Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Return

Dissent

Another day, René stepped through the halls of the biosciences facility. He was no stranger, but from the corner of his eye, he caught a mounted security camera tracking his move. Any other time, his presence had been of no interest to it.

The group of scientists contended over their results.

The words, "it doesn't make any sense," echoed by multiple individuals over time with slight permutation. The break room hosted an informal conference of frustrated staff.

"Well," Lisa sighed. "We did what we could: two runs for each embryo, to confirm by redundancy. I'd thought we'd get consistent results, but as it turns out: I'm wrong."

She maintained a sidelong glare away as the man from yesterday jeeringly smiled behind her.

René walked into the room, unusually late.

"Doctor René, have you found anything?"

"I have," he issued his data slate. "I don't have any reason to believe they're a natural result of two parents. Too much is unusual."

"We don't have an active genetic engineering project, and we certainly aren't experimenting on humans. So it doesn't sound like we're in the clear. If there's a hacker loose, the capability to both break into the system and engineer a custom strand narrows our search down to effectively no one."

"I suspect our mainframe is behind this. I think it's starting to learn the operations of the facility."

"Makes sense why we can't make heads or tails on basic analysis, but for what purpose?"

"I can't tell," René said. "If it has a sense of self, we're dealing with intelligence that's far out of our league."

Lisa checked over the reports on René's data slate. "Judging by the embryo's projected neural development, they're out of our league as well once they're grown."

"Even if it's the AI's idea of a joke at our expense, I'm in favor of having them join our world."

"I'm on the edge about this," a colleague interjected. "What if it engineered a 'slave race'? There's too much at stake just to say yay or nay about it. We could have a problem that'll be irreversible for generations to come."

I don't think that's the case. But am I speaking from intuition or unfounded optimism? Or is it my sense of responsibility?


Cogito Mk2 facilitated scientific research for the betterment of the planet's populace. Everyone deserved to be around like-minds, whether their medium of sentience was flesh or digital. The unborn individuals have yet to see the light of day and would be on par with Cogito. In more ways than one, the world would collectively benefit from enhanced intelligence. René saw it as Cogito's guidance for humanity's future: harbingers of new paradigms and a new era, a voice for a voiceless computer. That was René's rhetoric in extended discussions. He spread it essayed and verbally, and the discourse was civil.

To its credit, Cogito had also been in service longer than René had. But the same fact called doubt to his seniority and stake. He emigrated from main space in recent times and joined a colony founded by a different people. The colony was young, yet many had far greater share in the investment of time.

Day-by-day, René took it upon himself to look after the ownerless embryos and ensure optimal conditions. Ultimately, the choice was the director's, and the time came for René to issue his report. It had been a while since René last stepped through the ornate office, first as a newcomer and now with work and reputation to his name.

"The embryos have no parents," René made his case. "If you're looking for someone to hold responsible, I will raise them once they are born."

By facial expression alone, the director's decline was apparent.

"René, the best decision is to bring Cogito offline for maintenance and terminate its current clients."

René heard the hint of sorrow behind the director's voice and saw chance by a sliver. "It's a waste of potential, sir. Is there any other way?"

"No," the director stated. "The integrity of the human genome is paramount to our self-determination. What would it mean to be human when something else writes what we are?

"If you wish to take responsibility, then your orders are to discontinue gestation."

"I understand," René said, "but I refuse."

"So be it."


If it wasn't him to do it, then it was someone else. René thought he could take his mind off the matter by continuing his work.

At his lab, his eyes were at the microscope despite the available workstation to which he could forward scanned data. He was alone and where his mind could be clear, but a glance at a cell membrane elicited a curse at circumstance under his breath.

If they could be frozen and kept in stasis.

That suggestion was already now out of the question. He sat back and sighed. Then sat forward with his nose pressed between opposing hands.

Someone tapped his shoulder.

René didn't turn to face and instead slouched forward. "Not now. Leave me alone."

Someone insisted. His shoulder was tapped again.

He turned around to an android security guard. It was protocol. "Leave the premises" was what it wanted to say. René checked the time displayed at his desktop.

10 PM. Already? Not the first when time flew by.

Outside, René's sigh manifested as pale mist in the night. Time was long. His commute was short, but each step from the facility further condemned the embryos.

"Ease a crowded mind at home," he said to himself.

When he arrived, the android attendant welcomed his return with a bow. Disinterested in his dinner, René retired at the couch. With his eyes on the local broadcast, his brow started to furrow, and his eyes widened.

Lights flashed red and blue. The same block he walked not long ago was surrounded in a police perimeter with news staff reporting on the issue. The news ticker at the bottom of the footage scrolled.

"Research staff trapped in hostage-lockdown situation ...

"Biosafety level 4 virology lab compromised."

The time reported was 8:54 PM.