The cleansing flame
Episode 4 - Truth, Justice, and the Federation Way
Location: USS Arcadia
Timeline: MD 03 (March 6, 2393)
"Jesse, I need to be sure, can you run the simulation one last cycle to see if we achieve significance?" Nealas looked at the latest results. She had run it three times already and for the most part it had been successful, although the concoction she had come up with was going to be painful for anyone that had to take it. Although in all honesty, she had no idea how changelings experienced physical sensations since there was no discernible nerve system to speak of. It had taken all of her historical medical knowledge to come up with the solution. Something she could only come up with after realising that the virus acted less like a naturally occurring virus and much more like a malign growth.
The Arcadia's artificial intelligence nodded. "Yes, Doctor. Running the simulation."
The room fell back into silence as the AI carried out the doctor's order, which was merely one of the hundreds she's processing simultaneously at the moment. The Arcadia was a large ship - the largest, in fact, Starfleet has ever commissioned. Improved automation meant the Arcadia crew was much smaller than would be required to operate a ship of this size just a few years ago, but there were still more than 2000 souls onboard, both Starfleet personnel and civilians.
Of course, Jesse had the computational capacity to process thousands of more requests concurrently, but operational efficiency protocols dictated that she do not engage in small talks unless necessary. Computational resources would be better used elsewhere. So her designers thought.
Nealas paced back and forth in the room, towards the basin that held the changeling and back to the computer terminal, "Is there really no other way to approach this? We crossed off all other possibilities, didn't we?" She shook her head as she approached the patient again, knowing it was deteriorating. "I don't know who you are, or if you can even hear me, but I'm going to make you better. And even though I'm not the person who did this too you, I am sorry. I am sorry that in some possible future, in some possible way, I was capable of this." She put the nail of her thumb in her mouth but was just able to stop herself from biting down, "Thank Dirin..." She mumbled to herself.
"I do not believe the changeling can hear you, Doctor Yvex." observed Jesse.
"I think I read somewhere that they are still aware of their surroundings." Nealas absentmindedly bit off her nail on her thumb. "Shit." She cussed under her breath, "Plus it responded when it recognised me." She made her way over to the bin and dropped her bitten off nail inside of it. "Where are we on those simulations?"
"The simulation is at 23% completion, Doctor." Answered the AI. Tilting her head slightly to the side, she asked curiously, "Are you still bothered by the recordings from your future self, Doctor Yvex?"
"Wouldn't you be?" Nealas looked over at the AI and sighed a bit, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to be so snippy." She ran her hand through her hair and sighed, "Just look at this creature. I can't imagine I would ever do anything like this. Anything so vile and evil as plotting a bio-attack resulting in the genocide of an entire species." She shook her head, "but somewhere in here" She tapped her head, "Or maybe in here" she tapped her stomach, "the potential is there. And I just don't know how to deal with that."
Jesse considered for a moment what the Trill doctor had just said.
"I'm one of the most advanced AIs in service today, Doctor, but everything I do, whether in the past, present, or future, is predetermined by my programming. You, on the other hand, like the rest of the crew, have the free will to decide your next course of action, and you can very well avoid making the same decisions that your future self made in the other timeline."
"But it's in there. The potential is in here." Nealas tapped her stomach tentatively. She looked over at the changeling, "I promise I'll never become that person." She started walking closer, "I won't let anyone hurt you. We'll get you cured. We'll get you back to your people."
There was some slight movement in the otherwise motionless pool of amber liquid. There was no telling if it was an affirmation or a rejection. There was no telling if it was a response to what the doctor had just said at all.
Jesse was positively intrigued by the interaction between the doctor and the changeling. Stepping closer to the Trill, the AI placed a hand on the doctor's shoulder. Like the rest of her, her hand was only a holographic projection, photons constrained within a force field, but holographic technology had advanced to such a degree that one could no longer tell the difference.
"I trust you, Doctor, and if the changeling can hear you, I'm sure he would, too."
Nealas paced the room again, "Let's hope I won't put all of that trust to shame."
Lieutenant Commander Nealas Yvex
Acting Chief Medical Officer
USS Arcadia NCC-89015
USS Arcadia NCC-89015
(NPC - Oliver)