virus — ”

“It’s fairly unlikely it’s still dangerous,” Ramina said. She considered. “Fairly unlikely.”

“ — potentially still dangerous virus,” Grayson reiterated, “then I want to make sure I’m wearing a suit that’s actually meant to deal with biohazards.”

“You have someone you’re planning on getting those suits from?” Amy inquired.

“Not really, no.”

“Great. I do. We’ll talk.”

Grayson sighed and watched as Amy and Ramina walked out the door. “Taz?” he said, activating the comm. “I’m going to the flight deck. Be a mate and join me there. I’ve had about as much estrogen as I can handle for one day.”

Taz laughed. “
Copy that, Skipper. Meet you there.

Grayson looked around at the medical bay of corpses and shivered. Ship full of technology, ship full of corpses. The whole damn thing made his skin crawl.


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1 comment:

  1. Keep writing, as I love this story. Consider submitting for TV or book.

    ReplyDelete