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The NATIONAL LINNAEAN article (about the Scott-Davis Expedition of 1900) ended with the S.S. Bella Bella getting back on course. This time, bound for Canterbury Island. An outlier of the Marshall Islands, roughly two hundred fifty miles east of the Ratak Archipelago, that had briefly been the subject of a dispute between the United States, Great Britain, and pre-WWI Germany.*

"The Kaiser's government finally bowed to political pressure," continued Professor Davis: "And, now the island plays host to an Anglo-American whaling station-turned-penal colony. The inmates of which work at hard labor harvesting guano for their respective mother countries' munitions industries!"

"Immediately upon our arrival, there, we went to the colony's hospital wing with Cookie...who had subsequently shrunken to a height of three feet tall. A good two feet shorter than the cabin boy!"

"Needless to say, our explanation for his diminuition was greeted with overly healthy skepticism by the American and British medical officers. They refused to examine the remains of the jellyfish. And they gave Cookie, himself, only the most cursory of physicals. Finally diagnosing his hypothyroid stature as the result of intestinal parasitism...by Kudoa thyrsites!"

" 'Arrogant imbeciles!' James growled (under his breath): "Sea squirts have more brains than they do!!' "

"Suffice it to say that the best consolation we could give, to poor Cookie, was to name the jellyfish after him. C. capillata gundersoni. From his real name; Olaf Gunderson (from the Northwest Angle of Minnesota)! Worry not, though."

"As this article goes to print, James and I have each received a letter from him. Cookie is now gainfully employed as an acrobatic dwarf clown for the Wilder and Woolley Circus. Using the skills he learned as a young high climber, in the logging camps of Canada (prior to his conscription by the U.S. Navy as a topsail man during the Civil War), to swing from one rope to another as...'Norbubu! The Missing Link of Mato Grosso.' "

"As for the remains of C. capillata gundersoni? We took it upon ourselves to carefully examine them under a microscope. And we found something most unexpected swimming around in the water droplets we put on each of the glass slides."

"Bear animalcules...apparently totally unfazed by immersion in the formaldehyde!"

"I looked at James as soon as I had confirmed for him that he was not seeing things. And I asked him, straightforwardly, if he thought these things had been living endoparasticially within the jellyfish. And, also, if they might have been contributors to Cookie's condition. He replied that there was only one way to be sure."

" 'As soon as the exhibition is over, we start planning on how to persuade the museum to finance another expedition. Back to that island!' "

That was where the old article ended. So, I started rewinding the microfilm. While that was in progress, I looked at Professor Stewart.

"Well? What do you think?"

He massaged his chin, very thoughtfully, for a few moments. Then, he nodded to himself, as if he had finally made up his mind.

"We go back to my lab and euthanize one of those shrunken gators...for a necropsy."

Chapter End Notes:
*Ratak Archipelago: the eastern half of the Marshalls.

Kudoa thyrsites: a myxosporidian parasite notorious for almost totally liquefying the internal organs of fish (usually salmon and trout).

High climber: a lumberjack who specializes in sawing the uppermost branches of exceptionally tall trees.

Mato Grosso: at one time, the most unexplored part of the Amazon Rain Forest.

Bear animalcule: obsolete term for the microbe now more commonly known as "the water bear" and/or "the tardigrade." And which has been proven to be able to survive in almost any kind of hostile environment. Even the vacuum of orbital space!

Necropsy: veterinary equivalent of an autopsy.
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