Kick the Bucket

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Chapter Four

Colonel James P. Forrest: No. It was a Chaotic. Think of them as a Blob’s insane weight-lifting big brother on steroids. If they had a mind, you could say their sole aim in life is to go out in a blaze of glory. Only minutes after being transported and placed inside a military base-size storage freezer, it vanished.

We have no idea how long a normal one will exist, perhaps forever. Or what might trigger it into becoming a short-lived Chaotic. The one in the vault behind me has been here for around two decades. It, like all the others stored here, just about fills a ten-gallon metal container.

Oleg Mikhailov: Excuse me. How do you get it to go inside?

Colonel James P. Forrest: The specimen containers are manufactured with the same proportions of iron, nickel, and cobalt found in ordinary chondrite meteorites. All it takes is a little bait and they’ll climb back inside like they’re going home. No matter how many times our research teams thaw and refreeze them, they are incapable of learning it’s a trap.

Oleg Mikhailov: What do you use for bait, Doctor Everette?

Doctor Donald Everette: Telemarketers.

Colonel James P. Forrest: Doctor! Please!

Doctor Donald Everette: Despite my perfectly reasonable suggestion … we use lab mice. The Blobs go after anything that’s living. If we keep our distance, they’ll follow a trail of anesthetized mice anywhere we need them to go. Occasionally, the anesthetic wears off too soon. That’s why every level of Building Three is infested with them. Any wide-awake rodent will rapidly make itself scarce if a big ball of gunk crawls towards it.

Natasha Semenov: Shouldn’t they be red?

Doctor Donald Everette: What’s that?

Natasha Semenov: The Blobs ... shouldn’t they be red?

Doctor Donald Everette: The original movie script depicts a Chaotic at work very accurately. The author thought their ability to hide in plain sight would add suspense. The camera crew simply couldn’t get the Technicolor film of the time to work without excessive illumination so the action scenes were rewritten by the director.

It’s hard to scare people when the movie monster is barely visible under the low-level lighting used during simulated nighttime shooting, Mrs. Semenov.

Counter Admiral Sergey Vasiliev: What else can you tell us about these ‘Chaotics’, Colonel?”

Colonel James P. Forrest: There’s not much more to say. A Chaotic will almost exponentially increase in size until it self-destructs. We’ve only known of two so far. Yours makes three. The first was in 1958, and the second in 1982. Both caused major loses of life and heavy amounts of property damage. Neither survived more than two days after activation before disappearing into thin air.

Yugoslav Belinky: What method did you use to conceal the attack in 1982?

Colonel James P. Forrest: We dynamited or set fire to five private homes, a gas station, a twenty-four hour convenience store, and a whole wing of a shopping mall. It’s amazing what you can blame on gas leaks, crazies, and drunken teenagers.

Yugoslav Belinky: How many people were lost in the shopping mall?

Colonel James P. Forrest: It was closed for renovation. Only a couple security guards were on duty when the Blob entered around 3:00 am. One guard called their employer to complain about her partner not returning from a smoke break, and, in passing, to describe an oddly damaged door she discovered on the loading dock that we recognize as characteristic of a their activity.

Key words in their intercepted conversation alerted us to the situation. A local recovery team already following its trail of destruction arrives at 3:15 am. It was already too late to save the other guard, and at least three civilians who parked nearby when their car broke down on the interstate.

Natasha Semenov: How are Chaotic Blobs ... activated?

Colonel James P. Forrest: The same way they’re all activated. All it takes is for a hollow meteorite containing one to be breached when ambient temperature is above freezing.

Doctor Donald Everette: Poking it with a stick works well, too.

Colonel James P. Forrest: Damn it, Doctor! Take another pill!

Oleg Mikhailov: What will a non-Chaotic do if there’s nothing around to absorb?

Colonel James P. Forrest: They wait, Mr. Mikhailov. How long they’ll hide and wait is still an open question. Our record for keeping one under long-range observation is eleven days.

Oleg Mikhailov: Did you capture it?

Colonel James P. Forrest: No, we lost it in the charred ruins of a Days Inn motel on the outskirts a small mid-western town. Sunlight doesn’t seem to harm them in any way, but they avoid it. We don’t know why. They are very hard to spot when standing still during the day, and far harder to see at night without a strong light source.

Oleg Mikhailov: What did the motel survivors report?

Colonel James P. Forrest: Fortunately, only one room was occupied at the time. Two guests and the night manager err ... were lost by the time one of our teams tracking its activity got there several hours later.

We hid the evidence of the attack with a natural gas water-heater explosion and subsequent fire. An overturned tractor-trailer ... accident ... kept local police and firefighters miles away until the Sun came up. With nothing nearby to consume, it just sat motionlessly inside a metal drainage pipe far behind the main building.

Oleg Mikhailov: Any idea where it came from or where it went?

Colonel James P. Forrest: As for where the meteorite crashed, none whatsoever. There were no reports of a shooting star that evening, but that means little. Besides victims inside the motel, several young couples swapping spit in a hillside park a mile away were lost that same night. It could’ve been resting undisturbed anywhere in-between for centuries before something, or someone, cracked it open.

We have only a moderately better theory to explain where it might have gone. Since our surveillance of the rebuilt motel has yielded nothing, and there have been no additional reports of disappearances in the vicinity, we suspect it has gone to ground; as in deep underground.

Stories describing subterranean monsters go back to the dawn of history. And news reports about mining disasters where a single miner, or an entire crew, working underground disappear without a trace aren’t that uncommon. As of now we have no proof it’s down there, or still exists.

Oleg Mikhailov: What about the latter question, Doctor? Surely the scientists under your command have discovered something by now.

Colonel James P. Forrest: Doctor? Please stop chewing your pencil and answer the question!

Doctor Donald Everette: Sorry, I’m a bit foggy. I didn’t sleep well last night. But to answer Mr. Mikhailov question, very little. We do have a certain degree of confidence in regards to where they might be coming from. There is a more than casual correlation between documented Blob appearances and meteor showers originating from the remains of several dead comets.

Oleg Mikhailov: I fail to see how this is relevant to our situation, doctor.

Doctor Donald Everette: Right now, not much. Once we narrow down which specific long-period comets are most likely to contain these ... things, we will send probes to examine them at close range and devise a plan to solve the problem. That is, if it’s even possible.

Designing autonomous space craft of this complexity will take decades, so, for now, we can only double our vigilance when the debris from questionable Solar-orbiting rock pile is due to cross the Earth’s orbit. Why they’ve appeared almost exclusively in my country, until just now, is anyone’s guess.

Natasha Semenov: By the time you figure all that out, our heroic Russian Cosmonauts will let NASA know how they destroyed them! But a little more information about your present findings would be ... how you say? ... PEACHY KEEN!!

Doctor Donald Everette: As I’ve already explained several times, Mrs. Semenov, it’s not much. At present we have eight specimens contained in Building Three. We have failed to capture six more and high-confidence in the existence of seven others that popped up and vanished in various locations around the United States since the early 40′s.

Three of the floors above us are full of the most powerful scanning devices every developed for medicine and industry. After decades of intensive research, we have yet to measure anything besides nano-level variations of mass and volume, let alone discover what’s inside any of them.

Natasha Semenov: How is that possible? I’m looking at one right now, Doctor Everette. Can’t you just put that bucket into an x-ray machine and see what’s inside?

Doctor Donald Everette: Our first head of research thought the same thing. Since there’s a lady present, I won’t play the words he spoke, or more accurately screamed, only seconds after that idea blew up in his face.

Yugoslav Belinky: I realize it has been a number of years, but can we talk to him?

Doctor Donald Everette: He is no longer among us, Mr. Belinky. Due to an unfortunate oversight while attempting to examine our first captive specimen undergoing zero-point-phase-shift, a primitive x-ray machine of the era radiated an excessive amount of thermal energy with disastrous results.

An empty casket was buried for the benefit of his family, and those of his three assistants. Building Three’s second head of research took over the next day. I am the seventh. And I will be replaced shortly by the eighth.

Yugoslav Belinky: Who was your first head of research? And what were the names of the others?

* Footnote: 5

Identities and backgrounds of all prior Faculty research heads.

Addendum 5a: Doctor Donald Everette’s replacement has not been named as of this date.

Able Hartman: Don’t answer that question, Doctor Everette. It’s beyond the scope of this meeting.

Yugoslav Belinky: Very well. Can you please explain the meaning of this ... zero-point-phase-shift?

Doctor Donald Everette: What we call freezing is actually a misinterpretation of what actually happens when a Blob is suddenly exposed to extremely low temperatures. There is no gradual transition as there is with normal matter. One moment they move like a super-fast non-magnetic colloidal ferrofluid, the next they’re the ultimate definition of the word solid. The shift between both states, or what we’ve come to call its zero-point-phase-shift state, is apparently instantaneous..

When active and unfrozen, so to speak, they are undetectable. The vast majority of the electromagnetic spectrum passes straight through like they’re not even there. Conversely, the opposite occurs when they’re frozen. In essence, they become impenetrable. In either case, what our eyes and cameras actually see is nothing but a very narrow spectrum of visible light wave-lengths scattering in all directions around them. If not for that they would be invisible.

Oleg Mikhailov: You make them sound like black holes.

Doctor Donald Everette: At least black holes fit into our modern view of physics; these things don’t. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly wouldn’t want to have a naked singularity in the vault back there. Getting ripped apart into subatomic particles, along with the entire Earth, and sucked into dimensional oblivion was never part of my previous retirement plans.

Oleg Mikhailov: As one scientist approaching retirement to another, I’m curious. What were those plans, Doctor?

Doctor Donald Everette: Well, there was a very generous government pension. An absolutely stunning beachfront condo on Maui … A never-ending conga line of local hotties to keep me company . . . and mountains of coconuts filled with rum with tiny paper umbrellas sticking out of them. Sadly, all of that went down the drain recently. I’ll be leaving shortly for an indefinite stay somewhere far less inviting.

Colonel James P. Forrest: You’re going off-message, Doctor. Stop. Now!

Counter Admiral Sergey Vasiliev: I agree. The only thing I want to hear is how to destroy them.

Doctor Donald Everette: Are we back to this again? Colonel Forrest and I couldn’t have been clearer. We don’t know how. And, frankly, considering their propensity to appear in out-of-the-way places separated years, it’s not worth the security risk to engage in high-intensity efforts to even search for them.

Colonel James P. Forrest: I empathize thoroughly, Admiral but Doctor Everette is quite right. We know next to nothing about them, or how they’ll react if we try something drastic. As your troops no doubt rapidly became aware, a Blob can shrug off even the strongest physical attack. And exposure to high temperatures, and even fairly strong radiation, equally fails to illicit a response.

I’d like nothing more than to fry ’em in a reactor, but there’s no telling what might happen. Some of our staff theorize that exposure to excessive amounts of energy might initiate either a thermonuclear-grade explosion, or a massive replication event; which is also the reason we never thaw more than one of them at a time, or allow close physical proximity.

Due to their current rarity, and our so-far successful efforts to keep their existence a secret, they are only a potential threat to our citizenry and public order. In comparison to the buildings around us, which are involved in research and disposal of weaponized substances and diseases that could kill millions within days, the DE’s stored here are barely more than a nuisance at this moment.

Building Three will take no action against them that might endanger this country, or the world as a whole.

Counter Admiral Sergey Vasiliev: Is that all you’ve got to tell us?

Colonel James P. Forrest: That about covers it.

Counter Admiral Sergey Vasiliev: Gospodin* Belinky!

* Translation: Mister

Yugoslav Belinky: Sir?

Counter Admiral Sergey Vasiliev: Do you have the photographs?

Yugoslav Belinky: They’re in my briefcase, sir.

Counter Admiral Sergey Vasiliev: Give them to Colonel...

Colonel James P. Forrest: Wait! Sorry ... err, I’ll come to your end of the table. I need to stretch my legs. These chairs are murder on my back.

Counter Admiral Sergey Vasiliev: Those photographs arrived only an hour before this meeting. They were recovered from a damaged camera aboard a reconnaissance helicopter downed accidentally during the ... шарик *... attack. No human remains were found in the wreckage. The pilot and her passenger, a navy camera-operator, are presumed consumed; as was the sole corpse discovered and sent back from Yamal.

Translation: sphere, globules

The camera operator had taken part in the documentation of the rescue operation launched from our Murmansk Oblast air base. Except for eyewitness reports given by the surviving members of the Команда быстрого реагирования - защитники пролетариата,* the contents of this camera are the only collaborating photographic evidence in existence of what they saw on Yamal.

*Translation: Fast response team - Protectors of the proletariat

We were promised full and complete disclosure of everything pertaining to this matter by your government. Can you, Colonel Forrest, Doctor Everette, please examine those photographs and explain why our heroic sister, Lyudmila Smirnov, sacrificed her life defending our country against an unspeakable horror ... AND DIED LOOKING LIKE THAT?!!?*

* Enclosed: Thirteen (13) images printed on AGFAPHOTO brand Glossy A4 (210x297mm) Inkjet photographic paper. No obvious signs of tampering or enhancement. Approximate time of day: late afternoon approaching twilight. Weather: heavy snowfall / high winds. Description of images to follow...

Photos (1) through (6): Exterior shots of six corrugated metal shipping-containers (approx. twenty by forty feet) retrofitted into inhabitable cold-weather living quarters, dining hall, showers, general storage, and power-generating equipment trailers. Several (3) display varying degrees of damage (crushed walls, ramps, staircases, collapsed roofs, and gaps where doors and windows should be). Two snowplow equipped cargo-capable tracked vehicles. Four single to multiple passenger-size snowmobile type vehicles. All show varying degrees of damage. Most are likely unserviceable.

Photos (7) through (9): Interior shots of laboratory, communal sleeping and activities spaces, food preparation, waste, refrigerated storage lockers, electrical generators and diesel fuel drum storage sheds; all vacant and showing significant degrees of content and / or structural damage.

Photo (10): Small (under 300 foot length) RMRS class double-deck cargo ship flying German flag. Attached to shore by single mooring line. All others (3) severed. No signs of crew. Cargo containers visible upon upper deck are in disarray. Heavy smoke is escaping from the stern engine compartment and bridge.

Photo (11): Combined living space and compact geology laboratory. Scientific equipment related to mineral identification and assay bolted to floor and walls. Much of it damaged or torn from anchoring supports. Heavy duty electrical supply conduits attached to major pieces of equipment pulled from walls, ceiling, and sub-floor. Large pieces of all mentioned items either partially melted or completely missing.

Photo (12): Sleeping area with wall-mounted bed, reclining cushioned chair, and a collapsible metal work-desk. A small personal computer and numerous sheets of paper litter the floor. Two picture frames remain standing upright on the desktop. One shows a young man and woman smiling at the camera. The same man, decades older, with a small blue-furred kitten (Breed – Russian Blue) sitting on his balding head is shown in the other.

Photo (13): Close-up. The man is looking up and smiling. The kitten is looking down and licking the man’s forehead.

Photos (14): Communications room. Powerful shortwave radio on a metal shelf bolted to a wall. Microphone attached to shortwave radio dangles over the edge. A crushed folding metal chair is resting on opposite side of room. An arm-long wrench, automatic pistol, and flare-gun lay on the floor surrounding a corpse.

Photo (15): Female. Young, best estimate late teens to early twenties. Body clothed in the top-half of two-piece gray mechanic’s coveralls. Jacket heavily stained with grease and oil. Right sleeve missing up to shoulder, left sleeve bloodied but undamaged. Left arm and hand display no obvious injuries. Right arm and hand covered in a thin layer of silver-blue fur. Bones of right hand distorted. Thumb greatly reduced in length. Other digits only slightly truncated. All display a small white claw on each finger tip. Paw pads clearly visible on palm of right hand.

Photo (16): Bottom portion of coveralls missing. Heavy silver-blue pelt extends the entire length of the lower body. Leg bones and hips significantly more distorted than right hand. Full upright posture would be challenging. Both feet totally deformed. Anatomically indistinguishable, with exception of far greater size, than that of typical Felis catus hind paws. A yard-long tail covered in the same silver-blue color fur is partially pinned beneath right leg.

Photo (17): The body is sprawled on its back. The face is pale and bare of any trace of fur. There is a small pool of blood beneath the left ear. A single bullet hole is visible in the center of the left temple. Both eyes are open. Each is bright yellow and has a thin black slit pupil. The mouth is partially open. All visible teeth are less than half normal width and end in a sharp point.

Colonel James P. Forrest: I’m not at liberty ...

Doctor Donald Everette: A CAT!! Why did ... why did it have ... TO BE A CAT?!!?

Colonel James P. Forrest: Control your ... STAY IN YOUR CHAIR, DOCTOR!!

Natasha Semenov: Мой Бог! У него есть хвост!*

* Translation: My God! He has a tail!*

Colonel James P. Forrest: I knew this was a bad idea ... MEDICAL TEAM TO OBSERVATION ROOM FOUR!! CODE F!! RIGHT NOW DAMMIT!!

Able Hartman: This meeting is ... ADJOURNED!! Mrs. Semenov. Mr. Belinky. Please accompany me to Colonel Forrest’s office. There’s a secure line we’ll all need to use after we have a little chat. Everyone else please accompany the guards to the cafeteria. You will be notified when it’s time to restart. Sorry for the inconvenience. Thank you!

*Enclosed photographs / x-rays / related logged inter-web traffic

From: Doctor Linda Carson

Patient: Doctor Donald Everette.

Age 47

Ethnicity Caucasian

Medical history: Appendix removed age 15

Acute bladder infection age 32

Simple fracture right arm age 36 (motorcycle accident) healed without complications

Mild pulmonary degradation (tobacco use) diagnosed age 37. Non-smoker for ten years

Nothing else of note this date.

Exposure to DNA disruptive entity on: 1993.8.13

Donating organism: Mus musculus aka Lab mouse.

Current physical expression of DNA modification:

Tail approximately 39 inches length, 2.35 inches average circumference, weight 4.75 pounds. Poor control of movement but improving. Skeletal structure is slowly degrading under the influence of unknown biological agent? Nano-particles? Who-the-heck knows? Major exception: Coccyx highly altered to support tail and associated muscle attachments. Scrotum bonded to tail base and growing. Scrotum is approximately 75 % larger than human-norm.

Total body weight / height: 15 pounds and 4 inches decrease since last year’s physical. Numerous small patches of white fur spreading across lower legs and back. Toes mildly elongated. DNA ratio stands at 93 % human vs. 7 % rodent. Rate of human DNA subjunction and cellular replacement after initial exposure expression proceeding at modest: 0.08 percent per day (level 2 out of 10 on the Chalker – Madaurensis scale). If some kind of balance is not achieved before then, total transformation into Mus musculus genetic norm at current rate is approximately 3.2 years.

Results of yesterday’s lab trials: Serum and platelets incompatible with human or Mus musculus laboratory blood samples. Sperm sample incompatible with human or Mus musculus laboratory ovum samples. Small portions of frontal lobes show noticeable degradation as human neurons alter into human / rodent hybrid matrix.

In accordance to guidelines created when Building Three was founded, Doctor Everette will be declared NON-HUMAN when 10 percent subjunction of his human DNA is measured.

Opiates prescribed to abate physical and mental discomfort. Voluntary euthanasia protocol declined.

Status of psychological instability: Progressive. Recommend transfer to long-term holding facility.

Signed: Doctor Linda Carson

Tracking number 43320-LC to tracking number 8847229-JF: Confidential interoffice memo...

James

Please get Donald out of here ASAP. Watching our people, or just innocent victims brought back from outside, lose their humanity is stressful enough. But I ’m going to have a meltdown if I have to watch someone I’ve worked besides for five years go down that route day after day. Watching two patients turn into human-animal hybrids in the last six months is my absolute limit!

Linda

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