Epsilon

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Recording of Department 31 Meeting, held on Luna Base 6th September 2278

WW: Good morning, gentlemen. I want to thank you all for coming today. Now, as it’s been some time since our last meeting and as we have a fair amount to cover, I suggest we get started.

TM: Admiral, because – as you rightfully say – it’s been some while since our last meeting and we do have some new attendees, perhaps it would be best to go around the table and introduce ourselves?

AP: Is that wise, Doctor?

WW: I do understand your hesitation, Commodore but I can assure you, those officers with security clearance high enough to hear this recording are probably already here. Doctor, if you’d like to begin?

TM: Thank you, Admiral. My name is Dr Timothy Moyth and I’ve been attached to the Epsilon project since its inception.

AP: I’m Commodore Pryce of the 33rd Tactical Wing.

RB: Admiral Bhutan, Starfleet Security

HM: I am Vice-Admiral Ha-tu Mor’kah and the Section-Chief attached to Department 31.

WW: And I’m Admiral William Wong, chief liaison to the Department. Now we all know each other, I suggest we begin. My first item to report is that the captain of the USS [data deleted] has informed me that the primary memory core of the USS Evelon has been retrieved.

AP: What was the retrieval rate?

WW: I’ve been informed it’s around the 60% mark, which when you consider that the Evelon was completely destroyed, is somewhat miraculous. I’ve had the most recent entries of Captain Rose’s log downloaded and sent here to us on Luna. The entries as well as all other relevant documents are available to you on a secure area of the server. If you just…yes. In that file there. Excellent. Now, as we’re still trying to put everything in a chronological order, there are still a few things we’re a little unclear on but that shouldn’t last too long. Perhaps it would be best to start with what we do know. Vice-Admiral Mor’kah, if you’d like to begin?

HM: Thank you, Admiral. Approximately three weeks ago, the USS Evelon picked up an automated distress call from the USS Romero. The Evelon was the third of five ships in the Europa class, an experimental type that attempted to combine a starship that had both deep-space exploration abilities with one able to organize regional forces in times of conflict.  Most operate outside of established Federation borders. For its own part, the Evelon had been investigating unknown gramma ray bursts in the Mektan Nebula for the past two years. We know from his log entries and database access records that Captain Rose attempted to find out information on the Romero upon receiving the distress call. As a matter of course, all D31 vessels are expunged from all official records. What happened next is a little unclear due to the Captain only making a few further entries but what we do know is a boarding party was dispatched and they cut their way into the vessel.

RB: Excuse, Vice-Admiral but why did the boarding party cut their way into the USS Romero? Was the ship not equipped with transporters?

HM: The Evelon could not detect any power source and while crewmembers could have been beamed over, the concern was that there may have been injured on board the Romero and they may not have been able to beam back. Standard Operating Procedure in these situations is to secure a fixed access point into the ship to allow transport of personal and material.

WW: Thank you, Vice-Admiral. Please continue.

HM: The boarding party entered via deck 4 and began a sweep of the vessel as per normal search and rescue procedures. They found no survivors, life-support barely functioning and the artificial gravity damaged beyond repair. Captain Rose’s log entry for stardate 8134.4 states that the party found a single individual – err, a Dr Tenenbaum – sedated in an experimental cryochamber.

AP: A “cryochamber”?

HM: Doctor, would you care to explain?

TM: Of course, Vice-Admiral. As a research vessel, the Romero was also running an additional experiment. In this case, as well as experimenting on the Epsilon virus, the Romero carried two prototype chambers designed to induce a form of suspended animation in humanoid biological entities. It appears that despite everything, the chambers worked. Every cloud and all that, eh?

HM: Doctor Tenenbaum appears to have sealed himself inside one of these chambers apparently in the hope of holding out for rescue. It’s unknown if he was aware he was already infected when he went under but despite the use of the chamber, the doctor was suffering the effect of a full-blown Epsilon infection when he revived in the Evelon‘s medical bay. Naturally, being unaware of the nature of the infection, the crew attempted to subdue and contain the patient. It appears that Dr Joc, the ship’s chief medical officer, and a nurse was the first to be infected followed by a security officer. As it can take up to several hours for an infection to take hold, depending on physical fitness, species and natural immunity all three left the medical bay and presumably interacted with other crewmembers. When they eventually became symptomatic, they probably reacted in the same way as all other Epsilon victims: attacking and infecting those nearest to them. We understand that Dr Joc “turned” on the bridge, killing the helmsman and the XO. We also assume based on … certain simulations we have run, that Captain Rose probably hesitated at authorizing the use of deadly force against crewmembers. This hesitation is likely to have been responsible for the loss of more crewmen than may have otherwise occurred.

AP: How long did the outbreak last?

HM: Starbase 414 received the Evelon‘s distress call on stardate 8135.1 and a Department 31 listening post, which subsequently recorded and wiped it from the soundbank, intercepted it. The USS [data deleted] was despatched immediately to the Evelon‘s location. The captain of the [data deleted] Captain [data deleted] is a D31 operative and his ship is officially part of our private fleet. They arrived two days later. Captain Rose apparently made one personal log entry – his final entry – several hours before the [data deleted] arrived. He stated that uninfected crew had been evacuated to the galley where they were mounting a futile but fierce last stand. Captain [data deleted] made a swift tactical appraisal and given the extreme difficulty in extracting the surviving crew, coupled with the need to maintain containment, requested permission to act under Epsilon Directive Alpha-2. It was granted within the hour.

RB: Forgive me, Vice-Admiral. I’m still digesting all of the information I’ve been given concerning the Department. What’s does this directive entail?

MH: Admiral Wong? OK. EDA-2 gives permission to a starship captain with relevant security clearance to exterminate a source of infection with extreme prejudice.

AP: You mean destroy?

MH: That’s correct, Commodore.

RB: But there must have been over a hundred people onboard that ship.

HM: 135, I believe.

TM: However, if I can just interrupt, if the USS Evelon was in the grip of a full-scale Epsilon outbreak, there would have been a lot less than 135 onboard when it was destroyed.

WW: Thank you for that, Doctor. I’m sure all of our thoughts are with the families of those lost.

RB: Excuse me, Admiral but what has been listed as the official cause of the ship’s destruction?

WW: Oh, I believe we’re going with “collision with asteroid”. The usual package has been offered to the families. Now, the crew of [data deleted] began retrieval of the Romero‘s memory core and once that is completed, the ship will be towed to one of our facilities.

AP: Doctor, while I’m not surprised that Department 31 has its own research teams I assumed all of them were planet-based. Are all of your facilities onboard starships?

TM: Only our research pertaining directly to Epsilon is ship-based and it’s exactly for these reasons. We have four vessels –

HM: Doctor!

WW: It’s ok, Vice-Admiral. We’re all cleared for this. Carry on, Doctor.

TM: Thank you. As I was saying, we have four vessels in the same classification as the Romero. They operate in deep space, usually outside of the normal ship lanes but with a Departmental starship close by and on permanent standby. There is a small complement of armed personal on each ship which err…normally is sufficient to maintain security.

RB: But not this time?

TM: Err. Yes, well…

HM: It will be sometime before we fully understand what happened onboard the Romero. Once that happens we will be in a better position to judge what changes need to be made to our SOP.

AP: I’m curious, Doctor Moyth about the virus itself. While I’ve read the scientific reports included in my original briefing about the Department, I have to admit it’s a little wordy for those like myself with a background in Warp Physics rather than Microbiology. Would you care to give us the Cliff notes on the subject?

WW: One moment, Doctor. Ha-tu, are we secure here?

HM: Yes, Admiral.

WW: In that case – Doctor?

TM: Thank you, Admiral. We’ve codenamed the virus Epsilon after the name of the starbase the first outbreak occurred on 18 years ago. While we’ll still not 100% certain of the virus’ true origin, we believe it is directly connected with rock samples that had been collected from a nearby planetoid. Infection occurs via either a bite or scratch or contact with infected bodily fluid. The virus invades the body and destroys the host’s higher brain functions. Additionally it increases the levels of testosterone in the blood. This makes the host extremely violent and aggressive, increasing the rate of infection amongst those closest to the host. A particular quirk of the virus is if the host is infected from another host who is in the later stages of infection, any subsequent infection reaches maturity much faster; say after only an hour rather than the usual 4. Infected hosts are completely unable to use complex machinery or communicate in any meaningful way. Additionally, we also know that infected hosts will attack each other if uninfected individuals are not present. On the technical side, the virus is structurally very similar to the rabies virus that was wiped out in the middle of the 21st century.

AP: Thank you, Doctor Moyth. Is there a cure?

TM: No. There is a vaccine but I’m afraid it’s not exactly effective.

RB: In what way, Doctor?

TM: It destroys the areas of the brain that the virus would infect so –

AP: Fantastic. How many times has the virus appeared in total?

TM: We are now aware from historical records that the Epsilon incident wasn’t the first outbreak. We currently know of at least three others taking place in the past two decades but there are no doubt additional cases that we don’t know about.

AP: Have all of these outbreaks happened inside Federation space?

TM: Erm… Admiral?

WW: Commodore, of the four outbreaks that we know of for certain, only the Epsilon incident took place within our territory. Of the remaining three outbreaks, two have taken place in isolated areas of Romulan space and the most recent in occurred in Klingon space six years ago.

AP: So you’re saying our enemies are also aware of a virus that could devastate any population it was introduced to?

HM: In short, yes. However, it should be pointed out that they’ve been aware of it for a lot shorter period of time than we have and as far as we know, neither side is conducting any major research into it.

RB: What are our long-term plans for the virus? I presume it’s eradication?

HM: In an ideal galaxy, yes.

RB: But?

WW: The findings of the 2265 Starfleet Strategic Defence Review concluded quite clearly that our forces would be extremely hard-pressed to counter and repulse a full-scale invasion from either Romulus or Qo’noS and frankly, God help us if they attack together. At the time of the Review we had 207 starships of all classifications and of these, only 32 could be considered “warships” by any stretch of the term. All of the simulations we’ve run indicate in an invasion, we would lose all of our border colonies as well as the majority of our major population centres and in all probability, our first major counter attack would have to be launched from Wolf 359. Wolf 359, I don’t think I need to remind you, gentlemen is only 8 light years from Earth.

AP: I remember that review, Admiral. It almost directly led to the design process that’s resulted in the Excelsior being built.

WW: Indeed. However, a working prototype of the Excelsior is still several years away at least and we have nothing to fill the gap. I’m sure we’re all in agreement that the Constitution class is certain to be a fine line of ships but I doubt how well they’d do against the entire Imperial Navy. As a result of the Review Board’s findings, Department 31 was established with the sole remit to defend the Federation against any and all threats, both current and potential by and I quote, any means necessary. It is this reason that we operate outside of the usual chain of command. Epsilon has been declared a “weapon of last resort”. However, we’d be remiss if we didn’t prepare possible uses for it – especially as we can only assume the same thoughts have no doubt passed through the minds of the Klingon Emperor and Romulus’s Praetor. Until our economic and military situations change, we must consider alternatives to open warfare – no matter how unpleasant they might be.

RB: By planning to commit genocide? Admiral, that flies in the face of everything the Federation stands for!

HM: And so is being enslaved by an alien race. Pick your evil, Admiral Bhutan.

AP: While I share Admiral Bhutan’s sentiments, I have to admit I’m curious as to what your delivery method would be.

TM: Tribbles.

AP: I’m sorry, Doctor?

TM: My apologies, Commodore. I said we are planning on using tribbles. They are the small, furry creatures that seem to be popular with children these days.

RB: I know what they are. My daughter has one.

TM: Right. Well, the fur of a wild tribble is in fact crawling with various bacteria and germs. Oh, don’t worry, Admiral – all tribbles sold in the Federation are cleaned before sale so your daughter is quite safe. The reason the tribbles themselves don’t become sick is that they have brilliant immune systems. We’re not sure why exactly but it’s possible that it might have something to do with their high birth rates. In any case, it would be fairly easily to coat the animals with a small amount of the virus before sending them into Klingon space.

AP: I thought only being bitten by someone who’s infected could in turn infect another individual? Can just touching an infected person be enough?

TM: No. I’m sorry, I haven’t been very clear, have I? The virus can only enter via an open wound or by a bite. Now, one of the reasons Tribbles are so popular is mainly due to how friendly they are, particularly around children. However, Klingons – for reasons we’ve never been able to understand – absolutely detest the creatures.

WW: Personally, I think it’s because they’re such miserable bastards.

TM: Possibly. In any case, Tribbles will bite if handled too roughly. They don’t have very sharp teeth but they’re certainly enough to give someone a bit of a nip. This should be enough to pass the virus on.

RB: Doctor, don’t the Klingons shoot these creatures on sight? How do you expect to get enough of them into Klingon territory to cause a large enough outbreak?

TM: Well, as I said Tribbles breed at a fantastic rate. We’re confident that the Klingons wont get them all, especially if we introduce them into several major star ports and heavily populated planets at the same time. Tribbles are very good at hiding their young from predators and as they can reproduce asexually anyway, all you would need is one of them on board an outboard ship to carry on the infection.

AP How do the Romulans fit into this? Or are you planning to use Tribbles against both governments?

HM: We currently have several scenarios for delivery. The one the doctor has just detailed is only one of them. You’ll appreciate that it’d be impossible to go into detail about all of them at this meeting. However, in this scenario, we would use a number of Romulan agents we’ve been cultivating over the past few years to transport tainted cargo. They would deliver said cargo into Klingon space and the infection would start from there. In all probability this would result in the liquidation of the majority of our assets. However, with the Klingons beginning to panic as the infection took hold we expect their immediate reaction would be to declare war on the Romulan Star Empire, especially as they get on with the Romulans a little worse than they do with us the majority of the time.

AP: You mean you intend to push both of them into a mutually destructive war?

WW: Precisely. Our aim is not to destroy either empire but to weaken both to such an extent it will take them decades to recover.

RB: “We require room to breath”

WW: I’m sorry, Admiral Bhutan? I didn’t quite catch that.

RB: Oh, don’t worry, William. It’s a quote from early twentieth century Earth history. It seemed rather apt.

WW: Perhaps I’ll look it up later. In any case, we don’t truly expect the Romulans or Klingons to be completely wiped out by either the plague or by any subsequent war. Ideally, we’d settle for the complete destruction of their economies, weakening of their respective armed forces and perhaps, in the case of both Empire’s slave races, a few uprisings. Actually, Admiral Mor’Kah, what do you think of the idea of us supplying arms to the Remans and a few groups Qo’noS is trying to suppress?

HM: It’s certainly worth considering. I’ll table it for our next meeting.

WW: Excellent.

AP: What, if any, are the possible pitfalls of this plan in particular?

WW: Well, there are two major ones and the possible occurrence of either has actually been factored in to what we have planned. The first is that the Klingons trace it back to us. We’d be foolish to think we’d be above suspicion if this ever happened.

RB: I’d go so far as to say that we’d be their prime suspects.

WW: This is why our preferred route of insertion is via Neutral Zone trade routes and why we are hoping the Klingons execute the agents we would send in. Our fleet presence in the area is high anyway for obvious reasons and if Qo’noS accuse us of anything, we can always orchestrate a few outbreaks of our own. With so many of our ships in the area, we should be able to stop things before they get too out of hand. At the very least, it should take the heat off us a little.

RB: Good God!

AP: How many casualties should we expect to incur?

HM: I don’t have the figures in front of me but I know we are operating with a provisional figure of around 300,000 – 400,000. As we wouldn’t want to respond too quickly lest we tip our hands to the Klingons, in the end we’ll probably end up losing four, perhaps five colonies on the border with the Neutral Zone. I would like to point out that the vast majority of these colonies are a massive drain on resources and so the loss of a few of them is in fact likely to help the Federation in the long term. If we time everything correctly, we should be able to convince the Klingons that the Romulans are responsible.

AP: That’s an awfully risky plan, Vice-Admiral.

HM: Well, as the Admiral mentioned at the beginning of the meeting, Epsilon is a weapon of last resort. It wont be utilised unless we have absolutely no other choice.

RB: Has the Department made any suggestions for the post-outbreak period?

WW: We’d leave that for the politicians to decide but I personally would make a recommendation that full aid packages and support be made available to affected populations. We’re not monsters, after all.

RB: Perhaps not.

WW: If no one has anything else to add, I think now would be a good time to break for lunch. When we return, Doctor Zarkof from the Academy will join us for item 4 on our agenda, which is his report into his experiments into Warp Space life forms. Sounds fascinating. Admiral Mor’kah, would you mind waiting for a moment so I could speak to you?

PLAYBACK ENDS

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