Chapter title: The Apple Farm
Written: Sept. 2020
Doctors Julian Bashir and Beverly Crusher were ecstatic when they discovered that one of their numerous subspace messages asking, in fact begging, for help, had reached a person who was willing to respond. To Dr. Bashir's partial dismay, it was someone he knew had a connection to the Federation's secretive Section 31. But hey, he would take help wherever he could get it from.
The reply message was quick burst, hidden inside a run-of-the-mill weather report. Bashir and Crusher could expect a civilian hospitalship named the Johns Hopkins to arrive at their planet in roughly three days.
Retired from Starfleet, both Bashir and Crusher had led relatively uneventful lives until they were contacted by a former colleague. This colleague, who they knew as Winston Zia, if that was his real name, was a bit of a character. He had flunked out of Starfleet Medical during his first year, but he remained in Starfleet for a few months working in their medical labs as an assistant lab rat. The first time Crusher met him was at a Children's hospital near San Francisco. Zia wore these eccentric eyeglasses with the lenses shaped like stars. He wore a distinctive purple top hat, and he folded animal balloons for the kids. Mostly dogs, as those were pretty much all he knew how to do. Despite his childishness, Crusher could tell Zia had the ability to succeed if he applied himself. Well, he never really applied himself, but he did manage to "fail upwards" as many critics would say. He eventually found himself in charge of the "Outer Limits" region of the Federation for Starfleet Medical's specialized "Division 14." Not known to most people, even Starfleet officers, Division 14 was a special division tasked with handling mysterious medical related problems afflicting Starfleet personnel. Zia was able to recruit both Bashir and Crusher due to some personal connections with some of the patients being treated in the outer regions of Federation Space.
"I feared Starfleet would never return to this region of space," said Crusher.
"Well, you have your former husband to thank for the change," said Bashir.
"He was never my husband," said Crusher. She smiled at the thought that her former Captain, Jean-Luc Picard, was back out amongst the stars. She had felt so much sympathy for his situation after his fallout with Starfleet Command.
"Who are they sending?" asked D.
"A ship named the Johns Hopkins. It's one of the newly built ones," said Lucas.
"And you think we sneak onto it?" asked D.
"I know we can," said a smiling Lucas.
Logan sat in the captain's chair of the USS Vasco da Gama, relatively satisfied. He and his friend Dr. Blair Olajuwon had delivered medkits and some other more advanced medical supplies to a pandemic stricken planet and met with no trouble along the way. In fact, they finished up sooner than planned. They could be back to the Fleet before Riker knew they were missing. Everything was coming up aces.
"Skipper," said Mr. Greene. "We have an incoming message from the flagship. It's Captain Riker himself."
"Christ," muttered Logan to himself. Such bad luck.
"Put him on screen," said Logan.
Riker's imaged blinked on to the front viewscreen. He didn't seem overly angry, but he was not smiling.
"Sir," said Logan.
"USS da Gama, what is your twenty?" asked Riker, alluding to the ship's location.
"We are en route back to D.S. Twelve," said Logan. "We had a little bit of engine trouble but we are back up and running."
"And the USS Hopkins?" asked Riker.
"Um… she's alongside," said Logan. "The chief medical officer onboard knows me and she wanted to keep me company while our repairs were underway."
"Funny," said Riker. "The civilian pilot on the Hopkins said that they were the ones with engine trouble and asked you to escort them in case they needed protection."
Logan cursed at himself. That was the more plausible explanation.
"Um…." said Logan.
"Never mind," said a slightly annoyed Riker. Though, Logan thought he saw a hint of a smile on Captain Riker's face. "I know where you are and I have a good idea what happened. I need to divert both you and the Hopkins a little further."
"It's a medical mission. You'll escort the Hopkins. Since you both love playing hero so much, it's right up your alley," said Riker.
"Understood," said Logan.
"My tactical officer will be sending you both the details," said Riker. "Stay safe, and good luck."
The front viewscreen blinked off.
A few seconds later, Logan saw a transparent screen light up about a foot in front of his face. He read through the information. Riker was sending the Hopkins on a similar medical supply run to a far flung planet to help out a former colleague from his days on the U.S.S. Enterprise. Logan was also told to expect possible hostile contact. While the particular region of space was claimed by the Federation, there were a number of local actors who claimed the region for themselves. Starfleet Intel rated the hostiles as far below the capability of a sole Starfleet starcruiser.
"Maverick, set course as instructed," said Logan.
"Course is set. I am sync'd with the Hopkins. We are both jumping on your order."
"Punch it," said Logan.
Dr. Beverly Crusher watched as her three patients played in the courtyard. The three of them were biological triplets, but could be easily differentiated. She was quite proud of the way they grew up. Although they were still relatively frail compared to an average human, they were self-sufficient and could take care of themselves. She didn't need to monitor them daily, but she did. Her triplets would be adults soon. She needed to trust that they could take care of themselves.
Lucas was the oldest triplet. He was, by far, the genius of the group; though, his two brothers were no slouches. Dixon was the middle brother. From the outside, he looked to be a perfectly normal Terran. However, he had a large organ inside of him called an electricity producing organ. The Section 31 scientist who bio-engineered it based it on the organ of an electric eel. Dixon's organ did work, however, it produced a very small amount of electricity. To top it off, water is a much better conductor of electricity than air, making the organ an effective weapon for waterborne animals but basically useless for animals walking on land, in the air. Robin, the youngest brother, had a slight green tinge to him. This was because the Section 31 scientist who worked on him tried to bio-engineer him with chloroplasts so that he could generate his own energy as a tree does. It worked to a very small degree. Missing in the equation was that trees are largely immobile, and therefore burn far less calories than a mobile animal. But an even bigger miscalculation was that animal brains require huge amounts of calories. So Robin's chlorophyll was able to produce less than two percent of his caloric energy needs. Based on the miscalculations in Dixon's and Robin's enhanced gifts, Beverly often wondered how the scientists of Section 31 could seemingly be so brilliant yet so stupid at the same time. It was astounding.
Dr. Julian Bashir's patients were an eccentric bunch. Lucky for him, he had experience with eccentric patients who were genetically enhanced. Some called his patients "freaks," but he found them to be a lovable bunch. However, they were also troublemakers at times. Although they were adults, they were arguably unable to function if left to their own devices.
Medical Technician Anthony was himself one of Dr. Bashir's former patients who eventually adapted to being fully independent. Anthony had a strange affliction which caused the left side of his face and body to have accelerated in aging and his right side to reverse in aging. The doctors of Division 14 eventually figured a way to stop the disease progression but couldn't return him back to his normal self. Anthony eventually accepted his condition and became Dr. Bashir's assistant to help with two of the facility's more complicated patients. A very rogue scientist, who at one point was loosely associated with Section 31, experimented with a horrific theory. He had read one of the classified mission reports of the U.S.S. Enterprise surrounding the events of Barclay's Protomorphosis Syndrome, which was alternately called an intron virus. The Section 31 scientist had the idea that a controlled protomorphosis could result in "super-soldiers" who had attributes such as increased strength or gills so that they could breathe underwater. Unfortunately, there were massive side effects which left the victims severely debilitated. Anthony nicknamed his two patients "Striker" and "Helen."
Presiding Executive Winston Zia had a total of 8 medical staff and thirty patients under his charge. Most of his life, he was a happy-go-lucky type of person. Even now, he remained optimistic. However, he had a feeling it would only be a matter of time before his enemies found him. He often wondered whether he should arm his patients. He decided against it, but reserved the option to do so. Of his highest concern was a group which called itself the Wraithic Crusaders. An offshoot of an extremist Bajoran cult, the members of the Wraithic Crusaders believed that any genetically enhanced individuals should be "cleansed" from the universe. Their gods, called wraiths, demand it. The organization started as a Bajoran group but very quickly spread through the Federation. Its numbers remain small, but they were spread across a wide area. Zia himself was not an atheist. He believed in a higher power. But he knew that not all religious believers were good people. He had to find a way to protect his patients.
"We've arrived in system," said Mr. Greene.
"All stop," said Logan.
"Hitting the brakes," confirmed Maverick.
"Two patrol boats are approaching," said Greene.
"Patrol boats?" wondered Logan. "On screen."
Logan watched as the screen showed two small dots approaching from orbit.
"Magnify," said Logan.
The screen zoomed in on the two small dots and Logan saw what appeared to be two shuttlepod sized spacecraft.
"They are hailing," said Greene.
"Unidentified Federation starship, please state your intentions at this location."
Logan thought about how to proceed. He decided to go the friendly route.
"We are on a humanitarian mission to deliver medical supplies," said Logan.
"Medical supplies?" asked a surprised voice on the other end. "The pandemic hasn't spread anywhere near here."
Logan shrugged. "I'm just following orders," he said.
The alien pilot seemed to address his superior for a few moments.
"Unidentified Federation ship, you have not been granted permission to be present in this star system. You are required to leave at once."
Logan was perplexed.
"Are you going to stop me?" wondered Logan. He didn't want to be a jerk, but his ship could clearly outgun his opponent.
"I will do my best," said Logan's opponent.
Logan was impressed to some degree. Brave. Stupid, but brave.
"What authority do you have here?" asked Logan.
"I represent the Bishop of Zaras. As you may know, we claim this system."
"As a matter of fact, I did not know that," said Logan defiantly. "As an officer of the United Federation of Planets, I reject your claim to this system in general and this planet in particular. You may file a complaint at the nearest embassy."
"I will file a complaint right now. With you, intruder. Who are you?"
"I am Logan Kee, the captain of the USS Vasco da Gama. I insist you let us proceed on our humanitarian mission."
The Zarasian pilot appeared to confer with his superior once again.
"I suppose I couldn't stop you even if I wanted," said the pilot.
"Probably not," said Logan.
"And I do not feel like dying today."
"I don't suppose anyone ever does. On any day."
"I will allow you to proceed, Logan Kee of the United Planets Federation. But be warned: when my backup arrives. You will be appropriately dealt with."
"I appreciate your warning."
The two shuttlepods left the da Gama and the Hopkins alone as the Hopkins started beaming down supplies to the medical facility.
"Captain Kee," said Mr. Greene. "The director of the facility is hailing us. He is asking you beam down and meet with him for a face-to-face meeting."
Dr. Blair Olajuwon found Dr. Bashir's group of augments to be highly amusing. She wasn't sure what to expect when she first beamed down. Prior to arriving in orbit, Blair thought the Hopkins was delivering supplies to a typical medical facility. She had never heard of Division 14. When she spoke briefly to Dr. Bashir over the monitors in her sickbay office, she learned briefly of the special augments but wasn't sure how highly functional they might be. In fact, Bashir's augments were extremely smart. It just happened that some of the side effects of their genetic manipulations resulted in deficiencies with their social interaction skills.
Along with being extremely smart, however, Starfleet Intel considered them to be possibly dangerous. It was the two-edged sword. They were therefore banished to a place as far from Starfleet forces as possible.
Dr. Bashir had high hopes that Starfleet would allow his augments to be relocated to deeper within Federation space. It was too dangerous where they were. Division 14 had multiple facilities they called "farms." Bashir's facility was called "The Apple Farm." He hoped he and his colleagues and patients could be moved to another farm.
Lucas was thrilled in a way, but also disappointed.
Two Starfleet officers had beamed down to the facility. A medical officer met with Dr. Bashir while an operations officer met with Dr. Crusher and Mr. Zia. The operations officer carried a holstered sidearm and Lucas presumed he was security. Lucas was intrigued by the security officer. For most of his life, he had interacted with medical officers. The security officer seemed like everyone else. Only the uniform was slightly different.
Lucas and his brothers had dreamed of one day leaving the medical facility and exploring space. Their current idea had been to sneak aboard the Hopkins and make their way to the core of the Federation. A security officer might complicate things.
When Logan caught a glimpse of Lucas, he appeared a little bit taken aback. Logan then continued on his way to Mr. Zia's office.
"Can you evacuate us?" asked Winston.
Logan was hesitant.
"I'm not sure the higher ups would allow that," admitted Logan.
"Will you at least check with Captain Riker?" asked Crusher.
Logan nodded. "I will. I just don't want to get your hopes up. You guys know the Federation government's position on this."
For many decades, the Federation had banned genetic enhancements. And for many decades, the Federation had ostracized individuals who were genetically enhanced, even by no fault of their own.
"I was hoping the recent developments with regard to the androids on Ghulion IV would perhaps leave an opening for the Federation to also loosen up on any restrictions against genetically enhanced individuals," said Winston.
"Once again, I just don't want to promise anything," said Logan. "Perhaps that is true."
"I do want to make clear," said Winston, "The Bishop of Zaras is allied with the Wraithic Crusaders. If they find us, they will kill us."
to be continued...
Author's note: there are brief elements of these episodes from other Star Trek franchises:
The Next Generation: 7x19 Genesis (introduces Barclay's intron virus)
Deep Space Nine: 6x9 Statistical Probabilities (Dr. Bashir's work with genetically enhanced "misfits"/antisocial savants)
Lower Decks: 1x7 Much Ado (introduces Division 14)