In Memory Yet Green
written Oct. 2006, modified Oct. 2009
Title accidentally cribbed from Isaac Asimov's memoir (Sorry, Doc, but it fits so well...)
Standard disclaimer applies; not my characters or settings or backgrounds. But they are my words.
Lazarenn was dead. Dead from the disease the Markab called Drafa; he was lying still and shrouded in the isolation lab in MedLab One. Dr. Stephen Franklin sat in the dimly lit main laboratory and sighed ruefully. He had notified C&C that he thought he had the answer to the plague, and the Captain and Ivanova were on their way down to the lab. Now he had to explain it to them, in layman's terms, and get the medication he had developed to whatever Markabs were left alive in their self-imposed exile. It wasn't a cure, nor a vaccine—just an attempt to bolster the system against the disease. It should work, eventually, but was probably too late for many of them. It was definitely too late for Lazarenn.
Stephen leaned back in his highly uncomfortable chair, and stretched his arms over his head, trying to stretch out his cramped back muscles. The motion activated the energy-saving sensors and flooded the cold steel-grey room with a bright soulless light. He was tired; he had been tired before the ship had arrived from the Markab homeworld with only the dead aboard. He'd rushed to the docking bay, to find Lazarenn already there, attempting to block entrance to the ship. Confronting his friend with the results of the first detailed autopsy, he'd demanded to know what he knew about the disease. Finally Stephen had asked the ultimate question regarding interspecies contagion, and watched his old friend's face crumple in realization of the horrible potential he had helped unleash. Afterwards, the station medical staff had laid the bodies out in rows, like cargo to be counted and checked off a list. More autopsies followed, then reports and meetings and exams and tests….and in the end, his friend was dead.
He remembered when he had first met Lazarenn on Septis. He had been hitch-hiking around the League worlds, in that heady time between Earth's first contact with the Centauri, and before the disaster of the Earth-Minbari War. Anything and everything had seemed possible then. He wanted to see all he could before he settled down to practice medicine. At that point he hadn't even decided what kind of practice he wanted; although he was already fascinated by xenobiology. It had been his favorite subject in medical school. During every layover, he went straight to the largest teaching hospital on the planet, and asked if he could volunteer, just to get the experience, and to learn. Usually the medical personnel were friendly and accepting, although he had his suspicions they thought he was a little crazy; working for a pittance, or even just for room and board.
Lazarenn had been on staff in the main hospital in Durel, the largest city on the Markab home world Septis. Stephen had run into him several times in the hospital corridors, and Lazarenn had always looked at him with curiosity. Eventually he asked him to share the noonday meal in the large cafeteria, and they had hit it off immediately. Lazarenn had a dry sense of humor, and what was more important, spoke Earth standard English. Stephen had a gift for languages, especially medical terminology, but sometimes it was just easier to speak his own language. Lazarenn had asked where he was staying, and when he heard the run down hotel near the spaceport that Stephen called 'home', insisted that the human share his apartment near the hospital. Lazarenn lived alone and had a spare room, and insisted he would honestly enjoy the company.
They talked for hours after their shifts were over. Lazarenn had traveled to several nearby worlds in his youth, but not as far as Stephen had. They swapped medical stories, and told each other about their families and plans for the future. Stephen had even confided in him about his problems with his father. Lazarenn had not been unsympathetic, but advised him to reconcile while he could. The Markab's own father had died when he was still a child, and Lazarenn had regretted not having the chance of a relationship. The Markabs had extended communal families of clonal relations and close friends, but the genetic parental relationship was still important.
Stephen's thoughts snapped back to the present. He rubbed his eyes, which were dry and aching, and wondered what was going on in the isolation zone the Markabs had chosen for their voluntary exile. He had been so caught up in working on the disease he hadn't really considered what the conditions might be in there. He had tried to send medical teams with them, but between the Markabs' fear of moral contamination from outsiders, and his own people's fears of physical contamination from the plague, he hadn't had any luck. It was all so much primitive superstition! He couldn't stand the bigotry and fear, the lack of compassion he felt even from his own staff. The disease was the enemy. Death was the enemy. Hell, even time was his enemy here. Not the Markabs; they were only the victims….victimized by both their own and everyone else's fear. He wondered why wasn't that obvious to others.
He hoped they were still alive in there. The situation couldn't be much worse. The disease was so virulent and so lethal, that the death toll inside was certain to be high. The Captain had asked him about contagion, particularly with regard to humans and Minbari. Stephen was now sure that humanity was safe, but he couldn't be certain about the Minbari. He knew a lot about their physiology, more than most human physicians, but he didn't know everything. He'd asked the Captain why he specifically asked about the Minbari, and that's when he learned that Ambassador Delenn and Lennier were in the isolation zone. He hadn't heard that they had gone in; he'd been working all out on the defining the plague and finding a treatment when the decision was made. He couldn't figure out why they had gone—there wasn't much they could do, they weren't trained in nursing or counseling. Well, then again, maybe they were. As no one knew precisely what religious caste Minbari training consisted of, he couldn't be sure. They were braver than his own staff, though, that was certain. The Captain had seemed pretty concerned. Stephen guessed it would go hard with him if anything happened to the Minbari ambassador and her aide.
Stephen hoped the two Minbari were all right. It might get rough in there, but Delenn seemed able to deal with most situations. He'd been impressed at her handling of her transformation; it must have been a disorienting experience. She seemed to adjust pretty well, though she asked him the damnedest questions. At least he could retreat to the correct medical and scientific terms; he had gathered that Ivanova had gotten the more personal queries, but the commander wasn't one to break a confidence. Briefly he wondered if the Ambassador had any trouble from other Minbari, or humans for that matter, after she'd changed. Bigotry again, he thought, and wondered if people would ever learn to value reason and fact over their own immediate emotional response.
He looked over at Lazarenn's body. It was Lazarenn's suggestions, his help with the dead pak'ma'ra, his analysis of the progress of his own illness; that had solved the problem. Stephen had just facilitated it, along with Babylon 5's sophisticated medical computers. He wondered if he could get Lazarenn the recognition he deserved in the development of the treatment. He didn't know if it would make his family feel any better, but he would try. Then he wondered if Lazarenn's family was still alive back on Septis; if anyone was left alive on Septis. The thought made him almost physically ill. He'd never witnessed the extinction of a sentient species. He hoped and prayed it wouldn't come to that.
It had gotten awfully quiet in MedLab. It was late, and there was only a skeleton staff around. They'd left him alone, going off to work on other aspects of the problem, or to take care of patients. Once they'd seen his temper flare when Lazarenn had died, they'd been glad to seize the opportunity to leave. When he focused in on a problem. sometimes he was better off by himself. He really needed to work on that—his people couldn't do their work properly if they were afraid of him. Soon they would be too fearful to make suggestions, or contradict him, even when it was warranted. His single-mindedness was both his greatest strength and his greatest weakness. Lazarenn had told him that once. In fact, he'd strongly recommended that Stephen find a second interest in life beyond medicine; preferably involving a willing female.
The knowledge struck him again like a fresh blow on an old bruise. His friend was dead. Lazarenn was dead.
He looked up and saw the Captain and Ivanova entering MedLab. First would come the explanation, then he would have to steel himself for what might be waiting in the isolation zone. If it was too late to help the Markab on the station, there would still be the possibility of helping survivors on their homeworld, or in the colonies. The medication would have to be distributed to other species susceptible to the plague as well. They would have to be convinced it was important to take it, and keep taking it until their system could handle the disease or a cure was found. Hopefully none of them would have the Markabs' view that the disease only attacked the immoral or corrupt. He took a moment to send up a silent prayer; for the Markab people, here and at home; for others susceptible to the disease, for everyone touched by this disaster. Glancing back once again at the unmoving remains of the Markab physician he had known so many years, he felt the sting of failure. 'Any man's death diminishes me...' he thought, as he rose to meet the others. Enough introspection; there was work to do. His ongoing battle with disease and death would continue,...in spite of, or maybe because...
Lazarenn was dead.