Even though the Diphenhydramine did its job and put Liz out like a light fairly quickly, the sleep that came next was hardly peaceful. That stuff almost always gave her outrageous dreams and tonight was no exception. In the dream she found herself walking alone and naked through a dark cave with the only source of light being a flashlight she was carrying. She intrinsically knew that this was the same cave that the Akagi research team had been exploring, even though she didn't actually know what the cave looked like due to the lack of video or images included with the log. Her subconscious was simply painting its own interpretation of the place and making her feel as though she was there. The rocky walls were a dull, indistinct grey and there was a low, mournful howling sound of wind blowing through the tunnels around her. She felt understandably nervous as she wandered down the passage, uncertain what she was looking for but certain she would find it soon. The dream seemed to be operating on autopilot without letting her have direct control over her actions, as she undoubtedly would not have proceeded deeper down into that cave if she had had the choice.
Before long she arrived in the oasis chamber and her brain painted a vivid alien picture of it. There was the pool of water she'd read about, but rather than one small plant in the corner of the chamber, it was a massive tentacled nest of vines and bulbs filling the entire thing. The walls, floor, and ceiling were simply covered in undulating, writhing, glistening moist tendrils of varying thicknesses and lengths. The only area not covered was the water itself, but even there she could see that its slimy "roots" had slid down into the water to cover the rocks at the bottom. The vines were colored with a mixture of traditional bright green that normal plants wore as well as the jet black she'd seen her plant sample turn back in the lab. It had dozens of those thick bulbous pods too, some having mouths with plush lips like the log described, some being more like the squirt pods she'd seen back in the lab. The tentacles were slowly and quietly wriggling and sliding across one another, but once she arrived at the mouth of the chamber they all halted, as if the plant had sensed her.
A storm of mixed emotions raced through Liz's mind. Fear, disgust, fascination, horror, arousal, and the need to know more all flashed through her mind, causing her guts to sink and her loins to burn. Her logical side wanted to turn and run but her lustful side was more than eager to stride right into the tangled warren to experience all the carnal delights it could offer. The dream didn't give her the choice though, it continued to steer her down the path of lust. So she smiled, tossed her flashlight aside, and walked right into the twisted den of corruption.
Almost immediately she could feel it as the warm, wet, slithering tendrils wrapped around her feet and began to coil up her legs. Internally she was shocked at how lifelike the sensations were; usually her dreams never could manage to replicate physical sensation at all, let alone with this degree of vivid clarity. The soft texture of their moist skin was wonderfully velvety and flexible, and the tentacles gripped her firmly without using enough force to make it feel unpleasant. Dozens upon dozens of them reached up from the mass covering the floor, encasing her feet first, then her lower calves, then climbing up her thighs toward her waist and groin. Then she felt them probing tentatively at her womanhood, slowly and cautiously at first, almost as if they were waiting for consent before penetration. Liz's lust was still firmly in control of the dream and so she moaned out an eager affirmation into the still air of the chamber.
"Yes! Take me! Make me one with you!"
The creature didn't need to be told twice. One tentacle slithered up inside her, followed quickly by a second and then a third. Their narrow tips meant all three fit comfortably, and Liz gasped from the sensation. It was so real! Was this actually a dream?! Her knees wobbled as she felt them plunging deeper and deeper and for a moment she nearly fell forward into the mass. But then tentacles darted up to curl around her waist and wrists in order to prop her up and provide support. Those tentacles then began to climb up her arms and torso, encasing more and more of her with every passing second. Yet despite her logical side crying out in alarm in the back of her mind, something about their warm sticky embrace felt so oddly... welcoming. Their grip was gentle and careful as if the creature didn't want to hurt her, and the way they rubbed and pressed against her seemed to convey genuine affection. Everything about the way it moved and behaved communicated a sense that it valued her like a treasure and wanted to embrace and protect her. She could practically sense its loving emotions as if it was projecting them psychically into her mind. She released a soft moan again as those tendrils curled around her perky breasts. The narrow tips tweaked her nipples, causing her back to arch and her muscles to tense.
"M-more!" She gasped out.
It happily obliged.
Deeper and deeper those tendrils plunged, soon finding her cervix and tickling it playfully. Every inch seemed to narrow to fit no matter how deep it went, and they glid so wonderfully against her G-spot. Soon her entire body was encased in warm slimy flesh all the way up to her neck and she couldn't move any part of herself without tremendous exertion. The constant stimulation over every inch of her skin was vivid and overwhelming, and by now her mind was so addled in bliss that she couldn't think straight. The mental sensation of love and protectiveness and possessiveness grew stronger by the second, and then one of the tentacles climbed up her neck to probe at her mouth.
It seemed like taste was the only sense that this dream couldn't mimic. As soon as Liz opened her mouth to welcome that slithery appendage inside, the dream failed to give it any sort of flavor whatsoever. Perhaps her subconscious simply didn't know what it would actually taste like despite the fact that she'd written smutty stories about it before and described it as salty and musky in the past. This began to slightly break the immersion of the dream for her, but that break only occupied her attention for a brief moment since something else began to happen. She saw one of those fleshy pods approaching her face next, specifically one of the ones with a large human-like mouth with plush lips. It grinned at her and then began to morph and transform. It split open along multiple seams like a flower bud and revealed a hollow interior, then moved in to wrap its massive fleshy "petals" around her head! The world went dark as her entire head was encased in it, and that was what finally snapped Liz awake out of the dream.
Liz bolted upright in bed to the sound of her alarm screeching harshly. She looked over at the glowing holo-screen and saw the telltale numbers blinking at her. 5AM was here again. She slammed her palm on the button to squelch the alarm and sat up, panting softly. Her body was overheated and dripping with sweat, and her groin was on fire with need. So it had been a dream after all. She sat in dark silence and took some deep breaths to calm herself down as she processed the experience. Damn, that log had really done a number on her hadn't it? She frowned and closed her eyes, then called out a verbal command.
"Persephone, lights on please. Reduce room temperature to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Begin Debussy Playlist 4 from the beginning."
"Right away Doctor Marcelline." The AI replied cheerfully.
The bright sterile room lights flashed on and stung Liz's eyes even through her closed eyelids. The music soothed the sting but it wasn't nearly enough to ease the unpleasantness of waking up. She growled wordlessly to herself and scooted to the edge of her bed. There was that horrible grogginess from the Diphenhydramine still in her system. It hadn't had the chance to fully wear off just as she feared and it made her feel like utter garbage. She desperately wanted to crawl back into bed despite the gross, humid heat and sweat. Worse than that she was still desperately horny after that dream had left her hanging. Even if she wanked herself raw in the shower she didn't know how she was going to deal with looking at her subject again back in the lab. It was going to be a looooooooong day.
Chapter 5: Raising the Stakes
Liz was grateful for the near-magical effects that simple masturbation had. A few back-to-back wanks in the shower had cleared her horny thoughts up nicely, and then a big steaming mug of black tea got her caffeinated enough to cancel out the miserable grogginess of the lingering Diphenhydramine in her system. She still felt the exhaustion nipping at the back of her brain though; the caffeine was merely a wall that held it at bay temporarily. She could feel it out there, ready to come swooping back in the moment the tea wore off. She decided to grab a second mug after getting dressed in order to add more to her system, knowing that once she was in her isolation suit back in the lab she wouldn't be able to drink any more. She threw on her skintight jumpsuit and chugged mug number two, then grabbed the briefcase and left her quarters with a resigned sigh.
Normally this walk across the station was highly routine. She had every intersection, pathway, and maintenance tunnel on this shithole committed to memory after living here so long and she could probably even hit the correct floor buttons in the lifts without even being awake. But this time something broke the routine. She was halfway to the laboratory wing when she was interrupted by the sound of a male voice calling out behind her in a casual tone.
"Well well well, if it isn't the famous Doctor Elizabeth Marcelline."
Liz rolled her eyes quickly before turning around to see who was talking to her. She was glad she finished the gesture before turning though, as her gaze fell upon the immediately recognizable uniform of a Remarian Navy Admiral. She instinctively jolted to attention in front of the man and went silent as she took in his appearance. He was a Gol'remar, which were the founders of the Remarian Concordat, of which she was a citizen. They were reptilian aliens with three legs, long tails, green scales, and a fearsome predatory appearance. This one was particularly tall and muscular, having impressive biceps that barely fit in his olive drab uniform. He had especially bright, vivid green scales and a longer, more pronounced muzzle than most Gol'remar. When he spoke he had a thick Remarian accent, which caused his vowels to sound short and choppy while his consonants were thicker and more weighty. His uniform was covered in dozens of medals and pins of various types, indicating that he was a highly decorated officer with plenty of engagements under his belt. Gol'remar culture had a bit of a fetish for military exploits and glory, and this showed in his colorful array of accolades. His name badge read "R. Nassom."
"Sir!" Liz said respectfully.
Admiral Nassom strode up to her and eyed her curiously. He seemed to be sizing her up for a few moments while deciding what to say to her.
"So you're the one Lisattra has assigned to the new top case, eh? She's said a lot of good things about you. You have a very high bar to live up to."
"I won't let her down, sir!" Liz said in a stoic tone.
Of course, deep down Liz was quite shocked to hear that Lisattra had been talking her up. Given how much she loved to get under her skin, she expected her to trash talk her at any given opportunity. Then she realized that perhaps this Admiral Nassom was a lot more of a power player than his rank implied. She had to take this extra seriously.
"Hmm, it's not her you should worry about letting down, Doctor." Nassom said dryly. He then licked his chops in a mildly threatening manner, showing off the razor sharp teeth that lined the interior of his muzzle. "Tell me Doctor, how many other humans are working on your team in the lab right now?"
"None sir, I'm the only person of any species with sufficient clearance to work on the current project. All the others have been assigned to shore leave for the entire duration." She replied.
"Hmmmm, curious. I suppose it's just a coincidence that Admiral Lisattra, one of the top ranked humans in the Remarian Navy, also chose a human to be her top researcher on a project of this importance?"
Liz steeled herself and kept her expression totally dispassionate even as her gut churned. There was the real reason why this Nassom was here. Humans were a relatively recent addition to the Remarian Concordat, which was a multi-species Galactic Federation with the Gol'remar at the head. Humans and Gol'remar had fought a horrifying war immediately after establishing first contact with each other and had fought to a complete draw after a decade of bloody conflict. Because of this war the Gol'remar had been very reluctant to allow humanity to join their Concordat afterward, despite all the other Federation members absolutely insisting on it. Humans and Gol'remar had had an unsteady peace and understanding since then, but racism and mistrust still was a lingering problem between them. Undoubtedly this Admiral Nassom was poking around for any weaknesses or mistakes that he could then drag out and exploit as a reason to have Lisattra and herself taken off the project. Anger and indignation welled up in Liz's belly; she resented the fact that someone else would want to fuck over her boss. Nobody else was allowed to fuck with Lisattra except her! She bit back that resentment and gave a smooth, neutral reply to Nassom's question.
"It's not my place to question Admiral Lisattra's professional judgment, sir. But I do know she has run a tight ship and there have been no accidental releases of any biological agents aboard this station ever since she took over."
"So I've seen from the records." Nassom replied, maintaining his same cool, analytical dispassion.
He began to circle Liz painfully slowly, his three feet making a distinct clomp-clomp-clomp on the steel grating floor. He was like a predator eying up its prey before a kill, a fact that wasn't lost on Liz since she knew Gol'remar were obligate carnivores who were infamous for killing and eating humans during the war. He seemed to be intentionally allowing a painfully long, tense silence to grow between them as he circled her, waiting for her to make a mistake. Eventually he asked her another question.
"What can you tell me about your current project, Doctor Marcelline?"
"With all due respect sir, nothing while we're out here in a public space. The information is too classified, we need to choose a room and enact proper information control protocols." Liz replied simply.
An angry look crossed the Admiral's face and he bore his fangs at her. Liz's heart rate practically doubled on the spot but she stood firm.
"If you didn't notice, Doctor Marcelline, I outrank you by several measures! I can order you to tell me whatever I like!"
"Respectfully sir, you cannot. Only Grand Fleet Admiral Bevelne has the authority to declassify my current project." Liz replied.
"BULLSHIT!" Nassom yelled, getting up right in her face. He yelled so loudly that it produced wind that blew Liz's hair backward and she felt his spittle speckling her face. "I order you to tell me everything right now or I'll have you hauled off to the brig on the spot!"
"Very well sir. I understand the law, I'll take the brig over the summary execution I'd earn for violating Omega Prime protocols." Liz replied firmly.
That seemed to take the wind out of Nassom's sails. His rage instantly dissolved into an impressed smile.
"Hmm, impressive Doctor. So you do have a spine under that squidgy mammalian skin of yours. Perhaps Lisattra did choose someone with the strength to handle this." He replied, then resumed circling her.
Liz had had a feeling this was a test. She'd gone through similar rituals after being freshly recruited into the Remarian Navy when she was younger. These meatheaded Gol'remar brass just loved their chest-thumping stoicism and machismo.
"Follow me, Doctor. We're going to a private room to enable those information control protocols right now."
"Yes sir. Persephone, make note of this meeting on my schedule so Admiral Lisattra doesn't mark me as late for my shift." Liz said.
"Of course Doctor, meeting has been documented."
Admiral Nassom then led Liz down a hallway to the left and around a few more corners before finding a suitable side room with a table where they could sit. He ordered the proper protocols for Omega Prime as he sat down, then addressed Liz with a more relaxed and informal tone.
"At ease, doctor. I'd like to ask you some questions about your project. Off the record of course."
"Sure thing, but fair warning, I'm only on day two of my research so I haven't had the chance to actually gather and record much data yet. I'll answer to the best of my ability but I'll need more time to get a comprehensive report put together." Liz replied frankly.
Of course, even though Liz was allowing herself to be a lot less formal now at the admiral's behest, she still wasn't planning on tipping her hand completely. She knew enough about Remarian politics to know there was always some degree of backstabbing intrigue going on everywhere at all times, so it was up to her to protect herself and Lisattra as best as she could while still technically following Nassom's orders.
"I understand that, Doctor. With a biological agent this potentially dangerous you really have to, how do you humans say it, cross all your T's and dot all your I's. Doesn't mean I can't try. Tell me, do you think that your lack of lab staff will negatively impact the speed of your work or the safety of the lab?" Nassom asked.
"No sir. If anything it will enhance it. Since you invited me to speak frankly, most of the lower ranked lab staff are utterly incompetent fuckwits. That assessment crosses all species boundaries, including both humans and Gol'remar. They're drunkards and fools, and frankly their continued presence on this station is one of the main points of contention between Admiral Lisattra and I. If I were in her shoes I would have shipped them all off to a different deployment years ago. If I had to guess, I think they're only still here because there's such a shortage of staff with the necessary clearance levels, and that's a problem I believe to be endemic to the entire Remarian Navy, not just this station."
Nassom smirked in amusement and nodded his head. "I see. What can you tell me about this virus itself?"
"Not a huge amount yet. I still haven't even gotten data back from my Gene Sequencers. But I can tell you the basics. It's a retrovirus, which means it uses RNA molecules to inject its genetic material directly into a host cell in order to infect it. RNA being basically like a discount knock-off of DNA, the real stuff that all our cells use to store our genetics. Normally with Retroviruses, the viral genes wait for a specific trigger before starting to make the cell mass produce a shitload more viruses. This goes on until the cell is so full of viruses that it literally explodes, releasing all the new virus particles into the body to begin the cycle anew. But 35634R is unique, it's perhaps the strangest retrovirus I've ever seen. Instead of turning its host cells into suicidal virus factory bombs, it seems to make those cells into slow, steady virus producers without causing them to rupture and die. Moreover, 35634R has at least 20x more genetic material than any other virus I've studied, and the insertion of these genes seems to cause the host cells to mutate and take on alien traits. While it does appear to trigger immune responses such as fevers, it doesn't seem to cause any sort of actual physical damage to the hosts themselves. At least, none that I've seen yet." Liz explained.
"Hmm, interesting. If it doesn't damage the host though, then why do you think it was rated a Rank 10?" Nassom asked.
"Well sir you have to remember that this was an initial tentative ranking. Anytime we encounter a new pathogen and don't have all the information about it, our people have to make an educated guess about its nature until we have had the time to fill in the gaps. Moreover, it's considered wise to err on the side of caution when making initial rank estimates. Better to over-rank a new pathogen and keep it thoroughly contained than to underestimate it and risk letting it cause an outbreak." Liz explained.
"That seems logical enough. Then do you think that 35634R will have its rank downgraded based on what you've observed in the lab so far?"
"To be honest sir? I can't answer that with any measure of confidence yet, at least if I'm answering in a professional capacity. Until I at least get the data back from my gene sequencers it would be highly unprofessional to speculate that much. Speaking off the record though? My personal opinion is that this fucker's gonna stay a 10 easily. You have to remember, the numerical ranking system isn't based solely on lethality. It's a mathematical composite of quantifiable measured traits that include lethality rate, The R0 rating of infectiousness, number and severity of symptoms, longevity of these symptoms, and potential disruptiveness of an outbreak to civilization at large. The mutations I've seen 35634R create seem quite permanent, and moreover would be extremely disruptive to civilization if a large scale outbreak were to occur. And even if its only 100% confirmed vector for transmission is via liquid right now, I have already seen the first test subject mutate in order to produce some sort of aerosol. I didn't dare open the chamber to gather a sample due to the risk of releasing that aerosol, but I have no reason to believe it's not also an airborne transmission vector. Confirmation of that would make 35634R a planet-destroying threat on par with the Xel'Ton Plague. Or worse."
Nassom's semi-casual expression sagged into a look of deadly seriousness. "Hmm, I see. What exactly are these mutations that you've mentioned?"
"It's fucking weird, Admiral. Weirdest thing I've ever seen in my entire career. I'm assuming you've read those audio log transcriptions, right? The ones that described the "Patient Zero" creature as some sort of hybrid plant-animal thing? Well, during my first exposure test in the lab yesterday I managed to replicate that creature. I injected 35634R into a small rose bush and it morphed into a highly motile animal-plant hybrid creature. Not only did it have muscular tissue like one of us, but, well, it did something really really weird that defied my understanding."
"How weird are we talking?"
"Like, not explainable by our current scientific models of physics level of weird. It seemed to sense my presence even though the test chamber is perfectly engineered to not allow any possible types of signals through."
"Huh. Go on..."
"Well, you know how in that transcription, the "Patient Zero" creature sensed the presence of the Akagi team and sprayed them with fluid to infect them? My Test Subject also seemed to do that. But the test chamber is perfectly insulated. There should have been no way for the subject to detect my presence. The chamber blocks heat, light, radio waves, gamma waves, all of it! Yet the thing still sensed my presence and aimed a spray of its infectious juice right in my direction. The wall physically blocked it of course, but frankly I don't have a goddamn clue how it knew where to aim."
"Hmmm, do you suppose it's psychic, like the Seva'kii?" Nassom asked.
"Even if it is sir, psionic frequencies are included in the forms of energy that the test chamber is designed to block. Even a Seva'kii Elder couldn't smash their way through it with their telepathy." Liz replied.
"What are the chances that the chamber's psionic insulation could be flawed even if all the other insulation types are still working perfectly?"
"I'm no materials engineer, but given the rigorous amounts of testing your people did on all the components before installation it has to be an extremely small probability."
Nassom hummed and steepled his fingers, laying his muzzle atop them thoughtfully. He seemed to be struck by a realization, then grinned.
"Doctor, do you know what this means? There's a chance that this test subject of yours may have developed an organic organ capable of a new type of physics. Something that can sense the presence of a living being even through perfect concealment. I don't think I need to tell you how potentially valuable that is, do I? The military applications alone are staggering."
"I had a feeling you would say that." Liz said flatly.
"Doctor, are you familiar with a sapient species of aliens known as the Nyctarians?" Nassom asked.
"Just a little, the common knowledge. That they're a race of weird hybrid reptile-insectoids that love stealth and tend to hate everyone else."
"So you have heard of just how powerful their cloaking technology is then."
"Mhmmm, and I see where you're going with this. You think we could harness 35634R's sensory capabilities to see through Nyctarian Cloaking Devices." Liz replied with a nod.
"Exactly. The Nyctarians are one of the few races in the entire galaxy with technology more advanced than ours. Not even the finest work of all the species in the Remarian Concordat combined can design a sensor suite that can see through a Nyctarian Cloak. If you can analyze and isolate the properties of 35634R's new sensory organ then we could neutralize the Nyctarian threat to our people entirely. You'd be a hero, Doctor Marcelline."
Liz smirked. "With all due respect Admiral, you and I both know that's bullshit. This is all Omega Prime, and any sensor tech I can help you build is going to remain Omega Prime. Nobody in the Galaxy other than top brass like you will ever know I even existed. The idea that I'd be hailed as a hero is laughable."
Nassom smirked right back at her in response. "Well, do you want to be hailed as a hero, Doctor?"
Liz knew what he was implying and she quickly shook her head. "Frankly? Not really. I've designed so many horrible nightmare plagues for you people that there's no way you'd be able to be honest with anyone about me or my career. If you wanted to make me into a hero figure you'd have to fabricate an entirely brand new life story out of whole cloth in order to sell to the public. The idea of me trying to remember and maintain all the details of that insane charade sounds frankly exhausting and miserable even if it does get me ego stroking and ass-pats. Remember admiral, if I gave a shit about fame and glory then I wouldn't have gotten into this line of work in the first place."
"Fair enough. What DO you want then, Doctor?" He asked.
"Me? Well I won't bullshit you admiral, I want money. Cold hard cash. I'm only still here on this miserable tin can of a station so I can finish out and get that pension. If you wanna light a fire under my ass to give you your magical new bio-sensor, then give me my pension early and upgrade it to the next pay grade rank."
Nassom broke out into laughter for a few brief moments. "You know, I see why Lisattra talks you up Doctor. I like you; you have an absolutely zero-bullshit attitude that I can respect the hell out of. Alright, you have a deal. Get me full isolation data on that sensory organ and I'll sign the papers to give you full retirement the moment your report is finished. I'll even give you one better, I'll upgrade you to a Captain's Pension."
"Done." Liz replied, then offered him her hand.
Nassom took it and shook it.
"Just remember what this means. No purging that test subject of yours until you can isolate the organ and obtain a sample of it for analysis. Your new pension relies entirely on figuring this out for me. We don't know if any new additional test subjects will also reproduce that same organ again and if I were in your position I wouldn't want to gamble that entire pension on such a dice roll." Nassom replied.
"I'm well aware, Admiral. I won't be purging it anytime soon, unless it becomes an active threat to the safety of the station anyway."
"Good. I'm looking forward to reading your report." He replied, letting go of her hand.
"Fair warning though Admiral, Lisattra's not going to be happy when she hears that you undercut her authority to yank away her best researcher without consulting her. This place is gonna fucking fall to pieces after I leave and she's gonna want to have your scaly ass for breakfast over it." Liz said with a grin.
"Hah! I think I'd enjoy that, Doctor. Most humans I meet are simply too intimidated by my rank and stature to put up a decent fight. You get bored after awhile when everyone you meet wants to kiss your ass like they're taking it out on a fourth date. I revel in a good challenge."
"Well speaking from experience, hoo boy are you gonna get it." Liz laughed.
Liz didn't exactly initially expect to have come out of her meeting with Admiral Nassom in high spirits. When she walked into that meeting she had been psyching herself up for a total ruination of her day. But now she had a spring in her step as she walked to the doors of the decontamination chamber. The thought of getting out of this hellhole in a few short weeks to live the rest of her life in total comfort was perhaps the best possible mood lifter she could have ever asked for. She forgot completely about her creepy sexual dreams from last night and hummed a cheery tune to herself as she scoured her body clean in the decontamination shower. Even Persephone seemed to notice the change in Liz's demeanor, she chimed in as Liz finished strapping on her isolation suit.
"You seem to be in high spirits today Doctor Marcelline. Psychological profile analyses indicate your current mood status is a statistical outlier compared to your baseline. Gotten some good news lately?"
"You could say that! I'm not at liberty to discuss it presently though, it's a matter I arranged under Omega Prime protocols." Liz replied with a big grin.
"Ah, I understand and will not press any further. As for today's work, I unfortunately do not have any morning data summaries from the lab to present to you due to the Omega Prime protocols. I can only tell you that no isolation seals separating the lab wing from the rest of the station have reported any damage, so the lab is still in perfect isolation. You will have to gather the rest of the information yourself." Persephone replied.
"Thank you my dear, that will be all." Liz said as she typed her passcode into the numerical pad next the airlock leading into the lab chamber.
Liz did admit that she'd miss Persephone once she left this hellhole. The AI was always so unfailingly respectful, clever, and pleasant. Oh well, she'd given up on pleasant people before when she left her hometown to join the Remarian Navy and she could do it again. She put it out of her mind and resumed humming cheerfully as she put on one of her classical music playlists and then walked across the lab to assess the state of things. Her gene sequencer was gently chiming and flashing a green light to indicate it had finished, her sample incubator was intact and finished cycling without being filled with alien flesh, and her little "Subject" in the test chamber seemed to be alive and unchanged upon a brief and cursory first glance. Liz started by looking closely into the incubator to make sure there were no signs of smaller but still dangerous growths and was relieved to see that all the petri dishes appeared to be intact. The black gooey film inside them she'd seen yesterday was thicker now, but the water in the dishes had run out and this had prevented them from growing any further. She then went to check closer on her test chamber, figuring the gene sequencer data could wait.
Almost immediately it became apparent that Liz's cursory glance had missed out on several key developments; her little "Thirsty Bitch" hadn't been sitting completely idle over the course of the night. It had broken into the water tank that Liz had left sealed inside its chamber and completely sucked it dry! The thick plastic tank was totally ruptured by a horizontal squeeze, as though the plant creature had coiled a tentacle around it along the middle and constricted it until it broke. All of the water was gone and the tentacle tree had easily tripled in size using what it had taken. Now the trunk had grown so tall that it had pressed up against the ceiling of the chamber, and the roots and branches had multiplied so strongly that three of the walls of the chamber were completely covered in a mat of living flesh! But oddly enough, it hadn't covered the window. Liz narrowed her eyes as she connected the dots. It really did know there was a window there. She also noticed the fact that the main trunk in the center of the chamber was now over a foot thick and was visibly studded with what could only be described as huge, fleshy human breasts! Once again her heart began to race and her body began to heat up. Even with the relief she'd given herself in the shower that morning, Liz could tell her suit wouldn't take long to start feeling stuffy. With her hand shaking ever so slightly she found her audio recorder where she'd left it and picked it up to begin dictation.
"End log of Day 1. Begin log of Day 2. Time is 7:02AM. Initial observation of rose bush test subject reveals a number of startling developments that have taken place during my evening absence. The most immediate one is the fact that the subject appears to have used its tentacles to constrict the sealed plastic water jug that I had placed in its chamber until it ruptured. This was undoubtedly done to obtain the water within for consumption. The water was completely consumed and undoubtedly used for metabolic growth, which allowed the subject to triple its size. Trunk is over a foot in diameter now, reaching all the way up to the ceiling of the test chamber and pressing against it. The majority of the trunk's outer surface appears to be covered in... human mammary organs. The number and mass of tentacle appendages has tripled as well, to the point where the floor, three walls, and ceiling are all completely covered. Yet the wall which contains the viewing window is totally uncovered, further confirming my hypothesis from yesterday that the plant has a degree of awareness of my presence."
She paused the recorder and then tapped her fingers on her chin. Now that the ceiling was covered there was no way she could open the chamber to collect samples or perform tests on the creature at all. She still had that armature inside the chamber that she could control, and it did have a cutting probe that she could use to try slicing tentacles away from the sealed door in the ceiling, but seeing how the thing had cracked open that inch-thick plastic walled jug like an overripe melon made her think twice. If it ever had reason to consider the armature a threat it probably had the strength to pick it up and rip it to pieces. She felt stumped, so Liz did what she always did when faced with a dead end, she set it aside and temporarily changed her focus to another avenue. So she walked over to the gene sequencer and brought up the results.
At first glance, the output from the sequencer was strange, but in a subtle way. It was standard procedure that the machine opened multiple windows with different sets of data when it finished, starting first with the raw gene sequence and then adding a list of identified genes that it shared with other species. But beyond Liz's cursory glimpse at these, there were two unusual things going on here. The first was in the content of the gene list, the second was an error message blinking underneath the data windows. Liz didn't consciously notice the error message at first because of how utterly transfixed she was by the weirdness in the list of shared genes. It contained entries from a number of known retroviruses from Earth, Sarne, and Remaria, which made sense on its face but gave Liz pause. Was this thing evolutionarily related to life from a bunch of different planets? Had its ancestors been carried from world to world via a starship some time in the unknown past? She scrolled through the list some more and the rest of the entries only deepened the mystery. There were genes directly taken from actual humans, Gol'remar, and Sarienne!
"What the actual flying fuck?!" Liz whispered.
Again 35634R was doing things she'd never even heard of in her entire career. Sure, some viruses were known to occasionally absorb some genetic material from their hosts via a process known as Horizontal Gene Transfer, but it never was done on this scale. There seemed to be thousands of intact human, Sarienne, and Gol'remar genes here. This explained the rows of tits on the trunk of course. It also explained why 35634R was so gigantic in size; it needed the sheer bulk in order to hold all this RNA. But what evolutionary purpose did carrying this many foreign genes serve? She kept scrolling and saw it shared some genes with plants native to a few Remarian secondary planets as well a few genes from the spaceborne alien species known as the Seva'kii, and then the rest was marked as entirely unknown. Once Liz reached the end of the list she noticed that the window which normally contained data from simulating the virus was missing, replaced with the blinking error message that she'd been putting off reading. She brought it up and then frowned when she read it.
"WARNING: All simulation attempts terminated due to timeouts. Estimated required time to completion exceeded the 500 hour set maximum limit!"
"Fuck." Liz growled.
This was the first time that Liz had ever seen this happen. Usually the sequencer was able to handily simulate the properties of a micro-organism using its genome in as little as 10 hours. But for 35634R the computer wasn't strong enough to simulate the entire genome. That made sense, it was only made to simulate the genomes of actual normal viruses, not this bulking behemoth. She'd need a stronger system to actually simulate 35634R. So Liz grabbed a small data chip and put an Omega Prime sticker onto it to mark it properly, then stuck it into the sequencer and copied the entire genome file to the chip. She took the chip over to a much larger computer bank near the entrance of the room and plugged it in, then copied the data over and initialized a simulation. The screen gave her an estimated completion time that still made her groan.
"Time to completion: 39 hours, 42 minutes, 17 seconds."
"Well fuck. Guess this whole project is gonna just keep stretching into eternity isn't it? Fucking hell."
Liz then decided to waste some time on more dull, dry procedure to give her brain some more time to think. First she affixed Omega Prime stickers on the gene sequencer and computer she had used, allocating them for complete wipes and reformats after the project was over. She then walked over to her incubator and got to work carefully pulling petri dishes out one by one to harvest her new samples. She fully expected this to be dull work scraping out the dishes into sample vials and then putting the empty dishes into a sterilizer unit, but there was a part of her that still remembered how huge those growths had gotten yesterday and how they had moved on their own. Her instincts suddenly warned her that this could be more dangerous than she expected, so she frowned and reached in with extra care.
A closer look at the black filmy goop revealed that it wasn't actually solid flesh, but some sort of thick, viscous liquid instead. She was relieved of course. Even though the incubator was physically attached to an isolation hood that she was using to manipulate the samples, she imagined that a living fleshy mutagen creature could still grow fangs and bite through the gloves she was using to work in that hood. Some simple viral ooze was quite safe by comparison. Even if she dropped and shattered a petri dish, the isolation hood would keep it safely contained. The only annoying part was that the ooze was too thick to suck up into a standard pipette. So Liz worked for hours cutting samples of the ooze into tiny chunks and scraping them into vials while letting her brain percolate on what to do next.
Due to the excessive safety protocols that Liz had to adhere to while transferring samples it took two and a half hours for her to properly decant and transfer every single sample to a sealed vial. Technically Rank 10 protocols dictated that she should have been using more of those self-sealing glass jars that her first samples had come in, but the lab here didn't have the capability to manufacture them so she was forced to use the next best thing. At least Omega Prime protocols meant that the lab's cameras were all shut off and wouldn't record her disregarding that safety reg. As she finished up sealing the last vial she counted a solid 50 samples now and grinned. More than enough to fulfil her quota to send to other labs for additional testing with plenty to spare. She could do several more live exposure tests with all these spare samples. Given the simulator wasn't going to finish for nearly two whole days, this would probably be the best use of her time anyway. She smiled as her playlist moved to "Crisotofori's Dream" by David Lanz. Even if this song was a bit anachronistic for her playlists she still loved the broad spectrum of poignant emotions it contained. It made her smile broadly as she began to transfer sample vials out of the isolation hood and into a cryo-storage freezer.
Then, when all the work was finished on the samples, Liz briefly stared into the test chamber with her Thirsty Bitch inside. She checked the readouts and noticed that the aerosol it had been spraying earlier was gone. It must have sensed her absence and stopped producing it. The stuff must have settled out of the air too, as the sensors were no longer displaying any warnings about detecting the unknown airborne agent. The buds it had formed for those phallic flowers also seemed to have closed up. Well, that was a start at least. Still she couldn't help but frown a bit; she still had no idea how to safely open the chamber with all those tentacles on the door. One part of her pondered whether it would even bother reaching its tentacles into the airlock above the chamber if there were no living organisms inside for it to infect. Perhaps it was only focused on other living beings like her? This was still a bit too much of a risk for Liz; for all she knew it might have developed neural tissue too and have some sort of rudimentary instincts to escape.
"Hmph, fucking bitch. I can't purge you, I can't work on you, I can't do anything." she mumbled to herself in frustration.
Out of petty annoyance and perhaps a mote of curiosity, she grabbed the controls on the console for the chamber and used them to steer the armature sitting inside. She jabbed the trunk with its sample-collector needle, almost expecting it to lash out violently in return. Strangely enough the plant hardly seemed to react; it used one tentacle to bat away the armature with hardly enough force to move it. It still made a hearty WHUMP on the robot arm despite the comparative lack of force, but there was no damage.
"Surprisingly gentle aren't you?" Liz mused.
She then decided to just risk trying to use the cutter. She hit the button to swap heads on the armature and a tiny little laser moved up into place. She maneuvered it to aim at the mat of tentacles attached to the roof of the chamber and then hit the firing button. A hair-thin little purple beam flashed on, searing a smoking hole directly through the flesh. Liz couldn't hear it through the soundproofed walls of the chamber, but there was a microphone inside that picked up the distinct inhuman shrieking sound that the creature made. It immediately grabbed the armature with one tentacle and yanked it away, causing the beam to be pulled out of effective range. It then aimed one of its squirter pods right at the laser probe and let loose a spray of the same translucent green fluid. The stuff got into the electronic components of the laser and it shorted out with a sharp electric POP!
"Guess I probably should have seen that coming." Liz grumbled.
Fortunately the plant creature didn't rip the armature apart like Liz had feared. It let go entirely once the arm was wrenched away, contented to have stopped the attack on its body. Fizzling smoke wafted out of the fried laser probe, so Liz swapped it back to the sample needle instead. She grabbed her audio recorder and flipped it back on.
"Time is 9:46AM now. I have attempted to use the laser cutter head on the robotic armature to clear the mat of fleshy biomass from the roof of the test chamber. The subject responded to the damage by wrapping a large muscular tentacle around the arm and pulling it away. It then sprayed infectious fluid into the sensitive laser components, resulting in the cutter shorting out and being rendered inoperable. I suspect that this is an instinctual reaction to any hostile action and is intended to spread the virus to any organism deemed hostile. I do not believe this is evidence that the creature understands how to short out electric components. It returned to its previous docile state afterward, indicating an unwillingness to continue hostile actions even toward a threat that hasn't yet been rendered fully neutralized. I suspect this indicates an evolutionary adaptation toward prioritizing the spread of infection over self defense."
She paused the recording again and hummed as she tapped the console with one finger. The ceiling of the chamber was still covered and now she had no way to clear the flesh away. She still had no ideas for how to proceed and it wasn't even close to lunchtime yet. She knew she needed to shift her focus to something else again in order to let her brain percolate on this problem some more, but what? With the simulator working and her sample incubation work finished, the only thing left to do was either start the rough draft of her report now or move to a new live exposure test on another organism. She hardly thought she could focus on a blank word processor document at the moment now either, so ultimately the only thing left for her was another live test. She threw her arms up into the air and heaved a heavy sigh.
"Well, let's see if Nassom was right about you not wanting to replicate your sensory organ a second time, shall we?" She said, then headed to the next adjacent empty test chamber.
The first thing Liz did was wrangle one of her new virus samples into the robotic systems that accessed the test chamber so it could be put into the inventory of the new armature she was ordering. The whole thing took nearly half an hour more, and when it was finally done the armature was lowered into place along with the sample. Next, she brought up a long list of viable test subjects for this round of testing. The list was impressively long, generating a scroll bar on the side of her holographic screen. All six kingdoms of Earth life were available to choose from: Archaebacteria, Eubacteria, Protista, Fungi, Plantae, and Animalia. There were even choices of kingdoms that were native to several alien worlds in the Remarian Concordat, though she ruled those out for now. She wanted to stick to Earth-based life first to minimize variables. She knew that after the extreme results she'd seen from a plant subject that the wisest choice of action would be to choose relatively simple organisms like Archaebacteria or Eubacteria. Something excessively common and comparatively harmless like Pelagibacter communis would be ideal and almost guaranteed to be incapable of growing massive tentacles to block the access doors. But then again, if it couldn't grow a macro-scale body then it was also unlikely to develop the sensory organ that she needed to isolate for Admiral Nassom.
Liz idly scrolled for minutes as she tried to reconcile her need for results with her need to adhere to safety protocols. Her music shifted to Debussy's The Girl with the Flaxen Hair and she took a deep relaxing breath as the soothing piano eased her frustration. It was a short song but it was what she needed. She decided to risk choosing an animal at this point. Fungi were probably even more risky than plants since so many of them reproduced by spores and the last thing she needed was a cloud of 35634R in spore form filling the air in the chamber. An animal would hopefully not produce myriads of tentacles to cover the walls and ceiling like a plant would. Besides... she had to admit to herself that she was curious to see what kind of effects the virus would have on the behavior patterns of an animal with consciousness. She picked the Animalia tab and began to browse through the selections. Of course there were plenty of options from the Rodentia order, as was tradition for these sorts of tests. The brown rat, Rattus norvegicus, was perhaps the most typical choice, but she also could have chosen the animal that lab subjects had been made synonymous with, the common Guinea Pig, Cavia porcellus. She almost went with one of these, but then decided that they probably didn't have enough baseline biomass for the virus to work with while making new mutations. Her gut was telling her that if she wanted to get another copy of the mysterious new sensory organ she had to choose something significantly larger. But she couldn't go too large or else it'd risk being big enough to root itself and grow tentacles toward the ceiling.
Ultimately Liz settled on what she felt was a good median in terms of physical body size: the common domestic house cat, Felis catus. The only option available was an orange shorthair breed, which she didn't mind in the slightest. This at least wouldn't be quite as rambunctious as something like a Siamese or a Bengal. She placed the order, and then while waiting for it to arrive she also decided to order an ample supply of food and water so she could sustain the subject for an extended period of time. Though this time she decided to order the water in a large reinforced steel drum, just in case. The food and water arrived first, with the food being sealed in a steel crate with an automated, remote-controlled dispenser hatch and the water with a similar remote controlled steel valve. If the subject managed to break into these then she'd eat her isolation suit. Then the cat arrived in a simple plastic cat carrier, which the robotic systems opened for the cat so it could climb out. The carrier was then retrieved back through the ceiling airlock so it wouldn't take up any space.
The orange cat looked understandably nervous in its strange new environment. It backed into the corner on the opposite side of the chamber from the armature unit that and stared at it nervously. A small part of Liz felt sorry for the creature now, she was starting to slightly regret choosing a test subject this cute. But she had been in this line of work long enough to learn to divorce her feelings entirely from the well being of her test animals. She had killed countless lab rats with far more painful pathogens than 35634R and had numbed herself entirely to their suffering. Just because this subject was a traditional pet for humans didn't mean she had to disregard her duty. While the cat huddled in the corner, she used the robotic armature to dispense some water into a water dish, then opened the sample vial and emptied it into the cat's water. Now it was just a matter of waiting for the cat to get thirsty and take a drink.
Liz then kicked back and skipped ahead in her playlist while watching and waiting. She settled on Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major and then decided to try dispensing some food for the cat too. She figured the sound of the dry food pellets might entice it to come out of its corner and start eating. Unfortunately this didn't seem to be the case, it was far more scared of the armature than it was hungry, so it merely hissed at the whining of the robotic servos and stayed in its spot.
"Damnit cat, go eat! Get thirsty! This shift's gonna be really fucking boring if I have to sit here staring at you for hours while the simulation runs!" Liz grumbled.
She almost gave the cat a nickname at that point while bitching at it, but she quickly reminded herself of the proper protocols for remaining detached from her lab animals. No naming the animals under any circumstance! She crossed her arms and sat there for awhile, hoping that the cat would gradually grow less nervous after the armature went still and silent. She pondered using a prod attachment on the armature to poke it until it left its corner, but then decided that was too cruel even for her. There was dispassionate and then there was being a fucking dick. So she simply settled into her seat and finally indulged herself in some daydreaming. After all, taking the time to be a lazy piece of shit was something Liz had fantasized about yesterday morning when she realized that she was going to be alone in her lab without any oversight. Getting paid to be a useless lump was her ideal dream job after all, why not enjoy doing it now when it was justifiable as part of the task at hand?
Liz's thoughts wandered wildly as she sat there and soaked in the beautiful, complex orchestral tones of the Concerto. She couldn't help but grin as she returned to the thought of her upcoming retirement. A Remarian Navy Captain's pension would buy her a really nice place on a Concordat Core World if she wanted. She pondered that possibility, first eliminating core world candidates from contention in an analytical manner. First to be eliminated was Remaria; sure it was a luxurious and advanced Ecumenopolis filled with all of the best technology and amenities that the Remarian Concordat could offer, but she also knew that its Gol'Remar inhabitants probably wouldn't be too friendly to a human living there permanently. Even if she was legally protected as an equal citizen it wouldn't stop the average Gol'remar common people from treating her with mistrust and disrespect at best. She also eliminated the Sarienne homeworld of Sarne; it was an ocean planet with very few islands where terrestrial beings like her could live and this meant that real estate there was well beyond even her lavish budget. Only billionaires, politicians, diplomats, and their support staff could afford to live there. And Liz certainly didn't feel particularly inclined to undergo all the gene modding necessary to give her gills that could breathe salt water. Even though Sarienne were extremely friendly and welcoming to humans she just didn't want to take up the underwater lifestyle. Of course she also eliminated the Khordalum homeworld of Khelvirth. Even though the galactic community had helped to fully exterminate the lethal infestation of Corpse Shroud Fungus on that planet's surface, the high gravity of the planet would make life there utterly miserable and would guarantee massive health problems later in her life. She didn't feel like dealing with the pain of all her joints deteriorating from stress and strain from the high gravity in her 40s. That left Earth, which made Liz frown. What a boring choice! One of the few perks of working for the Remarian Navy had been getting to see and mingle with dozens of different sapient alien species. The prospect of going back to being surrounded by fellow humans again most of the time was dull by comparison, even if it meant she wouldn't have to worry about all the potential racism and bigotry against her in Remarian culture. Maybe that racism would be worth enduring?
Then Liz was distracted by the sight of movement in the chamber. The cat was getting out of its corner! She grabbed her audio recorder and swapped to a new audio track for the new subject so she could be ready. The cat wandered over to its food bowl, undoubtedly enticed by the scent, but it kept periodically glancing nervously up at the silent, still form of the robotic armature.
"Yes, come on! Eat! I don't want you ingesting this stuff while I'm away on lunch where I can't observe!" She shouted, knowing it wouldn't be able to hear her.
Ultimately it took a minute or two more before the cat finally ate, and just as Liz had hoped, the food made it thirsty enough that it took a few slurps of infected water after it finished.
"Time is 10:16AM, Subject 2 has just ingested water laced with a sample of dilute 35634R. I'm activating a timer to measure incubation period, though I suspect it will adhere to the same approximate 15 minute time period as previously observed." Liz said into her recorder.
Again her instincts proved correct. For fifteen minutes the cat sulked quietly in its corner again without any signs of symptoms. Both external behavior as well as the sensors in the chamber didn't indicate anything amiss. But then at the 15min mark the cat began to show signs of distress and fever; it began to slightly shiver and take shallow, rapid breaths. Sensors indicated its temperature was rising significantly, mirroring what she'd seen both in the rose bush as well as the records of B'neth Arr-glin.
"Approximately 15 minutes and 24 seconds post exposure, subject displays elevated body temperature and behavioral signs of distress. This matches the patterns previously observed. 35634R's incubation period seems to be extremely consistent in its briefness. If the pattern continues unchanged I should begin to see visible mutation in the subject shortly, though I suspect that more complex organisms like animals may require more time to mutate. I'm once again adjusting test chamber temperature levels downward to help alleviate the thermal stress on the subject."
A few more minutes passed and soon the playlist shifted to Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1. The varying playful notes were a little discordant with what Liz was seeing but this wasn't thematically any different from how it had played out during her first exposure test yesterday. This track was also fairly long too since it included all preludes and fugues in all 24 major and minor keys, making it stretch to over just over 2 hours. This suited Liz just fine, as she didn't have to think about flipping through tracks anymore. She was too busy watching for signs of mutation to focus on the music anyway. Though fairly soon she saw the cat lay down and go to sleep, which again mirrored the progression of Private Arr-Glin. She made a note of the subject's loss of consciousness for her log and waited some more.
"Lemme guess, in a few minutes you're going to wake back up and be under the virus's thrall. Question is, will you try to puke on me through the window or will you wander around without any targets?" Liz said out loud.
The cat did eventually wake up as predicted and Liz noted the timestamps involved. Its eyes looked glassy and unfocused and it wobbled a little bit when it stood up, but at first it didn't seem to do anything. Its body temperature was still elevated and it was still panting noticeably due to the heat, but it no longer seemed contented to cower in the corner. Instead it made a beeline right to its water bowl and began to voraciously drink.
"26 minutes and 42 seconds post-exposure, subject has now regained consciousness and has immediately gone to its water bowl to drink. This implies it has not yet developed the same sensory capabilities as the first subject and has therefore not detected my presence. In the absence of any targets for spreading the infection it must have reverted to consuming as much fuel for its transformations as possible." Liz said into her recorder.
While the cat was hunched over its water bowl, Liz finally began to see the first external signs of mutations. Visible rippling movements flowed over its body under its fur, like its flesh was rolling and moving while it drank. Liz stared in rapt fascination and dictated into her recorder rapidly as it happened.
"At 27 minutes and 4 seconds the first visible mutations have begun. Its skin seems to be flowing under its fur like the ripples on a pond, yet it is showing no outward signs of pain or distress. This implies that the transformations are somehow painless. Now its legs seem to be twitching and changing shape. Changes aren't limited to the legs, its whole body shape and bone structure appear to be altering. Its body temperature is continuing to increase so I am continuing with commensurate decreases to chamber temperature. The increase to its metabolic processes must be incredible. Wait... is that?"
Liz paused and leaned closer to the window to squint her eyes. Bulging bumps were forming on the cat's back in vertical rows parallel to its spine. At first Liz suspected that this was the beginning of a fresh batch of tentacles like the ones that grew out of the rose plant. She seemed to be correct at first too, and even began to dictate before having to stop and correct herself as the changes unfolded.
"Bulging nodules of muscular tissue are forming along the subject's back in two clusters of four, arranged in lines parallel to the spinal column. They are swelling out into tentacles now just like the first test subject, though the growth is slower by comparison. I suspect the cat's slower speed of water ingestion compared to the gulping tentacle maw of the plant may be the reason. Wait... no, correction, these aren't just regular manipulator tentacles, new structures are forming on the ends and unfolding. They're... they're leaves! Plant leaves! Seems like the fusion of animal and plant traits is a common theme. They are black in color and are growing slowly, already reaching approximately 5 centimeters long, lanceolate in shape, with serrated edges and parallel vein structure."
Liz suddenly paused the recording as she pondered this. This seemed to confirm completely that Horizontal Gene Transfer was at play in both directions now. It could give plant genes to animals just as easily as it gave animal genes to plants. Perhaps there was an evolutionary advantage in blending together the best traits of multiple species? If the cat could now photosynthesize in addition to its other metabolic pathways then this seemed like a potent upgrade to its ability to harvest energy. The question was now this: how did it know which traits were positive and worthy of adopting, and which were negative and should be rejected? Liz pondered this for a few moments before remembering that the transformation was still ongoing and returning her attention to it. The cat was by now nearly finished with its water bowl, so she tapped the key on her controls to remotely order the tank to dispense more. Raw curiosity and fascination were egging her on and making her forget the risks implicit in letting it grow as much as the first subject.
"28 minutes and 17 seconds elapsed, subject has completely consumed the initial 250ml of water in its dish while the new leaves on its back have taken shape. Each leaf is maxing at about 10cm and seems to be motile and dextrous like the tentacles on the first subject. I'm dispensing more water now... Subject continues to drink, though now it is occasionally switching to eating food between gulps of water too. I suspect it needs nutrient intake to go with the water it's drinking and the photosynthetic energy its leaves are absorbing. The earlier body shape alterations are continuing, though they are difficult to describe with words. I will attach video files from the test chamber recorders to supplement this log. But overall I'd say the body mass of the cat seems to be increasing as long as I continue to provide sufficient food, water, and light."
Liz paused her recording and watched as the cat's lower legs seemed to thicken and grow longer. For now it was just speculation, but it almost seemed like it was preparing to change from a quadrupedal form to a bipedal one. Then she heard a strange sound through the speakers that were connected to the lab's inner microphones. Purring. The cat was purring.
"Well I'll be damned. I guess you really aren't suffering are you?" Liz mumbled.