The Seeds of New Earth (The Silent Earth, Book 2)By: Mark R. Healy
“And do you think the ones who built us, the ones who designed us to bring humans back into the world wanted this? Are you even bringing back humans, or something else?”
“Don’t be so melodramatic,” she snapped. “This is the time for pragmatism, not sentimentality. You need to start thinking objectively.”
“I am thinking objectively. What if you introduce cancer or a disease into these embryos, Arsha? We could be setting something in motion that doesn’t manifest itself for ten or fifteen years, and then we could lose them all.”
“We won’t. The changes I’m introducing have been used before and I’ve examined all the data that’s contained in M-Corp’s repositories. That’s years of biotech data. There’s no danger. I wouldn’t be going down this road if there was.”
“And what are these changes you’re introducing, anyway?” I said as we dissected a pile of rubble in the street and proceeded along a narrow path that had been cleared on one side.
“Stronger bones, stronger skin,” she said. “More efficient metabolisms so they can go without food for longer. Everything they’ll need to be more resilient in this new world.” She glanced over her shoulder at me. “This world isn’t the paradise we once knew, Brant. It will be a struggle, not just for you and me as we try to raise them, but for them as well. At least in the early years, it will be a real struggle.”
I stared at her helplessly as she strode onward. We were two unlikely world builders – a couple of synthetics with a repository of frozen human and plant embryos who had been left to bring life back into the world, life that had been snuffed out by war and by the cold and dark of Winter. After the light returned to the world a decade or more later, there had been no sign of animal or plant life at all. The human race had not only caused the extinction of itself, but of everything else as well. It was just the machines, the ones who could survive the freezing temperatures and the lack of nourishment who’d survived.
And here we were with a chance to bring humans back, to make the earth green again, to give it voice. But no matter which way I flipped it, no matter how I tried to see her point of view, I just couldn’t bring myself to agree that bioengineering was the right course of action. Yes, there would be struggle. There would be difficulties to overcome. That didn’t mean we had to go down this road of fiddling with the most basic components of human life. Not yet. Maybe down the track if all else failed, but not yet.
“I can’t agree to it,” I said finally, pressing my lips together resolutely.
“Look, it’s not worth discussing further,” she replied curtly, swinging over a guardrail and starting up the slanting on-ramp to the freeway.
She swept onward without looking back. “Because I’ve already done it.”
We stood within the dim confines of the inner lab at M-Corp. Surrounded by vinyl floors, curved grey walls, silver storage compartments and benches that disappeared into the gloom, the lab was a carbon copy of many others I had worked in before the Winter. There were no defining characteristics that marked this space as something remarkable or important. And yet, undeniably, that is what it was.
Before us, the central lab enclosure – a rectangle of steel and blue glass – was positioned at the head of a row of ungainly looking contraptions known as ‘a-wombs’. They rose out of the floor, their bases curving sumptuously like sunflower stems to just above waist height, supporting an intricate mesh of components at their crown. Held in place by four segmented arms, the guts of the a-wombs were comprised of a network of transparent tubes, a fibrous black netting, and, jutting from the forward section, translucent sacs that resembled limp, thick-skinned balloons. There were ten in all, empty and inert, awaiting the insertion of their precious payload.
“You said you altered how many embryos? Twenty?”
“Twenty-two,” she corrected.
I tugged at my white cleanroom suit, adjusting it to a more comfortable position, and stepped closer to the nearest a-womb. Arsha moved behind me and activated a bank of white LEDs she’d affixed to the wall. These were used in place of the ceiling lights, which drew far more power from the battery reserves than we could spare. The LEDs did a decent enough job of lighting the room, casting a dull sheen across the a-womb sacs and shedding sufficient light for us to go about our work.
“So that still leaves twenty-six that haven’t been engineered.”
“Yes.” She crossed her arms. “There’s plenty for you to choose from that are untouched.”
“You should have told me about this. You should have at least consulted with me first.”
“That would have been difficult,” she said drily, “since I made the alterations two years ago. You were still out in the desert running from Marauders back then.”
I shifted uncomfortably at the thought. That time I’d spent in the desert was like a blur: hiding, fleeing, sometimes killing to stay alive. I thought of Wraith and the other Marauders coming after me, and how they’d almost taken me down many times. Somehow I’d avoided them and fought them off, eventually making it back home.