Genie out of the bottle

Here’s an online sci-fi story that I enjoyed.

“When shall these three meet again, in thunder, lightning or in rain?”

The dark, hook-nosed lab-coated woman looked as if she might have been one of the witches. And, had this been one of the world of Harmony and Reason’s updated Shakespearean plays at the New Globe theatre, the setting too would have seemed appropriate. What she leaned over was no cauldron with simmering eye of newt and toe of frog, but three tissue-cloning vats with their attendant electronics and glassware.

The fetuses developing under the glass covers all looked like unborn rats.

One of them was.

Mari-Lou Evans, once, twenty-four frozen light-years ago, of Stratford-on-Avon, and, like her boss, a loyal part of the New Globe Thespian society, knew her prescribed reply. “When the hurlyburly’s done, when the battle’s lost and won,” she intoned sepulchrally. Then she sighed. “If it ever is, Sanjay. If we don’t just lose.”

The colony’s chief biologist shrugged and pulled a wry face. “Do you think I’d be playing God if we faced any real alternatives?” She pointed to the third breeding vat. “No need for another standard human control, Mari-Lou. We won’t be breeding up any more vatbrats for a while. We need to gear up the equipment for mass production of that long-nose elephant-shrew mix. The army has put in impossible demands for quantity. If it tests out fine on emergence, then we’re going to have to set up a production line for the creatures.”

The chief geneticist nodded. She pointed to the third vat. “The ultrasounds of the bat’s gastrointestinal development don’t look good, Sanjay. We’re going to have to tinker and tweak those genes a bit more in my opinion. Perhaps cherry-pick from the Tadarida. It’s the size problem. The bigger bats are fruit-eaters, not insectivores.”

GENIE OUT OF THE BOTTLE, by Dave Freer and Eric Flint

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