I didn’t look up when the door opened but continued to try and figure out just where the hell the Sirkin file was that I’d finished last night. Without warning, a deluge of paper plopped down on my desk beside my right arm and then I heard Merle Croissan, one of my researchers say, “Dig your way through that Karl. I’ve done it. I can’t believe it but I’ve actually gone and done it.”
What he may or may not have gone and done didn’t really seem all that important, considering I was still trying figure out how I could strangle him without getting damaged in the process. Merle is 6’ 2” and outweighs me by 50 pounds. I swiveled in my chair, letting my computer continue to search and regarded just what had come to a crashing stop on my desk.
It looked like a ream and a half of computer print-outs, with some sort of narrative strewn through it, just to make things difficult. I managed to contain my delight. “Merle, the next time you do that to me I swear I’m going put out a contract on you.”
“Didn’t work the last time.”
I thought about it. He was right. “Well, then I’ll sell you and your kid sister into slavery in some god-awful tropical hell-hole.”
Merle started to reply and then flinched. I did, after all, know exactly where both he and his sister, Claire, lived. I’d made damn sure it was in his personal file before I hired him.
I’m a cautious man. I have to have some means of protecting myself from insane, megalomaniac scientists; I had so many working for me.
“Sorry,” he finally ground out. It cost him some. I figured I’d consider that an indication of sincerity.
I sat back in my chair and put my hands behind my head and regarded the man who probably was one of the three best genetic researchers in the world. If he had been slightly less of a flake and if he had not been employed by Chrysalises Biosystems, my company, he would have had a Nobel Prize by now. “Okay, Merle, why don’t you give me a thumbnail sketch of just what all the paper proves. Make it march and keep it less than technically perfect, please.”
Merle started to perk up. The damn thing about truly great scientists is that they often are like little kids regarding their work. They have to tell somebody. “Okay, here we go. This . . .” he riffled through the papers and after a moment extracted three sheets stapled together. The title was in a large font, colored dark blue, but I never got a chance to read it. He flipped the first page immediately. “. . .says it all.”
“No, Merle, you say it all. To me. Now. In clear language that the layman can understand or I’m going to take your color printers away.”
He decided that had been a joke—it wasn’t—and pulled up a chair. “Okay, we’re talking genes here. Covert genes.”
“Covert genes. What the hell are covert genes?”
“Ones that are hidden. Not readily discernable because they exist in segments that don’t necessarily sit next to each other. Sometimes, they’re even spread out over several chromosomes. And some of them don’t code for proteins but RNA instead.”
“How the hell do you know—“
“—because that new process I came up with proves it. It’s that one that uses radiotracers, a mechanized sequencer and post-replication amplification. ”
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