I’m baaaaack! Didja miss me?
The various animals in the barn shift about in their stalls. ROCKEFELLER the horse neighs appreciatively, and lowing can be heard from perhaps half a dozen dairy cows.
I missed you all, too. Sorry I’ve been gone for so long.
I hope the nice ComGuard men followed my instructions
on feeding and taking care of you all. Let’s have a look
at how you’re all doing.
CLARK walks up to ABIGAIL’s stall, bag in hand, and leans down first to examine her wrapped leg. He sniffs the wrappings thoughtfully, and pats the cow’s flank before beginning to gingerly unwrap the soiled bandage.
Looks like we’ve managed to avoid infection so far, girl.
That’s good, but we’re not out of the woods yet. I wish
I could have changed this a few days earlier...
Yeah, sorry about that. I got infected with a Word of Blake
biological weapon called Candidate 17.
He pauses for effect. ABIGAIL turns her head to look back at him, and he smiles and continues.
Our little scouting mission up to the area they nuked in Montana
was sure to turn up something interesting, right? I mean, what
could have happened that the Word of Blake would vaporize 200
innocent civilians without even issuing an evacuation order just
to keep it contained? Even a loose Branth wouldn’t merit that sort
of attention...unless a Branth wasn’t the only thing that escaped.
CLARK tosses the old wrappings into a biohazard bin, and picks up a roll of gauze with gloved hands. He winds it expertly around ABIGAIL’s leg as he keeps talking.
We were investigating the office trailers in the center of the study
site when we found out what was really going on. I can’t believe they
just let us waltz right out of the woods wearing biohazard suits, and
never asked us any questions! It was pretty amazing. These guys know
their stuff, I’ll give ‘em that.
CLARK rises from his kneeling position after pinning the gauze bandages in place. He runs a hand over the cow’s back and checks her fodder and water.
Looks like you’re good to go, darlin’.
CLARK moves to the next stall, where BETHANY, a fat-bellied Dutch Belted cow is nosing at the last few kernels of corn in her feed trough.
Beth! You know you’re supposed to be on a diet.
The veterinarian scoops the last kernels away and slips them in his pocket.
But I guess the ComGuard don’t know that. I told them three times,
when you give the cows their fodder, don’t give Bethany all hers at
once, ‘cause she’ll eat right through it and fuss till she gets more.
Won’t you, gal?
Yes, yes you will. How’re you doing otherwise?
CLARK reaches into his bag and pulls out a small penlight, shining it in BETHANY’s eyes and using it to give her a quick visual check-up s he resumes talking.
Anyway, I found documents on the lead researcher’s computer
talking about the quarantine and the release of Candidate 17 and
Candidate 26. They’re highly virulent, specially-modified
noroviruses that secrete cytotoxic chemicals to attack the
intestinal lining, probably spliced in from an amoebic
dysentery pathogen or some similarly nasty thing.
Yeah, and Candidate 26 is 100% fatal. 100%! These people are
out of their minds. I don’t think I realized just how much of a
menace the Word of Blake was to Terra until now. They really
need to be stopped. We left as soon as we figured out what was
going on. The other guy working in the trailer figured out that
something was up with us, but Cho clocked him and he fell like a
sack of potatoes. We high-tailed it, but Alex and I had taken our
helmets off to ask for permission to use the computers.
CLARK finishes looking over BETHANY and, seemingly satisfied, moves on to the next stall, where ILYANA the Belted Galloway is nosing at her blue ribbon.
Reliving past glories, Ilyana? I don’t blame you, those were good
days. But you’re gonna believe what happened next in this
ILYANA gives him as close to a credulous look as a cow can manage. CLARK sighs.
Well, okay, maybe you will believe it. I came down with a case
of Candidate 17. Oh, it was miserable. Fortunately, we got enough
data on it that I was able to lock myself up in my lab and try
to isolate the pathogen responsible so I could treat it. ORT was pretty
effective, but lemme tell you, I am glad I had that second bathroom installed.
I pretty much had to quarantine myself for the past few days. Good
thing we still had some clean gear, so the ComGuard could come in to
help when I wasn’t feeling up to working.
CLARK takes out a large stethoscope and falls silent for a bit as he listens to ILYANA’s heartbeat. Apparently satisfied, he continues a visual inspection and picks up the narrative again.
Credit where credit is due, those guys take direction well, and they
know enough not to get in the way. With their help, not only was
I able to isolate Candidate 17, I was actually able to create a vaccine!
ROCKEFELLER neighs from his stall in the corner. CLARK looks up and nods appreciatively.
I know, Rocky! It’s exciting. I haven’t gotten to do this sort of
hands-on immunological study since my post-doc days on Lopez.
This was actually kind of a fun challenge. I miss immunology, but
I hate writing grants. It’s so tedious. Private practice is a lot less
of a headache, and more face time with the animals!
CLARK pats the side of ILYANA’s nose. She nuzzles at his hand hopefully, and he reaches into his pocket and gives her a small mouthful of corn.
There’s a good girl. I don’t know what we’re going to do now,
though. The ComGuard wants to give the WoBies a taste of their
own medicine with Candidate 17, but I don’t think they understand
just what releasing such a virulent pathogen would mean. There
will be collateral damage, and lots of it, especially with such a
high latency as this virus seems to exhibit. I don’t have the equipment
to manufacture weapon-level amounts of the stuff or its vaccine, anyway
so it’s a moot point. I guess we’ll see what we can find out in
Galveston, at these Wyrm trials. I’m a little nervous to see what
else the Word of Blake has up its sleeve.
Pan out over CLARK rounding the corner to another three stalls, and beginning to tend to another animal, expression lost in thought.