Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

Dr. Darius from the Psychology lab walked along the line of students to Dr. Thorne’s adjacent Bio lab, reaching the door just as it opened to emit a thin wiry girl with a pale face and electric blue irises. She paused only a second before stepping around him, offering a shy ‘Excuse me sir’, under her breath.

“Next.” Thorne’s voice was unmistakable from within the lab.

“Just a second,” Darius held back the next student in line, evoking an irritated but acquiescent huff from the towering young man, “won’t be a minute,” Darius added as he entered the lab and closed the door.

“Release signed?” Thorne spoke without looking up. “Payment in order?”

“What on earth are you playing at?” Darius startled Thorne with the question, causing him to look up from the notepad on which he was busy typing notes.

“Playing? I’m not playing, I’m researching.”

Darius closed the distance between them, admiring the majesty of the contraption that filled the desk beside the gray haired engineer. “I hear they’re not going to renew your funding next semester, what’s to become of the genome jammer?”

Thorne winced at the term, “Gene Code Reprogrammer, and once I’ve secured a corporate sponsor, or a less impotent government one then its future won’t be in jeopardy.

Darius stopped in front of the Doctor and his machine, noting the snapshots of the girl who’d just left on its display, a brown eyed before and the striking electric blue after shot, along with long strands of double helixed code in constant motion. “So you’re going to sell this to a cosmetics firm then? Or a circus? Changing eye colours really isn’t going to fund the kind of research you need to be doing to keep this dream alive, you do know that?” The doctor chided his old friend. “You’re going to have to show something really remarkable.”

Thorne thumbed his notepad, the security camera outside the office photographed the next waiting student and called up his file.

“Johann Yonnes,” he recited, “second string linebacker on the football team, two hundred five pounds, six foot four. He has dormant muscle mass code that we can reactivate, fast twitch in his legs for speed, slow twitch in his upper body for strength. We can put him on the first string next season.”

Darius shook his head. “Teams can always find better athletes, that’s not going to be enough.”

Thorne grinned. “I know, that’s just the carrot.” He pointed to the machine’s display and the streaming strands of colour coded DNA, mostly made up of vivid colour pairs, but some sections were clouded and grey. “These sections here,” Thorne jabbed his fingers at the screen, stopping a coil from turning and then rotating it back and zooming in by planting one hand on the glass, fingers together then spreading them outward. “Here,” he tapped a single grey pair in a sea of colour, “here is a possible payoff. I give them the carrot, then flip a combination of these mystery switches and see what we get. They come back every few weeks for follow up tests, and we figure out what we’ve accomplished. I’m expediting my trials a little.”

Darius stood for a moment, mouth opening and closing soundlessly. Finally he stammered “These are students, children, you’re messing with the lives of children…”

Thorne waved him off. “I load their DNA here,” he waved at an arm cuff and bank of needles at one end of the machine, “I recode their genes and replace them, then reboot their sequence, wait and test. If they last five minutes they’ll last a week, and anything harmful I undo the same way.” He gestured to his datapad, “I keep notes.”

Outside Johann checked his watch impatiently.

In the stairwell of Hawkfel Residence, a brilliantly blue eyed girl curled shaking on the landing, wing stalks forcing their way violently out from between her shoulder blades.

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