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Registered Phenomena Code: 373

Object Class: Beta-Yellow

Hazard Types: Sapient/Sentient (Unconfirmed), Bio-Hazard, Ecological, Organic

Containment Protocols: As sentience and sensory capabilities cannot be ascertained, interaction with RPC-373 must be limited to remote observation. Expeditions may only be conducted with at least Level B hazmat protection. Direct interaction with flora, fauna, and skin patches is prohibited.

Hiking trails have been diverted from the area of infection. A fenced perimeter has been established 600m away from RPC-373's borders, creating a buffer zone suitable for temporary research stations (globally designated OL-Site-373).

Description: RPC-373 is a mammalian macropathogen parasitizing a secluded, 1,200m2 area of the Hochspessart, an evergreen forest within the Spessart mountain range in Germany.

Its body consists of dermal adipose tissue with gray coloration, which covers the trees and ground of the area. Individual hosts are connected by tubular growths sprouting from branches, or scattered ground-level accumulations. In spite of its unusual coloration, this tissue is nearly identical to human skin.

RPC-373's body covers the host in an irregular, vertically-stretched lattice, developing large arteries close to points of intersection with the host's vascular system. These arteries are surrounded by muscular tissue, which is voluntarily tensed to create tears in the dermal layer, thus leaking large amounts of blood.

RPC-373 possesses a hybrid circulatory system, supplied with unusually nutrient- and oxygen-rich O-type blood as well as tree sap admixture sourced from its hosts, containing nutrient-bearing sieve bodies. In turn, RPC-373's blood circulates throughout hosts, giving their leaves a characteristic bright-red coloration, with orange patches indicating nutrient deficiency. Other symptoms are also apparent, such as leaf wilting.

Underground canals and surface rivers have been overtaken by spongiform circulatory tissue, likely to reduce cardiac stress. Personnel accidentally rupturing such canals and submerging themselves in blood are to be reminded that no immediate contact or submersion effects are known.

Local predatory fauna have developed a symbiotic relationship with RPC-373. Larger predators (primarily wildcats) forfeit their prey to the parasite in exchange for blood: rather than eating it, they locate large patches of skin near an infected tree and place the carcass on top, which stimulates the aforementioned muscles.

Deposited carcasses trigger explosive growth after a limited stand-by period (5-10 min). RPC-373 covers the carcass in dermal tissue over the course of two to three hours, which later develops into a cyst. Cysts and their contents reduce and disappear over one to five days, presumably due to digestion. The destination of indigestible residues is unknown, though it is hypothesized that they may be deposited underground.

Carcasses below ~8kg in weight provoke no reaction from RPC-373. Predators will sometimes lightly pounce on such remains to supplement the missing weight with their own.

Predators incapable of hunting prey of sufficient size (primarily insectivores and piscivores) instead accumulate smaller carcasses over an extended period of time. Groups of badgers, raccoons, and buzzards have sometimes been sighted collaborating to create a sufficient pile.

Cortical and olfactory malformations are consistently observed in 373-native fauna, strongly suggesting that RPC-373 possesses a direct mechanism of influencing behavior by nasal or oral introduction (possibly pheromone-based), as there is no known nutritional incentive to consuming its blood.

This is supported by the continuous observation of parental behavior in local wildcats without offspring. It is possible RPC-373 directly incentivizes such behavior to encourage hunting in greater quantities than normal. Hostility is generally reduced, with individuals sometimes approaching personnel of their own accord, typically as a result of wounds incurring bleeding.

RPC-373's blood has an undetermined nutritional value and its risk of disease is unknown. However, symptoms of malnutrition and illness has been observed in local predators.

Near the center of RPC-373 is a clearing 148m in width, entirely covered in dermal tissue and devoid of other life. It is largely plain, save for "bumps" corresponding to dead trunks enveloped by skin.

The upper chest of a large humanoid creature (termed RPC-373-1) protrudes from the ground at the center of the clearing. It emerges at a notable forward-right angle, reducing its above-surface height to 1.1m. Its underground section extends for 1.5m before ceasing entirely: its forearms and all body parts under the ribs cannot be found, and have possibly become skin.

Facial structure bears resemblance to late Pleistocene human ancestors except for a protruding forehead and chin, as well as general alopecia. Its mouth hangs open, featuring two rows of pointed canines. Its eyes, though unharmed, remain closed.

A combined infrared/x-ray analysis discovered that RPC-373-1's heart has expanded from its initial size, pushing against the ribs and extending below the torso. It is currently 3m in diameter and no longer resembles a mammalian heart, instead featuring numerous disparate chambers pulsating asynchronously.

Though RPC-373-1 has a pulse, it remains motionless, and shows signs of malnutrition and extensive slashing wounds. Incomplete regeneration has also been observed, i.e. sealing of broken blood vessels.

RPC-373-1's most notable feature is a tertiary arm emerging from a slashing wound spanning from the right clavicle to the upper thoracic vertebrae, doubling the conventional pair in size. A Zweihänder longsword pierces through the back below the left clavicle, opposite to the tertiary arm, and extending into the chest cavity.

The longsword (termed RPC-373-2) is resilient to rusting and is continuously pushed on the direction of its tip by a yet-unmeasured incorporeal force, heading toward RPC-373-1's heart. The tertiary arm pulls at RPC-373-2's grip and lower blade in the opposite direction, occasionally twitching or trembling from excessive effort.

RPC-373-2 features an Old German inscription (possibly a Hessian dialect) across its blade, translated as follows:

Sword of Hans, who fell the Giant

This inscription was carved before its use in combat against RPC-373-1.

Though RPC-373-2 is known to regularly sink deeper into RPC-373-1, the opposite has never been registered.

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