The Zen Gene

By L Valder Mains

Action & adventure, Sci-Fi

Paperback, eBook

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5 mins





Laurie Valder Mains

All rights reserved.
This is a work of fiction.

Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

ISBN 9780991743902

The Zen Gene


Victoria BC
July 2020

Tyler knew the plan was pretty good, except for the part about maybe killing her, that part was not so good.

He drew the back of his hand across his nose and wiped away the liquid snot; the chlorine in the water was making his nose run and his eyes water. He rinsed his hand in the water then sniffed hard but this did not stem the flow. The runny nose and watery eyes were annoying but those were the least of his problems.

He checked and rechecked his data and knew the probability of killing her was low but low was not zero and that was the problem. While trying to consider all the possible outcomes of dosing the girl he became aware of tiny waves lapping against his side from people in the pool and this too became a distraction along with the way the light was playing off the rippling surface and the jarring high pitched echo of excited kids.

Her age is what caused this uncertainty; all the adverse outcomes data for the solvent were based on adults not children so information on possible side-effects was incomplete. What data there was suggested a slight risk of triggering an atypical immune response. This could, in theory, cause anaphylaxis which would be life threatening if it occurred while she was swimming.

He looked at the deep water and knew if it happened there he would not be able to save her. He scanned the pool looking for lifeguards and spotted two, one on either side of the pool; they both seemed reasonably alert. He wiped his nose and came to a decision. The odds of her drowning without being spotted by one of them was low and, assuming the Recreation Centre had an EpiPen in their first aid kit, death from anaphylaxis would be equally low.

He realised he had to do this now, today, and so forced himself to stop thinking about killing her. The pool was the only place he could think of which allowed any real possibility of success. Accepting this small risk meant he could finally get started and, to further complicate matters, there was another potentially worse problem to deal with. In the last few minutes his body awareness had begun to fade. He’d been waiting in the narrow channel leading to the water-slide entrance and managing his sensory issues quite well until they announced the opening of the slide.

When kids started surging past him to get in line a few brushed against him sent his anxiety skyward. He hated being in a swimming pool but worse than the idea of standing in other people’s pee was the feel of their wet skin on his. He hugged himself and backed up against the concrete edge of the pool trying to avoid contact with those rushing to get in line.

Unfiltered sensation increased his distraction but when it dumped adrenaline into his bloodstream it booted it into the stratosphere. This additional stress threatened to send him running him from the pool. The only reason it didn't was he could no longer feel his feet touching the bottom of the pool. He knew they must be touching because he was still standing upright but logic was no substitute for true sensory feedback. He tried wiggling his toes but it was no use, he could not feel them or any part of his body below the surface.

He tipped his head forward to see if they were moving and had the odd sensation he was looking at someone else’s toes. He’d experienced this kind of disconnection before and he also knew if it got worse it could affect other parts of him and, in this situation, losing track of his hands would be a disaster.

His anxiety bumped up considerably when he imagined applying the dose directly onto the girl's skin. He shuddered and shut his eyes and made himself visualize the three letter stop condons for his proto mRNA. This calmed him enough to regain control of his reactions; the sensory storm raging within his body was distracting but this trial was important, it could not wait any longer, it had to start now. This would be the only field trial of this version and much depended on the data it would generate.

All I have to do, he reasoned, is put it on her without getting caught.

Simple, in theory. This version had been ready for more than a month but until an hour ago, when he spotted the girl heading into the Sanich Recreation Centre, he had no idea how he would put it on her. One reason for this was he'd never met her, did not know her at all, and only recognized her because he memorized her school photo. He knew almost nothing about her aside from her name, Katy Peters, her age, twelve years three months, and the fact she was a vector.

He scanned the pool and spotted her and a red haired girl talking and getting out of the hot tub together. Katy was tall, almost as tall as he was, and she wore a bright green one-piece bathing suit which made her stand out from the throng of kids. When they jumped into the main pool and started heading in his direction he decided it was time to get ready. He dipped a few inches lower into the water and slipped two fingers into the mesh pocket inside the waistband of his bathing suit and retrieved the vial.

He tried to hold it out of sight in the palm of his hand while covering the action of twisting off the white plastic cap. His fingers were wet and numb and the cap slipped from his grasp and was lost to the water.

No turning back now.

He placed his thumb over the open end of the vial to keep the solvent from evaporating as he watched the green bathing suit coming closer. Katie and her friend were making their way toward the water-slide. The swimming pool was crammed with people but his attention was now only on Katy. As she came nearer he looked for a dry place to put the dose but realized finding that would be impossible. He barked a nervous laugh struck by the insanity of searching for a dry spot on someone in a swimming pool. His plan felt less certain by the moment as he continued to scan her body.

If he could not find a dry spot at the very least he needed to place it where it would not immediately be washed off; he was keenly aware that there were places you were not allowed to touch girls which further limited the possibilities. He had calculated the DSMO solvent needed to remain on her skin for a full minute to be effective but achieving that kind of exposure was unlikely given that her red-headed friend kept splashing her.

As he watched them approach his pounding heart urged him to sidle closer but, to his amazement, the girl came directly towards him walking backwards through the throng of kids. He was confused by this because she seemed to be trying to bump into him. He positioned the vial between the fingers of his right hand and watched as she came nearer.

He was having trouble feeling the vial between his fingers and had to keep looking to see if it was still there and he looked up just as they were about to bump. He reacted automatically thrusting his arm out to fend off the collision. He was freaked out by the contact with her skin but when his palm touched her shoulder he remembered to tip the vial and pour out the contents out. He made sure to avoid the shoulder strap of her bathing suit and he managed to pour it all out before she spun around.

“Sorry Tyler,” she said.

When she said his name the years of parental prompting took over and he responded automatically forcing himself to look at her face. Avoiding her eyes his gaze fell first upon the tip of her nose then skittered to one side of her lower lip where the skin folded up, then on to an orange freckle on her earlobe, then to her left cheek and that is where he noticed the colour change. He knew from experience the red he saw there meant she was upset and he was probably in trouble. This was bad and his mind raced wondering what to do. He looked away from her but could feel her gaze upon him. She was looking far longer than most people did and he thought for sure this meant he was in trouble.

He was worried he might have to speak to her and relieved when she spun around and darted away into the crowd. Happy that he had not been caught he watched her move away silently counting the seconds of exposure. He was hoping to reach sixty before she was splashed or dove under the water. As he watched her a thought struck him.

How does she know my name?

He was counting the seconds and wondering about this when the red haired girl came from behind him and bumped into his arm sending the empty vial flying from his grasp.

“What did you do to Katie you freak?”

Her voice was high pitched and cut sharply through the clamoring din.

“I saw you put something on her. What did you put on her?”

She was loud but he ignored her as he made a reflexive grab for the vial and missed. Over the noise of the pool and the rising pitch of the girl’s complaint he clearly heard the “plink” of contact when the vial hit the water. He searched for it but the glass was invisible against the blue bottom.

When he looked for Katie again, locating her by her bathing suit, she was too far away to see if, during the few seconds he’d been distracted, she’d been splashed. He saw her looking back in his direction but not at him she was staring open-mouthed at her red haired friend.

He watched her for a few more seconds before looking down at the water. He was worried a kid might step on the vial and get some of the formula directly into his bloodstream. He continued to ignore the red haired girl as he searched though she was now full-on screaming at him and a lifeguard was approaching.

He stopped looking for the vial when it dawned on him he’d done it. The trial had begun! Throwing his head back he laughed and slapped the water with his open palms startling the hectoring girl to silence. His barked laugh had a dangerous feral quality to it and his eyes burned with an intensity that caught her by surprise. Instinctively she moved away from him not daring to turn her back until she exited the pool.

He was smiling when he noticed a lifeguard pointing at him and motioning for him to approach her. He began to wade to where she was waiting but before he got there a boy slipped and fell on the wet pool deck and started howling and she left to help him.

Tyler turned back in time to see the slender girl in the green bathing suit climb the steps at the far end of the pool. His eyes followed her slim figure but, unlike most teenage boys, he was only thinking about her immune response.



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