The Reinvention of Species
Larissa tried hard to stifle a yawn as Leo droned on about his research on Genutec. He really wanted that PhD. How he would thrill the undergraduates if he ever became a lecturer!
It was the following evening and they were there because Emily felt honour bound to continue helping Leo. At least he and Krystal had found a brother for Emily, which had seemed to cheer her. Leo had therefore delivered on his promise to help her network... Larissa really hoped that Johann really was as decent as his mother made him out to be. The room was a tiny lecture theatre, with a central platform surrounded by rows of tiered seats in a semi-circular formation. Here she and Emily were, sitting in the front row of the empty theatre whilst Leo lectured and pointed at diagrams on the board-screen.
Emily was listening attentively, her liquid black eyes fixed on Leo, hardly blinking, as though he were something extraordinarily interesting. Well Emily didn't need sleep like Larissa did! She was immune to the soporific powers of the lecturer.
Larissa could not regret attending, despite the boredom involved. If she wasn't there, Leo might tell Emily that part of his research would involve his making love to her right there on the platform or something... as though he deserved to insert his unworthy self into her loved one and cause her more upset. He would have to get up pretty early in the morning to fool Larissa though!
Suddenly, the lecture took a turn that snapped Larissa out of her reverie.
"I cannot fathom why Genutec thought the Dextror, also known as, the 'Extremely Superior Hominid' project a good idea," Leo was saying, "ordinary arrogance and aggression are not admirable traits as far as I'm concerned, but to create a being that embodied their extremes was only going to spell disaster. Never mind that they thought the supersoldiers would become invincible conquerors."
"Do you have to keep on talking about him?" said Larissa sitting up and taking notice at last, not bothering to conceal her irritation.
"Sorry, no," said Leo, giving her a nod, "I was just leading up to Genutec's purpose in designing the hybrids. It was the exact opposite of the Destroyer, as should be clear to anyone."
Emily shrugged and gave a small smile.
"You see they expected the hybrids, like their father, to have a drive to create more life, whereas the Destroyer was obsessed with killing everyone," said Leo, "and Krystal was right that the hybrid children needed love and guidance to turn out as well as Emily."
Emily grinned, her black eyes sparkling. That expression indicated she was amused as well as finding him endearing. Larissa couldn't fathom the appeal of such heavy handed flattery.
"There have been cases of hybrids who did not have loving guidance who went on to misbehave because their Dax instincts went wrong," said Leo, "Krystal once wrote to me about a case of a hybrid boy who somehow got all the girls in his neighbourhood pregnant..."
"If they made him work to support each and every baby, that put the matter right," interjected Larissa, "but that case was just so bizarre, from beginning to end!"
"It really was," said Emily, "I'm a hybrid as well, but it boggles my mind."
"Well quite," said Leo, "and then there was a case of an ill-conditioned hybrid girl who tried to kidnap a baby she was babysitting and then kept insisting that it was her baby now and not the parents'."
Emily wrinkled her shiny green nose in disgust. "It was horribly selfish of her," she said, "there's no excuse for behaving like that."
"Well you are a credit to your sisters, but she was a disgrace," said Leo.
"She's not my sister, she's just a biosibling," said Emily gazing at him with those wide dark eyes of hers, "I wouldn't call someone like that 'sister'."
"It is relevant - it brings me to my last point," Leo continued.
About time, thought Larissa.
"The idea was that the hybrid girls should develop strong maternal instincts to be triggered in certain circumstances. If you will both follow me into the next room, Emily, I have a surprise for you."
"Should I cover my eyes?" asked Emily beaming.
"If you like," said Leo.
The girls followed Leo through a double door into a gleaming room with sterile surfaces.
Emily had placed her hands over her eyes, "alright, I'm trembling in anticipation, Leo," she said.
Leo opened a cage on a small metal table and took out a small, furry animal. Clearly a genetically engineered beast, thought Larissa. It was similar to a tiny tailless monkey with a flat, eerily human like face, but its fur was bright pink and its overlarge eyes were blue tinted. It gave a tiny, quavering little cry as Leo held it.
"OK, look now, Emily," said Leo.
Emily removed her hands and her dark eyes widened at the fuzzy little animal Leo held out to her. She took it and clasped it to her bosom. It gave its shrill cry again.
"Its a genetically engineered hybrid," said Leo, "designed for certain traits. I think we are about to have a practical demonstration of exactly which traits."
"Oh you adorable little hybrid, you," purred Emily, bringing the little pink thing close to her face. Her dark eyes seemed to take on a glazed look. "My own, my very own baby," she murmured, "mummy's here, always." Suddenly she opened her jacket and began to expose one of her breasts.
"Emmy!" exclaimed Larissa.
"Hush Larissa, this is not for you and I to question, we're not hybrids," said Leo, laying a hand on her arm.
Larissa angrily pulled her arm away from him, "don't 'hush' me! What's your game now, eh?"
One of Emily's large green breasts was exposed and the dark green nipple was beginning to exude a viscous milky substance.
Larissa stepped forward, "Leo's watching," she said through gritted teeth.
Emily blinked and shook her head as if to clear it, "I'm sorry, Leo, Larissa, but I badly want to feed him," she said vaguely, "can't you both hear his cry? Has he got a name?"
"They are hermaphroditic and no, he has no name. He's yours now, so you decide," said Leo. "You both know how pug dogs were bred to resemble baby primates, with their flat faces and feeble bodies? This little chap has babyish qualities too. His cry is of a pitch that resonates with hybrid girls. Larissa and I can both hear it, but we don't have your encoded instinct, Emily. He'll find your milk perfectly acceptable, don't worry."
"You're always so generous to me, Leo," said Emily, her lovely face wreathed in smiles, "he is so special that he can be Franz, after my grandpa."
"It's fascinating, pure metabiology in action," said Leo, "can't you appreciate it Larissa?"
Larissa folded her arms and gave Leo her best frosty look.
"Little Franz triggers Emily's encoded maternal urge, can't you see?" said Leo, condescension apparent in his voice.
"He certainly does," said Emily, cuddling Franz to her cheek. "If you two don't mind, I'll feed my baby in a rest room."
Larissa rounded on Leo as soon as Emily had left, taking the hybrid animal with her.
"Don't think I can't see what you're doing," she said, glaring at Leo, "treating Emily like some kind of lab specimen!"
"I'm doing nothing of the kind," he snapped back at her, eyes flashing, "I am the one who appreciates what a special lady she is." He held up his hands as if to forestall any retort and carried on in a calmer voice, "listen Larissa, I appreciate we have our differences, but I'm speaking to you as one pure human to another; we must at least try to appreciate what Emily's gifts mean, using actual, rational thought. She can show us a forbidden, hence unreachable world - that of superhumanity-"
Was he saying that he thought human genetic engineering should be legal? Larissa decided to interrupt; "you view my Emily as a perfect 'specimen,' perfect for, uh, "examination,"" said Larissa, waggling her fingers to outline the last word, "I love her for the great girl she really is, not for being a hybrid. Be warned that I will always stand by her and you will never see her again without my being there."
"There is no need for us to quarrel," he said with disarming meekness, dropping his gaze, "I agree, Emily is a great girl, but you must understand my perspective. My dedication to research has blinkered me somewhat. My people skills are not of the best order. You're the one who knows Emily better."
He admitted it? Larissa softened her tone, "well just remember what I have said, Leo, that is all."
"Since you are such a loyal friend to her, we can at least agree that Genutec's illegal experimenting wasn't all bad," said Leo with a small smile, "I know I can confide this in you even if my colleagues would perceive problems with it. Without Genutec breaking the law, Emily would not be here. Tell me you see what a blessing she is? It counters the curse of the execrable Dextror."
Larissa felt a tightness in her throat as she realised how strongly she agreed with these words. Leo was smart. He could surely tell that she had thought of Emily as a blessing to come from Genutec. She felt tears come unbidden to her eyes and she nodded.
"Just stop talking about the wretched Dextror," she said, aware that her voice sounded thick and choked. "Anyone would think you wanted to call him back from the dead or something."
Leo looked thoughtful. He flicked a switch on the table beside him and lurid lights issued forth from the table top, forming the ghastly image of the Destroyer in miniature, grinning in such a way as to show all his pointed teeth. The ghostly image revolved slowly. "We have the blueprints for the fiend's genetic template on file here and they include a regenerative factor," Leo shook his head, "but I suppose he really did perish. What would be the chance of his resurrecting himself and creating carnage around here today?"
"Regenerative factor?" Larissa was confused, "are you trying to say he could grow back body parts? So what? He's dead now. It doesn't matter if they programmed him to grow parts back - dead lizards can't grow back tails."
Leo smiled at the analogy. "Dead products of nature can't regenerate, no," he agreed, "perhaps if you think of him as being the exact opposite of a natural creature? Like the opposite of a bee? When a bee stings once it dies, but not the Destroyer. He was genetically programmed to recover even from the most extensive injury. They even intended him to have the ability to use vital organs from pure humans to repair himself and regain strength."
Leo went on in his lecturing mode, but this time Larissa listened with rapt attention. "The Dax did not have the same regenerative potential, but the human genes for mortality were removed from him. As we grow older our genes will tell us; Oi! Larissa, Leo! Get out of the way and make room for the next generation. The Dax did not have this DNA so he could have lived indefinitely without aging. I'm not absolutely sure about the hybrids, but I would confidently predict Emily to live hundreds of years and remain young."
Larissa gave a sad smile, "at least I can spend my human lifespan as her best friend." Larissa wondered what she would do if offered such long life. Probably accept it if she could spend it by Emily's side...
Eventually, Emily came back into the lab, little Franz clinging to her. Larissa noticed the little beast had traces of milk around his mouth. Emily certainly looked happy. There was a new spring to her step and her green face seemed to glow in the bright lights of the lab.
"I think he's full up now, so that's fine," she told them, "I'll feed him again when he get home."
"Emily... the Tarantula is going to make trouble!" said Larissa.
"I assure you that little Franz will make no noise," said Leo. "They're designed to sleep most of the time. When Emily's not there he will basically go comatose. She's his surrogate mother now. That's imprinting for you."
"Of course I'm his mother," said Emily pouting, "our landlady can make whatever rules she likes, but Franz is coming to live with me. He can stay in my bedroom when I'm at work."
Larissa could not help but feel some misgivings, but patted her friend on the arm, "we'll manage somehow," she said, really hoping she was not going to be proven wrong. Emily purred.
In the underground facility beneath that very building, Dr Adler, a senior researcher was in a state of great excitement. He gabbled on the holophone to a projected image of the departmental head, Professor Durr about an amazing find he had made that very evening:
"My assistant found it. It was just lying their, festering in an alley. A great, hulking cadaver swathed in rags. The DNA matches - this is the horror that terrorised the lake district all those years ago, I am sure of it. It killed 200 people and then allegedly just vanished. I would very much like to know the entire story, but perhaps that cannot be told today."
"The Hill Lake Horror?" said Professor Durr, narrowing his watery eyes. "You realise that to the right buyer, it could be worth a fortune?"
"Well it's my find," said Adler firmly, "for my assistant the educational experience should be enough."
"Doctor, you are a true Schweinhund," said Durr laughing.
"I would rather be a truly rich Schweinhund," said Adler.
At that moment Adler's assistant Elsa was running some diagnostic tests on the fearsome specimen on the autopsy table in a sub-basement laboratory. She wrinkled her nose at the sight of the huge cadaver that now lay there uncloaked.
As far as she could diagnose, the carcass had been badly burned at some point. The outer layers of flesh were missing, leaving bones and sinews of a raw red tinged with black. The rows of pointed teeth were perpetually beared in a frozen snarl. Although the gaping eye sockets appeared empty, Elsa couldn't quite shake the sense that they were watching her.
"Poor old thing, what could have happened to you?" she wondered aloud and turned to fetch her laser scalpel. She did not see the terrible figure on autopsy table twitch. As she powered up the scalpel, its clawed hand twitched again.
The intercom buzzed and Elsa answered it. It was Doctor Adler demanding a progress report.
"I'm just going to extract a tissue sample for cryogenic preservation, alright, everything's in order and I'll get back to you as soon as I'm ready," said Elsa and then rang off. As she spoke, she had her back to the autopsy table, which was unfortunate for her, because she could not see the entire cadaver rise to its feet and knew nothing until it seized her by her blond hair and rammed her head into the cannister of liquid nitrogen used for cryogenically preserving specimens.
Elsa did not even have time to scream. In seconds, her whole head was frozen solid.
"Brain freeze!" gloated the carcass in a harsh, gurgling voice. It smashed Elsa's frozen head against the autopsy table and let her lifeless body slide to the tiled floor.
"The Destroyer can never die, I was simply playing possum to get in here," growled the Dextror, even though Elsa was dead and could not hear. He picked up a floating cam corder from a side table and flicked the switch that activated it, causing it to flit around, keeping its lens focused on him at all times.
"Conclusion - the experiment was a huge success. The specimen is like nothing this third rate facility had ever seen. And wouldn't you like to know the story of how I caused Hill Lake to be named the Lake of Blood?" said the Destroyer to the cam corder as it floated nearby, recording every word of his grating voice. He turned to the body on the tiled floor. "Now where are your organs stored?" Dextror demanded of Elsa's corpse, "not your own organs, because I draw the line at accepting those from a female specimen," Dextror pulled down Elsa's jeans and indicated her genitalia, "I mean seriously - what a hideous as well as defective design! Nature just kept making mistakes. And I still intend to rectify the lot of them. If I can just renew myself..."
The fiend spied a cupboard with steel doors and wrenched them off their hinges. Inside were organs of transspecies gentically engineered animals, each sealed off in its own cube of nutrient fluids.
"Yesss... some of these might hit the spot..."