Episode 22 - Either you think , or else others have to think for you

After our first encounter with the Mulberry Ridge turtle last week, we needed a new plan of action in order to rescue Argo3, the mini-sub. We spent the beginning of this week analyzing the very last data sent by the mini-sub. We were hoping that by looking at the last photograph taken by Argo3, we could pinpoint its location at the bottom of the pond. Since the sub had been scanning the same perimeter for weeks, it wouldn't be hard for us to follow the boundaries of its path and hopefully retrieve it from the water. So early Sunday morning we loaded up the Jeep with our scuba gear and took off to the old waterfall trail. We had just passed the mulberry tree, not far from the camp, when the Jeep died. Roy tried to restart the engine a couple of times, with no success. - Great! - said Ben sarcastically. I ordered the men to get out of the car and to start to walk. - We have a job to do here Marines, let's get moving! - I said loudly. The broken Jeep wasn't going to stop me from performing well on this mission. Ben and I set our aqualungs on our shoulders. Roy lead the way, with the Doctor guarding our backs. Everything went as planned. I spotted Argo3's grey hull not long after we dove into the pond. Just as I suspected, the mini-sub's propellers were tangled on aquatic plants. I looked to my left and saw that the tree trunk where we found Dan's skeleton wasn't far. I thought to myself - I could put the mission at risk, but I needed the proof about Dan's death. I signaled Ben to follow me. As fast as I could, I swam towards the tree trunk. I picked up the femur bone, put it inside my belt, took a last glance at the skeleton and made my way back to Argo3's location. Luckily we didn't see the turtle at all. With the mini-sub secured around Ben's right arm, we swam back to surface. I was content, satisfied with what we had accomplished. On our way back Roy thought about trying the Jeep's engine one more time. - It wouldn't hurt, ah? - said Dr. Johnson. The engine started on Roy's first try. I just shook my head in disbelief. Ben laughed. - I guess even a car can be lazy! - said Dr. Johnson. While the men hopped in the car, I decided to walk instead. Dr. Johnson and I worked on the mini-sub the rest of that afternoon. Professor Evgeny spent most of this week studying the turtle eggs we found. Apparently none of the eggs made it through incubation. Not even the ones sent to Alabama. So the professor decided to open the ones left with us. He set up some benches by his tent and created a makeshift laboratory. He found chemical alterations in the turtle embryos just like the ones found on the fish caught by Dr. Johnson's trap a while ago. The professor then explained: - It's amazing! In many body tissues, the loss of a certain number of cells due to radiation damage can be tolerated because remaining, uninjured cells can divide and still maintain the necessary number of functioning tissue cells. But in this case it's like the uninjured cells have become more like supercells. Ionizing radiation mutated them to double their size! - finished the Professor with excitement. Because of our prolonged dives into the pond, the sarge ordered us to give some blood samples to the Professor. - If it's changing the wild life, the radiation could be changing us as well - said the sarge. - Not likely, but good idea Alan! The alterations are probably the result of many years, possibly from when the pond was a nuclear dump site - replied Professor Evgeny with his thick accent. Tomorrow we will send Dan's femur bone for a DNA test out in Colorado. Captain Schneider will be here to pick up the box. With so much going on, I forgot about writing her a letter. Valentine's Day is next week, I have to make this one count. Now, where's my pencil?

by Corporal John Harris, February 09, 2006