Could I have saved us? Despite my better judgment, this question haunts my sleep.
Perhaps the most basic flaw in our Recoline civilization is that we forget history. To recite what ought to be common knowledge, the Magnitokes were a genetic amalgam from the union of our Recoline sperm and the eggs of women belonging to the hated Xordos. The Xordos were a ferociously murderous race, but they had an inherited talent for organization and engineering. By merging our Recoline genes with those of the Xordos, we created a new race, those Magnitokes, whose Xordo organizational and mechanical skills were grafted onto our foundational DNA of peaceful coexistence and the arts. The Xordos’ aggressive tendencies were strained out. Of course, it took many inseminations and some spectacular splicing, but after two generations, our genetic engineers credibly claimed success. Henceforth, the world would contain all the elements of civilization and none of the evil that had plagued our planet since before there was writing.
Even so, we heard stories of outliers. There was a gratuitous killing in a street in a remote village, then a mutilation in another. Villages can be lonely places that civilization touches only lightly, and so we disregarded the signs.
It was impossible to ignore them, however, once violence struck our cities. At this stage, postmortems were ordered on the offenders, all of whom were exterminated immediately after committing their acts against the state. It was discovered that a piece of uncorrected Xordo DNA had somehow survived our engineers’ glorious genetic work. Similar tests were then carried out on randomly selected citizens, and one out of eighty was found to have the reverse mutation.
We then had no choice but to conduct tests on all citizens in order to identify those carrying the dread Xordo DNA strain. The testing process caused each of us great anxiety. Could I possibly have descended from the hated Xordos? Unimaginable, and yet… After all, Magnitokes, even those among us with the uncorrected Xordo strain, looked, spoke and seemingly thought just like pure Recolines.
Regrettably, our efforts met with resistance. Matters got worse when the Legislature, reasoning that the uncorrected Xordo DNA could not possibly have corrupted our highest citizens, excused all officials above the rank of neighborhood captain from the tests.
An unfortunate side-effect of this law, though on reflection it should have been foreseen, was resentment among those citizens who did not share the prevailing confidence in our leaders’ purity. Widespread violence ensued, and investigations found that not all of it was instigated by citizens carrying the uncorrected Xordo DNA. During that period, this, perhaps, was the most disturbing finding of all.
Eventually, the global testing program identified almost all tainted citizens. We could not guarantee that we had found every one of them, because the popular resistance did have the effect of introducing disorder into the process. However, it was calculated that any remaining uncorrected Xordo contamination would not constitute a threat from within for at least a generation so long as the reverse mutants were isolated.
This conclusion confronted us with the most difficult ethical question in our history. There were sixty million uncorrected Xordo-tainted Magnitokes. They had to be removed from civilization.
Preparations were made to build communities, the so-called “New Regions,” in remote areas to house these defective Magnitokes. The New Regions presented tremendous logistical problems involving the supply of food, water and energy, and they lacked economies that would enable the Magnitoke settlers to earn incomes to support themselves. But such problems were precisely why our genetic engineers had created the Magnitokes: we had successfully layered their organizational strength onto our Recoline civilization. The Magnitokes in the New Regions had this capacity in abundance. We were confident that between their efforts and ours, we would together conquer the challenges faced by the New Regions. It would just take time.
But therein lay the problem. Despite the incredible difficulties inherent in the operation to resettle the uncorrected Xordo-tainted Magnitokes, it was accomplished ahead of schedule. However, the passage of time meant a festering dissatisfaction, and they grew restless. Worse, we realized that herding them into those New Regions created concentrations of the Xordo DNA strain that could, over time, constitute an external threat to civilization. We feared the Magnitokes would one day, perhaps one day soon, descend in hordes on civilization.
Our president tasked me, as Director of the Recoline Medical Association (RMA), with determining whether, and if so how, the Xordo-tainted Magnitokes should be destroyed. The question before me was not whether such a purge could be justified ethically or scientifically. I was instructed only to assess which solution was most practical.
We concluded that for their good and ours, they had to be exterminated. Once we reluctantly arrived at that conclusion, we had to determine the method of extermination that would cause the least suffering, mental and physical. Lacking the resources to medicate sixty million citizens against pain and send them to their deaths in their sleep, we were forced to contemplate significantly more drastic measures.
Recolines had long assumed we would never again need to use mass-destruction weapons offensively. But while manufacture ceased, not all such weapons had been destroyed. The RMA had been given custody of the remaining mass-destruction weapons in the event they should ever be needed for peaceful or defensive purposes. We concluded that a combination of hydrogen bombs and X-ray penetrators would kill the maximum number of Xordo-tainted citizens the fastest and with the least amount of suffering.
Before arriving at this decision, my staff questioned numerous experts, some of whom took exception to the limited nature of our inquiry. We had to keep reminding them of the precise parameters of the task assigned to us.
I, too, had misgivings, which I was compelled to keep to myself. Contrary to the prevailing view, my reading of the scientific literature had convinced me that genetic manipulation never worked perfectly and that the uncorrected Xordo strain could not be completely eradicated. Moreover, I knew empirically that even citizens completely free of the Xordo DNA strain could turn aggressive, even violent. Such transgressions typically occurred at home, where families went to great lengths to ensure word did not go beyond their four walls. Rare instances at job sites were handled discreetly. In cases where workers had to be removed, questions were never asked; everyone understood the necessity of purity.
It was with a heavy heart that I published the findings of our inquiry. Many Recolines were unhappy with me. They felt we should have gone beyond the narrow limits of our official assignment. It was hard to accept this criticism and to do so in silence, but I had done my duty and I would abide by our decisions.
We are now witnessing the unanticipated consequences of the actions our findings initiated. Radiation clouds have spread around the planet, and mass fear is generating a level of violence even the ancient Xordos never imagined.
I have often thought over the options we had. Should I have disclosed more information? I myself carried the Xordo DNA strain. Although not required to undergo the test, I could not overcome my anxious curiosity and performed it on myself. However, deemed to be in the class of leaders, I believed that to reveal this result would jeopardize acceptance of our findings. Likewise, even though it would have infringed on their privacy and undoubtedly led to my execution, I could have revealed evidence that our President and four of his top advisors share the same genetic defect. But doing so would have saved only the Xordo-tainted Magnitokes from their necessary fate, thus putting at risk our entire Recoline civilization.
Above all, strict compliance with the limits of the authority granted me was essential. Our inquiry was thorough and conducted with the utmost fidelity to the instructions given us. From an early age, integrity has steered me through every difficulty. Without a reputation for integrity, a Recoline does not deserve the name.
I have also considered whether I could have told the truth about the science: the truth being that even hydrogen bombs and X-ray penetrators could not have eliminated the Xordo strain. Indeed, eliminating the Xordo strain would have had no bearing on the aggressive tendencies, albeit moderate, even within the Recoline citizenry. But I was not tasked with telling the truth. I was tasked with answering a pre-defined question, yes or no, along with the solution in the event the answer was “Yes.”
It is regrettable that our attempt to eliminate the uncorrected Xordo DNA strain has led to many million more deaths than originally contemplated. Our very civilization is now at risk. Dismaying to a proud Recoline like me, chaos looms over order.
On a personal level, my wife has deserted me, and my eldest son, companion of many fishing trips, does not reply to my texts. I live alone now just outside the capital, in a house too large for one person, in the hope that my family will return.
I am comforted by the knowledge that I never wavered from the sacred task entrusted to me. I, Citizen Comey Mueller, did my duty.