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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
In the world of not too far ahead from now, a scientist discovers a deadly secret about a new wonder-product...the Chimeras!

Submitted: October 04, 2011

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Submitted: October 04, 2011



It happened during beta-testing, and I think I was the only one to notice the change in the Chimeras.  There is now a copyright at the end of that word, and it carefully spells out my damnation. 

My name is Jonas Biers, ND I am a research assistant at QuanChem, or Quantum Chemicals Inc.  We create the useful polymer-based tech for the future, and are on the leading edge of both consumer and military-based applications for most of the really cool stuff that comes onto the market today.  I was lucky enough to be hired directly out of school to work there – I am a damn good biologist, and the fact that QuanChem hired me makes my claim no mere boast.  Like an amoeba, QuanChem has absorbed most other competitors in the last five years, and dodged so many civil lawsuits that the media started dubbing it Teflon Inc.  At the time, I said, ‘fuck Teflon, we can do better.’  The shitstorm that we cooked up in the labs and released to the public will make a few flipper babies look like a mild rash by comparison.  Besides being a great biologist, I am also a blind moron.


The Chimeras, by definition, are blank slabs of dormant tissue, concealed in a polymer casing, that are designed at the molecular level to change into anything the owner desires as communicated through impulse control by the user.  You talk to the thing through a wireless interface that fits in the palm of your hand, telling it to take on the form as programmed by anyone who can code C++.  You can bloody-well download the code for anything (at your own risk) through the ‘Net, and change your Chimera into something as small as a button, to as large as a Rottweiler.Would it act like a dog?  Probably not, but it would look like one.  The Chimeras weren’t supposed to have sentience – seriously, they shouldn’t have been able to make any decisions on their own, or do anything that was not expressly programmed into them.  We should have seen it coming.  But then, I kind of did.


I was in charge of testing the slabs for stimulus response, or in other words testing how they respond to being poked, frozen, burned, stabbed, etc.  That way, we can guarantee that they don’t have any of that sense of self-preservation that would queer the deal for us when they’re used for something destructive or dangerous.  Like a sword, a bat, or even a sex toy (I really didn’t have too many tests to see how they’d react to being shoved somewhere nothing should be, but we forecasted nearly two billion in sales from that sector alone so I said ‘bugger it’).  The Chimeras could be turned into many things to fulfill different purposes, many of them medical.  I had a lab assistant, David, who disagreed with me about the ethical uses of these things.  We had some pretty heated discussions when we worked late at the lab.  Dave was sick the night the weirdness happened.  I wished Dave had been there; another set of eyes would have helped avoid this whole clusterfuck.


In the lab, I lined up ten slabs on the cold steel testing table, the latest test group of Chimeras.  The idea was to stab them in the middle, hold it for five seconds, and look for any signs of struggling, distress, or even just movement – all of which wasn’t supposed to happen.  These things were derived from cells that had never been animal, vegetable, or mineral.  Hence, no known reaction was expected to external stimulus that would be familiar to it otherwise if it were something truly alive.  Clipboard in hand, I came over to the table where the slabs were laid out, and picked up the knife.  I began by stabbing the first slab and holding the blade in.  Nothing happened.  I noted it on the sheet, gave slab one the ‘ok’.  Ditto for two, three, four, five, six, seven, and eight.  On the ninth one, the blade slipped across the surface of the table and I dropped it on the floor.  Did I mention I was sometimes a klutz?  I was a scientist, not a juggler.  I often forgot that, much to Dave’s delight at seeing me clown it up.  I put my clipboard down, and bent over to pick up the knife.  When I came back up, I picked up my clipboard, raised the knife, and bore down on slab ten…only to hit bare steel.  I gasped, gaping at the empty space like a man who found a cockroach in his cornflakes.  I put everything down and looked around the floor surrounding the table.  Then I looked around the room, checking in corners and opening cupboards to make sure it hadn’t…crawled away?  That was impossible, of course.  Maybe if they could a) decide to turn into a foot, and b) decide to flop away, I could believe it.  But regardless, it was gone.


I noted what happened on my log, groaning as I reflected on how I’d explain where one of our prototype pieces of biotech had walked away.  I packed the rest of the slabs into one of our disposal containers – the knife wound required them to be reclaimed, a process that reconstituted the cells and recombined them into a slab.  Re-everything is the name of the game in cost cutting.  Then I started packing up my equipment, including my clipboard, my pen, my log sheet, and two knives.  Huh.  I reached down, and picked them both up, looking from one to the other.  Same hilt, same blade, same brand on the side of the blade; they were identical.  I then stabbed each of them down into the table, seeing if they sounded and felt the same, which they did.  I laughed at myself a bit for doing it, thinking that I had been working way too late that night.  I also thought at the time that Dave had set out two knives yesterday, intending to be here for the testing.  My mind was still preoccupied by thoughts of disciplinary action when it happened.  I wished now that my self-interest had yielded to the simple reality of the situation.  Instead, I shrugged, put the knives back in the sterilizer, and headed out to get quietly drunk on brandy in my apartment where I lived alone.


I woke up to the stark reality of what happened.  When word of my slip-up reached the head of research, I was relieved of my duties for three months pending investigation, which I kind of expected.  I found Dave in the lab before I left to congratulate him on his temporary promotion.  Dave grinned, said he was sorry that he wasn’t there, and thanked me for my good will.  Good will.  Hell, I’m the good will ambassador of the apocalypse.  Who knew?  Certainly not Dave, who would enjoy the prestige of a position that I might have held onto if I’d been smarter, and certainly not me, who held up two knives and couldn’t conceive of the idea that one of them hadn’t been there five minutes before.  Once a slab transforms into an object, it should resemble the object in every characteristic, depending on how well the programming was that controlled the shape.  That was the theory.  Cells without memory have NO programming, and would therefore NOT decide to become a knife on a whim.  It was a ludicrous notion.


It was two months later that I found myself sitting on my couch, a cup of coffee in my hand, when they announced on the news that QuanChem had released the Chimeras to the public, nearly six months ahead of the projected release date.  They would be entering numerous industries; medical, military, entertainment, commercial…millions of Chimeras on the market for public consumption.  It was a shock, to be sure, and at first I thought that maybe it had to do with me (remember, that self-preoccupation).  Perhaps, since I lost one of the prototypes, they feared another corporation had got a hold of a Chimera, and would backward-engineer it to get a jump on us.  Yes, it was yet another dumb notion, but not an altogether impossible one.  My stomach went instantly sour, and I envisioned a rocky return to the company, perhaps as Dave’s assistant.  The investigation was still under way, moving like a silent shark beneath the waves in my mind, ready to eat me up, chunk by chunk.  Then a commercial for public sanitation services came on the television with the familiar jingle, which I usually ignored as background noise…”Not everything that’s used has reached the end of its cycle:  reduce…reuse…recycle!”  My head swam as the jingle sent choruses of vertigo through my brain, and my gorge rose to paint my coffee table in garish hues.  The shark that I feared finally broke the waves, the menacing fin constituting a revelation that had kept hidden beneath the surface of my thoughts.


Reclaim.  Reconstitute.  Recombine.




Oh fuck.  How many slabs had I tested?  Five thousand?  How many times had we reclaimed the same batch, even in a small way?  What part remembered the knife, what cell?  Who could know?  Someone should have – I should have.  The trickle-down of memory into each proceeding batch, breeding the animal instinct to survive, combining the inherent talent to mimic another object.  Chimera, or doppelganger? 

We weren’t reclaiming them:  we were refining them.  QuanChem had become the Petrie dish in which the Chimeras had staged their own Darwinian struggle.  What would they do to survive their tormentors and enslavers? 


* * * * *


News at six…Kevin Donough in for Candy Jones…the top stories today…QuanChem Inc, creator of the Chimera, has filed bankruptcy amid allegations that their product is at the head of reportedly twenty-seven hundred civil lawsuits claiming that the Chimera malfunctioned, causing nearly six hundred deaths in the year since it’s release on the open market…a public advisory has been released by the Attorney General declaring the Chimeras unsafe, and has ordered any Chimera to be destroyed on site…in a related story, director Kevin Drake, of “Slackers” fame, is dead in his Los Angeles home, the victim of a heart transplant that went awry when Drake started complaining of a burning in his chest on Tuesday…two days later, he was found on the floor of his kitchen, eviscerated, his heart missing.  Mr. Drake’s heart was, unfortunately, a Chimera product.  Lawsuits are pending against QuanChem from Drake’s estate…


They found Dave in the river yesterday, down from the high bridge where we crossed every day to work, a slab stuffed in his mouth.  No note had been left, but I knew Dave had come to the same conclusions I had.  As he went all bloated in the water, I had been downtown watching the pigeons.  They were watching the other pigeons.  Other birds were doing the same, watching each other, as if they didn’t know how to act like birds.  I sat there on the bench, coffee going cold in my hand, my eyes fixed on the hidden menaces as they paced across the concrete, watching, waiting, maybe even thinking.  In my mind, I saw herds of Chimeras stampeding across the heartland, flocks of Chimeras heading south for the winter, and maybe even Chimeras sitting next to me on the bus, trying to figure out how many times a minute that I blink. 


My mind drifted to other thoughts, such as how much it hurt when you hit the water from, oh, a long fall from a bridge.  See you soon, Dave.

© Copyright 2018 Thomas Black. All rights reserved.

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