Meeting new people can be a good thing.

Last week, a new researcher started working in the lab next to mine. He is from Miami, and relocated here because of some personal issue with some staff back there. They won't tell us what. I've gotten a few chances to talk to him since he started, and the man is a genius.
His name is Professor John Smith, and he studies what he calls Xenobiology. Upon my own research I've found that he practically founded the field. Until a few years ago, it was all about how extra terrestrial biology would work if it existed, all kinds of theory and hypothesis, untested ideas and speculation. Then, suddenly, Smith enters the game and the field takes a corkscrew towards real science, with testing and discoveries about actual materials and life forms, collected from meteors and returned space shuttles. It was all stuff that was already here, right under our noses, and nobody had the right idea of how to look for it until him. All the life forms are single cell organisms, of course. He has yet to find a space squirrel, let alone a sentient creature capable of communication and society, but it's still amazing what he has got in the short time since he came onto the scene.
Professor Smith was working in Miami for NASA, which is greatly under-funded these days, as our biggest mystery is now the deaths that are sweeping the earth down here, not up there. He was studying the PTA virus there, as a possible extra terrestrial life form.
Here's what I've gotten out of him so far: about 6 years before the first reported infection, which as we know happened in Germany, there was a meteor that we lost track of. NASA has been watching all the rocks in space that are close enough to hit us for years. This one just dropped right out of the sky. It broke its orbit, apparently, and landed in the German countryside, in the middle of the night. The field in which it fell was so large that the boom could only have barely shaken the windows of the nearest house, which was that of the German farmer who worked the land. That day, he found it and reported it and we had a big piece of space junk for the astrophysicists of the world to enjoy. In the six years between his finding the rock and the outbreak of PTA, he and his family sell the farm and move to Berlin. The next buyer of the land works the land as farmers usually do, and six years later one of his farmhands, who was on leave for a vacation to see his family in a small town called Luebeck, falls ill.
Because Luebeck is quite a good distance from where the rock was found, and because the name of the first reported infected man had almost nothing to do with it, nobody put two and two together to think maybe they were connected, until Professor Smith. The farm was not large enough that the food it created was spread throughout the country, let alone the world, but it was big enough to be quite successful in the local markets, and soon enough the infection, which had two starting points at that point, grew to meet itself between Luebeck and the farm, half the people infected virally and the other bacterially. Since Luebeck was the first point of origin, it was the first place people studied, and since it was apparent that those people were communicating the sickness virally and there was no evidence of food poisoning or bacteria, there was no reason to assume the infection a week later near the farm (which is just one out of dozens in the area) was any different.
Traveling cross-continent is dangerous and difficult to do now, even for leaders of countries let alone plain old researchers. For that reason, Smith has had to study from a distance, making phone calls and reading newspapers, trying to gather enough evidence and money to get him across the water, and he's making good time. I look forward to working with him, and now that I've got a new lead on the possible origins of PTA I can try to test some new possible treatments or cures for it. Starting with the fact that, according to Smith, it's very likely that this disease may not be a sentient being, but it's possible it was designed by one for any number of different reasons. The purpose of the disease could be the key to curing it. Is it a form of terraforming? If they're trying to make the world habitable by gases, then maybe the right type of gases that may not be deadly to the virus can stop its ill effects. Are they trying to breed more of themselves? Some form of spermicide may do the trick. Who knows? I'm going to be busy for a while til I explore every possibility.

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