figure it's about time for another part. I finally got this done:
“What do you mean?” Kol asked.
“They don’t look it, but their DNA is 99.997% human. The .003% is a strange mutation. An unknown pathogen was found in their blood, which seems to rewrite a dead body’s genetic code over a period of several hours to a day. The end result, it appears, is what we see here. There may be some other form they can take later in the life cycle, but this seems like a fairly stable one,” The scientist explained.
“Surely that little difference wouldn’t mean that much?”
“A single DNA segment difference can dramatically alter the appearance of an organism. In fact, virtually every organism on old Terra shared at least 97% of the same DNA. Among the different planets’ life forms, there is an 82% shared genome. Hell, even the Vasari share 95% of their DNA with us.
“The pathogen itself contains only 20% of the DNA shared among all of known territory, mean it may be either genetically engineered, or that it comes from a vastly different environment than humans do. It doesn’t seem to be airborne, so the squad should be fine, unless one of them scratched or bit one of Dagger team?” he asked, looking to Nichols, Cole, and Doyle.
Nichols looked at his squadmates questioningly, and they shook their heads. “None of them got quite that close. If you want confirmation, check the combat cams.”
“We’ll give you a good look over, just to be sure. And have their armor scrubbed. It’s possible that the pathogen hitched a ride in. In fact, you should scrub anything and anyone who came into contact with them, and screen the whole crew. Just to be on the safe side. We don’t want this thing getting loose, because if it does, we will have hell to pay. It’s a fucking monster. Nothing we’ve found really kills it except high doses of alcohol or extreme heat. In fact, radiation and ultraviolet light seem to only stimulate its growth, and it’s not truly bacterial or viral, so traditional antibiotics and antivirals won’t work. It’s an odd mix between the two types, rendering it essentially invincible to modern medicine. We are testing multiple phages to see how they affect the virus.”
“Then how can we kill them?” Doyle asked.
“Put a burst into a leg or the heart and it should stop. But only for a few hours as it repairs itself. Only a shot to the head or spine will truly kill them. I suppose decompression, decapitation, and burning might work, too. Pretty much anything that severely damages the brain or spine will work.”
“How do they kill?”
“A bite, scratch, anything that breaks the skin will eventually kill and turn you. But it appears they primarily use their claws if they want to kill something immediately. They have a much higher muscle density than humans, allowing them to be incredibly agile. Their eyes have an abnormally great number of rods, and have a structure that appears to receive infrared light, converted from the cones normally found in the human eye.”
“So?” Doyle asked.
“They have amazing night vision, and have natural thermal vision.
“Now, their climbing. Their palms and feet have small hair-like structures that let them grip almost anything, including steel bulkhead. Physically, they are superior to humans in nearly every way. I could give you a rough estimate of their intelligence if their brains were still intact, but the ceramics destroyed nearly everything.”
“Sorry, things happen in the heat of battle,” Cole apologized.
“Understandable. Just next time, try not to destroy their brain. It’d really help with our studies.”
“Sure, right. I’ll do my best.”
“Is there anything else?” Kol asked.
“Actually, just one more thing, sir. I, or rather, we would like to name the new species,” the scientist said eagerly.
“And what do you have in mind?” Kol replied.
“We were thinking something along the lines of Specters. A scientific name for both the pathogen and its transformed hosts will come later.”
“Alright, that seems fine. Now, I want this to remain absolutely top secret, do you hear me? Don’t tell anyone about the Specters or the disease. Dagger squad, dismissed. Send the results of the phage tests to the CIC. As for me, I have to head to the bridge.”
The four turned away from the scientists and walked into the corridor, Kol heading for the nearest elevator and Dagger heading toward the sick bay.
A few minutes later, Admiral of the Navy Kol, the single highest-ranking person in the entire Trader Emergency Coalition Navy, with strategic command of the entire Navy itself, stepped onto the bridge of the Normandy. All on the bridge immediately stood and saluted the aging Kol, who returned it perfunctorily.
Kol sat down in his command chair and collected himself. A new enemy. One that has the strength to completely destroy the Coalition. It defeated the Vasari at their prime, and now it has come for both them and us. This will destroy us. Not even the starbases are truly holding back the Vasari. And the Inner World civilians don’t even know just how badly this war is going. And these Specters are straight out of a horror movie from the twentieth century. This could be the complete undoing of everything we have worked to accomplish. People would be rioting on the Inner Worlds; panic would spread like a plague; all of the Trade Order would collapse in the political face of this new threat. The things wouldn’t even have to come within a thousand jumps of the Inner Worlds, and they would have won. They are undead for god’s sake. Oh, diath! We are royally screwed, it seems.
Diath was an acronym for “Damn it all to hell” favored by Admiral Kol and some of the more soft-spoken civilians.
“What is the status on the other two Cerberus shuttles?” he asked.
“Both are still docked. Hailing…” the sensors officer answered. He tapped several keys and waited several seconds, then continued, “The shuttle docked with Valiant has replied that they have made contact with crew members, but not any hostiles yet. The shuttle docked with Swift Foot has failed to reply.”
“Assume all hands lost unless you receive a reply at a later point. Tell the shuttle docked with the Valiant to bring as many completely unharmed survivors aboard as possible, and make for the Normandy. And by ‘completely unharmed’, I mean without a scratch in as literal of a manner as possible.”
“Yes, sir. Transmitting message… now.” The sensors officer reported, glancing sideways at the officer beside him, confused. “They report that they will comply.”
“Very well. Make preparations to fire on the Korigul, but hold the General Quarters for now, if you would.”
“Aye, sir. Preparing a firing solution on the target.”
“Thank you. Hold that solution until further orders, and keep updating it for the relative position change.”
“Aye, Aye sir.”