Kick the Bucket

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Chapter Five

Building Three

Fourth Floor Conference Room

Audio log: 1993.10.7 / 1735 through 1844 hours

Excerpt duration: 1 hour 9.5 minutes

Eyes only.

Duplication or removal of this transcription from archive strictly prohibited.

Participants:

[1] Colonel James P. Forrest …..............US ARMY

[2] Captain Quincy Unis …................... US ARMY Judge Advocate General’s Corps

[3] Able Hartman ….............................. US Central Intelligence Agency

[4] Doctor Mary Kelly MD PhD …..... Assistant Director Building Three Science laboratory

[5] Counter Admiral Sergey Vasiliev ... Russian Navy – Baltic Fleet

[6] Oleg Mikhailov …........................... Dean of Moscow State Mining University

[7] Natasha Semenov …........................ SVR Russian Foreign Intelligence Service

[8] Yugoslav Belinky …........................ FSB Russian Federal Security Service

FSB (Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation

SVR (External Intelligence Service)

Colonel James P. Forrest: Everyone be seated and we will...

Oleg Mikhailov: WHY DID YOU LIE TO US!!

Colonel James P. Forrest: I did not. I was under orders to omit information pertaining to an issue deemed a threat to my, and only my, country. That is the only explanation I am at liberty to provide. If you have any problem with that, please consult with Admiral Vasiliev. I’m sure he can explain what obeying orders means in a language you will understand with better clarity.

Yugoslav Belinky: Where is Doctor Everette?

Colonel James P. Forrest: Resting in his quarters. He will not be rejoining this meeting. Doctor Kelly, the floor is yours.

Doctor Mary Kelly PhD: Good evening. I’m the second in command of Building Three’s science department. I’ve reviewed the minutes of your last meeting and stand ready for ... any ... questions you might have. Don’t blame me if the answers keep you awake at night.

Counter Admiral Sergey Vasiliev: I still want an answer to my question. WHY DID LYUDMILA SIMRNOV DIE LOOKING LIKE THAT?!!?

Doctor Mary Kelly MD PhD: At some point in the attack on Yamal, she had physical contact with a DNA disruptive entity. Certainly genetically damaged by the encounter, she still survived long enough to partially transform, capture it, radio for help, and ultimately commit suicide, I must thereby assume the DE changed into a Chaotic only after it touched her.

Yugoslav Belinky: What is a ... DNA disruptive entity?

Doctor Mary Kelly MD PhD: One of the official, and far more scientific, designations for what’s jokingly referred to as a ... thing ... by far too large a subset of our personnel. Just so you know, not everyone at Building Three gets their jollies engaging in childish word games.

Natasha Semenov: How can you say it changed into a Chaotic only after she made physical contact?

Doctor Mary Kelly MD PhD: Our experience with active Chaotics is limited, it’s true, but their presence never fails to leave behind unmistakable evidence. In essence, nothing living survives more than a few seconds once contact with a Chaotic DE is made.

Since Ms. Simrnov lived for whatever amount of time it took between contact and her death, there is no way she could’ve been exposed to a Chaotic DE. Non-Chaotic DE’s, on the other hand, often leaves scraps of the living organisms they consume behind ... and, sometimes, far more than just scraps. Chaotics never do.

Natasha Semenov: What kind of evidence?

Doctor Mary Kelly MD PhD: Check the ground around Murmansk Oblast air base. You will certainly discover that, from a depth of anywhere from inches to several yards, the soil is absolutely sterile. From the simplest prion upwards, everything is just ... gone.

The cleanest surgical theater in the world is a pit of decay and disease compared to any surface a Chaotic DE crawls over. If they’ve been coming to Earth as long as some of my colleagues believe, the only reason we’re here to talk about them is the fact they self-destruct after a day or two.

Oleg Mikhailov: These ... DE’s. What other names do you scientists call them?

Doctor Mary Kelly MD PhD: I assume you mean the non-profane ones? Taking into account their actions as a whole, we’ve designated the Chaotic DE’s, Terraformers. And non-Chaotic DE’s, Uplifters. For anyone not familiar with these terms I will explain.

Boiled down to its essence, terraformation is the wholesale alteration of a planet’s atmosphere, climate, temperature, terrain; among other critical environmental factors. It is a natural process that every living organism has been engaged in since the first single-celled prokaryotic cell appeared 3.8 billion years ago.

We, as human beings, are responsible for much of the terraformation presently going on, whether by choice or happenstance. And, if our species ever desires to successfully colonize other planets in our solar system and beyond, we will have to devise means to accomplish these processes for our benefit at a vastly accelerated rate.

The term uplift, and any intelligent species or their agents actively engaged in this process, the uplifters, have an origin far closer to science-fiction than science. Whether by humans in some far-flung future or Little-Green-Men piloting flying saucers from alpha centuri, an unknown technology hyper-evolves purely instinct-driven animals into sentient beings useful to the uplifters.

It’s possible; of course, they do it just because they can.

Oleg Mikhailov: Are you saying the Earth has been invaded?

Doctor Mary Kelly MD PhD: That’s exactly what I’m saying. But don’t waste your time looking for bipedal eight foot tall insectoid monsters with acid for blood just yet, Mr. Mikhailov. The last time the uplifters were here in person, if ever, earthworms might have been the most highly evolved animals around.

Oleg Mikhailov: Восемь футов в высоту ... что!?*

*Translation: Eight foot tall ... What!?

Natasha Semenov: Nothing to worry about, Oleg. I’ll explain later.

Yugoslav Belinky: Doctor Kelly. Are you saying a Blob, err ... a DE is technology?

Doctor Mary Kelly MD PhD: Once again, that’s exactly what I’m saying. Technology that is unimaginably ancient, inconceivably powerful, beyond any human concept of the word dangerous . . . and totally out of control.

Counter Admiral Sergey Vasiliev: UPLIFT?!!? BUT LYUDMILA SIMRNOV IS HUMAN!! NOT SOME ANIMAL CRAWLING IN THE DIRT!!

Doctor Mary Kelly MD PhD: There are three schools of thought in that regard, Admiral.

The first, technological advancement takes time. If the DE’s are any indication, the culture their creators hailed from is unthinkably old. The second, and most obvious, do you think members of a civilization that ancient and technologically advanced would judge us more highly than “some animal crawling in the dirt”? I doubt it. The third, they’re without guidance and malfunctioning. Any of those factors could easily explain what happened to did to her … and Doctor Everette.

Natasha Semenov: If they survived so long, where are these ‘creators’ now?

Doctor Mary Kelly MD PhD: Who knows? Remember, were dealing with a span of time measurable in tens if not hundreds of millions of years. Maybe the creators finally died out. Maybe the Earth in their time wasn’t worth the effort. Maybe the creator’s spacecraft had a truly epic fender-bender with an asteroid in the Oort cloud on its way here, or was destroyed in combat against an armada of Borg cubes trying to assimilate them. Pick whatever science fiction soap-opera scenario appeals to you.

Oleg Mikhailov: Армада!?*

*Translation: An armada?!

Natasha Semenov: I’LL EXPLAIN LATER!!

Yugoslav Belinky: You mentioned the rat-man, Doctor Everette. What happened to him?

Doctor Mary Kelly MD PhD: An accident, a stupid, stupid accident. We were performing our first calibration trials on a brand new scanning device. Totally automated … totally safe … nothing to worry about. Yeah. How many times have I heard ... that one ... before?!

A custom-made computer-controlled industrial CAT scanner isolated in a hermetically sealed armored room; every inch of which can be drenched in liquid nitrogen by a completely independent computer at the first sign of trouble. Three months of flawless performance, and never a hint of trouble with any number of multiple layers of redundant backup control systems and manual overrides.

At first all is normal. A tracked robot enters the room and a six-inch-thick stainless steel door seals behind it. The machine shoves a bucket containing a frozen DE into one end, and another robot places an anesthetized target, a mouse in this case, into the other. Hydraulically powered ports close both ends and the machine activates heating strips just enough to revive the DE. Emergency cool-down systems are confirmed green go-status and the CAT scanner clicks on.

And everything, every damned thing, goes off-line!

There’s enough electronics in the control room to send a spacecraft to Pluto and none of it is working! The main computer misreads an insignificant lose of hydraulic pressure as total containment failure. It triggers the hatch mechanism nearest to the DE to reopen, and commences an unwinnable battle with all the backup systems for control.

It gets worse.

One of those backup systems over-rides the computer. It triggers an IA alert one and proceeds to do exactly the opposite of what it’s should do; it opens the armored door separating the control and scanning room. The lab personnel engaged in the trial, all eight of us, are completely exposed. And our only escape route is locked tight until the computers finish their hissy fit.

We can’t get out and the guards with their portable nitrogen tanks can’t get in. In under a minute the DE will be unfrozen. Shortly thereafter we’ll be dead, and a fully active DE will be oozing or melting its way through anything in its path, and popping up who-knows-where in Building Three.

While everyone is praying to an assortment of deities for divine intervention, and yes, there’s a great deal of screaming involved, too ... Doctor Everette runs into the scan room. He grabs the manual locking handle and slams the hatch shut only a fraction of a second before the DE can ooze out.

The main computer refreezes the DE and reports all clear to the central security computer. There’s only six seconds left on the clock before level one IA protocols would have activated. All systems return to nominal status and the screaming stops. Or, more precisely, my screaming stops.

It was already too late for Doctor Everette at this point.

During the process of closing the hatch, the DE extends a tendril that touches his arm and retracts it in the space of a quarter second. His body is instantly outlined by the same optical aura shared by all DE’s.

He’s unconscious almost instantly and no longer fully human when he hits the floor.

Counter Admiral Sergey Vasiliev: What is this ... IA ... you speak of?

Colonel James P. Forrest: I’ll answer that, Doctor Kelly. IA stands for ice age. If you turn around, you will see three unlit numbered indicators above the door frame. Depending on the severity of the situation, levels one through three, individual rooms, whole floors, or the entire building can be flooded with liquid nitrogen.

Every room in Building Three is under twenty-four CCTV monitoring. Dead-man switches supported by automated computer sensors will ensure that no DE will ever escape.

Oleg Mikhailov: What about the people working here? What about us? Wouldn’t we die, too?

Colonel James P. Forrest: Of course. What’s your point?

Oleg Mikhailov: Ah ... nothing.

Natasha Semenov: Did you say ... every ... room?

Colonel James P. Forrest: That’s correct. Do you need another break? I can call a security guard to escort you to the building next door. Except for the front lobby, most of our restrooms above the first floor get little use for some unknown reason.

Natasha Semenov: No need ... < Американские извращенцы! Разве они не могут поставить знак !?*>

*Translation of mumbled response: American perverts! Can’t they put up a sign?!

Yugoslav Belinky: Can either of you describe what you’re doing to help Doctor Everette?

Colonel James P. Forrest: You first, Doctor Kelly.

Doctor Mary Kelly MD PhD: There’s nothing anyone can do to impede what’s happening to him. Medical science can’t even begin to explain the steady, but slow, cellular degradation his body and brain are presently experiencing.

If it doesn’t stop at some point on its own, he will be physically indistinguishable from a normal lab mouse in two or three years, and die a year or two afterwards of old age. With luck, his mind will lose most of his human cognition and memory capacity within a year. We are limited to keeping him comfortable ... and make his end ... as painless as possible if he allows it.

Yugoslav Belinky: Is this speculation, or have you personally seen this happen?

Doctor Mary Kelly MD PhD: I ... I have. More frequently than I like to think about.

Oleg Mikhailov: Could his mind survive the total transformation of his body?

Doctor Mary Kelly MD PhD: Absolutely not. There’s a limit to how much even a DE can stretch the laws of biology. A mouse brain is far too small and primitive. In human terms, he will be brain-dead long before then. He ... it ... will spend the remainder of its life in a cage if he doesn’t ... take Ms. Simrnov’s escape route long before then.

Yugoslav Belinky: What about something larger than a mouse?

Doctor Mary Kelly MD PhD: Yes. Depending on the degree of change and inherent limitations imposed by evolutionary compatibility, various degrees of sentience can persist in something ... someone ... that’s at least human child-size or larger. In fact ... it’s regrettably common. That is, if the victim survives their initial contact with a DE.

Counter Admiral Sergey Vasiliev: What about, Simrnov? What can you tell us about her?

Doctor Mary Kelly MD PhD: Without a body to examine, not much. If I’d hazard a guess, I’d say she was well on her way to a mid-form; a balanced amalgamation of human and feline morphology. As for mental competency . . . I have no idea.

Retention of human intelligence is likely, but with significant residual feline behavioral programming floating around in the mix. In essence, what cats might have become if their evolutionary history paralleled that of our primate ancestors.

Counter Admiral Sergey Vasiliev: To lose your life in defense of country, family, and friends is something everyone should be prepared for if the need arises. But this is ... monstrous! How do we defend ourselves from something that can not only kill us, but alter beyond any sane recognition our very being? This situation ... this situation is inconceivable!

Doctor Mary Kelly MD PhD: Normally I’d say welcome to my world, Admiral, but I won’t. I wake up every morning thinking my life and work here is some kind of dream ... a nightmare! Something I must do to keep us safe from ... whatever they are! And just to remind you, to remind all of you, I did say you wouldn’t like what you were going to hear.

Yugoslav Belinky: Where are the victims now, Doctor? The ones you say survived in mid-form like Simrnov or worse.

Colonel James P. Forrest: Thank you, Doctor Kelly. I will take it from here.

Building Three came into being to protect my country, and by extension, the human race. Literally, that’s it. Whether from the DE’s or from those they’ve ... transformed ... it makes no difference. In the same way someone carrying a highly contagious disease is quarantined while the search for a cure is underway, victims of DE genetic alteration are likewise isolated for their, and our, protection.

Counter Admiral Sergey Vasiliev: Are you speaking of, Amook island?

Colonel James P. Forrest: What...?

Counter Admiral Sergey Vasiliev: We have satellites as well. And good spies, Colonel.

Able Hartman: If you don’t mind, Colonel, I’ll field this one.

Colonel James P. Forrest: Be my guest. Intelligence is not my expertise.

Able Hartman: Thank you, Colonel. Good evening, Admiral, and everyone else. I am Able Hartman. I work for the central intelligence agency. Normally I’d beat around the bush trying to discover how, or who, brought our holding facility on Amook Island to Russian attention ... which I assure you we will discover in time.

However, in this case, there’s no need to go into that right now. I’m fully authorized to divulge anything you’d like to know. To avoid wasting your time, and ours, here are several issues you should be aware of from the get-go.

Amook Island is a decoy. It’s actually nothing more than a base were special operation troops can participate in cold weather survival training, and a safe location to test weapons and vehicles under real-world Arctic conditions. Captain Kellogg, the commanding officer of Ice-Tray Zero, which is, believe it or not, is the real name of that base, would like to send his sincere appreciation for your surveillance and covert espionage efforts.

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