Tyria’s Tears – Volume 1: The Chronicles of J’Rontia
Chapter 7: The Double Helix
J’Portia reviewed his data once again to make sure that he understood fully what he was looking at. He was the galaxy’s foremost authority on advanced DNA manipulations and programming. He worked on the Linthian Council’s most secret genetic engineering projects as one of their top scientists. His experience and skill made him, at one point in his career, one of the most sought after genetic experts and his conclusion was the same the second time he reviewed the data. The DNA the data referenced was clearly from one of the most advanced Linthians ever and the person was possibly different enough to be considered a member of another race.
He recognized the baseline work as part of an advanced design from a military project he worked on with a research team hundreds of standard years ago. The mandate for the research was clear – build a better soldier. The focus was on the design of small one and two person surgical strike soldiers. They wanted soldiers created that could withstand unbelievable conditions and prevail, even when seriously outnumbered. The result of successfully producing what the council asked for was for the project to be shutdown and the products to be greatly feared, to the point where they were hunted down by the government that created them and moved them to where they could be monitored. Clearly no one expected them to be as successful as they were.
The success came after a lot of hard work. The team searched all the different types of life forms to find systems they could use. They found eyesight in some birds that rivaled telescopes. They found muscles in some animals that were ten times more efficient than normal Linthian muscles. They found high speed brain neurons and super efficient hibernation abilities. They found components to enhance almost all systems in the body.
The challenge was to modify the Linthian DNA to develop these advanced features without losing what it was that made someone Linthian, or Murhan, the base DNA for the Galactic Wing races. Along with that challenge came the extremely difficult task of discovering all the threads that connect a particular system to all the others.
One of the biggest problem areas was the brain. It was relatively easy to find better eyes, but what in the brain needs to change to handle the better eyes. More importantly, during the development phase what order did fetus or child need the various attributes turned on in. If you turn on a feature before the rest of the body is ready, it quite often never works. Also, what a system needs for development within one creature might not be what is needed to develop within another.
Increasing brain speed and power was the most complex problem of all. Everything in the body is affected when the brain speeds up and if you want better reaction time, you have to speed up both the brain and the nervous system. Yet, they had success and were able to increase the speed and power of the brain tremendously; however, they could not cool it at first.
Cooling was done using the skin and the blood in most creatures; however, the increases they worked with produced more heat than was able to be dissipated using conventional systems. They finally came across a creature that used its hair to cool the brain with roots that connected to an extra layer around the brain. Combined with increases in the standard systems, this proved to be a workable solution.
The DNA data he reviewed showed these characteristics, and more, he was confident that it originated in some way with the KR projects. The part that stumped him was how the powers and advancements were turned off. This should not be possible.
The complexity of adding an advanced feature is huge. When so many things have changed, how can you only use part of it? It is easy to block hearing but difficult to block only the advanced hearing. When they built the DNA for the KR1 it ended up failing. The pieces did not all work together and after about ten years the creations started to experience serious internal defects that prevented any deployment of the entities.
The KR2s worked extremely well but ran at such a high metabolism rate they had trouble working with regular people and tended to become mentally or physically unstable. In addition, the tremendous metabolism reduced their life spans to only a little more than 50 standard years as compared to the normal Linthian lifespan of 700 standard years. The Kuli technique of using a Soretto was tried to help stabilize them, but did not work. The team did not know how the DNA would combine so the reproduction abilities were eliminated from the models. For safety reasons, the team produced only females and did not produce any with a womb.
What doomed the KR2 project was the advanced healing that the team designed into the model. Combat is messy and advanced combat can produce serious injuries. The team targeted extremely fast healing and was able to include the ability to regenerate. The combat tests went extremely well and the KR2 models could even replace a limb within days if they had the nutrients. However, in a very small percentage of the women, the healing system saw the lack of a womb as an injury and regenerated it.
The womb was not considered an essential system and so it was not programmed to heal at the rate of a critical injury so we did not know reproduction was possible until many years into deployment. Even then the results did not generate much concern. Some of the children these women produced were born without the DNA advancements and others with it. This still was not a huge problem as we had made the advancements recessive.
The trouble came when one of these children mated with a Murhan and an old genetic program kicked in. When the Linthians separated from the Murhans by altering themselves genetically, they programmed their DNA so that if they mated with a Murhan, the DNA would build the new person with Linthian specific DNA dominating. For the KR2s, this meant that if their descendants mated with a Murhan, the children would have all of the new advanced features turned on and then grow up without the sophisticated training that the military provided the KR2s from birth. Later, a similar problem showed up when these children mated with each other as there was no dominant genes for the advanced genes to be recessive to.
These births were a problem because now advanced KR2 level people were showing up outside of military control. The government started to get nervous and security began to clamp down. The secret terror came later when the impossible happened. All of the models were designed to prevent a male as the testosterone surge in early development was shown to dangerously maximize the advancement. When it was discovered that a KR2’s child mated with another KR2 child and produced a male, everyone in the program became anxious.
Genetically, that was not possible and there were many programs and in-depth coding to prevent it from happening. Yet it did. One male child was born that changed everything. That male had characteristics that maximized every upgrade they built into the DNA. The child’s abilities far exceeded all the others but the mother hid him. She allowed him to grow up without training or supervision beyond her own. When his powers matured his mother tried to control him but failed. He left and joined a religion that believed anyone who did not agree with them should die and face God. He turned against her and all others who would not convert. The war he caused killed billions and he was almost impossible to stop.
During the time of these religion wars, we were working on the KR3. Once the Council understood the ramifications of their KR2 program’s children and grandchildren, they shutdown our program. Then they hunted down all the KR2s, their children, and, most importantly, their grandchildren and moved them to controlled planets. Plus, they sterilized all of them. This was not a pleasant job and in a short time turned into a disaster. Many did not want to be relocated and others did not want to be sterilized.
All of the original KR2s were combat trained and served in many conflicts. At that time, many were serving in the religion wars. He remembered the military asking him how they could keep control, still use the KR2s in combat, and sterilize them. He had said they couldn’t be sterilized because their bodies would just repair the damage. So, in military fashion, they sterilized them every month. After the religion wars ended, they moved them all to one planet and their numbers began to drop.
The bad press from all of this caused those on the development team to become pariahs in the scientific world. What was worse was that about half of the scientists were secret government employees and there was no record of them being there. As a result, the few with public faces became exiles after participating in one of the most successful projects in genetic history. J’Portia was one of the exiles.
Looking back on all that did not clear the confusion in his brain. The security put in place to track the KR2s was intense and the chance of some escaping, while possible, was unlikely. To evolve another person even more advanced in the time since was not achievable naturally. This had to mean that the DNA he was examining came from the KR3 line. Since he thought he knew where they all ended up, who they married, and if they had children, his facts must either be incorrect or there were more than two created. Even with that understanding, he could not explain the adjustments that allowed the advanced features to be turned off.
His thoughts went back to a time years after the religion wars when the KR2 scientists were still shunned. He was not able to find decent work and he and his family found themselves trapped in a ghetto on a planet in the middle of Tyria just trying to stay hidden to avoid the scorn people heaped on anyone associated with the development of the “blue demons” has they had come to be known. It was so bad, that he had trouble finding enough work to feed the family and both he and his wife had begun to age. Things were looking rather bleak when an unwelcome visitor came into their home.
A Supreme Guardian Kuli walked in without any notification and as if he belonged there. When the family settled down from the shock, he asked them if they enjoyed living there. Everyone said “no” at the same time and with no little amounts of anger. The Kuli went on, “I can save you from this but you will all have to agree to complete secrecy about everything that happens from this point on.”
He asked the Guardian if he could speak to him alone and the Kuli agreed. J’Portia said, angrily, “Now that you have manipulated me in front of my family, I want to know what the catch is. What you are offering, in exchange for silence, indicates to me that the galaxy would not like what you are doing.” J’Lopt smiled and said, “You are correct. I want you to go back and finish working on the KR3 model. I have the Council’s permission and they will take care of you and your family forever. The catch is that you can never tell your family what you do and you will be monitored always.”
The Kuli went on, “We still need these soldiers and even though the public does not like the mess with the KR2 grandchildren, they do love how the KR2s reduced the need for the military to maintain a large force and the successes they had in the field. Clearly the benefits outweigh the risks. So it is critical that we find a stable version that will not have the problem with their children”
The DNA in front of him proved that someone found the solution and it definitely consisted of parts of the KR2 that had been adjusted somehow. Still, this also was based on the almost completed KR3 material he had developed and the person in question was stable with blocks on the advanced features. He examined two of the areas on the DNA sequence that raised additional concerns. These were new and not a part of the KR3 line that he built.
He thought back to where the KR2s were allowed to live. The final location was a former military only planet that soon became known as the Warrior World. Once the KR2s and their families were all on the planet and only off for military maneuvers, the public settled down and the groups calling for their extermination disappeared. The warriors had eliminated the need for a large standing army and the military played that up all the time with good results. Their advanced skills and their super healing ability kept their mortality rate low although their accelerated metabolism allowed them to age rapidly. The fact that a small percentage was able to reproduce managed to bring about a small but stable population.
This also caused a large change for the Kuli as a whole. The Kuli, who previously worked some with the military, pulled back to their studies almost totally. Kuli interaction with the military now primarily dealt with hunting down KR2s or their descendants who went rogue. While the Kuli had advanced skills, the genetic alterations of the KR2s gave them a serious advantage physically; however, Kuli training was far superior and seldom did a confrontation end in favor of the KR2. If there was a male involved, a Supreme Guardian Kuli would handle the return.
J’Portia was working wonderfully with his new team and they had plenty of work to do adjusting the proposed KR3 DNA. His group was given the bodies of any KR2 that passed away. This steady but small amount of mortality gave his group plenty of material to work with. What they found was interesting. It was not the DNA code that created the most of the problems, it was the programming on when and how it was used that caused the corruption of the original blueprint for the model. They used this information to create the KR3’s program controls.
The pleasant memories came to an end abruptly when his thoughts returned to his wife. He had completed the KR3 DNA model and was almost finished with his new program controls when disaster hit. His wife was discovered having an affair with a spy and had been providing information that she stole from the work he brought home. His life was ruined! Their children had just left home a year before for advanced training in the military and now his wife was in jail. In addition, the research board decided that he had been careless and he lost his job. No one would hire him.
Now, as he stands in an isolation station in the middle of nowhere, he examines a DNA structure that is significantly above what his team was working on and he can only imagine the path his work took. His thoughts drifted back to the second time in his life when he found himself in a ghetto on a forgotten planet trying to make enough to eat and not succeeding very often.
He remembered his last day living like that as if it was yesterday. Thirty-seven standards years he had barely survived and he knew that he could no longer go on. The day was dark with an overcast sky, the winds were cold, and his clothes did nothing to provide warmth. His eyes burned from the soot in the foul air emanating from a cruiser plant next door. His box backed up to one of the exhaust ports from crusher and it provided some heat in the night and even allowed him to sleep on occasion. He watched a small animal run by and tried to catch it so he could eat – he was too slow. He knew it was time.
The knife was homemade and took him thirty local cycles to create from scraps in the nearby dump. He was not a real brave man and his courage was gone – he could not bear to face another day of the pain. He took the knife and taped it to his chest with the point directed at his heart. He climbed up on his box and mumbled his last words into the wind.
J’Portia jumped out as if diving into a pool. He started to fall and fear seized his heart as he fell. But he did not hit the ground. Instead he stopped in midair and a deep voice boomed out, “Don’t your children deserve better than to hear that their father killed himself?”
His body was pushed sideways and he rolled over and fell onto his back. As he lay there, stunned, pictures of his children and the wonderful families they would have appeared in front of his eyes. He cried. His grandkids were beautiful and they all seemed so intelligent. A shadow fell over him.
“I can place you back in the same spot and let things run the course you selected or you can stand up and come with me” the voice said. He could not see who was speaking and the figure did not move to a spot where visibility would be easy. J’Portia asked “What will I be doing?” He heard a short laugh and then “you will train some scientists to finish the KR3 job and then you will man a station by yourself in a deserted part of the galaxy. Or, you can stay here.”
“What is the catch?” He asked. This time the voice was serious, “You do not exist. I will have you listed as dead. You will have died while saving some children but for all practical purposes, you will not exist.” The moments dragged on as his heart rose and sank with the possibilities. Finally, J’Portia nodded his head in agreement and the figure stepped out of the shadows. “Take my hand and we will transport to my ship” Tomli said. He did as he was told and his life started over again as an exile.
So now, from his lonely exile, he examined what appeared to be a modification of the KR3 project that he was working on so long ago. The programming he taught his replacement was in here along with two new areas. Where did they come from?
On a hunch, he pulled the data on the one being that was created by the mating of two KR3 children. He shivered as he thought of the destruction that man wrought. The mating had produced a conflict in the DNA with the resulting combination creating almost a superman. The disaster in that being he was not stable mentally or physically.
He compared the two sets of data and then sat down. There was no doubt now. J’Rontia’s Soretto was the offspring of a mating between two people with KR3 DNA. He felt fear flow up his spine. This was not supposed to be possible. They had taken care of all the failed code in the KR2s and made sure that reproduction was not possible in the KR3s. Yet reproduction had happened and somewhere along the way the impossible also happened and a male was created. Yet, this man had level five blocks that somehow worked to control his powers, but what about those who do not? If one KR2 grandson caused so much death and destruction, what would a KR3 grandson do? For a few moments, he wished he had died so long ago and then this would not have happened.
The room around him spun and had to sit down as the realization hit him that even a Supreme Guardian Kuli might not be able to stop one of these beings if they received any decent training for their abilities. Tears ran in his eyes as he thought about his children and the danger he helped put them in. He wept and slept in his chair.
Later in the day, he awoke and was able to clear his head. He considered the facts. Hundreds of years had passed since the KR3s were created and this was the first time anything showed up. That made no sense and something was hidden. Confusion hit him like a sledge hammer and he got up and walked to the window. He had to decide what to do and he could not keep quiet. J’Portia made up his mind and decided to expose his existence and contact the Council.
He was lifting the communicator when he heard her, “Please reconsider.” He turned and for some strange reason was not surprised to see her there. She was still very beautiful and yet now had a tired look on her face. “He is stable,” she noted. J’Portia answered, “They all start out stable. The Council needs to know what they are up against.” She smiled a weak and sad smile. “Do you really believe they don’t know?” she asked. She went on, “It has been my job to keep them under control and I ask you to consider if I have done my job well.”
He shook his head and went on, “I have kept quiet too many times and paid the price personally in many ways, but this could leave the galaxy itself in great danger. Also, I do not see or sense your Soretto, so am I to believe you work alone? Who is backing you up and if you fail, will anyone find out in time? We cannot go through another war like the Religion war. If there are a bunch of these people out there the wars could destroy the entire galaxy.”
She smiled a soft smile and the sun coming through the window glinted off of her red hair exposing blue sea foam colored highlights and a few streaks of silver. She walked slowly to the window and gazed out over the distant stars and time seemed to drift slowly with her. Her voice floated softly as she said, “The galaxy will be destroyed by another and these people are our only hope for recovery. Very few know, but the King is being backed by the deceiver and his followers.”
She paused to allow the comments to sink in. She turned from the window back at him and went on “I can assure you that I have the resources and the backing to hunt down and control any who destabilize.” At that moment, three more women stepped out of the shadows that did not exist in the room. The women were all tall, lean, beautiful and had long flowing hair of various colors with shades of blue drifting through them. Each woman walked slowly and softly over to him and touched him on the shoulder or arm. Then they stepped back and were gone.
She turned and was looking out the window when she spoke again, “The amount of training and work it takes to stabilize a KR2 is hard to believe, the amount of training and work to stabilize one of their descendants is even more intensive. The KR3s, on the other hand, are actually way more stable than you would believe. Yes, there are more than just me. However, the descendants of KR3s who mate with a Murhan or the descendants of KR3s who mate with descendants of other KR3s require a lot of time and resources, unless it is a male and then it takes a tremendous amount of resources and time. I know that you tried to prevent males from being possible and you did a great job with the programming, as did others, but outside forces can negate the programming in extremely rare cases.”
She paused again and this time he joined her at the window. He said, “I am sorry about what happened with you and your husband. He helped me a number of times.” She had a tear in her eye when she spoke, “We have both made sacrifices for the future of the galaxy. You allowed me to live and I will forever be grateful to you for the time my husband and I did have together. No one could have known what was going to happen.”
He stepped away from the window and said, “I will not call the council but I am concerned about my patient and what I can turn back on.” She answered, “He is a Soretto. Turn on his healing and remove the blocks to his intelligence. J’Rontia will be able to access the other abilities when she needs to. One of the sections of DNA you are wondering about controls the development and management of the link they share and will take care of this.” “And the other area?” he asked.
She turned serious and it was as if a dark cloud passed over her face. Her voice was low and soft with a hint of anger in it and as she spoke he felt shivers go up his spine and the hair on his neck stood on end, “That section was designed to prevent access to multiple advanced measures at the same time. It was to help increase stability and prolong their lives. Instead, one of our team betrayed us and was working for the Deceiver. The section controls we put in place were disabled for the second generation and beyond. In fact, the section now heightens the person’s ability to go beyond the program limits with the advanced features. They can even push themselves so hard that they destroy their own body or mind in the process. One day I will meet him again …”
J’Portia was silent and allowed her to have a moment or two. He could see the betrayal in her face and was a bit nervous when her eyes had started to glow and her hair began to give off a bright blue light. When she looked more like herself he asked, “So your group captures these anomalies and puts the blocks in place?” Her eyes shone brightly for a moment and then faded again. “Yes, if we can find them in time. Fortunately, very few KR3s or their descendants can have children and a boy is hardly ever born. We believe we know the locations all of the KR models and their descendants, now that you have found this one.” He was not as confident of her answer as she wished him to be and it showed on his face. “What happens if you are not on time?” he asked. She turned away as she answered, “When they become too powerful for us, we either get the help of a Supreme Guardian Kuli or we have to destroy them.” Her face tightened a bit again as she considered the serious lack of Supreme Guardian Kuli in the galaxy and what that meant for the future.
He nodded to her as he could tell from her look that the conversation was over and she returned a small smile. He turned and walked toward his desk. He knew that when he turned around she would not be there and she wasn’t. He would help J’Rontia with her Soretto but not without reservations and he would unlock what he thought best to unlock – which was probably close to what she was asking.
Back on her ship she considered the visit with J’Portia. She usually enjoyed the confusion people had when she came and went without a trace and without setting off the alarms. The process was really rather simple, although the technology was complex and banned for all but a few “special” warriors. Her ship was designed to be completely invisible on every level and accomplished this with a phase-shifting technology that used almost no energy. Add a couple of hype globes and her “special” soldiers could appear and vanish without a trace anywhere.
Of course, there is the reason the technology was banned. The ships give off extremely dangerous emissions that were not detected when they were first tested because everything was designed to be undetectable. The original crews died gruesome deaths and the entire project was scrapped. During in his investigation of the deaths, Tomli uncovered what the dangerous emissions were and that they could not be controlled without losing the properties that made the ships so valuable. So the ships were taken away to be destroyed by some of the KR models. She smiled, it was a good thing the order did not specify when they were to be destroyed – even better that she and her kind did not have a problem with the emissions.
For her though, the appearing and vanishing was different. She enjoyed more traditional approaches and liked to use her stealth and training to do the same without technology. She and her “special” troops also used various mental manipulations to prevent people from noticing their alarms, from looking in certain directions, and more. She enjoyed hacking into the sensor systems or using known patterns to deceive them making the whole appearing and vanishing event a huge challenge. Usually, no matter which method she chose, she had fun.
The vanishing and appearing was not enjoyable this time as she considered the missions ahead of all of those she cared about. The chances that any of them would survive what was in front of them now was slim. Even slimmer was the possibility they would succeed. It is hard to help people who do not want to be helped, especially when they feel they deserve the bad that might happen.
She docked her ship with the Linthian Cruiser J’Tromian’s Valor and parked in the restricted area of the bay. She walked toward the security desk and as she rounded the corner the soldier on duty saw her. “Stop there and do not move” he said. She smiled and continued to walk. The guard picked up his gun and repeated, “Stop there and do not move.” She continued to walk. He raised his gun and was about to fire when a hand settled on his shoulder and a voice commented softly, “Lower the gun or she will kill you.” He immediately dropped the gun as he recognized the ship’s captain and said, “Yes Matriarch!”
The guard watched as the two approached each other and intertwined their fingers. The sisters shared thoughts for a moment. One of them had red hair with blue sea foam highlights and streaks of silver and the other had blue sea foam hair with red highlights and streaks of silver, or perhaps they were the same. The guard found it confusing to even look at them. Still, you could tell that there was a difference and it centered on the hair.
The Matriarch asked her sister, “Do you think he will cooperate?” “Yes, and I believe he knows more than he admits, even to himself” she noted. She went on, “I did not like lying to him. I think he knew that I was not the hunter. You should have gone.” The Matriarch answered, “No. He knows you and what you said was true, just not one hundred percent accurate.”
She saw the guard turn away as he could no longer look at them and she felt the fear of her rising up in him along with no small amount of confidence in his captain. She looked into the Matriarch’s eyes and said, “I have missed you, but we should not meet anymore or we will end up like me and my husband.” The Matriarch smiled and replied, “No family chit chat? You always do come straight to the point; however, we need to decide what we are going to do about these problems.” She nodded and frowned as she spoke, “You will have to contain and train as I told him. You will have a lot of work on your hands. I can take over the rest of the monitoring.”
The Matriarch looked at her and a slow soft smile spread across her face as she said, “You are just going to handle the entire galaxy by yourself?” She laughed at her sister’s comment and the humor behind it, “No. J’Rontia and her Soretto will be taking care of most of the public job. I will take care of the rest with the remaining two.” The Matriarch signaled her agreement and asked, “Do you think the galaxy will really be destroyed?” She answered, “Yes. Tomli is rarely wrong and the Deceiver will stop at nothing less. He wants total control or total destruction. Although I will continue to try and stop him and his group any way I can.”
The Matriarch looked off into deep space, “I have thousands of standard years to prepare for my part and still I am not sure it will be enough time to get ready. It is a shame that the Linthians refused to participate and even worse that we have to try and prepare with no funds and few resources. We could clean this up in a hundred standard years or less if they would help and allow access to advanced technologies.” The Matriarch continued, “Wish me luck. These will be lonely years and I am not sure which of us has the worst job. It is hard some days to believe that we volunteered for this.” They gave each other a long hug and shared some last thoughts. They knew that this was probably the last time they would see each other. She turned and boarded her ship without looking back.
The Matriarch watched her sister leave and a single tear ran down her face as she returned to her charges and their training. It would take many generations to develop the talents needed and to find the most effective instructional approaches. Her team needed to be able to survive impossible conditions and even thrive.
The Matriarch reflected on the visit. Her sister already had a formidable reputation and she was confident that over the years it would grow. The galaxy did not know her by her real name anymore; they only knew her as “The Ghost” or “The Angel,” depending on what side they saw. The Matriach turned and walked back to the door out of the bay and reflected on her own reputation. The door guard saluted as she went by. He was terrified by her and even more so by those she controlled. As she walked away, the guard prayed silently to the gods of his fathers that “The Matriarch” would live until the others were gone.
The Matriarch smiled as she picked up on his thoughts. “The Matriarch” sounded like an extremely silly name for someone with the responsibilities she had. Of course, she was sure that “The Ghost” and “The Angel” sounded just as silly to her sister. The thought made her laugh and when she saw the fear in the faces of the crew as she laughed it made her laugh even more. When she finally stopped laughing, she felt better than she had in a long time although her crew would have trouble sleeping for quite a while.
On his lonely station, J’Portia was preparing to leave for the night and some needed rest. A thought prickled his brain and he decided to examine some of J’Rontia’s blood for her DNA. Hours later he dropped into his chair and reflected on his in-depth analysis and the information it revealed. The double helix does not lie and he realized that nothing he invented or created was as unique as he thought. He smiled as he considered the one common thread that he continued to find, Tomli. Tonight he would sleep well after all.
Back on her ship, she had time to think. The day had been interesting and it had been good to see her sister, even if it was for the last time. Their condition caused problems when they were in each other’s presence and the time they had accumulated together over the years was already beyond the safe limits. The rest of her life would be very lonely. She missed her husband the most. They found out the hard way what happened if someone with her condition stayed close to any of the more advanced Linthians for too long. She missed him so much that it hurt and yet she knew they could never be together again. She looked out the viewer into deep space and wondered what he was doing. He was an impressive man and it was hard to live up to the world’s expectations of her when she was known as his wife. It is even harder now as she had to face the loneliness of her chosen mission with everyone knowing that Tomli’s wife died. She cried…