Across The Universe

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


Chapter 4 (v.1) - 4

Submitted: May 20, 2018

Reads: 97

A A A | A A A

Submitted: May 20, 2018



The building that they were going to be working out of belong to Mr. Ziemianin, a man who Darian claimed was richer than his own good.  The rest of the team advised her to keep her mouth shut about her beliefs, that included her thoughts on distribution of wealth.


Driving up to the tower, Adrian noticed that they were the last to arrive, the other three milling about the other two cars restlessly, lab equipment visible through their back windows.


"You weren't let in?"  Adrian asked, getting out of his car.


Madeline shrugged, her perpetual frown deepening.  "We thought it would be best if we all went up together," she said, and Darian nodded sagely.


"He is a disturbing man," Darian said, opening the back end of Adrian's car and pulling out a heavy box.


"Who is funding us," Adrian reminded her, then looked at the rest of them.  "No more of this.  We probably won't even see him most days, so it-"  He cut himself off as they saw  Mr. Ziemianin walking down the steps towards them, his arms outstretched, his too-large grin fixed in place as if wires had been laced through his teeth and tied behind his head.  That smile amongst a thousand different quirks left him uncanny to the people he interacted with, making them stay in a perpetual state of unease.


"It is time!"  He said too loudly, making Charlie flinch and Sarah take a step back, a hand clamped to her chest.Mr. Ziemianin looked them over, that wretched grin not budging, his hands on his hips.  "I kept waiting for this day to arrive... it almost feels like it shouldn't be the right day!"


"Well, we're lucky that it is," Charlie said awkwardly, going over to Madeline's car to get some more things out of it.  "We'll just set up shop and-"


"Then we'll have brunch,"  Mr. Ziemianin declared.  "It will be a good way to start this whole business."


There was a moment of hesitation, then the rest of them started shuffling and coughing, talking about getting a jump on work, but  Mr. Ziemianin wasn't having it.  "Leave the boxes in the lobby, security will take it up to the labs," he said, tossing an arm across Adrian's shoulders, leading him back to the building.


Later on, Darian told him that she could see who tense he was, walking up those stairs with  Mr. Ziemianin.


Working together, the other four brought the boxes to the building, hesitantly handing them off.  Sarah repeatedly stated that she would rather take the boxes up herself, but she was promptly ignored.


With nothing else to stop them, they went over to the bodyguard who was standing by the bank of elevators.  Without a word, he hit a button and the closest elevator opened, and he stepped inside, waiting silently for them to join him.


Charlie took Darian's hand, giving it a squeeze as they stepped past the doors, and the bodyguard inserted a key-card instead of pushing a button.  When the car started moving upwards, Darian crushed Charlie's hand.


The ride was quick, and the doors opened on the scene of  Mr. Ziemianin walking Adrian around the vast and empty room, talking loudly about the flaws of man.


"It just isn't a good design,"  Mr. Ziemianin went on, clapping Adrian's shoulder.  "I mean, the whole upright thing is not conducive to any forward mobility."


"That's because we needed to climb trees," Madeline told him, walking towards the two men.  "That's why we have toes instead of hooves."


"True, but when man advanced, he was more ground-dwelling,"  Mr. Ziemianin argued, holding up a finger.


"And human's had tools and weapons at that time," Madeline rejoined.  She clasped her hands in front of her and tipped her head to the side, she thought it was not the smartest thing to argue with human biologist with an extensive background in forensic anthropology.  "They didn't need to run as much because they were transitioning from prey to predator."


Mr. Ziemianin considered her challenge and shrugged.  "But I'll still maintain that the human is a severely flawed creature," he assured her.  "That's why your work is so important; you are going to make the perfect person."


"Perfection is an illusion," Darian stated, unable to stop herself.  "There will always be flaws and undesirable traits."


Holding up a hand, Mr. Ziemianin gestured to her.  "Then you must continue your experiements until you find the perfect person."


Charlie, who had started the whole mess with Adrian, shared a look with his friend, wondering if somehow they had misrepresented themselves to the man.  It was one thing to try to figure out how to make someone breathe in a highly nitrogen atmosphere and adapt to any other challenges a being might face, it was another to completely redesign a human being.


As Mr. Ziemianin moved towards the temporary dining room, Adrian shrugged at them, following their benefactor into the next room.


A huge table made of transparent polysilien dominated the grey-white room, reflecting strange images from the floor to ceiling, wall to wall window that looked out on the combination of the sea and the city.


Darian stumbled, and Sarah took her arm.  "Don't look out the window, look into the room," Sarah reminded her, and gave her a smile.  "Good thing we're not sending you to space, huh?"


"I used to be terrified that they were going to just put me on a rocket, when I was a small child," Darian half-laughed, but her nervousness was still apparent.


"Is there a problem?"  Mr. Ziemianin asked, noticing that they were slowly advancing on the table.


Madeline gestured to the other two women.  "Darian is terrified of heights," she explained, and Mr. Ziemianin simply nodded, making no move to have the window darkened or hidden.


They sat at the bare table, glancing at the each other nonplussed.  They thought the business end of the bargain had been completed, so why were they here?  They wanted to get to work, they had things to put on paper, rats to organize, and a proto-synthesis to argue over.


As soon as the last person sat, a rush of people came into the room, setting plates and cutlery in front of them.  Clear water pitchers were deposited on the table, and the rush of people disappeared as suddenly as they arrived.


"If I understand it correctly, at least one of you is a vegetarian, so it is all plant-based," Mr. Ziemianin said, and Darian frowned at Adrian.  She was the vegetarian, and she was wondering if he had told Mr. Ziemianin that, for whatever reason.  He hadn't, and he felt it was worrying that the man knew that.


Tentatively, Charlie took a nibble and nodded slowly.  "Very nice," he mumbled.


"Another reason to create new humans is the intersectionality that we face together as a race," Mr. Ziemianin said, then laughed.  "I mean, look at this table!"  He waved his fork and pointed it at each person.  "You're a German," he pointed at Adrian.  "You're a Scot," he pointed at Charlie.  "You're French," he pointed at Madeline.


"Congolese," She corrected tightly, but Mr. Ziemianin ignored her.


"You're Is-" he continued, and Sarah cut him off.


"Palestinian," she said in a clipped voice, her hands in her lap.


The fork swung towards Darian.  "And you... were raised in Italy."


She arched her brows.  "I was born there, too," she said, the corner of her mouth curling up momentarily.


Mr. Ziemianin nodded as if she had said something very thought provoking.  "But, you see, when there is nationalism, there's patriotism, which leads to a greater divide between people," he said, around a mouthful of something Adrian presumed was supposed to taste like beef.  It tasted like the peculiar mushroom burgers that Darian occasionally bought, that was all he knew.


"If there is one person who has no nation, no history of violence or genocide, the world can unite," Mr. Ziemianin continued, and Charlie kicked Adrian under the table.  It had been something they had spoken about before, but not in the too hopeful or too positive tone Ziemianin was using.  If there was a person who was not human, they had no doubt that the only unity it would bring the world was to destroy this new thing.


"Our intersectionality, as you call it," Madeline said, dabbing at her lips with a napkin, "it maybe what has brought our vision together.  We have different histories, yeah?  Well, we also have different cultures which gives us all a unique view on, say, 'creation', on what can and should be done in the pursuit of the future."


"Philosophy never stopped a war," Ziemianin said, his tone slightly patronizing.


Darian shoved half her food in her mouth, trying to speed this along.  She was certain that it wasn't just her opinion of their benefactor that was dropping.


"Neither has science," Adrian countered.


Charlie pointed at him.  "But war has advanced science," he pointed out, changing the subject.  "Without war, we would never have detergent or Ovaltine."


"Very important things," Sarah said, nodding sagely, and Madeline stuck her elbow in Sarah's ribs.


Faster than was healthy or safe, they scarfed back the meal, taking, at tops, four minutes to knock it all down, drowning the food with a water to unclog their throats.


"That was a lovely meal," Adrian said enthusiastically, standing up.


Ziemianin looked dazed, as if he was thinking that this was the way all scientists must eat.  Either that, or he was mildly traumatized by seeing them eat like a bunch of ravening lions who were half-starved.  "Well, what about dessert?"


There was a dissonance as they spoke over themselves.  "I'm diabetic!"  "I don't like sweet things."  "We don't really have the time."  "I think I should get to work, don't you?"  "I don't want any."  They glanced at each other, looking like guilty children.


Ziemianin looked confused for a moment, before holding up his hand.  "Alright, I won't hold you up," he said, and Adrian quietly sighed with relief.  "But Mr. Miller is a diabetic?  I'll put that in the file."


Silently they went to the bank of elevators, trying not to rush.  Without a word, they went down to the lab, and waited until the door was shut tight behind them before exploding.  "What the hell was that?!"  "He has files on us?"  "We might have fucked up, Ari."  "Do you think he bugged the lab?"  The last one was Darian, and they all looked at her like she was insane, all the while hoping that it was a paranoid thought, rather than a valid concern.


"I'm going to put on some music," Adrian said casually, walking across the lab.  Sarah help up her notebook.  'Talk outside of work.' it said, and they nodded, not wanting to risk the fact that Darian might not be paranoid.


"Help me set up rat central," Charlie said, nudging Madeline, who sighed.


"I hate rats," she complained, following him into the adjoining room.


"Don't worry, a lot of them will probably die," Charlie assured her.


"Oh!"  Sarah and Darian whined in chorus, they're love of animals being their greatest downfall as scientists.


"They will!"  Charlie said to be cruel.


As Adrian handed a box to Darian, Sarah poked him in the arm.  "Y'know, I just realized something," she said, pointing from one to the other, and they waited for the shoe to drop.  "Your names are the same, just the A and the D are in opposite.  Did you ever notice?"


"I never thought about it," Darian told her, walking towards Rat Central.


"Well, now I am, and it's hard to ignore it," she said, following Darian.  "I think I'll call you Daisy from now on."  She said, slinging her arm across the other woman's shoulders.


"Why?"  Darian asked, taking slats out of the box and setting them on the platform for Rat Central.


"Because it's easier to say," Sarah stated simply, and Darian, now Daisy, couldn't argue with that logic.


"The rats are getting restless," Adrian said, sliding past Charlie, who was crouched on the floor, trying to put a wall in place.  "Let's get this together so we can actually begin."


Rat Central was eight feet square, and it would be standing in the middle of the room at waist height.  Little pillars dotted the inside of the run so that polysilien slates could be placed so they could connect the pillars, sectioning off what ever space was required for either separation or reducing space given.


Once the walls were put up, the run was divided into three for the two test groups and the control, then the rats were put in it, some of them pushing up against the polysilien to try and get at the ones they were separated from, looking like torn apart families.


Snapping the respective lids shut, they were ready to move on.


Since Daisy and Charlie were the microbiologists, they spent the majority of the day trying to adjust the code of rat genome to Sarah's specifications.


After about four hours Sarah snapped, the miscommunications getting to her.  "Just let me do that!"  She barked, and Daisy crossed her arms, leaning so she blocked Sarah's reach.


"Since when do you have experience splicing nucleosome?"  She demanded.  "As far as I'm aware you only have examined them on screen and paper."


"Ladies," Madeline said in a tired voice, laying her head on her desk while Adrian tossed a ball into the air and caught it.  Their work wouldn't really come into play until after they began testing, but it seemed like a good idea to stick around until they reached that point.


"Since when have you?"  Sarah asked, and Charlie dangled his head off the back of his chair.


"Since it's my job as a gene-cutter," he said in a bored voice, hooking his thumb at Daisy, "and since she does the same thing to infected human cells to deactivate viruses and the like.  Can we continue?"


Reluctantly, Sarah agreed, and it was five hours after quitting time before they realized it was no longer the afternoon, and they were minutes from pulling together the first proto-synthesis.


"We should probably go home," Madeline said, glancing at the rest of them, most wouldn't meet her gaze.


"Yeah," Adrian agreed, looking at Charlie, who slouched in his seat.


"It'll only be ten--fifteen minutes," he said, holding up a hand.  "Half an hour at the absolute most."


"I'm so fucking tired," Sarah said, rubbing her eyes.


"I don't like to leave work unfinished, especially when we're so close to results," Daisy said, and they looked at each other again.


"If it's only a few minutes, I don't see a problem," Madeline said, shrugging.  "I mean, it's not going to make a huge difference."


Sarah swallowed.  "If it's what everyone else wants," she remarked, and they started grinning like idiots.  Everyone knew that no one was going anywhere until they had the serum up and as close to perfect as possible.


"What the hell," Adrian said, sighing, and got up to lean on Charlie's chair, watching as the final pieces of histone protein cores were sealed together.


It was after two in the morning when the misused vaccination was done, the altered rat genome floating in the serum unseen.  "Ta-da!"  Charlie sang out, holding out the vial for them to see.


"It can't be this easy," Madeline said, shaking her head as she took it from him.


Daisy tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.  "We could give it to them now," she suggested, biting her lip.  "See in the morning how it effects them?"


"We said we would make two proto-synthesises," Adrian reminded her.  "It makes more sense to have them both ready before doing the test, that way we can see how they affect them and how quickly."


"There are cameras trained on them with a timestamp," Sarah pointed out.  "Compare the hours.  It makes sense to get it in them as soon as possible because we don't want to risk having the serum corrupting itself."


Looking at each of their faces, Adrian knew he was outvoted, so he submitted.  Besides, who was he fooling, pretending he didn't want to see the results.


The serum infected four mice, and they seemed to be relatively unaffected after the shots.  Reluctantly, they left the lab, turning off the light as they went, looking back at Rat Central, as if the results would suddenly become apparent.


It was raining outside, and they rushed to their cars, waving as they parted, yelling that they would see each other the next day.


Driving for a few moments in silence, Adrian noticed how loud their breathing seemed in the close space.  He knew they were both dying to go over the whole thing until they were sick of it, but they didn't want to get tired of it, so they were silent.


"Pull over," Daisy said after a few minutes.




"I said, pull over," Daisy repeated, and he did so, wondering if she had seen something he hadn't.  Daisy threw herself at him, kissing his passionately, holding him tight against her.  After a minute or two she pulled back, panting as she grinned at him.


Adrian brushed damp hair off her forehead, and she bit her lip, making him want to kiss her.  He pulled her close, brushing his mouth over hers.  After a long time of making out like a couple of teenagers, Daisy crawled off his lap and gestured for him to drive on.


"Thank you," she said, and he couldn't help but laugh.

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