The Cuckoo's Progeny
12: A Risky Experiment

Copyright© 2016 Vincent Berg. All rights reserved.

Theo helped carry their luggage into their room. “If you’re worried about spending cash, you’re free to stay with us tonight,”

“Nah,” Al said, tossing notebooks filled with his daily scribblings on the bed. “You and Etta have too much to arrange.”

“The hell with that: we’re too excited. You don’t understand what a challenge this is. You represent talents we’ve never witnessed in any living thing. We don’t even have any explanations for why they occur. I mean, forecasting the future, telepathy, locating people?”

“I’m curious,” Etta said, “why does everyone call Be a locator instead of navigator? Isn’t that more in keeping with your nautical theme?”

Eli shook his head. “I’m sorry. Your argument makes logical sense, but I can’t picture it. It’s not finding where to go, she locates team members. She’s more of a recruiter, visiting towns searching for additional crew.”

“So why don’t you have a navigator?” Theo asked.

Al scratched his head. “I’m not sure. Either we don’t need one, or haven’t met them yet.”

Etta rubbed her hands together. “Terrific: more abilities to examine!”

Al sat on the edge of his bed as various people carried the remaining bags to the other rooms. “What process in the brain might account for forecasting the future, or locating someone? Do these skills reside in our DNA? If they do, how can so many different, highly specialized new abilities occur simultaneously?”

“That’s why I used the scanner on your sister,” Theo said. “I couldn’t detect any radio signals surrounding her, which is the only imaginable way she might conceivably perform those tasks.”

“Even if it’s genetic, it might take hundreds of generations before a new genetic link produces useful results. There are exceptions, of course. Such as when a string of different genes is tied together, activating at the same time. However, I see no indication that’s involved here. Frankly, I can’t conceive how you came by these abilities.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of. They all seem to trace back to our origins. Since we’re all orphans, and our tattoos and alphabetical names were applied when we were too young to remember, it points to a human instigator.”

“But if someone possessed such advanced knowledge, consider how much they could have achieved by now?” Eli said. “Why waste it on a bunch of kids?”

“Yeah, that was my point. There’s little indication anyone’s ever kept track of us.”

“We were intended to find each other,” Betty said from the corner. “That much is logical. It also explains why no one ever moved a significant distance away. There’s something keeping us here where we can be found.”

Etta glanced up, closing her eyes. “You might have something there. Our parents moved away, but we returned to work at our little Podunk college town, despite qualifying for more prestigious universities.”

“This is just conjecture,” Theo said, “but the odds of this being genetic are ... astronomical. A stronger possibility is nanocomputers.”

Al cocked his head. “You mean little robots?”

“More precisely, I’m thinking nanobots,” Theo explained. “Nanocomputers are devices smaller than a single molecule. Nanobots are autonomous, intelligent computers, powered by the flow of blood in the human bloodstream. Obviously no one’s ever seen one before, but it’s been theorized for some time.

“They’d be embedded in cells, utilizing DNA as a storage array like a miniscule hard drive,” he added. “If someone understood how to apply such technology, they could inject it into your blood. It would be too small to identify unless you knew which specific cells were involved. It’s almost impossible to examine every cell in someone’s blood, especially since we still haven’t identified many of them.”

“That’s perfect,” Etta exclaimed. “It merges our two backgrounds, explaining why our expertise is required.”

“Or,” Al suggested, “you’re needed to figure out even more advanced technology, which we’ve each been bio-engineered to utilize.”

“Ha! You’re finally coming around to my starship theory!” Gary quipped, entering the room again.

“It’s not a theory until you propose a testable hypothesis,” Theo pointed out.

“Still, it’s the only idea which makes sense. Some group of human inventors wouldn’t waste their time on the likes of us, when they could easily live like kings with much less effort. The fact it’s all so precise argues familiarity. These ... people weren’t just randomly experimenting. They aren’t monitoring us, because they assume we’ll find each other and eventually locate them.”

“That makes a heck of a lot more sense,” Theo agreed. “But how would aliens isolate a bunch of orphan children and program them so they’d only be productive dozens of years later?”

“The only way it’d work is if they are all humanoid, perfect human replicas,” Eli said. “The idea that different species, raised in separate physical environments would develop identically is difficult to accept.”

“Well, we’ve got a lot to discuss over the next few days,” Al said. “Including several more discoveries to make before we’ll make any sense of this. For now, you need to return home and prepare your property for a prolonged absence. In the meantime, we’ll continue wrestling with it here.”

“That’s reasonable.” Theo laughed. “We already have enough data to give us migraines. Now we all need to sleep on it and allow the information to percolate, until the right conclusions congeal. Come on, honey. Let’s leave these wonderful people alone.”

“I guess the rest of us will head to our rooms as well,” Delilah said. “Are the two of you ... okay staying together tonight?”

Betty glanced down, unable to meet her eyes. “Actually, could you and Gary stay? I’d like to suggest a little experiment of my own, one I’d rather not discuss with everyone watching.”

“You want to experiment with us? What are you considering?”

“Believe me, it’s not something you’d expect!”

“All right, everyone’s gone,” Delilah said. “What’s this supposed experiment about, and why are we conducting it here?”

Betty flexed her fingers, glancing between the others. “Pardon me, but this is even more difficult than I suspected.”

“I’ll help,” Delilah said, grinning. “Does this concern you and Al?”

“It does. Our evening together proved my chances of finding someone else are virtually nil as long as I restrict myself to the millions of other humans on the planet.”

“What are you suggesting?” Gary asked, leaning forward.

“While I still have issues about fooling around with my brother, there’s still the possibility I might meet another of our kind. If so, we may be able to pair bond with each other.”

“Good luck with that,” Al said. “Everyone we’ve met thus far is pair bonded since childhood, just like we seem to be.”

“You never know,” Betty responded, crossing her arms. “There might be an odd number. Someone might even have suffered an ... unfortunate incident years ago.”

Gary cocked his head. “Your solution is to pray for someone’s untimely death?”

Betty glanced down, taking a deep breath and flexing her fingers before continuing. “Del, I need to borrow your boyfriend.”

“Excuse me?”

Betty took another deep breath. “I’m hoping if we make out, it might answer my dilemma as well as revealing more about who we are and the nature of our pair bondings.”

“That’s ridiculous!” Gary shouted, jumping to his feet. “How can you think I’d ever consider that?”

“I agree,” Al said. “This is pretty off the wall.”

Betty blushed, glancing down. When Delilah didn’t respond, she glanced at her again.

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