This is the second scene from A Taste of Earth,
a science fiction short story in ten scenes.
I will post the entire story one scene at a time each Friday.
I hope you enjoy A Taste of Earth, and I would love to hear from you.
Research Ship James Cook II, Atlantic Ocean, 240 km east of Cape Cod
Seven years ago, Oceanographer Juan Gonzales had adopted the thirty-seven meter long research vessel James Cook II as his home. He knew the quirks of all the lab equipment as if they were his own children. He loved the North Atlantic, the taste of salt in the air, the cold spray on his face, the gentle rocking of the ship … well, not always gentle. Most of all he loved the life teeming within the ocean. To most people the oceans were barriers, voids where land ceased, interruptions of life. Juan knew better. If anything it was the other way around, but the moment his sensors indicated the nature of the meteor impact, he knew his ocean had changed forever.
“As far as I can tell,” he reported his findings to JPL via a satellite phone, “we’re dealing with diseased plankton.”
“Diseased?” John asked. “What, like a virus or something?”
“It’s not like the plankton has an immune system, you know? They’re just not acting right.” Two of Juan’s curious college interns, who should have been busy taking samples if it had remained a normal day, stood listening behind him.
“Then how do you know it’s diseased?”
Juan glanced over his shoulder at the interns who shook their heads, dumbfounded. “They’re converting oxygen into carbon monoxide at an accelerated rate. Don’t ask me how. I won’t know until I look at them under a transmission electron microscope, but we don’t have much time to waste.”
“What do you mean?” Dipesh asked.
“We got a real problem here. The fish, they’re dying. We’re reading oxygen depletion down to 300 meters, and it’s spreading.”
“Any growth rate estimates?”
“Eh.” Juan rubbed his forehead. “Based upon the initial contamination size, I’d say fourteen square kilometers since impact. Madre de Dios, I haven’t seen anything like this before in my life.”
“Were you able to get close enough to ground zero to collect trace elements?”
“No, and I wouldn’t be able to now. I’ve called the Coast Guard and they said they’re going to widen the quarantine area.” He heard a sigh on the other end. “They’re sending helicopters to evacuate our ship.”
“Helicopters?” Irene asked.
“Yes, they say we might spread the organism. It might be on our hull.” He thought of all the memories he would be leaving behind and the possibility of never seeing her again. How could this happen so quickly? “Hey, what was on that rock, anyway?”
“We don’t know.”
Russian Forrest, 74 km Northwest of Vologda
Ukrainian Astrophysicist Feodor Dubovik clung to his hood, fighting the wind. Two more helicopters were landing, bringing the latest United Nations Task Force technicians to the crash site. He headed for one of the Task Force tents set up for microscopic analysis. He took care walking down the new, narrow path though the forest. Someone had loaned him a flashlight, and the beam danced before him.
“It appears to be …” he searched for the English word “…explosion in atmosphere like in Tunguska in 1908,” he yelled into his cell phone, to overcome the background noise, but it had the effect of exaggerating his accent. “Livestock and human dead from it but not dead from just explosion. There is something else.”
“Can you get to ground zero?” He could barely make out what they were saying even though he pressed the cell phone to his ear.
“No. More dead downwind. Area is blocked off completely. There is some sort of microorganism riding on pollen. We see high levels of methane and nitrous oxide gases. We expect it come from this organisms. The local government proposes using fire bombs to destroy this organisms, but I think it will just make matters worse.”
“The organisms seem silicon-based. We never come across them before. They are just our theory till now, but our theory says they thrive on higher temperatures.” He made it to the tent and returned the flashlight. “What do you Americans think?”
Not even static.
He shook his head. “Cell phones,” he added in Ukrainian. “They will kill us all.”
_________________________________The entire text is currently discounted: Free. If you would like the entire story as a PDF, click here: A Taste of Earth – Justin Tyme. For ebook format Amazon, visit: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kubo, Smashwords, and others. Copyright © 2011 Justin Tyme