(continued from previous) “Michael – you have to come look at this”
Olivia lifted her eyes off the microscope, turning her attention to the rack of fresh samples that had just arrived by air less than an hour ago. They looked denser already.
‘’It’s growing real fast. This is incredible. What kind of phytoplankton does this?”
“One that has a few bizarre matches in our DNA database, apparently” – Michael replied, as he scrolled down the list of matches that the sequencer had spit out. This was a phytoplankton alright, but an interesting one: a few of its DNA sequences matched those of thermophilic bacteria, some of them anaerobes – much like those found in deep sea vents.
“It says Possible New Species in the database but I think we’re looking at some kind of horizontal gene transfer event. I mean, it is a phytoplankton, but these heat resistant protein-coding sequences do not belong to phytoplankton, period. There’s a bunch of other random stuff in here, I don’t even know what it does. Some of it shows up as junk DNA. I’ll tell you one thing, this bug is one little freakshow. Who knows how all this stuff got in here”
“And what about these mutations here and here? Oh, and there’s that one too’’ – Olivia replied. “Jesus, they’re all showing up as novel sequences. I mean, I know this thing has been dividing like crazy over the past few months, it was only a matter of time before it would eventually develop new variants. But given our situation here, I think we might be looking at some pretty significant new adaptations”
They both took a moment to let their own words sink in. Slowly, but steadily, their heads began to turn towards each other. Their eyes locked, tongues became numb. They didn’t want to say it. They didn’t want to even entertain the possibility, the very real chance that a biologist’s urban legend could actually become reality: that they might be looking at the beginning of The Veil.
George is an author, researcher, podcast host, chemist, molecular biologist and food scientist. You can follow him on Twitter @99blackbaloons , listen to his Spotify podcast George reads George, sign up for blog alerts below, or enjoy his books