Black Petals Issue #74 Winter, 2016

Killkenny Man
Home
Mars-News, Views and Commentary
Beyond the Stars-Fiction by Brian McLelland
Doesn't Play Well with Others-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Killkenny Man-Fiction by Charles C. Cole
The Family F.-Fiction by George C. Economou
Masks of Innocence-Fiction by Dr. Mel Waldman
Trim Thought-Fiction by Chris Moylan
When the Sea Shall Give Up Her Dead-Fiction by A. M. Stickel, Editor
Anticipating Miracles- 3 Poems by Teresa Ann Frazee
Cemetery Haze-3 poems by Michael Keshigian
Seven Horror Haiku-by Denny E. Marshall
Four Zombie Haiku-by Denny E. Marshall
Love Letter (to L. W.)-Poem by Reyhan Qayoom

Fiction by Charles C. Cole

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Kilkenny Man

 

By Charles C Cole

 

Parts of the whole found wanting

 

 

 Mr. Chairman, distinguished members of the committee, longtime Congressional supporters of innovative biological technologies. Thank you for your invitation. I am Dr. Corbin Kasselton, Vice-president of Development for Koenig Industries. I’ve returned today after a three-year absence to present key facts surrounding the recent unfortunate events at our Kit Carson Testing Facility in Los Alamos.

CEO Koenig was unable to attend and asked me to convey his deepest regrets over the tragedy, as well as his sincerest hope that this still-immature science may be reviewed and discussed in an open and deliberative manner.

As you’re probably aware, the synthetic life form known as “the polysapient” was initially created for the altruistic purpose of colonizing an untamed planet. Once “Poly One” had landed, he could theoretically sever a finger or toe and grow a companion or two fairly quickly: the benefits of a distributed neuronet (skin cells that act collectively like a brain).

Science finally co-opted the glorious simplicity of fragmentation as a means to reproduce, like a sea star, using a technique of self-mutilation called autotomy. If one terranaut expired, the mission momentum could continue unabated; Poly Two and Poly Three would carry on. Ideally, many hands would make light work, an especially useful philosophy while scaffolding Earth Beta some lightyears from Earth Alpha.

You’re probably wondering why Poly looks so familiar. Even award-winning neobiologists develop fanboy crushes on celebrities. Therefore, Poly was designed to resemble a certain stand-up comedian who portrayed an astronaut in an otherwise science-free movie. The actor generously, if narcissistically, donated his DNA for the continuation of our species.

“Mr. A.” was full of national pride when originally contacted, but genuinely uncomfortable the first time he met his remarkable “stand in.” It seems nobody likes a mirror image with a mind of its own. Although he joked about using Poly One as his stunt man in his next film, all incoming communications with the research facility ceased immediately upon his departure.

We were about fifteen months before launch when our colleagues at the Department of Defense formally requested a copy of Poly for their own purposes. It was, after all, more advanced than a clone. Clones, at least the animal subjects I’ve heard about, take valuable time to grow to maturity.

From limited sample tissue to life as an individual contributor, the polysapient fully matured in days versus months. The synthetic cells that made up its neural net were programmed to replicate at rates never seen in nature for such an advanced being.

 

As I understand it, the DOD wanted an original high-definition, multi-camera digital recording of Poly “evolving” at their own facilities, documenting the process from A to Zed. Just as it was leveling off following departure, the transport plane exploded over the base and the surrounding desert.

As a result, Poly mass-fragmented in a manner in which it had never been tested; it burst. Hundreds of mini-Polys the size of fingers fell like ice pellets over the uninhabited desert—where they grew unobserved.

In prior testing, I must report now, we had successfully cultivated a Poly Two. Creation, it turns out, is easier to achieve than philanthropy. The units were assigned the simple task of moving a pile of rocks from one corner of the grounds to another about sixty feet away, using shovels and wheelbarrows. We wanted to validate their natural spirit of collaboration. We had hoped, being similar in design, they would be similar in nature.

Almost immediately, however, a scuffle erupted as Poly Two demanded the newer, shinier shovel used by Poly One. Blows were exchanged. Poly Two got the upper hand and was about do something with a large rock for which we had not planned when we neutralized him. We thought, perhaps, he was a “bad copy” and tried again.

This time we had two different piles of rocks, a similar mission, but one that allowed the units to work independently. The aggression displayed by Poly Three was, if anything, more intense, resulting in a similar outcome.

We destroyed the two copies lest they be misused. We then contacted the DOD and explained that we felt, while overall the experiment had been a great success, using a team of Polys was not a good idea. Rather than be disappointed, the military leadership was intrigued and, I daresay, excited. Put simply: we suspected the more pieces created, the more self-serving they would become.

Which brings us to the explosion. While NTSB was focused on the cause of the disaster, nobody was focused on Poly. A lone sentry checking the perimeter fence five nights later reported seeing “an approaching black mass.” It was a sea of Polys, each trying to be the first to report back to base. As he called out to them, they appeared to run, to surge.

As one grabbed the fence, the nearest competitor pulled it violently away. A third climbed over the two. A fourth grabbed the third by the legs and tossed it violently aside. A fifth steamrolled into the pack, scattering them. A sixth leapt onto the fifth and bashed its head in with a rock.

This changed everything. Suddenly, everyone was grabbing rocks. Others, in defense, began punching and clawing. The guard radioed for help. He fired a few rounds in the air. There was a pause as the mob realized the soldier had a better weapon than they had—and they wanted it.

They hurled themselves against the fence. They were on him, tearing at him, as a jeep with three other soldiers arrived, who immediately called for additional support. Suddenly the jeep became un objet du désir. The soldiers didn’t have a chance.

The compound was locked down and everyone moved to underground bunkers. The facility commander managed to contact a small tactical unit. His dictate: “Make sure the fence stays whole, but keep your distance and don’t engage.”

In the morning, the remnants were recovered and destroyed. Just like the two cats in a certain limerick, “excepting their nails and the tips of their tails,” there were no Poly survivors.

 

The End

 

Charlie C. Cole, charlie_c_cole@yahoo.com, of Windham, Maine, who wrote BP #74’s “Kilkenny Man” (+ BP #73’s “Please Remember Me”; BP #71’s “Pioneer Justice…”; BP #70’s “Deep Time Salvage” and “The Substitute Husbands”; BP #69’s featured “Cosmic Bull’s-eye,” “Midas & Medusa,” “The Return of the King,” and “The Second Mrs. Brindle”;  BP #68’s “Ice Dreams,” “Lady of the Lake,” “Methuselah,” & “The Tenant Inside Me”; BP #67’s featured “The Far,” “The Telesthesians,” & “Transmigration”; BP #66’s featured “The Subtle Hydropathist,” “The Cruel Season,” & “Wet Coriander”; BP #65’s “Performance Art”; BP #64’s “Calendula and the Other Man,” “Holiday Greetings from the Witness Protection Program,” “The Last Day of the Ugly Man,” and “The Monkey Who Talked Too Much”; BP #63’s featured “Mirror Twins,” “Remembering Hyperopiac-Man!”, “Rules for Civil Disengagement,” and “The Rug Man”; BP #60’s “Larva Speaks” and “Personal Contact”), loved his undergraduate years at a small, rural Maine college where he could concentrate on “being a writer” (and magazine editor). In the summer of 2011, he “awoke” much older when he noticed the internet had made publishing so much more accessible. He lives with his family in Maine on land once owned by his great-great grandfather. He is previously published in alongstoryshort, bewilderingstories, The Blue Crow, The Sandy River Review, and The Café Review.

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