CHAPTER 8 (part 2 of 4)

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On the morning of her third day on Fale, Maggie's Guide completed the task of injecting its own artificial neural network into Maggie's nervous system. The Guide now commanded a secondary network of neurons that led through all of her extremities, so that it could control the rate of Maggie's pulse and breathing, feel with her fingers and toes, watch with her eyes, and hear with her ears.

When it finished, it reported its progress to Maggie, flashing a three-dimensional image of the new nervous system to her. A sense of panic rose in her when she saw what had happened, but the Guide did not tickle her, did not send her its calm assurances. Instead, it left her with her fears.

Now that the Guide had extended its control over her, it announced that it was free to begin its greater work of teaching Maggie the intricacies of genetic manipulation. The Guide gave her routine tasks for the day. During one marathon twenty-hour work session, Maggie extracted, sorted, and upgraded over a hundred egg cells from one woman. Afterward, she added genetic enhancements to several hundred thousand sperm. She then mixed the cells and put them in the incubator before she left for the night. Her Guide reported her daily accomplishments to Karthenor, and Karthenor set up a credit account to give her advances on the future earnings of the children she was creating. In time, one hundred children would each pay her one percent of their life earnings. In one day, she had sewn a crop that would in time reap a fortune. The Guide made sure that she understood and felt properly grateful to be so employed.

As she worked that day, there was little to distract her. In the late afternoon, she heard an explosion in a storage room. For a few moments sirens blared and dronon vanquishers rushed through the smoke-filled compound, securing the area. Maggie could hear the screams of a wounded woman. Her guide merely informed her that terrorists had exploded a small bomb, and one of her fellow workers was injured. The Guide instructed Maggie to continue working.

Maggie was too heavily tranquilized to even consider disobeying. All through the morning, the Guide had been dumping information into her, data gleaned from genetic engineering experiments over eighteen thousand years from a hundred thousand worlds. A thousand distinct subspecies of mankind had been formed in that time, and billions of minor alterations had been tried. Maggie learned how to engineer people to live underwater, in reduced or increased gravities, or to cope with chemically altered atmospheres.

Yet the dronon Guide also taught her the glorious plans that it had for Maggie's people, and as the plans unfolded, Maggie was tickled so that she felt as if she were floundering in a pool of ecstasy. The genes that Maggie inserted into that day's batch of children were specifically designed to decrease a female's infant mortality rate and at the same time engineer a subspecies of future women to become breeders. These breeders would bear litters of ten or more children. The women that Maggie engineered would be tall, languid, wide at the hips, and would spend a great deal of time eating. They would require little in the way of cerebral stimulation—would shun mental exercise, physical stimulation. In effect, they would be sacks to bear children.

In a few days, Maggie knew that she would be allowed to work on a second subspecies of females who would be sterile workers, filled with an incredible amount of nervous energy that would be released in the joyful pursuit of labor. Other colleagues were developing males that would consist of one subspecies of dreamy-eyed artisans and creators, while another subspecies would form a caste of giant warriors with superb reflexes, immense strength, and an instinct for killing. These would burn a path across the galaxies, uniting all mankind under a common banner.

In all aspects, human society would come to emulate the more perfect dronon society, and the worlds would embrace a new, superior order.

That night, Maggie ate a quick dinner and then threw herself on her bed, contemplating the riches she had earned. Her Guide tickled her so that her blood raced at the thrill of it.

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