I’m getting the hang of this. Colors swam around him as holo displays opened and scrolled as fast as his thoughts. He had no problem with the displays. They made total sense to him, so much like the computer screens he already knew. The animals milling about at his control were another thing entirely.
He understood they were just simulations. He knew they were made up of photons sent through an array of machinery he didn’t completely comprehend. He could grasp that the suit he wore allowed him to feel the textures of their skins and furs. He got that the musky scent of their bodies came from the chips in his head.
Knowing all this though didn’t prepare him for how real they were. They panted with life and wandered around the BOCS, gazing at him as they passed with wary eyes. They felt real and alive in every way, and James couldn’t help but love them.
James looked up at the female triceratops in front of him and breathed in the perfume of its body, dusty and bittersweet. The huge eyes looked at James and blinked slowly in the sunlight. The lids moved with a fluidity that unnerved James and thrilled him at the same time. They were nothing like the animatronic beasts at museums or the computer created monsters of the movies.
The triceratops bent to graze at his feet, unconcerned with the human mere inches away, though careful not to bump him either. James smiled at the gentle movements of an animal that could crush him so easily. Scary, but more beautiful than I’d imagined. He ran a hand along the beast’s neck, bumping and sliding along the thick skin.
Omegaphil had managed to generate the genetic code for more prehistoric animals than James would have dreamed possible. Little bits built upon one another and, as more information was added, better results grew from the base.
James thought of it like a genetic search engine. Genetic information ran through super computers at unthinkable speed, filling in holes, pulling the results from all the other research being done. If he wanted an animal with spines, the genetic database combed what it had on file and found the best fit to tie in with what he planned on building.
James had read through hundreds of files. Omegaphil had first extrapolated several raptor-like animals by making minute changes in the genetics of an emu. Give it teeth. Push up the scale content. The genes were already there. They just needed to be turned back “on.” Boost muscle mass and size, and you have a raptor. Not the same as the prehistoric model, but similar enough that they could build upon the idea.
Mike was right. It would’ve been a slow start. Map one genome, test a few genes, map some more. Now, with so much raw data flowing through the system, James could pick the features he wanted and the computer would put the pieces together. Almost anything’s possible now.
That’s how James started the triceratops in front of him. Not much in the way of living relatives, but plenty of similar genetics mixed around the gene pool since: rhinoceros, reptiles, birds. It had taken some major tweaking to take the mess the computer had placed in front of him and make a viable, working idea of a triceratops. But here it stands, eating grass in the sun.
James Iverson waved a hand. Mike’s training wheels help. The computer seems to understand more, even if it feels silly. I’m not near as flamboyant as Mike though. As he waved, the colors on the triceratops changed. Spots sprang to life on the bronze skin, dark purple in the center transitioning to yellow at the edges. “Not quite what I was going for, but close.”
“Not bad at all actually.”
The voice made James jump. Dr. Reed stood right behind him, giggling at his startled expression.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to sneak up on you. No, that’s not true really. I did mean to sneak up on you.” She hadn’t appeared in her animal skins and moccasins this time, but had dressed in a simple t-shirt and jeans, a delicate smile on her lips.
James gave her a nervous smile back. “Um…hi, Dr. Reed. You succeeded. I didn’t hear anything.”
She looked up at the blue sky and fluffy white clouds. “It’s the BOCS, really. Remember, it responds to will. I want to be quiet, so it cancels out my footfalls. I forget it does that sometimes, makes them seem awfully loud out in the endless hallways.” She looked back at James, the smile tightening a fraction as she slipped on a more professional face. “This project looks further along than I was expecting. Didn’t you start it just yesterday? Why haven’t you updated me on your progress?”
James’ face turned pale. “Yes, yesterday. Sorry, I haven’t really stopped long enough to do much of anything…”
Her smile disappeared and she shook her head at him. “I know. I’m not sure you realize this, but you’ve been in here for over twelve hours.”
James looked at his watch. “Twelve hours, really?”
“Yes. I like Section Six to run smoothly and I like a good work ethic, but you also have to make time to eat and sleep.”
“I’m so sorry, Dr. Reed. I had no idea. It felt like two or three. I’ll shut it down right away and work on the reports for you.” James waved away the sky, grass, screens, and, with a disappointed sigh, the triceratops itself.
“Shutting it down is a good idea, but work on those reports tomorrow. I can wait. Go get something to eat and get some rest instead.” Her bright smile flashed back to life once more. “And heaven knows you’ve got to go to the bathroom.”
James realized he did need to use a bathroom and soon. He hadn’t even been aware of the pressure building until she’d said something. He bit his lip and looked off toward where he thought the exit might be as he shifted his weight a couple times.
Dr. Reed laughed and then put back on her professional face. “This is really amazing work and I look forward to your report tomorrow.”
“Yes, Dr. Reed.”
She turned and walked away, straight toward the invisible door, her footfalls making no sound on the hard white surface. How does she know where it is? I bumble around forever trying to find it each time. Her hair swayed hypnotically along her back.
She glanced back, eyes twinkling, but her face still professional. “Oh, it’s Angie, by the way. All this sorry Dr. Reed this and sorry Dr. Reed that is going to get pretty old for both of us. We’re going to be working together for a while. Goodnight, James.”
James mumbled something about that being okay with him and Jimmy works too, but she’d already slipped away through the white doorway.
“Goodnight, Angie.” He yelled out the open and empty doorway. I hate being called Jimmy. Why would I even say that? Good thing she didn’t hear. He glanced at the empty doorway one last time. Why do I feel like I’m a thirteen-year-old geek again around that woman?
Vander Carlson thumbed the report. Interesting stuff, really. Our new addition has recreated two extinct animals in a matter of days. It took Dr. Reed months to complete her latest project and she was the most talented geneticist in the BOCS. She’d called James “gifted” with the BOCS’ operation in her latest progress report.
Gifted is not the word. The man’s a prodigy. The computer understood what he wanted and seemed to work harder to please him than anyone else. Our AI system isn’t that sophisticated, but here it is responding to Dr. Iverson as though it were.
Vander looked up. “Is this what we were expecting?”
Stephens still looked like a sweaty, old weasel, just a slightly prouder model. “Honestly no, sir, but it’s a very good development. We didn’t rewrite any of the holo interface subsystems to respond differently to his interface. The devices were designed to stimulate sections of the brain that aren’t used as much as they could be and his brain is just filling in the gaps for us. It’s quite exciting.”
Vander sat straight and tall in his desk chair, his black suite shining in the low light of his office as though it smoldered. He’d had it tailored that way. His dark eyes met the doctor’s gaze and his mouth twitched with mirth at the flinch he got from Stephens. “Very exciting. You’ve done better than I expected, but I’m still waiting to see all that you promised.”
Stephens slumped. “We just need more time for the devices to do their job, sir. We should start to see more progress soon.”
“How is our little injury coming along?”
“I have set up an incident for tomorrow. We’re all anticipating the best.”
“Yes we are, Stephens, from you, Dr. Iverson, and this little incident you’ve arranged.” Vander rubbed his hands together. Between Reed’s precious tree and Iverson’s enhanced brain function, I may have finally found it. “Do not disappoint me, Stephens. Let Dr. Reed know that it’s time to let the leash off. I want to see what our prodigy can do with a little more challenge.”
Rho had awakened for a reason. The dark god stretched its near endless body, touching the hundreds of portals it had found from the worlds of matter. Rho was both the spider and the web in the void, absorbing the dust and debris caught by tentacles that wove throughout the endless dark.
These were all intact, but three of its smallest threads at the farthest end of its reach had been pushed aside by something that had passed through unhindered. Anger rolled through the god of darkness. Nothing escapes Rho. Inky black tentacles shot out into the void, searching for the lost prey.
Feustis sighed as the pressure lessened. Rho is distracted. He took two wooden bowls full of water from a tray that passed by and poured the contents of one over his bald head before downing the other with just a few gulps.
He didn’t look up, knowing that someone would be attending him through the entire ordeal. “Food, and quickly before the monster begins again.”
“Yes, master.” The boy’s voice cracked. “What would you prefer?”
“It does not matter, child. I could eat stale stampor droppings and not care at the moment.”
The boy turned to leave and find him something to eat.
“Wait.” The monk glanced up as the young man turned back. “That was not my request by the way.”
The boy grinned. “I know. I was going to get you some fried tripnit instead.”
Feustis chuckled. “Thank you.” He then clasped his four hands once more and turned back to Earth.