Doctor Alex von Strikken, PhD, was one of the most well-respected scientists in the small and well-respected field of genetic engineering. He had begun his career in the relatively looked-down upon area of genetic tailoring, customizing people’s children for them as they grew in the womb, but quickly moved out of that distasteful area. Since then Dr. Strikken had been working in the government-run Species Revitalization Project, aka the Halls of Creation. He had been hired just in time to help put the finishing touches on the mammoth, and since then had assisted in recreating the dodo and the Tasmanian tiger. For the past three years, Strikken had been part of the Project Tyrant, the attempt to rebuild dinosaurs, so far unsuccessful but coming close to what was hoped to be a viable triceratops egg.
Dr. Strikken was known as having a gift for seeing ramifications, able to foresee with startling accuracy how genes interacted. Many laypeople assumed that genetic engineering was like using building blocks – just snap on a piece for wings, add an extra finger – despite the unimaginably greater complexity of DNA, despite the lack of actual instructions. DNA was more analogous to a parts list than a list of instructions. But for Dr. Strikken, it actually did work very much like building blocks.
Dr. Strikken was taking his lunch hour, alone, when the email arrived. His phone dinged softly to alert him, and the middle-aged scientist pulled it out, setting his sandwich down. Strikken scanned it, and his jaw dropped. “What…?” he gasped, the word sounding as though it had been torn from him.
The email read as follows:
To Dr. Alexander Strikken, PhD,
Your exceptional work on the Species Revitalization Project has nominated you for the Rebirth Correction Project. After a great deal of deliberation, you have been selected to be transferred to the RCP. Please report to your new workplace immediately. Your belongings have already been transferred.
It was unsigned, but came from the same address as his hiring notification. There was no doubting it.
The RCP, where problematic creations of the SRP and other genetic engineering projects, were corrected. Problems like the carrier pigeon, which had multiplied out of control after it’s rebirth. The bird had been curtailed with a carefully designed virus that gave its eggs a fifty-fifty chance of being normal or being sterile. When North-American bison had started to venture into populated areas, a parasite had been created to artificially give them a fear of humans. And there were worse things, animals and creations that hadn’t just been curtailed but entirely removed. The six-legged cats that had been so popular for a few years had soon become a plague, overhunting mice and rats and upsetting the ecosystem. A targeted virus had been used to wipe out all members of the species, and another had turned the birther cats into normal cats.
There was a reason that the RCP was called the Halls of Extinction. It was necessary work, but not pretty work, not publicized like that of the Halls of Creation. Not visible or loved by the public. In the Halls of Creation, thought Dr. Strikken, doing your job well meant seamlessly adding a new animal into the public’s lives. The Halls of Extinction did the opposite. Get rid of the dogs, all of them, before Bob and Jim and Susan notice the problem…
And that had actually happened, too, Dr. Strikken thought distastefully. A bioweapon had inverted the cultivated tameness and trust in humanity that had been bred into domestic dogs. It was an ingenious attack – the bacterium, carried by fleas, spread like wildfire across Europe, Asia, and America, dogs changing from calm, happy pets into savage beasts overnight. Dr. Strikken had to admit, it had been necessary for the Halls of Extinction to create a counter weapon. But the virus they had designed had been far too heavy-handed. It didn’t stop at the infected dogs, in fact it didn’t even stop at dogs in general, and for the past seven years the world had been entirely without canines of any sort. It had been far too transmissible, and because it had been rooted in the reproductive system it had hit every animal that could reproduce with each other. From dogs to wolves, wolves to coyotes, across the whole family. Nothing left.
Strikken hadn’t been part of the massive project to replace the species, but he knew about its results. It had been quite frenzied. First, wolves and coyotes and all the rest had been cloned from stored DNA samples and released into the wild. Unfortunately, the counter weapon hadn’t died along with the canine family, just gone dormant within the flea population, and it resurfaced to wipe out the clones. New species had had to be engineered to take their place in ecosystems across the globe – mainly from panthers, but also from raccoons and even rats. The replacements still weren’t accepted fully by most of the public. Nothing had yet replaced dogs, and Dr. Strikken personally doubted that anything ever would – at least, not within the vastly extended lifetime of those who remembered them.
Strikken knew the necessity of the Halls of Extinction, he really did. But they had gone too far then, and ever since… it wasn’t just him, everyone distrusted them. No one wanted to work for them if they could avoid it, which was probably why Dr. Strikken was being transferred – they needed more staff, but couldn’t get any from outside. Still, Strikken refused to be cast aside like this. He had worked in the Halls of Creation for 17 years. This couldn’t be allowed. He would just have to speak to the director of the Rebirth Correction Project and convince him of it. And so, unhappily, Dr. Strikken walked across the road to the Halls of Extinction.