Divergent Evolution

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Incoming Ansible Transmission from Clark, Harlan

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If you are reading this, then we are likely dead. The sea is a harsh, greedy mistress. Even when it owned 71% of our planet, there was no détente. Only after 85% of terra firma had been devoured by an indifferent aqua corpus did we begin to turn our sights away from the stars and towards the womb that birthed our primordial ancestors. Our species crawled out of the waters of Earth epochs ago, perhaps it is fitting we crawl back in to die.

It might as well have been epochs since we have spoken. I"ve been transferred to the Nautilus Reef Base located 200 miles north of east of the [REDACTED] basin. We are here researching embryogenesis and comparative respiratory mechanisms for the purposes of biomimesis. A few days ago, I came across a specimen unlike anything any of us have ever witnessed.

They are undoubtedly listening. The [REDACTED] not only funded this venture but have spared no expense ensuring sensitive information did not dissipate. As such, in this transmission I have encoded my personal journal recollecting the events as they have transpired. You will hear many lies about me in the coming days. I have included supplementary materials deemed relevant. The decryption key is the hexadecimal digit representation of the city where we first met. Please do think hard about this, any incorrect attempts will see this sensitive information destroyed. I am counting on you.

My dear friend, I wish the circumstances for our reconnection were different, but I am afraid this is the last you will hear from me. It is said that Comrade Gagarin, upon his Vostok entering orbit, said "I looked and looked but I didn"t see God".

He is not down here either.

From the Desk of Dr. Harlan Clark, Ph. D

Encryption Key: 6f 6d 61 68 61

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Reading from file "Journal of Dr. Harlan Clark"

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August 15, 20XX. 14:27 PST

Under normal circumstances I would have sent Vasyli out on an E.V.A in my stead. The ethereal musk of the suit"s previous owner is a prescient reminder that we do not belong here. That I do not belong here. Nevertheless, we had found something, and it had to have been me. Even if it was someone else pulling the strings, it had to have been me.

Somebody else might have gotten it wrong.

My hermitically sealed second skin kept getting caught on the labyrinthine coral corridors nestled in the trench. My rampant heart beat, the only sound assaulting my ears. Constantly whispering in my ear that I would never make it back. That I would finally find the sleep that I so craved, in the hammock of an abyssal maw.

I had no idea what it was that I was looking for, but I knew as soon as I saw it. A malignant tumour on the corpse of our collective evolutionary history. An amorphic mass of flesh which refused to divulge its secrets so easily.

Our golden goose.

The specimen willingly filed into the collection tube. Never minding my uncontrollable shaking. It lay in torpor waiting to be plucked like an apple from an orchard, folding itself through space in between saccades.

No cilia, flagellum or otherwise caudal projections that appear to aid locomotion. As if it were moving the space around it while remaining perfectly still.

This is an apple that has much to teach us.

"That"s enough. No more" I pleaded into the abyss.

With an indifferent smile, the abyss gave nothing back.

August 16, 20XX. 03:42 PST

When the nightmares first started, I knew the screams were all in my head. Now I am not so sure. The dream journal has helped. I must make sure no one else discovers it; they"ll make me trade my lab coat for a straitjacket.

Vasyli is getting worried, recommending I take shore leave. It may be his job to care but it is my job to make sure we finish what we started. The Triumvirate does not tolerate excuses and are growing weary of lending us more rope; lest we hang ourselves with it.

Bringing it through the Nautilus" baric chamber set off every possible failsafe in the system. Biohazard, radiation, airborne toxicity, carcinogenic and even teratogenic factors were going off the charts.

Doesn"t matter how dangerous it is. If they say it stays, then it stays.

Non-essential personnel has already been shuttled off to the "Hypobaric Hotel" for a weeks long vacation acclimatizing to atmospheric PSI.

All that"s left, the skeleton crew of walking dead, whose lives are forfeit for someone else"s glory. Except for Lin. Poor Lin. She volunteered to be here. Out of necessity of course. No one else would take her.