Growgetics™

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


This is a short story about a genetic research experiment that spins out of control after an ex employee uses the vaccine on one of his farm animals.

Submitted: July 30, 2018

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Submitted: July 30, 2018

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Growgetics

 

by

 

Dean Nordt

 

DNA manipulation and genetic analysis was all the rage.  Companies were making big bucks for all kinds of services using your DNA, and altering others.  Sickness and disease was prevented for many people. Terrific breakthroughs were happening, and horrible possibilities were discovered.

 

 I worked for Growgetics, a company in Virginia that experimented in genetic altering to improve agriculture.  We were a satellite laboratory stationed in Montana. Our job was was to find a way to grow larger livestock.

Anytime you are working with genetics and DNA as a business, you have to submit all test result documentation to the Federal Government for safety reasons and other bureaucracy.

 

The government was beginning to take notice in the lab results that we had recently submitted.  Not only was our 2nd Level Request to try the vaccine in cattle denied, Genetics headquarters in Virginia was under investigation for “improprieties.”

 

That was all we knew.  



 

Billings, Montana

 

Our boss called us all over to the open area in the office.  “Just got a call from the big wheel at our Virginia headquarters.  They are catching tremendous heat from the government for our genetic growth program.  The Feds are threatening to close down the entire Growgetics industry if THIS facility is not shut down! Just ours! Apparently, somebody doesn’t like what we have accomplished in our genetic growth experiments. We have to close down operations and be out of this building by the end of the month. It’s over! They are cutting us off.”

 

There are six of us at this satellite genetic lab facility in Montana.  We each specialize in a particular area of DNA alteration. Growgetics™ is our parent company stationed in Virginia.  They specialize in genetic research. We work for them.


 

Our mission was to create a DNA strand that would genetically alter livestock in such a manner that each offspring would be a little bit bigger than the parent, as to not complicate childbirth.  After the 4th generation, the effects would stop and future offspring would remain at that size. Imagine a cow or pig four times its size. Food sources could double. Plants were being altered the same way at our parent facility in Virginia. Ears of corn the size of watermelons.  Great things were happening.

 

We had recently just completed our animal tests. The results was staggering. Mice became the size of rats. Rats became the size of sheep. I could see why this could scare some people.  But, in a controlled environment this could solve world hunger.

 

The best part about this genetic formula is that you could administer it orally, or by injection.  Once in the bloodstream, the genetic changes slowly occur. This is passed on to the offspring. By the 4th generation,  you will have huge animals.

 

We have not tested cattle or sheep, yet, but are confident that the genetic vaccine would work in all mammals.  Montana would have been the perfect place for our larger livestock. Imagine a cow the size of an elephant. Mind Boggling.

 

We were all stunned at the news that headquarters is ending our research here.

 

“So, now what?”  I asked.

 

“What about our jobs?” asked Mariona.  “What happens to us?”

 

That was the million dollar question!  The room was quiet and all eyes were on our boss.  

 

“You have a choice,” he said.  “Either transfer to our main office in Virginia at a job to be determined, or take a 6 months severance pay and we go our separate ways.”

 

....And just like that, our office was closing down.  Only me and Chu chose to stay. I’m the old man of the outfit and chose to retire on my small 20 acre country farm outside Billings.  Chu plans to look for work here in Billings. He likes it here and didn’t want to move the family. Chu is pretty sharp. He was the DNA genius at our lab.  I made things bigger. Chu made things smarter. Shouldn’t have any problems landing a new job. The rest of the crew would soon be living in Virginia working at Growgetics’™ main headquarters.  It was hard to say goodbye. We had all grown close in the two years we worked together. Hated to see it all come to an end.

 

The next two weeks was packing up files and computers.  Headquarters was sending a truck to relocate everything back to Virginia.  The test rats and mice were eliminated. The lab equipment boxed. All the research papers were put in a secured file.  All the formulas, vaccines and chemicals were put in a secured refrigerator. All except one........ I took one home. I don’t know why.  

 

We all said our goodbyes, and everyone went their separate ways.

 

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I was enjoying retired life on my little country farm.  I missed the cutting edge genetic research, but wouldn’t trade retired life for anything.  Beautiful nearby mountains, wilderness and country living. Life was good.

 

Over time I set up my own little makeshift lab in the old barn on my land.  Mostly stuff for keeping my 6 cows and chickens healthy. Chemicals for my garden and whatnot.

 

I still had that little genetic altering souvenir. Even toyed with the idea of using the growth vaccine on a cow from time to time,.  But, never could get the nerve to do it. Rightly so at that. It would be a matter of time before word got out that I had giant cows on my ranch.  Wouldn’t be too hard to figure out how that happened knowing my history. The government and the media would be all over me. Could get very ugly. I would never do it, but it was fun to daydream about what could have been.

 

That way of thinking changed one day when my grandson, Travis, came to visit me and my wife over Spring Break.  He was 12 and had recently joined the school Farm and Agriculture club. A great program to teach kids about raising farm animals, as well as a chance to earn scholarship money.

 

Travis had signed up to raise a calf. He would be responsible for purchasing a calf that was born in the month of September. His job is to raise the calf for 6 months and show her at the county fair.  Big money and scholarships for champion animals. I was proud of him for taking this on.

 

However, buying and raising a calf is easier said than done.  Calves are darn expensive. Several thousand dollars. When my son, Travis’s dad, called me about this a few months ago, we decided to breed two of my cows.  They would take the best calf back to their small country home in North Idaho. Travis would raise her there and do his best to win some prize money.

 

When Travis arrived he was all over me about adopting a calf.  I took him to the small paddock to see the cows. As planned, two cows were pregnant.  Both due around mid September.

 

“Those two are due in September.  You can have pick of the litter, Travis.”  I said, as we admired the two cows in the field.

 

“What’s that mean, grandpa?”

 

“Well, it means you get to pick the best calf, in this case.”

 

“Thanks, grandpa!  I can’t wait to come back in September to pick one.”

 

Late that night I slipped out into the barn, justifying my plan.  I would give one of the pregnant cows a shot of the genetic growth vaccine.  It’s newborn would be slightly bigger, which is what we want. However, that calf will never reproduce another even bigger calf.  I know how these fairground contests go. The winning cow is always sold and slaughtered. So, the buck stops there and the cow with the genetically altered strain will be no more.

 

 Meantime, my grandson wins enough money to attend a college that we, or his parents could never afford.  I know it’s cheating. But, somehow, I justified it.

 

I gave the vaccine to my favorite brown and white simmental cow.  Her name was Patches. A fine specimen of a cow. The other pregnant girl would not be touched.

 

It was a full moon on a cool summer night in the foothills of Montana.  I shooed the cows out into the paddock for the night. Should there be any adverse reactions to the vaccine, I don’t really want them huddled together.

 

“Good night, everybody.” I said as the cows mozied along.


 

Around mid morning I could hear Travis screaming for me outside.  Looking out the window he was running full steam from the paddock towards the house.  Arms waving and him yelling. It didn’t look like it was for a good thing.

 

“Grandpa!” Travis Yelled running to the porch.  “Grandpa, something killed Patches!”

 

My heart sank.  Had the vaccine gone bad sitting in the fridge that long?  Was there a bad reaction that we had not discovered yet? I felt terrible knowing I probably killed my best heifer trying to cheat.  Justice served.

 

“Grandpa, something attacked patches and killed her!”  Travis was trying not to cry. He was also very scared.

 

“Hold on, Travis, okay, calm down. What’s going on?”

 

“ Patches is in the field and she’s dead.  She’s all cut up. She looks like she got attacked by something.  Blood everywhere, Grandpa!”

 

“Really?!” That was not was I expected to hear.  Any adverse reaction would have been more like a sick cow.  Even if she died, it would not have been noticeable as to how.  This didn’t make sense.

 

“Come on, Travis, let’s go see.” I said.  And off we marched towards the paddock.

 

To my shock and horror, there was Patches, torn to pieces.

 

 “What do you think did this, grandpa?” Travis asked, looking over the carnage.

 

“I think either a bear or a pack of wolves did this, Travis.  I am so sorry. They sleep outside most of the summer. But, we’ve never had any issues like this before.  I’m kind of shocked, to be honest”

 

“What are you going to do, grandpa?”

 

“Well, first I am going to bury what’s left of her.  Then I’m going to call the area game warden and let him know what happened.”  That is just what I did. And with what was left of Patches, I buried the growth vial with her.


 

“What did he say?” Travis asked when I hung up the phone.

 

“The game warden thought it was a pack of wolves.  It was mating season. This is when wolves are the most active and unpredictable.  Apparently, attacks like this happens from time to time in these parts. Just happen to be my time, I guess.”

 

We made the best of the few remaining days of Travis’ visit.  I could tell he was no longer very comfortable being here. Who wouldn’t be after that?  

 

When his Mom and Dad came to pick him up, we all shared the story.  We still had the other pregnant cow and she was doing well. Travis had bonded with her and was excited to return in September.

 

We said our goodbyes and off they went.  Travis came back in September to collect his calf.  She was so cute. He did not place or win any scholarship money that year, but he was hooked.  The next two years he did very well, earning a partial scholarship with more opportunities to come before finishing high school.  

 

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Our little country house south of Billings, Montana doesn’t get the best reception for television. I still enjoy keeping up with the world even though I live far away from it. The internet is my go to source for everything I need for the most part.

 

But, that night the Billings Local News knocked me right out of my comfortable routine.  The main headline story was about a rancher who lost 4 cows in one night to a pack of wolves.  It is very unusual for any predator animal to kill more than one prey at a time. Even pack animals only take down one kill.  This was four! Slaughtered on site.

 

This was not some amatuer rancher like myself.  This cattle ranch was someone’s business. Bigger and a lot more sophisticated.  This particular ranch had those game and sport cameras in several areas for just this very reason.

 

Sure enough, one camera had captured an image.  It was a wolf. A HUGE wolf. That is what all the fuss was about.  An abnormally, huge wolf was captured in the game camera. Four mutilated cows.  A monster wolf.

 

The news hit me like a ton of bricks.  These must have been the offspring of the wolves that killed Patches two years ago.  The vaccine could be taken orally or by injection. She had been injected. They attacked her hours later.  The growth vaccine had spread, but not been absorbed. Any wolf that swallowed tainted flesh and blood could have very well been altered themselves.  It appears that is exactly what happened. God help us, if this is true. God help me, if they connect this disaster back to me. Oh my God!! This is why the Feds had shut us down.

 

In less than a week it was all over the internet.  “Wolfzilla,” they called it. The Billings Local News reported that several ranchers have offered a reward for it’s capture, dead or alive, of course.  What they don’t know, and what I fear, is that there may be more than one. Several more.

 

After a couple of weeks and all the internet naysayers crying,”Hoax!” the wolfzilla thing died down.  I was relieved, but still very worried. Having this all go away forever would be too easy.

 

That night proved my worst fears.  Headline News on T.V., “A family of 5 was found dead and mutilated at a remote campground near Billings, Montana. Two family members are missing and presumed dead.  Another family looking to camp came across the grisly scene. Game wardens have closed camping in the area, and are searching for what they suspect is a grizzly bear, or several bears.”

I should be so lucky if it was a grizzly bear.  What did they mean by “Two family members are missing and presumed dead?”  Must have found body parts from them. All 5 killed from one grizzly? Not seeing it.

 

The internet lit up again on this one.  Theories from a serial killer, to an occult carrying out a sadistic ritual.  Crazy stuff. There are some really strange people out there.

 

Our local television news was all about it as well.  Police, Game Wardens and volunteers were combing the area for the bears and any human remains.  None of the police were commenting, but one volunteer asked by a news reporter offered some chilling news.

 

“Sir, can you tell us what you know, have they found anything?” asked the lady reporter from our local Billings station.

 

“Yes ma’m,” the man answered.  “ They don’t think it was a bear that attacked these people. They say they found a footprint.”  

 

“Really?!?” the surprised reporter asked.  “What do you mean? Was it human? Are the police suspecting foul play?”

 

“Oh, no ma'am.  It was an animal, alright.  I didn’t see it. But, another volunteer who did said it was like a giant wolf print!”

 

“Well,” exclaimed the news lady, “that’s kind of creepy.”  

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My comfortable little retirement has come to a screeching halt.  How could I have been so stupid. What am I going to do? What are they going to do?

 

This was all I could think about over the next two days.  Wondering what to do, what’s going to happen, waiting for the next tragedy.  

 

The doorbell rang.  My wife was in her hobby room crafting who knows what, and we were not expecting company.  Feeling paranoid, I went to the front door.

 

I opened the door to find my old coworker, Chu.  He looked the same, even though I hadn’t seen him in several years.  I had heard he ended up landing a sweet job at some new genetic research facility in Billings.  

 

“Hi, Wesley, I’m Chu.  We used to work together.”

 

“Hi Chu!  I know who you are!  Good to see you. Come in, come in.  How are you?”

 

“Thank you.  I am fine.”

 

“Good to see you, Chu.  Please, have a seat over here.  Can I get you anything to drink?”

 

“No, Thank you.”

 

My heart was pounding.  Has the trail led to me already?  Why is he here? “So, what brings you out here, Chu?”

 

Chu begins, “I suppose you have heard about the family that was killed last week?”

 

“Yes, of course,” I answered.  “A bear, or something I think.”

 

Chu began to open the file he had brought with him.  “It wasn’t a bear, Wess”

 

Chu pulled out several photographs. “The public has not seen these photographs.”

 

The first picture was a night shot of several wolves.  All of them HUGE. There were three in the photograph near a fence.  The wolves were as tall as the top fence rail. They could easily jump over it.  There was another photograph of a paw print. This must have been the one the volunteer had talked about.  Next to the print was a pencil to give it perspective. The pencil was dwarfed by the wolf print.

 

The third photograph was of a large, dead grizzly bear.  It had been torn to pieces. A mangled, bloody carcass of a big bear.  A leg and arm was missing.

 

“Incredible.” I said.  

 

“The FBI believes that these wolves are the result of some sort of genetic hybrid,” Chu continued.  “Our company and Growgetics  are the only facilities that have ever worked with genetic engineering in Montana, so they came to us.”  

 

“Why would they do that?  We never experimented with wolves,” I said.  “Or anything outside our lab, for that matter.”

 

“Not intentionally, anyway.” Chu said, glancing a look at my eyes.  “The Feds came to our genetics company to analyze a blood sample that they said was from one of the wolves.  The grizzly put up a good fight. The forensic team found blood and tissue on the bear’s claws. I ran the DNA analysis.  It’s an exact match of the Growgetics™ DNA that we designed, Wess. It’s our genetic alteration.”

 

“Are you sure, Chu?”

 

“Yes!  I saved all my documentation of our work at Growgetics™.  I compared the building block section of the wolf’s DNA strand to the three-generation building block that we designed. It’s a perfect match, Wess.”

 

“How?” Chu.  “How could this happen?  What do we do?”

 

It was hard to lie through my teeth at the catastrophe that I had caused.  I felt like such a coward. To come clean and admit that I started this mess 3 years ago when I injected patches would be a nightmare.  I deserved it, but not my wife. Emma did not deserve the hell this would bring down on her. No, Until they can prove it, “Denial,” is my name.  .......How could I have been so stupid?

 

“The only way to stop the continued spread of these giant wolves is the elimination of the genetic line.  These wolves have to be destroyed before they reproduce so many offspring it’s out of control.”

 

“Have you told this to the Game Wardens?”

 

“Yes, and the Feds. I told them that the DNA strand was genetically altered and not natural.  I showed them two DNA strands. One from natural wolves, and this one. They were different. I didn’t tell them it was a genetic match from our previous research at Growgetics, though.”

 

“That’s probably a good idea, Chu.  I don’t want to be dragged through the mud for any of this.”

 

“Nor, I!”  Chu said. “The Department of Public Safety is working with the FBI and area Game Wardens to try and capture or kill the wolves.  The governor his going to order a full blown eradication of wolves in southwest, Montana.”

 

“Anyway, Wess,” Chu said, “I wanted you to know this in case the feds come knocking at your door.”

 

“Thanks, Chu.”  I said. “Appreciate the the heads up!  Good to see you. Thanks for coming out!

 

It was nice of Chu to have come by to fill me in.  I also wonder if he was studying me, looking for clues, or a confession.  One thing is for sure about our visit. All this was my fault.

 

“Who was that, Dear?” Emma asked.  

 

“An old friend from work.  He was in the area and stopped by to say ‘Hi!”

 

“That was nice.” she said.

 

Sure enough, that night on both the U.S. News and local news, the word was out that the wolf had been genetically altered.  The governor has declared a $2,000 bounty on all wolves in Montana. “The genetic strand must be eliminated before it spreads throughout N. America.”

 

There is also a $50,000 dollar reward for any information leading up to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.  Wonderful. So far as I know, only Chu and I are aware that our DNA alteration was responsible.

 

The Billing’s local news was more of the same.  They were talking about the upcoming rodeo wolf roundup tournament this weekend.  $10,000 for the largest wolf killed, plus the $2,000 from the state. There was 2nd and 3rd place winners as well.  Twenty-five dollar entry fee. Several surrounding counties of Billings and throughout the state was all doing the same.  Every hunter and property owner in Montana was looking to cash in this disaster. Big money tournaments. Farmers and landowners were letting folks hunt on their land for $50 bucks a head for the whole week.  

 

Animal rights people were up in arms all across the nation.  Several animal rights groups were on their way to Montana to protest and try to protect the wolves by making noise for the hunters.  

 

I just watched in disbelief at how this whole thing has grown into a nightmare.  I decided to grab my rifle and try to do my part. “I’m going hunting tonight, Emma.”

 

“What?  Why?” she asked.  “You are not going to try and hunt these wolves are you, Wess?”

 

“Yes, I am.  I’m taking one of the cows with me to the back 40.  We’re going to spend the night out there. Just want to do my part to try and help.”

 

“Well, you be careful, Wess.  I don’t want to see you on the news, next.” She said grinning.

 

That night after dinner I grabbed my rifle, flashlight, and Brownie, one of my cows.  We walked deep into the pasture. I had a long rope for Brownie, and staked her in the ground.  I walked to several large boulders near a bush and set up my watch. It was dark. The starry sky was beautiful.  The night air was crisp and cool. You could hear a pin drop in the calm night.

 

You could also hear things walking around.  Creepy to know that whatever it was, it was close by.  Then silence. I haven’t felt this spooked since I was a kid.  

 

The sunshine woke me up.  I was sleeping soundly. I immediately looked over for Brownie. She was fine, grazing nonchalantly. Scanning the horizon revealed no sign of wildlife.  Just us. We walked back to the house in time for breakfast.

 

“Any luck, Dear?”  Emma asked.

 

“No luck.  But, I have to admit it was a bit of an adventure.  Felt like a kid again.”

 

“Are you going out again tonight?”

 

“I think I am, Emma.  Might be doing this for a while, or until my conscious is clear.”

 

“What do you mean by that?”  

 

“Oh, you know, I worked in genetic engineering.  What if some of what I researched was used in making those wolves.  The news said they were genetically altered.”

 

“I’m sure it has nothing to do with what you used to do, Wess.”

 

This was my routine for the next two nights. Retired amateur farmer by day, hunter by night.  Each night seemed to get a little colder. Fall was coming.  

 

That morning, when I logged onto the internet news with my laptop and coffee, the headlines floored me again.  Three hunters had been killed in South Montana near the Wyoming border. They were out wolf hunting overnight. Their bodies had been ripped up pretty good.  Alongside the bodies lay a huge, dead wolf. The hunters had managed to kill one, but were overtaken by the pack.

 

The size of the wolf was remarkable.  The fact that the wolves attacked armed hunters was alarming.  I wonder which happened first, the hunters shooting the wolf, or the wolf attacking the hunters?  Who was hunting who?

 

The wolf crisis in Montana was national news.  The governor raised the bounty to $5,000 per wolf, dead or alive.  Hunters were flocking into Montana looking to collect fame and fortune by bagging a monster wolf.  It was an all out war.

 

The governor of Wyoming deployed the National Guard to set up armed camps along the Montana border.  They were ordered to shoot any wolves seen near the border from either side.

 

Animal rights groups were demanding that the animals be trapped.  The governor wasn’t having any of it.

 

Reports of wolves being killed were starting to come in regularly.  Montana was slowly eradicating the entire wolf population. It was sad to see uninfected wolves being killed just to be safe.  Daily reports of wolf killings mounted. Six more monster wolves were killed before it was all said and done.

 

And just like that, in the period of about two months, every wolf in Montana had been destroyed.  All because of me.

 

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Over the Winter Billings, Montana began to fade out of public eye. Between the holidays and several new disasters, this whole ordeal was beginning to be forgotten.  I was feeling a bit reborn when Spring arrived.

 

It was a warm summer day when I heard Emma yelling for me outside.  “Wess, come here, quick!!!! There’s a big hummingbird that won’t leave me alone.  I swear I am going to kill it! Wess, will you come out here!!??”

 

“Now that sounded funny,” I thought.

 

I hustled outside to see what all the fuss was about.  There were two hummingbirds just a dive bombing Emma while she was swatting at them in the air like crazy.  Funniest thing I’ve seen in a long time. It was so heartening to laugh again.

 

She finally actually hit one of the hummingbirds and knocked it to the ground.  The other one was still buzzing her. At that point she decided to run into the house.  The bird flew off and it was gone.

 

I was still grinning from ear to ear when I looked down at the poor hummingbird that Emma managed to hit and knock to the ground.  I had never seen a jet black hummingbird before. I picked it up to look at it more closely. To my shock and horror I realized that this was a giant mosquito.



 


© Copyright 2018 Dean Nordt. All rights reserved.

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