Chapter 50 – Step 2
Step 2 was to take a small sample for analysis.
This was harder than it should have been. Nothing about the Silver man was superfluous or would come off. There was no obvious flap in his clothing, or collar, or cuff that could be removed. Neither his helmet nor his boots could be removed, and nothing they tried could cut the material of his outer garments.
In the end they had decided to focus on the heel of one of his boots. It was a low heel made of what looked like a plastic material. The previous day they had tried a number of different tools to try and get a sample of the material they could take away for analysis. Scalpels and traditional surgical instruments were ineffective. They had ordered a diamond drill, and as Mary watched the two medical operatives inside the operating theatre in their surgical gowns and breathing apparatus as they powered up the electric drill. She listened to them speaking over the loud speaker system.
‘I will hold the ankle and toe and you try and shave something from the heel.’
‘OK hold on then.’
The drill had been fitted with a circular diamond cutting disc, and the diamonds sparkled in the operating theatre lights. There was a crackle over the speakers as the drill started, and Mary could hear the motor clearly through the viewing area glass. It must have been very loud inside the operating theatre.
The watching team leaned in closer to the glass to get a better view, as one held the ankle and toe and the other moved the cutting disc slowly and gently towards the heel of the boot. There was clearly no effect on the boot from the drill.
The drill operator said in frustration, ‘This is a very hard material, I am going to try more pressure.’
Mary watched the drill operator, kneel up on the gurney table so he could push down with his upper body on the drill, but despite his obvious exertions, still nothing happened.
They had placed a shallow silver tray under the heel of the boot to tray and capture any fragments, but when they two men emerged from the operating theatre it was clear that no fragments were visible inside the tray,
At 4 PM at the end of the second afternoon of trying, Dr Cabana called a halt. He told them to meet at 8 AM the next morning for a brainstorm on what to do.
This week in the Weekly World News
NASA scientists try to save dying alien
Leading NASA scientists are performing lifesaving surgery on a dying alien. The team has been rushed to a secret underground bunker below the Colorado Mountains, to work in a race against time. The team is being led by the ex-Shuttle Commander Dr. Bob Cabana. A NASA spokesman denied that Dr. Cabana was in Colorado, and said he was on a family vacation in Europe …
An 11 year old boy wrote on a blog on the Weekly News website:
‘If this alien is really dying he should be given electric shock treatment like they do in the movies.’
Mary Morrell, who read the blog entry on the internet while eating her last bag of potato chips before bed, decided to take the idea to the brainstorm the next morning.
The group had got into a routine and they met for breakfast every morning at 8AM. Bob would take them through a summary of what they had achieved the previous day, and then an overview of the objectives for the coming day. They would then brainstorm ideas on how best to achieve the day’s objectives. Bob was a great team player, and reinforced continually the mantra that there are no bad ideas. There was also no blame culture, so Carl who had suggested the diamond drill was not blamed at all for its failure to cut the heel of the Silver man’s boot, in fact Bob made a point of saying it was a great suggestion.
Brian Fellows the medic who had operated the diamond drill yesterday said, ’I put all of my strength into trying to cut that material yesterday and the drill was completely ineffective. By rights it should slice through plastic like a hot knife through butter. I don’t believe there is anything else out there made of any harder or stronger material than a diamond drill bit that could cut anything off. We should look at more radical and unconventional approaches.’
So Mary said with confidence, ’I was looking at some of the internet blogs last night and an 11 year old boy suggested we use electric shock treatment’.
Bob turned and wrote ‘electric shock treatment’ on the flip chart as one of the ideas that they could try.
Although there was some challenging glances at Mary after her suggestion, nobody questioned it. By the end of the brainstorm the flipchart list also included the use of lasers, explosives, rifle shots, plasma’s, acid burning and nitrogen freezing.
After the ideas were exhausted, the next part of the morning routine would be for Bob to form the team of twelve scientist and medics into two groups of six. The purpose was to brainstorm how they would implement the different ideas on the flipchart, and then for each group to present their ideas to the other. This way, the team as a whole could take the best of the best ideas and implement those. The two groups moved chairs to different parts of the breakfast room, and after an hour Bob brought them back together.
Ali was elected spokesman of his group and went through his list. The second group, which included Mary, had elected Brian Fellows as their spokesman.
After some heated debate a list the most promising ideas emerged. Some were rejected as being too difficult to conduct safely in the operating theatre environment, for example the rifle shot.
However the one idea that had some consensus was Mary’s idea of the electric shock treatment, so this was added to the list, but as the last thing to try. Nobody thought that the electric shock treatment would help to analyse a sample, but it may at least make the Silver man respond to some external stimuli.
They tried all the other ideas tearing, scraping, cutting, sawing, grinding, sandpaper, chemicals, micro-needles … but none worked.
Mary thought that the ALFST team was becoming very frustrated that none of their attempts produced any result. Each new idea required significant effort to implement. First the equipment was specified and then brought in. The equipment had to be disinfected and then operated while the team was dressed in the surgical suits. Sometimes this required learning how to use the equipment inside the operating theatre before it could be used on the Silver man. This took time, and team members sat around for hours with little to do.
During the daily brainstorming meetings, Mary observed that Bob was finding it increasingly difficult to keep a sense of professional and rational debate. The team’s frustration boiled over into petty arguments and increasingly Bob would call a time-out to allow people to calm down.
That morning there had been a stand up row between Brian Fellows and Carl Lancaster over the proposed use of the cardiac resuscitation machine that had brought in to administer the electric shock treatment. Brian was insistent that the equipment should not be used as it may destroy delicate internal organs of the Silver man and prevent them from being used for further analysis. Brian has said, ’Dr Lancaster’s cavalier and irresponsible actions may well rob medical science of the most important breakthrough ever.’
Mary always thought it strange that when academics, scientists and doctor’s became emotional or upset, instead of using people’s first names, they reverted to their more formal titles.
So Carl retorted, ‘Dr Fellows is simply afraid of losing income from his next book, he simply can’t wait to publish another crack pot work on how he analysed the internal organs of an alien life form..’
Bob eventually calmed them all down, and now on the afternoon of the third day after the brainstorming when Mary had first suggested the electric shock treatment, the medics now had a cardiac resuscitation machine set-up, and one of the medics had two electric paddles loaded and was ready to place them over the heart of the Silver man. The positioning of the paddles had caused some more heated discussion amongst the team, because nobody knew where the heart of the Silver man was, or indeed if he had a heart. In the end, Dr Cabana had intervened after listening to the arguments and counter arguments, and had decided they would place the paddles where the heart was on a human.
However they had decided to start by using the lowest power setting on the ECR machine.
The medic shouted ‘clear,’ which everyone had seen in the movies and the machine connected to the paddles emitted a high pitched squeal that Mary could hear over the loud speakers in the viewing gallery. The call of ‘clear’ was completely unnecessary because the only other team member in the operating theatre was standing back as far as possible, fearful of this drastic procedure.
The medic touched the paddles to the Silver man’s chest and there was a small pop. The electronic squealing stopped.
Nothing happened. The body lying on the table remained completely still. It did not twitch like the bodies did in the movies.
The medic looked up at Dr Cabana who said, ‘increase the power.’
The power was increased and still nothing happened.
The power was increased again to maximum, but still nothing happened.
Dr Cabana called a halt to the day’s proceedings, and that night the group was very despondent over dinner.