• Patrick Rizio

Chapter 6

“ We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

    Anais Nin

When Jason got to his office, he found Bob Schimmel sitting in his chair, waiting for him. He was more than a little surprised. He noticed the coffee pot was already half empty.

“Good morning boss. Up a bit early today, I see.”

“Jason, sit down. We need to talk.”

“Sure thing. Um, have I done something wrong?”

“No, that’s not why I’m here. I want to talk about the gene-splicing project you’ve been working on. I read the report Friday, and again Saturday morning and, quite frankly, I’m having a hard time believing what I see here.” Schimmel picked the folder up from the desk and placed it in front of Jason. Jason looked back rather dumfounded.

“It’s not really gene-splicing boss, but, uh what seems to be the problem?”

“Well, maybe I’m making some wrong assumptions here, but according to what I read in this report, you seem to be making claims that are, shall we say, a bit more than remarkable? I mean, you’re talking about taking almost any characteristic of any plant and combining it with any other. You’re saying, at least I think you’re saying, that it’s possible to grow apples, and oranges, in the desert. Not in soil mind you, sand. Orchards in the sand? And with yields which far exceed anything done conventionally, without fertilizer! Am I getting the gist of this right?”

“Pretty much,” Jason responded casually. “But we’re not talking about combining characteristics. We’re talking about understanding how nature gave a particular characteristic to one plant, and then engineering another to have it. And doing it naturally, the same way nature did. There’s no gene splicing involved.” Schimmel was quiet for a moment.

“OK. I think I understand that. Continue.”

“It isn’t just orchards in the sand, as you put it. It’s much more than that. It’s soybeans, and corn, and wheat in the sand. It’s tropical fruit in colder climates. It’s insect resistant crops, that don’t need fertilizers. The techniques we’ve come up with over the past few months have given us the ability to customize plants at will. We can take warm weather plants, and make them totally resistant to cold, and vice versa. We can engineer strains of wheat, that will hold water like cactus. We can...What we can do is, more or less, plant anything anywhere from here on in.” 

Jason looked up at Schimmel and smiled. 

“Think of it, boss, Death Valley, bread basket of the world. All without the catch-22s of standard genetic engineering.”

Schimmel found it interesting how Jason kept using the word we.

“Catch 22s?” the big man asked.

“You know, people having to choose between starving on the one hand, vs genetically modified food that might cause new allergies. Or plants resistant to insects, that kill friendly insect larvae, along with the destructive ones.”

Jason couldn’t understand the look of concern that had momentarily come over his boss’s face. He started to concentrate and relax at the same time, in order to pick up Schimmel’s thoughts, but the big man’s mind had already moved on to something else, so Jason let it go. Anyway, wasn’t this what they were paying him for?

Schimmel stood up, and headed for the door, signaling the meeting was over. He had gotten the answer to his question and was not given to wasting time. When he got to the door, he stopped and turned around.

“I know I don’t have to remind you that lab work, and field work, are two different animals,” he said on his way out. “Maybe we should wait for the data from the test crops to come in before we start ordering champagne.”

“I suppose we should,” Jason replied. “But I can tell you right now, my research is correct. The difference between my figures and the field tests, will be less than 0.3%.”

Bob Schimmel looked down and smiled. “Does that come with a money back guarantee?”

“It comes with the ultimate guarantee,” Jason answered calmly. “It is simply the truth.”

As the head of Universal Biotech walked to his office, he thought about the probabilities of his resident genius being wrong, concerning the field tests. His gut told him they were effectively about zero, and he wasn’t smiling anymore. 

As Jason returned to work he couldn't keep his mind off Sarah, and Alison, and the day of the picnic...

“While her motor and artistic skills are normal for one her age, if you pay close attention, you can see what she’s doing when she draws.” 

Alison removed one drawing at random from the portfolio and unrolled it. It was done on construction paper in crayon. She continued, pointing to the specifics of the picture as she explained. “You see here? These aren’t just extra noses. They depict the other side of the face, or the face from another perspective-that of one sitting on the other side, or from above. When you first look here, it seems like the eyes are out of position, they’re not. At first, I thought this was just some kind of coincidence, but I’ve been checking her work for several months now. She draws all the sides of whatever she sees. Everything she draws is four dimensional, everything! I’m beginning to wonder if she’s even capable of two or three-dimensional drawing. It’s the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen.”

Jason stared intently at the pictures. He smiled. He knew that Sarah was capable of much more than just drawing in four dimensions. He looked at a few more and thought for a minute. It was obvious Alison genuinely cared for Sarah. He took her by the hand, and spoke quietly, and clearly, staring directly into her eyes. She could feel his exhilaration.

“You know, what’s happening here comes along maybe once in a thousand generations. The depth of Sarah’s intellect is almost unimaginable. She needs more than that orphanage is capable of. She needs to be nurtured, and evaluated, by someone who is capable of helping her realize her potential.”

Alison found herself more than bit incensed by Jason’s forwardness. Here he was, telling her what Sarah needed, after only a few minutes with her. She had been working with Sarah for months. She was the one, who had recognized the talent Sarah had. She was the one, who had gotten Sarah to open up, even on the most basic level. She was the one who...who caught herself thinking of herself, instead of what was best for Sarah.

Alison realized that Jason was right. She had been talking to the orphanage staff about Sarah for several weeks now, her requests falling on deaf ears. Not only had no one else realized just how extraordinary Sarah was, but they were simply too busy with the everyday logistics of running the place, to really care. Even if they had, not much could be done. The resources were simply not there. Looking around the cafeteria started her thinking.

The place was beautiful. Grey marble tiles on the walls, interspaced with red, dark wood chair rails and crown moldings, polished chrome ornamentation and recessed lighting. It occurred to Alison that the decorating budget for this cafeteria was more than the orphanage would spend on feeding and clothing their kids for the entire year. Could this be the chance for Sarah that she was hoping for? If this guy was thinking what she thought he was thinking, what she hoped he might be thinking…but no, that’s ridiculous, she didn’t even know him. They had just met.

Then came that goofy half smile again. Jason spoke softly, as he looked through the windshield at Sarah.

“As a matter of fact, that is exactly what I have in mind.”

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