The mysterious black object continued to defy any rational explanations. The first thing Emma noticed after unlocking the storage closet with her security card was that the object still felt ice cold to her touch. This despite that the temperature inside the closet was nearly seventy degrees according to Emma’s measurements.
Out of scientific curiosity, she chipped off another piece of the object. This time instead of mounting it on a slide, she held it over the flame of her Bunsen burner with a pair of tongs. Even with the flame at its highest setting, the chip did not show any difference in temperature. She turned off the burner and then jotted down that apparently this mineral was resistant to heat.
Her office didn’t have a refrigerator or freezer, but there was one down the hall in the Botany offices. She left the chip on a sheet of paper with her name on it inside the freezer to sit for a few hours just to see if the material was as resistant to the cold. Then she went back to her office, staring at the object for a few minutes, trying to decide what to do next.
Dr. Brighton came in at ten o’clock, looking even worse than yesterday. She felt a nervous flutter in her stomach, waiting for him to resume their argument from yesterday. He ignored her completely, slamming the door hard enough to rattle the glass. Before long, she heard the sound of his snores from behind the door.
Leaving her supervisor to sleep it off, she wheeled the mystery item down the hall to the gemstone division. The supervisor of that department was a Dr. Lemieux, who raised an eyebrow as she brought the object in. “What is that?” he asked.
“I’m not sure. I was hoping I could borrow some of your equipment to find out.”
“Sure, go ahead.” Despite giving his permission, Dr. Lemieux watched her closely; she didn’t know if this were because he didn’t trust her around the equipment or he was just curious about the strange object.
The equipment in the gemstone division didn’t help any. All she could do at this point was to rule out that it was anything in Earth’s periodic table. The composition of the samples she took didn’t line up with that of any known material. Plus there was its resistance to heat, a phenomenon she couldn’t explain.
She thought again of what Dr. Dreyfus said yesterday, that it might be alien in origin. If so, that would be a tremendous discovery, one worthy of a paper in a major journal. It might even land her on television talk shows. She shivered at this thought, of staring into cameras and having millions of people staring back at her. They would probably try to make a big deal about her age, just as everyone else had since she began skipping grades when she was nine.
With a sigh she thanked Dr. Lemieux for his help and then wheeled the object back down the hall. She almost ran into Dr. MacGregor as she did so. “Hello, Emma,” he said. “Good to see we didn’t scare you off.”
“Oh no,” she said. “I love it here.”
“That’s good to hear.” He glanced down at the object. “Make any progress on that yet?”
“Not really,” she said. She didn’t elaborate on her findings, not wanting to jump to any conclusions until she was absolutely certain. A scientist who went around making claims about aliens would end up being labeled a crackpot; if she were wrong, for the rest of her life she would be known as the nut who believed in UFOs. The only work she would get then would be at science fiction conventions.
“Well, keep at it,” Ian said.
She locked the thing back into the closet and then went down to the botany department to retrieve her frozen chip. As expected, the material showed no reaction to the cold either, maintaining its same temperature of zero degrees Celsius. She jotted these findings down and then shook her head. What she was seeing simply wasn’t possible.
Still, she wasn’t ready to quit yet. She could always try more extreme temperatures to get a reaction. She also could try seeing if she could coax a reaction by combining it with various other chemicals like boric acid. If none of these tests worked, then she would really be stuck.