The Log of the Beowulf
Dex has revealed to the other crew his secret background as a genetically engineered lifeform. In conjunction with its covert armament programme, the Underground Government of New Alaska experimented with a new line of genetically engineered humans independent of the corporations’ cell lines.
Dex may tell you various tales about his childhood, but in truth he had no parents. Like the rest, he was raised by soldiers and lab assistants, under the control of the military scientists. His education included extensive political indoctrination, physical training and the ability to follow orders, although he was never a star pupil in that last subject. His friends – that is the other 30 or 40 1st-generation troops – knew him for his jokes and songs that brought some colour to their austere world.
Then came the Civil War. At first the genetic troops were not directly involved. They were still teenagers, too secret to be integrated into the command structure, and in any case the first generation had no advantages in combat over ordinary humans. But as things got more desperate, every trained man and woman was called upon to make increasingly desperate sacrifices for their planet. Most did not survive.
At the end of hostilities Dex was recalled, but after spending the first 20 years of his life on on duty he decided he was due for a little leave. A couple of weeks later, in an all-too-typical bureacratic snafu he was accidentally sent a copy of another order that stopped him dead in his tracks.
The new government had different priorities, principally healing the wounds of the past – which as any hygienic person knows, means covering them up. Experiments to create an army of superhuman slave-soldiers were exactly the kind of scandal that would be bad for the planet, and for the careers of several important scientists. The GI project was to be liquidated.
Dex never found out which of his friends survived the fighting, and whether they were enslaved, incarcerated, given prosperous new identities or simply suffered the same fate at the programme. After sending an anonymous warning he fled, covering his tracks as best he could. There has been no public manhunt, and he doesn’t know whether the authorities know or even care any more that he is still alive. But he’s not taking any chances, given that some of the scientists who taught him have now become important figures.
One thing is for certain, the new regime absolutely definitely has not covertly restarted the Genetic Infantry programme.
GIs were designed to be impervious to most diseases and chemical weapons, utterly dependent on the state for their food, and incapable of interbreeding with normal humans. This was achieved by a straightforward chemical alteration, which was concealed from Dex and the others. Once they had this step sorted, the scientists planned to make further genetic alterations in subsequent generations.
All life from Earth is built from left-handed proteins, right-handed nucleic acids and numerous other chiral compounds. The GIs are made the other way round, with every molecule in the mirror image of the normal form. Thus they do not:
- get infected
- respond to many drugs and poisons
- digest any ordinary food, except ethanol
- appreciate aromas and flavours as normal
- leave recognisable DNA traces
- smell quite right
- decay quickly
However, they may occasionally react badly to some perfectly mundane substance. Detailed examination will show the heart on the right, stomach on the left, etc. Dex himself is only vaguely aware of all this. He just knows he’s different, he can’t eat the same stuff, and it tastes bad anyway.
Naturally, Dex got his nickname because he was the only right-handed kid in class.