Chapter 153: Telomere
Chen Shu was dead. The general surgeons from the Medical Department had been in surgeries for more than three hours, but they could not save the elder from the touch of death. What did the elder’s repeated wailing of ‘I didn’t see anything’ mean? And the timing of it was too peculiar. It was too coincidental not to be related to the illusion that Gu Jun saw. In respect to the elder, Chen Shu, Gu Jun revealed to the others what he had seen in his illusion. The accusation hung in the air, but no one dared say it out loud. Perhaps it was the trigger of Gu Jun’s illusion that had killed Chen Shu…
Elder Tong and Prof Shen tried to lighten the mood, claiming that their research into parapsychology was still too shallow to be sure of anything at the moment. They then turned the subject to the content of the illusion itself. The new clue in Gu Jun’s illusion was that all of Nan Tang Village had participated in that summoning ceremony so many years ago. Some of the children from back then were still alive. How would this affect them and the descendants of the village?
Furthermore, they could now basically confirm Ol’ Uncle Dog’s family was a group of zombies, and the four graves that had been disturbed were their converts. They should have been turned into zombies by now, but other than Chen Defa, the locations of the other three were unknown. While Phecda conducted various investigations with these new clues, the autopsy of Chen Defa’s corpse continued.
Despite the heavy exhaustion on Gu Jun’s mental power, he only rested for a moment before he picked up the scalpel again. Chen Shu’s death had brought a huge impact on him. Guilt pressed on him, but Gu Jun knew he could not allow it to drag him down. Death was staring at him, but he swore to stare right back; he was not going to back down. If anything, the elder’s death had motivated him, the responsibility propelled him forward. He was not going to allow death to claim more innocent lives, not on his watch!
He had to complete that abyssal mission as soon as possible. Even though the system had given him a time limit of seven days, motivated, he had given himself a new goal. ‘I will finish it in five days!’
The first day soon rolled on by. The autopsy group had done the dissection of the zombie’s head and neck. The completion progress in Gu Jun’s system showed that they were at eighteen percent.
‘It is not fast enough!’
Gu Jun had basically moved into the autopsy building, or to be more precise, the resting area just outside the morgue. His daily meals were taken here, and the toilet nearby provided the amenities for his biological needs. He directly slept on the couch in the resting area. He would not hand over the autopsy to the others because the mission only calculated the progress that he was personally involved in. Therefore, he rejected his superiors’ request for a second batch of doctors to help with the autopsy. The reason provided by Gu Jun was that he had the ‘instinct’ that he needed to do this on his own terms.
He rested for five hours before he scrubbed up for the second day. Their goal was to dissect the zombie’s body, starting with the chest. The thoracotomy on the zombie was quite difficult because the bone structure had mutated. The twelve pairs of ribs were still there, but the xiphoid process had mutated, forming a sturdy bone that blocked easy access to the ribcage. This particular mutated bone was dubbed ‘Mutated Xiphoid’ by Gu Jun, something that he came up on the spot, but the name stuck. In fact, it would continue to become one of the technical terms used to define the zombies. The second day passed with the autopsy around the chest area completed, and the mission progress had been raised to thirty-eight percent.
Gu Jun was in a good mental state. The Carlot instruments had helped him maintain as well as expand his mental prowess. But that did not extend to the others in his group. To ensure the quality of the autopsy, Gu Jun eventually had to concede to the suggestion of swapping out members.
“Ah, I can’t do this anymore…” Wu Siyu was forced to carry on as long as Gu Jun did. After two days of non-stop working, her eye bags were basically drooping off her face.
Another person who did not fare much better was Cai Zixuan. Not only were his eyes sunken, his forehead seemed to have widened in size. While they were unwinding in the relaxation area, Cai Zixuan sighed. “This is what being a doctor is like. Two years ago, there was foreign research done on it. Saliva samples were taken from hundreds of intern doctors, and it was found out that the shortening speed of their telomere was six times faster than a normal person.”
“Even though I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Wu Siyu replied, “the conclusion I got was you’ll go bald soon.”
“It’s some research on the senescence of doctors compared to normal citizens,” Cai Zixuan explained to her. “Telomere is a region of repetitive nucleotide sequences at each end of a chromosome, which protects the end of the chromosome from deterioration or from fusion with neighboring chromosomes. During chromosome replication, the enzymes that duplicate DNA cannot continue their duplication all the way to the end of a chromosome, so in each duplication, the telomere is shortened…”
“Got it.” Wu Siyu nodded. “The shorter the telomere, the shorter the hair.”
Then she turned her head toward Gu Jun, who was in the middle of digging into a boxed meal. “So, the same applies to him too?”
“Theoretically, yes.” Cai Zixuan sighed. “But even bald, Tycoon Jun will be a looker. In any case, as they say, cut the hair to cut the worry, so que sera, sera.”
Wu Siyu’s hands reached involuntarily to her head. ‘Phew… good, they’re still there.’
This was one of the few worries that she wouldn’t mind having. Ultimately, DNA varied between people. They were all medical students, but Wang Ruoxiang had luscious hair perfect for shampoo commercials, and Gu Jun temporarily still showed no sign of hair loss. But if this continued, no one could be sure how much longer Gu Jun’s telomere could maintain its size.
From the third day onward, his sleeping hours had dropped down from five hours to three hours. Three hours was definitely not enough for a REM sleep. He had practically entered a fanatic stage. It was an admirable working attitude, but people could not help but worry about his physical health.
At the headquarters, even the autopsy experts were flagging behind Gu Jun. Even though they were just watching, the fatigue was already catching up. But to their surprise, despite the clear signs of tiredness from Gu Jun, he could still maintain a high degree of precision and quality in his work.
“Get the young man some rest,” Xiao Huiwen suggested to the superiors. He did not want Gu Jun to collapse once the adrenaline wore off. Many medical practitioners had perished from overworking. Elder Tong and Yao Sinian were worried too. The kid was carrying a fatal tumor, so they were sure this was not going to help that situation either. They were concerned that this obsession-like behavior would exacerbate his illness. The tumor might suddenly act up, and Gu Jun would collapse on the spot. But during the epidemic, everyone’s life was on the line. There was no rest for the wicked.
Unfortunately, after the big discovery on the first day, as interesting as the zombie corpse was, there were no new clues to be found. The bones all over its body were covered in that strange carving-like pattern, and with a computer scanning comparison, it was found that the pattern did not repeat itself. However, that did nothing to unlock the mystery behind it. At the same time, in the Arctic ocean, the Phecda armada was conducting a search at the coordinates of eastern longitude 176° and northern latitude 74°31’12”.
The members of the Investigation Department hiked on top of a giant iceberg around the area, but they left with nothing. For now, the investigation team had moved their focus to the nearby Wrangel Island. That was an island in Russia, so Phecda had approached the Kremlin to mount a joint search. Wrangel Island was 7,608 cubic kilometers in size; it was larger than Eastern State and had horrible weather conditions. Even those native to the region stayed away from it. It was basically a giant abandoned island that was also a nature preservation center. There was no clue on the island, or at least none that could be found without some extensive combing.
“Hopefully, Ah Jun will pull through.” Yao Sinian anticipated another breakthrough from the morgue. This anticipation was shared by many others. Gu Jun naturally knew about this, and it was why he would not allow himself to rest. In fact, he would have been glad that if a day had forty-eight hours for him to work with. After a maddening dissection of the fourth day, he led the team and finished the autopsy of the zombie’s stomach and pelvis. The mission completion rate had risen to eighty percent.
On the fifth day, they would advance onto the zombie’s spine and lastly its limbs. Over the past few days, Gu Jun did not trigger any new illusions, but he had felt a conspicuous increase in his mental power. It felt more elastic, meaning it would recover faster. However, as the autopsy progressed, as he gained more knowledge about the zombie, the less abnormal and unfamiliar it became in Gu Jun’s eyes, and the lighter the sense of rejuvenation.
As the fifth day drew to an end, the mission completion rate was slowly rising. When they dissected the zombie’s upper arm, Gu Jun noticed that the completion rate of the abyssal mission had reached ninety-nine percent.