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"Is that all you can find for him to watch?" Gary Daniels asked as the front door automatically closed behind him. He eyed the wall holo disgustedly. A life sized image of a conservatively dressed evangelist was striding back and forth, easily covering half the room. With his neat powder blue suit and silver white hair he should have looked distinguished. He didn't. His dark, piercing eyes burned with fanaticism and he waved his arms around like a yeoman on the deck of a ship semaphoring a message to another ship. Gary didn't even have to listen to know what the evangelist was preaching about. Enhanced animals and altered humans seemed to be the only subjects worthy of concern these days.
Gary's wife turned away from the holographic scene playing out against the backdrop of a blank wall. "You should be watching it yourself, she said. Amelia Daniels was pretty. She wore her black hair in waves to her shoulders, matching the smartly tailored black jumpsuit she was wearing. She had a patrician face and a fine body, but her expression was sharp, almost feral. It distracted the eye and made one feel uncomfortable in her presence. Gary had always distained highly opinionated people, but by damn, here he was married to one. Somehow he didn't remember her being like that until recently.
"You know I can't stand those Bible-thumpers," he said.
"My father is a Bible-thumper, as you put it," Amelia said. Her eyes narrowed and her body tensed like a bird dog at point, ready to jump all over the next thing he said.
Amelia relaxed slightly. "You should listen to my father. He could get you into another profession. You'dbe better off and you know it. Genetic engineers aren't very popular right now."
Gary knew it and didn't feel like commenting. He came on into the den of their home and began making a drink under Amelia's disapproving eye.
"I still have a job," he said. "Besides, genetics is all I know. What else could I do?"
This was a recurring argument and it always made him wonder why on earth Amelia had ever married him, or why he had married her for that matter. He blamed himself, thinking that he should have been more alert to the latent religiosity in her background, a state of mind completely alien to his own point of view. He should have paid more attention to her frequent mention of her father and his preoccupation with political groups opposed to genetic engineering, but he hadn't. It all happened so fast. After the long years of concentrated study to receive his doctorate in mammalian genetics, he had been more than ready to break free from the grinding academic environment at the University of Houston. But the following two years had helped his social life precious little while he learned to turn theory into practice at the government research lab in Houston. The rising tide of public opinion against genetic manipulation of animals and humans kept his contacts confined to a small circle of co-workers and friends, neither of which contained women he was very interested in.
He met Amelia on a blind date and was immediately captivated by her beauty and sophistication. He followed in her wake like a leaf caught in a whirlwind as she drew him into the entertainment and cultural world of Houston Society. He was completely befuddled by her, and before he quite knew what was happening, he found himself married to her, only weeks after they had met and despite her father's objections. In the six months that followed, his bemusement changed to a sharp awareness of just how little they had in common, and the awareness was compounded when she became a devout convert to her father's fundamentalist beliefs. By now, only short months after the wedding, he was tiredly resigned to their differences. He should have known-oh hell, he just shouldn't have married her in the first place. They had nothing in common, nothing at all since the initial lustful couplings. He was ready to call it quits, but in his typical non-confrontational manner, just hadn't gotten around to it yet. He doubted that Amelia would object. She was becoming more and more involved with her father's preaching, and whatever her motives had been for marrying him, they were subjugated now to her father's beliefs.
Amelia spoke again, breaking his train of thought. "You may not have a job much longer. Bradshaw is going to win the election you know."
Gary grimaced, holding back an epithet.
"He will win, you know," Amelia insisted. Her eyes strayed back to the prancing preacher while her head nodded unconsciously in a gesture of agreement with his words. The evangelist was busy exhorting his audience to work and contribute to the campaign of Terrace Bradshaw for president of the United States and Canada. Bradshaw was campaigning on the promise to immediately shut down all government work in genetics other than essential agricultural studies.
She's probably right, Gary thought. Bradshaw was far ahead in the polls and the election was only a week away. "I don't have to work for the government, you know," he said. "There's still private firms doing genetics in my line."
"They're laying off, not hiring," Amelia said with smug finality. "And after the election…" She broke off as if she knew something he didn't.
Gary had no answer for that. Unfortunately, what she said was true. Too many enhanced animals had escaped from owners and laboratories and begun breeding in the wild. More intelligent than their forebears, they were proving impossible to eradicate and in the meantime were ravaging crops and other wildlife, much more so in other parts of the world, but they had a toehold here now and were multiplying rapidly. This was especially true of the enhanced rats and mice and dogs and cats. They were creating havoc everywhere. There was already a total, though ineffective, ban on the importation of exotic enhanced or altered animals from South America where most of them originated, and the restrictions on domestic genetic engineering of mammals and humans were becoming onerous. In a deteriorating economy, and with feelings running so high against genetic engineers and their products, another job would be hard to come by. But damn it, he liked genetic engineering. He loved the manipulation of genes and chromosomes and the complex mathematics and physiology that went into the weaving of new characteristics into mammalian species. It was all he had ever wanted to do, and now it looked as if the whole profession was falling into an abyss of government restriction and public abhorrence. And his wife was on their side! He decided to change the subject.
"Is there anything to eat?"
"Don't you remember? We're going to Dad and Mom's for dinner tonight. And don't have another drink. You know how they feel about alcohol."
"I had forgotten," Gary admitted. In truth he had wanted to forget. A gathering at Deacon Pilkington's place wasn't his idea of a fun evening. Amelia had fostered the commitment on him in the after throes of sex a couple of weeks ago and he had conveniently put it out of his mind since then. He remembered now though, and knew that he and Amelia would be expected. Gary figured he had as many faults as the next man but breaking social engagements on short notice wasn't one of them. He would rather have broken a promise to his cat.
Copyright © 2005 Darrell Bain