Face in the Portrait

Matthew Gideon, captain of the Excalibur, stared skeptically across the table at his ships surgeon Sarah Chambers. "Tell me again why we need to make a two day detour to this unexplored region of what use to be Markab space?"

Dr. Chambers stared pensively at the message she had received before answering. "Dr. Tooms, a friend of mine in medical school, just relayed information to me concerning a teacher of ours, Dr. Herodotus Grey. Dr. Grey was the leading expert in communicable diseases when we were in school. He and his wife Selma were also two of my dearest friends. His wife was my tutor and was a great source of inspiration for me when I was doing my residency back on Earth. When I went on to Earth Force we grew apart. I haven't seen either of them for almost ten years. His insight into how the Drakh plague works and what steps we should be taking to find a cure would be invaluable to our search."

"Then why doesn't Earth Gov contact him directly?" Gideon asked in exasperation. "Better yet, why isn't he already on Mars, working on a cure with all the rest of the Brain Trust?"

"Because Dr. Grey disappeared from Earth right after the Telepath War and hasn't been seen since. His son and daughter died during that horror. They were innocent victims of a bomb thrown at a Psicorp base by rebels. I'd heard he'd had a nervous breakdown after their funerals and his wife had taken him away to Mars to rest and regain his strength. Shortly after that he dropped completely out of sight. Until now, that is."

"Until now?"

Dr. Chambers got up and handed the message crystal to her captain. "Yes, a transport ship had to make an emergency stop-over on a low-tech world not far from the Markab home world. Since the Markab people died before the outbreak of the Shadow War, not many ships have found their way to this little outpost."

"Didn't Sheridan destroy the jumpgate in that sector in order to destroy a Shadow vessel?" Gideon asked, staring down at the crystal in his hand.

"Yes, but that sector wasn't totally cut off. There are other jump gates that can be used to get close to the inhabited planets in that area. It just takes longer to get to them than it did when the jump gate was still functional. Anyway, the doctor from that transport ship had attended one of Dr. Grey's lectures on inter-species disease transmission and he recognized him immediately when he saw him in the market place."

"Look, Sarah, don't you think that if the man wanted to help he'd have found a way to contact someone about his whereabouts by now?"

"I don't know, Captain. All I do know is that we need to at least try to convince him to come out of retirement. Maybe his genius can come up with a solution to the Drakhh plague that no one else has thought of before. I think it's worth the delay."

Gideon sighed then surrendered gracefully. "Fine. I'll have a course set for the Markab system. But if your Dr. Grey slams the door in your face we're leaving to make our rendezvous. No arguments, right?"

"Whatever you say Captain." Dr. Chambers agreed, turning to leave. She stopped by the door briefly. "Oh, by the way, was that Galen I saw coming down the corridor before our meeting? I hadn't heard he'd shown back up again."

Gideon shrugged, unconcerned. "You know how he is. One minute he's here, the next he's gone. Maybe he'll be helpful with your recalcitrant friend."

"Somehow I doubt that." Dr. Chambers grimaced at the thought of the strong-willed Technomage and her equally determined former teacher sitting down to a discussion. "Diplomacy doesn't seem to be his strong suit." She strode out of the conference room, mentally reviewing what she would say if her old friend actually was where she thought he was. Somehow she had to convince him to come back out of his self-imposed darkness and help find a cure for the plague before it was too late.