His muscles were locked and some baser part of his mind had kicked into overdrive. Despite the triple-state glass and a well manicured sense of superiority, some instinctual piece of him froze in terror.
"What-?" was all he managed.
In front of him, behind the seemingly too-thin safety glass, a monster lay across a massive surgical table.
Not one surgical table.
Several of them. All hastily thrown together to form some semblance of a flat surface where the scientists could work.
The creature was quite large. At least a couple meters tall and several meters long not counting the muscular tail, it could easily rival some of the large African species of Earth. However, unlike those more benevolent herbivores, this ting was designed for carnage.
Four heavy set legs with taloned feet were curled up under its dead frame. Long, sickle like blades sprouted from thin but powerful looking 'arms' from its thick torso. Its eyes were covered in heavy ridges and everything about its head seemed to slope into a gaping jaw filled with multiples rows of shark-like teeth. And the entire thing was covered in hulking plates of black, chitinous armor that looked like they could stop an rocket.
Men and women in lab coats poked and prodded at the corpse, but despite a sneaking fear that the monster would arise and attack them all, it laid silent upon its bloody table.
"What-" Cisneros began again as he mentally rebuilt his composure. "-is it?"
"We don't know." Dr. Patang responded apologetically. "We've never seen anything like it."
"What do we know about it?" he asked without looking at the good doctor.
Cisneros studied the thing for a long moment. He couldn't seem to tear his eyes away.
"We're still working on an official analysis."
Cisneros glanced over and the Doctor who visibly cringed a little. He considered throwing his weight and demanding a better answer of the little asskisser, but thought better of it.
"Apparently the team was getting odd results. I've been with you so I haven't seen the most up to date..."
Cisneros sighed and continued to watch the men and women work.
"Dr. Hagashi must have been out of his mind." he commented with a hint of annoyance.
"I just can't imagine why they would have brought this thing aboard. I don't doubt it was an exciting find, but look at it."
As if in response, Dr. Patang joined him in staring at the mound of terror.
At the same time, the door on the far end of the room slid open and a short, lump of a woman clad in a white lab coat emerged.
"I mean, that thing looks like it could tear a squad of marines in half without breaking a sweat. Why in the hell would they take it aboard? Why not study it on the surface? Or tag it for later examination by a more qualified team?"
"Perhaps-" the woman interjected. "-because it wasn't that size when they acquired our little friend in there."
Cisneros glowered at the woman's interruption but his expression quickly softened.
"Samantha." he said with a smile.
"I wasn't aware you were on this project." Cisneros regarded.
"Then you probably aren't doing a good job as Assistant Director." she chided with a playful grin.
"Dr. Connel." Patang said with respect to the woman. "With all due respect, what do you mean? Are you suggesting it grew within a matter of hours?"
"In one sense."
Both men continued to stare at her, expecting more.
"Tell me, Dr. Patang, how would you classify that creature in there?" Dr. Connel asked.
Dr. Patang considered for a moment.
"I'm not sure. It definitely appears to be carnivorous in nature. Omnivous at the absolute least."
"And the genus?"
"Demented centaur?" Cisneros offered.
Samantha giggled and Cisneros allowed himself a smile at his old friend's amusement.
"What if I told you that it was parasitic?" she asked after a moment.
Cisneros stared at the monster sprawled across the operating tables. Considered the sheer size of the thing.
"You're saying that creature in there is some sort of a parasite? For what? What the hell would it feed on?"
"That is not the primary organism. I was referring to this."
Dr. Connel produced from her jacket pocket a small glass jar about the size of a nectarine. She held it up to the light and it was clearly filled with some sort of blood. It was a nice deep red with the exception of several dozen large, black globules that floated around in the viscous liquid.
Cisneros stared at the goo, trying to identify the shapes in the blood. It was only after a long moment that he realized the globes were creatures.
"So this is our culprit?" Cisneros asked with burgeoning fascination.
Here and there, one of the globes would unfurl into a small, worm like creature. Their appearance reminded him of the beast on the table, nothing but hard bits and sharp edges, but on a notably smaller scale and resembling a half inch caterpillar.
"Indeed. I think the team from the Icarus found these things on the surface and didn't know what they had until it was too late.
Before his eyes, one of the worms unfolded and zipped around the blood jar at a surprising speed. It swirled about for a few seconds and, finding no exit, curled up on itself again.
Cisneros glanced back again at the monster on the table.
"So tell me, Dr. Connel: what do those-" he said pointing a finger at the jar. "-have to do with that?" he motioned over his shoulder.
"I'm so glad you asked." she responded with a surprisingly threatening smile and motioned towards the door to the lab. "Let me show you."