GeneHack, Kevin’s Defection (II)

Continued from Part I, here.

The lights in the auditorium began to dim.  Startled from his reverie, Kevin looked around as the lights faded out.  Most of the other seats had been filled by this point, and the hundreds of conversations were beginning to die down.  Two seats down from Kevin, a not-unattractive woman in what looked like her late thirties made eye contact with him briefly before glancing away.

Over the next few weeks, other representatives from Hi Jump had come by the office, had praised Kevin for his “touching and innovative take on the heart behind gene modifications.”  Despite the praise, however, that offer of the advance copy of Hi Jump had eaten away at Kevin.

His entire ad campaign was based on the idea that this genemod could offer everyone a chance to succeed, that this could be a ticket for an underprivileged kid to improve his status.  But the cost of Hi Jump would ensure that it would be a perk solely for the rich.

On the stage, the lights had risen, focusing on a single microphone stand at the front of the stage.  From the flap in the curtain, a man emerged.  He was in his late twenties, younger than Kevin, and he looked . . . healthy.

Kevin wasn’t sure how to classify this man.  Most of his clients, the designers and consultants for genemods, were more than wealthy enough to afford all the latest enhancements, wearing movie-star beauty like a carnival mask.  He was used to seeing engineered attractiveness.  But this man had something different.  He was handsome, striking, but his face was weathered and creased with light wrinkles.  He looked like he had experienced life, hardships, good and bad times, not like he was molded from plastic or porcelain.

The man began to speak, and to his surprise, Kevin found himself pulled in by the flow of words.  The man had spoken of fairness, of equality, of times when there was not such a divide between the rich and poor.  His words turned dark, warning of growing differences, of class discrimination, of a whole separate species, made different by genemods that were beyond the reach of any normal working citizen.  Kevin nodded.  He had seen the price tags, experienced the sticker shock.  Many others around him were nodding as well.

The man’s words were like matches, starting new fires of thought.  Genemods were incredible scientific breakthroughs.  They saved lives, cured diseases, kept people healthy, active, safe.  But they were nothing more than a tool, and they were being misused by the rich, by the privileged, by those who currently wielded the tool.  It was not right, and it had to change.  Kevin was entranced.

By the end of the man’s speech, Kevin was on his feet, as was nearly everyone else in the auditorium.  A low roar lay beneath the words, the physical sound of anger, frustration, impotent fury rising from the hundreds of people inside the room.  The man now spoke in ringing tones, spoke of taking back the system, of setting the genes free, of opening genemods to all who needed them, of the new utopia that would arise.

As he reached his climax, now shouting, no longer needing the microphone, the lights went out.  For a moment, the auditorium was total darkness.  When the lights returned, a moment later, the man was gone from the stage.

Kevin filed out, his thoughts scattered, feeling in a daze.  As he was making his way out of the auditorium, half-listening to the murmured comments and conversations around him as he headed up an aisle, he realized that he was walking next to the woman he had seen earlier.  Their eyes briefly met again.

The woman moved closer, quickening her steps to catch up.  “Hi,” she said, as she drew alongside him.  “My name’s Stacy.”  She held out a hand to him; he noticed that her fingers were shaking slightly.

He took the proffered hand, shook it gently.  “I’m Kevin.  Nice to meet you.”

GeneHack, Kevin’s Defection (I)

The seat was uncomfortable, the thin layer of padding failing to soften the hard metal frame.  Kevin squirmed uncomfortably as he waited for the seminar to start.

He still wasn’t quite sure why he had even decided to come.  Looking around, trying to keep his glances inconspicuous, he saw that many of the other people shuffling into the large hall were ill, unwell, injured or sick and obviously unable to pay for treatment.  Kevin wished that he could sink lower into his own seat, concealing his fit frame.  He tried to be frugal, but the easy money from his job often gave him fuel to spend on genemods.

But wasn’t that money one of the reasons he was here, skulking in the back of this auditorium?  As he waited, Kevin thought back to the most recent ad that his company had been hired to design.  That he had designed.

The mod itself had been fairly straightforward, nothing too flashy.  Called Hi Jump, it had targeted abs, quads, calves, and hamstrings, upping both calcium receptors and growth hormone levels in fast-twitch white muscle fibers.  The results had been moderately positive, with most participants reporting a fifteen to thirty percent increase in jump height.  Not satisfied with these rather dull sounding figures, Hi Jump had hired Kevin’s team to make certain that sales went through the roof.

Over the last few weeks, Kevin’s team had come up with several compelling ads to present to Hi Jump.  One had featured a man racing alongside a gazelle, matching it leap for leap.  Another had shown a montage of pro basketball players, with an announcer going wild on the audio track.  Kevin’s ad had featured a young kid on an inner city basketball court, interspersed with images of pro players, suggesting that Hi Jump would give that last push necessary to reach stardom from humble beginnings.

Kevin’s ad had been selected by the consultants from Hi Jump.

Of course, there had been celebrations in the office the next day.  Landing such a large contract, especially for a successful genemod with an advertising campaign, was a huge success.  But then the Hi Jump consultants came back to the office.  They told Kevin and his team that they were each eligible to receive a bonus in the high four figures.  A very significant amount of money.

Or, if they preferred, they could decline the cash bonus and instead receive an advance copy of the Hi Jump genemod, at a fifty percent discount from retail.

Continued in Part II, here.

GeneHack, Dana’s Introduction

Author’s note: This idea is a small part of something much larger that I’ve been considering writing for a while.  Think of this as a testing run of one of my main characters, seeing how well he flows out onto the page.  My apologies if half the references in the story don’t have explanations yet.

Dana Black could smell the charred flesh three flights below the penthouse.  He lifted the large soya-coffee to his lips, taking a large gulp to override the stench.

He didn’t pause at the entrance to the penthouse suite, his breathing easy.  Dana chose to avoid most of the new downloads on GeneNet, especially considering what he saw during his work day, but there were some mods that were undeniably worth their exorbitant price.  The basic aerobic/anaerobic muscle boosts were one of those mods.

As he stepped through the doorway, briefly noting the charred marks on the inside of the shattered frame, the smell intensified.  A couple of officers were standing by, hands to their faces and trying not to gag.  Dana nodded to one man that he recognized, an older sergeant named Carson.  A man he had negotiated successfully with before.

The body, or what was left of it, was lying sprawled in the middle of the living room, surrounded by blackened streaks of soot across the marble floors.  Dana stepped closer, peering over the shoulder of one of the crime scene techs.  “What have we got?” he asked, addressing the question in Carson’s direction.

The sergeant stepped forward, lifting his holopad to briefly check his notes.  “The room was rented out indefinitely to a Karla Defuengo, age twenty-four.  She had a private account on file with the hotel, everything was paid immediately.”

Dana prodded the charred corpse with the toe of his shoe, ignoring the elicited squawk from the nearest crime scene technician.  “So, rich kid, probably partying it up every night in the city.”

Carson wanted to remain impartial, but Dana caught the slight hint of a nod before the officer regained control.  “Doorman knew her.  Said he called her a lot of cabs, usually pretty late at night.”  He didn’t need to add that this only confirmed Dana’s prediction.

Still squatting down by the body, Dana shot a meaningful glance across the room, where a charred piece of electronic equipment sat, smoking, next to a padded bench.  “Any chance of getting data off of that?” he asked.

“Not likely.”  This time the response came from one of the techs.  “The biologicals are kept on the inside, for preservation; the computer parts are on the outside.  The memory’s the first thing to go when the terminals take any sort of environmental damage.”

Dana kept his expression neutral.  It didn’t matter much to him that the GeneNet terminal was fried; his upload was already running Karla Defuengo’s name through the databases, searching for recent purchases.  He didn’t have to wait long.  A soft chime in his ear alerted him to a match.

Climbing back up to his feet from the squat, he closed one eye as the data streamed across his contact lens.  Despite having worn the system for months, now, he was still thrown off balance by the words appearing directly in front of him, seemingly hovering in thin air.  He wished that the scientists could figure out how to stop the double vision headache, caused by the words only appearing in front of one of his eyes instead of both.  Focusing on the words with his open eye, he read through Karla’s most recent downloads.

Ah.  Although it wasn’t the last mod that she had downloaded, the name made the choice obvious. Tapping his fingers softly to activate commands on his uplink, Dana filed the bug report for the mod, making sure to tag it Priority-2.  With a clench of his fist, the report was away, streaming back to his parent company through the invisible waves of data filling the air.

Opening his other eye, Dana let out a sharp wolf whistle, getting the attention of the workers in the room.  He swung a finger around in the air in a small circle.  “Case closed,” he announced.  “Let’s wrap things up, let the cleaning crews get in here.”  He was sure that the hotel was already offering the ‘newly vacated’ suite to other potential buyers.

Most of the cops began gathering their belongings and heading for the door without a word, but Carson caught Dana’s eye.  “I doubt I need to ask, but we’ll be getting paid the usual for this, right?” he asked.  “Keeping things quiet for your company?”

“EnteroDagon is thankful for the assistance and cooperation of the authorities during these early stages of genetic modification testing,” Dana recited from memory.  “As is our civic duty, EnteroDagon will provide any and all compensation necessary to aid the authorities.”

Carson nodded.  He was able to read between the lines of corporate bullshit, Dana knew.  He respected the man for that.  He turned and followed the other officers out of the room, leaving Dana briefly alone with the burnt remains of Karla Defuengo.

As he turned to exit, Dana spared one last glimpse down at the body of the former socialite.  Karla was the typical daughter of a rich scion, bored and burdened with too much money and not enough common sense.  She had been a regular at the party scene, and several arrests for drugs and misconduct had already been quietly expunged from her records.  Still, the lack of judgement in this case surprised even Dana.

Who thought that downloading an untested mod for fire breathing, of all things, was a good idea?

Not sure what’s happening?  Don’t know what GeneNet, download terminals, mods, or EnteroDagon is?  That’s okay, because nobody else does yet either!  I may or may not write more on GeneHack – stay tuned.  It now has its own sidebar label for easy tracking.