The Gene Splicers
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"With a horn in the middle of its forehead? That's weird, even for you, Adela. Look out, here comes the boss."
"I see we're all here on time for a change--Adela, Garf, Shawn, Mauri. Good. Let's get started. As you know, this will be our last meeting before we go home. We must wrap up the project immediately."
"It'll be good to be home. I find the heat here on earth to be very debilitating."
"Is that what's been the matter with you, Adela. I thought you needed warming up, not cooling off."
"That will do, Garf. I hope you all have your oral reports ready. Shawn, suppose you start."
"I've been working with some Zontan-fish splices. The first one was partially successful. I have a number of female specimens. Unfortunately the males all died."
"What do you see as the advantages of this splice?"
"Well, the specimens are very beautiful--lovely complexion (above the scaly tail, of course) with abundant blond hair."
"Do you see any practical uses?"
"They are very stimulating to men."
"As if they needed any stimulation."
"Quiet, Adela. And the disadvantages, Shawn?"
"As well as the apparent inability of the males to survive, there are several. Since the breathing parts are Zontal they cannot live under water exclusively and they cannot move easily on land with only their arms to propel them. On the other hand, the tails must be periodically immersed."
"I saw them and I would be willing to take care of the transportation."
"Shut up, Garf. Your animal appetites are showing."
"Yours never show, Adela, that's for sure."
"Attention! Stop your bickering, you two. Shawn, continue please."
"Since no males survived, the only propagation method would be continued splicing. We'd have to maintain a gene pool of the parent species."
"Rather hard to measure. They don't speak although they seem to have all the necessary glands. They spend most of their time sitting on rocks, combing their long hair--between dips in the water, of course."
"Sound like duds to me."
"Intersting, though, Maurie. "Did you name them?"
"Yes. I called them maids of the sea."
"Why not mermaids?"
""Yes, I like that better, Adela."
"I agree, Adela. I'll change my notes. Mermaids it is."
"I'm afraid we can't count mermaids as one of our successes. What else have you been doing?"
"The other splice produced a most engaging fish-like creature with a very high intelligence and equally high sense of fun. it is very agile, a fast swimmer, and seems to have a language composed of squeaks and whistles. Unfortunately it cannot survive out of water so it is difficult to study its language or make use of its intelligence. It would be invaluable for underwater work if we could learn to communicate with it."
"Sounds interesting. What did you call it?"
"Doll Fins, because of its grace and engaging personality--if you could call it that. It's hard to think of a fish with personality but this fellow has it."
"No, that's all, sir."
"Adela, my dear, what have you been doing?"
"Producing horns but not horny."
"Garf! Attention please. Adela?"
"I spliced a zebra and a rhinoceros."
"That the one you were telling us about before the meeting?"
"An unlikely combination. And the result?"
"Really very good. The splice dropped the zebra stripes . I never liked them, anyway. It's an interesting observation that the zebra stripes disappeared in all the experiments I made. They seem to be recessive.
This specimen is pure white with the zebra form. The splice picked up the horn from the rhinoceros but much altered. The horn is now tapered, perfectly straight, not curved as in the rhinoceros and located between the eyes. The specimen is very docile and I think would be of great use as it thrives at low altitudes and is vegetarian."
"In what way would it be useful?"
"It could be trained to carry materials on its back, as it is very strong. The horn might be useful in battle though it is a very docile animal and it might be difficult to induce it to fight."
"Sounds like a superior beast. Any drawbacks?"
"Some individuals have a longer horn which interferes with grazing but I think that could be easily overcome by selective breeding."
"Another case of unfinished work. I do hope we will be able to come back. The name?"
"I thought of calling it unihorn but decided on unicorn--sounds better, somehow. That's my report."
"Very good. Now, Garf. You've been sniping at Adela all afternoon. Let's see if you've been doing anything constructive."
"I was very interested in the strength and agility of the mountain goats and I thought these qualities would be a great addition to Zontan abilities here, especially since there seems to be so much broken land. A goat-Zontan splice produced animals with hairy goat-like bodies but with long tails. The Zontal type heads sport pointed upstanding ears and short sharp horns. The specimens are very agile, especially the males. They are attracted to the females of any species. I wish I had their libido."
"You have enough."
"Enough of that, Adela. Practical uses?"
"Well, if you want to populate earth they're the ones to do it. The females are quiet and good mothers but the males have only one object in mind."
"Just like a Zontan I know."
"Adela!. Go on, Garf. Intelligent?"
"Rather limited, I'm afraid."
"As I said, the males have no interest in anything but sex and the females are kept pretty busy by that. I think it's not a very practical splice unless we define an underpopulated area of earth where quality is not a necessity."
"We may find such an area as exploration proceeds but that is outside our current mandate. Did you name the creature?"
"I called it a satyr."
"I think we could consider this experiment a partial success. Mauri, what have you been doing?"
"I have two fairly successful splices. I very much admired the arctic bears, here, and a Zontan/bear splice produced a very large Zontal-type specimen, covered with thick hair, except for the face. It walks upright, makes and uses tools--seems very intelligent but only speaks in growls. Lives in family units and cares for its young very conscientiously."
"Yes, one. Because of its arctic bear genes and very heavy fur coat it can only survive in earth's coldest areas so its range is restricted. Also, it is herbivorous so its survival in the winter is rather precarious."
"That is a definite disadvantage. We must remember we are trying to adapt Zontans to the warmer areas of earth as well as develop more useful animals. Did you name it?"
"I called it yeti."
"I saw a lowland bear in the forest. Perhaps you should use it instead. It's not so very different from the arctic ones, except in size."
"That's an idea but it will have to wait for our next trip, Shawn. The other splice, Mauri?"
"I consider it a total success. It is a Zontan/ape splice. The specimens are only partially hairy, walk upright, make and use tools, even construct rude shelters. They seem very intelligent and have a wider range of sounds than the yeti. I think they could be taught skills and even language as they seem very docile as long as they are handled gently. They are very fertile, year-round not seasonal, the females are excellent mothers and the males good providers. They are adapted to lower elevations than either the yeti or ourselves and I consider this a definite advantage. They should flourish with the abundant food sources at those levels."
"That seems more what we are looking for. I congratulate you. Do they have any disadvantages?"
"The brain cavity is rather smaller than I would have expected which may inhibit their ability to learn and, as I said, they do reasonably well even with the small capacity. We could probably improve that with selective breeding."
"And the name?"
"I called them homos. They make a sound like that when they greet their families."
Homos sound as if they have possibilities. It's too bad we have to leave so soon. I hope the Chief will be able to arrange financing so we can return. I dislike leaving work unfinished, as I'm sure you all do.
"Thank you for your reports. I congratulate you on your dedication. I am quite satisfied with your work. We must catch Zont on this side of its orbit or be stranded here for another seventeen years--but of course you know that."
"I'll be glad to leave. I hate being confined to the mountains."
"Well, we have been going down to the plains for our experiments, Shawn. It's not like we had to stay up here all the time."
"I know, Adela, but it's hard to work in such high temperatures. My brain doesn't function very well when I'm so overheated."
"Is that the reason? I thought it was genetic."
"Garf! Stop it. You are the most vindictive person I have ever worked with."
"You call it work, what you have been doing?"
"I'm sure we're all rather stressed out but I must ask you to be civil for a little longer. We will soon be home. You will be able to finiah your reports for the Chief on the long trip back. It will be good to be home. I hope the Chief can arrange for us to return to check the results of our work here but you know how tight finances are. May we have a safe trip home. Meeting adjourned."
Ruth Zavitz was involved with the Human Genome Project.