After typing in the passcode, he sat before the computer and watched the blueprints of his grand design spill in thousandfold cascades across the length of the screen.
Adenine. Guanine. Cytosine. Thymine. The four proteins which comprised the structure of the human genome. The four letters, AGCT, in millions upon millions of limitless combinations, had the power to create, to destroy, to remake a human being as he saw fit. To make him God.
Krelian smiled. Upon further reflection, the smile began to dissipate.
He leaned back and watched the genome of Number 0808191, codename Ramses, scroll in lightning-quick rank and file down the screen. The culmination of his life's work rolled through his field of vision at indecipherable speeds. Those four little proteins in their kaleidoscopic combinations were a human being, mapped and unraveled and laid bare.
No, not a human being... something more than human.
A smile threatened to grace his lips again, and Krelian quickly repressed it.
The genome which had produced the thing in the reactor was Cain's genetic code, of course. In a sense, the thing in the reactor was Cain. It was a modified version of Cain's genome which had created it, more precisely: of the three billion or so genes comprising the code for a human being, approximately two-thirds had no function. Evolutionary remnants of an invisible past, they were cut out of the human code because evolution no longer required them, relegated to the nonfunctioning portions of the human genome and eliminated during sequencing. If nature were left to take its course, these lost abilities would never make themselves manifest in a living human.
And he had refused nature that hidden bounty, taken back for his creation those things which might have been.
Krelian closed his eyes, shut out the mindless march of the dancing proteins on the computer. Behind him, the thing in the reactor floated through a long watery dream, flailing about and twitching every so often in its womb of glass and steel. It would have been the perfect warrior. The perfect ruler. The perfect human being who would open the gateways to the wisdom of God.
On impulse, he reached out and turned off the computer with impatience, watched as the genome blipped out of existence on the monitor.
He had given it everything he himself would have desired: enhanced strength, enhanced senses, enhanced Ether. It would be free of any inherited weakness and remarkably resistant to all forms of injury and illness. He had even ensured that it would be spared the torments of childhood and adolescence: it would reach physical maturity in less than a year after its "birth." And yet... and yet, he had not once thought to prepare or compensate in any way for the reality that had now sealed the fate of "Ramses." It had one great failing, a scar upon perfection. It was useless.
Krelian's hair spilled in pale streams around his face as he lowered his head to the desk and buried his face in his hands.
At some length, he raised his face, pushed his files aside, and got to his feet warily as he turned around, staring at the thing in the reactor.
He was never quite sure, in retrospect, what had prompted him to do so.
"Ramses" floated, suspended, in the sea of its artificial womb, its thumb wedged firmly into its slitlike mouth, the mouth working greedily in instinctive anticipation of the milk which would never cross its lips. Above that tangle of clubby fingers, the eyes were open, staring.
He took a step backwards, his brows contracting. No, this isn't right. The eyes weren't supposed to open yet, not for at least another week. But the open eyes watched him now, focusing purposely and intently, shining with an intelligence which seemed at once monstrous and twisted in that near-human form.
The eyes themselves were pale yellow, the stare thoughtful and decisive. The hair on Krelian's neck bristled; he scowled, frustrated at the primitive reaction of his body. Of course the thing was watching him: it was aware, thinking. It possessed its own will. Perhaps it even had a sense of curiosity now. It was doing no more than exploring its world. And yet...
At once the eyes of Ramses seized his gaze, focusing through the glass and fluid with unnatural acuity.
Its stare was pure unblinking hatred. The child knew it had been forsaken. Hating because it was not good enough, not perfect: hating him -- it knew, somehow, it knew!-- for failing to bring perfection to his creation.
The mouth continued to work around the imprisoned thumb, and the burning gold halo eyes stared and stared as if they could see right into his heart.
Later on, he thought to himself that he had seen nothing but his own heart reflected in the thing's gaze; but for just a moment, as he averted his face from the knowing eyes of his creation, he hated himself as well.
"....Should we do it now?"
"Yes, do it and get it over with. Let us tell them that an unprecedented mutation occurred in the cell divisions and spread rapidly, killing it. I shall put on the official report that it was sent to the Soylent System for a normal disposal."
"Wait. Are we going to dispose of it in that manner?"
"Why not? As you said, it now has no use whatsoever..." A soft sigh. "Such a shame. I invested such time and care in it, I almost wish to see what it might become."
Pause. "Could it not be of some use to us anyway?"
"What do you mean? We have the true 'Contact.' We have no need to waste more resources on this useless thing."
"...You said it youself. Technically... he is Cain. Is Cain not the only one who can neutralize his own power?"
"Of what use is that old man to me? He has no more than twenty years of life left at the most."
"And if he lives long enough to interfere with our plans? Think of it. 'Ramses' can be used as a weapon against him... if he thinks we disposed of it, he will never suspect a thing."
"Then... what shall we do with it? Simply leave it in here and let it grow to maturity?"
"Of course not." And the voice grew thin and brittle around the edges, full of cold light. "What better way to augment its desire to kill than to tear it away from its peaceful existence and leave it to fend for itself? We need not waste a single resource on it."
...Hands around him, cold and sharp and digging into his soft tender skin...
He tried to cry out for help, but managed only the feeblest of wails... "Be quiet." The voice curdled with something he couldn't identify but which made him shiver all over.
He opened his eyes, and stared, and stared, and oh, if only he could have produced the sound to plead her to stop! Why was she doing this? So wet, so cold! It hurt so much... what had happened to his warm little world? Where had it gone? He looked into her eyes, and found no answer contained in them, for they were as cold as the bitter air savaging his skin.
"You are nothing but trash to us, so you can go out with the trash." Before he could open his mouth to cry out his protest, the hands grasping him so tightly were gone, and he was falling, falling down into darkness and he felt his limbs began to flail with terror...
Her voice followed him into forever as the light disappeared. "Ha, ha.... goodbye, 'trash.'"