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Haldar turned back to Janson. “Do you have the DNA and associated data for those sample genotypes?”
“Yes, they are all on file here except for Genotype 1a/ Croton for which we have no data.”
“If my friend here gives you a Grorin-tech sample key could you read it and say whether there are similarities between it and the samples?”
Again the pause, then Janson came to a decision. “If you have secondary authorisation to go with the sample key the answer is yes.”
Toulis reached into his jacket and produced both the sample key and a second plastic strip, of similar size which he handed to Janson. Janson slid both into a reader built into the desk. He withdrew them and handed them back to Toulis. “Yes, I am authorised to tell you. The match between samples and key is excellent. I am forced to assume that the person whose key you have given me is the person who supplied the initial genetic material.”
Toulis laid a hand on Haldar’s shoulder to forestall his next question and asked, “Does it show on your files how and when the initial genetic material entered your system.”
“It appears that the key-holder gave permission just over six standard years ago, perhaps a year before the genotypes were created.”
Toulis said quickly, “Appears?”
“The nature of the permission is not documented.” Janson’s voice sounded distracted. “Ah here it is, a note that authorisation was via courier, who carried on them appropriate consent.”
Haldar asked, casually. “Are you allowed to tell us what genotypes were made, just so we know what the samples are?”
Janson replied without pause. “You have the samples, you can work it out for yourself within a few months, and hence confidentiality isn’t breached by telling you. There was a range of genotypes created. Some were standard; for some reason field workers are popular. We assume that people buy many genotypes with the intention that the out-crossing will produce hybrid vigour whilst keeping the docility. Also there were maintenance techs...”
Here Haldar interrupted, “Are they the three foot tall idiot savants?”
“The preferred term is ‘appropriately sized, with appropriate intelligence’” Janson answered smoothly, “But yes, they’re the ones. We also have here a short run of thin atmosphere types. They’re unusual; we probably had an order in when we were working on the sample, and produced a few because patrons obviously want a wide variety of genotypes in their new population.”
Haldar asked, “So all these would be available in both male and female then?”
“Yes. Obviously you’d need a population which bred true, but there are only certain traits that you would lock in, other traits would be allowed to drift to try and counter the effect of having too small a gene pool.”
“You said they were the standard ones, were there any non-standard ones?”
Janson’s voice remained emotionless. “Yes, several different types. There was a female escort variant; these are widely popular on a huge variety of worlds. There was also a male variant.”
“A male escort?” Haldar asked.
“Yes, more specialist, tailored to suit the more specialist and discerning male and female clientele. We tend to enhance the musculature as well as make them naturally depilated.” Janson seemed to be contemplating something. “There is one here I must confess that I never noticed. A naturally coprophagous modification, created with the idea being that they would be maintenance techs for a sewage system.” Janson seemed to be musing aloud. “An interesting concept, bold even; but I cannot understand why there was an insistence on a strong hereditability of facial features.”
“Oh I can,” said Toulis quietly.
Janson seemed to be lost in thought so Haldar asked, “Is that it?”
“I think that is all I can tell you; given the samples you have fetched me.”
“Can you give me an idea of how many may have been born?”
Janson was briefly silent. “No, that isn’t data we collect. But I can tell you that over seven thousand units were delivered, and the facility was live for some years. So assuming standard work rates, perhaps four thousand are now implanted or have experienced parturition.”
“And all these produce self replicating populations?”
“No, both male and female escorts are naturally infertile. Clients seem to prefer it.”
Toulis said in a small voice, “I think I need a drink. Does coprophagous mean what I think it means?”
“Dung eating,” Bartan answered, “We’ve a fine selection of coprophagous insects on New Charity.” As Toulis stared at him he added, defensively, “We’re an agricultural world, everyone knows this kind of stuff.”
Haldar turned away from his two colleagues and looked back to Janson. “My superiors will probably be in touch with Grorin-tech. Until then I am sure you can understand that we would be grateful if you didn’t discuss this discussion with anyone outside your organisation.”
“And especially with our client?” Janson asked.
“I would not like it to prejudice our investigation.”
Janson’s voice remained impassive. “I doubt the topic will arise in discussion, and if not raised, we will not raise it.” Janson pressed a button. “Our doorman will escort you out.”
* * *
Toulis slumped in a chair at the nearest bar. “Wayland Strang is going to go berserk,” he intoned, to on one in particular. Bartan thrust a drink into his hand. Toulis looked at the drink without it appearing to register. “He’ll kill us all, and probably everyone else as well.”
Bartan guided Toulis’ hand to his mouth. “Come on, drink up. It might not be that bad.”
“Not that bad? I’ve got to waltz into his office and say ‘excuse me Sir, but six years ago someone very senior in your organisation handed your DNA over to Grorin-tech and now you’re the proud father of a race of shit eating, barely sentient, sewer maintenance techs.” He drank off his drink in one. “Oh yes, and every tart and catamite in fifty systems is going to look like you as well.” Toulis drained his glass. “And there is nothing he can do about it. His children are out there on scores of worlds.”
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About the Author:
Jim Webster’s first book burst onto an uncaring world in 2011, but in truth he’d been a professional writer for thirty or more years before that as a freelance journalist.
His books, whether Fantasy or Science Fiction tend to be adventure stories. One reviewer commented that “He writes some excellent fight scenes, action packed but believable. He also writes with a whimsical humour which I very much enjoy.”
In spite of all this he has been married to the same long suffering lady for almost thirty years, has three daughters, farms a bit and drinks too much good coffee.
Some, but not all of the above, can be explained away by pointing out he lives near, but not in, the fine Metropolis of Barrow-in-Furness.