The Recruitment

Storm looked up through half-closed, hooded eyes as the scientist in front of him babbled on, his words spilling out of him like the rushing flow of a half-dammed stream.

“This is absolutely insane!” he kept on saying, as if this somehow contributed to the conversation.  “To have amassed this many samples of the triple helix fragments – why, it’s totally unheard of!  Just imagine what sort of discoveries we can make with this!”

Storm didn’t need to hear any of this, but he let the scientist keep on babbling.  Instead of listening to the words, he instead half-tuned them out, focusing rather on the man himself…

The man, Dr. Bailard, looked a lot like a typical scientist, Storm thought to himself.  He was dressed in jeans and a blazer instead of the classic white lab coat, but if Storm closed his eyes a little further, the white coat seemed to appear in place.  The man wore a pair of thick black plastic-rimmed glasses, and he kept reaching up to adjust these as he babbled on.  He was gesturing wildly, threatening to knock over the cup of coffee that sat, abandoned, on the table in front of him.

He hardly looked like a Nobel prize winner in biology, Storm kept on thinking, but he kept that thought to himself.

“To have this much, all from different chromosomal regions, why, it’s never before been assembled!” Bailard was insisting now.  “There’s almost enough to reconstruct the entire original sample, and from that, well, there are so many discoveries that we could make!”

The man glanced down at his hands, as if he was trying to reassure himself that this was real.  “We could trace the number of accumulated mutations to see when this insertion first occurred,” he was saying now, almost shaking with anticipation.  “We can see whether we have overlap on the sections, suggesting that multiple copies of these genes originally existed.  We can test the stability, look at what genes are encoded for in ancestral versus current DNA.  So many options!”

As he listed these wild possibilities, Storm nodded, even though he didn’t plan on pursuing any of them.  Best not to pop the scientist’s bubble quite yet – at least, not until Bailard had signed with them.

The discovery of the triple helix DNA that had excited this scientist so had only occurred a few years ago, as genomic sequencing technology continued to advance in speed and drop in price.  Scientists, Dr. Bailard among them, had been astounded to discover, and then subsequently announce, that some humans possessed short stretches of “triple helix” DNA, where their DNA structure consisted of three chains of bases, rather than just two.  These triple helix structures were unusually stable – and even more enticingly, appeared to be scattered across the genome, in different areas in different people.

For scientists like Dr. Bailard, each of these triple-helix areas had been an area of intense focus and study, somewhere to focus all of their attention.

But for other interests, such as those that Storm represented, these sequences were just small pieces of a much bigger puzzle.

Storm knew that his organization wasn’t the only group that had immediately focused on these triple helixes.  That’s why he had worked quickly, spending millions of dollars to acquire samples, and millions more to keep his acquisitions secret.

But now, he needed a mind to work on pulling out the answers that his patrons sought.

Quietly, of course.

“Yes, Dr. Bailard, the whole thing is quite astounding,” Storm cut in smoothly, interrupting the scientist mid-soliloquy.  “But we need a bright mind to help us analyze this data.  We’re hoping that you’ll be that person we seek.”

Dr. Bailard’s mouth gaped open for a moment before the scientist regained enough control to close it.  “Why, of course!” he gasped.  “I earned the Nobel for discovering this strange hidden secret in our genes, but the chance to work on it more?  I’d give my right arm for it!”

Once again, the man took off on the list of different benefits that could arise from further investigation into triple-helix DNA.  And once again, Storm tuned him out.  None of that mattered.

Storm’s employers, his patrons, had been quite clear on this.

They wanted to get their hands on a full reconstruction of the triple helix genome, the original, complete structure and sequence.

They wanted it first, and they wanted to make sure that no one else could access it.

Finally, Dr. Bailard was winding down, and Storm stood up from his side of the conference table.  “Then we have an agreement?” he asked, leaning forward.  “We will have to get your signature for some non-disclosure agreements, of course, but those are little more than formalities.”

“Oh yes, yes!” the man across the table said, eagerly grabbing Storm’s hand and pumping it up and down.  “I want to get started right away!”

Storm’s mind flicked back to the bottom left drawer of his desk, back in his office.  That was the drawer that was sealed with a biometric lock, coded to his DNA signature.  There was no triple helix DNA in that signature, Storm knew.  He was a bit relieved to know that he didn’t have any of his own project inside him.

Inside that drawer, Storm knew, rested a sleek, black pistol, loaded with a full clip and with an attached silencer.

Dr. Bailard was indispensable to the project – up until the full genomic sequence was assembled.  But after that point, Storm knew what his patrons would ask of him next.

Secrecy was paramount.

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