by Starling

Well, here I am today. Here... not that it really matters. If there was any place for me to go I would have left a long time ago. It really doesn't matter where because I'm really not anymore. All I have is the stories, one recording made so long ago, the only hope for me. That doesn't matter either. I should have died a long time ago. Maybe if people knew the truth they would end things for me. Maybe if people knew the truth, things would get better. I don't really know, don't really care about it either. Still, sometimes I wish somehow I could still be...

"Doctor, the subject is not responding."

"Decrease the dosage of morphaline."

"Still nothing."

"An electric shock then. It's our only--"

"Doctor, you can't be serious--"

"I'm damn serious! We have to start that heart beating. Now put the following voltage into the stabilizers."

The patient was laid out on a table covered in white cloth. The table was in the center of a room with white floors, white walls and white lights. Pale clad surgeons surrounded the body, hidden except for the ugly gash in the center, where a heart had been placed and was now refusing to beat.

As the body jerked and struggled against electrically induced currents, one of the other doctors stood and moved towards a cylindrical chamber near the back of the room. Within the sealed glass cylinder, a syringe was placed pointed downward, partially hidden by the criptic letters identifying the strange substance within.

"Cystolin 7. Glad I thought to prepare some."

Another doctor stood in his way, putting a hand on the glass. "If you think this is going to save the patient, you're mad. The testing hasn't even been approved."

"I know it will work."

"You don't have the right to use it."

"I know it will work."

"Without approval you can't--."

"I know it will work! Get out of my way," the doctor said, roughly shoving the smaller man aside. "7 years of research with the best equipment available, decades of genetic research before my own, a success in lab rats not to mention horses and pigs. It's got to work. The patient would die!"

Other doctors moved around the table, but he picked the syringe from its alcove and tried to shove his way past. "Let me through, It has to work! You can't let him die. Just let me try!"

The security guards rushed into the surgical chamber as he leapt through the knot of doctors, moving with one swift, well practiced motion. He jabbed the needle into the body's chest cavity, and depressed the syringe. With a grimace of desperation, he watched the liquid leave the syringe and enter the patient's bloodstream. Everything went silent; all heads turned to look at the doctor, unmoving since his forbidden act.

After 20 seconds, another cloth covered physician began shoving the security guards out of the room, warning of contamination and safety procedures. The large man standing with the syringe seemed a statue, his face hidden by the surgeons mask.

"You are ruined," his first assailant muttered. "Your days as a doctor are numbered. You should never have come to the operating table, you hack! You..."

His voice trailed off as the pulse oximiter began emitting regular beats. Beep... beep... beep... After 37 seconds, the patient's heart had begun to beat.

The artificial respirator kicked in and the lungs rose and fell. A chorus of gasps went up around the room. Then all was activity. There was no time for rejoice, no time for recompense. The wound was stitched up with steady hands and the patient was wheeled into the cleansing area after 20 more minutes of meticulous care.

Later, when the doctors removed their robes, clothing themselves in street garb, no one would look at the doctor whose belligerence had saved a patient. Envy was in the air, and also fear. Fear of what would happen if the doctor's treatment failed. Fear of what they knew would happen if it succeeded. Finally a thin man stood and looked the doctor dead in the eye. "That was a foolish thing to do, Dr. Simmons," he muttered. "You just ruined your career, as well as any hope of your treatment being approved."

"I saved the patient!"

"You put the patient more at risk than a doctor has a right to! Just because he was foolish enough to sign the waivers for using an experimental treatment, doesn't mean we had any intention of using it."

Gene Simmons spoke with a deadly quiet. "You would rather the patient died?"

"I had more interest in his life than you did! When I let you into that room, I thought the years of research wouldn't go to your head. Now, it might as well have been for nothing."

"The patient lived because--"

"Because of a fluke. Our patient Mr. Anderson could have responded to the Orphic ether. The shocks might have had a delayed effect. For all we can tell, God might have intervened! We were successful in transplanting the first artificial heart, but your treatment is as suspect as it was before."

"Suspect? You... underestimate me, Dr. Cory."

"I suggest you go home and get some rest. We won't know whether to fire you or promote your research until the final tests come in."

"Good night, then."

"Good night Doctor Simmons."

"Daddy, you're home early!"

Gene smiled as his darling daughter bounced up from her spot on the couch. She left her school books carelessly by the door, little scamp! She kicked them lightly aside as she ran up to him. He caught her in a hug, spinning her gently, trying not to remember where his hands had just been. "It's good to see you too sweety," he said beaming.

The little brown haired child he'd been blessed with as a daughter was full of a radience of life. Her blue twinkling eyes, her tiny dimpled smile. She was a symbol of perfection, every time he looked at her he saw...

"How was your big day, dear?" Carol Simmons was standing there in the living room, looking at him with a half smile. She was the radience that his daughter shared, a brown haired frame of perfection, close cut around the shoulders. Her face was lined and coarse, a wondrous visage nonetheless. Her wonderful frame was just plump enough, her hands careful and delicate. It was the hands he'd first fallen in love with. Everything else came naturally. She looked so happy standing there, Gene hated to disappoint her.

He started hesitatingly, his daughter squirming in his arms. "Dear... today I ran into trouble."

"What? How?"

"I used the treatment I've been working on."

"Cystolin 7? That's wonderful! But--"

"But I did it without the head surgeons approval. He would have let the patient die before I could convince him to use the Cystolin. I got carried away a bit, and they called in security..."

"Were you arrested?"

"Soon to be, but the patient's heart started beating. The operation was a success!"

Carol looked torn between hugging him and slapping him. She spoke steadily. "Was it your formula that..."

"Yes!" Gene's voice was trembling. "Yes... but I couldn't convince the head surgeon. He didn't like me standing him up, and now he's going to take away my research."

"Dr. Cory? I'm sure he'd be more reasonable than that!"

"He... I... I'm not sure. Towards the end he'd calmed down a lot and it felt like he was even joking. He said he wouldn't do anything until the medical tests come in about how the patient survived. If my formula was the cause, we might be very rich soon. If not..." Gene shrugged helplessly. "Then I'm going to be fired. Blacklisted. A lab technician for the rest of my life."

"What's a technician, Daddy?" his daughter inquired.

"A very sad person, honey," Gene answered as honestly as he could.

He looked expectantly at Carol who said nothing, then looked at her watch. "Gene, I've got to take Katherine to her GymnasTot session."

"Is that today? I'd completely forgotten."

"Your work was so important, I wanted to take some of the stress off. I didn't think you needed to know."

"Well it's a good thing I came home when I did. You still haven't shown me your somersaults, sweetie!" Katherine giggled and bounced away as he set her down. He hadn't noticed the little girl wearing a gymnastics leotard. So preoccupied these days...

The evening went a blur and soon he was reposing in his sleeping wife's arms. Katherine had been so tired from the gymnastics exercise, she went straight to bed after dinner. That probably meant an early wake up call from her tomorrow, but there was peace for now. Gene lay awake, wondering what he did to deserve such a wonderful family. Wondering if they could hold together as his professional life fell apart. Wondering what was happening to the patient. Mr. Anderson had been without a pulse for 5 minutes. That was enough for brain damage. Hoping for the best, Gene finally fell asleep.

Mr. Anderson had regained consciousness, and was now strapped to the table. His eyes were wide open and rolling with fear. Strange bawling noises kept coming from his mouth which hadn't emitted words since his awakening. A dark faced Dr. Cory stood staring impassively at the pitiful wretch. "No one knows about this," he told the only other person in the soundproof, sealed room. "Especially not Gene."

"Yes sir," came the reply, curt and obedient. Great... thought Dr. Cory.

Gene awoke to the sound of banging pots. Katherine!

He rushed in the kitchen and there she was surrounded by an array of pots, and an imagined 4 star marching band. "Kathy!" he shouted groggily. "Stop that!"

She stopped, then barely tapped on a pan. "I said stop!"

The tapping ceased. "Now young lady, you put all those pots back. You scared me to death! I thought the pots had fallen on you."

"I'm a big girl, daddy."

"Well then be a big girl and pick up the pots."

10 minutes of arguing later, and the pots were back in the drawer. Carol watched Gene and Katherine amusedly for a while then went busily starting to prepare a breakfast.

"Why don't I do that, and you watch Katherine?" Gene said in a wheedling tone.

"Not on your life," Carol shot back. "I'll make breakfast for everybody. You just go and... Katherine is in the fireplace again."

"She's--Kathy! I thought I told you to..."

Some time later, Gene had finally got her playing with a puzzle around which dinner was placed. "See?" she said. "It's ice cream."

"That's very nice ice cream," Carol said looking at the patched together picture on the puzzle board. "See daddy? Mom always lets me have ice cream for breakfast!"

"Ohh, I want the chocolate one."

"You can't eat--hey daddy! Give me back my puzzle piece!"

"But I'm so hunnngry!"


Gene's distraction at the beep was enough for his girl to snatch the absconded puzzle piece and place it back on the board. His computer had autostarted on his awakening, as did the heat for the house. The room had already warmed up close to the heat vent when the computer beeped its announcement of new email.

"After breakfast, dear," his wife said. "After breakfast," he agreed, and they all had a wonderful quiet moment with his daughter using the puzzle as a placemat. "Good thing those puzzles are made out of cleanable plastic these days," Gene thought distractedly.

At last he sat down in front of the email. Gene was excited to get a message so soon, and desperately curious about the test results. He was ready for anything, a complete lack of effect, an error in the machine, a thank you letter from the surviving patient. This is what he got.

Subject:Employment status

Date:Fri, 26 May 2012 21:23:52 -0700

From:Genetrix surgery

To:Doctor Gene Simmons

Dear sir,

We are sorry to inform you that your employment status has been terminated. You have 2 weeks notice before your name is removed from the salary database. Your last months pay has been forwarded to your bank account. Best of luck with your future employment opportunities.

Genetrix Management Staff
c/o Jon Stumper
1121 Delaney Dr. Carbuncle, NJ 28432-1122-3

"Gene? Is everything alright?" said his wife worriedly.

"They didn't even tell me why."

"Why? What do you--"

"I got fired, that's what! I got fired and they didn't even have the courtesy to tell me if the patient was alive or dead! For all I know the treatment had as much effect as a diet cola. They didn't even tell me..."

"Gene, calm down. You're getting hysterical! I'm sure there's some explanation. Why don't you call Doctor Cory. He would never do that to you because he knows how important that treatment was to you. It must have been a mistake."

"A m-mistake?"

"A mistake. Now, get in touch with Doctor Cory right away. Here's the phone."

"What? Oh... thanks."

Gene's wife left him to his privacy while he dialed the head surgeon's number, one he knew by heart. There was a ring, then a click for the redirection then...

"We're sorry. The extension you have specivied is invalid. Please enter your extension again."

Gene typed in the last 3 digits. The same message came back, in some tired secretary's nasal voice. He tried it again, then threw the phone down roughly on his desk. He pulled out an address book, and read a phone number from within there. Carefully typing that number in, he heard a ring, then a click, then,

"We're sorry. The extension you have specivied is invalid. Please enter your extension again."

"Damn!" he swore, jamming the phone back on the desk. "Doctor Hodgkin then. He'll have the right number."

The phone rang, then clicked then the tired secretary repeated her recorded message again. One by one, Gene called all the doctors in that surgery room. Finally, he got the technician who'd set up the equipment. "H-hello?' came the uncertain voice across the line. "Brandon! You have no idea how glad I am to speak to you. This is Doctor Simmons."

"Oh, hello doctor. What can I do for you?"

"I need the correct number for Doctor Andre Cory."

A pause of sorting papers, then Brandon's voice came back. "He's at extension 385 from our main line."

"No, that extension is invalid. I tried it already. Could you look him up on the salary database? I can't do that from where I am here."

"Hold on a sec," Brandon said followed by the sounds of speedy typing and a mouse click or two. "Dr. Cory is... not employed here."


"That's what it says, well, doesn't say. There's only one person by the name of Cory and she's a receptionist for the cancer ward."

"Confound it. Has he been fired too?"

"Sir? You got..."

"Yes. It's a horrible misunderstanding. I need to speak to Doctor Cory to get it sorted out."

"I see Dr. Simmons. Good luck then."

"Thank you Brandon."

The phone hung for a while before the dial tone returned. Gene stared unseeingly, lost in thought. "I'll have to call him at his home then. I hope he didn't get fired too."

Gene looked up Dr. Cory's phone number. Soon the phone was ringing again. His daughter came running up and tackled the back of his chair. "Hi daddy! Is that the tellophone? I play tellophone sometimes. My dollies like to keep in touch. I made them a meeting at the little table. Come see! I made a meeting."

Gene held back a curse as he pushed the hang-up button on the phone. "Not now dear. I'm on the phone."

"But daddy..."

"Not now. Show your mamma."

"She is already next to Mr. Teddy."

"I'm sorry dear. Carol!"

Carol was already dragging away squirming Katherine. It broke Gene's heart, but he couldn't lose his job.

He pushed redial. The phone began ringing again. Once. Twice. Three times. Four times... and the answering machine picked up. "You have reached 22-345-5532. We are not available right now but leave a message and one of use will get back to you--"

Bang! Gene slammed the phone down again. The muffled beep emitted from the speakers. He started to hang up, then changed his mind.

"Hello, Andre? I'm sorry to bother you at home, but there's been a horrible mixup. They just sent me my two weeks notice, but I never heard what happened to the patient. I assume the treatment failed, but you don't have to hide it from me. I can take it if a patient died. Please, if you... get a mo..ment..."

He could not keep his composure. Gene hung up the phone, shuddering into the sleeve of his shirt. Why now? Why at the peak of his career? He was back to square one, and no one had any explanation or reason aside from the fact that he'd broken etiquitte in surgery. There was no doubt about it. Gene was going to find out what happened.

The next day, Carol took Katherine to kindergarden, usually Gene's job on Monday. But Gene was busy. He spent the entire day calling people at Genetrix, managers, secretaries, no one said they even heard of the Cystolin project. Dr. Cory had disappeared, without even notifying his receptionist, as had all the other surgeons. "This goes beyond inconsiderate," thought Gene as Katherine came in for the evening. She was happy to see her daddy, but he held her off to make some more phone calls.

"This project you mentioned is not on the roster..."

"Dr. Cory is not in the book roll sheet..."

"We're sorry, there are 12 Mr. Andersons none of which had heart surgery..."

"I'm afraid I can't help you sir..."

"What did you eat for lunch, dear?"

"H-huh? What?" Gene put down the phone to see Carol looking at him sternly. "You didn't eat lunch, did you?"

"Er... no. I was busy."

"Busy starving yourself is more like it. I've made dinner. Now you can eat it or you can forget about all those phone calls. I'll pull the phone out of the socket if I have to."

"No dear. I wouldn't miss your cooking for the world."

Carol blushed, and ushered him into a steaming and delicious dinner that Gene devoured ravenously. His daughter was messier though.

For the next week, eating sporatically, Gene threw himself at the red tape that seemed to be choking Genetrix. He went to the center, but found that his security key no longer worked. The receptionist acted as though he were a bum off the streets, agreeing with slitted eyes to consider him for an appointment with Doctor Cory. He talked to the security guard, who said he hadn't seen Dr. Cory in a week. Gene even went to Dr. Cory's house, finding it completely empty. The neighbors said that the Cory's had gone on vacation rather hastily a week ago, and hadn't been seen since. The weekend went by quickly as he looked up old records on the public archives in Genetrix. All references to Doctor Cory had been deleted.

"Gene! For the fifth time, get off that computer. You have to stop worrying so much."

"I can't give up now, Carol! There's something wrong and all my work might be lost!"

"You're obsessed. You need to give it up and go look for a job somewhere else."

"As a technician? I don't think so."

"You don't have any choice!"

"Since when were you running my life?"

Katherine sulked in the corner. Her parents were so mad, they didn't play with her hardly at all today. She beat up all her dolls already, they were tired of playing 'doll' with her. The blocks weren't fun without a daddy-monster to knock 'em down. She hoped daddy stopped acting so funny, and started playing with her again.

Two weeks later, Gene sent out a job application. He had to do it. The family needed to get fed. But it was so hard, giving up like that. All the data, and figures were inaccessible to him. His years of work hidden behind a firewall he no longer had access to. "If only I could get the sequences!" Gene thought frustratedly. If he could get the information, he could probably get Cystolin 7 synthesized at a local government center. These days, once you knew the gene sequence, and the synthesis, it was a matter of routine to inject it into a theraputic retrovirus.

Those old chemistry labs he'd learned long ago, in school, had been almost laughable. Stuck in the past, they taught the meticulous detailed procedure for making the chemicals, when most of it was automated. All those years of noxious fumes had been more of a test to see if he could stand against pressure than be a good chemist. He couldn't remember the last time he'd made a gene sequence by hand. The machines did it much better and much more exact. They didn't have to worry about shaky hands, exhaustion, or mistakes. Gene thanked his computer science background almost as much as his bioengineering degree.

Since Gene had gotten into the biochemical industry, he'd wanted to become a doctor. Helping people was just something he liked to do. What was most astonishing is that there were so many people like him, he had to claw his way out of the competitive ranks. Not everyone can be a doctor, but Gene had the ambition to do so. Or so he'd thought.

His first time in surgery as a technician had been frightening, but he hadn't lost his cool. Neither had all the other times, as a technician then as a surgeon. As he grew more confident, he focused his energy on what would be his greatest project. Artificial organs were the sign of the times. By modifying animals genetically, one could get them to produce human ears, human skin tissues, and even human hearts. The ears were strangely the first, but they were abandoned in favor of the skin. Strangely textured pigs were harvested to save burn victims with skin grafts. The artificial heart was the second attempt at creating an organ aside from the skin. Skin, liver, and heart were what had been developed so far. The skin went fine since methods of treating it and adapting it to the body had been found, but internal organs always produced complications.

Too often, Gene had heard of someone getting the liver grown from an animal, only to die as the traces of animal genes made the liver incompatible. Hearts were even worse. No one had attempted an artificial heart transplant because of the danger, until Gene decided to try.

His inspiration lay not in producing a more perfect organ, but adapting the body to match the genetics of the organ. By using a duplex MacPherson gene sequence, one could theoretically replace one genome with another completely. A tiny virus injected in the body carried genes and additional genetic code for copying those genes over the places that the normal genes would go. The process Gene developed would change the subject to be compatible with the organ. And it worked.

Mr. Anderson had had two bypass surgeries, a heart attack, and complications afterwards. He specifically asked for Gene and his drug, Cystolin (now in the 7th revision). Mr. Anderson had said that he wanted to try the heart transplant, and was willing to die in the name of science. He'd also said that if his death was imminent, he would also be willing to try Cystolin 7. Gene remembered Mr. Anderson smiling weakly as the anisthetic took hold for his surgery. "Dr. Simmons," he said. "Thanks for giving me a hope again..."

They'd taken a heart from a sheep, birthed 3 years ago after Mr. Anderson had been diagnosed with chronic heart problems. The sheep had matured, its altered genome growing what was to be a fully functional human heart in its breast. For 3 years, Mr. Anderson struggled against his failing heart, trying his best to lead a normal life. But finally blood pressure and time took their toll, and he was laid out on the operating table with not a hope in the world of pulling through.

He insisted on the artificial heart, regardless of the risks. Brave man, he was ready to risk his body for the furthering of science. This was not someone Gene wanted to see die. Mr. Anderson's work as a scientific journalist, as well as a visionary was just as valuable as the scientists he wrote about. But the technique was dangerous, never attempted before, and full of problems. With liver transplants, 27% of the time, the body rejected the organ because of unavoidable traces of animal DNA. The body recognized what was not its own, until the advent of Cystolin.

"Brilliant!" "Commendable." "The perfect pair." Reviews in journals had closely followed the research of Gene and his wife. "Heresy!"

"Abomination." "Cruelty." Media was all ablaze on the idea of altering the human genome to match the organs being implanted. Yet the process of alteration was harmless and almost completely error free. Far smaller a risk than taking an alien organ and hoping that you aren't among the 27% that die. After their child was born, Gene's wife took advantage of their more than ample finances to raise Katherine at home. Gene continued on his own, halving the risk of tissue rejection then reducing it by a factor of four. He'd only tested it in animals, but so many of them came through and healed that Gene felt it a crime to withhold the treatment from suffering people.

Others saw it differently. Volunteers for the treatment were attacked, verbally and emotionally, with slander and libel conveniently ignored by the government, which was trying to find an excuse to make Cystolin illegal anyway. One by one, everyone opted for the normal manner of organ transplant: take it out of a recently dead body and put it in your own. There were at least 3 sheep and 2 pigs with a human heart that would never beat in a human breast.

Mr. Anderson had been special. He fought just as hard against the other side, writing liberal articles such as "Man on His Pedestal" and "The Equality of Man and Animal on a Genetic Level." He was a volunteer that refused to quit, even when the day of the operation approached. He wanted to see this treatment work, and he made it known that life was just not worth living if we kept ourselves distant from our four legged kin.

Gene put the phone down for the 32nd time this day. He'd been sending letters daily to the institute of research he used to work at, and he drove by Dr. Cory's house at least once every other day to see if they'd returned. His wife was acting strangely, more distant than she normally was. He knew why. Carol was obviously ashamed at him for failing to find out what happened. Determined to win back her faith, he redoubled his efforts, working as hard as he could, but nothing came through.

One day he was poking around the ftp sites when his wife asked him, "Gene, have you... had any luck today?" Her voice seemed almost resigned.

"No luck today," he muttered tersely. "If only I could get the sequences for Cystolin. Then I could leave Genetrix in the dust! But they canceled my access the day they fired me."

"Gene it's not so... I'm tired of arguing but you..."

"What is it? I can't always please you. My most important discovery--"

"Please me? You couldn't please me if you tried!"

"Well that's encouraging dear," Gene hated when they started arguing.

"I'm so glad you're... I'm so..." her sarcastic, exasperated tone drifted off, leaving her silent, fists clenched at her sides. "You just keep working then."

"Carol, I'm sorry..." Gene couldn't understand why, but he felt like he'd done an incredible wrong. She seemed taken aback. "It--it's okay Gene. Your work is important. But maybe you should take a rest for now. Katherine misses you. Come to dinner tonight instead of taking it to the computer like you usually do."

"Okay, I suppose," Gene said quizzically. Why would she want him to come away from his work? Did she want him to fail?

Dinner was mostly silent. Even Katherine kept her mouth shut, mostly filled with food. Oh, that child could eat. Gene sad looking blearily into his food. Carol looked about to say something, then stopped. The only sounds that could be heard were the clinking of forks on plates as dinner was consumed.

"This is just like that time they screwed up your account when they were reformatting the system," Carol said suddenly.

"What? Oh, that thing. It was so long ago! You weren't even born yet, Kathy."

"Old," she said taking some more bread. Had Katherine eaten lunch today? Gene couldn't remember.

"Do you remember?" Carol continued. "We worked on it together. Finally, we had to create a root account just to validate our own. It was our little secret. By the time management got their act together and came to fix it, we were up and running again."

"Carol, do you think... after all those years..." Gene leapt up from the table, jostling the light overhead. Wincing and steadying the light, he scampered off to the computer, typing frantically, obliviously.

"Gene, wait I--" Carol held out a hand, then let it drop. She turned back to her food just as Katherine said, "Daddy's gone again."

Gene pulled up his telnet server. He waited with baited breath as the login screen came up.

Linux Version 5.6.6 Genetrix database 903

903 login>furby

password> (Gene typed 'cantalope37')

login ok. Proceeding.

Good evening, President Nixon VIII (Gene had to laugh at that. The name had been Carol's idea.) You have root access

Gene's shout of victory jolted Carol out of her seat. She ran over, soon followed by Katherine. They all peered at the screen as Gene had already begun downloading...

~/> get /priv/user/genetrix/cystolin/project/archive/log.file -j -30 -g' downloading...done

~/> get /priv/user/genetrix/cystolin/project/current/sequence.30.version.7 downloading... (Some time passed) done.

"We got it," Gene almost whispered. "We got it," Carol echoed. "Wegottit," Katherine mimicked giggling. "What did we get Katherine?" Carol asked, calling her bluff. "Um... toys?" she said, looking up expectantly. "No not toys," Gene said, smiling warmly for the first time in months. "But a very good thing." Now he was speaking more to Carol. "With that job I got down at the center, I'll have access to all the equipment I need. I can have this stuff synthesized as soon as I can get an individual patent on it."

"Won't that be expensive?"

"If it works, it'll all be worth it."

A patent secured and acquired in as much secrecy as possible. A dark night at the lab. A sleepless soul mixing chemicals, entering data into a strange spidery machine. Returning home, looking over his shoulder, carrying a bag of vials...

A distant doctor Cory, looking at the access logs for Genetrix. A root level user named President Nixon VIII. "Oh my god..."

Gene mixed the Cystolin starter material with a small amount of blood stolen from a neighbor's cat. The little calico cat was drugged and sleeping beside him peacefully while he waited for the retrovirus to absorb the template genome. "Just as a first test, I think I'll make a rat compatible with the organs of a cat," Gene thought. Probably the most useless reason to use his chemical, but he needed to test it for any last minute errors. He wasn't using a real rat, anyway. Just a copy of rat DNA. By testing his chemical on the rat DNA, he could tell what it would do to a real rat.

Gene hadn't slept for 2 days, so his hands were shaking from exhaustion. He almost couldn't fill the hypodermic syringe with cat-Cystolin. He then reached for the template rat DNA vial. It fell to the cement floor with a crash. His hand sat there in mid air for a while before he quietly exclaimed, "Darn! Now I'll have to go to the lab for more. And I'm so close!"

Gene walked out the door and up to his car. There was a man inside, with a gun pointed at his head. "Get in," the man said flatly. Gene turned to walk away... Only to come face to face with another man, and another gun. Both were dressed in concealing clothes, and their faces were hidden by masks. The man outside the car roughly pushed him towards the door, and inside. He sat beside Gene while the other man drove away. "How did he get my keys?"

was the last thought that ran through Gene's panic stricken mind before a practiced blow to the back of his neck sent him into blackness.

Gene awoke in a dark room. He was lying in a chair, the only piece of furniture in the ovular room. In front of him was a mirror, probably a window from the other side. Surprisingly, a door opened from the seamless wall and someone came striding in, flanked by weapon toting guards. "We heard you got the synthesis for Cystolin. That was a foolish thing to do, Dr. Simmons."

"Dr. Cory? I don't believe it. Dr. Cory, what happened?"

"More than you or I want to know." Dr. Cory turned on the lights, earning frightened glances from the guards whose identities were compromised. Gene didn't know 'em anyway. "I have been looking for you for just short of a year. What are you, a spy? You disappeared, wiped off the map. Do you have any idea how much trouble you put me through?"

"Not as much trouble as you've put yourself into. You were always impulsive, quick to react. Once we found the capability of Cystolin, we couldn't risk telling you."

"Are you saying I'm untrustworthy?"


"I'm not the one who kidnapped a man out of his own house, knocked him out, and put him in a dark room. How can you say I'm untrustworthy?"

"Dr. Simmons, aren't you curious what happened to the patient?"

"Yes of course I--what does this have to do with my question?"

"We brought you here to show you what happened to Mr. Anderson. It's the only way to get you to stop pursuing your foolish ideals."

"7 years of research, you call foolish ideals?"

Dr. Cory went on ignoring Gene. "We made a mistake not telling you. We had no idea how persistent you would be. The only people who know about this are the guards living here, me, Dr. Hamton, and Dr. Hodgkin. Your hacking uncovered a dangerously dark secret. If you'll come with me..."

Gene went with Dr. Cory, mostly because the guards told him so silently with their rifles. Flanked by guards, he was led to a room smelling strongly of... straw? Dr. Cory opened a door, revealing a small pen, an enclosure inside a room. The floor was covered with straw and sunlight filtered in through the roof. In the pen, drinking from a water trough, was a sheep.

"A sheep? What is this, some kind of a joke? I didn't come to see a sheep!"

"This," muttered Dr. Cory, "Is Mr. Anderson."

Katherine was feeling naughty. She knew daddy didn't want her in the basement, but he was gone and mommy was too busy crying and writing a letter. She didn't like being up in the house when mommy was upset either. The basement was much more fun and scary with tons of vials and chemicals. Daddy had never left them out before, but since he stopped playing with her, he'd become much more clumsy. She filled two used vials with water, and pretended she was like daddy, pouring the chemicals from one tube to another.

"Ha ha ha." she cackled cutely. "Now Mr. Teddy, I will take over your brain with my space sludge!" Teddy was balanced on the table, but as she moved, he shifted, then fell down on the floor. She spilled a beaker bending down to pick him up. "Oh!" she cried, standing up straight. As she was under the desk, she hit her head on the hard surface. The sound of shaking and falling things scared her so much, she backed out away from the desk, carefully avoiding the spilled chemicals.

As Kathy avoided the mess at the desk, she tripped on a black bag daddy had brought from the center today. Left next to it was a syringe, which plunged into her hand as she reached out to catch her balance. She screamed in pain, and tried to pull it out, instead depressing the plunger on the syringe, injecting the contents into the arteries on her wrist.

Gene's jaw dropped. "I don't believe it. You're just trying to scare me away from my research."

"Look at the fetlock. You see that birthmark there?"

"It's... the same as what was on Mr. Anderson's leg. A fine piece of work, but I'm not convinced. Cosmetic surgery..."

"If you'll come with me, Dr. Simmons..."

Gene helplessly followed along.

Soon, he was watching a slide show right out of a nightmare. It showed various contorted positions of a man, yet not man strapped to a table. Dr. Cory intoned along with the slides. "...after 2 weeks, his epidermis became subject to the Cystolin infection. Here you can see the hair on his skin becoming shaggy, and white. More pores growing to accomodate a full coat of the 4th week, he had to be placed on an IV. His digestive system had become subject to the infection, and we were unsure of what he could safely digest...the 5th week was spent regaining lost muscle, and soon we found he was much more comfortable in a sheep pen than on a table. Frampton Anderson was then officially a sheep.

"What have I done...?" Gene whispered. "It's not your fault doctor. You couldn't have known."

"How did this happen?"

"We're not sure. You never tested your Cystolin on members of the primate family. Apparantly there is a hormone involved in a woman's menstrual cycle that damages the Cystolin protein. It's found in adequate amounts in men as well. The damaged Cystolin replaces the DNA that it should, but it also activates a previously inert strand of DNA. We're still trying to understand it, it's composed of several million proteins. For a time it forms into a shape resembling Cystolin, then it seems to react with the chemical, absorbing the Cystolin into its own structure. We can't say for sure, but somehow it acquires a different shape based on the tissue it's located in. It somehow... knows where the important pieces of DNA are, and replaces them. It's like a natural Cystolin we never knew existed.

"The subjects' DNA is radically altered, even involving the removal of chromosomes. In the end, what little of his genetics are human are hidden or inconsequential. Genetically, Mr. Anderson is 1% different from a sheep."

"Good lord. Lord..." Gene was close to falling to his knees. "Did he suffer?"

"No, the first tissue the altered Cystolin attacked was the brain. He was thinking like a sheep before anything else. His mind was gone before he regained consciousness."

"That's... that's awful. Worse than terrible. I can promise you, FDr. Cory. Cystolin is too dangerous for further research. I'm done; I should have quit a long time ago."

"Dr. Simmons, I think you've finally earned my respect."

"There is still something I need to do."

"Eh? What's that."

"Is my car here? I need to get to my house."

"Why yes... we're in the Genetrix complex actually. Why do you--?"

"It's nothing much. Is there a way out of here?"

"...elevator down the hall to your right."

Gene left, striding briskly. Too briskly...

"Don, follow him," Dr. Cory said to one of the guards, narrowing his eyes. "Make sure he doesn't do anything stupid."


Your work has completely alienated you from me and Katherine. You've hurt me more than you can imagine, and I don't like the way my life is right now. I'm sorry we couldn't fix things. I probably should have been more commanding, more assertive. You always ignore me when we need to be together.

My heart is hurting. I miss you, and I can see that I've failed you. I couldn't keep this family together, and I couldn't keep you away from your work. I'm sorry for being such an awful person. But there's something worse still that I have to do.

I'm leaving you, just for the weekend. I think some time away might help us start over again. I'm tired of fighting the same battle and I don't think Katherine should be subject to it either. Katherine and I are going to spend a few days with Mother. I've already worked out the details with her. If you have any second thoughts, you can call us there.

I'm sorry Gene, I hope we can work things out.


Carol had the letter already written in her mind. She'd barely started the third paragraph when she heard Katherine's scream. "Kathy!" she shouted, running down the stairs. Katherine was stumbling around in the backyard, clutching a swollen, bleeding hand. The basement door had shut in the draft that always blew through that area of the house.

"Oh, Kathy. What happened?"

"I... don't feel so good momma." Katherine said, losing strength in her legs. She fell down just as Carol went to catch her. The child's forehead was burning with fever. "Come on, Kathy. I'll get you to bed. It's alright." Carol hefted the limp burden as Katherine sighed in her sleep.

Two hours and still no sign of Gene. Carol was beside herself. The doctor said that there was a flu going around, and Katherine was just experiencing a bit of an extreme. He promised to come over tomorrow, but said not to try to move her. For the time, he recommended some ibuprofen, and a simple cold cloth on her head.

Carol ran a hand through her hair, looking at the sleeping child. Kathy's temperature had gone down, but she didn't seem any better otherwise. She kept making little strange sounds, her eyes moving back and forth wildly before closing again. An occasional muscle twitch almost led Carol to call the doctor again, but then Katherine sighed and seemed to relax in the bed.

Carol was tired herself, the tear streaks leaving her eyes red. Perhaps she was getting a hint of that flu as well. As she watched Katherine, the warmth of the sun and the breeze from the window put her gently to sleep. When she woke up some time later, Katherine was gone out of bed.

"Wha--Kathy? Kathy?" The only noise she heard was the neighbor's cat. Or was that...? Carol looked out of the window to see Katherine perched there on a tree branch. She smiled when she saw Carol, and made a mewing noise. "You little cat! Get down from there," Carol said jokingly. Katherine mewed and instead climbed further up the tree.

Carol leaned out the window. "Come back here! I'll have your tail for this!"

Mew. "Well if you're going to be that way about it, I'm coming after you."

Mew. Carol reached out from the window, and barely managed to crawl onto the tree's thick limb. "How did Kathy get here without my reach?" Carol wondered. "Lord, I hope she didn't jump." Carol didn't notice the cars pulling up in her driveway, intent on retrieving her daughter.

Carol climbed the tree until she was swaying worriedly in the thin branches. "Katherine, this is getting dangerous." Katherine seemed not to hear Carol, pretending to lick the back of her hand. "You're not a cat, silly! Come down."

Mew. "That's it, young lady. You are coming with me right... now?!" Carol reached for her daughter only to hear the most awful hiss. Her daughter lashed out with a hand, clawing at her, pushing Carol off balance so she fell... and fell... and...

"Subject has approached his house."

"Subject has entered his house. No noise within."

"Wait an hour, Don. Then go after him."

Gene pulled his car into the driveway, and stepped out. He didn't notice someone fall silently out of the tree, which was almost hidden from his view. Instead, he entered the house. "Carol? Katherine?" All he heard was the neighborhood cat mewing. He went out the back door, and turned down into the basement. His desk was a mess. Papers were scattered everywhere, some burnt at the edges from the chemicals which had spilled from the shelves overhead. "What...?" Gene stammered, looking at his desk. "Why would someone do that? There's nothing at the desk aside from some mild acid, anyway. Oh my god, the Cystolin!"

He turned and saw the black bag, right where he'd left it on the floor. Next to it was a vial of cat DNA, a vial of blank Cystolin and...

A drained bloody syringe.

A mew sounded behind him. Gene scarcely dared to turn. Katherine was there, standing on all fours. She mewed at him again.

Gene screamed, staggering toward her blindly. Frightened by the noise, Katherine scrambled out and headed for the fence. "Wait!" Gene shouted, but Katherine gave an inhuman leap, achieved the top of the fence, and disappeared on the other side. "Wait," Gene repeated miserably. He tried to climb the fence, then with a flash of inspriation, he realized he'd be able to see her from the 3rd story of his house.

Gene climbed the stairs, in shock of what had happened. Of all people... dear Katherine. His hope for the future, his dream of a child, gone forever. He'd been so awful to her. He should have played with her. All his obession with Cystolin had driven them apart, and now the lost moments crashed down on him. Much worse! If he'd never gotten obsessed with Cystolin, none of this would ever have happened. Katherine would be okay. His wife would love him. His life wouldn't be destroyed, gone, burnt up like a black candle lit and left in the Texas sun.

He was shaking again as he ascended the stairs. From exhaustion and grief, and self hatred. It was in this spirit that he bent to read the letter Carol had left for him, but hadn't finished.


Your work has completely alienated you from me and Katherine. You've hurt me more than you can imagine, and I don't like the way my life is right now. I'm sorry we couldn't fix things. I probably should have been more commanding, more assertive. You always ignore me when we need to be together.

My heart is hurting. I miss you, and I can see that I've failed you. I couldn't keep this family together, and I couldn't keep you away from your work. I'm sorry for being such an awful person. But there's something worse still that I have to do.

I'm leaving you

"Leaving me?" Gene knew Carol would have been up front if she wanted a divorce. What could she mean by leaving him? How could he have been so terrible! Gene felt like the least deserving creature on the planet. He looked out the window.

There. On the ground. Was Carol's... body. Gene's scream was cut off to a strangled moan as he saw the strange car across the street. "They're watching me. I haven't got much time." but he knew what he had to do. There was no Gene. Gene was supposed to be dead. He would fix that problem now.

The door crashed inward and Don entered the house, weapon ready. There was no one around, nor anyone upstairs. He checked the window and saw a body on the ground. Blazes! "Doctor, there's a body."

"Go check it out."

As he descended the stairs and rushed toward the fallen woman, there might have been the shadow of a shape in the stand of trees beyond the fence. But then it disappeared, and he bent down to look at the woman. "It looks like his wife sir. She's still breathing, but it looks like there's some internal bleeding."

"I'll call an ambulance. You find Gene."

The basement door was open. Don entered, noticing the disarray. "Looks like a tornado, or a kindergardener went through here." He kicked aside some broken glass, almost stepping on a syringe. "Yikes! Doctor, there are exposed needles here. I hardly recommend..."

"Do you see Gene?"

"I see..." Don's eyes got used to the gloom, and he saw a man in the corner. Gene had propped himself up against the spare boiler, grinning sheepishly. "He's here sir."

"Gene? Gene! Can you hear me?"

"C'n hear you... jus' fine."

"Gene, is everything alright?"

"Heh. Nuthin's right. Ssorry. Anishthetic..."

"Gene, your wife is alive."

"Wha? Qui' lyin' to me docter."

"I want to know what happened. What did you do with the Cystolin?"

"Deshtroyed it. After me, itsall gone. I couldn't get my computer though. Appreshiate it if you would..."

"Gene... did you use it on yourself? God Gene, how could you? Gene! Are you listening? What was the template? Tell me what you used as a template!"

"'ssh the worst thing I could think of with 5 minutsh in a residenshal neighbor...hood." Gene dropped then, sliding down the edge of the boiler. Don picked him up, noting the intense fever in his head. Gene was unconscious, but his eyes moved around rapidly. "Doctor Cory. I think he's gone."

"He was a good man. Get out of there, Don. Bring him to the lab. Our chemical disposal team will take care of the mess."

"And if he gets violent?"

"Kill him. It won't make much of a difference with his mind gone."

So that's it. I'm here, which isn't much of anywhere. I can't see anything, or touch anything. There's nothing to see or touch. I guess this is what happens when you die. Just sit in blackness waiting to go insane. I was a great man once. I hope my wife can pull through my death. Poor little Katherine... maybe I should have been more careful. Truth tell, I'd hoped to find her here. But there's just nothing here.

I hope they don't kill me. Then again, if they did I might go somewhere that's not here. Maybe they already killed me, and there's nowhere to go. I doubt it. The creature I grabbed wasn't exactly a vicious animal. Not that it matters here. Everything's fine right now. Everything's quiet, and I don't have anything much to say. Still, sometimes I wish there was someone to talk to... here.

Huh. I just imagined seeing something. What a laugh! Of course there's nothing here. But wait--! What was that over there? Eh? A white light. How cliche. Oh, I guess I don't have to stay here any longer. There's as good as here I suppose. That's a funny colored white light. All garish and shiny. It doesn't look like a tunnel at all. It looks more like...

Oh here we go. Now I can feel something. I'm standing in some kind of wood chips? I didn't know they had wood chips in heaven. Well, they're good for itching my belly. Where did that thought come from? I don't have a belly anymore! I'm just a thought, and a location.

If I tried really hard, I could imagine hearing noises like a ceiling fan, the whir of a machine, probably a computer. What an imagination I've got! Yet that light, it looks more like a fluorescent light than a tunnel. Where am I? Am I here anymore? I don't know. I guess it really doesn't matter, but I'm having trouble ignoring all these sights and sounds and feelings around me. My tongue flicks out briefly in front of me, and taste lines up with sight and sound and touch. Wasn't there supposed to be a fifth sense? Oh well. It looks like I'm still alive.

...and on the 7th week of infection, something miraculous occured...

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Last Updated: Saturday January 22, 2005 (13:55:51)