Monday, 9 May 2011

Chapter 5: Finding Genesis

Vincent Blake sat in his team’s lab at the Hive Queen’s North American continent scientific research branch, finishing off with a cellular sample. The lab was full of scientific instruments: Compact electron microscopes, nanoscale UHPLCs (ultra high performance liquid chromatographers), genetic auto-coders and molecular bonders. He threw a slide in a glass disposal bin, and marked an X on a small tube that he placed in the grasp of a robotic arm, it manoeuvred the used sample into a large cryonic freezer. It took out the vial next in line and placed it in a cellular regenerator. Vincent rubbed his face and leant back in his chair, impatient and frustrated. The regenerator finished its cycle and Vincent went to prepare a new slide, he leant over his microscope and began watching the embryonic cells splitting. He bought up an overlay in his spinplant full of cellular statistics, rating the genetic integrity of each cell, and keeping track of the rate of mitosis etcetera. This chimera strain seemed to have an extremely high rate of mitosis. Vincent was about to discard the sample, knowing that a fast rate of mitosis normally went hand in hand with accelerated genetic degradation, but he kept watching the statistics anyway. Vincent was surprised to see that there was an average 0.0001% degradation in 20 cell generations, he went through the results again, barely able to believe what he was reading, to make sure there was not a calculation error; there was no mistake. He jumped up and shouted
”I found it” Vincent hadn’t felt like this since he developed the first artificial ASRESC cells 25 years ago.
”What have you found Vincent?” the Hive Queen’s voice seemed to echo inside Vincent’s head as he began to come to terms with just what he had accomplished.
”It’s Feline / Chiropteran Variant 0835616, its perfect,” Vincent was beginning to ramble with excitement.
”Explain,” the Hive Queen responded, perplexed.
”The rate of mitosis is phenomenal, and it’s stable, more stable than anything we’ve made before. Here look at these results” Vincent sent his results to the Hive Queen’s network.
”This is fantastic news Vincent; continue your tests and I will consider commissioning SASRESC Trails.”
”Thank you.”
* * * * * * * * * *
Vincent went back to work on the sample testing for ability to stand up to extremes. Vincent was 65 years old, but he didn’t look it, he was one of the first people to receive ASRESC treatment, during it’s initial trials in the mid 2050’s. He had been the discoverer of the phenomenon in a British woman's cells whilst working as a forensic analyst in the 40’s. The woman, believed to have been murdered by decapitation, showed no signs of decomposition or rigor mortis, even after being found headless in a ditch. On further inspection, it showed that a few surviving cells round the neck wound were showing the unbelievable ability of consuming the dead cell matter and multiplying like normal, living cells. In addition, these cells showed the traits of embryonic stem cells in that they were changing what type of cell they were, this defied normal biology, and hundreds of scientists all over the world were commissioned to find a way to harness the ability. In the end, it was his team discovered that many of the cells abilities stemmed from a never before seen sequence of mitochondrial DNA that gave the cells the ability to carry out stable metabolic reactions, an anaerobic energy creation technique seen, in an unstable form, and nowhere else, in cancer cells. They soon worked out a way to destroy the nucleus of the cell without sacrificing this ability in the early 2050s and moved onto human trials in 55. He was also the first person to find and successfully artificially replicate the nucleic genes that control the stem cell like, and phagocytic abilities in 2060 with the assistance of the Hive Queen who had taken control of the research operations. This was achieved by finding and emulating a special protein that has only ever been seen naturally in the body of what many scientists at the time referred to as “Jane Doe2.0”. However the artificially created versions of ASRESC cells could never live up to the abilities of the originals, and people treated with the prototype artificial ASRESC cells must take occasional protein boosters, still extracted, to this day, from original cell cultures from Jane Doe. At that time, no one had considered the techniques of specifying the cells to prevent contamination or introducing new DNA, things that are commonplace today. It was purely seen as a highly successful longevity treatment. It had worked fantastically though, and had met all expectations; Vincent had never aged a day over 35.

Chapter 4: Found again

“Hi, I’m Marina Porter, from Evansville, Indiana, North America. How are you going to compensate for the larger than expected initial immigration to Mars?” Marina said, proud to have the first question.
”I’m Glad someone asked that, well first of all, although we have had more immigrants here than expected, there are still more than enough apartments and family dormitories to go around. The major problem is there may not be enough jobs to go around, with outdoor jobs only able to be worked by post-modified citizens and the planned construction of further city domes will have to be carried out by construction robots via spintronic implant. However as soon as the dome is completed non-implanted citizens can construct the interiors. We are also postponing the second immigration wave to compensate for this, and citizens are free to apply for loans if they would like to start a business here on Mars.”
Marina nodded and sat back down.
A few more people asked questions before Doctor Carter closed the meeting, Marina gathered her notes and headed for the door, a young man, probable in his mid to late twenties stood at the door in a low ranking uniform, collecting the forms that were supposed to be filled in by now.
”Thanks,” he said, “a lot of people haven’t bothered,” Not hiding the fact he was attracted to her.
”That’s Okay” she gave him a coy smile, but he was not really her type, a little old for her, and obviously the jock in high school. Marina liked her men a little rougher round the edges.
As she left the conference room a group of kids rushed past knocking her TAP out of her hands, she knelt down to pick it up and a person walking past, unawares kicked it down the hall. Shit. She stood up to see if she could see where it went. A few seconds later some guy walked up to her with her TAP in his hand.
”Is this yours?” he said as he held up the Tactile Access Pad.
”Oh, yeah, thanks, I like to make notes on something I can feel.”
”yeah, me to, I have one of these almost exactly the same, but personally I didn’t think there was much in that meeting that deserved noting” he gave the pad back to her and she checked it over for any damage.
”Oh, no, these are just notes on ideas I have, always better to write them down before they float away”
”what kind of ideas? Oh and I’m Mack by the way,” Mack bumbled awkwardly.
”Marina, Nice to meet you, and you know, all sorts of ideas mostly sort of programming, engineering and technical stuff,” She explained.
”Sounds pretty interesting, I often have ideas like that of my own, do you want to get a coffee or something, I came here on my own, and I haven’t really spoken to anyone yet, well apart from you,” Mack said, feeling more confident.
”Oh, yeah, sure, I don’t see why not, I haven’t really met anyone since I got here either,” she gave him a small smile and they started walking down the corridor together.
“Mack, that’s quite an unusual name, doesn’t sound very British” she said.
“Well… it’s actually short for Maximilian, my granddad’s name, he was always Max, but I prefer Mack.”
“Ah,” she replied, and they continued to walk and talk together.
* * * * * * * * * *
Mack’s heart was pounding, he had never been able to gather enough courage to do that before, and in fact, he had never really talked to girls much before, he always clammed up with nerves and froze, or said something stupid. He had made a conscious decision on his arrival on Mars though; that now he was on a new planet, he was going to be a completely new person, and so far so good, he had asked the prettiest girl he’d ever seen out to coffee, that was a start at least.
Mack and Marina ended up talking for hours; about all sorts of things, it turns out they had a lot in common. She had also run away from home to make a new life on Mars, with few friends, and an unappreciative family. Marina’s father was a corporate liaison to the Hive Queen, a programming genius but very business driven and ruled by efficiency, Marina’s mother had died of a sudden and massive stroke, when she was twelve. The resulting brain damage was so severe the Hive Queen could not have even recovered her consciousness, and her father had become increasingly resentful and strict to her younger brother and herself, having had a strong catholic upbringing. She felt quite guilty for having left her brother back on earth, but she sometimes felt one of the reasons her father was so strict was because she reminded him of her mother, and with her gone it would be a weight of his shoulders.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Chapter 3: What’s Easily Found is Easily Lost

On his first day as a Martian citizen, Mack decided to begin exploring the domed city that he would be calling home for at least the next ten years. Emigrating to Mars from Earth required the signing of a contract in which all rights to travel outside Mars were revoked for a full decade, and the condition that all immigrants must work on Mars for at least eight of those ten years. This was supposed to keep the number of immigrants at a low level, but once Mack had left his quarters, he could see that there were a lot more people milling around than even he expected. The main public area was designed much like a gigantic mall or shopping centre, with already countless shops, stalls, bars and eateries being run selling all the necessities of life, and countless more empty spaces Mack could imagine many more competing, luxury and niche stores opening in the coming months and years. As he strolled along the balcony part of the mall looking down on the hundreds, if not thousands of people buying all the things they could not bring with them through the wormhole, his eyes landed on a girl whose beauty he had never seen or imagined in his life. Mack watched her for a few seconds and her gaze rose to meet his, he smiled, hoping she could see him clearly from that distance, and she smiled back, and in that split second Mack fell in love. He darted to the nearest escalator hoping to get down and have a chance of meeting her, but once he had made it to the ground floor again, Mack had lost her in the sea of people. He jumped up to stand on the nearest bench, hoping to peer over the masses to find her again, but to no avail, he slumped down onto the bench, sighed, and said to himself, “what’s easily found is easily lost I guess”
Mack returned to his apartment a few hours later with enough ready meals to feed a small army, and he had sorted out a data access licence for his spinplant. It was strange to have to use money instead of having entitlements, normal currency having been phased out when Mack was only three. He had had a small collection on old coins and bank notes when he was a small boy, but as he grew up he forgot about them, put them away in a cupboard or something, they were probably still in storage back at his families apartment on Earth… on Earth. For the first time since he had arrived on Mars, Mack felt a little homesick, but he knew it would pass. He had chosen his destiny now, or at least unchosen it, back on Earth he knew he would end up working with the Hive Queen as a liaison, or programmer but whatever it would be he knew it wasn’t what he wanted. He wanted to actually achieve something, and where else better to achieve something than on a planet where very little has been achieved so far, a place with endless possibilities, a place where he could shake off the shackles of his oppressive family and the Hive Queen whose dominance of Earth has bought humanity into a new golden age. A golden age? Or the beginnings of a stagnant society?
To get his mind off his thoughts of Earth he decided to try out his new data access, there were plenty of third person serials or total immersion movies he could access, but he decided to read a novel out of the Martian database’s extensive literature collection, Mack fell asleep reading from his Tactile Access Pad.
That night Mack dreamed about the girl he saw in the mall, why could he not get her out of his head?
* * * * * * * * * *
Mack left his apartment after a morning of filling in his forms and brushing up on the induction booklet to the location of his induction meeting, conference room 6. The only way to get around Mars city was by foot, or using electronic buggy taxis, which Mack guessed would be expensive and not particularly punctual due to the fact the majority of the Mars city complex was pedestrianised and in the most popular or important parts of the domed city, quite bustling. A handful of people had even blown probably quite a large chunk of their initial credit allowance on gyroscopic scooters. Mack had decided only to spend what he has to until he gets some sort of employment, with the first wave of immigrants being much larger than expected, Mack realized there would probably not be enough jobs to go around for a little while, he could live on an essentials only basis for a while if he has too.
Arriving at the induction only just on time, Mack was the last person to sit down; the only seat free was one at the far right on the back row. He took the wad of forms and papers out of his back pocket and put them down on the desk in front of him whilst setting his spinplant for an AV record of the lecture.
The presenter of the meeting was a tall slim man with distinguished grey hair, and an authoritative voice, he wore a dark blue jump suit with a Martian colony ship badge on the left of the chest
”Hello, my name is Doctor Neil Carter. I was the medical officer on the Verne colony ship to Mars, and I am the head physician and a member of the city council here on Mars,” He cleared his throat, “if you read the induction booklet there’s probably not much information you will gain from this meeting, but for the benefit of those who did not, please save any questions for the end. First, I will tell you about the colony ships and about how we have set up the colony here on Mars. There were five colony ships, all converted in the early 2070’s from the original terraforming ships built between 2035 and 2042. They were named, Verne, Wells, Clarke, Robinson, and Hamilton”
Mack sighed, having been taught about the Martian terraforming at primary school. He bought up the games menu on his spinplant, and kept the recording of the meeting running in the background, if there was any useful information divulged during the meeting he could watch it later, but in the mean time Mack set about playing a fantasy RPG.
As the meeting was ending, Mack saved and quit his game of swords, sorcerers and slaying dragons, so as to take part in the questions at the end. Mack had a question all ready about the repercussions of the larger than expected initial immigration group, but before he could get a chance to ask it, a girl near the front of the room had stood up, and asked the very question Mack had considered. To his surprise, it was the girl he had seen in the mall the day before, Mack quickly put his hand down, no longer having anything to ask, and started thinking of a new query, but his mind was pulling a blank. There was something fascinating, mesmerising, hypnotic, about this girl, her voice, the way she looked, her attitude, he failed to pinpoint it, he just knew he had to know her.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Chapter 2: Losing is Hard

Janet Philips stood in Mack’s bedroom door and surveyed the room with a tear in her eye. Although Mack had become a rebel in his teenage years Janet still loved him unconditionally, the pain of him leaving so suddenly was almost unbearable but the hope that he was happy now held her together. She had not felt pain like this for years since she had to give up her unborn third child. Mack and James were about a year old when it happened, it was absolutely unexpected as Janet and Joe had had contraceptive implants for years, and they are programmed to only allow conception of two children. There was some sort of malfunction, caused by the fact they had twins the first time round, they were told, and Janet didn’t even realize until she started feeling nauseous in the mornings, she immediately recognised it as morning sickness having studied as a doctor before specialising in cybernetic surgery. Her first instinct was to cover it up, but she knew there was nothing she could do, as soon as she started having visible side affects people would find out, she would be forced to have an abortion, by hiding it she would be killing her own child. She knew there must have been something else she could do. The first step was to confide in her husband.
“I just can’t believe it; surely this shouldn’t be able to happen, this is exactly the kind of situation the contraceptive implants were made to avoid” Said Joseph
”I don’t know how it happened, but it has, what can we do Joe?” Asked Janet
”There’s nothing we can do honey, it’s the law, you know that, you are going to have to get an abortion,” Joe.
”She already feels like part of me, I don’t think I’d be able to do it,” Jan
”She? You’re already talking as if this is a fully developed child here! You can’t possibly know its gender” Joe
”No, I know, it’s just a feeling” Jan
”Look honey, we’re talking about a shapeless cluster of cells here, the quicker we have this fixed, the less painful it will be for both of us” Joe
”Fixed? Nothing is broken. The chances that both our contraceptive implants malfunctioned simultaneously is one in a billion, this feels like fate Joe. Surely you must be able to talk to the Hive Queen; you are one of her most senior liaisons,” Jan.
”Okay, if it will make you feel any better I can ask her to do something about this, but I’m not making any promises. You know the Queen won’t want to make an exception, but there may be other alternatives to abortion,” Joe
”Thank you Joe, I don’t think you know how much this means to me,” Jan
”Oh, I do, in fact, I feel exactly the same way, but I don’t want you to have any false hope. That can be more painful than no hope at all,” Joe
* * * * * * * * * *
The next day Joe sat in his office with a thousand thoughts buzzing through his head, mentally preparing what he would say to the Hive Queen, he feared she would recommend an immediate termination. He would even have preferred adoption to an abortion but it has been years since anybody has been put up for adoption, with the development of Exo-wombs, advances in IVF treatments, and the introduction of mandatory contraceptive implants. No one needed to adopt any more, although it is probably for the best, his father had been an orphan and Joe recalled hearing stories about growing up under state care, and he would not want to force that onto anybody let alone his own child. Thoughts of his father began to make Joe more emotional, as he had vanished without a trace when Joe was only 15. The greatest hope that Joe had was that the Hive Queen might understand Janet’s and his own pain and have an alternative that he had not thought of.
After about half an hour of contemplation, Joe finally plucked up the courage to discuss the situation with the Hive Queen. It did not take long to explain the situation but to Joe it felt like a lifetime.
“So that’s the situation. Do you have any suggestions?”
”Yes Joseph, I recommend an immediate termination as to prevent complications.”
”No, please, anything but that, I implore you, there must be something you can do” Joe was surprised at how emotional he was getting. The Hive Queen paused for a second, an eternity for her, before responding.
”I believe I have a solution that may suit both of our needs. I will agree to keep the embryo in cryo-storage for until I deem to let the child live, in return you must allow me use your child’s genetic material for my own purposes,”
Joe was perplexed, what need could the Hive Queen have for his unborn infant’s genetic material, but Joe had no reason to decline.
”Um, all right, yes, that will work, thank you, thank you so much,” There may be a fine line between death and perhaps permanent cryogenic storage, but at this point Joe was just clutching at straws. In desperation, a man will make bad bargains, but the Hive Queen knew exactly what she was doing.