Hugo Award nominee 1986, Nebula Award nominee 1985.
Genetron was being very careful. The firm had succeeded where others had failed, combining protein molecular circuitry with silicon electronics to create programmable, medically applicable biochips, or MABs. It was the first useful useful product of the biochip revolution, and any bad press would jeopardize all they'd accomplished.
Brilliant and eccentric, Vergil Ulam had been working on the project for nearly three years and had recognized Genetron's shortsightedness: Why limit oneself to silicon and amino acid biochips when a single mammalian cell had the DNA capacity to store huge amounts of information? The idea fascinated him, and the fact that no one else at Genetron had made the connection was a source of deep satisfaction, since it left him free to use the company's labs for private research.
Using his own white blood cells, Vergil had actually developed lymphocytes with an ability to learn... to think... and to pass the learning on to other cells. Then the roof fell in. Somehow Genetron discovered his secret computer file - just the sort of thing that, if leaked, could ruin the firm's position in the marketplace. He was ordered to destroy his research, or face not only dismissal but also industry-wide blacklisting. Yet he had come too far to simply throw it all away.
So Vergil made a fateful decision: he injected the altered cells into his bloodstream. And what followed was nothing short of a miracle: bizarre physical changes that scared him at first, then enthralled him... increasingly sophisticated communications from the intelligent micro-organisms he'd created, like music in his blood.
The transformation had begun.
Gregory Dale Bear (born 1951) is an American science fiction and mainstream author. His work has covered themes of galactic conflict (Forge of God books), artificial universes (The Way series), consciousness and cultural practices (Queen of Angels), and accelerated evolution (Blood Music, Darwin's Radio, and Darwin's Children).
Greg Bear. Wikipedia.
Photo: Photo of science fiction writer Greg Bear taken at the World Science Fiction Convention in Glasgow (photo by Geoffrey A. Landis, August 2005). Photo source: Wikimedia Commons.