Happy fourth of July!
I have a special treat for my readers. A year and a half ago, I wrote a prologue for “Perfection Unleashed.” The prologue didn’t make the final cut, but it’s still an interesting piece that sheds light on the events around Galahad’s birth and the setting for the Double Helix series. I hope you enjoy it!
The large octagon-shaped building that housed Pioneer Laboratories seemed especially desolate on that Christmas Eve when the child was born. It brooded as it kept watch over the manicured lawns all around, unimpressed by the gently falling snow. The lights that usually spilled from its many windows had been extinguished, save for one glowing softly from the highest floor.
Shepherds did not keep watch over the child that night, but scientists did. Two grey haired men whose seeming age was belied by the youthful vigor in their lithe frames waited in the dimly lit birthing chamber, speaking in lowered tones about nothing in particular. It would have been bad luck to speak about the only thing on their minds—the child—even though they knew, logically, that that no amount of conversation could change the outcome of that night. Still, they could not bring themselves to anticipate success or even discuss outcomes, not after having failed so many times before.
No angels heralded the birth of this child. It was the soft beep of the incubator as the timer ticked down to zero. Conversation stilled as the scientists moved quickly to the machine. They exchanged glances but said nothing as one scientist held his hand over the incubator’s controls. The moment of truth was at hand; the successful birth of this child would redefine the boundaries of genetic manipulation.
The scientist inhaled deeply before pressing down on the switch that would open the incubator and release the infant from the now-perfected artificial birthing process. Both scientists held their breaths as the translucent cover of the incubator swung silently to the side to reveal its precious contents.
The rules of life were broken. The science of life was rewritten in that single magical moment when the child was delivered into the world.
The perfectly formed, healthy male infant was the most beautiful thing the scientists had ever seen. With trembling hands and near reverence, they lifted the child from the chamber and wiped the birthing fluids from its soft skin before wrapping it in warm clothes. Warm and content, the child transitioned from incubator to world without the slightest fuss, making a soft gurgling sound—a happy sound—as it snuggled into the scientist’s arms.
The other scientist gingerly touched the child’s tiny, perfect hands and then smiled as the delicate, little fingers closed tightly around his. He looked up at the other man, almost afraid to hope even though he longed to believe. “Do you think…?”
“We would need to run tests over the course of the child’s life, but I think it’s safe to say that it’s done.”
Yes, it was finally done. Genetic manipulation had always been part art, part science, and completely magical. What began with the unraveling of the double helix and the cracking of the code of life in the Human Genome Project had finally led to mastery over life itself. The human genome had been mapped, scrutinized, and analyzed. Gene therapy, genetically modified food products, and cloned pets were parts of everyday life. Cloned human beings, once deemed impossible and outrageous, were steadily becoming the norm.
The journey was also littered with failures. Mutants tarnished the purity of the human race, typically created inadvertently as a result of genetic selection taken to an extreme. And in the past few years, increasingly dangerous psychic-level mutations threatened to tip the balance of power entirely.
But there was still that last step—the creation of a human being from a swirling mixture of nucleotides, building the double helix of life a base pair at a time, one gene at a time, to create the perfect human being. For the two scientists, it had been a lonely and difficult road, littered with failures, but the child born on a cold and quiet night made it worthwhile. They forgot the nagging despair they had felt during those long nights of painstakingly careful genetic coding, forgot the helpless anger they’d felt at the mocking derision of their colleagues. They held success now—sweet success—in their hands.
“What shall we name the Gene Child?” one scientist asked as they left the birthing chamber together. Their footsteps echoed hollowly down the empty corridors as they walked towards the nursery, carefully carrying the product of thousands of hours of work. “Gene Child” was an interesting and potentially acceptable scientific classification for this unique creature that had neither father nor mother, but it would need another name. “How about Galahad, after the last, the peerless knight of the mythical Round Table?”
The name seemed appropriate for the perfect little being. The scientist carrying the child set it down in the crib that had been prepared, a smile curving his lips as he gazed upon the sleepy infant. “Welcome, Galahad,” he said. The birth of the Gene Child was their ultimate gift to the world on this quiet Christmas Eve.
But another voice was heard that night. Deep within the bowels of the building, a low, inhuman moan, aching with pain and anger, shuddered its way from behind the thick walls of its prison to break the calm silence of that perfect starless night as something far too grotesque to be human welcomed Galahad—its brother—into the world.