The Book of Jobe
The Book of Jobe
By Babs Yerunkle
Tuesday, January 9, 2007 10:45 PM
There are many differences between proper lab procedure and the sloppy blundering that are typical of the lesser lights in the field of science. It’s hardly an idle boast to say that I am the world’s leading geneticist, bio-chemist, and all-around bio-technician. I’ve certainly never met my equal. That’s why I must always strive to make such a perfect example of myself. After all, if I don’t lead, who can?
As an example, consider the multiple racks of formulae in my “active projects” area. The chilled storage of assorted solutions and reagents must be racked and filed in a precise arrangement, for instant access in a crisis such as this. Each vial must be tightly sealed, enough to protect in an accident or spill, but not enough to hinder access in an emergency. Like this one. And lastly, each must be double-labeled. The second label is a fine-scripted, detailed notation on exactly what the vial contained. The primary label is the color-coded lid. Red for poisons and venoms, pink for blood products, light green for antidotes, anti-venoms, antibody solutions, and the like. Dark green for experimental formulae. A rainbow of color IDs, designed by me, each specific to the product category within.
I suppose there is a third protection, which is that each and every vial must be in its appointed location in the proper rack.
So, when I needed “black widow T5 anti-venom,” and needed it right now, it was a quick reach to the proper spot on the rack.
As an aside, I’ve long had a fascination with spiders. They’re amazing creatures, natural engineers, and they have a potent chemical defense in their venom. In fact, they were the perfect starting point for all sorts of projects. My first major patent had been a cross of silkworm and spider, with just a touch of genius added in. The resulting creature, my “razorspinners,” spun a webline that could slice nearly anything organic. And the delightful little creatures had a digestive venom that was adept at dissolving vertebrate flesh as well as insect protein. The United Nations (cowering fools one and all) wouldn’t let me release them into a natural environment. A shame, since I think they’d be quite successful. Still, I kept the most interesting gardens, back in Karedonia. It’s almost a shame we don’t have more criminals.
My current project also began with spiders. Starting from a black widow base, I was engineering a spider which had a far more toxic venom, and at the same time was soothed by the chemical environment of my skin and sweat. When I succeeded, I’d be able to handle them safely, perhaps even carry them with me. They’d serve as useful tools in the ever-hostile environment known as Whateley.
Science, however, is never a straight path, but rather a series of trials and dead ends followed by reversals and eventual triumph. As an example, while my current experiments did have a more potent venom, I can state with some authority that they were not soothed by my skin. Hence, the immediate need for anti-venom.
The toxin was so potent that I’m afraid my hand trembled slightly as I reached for the rack. My carefully-labeled vials scattered across the lab bench. They didn’t break or spill – as I’ve said, a proper seal is important. I grabbed for the green-topped vial and quickly drew a few CC’s. Then I injected the formula in the centroid of the various bite marks on the back of my left hand. It didn’t work as quickly as I’d hoped, but after a few moments I began to feel some relief.
As my father was known to say, once again I had cheated death.
I re-stocked the vial in its proper location, and begin to restore the rack, carefully reading each vial to ensure that there would be no mistakes.
Then I retrieved a vial from the floor that caused me some anxiety: “black widow T5 anti-venom.”
But… if the anti-venom had been on the floor, what had I injected myself with? And why had it seemed to work?
Quickly, I gave myself an injection of the proper anti-venom. Then, my hand crept to the rack. I withdrew a vial that was not light green, but the dark green of an experimental formula. My hand was shaking, not from a toxin reaction, but from the fear that I knew what this was. Sure enough, the vial read:
Drow serum, final formula.
The bottom dropped out of my world.
I had doomed myself, more surely than any spider bite ever could.
It’s necessary to go back a bit to properly explain this catastrophe. The only question is, where to begin?
Perhaps I should start with the decision to breed venomous spiders?
I may not throw a punch like some of the bricks out there. I’ve never found this a great hindrance, even at a school such as Whateley, which is a celebration of the Neanderthal arts. After all, the Neanderthals themselves were larger and stronger than the scrawny modern humans they competed with. But the larger brain of h. sapiens made all the difference. You don’t find a great many Neanderthals around today, do you? Excepting, of course, revival tents and pro sports.
Continuing in this vein, my cottage had a certain super-strong sub-human, who lived two floors up from me. His ape-like brain picked me as the target of his ire. Perhaps it was due to my innocent suggestion that I might hire a tutor to bring him up to speed on his shoe-tying skills. Whatever the reason, he expressed his irritation in his own idiom, by inflicting damage upon the cottage’s sheetrock through the use of my skull. I, in turn, expressed my displeasure through a more gentlemanly and refined method. Captain Caveman woke up in the middle of the night with poisonous spiders crawling over his face. His astonishing constitution handled the venom with little trouble (rather minor swelling, in my opinion). Not that I claimed responsibility. One doesn’t cultivate a reputation for subtlety by claiming credit for such heavy-handed attacks. On the other hand, I did feel a pang from my conscience: if everyone instantly assumed that any poisonous animal must have come from my room, did it still count as subtle?
This was indeed a dilemma. I didn’t want to fall into a rut, even a successful one. Though it’s true, Captain Cretin hadn’t bothered me since then. He was probably worried that I’d engineer spiders with an even stronger venom, which is what eventually caused me to—
No, that’s probably not far enough back.
Perhaps I should go back before I was born, when Dad conquered a certain Caribbean isle and re-christened it Karedonia. In my opinion, the island had never done better. An incorruptible robot police force, plenty of import money from our banking and internet services (totally free from the strangling regulations of the larger nations), tourism that only caters to the medium- and ultra-rich, and superb support of native culture and traditions. Frankly, the rest of the region could benefit from that sort of rule, though that would be a little more trouble than it’s worth, don’t you know? I mean, how many tropical mansion-lab-base-palaces do you need? We thought three were enough.
I think that’s what frustrates some of the so-called “do-gooders” out there. The thought that the infamous Gizmatic had settled down as a minor leader on the world stage, and didn’t intend any further conquest or terror campaigns. Well, they learned to deal with Lord Paramount, and compared to that, Dad is small potatoes.
It makes me question the rap they’ve given Lord Paramount. The few times I talked to him, during vacations, state visits, and the like, he was a thoroughly charming man. A bit ruthless, but sometimes you have to be, don’t you? I expect all new leaders need to put down the occasional rebellion or uprising. The faster and more decisively you do it, the better. That was Dad’s opinion, and LP (I don’t actually call him that to his face) seemed to agree whole-heartedly.
But perhaps that’s going too far back. Maybe my troubles really started when I left for school. I remember how it all began, with Dad bursting into my lab…
“Dad,” I shouted, “not now! I just finished centrifuging those puppies, and if I don’t move fast, I’ll lose the vital spark in the cerebro-spinal fluid!”
He looked down at me with that mixture of pride and concern that I imagine any parent shows for their child.
“You remind me of myself, back when I was your age,” he said. “But really, son, do you have to waste your time with all this … biology? It’s so unsanitary, and, well … messy! Why, when I was your age, our idea of innocent fun was simple, clean things, like laser beams and naked electricity! Why don’t kids today appreciate more of the wholesome, basic forces of the universe?”
“I’d love to talk, Dad.” I said that as I injected the purified fluid into an iguana. A lot of people think that iguanas are beneath them, that you need something bigger or fancier like a Gila monster or a komodo dragon. You’d be surprised how well you can make do with more basic ingredients, if you just have the creativity, and know where to apply precise bursts of beta rays.
“Anyway, Dad, I’m kind of busy right now, so maybe we could talk after dinner, okay?”
I managed to put him off for the moment, but the topic wouldn’t stay gone. I knew that the carefree days of my youth were soon to come to an end. Perhaps every boy struggles with such issues. Eventually, he realizes that he must abandon the innocent days of childhood, and take those first steps into the larger and more mature world of adulthood.
For me, that came during the summer, when we flew up to visit Whateley. I think that was when I fell in love with the place. It wasn’t the stately old buildings, nor the venerable traditions. If I had to put my finger on it, I’d say it was touring Devisor Lab Five. Never before had I seen so many bottled samples, nor such an impressive array of preservation techniques! I knew, then and there, that this was the school for me.
I was a little concerned, moving in. Would the other kids be nice? Would they be mean? Would people accept me? I knew it would be harder to make new friends here – Whateley didn’t have the liberal grave-robbing laws we enjoyed in Karedonia.
A particular challenge was moving into my room at Twain. I wanted to make a good impression, so I was decorating in advance of my roommate arriving. I’d replaced the main lamps with my own luminescent dry jellyfish. “Glowing jiggly fun” I call them, though they never really caught on. Maybe it’s the stinging tentacles. Anyway, that’s when our House “Mother”, Mr. Filbert stopped by with my new roommate Oak.
Oak is just over seven feet tall, a quarter ton of living tree, shaped pretty much like a guy. His hair is some sort of foliage, and thick bark covers his entire body including his face. It gives him a rather wooden expression at times.
“We make it a point,” Mr. Filbert explained, “to pair relatively normal students with students who are, pardon me, ‘freaks.’ This helps increase tolerance; it bridges diverse communities; and roommates are able to help each other in very unexpected ways. So I’m sorry, Oak, but you’ll be rooming with Jobe Wilkins.”
My tall roommate-to-be rumbled in his creaky voice, “I understand. We all have to do our part.”
I shook his hand – well, it’s sort of like a hand – and welcomed him in. “My stuff’s on this side, so can put your trunk over there.”
I have to say, Oak and I got along great. I’m not really into plants. (Granted, I’ll engage in the occasional fungal experiment, but if you can’t tell one kingdom from another, why am I even bothering?) Oak seemed to actually appreciate most of my efforts. He seemed amused by my dirt-lickers, and when I expanded that with the floor-tongue, he was one of the few supportive voices. He said it kept him from rooting.
Unfortunately, my biggest and best and grandest and most spectacular project of all time left him cold.
I unrolled the concept drawing across my desk.
“Who’s she?” Oak asked. (You have to understand, it took him a half minute to creak out the question.)
“This,” I announced proudly, “is my new girlfriend! And with luck, the girl of my dreams, and my future wife!”
“Eh,” he scoffed, “not much of a looker, is she?”
I’m afraid my reply was at a higher volume than I typically use. “Maybe that’s because the rest of us aren’t into INSECT PORN!” And I thrust my finger out in accusation, pointing to the smutty picture he had over his soil bed: a swarm of bees!
“I get it in fifty spots at once,” he taunted, “and I can go all day!”
I still think he was leading me on. It’s hard to believe that plant sex is all that great. Still, I knew where to draw the line. He doesn’t hassle me about my little eccentricities, and I don’t bother him when he pollinates in public.
Since I wasn’t getting any enthusiasm at home, I took it to show my posse. Not a literal posse, of course. We’re all more likely to be the target of vigilante action than the leader of such. That’s why we hang together, actually, because we’re all misunderstood. Just because our parents got a bad rap, we have to suffer for it. It’s so unfair! If your dad started one little plague, or your mom maybe assassinated the queen of who-cares-land, the kids get tagged with this horrible legacy like we’ve got no soul! Which is definitely not true, because all of us except Nephandus have souls. Nephandus claims to have sold his, but it’s hard to imagine that he’d find a buyer. That thing couldn’t have been in the best of shape.
Where was I?
The truth was, I’d been working on the plans for years. It had been a secret love, an obsession, and my greatest project since the age of eight. I’d revealed the plans to Mom and Dad, after perhaps two years of work. They’d pretended to be interested, but I could tell they were just humoring me. Oak had been a good sounding board, but his very impartiality also meant that he wasn’t enthusiastic.
There was another group, though. I’d known Jadis and Malachi since childhood, and met Ryan and Romeo on a few occasions, when their parents dragged them down to Karedonia or Dad brought me on a trip. The rest I had come to know here at Whateley. It took a lot to give them a peek at my innermost dreams, at the tender crush of my boyish heart. Carefully I unrolled the visualization.
“Oh, yeah,” Nephandus gushed, “I’d do her, no question.”
“Who is she?” Lindsey asked in wonder.
“My wife-to-be,” I revealed, laying all my cards on the table. “My perfect girlfriend, my mate, my love.”
Rosethorn schmoozed in, like the Romeo of his true name. “A woman like that,” he breathed, “she must be courted. Wooed and won, through a hundred romantic encounters. Then you do her!”
“You had to blow it,” Jadis grumbled.
“I like her!” Winter said, as she stroked the glossy poster. “Pure black skin, hair even whiter than Jadis’. She looks just like a drow. Doesn’t matter what she’s like; one look at her and people will just know she’s evil. Perfect for the Bad Seeds. When does she join?”
Jadis snorted. “You want someone who looks evil? You like hanging out with a big sign on your back that says, ‘Bad guy, please beat down?’”
“No,” Winter explained, “I want her to wear the sign. Takes some heat off of the rest of us. Besides, everyone knows that drow are evil, and she looks just like a drow.”
“She is a drow,” I explained.
“Uh, beg to differ,” Nephandus pointed out. “Ever since Nikki Reilly arrived on campus, elf studies and research has been a popular pastime, particularly for those of us in the mystic fields. Believe me when I tell you, there’s no such thing as a drow.”
“Yet,” I gently corrected. “Not yet. This perfect girl will be the first of her race, but not the last. And she will be my mate. That’s why I designed her.”
“Designed?” Rosethorn asked. “Why am I hearing warning bells? At least that explains why I haven’t seen her on campus. And, let’s face it, it’s not like you could avoid noticing a girl like that.”
“What’s your plan?” Render asked, flexing his fist. “Kidnap and transform? Sounds cool. You know that I’m always available, for the right price.”
“Thank you, no,” I told him. I appreciated the offer of help, but he was missing the point. “I’m talking about love here. The girl of my dreams will volunteer!”
Lindsey didn’t get it. “You’re expecting some girl to volunteer? To be… changed?”
Lindsey doesn’t always comprehend how the real world works. I explained it to her in simple terms so that she could understand. But she’s a friend, so I was exceedingly diplomatic.
“Look, you’ve got a decent package I guess, if ‘underdeveloped cute’ is your thing, so maybe this isn’t an issue for you. But not every girl can face exemplar babes and walk off with the beauty prize, okay? I’m looking for a girl with a good brain but not so hot in the looks department. In serious need of a booty upgrade. We meet, get simpatico, and then I give her the bod upgrade and everyone’s happy.”
Jadis rolled her eyes for some reason. “And wonder boy thinks Lindsey is naïve.”
Lindsey looked around in confusion. “I’m not naïve, am I?” Pern, her dragonet squeaked angrily.
We assured her that she wasn’t. This wasn’t just because we were her friends. Lindsey’s father wrangles devils for a living. Real devils, the kind that supposedly eat people’s souls. And devil daddy was very protective of his “little angel.”
Silver Serpent was one of the few with useful insight. She cut straight to the heart of the matter. “Exactly how do you plan to accomplish this ‘bod upgrade?’ You aren’t still on that brain transplant kick, are you?”
I held up my hand, calming her. “I’m over that now! Though if you ask me, those two pricks deserved it!”
Jadis snickered. “You know full well that’s no longer an accurate description for one of them!”
“Back to the subject at hand,” I insisted. “The gene map is designed from scratch, by moi,” I said modestly, “and I’ve stumbled upon the perfect delivery mechanism.”
“Nanotech?” Techno-Devil asked. “Seems a bit brute force.”
“Nano has its place,” I admitted. “It’s a great tool for nucleonic manipulation. Or for direct chemical manipulation, it’s hard to beat. But mass construction? I don’t think so. That’s like gardening with a crescent wrench. It’s a crude mis-match that hardly ever works right anyway.”
“Sounds like someone has issues,” She-Beast put in, with her usual sniping.
“So,” Laurel concluded, “we know you prefer biological methods, you’re working from a custom gene map, and you’re going to propagate that gene map through your victim. Pardon me, through your girlfriend. You must be planning to use a retrovirus.”
“Nope,” I said, gaily. “This is even better.”
“What’s left?” Laurel wondered in confusion. “You have some sort of transformation ray? You’ve never been any good at all with electronics, unlike—”
“Don’t say it!” I begged.
We all have our weaknesses and our crosses to bear. Dad had wanted me to grow up to be a mad scientist like him, creating Death Rays, orbital doomsday systems, and unstoppable armies of mechanical slaves. Instead, I had grown up to be a humble biologist. Dad tried to be supportive, but I think he had this dream of the next generation of Wilkins boys going toe-to-toe with the latest incarnation of Champion, like back in the day.
I wiped away a small tear for the grand old man and tried to return to our original topic.
“I found a better way to handle the upgrade,” I announced. “A purely biological method. Here’s a hint: you can only do it once.”
They thought about it and shook their heads.
“I’m drawing a blank,” She-Beast admitted. “But then, geek-babble was never my main interest, you know?”
“I craft the first cell by hand, and then—”
“You clone her!” Lindsey announced, happily. “Oh, that’s so sweet! But remember, Jobe, she’ll be like a child. You’ll have to be very understanding with her, even though she looks like a teenager.”
“No, no! I’m tired of cloning!” I announced.
The truth was, cloning was a part of it. I’d had to create a good deal of equipment for my source. He was one of my old idols, Dr. Igor Gellmar, and it had been well worth my while to keep tabs on him.
“The truth is, the beauty you’re looking at is also a regen-five. When I inject her with the original stem cells, the newer more robust cells will slowly replace her existing cells, working their way completely through her body! She will be upgraded to my perfect design!”
“Correct me if I’m wrong,” Laurel pointed out, “but doesn’t the regenerator transformation fail, in most cases?”
“That is completely incorrect,” I informed him. “20% of the cases work perfectly. Admittedly, there are 10% that have brainwipe, and say, 60% or so that have gruesome side effects.”
“That’s a lot of girlfriends to go through,” She-Beast commented.
“Well, it’s an awesome package,” I countered. “I’m hoping for several volunteers. One of them is bound to get lucky.”
“So what are we talking about, package wise?” Thrasher asked, surprising us all. “What would I get if I volunteered?”
“Nothing!” I said, derisively. “I don’t love you. I don’t even respect you. This is about love.”
She-Beast was stunned. “You’d do a dude?”
I pointed at the illustration. “That is not a dude. Whatever they might start like, she’ll be faaaan-tastic, when I’m done with her!”
“So run us through the details,” Laurel suggested. “I’m a little surprised to see you going for a black girl.”
“She’s not black!” I answered defensively. “Well, she is, obviously, but it’s a charcoal black, rather than a brown-black, like most Africans. And the white hair. That will actually allow her to use all sorts of dyes, quite easily, and wash them out the next day if she feels like it. She’ll be able to carry off some fantastic hair colors, and absolutely everything goes with black.”
Lindsey was puzzled. “You made her black for the fashion possibilities?”
“For god’s sake,” Winter hollered, “she’s a drow! A dark elf!”
“Exactly,” I confirmed. “Enhanced eye design. Reflective retina to double the efficiency like in nocturnal predators and sharks, a far larger iris, giving her almost no white at all, even in that oversized eye, cat-slit eyes for quick response to bright light, a secondary horizontal iris for bright conditions, yielding sharper-than-human eyesight in good light. Enhanced senses of smell, touch, taste. Hearing to about 35 kiloHertz along with larger, slightly mobile ears. She won’t be able to echo-locate, but she’ll be able to judge the size and outline of her surroundings, even in total darkness.
“Of course, there are other enhanced senses,” I said smugly. “Semi-circular canals based on the feline model give her a sense of balance that you wouldn’t believe. A 50% increase in the number of nerve endings in the erogenous zone mean that I’ll be keeping her very happy. Redesigned nerve chemistry based off mutants here at Whateley increases nerve transmission speed by 80%. That and the larger corpus callosum size will make her graceful and deadly in ways you wouldn’t believe.”
She-Beast made snoring sounds. As I petered out, she pretended to wake up. “Sorry, I thought I heard geek babble. It always has that effect on me.”
“Jobe was just telling us how he’s branched into brain genetics,” Laurel said. “Which is a bit advanced, even for him.”
“Uh, actually,” I admitted, “the brain changes all come as part of the standard elf package.”
“Standard elf package?”
“Common genetic elements between Nikki Reilly and a few other fey I was able to get samples of.” I glanced at Laurel. “With help, of course.”
She-Beast whistled. “You got a gene sample from Nikki Reilly?”
“And you wouldn’t believe what it cost me! One hair, with follicle. She usually has a spell to vaporize all that stuff, but this was snagged by a witch I know, and kept in a magic-repelling capsule.”
“Let me get this straight,” She-Beast said, “your potential squeeze here will get a Nikki Reilly elf package, enhanced mumble mumble senses, and get her brain reworked so she can do magic?”
I squirmed a bit. “Uh… not exactly. See, I’ve run the simulations. There should be minimal adjustment to brain structures – tweaks to vision and movement, basically. Who knows if the structures for doing magic will be there? No one has ever identified those. But my calculations say the brain shouldn’t change that much. So if you were a Package Deal Psychic, for example, you should still be one after the transform. As for magic, you might or might not be latent, but we don’t really know what triggers magic development. Probably won’t happen, is my guess. After all, there are plenty of elves that don’t do magic. My babe will be more like that. Graceful and deadly, with perhaps those mental skills she already had.”
“Reilly is going to burn your ass once she finds out!” She-Beast said. “She’ll wave her fingers and you will transform into a French fry, extra crispy.”
“She’ll never find out!” I protested. “Oh yeah, one of you is bound to sell me out, aren’t you? Well this isn’t a ‘steal,’ it’s more of an ‘homage,’ get it? And this girl doesn’t have Nikki genes, per se, just elf genes gather from a variety of sources. The difference between plagiarism and research.”
“Why bother with the elf stuff at all?” Winter wondered. “Seems like a waste of time, and dangerous, too. What if she suddenly has to obey that elf queen that all the fairies are talking about?”
“The so-called ‘faerie queen’ is just a stupid rumor,” I informed her. “Clearly a diversion or deceptive cover, probably started when Nikki Reilly got so popular.”
“But to answer your question, I have lots of reasons.” I held up my hand, flicking fingers to track the count. “One: Nikki Reilly. Babe enough for you? And most of those elf girls are just different flavors of hot. Two, loooong life, so she’ll be a babe while I’m a withered old fart. Three: Nikki Reilly. Like the phone ads say – it’s the next best thing to doing her. Four: I got a thing for drow, okay? I always thought they were sexy. You can’t be a drow, without you be an elf.”
Nephandus rubbed his temple. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but weren’t the drow an invention of gamers? They were never a part of the genuine elf community. They’re pretty much a complete bastard misinterpretation of the Trowe, who don’t look anything like that. And I should know, I’m related to them.”
I grinned. “They never were a part of the elf community. Not until now! What you’re talking about is a terrible oversight that I have now corrected!”
She-Beast looked like she was gagging. “So, what, you want to be the father of an entire race?”
I shrugged, modestly. We all have our little ambitions. “She won’t have to be if she doesn’t want to be. She’ll only have a period if she consciously triggers a fertility cycle. But with hips like those, and the general quality of her muscle tone, she’ll have no trouble giving birth.”
“Hold on here, short, dark, and creepy!” Winter was clearly having trouble wrapping her mind around my brilliance. “You’re telling me that you’ve designed the absolute perfect woman, she’ll be young and beautiful forever, have no periods, regenerate, and have super senses? And all it takes is a giant risk of brain wipe and a hideous death?”
“And you whipped this together in the last month or so?”
“Well, this has been sort of a pet project for the last couple of years, really. I only got the last few pieces, recently.”
Jadis nodded. “That’s true. Every single time he visited, I’d have to listen to him and Malachai chortling about elf porn. I’m pretty damn sick of it, frankly.”
Winter turned to her. “So, any other tasty details he forgot to mention?”
“I try not to listen,” Jadis admitted.
I wracked my mind. “Uh, did I mention the exemplar-four strength, or the super-enhanced reflexes?”
Nephandus nodded. “You mentioned the reflexes. The strength is new.”
“Then I think that’s about it. There’s other minor details – certain cartilage structures, elimination of excess hair, yada yada.”
Winter drooled. “Crap, I’m almost considering it. I never thought I’d want to be black, but … fuck. What did you say was the chance for painful death?”
“Just one last question,” Rosethorn had to add. “Once you succeed, once you have created this super-human beauty, why do you think she’ll want to hang around with you?”
“I’m her creator! She’ll be grateful! She’ll…” his question penetrated, and I was left there gaping like a fish out of water, as my friends all laughed at me.
True, I had ways to ensure her fidelity once I’d bedded her, but getting her to bed me the first time… might prove to be a problem.
And that was why the sample stayed on my shelf for weeks. I had no advertising blitz, no volunteers, and no human testing.
How could I ensure that my perfect woman would find me perfect?
It was a massive issue. Enough to halt the entire project. I had faith that I would beat it, in time, since my brilliance is second to none. I say that with all due modesty. But inspiration had not yet struck when I had my little accident. And now, things were massively fucked up.
Pardon my language. Knowing that I had injected myself… it was doing things to me.
Fortunately, I am a man (or freshman) of astonishing mental agility, and great personal courage. Immediately after the yelling and the throwing of furniture (which made me feel much better than the crying had), I came up with a plan. I took a quick trip into Berlin, and surreptitiously slipped in to see Dr. Igor Gellmar. The Doc is spending his time at some closely-held little start-up that plans to create the next medical miracle.
I made sure to meet the doc quietly, where his staff wouldn’t bother us.
“Doc,” I negotiated, while he laid into his manicotti, “I’ve got a teensy little problem.”
“I’m listening,” he said, with apparent unconcern, as he sipped a rather disappointing red wine. (Berlin, New Hampshire isn’t known for its wines.)
“Doc, you remember I had that project to propagate regenerative cells through a non-regenerator subject?”
“The whole drow thing. You promised to forward me your notes.”
“Yeah, well, about that. See, the … er … woman who is the subject, sort of changed her mind. After I injected her.”
He took another bite. “I fail to see how this concerns me.”
“Well, you’re doing all these studies on regeneration. I thought maybe you had a few easy ways to disrupt the process. If I could halt the abnormal vitality of the regenerative cells, the, uh, girl’s immune system could wipe out the invaders.”
“Good point. That might work. IF you acted before any of the cells began assimilating and shedding new stem cells.” The doc paused, frowning at his wine. “My main issue isn’t what to do, it’s why I should care about it.”
“Dammit, Doc, I need your help!”
He smiled, rather coldly. “You seem to have taken some sort of insect bite on your hand, Jobe.”
“Yeah, I got a couple of spider bites. No big deal, I…”
It wasn’t a big deal. The spots had even stopped itching. Looking at my left hand, I saw why. Each of the spots around the bite had healed.
But my new skin wasn’t the distinctive pallor that makes up my normal complexion. Each bite had a smooth patch of absolutely perfect, coal-black skin. The spots were no bigger than a dime, but there were five different spots.
“I thought you said it was a girl that got injected, Jobe.”
“Lab accidents happen all the time. You have to help me, Doc!”
He swirled his pathetic excuse for a wine. “I don’t have to do anything, Jobe. Remember, you need to convince me that it’s worth my while to help you.”
“You want another cloning chamber?” I was suddenly in the mood to bargain. “Tell you what, I’ll make you two more! Or maybe the portable life-support unit you were talking about, or the pocket heart-lung machine?”
From the sounds the doc was making, his wine was eminently satisfying. “So, so good! No Jobe. I’ll take the life-support and heart-lung machines. As for the cloning chamber – I’ll take the blueprints for that.”
I clutched at my heart.
“And the patent rights.”
“You soul-dead bastard!” I wheezed out. “You’re killing me!”
“I think you did that to yourself, Jobe. And, by the way, I can’t tell you how to stop the progression or cure things. I can tell you how to slow it down to a crawl. That might be just what you need, if you want to keep your current sunny personality. My investigation indicates that brain-wipe occurs when the transition is too fast.”
As a child, we have certain idols, people we look up to for inspiration. Sometimes, we’re lucky enough to meet our idols in person. Sometimes, we’re unfortunate enough to meet our idols in person. For when the reality meets face-to-face with our expectations, it’s a bitter moment when we discover that our heroes have feet of clay.
“You’re a rat bastard, Doc.”
“True. But I’m a rat bastard that you need, Jobe.”
But it’s such a beautiful thing, when those idols come shining through, more cunning and ruthless than you ever imagined!
So, the doc and I did the deal. He took me for a major dump of equipment. And I got a regular supply of pills from him.
Nowadays I now go around wearing a single glove, like Michael Jackson used to. I have to be very careful wherever I go, because any injury heals within a day or two, but it heals with the regenerator cells. It’s a war of attrition, that anyone else would be doomed to lose, bit by bit.
But not me!
I have plans! I’ll beat this thing yet! I’ve accelerated research on my “male drow” formula. I’m having problems, because in serum, the genetic sequences that code for the elf genome have been spontaneously breaking down. It’s the darndest thing, and I’ve never seen anything like it. The molecular bonds shatter and degrade, just like magic. I’m sure I just need to find the right stabilizing solution.
There will be many difficulties along the way, but I’m used to that. For once, the technical issues may be the least of my concern.
Peeper and Greasy, and their idiotic Whateley Academy Radio Station, have begun broadcasting a series called, “Jobe Watch: the crafting of a babe.” Shortly after the accident, I discussed the problem with my “friends” in the Bad Seeds… who then turned around and immediately passed the story on to Peeper and Greasy.
And now, wherever I go, I face humiliation.
“Looking good, Jobe!” “Were you always such a mega-sissy?” “Are you wearing a bra yet?”
Those questions were all good and insightful, and I found myself drawn into the most fascinating discussions. But then the humiliation would begin:
“So how did you inject yourself?” “Did you fuck up, or what?” “Had any other lab accidents?”
And the very worst of all: “Was it just some sort of mistake?”
The constant badgering, the questioning of my brilliance, the thought that I could make a mistake – it was too much to bear! As I fled from those vicious taunts, I nearly felt like crying.
I knew what that meant. Hormone issues. Insidious female hormones, circulating through my body. The unwanted regenerator cells were hard at work, realigning my body chemistry to suit their preferred environment.
But I won’t be beaten! I’ve already solved the “too soft” issue, by giving myself subliminal porn broadcasts each night to reinforce my masculine drives.
Perhaps it’s good that my father named me Jobe. I have grown used to fate attempting to thwart me, almost as if a jealous God wanted to stop my work before I could rise to challenge Him. This was just one more obstacle. I’ll beat it, like I’ve beaten everything else that fate had thrown at me!
My experiment may have developed a few problems, but I’ll fix it. I’ll fix it all! And this time, nothing can go wrong!
“Bwa ha ha ha ha!”
Say, is it my imagination, or did my voice rise in pitch just then?
(The end … ?)