It’s been another busy weekend. Trying to jam in writing work with a normal 9-5 is never dead easy, and I always find it harder in winter when I just want to hibernate *lol*. But you’ve still gotta write! It’s hard to resist 😉 Here is Chapter Fourteen 🙂 Please remember this is a rough draft, and as the author I own FULL copyright to it. This work may not be copied/shared in any manner other than a link to this blog. Thanks and enjoy!
‘All five samples stopped mitosis after the first replication,’ Holi said as Eoin entered the lab two mornings later. He groaned and cursed under his breath. Behind him Ally gave the softest sigh and her hand brushed his back. ‘I’ll go do a perimeter check, do a little foraging.’
He scrubbed his hands over his face, hearing her footsteps as she vanished up the stairs.
‘Okay Holi, the strongest stimulant you can dial me. Let’s start again.’
At least parts of it were easy to repeat. The anomalies however gave him the same concerns again. He clearly had one or two of them wrong, but which, and how?
‘Holi, can we do another run through showing the full genetic breakdown at a cellular level of both the original virus, and my latest two experiments.’
‘Did you want them arranged for comparison?’
‘Yes,’ Eoin smiled gratefully at the blonde whose projected image shimmered as she worked on the data. ‘I wish I could take you back with us, Holi.’
‘If you locate a laboratory near to your home I will be programmed to assist you,’ Holi said. ‘Make sure to keep your beacon on the desk and it will save all your workings. You will be able to work in any lab with it.’
The suitable robotic response in a human voice made Eoin snort in amusement, shaking his head at himself. At times Holi seemed very human. But she quickly reminded him otherwise.
Another minute passed before the information flashed onto the hand held reading device, three distinct columns with items highlighted to show the differences. Remembering her comment about the beacon, Eoin lifted the reading device and lay the silver tablet that hung on the chain around his neck on to its flat surface. A second later the silver beacon made a tiny vibration, signalling the data update. Pleased with the simplicity of it, he let the beacon drop back in place and leaned back to study the information before him. Eyes scanning, he used a finger to scroll the page up. While he didn’t have an eidetic memory he did still have what was considered by human standards as a mnemonic memory. As Eoin read the details he subconsciously tapped his fingers against his leg, hammering home the massive lengths of genetic codes. Going over it again, rocking slightly while tapping against his leg, Eoin’s mind was able to drift to an almost meditative state as he processed the data within his mind allowing a portion of his mind to drift elsewhere, to a time he’d rather forget.
Of the two of them entwined in this intrepid adventure, Eoin had the most reason to hate humans. Sucking a breath in he shook his head, trying to distract from the memory but the motion promptly took his focus from the data before him. With a muttered grumble under his breath, he turned his mind back to the data, allowing the memories to haunt the back of his mind as he worked through the precious information, somewhere in this chaos of letters and number, there was a solution, he just had to find it.
Eoin! Not too far now!
It always amazed him how sharp and clear his mother’s voice sounded in the memory. Muttering the lines of information, Eoin kept working as the memory of that life changing day swarmed in the back of his mind.
Leave him be, sweetheart, he can’t go far.
Eoin turned to grin at his father then scrambled on ahead at that presumed permission. The landscape was sheer, vivid and truly awe-inspiring, or moderately terrifying if you weren’t such a fan of heights, like his mother. They’d climbed for the last couple of days, reaching the ridgeline of the mountains late the evening before. The view was spectacular and Eoin couldn’t help wanting to find the next highest point, determined to be able to see where they’d come from, and where they trekked to in one sweeping panoramic. Up here with the air so thin and the visibility unusually sharp thanks to the cloudless morning, it felt like they were on top of the world.
‘Papa! Is that the village?’ Eoin shouted as soon as he sighted the difference in colour. Even at this height the slightest sign of civilisation, touches of colours and the occasional straight line, was easily visible. Nature never had true straight lines. It looked large, Eoin narrowed his eyes forcing the nano-virus to enhance his vision until he could count the humps of buildings, a rough count suggesting over two hundred individual dwellings.
The sound of small stones slipping away announced his parents’ arrival on the rocky plateau he’d climbed.
‘Good spot, Eoin,’ Papa commented, his pale skin already tanning to a deep gold while Mama, just behind him, had darkened to mahogany, her dark hair and eyes nearly making her look like one of the humans living in the old city of Rome. Eoin took after his father, pale with blond hair and grey blue eyes.
‘Oooo, yes,’ Mama fanned her face, a nervous reaction as she regarded the view and gripped the stone she knelt against with a white knuckled hand. ‘You must be part ibex.’ She nodded at the scimitar horned mountain goats that casually minced their way along sheer rock faces while nibbling on lichens.
‘The village is huge Papa!’ Eoin exclaimed in excitement.
‘It’s not biggest, but it’s certainly larger than just the three of us,’ Papa said with a laugh, exchanging a look with Mama who nodded.
‘It’ll be so nice to have company.’
‘There’s BIGGER villages?’
‘Yes, Eoin. I’ve heard of a couple of cities that count over ten thousand for their population.’
‘No, mixed like that village down there. Humans are welcome. We want to encourage them to see we aren’t something to fear.’
‘I hope their facilities are as good as the messenger said,’ Mama said to Papa. ‘I can’t wait to be part of a research team again!’
‘Is our team of three not impressive enough?’ Papa teased her, making Mama swat at him.
‘You know what I mean!’
‘We do. Now, let’s move on, if we hurry it might only take us three days.’
It was the eve of the second day, in the failing light of the setting sun that they struck.
In the midst of climbing down the last of the sharp steep angles, aiming for the first leafy green stretch of land they’d seen since scaling the impressive heights of the Alps, a group of Raiders ambushed them.
An explosion nearly hurled Eoin off the rock face he clung to. Head snapping around, peering through the rain of shingle, he gasped in horror, body flinching.
Groaning, a hand limply flailing at the massive hooked spear protruding from his chest, Eoin’s father was abruptly ripped off the rock face. A roar of victory stunned Eoin and he stared blankly down at the humans below, who held the end of the rope that attached to the spear. Bloody, almost unrecognisable as his father, Papa rolled over like a harpooned whale, face and limbs twitching.
‘Eoin! Eoin! DON’T LOOK!’ His mother, suddenly fearless had his face in her hands, eyes alert and pupils narrowed. He could feel the hum of the electroplaques beneath her hands and realised she meant to fight. Terrified, he gripped her hands, ‘No, Mama!’
Ignoring him she kept her hard stare into his eyes, her tone different, at a pitch designed to make him focus and focus solely on her words. One of the few genuine defences a Scientist Promethian had. ‘Listen to me Eoin, run. Stay hidden. Find the village. Remember we love you, and don’t, Eoin DON’T look back.’
The tone made his ears and head hum. The instant her hands left his face he scrambled away, mind locked on her instructions as Mama twisted and threw herself off the rock face.
Screams filled his ears as he half fell down the remaining climb, feet hitting a dry creek bed that led into the forest. Shouts and explosions rang out behind him. Eoin ran, arms pumping and body singing with adrenaline, mind almost blank with fear as his mother’s instructions ran on repeat in his head.
Run. Stay hidden. Find the village.
Almost two days later, bedraggled, hungry and terrified, he’d stumbled through the forest and onto a house. Literally, the house embedded into the hillside. At the thumping of footsteps on their roof the occupants had rushed out.
Eoin took note of the three people, Promethians, gaping in apparent horror at his condition, then collapsed, the last two things in his mind his mothers voice whispering ‘Remember we love you,’ and the most beautiful pair of intense violet eyes.
‘Eoin? Did you find something?’
Holi’s voice shook the memory aside and he realised he’d paused mid list, finger firmly pressed on the list before him. Beneath the tip of his finger a code suddenly rang home like a sharp toll of a bell in his mind.
Encoding protein CXorf49
‘Ahh, no. No, Holi, just thought I did,’ Eoin lied, face pleasant while his heart skipped with excitement.
He’d just found the switch to their automated sterilization.
Eyes flicking back and forth to compare, Eoin didn’t risk voicing or writing anything down. The protein was a signal of the X chromosome, and designed to link to it were a couple of seemingly harmless amino acids. Eoin’s mind ran swiftly through the possibilities of what the combination could create. He’d have to mimic it in the next attempt. Something else caught his eye, now he’d looked at it in a different manner. A curious gene that was tagged with a different protein. The combination made no sense. Sitting back, Eoin closed his eyes and visualized these two new discoveries against the anomalies he’d found the other day. A picture began to form in his mind, linking the various pieces together in a new theory. Opening his eyes, hands almost trembling with excitement, he ordered the various bits of equipment out on the desk and threw himself into the work.
The hours flew by while Eoin separated, joined, and reorganised the new virus configuration. It felt right, easy, and before he knew it Eoin was staring down the eyepiece of the microscope at the newest version of his nano-virus. The shape was so like the last failures that a good portion of his mind doubted he’d finally done it.
‘But the shape should be the same,’ he muttered to himself. ‘You know that.’
‘Can I help?’
Holi’s voice made Eoin look up in surprise. ‘No! Uhh, no. Can you dial me another stimulant, Holi?’
‘It will be a reduced amount, you shouldn’t have a full amount this close to sleep.’
‘Sleep?! What time is it?’ Eoin went to stand but remembered something first and slapped the silver tablet hanging around his neck to the microscope. A second later it hummed as it downloaded the genetic makeup of the virus. Holi watched him with a flat expression, eyes cool.
‘It is after six in the evening. Ally should be home.’
‘She should,’ Eoin agreed and he stood. ‘I’d better-’
‘Eoin. How does the new design look?’
Holi’s familiar tone had gone, returned to the cool clinical robotic voice from when they’d first entered the lab. Eoin held eye contact with her and kept his voice calm.
‘Like the previous designs. Only time will tell.’
Holi didn’t blink or display any of the ‘human’ tendencies she’d adopted while working with him. Now the holographic image seemed more computer than ever. She made a deliberate step, feet apart and arms crossed behind her back. A tone, sudden and sharp, emitted from her lips, making Eoin wince.
All the equipment within the room slid back to behind the walls, leaving Eoin standing in an empty room.
‘Promethian your design has breached the programmed standards of this laboratory. You are no longer permitted to work. Your data is being erased. The laboratory is now closed.’ The light that projected Holi’s image snapped off, along with every other light, plunging the lab into darkness.
‘NO! Holi, WAIT!’ Eoin shouted. In the dark, frozen in position as he wondered what the hell to do, Eoin realised he could hear a rapid thudding sound that seemed to be getting louder. Seconds later something hit the outer door with a thud.
‘Eoin?! EOIN THE DOOR!’ Ally’s yell propelled him through the room, cursing as he took a corner too tight, shoulder slamming into it. Hands out, he managed to find the staircase.
‘Hold on!’ Damn Holi, why shut down everything?
Reaching the top of the stairs Eoin dropped to his knees, hands skimming over the smooth surface of the floor. Days ago he’d spotted a small handle, a red handle, which from experience suggested emergency controls. Or so he hoped.
‘I am! Just give me a second,’ Eoin yelled back, the sound mostly flinging back to his face thanks to the thick metal door. Ahh there it was. His fingers closed around the small latch and he yanked back. Instantly the rectangular space beneath lit up. There in old English was a button that said ‘Door release’. Pressing it Eoin sighed in relief as the metal door shot up and Ally fell in.
Muddied, scratched, hair a mess, Ally’s eyes were wide and dilated, body humming with energy and tense, ready to fight. Eoin gaped at her.
‘Raiders. We’ve got an hour if we’re lucky.’