The Seeds of New Earth (The Silent Earth, Book 2)By: Mark R. Healy
She went back for more mulch and then moved onto the next garden bed.
“Like I’ve said before, Brant, I don’t have a figure in mind. I don’t know how large the community that we leave behind will be. It could be twenty, or it could be a thousand. I only know that it needs to be as large as we can possibly make it. The more of them there are, the greater chance they’ll have of surviving and propagating.”
“Okay, let’s work the other way, then. Forget about that end of the spectrum, the goal. What are we going to start with?”
She finished distributing the mulch around a tomato plant and straightened. “That’s where we have a problem, isn’t it?”
I ploughed on. “We have forty-eight human embryos in the cryotank at the workshop. In the big scheme of things, there’s not a lot of room for error.”
“So I say we grow six on our first try.”
“And if they all come to term, that’s six children we have to raise.”
“Yeah,” she said casually. “So?”
“That’s six children to feed and raise, to clothe and keep warm, in addition to all the work we have to do with the crops and these other projects,” I said. “Do you really think we can cope with that kind of workload?”
“Yeah, I do. In light of the cryotank data, I don’t think we have time to mess around. Within the near future those embryos could suffer irreparable damage. There are signs that they’re starting to deteriorate.”
“I know that, but can we feed that many children?”
She hesitated. “Yeah, we can.”
Brushing past me, she strode over to a bucket of water by the tank and began to clean the dirt from her hands.
“Why do I get the impression you’re not telling me something here?”
“What do you mean?”
I joined her, dipping my own fingers in the bucket. “I mean how do you plan to feed six infants? That’s cutting it a little fine, considering our crop yield right now.”
Wiping her hands on a cloth, she refused to look at me. “Come on, let’s get going. We’ll talk on the way.”
With that, she headed out for the street. I scraped my hands messily on my shirt, then bounded after her.
She strode on quickly, and I only reached her as she stepped out onto Somerset Drive. In the distance, the tall spires of the ruined city, clad in a dirty haze, reached toward the sky like rotten brown weeds. Across the terrain I could see more and more patches of green as vegetation slowly began to reclaim the city, and here on Somerset the grass was thick, lapping at the edges of houses, where long vines climbed almost to the roofs. The change here had been nothing short of amazing, to the point where this part of the city was now redolent of meadows and forests rather than the crushed concrete and dirt of a year ago.
“Arsha!” I said again, drawing alongside her. “Are you going to answer me? How do you expect them all to survive?”
The corner of her mouth twisted and she stared out over the city as we walked.
“Because I’m engineering them to.”
I gaped at her stupidly. “What?”
“You heard me.”
“You’re planning to bioengineer the only surviving human embryos on the planet?” I said, disbelieving.
“What’s the problem, Brant?” she said crossly.
“The problem is that you’re messing with biology that could have some pretty serious implications, long term. Without the proper trials we might not know until it’s too late.”
“That’s garbage. M-Corp was using the tech for years, and now we have full access to the workshop, so why not continue it? You and I both did plenty of biotech before the Winter, as synthetics working in their lab.”
“Well, my memories of those days aren’t the same as yours.”
She looked at me almost apologetically. “Yeah. Sorry.”
“And you know as well as I do that most of the biotech we worked on was for black market applications. For people who weren’t concerned about what happened in twenty or fifty years from now. People who were only concerned with what they could get out of it in the short term.”
“It was only the legislation that kept it from being accepted and used by the wider public. You know that.”
“And the legislation was in place to protect those people–”
“Look, Brant,” she cut in, “you said it yourself: we don’t have a lot of room for error. We need to raise children who are going to survive. To do that they’re going to need to be strong. They’re going to need to be resilient.”
“And the only way to achieve that is if we engineer it into them? Humans did a pretty damn good job of surviving for a few hundred thousand years before they started tinkering with their own DNA.”
We exited Somerset and started down the slope toward the freeway, Arsha setting a pace so quick that I almost needed to jog to keep up.
“I’m sorry if this doesn’t fit in with your vision of a perfect and pure utopia,” she said unsympathetically. “In the end, we want the same thing: healthy children who survive and grow into adults who will in turn breed more healthy children. This is the way that I think we can ensure that happens.”