Let the Dead Bury the Living
By Thalia Drogna
AN: This is the 3rd part of the "Nanites Saga", and is the sequel to "He Who Fights With Monsters", it will help to read that and "What Does Not Kill Us" first. This is set after the end of the third series but ignoring the cliff hanger ending, I'm assuming that everything will get back to normal eventually.
"I do not understand the purpose of this game," said T'Pol.
"That's because it doesn't have a purpose," said Trip, with an exasperated sigh.
It was Thursday evening and therefore Mah Jongg night. Their usual fourth player, Travis, was taking the Captain down to Star Fleet Headquarters for a meeting with the Admiral, so Trip had invited T'Pol to make up the four. He was beginning to wonder if that had been such a good idea now.
"It's for entertainment, T'Pol," said Hoshi.
"I see," she said, making it clear that wasn't a valid reason as far as she was concerned.
"Don't Vulcans play games?" asked Reed.
"Vulcan games are played to improve our logic skills. The element of chance in this game annuls the use of logic," said T'Pol. "I also do not understand why these symbols are known as dragons when they do not look anything like dragons."
"Actually I seem to remember thinking that as well," said Reed.
"The tiles have had these symbols for centuries. It's a very old game," said Hoshi.
"Are we talking or playing?" asked Trip, with slight annoyance. He was concentrating on his tiles and didn't notice the look which Reed and Hoshi exchanged.
The Commander had been snapping at people for a couple of days now and no one seemed to be able to work out why. They were back at Earth and they had the Captain back, the Xindi peace treaty had been signed and they finally had time to rest. Enterprise was undergoing repairs and a complete overhaul before heading out again. After the damage it had sustained in the Expanse it was going to be a couple of months before they left space dock. Trip should have been happy to be home and have time to fix the ship but instead he seemed to be under a permanent black cloud.
"Mah Jongg," said T'Pol.
"Again?" asked Trip with disbelief.
"It is a simple matter of calculating the likelihood of being able to collect the required tiles, and formulating a suitable strategy, Commander," said T'Pol.
"I've never seen anyone win so quickly," said Hoshi, amazement in her voice.
"I think that's my lot for the evening," said Trip.
"We can't tempt you to stay for another game?" asked Reed.
"No thanks, I'm kind of tired. Think I'll get an early night," replied Trip and he bid his friends goodnight. The three remaining Mah Jongg players watched him leave through the doors of the mess hall.
"Something is definitely up with him," said Hoshi.
"Up?" asked T'Pol.
"Something's wrong," said Reed. "I've tried asking him if he wants to talk but he just said it's these upgrades. I don't believe that for moment. He was really looking forward to seeing what the Jupiter station team had come up with. Every time I see him these days he has that far away look that he gets when he's talking to the nanites. He seems to spend more time talking with them than he does with us."
"Perhaps the dreams are bothering him again," said Hoshi. Trip hadn't been sleeping well after he had been captured and tortured by the Xindi.
"He has been sleeping much better recently," said T'Pol. "We have been able to cut back on our neuropressure sessions."
"I think it's time that I had a talk with him," said Reed, getting up from the table. "I'll see you both tomorrow."
Trip got in to his quarters and decided that he needed a shower before he went to bed. His head hurt. The headaches had started a couple of days ago and had been getting progressively worse. At first he had dismissed it as nothing important, he'd been working hard and was probably a bit dehydrated. When the headache had returned and become persistent he knew that he should go and see Phlox about it but he just hadn't had time with the upgrade and repair schedule. Or that was what he told himself, he knew deep down that really he hadn't gone to see Phlox because he had been spending far too much time in the doctor's company recently. With the nanites demanding constant monitoring and his recent mental problems, he saw Phlox at least once a week, sometimes everyday, when things were particularly bad.
He was getting through painkillers like there was no tomorrow. And he knew it was making him irritable as hell, which he did feel mildly guilty about but he pushed that to one side. To add to his problems, something was up with the nanites as well, their internal diagnostics had shown up some anomalies and he was still trying to work out what it meant. He told the nanites to run the diagnostics again, showered, took some more painkillers and was just getting ready for bed when the door buzzer sounded. He shrugged on his T-shirt and shouted for his visitor to come in.
"Malcolm," said Trip, slightly surprised to see his friend again so soon. "What can I do for you?"
"You seemed a little on edge earlier. Something's obviously bothering you and I wondered if you wanted to talk about it," said Reed.
"It's nothing Malcolm," said Trip.
"Well it's obviously something or you wouldn't be snapping at T'Pol, and I don't mean your usually friendly banter either. And I'm not the only one who's noticed something. Hoshi's worried too," said Reed.
"I'm just feeling a little under the weather, is all," said Trip.
"Have you been to see Phlox?"
"It's only a headache," said Trip.
"How long have you had it? You've been acting up for a couple of days," said Reed.
"Probably a couple of days. It really is just a headache," said Trip again.
"Which you've had for two days? I'd say it was worth getting Phlox to check it out," said Reed.
"I'll go tomorrow," said Trip noncommittally, and his headache took that moment to reassert itself and he winced involuntarily. The painkillers hadn't even touched it this time.
"Come on, I'm taking you to see Phlox," said Reed. He knew Trip hated sick bay, it reminded him of the Xindi lab where he'd been tortured. He'd had a phobia about entering the place for several months after his rescue from the Xindi, it was only when the Captain had been injured that he'd summoned up the courage to enter sick bay again.
Trip sighed. "Okay, I suppose it can't hurt."
Reed and Trip wandered down the corridor to sick bay where they found Phlox feeding his various animals.
"What can I do for you two?" asked Phlox.
"Commander Tucker has a headache," said Reed. Trip was rubbing the back of his neck.
"How long for?" asked Phlox, getting his scanner.
"A couple of days now," said Trip.
"Commander, I believe I said that you should contact me immediately if you noticed anything, no matter how trivial. Your body has been through a considerable amount over the past few months and anything out of the ordinary needs to be monitored carefully," said Phlox.
"Sorry, Doc, it's just that I've spent rather a lot of time in here lately," said Trip.
"That's as may be, but the nanites in your bloodstream complicate things and I need to keep an eye on you. If you would take a seat on the biobed, please," said Phlox.
Trip hopped up onto the biobed and winced again at the pain in his head. Phlox ran the scanner over his patient.
"You don't need to stay, Malcolm," said Trip.
"It's alright," said Reed. "I'll wait until the Doctor is finished and then I can walk you back to your quarters."
"This could take some time," said Phlox.
"Some time?" asked Trip. "It's just a headache."
"At the moment I'm not sure what it is, but it isn't "just" a headache," said Phlox. "I'm going to need to do some tests."
"Great," said Trip, without much enthusiasm. "You really don't have to stay, Malcolm."
"I said I'd wait," said Reed.
"Very well," said Phlox. "You can take a seat over there. Commander, I need you in the scanner."
Archer returned to Enterprise feeling like he'd just been put through the ringer. When Admiral Forrest had called him down to Star Fleet Headquarters he knew that whatever it was had to be serious. The Admiral had refused to give him any details over an open com channel so he'd had no choice but to go down to the surface. That had been his first clue that something serious was going on. The repairs and upgrades were proceeding well so he hadn't been too worried about leaving Enterprise for a couple of days while he went down to see the Admiral.
Waiting for him in the Admiral's office had been Senator Nash, a very important official from the government, and Soval.
"It's about Commander Tucker," said Forrest.
"What about Commander Tucker?" asked Archer.
"It's the nanites, we have some concerns over their presence in the Commander's body," said Senator Nash. "We feel he should be placed in isolation on the Luna Research Station until we can work out a way to get rid of the nanites."
"Senator, with all due respect, we have no idea how long that could take and I need my Chief Engineer on Enterprise," said Archer. "Our Medical Officer on Enterprise believed that it might even be impossible to remove the nanites without killing him. He's been through enough and I won't put him through any more because of these damned nanites."
"Captain, we're all aware of what happened to Commander Tucker and what he went through to protect Earth, but that has nothing to do with the current problem," said Senator Nash.
"You've obviously read my reports and Doctor Phlox's report on what happened to him. He was tortured continuously for three months. It's taken him this long to return to even some semblance of a normal life, and I don't even want to think about what locking him in isolation would do to him," said Archer. "He didn't ask for this to happen to him, he was doing his duty and protecting Earth. He should be given a damn medal for everything that he went through." Archer was angry now.
"Getting emotional about this will not resolve the situation," said Soval. "Caution is indicated and Commander Tucker should be viewed as a threat."
"If the nanites were going to harm us then they would have done it by now," said Archer.
"I wish I could be so sure," said the Senator.
"T'Pol reprogrammed them so that they would no longer destroy technology," said Archer.
"It isn't just that, Captain. We don't understand the technology and they were manufactured by an alien race who were our enemies at the time, and to be honest a lot of people still don't trust the Xindi," said Senator Nash.
"If they are outside Trip's body for more than a few hours, they die automatically. The nanites are coded to his body," said Archer.
"As I understand it, that wasn't always the case," said Senator Nash. "And if they can be reprogrammed in one direction then they can be reprogrammed in the other."
"From your reports I gather that they're capable of interfacing with any computer within signal range?" said Soval.
"That's correct," said Archer, he didn't like where this was going.
"Then what is to stop Commander Tucker from interfacing with secure systems?" asked Soval. "The Vulcans are concerned about our security being compromised."
"I resent your implications, Ambassador," said Admiral Forrest. "Commander Tucker is not a spy."
"It is a valid concern," said Soval. "Therefore we must ask that you keep Commander Tucker away from any Vulcan compounds or ships."
"But there are Vulcan compounds in every major city on the planet!" said Admiral Forrest.
"Now you see our problem, Admiral," said the Senator. "This could cause an intergalactic incident. Imagine if the Andorians or the Klingons find out that you have a man on Enterprise who is able to interface remotely with their computers."
"He does have a point, Jon," said Forrest.
"Maybe we can ask the Xindi for help removing the nanites," said Archer.
"That won't be possible," said the Senator. "We have decided that for the good of Earth's recovery it would be best if we didn't have close relations with the Xindi at the moment. There are several groups on Earth at the moment who are advocating a cease in all space travel. They blame space travel for the Xindi attack on Earth and think we should cancel the space programme. None of us in this room want that and getting the Xindi involved would inflame the current bad feeling that exists towards them. We certainly couldn't guarantee their safety."
"You're telling me that we can't ask the Xindi for help because there's too much politics involved?" asked Archer, crossly.
"Exactly. They killed six million people, you can't expect them to be received with open arms, even if we have signed a peace treaty with them," said the Senator. "We understand that while you were in the Expanse there was nothing you could do about the nanite problem, especially as Commander Tucker is your Chief Engineer and therefore integral to the mission, but now we need to look at the options."
"Look, just let me keep him on Enterprise until the upgrades and repairs are complete. That gives us a couple of months to come up with a solution. If we've got nothing by then, we can discuss this again," said Archer.
They had grudgingly agreed to let him keep Trip on board for the time being after much further argument. However the whole thing was to be reassessed when the repairs and upgrades were complete. Somehow he doubted that two months would be enough to solve the problem of the nanites. They'd already been residing in Trip's body for over six months and Phlox hadn't come up with a way to get rid of them yet. Archer just couldn't let them condemn Trip to confinement in a research centre, perhaps for the rest of his life, because people were too scared of the technology he caried.
When he got back to Enterprise he'd gone straight to Engineering to break the bad news to Trip, but Trip hadn't been there. Instead Lieutenant Hess had told him that Trip had been taken ill and so he'd headed up to sick bay. Archer found Trip lying on his side on a biobed, covered with a standard grey blanket, with Malcolm sat beside him, Trip was asleep and Malcolm was reading a padd.
"Captain, did you have a successful meeting?" said Phlox, intercepting him before he could go over to see Trip and Malcolm.
"Not exactly," said Archer. "I think we'd better go into your office and I can tell you all about it. Then you can tell me what's been going on here."
"Well, Captain, tell me about your meeting," said Phlox as the door to his office slid shut.
"They want to take Trip off Enterprise," said Archer. "Place him in isolation because they're scared of the nanites."
"I see. I take it that you have stopped them from doing this," said Phlox.
"Temporarily," said Archer. "But we have to find a way to get rid of these nanites if he's going to be allowed to stay on Enterprise."
"Actually there have been some developments on that front," said Phlox.
"You've found a way to get rid of the nanites?" asked Archer hopefully.
"Not exactly. Lieutenant Reed brought the Commander in last night complaining of a headache. I conducted a series of tests and discovered that the nanites are dying off," said Phlox.
"That's a good thing isn't it? I mean we want to get rid of them," said Archer.
"The Commander's body went through some changes when the nanites were introduced and those changes accustomed his body to the nanites. He will die if they are removed," said Phlox. "Not only that but his body is having trouble clearing out the dead nanites. That's what caused the headaches. The nanites are trying to replace themselves by reabsorbing the dead nanites but they can't keep up with the die off rate. It's a vicious cycle that's only going to get worse."
"Why are the nanites dying?" asked Archer with concern.
"His immune system has begun attacking the nanites," said Phlox.
"Why now? Shouldn't it have done that from the beginning?" asked Archer.
"As I said, his body was adjusted by the nanites in order to incorporate them successfully. They fooled his immune system into believing that they were accepted but for some reason that is no longer the case. They have been recognised as intruders and are now being attacked," said Phlox. "All I can think is that Commander Tucker's injuries from the Rel Sevanne incident were the factor that caused the change."
"What can you do for him?" asked Archer.
"Well I can attempt to suppress his immune system so that it stops attacking the nanites but that won't work forever. If the dead nanites build up in his body then that will strain his systems further. We need to either stabilise his immune system or get rid of the nanites," said Phlox.
"How is he at the moment?" asked Archer.
"I've given him painkillers for the headache. The nanites have been draining his energy as they've had to increase their production rate, so he's quite tired from that and all the tests, but resting comfortably. Mr Reed stayed with him while the tests were carried out and was here when I explained his condition to him, so that at least meant he had some emotional support," said Phlox.
"Would it be okay for me to see him. I have to tell him about my meeting with Admiral Forrest," said Archer.
"I don't see why not," said Phlox. "He should be awake soon."
Archer and Phlox left the office and went over to the biobed where Trip lay.
"Captain," said Reed, getting up as the Captain approached.
"Sit down, Malcolm," said Archer.
Trip stirred and opened his eyes. "Hey Captain," he said.
"How are you?" asked Archer.
"Not so good. I guess the Doc told you, my immune system finally got its act together and started attacking the nanites. Not sure why it took so long," said Trip.
"Yes, he explained it," said Archer.
"Typical, huh, I survived being tortured by the Xindi, being part of a living computer and the attack by the Vor Devrees to be taken out by my own immune system. I don't know whether to laugh at the irony of it or cry."
"The Doctor tells me that there are treatment options," said Archer. "We're going to beat this."
"Yeah, Malcolm's already given me the "don't give up" speech," said Trip.
"Unfortunately I've got more bad news for you," said Archer and he told them about his conversation with Admiral Forrest. Trip just sighed in defeat.
"They can't do that!" said Reed.
"I guess I knew that something like this would happen," said Trip. "You can't wander around with a Xindi weapon in your bloodstream without there being some consequences."
"Well we have a reprieve," said Archer. "I've persuaded them that Trip can stay here until the upgrades and repairs are completed. Anyway let's worry about getting you well again first. I'll deal with the bureaucrats."