Dystopian

Children of the Miracle

By

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Synopsis

In a dark future, a young doctor is called to help save humanity from a global virus pandemic. She suddenly finds herself at the centre of a war over a genetically engineered species while being drawn into a forbidden love.

The virus is back.
Doctor Mercy Perching has received a terrifying message. The FossilFlu virus which drove humanity to the brink of extinction, has mutated and threatens a second pandemic. Along with the message is a mysterious personal invitation to visit the Sanctuary of Americas, one of the last three cities left on Earth. She will be the first person to travel to the isolated city in one hundred years.
When Mercy arrives, she is shocked to discover that the Sanctuary of Americas is a utopian world where nature is thriving, and humans have been re-engineered to survive the first virus outbreak. However, all is not perfect. Mercy learns that the source of the virus mutation is the hybrids.
Drawn into a dangerous internal war, where the cure to the virus is the key to power and the fate of the hybrids, Mercy’s research may have the answers. But who can she trust? Get it wrong, and everyone could die.

The capital lobby hummed with the usual daily business and orderly activi- ties of visitors with appointments. Government workers steadily appeared on the quarter-hour, dressed in the red uniforms of junior staff, and collected  the waiting citizens, shuffling them back down the dark hallways from which they arrived. No visitors, however, were being usheredthrough the large metal doors emblazoned with the words HIGH CHAMBER.

Sitting in the lobby, hands knitted tightly together, Mercy Perching anx- iously bounced her knee while she waited. Odd, but not unexpected was her conclusion on the urgent meeting from the Leaders of the Sanctuary. They must have read her report on the resistance gene offering immunity to the virus, she told herself. Their request was sooner than she had anticipated, but even the slightest possibility of a cure would explain their insistence.

Mercy twisted her fingers white. She would be succinct in her presenta- tion, she told herself. She would not repeat the things they already knew, like one hundred years after the pandemic, they still did not have a vaccine. Or that synthetic antidotes had failed. No, today was about hope. Her research opened up a new door of possibilities, and Mercy had to convince them to let her continue her work.

A sudden loud mechanical clank quieted the soft conversations in the lob- by. All eyes were on the large metal doors to the High Chamber as they slid smoothly sideways; one to the left and one to the right. Two officers flanking the entrance in perfectly cut sapphire blue uniforms decorated with the mili- tary insignia of a wheat shaft crossed over by a sword, stood toattention.

‚ÄėDoctor Mercy Perching!‚Äô trumpeted one of the guards.

Mercy rose from the bench to stares and whispers from onlookers and gossip herders who were eager to guess at her importance.

‚ÄėIsn‚Äôt¬†that¬†the¬†Director¬†of¬†the¬†Department¬†of¬†Population¬†Reclamation?‚Äô¬†one asked.

‚ÄėYes.¬†She‚Äôs¬†working¬†on¬†a¬†vaccine,‚Äô¬†answered¬†someone¬†from¬†behind.¬†‚ÄėShe‚Äôs¬†so young,‚Äô said¬†another.

Fair of skin and hair, able-bodied, and taller than most, Mercy already stood out. But her one hazel eye and the other muddy blue set her apart from all others.

‚ÄėAmazing!‚Äô¬†declared¬†her¬†Doctor¬†on¬†nearly¬†every¬†visit.¬†His¬†torch¬†zigzagged from one pupil to the other. ‚ÄėHeterochromia. Completely different coloured eyes. So rare.¬†You‚Äôre¬†a genetic¬†miracle.‚Äô

‚ÄėThere¬†are¬†no¬†miracles,¬†Doctor.¬†Only¬†science,‚Äô¬†Mercy¬†would¬†reply,¬†shaking her¬†head¬†at¬†the¬†old¬†man‚Äôs¬†lack¬†of¬†respect¬†forgenetics.

If she had inherited this unique feature from her parents, she wouldn’t have known. A child of the Population Reclamation Program, her life had started in a lab: fertilised in a test tube, carried by an unknown surrogate, and raised bythe government to fulfil the Sanctuary’s aggressive, but not impossi- ble, population growth targets.

Mercy entered the High Chamber. A sudden stillness muted the busy em- ployees and chattering citizens outside. Thescent of old stone and cedar wood permeated the large room. Rows of hanging pendants cast halos of soft light on themarbled floors, illuminating a path down the long hall. At the far end of the room, behind an elevated judges’ bench, fiveofficials of eminence, adorned in red scarlet robes with starched white neckings, sat talking among them- selves. If theynoticed her entrance, they gave no sign.

Mercy approached the bench with a wordless reverence commanded by the Leaders’ seniority. The click, click, click of her shoes against the polished floor was the only sound she dared make until sanctioned to speak.

There¬†were¬†no¬†seats¬†for¬†those¬†given¬†an¬†audience¬†in the High¬†Chamber,¬†standing¬†implied¬†a¬†limited¬†expectancy¬†of¬†allowedtime.¬†Mercy¬†took¬†her¬†position¬†in¬†front of¬†the¬†waist-high¬†metal piling that¬†rose¬†from the ground¬†at¬†the¬†foot¬†of¬†the¬†altar¬†‚Ästboth¬†apodium¬†for¬†presenting¬†and¬†a¬†holographic¬†display¬†at¬†once.

On the far right of the bench sat a thin-faced man known as the Fifth, the most senior of the Leaders. His pale skin hung loosely over his protruding skull bones like wet paper. His was the job of welcoming and commencing business.

‚ÄėDoctor Perching, thank you for coming in person today.‚Äô

Mercy offered a polite bow. ‚ÄėThank you for granting me the audience. I know your time is valuable.‚Äô

‚ÄėWe,‚Äô¬†he waved his hand to the right, fluidly pointing to the other four leaders¬†flanking¬†him;¬†three¬†women¬†and¬†one¬†man,‚Äėread¬†your¬†recent¬†report¬†on the¬†FossilFlu¬†immunity¬†project¬†with¬†interest.¬†I¬†understand¬†you‚Äôve¬†made¬†some progress?‚Äô

‚ÄėYes,¬†Leaders,‚Äô Mercy said, privately pleased they had understood the¬†im- portance of her research. She placed a hand over the round podium in front of¬†her,¬†triggering¬†a¬†shaft¬†of¬†light¬†to¬†jet¬†upward¬†until¬†disappearing¬†into¬†the¬†ether¬†of the room. A translucent image of a¬†DNA¬†strand materialised and hung in the¬†air¬†waiting for¬†an¬†explanation.

‚ÄėI‚Äôve¬†spent the last two years studying the descendants of the host carcass which released FossilFlu during the polar melt. Based on the age of the¬†fossil, I¬†believe¬†our¬†evolutionary¬†ancestors¬†were¬†exposed¬†to¬†the¬†virus¬†for¬†many¬†years, even thousands. In that time, they could have evolved a¬†virus¬†resistance¬†gene,¬†making¬†them immune. If my theory is right, humans could also¬†carry¬†the gene.

‚ÄėAs¬†we are the only species which were infected by the¬†virus¬†outbreak, it could be that the gene is silenced.¬†To¬†prove¬†my theory, we had first to¬†confirm the existence of a¬†viral¬†resistance gene in mammals. And last week we had a breakthrough.‚Äô

The Leaders leaned into the bench, eyebrows raised. Mercy zoomed in on the holographic DNA strand and pulled out a microscopic section until large and easily visible. The isolated string of nodules glowed.

‚ÄėI‚Äôm¬†very pleased to be able to share with the Council that the immunity gene does exist,‚Äô Mercy declared¬†proudly.¬†‚ÄėThis is the virus-induced gene that is responsible for¬†mammalian¬†resistance to the FossilFlu.‚Äô

The Fifth’s eyes widened with interest, but he held back any outspoken en- thusiasm. Mercy was aware that manyscientists before her had tried and failed to find the cure for FossilFlu. The Council’s hesitation was expected.

The Third, her role being security and defence of the Sanctuary, a¬†woman of¬†more¬†flesh¬†but¬†equal¬†in¬†years¬†to¬†the¬†Fifth, leaned¬†back¬†into¬†her¬†chair¬†and crossed her arms. ‚ÄėI would like to congratulate you, Doctor.¬†Your¬†discovery¬†is ground-breaking work. But,¬†I‚Äôm¬†curious about your next steps.¬†How¬†exactly does¬†this¬†help¬†humans¬†if¬†our¬†immunity¬†gene¬†is¬†silenced?‚Äô

Mercy drew a deep breath and squared her shoulders in anticipation of their response. She had rehearsed this moment in her mind many times, and many times they had applauded and thanked her, and many more they had looked down on her in shock and horror and cried for her head.

‚ÄėAs¬†we have yet to find a vaccine to FossilFlu, I propose¬†it‚Äôs¬†time we take a more aggressive approach. With the Leaders permission, I would like to¬†try¬†genetically¬†modifying¬†the human genome with¬†animal¬†DNA. Inserting the active resistance gene sequence to replace our¬†own,‚Äô¬†answered¬†Mercy,¬†hiding her¬†anxiety¬†behind a confident face.

There was a heavy silence. Mercy’s heart leapt into her throat. She wanted to race on, explain more about the procedure or her hypothesis, to explain that her computer simulations showed it was possible. Yet, something held her back. They hadnot jumped out of their chairs in outrage. They had not labelled her a maverick or a mad scientist. No, she told herself, stay calm and let them make the next move.

The Leaders turned away, huddled at the centre of the bench, and spoke in a low private tone among themselves. Mercy strained but failed to make out words or intent.

The¬†Fifth¬†broke¬†the¬†silence.¬†‚ÄėDoctor¬†Perching,¬†what¬†we¬†are¬†about¬†to¬†tell¬†you may come as a surprise, even a shock. This information must remain in the strictest¬†confidence.‚Äô

Mercy squinted her eyes, cautious. ‚ÄėYes.‚Äô

‚ÄėWe have reason to believe others may have already reached this conclu- sion in their research.‚Äô

‚ÄėOthers?‚Äô¬†she¬†asked¬†in¬†a¬†quiet¬†voice.¬†‚ÄėYes.¬†The¬†Sanctuary¬†of¬†Americas.‚Äô

‚ÄėWho?‚Äô She stared in wild-eyed bewilderment.¬†Up¬†until¬†this¬†moment, like¬†all¬†the citizens of the¬†Sanctuary¬†of Europe, Mercy believed they were the last humans on the¬†planet.

The¬†Fifth¬†went¬†on:¬†‚ÄėThe¬†Sanctuary¬†of¬†Europe¬†was¬†not¬†the¬†only¬†Sanctuary¬†to survive¬†the¬†global¬†pandemic.¬†There¬†were¬†twoothers:¬†the¬†Sanctuary¬†of¬†Americas and¬†the¬†Sanctuary¬†of¬†Asia.¬†Of¬†course,¬†our¬†ancestors¬†didn‚Äôt¬†know¬†this¬†at¬†first.

‚ÄėAfter¬†the pandemic, when the risk of infection was deemed¬†low¬†enough, the Sanctuary‚Äôs Leaders sent out scouts to see if any other humans were¬†alive. They¬†assumed¬†the¬†worse.¬†But¬†they¬†were¬†wrong.¬†Others¬†did¬†survive,¬†living¬†iso- lated in¬†Sanctuary¬†cities like¬†ours.

‚ÄėIt¬†should have been a time of hope. Unfortunately, the first contact be- tween Sanctuaries resulted in tensions. Scarce resources led to accusations of stealing, spying, and fear of invasions. In the interest of avoiding a possible war,¬†all¬†contactbetween¬†the¬†Sanctuaries¬†ended.¬†For¬†our¬†protection,¬†each¬†Sanc-¬†tuary¬†has continued to remain¬†isolated.‚Äô

The Fifth‚Äôs demeanour changed. His face softened, and his shoulders re- laxed.¬†‚ÄėThis¬†burden,¬†keeping¬†the¬†lie,¬†issomething¬†every¬†Council¬†of¬†Leaders¬†has had to¬†carry¬†over the last one hundred years. And¬†now,¬†Doctor Perching, I¬†am¬†sorry,but¬†it‚Äôs¬†a¬†burden¬†you¬†will¬†have¬†to¬†carry¬†as¬†well.‚Äô

Mercy¬†stared¬†into¬†the blinding headlights¬†of¬†an¬†alternative reality.¬†She¬†was¬†getting¬†more¬†and¬†more¬†confused the¬†longer¬†she thought about¬†it. If¬†the¬†citi-¬†zens¬†of¬†the¬†Sanctuary¬†found¬†out¬†there¬†were¬†other¬†survivors;¬†it¬†would¬†change¬†everything. Solidarity was the¬†foundation of¬†their society; to¬†survive¬†together,¬†to¬†repopulate¬†the¬†Earth¬†together,¬†to¬†build¬†a¬†new¬†planettogether.¬†Learning¬†that¬†others¬†existed,¬†would¬†seed¬†mistrust¬†in¬†the¬†government¬†and¬†create¬†chaos.¬†No,¬†she¬†told¬†herself,¬†this¬†couldnot¬†be¬†the¬†truth¬†‚Ästnot¬†the¬†truth¬†they¬†could¬†afford¬†to¬†share.¬†‚ÄėDoctor¬†Perching,¬†do¬†you¬†understand?‚Äô¬†asked¬†the¬†Fifth,¬†seeking¬†aresponse.

‚ÄėI¬†do,‚Äô¬†she¬†finally¬†answered,¬†even¬†though¬†understanding¬†didn‚Äôt¬†lessen¬†the¬†shock.¬†The¬†Third¬†Leader¬†continued¬†from¬†the¬†Fifth.‚ÄėLast¬†week¬†we¬†received¬†a¬†mes-¬†sage from the¬†Sanctuary¬†of Americas. The message was brief. They¬†have¬†en-¬†countered¬†amutation¬†of¬†the¬†FossilFlu.¬†A¬†more¬†deadly¬†strain¬†that¬†infects¬†both animals and humans alike.‚Äô

‚ÄėWhat? How?‚Äô Mercy exclaimed. ‚ÄėAre they sure it‚Äôs the same virus? Is it spreading?‚Äô Her questions were rapid, formulated; a doctor‚Äôs response.

‚ÄėThe message didn‚Äôt clarify anything further on the virus other than to reassure us they have it contained, for now.‚Äô

The¬†Fifth¬†interrupted,¬†‚ÄėWe‚Äôve¬†also¬†received¬†a¬†second¬†message,¬†from¬†an¬†un- known source.¬†It¬†claims the¬†Sanctuary¬†of Americas has been¬†running¬†genetic experiments combining human and¬†animal¬†DNA¬†seeking a cure to FossilFlu. Exactly as you requested here¬†today.¬†The unknown source suggests¬†this¬†is the host the¬†virus¬†needed to¬†mutate.‚Äô

Mercy’s lifetime of research into FossilFlu flashed before her. The excite- ment of her discovery. The hope for a futurecure. All of it put in doubt, possi- bly gone forever. Her reaction must have been evident to the leaders.

The¬†Fifth¬†counselled,¬†‚ÄėI‚Äôm¬†sure¬†this¬†news¬†is¬†disappointing.¬†But¬†for¬†now,¬†we need to focus on the greater problem ‚Äď the impact¬†this¬†could have if the¬†virus¬†started spreading again. The ability of the mutation to¬†kill¬†both¬†animals¬†and humanswould¬†mean¬†the¬†extinction¬†of¬†all¬†life.¬†What¬†little¬†remains.‚Äô

‚ÄėYou said they closed their borders to us years ago out of mistrust. Why contact us now?‚Äô Mercy asked.

The Third continued, ‚ÄėWe‚Äôve known they monitor us‚Ķ‚Äô

The First Leader, his role being information and communication, inter- rupted, ‚ÄėSpy on us, you mean.‚Äô

The¬†Third¬†glanced¬†at¬†him¬†out¬†of¬†the¬†corner¬†of¬†her¬†eye¬†and¬†pinched¬†her¬†lips, scolding.¬†‚ÄėYes,¬†the¬†video¬†is¬†rather¬†overtregarding¬†their¬†intelligence¬†and¬†how¬†up to¬†date¬†it¬†is.‚Äô¬†She¬†reluctantly¬†agreed¬†with¬†him.¬†‚ÄėIn¬†short,¬†they¬†contacted¬†us¬†to¬†get to you and your¬†research.‚Äô

‚ÄėMe?‚Äô Mercy felt her knees go weak. ‚ÄėI¬†don‚Äôt¬†understand.¬†How¬†can¬†they know about my¬†research?‚Äô

The Third answered humbly, ‚ÄėWe don‚Äôt have answers to that yet. More importantly, having received the two messages from different sources tells us something more is going on. We can‚Äôt assume they are telling the entire truth about the outbreak.‚Äô

‚ÄėI‚Äôm¬†sorry, but I¬†still¬†don‚Äôt¬†understand what I¬†can¬†do?‚Äô questioned¬†Mercy.¬†The¬†Fifth¬†spoke¬†for¬†the¬†bench.¬†‚ÄėTheir¬†offer¬†is¬†anexchange.¬†You¬†travel¬†to¬†the

Sanctuary of Americas, share your research, and work with their scientists, and, if collaboration is successful, we all share the cure.’

Before¬†Mercy¬†could¬†ask¬†any¬†more¬†questions,¬†the¬†mood¬†in¬†the¬†room¬†shifted. The Third leaned in, aggressive, asserting her authority. ‚ÄėDoctor Perching, is it true that you have no partner or plans to surrogate? So, nothing significant holding youback?‚Äô

‚ÄėYes,¬†that‚Äôs¬†right,‚Äô¬†she¬†conceded,¬†a¬†bit¬†bruised.¬†Population¬†regeneration¬†be- ing the responsibility of¬†all¬†citizens.

‚ÄėGood.¬†I¬†hope¬†you¬†understand¬†why¬†we¬†called¬†you¬†here¬†today,¬†and¬†what¬†we are asking of¬†you?‚Äô

There could be no mistaking their request to accept the invitation.

‚ÄėWhen would I go?‚Äô Mercy asked.

‚ÄėYou‚Äôll¬†go¬†into¬†briefing¬†today¬†and¬†leave¬†for¬†the¬†Sanctuary¬†of¬†Americas¬†to-¬†morrow.‚Äô¬†Her answer blunt, not offering negotiations.¬†‚ÄėIt‚Äôs¬†better for¬†all¬†if you disappear quickly to¬†avoid¬†any possible¬†leaks.‚Äô

‚ÄėMy team‚Ķ‚Äô

‚ÄėWe‚Äôll take care of the communication.‚Äô

A man, unseen before, crept from the shadows of the chamber, startling Mercy. He wore the red felt bodysuit of the Council’s cabinet. His jet-black hair, braided and tied back, and his youthful, muscular form were a stark and pleasantcontrast to the withered flesh behind the alter. The emblematic Phoe- nix clasping a wheat shaft and a rod pinned to his chest, the national symbol of the Sanctuary, indicated his status as a direct agent of the Leaders. He ap- proached the bench and stopped, waiting for his introduction.

‚ÄėThis¬†is¬†Agent¬†Basil.¬†He¬†will¬†be¬†your¬†person¬†of¬†contact¬†going¬†forward.¬†He¬†will¬†brief you on the mission details over the next twenty-four hours if you accept,‚Äô outlined the¬†Third.

The¬†Fifth¬†made¬†the¬†final¬†plea.¬†‚ÄėDoctor¬†Perching,¬†I¬†won‚Äôt¬†lie.¬†Once¬†you¬†cross the border into their Sanctuary, there is little protection we¬†can¬†offer.¬†I¬†can¬†only ask that you consider the¬†survival¬†of our Sanctuary, perhaps the¬†survival¬†of humanity. Will you help¬†us?‚Äô

Mercy’s mind swirled with questions and doubts. The Five Leaders peered down at her expectantly, unflinching.

After¬†an¬†extended silence, tolerated more¬†than¬†granted, she nodded,¬†of-¬†fering¬†the¬†Leaders¬†the¬†only¬†answer¬†she¬†knewthey¬†would¬†accept.¬†‚ÄėYes,¬†I¬†will¬†do what I¬†can.‚Äô


About the author

Daniel Weisbeck is an award-winning marketing leader in software and debut author of the new book Children of the Miracle. Drawing on his more than two decades of work in software, Daniel’s insights into a technology-driven future brings an authentic voice to his debut science fiction thriller. view profile

Published on June 29, 2020

Published by

50000 words

Worked with a Reedsy professional ūüŹÜ

Genre: Dystopian

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