Tuesday, December 1, 2009

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Cool museum exhibit

I'm "home" and living/hiding in a big city. I made an oblique set of contacts with the smoking rubble of JBM, some minor-league minions at the CDC, and some family and friends...each on a new, disposable (and now disposed of) cell phone. Perhaps a silly, and expensive, precaution, but I feel better wiping all tracks behind me...I have no desire to be scooped up and/or become a lab-rat or collateral damage in our great nation's bio-technology drive into the future.

The phone calls all gave me a creepy feeling, everyone wanted to set up a meeting, and they all used the same sets of keywords in trying to arrange the meets.

It turns out that the US has become germ-phobic in my absence, which works to my benefit...I travel through the city in gloves and a mask, and get very few stares. I have superglue to seal the minor wounds that occur from time to time, clorox wipes to erase any traces that I leave as I move across the cityscape, alcohol mouthwash and hand-goo for those times that I need to demask/deglove, and I pay for everything with cash-loaded credit cards that I can clean before/after each use...

I fade and wear out clothes very quickly, washing in super-hot water and special germicidal detergents...there are special "germaphobe" laundromats in every major city these days, catering generally to people worried about germs from without as opposed to from within like me (but it ends up working as effectively either way).

I'm not sure how sustainable my new lifestyle is in the longterm, but it's working for now, and hopefully universal healthcare can apply even to me at some point in the future (a little joke that I know you'll forgive me).

Mick

Monday, November 30, 2009

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Starbucks/B&N

Sunday, May 17, 2009

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Saw this morning. stopped 4 coconuts. still alive. m

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Opportunity seized, and a Dennis DeYoung moment...

Tucker, one of the bug-hunters in the rotation on Jarvis for the last weeks and months, stuck himself with a dirty needle, foolishly called it in, and was summarily executed on the dock while waiting (foolishly, it turns out) for decontamination and evacuation. He had taken blood from me before, but this time, for whatever reason, he jabbed the needle through his doubled nitrile gloves (standard level-4 practice, but it makes some people clumsy), giving himself a does of the buffet of micro-beasties that I have living in my system.

Unencumbered as they seem to be with emotional attachments, they left him on the dock, like a pile of garbage. I snuck out after dark and searched the body, which was safe as they headshot him (like how I verbed that noun?), and searched him, finding nothing of use except a cute little sat-phone with about 50% charge left. Rifling through his pockets on the dock, in the hot and stinky night, I made a decision...they're going to kill or abandon me (or both), so I'm leaving Jarvis.

In a number of ways, this isn't a good idea, but fuck it!
  1. I will very likely die in trying to escape Jarvis and the surrounding gazillion square miles of empty ocean
  2. In the incredibly unlikely event that I do reach someplace not all bob-y and floating in a rubber raft, I will very likely expose anyone I see to the Jarvis Island zombie bugs
  3. In the astronomically unlikely event that I get to dry and zombie-free land, and don't infect everyone on the planet simply by breathing the same air, I will probably be scooped up by the UN, the US, or various and sundry black-helicopter-tastic organizations...I don't have any ID but my own, am not a spy or criminal, and have no money.
Those are all valid reasons not to leave Jarvis, but I just find myself not wanting to die on this stinking rock, and am now certain that the guys and organization behind killing Tucker will never allow me to leave the island; and probably won't let me live much longer (now that they have a crapton of my blood and tissue and saliva and even poop).

Odd emailish transition to the next morning
{{{it's been awhile since I was able to hack the tech enough to send an update, but since I may not get another chance, I took a risk...I couldn't get the tech side to cooperate sufficiently to get this email out last night, so I had to send it this morning, which as you will see in a minute, worked out well enough anyway}}}


Anyway, this morning, the submarine that has apparently been on station since this all began surfaced close by, sent a dingy over to pick up some gear that was left in all of the haste and murder of yesterday afternoon. The landing party never left the secure end of the dock, and had a couple of guys with guns putting out a very prickly and unfriendly vibe.

They hosed each other off once they got back to the sub, and left without looking back (or saying goodbye).


My assumption is that they plan to leave me to die, either by starvation or old age or by nuking the site from orbit (it's the only way to be sure!); none of these options appeal to me, so I'm leaving as soon as I get some supplies together. The army guys who roasted in the stinking heat, died, rose from the dead, and then died again (at my hands), had some cool gear, including this:


As soon as I finish/send this email, I'll finish my preparations, including MREs, fishing gear, Tucker's pilfered sat-phone with a solar charger, and a sweet evaporative desalinator that I have been working on for a while. I can't get that Styx song, "Come Sail Away", out of my head (it could be worse, but weeks alone at sea with Dennis caterwauling in my head may test what is left of my sanity).

I'm excited and scared for this next, arguably moronic, stage of my adventure/life; I only hope that at the end of this stunt, I will get a chance to either update this blog or talk to one or more of you in person.

Lots of love,

Mick

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Out the other side...

From my vantage point, it's been done for weeks, but for those of you reading it's like I just finished killing all of those zombies today...

Obviously I lived, as I am writing this blog-entry, but the tale is (in retrospect) almost boring...it was ugly and stinky work, but ultimately simple...it was easy when I was the last living soul on Jarvis for exactly that reason...I was the last living soul on Jarvis, and nothing mattered (matters) anymore...

With nobody else to make plans with or explore the facility with or count on for anything, I just did what I had to, secure (if that makes any sense) in the knowledge that if I fucked up, it wouldn't matter, because I'd be dead, and everyone else already was...it was a win/win scenario...the worst thing that could happen was that I would stop living on this shitty pile of rock in the middle of the ocean...

I snuck out that first night after making the decision, positive that some night-owl zombie would catch me sneaking out of the facility, or into the army guys' camp...I knew nothing about firearms before coming to Jarvis, and don't know anything about them now, except what I learned from a bunch of people that are dead now and from movie actors...

I grabbed a pair of rifles and an ammo-can, huffed it back to the hidey hole; and then went back for a shotgun I had noticed and a box of rounds for that...waste of time that almost got me killed, it turned out to be special ammo composed of what looks like lead powder...pretty useless against zombies unless you hold the shotgun against their head and pull the trigger at zero range...if I hadn't had a big-ass wrecking bar along with me that first night of hunting, I would have died right then and there...I have no idea what that sort of ammo could be used for, but it's not great for killing Jarvis Island Zombies, so I left the shotgun at home for the rest of my nights out...

I killed off a room each night, slow as hell, but early on I tried to do more, and got tired and careless, and actually got bit...yup, you read it right, bit by a zombie...the thing was pretty spent, and its teeth didn't make it through my jeans, although I had a bruise that I couldn't cover with my hand for about 2 weeks...after that, I toned things down and stuck to one room per night...

I've adapted my circadian rhythm permanently I think, through the weeks and months of living on the other side of the clock from a horde of ravenous zombies...I woke up every night around 8pm, ate a quick meal and checked my gear (hydration pack, snacks, rifle, wrecking bar, hammer, nails, rope) before heading out to kills some old friends...

The first nights were easy, the ghouls would be sleeping under tables and in closets, amidst big smelly nests of clothes and papers and shit...I'd roll the ones I found together so that I could shoot them all in a line...my touching them didn't wake them up, but the noise would a bit...

After killing 1 or more of them, depending on the night, I would spend a while dragging it outside and away from the facility, and then burning the corpse...we have lots of fuel on Jarvis, and it doesn't take much to get them going...

A couple of times, the noise would wake up neighboring singletons or small groups of zombies, I always scouted out the best way to isolate myself, and occasionally had to nail myself in to a room for the night, and begin again the next night...not much fun, but better than being eaten...

Towards the end of my time of clearing out the facility, I started to notice that I had to work harder and look longer to find the remaining...at the risk of anthropomorphizing the zombies, I believe that they were both getting scared and learning from the nightly reduction in their numbers...

One night at the beginning of August, I had to use my wrecking bar to break down a crude barricade keeping me out of the SEM lab...once I killed the pair of zombies cuddling in a nest of KimWipes (for warmth, comfort, companionship...who knows), it occurred to me that I had been in this lab only a few days earlier without encountering the barricade...the zombies built it to try and keep me out...creepy...almost enough to give me pause about what I was doing...almost...

Once I finished clearing out the JBM facility, I moved on to the camp with the army guys...I had been prepared for a tougher time with them, but the heat and humidity and seabirds had softened them up to the point where most of them weren't mobile, and simply required finishing off...I made short work of the camp, pulling all of the bodies into a central tent with tables in it, and burning it all (including some ammunition that burned off and scared the shit out of me without seeming to do any damage to anything important...meaning me)...

Once I finished with all of the zombie-cleanup, I was at something of a loss...I didn't know what to do with my time, and I couldn't get back to sleeping on the schedule of a human that doesn't live in a world filled with zombies...because of that, and my longstanding habit of still living in the hidden lab that had been our/my home for so long, I almost missed the visitors that came calling a couple of weeks ago...

I noticed stuff out of place in the facility, but discounted it, and attributed it to my being nuts, an understandable allowance that I made for myself...after the first few visits that they made without finding me, they started leaving notes...and food...the notes said that they wanted to meet, but the food really got my attention...

If they wanted to kill me, poisoned food would work, like I used to do with ants and roaches, leave the bait, and wait for it to work...no muss, no fuss...I decided that if they wanted to kill me, they would find a way to do it, so I ate some of the MREs that they left, happy to note some new entrees and additions (thai chick and wheat bread with bacon flavored cheese...yum!)...I left them a note written on one of the boxes from the first MRE of theirs that I ate, proposing a meeting for the following afternoon...I would have to get up early to make it, but didn't want to meet them at the end of my day...

We met outside the facility by one of the picnic tables that people used to sneak out to smoke in the godawful heat and stink of seagull crap and rotting seaweed...one of them offered me a Camel Light as I walked over to join them (what I used to smoke, lucky coincidence or creepy research...who cares), and I started to cry...they were all wearing level-4 suits and must have been sweating to death inside, but it beats the alternative I guess...

That first day, they just gave me a carton of smokes, a crate of MREs, and a cooler full of coke and ice...I kept reaching out to touch (maybe even hug) them, and each time they would shy away a bit, and hold out a hand to chill some distant observer (or sniper?)...we made plans to meet again the following day, and they asked if they could take a blood sample then...I went away scared and unsure of what to do...

I came out the next day with a counter to their offer, I brought some needles and sample tubes from the lab, and took my own blood and gave it to them...paranoid, maybe, but can you blame me?

They told me in the days that followed that I am swimming/crawling with the various bugs that they associate with zombism, and that they can't explain why I haven't gotten all dumb and bitey (not their words, but you get the point)...

I'll never leave Jarvis Island, I know that now...

They come ashore every few days to explore and run tests on me or soil or birds or zomb-bones slowly bleaching in the sun, but with less intensity that they did in the beginning...they've rebuilt the dock with a clean room transition...they shed and burn their suits at the end of each visit, and walk to the boats that take them away from me through an industrial-smelling shower...

They've asked a couple of times if I can get the tech working again to re-establish contact with the world again, fishing for this link, and maybe suspecting that I can do more...I try to look sheepish and scared and dumb when they ask, but I want to send and receive email from you guys (it's been so long with this one-way conversation, that I would sell my soul to talk with Mom or Dad or Marla)...

I don't know where this new stage of my life on Jarvis is going...it maybe more dangerous than the zombies, but at least I can eat and drink today, and I won't feel the knife go in...I see myself as probably being some sort of cross between caretaker and museum-piece and carnival-freak...living in the sun and stink of Jarvis until I die of old age or wake up all gnashy and chompy...

I hope that I can send another update in a couple of months (or sooner), but we'll all see how things go...I love you all, and earned my way back into the sunshine...

Mick

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Plan of action...or suicide...

I don't know which it is, but I've got a plan, and it should help to resolve my issues here on Jarvis somewhat in the next few days or week...I should know in the next week or so, but you'll have to wait until the next quarter to see if I'm still alive..and still me...

I came to my decision the other night while inspecting the remaining supplies in one of the walk in freezers...I chucked a body (I don't remember the name of the person, but strangely I still remember watching the "Godfather" movies all in one sitting with them, and, even more strongly, them eating all of the huge turduckhen drumsticks during that first Thanksgiving) out into the hallway while I organized the few remaining cases of food, and made a small pile of stuff to take back to my lab...when I was just about done, maybe an hour later, I heard a noise just outside the walk-in...

The fucking thing was scrabbling at the floor a bit with unbending limbs, blinking frosty eyelids at me, and trying to work still-frozen jaws in my direction...I've understandably gotten a bit jaded during my tneure on Jarvis, but this still freaked me out a bit...it also drove home the point that these fucking things will be here, trying to eat me, forever...

It's not a patience thing...that would be like saying that a chainsaw or DVD-player is patient...but they'll still be interested in me 5 years from now, and I don't have that much time...food is running out, and someday I'll screw up or get sick or one of them will get insomnia or something...

It occurred to me that I'm not living, I'm just surviving, living at the pleasure of these stinking piles of crap...so I made a decision to kill them all (with the "or die trying" certainly implied, but I try not to think about it much)...

I'm going to go outside tonight once they all go to sleep and try to get some guns and ammo from the soldiers' encampment down by the sea, and then start working on the inside of the lab tomorrow night, nest by nest, and finishing off with the broken ones littering the hallways...once (if) I manage to finish off all of the zombies inside, then I'll try my hand at the former soldiers outside...

I feel that the noise involved in shooting zombies around the station and island will be the greatest risk that I face...it wakes up the sleeping zombies, they come awake and are ready for actioneerily quickly, and they seem to home in on the sound like a dinnerbell...

By the time of my next update, I will be the King (and sole inhabitant) of Jarvis Island, or I'll have been dead for a couple of months, shambling around looking for lunch...in the case of the former, I'll still have to deal with dwindling supplies; while in the case of the latter, I won't have to worry about anything anymore...you'll know by the presence or absence of my next post...

I love you guys, miss you all, am scared and excited and hopeful and despairing...I'm doing something...finally...either way, I'm no longer a prisoner of the zombies of Jarvis Island...

Mick Neumann, Physical Plant Manager, JBM

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Happy April Fools' Day from Jarvis!!!

I don't remember how long I've been here anymore...I can't really remember anything but hiding and living like a rat while the fucking zombies, mindless pieces of crap that they are, roam Jarvis at will and wait like commuter for a train to eat me when I either fuck up or just get unlucky...

None of them, except the ones that have had their heads completely destroyed, have "died"...a couple seem to have sort of "run down"...like a windup toy that's run its course...they just sit down where they run out of gas and wait, mouths open like baby birds, for someone to feed them enough to get them going again...

These ones seem to go into a power-saving mode and can continue to "live" indefinitely (by definition...I'm not definite about how long they'll live, and I'm the world's leading expert on Jarvis Island Zombies...except maybe for some of the weenies at the headquarters on the mainland)...it scared the crap out of me when I crept by one of them a couple of months ago on a food run, and this thing (I choose not to remember its name from before it became a zombie) opened its eyes and snapped its teeth towards me...it couldn't move any more than its head, but I sorta lost my cool (what little I am able to maintain these days) and gave a little scream...I had to abandon my supply run and high-tail it back to the hiding lab...

I now have a pretty good idea (and map in my head) of where the zombie nests are, and where the run down ones are stuck, and was able to block the doors to the outside not long ago, to keep the outside ones outside (like a McDLT)...they keep pretty regular hours, and so do I these days, we just operate on an inverse schedule from each other...like factory workers on opposite shifts, except that in this case neither side makes anything...we just scrape to stay alive for another shift if we can...

I no longer worry about being nuked from orbit...I really think that they've either willfully forgotten about Jarvis and everything on the island will just run its course, or they're running the whole fucking island like a giant lab...dead geniuses and soldiers and zombies and all...we're at the end of the Earth, so it doesn't matter much either way...nobody makes it to Jarvis by accident, and as far as I can tell, nobody gets out of here either...

Meanwhile, I'll just keep hitting the Skinner bar until the machine/island runs out of food for me...

Mick

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

still here

I missed the October window...lost track of the days...sorry...no bomb yet, no rescue either...

The water started going salty a couple months back...I waited as long as I could and then went out with George's shotgun and a headlamp, hoping that I could find and fix the problem, that I could make it there and back without being bitten/eaten, and that my somewhat toxic lab/home would still be vacant when (if) I returned...

It was boring...I heard nothing, except the hammering of my chickenshit heart, and neither saw nor was seen by any of the zombies...I replaced the filter components of 2 of the desal units, and now it should make me good water until I'm long dead...

I eat, I sleep (a little), I sometimes watch movies, but the noise of them scares me, so I read more...

The food presently in the station (that I can access) will last me for another year or so, and then I don't know what will happen...I'm not going to think about that now...

Mick

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Summertime, and the living is...hellish!

Cyn and George are dead, I had to just throw them out the door when it happened, because I couldn't take the time to bring them to the deep-freeze and didn't have anyone to watch over me from the God-like perspective of the monitors...

They both got bit while out foraging for food and supplies...I was paying attention, but we were all so tired all of the time and I hadn't eaten in a few days because of some stomach virus (which almost had Cyn wanting to throw me out)...I just forgot to switch to the next monitor ahead in the progression which we worked out months ago to keep an eye on what's around the next corner, and BAM...zombies...

They were more sad than angry when they got back, I would have felt better if they had spent their last hours yelling at me instead of helping me set up and figure out how to survive on my own...I might be able to physically do it, but I have trouble figuring out why I should go to all of this trouble when I could just take Debbie's exit (I can't see using one of the guns, it just seems so violent as opposed to just going to sleep)...

Since those guys died ( and came back, I somehow didn't do enough damage to their heads...fuckup!) I've spent about 20 hours a day switching between the hundred or so cameras scattered across the facility and the surface of Jarvis, watching my friends continue their lives, while I rot inside this hole, continuously exposed to some minor radioactive substance (I don't even remember which it was, and it can't matter at this point, but I sometimes feel it entering my body and breaking apart cell walls...I even sometimes imagine that I can hear it happening during the too-quiet times when I do try to sleep)...

I remember where the self-destruct device is, some days I trace the way in my mind and can feel the steps and door-handles, and am surprised to wake up and find myself just watching the monitors...

I'll stay alive...I can't think of any compelling reason, but maybe wanting to is the only reason, the best reason to do anything...

Obviously, they didn't drop a bomb on us yet (although I don't use their names anymore, I can't help thinking them when I watch them wandering around the labs day in and day out), so there must be something worth watching/learning still...I wish that George was still here, to help me figure out why they haven't blasted Jarvis into the sea and sky yet...

Mick

Sunday, April 1, 2007

And then there were 3...

Boy do I wish that this was all an April Fool's Day joke, but it's just the quarterly update from Jarvis...

It's been a curiously busy/boring and scary/relaxing 3 months...we're all better adapted to living in a world with zombies (not a practical skill anywhere else, but essential if you happen to live on Jarvis)...we've all done a lot of reading and movie-watching...George and Cyn have essentially stopped being bug-hunters, and are now just survivors like Debbie and I (until Debbie died)...

The routine of our day to day survival is firmly established, and until the food runs out, we're pretty much set...we've gotten the hang of moving around to find and get the supplies that we need without getting boxed in or overrun by the zombies...

George and Cyn have (they think) isolated the combination of bugs that went into the mistake that fucked up all of our lives...having done that, they've made notes, video, audio, and kept frozen samples...Cyn ran out of interest in continuing her research first, followed by George not too long afterwards...

We had some excitement in February when a group of soldiers came ashore from the sub or ship that must still be patrolling the waters off of Jarvis...I wanted to rush out and be rescued, but Cyn (Cyn-ical as she sometimes refers to herself) had us watch them on the monitors and wait to see what happened...they set up a camp by the dock with a single-layered defense of concertina wire backed up by foot patrols just inside the wire...once established they sent out a squad to set up some posts at a greater distance...these guys made enough noise and visual presence to attract a few of the topside zombies, which they immobilized with hip-shots and brought back to their camp...

It's possible that they received inadequate (or no) briefing about what has been going on on Jarvis, but they brought the things inside their camp, and more of the them followed the soldiers back to the wire, where they were pretty much ignored once caught in the concertina...I think that the heat and humidity topside must help the bugs run through our systems more efficiently, because by the next morning there were less soldiers visible, and when a squad headed out towards the facility, the camp seemed very quiet...

They came in through one of the perimeter hatches which leads directly into the bowels of the physical plant operations center, a place that we had avoided after we learned a bit about the zombies...it was dark and quiet and I had seen at least 10-15 zombies returning to nests in that area while watching the monitors during my time at watch...these 10 soldiers, no doubt well-trained, were taken apart in the dark because they hadn't been told what to expect, and how to deal with the threat...they went for center-mass shots and ignored fallen zombies until it was too late...they pulled out minutes later, and fell back to the camp with all but a few wounded and (although they didn't knwo it yet) dead...

George thinks that they came with the intent of either downloading the facility mainframe and/or repairing the self-destruct device that I had messed up earlier...both of those options would seem to indicate that the JBM-mainland office was done with Jarvis, and ready to move on...

The night that we discussed that pleasing thought, Debbie stopped off at the medical supplies on her way to bed and picked up enough pain-meds and dramamine to kill an elephant and settle it's tummy beforehand...I found her the next morning, actually dead and presenting a unique (in our experience to date) problem...we couldn't keep her body with us in our bolt-hole, and we didn't want the zombies to eat her (or to find out if she could come back if she was infected after actual death)...so we waited until zombie bedtime (they actually go to bed around 8pm, and sleep about 10 hours each night) and snuck her down to one of the still-functioning deep freezers...leaving her right next to a pile of steaks and bags of peas and such...

By the next morning, the camp by the remainder of the dock had more zombies inside the wire than outside...they couldn't get out for the longest time, but eventually managed to crawl over/through the wire and join the rest of the topside population of Jarvis...bumping our numbers by another 20 or so...

They haven't nuked us from orbit yet, so maybe the zombification of the soldiers regained their attention for a while longer...I hope to report back in a couple of months...if you don't hear from me, nothing good happened...

Mick

Monday, January 1, 2007

Quarterly report

Hello from Jarvis!

I'm not dead yet!!! <---Monty Python Line JBM management has altered the schedule for data squirts from JBM to the mainland to 4 times each year instead of the weekly reports that were going out, so I won't be able to update you more regularly than that...sorry... They also stopped the supply drops, which is OK since the surface is a pretty rough environment anyway...zombies don't seem to mind the heat and humidity and stink, and they never seem to tire once they catch sight of you, even fat ones can run all day (it seems)...we had a couple of hairy re-supply pickups out there before we gave up (we couldn't really carry enough on the fly to make the risks worth it)... There's only 4 of us left...alive...Cyn had just cut herself, and she was fine after some crazy glue stitchery by George, but Phil did get bit while they were out a couple of weeks later, and kept it from us for a while...

He asked me to take care of him when the time came, and a couple of days before Thanksgiving, I took him out of our hidey-hole in the lab, and made sure that he wouldn't come back...I don't want use names anymore for people that have died or changed, there are too many, and those things out there shouldn't have names anyway...

JBM might not know that we're still alive, is what George thinks...we are living in the only part of the facility that is not covered by the cameras and other sensors that continue to send data to the mainland...he says that if they are just grabbing the occasional picture to monitor the zombies, that they may never see us, and are just watching the outbreak run its course...

I think that they know, and just don't care, and that as soon as they get tired of collecting and collating data they'll try to activate the code black option, which, as it turns out is a thermobaric fuel-air bomb (like the MOAB)...

I talked it over with Cyn and George, who helped develop the original plans for the JBM facility, and although they never envisioned zombies, they did plan for possible containment failure of some of their research, which is why we were out at the ass-end of the Earth...they wanted to be able to prevent the spread of any rogue bugs to the rest of the world...

I suggested the famous line from Aliens, "Nuke it from orbit, it's the only way to be sure", but was assured that a nuke is much more trouble than it's worth (neither of them said that they couldn't get one, just that they didn't want one)...it draws lots of attention and leaves a mess...Jarvis is small enough that a thermobaric fuel-air bomb (like the MOAB) will erase it from the planet and destroy everything on it in a furnace of heat and pressure...

Once we finished that discussion, I worked out where the bomb would be, went out with George and Debbie, and "fixed" it so that the bomb could not be detonated remotely...I don't know why I didn't just completely disarm the thing, but if shit gets desperate enough, it might be nice to have a reset button to make sure nothing gets off the island...

We lost power about a month ago, but I was able to cobble the system together, cutting out some of the more "expensive" portions of the facility systems...I switched off most of the HVAC and water desal systems, and just keep our part supplied, and left the power on everywhere in the facility (I was gonna turn everything else off to save power, but George figured that if the mainland lost their pictures and sensor data, they might decide to write Jarvis off...

We're ok on food for the time being, although the rations are monotonoous...we alternate sometimes with canned stuff (which the zombies can't manage to open) and what frozen and dry goods remain after zombie raiding parties over the months have stripped most of the facility walk-ins to the shelving (and in one, we found a nest of sleeping zombies...we maaged to back out without waking them, and froze the door with some JB-weld...

It's amazing how you can get used to almost anything...we've settled into a routine and the days pass and we (a few of us) stay alive...

I find that I never think about rescue anymore, just surviving...but we're here, if you can figure out a way to draw some attention to our plight without making it plain that I've been communicating with you (if I have...I haven't seen the blog or had a response from you in I don't know how long, but I have to imagine that you all see this, and remember me, and believe that someday I'll be home)...

we're at 0° 22.222'S, 159° 59.842'W according to my GPS...I don't know if they can or will (or should) take Jarvis off of the maps, but that's where we have been, are, and will be...

Don't forget me!

Mick

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

data squirt update

I'm piggybacking this on the outgoing labcams and climate data squirt, so it can't be very long...I'm working on a better way to communicate, as this took me a long time to hack, and may not even get out...I hope that you see this, so you know that I'm still here, still me...still Mick...

Sorry it's been so long...life has been hard and horrible since I was last able to get word out to you, but the most important message I can impart in this update is that I'm still alive, along with 4 other members of the station: George and Cyn and Debbie and Phil...

Everyone else is either dead or a zombie...I still hate that word, it makes all of the shit that we've been through out her seem unimportant or silly or dreamlike...

Some of the zombies that we "killed" early on have come back, we must not have damaged their heads enough, and/or the regenerative capabilities of the franken-bugs is on the rise...either way, we now make sure to destroy the head completely (simply cutting it off works, but as we learned with Boyd, leaves you with a very creepy paperweight that continues to watch you and snap whenever you come close)...

They burn a lot of calories keeping themselves ambulatory, and George and Cyn had hopes that this would be the key, that we could lock ourselves in a secure part of the facility and just wait for them to run down like wind-up toys (creepy ones that like to feed on your guts and blood)...no luck, some of them either figured or lucked out, and released themselves from the portions of the facility that we had been using to contain themselves, and raided some of the food supplies, a subset of these later went outside and have had some luck catching the birds and fish that don't know enough to be scared of us (them)...

Everyone else is out scavenging supplies while I am monitoring the facility cameras to plot them a clear path, and keeping our hidey hole secure...we ended up deciding to make use of the lab that had been previously sealed off due to a radiological "incident", the risk was too great while we were just a scientific station, but when the dead rise and try to eat you, you tend to re-evaluate all of your cost/benefit equations, and this lab is pretty secure, has water and lights, and has one door that seals from the inside (hence one of us staying behind everytime...this time was me, which allowed me to set up this squirt transmission piggyback)...

Strangely, most of the time, the zombies keep pretty quiet, not moaning like in the movies, and they don't wander around looking for us all of the time, I think that they forget about us if they can't see/hear/smell us...they seem to gather together and make nests in the dark corners of the facility, which to date has kept us from hunting them down en masse (something George wants to do, but I'm not crazy about going into the dark and looking for large groups of zombies on purpose...seems easier just to cut my own throat)...

I can now see the group coming back down the hall at speed on the monitors, half-carrying Cyn who (damn B&W cameras) seems to be spattered with blood or some other dark liquid...I've got to get ready at the door, here's hoping she just cut herself on some glass, I don't much want to think about the other...

Mick

Tuesday, July 4, 2006

Independence Day

Kendrick is dead. His body was failing due to the mega-doses of antibiotics and antiviral agents that he was self-administering, but it was still a battle he felt was worth fighting even if it was lose/lose).

We found him, ironically, in the kitchen eating Mike and Pam, and George (mild-mannered geek turned Rambo?) killed Kendrick first, and then Pam, as she got up and rushed him and me...both with a handgun that looked like it was someone's grandfather's in WW2, but still worked fine for the job at hand...Mike's head had a sharpening stone sticking out of his eye-hole, and apparently it was enough to keep him from - wait for it - rising from the dead...

George and Cyn are cloistered in Kendrick's office right now, reading through what he called the "Black Files", and trying to figure out who's in charge, and what to do now...they don't want to call in to the head office without thinking it through (a sentiment that I whole-heartedly agree with) until they figure out the CODE BLACK that Kendrick mentioned a few times in the final days leading up to his transformation into...whatever he transitioned into...fuck a bunch of calling these people zombies!!! {even if that's what they are}

I've got a little time (and bandwidth) to post a couple of pictures since Kendrick's dead, and the new ruler of Zombie Island (formerly known as Jarvis) hasn't gotten their shit together yet...I'm posting these using Kendrick's superuser account, and it might be good until they rescue us, or be shut down in 10 minutes...

Sorry Mom, but I wanted to include these just in case somebody still thinks that this is an elaborate joke, or some other fucked up thing...


This is Mike's arm, Kendrick was smart enough as a zombie to hack it off pretty cleanly, but not clever enough to avoid making a mess (or to avoid getting himself turned into a zombie...or to avoid getting me into this mess...argh!)...

Pam with the extra hole in her face, thanks to George...you can't see itvery well in this picture, but her sweats are soaked in blood from where Kendrick or Mike bit her legs and back...George guessed that all 3 might have been getting together to "med" each other up, knowing they were turning...we'll never know so much about what went wrong here on Jarvis, it's a shame, and I don't know how we avoid making the same mistakes again without any history...maybe this blog can help...maybe nobody can see it anymore, I don't know, but it helps me to keep posting...


This is the lovely sight that greeted me yesterday morning when I went to check on Sara...she somehow got herself into one of the "clean rooms", and once she turned, we had to just lock and isolate the lab...she didn't mind and can't get out (I hope)...but she scared the piss out of me when I turned on the lights and there she was, screaming at me from the other side of the glass...all alone in the room, she was canibalizing herself for parts (sorry for the broken sense of humor, but I'm a bit ragged out here at the edge of whatever)...


I've learned more than I ever want to know about blood viscosity and color from George and Cyn in the last hours/days/week (it all blends into one long headache, punctuated with moments of the most horrid stuff ever)...the above handprints would be fresh and runny (maybe slightly tacky, like drying paint), and I wouldn't go anywhere near them without George or one of his guns...it was taken moments after shooting Kim, so no worries on that score...everyone in the rom was re-dead...


This picture was an older bloodstain in the kitchen, near one of the walk-in pantries, and was old enough to be dark-brown, almost black, and feels like soup or gravy burned onto a stove-top through my nitrile gloves (I wear them almost all the time now, sometimes 2 pairs)...

I love you guys, miss you all, can't wait to get out of here, hope that G&C have some ideas, and hope that you can get something working from your end...

they're coming, I have to go now, check back in as sooon as I can...

M

Saturday, July 1, 2006

Fucking Zombies!!!

I didn't add to the blog before now for a number of reasons:
  • I didn't have time
  • I didn't have access to the network
  • I didn't know WTF! was going on out here at the ass-end of the Earth
I would say that Mom shouldn't read this, but that's a ridiculous idea, so, sorry mom...

I might as well come out and say it...those of us who succumbed to the "rogue biologicals from various labs and facilities within JBM" (as Kendrick liked to say in the endless stream of memos and in-house computer messages that he sent out in the days leading up to his...well...more on that later...) have turned into zombies...there's no other way to say it that isn't both layered in sci-speak bullshit and less informative...

Some combination of bugs (which is a generic term that we tend to use to mean any of the animals or plants or virii or prions that the researchers were experimenting with) defeated the security and containment systems in the period surrounding the big storm back in May (can it possibly be only 2 months ago?)...the work that the principle scientists had to do primarily with pain management and both the rate and mechanisms of healing/regeneration in response to bodily damage...

George's work with orchids, and Cynthia's work with the ginormous snails in particular had apparently met with some degree of success in both their labs and in the test-subjects in the mouse house...a number of Cynthia's snails defeated their containment systems during a power brownout in her lab, and got aerosolized in the HVAC system shortly thereafter (ugh...we all breathed in zombie snails...)...George theorizes that his orchids flashed into defensive spore/seedling release mode when the temperature in his lab soared by almost 30 degrees, and the air went from neutral to radically salty...George admitted to me one night while watching the bank of TV screens that covers JBM like a creepy blanket that he had cut and pasted all sorts of plant (and even some animal genes and virus/prion bits) into his orchids in the hopes of making them more effective message transmitter...he got his wish...in spades...

So with George and Cynthia's Franken-genes floating through the air, and other miscellaneous stuff back-drafting from the ARF, all of us were basted in a complex soup of nasty crap, and everyone got sick...

I got the system up and running again as quick as I could, but will still probably burn in my own private Hell for my part in all of this...Kendrick and George and Cyn were quick to figure out the problem (with the help of so-called "canary" systems, biological sensors throughout the lab that reacted quickly to the threats to JBM and her personnel...they instituted the Red Protocol and attendant quarantine, and started everyone on the shotgun approach to antibiotics and antivirals...it worked, to some degree, on some of us...nobody who was here during the storm will ever be the same...if any of us gets out alive...

I (and few lucky ones like me) got out of my room in 7 days, and was/am, for all intents and purposes, fine...some combination of the drugs and my naturally robust immune system allowed me to battle and beat the bugs!!! (Debbie and Phil and George and Cyn and Sara)

Kendrick and many others got sicker, and had to have the dosages and variety of drugs in their personal regimen increased and increased again until most of them bounced (or crawled) back to relative normalcy...

The others, all of them friends and people I've shared meals and movies with, have all turned into fucking zombies...flesh-eating, shambling, moaning, beating on the other side of the door for 2 weeks straight without a pee-break zombies...

Steve and Kim (our only married couple, which is suspicious in hind-sight, especially since they got married here) were the ones who drove the point home for me...

I was one of the first out of quarantine, and so I was helping George and Cyn and Kendrick manage the logistics of the other quarantines, including monitoring the other JBM employees (an uncomfortable job at best, as it was a total invasion of privacy)...we worked five out of every eight 6-hour shifts on a rotating basis, and a couple would be spent in front of the monitoring station and on commo-duty...

I was used to the routine of watching people eat and sleep and shit (yes, cameras in every room), and once you get used to it, you can tune most of the activity out, just noticing what's different...Kim and Steve were the only 2 who shared a room (other people hooked up from time to time, but we all maintained our own quarters), so when Kim's "infection" (that's what we call it, complete with auditory finger-quotes) peaked, she didn't just beat on the door like the other sick ones did...she beat on Steve...with a chair, laying his head open right quick...and then took him apart with her delicate fingers...licking those fingers clean when they got covered in blood to the elbows...she hollowed out his chest cavity first, and then moved on to the muscles in his arms and legs...

After she started beating on Steve, I called everyone who was "healthy", and once we decided, through some serious arguments, to leave them behind their door for now, we took a closer look at some of the other people still in quarantine...some looked like I had felt during the quarantine period, like a rat in a trap, pacing, crying, reading and rereading books, eating and drinking, washing their bodies and clothes and sleeping in bed...Mike and Greta and Bill and Fred and Sam and Phil-2 and Brent...

Others pounded on their doors, hour after hour...some chewed on ration bars, still in the packaging...some drank out of the toilet, like dogs, and seemed to piss and crap wherever they were when the need came...these people made, for lack of a better word, nests out of the paper coveralls and clothes and papers and ripped up books...all shoved in a closet or under the bed in their room...Kim (obviously) and Leslie and Julie and Boyd and Pam and Mary and Bill and Rob and Dave and Jim and Ron and Bob and Enrique...

After having seen Kim's behavior and reorganizing our thoughts on the people still in quarantine, we decided to step up the medication regimen for those who were just slower in getting better, and to take more serious precautions when dealing with those who had...changed...

We don't know exactly what to do with them, they're still people-ish, folks that I've joked and laughed and had fun with...but they're not themselves anymore, and I'm sure that Sara, who I've had a crush on since arriving, and even flirted with some, would eat me without a thought...

They don't think, they just act, like angry animals...luckily they don't seem very smart, especially given how smart some of these people were when they were themselves...

George and Kendrick and Cyn disappeared for an hour, with shouting, and came back with George's shotgun and an obvious decision...Kim had committed murder and presented an obvioous threat to the rest of the people on Jarvis, so we were going to try and remove/subdue her while getting her away from what was left of Steve...George asked me to suit up with him (I'm burlier than anyone else in our group of "healthies", and Steve was a friend, so I was willing to help), and head into the room...

I unlocked the door and let George push the door open with his shotgun, yelling to Kim to get back against the wall...Kim ran at us shrieking and ready to tear us and eat us, no shit...she would have eaten on us until her gut burst and bathed in our blood, she was that crazy looking...

George shot her in the leg, she turned 1/4 of a circle and dumped onto the floor like a sack of potatoes...3 seconds later, she got up and started hobbling towards us, at first turning in little circles until she noticed that he left leg wasn't moving, then she corrected and lunged at George...

He shot her again, this time right in the middle of the UC Santa Cruz seal on her sweatshirt...this time, she just fell over backwards...

I kid you not, a couple of seconds later she rolled over awkwardly, like a turtle stunned after being flipped by a passing truck on the highway, and pushed herself off of the ground like Nina doing the 100th pushup that time at Pete's...

She stood up, swaying like a drunk, and breathing hoarsely, bubbles and blood and bits of gorey crap falling out of her like stew in a paper-bag...and then leapt at George, teeth snapping even as he poked her forehead with the shotgun and pulled the trigger...

Fucking zombie movie 101, go for the headshots if you don't want them to keep getting up...the headshot put Kim, sweet little Kim, who had eaten all of the soft bits of Steve-o before we could do anything to help either of them...

George turned and walked out, dropped the gun by the door (I grabbed it and gave it back to him later that night), stripped out of the tyvek suit right there, and went to his office without a word...I shut the door, throwing my tyvek back into the room, it landed partly on top of Steve, and I almost went back in to move it before I snapped out of it...we shut and locked the door, and then sealed it shut with building foam and duct-tape...Kendrick later told me that we'd go back in to sterilize it sometime, but I'm not going back in there if I have anything to say about it...

Thursday, June 15, 2006

quick update

I can't use much bandwidth or be on for long, but I'm ok, and things are stable, if not normal, here on Jarvis Issland...I've done a count, and the infected (in various states of infection) outnumber the non-infected among the staff of JBM by at least 2 to 1...with the number shiftin in their favor daily...

Some people,friends of mine, never made it out of the initial quarantine, and Kendrick upgraded the protocol level to Red from Orange, which further clamps down on our interactions with the outside world...the dock was dismantled by George and Kendrick and me a week or 2 ago (first time I'd been outside in weeks, and it was a welcome change, even with all the stink and heat and birdshit), but we got a supply drop via an airplane earlier this week...one pallet of food and gear and one to resupply the chem-labs and med-depot...

Kendrick is sleeping less and less, workng 18-20 hours a day, and only stopping when George or Cyn force him to...he's manic whenever I see him, shouting and laughing and crying and throwing stuff in turns...he dragged me in to his office for a pep-talk about, "all pulling together for the good of the lab", and then ran into the bathroom off of his room to throw up for awhile...i used th eopportunity to send this out using his live network plug...

He just yelled that he'll be out in a minute, so I'm off...love you all, pray for us...

M

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Silence is golden!!!

They are intercepting my emails, both incoming and outgoing, so don't say anything about the quarantine or this blog...especially this blog...

For whatever reason, "they" haven't yet found out about this blog, and don't seem to have access to it...sorry for the paranoid rant, but I'll explain...

I hadn't heard from you guys in response to my email, which surprised me, but figured that maybe you suspected that I had fallen prey to cabin fever and/or was playing a joke on all of you (not a very funny one, but who knows)...

Then this morning, Kendrick called me to his office and waved a sheaf of printouts in my face and asked about how I had managed to send emails out to my family and friends, and how they knew so much about what was going on at JBM, when the Orange Protocol had not yet been lifted...

I bullshitted about having a way to fake the network into letting me send and receive emails without leaving any trace on the system, but he didn't entirely buy it...there must be something about the gmail that is easy to grab, and something about the blog data that is harder to identify...

I'll try to send updated information when I can, but please remember what I told you in the last email that you responded to...Mike Martin is the guy in the Hawaii office, and he can get help you with everything that I mentioned...

Either I got less of the bugs, or they got the drugs into me soon enough, or I had some level of immunity, or I'm just not fucked yet...one way or another, I'm still me...

Kendrick and the other survivors need me more than ever now, and so they can't isolate me from computers and still have me help them get done what has to get done and keep all of us alive...I'm more important now than on the first day that I arrived, and as long as the small pipe stays active, I'll keep sending out updates and whatever else I can figure out about what went wrong out here on Jarvis

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Scary shit!!!

Sorry mom, but that's what it is...your baby boy is scared, and he doesn't care who knows it...before you start reading this, I can tell you that it ends ok-ish...

Friday night, I was feeling a little logey, and went to bed feeling hung-over and achy...

I woke up the next morning freezing cold and locked in my room. I didn't even know that my room had a lock, none is visible from either side of the door, it is controlled by the JBM Command structure, made up of Kendrick and whoever he works for back in the USA...

I called out on the phone in my room (an in-house setup, like a hotel has, but with no line to the outside world), and even though I dialed Mike's room, I got put through to Kendricks office. He answered the phone and started off telling me not to worry, but that everyone in the facility had been exposed to "agents" that had been released from the ARF and a few other labs during the storm and power interruption...he said that some people were showing signs of "infection" and some were not, but that for the safety of everyone, he had enabled the orange protocol, which has as one of its initial steps a global quarantine within the facility...

He said that one of the senior staff would be by shortly to evaluate me, and give me the necessary treatment...this didn't inspire me to happiness or confidence...almost everyone on Jarvis, except for me, is a doctor, but they're not medical doctors like Dr. Slaunwhite back home...

It didn't seem as though I had much choice in the matter, so I layered up in some more clothes and walked around the room, trying to warm up enough to think clearly...

The cold must have been to inhibit the growth of whatever beasties they thought were airborne and/or on my skin and/or in my bloodstream...I tried the shower, but the taps spun without any effect, although the sink had cold water when I tried it...

A knock on my door announced a visitor (although the idea of knocking to enter a prisoner's cell seemed a little silly to me, I guess the niceties of civilized society must be observed even after the shit hits the fan)...I told them to come in and Cyn and George came in, looking ridiculous in a pair of moon suits...Cyn had a rolling med-cart and George had nothing in his hands except for a very un-George-like shotgun...which he pointed at me from when they entered the room until he backed out again...Cyn made a point of never getting between George and I after they came in...

George told me to strip naked, put my feet 3 feet apart, my hands on top of my head, and to slowly spin in place...Cyn came over and ran a bright light hooked up to a small suitcase with a fan in it up and down my body in an impersonal enough manner that I didn't even get embarrassed enough to make jokes about needing to get to the gym...she took notes on a clipboard with about a zillion check boxes, and occasional spaces for narrative...

George told me to hold my arm out and let Cyn take some blood...she took 4 vials worth out of my arm, then pricked the tip of my finger and George told me to press the finger pad onto 5 different paper squares (pre-labelled with my name and ss#)...Cyn put all of the vials and 3 of the paper squares into individual ziplocks, and then put those into an uber ziplock with my name on it...the other 2 paper squares, she dripped some clear liquid onto, and waited for 30 really quiet seconds before checking them carefully against a test sheet with 10 different color-smudges...she sighed and said, "thank God" under her breath...both she and George visibly relaxed, a little, but still wouldn't make eye contact with me...

I felt like one of their fucking lab-mice (excuse me mom) as George told me to lay down on the bed and to let Cyn give me some shots...she gave me a series of shots similar to what Sam had received: one in my shoulder, one in a vein in my arm, one in my butt, one in my thigh, and one of the creepy ones in my heart...she also jammed a tube up each nostril in turn and told me to breath in deeply while she pumped some noxious potion into my nose, throat, and lungs...

When she was done with that, George told me to stay on the bed until I heard the door close and lock...Cyn walked out into the hall, and for a second I swear that I thought George was going to shoot me...Cyn came back in 10 seconds later with a big cardboard box...put it down and went out twice more for similarly big boxes...then without another word they left...

I got up as soon as I hear the door close, and went over to the boxes, which was filled with foil-covered bricks of what purported to be emergency rations...



The next box was filled with lots of foil-packs of pills, bottles of liquids in various colors and viscosities, and a couple of inhalers...all with directions in excrusiating detail in a 3-ring binder...this box also had 21 packets of DOD oral rehydration therapy mix (the directions implied horrific diarrhea for the duration of my internment)...

The 3rd box had 8 rolls of toilet paper (I later figured out they budgeted for 1 roll per day plus a spare), antibacterial wipes, a pair of JBM branded nalgene bottles (for the ORT I guess), 10 paper/tyvek coveralls, and a brief paper outlining (in what I assume was a heavily censored version of) what had happened by Dr. Kendrick...

Kendrick said that multiple biologicals had, through bad luck and multiple systems failures, defeated the security measures JBM had in place, and that different staff members had gotten different levels of exposure...to that end, everyone was asked to participate in the medical screening and prophylactic treatment, and a quarantine (of unspecified length)...

It was a horrible 7 days, I felt sick as a dog for most of the time, either from escaped bugs or from the treatment, but I started feeling human again towards the end of the week...tapwater, cold tapwater, worked the whole time, but nothing else, so I took baths with wipes and ate and slept and drank and pooped until they let me out an hour ago...

I had already written this on my computer, but the network was shut down as a part of the orange protocal, so it took me awhile to find a live terminal, and send this out via the secret small pipe...sorry if it doesn't make much sense...I'll email or call as soon as I can...

Love,

Mick

Friday, May 5, 2006

The big storm

We had a huge storm lasting most of the week. We had to switch to generators to keep everything running, and run off of stored water supplies (the desalinaters get cranky if you run too much silty water through them, and the water has been stirred into froth for days).

The solar setup topside is supposed to be able to withstand winds up to 120 mph, but we sustained damage totaling about 40% of our capacity.

During one of the serious blows early in the week, the power went out, and during the lull before the battery backup or gennies kicked in, the negative pressure of the mouse house was compromised...only about 30 seconds, but there was a howling wind blowing the wrong way hard enough to backdraft the entire facility full of the smell of mice and pee and some other raunchy smells (like rotting meat/fruit and funnily enough...grape jelly).

I caught some shit for that, not taking the possibility of high winds and loss of power into account when I did the upgrade on the ARF containment...I screwed up, but in my defense, I'm not really the right guy to have designed that setup...

No big deal, the whole place was smelling ozone-tastic in short order once Dr. Kendrick got me out of bed and said that it was my only priority...

Love you guys and miss you lots...are you sending weekly batches of email, or is that just how they're coming through nowadays? I can (and do) still send most of my emails and updates to this blog through the back channel of the small data-pipe, but everything coming in goes through the big pipe, which the stateside "overlords" control.

Talk to you later,

Mick

Friday, April 14, 2006

Shades of grey...

It's entirely possible that I got freaked about (almost) nothing, and let my imagination get the better of me...due to cabin fever or whatever, out here at the ends of the Earth...

Kurt isn't Darth Vader, he's a bug hunter, balancing work with potentially dangerous bugs against the possibility of immense benefits for sick people all over the world...the people who work here (myself included, I'm cashing the paycheck too, after all is said and done) are all doing important work, and are aware (mostly) of the risks involved...and it's not like coal-mining in China (which is really dangerous)...nobody's dying out here, Sam got the flu for a bit (due to his screw-up), and received top-flight medical care while he was sick...




Kurt called a dinnertime meeting tonight, after a week back in regular operations, and treated us all to some awesome ribeyes out of the deep-freeze (yum!)...he filled everyone in on what had happened to Sam, what he might have been exposed to, the course of treatment, and a bit about the protocol that temporarily sealed us off from the rest of the world (I pretty much knew it already, but it was nice to hear it from "the man")...we talked about the balance between safety and scientific exploration, such as we doing out here at JBM, and ended up with everyone agreeing with Kurt (at least to his face) that the protocol at JBM made sense, and people said that they were on board with it...

I agree with everything that Kurt said, but the whole thing still creeps me out in a couple of ways (nothing bad enough to make me want to head back to the mainland yet, though)...I like the fact that Mike and I have a back-door to communicate with the rest of the world (and it seems obvious that nobody knows about our illicit use of the small-pipe, or else we would have heard about it by now)...

Waffling out on the rim of the world,

Mick

Thursday, April 6, 2006

Shmoozing George...

As you can see from the beautiful pictures down below, we're back up and running and in normal communication with the rest of the world from JBM...there was a notice up in the kitchen this morning from Kurt (in tricky red on red printing...who knows why) announcing that Sam would be back at work on Monday, that the yellow-protocol had been un-done, and apologizing for any inconvenience with the temporary interruption in dataflow...

I stopped in to shoot the shit with George for a bit while checking the facility over (and helping Mike get peoples' computers talking to each other and the rest of the world again), and try to talk with him a bit about what had happened the other day...in order to get him comfortable talking, I poked around his labs and greenhouse with him, and got him talking about his research...

Here I am groping some of George's tricky olives...he insists that there are thousands of different types of olives around the world, including some producing astounding medically useful compounds...most of them involving antiseptic and healing properties...


The bulk of his research however revolves around orchids, about which I know nothing except that I kept one in the fridge until it was time to pick up Mary-Kate for Prom, and that vanilla comes from an orchid...

George though, knows a lot (maybe everything!) about orchids, and seemed willing, even eager to share it all with me...he says that serious orchid-people won't even talk about how many species there are in the world, because about 1000 new ones are discovered each year, and that number could be 10 times higher if there was more funding for exploration/cataloging...it is the largest of the flowering plant families in the world and, according to George, the most important...

He is studying chemical compounds in a bunch of different orchids that are a part of their defensive systems or symbiotic strategies (meaning a "deal" that the orchid "works out" with another plant/animal species that benefits them both)...

An example he gave of a defensive compound in one of them (they all looked exactly the same to me, none currently had flowers, but he could tell them apart easily) was a "dissociative" drug that acted on animals planning on eating the leaves and spores/seedlings...they stimulate the animal's hunger response while tasting horrible...this prompts the animal to leave in a hurry in search of other foodstuffs...George said that by manipulating the structure of this chemical, they could make it possible for cancer/AIDS patients to overcome nausea and the inability to eat...he added that some cultivars he had grown could "push" the animal consuming it to seek out protein-rich (meat) or carb0-rich (fruit) foods...he even showed me some mice that could be made to hunger for, and eat, meat instead of their regular diets...



An example he showed me of an orchid that had evolved around a symbiotic relationship with a forest dwelling spider in Madagascar...the orchid produces a sap that gathers in little basins formed at the base of its leaves which stupefies bugs and frogs and even small birds that drink or fall into the water/sap catchment (literally makes them stupid, they wander deeper into the basin until they drown or get caught in the spiders' rudimentary web...the spider harvests some these treasures in return for keeping the orchid free of mites...George said that nobody could figure out how the spiders avoided getting stupid until someone thought to test the mites...the mites tap the orchids for the sap and metabolize it into usable nutrition and, more importantly, an antidote to the sap's stupefying effects...

George is more excited about this orchid than all of the others put together...he says that the sap's effect (in combination with the mites antidote, which somebody on the mainland has already nailed down) act like an on/off switch that could eventually be made into a safe and effective anesthetic and pain-killer that could work for people for whom traditional drugs are not an option...

And now for the important part of our discussion...

George told me bits and pieces about the inner workings of JBM and the various protocols that are ready to be put into place at a moment's notice...below are my best recollections based on our discussion:

JBM is a medical research facility, but Kurt has friends in the DOD and elsewhere who helped to make the station on Jarvis possible (a sticking point that only now occurred to me...how did they get permission to build JBM way out here on a wildlife preserve? Kurt had helpful guardian angels all over the place in the US govt. who could help grease the wheels.)...

We're way out on Jarvis because JBM researchers work with potentially dangerous stuff, and their testing/approval schedule has been fast-tracked in exchange for specific safety considerations (location in the middle of the Pacific, censorship/limiting of regular communication {thanks to Mike, for setting me up with the super-user account which let me avoid having the government overseers reading through my emails and this blog}, and the yellow/orange/red protocols involving containment of contaminations and information in the event of accidents)...

Sam was pumped full of crazy doses of every anti-viral agent known to man, and chilled to hypothermic levels to retard the growth of the bugs that might have been introduced into his system...the slide that Sam was handling on the morning of the 3rd was a trial cocktail of hobbled ebola and flu viruses that were acting as carriers for some compounds isolated in his and Cynthia's labs...the trial's aim was to see if the different bugs could co-exist in an environment controlled setting, and whether or not the chemical compounds carried inside the semi-neutered viruses would replicate using the mechanisms of the viruses and materials from the host (in this case a nutrient laden slide)...

Besides the re-supply ships and approved med-evacs (which have to be password-authorized by Kurt or George of Cyn), there is a virtual travel bubble around Jarvis, backed up by a naval vessel out of Hawaii that circles the island for a month at a time before being relieved by another one for a month (he said that it's a pair of mothballed subs, always a couple of miles out)...

The principal researchers are all the way in the know, and the rest of the staff know most of it (I'm assuming that I don't know everything, but enough to spook me a bit...again...TANSTAAFL)...

I'm glad that I know a bit more about the ground-truth at JBM, and now understand why the money is so good...I have a few ideas as to how to make the physical setting a bit safer for all of us that I'm going to bring to Kurt...we'll see...

I'll be sending regular emails through the station's setup, and talk to Mike about beefing up the security of my back-door email and data-flow for the blog...I don't want to lose communications with you guys in the event that somebody drops something out here...

Please don't send anything worried-sounding or revealing in emails or letters to me...I have to assume that they (paranoia kicking in, even if it is real...) will be reading everything going in or out...

Love,

Mick

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

April Fool's Day...I wish (part 2)

I wandered by the lab (jail) that George and Sam were still in this morning, George looked cranky and Sam looked like crap...he was greenish, except for his eyes, which were reddish...

I tried to pick Cynthia's brain a bit about the "protocol" that Kurt had mentioned, but she blew me off quickly, saying she was too busy...she said that the protocols were in place to keep everyone at JBM safe, and that Kurt had everyones' best interests in mind in enforcing them fully...

I talked with Mike this morning, and he said that although the primary data outflow had been shut down by the JBM protocol (and can only be re-activated by Kurt's use of his "yellow" protocol password), that the secondary, "small-pipe", data stream was still up and running...

The small-pipe at JBM was installed to keep the offices on the mainland connected to JBM on Jarvis, even if the primary lines of communication were not functioning...it goes through a different satellite, runs off of an alternate power-source, and mostly is used to transmit security info back and forth...

Mike said that there are cameras all over the facility, and twice a day they send the San Francisco office a buonch of lo-rez B&W pictures and temp readings from numerous sites/labs around the facility...Mike also pointed out to me that he's been through 4 yellow-protocols since starting at JBM, and that he piggybacks emails to his mom onto the small-pipe data packets (he is religious about a daily email to her)...

He told me that he could do the same thing for me, as long as I don't tell the rest of the staff (ah, the bond non-scientists share on an island full of bug-hunters)...the downside is that he won't send any pics, just text (to conserve bandwidth and maintain a low profile in the data packet)...so until the protocol is lifted, no more pics...

Mick

April Fool's Day...I wish (part 1)

Sam, one of the clean-room boys, who I barely know, gave us all one hell of a scare yesterday...and bumped JBM (and all of us working here) into the twilight zone...

He was prepping some slides for the EM-lab for Kurt when he stuck himself, putting a glass-tip through his nitrile glove and slicing open his finger, providing a perfect pathway for the bugs to play house in his bloodstream (and by proxy, anywhere in his body)...

George was the senior researcher (and most highly-trained medical provider) on-duty, so they paged him using the facility-wide intercom (which is why I heard it, and came to see if I could help)...this is where it gets a bit more than a bit odd...

I must have gotten to the slide-prep station only a couple of seconds after George, but Sam's index finger had already been opened to the bone by mild-mannered George and flushed with N-9 using a high-powered nozzle...Sam was screaming like a colicky baby (I bet it stung a bit)...

George was white as a sheet, but cool as a highly refrigerated cucumber when he told Pam to grab the "contingency-pack", a big crate which has a clone in every room in the facility (I know that now, I never noticed them before that moment...just more sci-stuff)...she opened it up and seemed to know what she was doing as she got out an electric-blanket thing, and chucked a smaller pelican case to George...

While Pam was plugging the blanket in, George opened the case, and layed out a bunch of syringes, each labelled and full of liquid (cold liquid by the way the syringes fogged in the room while he grabbed the first one)...he gave Sam an injection in a vein on the wrist nearest his cut...he then gave him another shot in that arm, a long and thin-needled one in the center of his chest (carefully placed to judge by the groping/measuring George did before pushing the needle home), a huge one in the meat of his opposite shoulder, and an even bigger one in his butt...

While Sam was still "ouch"-ing from the assault of needles, Pam draped the blanket over him and tucked the edges around him so he was covered from head to toes, with only his face poking out...he immediately started complaining about the cold, you could feel it coming off of the blanket in waves...George yelled at him (maybe the weirdest thing so far...George is the quietest, most polite guy ever...ever) to shut up and sit still, and then ordered (yes, ordered...) us out of the room, and locked the door behind us, with himself and Sam alone on the inside...as we all walked away, I could see George donning a mask and new gloves and tyvek coveralls...

It was painfully quiet in the cafeteria while we all waited for something to happen...Kurt came in a couple of minutes later and announced that there was nothing to worry about, that Sam was fine...he said that just "to be safe", our WWW connection and phone and radio had been terminated as a part of the protocol George activated upon hearing of Sam's accident...

We were totally cut off from the rest of the world...

I went back to my room to read some Quiller and try to forget the events of the last half-hour...


Mick

This post couldn't go through until just now...

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Phil-2's and Kurt's freeze, fix, and slice shop...

Phil-2 (or "too", I'm still not sure...) spilled his coffee into the power supply of the scanning electron microscope yesterday, with resulting smoke and black screen...he came and found me , literally in tears, begging me to take a look at it...I replaced the damaged power center and breaker, and now he feels that he is forever in my debt...

To thank me, he gave me some beautiful pics (in both hard copy and jpeg form) of some of the wee-bugs that he explores through the graces of electron microscopy...Kurt, Dr. Kendrick, works on the mechanisms by which viruses and prions spread, replicate, and act upon/effect their hosts...


This is a picture of the ebola virus, an astonishingly effective bug in terms of its ability to penetrate cell walls and use materials from the host to replicate/spread itself very rapidly...


Influenza virus, pictured in stained (color added to enhance viewing) is apparently worth studying for its incredible tenacity and ability to spread through direct contact or airborne...


This is a picture of a prion...Phil-2 gave me a "Prions for Dummies" primer...

Prion - a tiny proteinaceous particle, likened to viruses and viroids, but having no genetic component, thought to be an infectious agent in bovine spongiform encephalopathy, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, and similar encephalopathies.
They are sort of "proteins gone bad", incredibly simple structures of warped proteins that replicate themselves like crazy and tend to effect the host's brain and neural tissues...there are some prions which exist in fungi (as opposed to most prions, which are strictly mammal-based), which Kurt also studies, and apparently thinks may serve a useful purpose in the fungi...

The above are pictures of living (or pseudo-living) things that are so small that the can only be seen when magnified many thousands of times, yet are such powerful agents at manipulating their environments that a pandemic in 1918 killed more than 50 million people...

I think that it's both cool and scary that Dr. Kendrick is playing with these things to try and get them to work for him in fixing/protecting the human body (in combination with the assorted goodies that the other teams at JBM are working on)...

The way Kurt explains it, his modified viruses and prions will be able to replace injections and pills as delivery vehicles for the plant-and-animal-based magic that George and Cynthia are cooking up)...they should also be able to use parts readily available in our bodies to create the medicines we need, and die off and get digested after their work is done...

The way Phil-2 and Kurt tell it, it sounds perfect...too good to be true...but it also sounds a bit scary to me, and leads me to wonder why we have to work out on the far side of nowhere if it's all so safe and harmless...

Mick

Friday, March 24, 2006

Mail Call...

Thanks so much to all of you who sent stuff to my Mom to ship out to me via the JBM office in San Francisco...it was the happiest and most unexpected moment in the months that I've been here...

The boat got here, and the boat-guy came out of the main cabin with a huge grin and this slightly tattered cardboard box, announcing that it was for me...everyone clapped and got jealous...

Bob - thanks for the Quiller books...I've read a couple of them before, but they're great...

Nita - I'm loving the Bernie Rhodenbarr books, I've been busted a bunch of times for laughing out loud when I'm sitting by myself...

Mom - brownie mix is a great idea, brownies would have grown fur on the trip out, but I made them last night, and they were a huge hit...

Marla and Steve - thanks for the games and the puzzles, they're worth gold out here to the other inmates, and there are some seriously competitive players here...

Gunny and Mick and Kyle - the selection of movies is truly awesome...horror, action, comedy, no "Steel Magnolias", and a couple of movies that would feel at home on late-night skin-a-max...perfect!

You guys made my week (at least), and helped to make up for some other crap that I might email you about later (not a big deal, but weird)...

Thanks again, and I love you all,

Mick

Friday, March 17, 2006

More beasties in Cyn and Phil's Lab

There was a minor problem with the freshwater and saltwater circulation and temperature controls in Cynthia's Lab, so I took them offline for a couple of hours the other day while I fixed the systems...

Before, during, and after my work in their lab, Cyn and Phil were talking about their work, and showing off some of the beasts involved...all of these animals, like the giant snails, are regenerating experts of the animal world...

Axolotls are salamanders used extensively in JBM's research due to their ability to regenerate most body parts, and are especially cool as they never grow out of their larval stage, hence the gills...apparently, with these guys, the regenerative abilities are due to their ability to form blastema, which are groups of cells capable of forming or re-growing organs or body-parts...



This is some tricky flavor of salamander which forms blastema, like the axolotl, but also continuously forms new cells put towards their growth, so that they continue to grow and repair themselves throughout their entire lives, until sufficient generations of cells have formed, and some genetic switch flips, and the salamander dies shortly thereafter...Phil assures me that if they could understand the mechanisms and genetic signals and relays in this slimy, that we could reduce or halt the aging process (an exaggeration to some extent I'm sure) and reduce/simplify the practice of medicine to flipping genetic switches or taking a pill with the correct chemical prompts...

These tiny starfish are machines of regeneration...Cynthia chopped some up into just a pile of legs which she assured me would each grow into new starfish in 2 weeks...the trick seems to be a combination of the fact that starfish are naturally pretty good at healing up after being subjected to splatter movie violence and a symbiotic mite that attaches to these guys...apparently, the mite is not capable of metabolizing food into usable nutrients, but it can make use of starfish blood...in exchange for the sustenance it steals from the starfish, it injects a chemical compound into the starfish that prevents infections and enhances recovery from even such injuries as getting hacked up by a 4' 11" mad-scientist (like Cyn)...

I love visiting these guys, it stretches my brain just writing some of this stuff down, much less understanding what we talk about while I'm working on the lab infrastructure...

Mick

Thursday, March 9, 2006

Fishin' with Boyd and Jellies with Phil

Work continues to go well, and the funny-money must be piling up in my bank account stateside, as I'm not spending anything out here...we sometimes share money-spending fantasies about our return to the world from Jarvis...

The last few weeks have been a little cooler, with a nice breeze 24/7, so I've been doing some fishing with Boyd and a couple of the others, nothing big, mostly hitchhikers...the water around here is so deep, and we're so far from other islands, that fish mostly get here by accident, like by following the re-supply ships in...and then they get stuck here, until they fall prey to Boyd's fishing mojo...

Last week, there was a "bloom" (Phil's word, not mine) of jellyfish in the water surrounding Jarvis, and it was thick enough to clog our desalination intake pre-filter...we've been playing around with lots of jellyfish recipes in the last few days...




If you're interested, they don't taste like much except what you cook them in...you have to soak them in baths of cold fresh water, some people alternated salted with plain, for the better part of a day before slicing them up to cook them...most of the recipes ended with something between sauteed onions and squid...




But one recipe, provided by Phil, resulted in tiny translucent cubes of lightly cooked "jellies" with a texture like jello-jigglers swimming in an insanely spicy coconut-curry sauce...we sopped the stuff up with some great (mostly intentionally) flatbread, and spent the next hour sweating in weird places (like the top of my skull, my stomach, and my eyelids...not like the supply closet) and trying to eat/drink different things to stop the burn...


Mick

Monday, February 20, 2006

Cynthia's Snails...frickin' zombies...

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE - somebody make sure to get Kyle to take a look at this blog entry...I'm certain that I've already bored him away from the blog, but he'll want to see this one...

While giving the entire facility a Monday morning walkabout inspection, I blundered in on Phil and Cynthia playing with Cyn's snails...



Phil is holding 2 of them, they're some African species of big snail (obviously, as Phil has big hands, and these things were spilling out towards the floor), and are of particular interest to these guys because of their regenerative capabilities...being big and slow, they are obvious targets for predators, and as such have evolved to regrow almost any part of their body as long as a chunk of their nerve-cord and one of their hearts are still intact...

Cyn and Phil are working on infecting them with a parasite that...get ready for it Kyle, you'll love this...zombifies a smaller species of snail, controlling to some extent their actions to spread the parasite further...

The interesting thing (if zombie snails aren't interesting enough) is that while infected with the parasite, the snails' immune/regenerative systems are bolstered to incredible levels, allowing them to survive repeated attacks from birds (which bite off their antennae once the zombified snails follow their programming from the parasites and climb up to the top of a plant and allow themselves to be munched on)...

They have had some limited success in tweaking the parasite's coding (excuse my lack of science-y language, I'm a wrench and ductwork guy), rendering a small percentage of their test subjects almost immune to bodily damage (as long as they aren't completely destroyed)...just what the world needs, super tough, really big snails...

Seriously though, Cyn and Phil insist that their research, in combination with the work going on in George's and Kurt's labs, could completely change the way that human immune response and healing capabilities work, or at least could lead to gene therapies that could help people with AIDS or serious injuries...

Cynthia sent me a N-mail (basically an email sent just through the JBM network instead of out through the WWW) with a short movie explaining a bit about the zombie snail parasite that she uses with grant committees and donors...she didn't say that I couldn't copy it, so I'm including it here...



Today was a humbling experience...in the face of the important stuff that these guys are doing, my earlier whining seems silly (especially in light of the money I'm making out here)...I'm proud to be working at JBM, and hope that I can keep playing my small part in helping to make sick people healthy...

Mick