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When Harold had stepped off of the plane, he felt lighter, not only because Harry and Rita had settled in nicely at Sunny Gardens, but because he could get back to his regular life of puttering around his house small as it was, with his robot, changed as Five was.  He could put his hands on the things he had brought from their old place, could wake in the same bed however changed the circumstances were.  Padding lightly down the walkway with his suitcase in tow, he spotted a tight group of four men in dark suits with somber expressions lingering outside of the gate.  
Surely, they weren’t looking for him, he thought.  Keeping his head down and his expression neutral, he wandered around the group of men only to be brought up short by one man in particular, the only one who did not look like a club bouncer.  
In fact, this young man looked a lot like the old CEO, or at least, the pictures of the old CEO that were widely circulated amongst the workers in The Company.  Wearing a dark suit with a dark tie, the slim man held his hand out in a peaceful gesture.  “Doctor Harold Smith?”
Harold hesitated, wondering if a lie would be better than the truth.  These men did not seem dangerous, merely a group of four people, and really they seemed harmless, a bunch of people calmly standing around folded in on themselves in a bunch like grapes on a vine ripe for the picking.  “I’m sorry,”  he began, “I did get my PhD a long time ago.”  His vacation had loosened him a bit, he effortlessly shifted his answers into a form of small talk.  “I am a Harold Smith, not necessarily the person you’re looking for.  I imagine there are a lot of Harold Smiths in the world.”
“Of course.”  The man bumped his elbow against one of his larger fellows.  “But you worked at the Company until recently?”
Harold nodded as dread filled him.  Somehow, the other men maneuvered him away from the stream of passengers exiting the gate, away from the flow of traffic.  None of the other passengers noted that anything was amiss or unusual as Harold was casually led from the gate.  As one of the lunkheads reached over to guide Harold’s suitcase behind them, Harold almost thanked him.  They moved like a school of fish flowing mostly forward in the tides of people around them.
“My name is Duncan and I have to ask you a few questions.”  The young man continued, falling into stride beside Harold, the group of anonymous men hustling them onward.  “I’m from the Company and we found some interesting samples when your lab was decommisioned.”
Harold held his tongue.  He had known that his lab would have been raided and scavenged by others in the Company, after all, he had done the same thing when he had been younger and more desperate for progress.  The bustling hallways of the airport became the silent echo-filled and dark causeways which Harold had never been in before.
“I’m here to ask you some questions, that’s all.”  Duncan turned to open a door that Harold would not have known was there unless he had seen it open before his own eyes.  He gestured inwards, indicating that Harold should head in first.  “Don’t worry, we’ll have you back on your way in no time.”
The noiseless space held not even echoes.  A spartan set-up with a table and two chairs in view of a window that Harold could not peer into.  Duncan offered Harold a seat, but did not sit himself.  Harold was handed a manila file, while Duncan refreshed both of their memories, spending some time explaining the work that Harold had done so many years ago regarding human cloning.
“And then you spent some time cloning humans.”
Harold raised a hand at that point.  He had managed to sit through the thankfully brief mangling of various abbreviations and horribly thin explanations of well-established procedures and methods, but this was too much.  “I cloned human cells.”
The young man nodded.  “Right.”  
“Without the aid of cancer cells.”  Harold rolled his eyes.  “Which had not been done with much success before.”
“Its all there in the file,”  Duncan pointed to the file which Harold had not opened or looked at.  “Do you remember any of these details?”
Harold slouched into his chair and pushed the file further away from himself.  “Yes.  My project was shut down after thirty years.  On moral grounds.”
“From the lab notebooks you kept, and interviews with other scientists, you were told to dispose of the various samples, but we found three samples with similar labelling, the dates of the project and a special four letter code, HARO.”  Duncan smirked, pleased with Harold’s reconnection with the information.  “Except, that the dates themselves, if the make and manufacture of the various dishes and plates are to be used, they’re not related to the dates of the samples.”
“They’re dates of origin.”  Harold rubbed his face with a hand.  “From the date of when the somatic cell nuclear transfer had occurred.”
“Yes, the, um, SCNT.”  
“They were the most promising failures.”
“Except your project had been shut down prior to the culturing of the tissue samples we found.”
With a sigh, Harold admitted, “Yes, the culturing occurred a long time after the project itself had been shut down.”
“Are these cultures from living people?”
“No, they’re not from living people.”  Harold equivocated.  “Officially, the project went nowhere, it was years and years of work that was tossed into the trash officially and unofficially and I forgot to toss those plates.  They’re nothing important.”

When Harold was a younger man and working on his doomed cloning project, he was forced to put in hours on his own late at night.  For many reasons, it was difficult for him to secure any resources for the project.  In addition to the other projects he endured including teaching other scientists his own methods for their separate ends as well as constant messages from his higher ups about the impropriety of his pet project, the one that he wouldn’t let die and worked on without funding.  If he were married or had a family or were a more ambitious man, he would certainly have given up early on, would have given in to the jibes of his fellow scientists and the disapproval of his manager.
Alone in the quiet, fluorescent-lit laboratory, he would attempt SCNT with human cells, a tiny and delicate operation.  Through regular light microscopy he would observe cell division sometimes, but most often, nothing happened.  Under the light, the tiny bits seemed to throb and flicker, the cells appeared to be in motion with his heartbeat, the heartbeat of the man who refused to give up.  He tossed out bins and bins of the stuff, the mysterious muck of life, of human life, not living any more.  The massive destruction and meticulous picking of data could have prompted him into an insanity which he could not recover from.
What prompted him to do this on so many nights, he could not say, no more than he could stop himself.  That he was alone, he did not really know because he could feel that he was not, so was this tiny mass, this human mass beating along with his hope, his dreams, his daring.  He could not ignore the epiphanies he had and the questions that would not die in his mind.  More and more often, the cells did divide, more and more often it took longer, weeks even, until he decided to stop a certain stage, take a sample from the incubator and trash it.
Then after a while, he could postulate on which stages would require more nutrients and cobbled a procedure of growth together which made sense, sense in the wide sense of the word because he didn’t truly know what he was doing and he had no help, could expect no help from anyone besides himself, he was the only one who believed in these tiny bits of life and what he was doing was not really creating life, but it was still exciting, life was already there and he could discover a way to move it along, move it forward.
He wasn’t moving anywhere quickly, sitting still, moving his hands slowly and steadily, then staring for hours through the lens of a microscope set on high, burning through bulbs, breaking records in time that he could spend on his pet project.  He could have called it life, but he decided to call it Harold, because it had become more important than the other projects although he spent less time on it than anything else.
One day, the cell division occurred abruptly, so abruptly that he almost didn’t have time to switch the sample out to the next phased dish, so quickly that he marvelled at it for a few hours, then swapped it out to the next phased dish.  He spent a full day in lab enjoying its brisk pace, before its division slowed visibly.  Spirits flagging, he placed it in a hallowed place within the incubator, keeping it free of contamination through the use of saran wrap, praying that he would have to move the sample to the next phased dish, an untested phase, an unknown part of the experiment, the long experiment.
A few nights later, when he finally had dragged himself away from the other projects and work, he pulled it out, his special Harold sample and gazed in rapt wonder upon it.  Differentiation was apparent, he could see differently colored bits segregating in the larger cell, the overcell.  Spotting movement not entirely attributable to his own shaking hands, he took deep breaths in and out.  He would have no choice but to continue discovery into the next phase and then the next, after so long, he would know, know whether or not he was making something human.


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November 2010

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