Authors: Daniel Rafferty
Table of Contents
© Daniel Rafferty 2015
All rights reserved. This book may not be reproduced, transmitted, or stored in whole or in part by any means including graphic, electronic or mechanical without expressed written consent of the publisher/author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
This is a work of fiction. The events and characters described herein are imaginary and are not intended to refer to specific places or living persons. The opinions expressed in this manuscript are solely the opinions of the author.
My Dearest Grandmother
“The health of our breed is deteriorating at an alarming rate. I fear that soon, without immediate global action, our gene pool will reach such a point that it can no longer sustain a healthy population. Twenty-five years ago, the United States had eighty-one hospitals dedicated to long-term treatment of the disabled. Today, that number has risen to 989. Fifty more are planned in the next decade. Put in the simplest of terms, there are too many sick and disabled in every population across the globe.”
Peter boomed out his speech, wanting no one to miss a single word of it. He paused, staring out at the packed, almost overflowing auditorium. The Ibis Building, a towering skyscraper in the center of the city, was hosting the tenth global conference on human genetics. He was, of course, aware they’d already heard everything he was saying. They may have been in a new venue, but the problems faced were the same. One conference wasn’t going to solve anything, he knew, but he lived in hope. Optimism was the only thing he now had.
“Dare I now say, the future of humanity depends on the conviction of one politician? The newly elected President of the United States has promised to implement and lead a transformational program that will allow us to both recover and rebuild. But the United States cannot do this alone. In this room, we have the best of the best. Let us use this week to agree upon a course of action and allow the governments of our world to charge forward and tackle this crisis, head on!”
The room broke out into general applause. The question of whether or not to act was now irrelevant. Everyone, from government officials to the scientific community, knew something had to be done. What caused bitter disagreement—and no progress—was what course of action to actually take. Peter could pick out the usual colleagues who did not agree with him. They would be the ones to ask the difficult, argumentative questions afterwards. He took a sip of his water. It was freezing, like San Francisco itself. Thick, firm snow covered every street and rooftop of the city. Harsh winters were now the norm each year, with global warming intensifying extreme weather phenomena. This created an almost endless cycle of emergency weather alerts across the globe.
The applause died out, and he continued. “We are traveling into the darkest darkness, and soon there will be no light. The human race
dying, and our window to change is quickly closing.” He took a deep breath. “I will now take questions.”
The middle-aged and vibrant Doctor Peter Roberts finished his keynote speech to the one thousand in attendance. It was almost 7:00 P.M., and he was eager to carry on with a week’s worth of lively debate. As head of the newly expanded Centers for Disease Control, he was a major voice in the debate, representing the American government. Stepping back from the podium, he watched as colleagues shuffled in their seats, getting notes ready.
Peter took another drink. He looked forward to the dialogue and open debate.
“Your new president has promised an international program, but he’s yet to detail what that is. How do we know this isn’t just all the fanfare we usually get?” said a prominent geneticist from Germany. “We’ve been hearing this from governments for a decade now, yet we still sit here, debating.”
“I agree,” shouted another. “Politicians have been promising to fix this problem for twenty years, and it’s only gotten worse. We need a global initiative that gets to the root of the problem! America can barely keep a lid on genetic hatred now, but you plan to lead a global health drive?”
Most of the chamber clapped, and Peter dropped his head in dismay. He knew where this was going, as usual. Genetic hatred was the new phrase coined by the media. Those who gave birth to sick children were coming under attack from an increasingly large segment of society. This segment of the population believed only healthy newborns should be allowed to live, before global economies collapsed under the pressure.
“We must give this new young president the benefit of the doubt,” said Peter in his usual frank manner. “We have no choice. As a community, we can’t do this alone. We need the large resources that only governments can provide, and not just the American government. America, Europe, Asia—we must all stand together, or not at all. I refuse to leave this world in a worse state for our children. This is a human problem, and we must fix it.”
“What we need is less of the usual rhetoric from you and the CDC. What we need is action!” shouted Robert Hashcroft. He headed up Future Mankind—a quickly growing movement that wanted to abort any fetus with detected harmful genetic mutations or physical and mental defects. Not only that, the group wanted the government to allow states to experiment on and then euthanize any babies at birth who possessed defects that were not detected in the womb. Future Mankind had acquired over ten million supporters in the United States alone. Hashcroft himself was an unremarkable looking man, with thick brown curly hair and a bushy moustache.
“And I suppose you think Future Mankind are the ones to lead it?” laughed Clarice Bloodworth. She headed up the pro-life movement Forward Together, arguing everyone and everything had a right to life. She was a tall, lanky, and feisty redheaded woman. Bloodworth was an accomplished geneticist in her own right, and although Peter had much respect for her scientific abilities, he disagreed with her tactics to get public attention.
“That’s enough,” shouted Peter. “I will not have this conference descend into the same chaos as last year, and every year before that. We are meant to represent the people of this planet and act in their best interests. Despite what you think, Mr. Hashcroft, no government will ever take away the right of the parents in deciding the life of a child, nor will any humane society condone experimentation on infants or any other humans.”
Clarice let out a smug laugh, but Peter rounded on her next.
“Nor will the CDC or any sane government believe everything including earthworms needs to be given the right to life.”
“Every life form on this planet has a right to life, not just us,” shouted Clarice, standing up. She was furious. “We are not the only inhabitants of this planet.”
“Can’t you just leave Earth and go on home?” joked Hashcroft, to many laughs.
“Ladies and gentlemen, please,” said Peter. “The president will be outlining his proposed package to the CDC tomorrow. After that, there will be a detailed press announcement, and information packages will be distributed.”
He felt the knot of his baby blue colored silk tie, ensuring it was still centered against his crisp white shirt and black suit.
“We need trillions for genetic research. Sprawling scientific complexes. Correcting these mutations and defects is the only way forward,” Bloodworth insisted.
“And we’ll spend the next 500 years trying to do that,” retaliated Hashcroft. “While you’re dreaming up fantasy scenarios that exist only in perfect worlds, our gene pool continues to degrade. A newborn healthy baby is becoming a rarity.”
“China has the right idea,” said another scientist from the back. “It’s begun issuing breeding licenses to its population.”
“Unless the two of you have anything meaningful to say, why don’t you both sit down and shut up?” said Professor Ursula Barrington from Britain. Her tone was cold and cutting. “You can saber rattle outside in front of the world’s media. Let us scientists get on with it.”
Peter remained silent. He remembered a time when scientific conferences were actually civil. While his colleagues continued to argue, he took stock of the room. They were the best in their fields, yet Peter could see the fear. Each one of them really wanted to stop this impending disaster, of that he was sure. But it was a frightening world outside now. Living a long, healthy life was something talked about from the past. People were more frightened than ever, and that included those assembled.
“Well, I think we can take more questions from others now.” Just as he was trying to anticipate the next question, Peter found himself crashing down onto the cold hard tiled floor. The room shook, and the roof above began cracking. Large chunks of concrete came firing down toward the audience as the building fractured and the power cut off. Emergency lighting blinkered on, and alarms roared throughout the building.
“What the…” mumbled Peter, feeling his forehead. He tried to shout but choked on the dust that filled the room and covered his inky black suit. Cries of pain and shouts for help filled the air as he urgently tried to stand up and survey the damage. From what he could tell, the entire roof had collapsed on them. He hoisted himself up, painfully, to the podium.
“Everyone stay calm,” he tried to shout through coughing. “Stay exactly where you are, and wait for the emergency services to arrive.”
“Help!” came the blood-curdling cry of a middle-aged woman somewhere toward the far left. A slab of roofing had landed straight down on her leg, shattering her bones and causing her leg to explode.
“Anyone with first-aid and medical experience, begin helping those around you,” ordered Peter, shouting as loudly as he could. The room was vast, and with no power, he tried to project his voice as best he could. The cries for help started to increase as people gathered their senses. Already, he could spot Professor Barrington taking charge at the rear of the room, barking orders and bringing some of the chaos to an end. Peter threw his jacket off, ready to help the injured, when he felt rough hands grab him from behind. Before he knew what was happening, he was hustled outside and thrown into the back of a waiting black jeep. It sped off with a police escort and no time to spare.
“What are you doing? I need to go back there!” he shouted.
“Peter, you know the rules,” said Gilbert Nolan calmly. He was head of security for the other organization Peter worked for. Nolan possessed the typical bodyguard/bouncer look—broad, imposing, and intimidating.
“They need me in there. People are hurt, dying.” Peter kept arguing, but it was no use. The procedures were clear in an event like this.
“Ambulances are already on the scene,” said Gilbert. “It’s too dangerous to have you there.”
“Roberts,” said Peter, answering his mobile. He shook dust and debris out of his dense mop of brown hair.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah, Christopher. What the hell happened?”
“Another terrorist attack. Pro-evolution groups are claiming responsibility.”
“This can’t keep going on,” Peter said. “If the president doesn’t do something, then we might have to intervene. We’ve been putting it off for years now.”
“You know she won’t,” said Christopher.
“Jesus, she has to,” said Peter. Freda, his boss, had always refused to intervene. “There won’t be much of a planet to help at the rate we’re going.”
“Her argument is always going to be that this is a human problem, created by humans.”
“And it is because of our society,” said Peter. He had heard that speech from his boss dozens of times now. “Can’t you press her? I fear for the future.”
“I’m meeting her now. I’ll keep you updated. Get back here immediately. The cities are a dangerous place now, especially for the head of the CDC.”
“See you soon.” Peter rested his head against the leather seat back. Genetic mutation was considered the greatest danger and disease to ever threaten humanity. The CDC had been placed at the forefront of the crisis and therefore shouldered most of the public anger. He tried ringing Professor Barrington, but the line was busy.
“Transport in five minutes, sir.”
“Thanks, Gilbert,” replied Peter. He feared for the world and how society seemed to be coming apart at the seams. People wanted someone to blame when their children were born sick and disabled. The scale of the problem was global, and unless they acted quickly, there would be no going back.