American Chimera – 2.3

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The interrogator lifted a brow. “Forgive me for sounding stupid, but shouldn’t that be an easy fix? Shouldn’t you already know which of your chromosomes are X and which are Y?”

Dallin chuckled and shook his head paternalistically. “I suppose a lay person would think that. But no! Sex determination isn’t always so straightforward as chromosomes. Alligators, for instance, have their biological sex determined by the temperature of their nest. Birds have an entirely different chromosomal system from us mammals.”

“Really?” the interrogator asked. She backed away from the desk. “I’ve never heard of this.”

Dallin smiled. “It took me a while to absorb, too. Not something my parents had me learn at Temple, that’s for sure!”

“Even assuming what you say is true, you designed these creatures. How do you not know how they work? Can’t you just do a genetic analysis or something? Surely you’re approved to do that.”

He nodded. “Oh, we know already know everything about her little genome. We have her entire sequence down to the very last LEU element, transcriptional patterns, methylation, and average histone organization. We know exactly how her body is working. The problem is that the trigger is non-natural, and we don’t know what it is.”

“This doesn’t sound believable. How did you create something you don’t understand?”

“It’s much easier to do that than you think.” He pulled down a holographic screen and moved around some of the complicated letters and numbers. “See this? We know these are the genes controlling sex because the promotors have the Whitefield signature.” A couple gene sequences lit up. “He wasn’t supposed to put in a non-transcriptional sequence so dumb, you know. You see it, right? See how it encodes tryptophan, histidine, isoleucine, threonine -”

The interrogator pointed to the genes. “So why can’t you just figure it out from there?”

Dallin leaned on the table. “We don’t know what the transcribed proteins mean. These genes haven’t been phenotypically characterized. They’re not familiar and don’t line up clearly with any sex triggers on any of the genomic databases. No species has these sequences save for the chimeras, so the trigger was entirely fabricated from scratch by Dr. Whitefield.”

“Then ask Dr. Whitefield about it. Force him to talk.”

“Dr. Whitefield was fired in ’68. He’s since went to find spirituality in the Colorado mountains and hasn’t been heard from since ’76 – assumed dead, I’m afraid to say. Until the Convention in ’81, it didn’t matter whether or not we could make females. Males could serve as super soldiers just fine, and we didn’t need to have them reproduce sexually.” He moved to his own tablet, sitting on his desk, and then brought up new information on the hologram. “His notes are unhelpful, as well. Dr. Whitefield was a brilliant scientist, but his notebooks were just shopping lists, coffee stains, and strings of numbers that no one – including him, in all likelihood – understands.”

“This is ridiculous. Don’t you have people check your work?”

“We do now. At the time, this research was mostly an academic endeavor, and the restrictions were more…lax. Sadly, we know more about Dr. Whitefield’s work from old requisition records and communications than from what he’s written about it himself. His last notebook entry was from two months before he got fired, and it reads,” Dallin brought up a holo-copy record that appeared to be written in red crayon, “Ran out of funding.”

The interrogator ate a bite of the scone and chewed thoughtfully. “Alright. What I’m gathering here is that something awful happened to your records, and you don’t know how to produce a female chimera. These rednecks found one, and-”

“Or made one,” Dallin interrupted.

“Or made one, and you need me to do…what?”

“I need you to figure out how they did it.” Dallin pointed a finger to his mahogany desk. “I’m thrilled that we have one female specimen, but if we don’t know how they got a female in the first place, it’s useless. We’re already working to fertilize Specimen 803 to create the next generation of chimeras, but without more knowledge, she cannot be the genetic Eve for an entirely human-fabricated species. It’d be great if we could just get the info out of the prisoners and not have to waste so many Gen 3 specimens trying to figure it out.”

The interrogator turned her tablet so that Dallin could see it. “I’ve already talked with a Mr. Brett Huffman, the male that worked to keep specimen 803 in his home. He’s useless – beyond useless – because he’s just a big, fat, racist idiot who doesn’t understand what he’s done. The man is a total loon. The female is in the interrogation room right now, and she’s refusing to talk. I don’t think either of them are going to give you specific information about temperature or chromosomes or what have you.”

“I just need all the information they have about her. What did they do to the egg? Was she female at birth, or was the change enacted later? We have no idea how this works.”

The interrogator stood. “I’ll send you copies of any conversations I have that might be relevant. I’m talking to their veterinarian soon, so maybe you’ll get your answers from that.”

“Sounds perfect. I would love to see her medical records, if you have them.”

“We took everything from the vet’s house and former offices. I should be able to retrieve them for you.”

“Excellent.” He reached into his lunch bag and took out another wrapped baked good. “Popped amaranth granola with just a touch of pecan. For the road.”

Her eyes widened. “This is precious, I shouldn’t-”

“Don’t you dare worry! I’m old, and I’ve had plenty of pecans in my life. Now you take that with you and enjoy it.”

The interrogator gave a salute. “Yes, Dr. Smith.”

He lifted a finger and, with a smile, corrected, “Dallin!”

“Yes, Dallin.”

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7 thoughts on “American Chimera – 2.3

    • H.R.R. Gorman says:

      I’ve done protein engineering (and thus genetic engineering) for several years. If you’re interested in our real-life efforts on genetic engineering, AAV therapies are making the first entries into solving genetic maladies. Zolgensma is probably the most well-known AAV therapy.

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