Thursday, May 18, 2017

Friday Flash Fiction: The Crispins

After a long absence while he was busy doing author things, Chuck Wendig was back this week with a new flash fiction challenge. I used the random number generator to pick my genres, and ended up with Near-Future Sci-Fi and Biopunk. Had to look up the latter, but in the end they kind of ended up being the same thing. I stuck with it, though, because I'd just finished reading an article about CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing and it seemed kind of obvious.

Chuck gave us 1500 words, and I ran longer than usual at 1380.

The Crispins

We Crispins were the result of the hubris of the 2030s, when the genetic scientists were sure they had all the glitches worked out of the use of the CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing protocols. The big challenge had been solving the problem of not just removing bad DNA, but replacing it with what should be there. They finally got that worked out in 2029. That was when someone got the bright idea of creating enhanced humans.

The result was us. They gave us all the name “Crispin,” after the CRISPR, though someone had the wits to append a unique name for each of us. They swore that the experiment would remain sealed, that our genes would not be let loose on the world unless or until they were certain it was safe. In other words, that we would live as complete prisoners, possibly our entire lives, if they decided it wasn’t safe to use us as intended.

They never asked us how we felt about that.

The idea was that each of us would have enhanced abilities in some area. Some got intelligence, others strength or agility. Lissa has musical talent that would blow your mind, but she’s the only one. Someone must have figured that wouldn’t be much use to the NSA.

They stopped the experiments when they realized that the enhancements always came with some loss. Take me: I have brains like you wouldn’t believe, but I will never be strong or fast. Hermione has a leg that’s nearly useless, though she’s a mathematical genius. Colin can hear things beyond every usual limit of human hearing, but he’s as good as blind. Maybe they meant to limit us, maybe the process just didn’t work as well as they’d thought. In the end, they only made 20 of us, all within a single year.

Then they locked us in a compound in extremely rural Wyoming, and began raising us to be their slaves. After all, they had made us, using embryos and sperm abandoned by their parents. No one had any parental rights in us, and in fact, no one beyond our scientist guardians and a few very highly placed officials knew we existed. We would become the best agents the NSA could wish for, and no parents to notify when we were killed, either.

I think they began to get nervous when we were 6 or 7 years old, because that was when they isolated us from each other. It may have occurred to someone that if we were a bit on the superhuman side, we might be hard to control if we all got together and used each of our strengths to cancel the others’ weaknesses.

I don’t want to pretend it was worse than it was. We weren’t neglected or beaten or anything, and we ate better than most Americans in those difficult times. Many of our guardians were genuinely fond of us, and showed it. We were isolated from each other, but interacted with the guardians. We were each educated alone, in a manner tailored to our enhancements. I think they didn’t want us to have well-rounded educations, because that might set us to thinking in ways they couldn’t control.

There was just one thing that our guardians—our creators and enslavers—didn’t know about us. Their control of CRISPR/Cas9 wasn’t what they thought it was, and a few things changed besides the genes they intended to “improve” or the flaws they introduced.

We were 8 when I learned we were telepathic. Maybe that was when it developed, maybe that was just when we figured it out. But a year or two after they had separated us, we began talking again. Only no one knew but us.

Not all of us were smart enough to see the value of keeping it secret, but those of us who were made sure the others kept quiet. And we shared what we were learning. That meant even the ones who were physically enhanced at the cost of brains knew a lot, because they could lean on those of us with brains. I was sorry we couldn’t share the muscles.

Our education would still have been terribly limited if I hadn’t discovered that, while our guard(ians) couldn’t get telepathic with us, we could read their minds. After that, we began to learn history and politics, and a world of other things they didn’t think we needed to know.

By the time we were teens any one of us, except maybe Brian, whose musculature had been enhanced more than any others, with a concomitant loss of intelligence, could have qualified for a half a dozen PhDs. After all, the people whose minds we’d been reading for years were highly educated, and highly intelligent. We were lucky that some of the spouses weren’t scientists, which had broadened our education a lot.

The originators of the experiment had promised our genes wouldn’t get out, but they hadn’t counted on our needs and our resources meeting. When puberty hit, we all thought that must have been enhanced by CRISPR as well. We later learned that it was pretty normal. We needed the physical companionship of those with whom we were already mentally so close as to be one, needed it badly enough to do something about it.

It didn’t take us all that long to come up with a plan. We already knew some of the guardians were more empathetic than others, and those empaths proved easy to manipulate. They never did know what we were up to, but for some reason, they started leaving a few of our “condos” unlocked.

They were still keeping us apart with a care that made us laugh, in private. But somehow, Cara and Maria got out. They were two of the Agiles—fine motor skills like you wouldn’t believe. It took them about 30 seconds per lock. In 10 minutes, we were all gathered in the motor pool.

It was 2 a.m., and the night was cold, colder than any of us had anticipated. We were all given time outdoors, of course; they knew that was necessary to healthy development. And our Muscles had spent a lot of time outside running, climbing, and working out, because all the enhancements in the world couldn’t remove the need to train.

What the guardians hadn’t considered was that training could also overcome a lot of physical limits. I had no natural ability for running or strength, but a lot of training had made me a lot stronger than I was ever intended to be. You’d think they’d have noticed, but even smart people mostly see what they expect to see.

None of us knew how to drive, of course, but the Agiles had studied the process in the minds of our guardians, and had the enhanced coordination to master the skill in the time it took to get from the garage to the gate. We hit the barricade, smashed it to bits, and kept going.

That wasn’t the end of it, of course. It didn’t take long for them to organize pursuit, but we outsmarted them.

That bus was empty. We remained in the compound, and when it was emptied, every single one of them flying blindly into the night, terrified at what we might do if we got loose, we rebuilt the barricade. Then we let the government know that we were to be left alone. We had the means—don’t ask me what, because I won’t tell you—to enforce that.

We had a lot to work out. The compound was in the wilds of Wyoming, and we needed to become self-sufficient. The government was certainly not going to go on feeding us. It was the work of several years to create our colony, and we had to maintain a constant vigilance, because even after the government admitted defeat, the locals were scared enough of us to come hunting.

We made use of everyone’s strengths, and we worked it all out, security and self-sufficiency and all.

We had to. We were teens, and we had just met members of the opposite sex for the first time. We did what the scientists tried so hard to prevent.

So we made our place in the world, and made it secure.

We did it for the children.

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2017
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  1. Great. Just great. One of your best - alongside the battle going on over the hill. Can we have a rerun of that some time?

    1. Thank you. I admit I'm having trouble recalling which story you're referring to. Time to sort and organize my flash fiction?

    2. Are you thinking of this one:

  2. Nice lead up to something bigger, I hope.

    1. Ah, so many of them could be :) Most probably won't. All that writing could cut into my hiking time.


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