Leaving the Darkness
Part XI: The SCIENCE of Chimeras
I took the seat next to Sanjay, Charlie and Caroline sitting at the next table over.
“In this class, you’ll learn not only the fascinating theories explaining the mysteries of the cosmos as we know it that have arisen because of the scientific method but also practical applications that will aid you with the subjugation of the villainous elements of society with the aid of the cold, precise and replicable hand of SCIENCE.” The science teacher was quite the character. I imagined he and Heppenheim would have some interesting debates.
“But rather than bore you with lessons you are more than likely not yet ready to assimilate, I propose that we begin this year’s class with a simple but rewarding experiment about the nature of parahuman mutation and the universal paramorphic feature endemic to mutants, the Von-Neumann gene. Which of you would like to tell me what said gene is?”
For once I actually knew the answers, not that I felt like drawing attention to myself. After some quiet Caroline raised her hand. ““Uh, it’s the gene believed to be responsible for the appearance of mutant.” The teacher excitedly confirmed and talked about the nature of recessive genes, stuff Heppenheim had taught me a long time ago.
“…Although no two mutants are exactly alike, one paramorphic features unite them all. Does anyone know what this feature would be?” he finished, looking around the room.
I still had no intention of singling myself out and let him sigh in disappointment. Heppenheim had done multiple von-neumann tests on me as I grew up since chimera cross genetics can make for false negatives. I’d never seen my blood clot yet and wasn’t surprised when it didn’t today. Sanjay and Charlie weren’t mutants either, Caroline was. Immediately after the test though Charlie stood up, asking to be excused. She didn’t look very well and I wondered if anyone should follow her. She returned in a few moments, her cheeks flushed.
“Now go grab a copy of the books from the cupboard at the back of the room. You’ll need these to keep up with the awe inspiring world I’ll be teaching you all about,” Stanko instructed.
We all eventually got a copy and I curiously flicked through some of the pages. I knew some of the more technical terms but a lot of it was a jumble. Maybe there was a german translation somewhere in the academy’s electronic library.
“Get into four groups of four please, be mindful of the grouping as you’ll be working with each other for the rest of this year,” Stanko explained.
Groups slowly formed around us, the pairs pushing tables together. I glanced at Sanjay and shrugged. I glanced over at Charlie and Caroline who were inseparable.
“Hey shortie, wanna team up?” I joked. Charlie froze mid-sentence to Caroline to shoot me a glare. Caroline looked like she was fighting a smile.
“I don’t see why not,” she replied. ”Batboy.” I blinked at the nickname. I’d been called a lot of things but that was a new one.
“Is that the type of chimera you are?” Sanjay asked. I hesitated, I’d forgotten that Ahti had revealed what I was to the whole class.
“Yeah. Let’s move our stuff,” I said, trying to avoid the topic.
The moment i said this I realised I couldn’t actually help having only one arm. Charlie and Sanjay had no issues pushing the tables together. Stanko surveyed the room soon after, frowning.
“Hmm, two of you are threes,” Stanko signed, glancing at the register. “Sage and Allison.” he shrugged.
“If they think my class is worth skipping I’ll just assign them to a group each. Sage is with you lot,” he said pointing at Yougen’s groups, “And Allison you other three.” I looked back to see Allen teamed up with Tyler and Mace.
“They’re not gonna be too happy to hear that,” I murmured.
“Not me,” Charlie immediately said. “Someone else can break it to them.”
“I thought you were a brave hero,” I commented. Stanko cut us off with instructions before Charlie could respond. The rest of the lesson looked set to cover the basics until Stanko wandered past our table and noticed me.
“You, what is your name?” he asked.
“Jaeger Smith,” I answered.
“Your paramorphic features are unique, are you a chimera?” he asked, sounding excited. I shifted uncomfortably before nodding. “Amazing. Now I wonder does anyone in the class know what a chimera is?” he asked, addressing the rest of the room now.
“Are you alright?” Caroline asked. I nodded stiffly. “He shouldn’t have singled you out like that…”
“Something made of genes from different animal species,” Yougen volunteered.
“Yes, now does anyone know how the process is done?” he pushed. Now everyone looked unsure. His gaze moved to me but I wasn’t interested in talking.
“I’m going to be setting you all a lot of reading,” he sighed. “A chimera is made using one of two methods. The most straightforward and popular approach is splicing the DNA of a developing embryo. The second approach is combining immune suppression and cell infusions to alter pre-existing DNA. The second approach is riddled with a lot of risks. Anyone care to guess what those might be?” Caroline shot me a look before raising her hand.
“Infection risk from the immunosuppression,” she suggested.
“Yes, any others?” Stanko prompted.
“Would there be a risk of things like cancer?” Mace asked curiously.
“Ah, due to the advancements in this area cancer is no longer a heightened risk for chimera unless they are poorly made. Or if we’re looking at it from the second approach the attempt to bind the genes fail.” I felt my fists tightened a little and I glanced at the clock but the class wasn’t over yet.
“Side-effects of the drugs and cell infusions,” Annabelle said.
“Yes and yes. A lot of chimeras made this way are effectively sterilized by the process. Any others?” he asked.
“Painful puberty,” I said. Sanjay glanced at me but I kept looking ahead.
“Yes, due to the way the genes are being combined, most of the paramorphic changes don’t occur until the onset of puberty. Now we know animal chimeras were made illegal in early 2012, but creating human chimeras have been illegal since the technology was first founded.” The bell rang, cutting him off.
“Ah, I guess I’ll teach you about famous scientists involved in chimera research next time,” he sighed.
I sincerely hoped he forgot and had another lesson plan in mind by then. I wasn’t sure how I would handle a lesson where Heppenheim might be discussed. The moment we were out the class Caroline rested a hand on my arm.
“Are you really okay?” she asked. I yanked away, surprised. Why the hell did she care so much? “Sorry, I shouldn’t have done that,” she quickly apologised.
“It’s fine,” I said awkwardly. “So where next shortie?” I directed at Charlie.
“Follow the leader batboy,” she retorted. At least History should be boring. I felt ready to find the the Rook for a rematch just so I could get the nerves out of my system. There had a gym on site I could use. I made a mental note to check for one tonight.