The Frozen Pack - JED

Word Association

Mother of Monsters

I turn the radio up and try to look nonchalant as my Camry rolls toward the guard post. I’m not exactly sure what nonchalant is, but I’m trying to look bored and tired, ready to go home, like all the others passing through. They’re very secure here, very thorough. No surprise there; all the clauses I agreed to when I signed away my freedom mean that they can cavity search me for blinking when I shouldn’t. These are the kind of people that are building our brave new world.

I let off the brake and the automatic transmission eases me down the road; the car wants to move forward and so do I. I try not to look, or even think, about the briefcase in the backseat, the insulated cellophane and foam envelope buried under memos and tissue paper down at the bottom, the embryos sleeping inside it, as eager to grow and divide as I am to drive out of here. I try not to remember that the guard here isn’t to keep people out, it’s to keep secrets in. I am definitely not thinking about that.

I roll down the window twenty feet from the gate, watch the guard talking to the car in front of me. It’s a blue Toyota that I don’t recognize. So many people work here, how  can their security be that good? The blue Toyota moves on and the gaurd motions me forward. He doesn’t look like a security guard so much as a commando; lean with the classic square jaw and web belt full of ambiguous black metal menace. Why does he need a bullet proof vest? And what are the knee pads for anyway? Don’t think about it. Don’t think.  

 

Smile, but don’t smile too much.

“Hi there Doctor Lee. Heading home?”

 

“Yup…another day in the gene mines over and done.” Chuckle just a little. Make eye contact.

“I hear you there Doctor.” Is his smile too cold? I’m imagining that. Calm.

“Any secure documents ma’am? Level 4 four or higher?”

“Nope.” That’s actually the truth.

“Any samples or biological materials? Enzymes, vectors or catalysts?”

“I try hard not to take my work home with me. It eats enough of my life as it is.” Oh God, I hope I’m not playing the work weary card too heavily. Please let me sound genuine.

“Okay Doctor, if you’ll just pass me your laptop, for cleaning…” I hand it to him through the rolled down window, and he plugs it into the little mainframe on his belt. Cleaning means wiping out every file that even looks suspicious and logging every single keystroke I’ve pounded. No problem though. There’s nothing in there that I need.

He passes it back to me and pulls the electric nose off of his belt, a long thin, flanged thing, like a billy club with fins. He sticks it through my window (the penetration metaphor doesn’t escape me), the curled black phone cord connecting it  back to the computer on his belt, and waves it around the steering wheel, above my lap and my hands. It can’t smell fear. It can’t smell anything but my deodorant.

“Could you roll down the back window and pop the trunk please?” I do. “Thank you Doctor.” He steps out of my sight, and I make a point of not looking in the rear view mirrors.

It takes an effort of will to play with my radio while he’s back there. Pop? No. Jazz? I hate jazz. Not country, and not the radio preacher – I have enough of that inside my head. Talk. Talk is good.

I hear the trunk close. He doesn’t slam it, just a gentle click – the latch settling home. So polite.

“Thank you Doctor. All clean” He pauses for a second and tilts his head to the side. Like a dog. I feel a burst of nausea ricocheting from my stomach to my throat.

“Seems like we’re big news all over again. Nice to know that what you do is appreciated, huh Doctor?”

I have no idea what he’s talking about. I’m staring at him, cluelessly, and he’s just standing there smiling like we’re conspirators in this thing together. I’m about to say something stupid just to say something, and then I realize that for the last few seconds the radio host has been talking about us. Them. Now it’s them. Not me.

“…conference Vitruvian Group announced that they will be releasing the Upgrade Two prenatal vaccine far ahead of projected schedule, reigniting a massive flurry of debate within governments and religions around the world, as well as causing a major shift in stock prices on Wall Street. Unsurprisingly, shares for the Vitruvian Group have hit yet another record benchmark high.” The announcer’s voice is baritone, clear, no accent at all, and perfect for radio. It slides over me like menthol, and I can’t help but take a deep breath.

“Oh…yeah…it’s definitely nice to know that the hard work is worth something.”

 

He smiles a little wider. “Really healing the future, aren’t we?” Ug. Company line, straight from the press releases and corporate commercials.

“Damn right.” I try to make my eyes sparkle a little, even though I’m almost twice his age.

“You have a good weekend Doctor.” He backs away from the car, implicitly passing me through, and I try not to smile too broadly.

The radio is apparently doing a whole segment on us. Them. I listen as I cruise down the drive, manicured forest-scape fluttering by on either side of me. I feel like melting butter; warm and rich and gooey inside.

“The Prime Minister of the EU and the Chairman of the People’s Republic of China have both made statements avowing the upgrade two vaccine as a major leap forward for humanity, while the Pope has condemned it as quote ‘a moral offense and a presumption to supercede God.’ President Estevez has remained non-committal, though a press release from the oval office notes that, though the initial Upgrade vaccine was a massive success, providing embryonic cures for almost all major genetic diseases, and giving rise to what has come to be called ‘Generation Clean,’ we must be cautious about overmanipulation of the human genome. This echoes the wording of anti-Upgrade activists from both conservative and liberal corners who have redubbed the Vitruvian Group, the ‘Human Re-nome Project.”

I catch my reflection in the mirror, and realize that I’m frowning. I don’t agree with any of them.

“Press releases from the Vitruvian Group detailing the planned effects of the Upgrade 2 vaccine are too detailed to recount here, but include a number of substantial modifications to human health intended to increase the lifespan of recipients up to two hundred years, to modify the immune system in such a way as to drastically increase disease resistance, to improve metabolic and skeletal systems, providing overall increased physical health, and to correct asymmetric growth patterns leading to crooked teeth and other cosmetic abnormalities. Perhaps the most controversial component of the plan is the modification of genetic elements that contribute to human intelligence. According to scientists working at the Vitruvian Group, recipients of the vaccine will have an average intelligence almost thirty points higher than average, making them, technically ‘geniuses.’ To quote directly from Jayne King, CEO of the Vitruvian Group “We’re talking about giving everyone on Earth the physique and health of an Olympic athlete, and the mind of an Einstein, and on top of that making it all last for two centuries. How could you possibly oppose that?”

Jayne is a bitch. I’ve met her. But I don’t oppose their plan; I think it’s a great idea. There just has to be…more.  

I reach down to turn the radio off, at the same time I check in the mirror to see if I’m sweating. I’m not, but I feel like I should be. I can actually hear my own pulse.

Just before I click him off, the radio man says “…happens it seems unlikely, at this point, that any international court will rule against the production of the Upgrade Two Vaccine, and as such its infusion into our society is all but inevitable. And after that, good or ill, no one can predict the shape of a future in which humanity has nothing to fear from disease, age, and even, eventually, from death.”

And there he hits it; nail on the head, the crux of the problem, my central issue, because I CAN predict the shape of or a world without disease, age and death. What do we become without our monsters? What happens when they’re gone? I’ve thought about it so many times, and my mind keeps coming back to a place that’s sterile and lifeless and impotent. A world without change, without fear, and without drive. Darwin’s hell, or maybe Darwin’s purgatory. How could I let that happen?  

I let myself relax, and my mind drifts to the embryos sleeping in their vacuum-packed cradle.  My little Grendels-to-be. My own Calibans. I’m taking them home with me, and then I’m going to make help them to become so much more than disposable beta-tests. I know how, it’s all in my head, not in my laptop and most of the really hard work is all but done. A few more genes here and there, and few more modifiers and some well-placed trimming, and they’ll be far more dangerous and adaptable than any disease I could have made. They’ll be predators. Beautiful monsters.

They’ll be like this new generation, this upcoming era of perfect “Olympian Gods” (Jayne is such a hyperbolic ass). But they’ll be even better, because I get to break the rules. My children don’t have to be mostly human, they don’t need to look like everyone else, and they don’t need to cosmetically appealing. They’ll be nightmares of speed and strength and cunning. They’ll live longer, jump higher, reach further, and kill more readily than anything since childhood campfire horror stories. They’ll be ready and waiting for this new ‘perfected person’ generation, and they’ll live in our shadows, move through our brave new world like lions trimming the golden herd. And the herd is always stronger for it. We need the lions. We need our monsters.

What’s Beowulf without Grendel? Just some pretty boy Viking with nothing to do.

I put my foot down on the gas pedal and the car eats the road.