One end of the laboratory was blocked off with a frame covered in a heavy plastic sheet. From behind it comes the almost deafening sound of demolition as that wall is demolished. The team of researchers and support people has grown to the point of overcrowding, but all are busy. Two more electron microscopes had been added, and six more were in storage awaiting the end of the demolition and expansion of the lab.
Four or five people were crowded around each microscope. Some were sorting the debris and preparing slides for the researcher at the microscope, some bringing in more debris and some removing rejected debris. The work went forward quietly as the epidemiologists and biologists concentrated on finding possible viruses.
The original seven were severely overtired, having working for thirty hours straight with little food and no rest. Suddenly, Eric Jenner straightened and tapped some keys and a picture appeared on the big screen. “Look, I have found something that may be another virus!” The screen showed what looked like a string of beads, about ten molecules in length. There was a weak cheer, and Ricardo immediately directed the two new researchers to start hunting for more. “As soon as a good supply is found, Eric can start testing. This is a good sign, folks.” He said, smiling.
Maria Perriago dropped a prepared slide, and swore. Then, to everyone’s surprise, she sat down and burst into tears. “I know this is the most important thing that I will ever do,” she sobbed, “but I just can’t do any more!”
Ricardo walked over to her and stroked her head. “Yes, Maria, we are all at the point where we are so tired we could miss a crucial creature.” He looked around. “There are enough people now to keep the search going 24/7, so I think that we, the first group, can take a break. At least one good meal and eight hours of sleep at least will allow us to come back ready to work again.”
He turned to Dr. Susan Mead, epidemiologist, microbiologist and meteorologist who headed the second team. “Do you think your group can take over now for say twelve hours? After we’ve rested, we can alternate eight hours on eight hours off.”
Dr. Mead looked around at her crew who all agreed. Ricardo nodded and said “ok, that’s great. Come on gang; let’s go get some well-earned rest and nourishment.” Then he leaned down and putting his hands under Maria’s arms lifted her from her chair and with an arm supporting her, led her toward the door. The rest of the team followed.
Susan Mead turned to her group “Our turn now, everyone. Let’s see if we can find some more little creatures.” As the others reached the door, there was another shout. They paused and looked back. Tony Ricardo was tapping keys and a new image appeared on the big screen. This looked like a centipede, with many tiny tendrils along the sides. It was about four molecules long. Everyone cheered and the group around Tony set to work looking for more of the same.
As they neared the door, Ricardo thought ‘this is going faster now. I hope we will soon find the culprit so we can prepare an antidote. Too many little ones are dying.’ He sighed, but as he was leading Maria out, Susan Mead shouted “Ricardo! She found something, she has found three samples, the slide she dropped has a fourth! We will start testing it right away”.
Ricardo and his team gave a weary cheer, paused and looked back. On the screen was what looked like an eight pointed star; on each ‘arm’ were many tiny tendrils. The whole thing was about seven molecules across. “Did you hear that, Maria? Your find will be recorded, and they will test it. When you are rested, you will have something to work on.” Maria murmured yes, and they left. Once in the outer room, she allowed Anne to help her out of the hazmat suit, and wearily followed her to the dorm. “I’ll eat later. What I need now is sleep,” she whispered. Anne nodded and helped her to the dorm.