Friday, October 14, 2016

Now Hiring: Xenobiologists

James loved working at NASA; it's pretty much the dream for any kid who's looked up into the sky at nights. He got to do things that most people in the private sector would be astounded by, designing and creating machines that rivaled the greatest wonders of man in how much of a beating they could take. The biggest problem? A workplace full of Star Trek Geeks who had just been given the mother of all straight lines:

"It's life, Jim. But not as we know it."

James looked over to Leo, his teammate in the "Xeno-Geology" lab for the last two years. He had to work very hard not to throw the earth-shaped stress ball on his desk at the man. "Leo, how long have you been waiting to use that line?"

Leonard MacGregor spun in his chair, a smug grin on his face, "High School, I think?" James had only met the man when they'd joined the lab, but Leo kept a pair of costume elf ears in his desk to mess with politicos who came trying to use them as a prop. The lanky mineralogist chuckled again at his own joke before letting the joke die.

The hand James had raised with the stress ball in it may have played a factor in that.

"Jokes aside, James. It really is; I've got no bloody clue what the heck I'm looking at here. I can identify cellular structure, but it's been a decade since my last biology lesson and Google's not even helping." Leo pulled up the x-ray scan of the Rabbit's Foot Meteorite, so called because what else could you call the from-nowhere meteor that smashed apart a dark comet that had been looking to make the next Chicxulub.

James had to walk over to the other man's computer to see the scan, the details that had been hidden within called out in exaggerated detail. Leo had been right, it was life; but unlike anything he'd ever seen before. The cell wall looked like the diagrams he remembered having to label in High School, but the organelles inside were more Grays then Grey's Anatomy. 

"We're not alone." James had always assumed that there was life elsewhere in the universe, but this was proof. He felt inadequate to the moment, scared, and in desperate need of a drink. "This was just the first scan of Rabbit's Foot, right?"

"First one I checked." Leo turned around to pull up the next in the set of scans that he had to clean up, and there, right in the middle of the chunk of metal, rock and ice that had fallen from the sky was a fingertip. The shadow of what must have been flesh surrounded a fun-house image of a human bone.

James just rested his hand on his co-worker's shoulder, no words left to him to describe what they were seeing. He jumped gears in his brain, trying to find something to say, "Hit print. Screw reports, this needs to go all hands on." Seconds later, the laser printer they shared was humming as it spit out copies. James grabbed them and headed out to the door, pausing only as he realized Leo wasn't right behind him.

He turned to look, and the man was digging in his desk. "I'll be right behind you. Just need to put on the ears."