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Item #: RPC-088

Object Class: Alpha

Containment Protocols: All instances of RPC-088 are to be rotated between two standard 4000m2 containment paddocks at the Authority Para-Agricultural Research Establishment (APRE), █████, Saskatchewan, Canada. Due to the vulnerability of RPC-088 to leg injuries (see below), pastures should be carefully groomed to avoid the formation of any significant divots or animal burrows which could act as tripping hazards.

Each animal has been fitted with a tracking collar and an electrical shock device connected to the paddock's wireless fence system. RPC-088 are permitted a maximum flight altitude of 4km. Any instances moving outside of this range are to be intercepted and forced to land via their shock devices. RPC-088 is to be fed standard bovine feed. To minimize the risk of containment breaches, the diets of instances of RPC-088-1 are to be monitored and controlled in order to ensure that they cannot build up an adequate fuel supply. Test personnel must liaise with APRE aerospace control to ensure that RPC-088 and 088-1 flight testing does not interfere with local Authority air and suborbital traffic.

Description: RPC-088 is an anomalous subspecies of Bos taurus africanus (Sanga cattle) which possesses a variable-geometry skeleton, an extremely efficient digestive system, and a naturally occurring ramjet propulsion system powered by digestive byproducts. All instances of RPC-088 are capable of flight. RPC-088 are externally similar to the Ankole-Watusi subspecies, with the exception of an elongated, streamlined facial structure, a nictitating membrane over the eyes, flattened, wing-shaped horns, and greatly expanded skeletal muscles around the base of the skull and neck. The skeletal structure of the animals is distinguished by a series of cartilaginous joints around the rib cage, scapulae and pelvis which allow the legs to be retracted flush against the body and permit the animal's torso and chest to flatten into a winglike shape. Tail muscles are unusually overdevelopped, and the caudal vertebrae1 are long in the vertical, creating a distinctively fin-shaped structure.

The internal structure of the RPC-088 skeleton shows distinct similarities to those of birds, being significantly more hollow than conventional bovids. Despite this, RPC-088 bone samples demonstrate notably high tensile strength compared to mundane Bos taurus africanus bones, although their resistance to sudden shocks and impacts is notably weaker. As a result, all instances of RPC-088 are extremely prone to fractures and minor breaks in the long bones of the legs, especially upon landing.

Wind-tunnel testing of RPC-088 instances reveal that their bodies generate more lift than they should mathematically be capable of, even when distorted into an optimal lifting shape. RPC-088 instances possess a heavily-reinforced serpentine jaw structure which can, in flight, be expanded to form a functional ram-type air intake that leads directly on to an oversized trachea.

The reticulum2 of instances of RPC-088 extends along the length of the animal, and is equipped with a series of valved airways connecting it to the lungs, as well as an extended combustion chamber leading directly to the anus. The reticulum and anal cavity are coated with a thick, highly heat-resistant mucus which ablates under high temperatures and is gradually refreshed during the process of digestion. The RPC-088 digestive system extracts purified methane from its feed, and stores it in a compressed state in a series of bladders attached to the reticulum. Pressure testing of these bladders show them to be able to withstand internal pressures of more than ████MPa. At the base of the throat is a small gland containing a previously-unknown species of symbiotic bacteria, which generate [DATA EXPUNGED], an extremely pyrophoric compound.

RPC-088 achieve lift by running at high speeds while hyperventilating, a process which seems to pump air into the reticulum. The throat gland is then contracted and the gas bladders opened, which triggers combustion and the rapid release of exhaust gasses through the anus. This release of superheated flatus is sufficent to push the animal off the ground, lengthening its stride and significantly increasing its movement speed. Once sufficient thrust has been achieved, the animal will cease hyperventilating and distend its jaw, using intake air to fuel the reaction. While in-flight, RPC-088 use their horns to generate pitch and roll, and fine movements of the tail to provide limited yaw authority. This, combined with their limited field of binocular vision, often results in a distinctive 'weaving' flight pattern. RPC-088 instances have also demonstrated significant difficulties flying and landing in intense crosswinds, likely due to their relatively poor lateral flight control. The fastest recorded airspeed for an instance of RPC-088 is 14,332 km/h, during which [REDACTED] flat spin and subsequent lethal deceleration, resulting in the death of the subject.

Of the 43 instances of RPC-088 currently known to exist, three are instances of RPC-088-1. Instead of ramjets, the reticula of RPC-088-1 form simple scramjets3. RPC-088-1 instances are significantly smaller in size than RPC-088, and tend to be darker-coloured. Their jaws are thickened and the skin of the mouth reinforced with 'ribs' of bone, apparently to assist with extreme pressures and friction at high speeds. The horns are significantly shorter and thinner, and the hair naturally grows into thick mats which assists in insulation and minimizing the damaging effects of air friction. Instead of siphoning off breathing air from their intakes while in-flight, RPC-088-1 possess several areas of oxygen-permeable tissue around the eyes and nose, which permits them to absorb breathing air from their surroundings. RPC-088-1 lack the capacity for independently-launched flight. Instead, they will attach themselves via a series of small, keratinous hooks on their forelegs and chests to the backs of a pair of RPC-088, using the flight speeds of the other instances to generate enough intake pressure for independent flight. RPC-088-1 are capable of limited suborbital flight.

Addendum 1: As of █/█/1994, fully-functional aerodynamic models of the propulsive structures of RPC-088 and 088-1 have been developed. Computer testing reveals that RPC-088 should not be able to generate the levels of thrust exhibited, and that, in fact, the levels of pressure and airflow needed for RPC-088 to achieve flight should cause catastrophic internal structural failure within seconds of combustion being initiated. Research is ongoing.

Addendum 2: During the routine launch of the ALRS-33 mission4 from Korolev Station, [REDACTED] Crater, Luna, launchpad radar systems detected an asteroid passing on a near-miss trajectory over the launchpad. While the object passed overhead without interfering with launch proceedings, routine review of data revealed a radar profile for the object functionally identical to an instance of RPC-088-1. As no animal of this variety has been observed to demonstrate true spaceflight capabilties, research by the AEDF5 is ongoing.

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