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Geraldine Jones had a problem:  the door was closed to the office, and she was unsure if anyone was inside.  The new CEO’s office at The Company was an unmarked corner office in the main administrative building.  Not only that, but it wasn’t even on the highest floor, hardly de rigeur for any large corporation.  Office drones sat clicking, typing and talking, busily going about their day as she contemplated the grey door in front of her with its standard grey doorknob.
“Miss?”  A random man in a suit tapped her on the shoulder.  “I think he’s in there.”
“Thank you.  Are you his secretary?”  
“He doesn’t have one, thinks they’re unnecessary.”  He headed back to the array of cubicles.
“Thank you.”  Geraldine said to his retreating back.  She clutched her files to her chest and knocked on the door.
“Come in.”  The voice sounded familiar to her.
She opened the door herself.  Grey wall-to-wall carpeting blended with the grey walls,  the same dark grey as the door and the cubicles on the same floor.  Fluorescent lights cast everything in a yellowish glow, calling attention to the white ceiling tiles.  Few pieces of modern black furniture were placed carefully, a small alcove of two chaise lounges and a coffee table were set to her immediate right with a set of grey cubicle walls placed near it to assure privacy from the large picture windows.  Far off to her left a tall drinks cabinet was visible.  Behind that, a portable rolling wall nearly hid a black dresser drawer.  In the very corner, a black desk was framed by light.  The Company’s newly minted CEO Duncan Kerr perched on an edge, clad in a simple grey suit and tie.
“Do you like it? I know its nothing like my father’s office was.”  He walked over to the chaise nearest to him, standing behind it.  “Please, take a seat.”
“Its very spare.”  Geraldine took the other black leather chaise, noting that there seemed to be no other chairs in the office besides the chair at the desk.  “I meant that as a compliment, of course.”
“Yes, of course.” He looked into her eyes.  “Would you like something to drink, Misses Jones?  Anything you’d like, of course.  I know my father used to give his employees a drink to help calm them down before talking.”
“Oh no.”  She placed her folder down on the empty coffee table.  “I feel perfectly calm.”
She nodded her assent and watched as he walked over to the drinks cabinet.  She tried to find a comfortable position:  a chaise lounge is similar to a couch, except, there is no comfortable way to sit upright in it.  In fact, one cannot sit upright in it.  One is forced to lounge, forced to lie on one’s back or side.  Luckily, she was wearing pants.  She decided on lying on her side.
Before he reached the drinks cabinet, he closed the door, insulating them from the chatter of the office nearby.  He returned with two glasses of water and placed them down on the coffee table.  "Nice to see you've made yourself comfortable."  He slung himself to lay sideways facing her.  "Is the paperwork for me?"
"Yes."  Geraldine shifted, the lounge underneath her squeaking with every move as she struggled upright and reached for her waterglass.  "I brought them here.  They concern the repossession of Dr Smith's lab."
"Ah, yes, Doctor Harold Smith."  Raising his glass, he took a lusty sip.  "He's the last of the set of scientists we're firing for the financial year, correct?"
Geraldine balanced the glass between her palms.  "Yes.  His proposal regarding chicken cloning was rejected by the board several month ago.  Considering that he had no other members in his lab, because his other proposals the previous three years running had all been rejected, and he had no interns, he was a prime candidate for early release.  He missed the appeals sessions, I think, intentionally."  She placed the glass down without taking a sip.
"I remember now."  Duncan Kerr placed his cup down next to the file, flashing her with his substantial wedding band.  "He was a big shot years ago, big cloning big shot with cows.  We've
got interns now that are surpassing his work.  Did he take it well? Or are you here because he managed to see you coming and moved his lab?  One of the scientists did that last year, boy was dad miffed."  He lifted the file as if testing its weight, then held it up with one hand while reclining.
"No.  The repossession was successful."  She lowered her voice.  "I'm concerned because of some items we found during the repossession."
"Ah."  He brushed the edges of the paper with a single thumb. "This is a substantial amount of paperwork.  Did you find cloned chickens?"
"No.  We found human . . . "  Realizing how absurd her continued whispering was, Geraldine raised her voice.  "We found human matter, sir.  We found in a freezer, samples labelled with numbers, both blood and hair.""
"Human matter."  Duncan rose to his feet.  "So you ran tests because of what happened with Doctor Fick, the prosthetics guy."
"Of course, ever since that incident most of us are highly aware of the problems that the Company's contract stipulations can have, since we promise protection against legal repercussions of actions committed on or with company property."  Geraldine sighed.
“Not anymore, but yes.  It’s part of the older contracts.”  Duncan rubbed his hands together.  “I suppose the results of the tests were fairly exotic.”
“Everything, all of the matter,  the hair, the blood, it all matched Doctor Smith.”  Geraldine rubbed her mouth.  “We figured they were wrong, so we decided to look again.  Not all of them were exact matches, but they were very, very close.”
Geraldine never understood why she grew peas in primary school.  Gregor Mendel never cloned peas:  he bred them and watched their genetic diversity spread naturally.  He didn’t understand cell division, then again, most people don’t.  Peas reproducing sexually will not produce exact copies, did not produce exact clones and we know why now.  
In nature, organisms, such as anemones to name one, create identical organisms when they asexually reproduce.  Through nuclear transfer and years of hard work with numerous failures, scientists can take the uncertainty out of sexual reproduction by ensuring that a specific organism will arise, with genetics identical to the original.  Here is a list of mammals who are known to have been cloned successfully:  mouse, sheep, rhesus monkey, gaur, cow, cat, dog, rat, mule, horse, water buffalo and camel.   Humans are not on the official list.  
“He was testing himself?”  Duncan pursed his lips.  “Well, no  harm, no foul.  I suppose you got rid of the samples, then.”
“That is what we thought, but all of the samples were dated.”  Geraldine folded her hands together.  “And the hairs in the most recently dated batch were not the same color as Doctor Smith’s hair.  They appears to be younger, but still, a close match for him, DNA-wise.  There are pictures of all the samples in the file.”  
“He probably cultured his own hair, you know, grew it.”  Duncan shook his head.  “That’s hilarious.  Weird unauthorized use of company property, case closed.”  He took a large sip of his water, emptying the glass.
Geraldine took a sip of water from her glass.  “Was Doctor Smith cloning people, sir?”
Duncan set his glass down.  “No.  At least, I don’t think so.  He was hired to, you know, by my grandfather forty years ago.”  He scratched his head idly.  “I don’t think he actually managed it.  If he had, you know these scientists, he would have crowed about it, and how amazing he was.  There’s no way he would have ended up as he was, scraping to get by, renting his equipment and time, and writing proposals for his next big thing.  The chicken clone proposal was actually a very good one, the best he’d written in four years.”
She remained silent.  Often brilliant people in power would tell stories which she found pointless.  They would ramble on and on, eluding the point.  Very rarely would they say anything which she wanted to remember.  Geraldine was here to fulfill her due diligence as an employee, not to help someone reminisce about the good old days.
Duncan Kerr shrugged.  “Maybe, maybe not.  But we should just leave it.  How many copies of this report do you have?”
“Several.”  She sat up, shocked.  “I mean, there’s the hard copy in front of you and copies on the shared drive.”
“Erase them.”  He shook the file angrily.  “I’ll burn this.”  He got up and walked towards his desk, placing the file down on the black surface.
“Isn’t it illegal to clone humans?”  
“Would it matter?”  Duncan looked through the window  “Agencies check on us, but really, we’re on our own.  Paying our own money to regulate ourselves, and then paying them money if we fail at it.”  He turned around to face her.  “Misses Jones, you need to destroy those samples.”
“Don’t we owe the public some measure of decency?”
“Regarding what?  We have the smallest shreds of proof, which, because of the terms of his contract, we are not giving anyone else.”  He shook his head.  “Officially, he’s retired.  The public you’re talking about is a bunch of assholes who are interested in turning this place into a Third World hellhole.”  He glared at her from his vantage point.  “No, we are burying this.  We need to destroy those samples and all the evidence.”


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November 2010

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