The knock at the door startled me. I looked up to see the young assistant standing in the doorway. “Dr. Allero told me to let you know when the bodies were prepped and ready sir.” The kid couldn’t have been more than seventeen, just out of New Earth Program Academy.
NEPA earned quite a bit of money from overly rich parents that wanted to decide their child's fate as soon as they were born. The Academy raised them from birth and parents had to pay extra for visiting rights. The program needed tons of money, but most of these people just wanted their names in on it. The price for the future wasn’t as small as people used to think it was. The children of the top scientists at the Academy were secreted in due to “special” circumstance. Gene therapy could make sure a child didn’t get diseases and was athletic, but hadn’t come far enough to make sure the child would be intelligent. Hence, not everyone that made it in became doctors or scientists.
“I’ll be right down, Liseth.” The more I looked at the readings from the gas collected, the more it made no sense. “Why’d this have to happen three days before rotation?” Resigned to try and get this solved before rotation, I dragged myself down to the morgue.
In the hallway, just out of site of the morgue, Dr. Allero stood with a scowl on his face. “Shit, Franz! Don’t tell me Ares is here?” He closed his eyes and took a breath as if trying to persuade a headache to go away “He wants to know how one of his Caddies died from a ‘disappearing rock’.”
‘High Martian Ares’ was top of the chain of the Martians and a general pain in everyone's ass. If one couldn’t tell from the self given title that he was full of himself, they’d have no problem when he opened his mouth. Though, it pains me to admit it, he is very intelligent in both science and military issues. I still think the only reason his company got the job was because his wife was on the NEPA board. He didn’t give two shits about his Caddy. He was just interested in possible security issues.
“Good afternoon Dr. Kelly.” Oh how Ares hated being called by his real name. I could always tell the feminine sound of it just pissed him off, even when he had to use it. He was trying to burn holes into my head with that nasty look “Dr. Veda”. It was the only greeting he ever gave to anyone, just their name and a slight nod. Liseth’s eyes were the size of saucers. She tried to look as busy as she could without having to go near Ares. I don’t blame her, he could be extremely intimidating. Hell, he was to me, but I tried to never show it. What can I say, I love pressing buttons that should never be pressed, must be the scientist in me. “Let’s get started.”
Liseth started the SASP. The Sound Analyzing Sensory Projector uses sound waves to produce completely accurate pictures of the body without harming a single cell. Autopsies used to be a huge mess. These days you didn’t have the body in the same room. They were always kept in a room by themselves inside the sound caskets. All in case there was a contaminant. It was created not long after the Botticelli Virus found its way to Earth.
Quickly scanning the outside of the bodies, I see no physical trauma other than the gaping hole in Lester’s head. “Show me a layered scan of Lester’s head, Liseth.” She was quick. She probably knows this machinery better than I do. “Zone in on layers 53 through 60.” I see Dr. Kelly shift his stance off to the left. “Is that a fragment of the meteorite, Dr. Veda?” Dr. Allero was already suiting up before I could answer. The robot was out for routine maintenance, like everything else this close to rotation. Picking up a glass container I remembered how it shattered the one the boy had stored the larger rock in. Sitting it back in place I decided on the metal container instead. Call it a hunch.
Dr. Allero pulled on the Hazard Level Black suit. Extremely expensive and worth every million. It’s made of a flexible hardened rubber that is resistant to temperatures from -200 to 150 degrees Celsius, with no effect to the person wearing it. The micro-filters inside change Carbon-Dioxide to Oxygen and have to be changed out after every use. The visor is made of the same rubber, put through an extremely costly process to make it see through. That alone cost more money than the rest of the suit. The best part, it could fit to anyone who wore it.
As soon as he placed his foot inside the room, I was watching his every move. All I could do was hope that Lady Knowledge would watch over him. “Open the casket, Liseth.” We could hear the nervousness in his voice. He’d always felt the same as me. The more expensive something was, the more likely it was to fail. Even if these were the only suits that stood up against the Botticelli virus, he had no idea what we were dealing with.
I only began to notice I wasn’t breathing after he had the fragment in the container and the container sealed in the gravity vacuum scanner. He was starting to pull the suit off right as the alarm for the sterile room started blaring. “These...these readings aren’t making sense.” Dr. Kelly and Dr. Allero crowded around me, none of us could figure it out. Liseth was yelling something over the alarm and pointing. The alarm for the GVS was going off too. We all looked up, but nothing was happening. I’m not sure which of us pointed faster, but we were all four pointing to where the forceps that were used to extract the piece of meteorite out of the body. It was nothing but a pile of rust, as was the canister that used to occupy the GVS. My eyes were the size of saucers this time “The report from the HepaVents showed nothing but rust...” I was looking at the other three. “Dr. Kelly, I need you to cancel the rotation. No one can leave. Quarantine everyone that lived or was near the lower east side today at any time.” Without a word, High Martian Ares stood at salute and quickly vanished through the door. "Thankfully there is still enough time to cancel the flight from Earth...I hope."