Chapter 9: Invisible Enemy

"Attention all sections Berg. This is Commander John Koenig. We have a general yellow alert. The escaped Bethan girl has not been apprehended yet, and we have just ascertained that she might have a chemical or biological agent. Please remain in lockdown wherever you are, and report any suspicious activity or behavior to Berg command. All outside personnel proceed to the nearest building and remain there."

Mark DeVos looked at his fellow pilot, James Healy, and shook his head. "Man, that girl is trouble. I thought we had beaten that ship!"

"Let's go through this complex again," Healy said. "There are just so many places to hide."

"Captain Carter has two teams outside. Surely they would spot anyone trying to enter."

"Yeah, but she has those powers or something. Hopefully if she does get in, those guys concealed in the eagle cockpits will spot her. Not to mention the guys in control watching the video feed."

The two pilots made their way to the back of the hangar, carefully checking behind workbenches, piles of equipment and eagle parts. Both men had their stun guns ready, but they found nothing. Back in the main hangar they waved at the pilots hiding inside eagle command modules and came across another pilot patrol made up of Johan Burger and Dmitri Anagnos.

"Anything?" Burger asked.

"Not a soul, Johan. How about you guys?"

"Nothing. Captain Carter said the girl might try taking one of our ships, but it's been all day, and no sign of an intruder."

"Well," DeVos said. "We'll go to the control room, rest our legs a bit. The guys there can do the rounds."

"Captain Carter is there," Anagnos said.

"Great! Perhaps he'll let us change over for a while. I could do with sitting in a cockpit for a while."

DeVos and Healy approached the hangar control room and waved at the men inside. Suddenly Healy stopped. "Wait," he whispered. "Did you hear that?" The men stood back to back, stun guns ready and turned in a slow circle. Moments later the control room door opened and Alan Carter rushed over to them, his own stun gun ready.

"What is it, Mark?"

"James thought he heard something," DeVos whispered.

Healy pointed to a section just to the left of the control room. "I thought I heard something… like a window breaking."

"Stay close," Alan said, and the three men crept in the direction Healy had pointed. "There are no windows here. Just the launch pads and overhead rails."

The launch pads were empty as no eagles were scheduled to fly. The men turned in circles, looking at the overhead rails and catwalks spanning the length of the hangar.

"I'm going up there," Carter said. "Stay down here and keep looking. Warn the two teams outside and the others in here that we might have an intruder." He started up one of the ladders to the service catwalk. The other two men carefully moved around, their eyes searching.

"Here!" Mark DeVos suddenly shouted, pointing to the floor. Healy rushed over and together the two men looked at the glass fragments scattered below the catwalk. "Captain Carter! We found something!" Mark shouted up to the roof. They heard the clattering of footsteps on the metal as Alan Carter came running above them. He looked down.

"What, Mark?"

"Glass," Mark replied. "Broken glass."

Alan Carter's mouth went dry as he looked down at his men.

"Call the outside teams in. Close and seal hangar doors. I'll call the Commander," he instructed as he headed for the ladder and hastily made his way down. The men followed him into the control room, and the two outside teams came rushing in. Alan hit the controls for closing the hangar doors.

"What are you doing, Captain?" Johan Burger asked.

But Alan did not reply; merely headed to the communications monitor. "Berg command this is Carter calling from eagle hangar. Come in Berg command."

"Go ahead, Alan, we read you," Paul's voice replied.

"Get me Commander Koenig, please," Alan requested, looking at his men. They all looked fine, though slightly alarmed.

"Koenig here. What's up, Alan," the Commander's voice came seconds later.

"Are you in your office Commander? I need a secure communication for now."

"Go ahead, Alan," Koenig finally said. "Secure now."

"I'm in the eagle hangar, Commander, with my pilot teams. We found… glass fragments below a catwalk not far from the control room. I have sealed the hangar doors and we are all inside."

There was a long silence before Koenig replied: "Are you all feeling OK?"

"Yes, Commander." Alan studied his men and they all nodded.

"How long ago, Alan? Who found it?"

"About 5 minutes, Commander. Mark DeVos and James Healy found it, but we were all within 50 meters or so."

"So, we're not dealing with a rapid agent, if that's what it is. I'm going to send a medical team over, Alan, in case you have been exposed. You were right to seal yourselves up. Let me know if anything changes."

There was a long silence.


"Uh… yes, Commander."

"Alan? What's going on?"

"Not… nothing, Commander. We were just… I… Healy…"

"Hang in there, Alan. I'm sending a team over right away."

In the laboratory, Ben Vincent pulled off his gloves and turned to the observation window where Doctor Russell and Angela Robinson were waiting. "My instruments do not detect anything abnormal, Doctor. Vital signs normal, brain patterns normal. He's clean."

"Thank you, Ben. Send him out. We'll send in the last technician."

Helena turned to Professor Robinson. "Looks good. None of those working on securing the objects appear to be affected."

"That's a relief," Angela Robinson said as Jim Haines came through the airlock. She patted him on the arm. Thank you, Jim." The last technician, still dressed in the isolation suit, stepped into the airlock.

All three watched through the observation window as Ben Vincent ran the medical tests on the final technician that had been tasked with transporting the glass objects, and when he finally looked up and gave them the all clear, they breathed a collective sigh of relief.

"Now, if we can just find the missing ten units," Angela Robinson sighed.

"I don't think there is any doubt that the alien girl somehow got her hands on them," Helena replied. "The question is, what is she going to do with them?"

"Let's hope they find her before she can do anything," Jim Haines said as Ben Vincent and the technician came through the airlock. "I don't like the idea of being locked in here indefinitely." The group made their way to the front of the laboratory, where the big room now showed signs of many scientists having appropriated workspace for themselves. There was a row of chairs by the door, and the group headed for them.

"Hey, look," Jim Haines exclaimed. "Someone came to work in pajamas!" The blue garment had been tossed on the last chair, and Haines grabbed it so he could sit down.

Even the technicians who had gathered at one of the science tables across the room looked up as the distinctive sound of breaking glass sounded. The group by the chairs instinctively backed away, and Jim Haines tossed the pajama top that had concealed the glass object away from him, but it was too late. Glass fragments were scattered on the floor.

"Back, get back!" Helena Russell exclaimed and urged the group towards the back of the laboratory, while reaching for her commlock.

"Let's get to the decontamination chambers," Angela Robinson added as the group huddled together to the doorway.

"John, this is Helena."

"Go ahead."

"There was a glass container in the lab. We were unaware of it, and broke it. We've all been exposed and are heading to the decontamination chambers."

John Koenig felt the sweat break out on his brow.

"Prohibit all entry to the lab, John," Helena said. "I'll update you once we've been through decontamination."

"Helena, the pilots in the eagle hangar have also been exposed. I sent Raul and his team there, suited up in their spacesuits to check it out. And a group in the recreation center also broke an oyster that was wrapped in a towel."

The group in the lab had reached the first decontamination chamber. "You go first, Doctor Russell," Angela Robinson ordered. "We're going to need you."

Helena shook her head, but Angela pushed her towards the lock. "There are two more chambers. I'll take them there and get isolation suits and breathing apparatus. Go, Doctor!"

"I'm stepping into a decontamination chamber now, John," Helena said on her commlock. "I'll speak to you after the procedure is completed."

In the command unit in Uzazi, John Koenig flung down his commlock and opened his door to the main room just as Paul called out: "Commander, hydroponics in Kukua just broke one of those glass things inadvertently. It had been hidden among some tools."

"Activate Red Alert, Paul. That's the fourth one. Get me Raul in the eagle hangar."

There was a sudden yell, and faces lifted to the door of Koenig's office. "There she is! There!" Lee Oswald shouted and stun guns were drawn. The alien girl, dressed in regulation Alpha clothes, had appeared in the doorway, and as several lasers struck her, the glass containers she had been clutching in both hands tumbled to the floor and broke. Those manning the control room instinctively backed away from the body, but Koenig yelled out:

"Seal the doors, Paul. No one is to leave!"

"But Commander…!"

"Seal us in, Paul. Whatever it is, we've been exposed. She must have had those units far longer than we suspected if she got as far as Kukua." Koenig said as he strode over to the communications console.

"Attention all sections Alpha… uh… I mean Berg. There have been… five incidents of exposure to the unknown device… agent from the alien ship." He shook his head to clear a fog threatening to overwhelm him.

"She's dead, Commander," one of the technicians called from where she was crouched beside the alien girl.

"The girl has been… apprehended… killed… and all of us here in main mission… control… have been exposed… more than one oys.. ter." Koenig slumped into a chair as a wave of fatigue washed over him. He blinked, trying to keep his eyes open as he looked around the command room. Other staff was slumping in chairs, seemingly exhausted.

"Watch… out… for other containers. Remain where… where you are… medical will…"

"So tired, Paul," Koenig slurred as Paul Morrow sat next to him.

"Me too… Commander… three… I think… she had three…"

In the ICU, Victor Bergman opened his eyes and breathed deeply. He felt detached, as if he had just completed a long, unknown journey. To the side he saw the communications console beeping out a red alert, and looked around in alarm. He was on a bed, the life support pack over his chest, his right arm in a thermoplastic cast. So were both legs. He managed to raise himself on his other elbow. On a chair not far from his bed was a small curled up bundle.

Though his throat was sore, he managed: "Kevin?"

The boy looked up, the intense blue eyes lighting up. "Uncle Victor!" Kevin jumped from the chair to come stand by the bed.

"Where is everyone? What's the Red Alert? Did you hear?"

"The enemy girl is dead," Kevin replied solemnly.

"Enemy girl?" Victor shook his head, confused, but then saw movement outside his room. Minutes later Bob Mathias came striding in.

"Professor! Oh, I'm so glad to see you awake. The monitor alerted me to heightened brain activity. We have a major problem."

"What's going on?" Victor asked. "I feel sluggish, like jet lag, and what's with all these casts?"

"You don't remember, Professor?"

"No, no, but tell me later. What's the red alert for? And can you get rid of these casts?"

"Well, you have a broken radius, a broken femur and broken tibia, Professor."

"Nonsense. The red alert?"

The young boy had clambered onto the bed, and Victor rubbed his shoulder reassuringly.

"As brief as I can, Professor," Mathias started while grabbing a scanner and running it along Bergman's arm. "The alien ship harbored some chemical or biological weapons, one of the Bethan girls escaped our custody and released whatever it is in certain areas. You're right," Mathias said, pulling off the arm cast. Don't know how, but no broken bone there." He moved to the leg casts.

"What areas?"

"The laboratory here, the command room, recreation unit, eagle hangar and the hydroponics unit in Kukua. Several groups have been exposed, including Commander Koenig and Doctor Russell."

"Helena!" Victor exclaimed as Bob started undoing one leg cast.

"They were in the lab checking the technicians responsible for securing the other objects. They were heading to decontamination rooms, so they may be OK."

Victor sat up and started pulling off the other cast as well.

"I don't understand, Professor, because three days ago you were just about dead, but I'll take this recovery. It may be up to us to find out what that girl released, and it will be up to us to help our people."

"What's our situation here?"

"Well, as you know, Professor, medical is pretty well sealed off except for the reception area. There is some staff on duty, but a team from here had been dispatched to the recreation area, suited up, to take care of the people there."

Professor Bergman had climbed out of bed and hastily pulled on the blue pants Mathias held out. He went over to the communications console.

"Paul? John? Medical calling."

"I've been trying, Professor. No reply in command."

"We've got to get over there!"

"Try the laboratory, Professor."

"This is Victor Bergman to main laboratory, come in please?"

"Victor?" Helena's face appeared on the screen. "You're awake?"

"Helena! What's going on? Are you OK?"

"So tired, Victor… we were exposed to… something, but got into decan… decon…decontamination within minutes. May have negated… the effect."

"Did you vent the lab?"

"Angela… yes…"

"The Command center has been affected, Helena. I'm here with Bob, and medical seems OK. I'm going to check on the staff level and get help to you."

"Victor… Thor… check… Thor… so tired… going to sit down…"

"Helena? Helena?" He looked at Mathias. "We need to get all available staff here together and send out teams. What's check Thor?"

Mathias rubbed his face. "Professor, there are so many things that happened when you were unconscious… I forgot… Doctor Russell had her baby… prematurely, but he's doing fine. He's in neonatal…"

Victor took a few steps back, staring at Mathias incredulously.

Bob Mathias nodded and handed the Professor his commlock. "I'll get the staff together in ICU reception," he said to Victor's departing back.

In the neonatal unit, Victor stopped beside the incubator, staring at the tiny form. "Oh, Helena," he whispered, kneeling down to study his son. He reached one hand through a port, gently stroking the tiny shoulder, his eyes also taking in the monitors. Everything looked in order. He shook his head. "Later, Thor my boy. We have work to do," he whispered, then turned and headed back to ICU.

Gathered together were Bob Mathias, Lesley Picard, Grove Allen, June Bradley, Jenny McCarthy, Ed Spencer and the remnant boy, Kevin McMurry. "Raul and a team from Kukua are at the eagle hangar," Bob reported. "Everyone there is alive, but extremely sluggish. Vital signs are normal though. They've made everyone comfortable and are heading to the hydroponics unit now."

"Bob, Lesley and I will suit up and head over to the command center. We'll report back and then go on to the lab. Meanwhile, we have to decide whether we're going to bring patients into what seems a relatively clean medical unit, or treat them in situ." He turned to the nurse. "Get some equipment to draw blood samples and other specimens. While we're in the lab we may as well try find out what we're dealing with."

"Send some samples back here too, Professor. We'll get on it right away."

"Right. I'll let Ed know so he can pick them up at the command center before we head to the lab. How many patients here at the moment?"

"None, Professor. It was you and Thor."

"I think it may be advisable to clear whatever isolation rooms we have to bring in some patients. We can use the vacuum enclosures to transport them."

Ed Spencer arrived with some old Alpha spacesuits and Victor and Lesley suited up quickly. Mathias checked their backpacks and chest packs. "We'll get everything ready, Professor, and bring out the vacuum transporters."

"Yes. Have a couple more of you suit up. We'll try to bring in someone from command who is coherent. Perhaps that will help us figure out what's going on. When we're ready, they can bring over a moon buggy."

"Good luck, Professor. Are you sure you feel well?"

"I'm fine, Bob. Keep everyone back in the isolated areas. We'll be in touch."

The small group in medical watched as Professor Bergman and Lesley Picard left, lowering their visors. Bob Mathias held Kevin's hand, because the boy wanted to dart after them. "Right, Ed, Jenny, you two suit up as well. You'll collect the blood samples and the patient from the command room. Bring the vacuum transporter and an isolation container. We may not have long, so let's be ready!"

At the command center, Victor had trouble getting in by the main doors. "John? Paul? Anyone in there?" he called. "Open the doors, we're here to help!" There was no reply. "Let's try the door to John's office at the back," he said. They made their way there, and to his great relief, the commlock opened that door. As they stepped inside, they saw the body of the alien girl sprawled in the doorway to the main room.

"Leave her," Victor said, stepping over it. Down in the command room a strange sight greeted him. Bodies were slumped in chairs, and some were stretched out on the floor, but eyes followed his every move. He spotted John Koenig on one of the chairs near the main communications console and rushed over, putting down the medical pack and isolation container he had brought. "John?"

Koenig opened his eyes and looked at the spacesuit clad figure. Professor Bergman quickly ran the bioscanner along Koenig's torso, surprised to see all vital signs reading as normal. "John? Can you hear me?"

Koenig gripped his arm. "So tired."

"We're going to get you to medical, John. Try and tell us what happened?"

"Don't remember."

Victor had turned to scan Paul and another operative close by. "They all show normal readings, Lesley! What have you got?"

"Same, Professor. All vital signs normal."

"Bob, this is Bergman, come in?"

"Reading you, Professor."

"The strangest thing, Bob. Everyone has normal vital signs, no fever, rash or any visible sign of an infection, except extreme lethargy and confusion. You can send Ed over with the vacuum transporter. We'll take some other blood samples. I'll open the main doors."

Victor had turned to Paul Morrow, who pulled his arm away.

"Relax, Paul," Victor soothed. "I'm just getting some blood, so we can help you."

"Away from… me… get away…" Paul was still trying to push the instrument away.

"Can you tell me what happened, Paul?" Victor tried to distract him.

"Girl… glass… Professor Bergman?"

"Yes Paul, I'm fine. We're going to help you," Victor said, securing the first sample in the isolation container beside him.

"Biologi… cal… chem…. ical agent…" Paul tried.

"Do you feel any pain, Paul?"

Paul Morrow slowly shook his head. "No… just so tired… can't move…"

In the doorway, Ed Spencer arrived pulling the vacuum transporter.

"Here, Ed, let's load John." Together the two men opened the container and with some effort lifted John Koenig inside. His eyes were dancing wildly from one visor to the other, but struggling was minimal. "It's OK, John. We're taking you to medical," Victor soothed.

"Vic… Victor?"

"Yes John."

"I rem… remem… remember. So con… fused. Exposed… to some… thing…"

"Yes, John," Victor replied as they closed the vacuum transporter and checked the oxygen feed. "Ed, get him over to medical. Send this through decontamination, only suited up staff to handle the container until then. Same with these." Lesley had placed her samples in the isolation container, which he now placed on top of the vacuum container. "Will you be OK with it, Ed?"

"Yes Professor. Jenny will take that in the buggy. I'll pull the vacuum transporter over."

"We'll make everyone here comfortable," Victor said. "They don't seem to be in any immediate danger or distress. Then we'll try and contact other sections. I'll let Bob know where we stand before heading over to the lab."

"Be careful, Professor; Lesley."

When the vacuum transporter had left, Victor closed the main doors again. Then he went around the room with Lesley, making sure everyone was sitting or lying down comfortably, reassuring the victims. All eyes were filled with confusion, all bodies limp and listless, though some people tried moving.

"It's almost like some kind of drugged state," Lesley observed. "Affecting voluntary motor skills, memory and even speech."

"You're right," Victor said. "Let's hope that's all that it is; some kind of short lived neurological agent." He got on his commlock. "Bob, check for neurological agents first. Those exposed to whatever it was all display symptoms of extreme lethargy, confusion, slow speech, some anxiety and loss of memory." He then faced the communications console, pressing a few keys. "All sections Berg, this is Professor Bergman. If you are in your residential quarters, please remain there. If you are on duty in an unaffected area, remain there. Send reports to main computer to help us determine the number of casualties. If you are in an affected area, please remain there as help is on the way. So far the agent we have been exposed to has not affected any vital functions; therefore it is possible the effects may be temporary. Stay calm and if possible, report in to main computer." He looked around again.

"Everyone looks comfortable, Professor," Lesley said. "I've run a few new scans. All readings normal."

"Yes, but we need to get some brain scans soon. Let's head over to the lab," he said, heading for the back door. The two space suit clad figures jogged the short distance to the main laboratory in Uzazi. Here Victor found that the commlock opened the door normally. Lugging all their medical equipment, they entered the large room, but it was deserted.

"The decontamination chambers," he said, heading deeper into the building. They found Helena Russell and Jim Haines slumped outside the first chamber, and Victor rushed to her side, gently lifting her. "Helena?"

Her eyes opened; the lids heavy. "Vic… Victor? You… you're OK?"

"Yes! Yes!" he nodded. "I'm fine. Can you tell me what happened?" He cradled her against him, cursing the spacesuit and helmet.

"So hard… to… re… remember…" He had run the bioscanner while she had been trying to talk, and was relieved to see all readings were normal.

"You were exposed to some kind of agent, Helena. It's not affecting blood pressure, heartbeat or breathing, but it does seem to affect the brain."

"Vict… Vic… Victor…" She was trying to pull his head down. "Th… Thor?"

He wrapped his arms around her. "He's beautiful, Helena. And he's just fine! Medical is isolated and seems to have been spared. Our boy is just perfect."

Her smile was weak.

"Helena," he said. "I have to go see to the others too. I'll get you taken to medical as soon as possible."

"He… here… scan… scanners here…" she stammered.

"Professor," Lesley interrupted. "Jim is fairly coherent. They had brought medical equipment over to check the technicians. Lab 7."

"Great! Help me, let's get her over there. Helena," he pulled her up, "lean on us, we'll get you to Lab 7."

Together the three of them made their way down the passage. When they reached the decontamination lock, he turned to Lesley. "Go see to the others. I've got her. If they can walk, bring them all here. I'll get her inside and then come and help."

"Right Professor."

He supported Helena through the airlock and into the isolation lab, where he gently helped her onto the bed, while all the time talking softly: "Our scans so far have shown everybody to have normal vital signs. Whatever agent you were exposed to, it seems to affect voluntary movement, memory, speech and some cognition. I'm going to hook you up to the brain monitor here so we can see what's going on. I'll also be taking more blood samples."

"Glass… glass…" she said. "Out… front… by… the… chairs… samples…"

"Right, right. I'll get those in the spectroscope as soon as I can." He connected the electrodes on either side of her head.

"So… so glad… you're OK, Vic… Victor. A mira… miracle."

"Yes, so Bob tells me. Bob is just fine. He'll be taking care of John right now." He had turned the scanner on and studied the patterns with amazement. "Theta waves… Delta waves… yet, you're awake." He reached for his commlock. "Bob, how are those brain scans coming on?"

"I've just hooked up the Commander, Professor."

"I have Helena hooked up. Delta and Theta waves, yet she is awake… the scanner here is basic, but you might want to focus on the ventrolateral preoptic nucleus, and check serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline levels. Looks like this thing might be messing with the neurotransmitters."

"Getting the same here Professor. Delta and Theta waves. Yet the Commander is trying to speak to me."

"Lesley and I will get everyone here in the lab comfortable, and then I'll run a few tests, Bob. Reports should be coming through as to staff still available. I'll get some numbers to you, but there should be available personnel we can rope in to help. Those not affected should suit up completely before moving around."

"Do you think the effect is permanent, Professor, or is it just temporary, like a drug?"

"Those are some of the first things I'll be trying, Bob: finding the half life of this thing and trying to figure out what it is. Let's hope it's only temporary. If it is a biological agent like a virus, we may be in far more trouble than we are now..."

(To be continued...)