Part 1: The Breach

After removing the slide from the microscope, he carefully took another drop of blood from his syringe and placed it on a fresh slide. This time, he applied a Giemsa-stain, a technique often used to identify parasites and other microbes. He placed the new slide under the microscope and took a look.

Red cells -- check. White cells -- check. He scoured again for an immature red blood cell, a reticulocyte.

There it was.

Subtle as it was, the cell staring back up at him was no normal reticulocyte. The RNA normally present had a strange appearance to it, and attached to it appeared to be small, strongly stained square-shaped objects.

And one was dividing.

Jesus Christ... he thought. What on Earth -- I mean, what is this?

He looked again for another reticulocyte and, again, saw small dividing squares attached to RNA. There was no mistaking, this represented a profound discovery for which mankind had no prepared response. Life. Or something resembling life, anyways. Elsewhere in our Solar System.

So now what? he thought. Man's search for life elsewhere had stretched back almost a century. From the Lunar landings in the 1960s, to the Martian landings in the 2030s, to the missions to Titan last decade -- man had certainly committed a lot of resources to finding out if they were truly alone. And here, in an isolated laboratory on the icy moon of Enceladus, Dr. Banks had found it in his own blood. And that terrified him.

Would the organism kill him? It certainly seemed it might, with a climbing fever. His immune system could never have been prepared for such a creature. Nearly four decades of life on Earth had exposed him to many pathogens, but none that lived and reproduced like this. And what was this thing even made of? The reports from the water samples might help, but for now he could only speculate. How would he get rid of it? Antibiotics? Antivirals? Antifungals?

And the biggest question of them all: Who, if anyone, should I tell? Certainly, this represented the single most important discovery in mankind's quest for knowledge. However, he recalled how people have responded to unknown illness in the past. During the Ebola outbreaks in the 2010s, healthcare workers and relatives of the infected were stigmatized and even subjected to violence out of fear. Decades earlier, HIV workers had been shunned from their families out of ignorance. Hantavirus had been largely overblown from the media, but in 2031 it seemed there were attacks on homes of the affected almost weekly. Surely, the crew would be understanding? They're all educated, all scientists. Obviously I would go into isolation for everyone's protection.

But he had doubts -- both about the crew's response and his own commitment to honesty.

/r/beneaththerings Thread Parent