CHAPTER 17

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Sarah reclined in something akin to a dental chair, only this chair had a set of cushioned clamps on each side of her face that held her neck straight. The headrest had a hole in it that allowed Dr. Frazier to plug her up to the memory station. She had no conception of when he started the machine. One second he was talking to her, asking her a string of questions, and then she was lost in a dreamlike state.

The memory download flashed through her mind like a video in fast forward. But it resonated deeper, seeping into every crack and crevice of her brain. It started with a medical text book—a real paper bound one—burning streams of data into her subconsciousness. Images of doctors in surgery appeared, followed by scalpels, blood vessels, a cardio vascular system, the human heart beating in rhythm, and the neurological processes of the brain with synapses firing electrical impulses of energy in rapid fire fashion.

The cinema of the mind played out as if Sarah experienced it firsthand. She felt it like an intense dream. She heard it too. Ambient background noises. Pages flipped. Pencils scribbled notes. That human heart pounded in her ears like it was her own. Male and female instructors passed down knowledge in classroom environments. She learned at a lightning pace, retaining multitudes of information by the Terabyte—one million times one million in vast quantity. But oddly enough, the process didn't feel mind rattling or forced, but smooth and natural. The flow of information connected with her neural pathways, syncing perfectly with her brain. Nothing was lost or missed. She learned it all.

When Dr. Frazier unplugged her from the memory station, the download ceased. It was like going from a starburst to a black hole. No sight. No sound. Nothing.

Then someone turned on the lights...and the sound. Sarah's eyes fell over the white-walled laboratory—equipment and work tables sprawled out across a tiled white floor. The sanitized ivory surfaces gleamed in the overhead lamps that hung from, yes, a white ceiling. The glare was blinding for a few intense seconds like bright sunlight reflecting off snow.

For a moment, it seemed as if she had plummeted from the soundless and lightless vacuum of space back to an environment with an atmosphere. Re-entry. Or better yet, disconnection from a mainframe.

Dr. Frazier unplugged the cord from the back of her skull, released the clamps from her head, and then returned the reclining chair to an upright position.

Wolf offered Sarah a hand. She didn't resist this time and stood on shaky legs. Soon, her balance came to her and she beheld the laboratory, the same one she'd visited before surgery. The first object that caught her eye was a white electron microscope with black knobs and dials. It occupied one of the tables to her right. Sarah started for the instrument but Dr. Frazier pointed toward the back of the lab where an ultra high definition screen filled the wall.

"Computer. Begin instructional video TX-Bio-347." Then he turned to Sarah. "You'll get this later in a download but the old school way is easier in the beginning. We don't want to force feed you too fast. Besides, it's a cool video presentation."

The monitor lit up a brilliant ocean blue in color ensued by a low bass introductory note of music. It sounded like subwoofers were hidden in the ceiling for theatrical effect.

A great barracuda swam across the screen, swishing its tail fin in a natural motion that propelled the fish through the sea. Sarah watched it disappear at the edge of the ultra high definition display. After that scene, a much larger fish with the same shimmering scales and blotchy spots burst into view. This one was compared in size to a female great white shark—a graphic of the metric system appeared beside the giant fish—displaying the length of the new fish at six meters, over eighteen feet long.

"That," Dr. Frazier said, "is a great barracuda as well...but with one enormous difference..."

"I know," Sarah replied. "I was there in the flesh, rescued my future husband from one of them. Human growth hormone was injected into its pituitary gland causing its abnormal size. The serum was then drawn from the gland and synthesized in a lab."

"The Ocean Blue Corporation was responsible for the science behind the serum. Dates back to the early years of the millennium. They were the first to produce the serum as you so well know. Then we got our hands on it...and you as well."

"But you couldn't keep me."

"No. But we have you now." He tipped his head to the screen. "There's more."

Next, a large lumbering shark emerged from what looked like a cold greenish hue of water. A female voice in the video identified the creature as a Greenland shark, measuring in at over twenty feet in length. The shark's battered and grayish skin almost blended in with the sea around it. It reminded Sarah of a giant stubby cigar.

Wolf spoke up, "Scientists believe the Greenland shark can live to over two hundred years old."

"Due to its slow metabolism in the frigid waters of the Arctic," Dr. Frazier added. "Our research leapfrogged off the data we obtained from Ocean Blue. But we need to perform extensive tests on the Greenland species and isolate the cells that regenerate at rapid rates. We also need to narrow down specific DNA markers that produce its longevity of life, and then transfer that to a human being, a different task altogether. But one we believe you're up for."

The next creature to appear on the monitor was a jellyfish, small in comparison to the shark, but transparent and glowing with pulsating lights.

"Turritopsis dohrnii, the immortal jellyfish." Dr. Frazier smiled warmly. "The life form begins as a polyp on the ocean floor. Then its cells transform it into a mature jellyfish. But the most interesting aspect of their biology is that they never die. It's quite an amazing feat of nature. They simply revert back to a polyp, cells rewinding the hands of time. Finally, they return to maturity again. In a sense, they live forever." He turned to the screen. "Computer. End the video."

The display morphed into a white wall like the other partitions in the room.

"And then there's you," Wolf said.

Sarah bit her lower lip and folded her arms.

"You basically have a Ph.D. as a medical doctor now," Wolf continued, "a neurosurgeon to be exact. Add that to your doctorate in marine biology, and you're fully capable of making quick headway in your research on the serum. But I think the first place you should start is with your own DNA code. There's something unique about you, Sarah. And you need to figure out what that is."

"Sorry to disagree with you, Doctor Wolf," she said with a smirk, drawing a frown, knowing he obviously wasn't a doctor, "but I think the first priority on my to-do-list is to get samples from a Greenland shark. After that, the jellyfish, and then my code. First, I gather all the samples and the information they provide, and then I turn the microscope on me. If I'm going to do this, I'm going to do it my way."

"But I think you should—"

"Am I clear?"

"Very much so." Wolf soured up like he'd bit into something awful.

Dr. Frazier cleared his throat. "After your work on the serum, you'll be receiving downloads on the zero gravity part of the mission. Things have changed technologically speaking since you were last in space."

"That's my territory, Dr. Frazier," Wolf cut in. "In addition, after the research is wrapped up, you get to help Admiral Jax select the participants. The crew, if you will. Your crew of astronauts. You're the one risking your life. The admiral trusts your judgement."

"Then off I go in search of a Greenland shark."

"No. Off we go."

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