The changes being experienced by the crew continue to progress. Riker finds himself unable to either remember the recent weapons testing or respond to a Starfleet request for a report on the matter.
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Troi sits in her bath tub, wearing her Starfleet uniform , trying to stay wet when Worf suddenly enters her quarters, approaches Troi, and bites her cheek. Both Troi and Worf are taken to sickbay, and Crusher quickly notices the changes. When Ogawa adds that more of the crew are experiencing symptoms, but while some are also finding the temperature too cold there are others who have developed fevers , leading Crusher to conclude that something is spreading around the ship. She then turns her attention to Worf who is completely unresponsive, and notices something else: he has swellings under his jaw that appear to be venom sacs.
They prove to be just that as Worf suddenly sprays venom in Crusher's face, then flees sickbay before he can be captured, while Ogawa and another nurse rush to aid Crusher, whom is in extreme distress. In the observation lounge , Ogawa reports that she got Crusher into stasis before she became paralyzed by the venom. She will require reconstructive surgery, but Ogawa believes she will be all right. However, there is still the problem of the mysterious illness affecting the crew. Barclay reports that the venom that affected Crusher has been found in other parts of the ship, including at the ruptured plasma conduit seen earlier.
Riker admits to his inability to think straight; he can't think properly when La Forge now serving as acting first officer reports on having trouble locating Worf on sensors , and despite having seven security teams looking for him.
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He dismisses the senior staff and tries to send a subspace message to Starfleet concerning their problem, but finds himself unable to recall the codes required. Picard and Data are a little puzzled to not be able to locate the Enterprise. A quick search locates the ship, visibly adrift. Upon docking, they ascertain that the ship's main power systems are down, environmental systems are configured strangely, and where there should be over a thousand humanoid lifeforms there seems to be a near-equal number of myriad creatures.
Some of the characteristics are inconsistent with those of the known crew, such as casting off skin like a reptile.
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They come upon Troi's quarters where upon entering, the humidity of her quarters was altered by the condensation of the room. They discover her in her bath tub, having somehow transformed into an amphibian -like creature. It is their first clue that the crew is undergoing unusual changes. Seeking to stabilize the ship, they then go to the bridge, finding it in shambles, with Ensign Dern dead at the conn from what appears to be an animal attack , his spine fractured in three places; he had also been affected, but was killed before undergoing any significant changes.
From the bridge, Data is able to note that the crew is still on board the ship but in a similar state to that of Troi.
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Many of them have been gravitating towards water the aquatic lab and plants the arboretum. Picard is unable to restore power to the ship due to the entire power-transfer grid being damaged. Suddenly, they hear a noise coming from the ready room. There they discover Riker, now a brutish proto-Human, attacking the captain's aquarium in which Livingston , the captain's lionfish , has also devolved into a jellyfish.
When he charges them, Data stuns Riker with his phaser. Based on what they've encountered so far, Data announces his hypothesis that the crew is de-evolving. Troi and Riker are taken to sickbay for further analysis. Data, after analyzing Riker's DNA , discovers that a synthetic T-cell has invaded his genetic codes and has begun to activate his latent introns , a result of Crusher's treatment of Barclay.
He explains that introns are genetic codes which are normally dormant; they are sequences of DNA which provided key physical and behavioral characteristics millions of years ago, but are no longer necessary. Counselor Troi's gill-slits and other amphibious characteristics, for example, are derived from introns which contain amphibious codes. Because introns can include genetic material from many different species over millions of years of evolution , it is possible that a wide variety of transformations is occurring among the crew.
Since all humanoid life has a similar genetic pattern, the virus will work similarly on all non-Human lifeforms as well, and they will each be de-evolving to earlier forms of life in their homeworlds.
He informs Picard that he has also been infected by the intron virus, and is now slowly de-evolving into an earlier form of primate. Realizing that they do not have much time, they decide to act quickly.
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Since Data's computer in his quarters operates independently from the ship's computer and is probably still intact, they decide to go there in order to examine the situation further. Arriving at his quarters, Data notices that Spot, who has been expecting a litter of kittens , has finally given birth. A further search finds a reptile wearing her collar; they soon realize that the reptile is Spot and that the intron virus is capable of also affecting non-humanoids.
Her kittens, however, do not seem to have been affected by the virus that has been plaguing the rest of the crew. Given that Spot's kittens are unaffected, Data and Picard conclude that the placental barriers and amniotic fluid that serve as a filtration system to protect the fetus in the placenta have probably prevented the intron virus from being passed on from Spot to her kittens. They decide that they probably can inhibit the intron virus by using the natural antibodies in Spot's amniotic fluid.
However, in order for it to be effective on humanoid crewmembers, humanoid antibodies would be necessary. Recalling that Nurse Ogawa is expecting, they track her down to the arboretum. But before they can begin tracking her down, a failure in a warp plasma vent forces them to detour to main engineering so Data can program repairs. While checking on the warp core , Picard is frightened by the sudden appearance of Barclay, partially transformed into a spider.
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Data surmises that his terror at the sight a result of the heightened sense of awareness found in small primates is an initial symptom of Picard's de-evolution; they need to hurry. They locate Ogawa who is apparently partially de-evolved into a proto-Human and Data begins to analyze Ogawa's fetus, confirming that it is not affected by the virus.
He says that he can use her amniotic fluid as a template for a retrovirus which in turn would neutralize the synthetic T-cell and re-establish the genetic patterns of each host. While working on finding a way to most quickly address the situation, something pounds on the sickbay door. Life sign scans show something big, armored, and Klingon ; it is Worf. A transformed Worf tries to force his way into sickbay.
He appears to be seeking something or someone particular.
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Picard notices that the bite Worf gave Troi was not to hurt her but rather seemed part of a mating process, and that it appears as if Worf had come back for her. The situation becomes increasingly dangerous as an ever angrier and aggressive Worf almost breaks through the door. Data and Picard cannot just abandon Troi and the others in sickbay, but at the same time, Data needs to continue with his analysis of the amniotic fluid.
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