F Paul Wilson - Sims 04

 

 

 
 
         
 
Zero

 

 

1

 

 
          
MANHATTAN

 
          
DECEMBER
15

 
          
“This
is fabulous!” Patrick shouted, venting his glee.

Ab-so-lute-ly
faaaaabulous
!”

 
          
He
shuffled in a circle around the cracked concrete floor, punching the air,
wanting to laugh aloud but fearing if he ever let himself get started he might
not be able to stop.

 
          
Zero
had called
Romy
and him to a meeting here in the
garage without hinting at what it might be about. Patrick wished he could have
watched Zero’s face, especially his eyes, as he’d laid the news on them about a
sim
made pregnant by a human. He hadn’t been able to
fathom the mystery man’s feelings through the ski mask and shades, but Patrick
knew exactly how he felt. Suddenly his whole world had burst wide open in a
blinding blaze of glory. Lawyers dream about an opportunity like this. Dream,
hell, most of them didn’t even have the capacity to imagine something like
this.

 
          
It
was a home run.

 
          
In the bottom of the ninth.

 
          
With
the bases loaded.

 
          
On Christmas Day.

 
          
With a winning lotto ticket waiting in the dugout.

 
          
Life
was good, life was
sooooo
good!

 
          
Finally
he turned back to
Romy
and Zero. As usual, Zero hung
back in the shadows;
Romy
stood by the panel truck;
both were watching him as if he were mad. He glanced up at the square of
darkness in the ceiling above the ladder fastened to the rear wall. No eyes
peering at him this time. But even if there were, it wouldn’t have fazed him.
Not today.

 
          
“I
get a feeling I’ve made Mr. Sullivan’s day,” Zero said, ostensibly to
Romy
.

 
          
“I
think you made his year,” she said, her expression troubled.

 
          
Patrick
couldn’t figure that. She should be beaming.

 
          
“Year?”
he cried. “This makes my life! A baby with a
sim
mother and a human father! Don’t you see what this means?”

 
          
“Of
course,” Zero said. “Undeniable proof that humans and
sims
can cross-fertilize.”

 
          
“Right!
And that means they have to be upgraded into the
same category as humans.”

 
          
“It’s
called ‘genus,’” Zero said, “not category.”

 
          
“Oh,
right.” He’d never found science very interesting. No juice.
“Genus
and species.
We’re Homo
sapiens ,
right? So
what genus
are
sims
?”

 
          
“Start
with the root: the animal kingdom; from there you move to the
Chordata
phylum, then to the
Mammalia
class. The next divisions are known as ‘orders.’ Humans, apes, monkeys, even
tree shrews are all members of the Primate order. But after that we branch into
different families. Chimps, gorillas, and orangutans are classified as members
of the
Pongidae
family, while humans are the only
existing members of the
Hominidae
family.”

 
          

Pongidae

Hominidae
,” Patrick
said, rolling the unfamiliar words over his tongue. He guessed scientists were
like lawyers, using dead languages to confuse and confute.

 
          
“Even
before
sims
were created,” Zero was saying, “there
were movements in the scientific community to shift chimps to the
Hominidae
family, and they might have succeeded if not for
SimGen
. Once
SimGen
got into the
act, the movement ran out of gas.”

 
          
Romy
said, “I’ve never understood how one corporation could
wield so much influence.”

 
          
“Money,”
Zero said.

 
          
Her
brow furrowed. “I can see that working where legislation is involved, but how
can you buy a scientific classification?”

 
          
“With grants.
The right amount of money to the right
universities to see the right man as head of the right department, and suddenly
there are more important concerns than to which family Pan
troglodytes
belong. And so chimps stayed
Pongidae
.”

 
          
“Pan
troglodytes,” Patrick said. “That’s the chimp genus and species, right?”

 
          
Zero
nodded. “And
sims
are known
as Pan
sinclair
is of the family
Pongidae
.”

 
          
“Pan
sinclairis
,” Patrick said,
shaking his head. “Talk about ego.” Then he grinned. “But no amount of grants
is going to keep them out of
Hominidae
once word gets
out about this baby. We’ll move them up to the Homo genus and get them a brand
new name: Homo
simiens
.
How does that sound?”

 
          
“It
sounds like the end of
SimGen
,” Zero said.

 
          
“Damn
right. Move
sims
to genus
Homo, they become humans. And since owning a human hasn’t been legal since the
Emancipation Proclamation,
SimGen
loses everything.
Tome and I are going to lead the biggest class action lawsuit this world has
ever seen. The tobacco settlements will look like chump change. Every
sim
will have a Caddy and a condo, and the Sinclair
brothers, when I’m through with them, will be living on the street.”

 
          
Patrick
waited for a reaction—a laugh, a cheer, encouragement, anything—but Zero
remained silent behind his shields, while
Romy
frowned and seemed to be miles away.

 
          
“I
won’t even take the customary thirty or forty percent,” he added. “I’ll settle
for one point.”
Plus expenses, of course.
He could
handle one percent of a zillion—last him the rest of his life and then some.

 
          
Still no reaction from either of them.
He felt like a singer
with a dead mike.

 
          
Finally
Zero stirred, lacing his gloved fingers and popping the knuckles. “All fine and
good, Patrick, but your scenario is missing one crucial element: You need
proof.”

 
          
“Oh.
Yeah.
Right.”

 
          
No
arguing with that: no pregnant
sim
, no case.

 
          
“And
we can’t offer five million for a tip.”

 
          
“No,”
Patrick said, “but maybe you can intercept that tip.”

 
          
“How
do you propose I do that?”

 
          
“Obviously
you’ve got a line into the heart of
SimGen
.”

 
          
He
noticed Zero stiffen into a wary pose.
“Obviously?”

 
          
“Sure.
How else could you come by all this inside
information.
I don’t know if it’s a person or a bug, and I don’t want to know. What I’m
saying is, if we can intercept the crucial tip, or even get it at the same time
SimGen
does, maybe we can reach this
sim
—”

 
          
“She’s
got a name:
Meerm
.”

 
          
“See?
You even know her name. So if we can use the tip to reach her before
SimGen
does, we’re golden.”

 
          
Zero
shook his head. “I doubt that’s possible. All tips will be directed to Luca
Portero
, and he’s not the type to share information, even
with the
Sinclairs
.”

 
          
“Well…,”
Patrick said slowly, discarding a new idea immediately, but voicing it just to
get a rise out of
Romy
. “He does have the
hots
for
Romy
…”

 
          
“Don’t
even think about it,” she snapped.

 
          
“Joke,
Romy
.”
At least she’d been
listening. “Are you okay?”

 
          
She
shook her head. “Not really. Something about this bothers me. How can a
sim
and a human cross-fertilize? Sims
have
twenty-two chromosome pairs and humans have twenty-three. Somewhere along the
line they’re not going to match up, and a pair of chromosomes is going to be
left hanging.”

 
          
“Not
necessarily,” Zero said. “Look at the mule. Its father is a donkey, which has
thirty-one pairs and its mother is a horse, which has thirty-two, though both
are members of the genus
Equus
.
Mules have been around for ages with no problems from the
dangling chromosomes, other than the fact that they’re usually sterile.”

 
          
Romy’s
frown deepened. “Then this baby, if it’s ever born,
will probably be sterile too.”

 
          
“We’ll
have to see. We’re in uncharted territory here.”

 
          
“So
a mule,” Patrick said, “is the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse.
What if it’s the other way around?”

 
          
“That’s
a less common combination, but then you get something called a hinny. They look
like mules but tend to be smaller because most donkeys are smaller than
horses.”

 
          
“Where
do all these fascinating tidbits of animal husbandry leave us?” Patrick said.

 
          
“With the realization that, given a fertile
sim
,
a human-
sim
hybrid is a very real possibility.”

 
          
“I
keep thinking about that baby,”
Romy
said. “What’s
going to happen to it? Who’ll take care of it? And being neither
sim
nor human, what place will it have in the world?”

 
          
Zero’s
tone softened. “Until we find
Meerm
I suggest you put
off worrying about the baby. Given your nature, I know that won’t be easy, but
your own safety should be at the top of your list right now. You won’t be able
to help that baby if anything happens to you.”

 
          
Patrick
felt the muscles between his shoulder blades tighten. “What do you mean,
‘happens’?”

 
          
He
sighed. “You haven’t heard the whole story yet.”

 
          
“What
are you holding back?”

 
          
“Nothing.
I never had a chance to finish. Your war dance got
us off track.”

 
          
Romy
eyed Zero. “There’s a poor, frightened
sim
whore out there pregnant by a human degenerate. Isn’t
that enough?”

 
          
“I
never mentioned a whore,
sim
or otherwise.”

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