For a while, neither of us moved. I turned the tiny chip over in my hands, the tips of my fingers glowing in the faint blue light that emanated from its core. To think that such a minuscule thing could destroy so many lives ... it just seemed so unreal.
"Well?" Kris snapped. "Now what? Are you just going to sit there gawking at the damned thing?"
Jolted out of my reverie, I obediently turned the chip over and pressed a button on its base. The inner workings of the chip began to whirr and click, and in the silence of our cell the noise was astoundingly loud. I heard Kris hiss nervously beside me as I set the chip on the ground. A tiny lens popped out of the top and a vague image began to form on the wall. I shifted around to get a better view, squinting as, slowly, the picture came into focus.
A pair of gloved hands hovered against a black background, a Petri dish cradled delicately between the palms. A small blob squirmed in the middle of the dish, trembling wildly as the camera zoomed in on it.
"This is it," said a voice in the background, "this is it, gentlemen. After all these years, all the failures, all the tests, we have succeeded. What you see before you now is man's greatest triumph, an experiment that has shattered the boundaries of science and launched us into a whole new world of possibilities. But just wait, just wait, for this is only the beginning ..."
The image disappeared, and the lens whirred madly as a series of pictures flashed past the screen. It was the same picture - white gloves cradling the quivering blob in the dish - but, in each image, the blob began to change. It grew steadily larger, divided into dozens of tiny honey-comb chambers, grew larger and larger still until, in the last image, it was almost the size of the scientist's hands. I had never seen anything like it, and I dreaded to think what it was.
"Stage one complete." said a mechanical voice. "Stage two is about to begin."
The camera panned around as, carefully, the bizarre creation was lowered gently into a tank of clear liquid. A lid came down over the top of the tank, and an awed voice whispered from somewhere behind the camera.
"Imagine it," it said, "just imagine it ..."
The image blanked again and started up another slideshow. The thing in the tank continued to grow and, gradually, it began to take on a distinctive shape. My heart leapt into my mouth - it looked like some sort of fetus! Limbs began to branch off from the main body, the head took shape, a tiny heart began to beat behind the transparent skin. More pictures, coming faster and faster as the fetus aged. Fingers, toes, eyes, a nose, ears, a mouth, like fungi branching from a tree more and more features began to appear in the flesh of this alien creature.
Then, suddenly, the camera went black. I thought it was over, but then, out of the darkness, the voice crackled into life again.
"It is time." it said. The voice was hoarse with emotion, and I had to strain my ears to hear anything. "At last, it is time. Everything is ready. Our time has come. The old order will fall, and Alarbor will rise to lead the world into a new age. Long live Plan V."
The speaker laughed, a sound so chilling it made the hairs on the back of my neck rise. Then, from somewhere in the dark abyss before us, came the sound of an ear-splitting roar. The voice shrieked with delight.
"Long live Plan V!"