An Experiment, If You Will
Episode 1: A Lesson in Humility
Location: Analysis and Planning Labs, USS Defiant
Timeline: En Route to Rendezvous
Claire Lafayette set her thermos down on the console, rubbing her eyes. The whole science team had been pouring over a nearby stellar phenomena for hours and she was starting to get tired of looking the loading bar on her most recent analysis.
The object in question had been very fun to look at initially. A massive gaseous world trapped in the gravity well of an ultra dense pulsar. It'd been fascinating to study. Numerous terrestrial moons 'trapped' in stable orbits, shielded from the most deadly radiation by their gaseous parent. It'd kept the science team busy for the last few days and even the biology team got to get in on the action when they discovered primitive life on the surface of one of those moons. But her current attempt to discern how exactly those moons had safely formed was taking way too long and she kept getting some sort of variable wrong.
Finally worn out with the situation, she decided to check in with her fellow officers and see how their searches were going. "Alright, I've missed the calculation for about the sixth time now. Anybody got something cool to distract me with?"
"How'd you like to see a slug with two anuses?", Sam asked, with a perfectly straight face, and never even looking up from the specimen he had before him.
"Please do, I'm pulling my hair out trying to work out any of this is possible," Alexander grumbled as he drew closer to the pair, his own thermos cupped in his hands as he drew comfort from its warmth. True to his word his hair was all over the show.
Claire stepped closer, more than a little intrigued. The small mollusk was moving around slowly in the specimen container. "I'm sorry, did you say your snail has two butts?"
At that Sam actually looked up, "Nope, but I did say my slug does.", he retorted with a playful smile. "I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like this, it also has two separate reproductive tracks, two of pretty much every organ, and even seems to have combined DNA.", he added looking like a kid in a candy store.
Alexander's brow rose at that, he wasn't as comfortable with biology as he was physics, but even he understood the rarity of such things, "Interesting, I wonder how much of an effect the Pulsar had on their evolution? Perhaps they need twin systems in order to survive?" he wondered.
"Maybe," Claire said as she stared at it, intrigued by the creatures bizarre physiology. "Redundant organs are one thing. But an entire secondary nervous system? That's...well, it's a fairly alien concept, for lack of a better word."
"Oh, no, they are far from redundant. This little thing has got to be one of the most interesting things I've ever come across. This slug, believe it or not, is actually two slugs at the same time. I brought them both aboard a few days ago. I came in one night and found just one. At first I thought perhaps one had eaten the other, but then I rolled back the footage. They mated, and during the mating process, somehow, they fused at the cellular level, becoming one organism, which is now pregnant.", Sam said, still focusing on the creature in front of him.
"Would you care to see the data?", he then asked, looking up at them.
Claire stared at it. "Well, that puts a whole new level of commitment into the relationship."
"To put it lightly...", Sam replied, dryly.
Claire gave the snail an appraising look. "But yeah, let's see that data."
"I'm interested," Alexander quipped, his PADD forgotten on the nearest surface. Biology might not have been his favourite, but he couldn't help but feel they were stumbling upon something unknown, who wouldn't want to be a part of that?
Sam leaned over to the small panel beside his work station and tapped a few keys. On the large viewscreen set into the wall a running stream of data ran along one side, and a sped up video ran on the other. It showed the two creatures tentatively approach one another, and then wind themselves together. Over the next few moments they could see heightened activity in many areas of the sensor readouts, as the two literally fused together to create a single organism.
"Fun, huh?" Sam asked as the little display came to a close. "I've got all the data in the shared drive if you guys want to give it a look over. I'm sure there's some applicable information even for a physicist.", he added.
"Interestingly, there are many applications for physics in biology, all the way down to the quantum level" Alexander replied as he reaquired his PADD, "I'm excited to see how their reproduction process effects the offspring" he admit as he perused the data for anything he could use.
An idea struck Claire’s mind as she read over Alexander’s shoulder. “Hey, do you think it’s ok here? It’s used to being on a gravitationally locked moon. Our ship might not be the most hospitable environment for it. Or worse, it could go nuts and become a flesh eating double slug.”
"I think we are safe as far as the flesh eating goes, its entire digestive system indicates it is incapable of processing anything but plant matter. And as for gravity, I think it's doing fine. I show no signs of stress, or physical harm. In fact I think it sort of likes it here.", Sam replied.
"It's been living by a Pulsar, it probably feels like it's walking on air in our gravity," Alexander quipped as he ran through a couple of simulations.
"The endorphin levels I'm reading would seem to suggest so. I'd say its probably the happiest it's ever been before." Sam said, pointing to a new readout showing brain chemistry.
"That's pretty adorable honestly," Claire said, smiling at their weird little friend. "Big adventure for our little slug friend. Or friends...Speaking of which, do we know if we're going to have additionally little slugs soon?"
"I'd say soon is an understatement. I'm reading incredibly rapid development of the embryos. I give it until tomorrow, day after at the latest. They seem to procreate at a similar rate to tribbles...", Sam said, a note of concern in his voice.
The redhead shot him a serious look. “You better be right about the ‘no flesh eating’ part,” she joked, before actually applying some thought. “That does make sense though. The lower gravity would probably mean the whole process is much faster. Same thing happens with microbials, so it’s defining believable.”
"Indeed, that is quite true. And I promise you, I'm right about the flesh eating part. This creature has no ability to digest animal proteins. It's digestive system would seize up and it would die.", Sam replied.
"Well, let's have it stay in the cage and avoid the whole issue then. Better off for both us," Claire replied. "It is pretty cute though...for a slug."