A Growing Mystery PK Tomilson, Leadul 2006:05:03
When PK arrived at the isolab at the start of the morning shift, she was joined by Leadul, Logan, and Magee. Leadul said, "Ensign Varga just left for Engineering. She took a copy of the latest results of our scans on the microbes, and is going to see what she can do to help our transporter technicians adjust the bio-filter system. Shall we get suited up and see how our friends have fared overnight?"
Just listening to the sound of Leadul's voice seemed to relax PK. "I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed our dinner last night, Leadul. The food and conversation were very good. I just hope our little friends inside have decided to do something besides lay there staring up at us."
She made her way to the sterile room where she stripped down, scrubbed up and put on the necessary garments needed to enter the lab. She hated the bulky suits but realized that they were a necessary evil. Once suited up everyone walked into the lab, listening for the distinctive "hiss" of the chamber door closing behind them.
Logan and Magee headed over to the experiment that Magee had left the night before, while Leadul and PK crossed the lab to their own experiment. PK looked at Leadul as they walked across the room, "So, do you think increasing the oxygen content did anything to these little critters?"
"It certainly looked as if it might," he said. "Let's find out." He stopped as he reached the sample container, peering inside. "Well, well, well," he murmured, stepping aside to let PK get closer. "Have a look."
It took a moment to see, but then she spotted it: where the night before there had only been a minute chip of rock, which had to be scanned with a microscope to see the living creatures on it, now there was a tiny, dark orange spot. Barely a millimeter in diameter. But clearly visible to the eye.
Looking in the sample container PK's eyes grew wide. "OH my, they have grown quite a bit considering how small they were. At least now we can see them without a microscope. I wonder what would happen if we increased the oxygen a little more and perhaps added some pressure as well."
Pausing for a moment, she let a thought run through her mind. "Leadul, do you think that there is enough of the microbes that we could take a small sample to examine under the scope? Now that they are slightly bigger I would be curious to see what they look like. Are they stationary or are they moving around?" She had so many questions running around in her head she didn't know where to start.
"We should be able to get a small bit off this colony," he said. "It's still hard to tell whether or how much they're moving -- but a look under the scope should tell that. Do you suppose we should put the sample into some kind of growth medium, while we look at it? I have no idea what they eat, but they must eat something. We have several varieties of growth medium we could choose from."
Looking at Leadul PK smiled, "That makes two of us my friend. I to am at a loss as to what they eat. I wonder if we were to retrieve a big enough sample, if we couldn't divide it even further and try several different mediums. At least that way we could either eliminate or decide what they do thrive on. They may not be moving much but at least we are making some progress. Hopefully soon we will know more."
"I would think so," Leadul said. He pointed to a rack with several shelves of petri dishes. "Let's pull one from each stack, three in all," he said. "If you could get one dish of each type, I will slice up this little colony into four pieces -- I'll leave one behind as a control and we'll place the others into the dishes."
He pulled a case from the shelf below the rack of petri dishes, opening it and retrieving a tiny knife. He settled himself into a chair in front of the container where the microbe colony was kept, reaching inside through a sealed port to access the sample inside, and began cutting it apart.
Watching Leadul work was a sight to see. PK couldn't believe how precise and patient he was while working through a sample port and an EVA suit. She saw the port on the opposite side of the container and pulled a chair up. She took the petri dishes and carefully inserted them, along with her hands into the chamber, placing them as close to Leadul as possible without disturbing his painstaking work.
As he cut a slice and placed it in the container, PK placed a lid on the dish and labeled it as to what number sample it was or if it was the control. She was quite interested to see which growth medium would produce the most results, if any. She had learned long ago not to get her hopes up too high.
Without looking away from her work she spoke through the microphone in her headset, "I wonder how far Toni has gotten with regard to science and the bio-filters? I still don't understand why the filters had no affect on these little critters? I suppose we will find out soon enough." She continued to watch Leadul work with ease and comfort, wishing she had the patience he had.
"I suspect these little fellows have a makeup different enough from anything we already know, that the filters aren't programmed for it," Leadul said as he continued working. "The information we've already gained should be enough to settle that for now -- we won't accidentally bring any of them in with us. Still, it does expose a rather fundamental problem with the whole bio-filter system. Perhaps some of what we do here can help with that also."
He finished the slicing, and as PK finished marking up the containers, took the knife, passed it through a sonic cleaner and returned it to its case. "Now again, we wait," he said. "Perhaps we can get some monitor cameras set up on these samples, so that we can watch them without having to stay directly in the lab. What do you think?"
"I think that would be a great idea. I must say Leadul, I enjoy working with you. While the cameras are doing the watching for us, perhaps we could work with someone in science regarding those biofilters or some other way to communicate with them."
Heading to the decontamination room PK began the procedure of decontamination, which was almost as long as the procedure to get ready to enter the lab. Maybe she would use some of the time spent waiting to talk to Leadul some more, or perhaps call Sam. **Everything depends on those little critters,** she thought.
-- "The weather's fine but there may be a meteor shower..."
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