Dr Romanoff had begun his career in gene science as a young man with ambition, ideas and dreams about what humans could become. He was elated when he’d gotten his first internship to work on classified military projects at the GEK military gene manipulation laboratories straight out of University.
He was sorely disappointed by the work they were doing. They only ever seemed to do research, they were always asking what would happen and never testing what did happen.
Even the gene manipulation of human analogues, chimpanzees and suchlike, required an infuriating amount of paperwork, designated budgets and consent from various managers and bureaucrats.
It was stifling. He had not spent 10 years of his life at university, studying the fundamental building blocks of life itself do paperwork and cosying up to idiots who didn’t know guanine from cytosine. No, he wanted to create life itself! Humans had so much potential for improvement if only someone had the nerve to make changes.
After his academic career he’d spent 20 years in the GEK working on the improvement of physical and mental capabilities of chimpanzees, within the limits of the atrocious system of course. After 10 years he could not go any further without breaking those limits. He had started to plan his own experiments and collect equipment in his cramped flat. Today he had set up a basic embryonic incubation facility that could hold three infants.
He had two options ahead of him. First, he could steal some human embryos from somewhere like a fertility clinic. Second, he could create cytoplasmic hybrid embryos using an animal donor, any close human relation would be good enough.
He decided not to risk his operation with a high-level crime such as theft from a clinic. It would be much easier to swipe some animal embryos from the lab.
The work itself was a thankless and menial task. He’d used his own DNA as a template of course, but each gene he’d carefully singled out had to be removed and replaced with his extensively catalogued bank of tested and improved versions.
Nature had already done most of the work. He’d taken much inspiration from such creatures as the Zebrafish, which has the ability to regenerate its fins, skin, heart and, in larval stages; brain. The effects are not so pronounced in more advanced mammals – but an increase regeneration and healing rate was shown. Scarring that would have been permanent healed in merely months. Broken bones knitted faster and more cleanly.
An interesting discovery of a family of pileated gibbons that had a mutation causing muscles to be 80% more efficient for their weight. It had occupied 10 infuriating months of testing to pin down the exact gene the mutation was on and single it out for transfer.
It took him a month to piece together the three complete identical embryos. Smuggling them out of the laboratory in his thermal drinks container packed with coolant had made him gut-wrenchingly nervous – he’d only relaxed when he had removed them and placed each in their own incubation chamber. He would carefully monitoring their progress over the course of the next 9 months.
* * *
It had all been going so well, the cells progress was normal. After a month the internal organs had begun to develop and problems had arisen in the first test. Its growth had accelerated far beyond what it should have and it appeared to have multiple versions of its primary organs. It appeared to be partially inverted, with external organs.
It hadn’t lasted to the two month stage. Dr Romanoff cursed his clumsy workmanship. The other foetuses were progressing well. He must have made a mistake with that one, one slip up that resulted in a slight imbalance. Humans are such delicate creatures.
Well, that’s why he had three after all.
* * *
The other 7 months of development had gone as planned, the incubation units were holding up well as the babies reached close to 7 pounds. He’d painstakingly planned the extraction and had begun to put it into action.
The chambers holding the foetuses were not elegant but utilitarian. Unbolting the Perspex lid Dr Romanoff shut down the complex fluid circulation system that delivered the nutrients and cut into the fluid filled sack holding the child. He’d unclipped the artificially-biological gauze the umbilical cord had connected to and pulled the lethargic infant from the container.
He’d expected better. As he held the child at an arm’s length it simply flopped there, limbs limp against his hands. If it wasn’t breathing in short sharp breaths he would have suspected it dead regardless of what the readouts had been saying. He gave it a little shake but it remained oblivious to the world around it.
The chimpanzees he’d delivered to maturity in his experiments had come out fit and healthy and, most often, fighting. This was a disaster! He’d have to check through everything, the gene library the nutrition logs, something must have gone wrong.
It wasn’t just limited to the first child. He’d removed the second and it was similar, if not worse. Slight growth defects became apparent. It seemed that the bones were softer than ideal. He checked the rigidity of the arm, it bent like a stiff ruler. The gave a lame mewing at what he could only assume to be pain.
This was not ideal, not ideal at all.
How would he get rid of these wretched creatures?
Oooh I’m really hooked now. I love your use of the interlude, I think it’s a great and interesting way to show different characters. That’s the one think I don’t like about stories told in first person. You often don’t get to see anything from another character’s point of view, so I really like that you’ve got such an interesting way to let us see more aspects of the story.
Thanks for reading :)
I was really unsure whether to go for first person or not, I wanted to keep it personal though – I can’t help but put loads of internal dialogue in lol. I definitely wanted to include some other character PoVs though, there are probably going to be a few of these haha.
lding blocks of life itself do paperwork and cosy up to
Cosying up. Need to make your verbs agree with each other.
I don’t get it, he took human dna and put it along with zebrafish in a monkey, and they had birth defects
Started writing an explanation but I was on my phone and it was too difficult lol.
Right. He performed what is called a “Somatic-cell nuclear transfer”. Basically, what makes an embryo ‘you’ is the DNA in the nucleus. He took a monkey embryo and removed it’s nucleus – this removes any DNA associated with monkeys and leaves an empty egg cell.
He used his own cells nucleus as a ‘base’. If he made no modifications, and just transferred it to the monkey embryo he would create an identical genetic clone of himself.
But instead he took his own nucleus and the DNA strands within it and spliced in new DNA strands that hold advantageous characteristics (Zebra fish’s remarkable healing capabilities etc). We’ve been doing this very simply with bacteria to mass produce human insulin since 1982!
Of course, he’s there poking around in a hugely complex system that is very finely balanced and his modifications have adverse effects – in this case, reducing the ability for the bones to process and absorb calcium effectively or something similar.
That was a horrifying note to end this interlude on.
Romanoff – reminds of that mission in Hitman Absolution. Plenty of cloning and genetic modification in that series, too.
One really gets a sense for the ordeal of a job the professor puts himself through with those 10 months of isolating a single dna mutation.
“at University learning to the fundamental” – at university, studying the
“He had spent the last 20 years”: Given the beginning of the last paragraph, I suggest “next” instead of “last”, if that fits the timeline. As it stands, there seems to be an overlap between the 10 and 20 year periods.
“Today he had setup a basic” set up
“He would be carefully study their progress”
“studying”, or “monitoring” if you don’t want to use “studying” twice in a chapter.
Working through the 46 type reports… :)
With the 20 year 10 year thing: I was trying to get across 10 year at Uni, 20 years working. So he’s about 50 now (they don’t overlap). I’ve reworded it.
“do paperwork and cosying up to idiots”
tense mismatch and misspelled word
“do paperwork and cozy up to idiots”
The gave a lame mewing at what he could only assume to be pain.
Huh, going in for a third read-through, because it seems you’ve added chapters since my last one.
Dr. Romanoff is much more interesting than the main character. I remember something I’d been thinking when I burned out on manga. It was a set of rules for producing a more interesting main character:
1. The character must be good at something (anything).
2. The character must have a goal.
3. The character must take reasonable steps to achieve that goal, preferably by using the talent in rule #1.
Our heroine has met those requirements, but it took her 4-5 chapters. Dr. Romanoff managed it in one.