Lab Rats
Lab Rats
Summary: Reighner and Zaharis cut deeper into the Regas mystery. Discoveries have frightening implications.
Date: 122 ACH
Related Logs: Paranoia

Classified Lab Genesis - Deck 13
122 ACH 24277 Souls

OOC Note: This area is Classified. It is guarded from casual entry by keypad and monitored by cameras as well as under guard. If you have not been ICly cleared for access to this area, you do not have sccess.

This Lab is a large, open area set up for modular scientific study. Currently there are cold storage unite here and the location has been prepared as an autopsy and biological analysis lab.

Reighner is sitting by the active electron microscope, shoes hooked onto the high chair, lab coat draped over the side. The terminal screen hooked up to it shows a grainy, out-of-focus black and white image of something.

With 600 bodies slowly going through autopsy one by one next door, it took a little while for Zaharis to disengage and make his way over here. He's already braced for bad news when he comes in, pulling on one of the generic white coats. The doors hiss softly as they cycle, red lights turning to green and then back again. "What's up?"

"You were right," Reighner says, turning his shoulder and looking back. He leans over and adjusts the dial on the microscope, coaxing the image into focus. It's a rough surface, easily recognizable as a glass slide, and all over it are fragments of small, sinister-looking tubes. "I found these in both Regas's and Lowes's whole blood."

Zaharis rubs his closed hand across his forehead, frowning. He steps up to the microscope, leaning down to have a look. "What the frak are they?"

Reighner taps his fingers on the monitor, even though Zaharis is using the eyepice. "Carbon nanotubes," he says, grimly. "Fullerenes. Fragments of them. This was one of the ways we were researching to deliver drug." He shakes his head. "Sons of bitches figured it out."

Zaharis' scarred left hand curls into a sudden fist on the table, lifting half an inch as though wanting to slam down. It doesn't, and instead he lifts his face from the eyepieces, setting his hands on the counter edge. "These…" His thumb taps the smooth counter. "How do they work, exactly? They target certain cells?" His dark eyes turn to Reighner.

Reighner shakes his head. "I don't know for sure." He points to the hollow and empty interior on the monitor. "The way we were approaching them, we would stuff the drug inside these tubes and cap the end. This cap be reactive to, say, UV light. And then we'd triangulate the UV light onto the tumor, so when the nanotubes flow past the tumor they'd rupture and release." He leans over and adjusts the focus. "But these things are fragmented, randomly-sized. I think their job was to just get into the bloodstream and release, uncoordinated."

Zaharis looks back at the monitor. He straightens up, folding his arms. "UV light," he repeats, more to himself than the Captain. "Theoretically, could they be triggered by other things?"

"Theoretically, we couldn't get the scale right to have the things react to anything, much less UV light," Reighner answers.

"Did you find where they came from?" Zaharis' voice sounds like he already has a feeling about it.

Reighner had been anticipating the question. He exhales as he leans forward and flips the stage on the microscope, moving it to the next slide. The nanotubes are visible, but much longer, spread among and intertangled with a rough-looking wire mesh. He says, with gravity, "This is a slice of the filter from one of Regas's cheroot butts."

Zaharis is still watching the monitor. His jaw moves as his teeth press together. "Those are still intact?"

"Yes," Reighner confirms, carefully.

Zaharis nods, slowly. "Is it possible to extract their contents?"

Reighner is quiet for a few seconds. "Do we want to?"

Zaharis exhales quietly through his nose. "If more of Regas' cigars got around this ship, then gods only know who's walking around with these things in them. If the cylons can trigger them at will…" He looks back at Reighner.

"We don't know if these things are triggerable, or if they just break open in shear force," Reighner says. He pauses, then says, carefully, "We also don't know what's in there, whether if our safety precautions are good enough to start cracking things open."

Zaharis rocks back on his heels and steps back from the microscope. He slides his hands into the pockets of the lab coat, slowly pacing down the length of the counter. For a few seconds the only sound is his boots. "What if we've been looking at cause and effect the wrong way?"

While Zaharis paces, Reighner stares at the damnable things on the monitor. He looks at the major. "What do you mean?"

Zaharis continues to walk. "We've been assuming that the drug or whatever it is in these tubes was designed to make someone committ suicide. Drug is A, suicide is B." As he pronounces the last words he brings his hands up, touching the sides of his index fingers together. He pauses his walking, looking back towards Reighner. "But why would they do that?"

"Hurt morale?" Reighner suggests.

"Possibly." Zaharis frowns. "But if you had an avenue into this ship through the most powerful person on it…why would you waste it like that?" His hands move slowly as he talks, as though trying to pull coherent thoughts out of his own mouth. "Only theorising. But…what if suicide wasn't B? What if it was C?"

Reighner nods slowly.

Zaharis falls silent a moment, looking back at the monitors. "I think we're missing layers. We've been able to see the suicides and so we've focused on them as the effect. But what we see isn't always all that's there." He leans back against the counter he's come to. "Can those things be detected in someone's bloodstream while they're still alive?"

"If it's there, I should be able to find it," Reighner says. "But without knowing its mechanism of action, I can't say for sure that somebody who inhaled those things will have it in the bloodstream." He drums his fingers on the table, peering over the rim of the monitor. "Whatever B could be, it could be way out there, something modern medicine may have ruled out as impossible."

"Two months ago, modern medicine would've told us that a spinal cord of regenerating silica was impossible," Zaharis says, looking at Reighner. "We're playing a different ball game now."

Reighner sighs. "That means a layman would be just as useful now." He runs his fingers along his lips and looks back at the screen. "And that means we're trying to weigh an egg with a ruler."

"Maybe." Zaharis folds his arms again. "I'm going to have Shem step up the search for anyone who got ahold of those cheroots. I'll need you to test them for these things. If they're positive, their recent behaviour might be able to tell us something without having to risk cracking those open."

Reighner nods. "Alright. I'll put his cheroots under positive pressure."

"Stellar," Zaharis replies, tonelessly. He pushes off the counter, walking over to have a last look at the monitor. His expression remains pensive, the screen's glow bringing out the dark areas under his eyes.

"You could do it, you know," Reighner says, non sequitur.

Zaharis still watches the screen. "Do what."

Reighner says, "Weigh an egg with a ruler." He smiles, thinly.

Zaharis hehs under his breath. "I'll stay open for inspiration."

Reighner nods a few times. He stands and goes to retrieve the positive-pressure chamber. "We could set up a rodent line, if we don't find anybody."

Zaharis steps out of Reighner's way and presses his lips together against a crooked smile. "Just don't give them guns."

Reighner makes an amused noise, not quite a chuckle. "This scares the living daylights out of me, Jesse," he mumbles as he picks up the small steel-rimmed glass chamber.

Zaharis is quiet for a few seconds, the moment of morbid humour giving way to tension in his forehead. "They're frakking with us," he says quietly, his tone only now willing to acknowledge this out loud. "They could jump in five basestars and our lives would be over before we could get off a shot, done. But they're playing games." He looks at the screen and then turns off the microscope with a soft click. "What the frak do they want from us?"

"Maybe we're their rodent line," Reighner says. He puts the chamber on the table and goes about setting up the air piping.

Zaharis looks back at Reighner, silent on that thought for a while. "You believe in free will?"

Reighner nods in answer. He seals the air hose with a turn of the connector and gives it a light tug.

"So do I." Zaharis slides his hands into his lab coat pockets. "That the universe is not deterministic. There are uncertainties…but they aren't something to fear." He looks at the case Reighner's setting up. "Mere act of observing a phenomenon influences its nature. Whatever they're trying to do to us, its effects are not in stone. If we can't have faith in anything else, we can have faith in that."

Reighner opens the valve, and the faint noise of rushing air fills the room. "With the way they're coming up with things, I'm not sure if they haven't adjusted for that," he says bleakly. He waves his hand. "Yeah, I know what you're saying."

Zaharis just nods. "You're doing your best, Matt. That's all any of us can do." He looks at the case again. "It has to add up to something." A lingering look at the work being done and its hoses and he turns, starting for the doors.

Reighner considers his words silently. He turns to the microscope and starts moving samples.

Zaharis presses the airlock button and waits for it to cycle, heading out and back to the conveyor belt of autopsies in the morgue.

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