Day 194. A hundred and ninety four visual inspections for the slightest defect and he hadn’t noticed.
It was female.
Outwardly at least. Genetically it was a bit blurry. He’d checked over every chromosome he’d worked on, but not those he hadn’t touched. What a stupid oversight; the process of modifying the delicate chromosomes increased the chances of genetic defects by a huge proportion. It was still unlikely, of course, only more likely.
The embryo appeared male. Under the microscope it had an XY chromosome pair. But when he’d dived in deeper he’d found the damage to the SRY gene on that Y chromosome. It was the gene that made males male.
Nature is stupid – but it can adapt surprisingly well. In the absence of the SRY it quickly flipped it’s development partway through from male to female.
His hand hovered over the lever to flush the system.
It was wrong, broken. Even beyond its pathetic degenerate bones it was a monster, not even male or female.
But he still hesitated.
Maybe because it, she, was in reality the most successful of all his experiments. She had grown the largest, she moved the most – he’d even spotted her kicking.
Her bone density had reached forty seven per cent…
He carefully removed his hand from the lever and flicked the safety lock back into place. He could try and fix things. He’d researched the condition; a mutation on the SRY gene was not unheard of naturally.
She would be infertile. That was a blow. How could a superior species be developed without the ability to reproduce?
No, there were other ways. The second generation could be corrected. Nature’s crude method of reproduction was not needed with today’s technology and his expertise.
But there were other concerns. The adrenal gland can produce androgens, but without ovaries estrogen and testosterone production would be a problem.
He sat at his comsconsole and opened four new browser windows on treatments for Swyer syndrome.
* * *
He might not be able to produce such complex organisms as ovaries, but he had managed to modify some embryonic stem cells into a crude gland that would secrete some carefully selected hormones.
It wasn’t ideal, he’d managed to install a rudimentary chemical blocking system that should break down in about ten years – but with no time to test it could be temperamental. He’d have to monitor hormone levels throughout her early lifetime. There could be no telling if he’d gotten the correct secretion volumes to accurately simulate reproductive organs. But it should stimulate puberty effectively. By all measurable criteria there would be no difference…
* * *
On day two hundred and seventy three he carefully unbolted the Perspex top. For some reason he was more nervous than the previous attempts – though he wouldn’t have believed it possible.
This one was important. He kept telling himself that was because it had been so much more successful than the previous…
He lifted the wriggling child from the tank and split the sack it had grown with a careful slice of a scalpel. Within moments of the cold air hitting its flesh it was screaming.
He’d made the right decision.
But as the idiotic thing flailed, its arm slapped into his wrist. There was a crack and it bent at an unnatural angle. Somehow the girls screaming increase twofold.
Damn. He’d have to restrain it, keep it still, certainly it’s shattered arm. He’d gone from too flexible to too brittle…
* * *
He pasted the plaster on its limb, holding it as stationary as possible for the half-hour it took for the fibrous cement to cure.
He’d used all the bedding from his bed and one of the boxes one of his equipment had arrived in to create the most padded environment he could manage.
For all his planning, he hadn’t thought to buy a cot.
This was going to be more difficult than he expected.
But when he looked down, those eyes stared back at him with intelligence, with fire. She was different from the others. Barely a day old and she was a fighter.
Let’s hope she’d survive the surgery…
* * *
He’d built an airtight chamber and flooded it with ethylene oxide as a sterilisation agent. The gas was drained and replaced with triple-filtered air.
He was no anaesthetist. He had practiced on a few dogs of the correct mass he’d obtained from the re-homing centre to train his technique. Of course, there was no telling how the child would respond to the sedative. He’d hoped to have improved the liver’s metabolism of foreign agents. He’d have to keep an eye on the dosage. More may need to be administered mid-operation.
He held the scalpel delicately through the gloves sealed in holes in the side of the sterilised Perspex box. A simple cut, he’d done it countless times, on cadavers and animals. But this small sleeping child was different. But he had to move fast, there was no saying how long the anaesthetic would last.
He made the first cut.
* * *
The high pitched wail started soon after he’d finished. That was a good sign. He monitored the healing process with intense detail, recording the condition, colour and size of the wound.
Within days the child was moving naturally, without any screaming when it twisted its torso. Either it had adapted to the pain or the incision had stopped causing it.
After a matter of weeks it had reduced to a mere red scar. The speed was remarkable.
He’d also scanned the bones of her arm. They had knitted together with astonishing haste. She had quickly learned that movement in her right arm caused pain. But the child was beginning to test it again, and began to flail in a more natural manner.
He’d removed her from isolation when the wound had sealed with no chance of it re-opening however much she twisted and wriggled.
It was the first time he’d been able to hold her. It was… strange. Such a helpless being, he could never tolerate helplessness. He wasn’t one to give the homeless a spare dollar. He had little sympathy for those who cried. Yet he felt real affection for this small noisy, wriggly little beast.
The shop assistant had given him a knowing look when he’d returned, for the third time that week to buy another box of milk formula and a set of nappies.
He’d completely miscalculated how expensive this would be… It made a lot of mess. Both ends of it represented a significant cost.
But he’d also found himself tempted to purchase things that were not in his budget at all. He’d spotted a small light-toy and bought it on a whim.
He’d justified it logically of course. The toy would keep her occupied, reduce the chances she would wriggle and damage her brittle bones. Keep the damn girl from using her lungs quite so much. That might make sleeping easier and he’d be more alert to potential problems.
But he had not planned to buy toys for his experiment…
He couldn’t resist it for his daughter.