Previous Page Next Page

UTC:       Local:

Home Page Index Page

Genie Out of the Vat: Prologue

       Last updated: Wednesday, December 1, 2004 03:28 EST



    "When shall these three meet again, in thunder, lightning or in rain?"

    The dark, hook-nosed lab-coated woman looked as if she might have been one of the witches. And, had this been one of the world of Harmony and Reason's updated Shakespearean plays at the New Globe theatre, the setting too would have seemed appropriate. What she leaned over was no cauldron with simmering eye of newt and toe of dog, but three tissue-cloning vats with their attendant electronics and glassware.

    The fetuses developing under the glass covers all looked like unborn rats.

    One of them was.

    Mari-Lou Evans, once, twenty four frozen light years ago, of Stratford-on-Avon, and, like her boss, a loyal part of the New Globe Thespian society, knew her prescribed reply. "When the hurlyburly's done, when the battle's lost and won," she intoned sepulchrally. Then she sighed. "If it ever is, Sanjay. If we don't just lose."

    The colony's chief biologist shrugged and pulled a wry face. "Do you think I'd be playing God if we faced any real alternatives?" She pointed to the third breeding vat. "No need for another standard human control, Mari-Lou. We won't be breeding up any more Vat-brats for a while. We need to gear up the equipment for mass-production of that longnose elephant-shrew mix. The army has put in impossible demands for quantity. If it tests out fine on emergence then we're going to have to set up a production line for the creatures."

    The chief geneticist nodded. She pointed to the third vat. "The ultrasounds of the bat's gastro-intestinal development doesn't look good, Sanjay. We're going to have to tinker and tweak those genes a bit more in my opinion. Perhaps cherry-pick from the Tadarida. It's the size problem. The bigger bats are fruit-eaters, not insectivores."

    "Destroy the fetus and start again, Mari-Lou. Make it smaller if need be. The army will just have to take what it can get."

    It was the geneticist's turn to pull a wry face. "I hate pulling the plug at this stage."

    "And I hate making them intelligent... to go and be cannon-fodder. I hate implanting alien-built software and cybernetics that I don't properly understand into their heads. But we don't have a lot of choices. Humans are too slow to produce, and the Magh' are advancing faster than we can retreat, never mind stop them. The council of Shareholders are now talking about introducing compulsory conscription for everyone between the ages of eighteen and twenty-two. Even that won't be enough. We need more fighters."

    The geneticist knew that for a truth. The Magh' tide, even with the assistance of the alien Korozhet and their wonderful new devices, was proving very difficult to stem. She shifted subject. "What are you planning on using for language download?"

    Her fellow amateur thespian shrugged. "It's just got to be a spoken source of vocabulary in computer-friendly format for the voice synthesizer. We're a bit short of material so I was going to download the Complete Shakespeare, and the D'Oyly Carte Gilbert and Sullivan recordings. That should do."

    Mari-Lou couldn't help but smile. "Shakespearean rats, imagining themselves to be Julius Caesar."

    Sanjay acknowledged a hit. "Well, they'll make good soldiers anyway."

    She was wrong about that. Both language and genetics shape character. They made merry wives, bawds, rogues and rude artisanals, or occasionally pirates. The Rats were great Magh' killers.

    They made terrible soldiers.



    In the months that followed, conscription was introduced. So, to the front-lines, went the newly produced and uplifted Elephant-shrew troops with their soft-cyber implants. Despite the fact that they weren't even rodents, everyone called the small Siamese-cat sized creatures "Rats". The Rats and conscripts slowed the advance of the insect-like Magh' invaders.... but it wasn't stopped. Rumor had it that genetically modified and soft-cyber uplifted bats were about to be added to the war effort. The colony, planned as the new Fabianist utopia in which harmony and reason would finally triumph, seethed with such rumors. It also seethed with frenetic parties, and young men and women in ill-fitting new uniforms.

    Harmony and reason were notably absent.

Home Page Index Page




Previous Page Next Page

Page Counter Image