USS Vesta

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To be an Adult Again

Posted on Thu Apr 1st, 2021 @ 4:19am by Commander Martin Sorenson & Allison Darrow

Mission: When the Bough Bounces
Location: Medical Bay
Timeline: MD07
3072 words - 6.1 OF Standard Post Measure

Allison stared at the wall display trying to make sense of what she was reading, or was she looking at her reflection? She honestly couldn't tell you the real answer if you had asked. Who wouldn't be distracted by the fact that they were literally aging backwards and no one had any idea as to how. Though she had to admit if they did figure it out, the vain side of her wouldn't mind stopping the re-aging process a few years short, those pesky worry lines and all.

She let out a grunt of frustration and turned away from the wall and back towards the room in general. Everyone had been sent away since there wasn't anything that could be done, why fill the sickbay with people who couldn't be cured. "I cant be the only one here whos finding it difficult to focus anymore right?" She asked aloud hoping to validate her own struggles.

"Not at all," Martin piped up. He honestly wasn't sure if it was the reverse aging, though it might be, - his mother had always said he was borderline hyperactive as kid - or the the overdrive that came with little sleep and constant pressure. Maybe both. He had vague memories of pulling successive all-nighters to crank out papers and class projects, and instead of crashing he'd been unable to sleep or even settle in one spot for long. At the moment that was playing out in pacing as he tried to read through the most recent set of data and scans on spread and progression. "I think I've scanned this last table four times now, but it just isn't..." he waved vaguely at his head, "..clicking."

Allison laughed slightly knowing exactly what he meant, "Like I know exactly what we're dealing with, I'm not at the point where I've forgotten everything and from what we're seeing I don't know if we will... but I just can't... focus. Like the hormones are driving everything out of wack, levels are off the chart." She didn't mention she felt younger both physically, emotionally and mentally; especially towards Ewan. It was almost as if puberty was happening again with the man of her dreams and no qualms about what that meant. Maybe it was worth mentioning in a way...

"Inhibitions are... less. I will note that not sure if you've noticed it since well... you know." Allison smiled a bit coyly the blush creeping up a bit as she thought about it. "Potentially a side effect of the hormones being off and the de-aging to more hormonal times."

Had he ever... but unlike Allison there was no focus for that. No that that was a new experience - one of many ways that being several years younger than nearly everyone else in his college years had not exactly been easy...

"Yes." He ducked his head to hide a blush just at thoughts brought up by that - plus he really did NOT need to imagine her and Ewan living the teenage dream... "But I don't exactly have an outlet like you do," he noted maybe a bit tersely, and shifted subjects. "Besides work. I've heard back from the station. No cases there even several days after our departure, so we did not pick it up there and - thank God! - did not spread it. There are also no reports of anything similar from any other ships that passed through in the same timeframe, so whatever happened, it began here after we left. Also, so far no prepubescent children have been affected. Good news in terms of not having to put babies into cryostasis, and it lends credence to the working theory that this related to the Miran virus, though the effects are clearly very different..."

Martin stopped, realizing he was rambling in an attempt to change the subject. "Sorry. If you want to take a break, it's fine. Honestly I probably should too."

"No no, I'm good. Haven't had this much energy in decades." Allison said waving his suggestion, "But sit down if you need it take a load off. I'm just trying to figure out why not everyone is affected." She stared at the read out of her own bio-signs verus that of one of the Marines. "Like why arent any of the marines affected? We get all the same vaccinations as them being on board a starship. Then there's Izzy, shes not affected either? Could it be her hybrid nature is fighting whatever is de-aging us? AND then there is Karrun, is she actually de-aging or is she immune to, though with her its a little harder to tell she has a lot farther to got than we do, several centuries or something like that."

She let out a sigh of frustration, none of this made any sense why the Miran virus had sudden affected them. "And if it is the Miran virus... we've known about that for so long, why suddenly now is it mutating? Maybe..... Hey do you think something about slipstream flight could affect the virus?"

"Sitting doesn't help," he replied, coming over to look at what was on her screen. "I don't think slipstream can affect a virus, and if it could, we'd have seen evidence of it long before now... the last pathology report indicated some features similar, but not enough for this to be a normal mutation. Though that might be clearer if half the images hadn't been marked up with crayon." He rolled his eyes, mouth going a bit sideways. Everyone seemed to have retained the knowledge to work, but there was a definite childishness coming out their efforts. How long before it over took him too? Would he be start tossing hypos at patients like darts or not fully healing wounds because the scar would look cool or funny?

Martin pushed the thought away, trying to refocus on what else Allison had said. "As to the Marines, they actually get more vaccinations than we do, even in medical. They hit them with everything known - even stuff that's not around anymore. Like the Miran virus. McCoy's cure not only reversed the affect on anyone past puberty, it eliminated transmissibility. That's why the away team was able to return to Enterprise instead of staying quarantined on the planet. Not to mention why we can have Jack and Nolan in Starfleet," he explained. "But even though it was a one-off fluke from an experiment gone wrong, and even with Mirans living in the Federation for over century and half with no cases of infection, the Marines still inoculated against it."

"And yet, inoculating ourselves now doesn't seem to have stopped it even when we attempted to adapt the genome to fight the variant," Allison said with a sigh, something had to have caused the disease to mutate but nothing they could find could have done it. Not... "Naturally... this thing didn't mutate naturally." It hit her, how had they not realized it before now? "Everyway we've been looking at it, we think this happened naturally, but it didn't. It couldn't have because it wouldn't have happened so suddenly, the mutation would have had to have been caused by something but nothing we know could have done that, no cases nothing for it to have entered into someone and mutated. Whatever caused this, it wasn't natural, wasn't radiation, wasn't anything. Someone did this."

Martin hesitated. Obviously Ewan had not shared the suspicion that had been discussed among the senior Command staff. However, since she had arrived at the conclusion herself, he didn't see any point in continued confidentially. "So we have suspected for several days now," he admitted. "Dr. Bathory disappeared, and by the time we found him he was a pre-verbal infant. Examining his lab and few cryptic notes didn't yield anything solid but..." he semi-shrugged, "it's too big a coincidence to ignore. But as you've noted it isn't just a variant of the Miran virus that dramatically slowed aging. This reverses aging, and rapidly - which wasn't the aim of Bathory's research." He ran a hand through disheveled hair - de-aging seemed to have affected his attitudes toward grooming as well as. "Which doesn't mean he didn't cause it. Lab accident. Bad theory, poorly tested. Unexpected synergistic effect. He was looking at Miran data, but also El-Aurian and several other long-lived species, as well as species with regenerative capabilities."

Allison had tons of energy now, and direction. She had a thought and her brain wasn't going to rest until she ran it down to exactly what was wrong and how to fix it. "So we've been looking at it wrong. This isn't the Miran virus, this is like... a super virus that has picked and chosen parts of genomes from all the long lived races on board, but something about them mixing has caused a deaging effect." She started pacing moving back and forth in front of the display panel. We've been going about it all wrong, we've been thinking this is Miran based but its not. Its an entirely new thing.

"Yes." Martin nodded agreement, bringing up the various molecular and RNA simulations run so far. "The hope was that it shared enough characteristics that McCoy's antidote could be effective against this, but that's looking like a dead end now. Still, something must be conferring immunity," he opened the current list of affected and not affected among the crew with what resembled a multidimensional spiderweb of color-coded links showing genetic, medical, and known environmental exposure characteristics, "Rufus has it; the Haldanes don't. Kairishana has it; Izzy doesn't and Thy'rali doesn't. We both have it; Asahi and Buck - both of whom have definitely been exposed - do not." He frowned at the tangle of data. "Normally, the computer could sort this down to some more manageable set in a day at most, but for the last few days there's been so much new data added every hour that the whole thing's been in constant flux."

"So... what then?" Allison said her pacing coming to a sudden halt, her mind now hitting a block after so much sudden... progress? "What's the factor that gives them their immunity?" She now let out a quiet scream of frustration as she clenched her fists. She wanted to hit something, break something, smash anything to get the frustration out but she knew better and it was likely just her younger instincts trying to come out. "What if it is not as complex as we think, what if it's really just something simple? What if we're overthinking this?"

Martin had begun pacing again, but stopped almost mid-step. "Right. Right, pair it down." The pacing started again as he thought out loud. "Old school methods - the worst that can happen is that it yields nothing. Which is what we have now anyway. So, let's assume Trenton is unaffected because of Borg nanites. Obviously, we aren't going to assimilate ourselves for a cure, but it eliminates him as a variable. The Marines are all clear, even Buck who has stayed exposed, so something common to all of them is conferring immunity. Species, age, and past exposures differ so assume it has to be the vaccination regimen... but this is where the search breaks down. Of the people on the ship who had the most inoculations, it's me - Starfleet plus DWoB vaccinations - then Izzy, then Asahi... hmm, maybe Asahi. Half his read is classified, so there may be exposures and immunities developed that we can't account for." He waved a hand dismissing the tangent. "So, narrow it to me and Izzy, assuming it isn't just that she's a hybrid, and the Marines. Is there anything they've both had that I haven't?"

"Computer, eliminate all crew members from the comparison except for Commander Sorensen, the Marines, and Ms. Cerin." Allison called out to the computer as she moved back to stand in front of the wall display. The computer beeped a response and the flood of information slowed down to a trickle as it showed only the specified people, their medical history, biometrics, basic genomes, basically anything that could affect how this virus might mutate in a host. "Well it's a start..." She muttered to herself as she felt her pulse quicken. There was still too much information, with all of them being vaccinated for ALOT of things because of where they went and when. She still needed to narrow it down more.

"Computer eliminate any vaccine or data point that is the same in all of the ones displayed now," Allison ordered before the display again cut down on the amount of information that was being displayed. This was simplifying it by a lot but making it manageable to compare. "It has to be something rare... something that isn't part of the normal vaccination routine." She said looking at Martin's medical vaccination history versus what Buck and Amelia had been given. There were a few western reach vaccines that Martin had that the Marines didn't but there was a much longer list of diseases that the Marines had vaccinations for, ones from centuries ago. "Man the Marines were given shots for everything even dating as far back as the 22nd century."

"22nd century... what if he was using Miran and El-Aurian RNA elements..." Martin snapped his fingers, struck by a sudden insight. "Computer, show only vaccines for diseases with El-Aurian variants." The number of options decreased significantly but was still rather outside the range for practical investigation. "Right... now eliminate those for all diseases considered essentially extinct as of ...90 years ago." There was another pause as the computer worked and the list shrank to 3: Andronesian encephalitis, Pr'brift's amyotrophy, Q'uHe ataxia. "Okay. Now we have a workable list. Computer, analyze the remaining vaccines for effectiveness against the de-aging virus."

"Andronesian Encephalitis, that one used to be very prevalent in early Federation worlds and ships if I remember the textbook right," Allison said as she stared at the results and waited for the computer to finish analyzing the vaccines for each of the diseases. "Androsians are decently long-lived too. Q'uHe ataxia is a possibility, Klingon's are very robust and long-lived."

There was a ding as the computer displayed the results on the wall panel and announced its results, "Vaccine for the Andronesian encephalitis shows 98% effectiveness versus the de-aging virus."

"Holy shit we found it." Was all Allison could say, "How the hell does a vaccine from the 22nd century protect against whatever this thing is the doctor made?! Know what who cares. Computer begin replicating the vaccine."

"Wait a minute. The vaccine will only protect the kids close enough to puberty that they might become susceptible - not that that's inconsequential," Martin noted. He fed some more parameters into the analysis and brought up the 3D holographic image of the virus. "See there? The vaccine produces antibodies that fix that antigenic site, preventing infection ...and it should limit viral reproduction too, so with luck that will arrest or at least retard the process and buy us a little more time to find an actual cure." He loaded a hypo from the first vaccine being produced from the medical replicators. "Normally using ourselves as guinea pigs would be terrible practice, but in this case... Do you want to go first or shall I?"

"Uhh might as well," Allison said as she moved to a biobed and hopped up onto it, pulling back her hair and presenting her neck for the hypo to inject the vaccine into. "Nothing ventured nothing gained yada yada." She said as Martin advanced on her and pressed the hypo against her skin and she heard the familiar soft hiss as it did its injection and the dull stab of the hypo. "Wait five minutes then do the scan, see if its even fighting the virus before we test it on you too." Allison ordered as she began to rub at the spot where the injection had taken place, she knew it was psychopsymatic but none the less she swore it was itchy now. "Wouldn't do to have both of us knocked out because we tried some hair-brained vaccine test."

"The Federation used this vaccine for years on humans, so it should be fine," he assured her, or maybe himself since he'd have to explain to Ewan if anything went wrong. "Though none of those humans were infected with whatever bizarre lab accident virus we've got, so I'll monitor for bit to make sure you don't... grow a tail or something ...before inoculating myself too."

Of course waiting even a handful of minutes to see if there was a reaction had been a lot easier when he wasn't a ball of nervous youthful energy... God, but five minutes was a long time. Getting antsy, he started moving back and forth between the bed and the holographic model of the virus, examining Allison's readings and then studying the image again. "You know, Bathory was going on about telomeres when we first talked. These strands of virion are similar what I recall from some older treatments for degenerative conditions that mimicked telomerase to replenish the affected telomeres - except this is like someone juiced that with warp plasma. Run away somatic cell nuclear transfer... if not for the energy limitation from growing backwards, a big enough viral load could send you right back to an embryonic state."

An idea struck him, and he looked around at Allison with a near manic grin ...and realized more than five minutes had passed. He checked her readings. "Time's up! Looks like you're all good, and no younger," he declared ebulliently, grabbing a hypo to inject himself. "Now we should have a little more margin to work and I think I have an idea of how to cure and reverse it. Just have to be careful not to go too far - we don't want to have to re-age for the next couple decades, but we don't want overshoot and go from kids to old and gray... Not to mention the growing pains would be torture."

Allison grinned, "Coming up a little short wouldn't be the worst thing either." She hopped off the bed, she couldn't feel herself de-aging anymore, not that she could feel it before either but at least they had something to stop it for now. "Lets get to work shall we?"


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