Thursday, February 15, 2007

Chapter Four

Price had decided that he was going to talk to Dr. James in person. A staff meeting with the Colonel sitting in was not the place for him to question the doctor at length. In the doctor's own office, it might be easier to learn something interesting about the alien creature.

Price walked down the corridor where the red lights burned signalling that the night shift was still working. He stopped outside the morgue. The hatch irised open and bright light spilled out into the corridor. Price entered, surprised to see the staff working so late.

There was an anticeptic cleanliness to the interior. The floors were of polished metal, as were the bulkheads. Clusters of lights were mounted over the autopsy tables. Silver shelves held bottles, flasks, and instruments. White cabinents displayed stainless steel instruments. Other instruments were placed by the autopsy tables waiting to be used.

One of the women broke away from her work and walked to meet him. She wore a bloodstained white smock and a surgeon's mask. In her right hand she held a knife.

"What can I do for you?"

"What's going on down here?"

"Is that any business of yours?"

Price shook his head. "No, not really. I was looking for Dr. James."

"He's off duty now. What did you want of him?"

Price studied the eyes over the mask. They were bright blue eyes of a shade he'd never seen. She had light blond hair that was as fine as any he'd seen. The slightest motion of her head set it moving.

He fumbled for words and then said, "The autopsy on the alien creature. I wanted to review the notes made on it."

"Mainframe should have it."

"I checked and couldn't find it."

"Then it's classified and if you don't have the codes, then you must not be authorized to see it." She turned.

"Wait," said Price. "Of course I'm authorized. I'm authorized to see everything."

She turned back to face him and pulled down the surgeon's mask. Her mouth was wide and her lips were thin. Hers was not the classic beauty promised by the eyes and the hair and Price wished that she hadn't pulled down the mask. He'd have preferred to let him mind fill in the image.

"Who are you?"

"Price. Military Intelligence. I need access to that material to properly complete my mission."

"Okay, Price, Military Intelligence, come with me and we'll see what we can find."

Price followed her to one of the offices to the side. She turned on the lights and entered, dropping into a chair near the computer. She powered it up, watched the screen, typed in her access code and finally, she typed in a number and rocked back, letting the computer search for the material she wanted.

When the screen brightened, she pushed on the side of the monitor so that Price could see it. "Tell me what you want to see."

"Cause of death if it could be determined."

She put her fingers on the keyboard and typed.

"Nothing," said Price.

She pulled the monitor around and said, "Must be something. Has to be. Damn. That is strange."
"Why wouldn't there be a cause of death listed."

She looked at him and said, "Could be any one of a number of reasons including that we don't know. It was an alien, after all. Maybe we just couldn't understand why it died."

"What's the file tell you."

She watched the screen as she scrolled through the data, shaking her head. "This is not complete. Some interesting diagrams... hell, this thing didn't have much in the way of a digestive system. The reproductive system doesn't seem to exist. At least I can't see it. Looks like God didn't complete this one before he turned it loose." She looked up at Price. "I didn't do the work on this so I can only guess."

"Is the autopsy complete?"

"Meaning is it ended or was there something left out?"

"I mean, if you had conducted it is there something you would have done that hasn't been?"

She shook her head. "No, doesn't look like it. There are scraps of information missing, but that might be because we're dealing with an alien lifeform. We don't want to draw conclusions without the proper evidentiary base."

Price took a deep breath. "Then you say there is nothing left out."

"Not that I can see. Is there something specific that you're looking for?"

Price sat back, on the corner of the desk and looked at the data on the screen. It meant next to nothing to him yet there was something about the whole thing that bothered him. Unfortunately, he couldn't think of a way to ask the question, or even what the question might be.

"I was just wondering if there was anything irregular about the autopsy."

"Nothing that I can see based on what we have here." She touched a button and let the screen go dark. "Looks to be a very good autopsy."

"Okay," said Price. "I'm surprised, but I bow to your superior knowledge on this."

"Any time. Anything else you need?"

"What happened to the body. Was it destroyed?"

"Oh, hell no. You don't destroy a unique biological sample. You store it for further research."

Price nodded and then said, "There was another alien species found on the ship...all dead. I mean another intelligence species. Anything on that?"

"Not here. That would be over in exo-biology. We're only interested in the recent dead. Those bodies that we get to play with."

Price stood up. "Thanks."


Price left the office and walked to the hatch. When it irised open, he stepped through. The lights in the corridor were now brighter. The new day was beginning. As the hatch shut behind him, Price couldn't help but feel he'd been a victim of a fast shuffle.

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