“In the light of the full moon, he could see them, big birds, gliding in slow circles over the buildings, passing like black shadows across the face of the moon.”
Lieutenant Shawn’s first sight of the buzzards flying over Piedmont. They are about to descend to eat the corpses in the town. At this point, Shawn and his colleague Private Crane, have no idea that they are about to stumble on a disaster.
“Nothing ever happened at night.”
Lieutenant Edgar Comroe is bored with his job as control officer at nights for Mission Control for Project Scoop at Vandenberg Air Force Base. He is shortly to find out that on this particular night, something has definitely happened.
“These considerations lead me to believe that the first human interaction with extraterrestrial life will consist of contact with organisms similar to, if not identical to, earth bacteria or viruses. The consequences of such contact are disturbing when one recalls that 3 per cent of all earth bacteria are capable of exerting some deleterious effect upon man.”
This is from a paper given by J. J. Merrick, an English biophysicist, at a symposium. He argues that since simple organisms are far more common than complex ones it is more likely that contact between humans and other life forms will come in the form of bacteria. His theory is not taken seriously by the audience of scientists, with the exception of Jeremy Stone, who goes on to become the leading advocate for the Wildfire Project.
“’A cut like that,’ he said, ‘on the face. Broken capillaries, shattered bone, torn scalp veins—it should bleed like hell.’”
On the ground in Piedmont, Burton looks at the corpse of Lieutenant Shawn, who pitched forward and hit his head on the steering wheel of his van. Burton pinpoints one of the first mysteries surrounding the Andromeda strain. How does it kill people and why do they not bleed? The researchers soon discover that the organism kills by coagulating the blood.
“SUMMARY OF ODD MAN HYPOTHESIS: First tested as null hypothesis by Wildfire advisory committee. Grew out of tests conducted by USAF (NORAD) to determine reliability of commanders in making life/death decisions.”
This shows Crichton’s technique of telling the story through the use of what appear to be official documents. This is from the Wildfire file as Hall reads it. He is the Odd Man, since he is single, and according to the research presented, single men are more reliable decision-makers than married men.
“Perhaps the most intelligent life form on a distant planet was no larger than a flea. Perhaps no larger than a bacterium.”
Leavitt considers the possibility that unlike on earth, in which the larger and more complex organisms are the most intelligent, this might not be the case elsewhere in the universe. Perhaps life there could have evolved in an opposite direction, from large to small.
“Immediately, they saw it: a tiny black fleck of jagged material no larger than a grain of sand. There seemed to be bits of green mixed in with the black.”
Using microscopes controlled by robots and remote viewing screens, the scientists get their first sight of the Andromeda strain.
“In his blackest hours, Stone doubted the utility of all thought, and all intelligence. There were times when he envied the laboratory rats he worked with; their brains were so simple. Certainly they did not have the intelligence to destroy themselves; that was a peculiar invention of man.”
Jeremy Stone is frustrated at his inability to remember something he thinks important. His comments about the usefulness of the human brain are ironic given that he is the most brilliant of the four men charged with solving the crisis presented by the Andromeda strain.
“It was a perfect, six-sided hexagon, and it interlocked with other hexagons on each side.”
On Day 4 of the investigation, Stone discovers the structure of the alien organism and is surprised to find that it resembles a crystal.
“I think we can be fairly confident that the organism will move into the upper atmosphere without causing further difficulty on the surface.”
Stone tells Hall that the crisis has been resolved because the organism has mutated into a benign form and has left the immediate vicinity of earth.