Warren Murphy: Deadly Genes

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  • Название:
    Deadly Genes
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HOLD THE PICKLE Meet the Boss Camelus-Whitus, affectionately known as BBQ to the genetic engineers at Boston Bio, Brainchild of the beautiful but sociopathic Dr. Judith White, this homely, sad-eyed creature is a bio-masterpiece of gene splicing, and billed as the world's most promising new food source. A bungled kidnapping of the BBQ by animal rights activists results in the unfortunate discovery that these slow, silly-looking creatures might actually be bloodthirsty killers. Vicious man-eaters or docile darlings? Chiun wants one for a pet and Remo's getting real bad vibes about the sinister secrets behind the whole BBQ thing, especially he's been selected as the prime stud material in a madwoman's brilliant plot to send the human race out to lunch...permanently.

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Destroyer 117: Deadly Genes

By Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir

Chapter 1

They held a press conference to introduce it to the world.

It was smaller than the crowd expected, tipping the scales at just over 120 pounds. It was compact, but not in a menacing way. Its designers hadn't been worried about style; they were more concerned with practicality. And of its practicality, all were certain. Their success offered hope, so they said, of feeding all who were hungry in the world. There was only one real question that vexed the assembled press corps.

"Can we pet it?"

Dr. Judith White of BostonBio, Incorporated, smiled. "Of course you can. She's quite docile."

"She?" the Boston television reporter asked.

Dr. White nodded. "This one is female. We have four more like her and three males. Enough for a limited, controlled-breeding population."

The reporter worked for one of the three major Boston stations as the entertainment and human-interest correspondent, which meant that-unlike an anchorwoman-she could afford the extra forty pounds that cushioned her midriff and backside. The added weight had the effect of making her appear both nonthreatening to viewers when she was reviewing movies and hysterically funny any time she went white-water rafting or tried to saddle a horse.

The entertainment correspondent reached out and touched the creature on its broad nose. It blinked. She jumped back, startled.

"It's perfectly harmless," Dr. White assured her. For the brilliant Judith White-the star of BostonBio's genetic-engineering department-affability was a supreme effort. She did not suffer fools gladly.

With the blessing of the higher-ups at BostonBio, Dr. White had called the local TV stations and newspapers in order to introduce what she called a "significant scientific achievement" to the world. She was surprised that of the few TV reporters who showed up to cover the great unveiling at BostonBio, all were human-interest correspondents. The greatest breakthrough in the history of science was being given the same treatment as a boat show or Star Trek convention. The only way it could have been worse was if the stations had sent the Boston weathermen, a collection of freaks so bizarre P. T. Barnum would have balked at exhibiting them.

"Oh, my. It has the saddest eyes I've ever seen," the female reporter said over her shoulder, smiling into her station's camera. She stroked the creature's nose.

"Yes," Dr. White agreed, without emotion. "Remember that its eyes are really irrelevant. Bos camelus-whitus is a laboratory specimen. It is no more a real living thing than any other human creation."

"Bos what?" asked the reporter.

"Camelus-whitus. That's its name."

The animal was in a low, straw-filled pen. Its head jutted out through a wide space in the metal bars. "Someone around here called it a BBQ earlier." The reporter pointed over her shoulder to where a group of white-coated technicians stood.

The name made Dr. White stiffen. She wanted to glare at the men in the lab coats but kept her anger in check.

"An earlier incarnation of the animal was part horse," she admitted through clenched teeth. "That would make it a member of the Equus genus. BostonBio Equus. BBQ. I never much liked that appellation, however. Particularly since it has no relation to the animal standing before you."

The creature let out a low, mournful moan. The reporter moved her hand away in surprise. Hesitantly, she returned to stroking the animal's nose.

"It sounds like it's alive to me." The reporter smiled.

Dr. Judith White closed her eyes. Her patience was wearing thin.

"What you are touching is technically referred to as a transgenic nonhuman eukaryotic animal. Yes, it is alive. But it has been brought to life by artificial means."

She went on to discuss the method by which BostonBio had isolated the DNA strands specific to certain traits in particular animals and piggybacked them on a simple bacteria. This bacteria-which, like all bacteria, furnished the raw material and chemical machinery for its own reproduction-was injected into the fertilized egg of an ordinary dairy cow. The result was a creature that was a combination of several animals.

The reporters paid no attention to the technical lecture being given them by Dr. White. They were all too busy lining up to take turns petting the animal, which regarded each of them with the same dreary pair of wide brown eyes. Occasionally, it would let out another doleful groan. Those television reporters who were petting the creature at these moments nearly squealed in delight, thinking how it would look on the evening's newscast.

One of the reporters turned to Dr. White. It was the same woman who had first touched the Bos camelus-whitus.

"It's adorable," she gushed. "Are you going to market them as pets?"

"I can't believe this." Dr. White exhaled, finally showing her exasperation. "I was careful to breed anything that could remotely be considered 'cute' out of them. The last thing I wanted was for people to think of these things as anything other than food"

The reporter looked at the animal.

It stood about three feet high on short, stumpy legs. The body appeared too long for a creature so low. It looked almost like a huge basset hound. It had a mild hump, somewhat like that of a camel. The coloring was that of a cow-white with patches of black. But the black seemed washed out, as if the animal had stood too long in the sun. Unlikely, for according to Dr. White this creature had never seen the outside of the BostonBio laboratory. The wide head was a cross between cow, camel and something else vaguely sinister.

"It's so ugly it's cute." The reporter grinned.

"It is not cute, you fat imbecile!" Dr. White snapped, finally unable to contain herself. "It is lunch."

The vapid smile faded like burned-off mist. The reporter's change in attitude sent ripples through the crowd. At her cue, the others began consulting their notes.

"BostonBio has had its problems with its genetic research in the past," the female reporter announced brusquely. "How do you respond to the allegations that your little experiment represents a danger to the human race?"

"Does it look dangerous to you?" Dr. White asked, exasperation showing in her flushed cheeks.

"My feelings are irrelevant. Please answer the question."

Dr. White sighed. Taking a deep breath, she began, "There have been precedents established on how to conduct this sort of research. I assure you that everything is perfectly safe. The literature I've passed out to you shows the applications of similar technology. For instance, more than a decade ago, the Supreme Court of the United States permitted the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to grant a patent to a nonnatural, man-made microorganism that eats oil. This bacterium is not unlike the kind we used to create the Bos camelus-whitus. And I am sure you all know of the famous patented lab mouse that is being used in cancer research."

"That doesn't answer my question," said the reporter, who was never this zealous when her station was cramming her puffy white body into a bathing suit for its annual winter "getaway to the Bahamas" segments. Dr. White's outburst had turned her briefly into a real reporter. "Does this have any connection to BostonBio's troubles of two decades ago?"

Dr. White's mouth thinned. This was not the way she had wanted this press conference to go. "I know what you're talking about, and that was another corporate entity of BostonBio. No one even remembers what happened back then. We are talking about research that can save the human race, not harm it, and I am frankly more than a little annoyed that you would dredge up something from the past which could tarnish what we've achieved here. Now."

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