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Chapter 17: Achilles' Heel

Autopsy Report
New Fontain Centre for the Study of Life Sciences
Case Number: 20-168
Name: Agis Stagiros, according to armour markings
Age/Race/Sex: Adult white human male. Age unknown.
Date and Time of Death: 3179.07.17, 09.00
Date and Time of Autopsy: 3179.07.17, 14.10
Pathologist: Nathan Wahlman, MD. Malcolm Silver and Captain Gerard Isaurio attending.

Initial Observations:
Subject is a deceased male human. Cause of death is two gauss rifle hits to the chest. Body was recovered wearing a suit of powered armour, which was removed prior to dissection. Height is 202 cm. Subject displays recent surgical scars and stitching to the abdomen. The subject displays skin blemishes consistent with aging (circa 60 years, Viridia-standard?), although he is taller than average for his apparent age, with unusually narrow limbs and deeply sunken cheeks and eye sockets.

a. General. Rigor mortis is generalised and well developed. Livor mortis is well developed, the usual violet colour, and blanches with light pressure. Hair is grey, and thinning. There is evidence of muscle atrophy, more so than would be normal for his apparent age.

b. Head. The face shows no evidence of trauma. The scalp and soft tissues of the head are otherwise normal. The nasal and facial bones are without palpable fracture. Eye sockets and cheeks are sunken. The eyes show corneal clouding, but nothing out of the ordinary given time of death. The lips, tongue and buccal mucosa are normal and free of injury. Hair line and gum line are receded, consistent with apparent age, but condition of teeth is more indicative of a man in his early 20s.

c. Neck. The neck shows no signs of abrasion, contusion, swelling, or other abnormality.

d. Torso (external examination). Two penetrating wounds, consistent with gauss rifle entry wounds, are present on right and centre of the thorax. Radial tears extend up to an inch from the sites of impact, and there is some evidence of fragments (probably of armour) embedded in the wounds. Fist-sized exit wounds are visible in the subject's back. Dry blood streaks are present around each wound. There is relatively little post-mortem distending of the abdomen from internal gas. The torso itself is structurally symmetrical, but carries blemishes to the skin, and evidence of muscle atrophy, as well as signs of recent abdominal surgery. There is no evidence of the cervicothoracic spinal curvature which one might expect, given the subject's apparent age.

e. Dermis. Microscopic analysis revealed no signs of coraline infestation or Prime Obsidian augmentation. However, the analysis did reveal cell damage and breakdown of proteins, particularly collagen fibres, in a manner which might be considered indicative of radiation poisoning, although the subject's rad readings were well within normal boundaries. Protein damage would, however, explain the subject's sunken-eyed appearance etc. Cellular modification, where it exists, appears to be unintended damage, as opposed to any kind of deliberate scheme of genetic alteration.

f. Upper extremities. The upper extremities bear the same skin blemishes and evidence of muscle atrophy as the torso, and are longer and narrower than average. The right arm bears an ochre sunburst tattoo across the shoulder, as well as the scar of a healed bullet wound, approximately five inches above the elbow.

g. Lower extremities. The lower extremities bear the same skin blemishes and muscle atrophy as the rest of the body, and are longer and narrower than average. According to Captain Isaurio, the subject demonstrated significant speed and agility pre-mortis. Perhaps the power-suit is intended to compensate for the physically wasted nature of its operator?

h. Clothing. Power-armoured suit, composed of segmented plates (some form of battle-steel / duralinium alloy). Significant chest damage, most notably two penetrating hits from gauss rounds. Limbs exhibit a unusually high degree of servo-enhancement, apparently confirming the speculation that it is intended to compensate for a weakened operator. In particular, the suit's legs exhibit highly extensive motor-assist functions, as well as pneumatic dampeners under the feet, which visually exaggerate the subject's already-long limbs (spec: the suit's designers anticipated having to deal with long forced-marches?) A power system (type unknown) is mounted on the back of the suit, with a design somewhat like a five-spoked wheel.

i. Torso (internal examination). The chest and abdomen were opened using the usual Y-shaped incision with vibro-scalpel. Subcuteneous fat and musculature reveal the same cellular deterioration as the dermis. Relatively little fat - subject must have been in good physical condition prior to his muscle atrophy. Ribs are broken due to impact of gauss rounds, and hypervelocity impact of said gauss rounds has pulped a significant portion of the thoracic organs, particularly the trachea, heart and right lung. There is evidence of pre-trauma deterioration of bone structure, and analysis of the spine indicates expansion of vertebral discs, consistent with the effects of prolonged zero-gravity, which would account for the subject's unusually tall, slender appearance, and is likely a contributing factor to the degeneration of muscle and bone tissue. The small intestine shows evidence of some internal bleeding, which appears to be unrelated to the damage to the thoracic organs. Remaining organs demonstrate the beginnings of cellular deterioration in the same way as the muscle and skin tissue, with the exception of a donated pancreas (whose position corresponds with the surgical scarring to the torso). If such organ failures are common among Neo-Iskandrian troops (and given tissue degeneration, one would consider it likely that they are), then one fears for the safety of the POWs taken into the necropoli.

Summary and Comments:
The apparent age and tissue damage of the subject appear to be a result of external stimuli, since other factors (condition of teeth, cervicothoracic spinal curvature) suggest a male in his prime. With this in mind, I would hypothesise that the apparent effects of null-grav exhibited by the subject are as a result of extended cryofreeze. Zero-gravity is typically used to prevent intracellular ice formation during cryogenic preservation, although this subject exhibits by far the most advanced symptoms I have seen. The subject exhibits a normal rad-count, but his other symptoms are largely consistent with those of an individual suffering from mild radiation poisoning, which may be a result of leakage from the energies produced by his backpack's generator, although the lack of information on this generator's function precludes a more precise classification. This phenomenon may also be a cause of the subject's organ failure, and subsequent pancreatic transplant. Rather than being accidents, however, his superiors appear to have planned for these phenomena, since his power-suit appears to be designed to compensate for his muscle and bone atrophy, rather than simply to allow him to bear its weight unimpeded. Captain Isaurio informs me that the type of power-suit used by this subject appears to have been standard-issue. Without further corroboration, however, it must be considered speculative as to whether these results are to be considered representative of Neo-Iskandrian soldiers as a group.


Nathan Wahlman, MD.