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Riassunto:

Years ago, Lieutenant Uhura befriended a diplomat from Eeiauo, a land of graceful, catlike beings. The two women exchanged forbidden songs and promised never to reveal their secret.

Now the Starship Enterprise™ must race to save the Eeiauoans before a deadly plague destroys them all. Uhura's secret songs may hold the key to a cure, but the clues are veiled in layers of mystery. The plague is killing humans, threatening other planets -- and Kirk must crack the code before the Enterprise succumbs!

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One

Captain's Log, Stardate 2950.3:

The Enterprise continues in orbit around Eeiauo, on the outermost fringe of Federation space. At McCoy's recommendation, Starfleet has placed the world under quarantine. The Enterprise will remain here to enforce that quarantine until the arrival of a Federation task force, specialists in epidemiology and in enforcement.

Dr. McCoy and Nurse Chapel have elected to beam down with the medical team we transported to aid the Eeiauoans in their desperate fight against the plague that is devastating their world -- a plague they call "The Long Death."

Personal Log, James T. Kirk, Stardate 2950.3:

Bones, at least, has something useful to do. Ile rest of us can only sit and listen, as more and more Eeiauoans are struck down. Over a quarter of the population now has ADF syndrome. If only the Eeiauoans had asked for help sooner!

I told Bones of our frustration. His response was predictable...

"You're frustrated! By God, Jim!" McCoy let his exasperated words hang for a moment, then he stepped slightly to one side.

"Bozhe moi," breathed Pavel Chekov as he watched the viewscreen; it was nothing less than a prayer. To Kirk's right, Lieutenant Uhura gave a small wordless gasp.

Even a clinical knowledge of ADF syndrome left Jim Kirk unprepared for the view behind McCoy. Consciously, he knew the miles that separated him from the scene, but he was still hard put not to take an involuntary step backward.

He saw row after row after row of the circular Eeiauoan hospital beds, each one occupied. The victims of ADF were no longer recognizably Eeiauoan: they lay as if dead, their furless bodies covered with raw, oozing lesions. From Bones's briefing, Jim Kirk knew that, given adequate intravenous feeding and similar maintenance, they could survive in this state for years. If you call this survival, he thought. Seeing them, he didn't.

Those in the early, ambulatory stage of the disease hunched in their pain, brushed away their loosening fur and carried on the work of maintaining the others.

The Eeiauoans had not asked the Federation for assistance until they no longer had the power to help themselves.

McCoy blocked the view again.

"Sorry, Bones," Kirk said, when he found his voice. "That was a stupid thing for me to say."

McCoy shook his head. "The Eeiauoan doctors have dealt with two previous outbreaks of ADF syndrome and never bothered to call in Federation help before. It wasn't bad enough, they tell me. Wasn't bad enough! Jim, they lost twenty thousand people in the last one!" He himself looked on the verge of collapse, but Kirk was relieved to see that he still had the energy for righteous indignation.

"Are you making any progress, Bones?"

McCoy snorted. "'Progress.' If that's a polite way of askin' have we found a cure yet, the answer is no. Nor have we cobbled together a vaccine in our copious spare time. Give me all the time in the world and the greatest scientists and doctors in history and even then I couldn't promise you results, dammit. I can't command a scientific breakthrough."

He drew a long breath, his shoulders slumped. "I wish to hell I could. They're good people." With a flash of his old humor, he added, " -- for overgrown house cats."

"Is there anything we can do, anything at all?"

"You're supposed to be enforcin' the quarantine, not breakin' it. No, I don't want anyone else down here. The best you could do is carry bedpans, and robots do that well enough. And they, at least, are immune to ADF syndrome."

"Bones, when was the last time you heard of a disease that affects two species as different as humans and Eeiauoans?"

"Rabies," said McCoy curtly. At Kirk's questioning look, he added, by way of explanation, "An ancient Earth disease -- it did indeed affect two species as different as..." He waved his hand. "The planet's under quarantine, Jim, and I don't want to hear any more about it."

A tall Eeiauoan tapped McCoy lightly on the shoulder with a claw tip. He turned. "Yes, Quickfoot?"

Quickfoot of Srallansre, the Eeiauoan doctor McCoy had been working with since their arrival, was obviously in the first stage of ADF syndrome. Each movement she made was stiff with pain. Her gray-striped fur was already thinning and dingy. Her nictitating membranes, discolored and swollen, partially obstructed her vision. Although she did not yet have the characteristic pained hunched posture, Kirk suspected it was from force of will only.

McCoy accepted a sheaf of papers from her. "Get some rest, dammit, Quickfoot," he said irritably. "Finish that later."

Quickfoot shook her head stiffly. "Too ssoon, too much resst, McCCoy. Work now. There is no later." She limped away.

McCoy wiped his face and eyes. "Damn cat hair," he muttered, "gets in everything." Kirk nodded, accepting the fiction. After a pause, McCoy straightened and said, "I have some more information for Mr. Spock."

Casting a quick, puzzled glance at his chief science officer, Kirk said, "I thought we transhipped a hold fun of medical computers?"

McCoy muttered a response.

"How's that, Bones?" Jim Kirk was quite sure he had heard McCoy correctly -- but baiting McCoy was a habit of long standing and seemed to restore a measure of normality even in such grotesque circumstances as these.

McCoy scowled. "I said," and this time he enunciated each word clearly, "I'd rather trust Spock."

At Spock's raised eyebrow, McCoy scowled again. Then, very rapidly, to change the subject, he said, "How's Sulu?"

The forced inaction these past few weeks had given everyone time to return to hobbies or create new ones from sheer desperation. Sulu had found McCoy's substitute, Dr. Evan Wilson, a fencing partner his equal -- or better. Hard-pressed during a recent match with her, he had tripped and, against all odds, broken his ankle.

The thought of Wilson touched a nerve. Privately, Jim Kirk resented her presence on behalf of the Enterprise's own medical staff. It was not the first time Starfleet Command had shown such a lack of judgment however, and he was not about to mention his feelings in public. Morale was low enough already; it would not do to have his crew questioning their acting chief medical officer. He said, "Sulu's fine. Dr. Wilson says he'll be up and around in no time."

"'Up and around'? How did she get him to stay down?"

Until Bones's question, it hadn't occurred to him to wonder. Jim Kirk spread his hands and glanced at his chief science officer inquiringly.

Spock said, "I believe she learned her bedside manner from you, Doctor."

"What d'you mean by that, Spock?"

"I mean, Dr. McCoy, that she used a purely emotional approach." Spock's features were innocent of expression.

Now openly suspicious, McCoy growled, "I'm waiting, Mr. Spock."

Spock raised an eyebrow, presumably at McCoy's display of impatience, then said, "Dr. Wilson was heard to tell Mr. Sulu that if he did not stay off his injured leg, she would -- I quote -- break the other one for him."

Jim Kirk gave an inward cheer. He could not have delivered the tale half so well himself, and for the life of him, he couldn't tell if Spock had done it intentionally.

Intentional or not, the story, or Spock's delivery, actually brought a surprised chuckle from McCoy. He gave Spock a wary look, then turned back to Kirk, and said, "Feisty little thing, isn't she? Keep your eye on her, Jim. What she lacks in height, she makes up in brass. Get her to tell you how Scotty and I met her. Might give you a laugh and, God knows, we could all use a few."

Then his brief smile faded and there was a long moment's silence. Kirk could see McCoy's mind turning back to the desperateness of the problem he faced. McCoy, s

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