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Side Effect
Side Effect
Side Effect
Электронная книга233 страницы3 часа

Side Effect

Автор Laura Lond

Рейтинг: 2.5 из 5 звезд

2.5/5

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Janna Sorelle is a determined young professional born and raised in Moscow, Russia, but, having French background, she considers herself French and strives to return to her “historical homeland”. Her first visit to Paris, where she goes as a translator of a rich but ill-mannered Russian businessman, turns into something totally unexpected. After a strange incident in a small restaurant, Janna is kidnapped--and this is just the beginning of an adventure she couldn’t have ever imagined. As the story unfolds, Janna finds herself working for Technotics, a huge international corporation with an advanced security system owned by the mysterious Mr. Kumidi. Janna is told that Technotics is an engineering company working on some technical research, but, as she begins to suspect, things are not that simple. There is a secret laboratory in what they call the lower level of the company building, and some of the employees seem to be not exactly human...

ЯзыкEnglish
ИздательLaura Lond
Дата выпуска19 мая 2011 г.
ISBN9781458168993
Side Effect
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Автор

Laura Lond

Laura Lond is an internationally published author of several novels and a collection of short stories. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in history. Having worked for 2 years at a literary museum, Laura entered the world of business, working for large international corporations like Xerox Ltd. and Fluor Daniel. After moving from Europe to the United States, she has been self-employed as a freelancer.

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Рейтинг: 2.5 из 5 звезд
2.5/5

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  • Рейтинг: 4 из 5 звезд
    4/5
    This book is chock full of adventure, the reader will never be bored with this story. Janna is a very exciting character who the reader will be rooting for throughout the entire book. Science fiction lovers will adore this book; readers who don't normally choose this genre might like this book, the "science" words are well defined and not too hard to understand. The reader will really get to know Janna. She is the character that is focused on throughout the novel. The plot is intricately developed, the environment Janna finds herself in is easy to picture-a quality that is not that common in science fiction novels. Excitement continues throughout the novel, there is no lag in action. The reader worries for Janna and cheers her on. This novel is great for young adults/adults who enjoy science fiction and even those who want to give the genre a try.

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Side Effect - Laura Lond

Side Effect

Laura Lond

Published by Laura Lond at Smashwords

Copyright 2011 Laura Lond

Cover design by Jason Merrick

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Chapter 1

The group of people sitting around a huge marble table in a spacious conference hall with carefully drawn window curtains was unusually quiet; none of them spoke or moved. Once in a while someone would cast a cautious glance at the clock over the door. The meeting was scheduled for 2:00 p.m., the clock showed a minute till. They were waiting for a man known here as Mr. Kumidi; however, everyone realized that his collection of names and passports was probably larger than that of his neckties. His tall armchair at the head of the table remained empty.

The gathering consisted of fifteen people, of whom two were ladies. A pair of white earphones for synchronous translation lay in front of each person, indicating that not all the participants of the meeting spoke fluent English. In the chair closest to Mr. Kumidi’s sat a frowning young man in a checkered jacket and white slacks, his casual outfit a striking contrast to strict business suits of the others. No one, however, was surprised: Parkins, one of the most influential people at Technotics Corporation who reported directly to Kumidi, liked to emphasize his privileged position. He defied dress code all the time, allowing himself most remarkable combinations of colors and styles. Parkins was known as easy going and fun, always ready with a joke, but today he was clearly not himself. Instead of chatting about some nonsense until Kumidi’s arrival, as he would normally do, he sat silent and grim. The change seemed to be caused by the presence of a new person at today’s meeting, a man of fifty or so who looked like a college professor and sat modestly in a corner, keeping his eyes down on a notepad in front of him. Everyone noticed that Parkins frowned deeper each time he would happen to glance at the man.

Mr. Kumidi showed up exactly at two and took his time walking to his seat. He never hurried and he was never late. Arnie, his ever-present bodyguard, a tall, well built man with dark hair and impenetrable eyes, overtook his boss and pulled out his armchair for him. Kumidi nodded and sat down without removing his sunglasses. He hardly ever had them off; it allowed him to freely observe people while they could only venture a guess at to where he was looking.

Several of those present saw Kumidi for the first time, the rest had been working with him for a number of years, but neither knew anything about the man. No one knew his real name, where he lived, or where he was from. The Greek last name matched his swarthy complexion; perhaps that was why he chose it for public use. He spoke Spanish sometimes, which suggested that he could be a Latino. However, his English was equally fluent, at times even sophisticated. Some assumed it was a sign of a European education and mentioned Sorbonne and Cambridge while others whispered with a quick glance over their shoulder that Kumidi had not even graduated from high school. Only Parkins knew that Kumidi intentionally kept the rumors so controversial, but even he had no idea which rumor, if any, was true.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have invited you here to present a new project, Kumidi began without long introductions. This project is going to give a completely new direction to our work. You all know about some rather annoying incidents that accompanied our attempts to infiltrate Series-R models into human society, incidents I would not hesitate to call failures. Each one called for immediate dismissal of the task underway, and extreme measures had to be taken to avoid exposure. The blame, alas, rests on the weaknesses of our product. The Series-R models, while technologically complex and practically indistinguishable on the outside, still remain machines and sooner or later make obvious mistakes, raising suspicion. The proposal of Dr. Stromberg, I think, will allow us to solve this problem.

Kumidi turned to the man who looked like a professor. You have the floor, Doctor.

The man straightened his eyeglasses and began with a strong German accent. The technology I have the honor to introduce is radically different from the developments of the Technotics Corporation. To be more precise, it has nothing to do with them.

The listeners exchanged puzzled looks; no one expected such an unusual introduction. Parkins gave a contemptuous smirk.

Your field is computers, Stromberg continued. "High technologies. Microchips. Such broad generalizations will probably make you smile, but that is all I am capable of, and you will now understand why. I am not a programmer; I am a biologist. Thus, while my laboratory is equipped with the newest achievements of computer technology, the main object of my work is something altogether different: it is live tissue. The cell. The organism. Mr. Kumidi has asked me to avoid professional terms, so I will try to make my presentation as simple as possible. The technology I am offering has no analogies in the world, and is not to be confused with the scandalous cloning. My work is founded on entirely different principles, and I may add without false modesty that we have advanced quite far. We only need one sample of blood to grow not just a fully developed adult organism but an enhanced one. Hence the technology’s name, Enhanced Biological Reproduction."

Dr. Stromberg paused and looked over his audience. One could tell that he had some lecturing experience and knew how to hold the listeners’ attention. Everyone was looking at him, mesmerized—except Parkins who sat sideways, as if not interested.

What does it mean? the doctor went on. Again, I will try to keep it simple. While the new organism is being developed, we are able to, let’s say, make our corrections. Quite extensive ones, I must add. We can significantly expand its memory and increase physical strength; we can lower, or even eliminate, sensitivity to pain. We can improve the organism’s natural regeneration to the extent that practically any wound would heal right before your eyes. Even growing back severed limbs will be possible. Moreover, the organism itself will be able to control the process.

Parkins could no longer restrain himself and asked to be heard.

Yes, go ahead, Kumidi allowed with a degree of reluctance.

I must admit that I fail to understand! Parkins attacked. What are we talking about here? The research of the esteemed doctor, no doubt, bears much interest in its own field, but how can it be even compared to what we have accomplished?! Isn’t it just ridiculous to suggest that some ‘enhanced organisms’ would be able—even partly able to—?!

He threw up his hands, unable to find words.

I mean, look at Arnie! he continued, suddenly pointing at Kumidi’s bodyguard. "Look at him! His memory holds dozens of encyclopedias, he can instantly recite any given page! He speaks six languages, and if needed he can accommodate over fifty more! He can wield any weapon, operate any kind of vehicle—ground, aerial, or underwater, you name it. He knows anatomy and is able to perform a complex surgery. He can learn any task, completely new to him, in a matter of minutes. He can climb a steep wall, jump down from a building, move at the speed of up to seventy miles per hour and stay under water for several days. With his eyes, he’ll find all craters on the Moon’s surface and tell you their depth, and his hearing surpasses military surveillance equipment! He can do anything, he forgets nothing, he knows not fear and requires no rest. With all that, he is absolutely safe and predictable, he will never divert from his program and never get out of control. And what do you propose, Doctor?… Some artificially grown beings? Have mercy! First, even if all that you’ve just described is possible, you will still never catch up with the results we have already achieved. Second, how are you going to control those creatures? Who are they? What are they? How will they behave? Can you guarantee that your Frankensteins will not turn out to be violent psychos? Can you vouch that they won’t run away as soon as they have a chance?"

Parkins ran out of breath and grew silent.

Dr. Stromberg listened, calm and composed.

Your reference to the well known piece of British literature, Mr. Parkins, is completely out of place, he said with a smile. Allow me to reassure you: I am not going to create any wild monsters. The Series-B models, as Mr. Kumidi and I have agreed to call them, will be just as obedient and predictable as the models of Series-R. A human brain is, to some degree, that same old computer, and if you know how to work with it, believe me, to program it for obedience is not much more difficult than to program your Arnie.

How can you be so sure? Parkins interrupted. From what I understand, this is still just a theory. You have not yet produced a single sample, isn’t that right?

I would not have come here, Mr. Parkins, if I did not have confidence in my work. You are correct, I have no ready product to demonstrate—yet. However, the technology is ready to be applied, and I guarantee its success. As to the abilities of my future models, both physical and intellectual—you will see what a great potential lies in the human organism, and how little it had been used.

Still! Parkins wouldn’t give up. "It makes no sense to start something so totally different. The only problem with our models is their lack of human emotions. They can’t properly react in situations where feelings are involved and are unable to understand humor. However, I have already suggested a solution for that! They can be trained to imitate emotions! Arnie is already able to recognize jokes and respond to them appropriately. Isn’t that right, Arnie, you computer-head?"

Arnie looked at him with his steely gray eyes and said, I prefer not to respond to jokes that sound too much like insults, Mr. Parkins.

See?! Parkins nearly jumped in excitement. He even gets offended! And knows how to select an adequate response! Honestly, Mr. Kumidi, sir, we don’t need any clones! We’ve almost reached our goal. Why should we make huge investments in a completely unknown field when all we need to do is just to tweak our programs? Tell me something, Doctor, he turned to Stromberg again. How much time will you need to grow your organism? Months? Years? How long until it learns to walk? Talk? Adequately behave in the society?… It takes just a few hours to assemble our model. The only thing left to do would be to fine tune it for a particular order—and that’s it!

Stromberg remained perfectly calm, his thin and somewhat elongated face with a pointed chin showed no sign of anxiety, anger, or irritation. He obviously belonged to that rare type of scientists who feel just as comfortable at a business meeting as they do in their lab, and know how to defend their work.

I admit that creating my organisms will take longer than several hours, he said. But let me also ask you a question, Mr. Parkins. How much do your models cost?

Parkins was caught off guard. …I can’t give you such information, it’s classified.

I do not need the exact figure. Is it more or less than, let’s say, one hundred thousand dollars?

"Of course it’s more, Parkins sneered. We are not talking about some laser printers here."

So there you have it: for that sum I can make over twenty Series-B models. As you see, my merchandise is much cheaper. I think this should compensate for the longer production time?

Well, gentlemen, Kumidi spoke up. "I believe everyone has found it interesting to hear both parties. Your arguments, Parkins, are not without value. However, let me remind you that the decision has already been made. You probably noticed that at the beginning of our meeting I said I wished to present the new project, not discuss it."

Parkins blinked. He had missed it, he thought the issue was going to be voted on and hoped to win the support of the others. Now he saw that his eloquence had been wasted. He was crushed, and unable to hide it that well.

Don’t be so disappointed, Kumidi said. No one’s going to scrap Series-R. It is an excellent project and it will still serve us well. The Series-B is going to be more of an extension to it. And while it is being developed, we will implement your suggestion. Teaching our models to imitate human emotions sounds like a good idea.

Parkins said nothing.

There is just one thing that concerns me a little, Doctor, Kumidi went on, turning to Stromberg. It is the matter of control over your future, uh… patients. Mr. Parkins’ fears are completely justified here. You say you are able to ‘program’ them to obedience, but you would have to agree that the term loses its definition when we are talking about living beings. How good is this ‘programming’? When is it going to be applied? How well protected will be my employees who will work with the Series-B?

Stromberg shrugged, as if surprised at such inability to understand.

Let me assure you, sir: as soon as you see our first model, all your doubts will be cleared. My programming is just as reliable as yours, it guarantees total submission. It is introduced when the organism is still being formed. Thus, the need for direction becomes its first and natural need. As to protection of the employees, I have devised what I call a control factor. That could be, for example, increased sensitivity to blue light, also incorporated while the organism is still forming. Series-B models will be practically invulnerable; however, if you turn on a blue lamp you will quickly bring them to order… In my opinion, this precaution is unnecessary, but I agree: personnel working with the Series-B might need some psychological support, and having a blue flashlight in their pocket will make them feel more secure.

Well, Doctor, I see you have thought of everything. Kumidi nodded, satisfied. He rose from his chair. We still have a lot to discuss, but this will be all for today. Ladies and gentlemen, you are dismissed. You will soon receive detailed information regarding the new project and your involvement in it. Both projects will be supervised by Mr. Parkins.

Parkins, again, remained silent. He was still in charge, despite his defeat; Stromberg was going to be reporting to him. That consoled his wounded pride somewhat, but the irritation was still there.

We also need to discuss a lot, Mr. Parkins, Stromberg said, approaching. Shall we schedule a meeting?

My assistant will get in touch with you, Parkins snapped and walked away, not waiting for an answer.

Having returned to his hotel room, Parkins ripped off his checkered jacket, hurled it to a corner and plopped on a wide velvet armchair. New project indeed! Who needs it?! As if they didn’t have enough headache already!…

He jumped up, walked to the wine rack, and grabbed a bottle. Fine. He will show this German what’s what. He’ll make it clear that impressing Kumidi does not put him in charge of Technotics, and it doesn’t mean that his puny lab now stands above everything else. He, Stromberg, will be working for them, not the other way around, and he’d better remember that… They’ll need to give him a deadline. Yes, that’s right. Tell him to finish his first clone by a certain date. If he fails, kick him out. And make him pay back the expenses. Every penny.

Someone knocked on the door.

I’m busy! Parkins yelled. It had to be housekeeping. They can drop by some other time, no big deal. He did not want to see anybody.

They knocked again, with a bit more insistence.

Who is it now!...

Parkins stomped to the door and flung it open. There towered Arnie.

Parkins turned pale. He knew better than anyone that this fellow was not so safe as he’d described at today’s meeting. It was he, Parkins, who, by Kumidi’s request, had opened up Arnie’s program and disabled some of the primary security protocols, including the violence inhibitor. Now Arnie was capable of anything. Of course, he would not make a single move without Kumidi’s order—but how was one to know what those orders were?

Hi, Arnie, Parkins said, trying to look calm. What’s up?

He saw a small reflection of himself in the robot’s gray eyes. He was completely at its mercy. No chance to escape, shut the door, or even grab something and hit the machine. Arnie would outdo him no matter what he attempted. The reaction speed of this model was sixteen times greater

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