Monday, August 22, 2005

Monday Challenge

Okay, the way this works is, I spot you the opening of a story, and your challenge, should you decide to accept it, is to pick it up and run with it. Then on Friday of this week, our secret panel of Celebrity Judges will critique the entries and pick the one they like the best, and the author of the winning entry will receive a Valuable Prize! (Okay, a book. Actually, a choice of books, to avoid the possibility of winning a book you already have.)

Since Haloscan imposes a 3-kbyte limit on answers posted in comments, you may prefer to post your entry on your own web site, then provide a link to it by simply posting the full URL in the comments here. Alternately, you may email your full entry to (plain text only, please) and I will put it on my web site and provide a link to it here.

All entries remain the property of the individual entrant. However, once something is on the Internet, well...

Ready? Then here's the wind-up, and the pitch:

On August 16, 2005, scientists at the Universities of Edinburgh and Milan announced the success of efforts to grow pure human neural stem cells in the laboratory and to differentiate these stem cells into all the cell types found in the human nervous system. Now put on your thinking cap, fast-forward ten years, and...

The elevator doors hummed opened and Marckham stepped out, only to hit another security checkpoint. She stopped, sighed, and raised her arms obligingly as the guards came forward with the detection gear. "Is this really necessary?"

Collins nodded. "I'm afraid so. Word has leaked out, and there are some people out there who aren't too happy about what we're doing. If somebody managed to smuggle something in -- well, we can't exactly run Norton on him, can we?"

Marckham raised an eyebrow. "Him?"

"Gender is determined at the cellular level. Remember, X-chromosomes? Y-chromosomes?"

Marckham frowned. "Of course, but --" She frowned again as the guard with the detector gave her a nudge in an uncomfortable place, then glanced around the room. "How did you get funding for all this, anyway?"

Collins smiled. "DARPA grants, mostly. The DoD wants to build the hands-down fastest supercomputer ever and we've pushed silicon about as far as it can go. Blue Gene/T may be the fastest pile of junk ever assembled, but it's still Tom Swift and His Giant Electric Idiot. We promised them a radical new biotech solution to the petaflop problem."

The guards made Marckham lower her arms so they could get a detector closer to the side of her head. She said, "But now you've got an entirely new problem, and that's why you called me. You never dreamed that your staff would need to include..."