Qbit and the Keepers of the Blue Planet- Chapter 9

Did you hear what happened last chapter??? I

Qbit and the Professor are still in the bathroom. The Professor found the pamphlet she had put in her pocket. A lot of things on this tour are not adding up. They are both very concerned.

Back to the story…

Chapter 9

The professor was angrily pacing the small bathroom. “Unbelievable. It all fits now. No wonder we’re the only one’s here. There’s nothing here to see! Man, that makes me angry! I bet Chad’s whole presentation was put together last minute just to appease our curiosity about the DNA retrieval process. Then, he doesn’t want anyone around to answer any tough questions we might come up with. The fewer the people, or anything for that matter, the better. Plus, it’s why he didn’t want to be here in person. Why stick around when you can be somewhere safe?” She could see all the pieces falling into place. “That’s why he had Ryan meet us at the tram and then make Sterling show us around. I really don’t like that guy.”

 “What’s going on in there?” yelled Sterling from behind the locked door, banging on it at the same time.

“None of your business, Starling!” replied the Professor angrily.

“Hey, don’t raise your voice at me, your majesty. You think I have all day to wait for you two? You’re wasting my time!”

“As soon as I get out there, I’ll show you what wasting time is!”

“What? What the hell does that mean?”

She stammers, “I don’t know, damn it, but you’ll find out!”

“That’s telling him Professor,” said Qbit as he slid between her and the door. “Perhaps you should let me handle it.”

“So sorry Sterling. We’ll be right out,” said Qbit with a heavy dose of honey which prompted the Professor’s standard eye roll.

They both heard him whisper, “You two are nuts.”

The professor, still fired up, yelled through the door, “I heard that!” Turning to Qbit, “We need to get rid of that guy.”

“You mean like get rid of him, rid of him, or lose him, get rid of him?”

“Well, I would like to “get rid of him rid of him”, but I don’t think you could live with yourself after doing something like that.”

“What? Me? Why me?”

“Because, you’re a…” she motions with her hands up and down his body… “and I’m a…” she motions with her hands towards herself.

“Oh, I see how it is. So, I guess I’m the expendable crewman because I’m a computer. Is that it?”

“I guess you could say that.”

“Wow, Professor that really hurts. I thought you felt differently,” Qbit replied with a tinge of disappointment in his voice.

“I’m only kidding, Q. I would never ask you to do something like that. Besides, it would take forever to get a new assistant,” she said with a smile.

“You would never find one of such a high caliber as myself,” he replied.

“Exactly.”

Sterling banged on the door and said, “Listen you two, this is stupid. I don’t have time for your games. I’m out of here! You can do the rest of the tour yourself!”

“Sterling?” said Qbit through the door. “Don’t be mad.”

There was no reply. They remained quiet for a bit more, trying to figure if he was still out there. Qbit put his ear up to the door. He waited a second then whispered, “Nothing, I think he’s gone.”

He slowly opened the door and stuck his head out. Seeing nothing, he opened the door the rest of the way and said, “Huh, will you look at that, I did get rid of him.”

The Professor pushed past him and looked up and down the hallway. “One problem.”

“Yes.”

“How are we supposed to know which way to go?”

They both stepped further into the hall, closing the door behind them.

The Professor jerked her thumb towards the right and said, “Well, we came from that way, so we don’t want to go there.” She pointed to the left and continued, “So, let’s go this way and see what we find.”

The Professor led the way down the carpeted hallway, Qbit stayed close behind her. They checked each door they passed only to find them locked. She was about to try another when it suddenly opened inward. A woman in a white lab coat stepped out of the room. She was balancing several small boxes in one arm while trying to get the right key from a key ring in the other. The boxes blocked her view of the them.

Qbit pulled the Professor back quickly and they both froze, not sure what her reaction will be when she notices them there.

She stepped out of the door and then turned back to lock it. She pocketed the keys and tried the knob to make sure it was locked. This time she turned towards them.

Startled, she inhaled sharply, her hand instinctively came up in front of her and she jumped backward, dropping the boxes.

There was a tense second as her brain decided whether to fight or flee. Suddenly, her face lit up as she recognized them.

“Professor Sattler! Qbit! Oh, my goodness.” She put her hand over her heart and said, “You scared the crap out of me!” Suddenly realizing who it was that she was talking to, she straightened up and said, “Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry, please excuse me. What an honor it is to meet you both!”

“No, no, no, don’t be silly. It’s us that should apologize. We’re so sorry for startling you like that,” said Qbit who, in a flash, had gone from behind the Professor to in front of her.

The Professor, with a confused look on her face, glanced behind her then to Qbit wondering how did he get there when he was just behind her? She moved to stand next to him and said, “Yes, we’re so sorry!”

The woman said, “What are you doing here? I mean, nobody told me you were coming.”

Qbit quickly bent down and picked up the boxes. “Here you go…uh…?”

She took them from him and said, “Oh, I’m so sorry. I’m Robin, Dr. Robin Crusoe.”

“Ah, like the book,” said Qbit with a smile.

The look of confusion was back. “Book? What book?”

Qbit’s face turned red, “Sorry, never mind. It was a reference to an old book.”

The Professor spoke up, saving him from further embarrassment, “Dr. Robinson, do you mind if we ask you a few questions?”

She looked at her watch, losing her grip on the boxes again. This time Qbit caught them before they hit the ground. “Oh, my goodness, of course. The transport isn’t set to leave for another half hour. Please come in.”

She reached into her pocket and pulled out the ring of keys. She found the right one, inserted it into the lock, gave it a twist to the left and pushed open the door.

“Let me get the lights.” She went through first and reached to the right. Banks of overhead lights flickered on.

Qbit stepped back to let the Professor go first. “After you, Professor.” As she walked by him, she whispered, “You owe me one.”

He rolled his eyes and replied, “Whatever.”  As he walked into the room, he noticed DNA EXTRACTION LAB written on the door in white letters,. He placed the boxes on an empty desk next to the door and said, “Excuse me doctor. I see from the door that this is where you extract the DNA from the donor animals.”

“Yes, yes, it is.”

“Perfect, this was on the tour,” said the Professor.

“Tour?”

“Yep, the one Chad arranged. We were supposed to see the facilities starting with this lab. To review your DNA retrieval methods?”

Robin said, “I’m sorry but I knew nothing about it. In fact, I’m the only one still here. All the others have left for the new place.” She looked around the room and continued, “Everything has been packed up for the move.”

The Professor and Qbit each look around at the empty room. Even though there was nothing in the room it still gave them an idea how technically advanced everything was. Large glass cabinets with individual temperature controls lined the walls. Rows of lab tables stood empty of any equipment but still looked spotless. An area on the far wall still had coils of wires hanging loosely from the ceiling.

Noticing where they were looking Robin said, “That’s where the servers were installed.”

She checked her watch again. “I’m so sorry. I wish I had known about the tour. I’m a little confused as to why they would arrange that for now. I mean, why not wait until we are set up at the new facility?”

“The new facility?” The professor and Qbit looked at each other. “Now it’s our turn to be confused.”

“All I know is that we’re all moving to a larger building on a smaller compound. From what I’ve heard, due to the success of your designer egg, we won’t need all the donor animals.”

“But why were the other animals sold?”

“Sold? I thought they were returned to their original planets?”

“Take a look at this.” The professor pulled the folded pamphlet from her pocket, turned it to the side with the auction information and handed it to Robin.

She looked it over and said, “I don’t know anything about this. It’s not what they told us was going to happen. But, that’s not so unusual. We’re pretty much separate from everyone else and unaware of the daily operation of this place. We do our stuff and everyone else does theirs.”  She was about to hand the pamphlet back but turned it over instead. She gave it a quick glance then stopped when she noticed something. “What’s this mean ‘designer egg developed by the CEO’? That’s your design. Why would he say that? Is that a typo or what?”

Qbit said, “We noticed that too. A lot of things don’t make any sense here. First, we were the only ones on the transport and the tram. Then, when we got here, we didn’t see anyone else or any animals, of any kind, anywhere. Then, in Chad’s presentation there were plenty of mistakes and the…” Qbit felt the Professor pinch the back of his arm. He glanced at her and she gave him a look that he fully understood due to the many times she has used it before.  Cutting himself short he continued, “…and there were other things that didn’t add up.”

Robin didn’t seem to notice anything. She seemed to be thinking about something and not really listening to him. She looked up from the paper and said, “You know, there are a couple of other things that don’t make sense. Chad had us draw a lot of blood from those animals before they were given back or whatever happened to them…she quickly added… and we extracted as much DNA as we could. Why would we do that if we don’t need them? We’re supposed to be concentrating on the designer eggs instead. Plus, and this is the really strange part, no one that works in the lab has any idea where the new facility is!”

“What? Why not?” asked the Professor.

“Well, they said it was for security reasons. The work we’ll be doing is cutting edge, I mean, I don’t have to tell you, it’s your idea. Other companies would kill to have the egg design.”

Completely dumbfounded she added, “But what do you tell your families about where you’re going if you don’t even know where it is?”

“None of us have any families. It’s a lot easier that way. We can all focus on our jobs and not be distracted by the outside world. I never thought much about it before. It kind of made me feel special. Now it’s starting to creep me out a little.”

“But why? Why would you choose this over a family and friends?” said the Professor in disbelief.

“Because of you Professor. I’ve been given the opportunity to work at the forefront of genetic engineering. Thanks to you, we’re one step closer to creating the perfect beast. Because of your work we can custom design a beast while it’s still in the egg. We can make it whatever we want it to be. We have complete control over its development. We could have whole armies of beasts under our control. Who knows what could be next?” She glanced at her watch and said, “I really wish we could talk longer but I have to get to the transport.  It has been an honor meeting both of you. I hope we get a chance to meet again.” She extended her hand to the Professor. She seemed not to notice until Qbit said, “Professor, are you there? Hello!” He tapped her on the arm. “Where are your manners, Professor?”

Her eyes seemed to refocus, and she finally saw Robin’s hand waiting in front of her. “Oh, my goodness, I’m so sorry.” She reached out and shook her hand. “Something you said sparked a memory and I’m afraid I got a little lost in it.”

“Is it something I can help you with?” she replied.

“No, no. Thank you though. It has been very nice talking to you and thank you for all your help.”

“It’s been my pleasure Professor.” Robin turned toward Qbit, smiled, and reached for his hand. “Very nice to meet you Qbit. By the way, “What was the name of that book you were referring to? I’ll have to check it out.”

Qbit shook her hand in return and said, “Oh that. It’s called Robinson Crusoe. Your name is Robin Caruso, sooo…”

“Yes, I see. I get it,” Her grin widened, “I can see why the Professor must enjoy your company.” 

Qbit’s chest seemed to puff up a little. “How nice of you to say that, Robin. Thanks again for your help.”

He stepped back towards the door and held it open for her. She picked up the boxes from the desk and patted her pocket making sure the keys were still there. As she passed through the door she said, “Feel free to look around in here, but, would you mind pulling the door closed when you go? It’s already locked.”

“Thank you, we’ll make sure it’s closed. Have a safe trip to where ever!” he said as she disappeared down the hallway. He stepped back into the room and closed the door.

“‘it’s called Robinson Crusoe,’” said the Professor, mimicking Qbit’s voice. “‘I see why the Professor enjoys your company’.” she continued dramatically. “Oh My God, I’m going to puke!”

“Me, what about you? I could see your head grow three times larger when she was describing how fantastic your work was!

“I wouldn’t go that far! Perhaps only two times! She said, sticking her nose into the hair.

“Now I’m going to puke. And what was that gazing-off-into-the-distance all about, anyway.”

Her face turned serious. “It was something she said about ‘armies of them that could be controlled.’ She walked further into the room. She turned and said,” I suddenly remembered something I read in an email from a few months ago. It was from one of the other professors working on the designer egg project. She was relaying some notes she had taken during a meeting with Chad and some of the other department heads from The Company. She wrote that she had overheard Chad talking about making some modifications to the egg that would allow him to talk to the beasts. She wasn’t sure if he was serious, and she wondered if that was even possible.”

Qbit said, “Talk to the beasts. What do you mean, talk to the beasts?”

She shrugged her shoulders and said, “I don’t know. She never mentioned anything more about it. But, just now, Robin said that Chad had them take blood from all the animals that were sold.”

Qbit could see the wheels turning as the Professor ran everything through her head. “That means he has a lot of blood. Why would you need all that blood?” Qbit knew to keep quiet while she did this. “Three, two, one,” he said to himself, knowing that, at any moment, she would start pacing. Almost on cue, she started to move around the mostly empty room.

“You would need all that blood because you can only get DNA from white blood cells and they only make up about one percent of a beast’s blood supply. So, you would need a lot of it. Okay, so they have a lot of DNA, but that’s normal due to the difficulty of getting good DNA samples. But blood from all the animals? That’s a heck of a lot of DNA. Why would you need all that DNA? The Designer Eggs don’t need that much… but, to create the first version of the beasts, you do!” She stopped and turned toward him. “See, that’s it! That’s the connection. Robin just mentioned armies of beasts that can be controlled. The email mentioned Chad wanting to talk to the beasts. Maybe that’s how he thinks he can control them! But I doubt you could alter a version one enough to control them. Perhaps it’s different with the designer beasts? I never thought that far ahead.”

She began pacing again. Qbit loved to watch her do this. She was so totally wrapped up in her thinking. He was really fond of her. But, how could he be? He was a computer made up of neutrinos. The only reason he looked like he did right now was because it was easier for him to get around. People were usually a little taken aback by a glowing ball surrounded by a swirling mist floating around a room. Why is he happiest when he’s with her? She seems to enjoy his company but what does she feel? What does she think about him? Is he just a computer or is it more? How could it be more? That’s ridiculous! Is it even right?

“Isn’t that right Q.? Q? Hello!”

“Huh? Right! Wait, what?” She had moved within inches of him and he hadn’t even realized it. He noticed that some of her hair had fallen to cover her left eye, so he reached over and swept it away with his fingers.

She stepped back and put her hand to her head, “What the heck was that?”

“What was what?”

“That” she said moving her hand across her face mimicking his movement.

“Uhhh, what do you mean? I just moved your hair out of your eyes.”

“You’ve never done that before.”

“I don’t know! Your hair was blocking your eyes, so, I did that…” He moved his hand again across his face like he was moving hair out of his eyes…sheesh, sorry!” He looked away.

There was a pause as she looked at him. She said, “Okay…”

He turned back to look at her.

“…thank you.” There was another pause as they looked at each other.

Qbit said, “This is getting very awkward. What was it that you were saying?” This seemed to refocus her so continued.

“I was saying that maybe Chad wants to talk to the level two’s so they can talk with the level one’s.”

“I don’t know Professor. This seems to be a real stretch. All we have is Dr. Caruso using the word army, but was she using it the way you’re thinking? Plus, the only other piece is a vague line in an email. I don’t know if we can automatically assume that Chad wants to create an army of beasts. To do what, anyway? What would he expect to accomplish with something like that? An army is used to protect or attack something. It doesn’t make any sense.” He saw a glimmer of anger pass through her eyes, so he quickly added, “Not that you’re wrong. We need more information to either support or disprove your assumption.” This seemed to calm her.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” she said with a touch of sadness. She turned away from him.

“What? There’s something else bothering you. I know that look.”

She turned again, this time with a worried look, and said, “Why do they need us? Think about it. They have everything they need to continue. You saw the pamphlet. Chad went so far as to write that the eggs were of his design. I’m beginning to think this whole tour was just a way to get us out here. I mean, everyone else is gone. There’s hardly anybody around. How hard would it be for us to have an “accident”? She made air quotation marks around the word accident. We’re the only ones that can stand in his way.”

“Wow, that’s true I hadn’t thought of that. It certainly answers a lot of questions about what we’ve seen and how they’ve treated us. All the pieces of the puzzle seem to fall into place.” He paused for a second then said, “There’s one more thing we need to do before we try to get out of here.”

“What’s that?”

“Chad said we could see the beasts that are. We need to find out if he was lying about that too or see if there are any left alive.”

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