The laboratory occupied at least half the ground floor of the house. It was crammed full of scientific paraphernalia, computers, biochemistry apparatus, stacks of books, coffee cups and the molecular synthesizer – a machine that pulsed blue light. Morgan’s father looked up with his permanently curious or surprised expression, straightened his tall, thin frame and scratched his pepper and salt coloured crinkly hair before fleetingly touching his son’s shoulder.
“Morgan,” he shouted as the synthesizer began to whine. “Give me a minute and we’re done. Then I’ll be with you. We need to talk, young man. We’ve had a letter from Evanstone; something about exams and jumping off a cliff.”
Morgan sighed then looked around. He loved the smell of his father’s lab. It was also satisfyingly untidy. Morgan glanced out through the tall, Victorian windows onto the large expanse of lawn that ran down to the bank of the river. He could see in the far distance the familiar patch of tall reeds waving slowly in the light breeze. Above, Cygnus Hyperbole seemed poised almost directly overhead and Morgan had the distinct impression that the comet was staring directly at him. He remembered again the voice in his head as he stood on the cliff. An angel named Oriel? Guardians? Quest? Vanishings? Shadows that weren’t shadows? No, it couldn’t be. It was all completely illogical. It was all wacky weirdo. So why did these thoughts keep entering his mind like a nagging toothache?
“How is the research going, Dad?”
“Close, close! I’m so close I can taste it,” said Morgan’s father. “Winston has really made remarkable progress. He can count and work out quite complex problems. He’s far and away the most advanced of our primates. Now, don’t look at me like that. What I’m doing here has nothing to do with animal experimentation. We are seeing how far we can use nano particles to enhance brain function. Imagine blending artificial intelligence with human intelligence.”
“So Winston could be the real Missing Link.”
“Clever boy. If my work is applied to human beings it could be the beginning of a new phase in human development. Ever heard of transhuman intelligence?”
Morgan shook his head.
“It’s beyond what I’m doing here but it’s about a new era for humanity. Nano particles could be used to correct DNA that leads to disease, for instance. And apes could be as intelligent as man. And man could become super intelligent.”
“But Dad, you’re working for The Natzler Corporation. Marius Natzler is an eco criminal. He’s trying to destroy the planet for profit.”
His father looked aghast. “I am certainly not working for Marius Natzler. His Synthetic Life Corporation was the only investor that would fund my research. Natzler may have cornered the market in synthetic foodstuffs and Lord knows what else but I’m hoping once he sees the results he’ll change course and devote resources to ethical and sustainable research. The implications of this work are far greater than the ambitions of Marius Natzler, whatever they happen to be.”
Morgan sounded dubious. “He’s now the world’s richest man and still he destroys the rain forest looking for new plants. I went on that protest march against him last year, remember?”
“I do and I commend you for it. I’m no fan of Marius Natzler but if I succeed he will see that it makes sense to fund research that is good for mankind, like the pollution destroying microbe that could reverse climate change, for example.”
His father adjusted the molecular synthesizer then clapped his hands in triumph. “This should help us crack it,” he said. “I've got the design right this time I know it. We can take micro atomic data straight from the computer and literally create molecular life.”
“Nanotechnology in action?” said Morgan.
“Exactly,” his father replied.
“What was it like when you won the Nobel Prize for that microbe research, Dad? What did it feel like when you held it in your hands? And wasn’t it between you and Natzler? I bet he wasn’t happy about that,” Morgan said.
“Huh? Oh, that! It's around here someplace. I felt hungry. I had to skip lunch. Right, that’s enough for today,” he said.
“I don’t trust Natzler, Dad,” said Morgan “How do you know he won’t use your work to do bad things? He got his hands on the microbe research even though it was all down to you.”
“I don’t,” said his father, winking at him. “That’s why I keep a complete transcription of all my work in the safe. The pollution eating microbe program was part of the deal to fund this work. Hey, you think I was born yesterday? I’ve deliberately left out vitally important elements in all the results I’ve produced just as a precaution. When it comes to the crunch he’ll have to come to me for the final piece of the jigsaw.”
“Why not let me have a look at it?” suggested Morgan. “You know, as an insurance policy. I might be able to memorize it.”
“Hmm! There’s an awful lot to memorize,” said his father. “Besides, that memory of yours is going to get you into trouble one of these days. In fact, it already has, according to that letter. He put his arm around Morgan’s shoulders. “Come on, it’s supper time.
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