SynBio

SynBio

by Leslie Alan Horvitz

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781497637535
Publisher: Open Road Media
Publication date: 07/01/2014
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 316
Sales rank: 1,202,444
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Leslie Alan Horvitz is the author of over twenty novels including The Memory Hole, The Donors, Double Blinded, The Dying, and Causes Unknown. Editions of his books have been published in Germany, Poland, Hungary, Norway, Japan, Russia, South Korea, Brazil, and the UK. He is also the author of several works of nonfiction, most recently The Essential Book of Weather Folklore, The Encyclopedia of War Crimes and Genocide, The Weather Tracker, Night Sky Tracker Eureka: Scientific Breakthroughs That Changed the World, and Understanding Depression with Dr. Raymond DePaulo of Johns Hopkins University. In 1996 Horvitz collaborated with Dr. Joseph McCormick and his wife, Dr. Susan Fisher-Hoch, both noted epidemiologists, on Level 4: Virus Hunters of the CDC. “Level 4” refers to a biohazard unit in the Centers for Disease Control where scientists examine some of the most lethal pathogens known to man.

Horvitz has covered a variety of business, political, and social topics for general interest magazines including articles on money laundering, international organized crime, financial mergers, global trade, and fraud in biomedical research.
Leslie Alan Horvitz is the author of over twenty novels including The Memory HoleThe DonorsDouble BlindedThe Dying, and Causes Unknown. Editions of his books have been published in Germany, Poland, Hungary, Norway, Japan, Russia, South Korea, Brazil, and the UK. He is also the author of several works of nonfiction, most recently The Essential Book of Weather FolkloreThe Encyclopedia of War Crimes and GenocideThe Weather Tracker, Night Sky TrackerEureka: Scientific Breakthroughs That Changed the World, and Understanding Depression with Dr. Raymond DePaulo of Johns Hopkins University. In 1996 Horvitz collaborated with Dr. Joseph McCormick and his wife, Dr. Susan Fisher-Hoch, both noted epidemiologists, on Level 4: Virus Hunters of the CDC. “Level 4” refers to a biohazard unit in the Centers for Disease Control where scientists examine some of the most lethal pathogens known to man.

Horvitz has covered a variety of business, political, and social topics for general interest magazines including articles on money laundering, international organized crime, financial mergers, global trade, and fraud in biomedical research.

Read an Excerpt

SynBio


By Leslie Alan Horvitz

OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA

Copyright © 2014 Leslie Horvitz
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4976-3753-5


CHAPTER 1

Washed-up, over the hill, lost his touch—he knew what they said about him. Old Marcus Adair doesn't have it anymore. For the people who looked down on him, who questioned him, who believed the allegations, he had nothing but contempt: he didn't care what they said; he was still in the game. He was still in Eddie's good graces and no one counted more than Eddie. While it was true that his reputation had taken some hits of late, he was nonetheless eagerly sought after on the lecture circuit. As a principal investigator for a global pharmaceutical firm—at least officially—he had nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to apologize for, nothing to hide ... well, almost nothing. Those misguided critics, his wife among them, were just slow to understand.

Three to four million—that was how many genetic differences generally separated one individual from another. Let's say four million differences between him and his wife—as far as he was concerned, the more of them, the better. Most of those differences were inconsequential, but find those differences that could predict that one person will have a long, healthy life and that another was going to have his life cut short by diabetes or cancer or Alzheimer's, and, well, that was a discovery to be patented and maybe there was a fortune to be made. That was the marvelous thing about this work: you could know someone literally inside and out—and you could make money in the process.

Marcus didn't like the term target—too crass. Nor was the alternative—victim—any better since it connoted submissiveness, implied that the individual was undeserving of his fate. He preferred instead the term designee. It had a certain ambiguous distinction about it that appealed to him. Regrettably, while the genome for the designee in this case was difficult to acquire, it was possible to employ workarounds. The designee's relatives were easily identified and many of their genomes were accessible, legally or otherwise, in scores of DNA databases around the world. Marcus needed only five hours to create profiles of dozens of the designee's relations, uncles, aunts, cousins once-, twice-, and three times removed. It was a simple exercise, child's play really, a matter of using combinations of hundreds of thousands of DNA markers to reveal each relative's weight, age, and health plus their place of residence. He could tell whether someone was a diabetic, for instance, or whether he or she was infected with a virus like HIV—no secrets from Marcus Adair. Soon a pattern began to emerge: a surprising number of the designee's closest relatives carried the same potentially lethal variant: rs1333049. There was a reasonable possibility that the designee had this variant as well. Ordinarily, this variant, like so many others bestowed because of random mutations over generations, would have little or no impact; the individuals who'd inherited it would go to their graves finished off by some other cause: a pernicious infection or a car traveling in the wrong direction late one night.

But genes could be changed, synthesized, split, spliced, coded anew, inserted in places they didn't belong and removed from places they did. You didn't need to settle for the way things were. You could do a second or a third or a fourth draft of nature's program just as if you were revising a book over and over again. It was a different vocabulary, base pairs instead of letters or words or sentences—same idea, though. You just needed something to say.

Marcus had plenty to say.


But I have heard of thee, that thou canst interpret obscure things, and resolve difficult things: now if thou art able to read the writing, and to show me the interpretation thereof, thou shalt be clothed with purple ... and shalt be the third prince in my kingdom.


Marcus had never been much of a Bible reader, although there were certain parts of it that he regularly consulted for inspiration, if not for their moral lessons. He especially liked the Book of Daniel. He identified with Daniel. Like Daniel, he was an interpreter, albeit of DNA, not of dreams. If Daniel could discern the future of nations in dreams, Marcus could see the future of nations in genes. History could be manipulated, too, just like genes.


But when his heart was lifted up, and his spirit hardened unto pride, he was put down from the throne of his kingdom, and his glory was taken away. And he was driven out from the sons of men, and his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild asses ... till he knew that the most High ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he will set over it whomsoever it shall please him.


To prove to Eddie that he was capable, that there was no project too daunting for him, Marcus would need help. He'd have to recruit someone with an understanding of genes that was almost as deep as his. He already had someone in mind, but first that person would have to be put through some rigorous tests to prove that he had what it takes to bring down a king.

CHAPTER 2

The Air France flight was an hour late getting into Paris. A major storm system over Northern Europe was to blame. The weather this winter had been worse than usual; the last time anyone had glimpsed a blue sky over the city was back in January. But then Eugenie Tattersall hadn't come to Paris to see the sights or to linger in outdoor cafes. She was here because of Mica Mandelbaum. He was enjoying the perks of first class while Eugenie had to settle for business class. For once she'd been unable to get herself upgraded.

The delayed arrival had given her extra time to bone up on her target's biography. It was always important to know more than she was likely to use—just in case. Mandelbaum, 54, boasted impressive educational credits: 1975, AB, Harvard College; 1978, MBA in Finance, Cornell University; 1982, MPhil in Economics, University of Oxford. Stints at the now defunct firms of Bear Sterns and Lehman Brothers hadn't hurt his prospects in government. He'd served as Assistant Secretary of Defense of Global Strategic Affairs, as a member of the Department of Defense Policy Board, with time off to serve as a policy advisor to then Governor George W. Bush during his first presidential campaign, before signing on as partner at a white shoe law firm based in Washington—obviously someone who knew his way around the corridors of power.

He was on his second wife; he had three children, the oldest starting Oberlin; he collected homes and antiques; he patronized good causes; he was not immune to flattery. Also, and more pertinently, he had an eye for pretty women.

It wouldn't be necessary to seduce him (although that couldn't hurt), but it would be necessary to get close to him—very close.

Eugenie made sure that he spotted her in the shuttle bus and would easily be able to keep her in view inside the terminal at DeGaulle. The two men with him might look like they were colleagues but she could see that they were there to protect him from individuals who might pose a threat—people like her.

His plans were no secret—not from her employer anyway. He was staying at the Plaza Athenee on Avenue Montaigne. Tomorrow he would be attending the opening session of the Global Leadership Roundtable at the Mandarin Oriental. (The theme this year was "Stepping Back from the Abyss.") She decided to make her approach that evening at his hotel, where he would be meeting a former French foreign minister for drinks before heading off to dinner.

Eugenie would have to figure out how she wished to introduce herself. It really depended on the sex and personality of the target. Sometimes it just depended on whim. She could be Ginny or Jenny or simply Jen. Her surname would change from one assignment to the next. Her job was one that required the skill of an actor and a talent for impersonation. She'd played a corporate executive, a Financial Times correspondent, a web developer, and a very high-priced call girl. Sometimes she forgot she was playing a role and then had trouble remembering who she was supposed to be.

But who was she supposed to be? It wasn't really clear to her. She'd grown up all over the world. She liked to tell people that her father was a diplomat, when in fact he'd been a failed businessman for whom the pastures were always greener elsewhere and who thought nothing of uprooting his family when a new opportunity beckoned in another time zone. Her mother pretended to be a dutiful wife and mother to her three kids. It was only when Eugenie was older that she realized that her mother had been rebelling all along by quietly taking on a new lover in whichever country she found herself. Eugenie had learned a great deal from her mother.

Eugenie had also been a rebel, although her rebellion took on different forms at different ages and in different cities. She was certain that she would have been caught by the police far more frequently and served much longer sentences—none ever had lasted more than thirty days—if she hadn't been so attractive or so bright, so multilingual or so well educated. Still, she'd compiled a colorful record by the time she was in her early twenties. In Nice and Amsterdam she'd been arrested for smuggling drugs. In London it was for loitering with intention to solicit, something like that. In New York it was theft—furs, jewelry, designer jeans—possibly the most valuable criminal experience in that it offered good training for the kind of work she engaged in these days.

For the kind of work she did and the versatility she showed, she thought she should be better compensated, but she couldn't dispute the value of the perks, particularly the clothes: Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, Chanel, Valentino ... whatever caught her fancy (although she didn't always get to keep everything they bought for her). Eddie could be very generous. But you could never tell where you stood with him. This evening's assignation demanded something stunning but not too formal or ostentatious; the décolleté should be sufficiently enticing without Mr. Mandelbaum's getting lost in it. The dress should look pricey and stylish without calling attention to itself. She decided on a perfume by Lancôme, which was made from passion flower, vanilla, and jasmine. It was called—one of the reasons she chose it—Hypnose.


The Relais was designed to convey the feeling of a grand old ocean liner with its cream leather seats, ruby red carpets, glittering chandeliers, and stained glass windows, although it lacked an ocean view. A pianist was plunking out tunes that Eugenie didn't recognize and couldn't say she liked. A generous gratuity ensured that she would be seated close to the table where the former foreign minister was already ensconced. She ordered a Chardonnay and told the waiter that she was expecting a friend. The restaurant was filling up with people, almost all of whom were decades older than she was, which was how she liked it. A few minutes later the target appeared.

Seeing her, Mandelbaum did a double take: I know her from somewhere, he was thinking, but where?

Mandelbaum and the minister fell into conversation about the Euro crisis (which bored her to tears) and currency manipulation on the part of the Chinese. From time to time Mandelbaum's eyes strayed over to her table. He was one of those men who liked to feel as if they were in charge and so he would have to think that he'd initiated the contact.

She made a point of frequently looking at her iPhone and glancing in the direction of the lobby as if in hope of spotting a friend—who, of course, didn't exist. She observed Mandelbaum's security detail lingering near the entrance. They didn't factor into her calculations. The kinds of threats they were on the alert for didn't include pretty girls alone at a table in an overpriced Paris bistro. To be on the safe side, one of them snapped a picture of her, but she wasn't going to worry about it. She always made herself brand new for every assignment; in this case, the contact lenses (blue-green) and the wig (brunette) would help.

"Excuse me," Mandelbaum said, interrupting the minister and leaning toward her. "Didn't I see you at the airport this morning?"

So he'd finally managed to place her.

"I don't know, maybe. Were you on Air France flight 1681 from Heathrow?"

"It was you," he said with a note of satisfaction. "Are you waiting for someone?"

She confirmed what she'd spent the better part of an hour trying to make patently obvious. "He's really very late," she said, "I don't know what's keeping him." She held up her phone. "No message."

He offered to buy her another wine as compensation.

"I don't see why not."

The two men resumed their conversation. After another twenty minutes Mandelbaum asked for the check, signaling an end to the meeting. On the way out he paused at her table. "Hope your friend shows up soon. It's unconscionable that he would keep you waiting so long."

She wondered whether she'd overplayed her hand or misjudged the target. It happened but only rarely.

"Excuse me."

She glanced up. Mica Mandelbaum was back.

"Oh, hi," she said with a warm smile.

"I thought that since your friend doesn't look like he's going to show up you'd consider having dinner with me. I don't want to interfere with your plans."

You're the one whose plans I'm interfering with, she thought. But what she said was that she'd be happy to join him. "I need to teach the bastard a lesson," she said, hinting that dinner with a strange man might be the kind of retribution he deserved.

Then he introduced himself. She gave her name as Ginny. She held his hand in hers a beat longer than politeness required.

"Those men with you," she said, nodding toward the pair of bodyguards. "Are they going to be joining us?"

"I don't think there's any harm in giving them the night off."


It was just after one in the morning when Eugenie slipped out of Mica Mandelbaum's suite, leaving him sound asleep. She assumed that her progress along the corridor would be monitored. There were surveillance cameras everywhere. But there would be no reason to suspect that she was anything other than an expensive call girl, surely not the only one invited to share the bed of a hotel guest. And she'd taken some precautions to thwart any facial recognition programs. Because the algorithms were usually based on a symmetrical look, she'd arranged her hair so that it fell over the left, but not right, side of her face, and because some algorithms relied on the nose bridge area as a key facial marker, she wore glasses that effectively concealed it. And if by chance Mandelbaum encountered her at some future time in another city he wouldn't acknowledge her (in the unlikely event that he even recognized her). In any case, he'd have no reason to hold her responsible for anything. When he woke up in the morning he would find nothing missing. He would have just as much cash in his wallet as he had when he'd gone to bed, which might make him think that maybe she wasn't a hooker, after all, but had simply slept with him because she was attracted to him. It would never occur to him that he'd been the victim of a theft, even though what was taken was worth considerably more than cash or valuables. Carefully cached in her red Hermes Birkin, and preserved in dry ice, was a used condom filled with Mica Mandelbaum's drying sperm.

CHAPTER 3

Seth Stringer had just come back from the FedEx office when he had the sense that he'd made a wrong turn—not geographically but in his life. He was suddenly filled with dread that he'd done something terribly wrong. The only problem was that he couldn't figure out what it was. After all, he routinely sent off genetic designs he'd constructed to biofabricators. It was essentially a matter of programming and editing, synthesizing and stitching. He seldom gave much thought to the uses to which the client would put them.

He tried to puzzle out what was making him so uneasy. Something to do with the gene protein he'd tweaked, PrPc, but what? Why would the client, a company previously unknown to him, want a variant that had no practical application?

Maybe if he hadn't been so distracted—maybe if he wasn't so distracted now—he'd have been more on top of things. By now he'd assumed he'd be himself again, but he'd begun to realize that it was going to take a while to regain his bearings. His father's death three weeks previously had been both devastating and a relief after a protracted illness. None of Seth's synthetic DNA, or any of the experimental drugs his clients produced, could have saved him.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from SynBio by Leslie Alan Horvitz. Copyright © 2014 Leslie Horvitz. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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SynBio 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Somewhat predictable but intriguing none the less.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hex
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Name.... i forgot......age 16........parent......nyx........looks......silver metal bat wings. Black hair with midnight blue highlights. Purple eyes that glow.........weapons......bow and arrows. Sword. Whip. Dagger.......powers......find out........friends....not much......extra.....lost my memory....... is dead....... is statue in the forest.....i have posionest blood.