As a doctor, Daniel Feldman once made the mistake of saving a friend's life in violation of Medical Lobby rules.
Now he's a pariah, shunned by all, and forbidden to touch another patient. Rules are looser on Mars -- there, Doc Feldman is welcomed by the colonists, even as he's hunted by the authorities.
But when he discovers a Martian plague may soon wipe out two planets, Feldman finds himself a pivotal figure. War erupts, Earth is poised to completely destroy the Mars colony, and a cure to the plague is the price of peace.
Without animals for investigation and study, real research was difficult. Doc also needed an electron microscope. He was reasonably sure that the disease must travel through the nerves, but he had found no proof beyond the hard lump at the base of the neck. Elsewhere he could find nothing, until the black specks developed.
His eyes ached from trying to see more than was visible in the microscope. The tantalizing suggestions of filaments around the nuclei might be the form of plague that was contagious. They might even be the true form of the bug, with the bigger cell only a transition stage. There were a number of diseases that involved complicated changes in the organisms that caused them. But he couldn’t be sure.
He finally buried his head in his hands, trying to do by pure thought what he couldn’t do in any other way. And even there, he lacked training. He was a doctor, not a xenobiologist. Research training had been taboo in school, except for a favored few.
The reports continued to come in, confirming the danger. They seemed to have the worst plague on their hands in all human history; and nobody who could do anything about it even knew of it.
“Molly reports that your letter got some results,” Jake reported. “Chris Ryan brought home one of the electron microscopes and a bunch of equipment from the hospital pathology room. Think she’ll get anywhere?”
Doc doubted it. Damn it, he hadn’t meant for her to try it, though she might have authority for routine experiments. But it was like her to refuse to pass on the word without trying to prove her own suspicion of him first.
He tried to comfort himself with the fact that some men were immune, or seemed so; about three out of a hundred showed no signs. If that immunity was hereditary, it might save the race. If not… .
Jake came in at twilight with a grim face. “More news from Molly. The Lobby is starting out to comb every village with a fault-finder, starting here. And this hole will show up like a sore thumb. Better start packing. We gotta be out of here in less than an hour!”
About Del Rey:
Lester del Rey (Ramon Felipe Alvarez-del Rey) (June 2, 1915 - May 10, 1993) was an American science fiction author and editor.
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