Note: You must be registered in order to post a reply. To register, click here. Registration is FREE!
T O P I C R E V I E W
Posted - 10/25/2006 : 12:45:39Prologue
Genesis Revisited - Anonymous
In the beginning, some ten billion years after the emergence of the known universe from a quantum fluctuation of a De-Sitter space, the solar system formed. Many billions of years later, the Earth, the third planet from a minor yellow dwarf star on the inner edge of the Milky Way galaxy, cooled from molten rock.
For the next three billion years, the rock was pelted with debris of the solar system's violent birth. Huge asteroids rained down onto the surface of the Earth with the fury of tens of billions of nuclear bombs. The Earth's surface remained a fiery hell, and the atmosphere consisted of a noxious soup of poisonous hydrocarbons and acidic sulfurous compounds.
Sometime during the fourth eon of the Earth's existence, life emerged onto a more peaceful Earth. The celestial debris had cleared. Plants on the land, and algae in the seas, scrubbed the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and replaced it with oxygen, heralding an environment suitable for the emergence of animals.
Hundreds of millions of years later, at the beginning of the Mesozoic era, the age of the dinosaurs began and would endure for another hundred and twenty million years. Sixty-three million years after the extinction of the dinosaurs, give or take a few million years, Homo sapiens appeared, supplanting the dinosaur as the highest animal on Earth. The dominion of Homo sapiens would last for less than one percent of the time of the dinosaurs before them. Though modern humans did not burn as long, they certainly burned brighter, changing the natural environment, and with it, the rules of the biological game that brought them into being.
By the first decade of the twenty-first century after the birth of Christ, humans were in possession of a genetic technology that would finally enable them to more closely approximate the angels they imagined when looking in the mirror, but upon closer inspection, failed to see.
During the final decades of the twenty-third century, humankind had begun its conversion to a more pleasing form in earnest. Genetically engineered Moderns would be the first step in a cathartic renewal of humanity by its own hand...
"What if I told you I'd discovered a genetic cure for Original Sin?" - George Mills, Ursa University, Mars, 2321 A.D.
They pulled alongside a white picket fence. Dale heard the soft whine of the engine fade as the car drew to a stop. The house beyond the fence was old with a facade of slatted stucco, stained and textured in a vain attempt to simulate wood.
"Is this the right address?" Dr. Gates asked.
"Let me check," Dale said. He grabbed the clear plastic tablet from its cradle on the car's console, held it at opposite corners, and pulled its malleable fabric into a larger rectangle. He found the contact icon and confirmed the address, then nodded and felt a constriction of betrayal choke his throat. With a resigned sigh, he joined Dr. Gates in front of an overgrown fence that framed a small yard. Because it was bright out, Dale put a hand over his eyes before taking a look around. The house was high atop a ridge overlooking Lake Geneva, and he couldn't help seeing the spidery outlines of dome struts against the early afternoon sun. Dale mopped his damp brow, then lowered his gaze; Dr. Gates was staring at him from behind dark glasses.
"Okay," he said, unable to delay the encounter any longer. He made his way to the front door and delivered a couple of quick open-handed knocks. Before he could withdraw his hand, Dale heard stirring, muffled steps, then the door opened a crack.
A woman's brown eyes darted from Dale to the edge of the door and back again. "Can I help you?"
"It's Dale Metz, Mrs. Abrams. I'm from the Department of Reproductive Affairs. We're here to talk to you about Ben."
"Is he in trouble, is there a problem?"
"No, no, nothing like that," he lied. "We're here to talk to you about a test he took in school."
"In school?" The woman continued staring out the door, lingering a little too long at its edge, as if aware of someone out of sight.
"We'll tell you all about it," Dale assured. "Can we come in?"
Her breath hung and she dropped her eyes. Maria Abrams opened the door and ushered them in. Dale recalled meeting this woman and her son in an office building in Dome One, through Joanne Zhu, Ben's genetic doctor. He couldn't help noticing that she was staring at Dr. Gates with an intense scowl, which was not that unusual, given how people in the district felt about Earthers, especially genetically modified Moderns.
They followed Maria into a demure sitting room. A dark pattern of shadows emanating from blinds over a large window cast the angular furniture into a dizzying perspective that knotted Dale's stomach. In a small voice, Maria asked, "Would you like something to drink?"
"Not for me, thank you," Dale replied, wincing.
"Mrs. Abrams, we don't have much time," Dr. Gates said. "Could you have Ben come in here please? We have some questions we'd like to ask him."
The doctor took off a pair of dark glasses, revealing pale violet eyes. When she saw them, Maria raised her hand to her forehead and made the sign of the cross. She hadn't struck Dale as an ostensibly religious woman at their first meeting, but he knew that early-learned habits were hard to break, like when he blinked too much, something he’d done as a boy when caught in a lie. So Dale wasn't too surprised to hear a quaver enter Maria's voice as she called her son.
"I'm right here mama," said a boy. He was already standing in an archway leading to a cramped kitchen, which Dale spied beyond the small room. Maria's hand flew to her chest; she hadn't even gotten the words out before he'd answered. While Dale watched, Maria glanced from the boy to Dr. Gates and continued to fidget, wringing her hands and shifting her stance.
"Hello Ben, I'm. . ."
"I know who you are. You're Dr. Gates, I heard."
The doctor smiled ever so slightly, leaving Dale with the strange image of how Neanderthal might have felt meeting Cro-Magnon. The unusual aura the boy cast made him uncomfortable from a shadowy sense of intrusion, as if someone were looking over his shoulder. The urge to turn and confront whoever it was seized him, and he had to force himself to appear more relaxed than he actually felt.
"Do you know why we're here, Ben?" the doctor asked.
Ben found a seat next to his mother on a worn brown sofa, and said nothing.
"You took a series of tests at school. Mr. Metz and I are interviewing children in the domes who did better than we thought possible," Dr. Gates explained.
The boy continued to stare with eyes a color Dale found unsettling. They had odd golden flecks that seemed to scintillate when the boy turned his head. Then the boy looked directly at him and the eyes seemed to go dark, as if the corneas were polarized.
"I was wondering if you could do something for me?" Dr. Gates asked, removing a plastic bag from an attaché case they'd brought. The doctor pulled six red plastic figures from the bag and placed them on the coffee table in front of the boy. Each figure consisted of balls connected by a stiff plastic tube, like large beads on a skewer. Five of the figures were exactly the same--three balls in a line, and a fourth ball at an angle. The sixth figure had just three balls in a row.
"Do you know what this is?"
The boy looked down at the toy with mild interest, then looked up and smiled thinly.
Dr. Gates exhaled and turned to Maria. "If he doesn't cooperate, he'll have to come with us."
Maria's eyes grew wide. "Go with you where?"
"It's a puzzle," the boy said. "It makes a solid figure with the least variation in the shape of the pieces."
Dr. Gates turned back to the boy. "Have you ever seen this or anything like this before?"
The boy shook his head. "No, I've never seen this before."
"Remarkable," Dale uttered. He remembered his own confusion and inadequacy when Dr. Gates had first showed him the assortment of pieces and asked him to guess their purpose. "Don't fret Mr. Metz," he recalled the doctor telling him. "We've never found a person, not even among the finest minds on record, that could solve this puzzle in under an hour--you're in good company." The possibility that, in a glance, this eleven-year-old boy of modest means could do what he had failed even to understand increased Dale's edginess.
"Can you assemble the puzzle?" Dr. Gates asked.
"Will you leave if I do?" Ben asked.
The doctor nodded and the boy moved to the edge of the sofa, cocked his head slightly, and reached for the plastic pieces on the table with slender brown fingers. As Dale looked on, the boy assembled the three-dimensional object, a sardonic smile slowly creeping across his face. He didn't even try the pieces in various orientations, something Dale imagined himself doing. Ben simply put each piece in its appropriate place, as though he'd had a diagram on the table next to him.
When he had finished, the boy slipped his hands over the object, almost in a caress, then sat back on the sofa. Dale regarded the pyramid standing in the middle of the table with a sense of unreality. It was four levels high, with each stratum delineated by a row of large beads that seemed to shine in the diffuse light of the room. Each layer of the pyramid had one less bead than the preceding one, with a single red bead adorning its pinnacle. The solution of the puzzle had all happened so quickly and easily that it seemed almost anticlimactic.
As Dr. Gates continued to speak to the boy and his mother, Dale began to feel dizzy and short of breath every time the little bastard's black eyes settled on him. He just wanted to jump up and run out of this place, but the metaphoric thirteen pieces of silver were weighing him down. What the hell had he gotten himself into anyway? Yesterday, he'd been a mid-level bureaucrat looking for career advancement, and right now, all he wanted to do was to get the hell out of here--fast. But he knew that option had passed--no, it was too late to close Pandora's box.
When he thought he could no longer stand to be in the same room with the boy, Dr. Gates rose and mercifully motioned him toward the door. He gladly complied. A sense of palpable relief washed over Dale as he followed Dr. Gates out of the modest little house. Daring to look back, he saw the boy and his mother standing on the front porch, watching them leave. Deep furrows on the woman’s brow suggested this wasn’t over. The boy stood partially behind her in a protective embrace and looked impassive.
Dale got in, slammed the door shut, and waited impatiently for Dr. Gates to start the car so they could go. But when he glanced over at the driver's side, Dr. Gates was just sitting there, staring straight ahead.
"Doctor--you all right?"
Finally, the doctor turned to him. "Mr. Metz, that was remarkable."
Dale nodded in bewildered agreement, as blood began trickling from Dr. Gates' nose in bright red droplets on porcelain white skin.