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“We encountered Organism 46-B on day one as we were conducting a preliminary dive in our low-temperature [dry suits]. It disabled our radio, which we later learned to our alarm, was intentional.” -Dr. Anton Padalka

Context

This species is reputedly a previously undiscovered predator from under the ice in Lake Vostok, Antarctica.

The tale of its discovery was told by a defecting Russian scientist who was present when it was discovered. The story has been picked up and spread across conspiracy sites and headlines (mostly tabloid papers/sites like the Daily Express from the UK).

The story is almost certainly fictional, with at least one source citing the story to author C. Michael Forsythe (although the article I found online written by him lacked details found in many of the other articles). Regardless of its veracity, it is perfect fodder for a super-hero campaign or story.

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Background

  • Known Relatives: N/A.
  • Group Affiliation: None.
  • Base of Operations: Lake Vostok, Antarctica.
  • Height: 33′ (10 metres). Weight: 1 ton (910 Kg.).
  • Eyes: Any. Hair: None.

Powers & Abilities

Organism 46-B is a “super” cephalopod similar to a glass octopus  . Unlike its distant cousin, it is roughly the size of a colossal squid, with 14 arms and abilities similar to several other species in the Cephalopoda class.

Each of its arms is covered with equally powerful suckers. These can be used to smell and taste in addition to grasping, aiding in the tracking of prey. Extremely intelligent, its neural network includes neurons distributed throughout its body that also act as a brain, especially in the nerve cords though its arms. These arms have been known to continue to move and act in the creature’s interest even after being severed from the main body.

Like other cephalopods, it possesses chromatophores  which can change color or reflect light, and specialized papillae which allow it to control the texture of its skin. By using these abilities and contorting its boneless body into other shapes, the species is capable of imitating numerous aquatic creatures – and even taking the form of a human diver.

Organism 46-B can also reputedly use its chromatophores to create hypnotic patterns. These are able to put prey into a trance-like state before being killed and consumed.

Perhaps Organism 46-B’s most frightening ability is to release a powerful neurotoxin. It paralyzes its prey at up to 150 feet away, even through dry suits. The scientists who first encountered the creature believed it released the venom into the water from an organ similar to a normal octopus’ ink sac.

It is also believed that Organism 46-B can regrow its tentacles after having them severed. A more outlandish theory is the possibility a severed tentacle could grow back into a full creature.

Glass octopus underwater photo

Photograph of a real-world glass octopus. These certainly are strange-looking animals.

Lake Vostok

Lake Vostok is the largest freshwater lake in Antarctica. Roughly the size of Lake Ontario, Vostok is twice as deep (500 meters), and lies roughly 500 meters below sea level. Antarctic glacial ice covers the lake, roughly 4,000 meters thick.

The lake constitutes the coldest naturally occurring conditions thus far recorded on Earth. The lake itself remains liquid due to the pressure of the ice, and possible geothermal heat from below.

The environment is believed to be super saturated with nitrogen and oxygen, roughly 50 times that of normal freshwater lakes.

Lake Vostok is of particular interest to exobiologists and astrobiologists. The environment is similar to what might potentially be found on Europa if water exists deep below its thick sheets of ice.

The waters of Vostok have been isolated for at least 15 million years. Therefore, any life found there has likely developed along an independent evolutionary path from organisms elsewhere on Earth.

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History

In July of 2012, a defecting Russian scientist showed up in Switzerland with an incredible story.

Dr. Anton Padalka told a tale of a research mission to discover life in Lake Vostok, deep beneath the Antarctic ice when his team disappeared there for 5 days.

Discovery and Excitement

Dr. Anton Padalka was part of the 8-person team sent to explore and catalog the lifeforms in Lake Vostok. The scientists installed a single person elevator in the ice tunnel which allowed them to descend through the ice to make camp on an ice shelf carved near the shore of the lake.

It was shortly after they set up camp and began their initial dives that they discovered the creature they dubbed Organism 46-B. The massive cephalopod appeared to be closest to the glass octopus among known species. However, rather than the usual 8 arms of an octopus it had a total of 14 arms.

It was approximately 33 feet long with nearly a ton of mass. Much like the mimic octopus, it was able to contort its body into the shape of aquatic life.

They continued their work and excitedly began documenting their discoveries.

Tentacled Terror

On one of these exploratory dives, they realized Organism 46-B was far more dangerous than originally supposed. Appearing as a school of fish, they swam towards the creature unaware that it was the giant octopus. This tactic allowed it to observe and approach the scientists as they observed it. It released paralytic venom through the water using an organ similar to its ink sacs.

It was also able to hypnotize one of the scientists, who was also their radio operator, Dr. Alexis Vindogradov. It closed in on him as he simply smiled and then dismembered and devoured him. The creature disabled the radio during the attack, cutting off the researchers’ contact with the outside world.

Later, Dr. Padalka and other team members were on an observation dive, when they noticed one of their colleagues swimming towards them in SCUBA gear. He was apparently returning from his own dive. To their surprise, the colleague was actually Organism 46-B, who grabbed one of their marine biologists before he realized what it was.

The creature tore the stunned man apart before consuming him with its beak.

Trapping the Terror

The scientists determined through their encounters that the species was at least as intelligent as the average man, and believed that during the first encounter it had purposely disabled their radio.

The expedition chief, A.M. Yelagin decided they would need a plan to capture the creature.

He decided to use a specimen tank to hold it; but they would need bait.. A former professional athlete, Dr. Marta Kalashnik was chosen for the task. She was the most agile swimmer, and most likely to be able to defend herself.

The carefully laid trap was successful in securing the beast, but one of the arms managed to grasp Dr. Kalashnik. She used an axe to sever the arm of the creature, but the severed limb pulled the axe away from her. They returned to camp with their prize.

As they rested that night to recover from the ordeal, the vengeful tentacle slithered onto the icy bank and strangled Dr. Kalashnik in her sleep.

The Cold War is over?

The remaining scientists returned to the surface with the tank containing the new species in tow. They expected to receive international honors for their discovery.

However, the program’s director immediately ordered the hole plugged. The Russian military seized the discovery on the orders of Putin, himself. Their plan was to weaponize the venom and potentially the creature, as well.

When Dr. Padalka discovered what was planned for the creature, he decided to defect so he could raise the alarm for the world. “Some species of octopus lay 200,000 eggs, imagine if they were deposited in reservoirs and lakes across North America,” he feared.

Big Fish Tale?

There are several things about the story which make it likely to be fantasy. Journalists attempting to verify the story have been unable to locate Dr. Padalka.

According to official accounts, the Russians did reach the water level with a core sample hole drilled into Lake Vostok in 2012, however it was not big enough to accommodate a person. When the drill broke through, pressure caused the water to shoot upward, filling the hole. It was capped to prevent potential contamination of the samples.

Dr. Padalka’s account describes the lake as having a shore just below the ice where the scientists made camp. This seems unlikely given the pressure caused by the ice. Also, no light penetrates that deep, making the defense mechanisms described seem unnecessary in such an environment.

The Russians did find psychrophilicAn organism that grows best at low temperatures microbial life according to the official reports. Even this discovery is disputed by some experts who believe the sample was contaminated by the drilling methods. Still, most biologists believe the samples to be consistent with what they would expect to find in such an extreme environment.

Under Pressure

The waters in Lake Vostok are under a tremendous amount of pressure, equating to 355 bar (355 times the pressure of the atmosphere at the surface sea level) due to the ice pressing down on it. The deepest SCUBA diver ever was a little over 1000 feet, at which the pressure is roughly 32 bar.

Padalka’s account described his team as SCUBA divers repeatedly. With the only special diving equipment mentioned being low temperature “wetsuits” (this would actually be a drysuit which keeps the diver dry although that could be explained as a translation error).

There was no mention of any other special equipment like an atmospheric diving suit or bathyscaphe to deal with the pressure. There wasn’t even mention of use of exotic gas mixes which technical divers use at depth (nitrogen becomes akin to laughing gas, and oxygen becomes toxic under pressure unless mixed with other gases, like helium). A team exploring the environment would require this equipment under these circumstances.

The location as described in the story is more consistent with the hidden subterranean realms of speculative fiction and pulp novels than the actual Lake Vostok described by scientists. If there were somehow hidden caverns beneath the ice and something besides pressure keeping the water liquid, it might be more consistent with what is described. But it would surprise the scientific community.

Description

Organism 46-B is a terror out of a sailor’s Lovecraft influenced kraken filled nightmares.

It most closely resembles a massive 10 meter (33 foot) octopus with a total of 14 arms. Weighing in at close to a ton, it is on par with the largest cephalopods ever known to live in the deep. Only with more grasping sucker covered arms.

However, it can twist its shape and coloring to take on the appearance of other creatures, so by time you see it for what it is, it’s probably already too late.

Personality

Organism 46-B is a highly successful apex predator with human like intelligence.

A solitary predator, it can be very aggressive in defending its territory. It will use creative tactics to ambush its prey or to render its victims helpless before it strikes.

Quotes

Dr. Padalka about the creature:

“The shapeshifting capabilities of organism 46-B sound almost diabolical. It shaped itself into the form of a human diver.”

“Tragically my colleague and lifelong friend was killed this way. He tread water wearing a blissful smile as the organism approached him. We watched helplessly as it used its arms to tear off his head then popped his remains in its mouth. It was as if it had hypnotized him telepathically.”

“From the way it adapted each time we changed our tactics, we became convinced it is at least as intelligent as an average human. If we were not all PHDs, I fear it would have in the end outwitted us.”

DC Universe Adaptation

(This section proposes ways of using this character in DC Universe stories).

The Luthor Option

Insert Lex Luthor and Luthorcorp for Putin and Russia, respectively, and you can leave the history pretty much unchanged.

It’s easy to imagine Luthor financing such a mission, perhaps even using a foreign subsidiary to do so. It’s also possible that Luthor knew what was hidden below the ice the entire time. He and/or the researchers at Cadmus would be quite interested in the genetic code of Organism 46-B. In Luthor’s hands it possibly could be used to replicate such abilities in humans.

Another possibility which would interest Luthor would be if the creature is of alien origin- perhaps even Kryptonian. In this scenario, Luthor secretly gave the mission leader a kryptonite laced specimen tank to capture the creature or some other method to temporarily render the creature docile. Knowing full well that one or two scientists would most likely die before the specimen could be secured.

Atlantean Option

Perhaps Organism 46-B is familiar to the Atlanteans, either directly or through their own legends.

It’s possible the lakes under Antarctican ice are considered “hidden seas” by them and hiding places of powerful artifacts. This “Mega-Octopus” is a guardian of such an artifact similar to the Karathen.

”Release the Kraken!”

Perhaps Organism 46-B is actually the Kraken of legend. If so, it may be a pet of ancient gods who penned it in the lake for safekeeping. Njord or Poseidon may take personal interest in the discovery.

Perhaps Vostok is essentially a breeding cage for the creatures created by a god, or someplace it was imprisoned by some deity jealous of the pet.

Cthulhu Mythos Adaptation

In Cthulhu Mythos, Arkham’s Miskatonic University sent an expedition to Antarctica over a mysterious mountain range dubbed “The Mountains of Madness.” The mountains were actually walls to a massive city of ruins.

After discovering the existence of the original inhabitants of the city, which they call “Elder Things,” the researchers also encountered a shoggoth (a black bubbling mass of organs and eyes floating in a protoplasmic sphere) which was originally a servant created by the Elder Things.

Considering the ancient Elder Things retreated to the oceans, perhaps Organism 46-B is one of their creations. It could be a guardian to the entrance of some undersea subterranean realm, a guard to some other unknown secret, or simply brute labor run amok.

Using it as a guardian to some other McGuffin would force the characters to venture to Lake Vostok and to encounter it on its home turf, and other potential alien lifeforms in the lake and beyond.

Marvel Universe Adaptation

Some versions of Spider-Man’s origin story have him bitten by a genetically engineered “super-spider” with the abilities of all the differing species of spider. In this light, it would make sense that Organism 46-B could be the result of similar experimentation with cephalopods.

The story seems to combine the abilities of all the different octopuses and squids (some octopuses do actually release paralytic toxins along with mucus from their ink sac). 46-B is essentially what you would get if you combined the best traits of all the cephalopod species.

Even taken as is, Norman Osborn would likely have great interest in the story and would be out to get his own genetic samples. He might be looking for the perfect operatives for an espionage mission to retrieve such samples.

DC Heroes RPG

Organism 46-B

Dex: 03 [05] Str: 12 Bod: 06
Int: 03 Wil: 03 Min: 02
Inf: 02 Aur: 00 Spi: 02
Init: 008 [010] HP: 50

Powers:

Analytical Smell/Tracking Scent: 03, Anatomical Division: 16, Claws (Beak): 05, Cling: 03, Chameleon: 06, Extra Limb (x12): 12, Fluid Form: 03, Fog: 05, Growth: 07, Mental Freeze: 04, Neutralize (Analytical Smell/Tracking Scent): 05, Paralysis: 08, Regeneration: 02, Sealed Systems: 09, Shrinking: 04, Super Hearing (Low-Frequency Only): 06, Swimming: 04, Split: 14, Water Blast: 02, Water Freedom: 05

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Growth is always on and already figured into the stats. 
  • Chameleon can be used to mimic marine life and flora.
  • Fluid Form represents the octopus’s extreme ductility – it is Always On, does not reduce the octopus’s STR, does not allow splitting into separate parts, and does not add to the OV/RV versus most Physical Attacks, instead only adding to RV versus blunt impacts (-3 FC total).
  • Neutralize is Contingent On and Combined with Fog (-1FC total).
  • Anatomical Division cannot happen at will, but does come into play when any arm is severed, as it will continue to function. Although male octopuses have been known to rip off their own arm that serves as their sex organ and give it to the female. APs of power can be assigned to parts. Number of parts equals APs of power. Parts retain powers as listed below.
  • Mental Freeze requires the victim is looking at Organism 46-B.
  • Paralysis is usable in the water only.
  • Regeneration is physical damage only , but allows regrowth of lost limbs.
  • Water blast requires water be available for the Organism’s siphon to squirt.
  • Sealed Systems is the Free Diving package, but represents an octopus’ (and in this case the tentacles) ability to climb out of the water.
  • Split is mental tasks only and contingent on Extra Limb. It represents the tentacles’ ability to operate independently.

Skills:

Artist (Actor): 06, Thief (Locks and Safes): 02, Thief (Stealth): 06, Military Science (Camouflage): 06

Bonuses and Limitations:

Artist (Actor), Military Science (Camouflage), and Thief (Stealth) suffer a Power Loss of 2 APs if Chameleon is Neutralized

Advantages:

Double Jointed (actually lacks bones)

Drawbacks:

Miscellaneous (An octopus can move on the ground, but only at -2 APs (2-3 feet) per phase)

Motivation:

Mercenary (Hunger).

Occupation:

Apex Predator.

Wealth:

001 (in fish)

Typical Tentacle

Dex: 02 [03] Str: 12 Bod: 03
Int: 00 Wil: 01 Min: 01
Inf: 01 Aur: 00 Spi: 01
Init: 003 [004]

Powers:

Analytical Smell/Tracking Scent: 03, Anatomical Division (Self Link): 16, Cling: 03, Extra Limb (Self Link): 12, Fluid Form: 03, Regeneration: 02, Swimming: 03, Water Freedom: 03

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Fluid Form is Always On, does not reduce the octopus’s STR, does not allow splitting into separate parts, and does not add to the OV/RV versus most Physical Attacks, instead only adding to RV versus blunt impacts (-3 FC total).
  • Regeneration is usable for physical damage only. One scientist theorized a tentacle might be able to grow a new creature using the regeneration power as well.

Design notes

For the most part these stats have been based on the octopus and giant squid stats in the Animals article. With some tweaks to represent Organism 46-B’s human level intelligence and its unique abilities.

I also went with Chameleon over Color since the mechanics are clearer with the Chameleon power (including the values to check to see through the disguise). And the fact that Organism 46-B is said to have changed itself to look like a diver.

In terms of dealing with the creature and depth, I have not included any special drawbacks nor bonuses, since a number of creatures can move between the deep sea and the surface with no ill effect.

The primary issues with DCI (decompression illness) stem from us having lungs and not gills, and breathing pressurized air at depth which expands as you rise. There’s no indication in the story the creature had any such difficulty changing depths (even going so far as describing a severed tentacle still operating after it had left the water).

Writeups.org writer avatar Adam Fuqua

By Adam Fuqua.

Source of Character: The Internet

Helper(s): Animals Article, Ethan Roe for Initiative spot-checking

Write-up completed on the 20th of October, 2020