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Indescribable, Indestructible, Insatiable (IC)

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January 22nd, 2011; 3:48pm

Tarrant McLeod picked his way through the unfamiliar campus building, stopping repeatedly to check directories or wall-mounted signs that supposedly pointed the way to the offices, but honestly he was getting highly suspicious that someone was messing with him. Or, at least, he was...until a helpful grad student pointed out that he was four feet from his destination. Coughing and thanking the bemused woman, he double-checked the name plate just to be sure before knocking and sticking his head in the room.

"Ehm. Professor Quill, I hope, or I'm a lot more lost than I thought."

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"Yes indeed, yes indeed" said Quentin, promptly removing his feet from the desk and shaking himself awake.

"Just resting my eyes" he mumbled in a hurried manner, nearly knocking over the cold tea on his desk. Damn, late night at the Lab last night. And boring class this morning. Must have caught up with me, how mortifying!

"*Ahem*" he coughed, adjusting his bow tie in his habitual manner. It was almost a tic now. "Come in come in, I don't believe I have had the pleasure... Mr...?"

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Tarrant grinned, making his way into the office and looking around. Nice plant. I really should think about getting one - put some color in my office. Well. Color that isn't a fancy rock, anyway. "Sorry to - ah, barge in on you," he apologized. "I'm Tarrant McLeod - a professor over in the earth science department, and I was wondering if you could help me out."

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"Why of course" said Quentin, standing up and successfully knocking over his tea this time. "Blast and damnation" he cursed, dabbing off the cold Earl Grey from his desk.

Offering Tarrant a seat, he sat down - more carefully this time - in his comfortable leather chair. "Can I offer you anything? Cup of tea perhaps? whilst you explain to me how I can help".

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Taking a seat and carefully placing a heavy sample case on the floor next to him, Tarrant nodded and tried very, very hard to keep a straight face at Quentin's mishap. "Don't mind if I do, since you seem to have the tea on hand - a cup sounds pretty nice. Monday for me is mostly teaching freshman classes...half of them are asleep, and the other half just wanted some easy science credits. I'm up for any excuse to get my brain going again, heh."

He shook his head, but grinned. "Actually, that's what brings me here. A friend of mine sent me some rock samples to poke at, but they're a little...odd. Odd being the highly scientific term," he added, chuckling. "Too heavy for what they're made of. Normally I'd just crack them open, but they're a little radioactive, and that's not really my area - they aren't dangerous as near as I can tell, but I figured I might as well learn what I can before breaking out a hammer."

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Quentin sat up. "Well that is most certainly of interest" he replied, his interest piqued. "Radioactive? Higher mass than expected?" he pondered the matter, tapping his chin with his finger.

"There are plenty of possibilities, from a theoretical physical point of view. In real life, so to speak, they would be highly improbabe. I'm not an expert geologist, of course, but I expect that's why you called me in. That's your field, I presume?"

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Tarrant nodded, shrugging helplessly. "If it was just laced with radioactive metal or something I wouldn't need to bother you - but as near as I can tell it isn't, and while I'm pretty good in my area...well, 'radiation that doesn't match up with normal materials' isn't quite up my alley. I figured, between the two of us, we could at least learn something. Besides, if anything cures the Monday blues, it's a good anomaly, right?"

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"Certainly. The greater the mystery, the greater the attraction, I always say". He wished now that he had access to the Lab, but the equipment at the University was pretty descent, even if it wasn't world class like the science HQ of Freedom.

He stood up, having completely forgotten about the half-brewed tea. All in all, he conceded, he was pretty excited about the whole prospect.

"Where did you find this? where is it? what tests have you run? how much of it is there? *Ahem* Sorry, too many questions all jumbled up. Can we go and see it?"

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Tarrant grinned, picking the case up off the floor. "I can do you one better, sir - I have some of it right here. And in, turn, ah..." He looked up and to the side, ticking the questions off on one hand. "I didn't find them, a friend of mine did - he's off somewhere doing archaeology, and sends me rocks he needs dated or can't figure out. His sample was...generous, but I have some of it here and the rest back in our department's sample room. I did a variety of standard tests - ones I could do without harming a sample, anyway, because I prefer to save those for last; mass, size, observable properties, and so on. And a radioactivity test, obviously. There's quite a bit - maybe ten, twelve cubic feet, though it's not one big solid chunk."

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"Here? in your pocket?" asked Quentin, almost rubbing his hands in glee. "And please, call me Quentin. Sir is for students, and only the ones that aren't particularly smart..."

"So I guess you have a small chunk here? and the rest stored away safely? well... lets have a look then! I doubt I can shed any light right here, but I would appreciate a quick peek!"

As he spoke, he already started focussing his uncanny senses on his professorial peer.

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Tarrant glanced at Quentin, and then at the large sample case, and then back up. Pocket...? "Ah - no. It's a little large for my pockets, so I grabbed a spare case out of my office. Here..."

Setting the case down in his lap the professor opened up the top, pulling out a rounded, misshapen lump of reddish-brown porous rock and holding it up for inspection - and giving it a critical eye, himself. "Most of it's just generic meteorite, but that really wouldn't explain the oddity."

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Quentin peered at the rock. It was fairly unremarkable to his eyes, but he nodded sagely - to impress his fellow professor if nothing else.

The mass was wrong, for starters. And the radiation was deeply odd, shifting around like a blob of mercury - something a mineral had no right to do. His senses were not as precise as a well calibrated machine, but they did point to something very very strange. Hopefully the right instruments could help.

"Yes, yes" he mumbled. "Looks like a rock to me!" he winked. "I can't say much right now, but it certainly bears further investigation. Perhaps we should escort it to the physics department here?"

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Tarrant chuckled, returning the rock to his case and standing up. "Sounds like an excellent plan to me - you guys should have tools we just don't. I hope you don't mind if I insist you lead - I haven't been around to this building much and I'm likely to get us both completely and utterly lost." He swept out a hand, feigning a bow. "After you, professor."

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At Freedom City University Physics Department

"Come in, come in" said Quentin, gesturing for Tarrant to join him. It was mid afternoon so a lot of the department was busy with research projects and teaching, but Quentin had managed to wrangle some time at a laboratory. A few other scientists milled around engrossed in their own research or chatting over coffee - a few nodded and swapped a few words with Quentin, who was clearly fairly well respected and popular on campus.

"Right then, lets have a look at this before that Vulture Liebniz comes in and ruins the day" said Quentin, carefully placing the rock in a spectroscope.

"Where was it found, did you say?"

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"Somewhere in Asia, I think," Tarrant replied, standing by with characteristic quiet patience. "Apparently some old civilization or another had them shut up in a fancy room way underground. My friend wasn't sure if they were being protected, or stockpiled, or just moved out of the way...honestly I think he's hoping I can give him some insight, there."

He looked around the room as Quentin did his thing, hands in his pockets. "You really have some nice equipment here," he noted, with a low whistle. "We'd kill for half your budget."

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"Well, it cost's more I suppose" muttered Quentin, rather ashamed of the unequal distribution of funding within the university. It was true, the more "tech" and thus potentially economically valuable, the more the money drifted to the department - often with some business backing (And strings). Geology wasn't too bad off. He pitied the arts departments.

"In Asia, hmm?" he said, wondering if it would be worth a direct visit to the site. First things first however. He bent over the read outs from the spectroscope.

"What do you make of this?" he asked Tarrant, beckoning him over.

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Tarrant hmmed at the readout, really wishing it hadn't been quite so long since he'd had to deal with one. "That looks mostly normal. That's iron ore, there - pretty good, too. A little rare metal, and...that.......huh. I have no idea what that is."

He indicated part of the spectrum, frowning. "I'm pretty sure that's not a rock. I don't have every possible mineral memorized, of course, but it's not...quite right."

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"No?" asked Quentin, peering at the readout. The Spectrometre would be just as much as instrument of geologists, and he wouldn't be surprised if Tarrant knew more than he about the readouts.

"What then? Metal? Crystal? Organic?... I hope we don't have to quarantine the thing..."

He took the rock carefully and placed it with precision into a peculiar looking Lead container. "Lets take a look at its radiation levels..." he continued, already knowing that it was emitting something verybizarre...

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Tarrant nodded, still frowning at the readout. "That's...very strange. Yes, let's. That part, at least, is much more your area - all I was able to do was rule out the usual suspects." He shrugged helplessly, hands in his pockets. "Truth be told, I'm a little limited to my area. I'm very good in my area, mind you, but I don't branch out much...times like these makes me wish I did."

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Supercape peered into the lead container, and examined the computer that spewed out a list of numbers in a semi-organised fashion.

He scratched his head, tapped his chin, and readjusted his bow tie.

"Ahem. Yes. Well what we have here is some radiation that certainly... um... bears further investigation... examining the non-differential quantum parallax of inverted anti-resonance...err... entanglements of the... um... fractal distrubition of... errr.."

He paused.

"I'm afraid I don't know. Its really odd. Need to look at it more. X-Ray and MRI Imaging coming up!" he proclaimed with a mixture of embaressment and excitement. With that, he started to set up the imaging process, and before long, the screens lit up with the scans.

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Tarrant blinked at the x-ray results, scratching the back of his head as he looked at the monitor. "That's....what? It can't be hollow. That makes no sense." And yet it unmistakably was - past the porous 'shell' was a large hollow, almost impossibly smooth; the very center of the hollow held something solid, for all appearances suspended in mid-air inside the rock. "That's crazy. For that to make any sense at all the...inner bit...would have to be floating, or embedded in something the x-ray doesn't--"

And then the sample exploded.

Not into shrapnel, or fire, but no less eye-catching - viscous green slime burst out of every pore, crack, and crevice of the rock, quickly and alarmingly coalescing into an amorphous blob that proceeded to rear up, make an awful (if a little high-pitched) noise, and leap across nearby tables and out an open window, carrying the meteorite away inside it.

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"Goodness!" proclaimed Quentin, who had rolled back into a lab chair and still sat prostrate from the events.

His mind raced. He had no idea what the blob was, whether it was malign, benign, or just confused. Was it even sentient? What he did know was that he would far rather sort this out as Supercape rather than Professor Quill. On the other hand, Tarrant's expertise was likely invaluable!

He looked at the professor in shock "errr... any suggestions as to what exactly that was?" he asked.

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"Sort of upset at being x-rayed, apparently," Tarrant observed, looking rather blankly toward the window. From down on the campus grounds sounds of commotion could be heard; whatever the thing was it was causing quite a stir. "Other than that I have no earthly clue. I guess I'm just glad I only brought the one chunk; there are a whole pile of those rocks back in the earth sciences, and I dread to think what would have happened if....aw, no."

From clear in the other building the finely-tuned ear of a hero would be able to catch the unmistakable sound of a woman screaming, followed by several faint and jarring screeching noises and a series of crashes. Tarrant put a hand to his face. "I told one of the graduate students to run some tests...including a series of x-rays. I need-" I need to find somewhere to change, is what I need. "- to go make sure they're alright."

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"Students?" gasped Quentin "but... but they could be in grave danger then!" he spluttered. There was no mistaking the urgency now. He had to transform into Supercape as soon as possible! at least Tarrant was leaving.

He tugged at Tarrants arm as he tried to leave "Where are they? I need to sa... errr.. I need to satisfy myself that they are safe..."

His eyes darted around and saw a janitors cupboard. That would do, once he found out where those students were...

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"Don't worry!" Tarrant, called, rapidly making his way out the door. "I'll go check on them! You should stay here, where it's safe!" And then he was gone, sprinting down the hall and toward the nearest staircase. If I can just get to ground level....

Outside the commotion was starting to drift away, out toward more open areas of the campus. Whatever the thing - things, from the sound of similar noises elsewhere - were doing, they were certainly causing quite the stir.

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