~2~ The Duplication Factor
Copyright ÂŠ 2010 by Terry Wright
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping, or by any information storage retrieval system, without the written permission of the author.
This is a work of fiction. All of the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional. Any resemblance to real people, incidents, or places is purely coincidental.
Cover Art by Terry Wright.
Essential10 Ltd. 15400 W 64th Ave 9E-147 Arvada CO, USA 80007 www.Essential10.com
Chapter One Cedar Lake, Indiana, July 1969: The best‐laid plans of mice and men often blew up in his face. That’s what Dr. Eugene Marshall thought as he watched the pregnant cow buck and bellow, her wails of pain echoing through the basement laboratory at Blythe University. Like a wild beast, she fought the ropes lassoed around her neck, panicked, not because of the students trying to restrain her, but because of an enormous swelling in her belly. The stench of manure made Eugene’s stomach sick. “Don’t die on me,” he muttered as hay dust swirled from the steel‐railed pen and burned his throat. He wished he were back in his room, plopped in front of the TV, watching the liftoff of Apollo 11. Instead, he had this emergency to deal with, which happened to be just as important as any trip to the moon. The future of the human genome hung on the wails of this bawling cow. “Pull harder,” he shouted to his students. Four young men struggled with the ropes, a chore to which they were ill suited. These guys were no cowboys. Instead of blue jeans and boots, they wore white lab coats and penny loafers. They were college
boys, bioengineers. This was their class project, a project gone horribly wrong. “Get her on the ground!” In the ensuing tug‐of‐war, they managed to pull the cow off her feet. She slammed to the floor on her left side. A cloud of hay dust leaped into the air. Her hooves flailed like battering rams. Clumsily, the students snared her right hocks with ropes that hung from hooks on the ceiling. Now Eugene got his first clear view of her swollen abdomen. It was twice its normal size, grotesquely deformed and churning from within. Terror welled in her white‐rimmed brown eyes. Bellowing, she tried to regain her feet, panic and pain taking their toll on any remaining sanity she may have possessed. Eugene steadied his trembling hand, the one that held the scalpel. As soon as his students had the cow safely restrained, he would rush in and make the incision. He expected a monster to spill out on the hay‐strewn floor. The head of Blythe’s genetics department, Dr. John Larson, sprinted in, his face creased with concern. “Can you save it?” “She’s dying, John.” Larson climbed the gate rails, getting dust on his perfectly pressed black suit and polka dot tie. “It’s the sixth one.” “Your restriction enzyme isn’t working.” “There you go again. Blame it on me.”
Damn right, Eugene thought. The cow bawled. Eugene’s neck hairs prickled. He wanted to relieve her suffering. Her calf was killing her, kicking and ripping her insides apart. She wasn’t making it easy for him to help her. Two weeks ago, only three months into gestation, everything was normal. Then yesterday this sudden growth spurt came on. He’d monitored her closely during the night, but by morning it became clear‐‐the calf had to come out. “Get a rope on her left hind leg,” Larson shouted. Two students scrambled through the hay. One held the tangled end of a rope. The other grabbed the cow’s thrashing leg. They managed to get a loop around her hock without getting killed. “Pull it tight!” The cow hacked, choking on drool. “Careful,” Eugene said. Lying hogtied in the hay, she heaved with great breaths, nostrils flaring. Eugene knew she was losing the fight for her life. Six out of twenty were too many to lose. Fourteen of these pregnancies had come to term normally. Five had turned to disaster, like this one now, all ending in death for the cows and their calves. He thought about them for a moment, the losers in this genetic lottery. To him, science was a mix of success and failure, the difference being the knowledge he gained. However, he couldn’t figure out what
caused these sudden growth spurts, how to predict them, or how to prevent them. The animals died, and he had learned nothing. Failure. A chill skittered up his spine. He knew he had to solve this problem. They couldn’t risk it in the next phase of the experiments. It would be too dangerous, too inhuman. Larson shook his fist. “You’re wasting too much time,” he shouted at the students. “Shoot her.” “No!” Eugene glared at his boss. “The surrogates have to survive.” “They’re expendable.” “You can’t keep killing them.” “So what?” “The next phase of the experiments, John. Are we going to kill the women, too?” Larson’s eyes narrowed. “I’m not concerned about the next phase or this dumb animal. She won’t calm down, and I want that clone alive.” Frustrated, Eugene shifted his gaze to the cow lying in the hay, bellowing in misery. Larson was right, of course, but did he have to be so damned callous about it? Somewhere during the course of things he’d made a tradeoff: compassion for dedication. His research agenda had taken precedence over any show of human kindness. As supervisor of these experiments, Eugene wondered if he was just as guilty. The possibility tied a knot in his stomach. Were they nothing more than a couple of mad
scientists making monsters in their secret laboratory? The cow went into seizures, legs stiff and trembling, throat convulsing. Blood spurted from her mouth. Eugene knew a bullet would be the merciful thing to do, but he didn’t like feeling responsible for her death. Worse, he feared he would be responsible for more deaths to come. Glaring at Larson, he said, “We weren’t going to do it this way.” “We’ll do it, Eugene, whatever way we have to.” Larson pointed to the lead student, Chet Brady. “You heard me.” Slowly, Chet pulled out a gun. Eugene didn’t know anything about guns. This one was black and looked heavy. The sullen‐faced student stepped up to the pitiful animal. Eugene wondered who was more pitiful now, the condemned cow or the mad scientists. Chet raised the gun, hesitated. Wincing in anticipation of the blast, Eugene wanted to run all the way back to Vermont, back home to a time before he knew Blythe University existed, before he’d accepted this position as Chief of Obstetrics. But he couldn’t bring himself to leave. Cedar Lake, Indiana was in the heart of the nation’s agricultural belt. Their hybrid corn and wheat fed a hungry world. He had a job to do, a research agenda like none to be found anywhere else. The challenges had been rewarding, sure, but lately, he’d had his regrets. The duplication factor was chipping away at his sense of morality: what was right, what was wrong, what was an acceptable risk, an
acceptable loss. There were good days and bad days. This was turning out to be one of the bad days. “Do it,” Larson shouted. The gun went off with a bang that echoed through the basement. The cow huffed and fell silent, but her abdomen still churned from the kicking and rolling calf. The clone. Without looking at Larson, Eugene climbed over the gate and dropped to the floor. An acrid smell of gunpowder lingered in the air. Two students joined him. They straddled the throbbing carcass, a procedure that wasn’t new to them. This was the sixth time. Swallowing his disdain for what he had to do in the name of science, Eugene knelt and made the cut. There was no delicacy to his work, no precision, just a butcher’s gash through the abdominal wall. Blood and fluid gushed out and flowed to the floor. As the students spread open the ragged incision, the huge calf kicked and thrashed its way out of the abdomen, flinging blood and amniotic fluid across the pen. It squalled like a demonic beast, struggled to its knobby legs, and charged the students. They scrambled through the hay and climbed the pen rails to safety. Eugene jumped on the gate, his heart beating wildly. He sat next to Larson on the top rail, shook his head, and watched the clone lumber around the pen, bawling, kicking, and charging the rails. Its black coat dripped fluid and blood, and the umbilical cord and placenta dragged
behind it through the hay. There was no doubt in Eugene’s mind. The clone was just as mean as its donor, Hurricane, one of the deadliest bulls on the rodeo circuit. He’d killed three cowboys and maimed countless others. And like the clones that came before, this calf was more active than a normal calf, more mentally alert‐‐but deformed. Watching it storm around the pen, Eugene took inventory of its physical defects. Its eyes were set crooked on its head, the left one much lower than the right. And the left side of its head had two ears, one flopping with each stride. Its gait was lopsided because its left hind leg was shorter than the right. Eugene turned his eyes away, not wanting to see any more of the monster they had made. He remembered watching Dr. Larson clone Hurricane’s cells, peering into the microscope as he worked delicate instruments and manipulated tiny nuclei submerged in a batch of his restriction enzyme, BZ‐20. Immediately, the cell divided: once, twice, four times, eight times, sixteen. The resultant zygote was a perfect duplicate of the donor’s cells. After growing for fourteen days in a test tube spiked with BZ‐20, the viable embryo was ready for Eugene to implant in the surrogate cow’s uterus. It had all gone well‐‐until now‐‐until this monster emerged. Eugene feared it was his fault, though he preferred to think the outcome was out of his control. Maybe a higher force was trying to tell him that their work here was not in the best interest of mankind.
“How about that,” Larson said. “We’ve got another live one.” “It’ll be a miserable existence, John. A thirty‐three percent failure rate is not acceptable.” But Larson’s wide smile relayed satisfaction with this new addition to their small herd of cloned calves, each plagued with one affliction or another. “He survived. That’s all I care about.” “But your BZ‐20 isn’t working.” “Look at him. He’s just as mean as his old man.” “He’s crippled, John. We’ve got to stop using that enzyme. There are others...” “And settle for an ordinary clone? Forget it. An exact duplicate, remember? Right down to the fingerprints.” “You and your damn ego.” Larson frowned. “We’ve got to do it better than anyone else. Arber got all the credit for discovering restriction enzymes. I was that close.” He pinched his thumb and index finger together. “And what about those bastards, Shapiero and Beckwith. They took credit for isolating the first gene. Hell, I did that long before they even thought it was possible. I’ll be damned if those guys are going to get all the credit.” “So what? We’re way ahead of them.” “That’s because my enzyme is better.” Looking at the crippled clone, Eugene had his doubts about that. “You should publish your research now. Everyone will know...”
“All in good time,” Larson said, swatting dust from his lapels. “When the duplication factor hits the science journals, the world will be dumbstruck. Our human clones won’t just be identical twins of their donors. They’ll be exact duplicates. Nobody will ever beat that.” “But we have a moral obligation...” “Don’t start,” Larson snapped. “This is about science. Science exacts a toll on morality. A few lab rats have to die in the name of progress.” Eugene flinched. “We’re not talking about rats here, John. We’re talking about human clones.” “What’s the difference?” “Christ.” Eugene didn’t want to get into that argument again. Holding his temper, he glanced at the students sitting along the top rail, their attention on the mad clone tromping through the hay. Pride radiated from their eyes, conveying an eagerness for the project to proceed. He looked at Larson. “Fix BZ‐20 or we can’t go on to the next phase.” “What’s the matter, Eugene?” Larson grinned. “Your clone will have two out of three chances to survive.” “And zero chances of being normal. We’re not using BZ‐20 on my cells.” “You’re right, of course.” Larson adjusted his tie. “I’ll need to refine the enzyme again. The next batch, BZ‐21.” “Use it on your own cells.” “That’s not an option,” Larson said. “Conflict of interest...you know.”
“Not me, not you. Then who are we going to clone?” Larson thought about that for a moment then licked his lower lip. “We need to find some poor sap who’s going to die.” The clone bawled. Eugene shuddered. Mad scientists and monsters. To purchase this eBook in PDF form for your computer, go to: http:// essential10.com/books/duplication‐factor To purchase this eBook for your Kindle, go to: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004BA5276
About the Author, Terry Wright There’s nothing mundane in the writing world of Terry Wright. He thrives on adrenaline. Tension, conflict and suspense propel his readers through the pages as if they were on fire. Published in Science Fiction and Supernatural, his mastery of the action thriller has won him International acclaim as an accomplished screenplay writer. A longtime member of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, he runs their annual Colorado Gold Writing Contest. Terry lives near Denver with his wife, Bobette, and a Yorkie named Ginger, who is really the boss of the family. Learn more about Terryʹs books, short stories, and screenplays at terrywrightbooks.com.
Enjoy reading Terry’s other short stories and novels: The 13th Power (Gardenia Press, 2001) Trade paperback novel from TWB Press, Amazon Science Fiction Thriller Scientists are building bigger and faster particle accelerators to smash atom into smaller pieces. They are looking for the Higgs boson, The God Particle. What if they find it? The Gates of Hell ( New Line Press, 2010) Justin Graves Series, Book 1 eBook and Kindle short story Supernatural Thriller When Justin Graves and his daughter are murdered, he makes deal with the devil to save her soul: one hundred bad guys for her pardon from hell. Night Stalker (New Line Press, 2010) Justin Graves Series, Book 2 eBook and Kindle short story Supernatural Thriller Justin Graves goes after a night stalker who killed a young bride on her wedding night and got away with the murder.
~15~ Black Widow (New Line Press,2010) Justin Graves Series, Book 3 eBook and Kindle short story Justin Graves seeks out a beautiful woman who kills her lovers. She’s every man’s dream date, but don’t disappoint her...or else! Z‐motors, The Job from Hell (New Line Press, 2010) eBook and Kindle short story Horror In this satire on zombies in the workplace, the dark side of the Auto repair business is exposed, and a mechanic’s quest to overcome unemployment leads his family down a disastrous path. The Duplication Factor (Essential10 Publishers, 2010) eBook novel and Kindle Science Fiction Thriller Speculation has it, in scientific circles and the press, that in some secret lab somewhere, a human has already been cloned. The truth is there were two clones, a corporate tycoon and a mass murderer. The consequences were horrific.