Whatever you might have thought about Irving Allen, and there were many people who thought a lot of things about him, both good and bad, you had to admit that for an apparently nervous guy he could fake an impressive cool. Slouched in a chair in the tap room of the Yale club in Manhattan, reading Scientific American, nothing about his suave appearance, the cut of his suit, his conservative foulard tie and his immaculately manicured nails, would have given you the least impression of how fucked up his life really was. Yet behind his gold rimmed glasses lurked a shattered soul and Doctor Irving Allen, world famous biologist, was running scared.
Not that he hadn't been warned. Fred Straker his partner, president of Combinant Technologies International,( CTI ), a being who seemed to have arisen from the ashes of a cost efficiency spread sheet, had warned him many times. 'I'm sure it won't fly, Irv, real sure.'
Almost by accident, Allen had stumbled on a simple cure for cancer, a cure which had been under everyone's nose for years. 'Think of the money behind the cancer industry, blockhead,' Straker yelled, 'You may be a brilliant biologist, but when it comes to making a buck you come off retarded, it won't do, think of all the people you'll put out of work, doctors, nurses, foundations.forget it.'
Later, after the young wizard had been tinkering with transduction, cell fusion, and recombinant techniques and one day announced to Straker that cancer and life extension were two ends of the same puzzle and that he, Irving Allen, had decoded it and could keep you alive for five hundred years or more, Straker almost swallowed his cigar. 'Not a bad idea', he observed cautiously, ' but not for everyone... that wouldn't do... you can try some on me if you like, but we wouldn't want to go into production, publicize it or anything like that.' He shook his large head ponderously, 'We'd be destroyed... just think of the problem of who would get it and and who would not... think of what it would do to the fucking retirement industry, people living that long! We have to play it smart and come up with something people really need.'
'Like what?' Irving replied morosely.
His eyes turning inward, Straker frowned. 'Well for openers, why don't you go back to work on that slave idea you had? We could stop this vegetable and cattle cloning business and make some real bucks.'
Some claimed that Irving Allen's brain and his DNA were locked in some kind of symbiotic embrace and that he could shrink himself and enter the cells he was working on - such was his genius. And when he first realized that a subhuman species linked, somehow, to a protein-based artificial intelligence - that it was really possible, he chased it out of his mind as unthinkable, a golem - a bad joke. Unhappily, however he had made the mistake of mentioning it to Straker who hadn't forgotten.
'Yeah, slaves,' Straker mumbled as he paced back and forth sucking on his cigar. "Fantastic, Irving, absolutely fantastic! Why, just the other day I was reading something from some government think-tank along those same lines. They call them para-humans. Created in a lab to perform low grade jobs. Many employers hire the mentally retarded you know, the mentally retarded have been found to be the only people willing to stick with, and even take pride in such menial jobs as floor mopping and toilet cleaning. Slaves? Folks would love them and love you just like they loved Henry Ford... think how slaves could solve the energy crisis... and wasn't the wealth of the ancient world created by slaves, not to mention America as well? The Pyramids, the Roman Empire, the Ottomans and even our own Industrial Age... without slaves, wouldn't human beings still be living in caves?... great idea, really excellent. Could you make a few prototypes? Maybe something furry, something cuddly might go over big!" '
Yet not so likable people would get attached to them like you do to a pet.' Irving murmuring to himself.
'Perhaps a few scales some where," Straker suggested, "they should be cute in a weird way.and they should die young."
'More or less disposable you mean?" observed Irving.
'Absolutely", replied Straker.
And so, intrigued by the challenging aspects of the problem, Irving Allen began his odyssey, Straker funneling huge sums of venture capital meant for self-fertilizing vegetables into the project. Soon a vast underground laboratory hummed beneath the landscaped gardens of a Connecticut estate. Work progressed slowly at first as the Artificial Intelligence, which resembled an enormous gooey cauliflower, grew in its glass tank. Finally the first para-human embryo was born and nine months later, standing fully erect, covered with fur the texture of beaver, hands like a lizard, a gibbon like face stared vacantly out at them through owlish violet eyes. All that remained was for the bio-chips that communicated with the AI to be implanted in its tiny brain.
First there had been only one male and two females, but soon, thanks to the rabbit genes Irving had spliced in at the last moment, the creatures began to reproduce at an alarming rate. And as more and more pens for them spread beneath the Connecticut landscape, Irving began to have second thoughts. Had he outsmarted himself? Was it possible they might get out of control?
'Forget it, Irv baby, you've done it," Straker yelling excitedly after his first visit to the slave quarters. "In a few months we will announce this historic event to the world. You're going to be rich, rich beyond your wildest dreams. Just think, a creature programmed to work cheerfully and accurately, desiring nothing more than to follow the commands of its master. Who could ask for anything more? By the way, what do they eat?'
'Waste,' Irving sighed. 'They eat waste, garbage, human waste, chemical, atomic, you name it, they'll gobble it up.'
More than anything else in this world, Irving Allen wanted to be loved - that was his great secret. But looking at his new creations, he wondered if the reverse might not occur and his conscience began to tweak him. 'People are going to hate me', he mumbled sadly, 'I know it."
'Nonsense, you're going to be a hero,' Straker said, 'You've achieved something others have only dreamed of. But say, I've heard the Chinese are close behind us, is that true?'
'It's my understanding they're cloning themselves - their biggest and toughest,' said Irving grimly.
'Big deal!' Straker muttered
'Have you notified Greenfield?' asked Irving worriedly.
'The Greenfield Foundation knows nothing,' Straker purred. 'But the secretary of the Foundation, Larsen McKantor, is on our side. I've got his balls in my pocket.'
'But isn't the Foundation our major investor? Shouldn't they be notified?" Irving objected, 'won't they..?'
'They don't have a controlling interest... we don't tell them a thing 'til we make a public announcement and we don't do that until we get the market for this new product sewed up. You'll have to write an article for the American Medical Association or Scientific American - something vague and popular. I haven't talked to Miss Greenfield personally, no one has. She calls McKantor on the phone. No one has seen her for thirty years."
'Clever woman," Irving sighed.
'Eccentric old bitch if you ask me," grumbled Straker.
A few weeks later on a Saturday night as he was working late and feeling particularly vulnerable, Irving's phone rang.
'Mr. Allen?', asked a lilting voice he had never heard before.
'Speaking,' Irving murmured cautiously.
'Glad to find you in Mr. Allen, Rae Greenfield speaking.'
'Miss Greenfield?" Irving was suddenly wide awake, 'What can I do for you?'
'You must stop this ridiculous slave project at once, that's what you can do,' came the stern reply. "I know all about what you're doing... got the goods on you.'
There was a long silence during which Irving had a quick flashback of his mother spanking him for hiding in a closet.
'I've been in touch with your partner, Mr Fred Straker,' her voice continued. 'He's an ass!'
'You might be right,' Irving agreed, wanting to get rid of her as fast as possible, her words dredging up his worst fears, fears that uncontrolled research, triumphant technique and instrumental reason were addictive and that he'd become just another white-coat-junkie - worse, some sort of Frankenstein - worse than that, a successful Frankenstein.
That night, falling asleep at his desk, he dreamed bad dreams - demonic visions of rebellious slaves copulating in the streets, multiplying like rats, rising up to slaughter humans in scenes of unbelievable violence. Waking suddenly, he staggered blindly to his office bar, gulped down half a pint of vodka and, fearing he might fall asleep again, did five lines of cocaine.
It was well after midnight and except for two guards above ground, not a creature was stirring. Rushing to a closet where he kept a loaded automatic weapon, he wrenched it from its rack and staggered down the passage way to the slave quarters where, swaying slightly, he gazed at his creations who stared back at him with large blank unblinking eyes. Then, herding the hundred and fifty or so submissive creatures into one large cell, he mowed them down and locking the door proceeded to his own private laboratory where he drained the tank where the gelatinous artificial intelligence exisisted and reduced the rest to rubble.
'The end. That's the end of that,' screamed Irving, breathlessly panting over and over again, returning finally to his office where he assembled all his important research papers and calmly left the grounds of the Connecticut estate which housed his lab. Saluting the two guards as he drove away through the front gate, a few hours later he was at Kennedy Airport, mailing his papers to an address in Wyoming which Rae Greenfield had given him, and boarded the first plane out.
Now at this point you, my reader, may very well wonder who is telling this story. My name is Buck Adams. As a youth I gambled away a fortune in Las Vegas and other casinos around the world. Now I'm an organic farmer living on a homestead in West Virginia with my wife and two children.
So how would I know about Irving Allen, The Yale Club, Combinant Technologies Int. and all that?
And what if I told you this story was told to me by a dog that talked? Your suspicion that I might be a nut case would be confirmed. You don't believe talking dogs exist, but wait, don't go away. Talking dogs do exist. Here are a few examples:
Item 1. In the 1940's, 'Blitz', an eighty pound Shepard owned by Arthur J Devlin of the Bronx,New York, put his paws on the bar of a tavern in Brooklyn and was heard to say, "I want a hamburger." The Bartender almost passed out and the next day 'Blitz' was interviewed by Paul Phelan of the New York Sun and was heard to say, "Dogs would talk more but are afraid to."
Item 2. 'Chris the mathematical mongrel' from Warwick, Rhode Island. Chris appeared on television in the early days. He didn't talk, but communicated with his paw. He could add, subtract, multiply and do square and cube roots. Two engineers from the DuPont corporation asked him a question of computer complexity which he solved in six minutes. Later he became telepathic and clairvoyant, assisted the police department of Warwick in finding both objects and missing persons, forecast changes in the weather and predicted within one day the year and month of his death in 1962. Once he spoke and was heard to say, 'The words dogs speak the most are, I want my mommy.'
Item 3. The Famous Dogs of Mannheim: Rolf and his daughter Lola.
Rolf' an Airedale Terrier once spoke the following words: "The book amused Lol very much... Daisy must see it." (Lol was Rolf's name for himself. Daisy was a Cat.) "animals gladly learn... book makers lie... The Christ child comes... Mother fetches it... Horses shall have trees... Many Kisses. Lol (Rolf) wanted the horses to have Christmas trees in their stable because he knew they loved them.
Rolf's daughter Lola was born January 27, 1914. She was very emotional and often cried. She learned to count, was taught the alphabet and developed an acute sense of time including keeping track of the days of the week, the month and the year. Lola had a prodigious memory. She learned to read, learned to recognize the notes in musical scales and could do complex fractions and square roots. Once when asked whether she would like to be a human being she replied, 'No, because of work.' 'Do you want me?" asked her owner, Frau Mockel. 'Yes, constancy in love,' replied Lola.
And then there was Kurwenal.
Item 4. Kurwenal was a Dachshund trained by Baroness von Frey Loringhaven. Max Muller met Kurwenal and wrote, 'This dachshund is more in the sphere of humans than animals. The dog shows what a wrong attitude we have toward educated dogs, how much animals understand us, and how very little we understand them.' Shortly before Kurwenal died in 1937 he was asked what he thought about death. "I am not afraid of it," he replied, "dogs have souls and they are like the souls of men."
Item 5. In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a dog appeared to two policemen on a fine June morning in 1912, said, 'Good Morning,' and vanished in a puff of green smoke. The event was duly recorded in the New York Sun of that year.
The universe that surrounds us is vibrating with conscious waves.
Now that I've cleared up that issue let's continue. Our homestead was located thirty-five miles from the nearest town in an area of West Virginia famous for flying saucer sightings. Living with me were my wife Charlotte and our two children, four horses, a mule, three goats, two cows, fourteen hens, eight peacocks, a pet crow, a tom cat Ezra and a female hound who went by the improbable name of Pansy.
Pansy was a canine femme fatal, if there ever was one. You couldn't take a walk with her without running in to some stray male dog panting away behind a bush or crawling through the grass on his belly. When Pansy came in heat she had to be locked in an over sized dog house. And once when her romantic period coincided with an August full moon, a big male hound came courting and gnawed his way through the two inch thick wooden door.
Real love...yeah! And when they were through I brought that stud a big plate of lard and fresh corn bread and sat down to watch him eat.
It was then I noticed by a tag which hung from his collar that he belonged to an elderly couple who had recently moved to a property about twenty miles away. On the tag was inscribed, 'My name is Julius D Nibble. I live at Moon Fire
Creek Farm, please call 756 -8153.'
'Well, Nibble old boy,' I said, 'I guess you must be pretty tired after all that
action and now you seem to be lost. Better let me drive you home.'
"Not me, I can make it home, don't worry." Came a deep but polite voice just as clear as you can hear me now. I was so surprised I almost jumped out of my skin. 'I can see you hear me,' the voice went on unperturbed, 'don't be afraid.'
'I can hear you alright but where the hell are you?' I replied.
"I'm afraid I'm the dog," replied the voice apologetically, "My name is Julius D. Nibble. I've tried communicating with a number of humans, but you're the first one who's been able to receive me."
Now you may not be surprised to hear it, but life in the mountains of West Virginia can get monotonous. Winters can be long. For days the fog can hang in hammocks between the mountains and all there is, is the drip, drip, drip from the eaves of your house, the constant roar of the creeks in spate plunging away into the valley, the whirring of quail in the underbrush, the occasional murmur of Evening Grosbeaks huddled in the jack pines.
So you can well imagine how excited I was at discovering this amazing creature. A talking dog! Perhaps he wasn't a dog at all, I began to feel, but some extra terrestrial. Soon after, however. he began coming around regularly and became great friends with Charlotte and children, but I made it clear to him from the very beginning that he was not to talk to my family and that any conversations between us would be carried on in the barn when we were alone.
"What do you think of my story so far?" Nibble asked a few days later folding one big paw over the other.
Well,' I said, more struck by his distinguished demeanor than by his tales, 'I can't exactly say.
"You think Irving Allen did right in destroying his invention?" Nibble persisted.
Oh, of course, I replied, trying to sound sympathetic, 'and he must have done a very good job for I've never seen one.
"Just hope you never will," Nibble sighed, his nose cautiously twitching.
But is that the end of it? I asked, this Irving Allen character, wasn't he getting on a plane? Or sitting at the Yale Club?
Nibble stared off into space, as if trying to remember something terribly important. "Dr Irving Allen had returned to New York and was sitting in a dark corner of the Yale Club, hiding behind a magazine and thinking about his escape after he destroyed his Lab."
"What about it?"
The magazine Dr Allen was reading.
"Yes, of course... but at the Yale Club... the tap room was filling up with luncheon guests and Irving was waiting for a young lady to join him. Glancing at his watch impatiently, he realized he'd expected her to be late... an old habit of hers, the sort of one-upsmanship one picks up at Yale... Crystal Wells, graduate of Yale Law. Irving was a Princeton man himself, later MIT and after that Berkeley, and felt a natural antagonism toward Yalies. But about Crystal there was something else which made him sigh: she was too young and too attractive! His stomach was rumbling now... how dismal of her to keep him waiting in a place where she knew very well he might be recognized... and after he'd flown thousands of miles to see her."
"He ordered and drank two more martinis and his mind began to drift. Exactly why had he suddenly come here, he asked himself and concluded he was throwing himself into the arms of his attorney...and who wouldn't? His mind snapped back to that hotel in San Juan where he'd first stayed after he'd shot his creatures and disappeared. San Juan and Marianne Escobar, the girl he'd met on the beach his first day there. Luscious thighs. Soft arms in which he'd felt so warm and secure. But It was in San Juan that sweaty paranoia had first gripped him - right there in that unforgettably comfortable bed in a room drenched with moonlight overlooking a romantic palm-fringed beach, air heavy with the scent of jasmine. Marianne had been on top of him, her fabulous body churning ecstatically against his. The scene was still so clear he could even remember his sadness at thinking how the recombinant techniques he'd developed might make all this fun obsolete. And then it happened. Suddenly a masked man appeared on the balcony outside the window. There were three shots and Marianne was dead on top of him, right in the middle of his orgasm. Was it any wonder he was feeling strange? Even as he had lain there helplessly feeling the life go out of her, he knew the real target had been himself. A plot against him had been put in place. But by whom and why?"
"His fourth drink calmed him down. No doubt Crystal would be able to unravel everything but where was she? The room was filling up. Soon people would be standing around eying his half empty banquette. Perhaps it would be better if they went to his apartment at the UN Plaza, and had lunch there in bed...where he could explain everything. What he needed was sleep...sleep and sex and more sex. Anything to forget what was happening."
"After the episode in San Juan, he'd flown to L.A. and hidden in the Bel Air home of his old friend, Xena. If anyone could be trusted it would be
Xena. Her place was well protected by private police and guards at the gate, but it was not to be. Even with Xena, as they were gaily driving one day to lunch in Malibu, they'd been sideswiped by a big maroon Mercedes with taped over plates... not once but twice. Had it not been for Xena's expert driving, they would have been forced over the embankment and into the sea. Downing his fifth martini, Irving Allen realized that by the time Crystal arrived he was going to be smashed. Why had he let himself be talked into coming here of all places, practically around the corner from Combinant Technologies headquarters? He sighed and blew his sunburned nose. CTI his brain child... how could anyone understand the dilemma of being a genius, the paranoia of scientific achievement, the horror of being pursued by faceless enemies?"
"Yes, just now on Forty Seventh Street, hadn't it happened again? Hadn't a man wearing a lifelike mask, driving a taxi of all things, tried to hit him? It had happened so fast no one had even noticed, but it had happened - hadn't it? First there had been the glint of a windshield in the sun, then he'd seen the face behind it, a pale mask with stringy red hair. He'd been crossing between the cab and the rear end of a limousine. Suddenly the limo moved, the cab lurched forward, and he had to jump quick to keep from being run over. Yelling at the cab, he ran after it trying to see its license number, but it sped away. Yes, and no one had even glanced aside to see what was happening... such were the series of strange coincidences that were plaguing the life of Dr. Irving Allen."
Have a doggie bone,' I interrupted. 'Your story is fascinating.
"Thank you." Nibble smiled, his upper lip curling over his teeth in a peculiar way. Crunching the doggie bone between his powerful jaws, he continued. "Well, of course, just as Irving had given up hope, this young woman Crystal arrives, sauntering in through the lunch crowd, her pink knit suit clinging in all the right places, her blond hair bouncing in a wake of hungry eyes."
"All the way up from her office in Lower Manhattan, Crystal Wells had been asking herself why she bothered with Irving. Among the many young millionaires she came in contact with, he certainly wasn't the type she was usually attracted to. Perhaps it was the boredom of being an attorney that made Irving's craziness seem so attractive; after all, she hadn't planned on going into law. On graduating with honors from Berkeley, she'd landed herself a job as a stringer for the Washington Post, moved to Hollywood, bought herself a jade green Alfa Romeo to cruise around in and soon found herself a handsome six foot lover called Duke who'd dropped out of Yale Law to grow Cannabis in Hawaii. She'd been covering a conference of nations bordering the Pacific Basin when she met Duke in a bar in Honolulu. The next morning they'd flown in his chopper to Maui where she spent the next three years loving and hating him."
"Duke the Dreadful, as he was known, was a great lover but not very easy to live with. When their relationship simmered down and they began to argue a lot, Duke suggested that maybe Crystal would make a good lawyer, gave her the proceeds of one of his crops and packed her off to New Haven. After graduating a few years later at the top of her class, she'd entered a prestigious Wall Street firm and met Irving at a Yale-Princeton game."
"It was one of those archetypical meetings," Nibble continued, using one of the big words he later became famous for. " A cocktail party... Irving's eyes met hers across a crowded room... hooked her with their doleful expression and before the night had ended, she found herself in bed with him."
So after a year's absence, Irving's sitting in the tap room of the Yale Club waiting impatiently for Crystal to arrive?
"Yes," Nibble replied, "and finally she arrived."
'Sorry, I'm late,' Crystal smiled apologetically, taking Irving's trembling hand in hers to look at his watch. 'Am I really that late?'
'As you can see by the state I'm in...' Irving swaying slightly, 'I was punctual. I'm afraid now I've had too many drinks.'
'You look terrible,' Crystal commented.
'That's a fine thing to say after a whole year,' Irving complained, letting his hand slide under the table to her knee - touching her always made him feel secure.
'Aren't you hungry?' she asked. 'Hadn't we better order?'
'Hungry, but not for food,' Irving muttered, 'let's get out of here... we can have lunch at my place in bed, this place is giving me the jitters.'
"Protesting a busy schedule at the office that morning, Crystal asked for a glass of wine and catching the attention of a waiter, Irving ordered a bottle of champagne."
'Mmm,' Crystal murmured. 'Mmm..um,' Irving murmured back.
"Returning with the bottle, the waiter reached inside his uniform for a corkscrew. Suddenly Irving noticed the waiter was wearing a flesh colored face mask with red hair. Time stopped. Instead of a corkscrew, the waiter had withdrawn a silenced pistol which he was pointing at them. A terrible stench filled Irving's nostrils as the waiter squeezed the trigger, Crystal screamed and white light exploded everywhere."
© Elwyn Chamberlain 2009