Through Fire – Snippet 38
“Shut up, you,” he said. “I’ve not. I don’t think all modified people are evil, though she certainly is. I was keeping an eye on her, that’s all. But the idea that the Mules who are now the Good Men, and who are superior to creatures on Earth, might want to take over, to — To reduce us to slave populations or worse, is not really that far-fetched. Throughout history, more fit populations have replaced less fit ones. The Mules are better able to survive than we are. If they could reproduce, they could overtake the Earth.”
“That is exactly the same reasoning Madame uses to say everyone who is enhanced in any way should be killed,” Mailys said.
“It is not at all–”
Jonathan LaForce and I traded a look that said, children, and he bellowed, “Quiet.” He looked back at me. He smiled a little. “So you’re not here on collective objectives. I’ll believe that. But why are you here, then?”
I shrugged. “To escape Eden where enough people knew or suspected, or would eventually find out, I was the clone of Jarl Ingemar. If you know of the man, you know the expectations that come with it. But I’m not Jarl. I’m Zen. All I want to do is live a small, private, quiet life.” I was silent about my suspicions as to why and how my brother, Kit, and I had been created, and also on how being Jarl’s clone had almost gotten Kit killed. Call me a coward. I wasn’t willing to be killed just because I was the female version of someone who’d died when I was too young to remember him, and with whom I’d never had more than the contact every one of my generation did: a man in a historical study, a hologram in historical recreations.
“And for this peaceful retreat you chose Liberte balancing on the edge of a revolution?” He grinned mirthlessly. “Well done indeed.”
“Alors,” Mailys said, softly. “She couldn’t have known we were on the verge of a revolution. We, ourselves, didn’t know it. We thought the Patrician could bring us in for a soft landing. He would have, too, if Madame hadn’t been undermining his influence with the Sans Culottes for years, and if he had the type of power he thought he had.”
LaForce snorted. “Brisbois told him of the danger. He told him several times.”
“Yes, but Brisbois has a gift for rubbing people the wrong way,” Corin said.
“Yourself included, I suspect.”
Corin laughed. “A few times. Though he respects Father, and I’m probably indebted to him for getting Mother and Father out of trouble and so…”
Something dropped at the back of my head and suddenly I knew, with absolute certainty what I was looking at. “You were all made by Doctor Dufort!” I said. “I mean.” I looked at Corin. “Of course, you are his son, but that’s not what I meant. He made you — enhanced you — in a lab.”
Corin hissed out air between his teeth and looked at me, as though shocked, “But of course, I told you. The locals call him Doctor Moreau.”
“Oh, it was the jeering nickname for Doctor Dufort,” LaForce said, derisively. “Employed by Madame’s followers. After an old legend of a doctor who created monstrous creatures, half human, half animal. It’s not like that, of course, but yes. He created us and the Bonnaires and … and most of the Good Man’s servants. He or his father before him.”
“But,” I said, slowly. “Most of the servants of the Good Men are hereditary families. That means their children are natural, no? The parents might be enhanced but the children are naturally born, like Tieri.”
Mailys sighed, and Jonathan shook his head. “Yes and no,” he said. “That is, we all have parents, yes, but you see, when some of us were enhanced, even though it wasn’t as… as it was with … with Brisbois, we still were given characteristics that… that made us ideal for the Good Man’s service.”
“But you’re his son!” I protested looking at Corin.
“And expected to follow his legacy,” Corin said. “Yes. Like my father, and his father before him, I was expected to be a genius at my occupation, to be able to run the laboratory all on my own, to be able to keep up with all the new breakthroughs and to keep things going. And no, I’m not trained yet. Not significantly. But what father who can do it would refrain from making his son a little faster, a little smarter, and a little more able to resist illness? Mind you, ma’am, most of it is done by viruses introduced to the mother at crucial periods of gestation.”
“That’s how we do it too,” I said. “With navigation skills and with the special eyes that allow our pilots to see in the dark. It’s just very expensive, because it requires careful watching.”
He nodded. “Yes, but … there’s also people who are assembled, molecule by molecule and protein by protein in the lab. It starts with human genetics, but each one is selected individually. They’re not Mules. Or at least I suppose they aren’t, because the Mules took entire teams of dedicated people, and each of them worked only on this their whole lives. Of course, that was over four hundred years ago, and we’ve learned some new things, but we’ve also lost much in the way of knowledge and technology. So I don’t know if those people are Mules. They are technically like the Mules — the Patricians — in that they are created to be able to reproduce and to be as fast, as smart, as capable as they can be created.”
“Brisbois?” I said, trying to absorb this. I thought of those rough features, the prominent brow, the way he could keep up with me when I was running, the way he’d dragged me out of that ballroom unscathed.
“And Madame,” Mailys said, in a resigned tone.
“But why?” my voice came out almost whining.
“Because all the secret service of Monsieur… of the Patrician… the Good Man were created especially,” LaForce said. “His… his father… his … the Good Man before him, he didn’t trust anyone who wasn’t enhanced in the same way he was. He thought there was a natural enmity between what we’ll call Mules and what we’ll call, for lack of a better term, normal humans, which we still count as, even if enhanced. So he wanted his very own bodyguards, his secret service, the people close to him to be like him.”
“Then they’re not Mules,” I said. “Because those were all male.”
Corin shrugged. “I’m not exactly fully trained, Madame, but I know that it’s safer to create males and females and impair the reproductive abilities of both, than to create males only and count on them not being able to make females of their kind.” He looked me up and down. “I believe your existence shows those hopes were misguided.”
“But it took centuries,” I said, then thought better of it. “Or at least I think so. It’s what I was told, and what–” I stopped.
“Yes,” Mailys said. “From what I understand, we’re not done that way. Oh, I should… I mean I was raised by foster parents, because the doctor didn’t want me to be known as… one of his, but I am like Brisbois and Madame. I am still… too young but I was training to be… I was Brisbois’ trainee. To replace him. His…” She blushed dark. “His adopted daughter, you might say.”
I looked at Jonathan. “And you? You were in his office? You were wearing the uniform of the Good Man, you–”
“I am common as muck,” he said. “Oh, enhanced, sure, but not so enhanced that I was considered a danger to the human race if I reproduced. And my wife is not, that I know, any more enhanced than anyone else.”