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Exquisite Corpse - A Journal of Letters and Life
Cyb Fi
A Modern Immaculate Conception
by Sam E. Hime
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Who coulda' foreseen it in the nineteen fifties? The Soviet Union dissolved, in anarchic shambles, at provincial civil war, and more than one of their breakaway republics with nuclear weapons at their disposal? All the world's economies collapsed? 'Most Favored Nation' status based trade with Red China? A hole in the ozone layer over Antartica a thousand miles in diameter? (It looked like inverted male pattern baldness from space.)
     The billions spent on the proliferation of hydrogen weapons bankrupted both former superpowers. The communists just cried uncle first. The exchange rate in America was different in all fifty six states (fifty one was Puerto Rico, fifty two Haiti, fifty three; The Virgin Island Group, fifty four The Bahamian Isle Cluster, fifty five Baja California, and fifty six; Quebec). Domestic fiscal camouflage, as well as flat out hogwash, like so many things, was more effective in The West, than in the old world. Cuba had become a US Territory.
      It was speculated that one day, earth's sun would expand, swallow the two nearest planets, dry up the world's oceans, completely incinerate the depleted ozone layer, and make human life above ground impossible. It felt like it had already started. Summers were brutally hot; winters ultra mild. In the twenty first century it was no longer feasible to own a heavy coat in the South.
      A favorite topic on national news was the hypothesis that humankind had warmed the globe per the use of fossil fuels. In schools, pupils were taught that the earth was in a relatively brief period of remission from the Ice Age. Then there's no need for alarm. Eventually, the two will balance out.
      It was once said, 'What goes up, must come down'. That's not always the case. Ian had read that since the inception of 'the bomb', there'd been thousands of atmospheric detonations. Scads of fall out were thrown high up into the biosphere. The world was cloaked by it like volcanic ash. Whatever portion of it 'fell out' gave everyone cancer, the rest rose up, and joined with bands of pre existing radiation. The Van Allen Belts (they were called), acted as a magnification lens. They intensified ultraviolet and infra red light rays. If man had really and truly warmed the globe, it's not been from coal incineration, it's been from the arm's race.
      In world time, it was about six fifteen on a May nineteen fifty eight morn when the end started. The first of three Argosian, triple stage rocket vehicles was fired from a tip top secret submarine (one of nine vessels in a hush hush clandestine task force numbered eighty eight) somewhere in the South Atlantic, into the magnetic field about the earth. State physicists said the tests were to check the Van Allen Belts for heat content. If the sash wern't hot before the trio of one point seven kiloton warheads went off, the first a hundred miles off the ground, they dam' sure were after the second one did a hundred and eighty two miles up, and the third did two hundred and seventy eight miles above that.
     After the third h-bomb went off, an artificial aurora borealis lit up the Atlantic Theatre like a cinema. That was why it felt hot all the time. The girthen Van Allen terra firmic cummerbunds were still so hot they 'caused solar rays to bake the earth. That was also why people's skin wore out quicker, suntans were no longer recommended, and every kid was taught to wear a hat outdoors as soon as he (or she) could walk. The time had come for star power. Roofs on structures and cars were festooned with collectors. Fields and deserts were covered with them.
      Governments started to test nukes before anybody fully understood electromotive forces. Some were colossal blunders. The first French test (on a barge in Polynesia, in nineteen sixty) threw thousands of fish and clams high into the air, then dropped them back onto land where the carci decomposed for weeks. The first true earthbound test of an H bomb (code named Mike, in nineteen fifty two, not only vaporized an island, it gouged out tons of white coral, discolored the sky when the blast reacted with the hydrogen in the air, then rained blonde coral chunks hundreds of miles around.
      The pop was so much stronger than anticipated, monitor ships thirty miles away were almost rolled over in the tidal wave Mike created. A group of technicians in a bunker close by were stuck in there for a week 'til the navy came and cut them out. The heat spot welded the steel doors shut. The rescuers would have come sooner, but the ground still sizzled so it woulda' melted their nuclear galoshes.
      At Trinity, the first atomic explosion the current occupants of this world know of, the famed Yankee airman who flew the Mitchell bombers from the Wasp (and was over Tokyo less than a minute, inflicted only slight physical damage there, but boosted US morale greatly), was knocked off his feet by the blast. Not many people know that.
      The Americans put Gamma bombs in high altitude balloons during theirs and Russia's testing moratorium lapses in the nineteen fifties, and exploded them at differing heights, even firing five thermonuclear payloads into space to see how they'd blow up in a cold vacuum in the early nineteen sixties.
      At least one went off on the pad at Christmas Island, and the high explosives at both ends of a short cannon barrel designed to shoot the enriched Uranium projectile on one side, into the Plutonium sphere (the two substances would ideally have impacted in the middle of the exotic steel alloy tube, at which point critical mass would have been a certainty) on the other fired, but did'n create a yield. It did, however, create one hellatious mess. Both of the former superpowers were purported now to have a doomsday hundred megaton device. If they either ever get backshot, and can still drag themselves to the button, it's "Goodbye everybody, we gotta' go. The atmosphere is gonna' go bye bye now". That, would be 'a big bang'. Hydrogen molecules in space contained two atoms apiece. Here, they had one. If the ionospheric envelope were punctured, and a significant amount of air drawn into space, there would be a massive reaction as warm, single atomed molecules rapidly sublimed directly into frozen, dual atomed molecular structures. The result would prob'ly pull more air away from earth, and continue the chain reaction.
      The contemporary entertainment industry has had a lotta' jabs taken at it for violent movies. Ian watched three old (circa nineteen fifty) films with a western theme the preceding weekend. In two of them, there were suicides. In all of them, positive values like murder, assault and/or battery, alcohol abuse, whoremongering, and legal misconduct took place. Which came first; the chicken, or the egg? Does olden cinematic art imitate modern life, or does present day life imitate past art?
      In the nineteen sixties, a weekly television serial about an ultramodern nuclear submarine was set in the nineteen eighties. No one could imagine a score of annum into the murky future, it was just too fantastic. In this brave new world, with the exception of a few diesel electric trainers, all submarines are nuclear.
      It is the twenty first century. Man has mapped the deoxyribonucleic ladder. Genetics is popularly regarded as a non spiritual religion. To 'Play god', some anti-clone zealots called it.
      Some con lifers said, "God did'n create man, man created god". Ian thought there must be a god. Everyone had a couple of questions they can't figure the answer to (his were, 'Do atoms within a molecule exercise any gravity on the other atoms therein?' after all, when the moon was between the earth and the sun, their combined gravitational pull raised mid oceanic sea levels about thirty five feet, or, 'Does an atom's nucleus hold its electrons, protons, or any other subatomic particles in orbit magnetically?') To any gospel's devotee, anything not known or understood by science was attributed to, 'the power of god'. For the pious, there were no unknowns. Some sexists (chauvanists and feminists), had an eternal heated debate over what gender god was. If everyone was their own god, as some theist agnostics purport, god was the same sex as the beholder.
      Einstein said some abstract quote like, "If god created this universe, god may not have had a choice". There may have been such a collective concentration of energy, or a growing mass that could potentially overwhelm god, god had to detonate it to avoid an uncontrolled event. It could be that god had only limited influence in earthly affairs.
      'Well, I dunno', he thot. The astronomical community thinks The Big Bang of creation happened about twenty billion years ago, and The Earth is only four and a half billion years old. Spacists conjecture the age of The Milky Way Galaxy to be about ten billion years.
      'It's like a bonfire', Ian thought. 'Whoever ignites it has no control over how it burns'. Scientists have traced the evolution of the Big Bang back to a billionth of a second after the explosion. Maybe god was that billionth of a second, and triggered the blast. It coulda' been that god was extraterrestrial, instead of ecclesiastical.
      Spatial research had found what they presumed was the eleventh planet. The ninth, Pluto, some said, was actually a frozen comet two hundred twenty miles wide. The tenth, Poseidon, was labeled likewise by the same crowd, but smaller, only two hundred miles wide. Both were surmised by leftist stargazers to have came from an enormous Hydrogenated Storage Cloud, home to hundreds of billions of comets. The state's astronomers had never seen the eleventh celestial body. They had only seen a strong gravity's effect on Pluto, Poseidon, and passing cometoids, so assumed number eleven was out there. The sun holds Earth in its pull from ninety three million miles away. The moon is a couple hundred thousand miles away. Magnetism is a powerful thing. The astronomical left cited as an example of the right wing fosea's (Federal Outer Space Exploration Agency's) ineptitude the fact that only two of six recent multi hundred million credit satellites to Saturn returned any data. One was known to have passed the place up. One crashed into it because some peckerheaded programmer neglected to convert miles to kilometers.
      'Oh sure', Ian thought, 'we've cloned a got'dam' goat'. The news of the success overshadowed the fact that there were over a dozen failures before. There were already ethical concerns about human clones. If it ever happened, it'd be in the private sector. A lot more research and development was going to have to be done before a person could be positionally duplicated. It would be so expensive, only the wealthy could afford it.
      A potentially valuable scientific endeavor in progress was research into deadly snake and insect venoms that work on the central nervous system. A way of treating neuromuscular diseases might emerge from the study. If it could be determined how agents in the toxins affect the CNS, then perhaps neural diseases could be treated, prevented, or damage undone. There already is a super anticoagulant that'll reverse the effects of a CVA [(cerebrovascular accident) medical jargon for stroke] if administered shortly after the event. Science has blazed trails into hitherto unknown medical wilderness.
      All humans lucky enough to have gotten them all, have forty six chromosomes arranged in twenty three pairs. If one dud'n, they're gonna' have a downed typen syndrome, or sump'm like one. Ian's brother had a downic affliction. There was prob'ly not a sweeter guy to be found, anywhere.
      To chromosomally map a disease gene by the method of analytical linkage, the location was used to copy the gene. Geneticists started out with known gene proteins, then used the product's amino acid to sequentially isolate the gene.
      Two mandates must be present in order for the process to work: satisfactory DNA markers, and enough subjects sharing a common ancestry to link lineages. One drop of blood contains millions of DNA strands.
      The phrase, 'Too many chiefs, and not enough indians" was never as true anywhere as it was at Genelab, where he worked. He was a senior technician there. The place relied heavily on Federal Funding.
      A government stooge named Larry dropped by about every other day to monitor the works. Him and Ian were on a first name basis, but wern't what could be called close friends.
      Larry had approached him the day before yesterday and glanced around furtively, then gave him a vial of scarlet fluid. "Can you analyze this for me? And tell me if it can be replicated?"
      Ian had said yes to keep the peace. He had to get along with Larry. Larry could be considered one of the bosses, and it was wise to tighten up whenever an occupational superior was around. He was older than Ian.
      Part of the key to get along with older folks was linguistic. The proper terminology made all the difference in the world. Never use any modern terms. Use only words that were well worn. A bar was a 'speakeasy'. A robot was a 'mechanical man'. Cigarettes made from tobacco were 'nails', or to ex dopers: 'squares'. A brothel was a 'nunnery', or a 'henhouse'. Whores were 'Jezebels'. Cars were 'flivvers'. Grain alcohol was 'demon rum'. One who was inebriated was 'rum dumb'. A flashy set of clothes, especially if accompanied by a hat, was a 'zoot suit'. A traitor was a 'fifth columnist'. Binoculars were 'spyglasses'. There were many, many more.
      In the nineteen eighties, researchers took venemous samples from a large South American Family, and identified a late in life onset autosomnal neurological malady abbreviated OCPA (olivopontocerebellar atrophy). Linkage of the disorder was found in the fourth cranial ventricular subregion of the fifth chromosomic pair.
      The genetic marker for OCPA was cloned in the nineteen nineties. The frequency, or precise location of it is common knowledge in the brave, new twenty first century. The data greatly simplified presymptomatic examination by the specification of a certain sequenced DNA subregion. It was hoped that the discovery would enable science to find the function of the gene, and develop appropriate therapy from it.     
      The preliminary tests Ian was conducting on Larry's sample wern't giving usable, reproducable results. Though the stuff looked like blood, it would'n separate into plasmatic and corpuscular segments like blood.
      The next time Ian saw him, Larry asked, "How is that specimen I gave you testing out?"
      "Inconclusive. Can you get more of it? I'm about to use it up just trying to identify it".
      "It is blood, id'n it?"
      "Yes". Larry was assuming the look of a hunted animal.
      "Is it mammalian, or reptile?"
      "I don't know".
      "You don't know?! You collected it, did'n you?"
      "Well, yes and no. It was given to me. I'll see if I can get more".
      "Ask whoever got it what the hell it came from".
      "OK", and Larry left hurriedly.
Ian opened the microcentrifuge and retrieved the sample he'd put in first thing that morning. It had spun for an hour, then sat for an hour and a half. He was surprised to see it had'n separated. He had hoped the prolonged centrifugal exposure woulda' divided red and white cells, or at least partitioned both from albumin serum. DNA was in the nuclei of cellular structures. If he could get a group of cells, he might be able to extract DNA from it. He held the tube up to the light. It was a uniform crimson throughout.
      Ian put a drop into an ADT (atomic data turnstile) chamber to see how many carbon atoms per molecule it had. It might tell him something, and anything would be more than he knew, which was zilch. All life in this universe was carbon based. He was surprised therefore, at the conclusion of the test, to read zero. He first thought the machine was mucked up, or he'd not conducted the test right, so he carefully repeated it. It still came back nothing.
      The stuff was not even blood. What was it then? Food coloring, or red tempera paint? Even those woulda' had some carbon in 'em. If this was Larry's idea of a practical joke, it was a piss poor one.
      Right then, a telephone close at hand rang. Ian picked it up automatically, heard the receptionist's greeting, and subsequently, Larry's voice. He broke in and demanded, "What the hell is this you've given me?"
      "That's what I was calling you for. A colleague gave it to me. I just spoke to him on the phone".
      "He said it came from a statue in a church. It was a figure of Jesus on the cross. It began dripping red tears down its cheeks, and he collected a sampling. What is it?"
      "I don't know what it is, but I know what it id'n. It id'n of this world. Everything, organic and molecular, we know of is rooted in carbon. This stuff has no carbon in it".
      "So, what's your best guess?"
      "I had'n got a clue. Let me try something, and I'll get back to you".
      Ian put a drop of the fluid in the spectrometer, and started it. It would burn it, and photographically match the carbeurized flame's color spectrum with known combustions, and read out what the chief chemical component was.
      It came back as Silicone. It could'n be blood then. Anything with blood like that'd hafta' breathe methane, or one of the butyl gases, if it breathed at all. It would eat others of its kind, and defecate a conglomerated sandstone. 'Think!', he commanded himself.
     'What could it be? a well crafted hoax? If so, why? Who would benefit from it? What if it weren't a gag?'
      The replication of the goat had been accomplished by thawing a frozen sperm and egg, fertilizing the thawed ovum with the defrosted seed, and when cellular mitosis began it was implanted in the embryo in an adult goat. It is said all animals are female before birth, a hormonic addition at the right time changes some girls into guys. Joe Mengele said if anything from a male (a microscopic piece of fingernail, a microsized snippet of hair, a saliva or blood cell) is put into an ovum, it will produce an exact copy of the donor.
Her mother and father had been nuclear physicists that stood at the rail on the deck of a warship in nineteen fifty two. Both wore eye protecting goggles to view the opening act of fusion armegeddon. The filter lens protected their eyes, but electromotive beams, synthetic neutrinos, microwaves, and more passed through his testes, plus her ovaries.
     Their daughter was born the following year. In retrospect, she should have been called "Eve", but was instead named Mary. Mary was her first name. Sophia was her middle name. The male god 'Yaaway' once had a female counterpart (many deities in world dogmas have wives, for example Mrs. Shiva, wife of an evil Hindic devil) named 'Sophia', but the male supremacists whose writs have survived the ravages of time phased her out.
      Mary Sophia, like most young people thrust into this world, was always on the lookout for any form of money, easy or hard, dirty or clean, it did'nt matter, as long as it could be spent. It was welcome news to her, hearing she could sell her eggs. There were drugs one could take, kinda' like steroids, that would stimulate her ovaries, and make her body manufacture increased numbers of them.
      There were some of these medications the Food and Drug Commission would'n approve, partially because of mental, stressful, lysergic/anxietic side effects, but, rumor had it, were really effective. Maria had always been the type of gal who believed, 'If one is good, then two is great'. She could get around the need for a prescription. Any pill could be gotten on the black market. Stress and anxiety were part of an impoverished lifestyle. If someone can't pay their bills, companies come repo their stuff. The result is stress. She checked into the matter, and got two kinds of oval stimulant; one called 'Hedron', the other 'Cantron' They ought to work better together than either did alone.
      It was like taking LSD, or Biological Tourette's Syndrome. She took one every morning, then the other every night.
      The day she went in to have the ovi harvested she was jittery as a street walker in church. She went to the clinic, and was given a questionaire. In reply to the query concerning her intake of any drugs, she listed only 'Loprun' (as her girlfriend told her to). She was ushered into a room, told to disrobe, given a skimpy blue robe to wear, instructed to lie on a paper cladden table, and put her feet into the stirrups.
      A man wearing a pair of spectacles with lights on them (they looked to her like those X-ray glasses advertised long ago in comic books), and a nametag with Dr. Keith on it came in. He probed her with a scalpula, then slid what he reaped into a test tube. He heaved a great sigh as if he'd been holding his breath, and left the room. She got dressed, and waited in an adjacent anteroom. A phone rang, and she heard her name called. She went up to the window, signed two forms, and was given an envelope.
     Not being bashful, she tore it open right then and perused the contents. Her eyes lit up, and she could envision a sparkling future as an egg salesgirl. She thought, 'This will pay the rent a few months', then went to her bank.
      The Food and Drug Commission ordered Loprun off the market the next week. Maria's eggs went into cryogenic storage but were separated and marked 'hold'.
Ian and Keith (those who knew him called him by his last name) had known one another for decades. The more they drank, the less insane the idea sounded. Put a speck of the unidentified substance in a tainted egg. Most likely, nothing would come of it.
      The two scientists were having a few long overdue bitters at a pub called, 'Kelly's Stop' and had started to talk about it. First Ian had told him a joke: "A group of doctors from various hospitals were unwinding at a bar one evening, and were discussing cases. One said, "We got a guy in today that has The Bubonic Plague, Typhus, and Tetanus. It looks pretty grim." Another asked him, "What course of therapy are y'all pursuing?"
      The first doctor said, "Right now we have him on a special diet".
      "Which is?" asked the second doctor.
      "Pizza and pancakes", was the reply.
      "Strange choice. How did you arrive at that selection?"
      "It's the only thing we could get under the door", was the tongue in cheek reply.
      So, it was decided Ian would bring a sample of the mystery fluid by the next day, and they'd try to inseminate a contaminated egg with a particle of the vermillion unknown.
      When Ian came by the next day, Doctor Keith put on his microluminescent glasses, took the eggs out of the chamber with rubber gloves, and isolated one into a petri dish. Technically, these ovum did'n exist. He'd been told to destroy them. He took a syringe with a needle smaller than the diameter of a human hair, and injected a fractal speck of Ian's serous enigma into it. To his astonishment, mitosis began at once, but instead of one cell going into two, then the two becoming four; as soon as he introduced it, the ameoba became three cells, and split almost immediately into nine, then, just as rapidly: twenty seven.
      Doctor Keith put the dish back into cryogenic storage. It was three hundred degrees below zero in there. The tritosis would surely suspend, then they could retrieve it, and implant it in a proper embiotic receptacle. If it died, he could start over. "What the hell is that?' he asked Ian.
      "Beats me. I thought if we could find out anything about it, that would be more than I knew before. It took right away, eh?"
      "Right away, if not sooner, and split three ways".
      "What was that egg cell tainted with?"
      "A drug called Loprun. FDC just pulled the plug on it. Said it might cause chronic pelvic pain or something".
      In some areas of the known universe, it's absolute zero, about four hundred and sixty degrees below zero. Unbeknownst to either man, the liquid nitrogen chamber was a perfect womb for the life they'd just begun. It grew exponentially within the frigid depths.
      After both men were gone, their aberrant embryo came out of its dish (it could move by then: the twenty seven cells became eighty one, then a hundred'n sixty two...) and ingested the remaining tainted Cantonese/Hedronese hybrid eggs, then slipped back into it's vessel to rest and grow. Later, the protozoa oozed enzymes into its dish, which dissolved, and was absorbed by it. It rested, then crawled onto another petri, ate the top, rolled in, and consumed it's contents.
     When Doctor Keith came in the next morning, he looked in the cooler, and was floored.
     The thing in the dish was macroscopic. He could see it without any optical aids. It was the size of an apple. He called Ian. "You need to come over here, now! Don't ask, you'll see when you get here! Hurry!"
      By the time Ian got there, Doctor Keith had a magnifier set up so he could look at the thing. "This thing absorbed those other tainted eggs last night, and maybe a petri glass."
      Ian was stunned, so taken aback he could'n speak.
      "Did you hear me gotdammit'? This thing is not only viable where nothing should be active, it's taking nutrition! I say we kill it."
      "Kill the biggest find of all time? Possibly the first silicon base life form mankind has ever seen! Are you mad, man?"
      "No, I'm not. Are you?"
      "We could win The Nobel Prize here!"
      "We could find sump'm we don't wanna, too. What does it profit a man to gain anything if he loses himself?"
      "Where'd you hear that? Look! It's reacting to light!"
      And it was. The magnifier's lens acted like a prism around its concave rim, and refracted light onto the thing. It augmented before their eyes
      "It's photosynthesis!" Ian said. He could see an impromptu rainbow formed through the lens. The thing was feeding off but one colored band of light. It was leaching the strip matching the color of the carbeaurized silicone.
      "If we don't kill it now, we may not get another chance, Ian."
      Command sucks. The senior officer has to be loud, obnoxious, and unfriendly. He, or she must do somethings a parent must do, like act, and/or, think on their feet. If a parent or an officer dud'n know something when said knowledge is needed, until they find out it may behoove them to act like they know.
      A really good one lives to fight another day. "You got any matches?" Ian asked as he walked to a nearby fire alarm and tripped it.
      "Yeah, why? This ain't the time for a leisurely smoke, Ian. God only knows how much time we got."
      "Shut up and listen very close. Turn off this light, set this mucking desk afire, lock the door on your way out, and meet me outside. I got to go make sure everybody gets outa' here. Then we're gonna' go get commode hugging drunk at Kelly's Stop and see how we can duplicate this in a controlled setting." He took out his lighter and lit a stack of papers that overhung his side of the desk. "See? It's easy as lighting a bonfire".
     Then he left to assist in the evacuation. Doctor Keith lit his side of the desk, then left the office, locked the door behind him, and went outside. He found the valve that controlled the sprinkler water supply on the buildment's exterior and shut it off. No one would want this fire out. It's been said that a bomb even stronger than the H bomb can be made with antimatter. Antimatter dud'n occur here naturally. Black holes are full of it. Some of the only antimatter synthesized in this solar system came about in the twentieth century when an eight hundred pound , instrument packed probe was dropped into Jovian airspace from a Gallionic Craft. A parachute slowed its descent. It sent data back until it was smashed, then continued to fall, and be crushed, first into antimatter, then incandescency.
      Everyone got not only out of the building before the conflagration, but in their cars and off a few blocks, which was good. An explosion like the world had never known, and that spared the witnesses to it only by its small scale, razed the facility to the ground.

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