An essay by Dr. Darren Hinton, as provided by Stuart Webb
Art by Luke Spooner
Extract From The Very-Modern Prometheus By Dr. Darren Hinton.
When I was a student and first started to study genetic engineering, I used to get teased a lot. The never-ending parade of Jurassic Park sequels didn’t help, of course; every time the ninth or tenth film was released my family would join in with a chorus of “So that’s what you get up to, is it?” and “You were so busy wondering if you could do a thing, you never stopped to ask if you should!” style misquotes when I asked someone to pass the salt at Christmas dinner.
I grew to loathe Jeff Goldblum.
Of course, my fellow students were much more sophisticated. “Hey Frankenstein!” they’d shout whenever I or my colleagues walked in and out of the GE building. You could tell the English students because they’d qualify it with “Hey Dr. Frankenstein!”, though I don’t believe for a second any of them had read the bloody book. They were too busy being more successful with girls as parties with their second-hand poetry.
I grew to hate English students as well.
The point is, everyone, and I mean everyone, who hears you’re working in genetic engineering assumes you’re involved in some crazy shit. Building supermen. Creating monsters. Cloning Marilyn Monroe and/or Hitler.
I often thought we should place Hitler’s brain in Marilyn Monroe’s body to kill two birds with one stone.
But it was never about that. I mean, sure, you hear stories about government projects. And we’ve had more than one world leader over the last few decades who could have been the result of a botched Hitler cloning. But for me and the people I worked with, it was all about helping people in small ways. Improving quality of life.
I mean sure, it was about improving the quality of life of those who could afford it, but this was expensive, ground-breaking stuff. I devoted my career to helping people missing limbs get replacements–entirely authentic to their bodies replacements.
And we’re not talking “Super” limbs here. It was an eye for an eye, an arm for an arm and so on. Straight cloned and grafted substitutes for what they’d lost. There should have been no way any of it could have gone wrong.
I guess we underestimated humanity’s ability to fuck things up.
Extract From Police Interview With Karen Booton. Police Psychiatrist Michelle Jarvis Conducting the Questions. 18th July 2057.
Jarvis: Karen, your maid had worked for you for a long time, hadn’t she? Over ten years?
Booton: Oh yes, she was very good. Especially at the cooking. No one made a quiche quite like Chennelle.
Jarvis: So why did you do it, Karen? What made you take the hammer to her?
Booton: It wasn’t me! I’d never, ever have hit her all those times … it was like smashing pâté in the end. But it wasn’t me! It was my hand!
Jarvis: Your … your hand?
Booton: The hand! It wanted to kill her. It wants to kill everyone! It’s a replacement see? I was in a car accident last year, and they gave me a new hand! An evil hand! It must have belonged to a psychopath or something! Like in those old films!
Extract From The Very-Modern Prometheus by Dr. Darren Hinton.
For a few years, we hit a real sweet spot. With so many nasty little wars going on across the last decade, there was no shortage of … well, fresh blood. We cornered the market in that intersection between people who could afford our services but couldn’t quite afford to dodge the draft. Or thought it was an adventure or their duty or whatever. Plus car crashes, birth defects, and amusing accidents.
I mean really amusing like …
(Section removed due to breach of NDA agreement with client)
What we didn’t realise though was that people hated us. I mean, sure, there were protests. People who thought genetic engineering was against God or nature, people who were angry regular soldiers weren’t being treated the same, people who were just angry at the rich. We even got some very stereotypically polite emails from some British focus groups dealing with the death of their socialist health care system with stiff upper lipped resolve, but somehow blaming us for it.
But that felt so small in comparison to the love we were getting. Helping people walk again, helping them play ball with the kids. How could you hate that just because you couldn’t afford the same? How could you blame us for making a living?
But people did. And smarter people than we thought.
Extract From The History of Geo-Ware by Professor Jamie Robinson. BBC Christmas Lectures 2060.
Computer technology had basically stagnated by the 2020s; hand-held devices had become as powerful and compact as they were ever going to manage using physical software. Every scientist in the field was falling over themselves to come up with the next breakthrough, the key thing that would get things moving again. But for over a decade, they failed.
Unexpectedly, it came from biologists rather than traditional computer science. Geo-Ware, biological technology working on a microscopic level. And it changed everything. Before, you would have to carry any technology you needed; now, an injection of Geo-Ware made you the computer. Take your phone calls, process your appointments, listen to music, and send amusing cat pictures to your friends.
For complicated or large-scale stuff, the Geo-Ware would still be contained within traditional computer shells, but for the basic everyday things smart phones had been used for, it put the machine in the man.
It was, and would remain, if not for the unfortunate events of 2057, ridiculously expensive, of course, if only for the literal antibodies that prevented equally literal viruses. But everything was considered completely safe because all the Geo-Ware was genetically coded to the owner. It should have been fool proof, and for over five years it was.
Extract From The Very-Modern Prometheus by Dr. Darren Hinton.
We weren’t involved in any of that, of course, even if people at dinner parties would ask me about it all the time. But our firm was just limbs. Personally, I never went for Geo-Ware, never trusted it. Keep it simple, that’s my genetic engineering credo, and mucking about with your blood and nervous system just to make phone calls? Always seemed a bit too risky to me. Of course, the irony is I was one of the people who would have been fine.
The thing was, the people who came up with Geo-Ware were smart. But the people who hated the rich had smart folk on their side as well. Or at least they could hire the right sort of smart people. They must have had some serious money for anti-capitalists.
Still, they spotted the flaw and how to exploit it. A lot faster than the fuzz spotted the pattern when the incidents started.
Actually, no, that’s not fair. Someone goes nuts and starts hacking their gardener to death with a pair of shears, it’s their mental history you’re going to look into first. A staggered increase of terrible random acts of violence over months, spread out over the country, even the world? It can take time to piece it together. Especially as no one was taking the statements of the surviving attackers very seriously.
I remember the first time I heard about it. Small town in the Midwest, deeply unimportant place of the sort no one ever really cares about, so it didn’t make big headlines. I actually thought it was funny. I always had a dark sense of humour, I guess. No one liked their PE teacher, did they? One having a tap dance done on his belly by his star track athlete sounded almost like poetic justice.
Of course, if they’d named the rich kid who had done it in that initial report, I might have noted the coincidence of it being someone I’d met through work. But I didn’t think too much of it once the picture cut to the cute weather girl.
For the next few months of ’57, I carried on working, and odd stories of inexplicable violence would break every so often. Of course, we weren’t the only game in town, so a lot of the names weren’t known to me. But enough were for it to start feeling odd. And the rumours started flying about the stories being told by the attackers who could still do interviews.
Things really kicked off when that Booton woman’s police interview was leaked and slapped all over Twitter by a dying social media platform desperate to prop itself up with something juicy. Evil replacement hand! That solidified all those “My pal I drink with on a Tuesday claims the killer thinks his new leg/kidney/anus made them do it!” stories. And the protests and anger outside the building got a lot louder.
I still refused to believe it. Even after talking to competitors who also had clients in psych wards. Even after the police confirmed everyone had checked out as having genetically replaced limbs, with the severity of the attack directly related to the size and placement of the new body parts. A new big toe and you might slap someone giving you a parking ticket. Both legs and half the face …
Well, we all know what that guy did. Let’s not make this grislier than it already is.
No, even after several increasingly impolite police interviews of my own, I still thought it had to be an amazing coincidence. After all, only a small minority of those we’d treated were going postal. Enough to create a stir, but still only dozens out of thousands across the whole world by that point. It had to be some other factor. It was impossible for a cloned limb to affect the mind in any way.
No, I only really believed it when the terrorists put out the statement explaining how they did it. I think they were annoyed the world had been so slow on the uptake and wanted some credit.
Extract From the Statement by The Circle of Restoration. 12th September 2057.
An entire generation of the working class and poor have been sacrificed on the altar of wars that could have been easily avoided. The gap between the survivors and the rich has increased tenfold in the last decade. We are being stamped down upon by the elite, and it is time to stamp back.
As such, we take responsibility for the recent acts of violence carried out by those who have avoided the consequences of their military conscription whilst millions suffer daily with no medical or psychiatric support.
Your Geo-Ware is not safe. Your bodies are now no more your own than are those of the people who you look down upon. This is merely the first stage in restoring equality amongst the people of Earth.
Extract From The Very-Modern Prometheus by Dr. Darren Hinton.
Of course, the real reason for targeting those with regrown limbs is that they were the only people whose Geo-Ware was vulnerable. All thanks to cows.
You see, genetic engineering was also a boon for food production. It could probably have fed the Third World if anyone cared. But what people do care about is their beef. So all meat grown in vats had to, by law, contain genetic markers so that the “authenticity” of any food brought to market can be proven. Folk will pay more, a lot more, for bred meat rather than the off the shelf variety.
The problem is, this applied to all genetic engineering. Human as well as animal. Don’t ask me how they did it–as I say, we weren’t working in that field–but that’s how CoR managed it. Some factor in those little trademarks let them override the Geo-Ware–give it new updates creating a psychosis in the owner, one that usually focused on the new limb itself, as if they somehow knew on some subconscious level. My hand made me do it, indeed.
Once the government boys had worked it out, of course, it was easily prevented. So the situation just became one of finding everyone who might be affected and giving them help. Even those who had already gone loco were able to be treated. Most of them are back in their lives now, exonerated of their actions. And they can afford the best shrinks anyway; they’ll be fine.
But the damage was done. Geo-Ware was dead of course–no one is going to trust that won’t happen again. But it hurt my work as well. No one wants replacement limbs anymore. It’s all prosthetics now. They feel their “Dr Frankenstein” fears have been proven.
Which is so frustrating. We did nothing wrong! We didn’t try to play God, we just tried to equal him. If not for one tiny legal requirement, nothing in our work would ever have hurt anyone.
So business has dried up, and we’re facing a lot of increasingly frivolous lawsuits as even the clients who didn’t have anything go wrong have started to blame us for everything from their summer colds to their lost dogs. They never win, but the cost and time adds up. I couldn’t afford our own services at this point.
Now, I know very much I’m not the real victim. Especially compared to someone like Pâté-Head Girl. But it feels like the whole world was waiting with bated breath to be proven “right” about mad scientists delving into things man was not meant to know, and are taking great glee in taking us down more pegs than we ever needed to be.
At this stage, the brutal truth is we’re probably going to have to go into cow growth to keep going. All I can hope is this book will start to change attitudes and let us get back to what we find best.
Dr. Darren Hinton’s book was left unfinished, with only a selection of material available to future scholars to use in papers such as this. It was never established which of his former clients used their wealth to arrange the attack, one of many taken out in retaliation for the Geo-Ware virus against genetic engineers.
The Circle of Restoration never equalled the success of their first campaign, and were quickly absorbed into one of the many similar archaic groups in operation at the time.
The legal requirement for the genetic tagging of artificial beef was discontinued in 2058.
Dr. Darren Hinton (2010-2059) was the senior genetic engineer for the Life Finds A Way corporation, based in Worcester, Massachusetts. Specialising in the growth of new limbs for the wealthy victims of accidents, he was a millionaire by the age of 38, before losing the bulk of it in the wake of the Geo-Ware virus of 2057. Two years later, he died as the result of an unsolved revenge attack carried out by a professional gang.
Stuart Webb has been an active member of Transformers fandom for over a decade, writing multiple comic reviews for tfarchive.com. Since 2012, he has been running the Transformation project at thesolarpool.weebly.com, where he looks at each issue of the British Transformers comic at a weekly rate. To date, two book versions have been collected of material from the website. His hands aren’t evil, just mildly confused.
Luke Spooner, a.k.a. ‘Carrion House,’ currently lives and works in the South of England. Having recently graduated from the University of Portsmouth with a first class degree, he is now a full time illustrator for just about any project that piques his interest. Despite regular forays into children’s books and fairy tales, his true love lies in anything macabre, melancholy, or dark in nature and essence. He believes that the job of putting someone else’s words into a visual form, to accompany and support their text, is a massive responsibility, as well as being something he truly treasures. You can visit his web site at www.carrionhouse.com.
“The Hand of Fate” is Copyright 2018 Stuart Webb
Art accompanying story is Copyright 2018 Luke Spooner