The Icarus Agenda by David Macfie
Doctor Isabel Farnsworth removed her glasses and rubbed her tired eyes. Her research had become all-consuming and she had a feeling that she might be close to another breakthrough. Luckily she had no family to distract her from her purpose but, sometimes she knew she was too driven. She had that thought again now, but pushed it away and refocused on the microscope.
Specialising in genetics and specifically genetic engineering, her current project was to create evolutionary advances in the human species by adjusting the arrangements of genes in the DNA structure. Her aim was to suppress unwanted characteristics and encourage new ones that were beneficial to the continued development of humanity. She also had a side project that she hadn’t told anyone about in which she was trying to introduce completely new genes that she was constructing herself. Already, she’d discovered how to eradicate baldness in men and ‘going grey with age’ in both sexes. In another, more meaningful breakthrough, she’d found a way to stimulate and strengthen the metabolism so that obesity could be controlled and cholesterol managed. As a direct consequence of this, heart attacks had been erased as a cause of death.
Among the other things that she’d found out how to do, there were a number she considered trivial and cosmetic. Things like adding purple, red, yellow and orange to the range of eye colors and total eradication of body hair everywhere except on the head. She had been so successful that she was close to a Nobel Prize in medicine, but she wasn’t satisfied.
All these things had been scientifically challenging but not material to the advancement of the species. She wanted something more relevant, bigger and more significant like increasing the average lifespan to a hundred and fifty or making the birth rate absolutely controllable with perfect babies every time. And her side project focused on modifying humans to enable alternative environments to be populated. This would, she hoped, allow humanity to live under the sea or on planets with differing conditions than on earth. She was working on one such evolutionary advancement right now and she was close, she could feel it.
Earlier in her career, she had discovered one other thing that she hadn’t announced. She’d kept it secret because it was key to the future discoveries she hoped to make before anyone else could. That discovery was how to introduce genetic changes, into adult humans, in such a way that they became retrospective and affected the living subject. For a while now she’d been working with a two volunteers, who shared a dream with her and who had already been modified in several ways that fitted in with the evolutionary adaptation that would fulfil the dream. Just to give herself a break she went to see them.
Don and Jane Falconari were brother and sister of Italian descent and they were humbled and honored to be part of this project. So far the gene modifications they’d experienced had significantly altered their body shapes and masses.
“Hi Guys,” greeted Isabel. “You look perfect. I’m ready to go to the next step. How do you feel about it? Do you have any concerns or questions?”
“Hello, Doctor,” replied Jane, who had become the spokesperson of the duo. “We’ve been through this enough already to answer all our questions, and we feel ready, willing and able. We’ve completed all the targeted training we worked out together and we think we’re fit and strong enough for the next step. So let’s just do it.”
“Good. Follow me.”
The doctor led the way back to the lab, where she used a technique she’d invented herself, to introduce several specially engineered genes into her volunteers’ DNA. Over the next three weeks she carefully monitored all of the changes that gradually took place. Everything worked just as she’d predicted and the results were spectacular. After the evolutionary changes reached maturity, Don and Jane completed some additional training and tested every aspect of their modified bodies. Then they were champing at the bit to execute the final experiment. All the preparations were completed and Isabel drove to a nearby flying club.
There the trio climbed into a waiting plane where they wriggled into parachutes that had already been packed. The co-pilot helped them to hook up the radios that would allow communication with each other and with the pilots. Finally, Isabel hooked into a harness that carried the video camera that would record everything that happened during the experiment.
The co-pilot went to the front and the engines started. Quickly, the plane taxied to the end of the runway, turned and immediately accelerated into the takeoff. After the machine left the ground, the pilot gained height rapidly by flying upwards in a tight helix. Once they reached the jump height, final adjustments were completed, then the co-pilot slid open the door. The trio shuffled into place and Isabel jumped out. As soon as she was clear she pulled her chord and turned to start the recording. She signed to the plane and Don jumped out, closely followed by his sister. Both dived in free-fall to catch up with Isabel then pulled their chords. The trio took up a tight formation so that Isabel’s filming got the clearest images and the two volunteers made some final adjustments.
“We’re ready,” said Jane over the radio. Don nodded and so did the doctor.
“Right, we’re going to cut the strings,” said Jane. Instantly she and Don fell out of their parachutes. They went into free fall to get clear of their dropping equipment, then spread their newly developed wings. With a couple of flaps they took station next to Isabel. She filmed while the siblings experimented with their newly evolved ability.
“Mankind has dreamt of this moment since long before Icarus crashed and drowned,” came the doctor’s voice. “And now it’s real. Humans can fly at last.”