William Doonan

I write books and stories.

MedicineLand: Chapter Twenty-Nine

leave a comment »

Kathryn Mosely slammed her notebook down, turned to leave, and almost knocked Julia down when she came through. “Sorry,” she said, “but I hate him.”

“Who?” Julia recovered her balance.

“Schwarzenegger. He’s killing us. But more to the point; Carson. I’m scheduled to run my analyses and he’s got the damn computer tasked for four more hours.”

Julia saw Carson plugging away at Prometheus’s terminal.  “I’ll talk with him,” she said.

“Hey, boss.”  Carson looked up.

Julia walked past him to the control panel on the wall, keyed in her access code and hit the emergency shutdown button. Prometheus’s robot arm paused and then retracted to its base as the fan motors kicked into cool down. Eight halogen bulbs flicked off in unison and the terminal screen went blank.

Carson stared in disbelief. “What the hell?”

Julia worked hard to contain her anger. “This is a research facility and you are a student here. As such, you have broad privileges to utilize a very expensive leased supercomputer for approved projects at specified times.”

“This is important,” Carson whined.

“So is Kathryn’s research. I have seventeen graduate students. That means you and sixteen others.”

Carson seethed. “I was in the middle of something.”

“And the same thing happened yesterday, right?  For the next three weeks, you give up your time to Kathryn.”

“That’s bullshit,” Carson said. “Kathryn is working on fetal rabbit cells. She’s looking at bunny hibernation for Christ’s sake.”

“Bunny torpor,” Julia corrected him. “Rabbits don’t hibernate.  And it’s not bullshit.  Over the last two months she’s sequenced a seventy-two hundred base segment of a gene that codes for epiphyseal union. Do you know what that means?”

Carson glared at her.  “Of course I do. It’s responsible for releasing hormones that fuse a juvenile rabbit’s skeleton when it reaches it maximal dimensions. It’s a gene that makes an adult rabbit skeleton.”

“That’s right, and it’s important work.”  Julia started at the computer monitor.  “What the hell is this?”


Julia read the activity log on the screen.  “This isn’t right.  What the hell is this?”

Carson looked down.  “I retasked Prometheus.”

“You did what?”

“I retasked it.  I downloaded the beta version of a commercial paternity software program.”

“What? What are you talking about?”

“Paternity software. The CPU is easily large enough and the parameters are sensitive enough. We have the testing platforms, so I took the standard programming off-line so that we could test DNA samples to determine the genetic relationship between Millicent and Karen Sorrows.”

Julia stared at him.

“We have the capabilities. The test itself takes seventy-two minutes, but the load time was longer than I had hoped.”

“No, no, no.”  Julia shook her head.  “This is not OK. Since when am I not consulted about what goes on around here?”

“If I told you and I got caught, you would be liable.”

“Jesus, Carson.” Julia sat down. “We can’t do this. Prometheus belongs to the Centers for Disease Control. They have a tap line on the modem. They can monitor it at any time.”

“I know,” Carson said. “The modem had a short. I gave the modem a short; loose cable or something.”

“No way.”

“Professor, I already did it, OK?  I was just running the paternity test again to confirm, but the results are already in.  Want to have a look?”

Julia spent the next twenty minutes reading and rereading the report.  “No one has ever seen anything like this,” she said finally, “not in a human.”

Carson nodded.  “You’ll note that Millicent Sorrows is not genetically identical to Karen Sorrows.”

“We never thought she was, right?”

“Right,” Alice came through the door, holding a printout. “We thought she was Karen’s grandmother. Karen’s mother, Millicent’s daughter, was a parthenogenic child. That means that Millicent had a daughter without the benefit of paternal DNA.”

“We don’t have a license to use this software,” Carson added, “but this analysis suggests that Millicent is Karen’s mother.”

“But she’s not,” Julia countered. “Karen Sorrows was born in a hospital. We know who her mother was. We know who her father was.”

“Agreed,” said Alice. “Millicent can’t be her mother, but the fact that Karen got half her DNA from Millicent conclusively proves that Millicent’s daughter, Karen’s mother, was born parthenogenically.  Millicent had a virgin birth.”

“Here’s the cool part,” Carson added.  “This means that Millicent Sorrows is Karen’s mother and grandmother too.  How cool is that?”

“I think we have to meet Karen Sorrows,” Julia said softly.

“Well we can’t, can we?” said Alice. “She’s protected. She’s being kept at Ruth Black’s compound.  Armed guards, remember?  They won’t let us see her.”

“Ruth Black,” Julia repeated.  She took out the folder that Rocky had given her.  “I asked my husband to look into this.  Do either of you guys remember an actor named Condor Nyle?  He was a little before your time but…”

“Are you kidding?”  Alice laughed.  “Of course we remember him. Werewolves of Baja, 1939.”

“1941,” Carson corrected.  “Condor Nyle was one of the greats.  His movies are classics, in a really bad sort of way.  He did this one exceptionally  low budget film about a family of Mexican werewolves that did the Aztec rituals. I can’t remember what it was…”

“Aztec Werewolf,” Alice said. “They cut the heart out of their victims, but instead of using a knife, they used their paws.”

“Condor Nyle willed the compound to Ruth Black.” Julia shared what Rocky had told her.  “But there were a codicil.  For some reason, part of the property had to remain pristine habitat for some species of badger.”

“Badger?”  Alice leaned over her shoulder to read.

“Right, and apparently their most recent water quality assessment revealed excessive excretory contamination.”

Alice nodded.  “Too much pooping, and the pooping is contaminating the badger habitat.”

“You’re joking,” said Carson.

“The upshot,” Julia explained, “is that Ruth Black has a hearing on Thursday to counter charges or make suggestions as to how the badgers will be better accommodated.  I think we need to be there.  I think it’s time we met Ruth Black.”

Written by williamdoonan

April 4, 2013 at 6:03 pm

Posted in Fiction, MedicineLand

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: