Thursday, 24 June 2010

Excerpt Day - Max and Me © Barton Paul Levenson


The Birth Lab was enormous. A huge, circular space, the size of a football field or better, with little huts here and there and a big central building. In a ring outside the huts and the building stood tanks, and the tanks held things.

Fetuses. In green liquid.

“I can’t take this,” Max said, looking away. “I’m not gonna look.”

I didn’t blame him. Immediately in front of us floated a series of cat fetuses—black cats with a white saddle and white paws, at different stages of gestation. Early attempts at building Max. A few had grotesquely huge skulls, some with human-appearing brains spilling out the top or through the earholes. An attached device on each held a viewscreen and a keyboard—case notes, like in a hospital.

One fetus was a partial twin, two little, closed-eyed kitten faces growing from the same shoulders.

“Why would they keep these?” asked Sam wonderingly. “They should have been able to tell they were abnormal at the embryo stage.”

“God knows what they were trying to investigate,” I said. “I know for bioengineers, uterine environment plays a huge role, even aside from genes. They were probably testing different settings for the artificial wombs.”

It wasn’t what we were looking for, but we started to walk to the right, circling the tanks counterclockwise. The things held a grim fascination. If you want to have nightmares, look through a textbook on teratology just before you go to bed. Aside from the pure ickiness of malformed bodies, things like partial twinning and conjoined twinning play with your sense of personal identity. Disturbing.

Max after Max after Max, and then, suddenly, human fetuses—girls. Some showed partial cat features, tails or furry heads or whiskers. There were some cases of partial twinning, one cyclops with its nose missing, an anencephalic with her head missing above the eyebrows... Weirdness everywhere.

We came to a front desk, just like a nurses’ station in a hospital. A young woman stretched out on the floor in front of it, using the counter behind her for a pillow. Dark hair. She was short, no more than one hundred and fifty or one hundred and sixty centimeters tall. She held a Pad, reading intently.

“Miz?” I said, forgetting to speak Euroslavic.

She looked up at me and saw the gun. “Good morning,” she said in English. “Are you here to kill me?” Her voice was calm.

“No, of course not. We just didn’t know what we’d find here.” I put the gun down on the counter.

The woman stood up. “Grace and peace to you through Jesus Christ Our Lord.”

“Uh...thanks. I’m, uh, I’m Gunnar Dahlquist, from Ceres, this is Samantha Jeffries, and this is Max.”

“Hi,” Sam said shyly.

“Hello, brother,” the woman said.

Max stayed silent.

“Don’t you know me, Max?” asked the woman.

Max looked up at her. He shook his head.

“I’m Galina. Galina Kartseva. I’m your sister.”

“I, I...” Max said. “Oh, God, Galina. Galina, I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I thought you were dead.”

“You have nothing to be sorry for.”

“I forgot all about you and Natasha. I just wiped you both out of my mind completely when I heard the doctor was dead. I assumed the Belters had gotten... I don’t know what I assumed. I forgot you completely.”

“Max, it’s all right.” She went to the cat and stroked his head. She picked him up and cradled him in her arms.

“Galina, ti zabil.” Galina, I forgot you.

“You were supposed to, Max. It was part of the plan.”

© Barton Paul Levenson

Max and Me
Author: Barton Paul Levenson

Genre: Science Fiction

Publisher: Lyrical Press

Buy Link

A cat’s life isn’t always leisurely...especially if you’re a talking one.

"Gunner" Dahlquist makes a living piloting his freelanced ship, The Rockside Hopper. A cynical, but optimistic veteran of Beast War III, Gunner brought one good thing away from the wars – his roommate Max.

Max just so happens to be a talking cat.

Together, Gunner and Max pick an odd set of allies in their quest to find the truth to Max‘s creation. First, there’s the veterinary student who’s a martial arts expert and may be falling in love with Gunner. Then the Bioengineered Eastern Orthodox mystic who claims to be Max’s sister. Next is a coarse and sullen failed shape shifter experiment. Last is the infant “cereborg” who’s trillions of times more intelligent than humans...but is she a friend to Gunner and company, or is her very existence a threat to the human race?


1 Speak To Me:

Lea on 25 June 2010 at 00:55 said...

Oh no, this book sounds too different for me. "Cat fetuses"? Nope, uh uh..

Kris talked about this book at her blog...