Now at the halfway point of the A to Z Challenge, we come to our thirteenth letter, M. And with this one, we have ourselves a new mystery. Enjoy!
Thirteenth day, ninth month, first year after colonisation, Ariadne Era (9/13/01 AE)
The cells looked similar to cells from Earth. They were single-celled organisms containing nuclei with DNA, various organelles, and a cell membrane formed from lipids. The parallel evolution was extraordinary. Kenji Hamaguchi had no shortage of organisms to study and classify. But the more he looked, the more he discovered things were very unusual. That one thing he saw in and out of the cells bothered him.
“Doctor Knight, you’ll never believe this,” said Kenji.
“Show me,” said Patricia. “I’m difficult to surprise.”
Kenji motioned Patricia to sit at the counter and look in the microscope. She carefully sat down, leaving enough room for her round belly. He watched her expression as she peered through the broad eyepiece. He eyes widened. Kenji smiled. “Surprised?”
“What is this?” she asked. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Kenji touched the large screen above the microscope, froze the frame, and zoomed in. “Look at this. No evidence of a cell membrane like we or Ariadne life have, no cilia for locomotion, and the outer surface is smooth and angular. It’s either crystalline or unnatural.”
“It doesn’t look like it could be a virus, does it?”
“If it is, it’s nothing like I’ve seen,” said Kenji. “But what’s even more unusual is that it’s highly mobile. It moves around quickly, and it’s always going in and out of cells. It even goes into the nucleus. What I don’t understand is how it’s doing it, and what it’s doing. I see no evidence of any changes. I’ve tried analysing the DNA before and after one of these things goes through the nucleus, but there’s no change.”
“Where are these organisms coming from?” asked Patricia.
“They’re everywhere. In the air, water, soil, trees, animals, you, me.”
“It’s in us?”
Kenji nodded. “And this is what I wanted you to come and see. I extracted DNA from one of these viruses, but I can’t make head nor tail of it.”
Patricia looked at the display, her eyes passing over the DNA sequences. “It doesn’t resemble anything I’ve seen. It doesn’t even have the same nucleobases that we have.”
“Interesting, isn’t it? But look at this one. I made sure to sample a few of them.”
She looked and whistled. “Adenine, guanine, cytosine, thymine. Same as us.”
“I bet you didn’t expect that,” said Kenji, smiling.
“How is this even possible?”
“You’re the geneticist, doctor.”