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First, Do No Harm
Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore
Blood was everywhere.
Revati Jendra knelt before the young male's motionless form, fighting to bring her breathing back under control after the harried sprint from her clinic to the village's small ironworks. Coughing as she inhaled some of the building's sooty, metallic-tasting air, she pried open the injured adolescent's eyes to see that his large, black pupils remained sensitive even to the dim, orange-hued light within the metal shop. That was a good sign, at least a somewhat better sign than the pale pink blood staining his chalk-white hair and widening into a disturbingly large pool where his head rested on the bare, dirty floor of the shop.
"He just fell, Beloren," said a voice from the crowd, addressing her, as nearly all of the villagers did, by the Grennai term for "healer." It was a name to which she'd grown accustomed during the year or so she had lived and worked among them. "He started shaking and then just let go of the ladder."
A growing crowd of concerned friends and co-workers -- all of them, Jendra thought, appearing too young to be working in such a place -- began to encircle her as she lowered her ear to the injured male's lips, listening and feeling for even the faintest breath.
If only they weren't hovering over me, this could go so much more damned quickly.
Spasms abruptlywracked the young man's body, and Jendra reached down to support his head with one hand while rolling him to one side in case he started to vomit. "I need help to move him," she called out to no one in particular as he continued to tremble. "We have to take him to the white home right away." Though possessing only rudimentary facilities, the Grennai hospital and its staff would probably be able to see this young man through most of his injuries. As his seizure started to fade, however, Jendra began to suspect that the man's fall had been no mere accident.
In a practiced move, she reached into the pocket of her frayed, homespun overcoat and retrieved a small, light-colored cloth. Hoping her actions appeared to the onlookers as trying to staunch the flow of blood from her patient's wound, Jendra activated the small Starfleet medical scanner concealed within the cloth. Pressing it against the dark skin of the man's head and watching as it turned pink with his blood, she manipulated the hidden, silenced device in order to determine the extent of his injuries. While his neck and spine were undamaged, the scan had detected a small tumor within the man's brain, and Jendra recognized it as the likely culprit behind the man's seizures.
"Step aside," said a strong, deep voice, that of Crimar, the ironworks supervisor. Jendra looked up to see the burly Grennai and one of his workers carrying a makeshift stretcher. Sweat matted their stark white hair to their heads and soot stained their rough, woven clothing. "We will carry him, Beloren."
"Just a moment, Crimar," she said as she searched through her worn, leather medicine satchel. While she knew the bag did not contain what she needed to eliminate the tumor, which under Grennai medical standards would be undetectable and eventually fatal, Jendra was sure she could cure the young man given a little time and privacy. Unable to administer a hypospray in the midst of the onlookers, Jendra opted for an oral dose of trianoline. She slipped the small strip into his mouth, where it dissolved instantly on contact with his tongue. Within moments, the medication would begin to relieve some of the trauma the fall had inflicted upon his brain.
After taking an additional few moments to wrap the man's head in a thick bandage, Jendra pointed to one of the workers and had him kneel next to her. She handed him another wad of cloth, instructing him to hold it against the victim's wound.
"Keep pressing here until you get to the beloren at the white home," Jendra ordered as she rose and waved to Crimar. "Take him now. I'll follow after you." She stepped back, allowing the supervisor to direct two workers to load their comrade onto the stretcher.
After directing the rest of the workforce to return to their respective tasks, Crimar turned to Jendra. "Thank you for coming so quickly, Beloren," he said. Though normally she found his accent as he spoke in his native language to be fluid and almost musical, on this occasion his tone was flat and emotionless. "But he has lost much blood. Surely he will die?"
"Not if I can help it," Jendra replied, the resolve in her voice abruptly shattered beneath the force of a ragged cough that hunched her aging, slender form. Seeing the look of concern in Crimar's wide eyes, she offered a weak smile as she wiped her mouth. "I'm fine, my friend. It's merely the soot in here. Maybe you could tidy up for me the next time I pay a visit?"
A wide smile creased Crimar's dark features. "I hope that is not for some time, Beloren."
Jendra patted his shoulder as she suppressed what would have been another coughing fit, then gathered her meager medical bag and headed for her home. As she walked down the village's main thoroughfare with its dual row of one- and two-story wooden frame buildings, she hoped she would not have any patients awaiting her return. Still, she knew that as the villagers became more accustomed to her presence, they would come in a steady stream even for the most minor of ailments. That seemed to be the way of the Grennai as she moved from settlement to settlement, this one her fifth since her return to this planet more than a year earlier.
While her personal mission of medical duty on this decidedly primitive world -- catalogued in Starfleet databases only as NGC 667 -- had not gone precisely as she originally planned, Jendra managed to allow herself some small measure of satisfaction in her accomplishments this afternoon as well as what she would do for her latest patient at the first opportunity. Thanks to her, with an admitted assist from her borrowed Starfleet-issue medical equipment, one young man's life would change for the better.
The least I can do for these kind people, and we should be doing a damn sight more.
Hoping to catch a little rest before following up with her patient, Jendra opened the door to the clinic that doubled as her home. Moving shadows in the hallway leading to her examination room caught her by surprise, though, and she stopped. Hushed voices -- she could not make out any words -- carried from the far room.
Making her way down the hall, minding her steps so as not to clatter her hard-soled shoes against the wooden floor, Jendra peered into the exam room and saw three cloaked figures searching through her belongings. They seemed to know exactly what they were looking for and were gathering specific items atop her worktable: two Starfleet medical tricorders, a communicator, assorted surgical instruments, a hypospray kit, and other equipment that was at extreme odds with the room's comparably primitive trappings.
Her temper flaring at the violation, Jendra burst into the room, hoping to catch the intruders off guard. "Just what the hell do you think you're doing here?" she shouted.
Three Grennai males looked up at her with matching expressions of alarm, though none of them moved from where they stood. Instead, one of the men regarded her, his features changing from shock to what Jendra read as annoyance. In a firm voice, he said, "I've been waiting to ask you exactly the same question, Dr. Jendra."
The words were in Federation Standard, rather than the language native to Grennai in this region. Jendra's jaw dropped as she fumbled for her own response. She remained silent as one of the other men stepped forward, his hand reaching up to move his hood back from his head, and Jendra was startled to realize that she recognized his face.
"Revati, we need to talk."
Despite the darkened skin, white hair, and obviously prosthetic ears, there was no mistaking the voice of Dr. Leonard McCoy.
McCoy watched as Revati Jendra -- cosmetically altered just as he was to resemble the indigenous Grennai -- regarded him with an expression first of shock, then confusion before comprehension dawned and a wide smile creased her aged features.
"Leonard?" Jendra exclaimed, stepping forward to clasp both of his hands in hers. Smiling, she said, "I never thought I'd see you again, least of all here."
"You're not exactly the easiest person to track down," McCoy replied, relief at seeing her seeping into his voice. "I've been worried about you. A lot of people have."
Her smile fading, Jendra cast her head downward. "I can imagine." She cleared her throat before returning her gaze to meet his, and McCoy saw a hint of regret in her eyes. "Not a chance this is happy coincidence, I suppose."
"You suppose correctly, Doctor."
Even with his normal features disguised beneath the darkened skin tone and the artificial hair and ears, there was no hiding or suppressing James Kirk's command presence. McCoy saw the familiar set to his captain's jaw as he stepped forward to confront Jendra. "We're here to take you back with us."
She glanced at McCoy before offering a warm, knowing smile the doctor would have recognized regardless of the situation at hand. "You must be Captain Kirk," she said. Looking at McCoy's other companion, she added, "And Mr. Spock. Leonard has spoken very highly of you both." She held out her hand in greeting.
As if unprepared for Jendra's lack of initial resistance, the captain paused before nodding. "Thank you," he offered, his tone less rigid now. As Kirk and Jendra shook hands, McCoy noticed the slight yet obvious relaxing of his friend's stance and, yes, even the first hints of that now-familiar glint in the man's eye. For Jim Kirk, turning on the charm for a woman -- any woman -- seemed a reflex as natural as breathing.
"I'm sorry we have to meet under these circumstances, Doctor," Kirk said after a moment, his tone all business once again, "but I'm afraid Starfleet can't allow you to remain here."
Pulling herself up as if to meet Kirk eye-to-eye, Jendra replied, "The nature of my work here is humanitarian, Captain. I want us to be clear about that."
"Then clearly," Kirk snapped, biting down on the word, "you must be aware that your presence here is a violation of the Prime Directive and poses a risk to these people and their natural course of development. Your knowledge, your equipment, all of it is centuries ahead of these people and their level of technology."
McCoy saw the anger in Jendra's eyes, but she held her tone in check as she glared at Kirk. "I'm well versed in the Prime Directive." She held her hands out and away from her body. "As you can see, I've taken steps to prevent any cultural contamination. I'm also no stranger to the Grennai and how they live."
"Indeed," Spock said, moving to stand beside Kirk. "Three years ago, you were assigned as a medical officer to the initial Starfleet cultural observation detachment on this planet."
Jendra nodded. "That's right, Mr. Spock. We were tasked with covert study of the Grennai's preindustrial development, which we believed very closely mirrored that of your own people on Vulcan. We were here for nearly a year, during which we spent a great deal of time among the Grennai. So, you see, I've become quite adept at blending into the indigenous population."
"Your mission was terminated prematurely," Kirk said, "due to issues stemming from atmospheric irradiation and planetary conditions deemed potentially harmful to the research team. According to your own report, the planet was deemed unsafe to anyone but the local population."
"It is safe," Jendra corrected. "The rings of radiation encircling the planet constantly bombard the atmosphere, yes, but the indigenous population is immune to the radiation's effects."
Spock nodded. "Enterprise science teams have been studying the phenomenon since our arrival."
"Then you also know that it was part of the reason for our research here," Jendra said. "Trying to learn about the Grennai's natural immunity. Outsiders can only be exposed for short periods without protection. My team and I received regular inoculations of a hyronalin derivative to protect ourselves. I'm able to synthesize a version of that compound with the equipment I have and with raw ingredients I collect as I need them."
McCoy said, "After you returned to Earth, you were involved in some kind of research for a while, but then I get a message from you saying you're leaving Starfleet, and you just disappear." The words came out harsher than he had intended, and he swallowed the sudden lump in his throat. Looking around the crude examination room and its array of equally primitive medical and surgical implements -- for all intents and purposes a medieval torture chamber when compared to his own sickbay aboard the Enterprise -- he shook his head. "It was Starfleet Command that eventually suggested you might have come back here, but why?"
Looking away for a moment as if considering the weight of her response, Jendra finally sighed. "I have my reasons, Leonard."
The answer was vague, but her eyes spoke volumes, McCoy thought, reminding him of what he remembered most about the time they had spent together as colleagues -- her drive to heal, the strength she drew from confidence in her abilities, her sense of doing right by her patients regardless of any personal toll it might exact upon her -- all of that shone through her expression with startling clarity.
What the hell have you gotten yourself into, Revati?
In response to her words, Kirk stepped forward. "I'm sorry, Doctor, but you'll have to explain your reasons to Starfleet Command."
Jendra smiled once more, a tired, resigned smile. "I can imagine they're quite upset with me, but that doesn't change anything. I can't go. Not now."
Casting a glance toward McCoy that the doctor understood as the first hint of true irritation with the current proceedings, Kirk said, "It's not a request. You can come voluntarily, or I can carry you out of here."
"Such a tactic might prove unwise, Captain," Spock said, his tone and demeanor unflappable and -- to McCoy, anyway -- almost comical in its seriousness. "We would almost certainly attract attention during our attempt to return to the shuttlecraft."
At that, Jendra's eyebrows rose. "Shuttlecraft? Oh, that's right. I'd almost forgotten what the radiation bands do to transporters and communications." Shaking her head, she made a tsk-tsk sound through pursed lips. "A shame, that."
McCoy saw Kirk open his mouth to reply, no doubt with the intention of playing some kind of bluff, but Spock beat him to it.
"Our chief engineer has been researching the problem since our arrival," the Vulcan said, "but at last report he had not succeeded in recalibrating the transporter's annular confinement beam to work within this planet's atmosphere. I calculate the odds of his completing that task before we can return to the Columbus at seven thous -- "
"Thank you, Mr. Spock," Kirk snapped.
Sighing, McCoy shook his head. "Spock, one of these days we need to have a long talk about that nasty habit of yours."
Spock's right eyebrow, artificially whitened and thickened in keeping with typical Grennai facial features, arched in the manner that always characterized his curiosity or skepticism. "What habit is that, Doctor?"
"Your mouth runneth over."
"That's enough," Kirk said, his tone and the expression on his face clear indications that he was in no mood for his friends' latest round of verbal jousting. To Jendra, who was still smiling as she observed the exchange, he said, "You seem to think this is funny, Doctor. I assure you it isn't. My orders are to return you to Starfleet Command, in restraints if necessary."
No sooner did the words leave his mouth than McCoy heard the sound of the door at the front of the building being thrown open, followed as quickly by a series of rapid, almost frantic footsteps on the hardwood floor. He felt his pulse quicken as he heard pain-wracked sobs from what could only be a child, all but drowned out by a louder, more adult voice echoing down the passageway.
"Beloren! Beloren, kono nata!"
Whatever enjoyment Jendra might have been feeling at Kirk's expense vanished. "This'll have to wait, Captain." Waving her arms toward the worktable and the array of Starfleet medical equipment lying atop it, she hissed, "Hide that, now!" Without waiting for a response, she grabbed her worn satchel and hurried from the room.
Leaving Kirk and Spock to tend to the sanitizing of the room -- which involved both men stuffing various articles into the pockets of their robes or the large bag Spock wore slung over his shoulder -- McCoy followed after his friend. He found her kneeling beside the body of a young Grennai female, a child, whose clothing was stained with what his gut told him was far too much blood. Standing nearby was a Grennai woman, obviously the girl's mother, whose clothes also sported blood. He reached for her in an attempt to help.
She only waved him away, her expression pained as tears ran down her cheeks. "It is not my blood," she said, his universal translator filtering the native Grennai language into Federation Standard. "Please, help my tundato!"
"I'm trying to do just that," Jendra snapped, also in the local dialect, and McCoy looked down to see her hand clamped around the girl's right arm just above the elbow. To him, she said, "Help me get her to the examination room." It took only seconds to transfer the young patient to an exam table at the rear of the clinic, after which Jendra waved him out of her way as she set to work. Kirk and Spock hung nearby, watching intently.
McCoy could see a large gash in the girl's arm and pale blood running liberally from the wound. Jendra reached for a nearby clay pitcher with her free hand and began to pour water over the blood-covered wound. The girl screamed as the water hit her olive skin.
"Looks like a vein was hit," Jendra said before whispering something McCoy could not hear to the still-squirming child. Looking at the mother, she asked, "What happened?"
"We were working in the fields near our home," the woman replied. "Litari was clearing brush when she slipped in the mud and fell on the blade." Holding a hand to her mouth, she trembled for a moment. "Can you help her?"
Rather than answering the question, Jendra said, "Leonard, bring me the tray on the middle shelf." She nodded toward a set of wooden shelves to her right.
Glancing toward Kirk and Spock before doing as instructed, McCoy moved the tray near Jendra's left hand. "What can I do?" he asked.
"The dish with the green paste," Jendra replied. "Take some and rub it on her upper lip, just under her nose." As she continued to work at cleaning the struggling girl's wound, she added, "Don't inhale it yourself."
"Bones," McCoy heard Kirk say, the captain's tone one of caution, but he ignored it. Instead, he reached for what appeared to be nothing more than an earthen petri dish and -- without thinking or even checking to see that his hands were clean -- dipped his right forefinger into the viscous, emerald-colored substance it contained. Leaning forward, he applied the paste beneath the girl's nostrils even as Jendra kept working.
Almost immediately, the child's movements grew weaker and she began to relax. Less than ten seconds after he had applied the ointment, the girl's breathing slowed and she went limp on the examination table.
"I'll be damned," McCoy breathed.
Reaching for what he saw was a rudimentary version of a hemostat, Jendra looked up from her work. "It would be better if the mother waited outside." Her gaze locked with his for an instant before she glanced in the direction of her ever-present satchel, the meaning behind her words now quite plain.
She needs her equipment, and doesn't want to use it in front of the mother.
"We should all make room for the . . . beloren," Spock said, taking the initiative and stepping toward the girl's mother.
When the woman did not budge from where she stood, Jendra looked to her and offered an encouraging smile. "Don't worry, Walirta. She's going to be fine."
Walirta allowed Spock to escort her from the examination room, with Kirk following after them. McCoy reached for the door, intending to give Jendra and her patient some privacy, and before exiting the room nodded encouragement to his friend.
"I'll be outside if you need me," he offered, and in that instant saw the determination in her eyes. Jendra's calling as a healer of body and spirit had led her to this place and to these people, and no person or regulation was going to hold sway over her.
But what are you trying to prove here? What do you think you can change?
Closing the door, he turned to find Kirk waiting for him, his jaw set in an expression of determination that the doctor knew too well.
"She's committed herself to this place, Jim," he said, "and to these people. I don't think I can convince her to leave, at least not until I know more." Frowning, he added, "Assuming I can get it out of her."
Looking over his shoulder as though to ensure Spock had taken the Grennai woman out of earshot, Kirk said, "Bones, she's appointed herself their caretaker. She's using her advanced medical knowledge and equipment to treat them in clear violation of the Prime Directive. It's not that I don't sympathize with her desire to help, but . . ." He shook his head, his brow furrowing as he pondered the situation. "It's as if she feels responsible for them somehow, as though she can save them, but why? From what?"
McCoy had to admit that the same questions were troubling him, as well.
"What do you mean, classified?"
Feeling his temper flare as he listened to the open communicator channel, Kirk rose from his chair and began to pace the small room at the front of Dr. Jendra's clinic.
From the communicator in his hand, the voice of Ensign Pavel Chekov replied, "I am sorry, Captain, but all attempts to access the mission logs of the NGC-667 survey team are being rejected. Starfleet Command has flagged them off-limits except to authorized personnel." Static eroded the quality of the transmission, despite the signal-enhancing effects of channeling the connection through the larger and more powerful communications system of the shuttlecraft Columbus, which sat concealed in a wooded valley three kilometers distant.
It had taken a bit of digging by the resourceful ensign -- with Spock helping him to create an A7 computer specialist's rating and access key -- just to discover that there was more to Jendra's mission to NGC 667 than was recorded in the official file Kirk had already reviewed prior to the Enterprise's arrival in the system. Still, even the Vulcan's formidable prowess with Starfleet computer technology had proven insufficient to penetrate the security apparently surrounding the information Kirk now sought.
"Captain," came another voice from the communicator, this one belonging to Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu, "Lieutenant Uhura has just informed me that she's received a subspace message from Admiral Komack. He wants to talk to you as soon as possible, and Uhura says the admiral doesn't sound very happy."
From where he sat near the window at the front of the room that overlooked the village's main street, McCoy said, "Komack upset? That's a surprise."
"Not now, Bones," Kirk snapped. To his communicator, he said, "Stall the admiral, Mr. Sulu. What's the status on transporters?"
The Enterprise helmsman replied, "Mr. Scott reports he's made some progress, but he's still running safety tests. He thinks he can certify it safe for biomatter within three hours, sir."
It was not the best news, the captain thought, but it would have to do. "Keep me informed, Lieutenant. Kirk out." As he closed the communicator and returned it to an inside pocket of his robe, Kirk shook his head. "I knew something about this wasn't right." He looked to McCoy. "She came back here for a reason, Bones, and it has something to do with whatever Starfleet has classified about her first mission here."
"She's a doctor, Jim," McCoy replied. "It's what she does." He waved through the window. "Can't say I blame her. Lord knows how many primitive cultures we've visited where I wished I could stay longer, help them in some lasting way."
Clasping his hands behind his back, Spock said, "Even with the advanced technology and pharmaceuticals at her disposal, one physician cannot hope to make a lasting impact on any society by treating random incidents of illness and injury. The risk Dr. Jendra poses toward adversely affecting this culture's development should any of her advanced equipment be discovered is exponentially greater than any help she might offer. Logic suggests that -- "
"Logic is probably the last thing on her mind!" McCoy barked. "Can't you drop that damned Vulcan stoicism and just try to connect with someone's feelings for once?"
"Actually, he's right, Leonard."
Kirk whirled toward the voice behind him to see Jendra standing in the doorway, regarding him with an expression mixed of equal parts amusement and resignation.
"I heard you in contact with your ship," Jendra said as she entered the room. "You should take better care to conceal such conversations as well as your equipment. Wouldn't want to disrupt the indigenous culture, after all."
Kirk ignored the gentle verbal jab. "How's the girl?" he asked, hoping to soften the doctor's demeanor.
"She'll be okay," Jendra replied, following that with a small cough. Clearing her throat, she reached up to rub the bridge of her nose. "I had to repair the severed vein, but don't worry, I did so in a manner that's undetectable to the Grennai beloren. I've had her taken to the local hospital." Releasing a sigh, she regarded Kirk with tired eyes. "So, ready to haul me away in irons?"
"Revati," McCoy said, "please. Jim's not the enemy."
A raspy, humorless chuckle pushed past Jendra's lips. "Doesn't look to be my friend, either."
"This isn't personal, Doctor," Kirk said, once again feeling his irritation growing. "I have my orders, and my duty, just as you once did."
He saw the tightening of her jaw line as she regarded him in silence for a moment, and he thought he almost could sense the struggle taking place within her. What secrets did she harbor? What burden did she carry? Why was she so driven?
"Maybe that's the problem," Jendra said after a moment, her gaze hardening. "It's not personal for you."
Kirk shook his head. "I don't understand." Even as he spoke the words, however, something told him that her passion and focus went far beyond even the absolute commitment typically displayed by the most dedicated physicians.
She'll accept help, his instincts told him. Let her ask for it.
"What hasn't Starfleet told us?" he asked. "What happened during your mission that made you come back here?"
Crossing the room to the chair next to McCoy, Jendra coughed again as she sat down and spent a moment fussing with the hem of her woven shirt before drawing a deep breath. "Our primary task was to learn about the Grennai's inherent immunity to the planet's radiation in the hope of learning ways to perfect protection against similar hazards."
She indicated her face and clothing with a wave of her hand. "Our disguises allowed us to interact with the indigenous population, but our actions were in keeping with the Prime Directive. We did not interfere with these people's societal development." Her features clouding into what Kirk recognized as an expression of guilt, she cast a glance toward the floor before sighing and shaking her head. "At first, anyway."
McCoy leaned forward until he could take her left hand in both of his. "Revati, what happened?"
"It was Roberts," Jendra replied.
Kirk knew the name only from the report he had read during the transit to NGC 667, but that was why he had Spock. A single glance was all that the first officer required, and he nodded in reply.
"Prior to his retirement," the Vulcan said, "Dr. Campbell Roberts had a noteworthy career spent almost entirely within the xeno-sociology field. He participated in the concealed observation and study of more than two dozen developing cultures, including a solo endeavor where he spent over a year embedded within a tribe of primitive humanoids who had not yet discovered fire. It was revolutionary research -- something never before attempted by any pre-first contact team."
"That's what I call dedication," McCoy remarked.
Jendra nodded. "He had a reputation as a bit of an eccentric, of course, particularly after that mission, but no one could ever argue with his work or most of his recommendations. When our passive research and observation of the Grennai failed to turn up anything useful about their apparent immunity to the radiation, it was Campbell who made the decision to take additional measures. He began collecting tissue and blood samples, first from t
Excerpted from Constellations
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Table of Contents
by David Gerrold
First, Do No Harm
by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore
The Landing Party
by Robert Greenberger
by Howard Weinstein
by Jeff Bond
by Stuart Moore
As Others See Us
by Christopher L. Bennett
See No Evil
by Jill Sherwin
by Dave Galanter
by William Leisner
Devices and Desires
by Kevin Lauderdale
Where Everybody Knows Your Name
by Jeffrey Lang
by Allyn Gibson