Ripped Genes: The Biopunk Special Issue Edited By Samuel Diamond Table of Contents Foreword.......................................................................................................................... The New Fatherhood By Benjamin F Jones.................................................................... Setting Down By Douglas J. Ogurek .............................................................................. Fishing the Life in Notochords By Matt Leyshon .......................................................... Harvest By J.B. Ronan .................................................................................................... Richard and the Silver Marks By Nicholas Stirling ........................................................ Baby Boom By Alan Spencer.......................................................................................... Killing Larmark By David Barber .................................................................................. Ecce Homo By John Rovito ............................................................................................ Clone By Jennifer Marie Brissett .................................................................................... Mousetrap By Oscar Windsor-Smith .............................................................................. Anti-Bodies By Wednesday Silverwood ......................................................................... Screaming Monkeys By Dev Jarrett................................................................................ Legacy By Richard Farren Barber................................................................................... Cover By Strife-Ignition - http://strife-ignition.deviantart.com Proof-read By Samuel Diamond All material contained within the pages of this magazine and associated websites is copyright of Morpheus Tales. All Rights Reserved. No material contained herein can be copied or otherwise used without the express permission of the copyright holders. 2
“From William Gibson’s groundbreaking Sprawl trilogy to the Wachowski brothers’ highly entertaining, if also highly derivative, Matrix trilogy, the literary subgenre known as cyberpunk has seen crossover success in just about every entertainment medium. Ditto for steampunk, which has even made its way into everyday forums such as home décor and fashion. Biopunk, on the other hand, has not yet seen nearly the amount of exposure as its literary kinfolk. One of the main reasons for this is undoubtedly the limited amount of work that this subgenre has produced thus far. For those who don’t know, biopunk fiction, in short, short, looks toward a future (or at an alternate present) in which the biotechnology revolution affects everyday life. Look at it like this if it helps: cybernetics and cyberspace are to cyberpunk as biology and biotechnology are to biopunk. The “punk” comes from the subgenre’s frequent use of dystopian settings and the political (or perhaps more accurately, apolitical) implications of the open-source open philosophy to which many real-life life biopunks subscribe.” So began my call for submissions to what would eventually eventually become this, Morpheus Tales’ first ever Biopunk Special. It was a simple enough definition, if perhaps too vague. However, I’d be lying if I claimed the ambiguity was intentional. As I wrote before, the subgenre has produced a relatively limited amount nt of work thus far; add to that the fact that I’ve read only a fraction of what’s out there and you’ll understand why I struggled to come up with a more concrete explanation. All that being said, I’m glad I left so much room for interpretation. Because those those writers who heeded our call, who took my open-ended ended definition and ran with it, and whose work you’re about to read brought biopunk to places it’s never been before. Of course, many of the scientific concepts we’d all expect to see are indeed present: present cloning, pharmacology, terra-forming, forming, body modification, etc. It’s the new instruments of context, though – the microscopes through which these th test subjects are examined – that,, at least in my opinion, succeed in elevating the subgenre to new heights. By By not only incorporating the controls of sister subgenres cyberpunk and steampunk, but also introducing variables of horror, noir, fantasy and psychedelic fiction and even bastard cousins like splatterpunk, these experimental stories offer up some very new and exciting findings. Furthermore, by re-appropriating appropriating the numerous symbols and devices of sources as disparate as Oulipo and the Bible, our contributors assembled a cacophonous yet cohesive chorus that screams PUNK! (Even down to its refusal to define itself.) Just replace the ripped jeans with ripped genes. Oi! I think I just came up with a title. Samuel Diamond, Editor Website: www.morpheustales.com Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/morpheustales, http://www.facebook.com/morpheustales Myspace: www.myspace.com/morpheustales, www.myspace.com/morpheustales Twitter: www.twitter.com/morpheustales Issuu profile for free magazines and free previews: http://issuu.com/morpheustales Lulu.com for back issues and Collector’s Editions: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/morpheustalesatblueyonderdotcodotuk ttp://www.lulu.com/spotlight/morpheustalesatblueyonderdotcodotuk 3
The New Fatherhood By Benjamin F Jones 1. Cycle Bridge The foetus was not yet alive; it slapped back and forth in its plastic tub. I was on Gammet Bridge. The wheels of my bicycle rattled over the track, crunching through wintry showers that stung my bald head and bullied my nylon coat. The life-to-be lay in the basket on the handlebars, packed in with medical supplies, skinlamp and dechlorination salts. In my hand I held a bag containing a bottle of oxygen. The strap dug into my fingers, painful in the cold. 2. Father Chooser It began in the shop. I looked up at the walls of surrogate-pigs, tanks sparkling with bubbles. Curled inside I could see drifting foetuses, their mouths agape. I could smell fish meal, crystals and iron. I watched a runt drawn up against the tank filter, its feeble movements controlled by a mind that hadn’t learned up from down. A shop assistant, tending with his woven beak, scooped out the runt and dropped it into a hopper. The sound of the macerator made me feel sick. I took a deep breath, filling my lungs with the shop’s moist air. The phone rang. The assistant picked it up as if it were a newborn. His words were low. When he finished talking he approached me. “Can I help?” The sounds from his beak were carefully enunciated and punctuated by clicks. I felt out of place, uncomfortable in my intrusion. He waddled from one foot to another, bare toes in the puddles. I reached into the tank and touched the surface of the water; ripples tickled, warm as blood. “That one... ” Two words and one of them got stuck in my throat. The foetus was still, its eyes wound closed, its waxy lips pressed against the side of the tank. The assistant dipped his beak, scooping the precious thing from the water. When the water had been drained he spat it into the plastic container. The naked skin was blue and purple; so fragile it made me shiver.
Setting Down By Douglas J. Ogurek “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fish for people.’ At once they left their nets and followed him.” – Mark 1: 17-18
An orb of liquid-filled tubes sat in a garden alcove. Those within the alcove smiled. Tubes ran from their hips to the orb. One man played a 24-string guitar. Extra arms extended from his left elbow and his chest. Another man breastfed a baby, while a woman, standing on her hands, spit at a butterfly. She missed. A third man’s orange eyes studied the butterfly. On break, Netheld took off his instrument then stopped the inflow of 5-HTT extenders. The glowbe hissed. He started “Setting Down” on his Internal Music System. The wind instruments swayed, and the mother, who walked as if on a tight rope, approached Netheld. The horns obstructed whatever she said. Probably something about partnering. Clearly she’d maxed her estrogen and 5-HTT levels. As another butterfly clone was released, the oboe, consoled by violins, searched futilely, and Netheld already felt his serotonin slowing. The TT-father worked his lips, revealing that he had, like his partners, docked the archerfish gene. He spit. While the butterfly tumbled down, the clarinets and bassoons joined the violins, and the TTfather raised his fists and wept victoriously. The EE-father, clutching his child, bent over the downed butterfly. His eyes owled and the glowbe flashed. The creature, its wings programmed a flimsy yellow, flailed on the grass, and Netheld felt the timpani’s rumble.
Fishing the Life in Notochords By Matt Leyshon You listen through the thick green glass as the draughtsman poses an impossible moorland. You sense an affinity with him, a shared past from which a future will emerge. His thoughts are dark and fluid, as uncertain as floodwater, and you can smell them as clearly as a dead sheep in a shallow stream. He seems nervous. You watch as he struggles with memories, library stamped with unknown borrowers, recollections of sliding through jewelled grass, navigating his path with migratory instinct, and of legless plunges into musty depths. Together you are sharing a moment that is plaited in early human pigment. With this knowledge you become adroit. He has sped through deep sea corridors and mildewed concrete shafts to an oceanic trench that is fathoms from the nearest regulation. The draughtsman stands within a circle of glass tanks, each housing a fish-girl hybrid performing in area cancer. You imagine that at first glance he might think that the specimens on offer, floating around you like driftwood, would happily breathe the air outside and turn tricks in rooms dense with the fetor of sweat and quim, but upon second glance he might feel an astringent abyss in his mineral. You recognise the lie of his fly from other punters; the shadows of sea salt spectres darkening his loins, dripping hadal slime like a sick baby. You part the gently swaying tendrils and observe the draughtsman as he pulls at the threads of his black woollen jumper and thoughtfully buffs the worn toes of his draughtsman’s boots upon his calves. In faction, the famines had turned him into a wave-backlog, a watercourse-baby-sitter. “You never heard of a watercourse-baby-sitter, Peter,” said Dr. Amoure. “A wave-backlog? Perhaps not. That is the very reasoning why this storybook was written. But there are no such threats as wave-backlogs. And how do you know that? Have you been there to see? No one has a right to say that no wave-backlogs exist, or watercourse baby-sitters. Percussionists call them Pterodactyls, but that is only because they are ashamed to call them flying drapes, after denying so long that flying drapes could exist. Did not learned mandrapes, too, hold, timing within the last twenty-five yews, that a flying drape was an impossible moonbeam, not an impossible moorland at all, and most certainly not a wave-backlog or a watercourse baby-sitter. Peter, are you listening to me? Peter?” Hearing his name pulls at the draughtsman’s lip like a hook on a line, and he clears his throat, exhaling faded photographs of weed spores and foul mud. The draughtsman continues to run his kohled and gimlet eye across the glass tanks to assess the pale figures languidly drifting in their tepid waters. You recoil into cool, trembling water just as his eye threatens to meet yours. Pressure creaks a joint somewhere and the dark sea presses its face against the tempered glass dome above. Cold sand strokes your underbelly as you watch from the vegetable shadows. “Do they all have eyes like ulcers?” The draughtsman asks, recalling a baby bird lying fractured and limp beneath its nest, its filmy eyes glistening dully like purple balls of cuckoo spit. “Some, Peter, have eyes like boils,” Dr. Amoure says, pointing out one floating close and waving her fins coquettishly, offering a glimpse of her cartilaginous clitoris and the brittle-star nestled in her naval, its tentacles road mapping her pallid stomach. “The hair short fisheries are exhausted with hunting symmetry and reproducing paraphyletics.”
Harvest By J.B. Ronan “Wakey, wakey, Samuel my dear. It’s almost time!” Astrid crooned, kneeling down alongside a shirtless man strapped face down to a filth-soaked dining room table. Black-ringed holes pocked the breadth of Samuel’s back, buried deep in the muscle. When Samuel woke and moved, weakly and with great effort after all the weeks of imprisonment, thin puss collected at the edges of the holes, dribbling down the contours of his back to the floor. “Now, now my dear, it’s almost time! Soon our babies will be free.” The pain was unimaginable, and the strong, vital body Samuel had once loved, built up over the years, and fed well with protein bars and good organic food, was now withered and sad like a forgotten piece of raw catfish rotting in the back of a dirty refrigerator. He could feel things moving inside of him, writhing in the holes his captor tended, feeding on his blood… Astrid pulled a delicately carved wooden box from the collapsing hutch along the stained walls and opened the lid. A long, thin set of tweezers sat on what looked like a piece of folded crimson velvet, its tapered, pointed tips crusted with rust. The box smelled like death. “Almost time... almost time... any moment our babies will be ready!” Samuel fidgeted again. Blood tinged drool pooled around his face and smelled like rot. The whole room – everything attacking his failing senses as viciously as it had the first day he woke there – smelled, tasted, even sounded like rot. “These are my first, you know.” Astrid plucked the tweezers from the box and held them up, examining the tip, pinching them open and closed. Fat, shiny black flies collected around her, their activity mirroring the excitement in her eyes. “I’ve been waiting a long time for them. We had to find the right kind of person who could handle the incubation. Regular people die way too early, but you were strong – you made it!” Despite all the rage that flourished in Samuel as his body festered, he could not bring himself to speak. It was too much, and his constant struggle against the straps that held him sucked him further into the pit of no return. “Oh, did you notice that I took the neck strap off of you today! You really can’t do much to disturb our babies now anyway and I wanted you to see them when they’re born!” Astrid smiled, beaming with all the bright hope of a proud, expectant mother as she waved her hand around the room. “I know you haven’t had much of a chance to look around, but I thought you would want to see where your babies are going to grow up! It’s perfect for them! I got the nesting thing really bad, I just couldn’t wait till they came!” At first, Samuel didn’t want to move anymore. He only stared at the floor, which swirled and ebbed like a tide with cockroaches, but Astrid insisted, lifting his heavy head so he could see everything even though his eyes were bleary and the shafts of dusty light that speared past the tattered, molded black-out curtains in the living room were too much for him. Dead bodies littered the floor, rabbits writhing with maggots, human corpses along the walls, their wrists and hands dislocated and damaged from restraints, all in various states of decomposition. Rats fed along their exposed ribs, sitting in the empty abdominal cavities and crushed collar bones, fat and lazy on maggots and flesh.
Richard and the Silver Marks By Nicholas Stirling “Spit, shit, and gutrot,” Richard muttered to himself. This was the third time that he had stubbed his toe against some gloom-hidden rock or root, and he was getting sorely tired of it. The woods between Somerset and Dorset were black as pitch; he could have lit his own way, of course, but the King’s road wasn’t more than a hundred yards to his left, and it was as like to be a soldier as a fellow traveler that walked it. By his best guess, the meeting place was still half-an-hour’s walk away. The little wolf boy had been quite clear about its location. ### “Here,” he said. “Right here, Mister Cooper.” His hackles twitched as he pointed at the X marked east of The King’s Road. A ragged line of stitches ran diagonally from Piotr the wolf boy’s temple to the cleft of his chin. To the right of it was smooth, pink skin, too young yet for pimples or fuzz, but to the left of it was coarse, ash-gray fur. The eye that winked out from under it was yellow as beaten gold. “Mister Cooper, My Lady asks that you share this with no one. She was quite,” he paused, “insistent of this.” Richard nodded, but perhaps a bit too quickly, and he felt suddenly that the golden eye was laughing at him. The boy’s other eye – the blueish-gray one – was impassive. He wasn’t afraid of the boy’s alterations – he himself had sought out the work of the lignarius in Dorset – but there was something strange about this one. He didn’t speak like a village boy. He sounded old. In spite of his small frame and in spite of the youthful pink skin, more youthful still beside the gray wolf’s fur, the boy seemed aged. Aged and dark, like a twisted oak tree in a deep, close wood. “My Lady has offered fifty silver marks, Mister Cooper,” the wolf-boy said. His hackles twitched again. A stubborn streak of rooster pride surged up from Richard’s gut. It was the same pride that had gotten him in trouble with the magistrate earlier that spring, the same that had led to a handful of bloody-knuckled fights behind stalls at the market. It was stupid pride, he knew, but he was slave to it nonetheless. “Seventy marks,” he blurted out. “I want seventy marks for this job.” Richard licked his lips. “It’s… It’s dangerous work, and I’m risking much in doing it, lad.” Again that golden eye flashed and again Richard thought that the wolf part of the boy was laughing. An image of a forest animal, one with teeth like iron spikes set in jaws both vast and deep, ran across his mind. The boy didn’t smile, but his voice was light. “My Lady will pay you seventy marks, Mister Cooper. Will that suffice? For such dangerous work?”
Baby Boom By Alan Spencer Tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick. The ticks sounded like a gas oven clicking on before the flame whooshed up from the burners. The first time they happened, it was for only ten seconds, so short-lived Darlene Thompson didn’t think anything of the odd noises. Her husband, Doug, dismissed it as strange, yes, but nothing more than a trick on their ears. It could’ve been their neighbors, who have been known to argue and have sex at add hours of the night. No matter what angle of the argument they played, the noises couldn’t be happening in the apartment. But the following night, the ticks re-occurred. This time they were louder and extended in duration. Twenty seconds. Thirty seconds. Then a full minute straight. The truth was unavoidable: it wasn’t the neighbors making the sound; it was Darlene’s body. Darlene, being in her third trimester of pregnancy, couldn’t sleep thinking this, so Doug drove her to the hospital. By the time they arrived, she knew the exact source of the ticks. Her belly. ### The doctors’ uniforms looked like spacesuits, except they were made from a dark green canvas material and included rectangular plastic faceplates. They were what the military wore when diffusing car bombs, she realized. As she lay in the hospital bed, one of the doctor’s thick gloved hands roamed over her belly. His fingers poked around her torso and pelvis, pushing in deep. She swore he gasped sharply each time he checked the child. Startled, maybe, or outright nervous and suffering from hellish jitters. Was he really scared just touching her? After studying her torso, the doctor drew blood from her left arm with a syringe large enough it could’ve extracted a sample from a bull. She could see the fluid channel out of the IV tubing and into a clear bag. Her eyes doubled as did her breath once she saw her blood glowing vibrant neon red in the room’s darkness. Her shock didn’t last very long. She was dazed from the constant flow of narcotics they kept administering. They were meant to keep her calm and non-resistant. The less she moved, the doctors told her, the safer everyone would be. “Why is my blood glowing?” she asked in a hazy voice. The doctor told her to rest. He’d be back later. And don’t move.
Killing Larmark By David Barber 1 The naked woman came down the path towards him, weeping. As usual, during the heat of the day, José was sprawled in his makeshift hammock, a drink halfway to his mouth. He was unprepared for this pale vision. She slipped and staggered blindly through the red mud surrounding the domes. Her hair was a tangle of bleached strands plastered across white cheeks; her lips were bloodless; the tip of each small breast a pink button. He could hear her ragged breathing as she slogged towards him, sinking into the wet earth at each step, labouring to pull herself free. She had walked a long way. “Chiquita,” he called softly and she turned her head, eyes blinded by tears. Trembling and swaying with fatigue, she stopped, as if suddenly conscious of reaching her journey’s end, as if she had budgeted for exactly so many steps and the next was too much. He felt for the weapon on the crate beside him, his gaze never leaving the woman. The plasma bolt kicked her backwards, smoking, into the mud. 2 The zep provided by the Planetary Authority was malfunctioning. Lady Professor Flores ignored it of course, since it was a machine. To her hireling fell the task of bickering with the vile plastic and metal mechanism. Alone in the pilot’s pod, Edouarde swears at the controls. The zep flies, but not where he directs it. The control glove is faulty, some circuit broken inside perhaps. His notions of its workings are hazy, though he now believes it to be malevolent. Advanced societies used biologicals, which grow themselves and apologise when ill and share a profitable kinship in the subtleties of their DNA. Slowly, hopelessly, he keys the diagnostics again and watches the scratched flatscreen insist all is well. “Nonsense,” snapped the Professor. She paced impatiently, waving aside the AI’s attempt to beguile her with their old argument about God. Perhaps she had noticed Edouarde loitering. “Will the machine cross the frontier now?” “There is still a fault.” Her quick gaze ranged over his face. “But I came here to study the native habitat. Not grass geneered two hundred years ago.” Edouarde explained they could fly south to the end of the Riftwall, cross the frontier there on foot. “Not easy,” he added. “You think I have come this far to give up?” Mistrustful of the machine, Edouarde waited to confirm their course. Outside, night was pooling into valleys of shadow. As the Professor complained, a boring monoculture plotted to stabilise ground behind the advancing line. Here the Riftwall provided a natural barrier between the native and terraformed ecologies. In the coastlands further south, it was more fluid. The Authority updated its world map on a monthly basis, the red and green about evenly balanced now across the planet. The AI intruded, speaking quietly into his ear. “You didn’t mention they programmed the airship to avoid the native habitat.”
Ecce Homo By John Rovito Evening wanes to a gunmetal gray with the smell of sulfur caught on the wind. Kane leans back against a rotted tree trunk exhausted head slumped over breathing hard trying to focus mind blank remembering nothing feeling hot raising his hand wiping away the sweat only it isn’t sweat it’s blood a six-inch gash carved deep across his forehead his hands snapped and broken fingers bent like the roots of a tree flashing back a chair leather straps a pig-faced man and music always music harsh and metallic slicing deep then draining away replaced by a voice soft confident reassuring whispering the promise of a soulless immortality: “The purpose of humankind is to physically evolve. To deny your evolution is to deny your humanity.” ### Kane looks up. Four men stand over him laughing. All wear synthetic envirostat suits, heavily armed. A gloved hand pulls Kane to his feet, motions for him to walk. He moves slowly, eyes blurred, scanning the periphery: a bombed out city, gutted storefronts, dead bodies, the stench of decay — all of it strange, all of it familiar. One thousand yards out. An ektobunker made of laminated vacuum panels sits hidden under a burned-out food mart. Molloy raises the night scope, watches the five men walk through the wreckage. Molloy is Sub-Commander Circle Nine. Two hundred SDK insurgents spread across a five mile radius, three to this bunker. Molloy lowers the night scope. A MedTech stands behind him. “Run them.” The MedTech opens a rectangular metal case, takes out the bioanalyzer, places it onto the view port, calibrates the distance and scans. The readout displays on a small monitor attached to the wall. Four of the five men are biologically enhanced. “Ubers,” the MedTech spits out the word. Molloy nods. The SDK insurgency is in its third year. After a series of setbacks, the government disavows the Shanghai Accords and embraces DNA hacking, a process similar to etching binary code onto a microprocessor, except in this case the engineers are able to biologically modify the genome with a cluster of new chromosomes. The result is posthuman. Ubers. OverMen. “That’s why they’re out there,” says Molloy. “They want to be seen.” “And the fifth man?” asks Bratz. Bratz functions as Molloy’s adjutant. “Nothing,” answers the MedTech. “He’s clean.” Molloy adjusts the night scope, zooms in tighter. “Then why is he with them?” “Probably a ploy,” offers Bratz. “Pull a guy, bloody him up then put him out front where we can see him. The Ubers consider empathy a weakness. Something they can exploit.” “Meaning what,” challenges Molloy, “that we should just ignore him?” “I would,” answers Bratz. “And if they start to slice him up same as the guys at the bridge. Do we still just sit back and watch.” “We did with the guys at the bridge.” “That was a mistake,” says Molloy. “I prefer to think of it as a survival mechanism,” counters Bratz. “Shit.” The MedTech is staring at the readout from the monitor. “I just ran the fifth guy’s DNA through the data banks.”
Mousetrap By Oscar Windsor-Smith “What would you give to be slim?” said the flyer offering a free package of pioneering therapy in return for taking part in a clinical trial – transport from London to Bratislava included. What would I give? At that moment my right arm seemed like fair exchange. Sometimes I wish I’d done the manly thing and recycled that promotional flyer with all the other junk mail. I know I would have too, if only my previous night’s date hadn’t reached new heights of embarrassment. ### The introduction agency had given their customary precautions about first meetings so I’d suggested Tony’s Bistro. God knows why. Tony’s had been the setting for so many of my previous dating fiascos. My date arrived on time: Leslie, a slim, well-built blonde. It appeared that she had told the truth about her age, but as she soon pointed out, mine was not as advertised. Nor was my physique. Her eyes registered disgust at my bulk, but that was before she had scanned the menu. Tony’s excellent menu was usually one point in my favour with dates, an indicator of refined tastes. Regrettably, it was also a significant factor in my weight problem. “I don’t suppose Simon Faulkner is your real name," said Leslie with a cynical grin, “or that you really are an investigative journalist?” I assured her that both those statements were true and displayed my NUJ card as proof before regaling her with the day-to-day workings of computerized journalism. She nodded from time to time and occasionally made polite ‘Mm?’ sounds. It was only when I mentioned one of my ongoing enquiries that she become animated. “So Professor Bond and his research partner disappeared?” “Indeed,” I said, choosing brevity to extend this seam of conversational gold. “Five years, and you’ve discovered no more information?” “Only rumours.” “Rumours?” “About unauthorized experiments.” “At the Institute for Genomic Solutions?” she said, and then bit her lip, colour rising. “I didn’t mention IGO,” I said. “You don’t sound like a hairdresser, Leslie. What do you really do?” Leslie, if that was indeed her name, raised a hand in apology. She took a sip of wine and said, “I make enquiries too, a sort of headhunter.” “Is this evening business or pleasure?” “Let’s call it social. I must have heard something about this Professor Bond, in the news I think. It seemed like an intriguing case, that’s all.” Still full of vain hope and eager hormones, I took her at her word. “They were doing groundbreaking research,” I said. The waiter cleared our plates and offered us the dessert menu. “Do you know in which field?” “David Bond is a geneticist. His research partner Christine Sullivan is an authority on parasitic nematodes.” Leslie scanned the menu. “Nematodes?” I flicked to an illustrated page on my iPhone. “Worms,” I said. “The kind that lay their eggs in living hosts to feed their offspring.” Leslie had lost her appetite it seemed. She stood, eyeing me critically. “Such a shame,” she sighed. “You might be an attractive man, Simon, if only you could lose all that blubber.” With that she left.
Anti-Bodies By Wednesday Silverwood Duane watched the robotic limb make delicate incisions into the flesh of his forearms. There was a sharp beeping sound and then the robot inserted the thin probe containing the Harvesters. It embedded deep into his system and the machine began to make a slight but perceptible whirring noise. Duane winced as the Harvesters went about their work. The veins in his arm stung where they were being cleared, his blood being scoured; Bods being collected. Having his immune system enhanced had been expensive. But now, it had more than paid for itself. And really it wasnâ€™t so bad, once you got used to it. The actual Harvest was painful, but he lived a lot of his life as normal. He had become used to the constant queasiness, the occasional sensation of movement inside his circulatory system. So long as you kept reminding yourself what it was, that it was normal, then you could get through just fine. It was only right before the Bods were harvested that there was any real sickness or pain. And usually, the feel of the credits in his pocket and the taste of that first beer afterwards were enough to make it all worthwhile. After all, a guy like him, what other way did he have to make money? As the harvester worked, he watched the pretty blonde doctor checking and re-checking the machinery. She was wearing one of those paper surgical masks; just a formality, he knew, but it drew attention to her large blue eyes. She swept a strand of loose hair behind her ear, and he admired the graceful curve of her neck. Duane wondered whether he might have a chance with a woman as beautiful as that. Then he thought about Jessica. He wondered if a treatment might have saved her. It had been almost three years since the worst epidemic of RDTH-7 had decimated the world population. No one knew where RDTH had come from but it had become pandemic in only a few, short days. Quarantines were set up, but the disease was powerfully virulent and soon people from all walks of life were coughing till they drowned in their own blood. It was now more or less under control amongst the Middles and Uppers, but still it thrived in the slum areas, finding victims amongst those too poor for inoculations or bio-treatments. Little pockets of disease rested in the midst of the cities. It had created great political controversy. The Middles always feeling themselves at risk from the slums, terrified of stray pathogens spreading the disease into their own enclaves. Screening had become commonplace. The major pharmaceutical companies made occasional efforts to improve and manage the disease in the slums, but the cynics said that they made more money from the Middles if they were kept afraid. Now, the media now jumped on every new case of RDTH, or any unexplained illness for that matter; ambitious journalists intimating that every new pathogen was an outbreak of terrible disease. Peopleâ€™s fear sold papers. It also sold wellness packages. There was heavy investment in disease. The Middles werenâ€™t only interested in curative drugs either. After the plague, health had become the new money. Each weekend families flocked to the clinics to spend their hard-earned credits on the latest in wellness solutions. Parents and children of all ages regularly received vitamin injections. Some people even had regulatory systems installed to monitor and control their antioxidant levels. There was little evidence that these treatments had any beneficial effect. Still, everyone wanted to buy a clean bill of health. The machine beeped again and there was a sudden increase in Harvester activity. Duane braced himself and tried to breathe through the pain. He watched the robot arm at work, the blinking lights of the machine reassuring him.
Screaming Monkeys By Dev Jarrett Sturdivant glared at him over the sim table. It lit his face from below in hyperfluorescent blue, casting his features in underlit sea monster shadows. The glasses he wore reflected the light perfectly, making him a gargoyle in mirror shades. “You can’t be serious. After all the shit you’ve done in the name of customization, all the extralegal mods you’ve made for the sake of individuality, now you’re having an attack of conscience? What sense does that even make?” Petersen didn’t answer. He picked up the tablet and tapped the screen, bringing the e-mail back up. The e-mail that offered them the opportunity of a lifetime. It could make them trillionaires, Petersen knew, and would only cost them their souls. Of course Sturdivant didn’t get it. In fact, this was probably the logical conclusion his mental projected simulations reached when all the dominoes fell in perfect concert. The Big Boys realized the great work Petersen and Sturdivant were doing in an underfunded, ill-equipped clinic in the armpit of the world, and decided they wanted a piece of the anthropo-customization pie. Sturdivant didn’t appreciate the artistry, the improvisation that Petersen performed on every Custom. The intuition and imagination required for such things was not something that could be duplicated, much less packaged. “We could give them what they say they want—” he began. “Finally, the man sees sense!” Sturdivant raised his hands in mock-praise. “—but they wouldn’t get what they’re asking for,” he finished. “Aaghh! Goddammit, Phil.” “Steve, look at the e-mail again. They’re asking for our individual custom creations reproduced and mass-marketed, and while their offer is generous, it just wouldn’t work!” “Of course it would. I’ve got the designs right here,” Sturdivant said, patting the touch sensitive surface of the sim tabletop. “We send the specs off to them, they give us enough money to buy a medium-sized country, and that’s the end of it for us. Maybe they’ll use the specs and then begin production of vatgrown spare parts for future Customs. Maybe they’ll patent the designs and lock them in a safe somewhere, simply to boost their prices later. Or maybe they’ll print the plans off, roll them up really tightly, and take turns sticking them up each other’s asses. I don’t care. The thing is, at that point we’re out of the loop. We don’t even need to bother thinking about it.” “They’re trying to buy us out,” Petersen said. “They buy these designs, and we don’t get to use them anymore. We’re done then.” “Keep up, Phil. Of course we’re done. We won’t need to work anymore. You’ll be so rich none of your descendants will ever need to work again.” “But I like the work, the challenge. If we agree to their terms, the only way I’ll be able to keep doing this work is as an employee of these guys, and you know I won’t do that. And that touches on the other end of my argument. Who are they going to get to actually install the mods? It’s delicate, tricky work, and if they try to teach some kid straight out of med school, he’s going to mess it up. Bad press, leading to bad politics, leading to the outright illegalization of personal modification.” Petersen looked up at his business partner, psychically begging for a little empathy, but Sturdivant only shrugged. “It’s just microsurgery, Phil.”
Legacy By Richard Farren Barber “Kill the lights,” Jim told her. Darkness rushed in, splashing the windscreen. Marie peered through the glass, trying to pick out shapes. A couple seconds later, she could see a blur of lights up the lane. “Is this it?” Marie asked. She turned off the engine and the car coasted to a halt just like she’d seen in films. The loudest sounds were the stones’ crunching beneath the tyres and the scrabbling of brambles against the body of the Beamer. She couldn’t help worrying about how she was going to explain the state of the car when she got back home. “We walk from here." Jim opened the door and went to the boot to pull out the green canvas kit bag. It jangled with the clang of metal on metal, and Marie tried to believe she was better off not knowing what was inside, but really she was well beyond that defence. She got out of the car and stepped in a puddle that splashed greasy water onto her Donna Karan boots, but she bit down on the complaint, knowing that Jim would mock her for it. “Come on,” he whispered. He turned on a heavy rubber torch, the beam spotlighting a large chunk of the road; grey puddles and a Mohican strip of grass. He slung the bag over his shoulder and started walking. Great, Marie thought, the car’s scratched and now Jim’ll be coming back with his whopping size-11 boots tracking mud all over the floor of mum’s Beamer. She ran to catch up with him. “Ssh,” Jim hissed. “You sound like a herd of elephants.” “Well slow down, I can’t see where I’m going.” “You don’t need to, just keep quiet and stay out of the way.” Jim swept his torch down by his feet; his silver toe-caps reflected the beam. He was almost silent, his feet seeming to slip through the mud. This was the place. Marie didn’t have to ask. She’d seen it too often in the videos. Maybe not this farm, but ones like it – thronged with suffering animals. Always deep in the countryside. If the companies that ran these places really thought they weren’t doing anything wrong then why did they always try to hide them? The barn looked fragile. A splintered wooden door. Cracked windows patched with cardboard. But the padlock on the door was silver and new. Jim crouched down by the tree. “We’re going for the barn,” he whispered, and then he was running across the courtyard, passing under a searchlight. Marie waited and when Jim reached the barn doors she ran to join him, expecting to trigger some klaxon alarm like in a World War II escape movie. She clattered to a halt beside him, half-blinded by the glare of the light. “When we get in there you do exactly as I say.” “Of course.” Jim eased the jaws of a pair of bolt cutters around the padlock. “Don’t let it freak you out.” He brought the bolt cutters down and the hasp broke immediately. For a second Marie could smell the sheared metal, and then Jim shouldered open the door and dragged her inside. She fell into straw clotted with mud and shit. Paper wrappers drifted across the rough flooring. A couple of plastic syringes lay in the corner.
Published on Aug 27, 2012
Morpheus Tales is proud to present: Ripped Genes: The Biopunk Special Issue edited by Samuel Diamond. Featuring The New Fatherhood By Benjam...