Universal Translator

Showing posts with label scifi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label scifi. Show all posts

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Restitution

      Malcolm had barely been awake for five minutes when he heard the soft footsteps in the hallway headed toward him. The door opened and his granddaughter rushed to the bed, bouncing on the covers.
     “Happy tire mint, grandaddy!”
     He patted her on the head and reached for his glasses. “It’s called ‘retirement’, Maya, and thank you!”
     “Maya, did you wake up your grandfather?” Malcolm’s wife, Loretta, stood in the doorway, her arms crossed.
     “No, Nana, he was already woked up.”
     She crossed over to the bed and gave Malcolm a kiss. She then picked up Maya.
     “We’ll let you get yourself together and then you can join us for breakfast”, she said to him and then looked at Maya. “How about waffles this morning?”
     “Yes, waffles, please, “ Maya replied.
     “How about waffles?” Loretta asked Malcolm.
     “Well, why not! Woo hoo! It’s my big day!” He held up his hands and gave them a wave.
     “Woo hoo!” shouted Maya, waving her little hands too.
     Loretta grabbed Maya and walked to the door. She turned back to Malcolm and gave him a small smile, then left.
     Malcolm sank back into the pillow. This was his last day at work. He let out a sigh. He had accomplished so much in the past fifty years and he never guessed he’d make it to this day. But he was going to simply treat it like any other day. He had one last Restitution to preside over, then no more. It was actually a good thing that he could pass the responsibility on to James, his deputy. Malcolm knew that he had secured his place in history when the government had adopted his idea of Restitution for criminals. It had been the project of a lifetime. He had to now let it go. He felt it was time.

     Maya was dabbing a piece of waffle into her syrup when Malcolm walked into the kitchen. Loretta walked over to him and gave him a cup of coffee.
     “You should just stay home with me and Maya,” she told him. “What can they do? Fire you?”
     “Let me have this last day and one last Restitution. We’ve already discussed this.”
     “Oh, I know. But you haven’t had to go to any Restitutions in years. You’re only a figurehead at the company anyway, they would be fine with you…”
     “You think I’ll decide not to retire...”
     “I just want you all to myself now,” Loretta leaned in and gave him a kiss. “Now let’s get some homemade waffles into you to start your big day.”
     “I hope we’ve got some juicy sausage or bacon, too.”
     Loretta frowned as she held up a blue and white package. “Only this,” she replied.
     “Not that fake stuff...not today of all days!”
     “I tried to get some real bacon, my dear, but Orlon’s has stopped carrying it. I talked to the manager but he said that it was too much trouble with all the new laws and everything.”
     Malcolm sighed and thought about the days before animals were thought to be feeling sentient creatures. He wished for the time when pigs were ham, bacon, chops, and sausage, and not emotional beings with rights. Since most industrial nations had given animals rights and banned slaughtering animals for food, the United States had seen a huge rise in meat prices and a move toward similar laws concerning animal welfare. The food corporations had begun to cut their ties with the animal farming operations, converting to meat substitutes. The fresh water crisis only sped up the process – it took too much water to raise food animals. Some called it progress, Malcolm called it madness.

     Malcolm worked for the National Prison Agency. Thirty years ago, he had lobbied for a change in polices concerning capital punishment. He himself had put forth the idea of Restitution as a graduate student in college, but it wasn’t taken seriously until the drug crisis occurred.
     Companies had started to end production of the drugs used in lethal injection executions. Some states had stockpiled the drugs for future use, but eventually those supplies began to drop. States began looking into other methods – firing squads, hanging, even the guillotine had been considered -but all were considered to be painful, drawn-out processes. Others had begun looking to ban capital punishment altogether, bowing to anti-capital punishment activists.
     One of Malcolm’s friends in college had remembered his graduate work and talked to a senator about it. Malcolm was called to Washington to explain his ideas. A few years later, the National Prison Reform Act was passed and Malcolm was chosen to implement Prisoner Restitution as a cornerstone of the reforms. “Capital punishment” was replaced by “Restitution” and states readily accepted this humane practice.
Malcolm walked into his office. He noticed a large book on his desk. He walked over and opened the cover.
     “The Victim’s Liaison Office went back through their files and put that together for you,” said his assistant Janine, poking her head through the doorway. She walked in and set down some papers. “I need you to sign these.” She looked at the inscription inside the book. “Letters from over the years from crime victim’s families praising the Restitutions they had gone through. That was real sweet of them.”
     “I’ll have to pop down and thank them later.”
     “Don’t forget you’re having lunch with the commissioner before the Restitution.” Janine tapped the papers lightly, reminding Malcolm to sign them. Malcolm adjusted his glasses, then took out his pen from his briefcase. “Your retirement party is a 5:30,” she reminded him. She then whispered, “ on’t be late. I hear there will be appearances by some bigwig politicians – maybe a vice-president – but you didn’t hear it from me.”
     “Oh, Janine.”
     “Some people think you’re a big deal, Boss.”
     “Not after today.”

     Malcolm did very little work. Most of the morning was spent accepting best wishes and congratulations from colleagues and taking phone calls saying pretty much the same. Lunchtime was spent with the prison commissioner and a few select VIPs in the prison industry. Restitution had proven to be a quite profitable option. Two hours later, Malcolm rushed away to his last Restitution.

     Malcolm got to the Restitution Center as they were bringing in Jimmy McKinzey for his Restitution. He entered the chamber as a nurse judged Jimmy’s dosage of Calmicolizine. The prisoner looked at him and meekly smiled – the effects of the drug given to him at his last meal. Malcolm silently burped – the effect of too much fake steak at his last meal. Malcolm was glad that most prisoners were now given sedatives and other drugs, it made it easier to deal with them. He was thankful the drug companies had introduced programs to medicate prisoners, it had made prisons calmer places, almost like schools.
     People slowly began to appear in the chamber – Jimmy’s attorney, the victim’s family, the commissioner, and others. Malcolm sat down at the large table across from Jimmy. He looked at his watch, it was time to start.
     An officer called the chamber to order. Malcolm shuffled through his papers and then looked up at Jimmy.
     “James Arthur McKinzey, inmate number 45629D, you have been called forth to this chamber for your Restitution. Do you understand that today you have to pay for your crimes against Nathalie Howe, who you brutally murdered last year, and provide restitution to her surviving family? Do you comply?”
     Jimmy stared at him for a second. “I do,” he said, with a slight slur.
     “As the verdict has been made and the prisoner understands that restitution has to be paid to the satisfaction of the victim’s family, to this state, and to this nation, according to the law. Your assets have already been transferred to the victim’s family in the amount of $3, 235.00; as a balance is still outstanding, we will proceed with the Restitution.” Malcolm turned and motioned to the two officers standing behind him. Jimmy made no show of emotion.
     The officers walked over to Jimmy and helped him to his feet.
     “James Arthur McKinzey, proceed to make your Restitution.”
     The officers escorted Jimmy to a curtained side of the chamber. They led him through the curtain into a small antechamber, followed by Malcolm. Meanwhile, inside the large chamber a large screen appeared from behind a wooden panel and the lights were lowered. A camera in the antechamber flashed, signaling that it had begun transmitting the event to the large screen.
     The officers placed Jimmy onto a slightly-inclined large metal slab, jutting out from the wall. Malcolm pulled over a stool and sat down beside Jimmy.
     “Time for your Restitution, James.”
     Jimmy slowly turned to look at Malcolm. He looked into Malcolm’s eyes and smiled.
     “Do you understand?” Malcolm asked, and slightly shaking his own head.
     Jimmy gave a shallow shake of his head, then grinned.
     “He’s ready.” Malcolm gave a sign to the officers standing near the slab.
     One of the officers moved a console close to Malcolm. The other officer reached up and pulled down a swing arm to which was attached a headset. Three large cylinders protruded out from the headset. Malcolm placed the headset onto Jimmy’s forehead. He adjusted it over Jimmy’s eyes and secured some straps which encircled Jimmy’s head. The other officer secured a strap across Jimmy’s chest and his legs.
     “Okay, Jimmy, I want you to count down from ten with me.” Malcolm pressed a few buttons on the console. “Okay, now we will start. Count with me. Ten...nine...eight...” The man slurred the number eight. Malcolm pressed a red button. There was a soft thud and a wisp of smoke appeared above the cylinders. There was a shudder across the man’s entire body as three bolts were driven into his brain, as was once done to cattle and pigs in slaughterhouses. There was no seven.
     “The law places the value of $488,000.00 on human life. Today, James Arthur McKinzey paid that ultimate price toward his debt. There can be no outstanding balance and Restitution has been paid,” said Malcolm, after turning to the camera which had shown the event to the people in the chamber. Malcolm paused and removed his glasses. “I would also like to say this is the last Restitution I shall preside over. I am glad that I have helped give closure to the family of victims over the years and that I have offered to the world a quick and painless method to implement justice. May we never go back to old days of needless and drawn-out suffering again. Thank you.” The camera light then signaled the end of the transmission.
     There was loud bell, and the nurse appeared. She placed a mask over Jimmy’s nose and mouth. There was a slight buzz and she placed a device on Jimmy’s chest. She pulled a display panel from the side of the slab. The slab was raised parallel to the floor. A hatch opened in the wall and there was a rush of cold air. The slab moved into the hatch, then closed quickly after Jimmy’s body disappeared inside.
     “Thank you, Nurse Greene. My office will finish the paper work and send in on.” The nurse nodded and left.
     Malcolm would now leave the organ harvesting and all to the medical division. The victim’s family would receive their commissions, and Jimmy’s body could realize a big return in compensation for them. There was still so much paperwork, but he was not too worried about it. It’s a job for someone else now, he thought. He had a retirement party to attend.




Tuesday, 29 December 2015

The Sulis Star System (Life of Other Worlds, Part 4)

Life of other worlds: drawings and sketches from one space explorer's travel journal is a series focusing on various other star systems in the Milky Way Galaxy.



The Sulis Star System (Note: Planets and orbits not to scale)


The Sulis System is a yellow star system with five planets. Named after Celtic gods, life has only been found on the planet of Cernunnos. Research indicates that the asteroid field, known as The Bards and Vates, may at one time been a planet with developing microscopic life. The first three planets in the system include: 1) Nantosuelta, a Mercury-class planet 2)Ambisagrus, a planet similar to Mars, and 3) Cernunnos, with its barren moon, Damara. The first three planets are very close to the same size, only varying in temperature and crust structure. There is one ringed planet Barinthus that may have gotten its rings from the destruction of a planet where The Bards and Vates are now located. Barinthus has four moons (it is unknown if they formed recently from debris or escaped the destruction felt by other moons in the system).The gas supergiant Britannia is a failed ringed planet.   Britannia is located within a supergaint asteroid field called The Druids. The asteroids saturate the orbit of Britannia, and they have never coalesced into rings around the planet -the magnetic field of the planet seems to push many of the asteroids out of the way and they then settle back into place after it passes. Most disturbed asteroids are either flung into deep space or end up settling into the orbit of The Bards and Vates. It is believed that the The Druids were at one time actually one or more large moons that orbited Britannia, probably pulverized as the result of the recent planetary event (around 50 million years ago) that also demolished the planet that occupied the orbit of The Bards and Vates.


Cernunnos



Cernunnos
Little nocturnal creature that many other things seemed to like to eat. We named it the Dinner Mouse



The Vampire Bird (not really a bird) captures its prey and injects venom that completely liquefies the organs, muscles and bones of its prey, which it then sucks out.


They were fast. And they were NOT cuddly.





















Britannia


Britannia and The Druids






Thursday, 17 December 2015

The Aten-Ra Star System (and Giza Nebula) (Life of Other Worlds, Part 3)

Life of other worlds: drawings and sketches from one space explorer's travel journal is a series focusing on various other star systems in the Milky Way Galaxy.


The Aten-Ra System is a blue star system with five planets, located near the Giza Nebula. Astronomer Dr. Piers Langland, a member of the Unified Interplanetary Exploration Taskforce (UIET), discovered the system and its neighboring nebula. The system received its name due to the fact that it was discovered the year that the Forgotten Tombs were found and unearthed in Egypt.  Sadly, it was also the year of the Bombing of the Great Pyramids of Giza by religious fundamentalists.  The International Astronomical Union approved the naming of the system after ancient Egyptian deities and the naming of the nebula after the Great Pyramids as a remembrance of the great events of that year.
Life is found on Hathor, Amun and its moon Isis, and two of the three moons of Osiris-Anubis and Horus; however, life beyond Hathor and Amun is only microscopic (it is believed to have travel beyond Hathor and Amun as result of early meteorite impacts). Ancient microfossils have been found on the dead planet of Sokar. The Sokarian fossils resemble life on the moons of Osiris and Amun. This is a system teeming with life. So far Amun is only one of two known gas giants to harbor complex life in a thin upper layer.


Hapi

The first planet in the system: Hapi

Hathor

Hathor (with its moon Thoth in the background)
Hathor is a relatively flat planet with few mountain ranges. Most of the planet is very dry with large desert areas. Large expanses of the surface are covered in great prairies covered in grass-like plants.  One species that covers the large spaces actually is one plant that sends out roots underground forming a large megaorganism – one plant can cover hundreds of kilometers. There are no trees as on Earth, large herbaceous plants that resemble the banana trees of Earth create dense “jungles”.  The “trees” and the megaorganism plant never occur in the same spot –it seems the two species are constantly battling for space (where the two plants meet there is always a barren “no-man’s-land” between them-it is believed that there is some kind of chemical warfare going on among the two)

Herd animal on Hathor


Large herbaceous tree (similar to a banana tree on Earth)


Large grazing creature (abt 5 meters)




A nocturnal repto-mammal that survives only on nectar of certain flowers and juices of certain fruits.
This creature was always fighting others of the species. The sound of the bony plates crashing together filled the air at every hour. The tail would be used after the head jammed into its opponent.
These little critters were found in the water, in the mud, in the sand, everywhere. And yes, even the trees --or the equivalent of trees. 









Something that mostly laid in the mud (note that air is breathed in through hole on top of body) 



Osiris

The Moons of Osiris, looking toward Sokar and the Giza Nebula

Amun and its moon Isis

Amun

Many incredible life forms live in the thin stable habitable zone on a gas giant. The food chain of the planet includes large balloon-like carnivores, such as the Cloud Tiger, who consume the smaller and plentiful Kites. Kites themselves consume spores from the many forms of fungus and algae present in the zone.

Kites
Cloud Tiger (genus Aethercetus) captures Kites in a basket it swings through the air. The basket contracts tightly around the Kites and then digests them. The creature floats freely through the habitable zone of the gas giant, regulating its buoyancy to keep itself at the correct altitude. The "tiger" stripes are thought to resemble swarms of Kites causing other Kites to fly toward the Cloud Tiger, thus luring them to their death as lunch for the great floating beast.
Cloud Tiger
There was this creature we called Macy (after the large balloon figures in the Macy's parade). We believed it to be a member of the genus Aethercetus; if so, it is the largest member. It trawled for food with a large "basket" at the bottom. The "bubbles" on the side were young.
There was a carnivorous creature (genus Aethercetus) analogous to the Orcas on Earth. It hunted other members of the Aethercetus genus. We called it the Sky Orca. It seemed to prefer to eat Cloud Tigers. It used the sharp pendulum to ram the Cloud Tigers and deflate them; then released a dissolving agent to melt certain nutritious parts of its prey, which it sucked up through a tube.  It did this very quickly as it slowly descended due to the extra weight.  Before reaching the point of no return, it jettisoned the carcass of the Cloud Tiger and floated slowly up to a higher altitude.








Sky Orca


Creature we called Macy (after the large balloon figures in the Macy's parade)


Sokar



Sokar and the Giza Nebula



The Giza Nebula


Residing near the Aten-Ra System, the nebula fills the night skies of all the planets of the system.  A defining feature of the nebula is its bright monochromatic redness, caused by the abundance of hydrogen.  The three bright white dwarfs ( each one named after one of the three pyramids in Giza) are the three brightest points in the nebula.  Some believe the vivid red-purple colour of Sokar is due to the capture of nebula hydrogen by the planet.  An odd section of the Giza Nebula is separated from the main body and has a bright blue-white cast (see Hathor photo).  Scientists believe that the high temperature of this region is caused by the fact that the hydrogen is being consumed in some unknown type of reaction.  Some believe that the reaction might someday consume the entire nebula; others believe that  it is a localized reaction.  It has been put forth by some that the proximity of the "Blue Cloud" to the planetary system invites the question that the reaction is caused by abandoned alien technology. The establishment of a permanent space station (Langland Station UIET) in orbit around Hathor will study the Giza Nebula and its relationship with the Aten-Ra System.



Next in the series :  The Sulis Star System









Thursday, 20 August 2015

The Odin Star System (Life of Other Worlds, Part 2)

Life of other worlds: drawings and sketches from one space explorer's travel journal is a series focusing on various other star systems in the Milky Way Galaxy.



The Odin Star System (NOTE: Planet and orbits not to scale)


The Odin System is a yellow star system consisting of six planets. Balder and Njord are the only planets with life forms.  Dr. Dag Stassen discovered the system during the exploration mission of the European Space Agency Interplanetary Space Probe in the early 21st century.  The ESA gave it names according to mythological Norse gods and goddesses.

Frigg
The first four planets are rocky.  The last two planets are gas giants; Thor being a super gas giant.  Between the two gas giants there is a large asteroid field called The Valkyries, which contains some of the largest asteroids ever recorded.  The gas giants, Thor and Loki, seem to keep the asteroids in check and corralled into their orbit around the star Odin.  Without Thor and Loki, the asteroids would cause havoc within the system.  However, it is believed that the gravitational pull of the collective asteroid belt and Loki prevented Thor from being pulled further into the system, thus keeping the inner planets safe. (Note: Planets and their orbits are not to scale.)

Frigg

The first planet is Frigg, named after the wife of Odin and goddess of married love.  It is geologically inactive with a high surface temperature.

Hel

Hel

The second planet in the Odin System is called Hel, named after the Norse goddess of death. Hel is a turbulent geologically active planet which lives up to its name.


 

Balder


 Balder
The third planet Balder is an Earth-sized world with a similar gravity and atmosphere.  It is named after the Norse god who was the son of Odin and the favourite of the gods.  It has one moon named Hoder. Balder is a geologically active planet with a continuous rocky, mountainous terrain.  Unlike Earth, Balder contains most of its water underground.  Caves are a common geological form. Water on Balder has a very high mineral content and is very saline.  Most of the large creatures on Balder exhibit qualities of both reptiles and mammals on Earth.  Plant life consists mostly of lichen-like and moss-like plants.  Vines are the dominant plant, covering rock spires and mountain ranges, sometimes reaching several meters in diameter.

A repto-mammal that hangs from cliffs and lures in small flying nectar-sucking creatures - its mouth resembles a certain flower and oozes oil that smells like the nectar. 



One of the exobiologists on the team stated that this was not a dinosaur. I beg to differ.

 .




An actual flying snake, well it was really more of a clumsy glider, flapping and gliding from one cliff to the other. The landscape was littered with high jutting cliffs, making this creature quite at home


Njord


The chilly water world of Njord

The fourth planet Njord is a chilled water world. It is named after the Norse god of ships and the sea.  It has one moon, Aegir.

Njord is 82% water.  Its planetary climate resembles that of the Northern Pacific and Atlantic Oceans on Earth.  Most of the dry land consists of large mountainous archipelagos near its equator.  The equatorial ocean is more shallow and warmer than the deep, usually frozen, polar ocean.

Aquatic life on Njord is extremely diverse.  The largest numbers of species resemble the fish of Earth.  There are no mammal-like creatures anywhere on the planet.  Most of the scientists that have explored Njord say that it resembles Earth during its Devonian Era, though much colder.

One of the surprises of Njord is the existence of several large shark-like creatures.  The largest carnivore creature on the planet, the Fury Fish (Pistrix furiosus) make the Earth's sharks seem tame in comparison.  After the death of several explorers, a planet-wide caution is in place to anyone near a body of water that is connected to the open ocean.

the Fury Fish (Pistrix furiosus
Pistris piscatus - Distant cousin to the Fury Fish, this creature takes a gulp of water into its "blowhole", and then pulls itself through shallows (and sometimes on to shore) using its arm-like fins in order to capture trapped prey. 


Pistrix tenoris -- Related to the Fury Fish, this slow relation uses baleen to sieve the waters of the ocean world of Njord.



Thor

 
Thor
Thor, named after the Norse god of thunder and the sky, is a gas super giant.  It has two rocky moons, Fjorgynn and Sif.  The moons are warm desert worlds even though they are in the planetary cold zone.  As a gas supergiant, Thor radiates heat, passing it along to its moons.  Due to the distance from the inner planets and solar winds, Thor’s heat has little effect upon the smaller planets of the system.


Loki


 Loki is the last planet of the system.  It is named after the Norse god of mischief.
It is a gas giant, with one moon named Sigyn.

Loki





Next in the series : The Aten-Ra Star System

Sunday, 16 August 2015

The Helios Star System (Life of Other Worlds, Part 1)

Life of other worlds: drawings and sketches from one space explorer's travel journal is a series focusing on various other star systems in the Milky Way Galaxy.

The Helios Star System (Note: Planets and orbits not to scale)


Dr. Eva Psyhogeos first discovered the Helios System during the exploration mission of the Einstein Deep Space Probe (EDSP).  When Dr. Psyhogeos saw that the eight-planet system somewhat resembled our own Solar System, she decided to name it according to the Greek gods and goddesses. The names start out as analogous to our Solar System but change after Zeus and end with Hades.  Zeus and Hades are the only gas giants in the system; the other six planets are rocky worlds. 
The planet Hera, Hera’s two moons, and Athena probably started out as moons of Zeus.  Dr, Psyhogeos developed a theory about the system that gave the system seven planets originally.  The theory states that The Titians, an asteroid field between Ares and Zeus, was originally a planet called Morpheus.  Morpheus was destroyed most likely by a comet or asteroid.  The devastation of Morpheus knocked Hera, its moons, and Athena from their orbit around Zeus.  They began to orbit Helios as planets; Hera eventually capturing Hebe and Hephaestus as its moons.  Debris from Morpheus in orbit around Zeus became the asteroidal moons called The Consorts of Zeus.  It is theorized that Morpheus was a “super-sized” rocky planet with a large amount of water –some believe the water eventually made its way to watery Poseidon, frozen Ares and the icy planets of Hera and Athena.  Recent archaeological evidence shows that in the very distant past, Poseidon was a much drier world.
Poseidon (White areas are shallow seas, islands are gray or black)


Poseidon is a planet of 85% surface water.  Most of the dry land consists of landmasses on the eastern hemisphere of the planet.  Large storms and super-hurricanes are always present on the planet.  Poseidon is the only planet with multi-cellular life. One-celled organisms have been found on Ares and Aphrodite, but it seems they might have come from Poseidon. (Note: Planet and their orbits not to scale)


The largest animals on the planet exist in the global ocean.  Land animals of any great size are absent and they consist of mainly amphibious creatures.  Large plants are nonexistent; most vegetation on land is adapted algae and fungi.

Croak with eggs
 The Croak is one of the few amphibious animals of the plant Poseidon. They live most of their lives on the islands of Poseidon, traveling to the sea to lay eggs and mate. Found usually near the shoreline or swampy regions.  Some Croaks form large colonies on floating Insulanozoa (see below), creating a symbiotic relationship.  Predators are lured toward the colonies and are consumed by the Insulanozoa.  The Croaks keep the shell of the Insulanozoa clean.  The Croaks ooze a chemical that makes them invisible to the Insulanozoa.

Fish like we know on Earth never developed on Poseidon. On a planet where fishes never developed, the young of amphibians developed into the dominant water creatures. The class Amphish contains the greatest number of species in the global ocean of Poseidon.  The family of Capucauda consists of tadpole-like creatures and is the largest group of Amphish.
 
Examples of Capucauda
Poseidon also contains a large number of creatures similar to Earth’s gastropods and cephalopods.  One example is the Banded Squidshell (one of six species of squidshell).  The young will bud off the adult -not quite clones- their genetic makeup includes incorporated DNA from other young of the same species the parent has devoured. 
Banded Squidshell


Poseidon has many invertebrate life forms, many of which are shelled.  An example of a shelled invertebrate is the Insulanozoa, the shell of which becomes a living, floating island.  The Insulanozoa feeds upon creatures in the ocean as well as amphibians that try to swim to it or nest on it (with exceptions (see above)).
Insulanozoa


With no aquatic mammals or sharks, amphibians occupy the top of the food chain on Poseidon.  The Greater Sea Dragon (Gigus diabolius) is the largest aquatic animal on Poseidon, measuring up to thirty meters.  The eggs of most Gigus species hatch in the ocean and the young will then make their way to islands.  They exist in a terrestrial form for up to two years before finally making their way back to the ocean for the rest of their lives.

Greater Sea Dragon (Gigus diabolius)



Next in the series : The Odin Star System



Tuesday, 16 June 2015

"Ethan" (Updated)


            It had all started with the Chinese.  The scientific community in China had become the “Wild West” of the science world.  Chinese scientists didn’t have the same limits that many other nations imposed upon research, such as the outlawing genetic engineering of human DNA or the banning of the use of human embryos in scientific research.  Chinese scientists had begun to experiment with the genetic engineering of human embryos – something that had been outlawed in most other industrialized nations decades earlier as the fear that people would begin to design their own babies’ intelligence and looks.  The Chinese reported that they had tried to manipulate the genes that were responsible for various genetic diseases in the human body.  They insisted that the embryos would have never survived and that the data gathered was never planned on being used to create “designer” babies.  The Chinese government, after discussions with the United Nations and other nations, closed down the facilities engaged in the research and the world thought that that was the end of it.  As time passed, genetic engineering of plants, animals, bacteria, and viruses became a common technology that eventually settled into academia and failed to get the attention of the news media.  Laws became more relaxed and often quietly discarded.  Some nations began to actively seek out those Chinese scientists that had experimented with genetically modifying human DNA.  Biotechnology companies sought out the brightest of those scientists.  For years, despite rumors and protest campaigns, companies remained quiet concerning any research involving the modification of human DNA, until that day Ethan was presented to the world.
The world at large didn’t know about Ethan until he was six years old.  When he was presented at the international news conference, people immediately fell in love with the adorable child.  He amazed everyone with his intellectual abilities and physical skills.  Of course, many thought that he was just an ordinary child – until it was proven that he really was the first genetically modified human.  A DNA test was done live at the press conference under the skeptic eyes of several noted scientists from various international universities.  The scientists who presented him to the world talked about the various genetic changes and genetic protein coding.  They merely glanced over the topic of  “insertion of other taxonomic genetic material”, but the world was more enchanted with the sweetness of the child they saw online singing “Jesus Loves Me”.  Some questioned the phrase “insertion of other taxonomic genetic material”, but the scientists would state that it was merely inconsequential biological material and unimportant to the discussion. The procedure, according to the scientists employed by the American Bio-Tech Consortium (ABTC) was completely safe - Ethan was as human as anyone else. The procedure, they explained, took DNA from a human egg and a human sperm and merely modified them to bring out the best qualities possible. It was no different, they assured, than buying a car and then adding the best options available to it.  Ethan was a child with the best options that could be found in DNA.
            ABTC said that there had been extraordinary testing of the procedures involved in producing Ethan.  They admitted that there had been four other children before Ethan who had not survived but that finally all the problems of viability had been solved.  The ABTC scientists gave lectures at every major university on the development and future of genetically engineered children.  They asserted that Ethan would have a normal, if not extended, lifespan and that he was as healthy, if not healthier, as any child his age.  Doctors across the globe backed up the claims of the ABTC, signing letters supporting the work, which were published in newspapers around the world. Governments quickly approved the procedures and gave ABTC a wide leeway.  Many thought it would be a new golden age for Mankind.
       The year after Ethan turned eleven, couples from across the world had embraced the new technology to create their own baby.  It was estimated that well over 1,000 couples had initially signed up when the technology was first offered.  Many people wondered if it could solve their infertility.  Some just wanted the best child money could buy.  Some just wanted a bright healthy child like Ethan.  ABTC reported that by the first anniversary of the procedure, fifty thousand couples had CNM children.
       Genetic engineering wasn’t a foreign thing to people at the time.  It had become an accepted part of life.  Genetic engineering was to this time, as chemistry was to the 20th Century – the way to a better life.  There were still non-GMO fundamentalists that would complain or protest, but no one took them seriously.  It had been many years since genetically modified organisms had lost their patents and they were now everywhere.  You couldn’t avoid them since practically all life now contained bits of altered DNA –“genetic pollution”, as some radicals called it.  “Organic” came to mean merely anything grown stationary in soil since the locomotive vegetable barrier had been broken.  Cross-taxonomic organisms, locomotive or not, had become a fact of life. Before Ethan the greatest genetic engineering feat had been the creation of the avocado steak, the first non-locomotive meat, from a “tree”.
        By the time Ethan had turned 20, he had been joined by over 4,020,730 other “Children of the New Mother”, or CNM. They had been given that name by a journalist who coined the term to differentiate them from unmodified children, or “Children of the Old Mother” – “Old Mother” referring to the mythological Mother Earth.  The “New Mother” was science.  The ABTC preferred to call them “non-CNM” children –it made them to be seen as lacking something important.
        Most of the major hospitals of the world had CNM franchises.  The franchises were so popular because of the huge profits that could be made by selling CNM products and services.  After the biological mother had been implanted with the CNM egg, she could be sold a multitude of prenatal packages; after the birth, there were the various other products based on the age of the child.  Of course no one wanted their CNM child to be the one lacking the best.  The financial floodgates really opened when the CNM franchises began to offer products and services to parents of non-CNM children. The best-selling product for non-CNM children was CNM cellular injections. Hospitals were also urged to consider CNM services for certain illnesses and conditions in adults.
       Anyone visiting a CNM franchise couldn’t get away from Ethan’s image.  Cardboard cutouts of Ethan would direct you to various areas.  Posters of the cute little boy staring out at you asking, “How important is your child? If they aren’t Children of the New Mother, then try CNM CogniTherapy today!”  Videos played in every hospital waiting room and lobby showing Ethan solving intricate math problems and laughing. The ubiquitous t-shirts with his drawings or watercolours were usually sold-out.  The Adventures of Ethan comic books were on every shelf.
       People had not seen much of Ethan himself since his 16th birthday; anyway, the world was busy with its new prodigies.  The ABTC stated that Ethan was living a regular life and that they did not want him to be under the scrutiny of the press every day.  Of course, you would hear a rumor or see a photo, but there really wasn’t too much press about Ethan.  The tabloids would report that he was supposedly dating some young film star or a royal, but not much else.
        The children born after Ethan, however, were constantly in the news.  Many were the focus of human-interest stories.  The stories focusing on their rights and conditions always made the top news stories. The American Bio-tech Consortium had made the claim that genetically modified children had to attend the ABTC School of Science and the Arts (available at most franchises), and many parents complained; the court ruled that the parents had signed a waiver upon implantation of the modified embryo and had to comply or give their child up to the guardianship of the ABTC. In the ruling the court stated that the children were too mentally advanced for regular public or private school and only the ABTC could effectively and completely educate them.  One couple had been imprisoned for endangering a minor and child abuse when they went to live in the mountains with their CNM child.  There was a big media blitz when one couple won a lawsuit against a church that had refused to allow their young boy to enter the cathedral during a vacation, the priest saying, “that the child was an abomination unto the Lord”.
        The biggest scandal on record occurred after a journalist attempted to interview Ethan on his 25th birthday. The ABTC had issued an official birthday packet, covering what Ethan had been doing since his 16th birthday.  According to the packet, he had attended a major university and had started a job at ABTC as a genetic engineer/advisor.  The journalist, Laura Hopkins, had wanted more information as well as a personal interview with Ethan but ABTC refused again and again.  She finally went undercover as an ABTC franchise employee, ultimately making it to ABTC central headquarters.  She published a story on the eve of Ethan’s 33rd birthday that totally blew Ethan’s life open to the world.  The world was shocked.  Many refused to believe it, however, Miss Hopkins had documented everything perfectly.
       According to the Hopkins Report, there was a reason Ethan disappeared from the public when he was 16 and it didn’t follow the story released to the public.  When Ethan started to experience puberty, some hidden genes had begun to exert themselves; Ethan began to develop physical changes beyond those of a normal puberty, including but not limited to extremely excessive hair growth, bony growth projections on his jaw, and rough hard epithelial cells on his skin. Besides the physical changes, Ethan had begun to experience intense moments of rage so bad he had to be restrained and sedated.  Hopkins also reported that Ethan could now only consume raw meat, becoming very ill and violent if he did not.  Ethan had also begun to fail many mental skill tests, although he had maintained his excellence in physical skills.  ABTC commented to say only that the report was a lie and they were talking to their lawyers.  ABTC did admit that certain treatments had been given free to CNM children after Ethan to correct certain irregularities.  However, they refused to admit that Ethan wasn’t the accomplished young man that he was portrayed as being.  A judge asked to meet with Ethan face-to-face, and ultimately the ABTC had to admit that that was impossible, due to Ethan’s violent nature.  For the next two years, there was a torrent of legal battles, suits and counter suits. 
Parents of CNM children began to give up their children to ABTC guardianship or to the appropriate authorities, although some parents refused to even consider it.  One couple came out and publicly said that they were well aware that they had made a mistake genetically engineering their child, but that they were ready to accept the responsibility of their actions.  The couple was killed by their CNM son who himself was shot by the police who answered the emergency call.  When pictures of the boy were leaked online, many considered it a joke.  The pictures of the dead boy were considered by many to be photographs of an animal that had been altered.  When it was proven it was indeed the boy, people became outraged and frightened.
            ABTC franchise hospitals began to report that the parents of CNM children were overwhelming them.  Many of the children had started to become ill and many of the hospitals were unprepared for the onslaught.  Governments didn’t get involved until one of the children went on a rampage and killed four nurses. The death of the nurses started people openly talking about what would actually happen when the children grew up.   Riots around the world damaged and sometimes destroyed ABTC facilities.  Doctors, scientists and others connected with ABTC were attacked. 
  At the last count there were 220,267,000 CNM children worldwide. An estimated third of all non-CNM children worldwide had received at least one CNM cellular treatment, designed to enhance their DNA.  People began asking the question –who was really truly human?