Departure

From the Story Arc: WCO Report: Operation Black Lotus

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(posted Monday, April 11, 2005)

"Its just quite simply," the thin, spectacled man looked up from piles of papers and graphs splayed out on a desk, "a wonder of physiology."

General Alexander Rokossovsky glared at the man over his folded hands. "Three weeks without food, water, oxygen, and you say it could survive indefinitely?"

"Yes, well," the young man quickly rummaged through some papers, "it can utilize just about any gas for respiration. We have no idea how but you could consider it to be a facultative anaerobe. It just can use others gasses as electron acceptors. We drew that conclusion because before the starvation we continually had to pump in oxygen to the holding cell."

"And now," the man leaned back and waved his hands, "two weeks since you have ordered the oxygen shut off and it still manages to respire somehow."

"What about water?" Alexander Rokossovsky's brow creased. "How long has it been without water? What, over three weeks?"

"Yes, well that is simple enough. We think it can manage to draw up moisture through the air. And it has no urinary system. Somehow it either expels ammonia as a gas or has some metabolic pathway to covert, or remove, it from its system. It does defecate." The man held up a photograph of a sample jar holding black, lumpy, material. "But the material was almost devoid of any moisture before, and completely absent now that it has had not water. No microbial flora in the stool. And the material has become almost like calcified material in texture, while earlier it had a thick clay like feel."

"As for food, we think it can digest and draw nutrients from just about anything. It has this astounding ability to shunt carbon from structural proteins in its body as a form of scavenging for needed carbohydrates or amino acids."

"And this," the spectacled man's eyes lit up, "is just truly amazing. Somehow it can either utilize, or alter, material consumed to use silicon, even germanium in place of carbon. So it can somehow replace carbon with other elements to make up proteins. It seems that this can only be for structural proteins, not anything with anabolic or catabolic activity like say, enzymes. But it can do it." The man shrugged his shoulders, "its just simply fantastic."

Alexander snorted. "Nice to see you found this entire exercise intellectually stimulating. However I find it a bit distressing to know we have something that cannot be readily forced into submission by starvation." Rokossovsky leaned back and rubbed his temple. "And if we decide to terminate it, you suggest that the radiation exposure experiments not be initiated?"

"Well," sighed the scientist, "I am not sure how effective it would be in administering a fatal dose. We have been unable to obtain tissue samples, but we have managed to get some shed cells from the subject's stool. It has extremely unusual tertiary structure in its DNA."

"How so?"

"Aside from the multiple DNA repair mechanisms that were observed from your previous studies with the subject," the spectacled man leafed through a thick dossier, "we think its super coiled DNA forms up tight clusters. Something similar seen in the bacterium, Deinococcus, So if the DNA breaks, it's immobilized and can allow for easier repair."

"I think those cell samples might be useful to retain." Rokossovsky's eyes narrowed, "See if we can get those samples forwarded to Division 4 in Moscow. It maybe useful for implementing in Pojec-"

Just then an alarm klaxon rang and the general stopped mid-sentence. Rokossovsky's phone buzzed with a voice edging with panic over the speaker. "General, we have had an escape from a holding cell in sub-level 4."

Alexander looked up at the spectacled man across his desk and quickly stabbed a button on his phone. "Has the occupant been captured and contained?"

"Sir," there was a slight pause, "negative, but I think it just best if you come down and see for yourself."

Five minutes later the general walked at a brisk pace through the cold, wet, corridors of concrete. Through a huddle of men in grey uniforms and others encased in hulking armor he found a large chamber with a circular door, similar to that of a bank vault, ajar. Rokossovsky stepped into the dank cell. Beyond where a wall should be was a huge hole. Through the concrete wall and solid granite it went on into blackness.

"Any reports from outside the base?"

A man with ornate insignia on the shoulders of his grey uniform stood quickly at attention. "Negative, sir. We scrambled the helicopters but have not heard any reported sightings. However, the weather is getting very bad and I am afraid we may need to recall them within the hour. sir."

"I don't understand," a young man in a lab coat frantically looked through streams of graphs and data printed on paper. "The neural impulse field was operating within parameters. How could it have managed to claw its way out and not be rendered helpless due to the field?"

"Because," Rokossovsky stepped out of the cell with his hands behind his back, "we misjudged how effective the field was. That somehow it managed to push itself beyond endurance to escape."

"Or even worse," Alexander tapped the door with his thick, black boots, "that it could have escaped at any time. It endured the torture and suffering until I would simply give up and free it. Maybe we could subdue it, but never cage it permanently. It knew that. So it sat in that cell quietly." Alexander gazed at the hole ripped into the earth. "And when all hope was gone it decided to just leave."

"Colonel," General Alexander Rokossovsky addressed the uniformed man that spoke earlier, "recall the helicopters. I will write up the report on this incident."

"Private," Alexander's face wavered for a moment. His eyes clouded and his brow relaxed, as if almost resigning in defeat. But in a flash his eyes hardened and the cold fire returned. "Radio main operations in Russia and tell them that Subject C has escaped. A further detailed report will be forthcoming by 0230." The general turned, briskly walked along the corridor, and looked over his shoulder. "And tell them no attempts will be made to recapture it."