12 | Playing God
Deck 17, MENDEL STATION | 0625 HOURS ZULU
Yamoto took point down service stairwell with McAdams right behind him. The marines were cautious as they made their way down to the doors of deck fifteen that were shut. Yamoto punched in a code to the control panel and locked the doors shut while McAdams checked the stairwell for any hidden surprises.
With deck fifteen locked down, the marines made their way down to deck sixteen and repeated the process of locking down and sealing the doorway so nothing could come up on their rear.
While making their way down to deck seventeen, Gordon studied the deck plans on his HUD to try to find a better way of protecting his squad from the hybrid threat. The deck plans showed that seventeen was very similar to the layout of fourteen with various offices and conference rooms as well as two standard sized laboratories. Based on Walter Carr’s information, Doctor Sorensen’s office was next to Lab Alpha Six where presumably a lot of the highly secretive work was done. That left potential for there to be more hybrid creatures on the deck somewhere and that bothered Gordon deeply. Partly because they were still mostly an unknown enemy with unknown capabilities. More importantly though, Confed Intel felt the research being conducted on Mendel station was above their paygrade and because of that thought, he had lost a marine and possible another if Daniels didn’t pull through.
The secrets and the half truths of military intelligence was nothing new to Gordon, it was something that accepted as part of the job. As a special operations marine, he was accustom to secret black op missions with plausible deniability. This was op was different. His platoon had been sent downrange with incorrect intelligence about Pegasus Royal Guard in control of the station. Instead, they found genetically mutated creatures and dragons running wild on the station. It was a FUBAR mission, and one that he definitely intended to bark all the way up the tree. Wells deserved better than what they had been given.
Gordon refocused his attention to the door as McAdams and Yamoto signaled the all clear to begin their sweep of the deck. Once the door opened, the marines quickly moved into the hallway and began checking rooms in tight formation. Gordon now had the rear guard since Karzarian was carrying Daniels and Doctor Carr was a noncombatant. The other four marines did their jobs well as they cleared room after room.
The deck was quiet like the other and still flooded with red emergency lights. Gordon took a moment to check the chronometer on the upper corner of his HUD. It read 0625 hours Zulu, a full hour since Captain Herrera had given them a three hour cut off to find the scientists. They didn’t have a lot of time left to complete their mission.
“Found it.” McAdams said over the channel.
Gordon looked up and saw the marine standing in front of a door with a name plate on the front. She and Yamoto breached the room using the standard room clearing tactics that they had been using all afternoon. A moment later her voice came back over the channel saying the room was clear.
“Barrington and Rustovich, clear the lab and the rest of this deck. Karzarian, park Daniels in the office and then I want you and McAdams to help them out.”
The marines gave their affirmatives and moved out while Gordon joined Yamoto at the main computer console in the office. “All right Rikichi, do your magic and find me everything you can on these things.” Gordon said.
“Roger that boss.” Yamoto said and set his R-92 on the desk before sitting down at the computer. He turned on the computer and was greeted with a password screen. With a few strokes on the keyboard, he ran through several passwords, but none were successful.
“Doc, do you have access to this computer?” Gordon asked.
Walter shook his head, “No, but you should be able to use Sorensen’s keycard to access the computer without a password.” he then reached into his pocket and pulled out a keycard and handed it to Yamoto, “I grabbed it just in case.”
“Good thinking doc.” Yamoto said and ran the keycard through the scanner attached to the keyboard. The computer screen switched over to the main screen where Yamoto began digging through various files looking for any information. After a few moments he spoke up, “It would help if I knew what I was looking for.”
“Look under White Lance Project. It might also be labeled Project 94483-52623.” Carr said.
Yamoto nodded and did a quick search. He then gave a smile, “That did it. Sarge, there is a lot of info in here. I could use Dominic’s help with it along with the doc.”
“You got it.” Gordon said and then clicked on his mic as he walked towards the door, “Rustovich, report to the lab to help Yamoto.”
“Copy that.” Rustovich said over the channel.
Gordon stepped into the hallway, looked up and down the quiet hallway, and thought that it felt like a calm before a storm. With the red lights is somewhat reminded him of the thunderstorms on Sirius II while he was growing up. His home world orbited a red dwarf sun, which provided some of the prettiest blood red sunsets in the galaxy. Deep down he longed for those simple peaceful nights back on Sirius II playing fetch with the family dog while sipping tea. Yet, something about the Corps kept him around. There was always another mission that was just as important as the last to protect the security and integrity of the Confederation. Being a marine was in his blood, like his parents and grandparents before him and even his younger brother Zach who broke tradition and joined the Navy instead of the Corps. Tony was still proud of him though, the youngest Wing Commander in the Fleet onboard the TCC Lexington. It was a testament to the Gordon family to excel no matter what they did, even when they decided to be pilots rather than grunts.
“Sarge! I got something!” Yamoto called out from the office.
Gordon blinked away the thought wandering and made his way back into the office. “What do you have for me Yamoto?”
“This is some pretty fucked up shit Sarge.” Rustovich said, his voice a little weak as he wiped away a bucket of sweat from his forehead. “Project White Lance was a black project under Confed SpecOps to creature a supersoldier using Talishar DNA gene splicing. The science behind this is pretty advanced stuff.”
“Give me the short version.” Gordon said.
“Superior strength, superior resilience, natural armored skin, the ability to breath fire, redundant organs, natural night vision, brain mapping and conditioning…hell, there are even notes here on cloning a whole brigade of these things within a six month timetable.
“The Corps would be obsolete inside a couple of years.” Yamoto said.
“The perfect soldier,” Gordon said quietly. “But why are we finding doctors turned into these things? I can’t image they injected themselves with some sort of magic juice that made them turn.”
“Looking.” Yamoto said as he scrolled through pages of notes.
“Check one of the data entries.” Gordon offered.
“Here it is.” Yamoto said and punched a key that brought up a video of Dr. Sorensen when he was still a normal human with mousey hair and wireframe glasses.
“This is Doctor Johan Sorensen, head researcher of the White Lance Project. The date is 08-28-2543 local time onboard the Hydra Research Station Mendel. Subject 00012-Alpha has shown the most progress out of the last batch of test subjects. His genetic structure is within .00001 variance of the eighth strand, which is well within acceptable limits. Subject has shown a 24% increase in strength and agility within a forty eight hour period, a marked improvement over the 16% increase over the previous forty eight hour period. Doctor Willis has noted that the salivary glands of the subject have finally begun to show maturity and we hope to see full maturation of the gland within the next several days.” the holoprojection said.
Gordon frowned at the information that was interesting, but really didn’t tell him a whole lot. “Rikichi, is there anything else in there? Anything that would give us a clue on what happened?”
“Looking.” Yamoto said.
“That last entry was pretty remarkable though.” Rustovich said, wiping his forehead again. To Gordon, his skin was starting to look rather pale and clammy.
“How so?” Gordon asked.
“Well, the human body can only withstand so much alteration to its DNA and RNA structure. Too much change too soon can cause the strands to unravel.” he said.
Gordon looked at him with a confused look.
Walter Carr jumped into the conversation, “Your body falls apart into goo.”
“Ahh.” Gordon said.
“Well, to have double digit increases over a two day period is incredible. I don’t think even the Galactic University of Earth could boost such a feat.” Rustovich said and then turned his head to cough harshly into his hand.
“You sure you are ok Dominic?” Gordon asked.
Rustovich nodded, “Yeah yeah. Hell of a time to catch a cold.”
“So basically you are saying that something happened. Some sort of accident.” Gordon asked.
“Has to be.” Rustovich nodded.
“Oh….I think I got something here Sarge.” said Yamoto.
“Bring it up.” Gordon said.
Another holoprojection came to life in the room, this one of Doctor Sorensen looking a bit more disheveled than before. “Doctor Sorensen of Mendel Station. Date is 09-13-2543. Subject 00012-Alpha has grown increasingly erratic in its behavior and has been forced to be sedated on three separate occasions. Variance has increased to .00015 of the eighth strand, but has yet to show since of strand destabilization. We have been forced to put Subject 12 Alpha in confinement until we can determine a course of action. It is my hope that a solution can be found to curb its aggressive as it has shown the most promise out of all other subjects. It would be a shame to put this one down.”
“Aggressive? I don’t see the big deal, humans can be aggressive.” Gordon said.
“I think what Sorensen was getting at is the natural aggressive nature of the Talishar. I would surmise that somehow their species aggressive nature somehow carried over during the gene splicing.” Walter Carr said.
“Basically, someone fucked up.” Gordon said.
“Basically.” Rustovich said and coughed again violently and took a step back.
“Dominic, have Amanda took a look over you.” Gordon said. The marine nodded and walked out of the room coughing and a little wobbly on his feet.
“He doesn’t look so good.” Walter commented as he watched the marine leave the room.
“He’ll pull through.” Gordon said and then motioned to the frozen image of Doctor Sorensen on the holoprojector, “Ok, so the doctor messes up somehow and creates something more than he bargained for?”
“Looking over these research notes, Doctor Sorensen seemed to think that the reason that they were having so much success with 12 Alpha was because of the aggression trait. Basically it was the glue that allowed all of the other desired traits to work together.” Yamoto said as he read off the screen.
“The soul.” Gordon remarked.
“I’m sorry?” Walter asked.
“The soul doc.” Gordon said, tapping his chest, “You can’t create Frankenstein without a soul to keep it all together.”
“That’s nonsense,” Walter said, “The existence of a soul hasn’t been proven.”
“Whatever it is doc, you created something anathema to what should be and now we’re being hunted by it.” Gordon said harshly.
“I found the last entry Sarge.” Yamoto interjected and played the last holorecording.
Doctor Sorensen appeared once more looking frantic and the sounds of loud banging in the background caused him to wince and jump, “I don’t know what happen. Oh god, what have done! 12 Alpha has gone berserk. It dissolved the confinement cage and now it’s after me. You have to send someone quickly! I don’t know how long we can hold out against this thing!”
Then there was a loud crash that caused Sorensen to turn around and screamed at whatever he saw. He raised his hands in defense as he pleaded for his life. A clawed hand came into view of the holoprojector, grabbed Doctor Sorensen by the head and yanked him out of view of the recording. The recording then stopped.
“That’s it?” Gordon asked.
“Sorry Sarge, that’s all there is.” Yamoto said.
“So 12 Alpha got loose and started killing people. But Sorensen was one of those things and killed Wells. So why didn’t 12 kill Sorensen?” Gordon asked.
“I…I don’t know.” Carr said, “Maybe we can find something in the lab?”
Gordon nodded, “Yamoto, help him out in the lab.”
“Come on doc.” Yamoto said, grabbed his carbine and walked out of the room with the doctor.
Gordon sighed and sat down at the computer. He pulled out an external connector from his PMA, plugged it into the computer, and initiated a download of the research data. He would be damned if he was going to let this slide without someone paying for getting one of his marines killed.
The data files completed their transfer in a few moments onto his PMA and Gordon disconnected the cord from the computer. He then turned on his mic to the platoon channel, “Gordon to Captain. Do you copy?”
“Gordon!” Herrera’s voice came in over the channel with heavy breaths, “Sit rep!”
“Sweeping deck seventeen right now. I have one KIA, Samuel Wells from human hybrids. Daniels is badly wounded.”
“Copy that. ETA on recovery of the scientists?” Herrera asked.
“We’re still searching Cap. I have reason to believe that the scientists have turned into the hybrids we’ve been encountering.” Gordon said.
Herrera didn’t respond for a moment, “Copy. I’m calling for an immediate evac of the platoon Sergeant. We’re done here.”
“But Captain, I need more time to get the info to prove it.” Gordon protested.
“You have your orders Sergeant. Rendezvous at Extraction Point Alpha at 0730 hours.” Herrera ordered.
“Roger that Captain. Extraction Point Alpha. 0730 hours.”
He grunted his disapproval. The captain had given the evac order and now he had no choice but to leave without the job being done or be left behind. He turned on his mic again and switched over to the TCD Austin channel, “This is Hellcat Actual to Hellcat Base over.”
“This is Hellcat Base Actual. Go ahead.” Captain McAdams voice came on the channel.
“Tom, I need your help.” Gordon said.
“I heard the chatter Tony. I’ve got the Falcon on stand-by to pick you boys up.” McAdams said.
“Get a trauma team on the flight deck as we will be coming in with wounded.” Gordon said.
“Also, are you running those new T-17 Logic computers?” Gordon asked.
“Yeah, we had them installed on our last refit. Why?” he asked confused.
“I’m going to set up a hotspot from my PMA. I need you to access the terminal at my local to access the station’s main computer core and do a total download. My PMA doesn’t have enough memory for it.”
“What’s your IP?” McAdams asked.
“Oh five three point four seven point three niner niner point six eight three by quantum five.” Gordon relayed while looking at his PMA as he initiated the hotspot function.
“Oh five three point four seven point three niner niner point six eight three by quantum five. I showing your connection as live.” McAdams said.
Gordon watched the status of his PMA as it showed the TCD Austin computer log into his PMA and then use the hotspot to jump to the doctor’s computer terminal. “I’m showing you live.” he responded.
“Roger that. Initiating core download of 51 exabytes of data. Estimated time to completion five minutes.” McAdams said.
“Five minutes, roger.” Gordon said.
“Who’s wounded?” Thomas asked.
“Daniels took a pretty bad chemical burn to the face. We lost Wells in an engagement with some genetically altered humans.” Gordon said.
“I’m sorry to hear that Tony. I know how much you care for your men.” McAdams said.
“We all know the risks when we signed up.” Gordon replied.
“So how’s Tracy been? She was talking about getting out soon.” Thomas asked.
“Tracy’s good Tom, top tier marine. The Corps will miss her when she gets out.” Gordon said.
“Keep an eye on my little sister hm?” Thomas asked.
“Of course Tom, I’ll make sure I get her home.” Gordon said reassuringly.
“Thanks.” McAdams said, “Looks like the download is almost done. I’ll get the bird and trauma team on alert ready. Just give us a holler when you are ready.”
“Copy that.” Gordon said.
“Watch your six buddy.” McAdams said and signed off the channel.
Gordon waited until the download was complete to shut down his PMA’s hotspot. He then took a hold of his carbine and stood up when his comm channel came to life.
“Sarge! Rustovich is down!” Barrington’s voice yelled.
“What the hell happen?” Gordon asked as he raced out of the office and rounded the corner into the hallway. He saw Karzarian guarding the door to the lab with McAdams and ran past them into the room where he found everyone else huddled around Rustovich who was lying on the ground convulsing.
“Heartbeat is erratic and racing!” Barrington said and put her medical scanner to his forehead to get a reading, “Temp is 104. Rikichi, check the lab for any Thermazine.”
“On it!” Yamoto said and began tearing across the lab looking over vials frantically trying to find the medicine.
“It might be in the cabinet!” Walter offered and quickly ran over to a medical cabinet and pulled out a set of keys from his pocket. With quivering hands, he tried to find the right one to unlock it.
Rustovich screamed out in pain as his body convulsed from head to toe and a trickle of blood ran from his nose. He then vomited bile and bits of food all over himself and the coarse liquid held streaks of blood through it.
“Dominic! Stay with me!” Barrington said and unsnapped his body armor to get to the sweat filled fatigues underneath. She then took her mundane blade and sliced open the clothes to show pale and clammy skin. This veins and arteries could easily been seen just beneath the skin and seemed to pulse which each convulsion and scream of pain that he howled.
“Sarge?” McAdams asked as she peered into the room with a worried look.
“Secure that hallway!” Gordon yelled out as he tried to hold Rustovich still.
Yamoto continued to look through bottles frantically with no success, “I’m not finding anything!” he called out.
Walter Carr throw open the doors to the medical cabinet and quickly went through the various bottle labels until he got to the fourth row and found one labeled Thermazine. “Found it!”
“Syringe!” Barrington called out.
“Got it!” Yamoto yelled as he happen to be standing next to the medical tools. He grabbed a package and raced back over to Barrington as Carr rushed over to her with the bottle.
“Ten CCs!” Barrington ordered while trying to insert a medical probe into Rustovich’s arm. His constant convulsions made the task difficult.
Yamoto tore open the package and handed the syringe to Carr who expertly drew out ten CCs of the amber liquid and then held out the syringe.
Barrington who took it and grabbed a hold of Rustovich’s arm. “Keep him still.” she commanded.
Yamoto and Carr joined Gordon in grabbing Rustovich and holding him down. With the three of them combined, she was able to insert the needle into his arm and inject the medicine that should begin to lower his core body temperature.
“We need to figure out what is causing this.” Barrington said and then quickly looked around the room at the medical equipment that was around. She then spotted a medical table with a bioscanner attached to it. “Does that bioscanner work?” she asked pointing to it.
“It should.” Carr said and stood up. He ran over to the table and punched in a command code to start up the bioscanner. The table winked on with a soft pale blue light. “Got it!” he called over his shoulder.
“Help me move him.” Barrington said to Yamoto and Gordon as she took hold of him. The other two took hold of his side and head and lifted him off the ground, carried him over to the medical table, and set him down on the blue lit table.
“Start a pathogen scan.” Barrington ordered as she moved around the table to join Walter and the control panel.
Walter nodded and punched in a code into the table. Strobes of light began running the length of Rustovich’s body as it did a scan of his body. The monitor next to the table came to life and immediately began to show the results of the scan.
Gordon and Yamoto backed away from the table as Rustovich gave a moan of pain, but the convulsions across his body had subsided as the Thermazine started to take effect.
Barrington leaned in and carefully looked over the bioscanner results on the monitor and arched a brow, “What the hell?” he said and then looked over to Rustovich’s leg.
She grabbed her knife and sliced open his pant leg where she had bandaged the bite wound from earlier. The skin around the nanopad was a sickly green and black color and looked like it was about to rot off.
“What happen to his leg?” Yamoto asked as he put a hand to his mouth in horror.
“I don’t know,” Barrington said quietly, “Doc, I need a tissue scan of the right leg.”
“Tissue scan. Right leg.” Walter repeated and punched in the sequence into the bioscanner.
The pulsing lights washed over Rustovich’s right leg, changing colors from white to blue and then to yellow. When the scan was finished, the results began to populate on the monitor. Barrington took a close look at the monitor as she tapped her finger to her bottom lip.
“Doc, take a look at this.” she finally said and pointed to a section of tissue that was colored red and yellow in contrast to the majority of green and blue that made up the composite image of the leg.
Walter moved away from the console and looked at the monitor. “It looks like there is cellular degradation from here to here.” he said as he pointed to the yellow colors. “But these cells at the bite mark look odd.” he said as he pointed to the red mass.
“Whatever it is, it’s spreading.” Barrington said as the screen repopulated with a real-time updated image. The red and yellow colors had spread a little farther out.
“I know I’ve seen this before.” Walter said.
“Seen what doc?” Barrington asked.
“Where was that…oh!” Walter snapped his fingers, “I need Sorensen’s computer!” he said and quickly ran out of the room.
Gordon looked to Barrington with a concerned look, “Amanda, do you know what is going on?” he asked.
She shook her head, “I’m afraid not. This is something new that I’ve never seen before. It was as if his cells were somehow changed, like they were reverted into stem cells and then stimulated to regrow into something else. How, why and into what I don’t know.”
“Changed? You mean his cells are being altered?” Yamoto asked with a sudden worried look.
“Oh god…” Barrington said in a quiet voice as she put her hand over her mouth.
“He’s turning into one of them.” Gordon said what had come to all of their minds.
“But how?” Yamoto asked.
“I don’t know…somehow the genetic code from the bite got into his blood stream, but that doesn’t explain why his cells are suddenly changing.”
“What would you need to alter his genetic structure?” Gordon asked.
“It takes some pretty powerful equipment to build the code and then create a body. The petrabytes of data it would take to store that much data is more than this station could handle I think.” Barrington said.
“What else?” Gordon asked.
“Think think think.” Barrington said to herself as she turned and looked to Rustovich and his leg while she thought. Her gaze finally landed on the nanopad that was on his leg and she blinked. “Oh god, it was the nanobots.”
“What?” Gordon asked.
“The nanobots from the pad I put on the bite. The nanobots must have somehow fused the hybrid’s genetic code with Dominic’s skin while trying to graft his skin back in place.” Barrington quivered. “I…I did this to him.”
“There was no way to know Amanda.” Gordon said and put a hand to her shoulder.
“There might be a way to stop it.” She said firmly and moved over to the console of the bioscanner.
“How so?” Gordon asked as he followed her.
“Well, he still has the nanobots in his system. If I can wirelessly connect to the nanobots and rewrite their programming, I might be able to get them to repair the genetic changes that they made.” Barrington said.
“Hey, that’s a pretty good idea,” Yamoto said and walked over to a computer terminal and turned it on, “I’ve got experience in writing code, let me see what I can draw up for you.”
“Sarge, I could use the doc in here.” Barrington said.
“I’ll get him.” Gordon said and moved away from the medical table towards the door when a scream echoed down the hall.
“What was that?” Barrington asked.
“Carr!” Gordon said and ran out the door into the hallway.