He had long named his car “Red” which was a touch of humor, being as it was black. The pair sped along the highway, sensors on the self-aware car kept them from losing control around the dumb modes of transportation. They moved along faster than the flow of traffic.
He was late. He ordered the emergency call to the leaders of geneticists, physicians and associated scientists the night before. But on his exit of his gated community, Anti-Vaxxers blocked the road, protesting his teams newest vaccine that suppressed genital warts in those that had it and prevented infection to those that were not previously exposed.
And now he was late, having to wait for the police to respond and clear the road of the two-dozen people who based their objections on the preachings of a holy man who declared that the vaccine interfered with the wrath of god on women having out-of-wedlock sex.
Doctor Camane Minouche raced in his small car. The picnic blanket sliding back and forth on the small shelf behind him as he took corners that challenged gravity. He was held in his seat only by belts and the intelligent post-war car that used the some fifty-thousand sensors around and inside the machine to keep the Doctor safe and secure.
Into the parking lot they flew, dust and cats ran from the speeding, wheeled missile. The team of machine and human. The Doctor spoke to the car, but it was a one-way conversation only. Long ago, the car chose to keep the self-awareness and abilities to it’s own heart.
“Faster, faster.” The Doctor whispered out loud while he typed the finishing touches on his presentation and saved the graphics to the fingernail drive. “Flippin’ late!”
The car calculated he would be five-minutes behind the clock no matter what it could do, they had made up twenty-minutes on the highway, blowing through a speed-trap and a drone traffic enforcement attempted to pull them over, but was left far behind as the small car jammed radio frequencies and applied greater power to the wheels while the Doctor read and re-read his report and talked on the phone.
Only once did Camane look up and give the command to throttle back, he became alarmed at the speed that the stripes in the road were passing by.
They were traveling over two-hundred kilometers-per-hour at that time. So Red-the-black-car dialed the speed back.
Never would the Doctor know that their speed was nearly fifty-percent faster before he looked up.
Tires smoked slightly when Red wheeled into the parking lot, Camane jumped out of the small car and ran up the steps to the door, nearly forgetting his briefcase in the process.
The picnic blanket slid to the edge of the seat, filling the interior of the car with its piquant odor of grass, sun and laughing memories that were lost to the Doctor as he headed to the meeting with the panel of public health care leaders.
Still straightening his tie, Doctor Minouche set his papers on the podium and cleared his throat and put on some reading glasses.
He did not need the glasses, he had read the reports so many times, he had it memorized.
Pulling out a fingernail sized USB memory stick, he pushed it almost flush into the display and picked up the remote control, advancing forward to the infographics.
“Thank you for your patience, there are some folks in this world that don’t seem to appreciate my appointment schedule.” The audience chuckled as he drew a breath. “Ladies and gentlemen. Due to an undisclosed cold-war era disaster, the human race has approximately two-hundred years of viability left.”
He looked up and moved the informational graphic forward one frame.
“In the latter-half of the twentieth century, countries that had ruled with racist laws to keep people separate, developed a short-lived virus based on a s-oi virus, they then released this virus in general population of a prison in a country on the African continent to reduce the numbers of “Undesirable elements” in their society. During this time, one United States Warrant Officer stationed at the Embassy there, returned home on leave in a three-to-twenty-one day window after the government inoculated prisoners with this virus with aerosol dispersion.” He flipped the page and changed to the next infographic. “Sometime during this period, one or more of the prison population escaped or released. The airborne infection at the time was mild-to-moderate and considered a failure by the government.”
The infographic leading up to a negative response.
“This resulted in a failure of followup on infected and released prisoners.” He pressed the button on the remote again and changed to the US. “In the meantime, Warrant Officer Pers Hershey was exposed, left without feeling any symptoms and returned to the United States. Records indicate that he passed through the system at Fort Dix, but portions are missing. We only know he was seen for a low-grade fever and mild vertigo. At some point he came in contact with other recruits and became Patient-Zero for the swine-flu outbreak in and around Fort Dix.”
The Doctor clicked forward to the next frame, showing infection rates among recruits.
“At this point, one death and a number of people infected with this virus that could be described as a collection of poorly assembled DNA moving about in loose formation.” He pointed to the Capitol of the United States. “At this time, alerted to the outbreak, the government issued vaccines against the H1N1 Swine flu. The debacle that followed was poorly understood as why it occurred. Theories focused of the vaccine’s adverse reactions.”
A click again, changing the screen of his infographic presentation.
“This was, in fact, a reaction to the existing infection that was ongoing but alerted no one due to the mild nature of the infection. While they intended the vaccine to prevent infection, due to the influenza that the laboratory overseas constructed with, considered even by mid-seventies standards as archaic, no one realized they dealt with an ongoing infection.”
Another infograpic of two virus’ interacting.
“The unintended response of the existing virus to the vaccine that the government distributed nationwide, the virus was altered and increased the transmission rate and capability while mitigating the physical symptoms of fever and muscular aches.”
A hand raised.
“Doctor…” The woman spoke up. “I’m Doctor Sheena Westlake, Director of Emergency Services at Metro-Memorial Medical Center. This is not an emergency, you are giving us ancient history, both our vaccines and detection are generations past those days.”
“Hi Doctor Westlake, we met a few years ago at a coffee Klatch conference.” He nodded. “Yes, this is history, but please bear with me, I am nearly finished.” He smiled. The dark-skinned woman was beautiful, if built like a door with square shoulders and the look of a warrior when roused . “The combined DNA of the first generation technology influenza and the vaccine combined and created a world-wide pandemic that was so mild in symptomatology, no one pursued the effects.”
He pressed the forward button again, displaying a slide of twenty-three chromosomes overhead.
“Y-mediated infertility has been the problem since the seventies. It is progressive and becoming widespread. The mild nature of the influenza, no one followed up on the effects of the virus. The damage is irreversible and the results are no male children are born. Since ten-years after the initial pandemic that the rare person ever saw their doctor and fewer still had bloods drawn. “
“So Doctor what are you saying?” Doctor Westlake asked again. “Boys are going to be born brain-damaged?”
A chuckle from one side of the room.
“Aren’t they all? At least until they are eighteen.”
Doctor Minnouche laughed.
“In this case, you are correct. Male versus female births have fallen out of balance in recent years.” He continued. “In short, at the rate of damage and the skewed birth ratios between genders with female births dominating at this time in history, in the next few generations, the male of the human race will become an endangered species, pushed towards extinction in about one hundred-fifty years, and the human race will become non-viable in about two-hundred years.”
“I’ll take questions now.”
Another hand raised.
“Professor Fenix Stone, Atlantic Bay University of Biological Sciences, Bar Harbor.” An older man, with intense black eyes, seemingly born before there was hair. “How can you estimate the damage to the y-Chromosome from that one event?”
“Thank you professor.” The Doctor frowned. “We have had samples from a broad spectrum of people for hundreds of years. My team, consisting of over two-hundred professionals as of last month, have collected said samples from every source that could be dated. The y-chromosome has been steadily decreasing in size over millions of years, but since the swine flu of the mid-seventies, the gene that was part of the genetically modified virus has spread, and destroyed parts of the male gene. We have the good fortune, if you would like to call it that, to have obtained a sample that has remained frozen and forgotten in the biological research facility where they kept this virus in deep-freeze storage, along with the notations of one Doctor Van Skeet, who, as best we can ascertain, died in an accident relating to his research.”
The Doctor paused.
“He became infected with his own monster with a lack of sufficient protective protocols.”
“This is wrong. There is no way to target just the y-chromosome.” A voice from the back called out.
“Actually, yes, just because it is not in our history of doing so does not mean we cannot. We have identified genes on bacillus and virus for years and creating vaccines against them.”
“Can we stop this damage to our genome?” Another voice asked.
“No, the damage is done. It was a biological weapon designed to do what it did, but the government then assumed the illness was self-limiting, which was a fail, and affect only a specific group. Another fail.” The Doctor gave a big sigh. “As of today, the current birth rate of viable human males has dropped below twenty percent. The reports based on this information on records dated thirty-months ago. The birth rate has certainly dropped since then by a few tenths of a percent.”
“You are incorrect.” A tall, dark-skinned man with an Australian Accent stood up. “Doctor Syd Gayiri, Headmaster of the School of Biotech Sciences at Toowoomba University. There are boys born in my community every month. My sister just had a healthy baby boy.”
“Correct, he is healthy for now. The odds, however, that his children will be girls, or there will be a child born to him with special needs. The degradation, by limiting the scope of DNA mixing is much worse. Thus we propose to keep communities robust is to promote outside family marriage and children in close-blood relations minimized, this improves the length of time the human male genome will become non-viable.” Doctor Minouche. “We will need to evolve into a mono-parous species to survive.”
The Doctor pointed at a severe looking woman sitting in the front row.
“Sonja Gutierrez has two sons, oh, sorry.“ Sonja is from the University of Spain, Madrid. But you all have read her paper of the stresses of caring for two special needs children. I would venture that it is both the boys?” Camane asked.
“Yes. Is this to do with the damage to the gene?” She asked.
“It would take some testing, do you remember getting ill with the flu during that time?”
“Doctor, I am not that old.” Doctor Gutierrez laughed. “That was before my time.”
“My apologies. Do you have any brothers?”
“Um. No. No brothers, I had one, but he was sickly and died very young…” She trailed off. A cold feeling crept over the room.
“Anyone else here have patients, family members, co-workers, classmates that have had problems with children— and were the health problems with boys?” Doctor Minouche traced a line on the projected infographic with a laser pointer. “Damage to the y-chrome is a pattern that we can follow. Initially it looks random, but if you watch as the gaps fill in on a chart, there are patterns. Closed communities that have had contact with the virus, the interbreeding magnifies the damage. A given group that mixes with others mitigates the damage.”
Taking a deep breath, he continued.
“Segregation, isolation, and staying with a small community will accelerate and magnify the damage. It’s proposed that the y-chrome could be extinct in more than one-hundred thousand years, however, at the current rate of change, computer models show between one-hundred and three-hundred years, with two-hundred being the mid-point.”
“So, Doctor, you are saying that we could see the end of male births in our children’s lifetime?”
“Yes. Perhaps, in a worst-case scenario, our own lifetimes.”
Tapping on tablets sounded, pens on paper, disbelief evaporating like a coastal fog on a summer’s day as the scientists and physicians crunched numbers. Writing notes on personal digital assistants, notepads and tablets.
“We have a century and counting. If two-centuries pass, and if we do nothing, there will be no naturally born males and the human species will be dependant on engendering fertile males with an XX karyotype or en vitro fertilization.” The statement hung in the air.
“Each of you has submitted an email to attend here, the transcript and graphics are being sent to you as we speak.” He nodded to an off-stage assistant. “Every page that we displayed here we researched and signed off, including the Surgeon General’s office of the United States is on board with this. I must remind you, this is not for public dissemination, yet. We are looking for this panel to bring forth something larger than my team can, we are reporting only what we find. The effort to repair the human genome before it is beyond fixing is up to us. If this information is released for wide-spread publication, it is possible we will set off a world-wide self-destruct in all religions, this requires the opposite of what religions demand. Secularism is the only way to go, no borders, no religious prohibitions. It is time that we look at ourselves as one race or dwindle into extinction.”
“Doctor, do you have the fix in your proposal? Are there repairs of the y-chrome that we can act upon?” A man in a black business suit with long gray hair pulled back into a ponytail, flanked by two young men with shaven heads and sharp eyes that constantly scanned the room. “Doctor Simon Connery MD MPH PhD, Director United States Centers for Disease Control.”
The secondary introduction made Camane nod.
“Simon, you have spent too much time in school, and welcome.” A chuckle from the audience. “At this point, we do not have any genetic repairs to speak of. We do need the resources of the CDC and everywhere around the world to focus on saving the human race.”
He looked around the room.
“Or we may as well have never met and make plans to fill a time capsule for the next rise of intelligent species.” The grim tone of his voice hung in the air. “Without cooperation, we are soon to be endangered.”
“Doctor,” A younger man approached him. “I’m Steven Rivers, senior reasearch geneticist at Southern California University at Dinuba. Although I may not have a cure for the birth rate of males, I may have a longevity plan and increase the number of years for research.”
“How much of an increase?” Another voice sounded.
“I will have to share my work, but it depends on the gene we work on.”
“Telomere work is ongoing, nothing new.” A male voice sounded.
“Not telomeres, something new…”
“Ladies, gentlemen. Please.” The Doctor brought them back to focus on the issue he was speaking on. “Let us read and discuss what my team has worked on and schedule a meeting, not an information release to this esteemed board
“Speak for yourself,” A woman’s voice sounded from the back. “Women will rule.”
It would be funny if not for the serious tone of the presentation.
Gathering up their notes and tablets, the group filed out.
Walking to Red, the car. He held his one-way conversation to the best friend a person could have in a non-organic entity.
“No one believed me. Except the boy-genius from California.” He told the little car built at the old car building company, Terran Green Machines, before the military absorbed the company by decree. “Red, we are screwed.”