The next day found the group of us in Iolan Mekus’ office and lab. It was another of the egg-shaped buildings. This one was set at a distance from the main settlement—which I’d just learned had one of the least interesting names possible.
Marcus stared at Iolan. “You call it ‘Landing’? I get it. It’s right next to where you’ve got the starships, but I’d have gone with something more, you know, inspiring. It’s significant—the beginning of a human colony on this world. That’s crazy and amazing.”
Iolan frowned, leaning against his desk which was covered with clutter. There weren’t any papers but there were multiple black tablets and various small, plastic-looking devices of a variety of different shapes, ranging from flat squares to cylinders.
His desk matched the lab. While perfectly clean (to the degree it could be in the middle of a wilderness), all the devices stood next to each other with barely any space between them. My university’s chem labs were much better organized—well, except maybe for a few of the profs’ private areas. Those could get messy.
Iolan scowled. “We used to call it First Landing, but after a while everyone dropped the ‘First’. Now, I know you’re here to help me find out if there’s a spy—”
“Or spies,” I added.
“—Among us, but I got the impression that you wanted to talk to me about something else?”
Jaclyn spoke before I could respond, looking Iolan in the eye. “We found out that your colony’s going to get dangerously inbred soon because no one can have children except with people from their own group. We’re from one of the planets where the Abominators kept unmodified humans. We’ve got other stuff mixed in now, but we don’t activate anybody’s allergies so far.”
His brow wrinkled. “You know this how?”
“I touched Kals’ arm with my finger,” I said, “and she didn’t have any problems.”
Marcus gave half a smile. “Tikki and I… We touched a few other places—a lot of times. We didn’t use second skin or anything like that.”
Iolan’s eyes narrowed. “I hope not. I’ve been keeping all of that under lock and key. If people got into my stores…” He shook his head, muttering, “We need it for burns, but go on.”
Marcus’ jaw dropped a little. “There isn’t any more. You don’t want to hear exactly what we did, do you?”
Leaning against one of the tables, Cassie grinned. “He wants to hear it all—especially the embarrassing parts.”
Then Iolan blinked, realizing, I’m guessing, exactly what we’d said. “No. Not at all. That… That’s incredible. I’m not sure I can even believe you, but we can prove it even without bringing in people and risking nasty rashes. If you give me a little bit of skin or spit, I’ll be able to find out what we need to know.”
He turned to his desk, finding a stack of thin, glossy white squares, giving one to each of us except for Katuk. “Spit on it and pass it back to me.”
I took mine, spit on the square, watched as the spit disappeared inside, and passed it back to Iolan.
Taking the squares, he placed them next to each other on one of the tablets. “We’ll have to wait a minute while it catalogs your DNA and compares to ours.”
After a little more than a minute, the edges of each square changed color, turning from white to red and then back to white. Iolan stared ahead as if reading something invisible above them. “They’re done and have made a preliminary report. You’re all of unmodified human stock or at least of unintentionally modified stock. Note though that I say unintentionally modified. You’re all basic human stock that have somehow inherited genes from more than one Abominator created gene line as well as a few completely new mutations.”
Turning to Cassie, he said, “You’re the most normal of the group, containing genes that one group of Abominators used as rulers—except that you lack the gifts related to ruling, have kept the improved physical abilities and immortality, but have an ability to heal that’s far in excess of what I’ve ever seen.”
He went on, pointing at Jaclyn. “You’ve got a collection of genes from different lines… I’ve never seen them combine like this and from what I heard from those who saw you in action, I’d need a great deal of time to explain your abilities.”
He glanced over at Marcus. “You’re as unusual. You’ve got many of the same genes combined with one of the Abominators’ soldier gene lines—one that included some Abominator DNA.”
Marcus looked as if he was about to say something, but Iolan turned to me. “You’ve got a bit of DNA from the gene lines I’m familiar with, but some that isn’t human or modified by the Abominators. You’ve all got a little of that, but you’ve got it most strongly.”
I wanted to ask him if he knew more than that, but he talked over me. “You were right, though. None of you should have any trouble breeding with any gene line.”
He shook his head. “This is going to cause all kinds of trouble.”