of the names in this story are variations of "Gregor Johann
Mendel" who discovered the famous Mendelian laws of (biol.)
transmission. Any resemblances with the name of "Robert
Mandell" are purely coincidental.
Of course, as E. Kishon
once said: Even coincidental resemblances are resemblances...
natural selection acts solely by accumulating slight, successive,
favourable variations, it can produce no great or sudden
modification; it can act only by very short and slow steps. Hence
the canon of `Natura non facit saltum,' which every fresh
addition to our knowledge tends to make more strictly correct, is
on this theory simply intelligible. [...]
Man does not
actually produce variability; he only [...] exposes organic
beings to new conditions of life, and then nature acts on the
organisation, and causes variability.
["The Origin Of
The Species" by Charles Darwin]
second half of the 21st Century that was no longer true.
man who slept exhausted in the worn out second cockpit seat knew
that all too well.
spoken, the Mendell wasn't a passenger ship. The papers
identified it as a light freighter, but its Captain, Gregor
Johann Roberts, conveniently forgot that if someone paid enough
for the transit. In fact, this forgetfulness was the reason the
Mendell, originally a blockade-runner in the Colonial Wars, was
still in the business though it wasn't traveling under the
protective flag of one of the big companies. The various
companies had claimed a lot of the colonial worlds for themselves
until these worlds had decided that that was a protection 'from'
and not against something and had declared most of these
suffocating economical treaties obsolete, ending the company
dictatorship but unfortunately also most of the inter-colonial
freight transport, which left the owners of small independent
vessels like the Mendell in the lurch.
threw a look back at the sleeping man. He had long since learned
not to ask his passengers any questions on the three or four
week-long travel to one of the now independent ex-colonial
planets. Often, he didn't even know their names. They seldom got
to know his either. And that was most likely better for all
However, this one was
He estimated him of
being in his forties, possibly even in his fifties, given his
white hair and wrinkled face that spoke of humor and somehow
gentleness, which fit with the plain, but good clothing and the
proper, manicured hands. Definitely not his usual runaway
criminal on his flight to the lawless outskirt planets. The man
had paid in cash, no ecards or risky trusts or something, but
A less honest being
than GJ would likely have considered robbery and a dump into
vacuum, but the Mendell had a name for reliability – and a
scar across a third of his rib cage had taught Roberts that even
harmless looking being could be dangerous.
he'd spotted later had confirmed his beliefs in that regard. On
board a ship an LG
couldn't be fired at dangerous energy levels without risk of
penetrating the hull, so a firefight would have been a calculated
risk, but those Automated Projectile Guns were unpredictable in
that regard. He was glad he hadn't even considered the plan.
Somehow, the passenger made him curious. Curious enough that he
finally broke his iron rule of not asking anything but the
liquidity of the passenger and the desired aim, and begged for
the name. And the man gathered himself tiredly up in the only
barely comfortable chair, and said after a moment: "Tom
GJ grinned. "And
your best friend is Huck Finn, right?" At the astonished
look of his passenger. "Hey, just because I fly a puny
freighter like the Mendell doesn't mean I never saw a school from
the inside. – Anyway, it's okay. I'm JR for you. – Do
you like Twain's writing?"
sighed. Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" was
the last story he'd read to Billy. Frances had made him a scene
afterwards for feeding their nice boy ideas for pranks and
nonsense. That his five-year-old son had fallen asleep in the
middle of the scene with the fence painting hadn't mattered to
her, that he seldom caused any trouble hadn't either.
remembered that at the sight of his sleeping son he'd wished he'd
been able to read this story to another five-year-old some years
ago, who'd never have fallen asleep in it, and who likely would
have kept them all on their toes with the mischief he'd have made
for sure afterwards...
about that feeling had stabbed at him. It wasn't Billy's fault
that he wasn't as bright and lively as Joe's boy had been back
then in spite of the circumstances he was living in. Billy was
calmer, less curious about the world around him, and in a way it
was better so, otherwise Frances wouldn't have been able to care
for him while he was at work during the weeks.
had always had kind of a 'weekend marriage', with him working at
a secret military project and his wife, Frances, being the
ultimate female home broker, online from dawn till dusk, and not
necessarily dawn and dusk of the time-zone they were living in.
Nobody had been more surprised than Frances herself when she'd
learned that at the age of thirty-eight she really was going to
have a child. She'd thought she had an upset stomach when she'd
gone to the doctor.
relationship hadn't really endured Billy's first year. What had
been a warm home with agreement and tolerance on both sides when
they were both at home had soon turned into a nest for Frances
and her child, with Max not much more than a guest, welcomed in
the beginning, but only felt as a disturbance as time went by.
But they had seen each other seldom enough that they never really
had a breakup.
Now, aware that
he'd most likely never return to their house, he realized
bitterly that such a dispute possibly would have been better. At
least, it would have sorted things out. And whatever it might
have brought, at least she'd have known how it hurt him when she
told her son aloud, that 'his daddy is the man that visits us on
weekends.' Us. As if he didn't belong to them.
sighed. That was past. A wasted chance. Lost. He had to forget
He'd made the decision a
long time ago.
And all he could do
now, after InterSec had stormed his house, threatened his family
and confiscated his personal files in the name of Senator
Wheiner, was to beg his friend to keep an eye on them, too...
threw another look at his passenger. Definitely not his usual
customer in many ways. But absolutely normal in one: he didn't
seem to want to talk. Okay.
should send you a stuffed animal when something's wrong with your
family?" Joe asked, astonished.
Max kept sorting the few belongings he had in his room at the
base, "this one would be best. I'll recognize
Walsh caught it as he
tossed it towards him, looked at it and raised a brow. "A
reminded me of an error I made with the boy I didn't
"I folded a
paper plane while he was around at my desk before I continued
working on his samples, consciously leaving him out of my sight –
remember that, Joe. He'll never do anything if you watch him.
He's too cautious for that. At first, I thought he hadn't taken
the bait, but later, after I was done, I discovered that he
hadn't used the paper sheet I left lying around for him but that
he changed mine." He hastily sorted through his belongings.
"He improved it with strengthened wing edges and tailfins.
The thing really flew afterwards, my version just spun to the
floor. Anyway, I was so impressed that I asked him the next day
how he did it and he denied doing anything immediately." Max
sighed and looked over to his friend. "He never touched
paper in my lab again unless he was directly ordered, and then he
produced nothing better than any of the others would." He
nodded at the stuffed animal in Walsh's hand. "He's like a
hedgehog. Whenever something comes close he curls up and erects
his spines, sometimes for months." He pulled the straps
around his bag tight and scanned the room with a final quick
glance. "I must go, or they'll catch me here." He
stopped at the door and looked back at the commander. "You
have to find somehow a way to get him two extra liters of water a
day, Joe," he said urgently, "he needs it. Your boy's
strong, Joe. Despite PTS,
IP, and all that
shit, he's still more than a weapon. Help him to stay that
Sawyer shook his head, interrupting him. He had to keep going or
he'd collapse right on the spot. "I don't regret what I did,
Joe. Not at all. Your boy's possibly the one good thing to come
out of the hell this project turned out to be. I just hope you
can get him out of here before he really loses."
take care of Frances and Billy."
nodded. "Thank you. If something's really wrong, send the
hedgehog to the IPS-number
box. It'll reach me."
will. Good luck."
it. You two are going to need it much more than me when the
senator puts the information in the confiscated papers together
correctly. Maybe I'm wanted." He tried to sound eager as he
slung his bag over his shoulder, and knew he wasn't convincing
with it. "But I'm surely not important enough to search all
the independent planets for me."
is already on the base, Max." Joe gave him an APG.
He shook his
head. "I can't use those things. You know that."
don't have to use it. But you're leaving the planet, wear it in
plain sight then. On spacecraft APGs are unpredictable weapons.
Whoever you run across will think twice before risking an
attack." He nodded towards the door. "Use the supply
tunnel. And if you want it or not. Good luck."
time, he nodded.
sighed again, aware that Joseph would have a much harder stand
than he had. As the military base commander he didn't have a
reason to regularly spend time with the boy to find out what was
going on with him, and in addition, Shane trusted him even less,
was even more on the guard. The PTS had taken care for that. And
likely the thing with the A's. He was sure that the boy had
figured out a long time ago which two persons on the base could
assign A's, and Joe was one of them, which meant that he
literally had the power over life and death. And he doubted that
the little Goose could believe in a merciful god.
hurried through unlighted corridors and nearly collided with the
tall shadow that suddenly appeared in front of him. At fifteen,
the boy had almost reached his full height, with glowing eyes
that scrutinized his face in the dark. For a brief moment Max
wondered how he had escaped the sleeping cubicle, but he had no
time left to worry about that. "Goose, I'm sorry, but I have
He stood dead still, barely more than a shadow in the unlighted
corridor. With any other trooper, Max would have been frightened
out of his mind now.
can't come back."
closed his eyes quickly. Barely more than a longer blinking. "I
know that, too. Your bag's stuffed, and authorities are frisking
the lab." He drew a deep breath. "Make it."
recognized it as the farewell that it was meant to be. "I
will, I'm a geneticist. I know everything about 'survival of the
The boy's face
stayed earnest. Max didn't expect anything from the young trooper
and was surprised when he spoke anyway. "It's an illusion.
Among humans it's survival of the seemingly
one last thing – Trust the commander." He saw the
sudden wariness in the Goose's eyes and continued before the boy
could retreat. "He doesn't want you harmed in any way."
Gods, he wished he'd have more time to convince him.
made a step to the side, breaking the moment. "Your hunters
are close. Don't waste time."
just hoped that Joe would find a way to get the boy out of that
living hell Negata's project had become over the
Nobody deserved such a
treatment. And for sure not a child like the little
He'd been disappointed
when Billy had fallen asleep during his reading, when he hadn't
been interested in making things out of wood and paint, but now
he thought of his friend who'd never even gotten the chance to
tell his son a fairy tale in the evening, or to fly a kite, or go
fishing, to a baseball match, or whatever, who instead had to
worry about untrained full body transformations, sharp
ammunition, drug doses and side effects, close combat and test
And he couldn't keep
himself from screaming inwardly, that it wasn't fair! That a
child who had all this was simply not interested in it and
developed with his five years a fascination for slingshots and
hand-to-hand fighting that he'd watched with more than just
concern, and on the other hand, another one, so lively and
curious, who watched the few glimpses of the world he got to see
out of great wondering green eyes full of fascination –
even joy if he felt unwatched – never got the chance to see
all the wonders the world held out for him and instead was forced
to be barely more than a weapon.
And an ugly voice
oozing of cynicism asked him what kind of a father he was
thinking that way about his own natural son.
process of selection has been the great agency in the production
of the most distinct and useful domestic breeds. That many of the
breeds produced by man have to a large extent the character of
natural species, is shown by the inextricable doubts whether very
many of them are varieties or aboriginal species.
Origin Of The Species" by Charles Darwin]
was no longer true, either.
were approaching their destination planet already.
had all begun when he'd seen the hope and the shattering of it in
Joe's face when he'd driven him to the hospital where his family
had been brought.
thought about helping or helping not back then, sixteen years ago
now. It had been one of these decisions from the heart
with its inherit certainty that just could not be denied whether
one knew the consequences it bore or not. He had to help the
commander, just had to use his knowledge – to rescue the
And he had done without
wasting a thought about the fact that he literally committed a
crime using artificial DNA on a developing human fetus.
crime Owen at the STP had avoided by generating the underlying
gen sets artificially out of literally millions of DNA samples,
collected around the turn of the millennium from the members of
the armed forces of countries like the United States or China,
and replacing the inactive DNA-components by the
standard-fill-sequence to make identification by gen tests
impossible. It had been a legal back door, but none of the gen
sets would have developed under standard conditions, therefore
they weren't legally considered as embryos or later fetuses.
Leaving each of the children at Wolf Den with literally hundreds
of parents behind – all of them already older than ninety
or dead by the time the gen sets were developed – or none,
for there was still the behavior caused by the philosophy of
shared responsibility is half responsibility and if
hundreds of people are responsible, there'd be no one who had to
do something – except with Shane.
been a time when they'd feared the child would turn out to take
too much after his father to explain it with genetic chance. But
he luckily hadn't. Joe had told him once in an odd moment of
weakness that the boy would look a lot like his mother with his
fair hair, green eyes and the endless legs.
had never met Leana Walsh, but according to the appearance she'd
passed on to her son, she'd been a real beauty...
boy was fifteen now. And had never argued with his dad about the
time when to be at home in the evening, hadn't thought about his
first girlfriend, or worried about his results in school. He'd
never broken the neighbors' windows or brought a mangy dog home
Max remembered when
he'd been at college. And he'd never been someone whom the girls
looked after, but the boy would be such a one, if–
had to stop these if's! They'd bring him nowhere!
been in Owen's project from the very beginning. He'd been one of
his lab assistants when he'd – being still at university –
discovered the possibility not to optimize the physical abilities
of the test animals, but to alter them completely. He remembered
the astonishing results...
Watch out! The cage–" but it was too late. He was
already circled by a squeaking cloud of rainbow colored mice
flapping their wings and tousling his hair. Owen sighed and
locked the door. "We'll need hours to catch them
He picked one of the mice, a yellow one with green stripes, out
of his shock where it had caught himself and put it back into the
cage. "When's your meeting with the militaries?"
sighed and wrung his hands. "In less than an hour. I'll need
at least some of them..."
"Professor, do you really believe it's a good idea to have
them finance the researches?" he made a discomforted face.
"When I think about the goings-on with these mutated
flu-strands a while ago."
know, Max. But the only other institutions able to finance us are
the combined companies. And they are even worse. I don't feel
well about that, either. But–" he set his jaw. "We
have to go on. We are so close to a real break-through that it's
practically biting our noses."
He caught the pink mouse in front of his face. "Literally.
Did you have to tell them that?" The tone between him and
his prof was pretty easy, but then Owen Negata was a genius, and
not much older than Max himself.
named genius laughed faintly. "In that case we should test
them for enhanced intelligence. Ever played chess?" he asked
a tiny blue rodent circling around his head and caught it by its
tail. The mouse didn't answer.
general, Class, chills me somehow." Max successfully chased
a couple of entrapped mice back into another cage that he handed
agreeable person. But he belongs to the committee." Owen
sighed. "Wish me luck. I'm nervous."
luck, Professor," he had smiled, "and don't
worry, I'll catch the rest."
years later he'd regretted that luck, when the STP had been
started, when literally millions of gen sets – of human gen
sets – had been created and altered statistically in an
automated process, about thousand a day, going on for years. Of
100,000 thousand gen sets about a hundred were allowed to develop
into babies, and in the end, about one of them became a member in
So many deaths –
of beings never considered alive.
he regretted it even more when he witnessed the treatment the few
survivors received during the years. There were no night, if he
was on the base or at home, when he could close his eyes and not
see the misformed fetuses and babies whose non-standard-DNA
features had run wild somewhere in the process.
was one thing to see a brightly covered lab mouse developing a
hydrocephalus, it was something different to see a three-year-old
child accidentally cutting her soft head open on a
He had never asked
what happened with those who were abandoned. He'd been barely
able to stand what was done to those considered viable –
within the realms of the project, which meant on interstellar
battlefields or in the Hell – he didn't want to imagine
what was done to those who lost even that small protection of
He thought of the
rainbow colored mice with butterfly wings so many years ago and
wished they'd never existed.
its disreputable appearance the Mendell had landed smoothly. GJ
watched his 'freight' packing his few things up and prepared for
deboarding. "What do you plan to do now?" he asked,
violating his rule again.
man shrugged. "I'm an educated man. I'm sure my service will
be welcomed out here."
have you learned?"
first, it seemed the man who'd called himself Tom Sawyer wouldn't
answer, but then, when he was almost of the airlock he said: "To
watched him walking across the landing field – towards the
hangars. Somehow he was sure that when he returned after his next
flight, he'd find out that Sawyer had left Montana with an
from these difficulties, all the other great leading facts in
palaeontology seem to me simply to follow on the theory of
descent with modification through natural selection. We can thus
understand how it is that new species come in slowly and
successively; how species of different classes do not necessarily
change together, or at the same rate, or in the same degree; yet
in the long run that all undergo modification to some extent. The
extinction of old forms is the almost inevitable consequence of
the production of new forms. We can understand why when a species
has once disappeared it never reappears. Groups of species
increase in numbers slowly, and endure for unequal periods of
time; for the process of modification is necessarily slow, and
depends on many complex contingencies. The dominant species of
the larger dominant groups tend to leave many modified
descendants, and thus new sub-groups and groups are formed. As
these are formed, the species of the less vigorous groups, from
their inferiority inherited from a common progenitor, tend to
become extinct together, and to leave no modified offspring on
the face of the earth. But the utter extinction of a whole group
of species may often be a very slow process, from the survival of
a few descendants, lingering in protected and isolated
situations. When a group has once wholly disappeared, it does not
reappear; for the link of generation has been broken.
Origin Of The Species" by Charles Darwin]
Homo Sapiens Sapiensis in the attempt to defend itself had
modified itself to an extent beyond natural selection. And beyond
control. And as its heirs escaped their treatment they were
spreading the fear...
of the fittest was a horribly simplified version of Darwin's
theory that mankind feared would have to be applied to itself
now. He remembered a still childish voice correcting that idea
some months ago with Among humans it's survival of the
of the most unscrupulous ones. Max added grimly in his
thoughts as he adjusted the hypercom receiver antennae embedded
in the roof precisely. It would be his connection to the
civilized worlds. This planet wasn't among the former colonies –
his odyssey had crossed quite a few of them – and it had a
rather bad reputation. But he was far from any settlements and
there were a lot of people demanding for better adapted domestic
breeds. He wouldn't betray evolution. He'd just speed it up a
He sighed. It was a
nitpicking distinction, but he didn't have a choice. He'd never
learned anything else.
three years later Max was notified about a parcel and he told IPS
a planet and a time to deliver. Despite his fears he was there
when they came and he got an unmarked parcel with a tiny stuffed
hedgehog. On the inside of the wrapping paper was written by
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suffered a heart attack. She's fine at the moment,
doctors doubt that she'll recover enough to care for
again. William is currently staying with her sister in
but he doesn't seem to be happy or welcomed there.
arrange a transport for him if needed.
Contact me as
p.s.: whatever you heard about the riots
wherever you are:
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S. Trivia Blank for her help with English!