Episode 1: Discovery

11/15/20235 min read

Dr. Grace Carter stared at the petri dish, her brow furrowed with both concern and amazement. She breathed in deeply and exhaled heavily.

“What is it, Grace?” Dr. Ana Ramirez questioned. She was fairly good at reading her colleagues now after spending months with them. She wiggled her fingers and then rubbed her hands together, the latex gloves making a soft squeaky noise, as she tried to warm her hands. Ana still wasn’t used to the coldness the lab exhibited.

“Oh, c’mon Ana, not every single thing Dr. Carter does is some ground breaking discovery. Relax a bit.” Dr. Joe Callahan scoffed.

“No, Joseph, Ana is right. I think I might have found something new. The Xenophora, its behaving oddly today. Almost as if... It’s alive?” Grace found herself questioning her own discovery, it had to be somewhat absurd. They’d studied this bacteria for months and it hadn’t exhibited any signs of life.

“Wait, really?” Ana said as she and Joe moved in closely to Grace, eager to take a look in the microscope.

“Yes, take a look.” Grace rolled her stool backward so Ana had space to look. “Wow, you’re not kidding. It’s definitely moving around a bit. Has it grown as well?” Grace nodded.

“I’d love to see this too.” Joe stated somewhat almost grumpily. “It’s all yours.” Ana and Grace exchanged a knowing look as he poked and prodded gently at the Xenoflora. Joe was a pain and they couldn’t wait until his internship was up in another month. Ana stood up and sat by Grace.

“This is so exciting!” Ana whispered to Grace. But Grace looked somewhat concerned. “Yes, it is, however this changes everything. We don’t know what this is capable of. And we’ll have to apply for more funding to further our research. We still need to figure out where it may have come from in the first place since it’s not a native of Verdantis.”

Ana realized Grace was right. Could they get more funding? Is the bacteria more harmful now? Would they be able to find out where this alien substance came from? Her thoughts raced.

Grace glanced at her watch. “I don’t know about you guys, but I could use a little burst of energy right about now. Joe, would you mind grabbing more coffee?” Joe rolled his eyes, but just enough to go unnoticed. Or so he thought. Grace and Ana had noticed but they kept quiet. “Yeah, I can do that.” He sighed quietly and grabbed his key card to exit the lab, but paused. “Ooh. It’s pretty cold in here.”

“Really?” Ana quipped. “I feel like it’s no different than it usually is.” She went over to the thermometer, sure enough, nothing had changed. She glanced at Joe and noticed his forehead was slightly perspiring.

“Hm. Maybe I’m just feeling a little off today.” Joe shrugged; his shoes squeaked as he quickly turned to grab more coffee. The door closed quietly and the lab was silent with the exception of the buzzing noise coming from the bright white lights above.

Grace broke the silence. “Ana, I don’t mean to scare you. But this discovery could potentially be more dangerous than we expected. I’m thinking we may need to tell Joe he’s off the team, maybe move him to another floor. We need some experienced scientists to help us out. I’m thinking Jones and Lewis. What do you think?”

Grace was looking down at some papers while scribbling in her lab journal. She was a little old school and preferred that rather than a computer.

“Yes, I think they’d be a perfect fit for a team.” Ana nodded in agreement.

Just then the petri dish made a clinking noise. Ana and Grace looked at one another. “Was that...” Ana started, but then there was a low rumble on the other side of the building that could be felt in their chests, immediately redirecting their attention.

“What the hell?” Grace was startled, but trying to keep her composure. “Should we look for Joe, make sure he’s alright?” Ana asked nervously. She stripped her gloves off and threw them into the biohazard bin.

Grace’s eyes widened. “Did Joe remove his gloves...?” Realizing she hadn’t seen Joe remove them. She was too busy and excited talking to Ana about the future of their discovery. Being extremely concerned she tried her best to keep her cool for Ana. The last thing Grace needed was contamination throughout the lab. It would take weeks to disinfect and be cleared by the National Academy of Science (NAS) to continue the experiment. She knew she shouldn’t have taken Joe on as a new scientist, but she had a heart of gold. Grace wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. She should have trusted her initial instincts.

“I’m really not sure. Maybe we can check?” Ana asked grabbing another pair of clean gloves. “I vote we carefully go through the top of the biohazard bin, and see if there’s three pairs of gloves in here.” Grace agreed as she pulled new gloves out as well, the color had drained from her face and she looked as if she may pass out.

They both held their breath anxiously. Slowly they rummaged through the top of the biohazard bin. “One, two… three.” All three pairs accounted for. “Whew.” Both Ana and Grace let out a sigh of relief.

“My god, I thought we had a really big problem on our hands.” Grace quickly walked over to the petri dish. The bacteria had doubled in size and was ebbing and flowing from side to side, almost as if it were the sea on a stormy day. As if it wanted to escape.

“Help me put this into a safer container. We need to keep it safe, and us safe. At least until we have more hands-on deck for this experiment.” Grace was still looking down at the Xenoflora, absolutely fascinated by the change that was taking place before her eyes.

Ana walked to the table and held the petri dish while Grace extracted the bacteria, gently using the forceps to put it into an air-tight container.

Afterwards they pulled off their gloves, and put everything back into the biohazard bin. Grace slumped onto a chair, removed her glasses and rubbed the side of her temples as her elbows rested on her desk.

After a moment Grace collected herself and stood up. “We should probably go find Joe and make sure he’s okay. I don’t know what that loud bang was, likely an experiment, but we should double check just in case.”

Once they opened the door trample of feet could be heard on the hard tile down the hall. A distant scream echoed out. Suddenly a group of scientists turned a corner running as fast as they could.

“What’s going on?” Grace urgently asked.

“Get out, now! We have no idea what it is, but it’s attacking!” One of the scientists yelled keeping their pace.

“Joe?” Ana inquired nervously. Grace wanted to leave, but she felt guilt wash over her. “Ana, you go ahead and I’ll see if I can track Joe down. I’m sure he’s not far from here. I’ll meet you outside. Call the authorities.”

Ana’s face softened and a wave of anxiousness hit her like a ton of bricks. “Are you sure?” Ana asked.

“Yes. Go now. I’ll be there soon.”

Grace was a terrific mentor to Ana. Almost like a second mother at this point. She knew Grace was selfless but this went beyond. She may be risking her life. “Ok.” Ana’s voice cracked; she could barely speak. Grace grabbed her and gave her a big hug. Then, without looking back, she cautiously started down the hallway. More scientists rounded the corner, their tennis shoes squeaking.

To Be Continued....