As the professor had explained, Darwin was going to be a genetically engineered supersoldier when he woke up. If we couldn’t keep up, that might cause... problems. We would be first response in any emergency, responsible for getting him away from danger, or neutralising any danger he might represent. Therefore, we would get simple training in the use of weapons and, more importantly, we would be given a few unconventional advantages, through the miracle of retroviral engineering.
A retrovirus is a type of virus that inserts its DNA directly into the genome of its victim, using the victim’s transcription mechanisms to make more copies of itself. HIV is a retrovirus. Some of the human genome, in fact the genomes of all animals, are made up of endogenous retroviruses, that got stuck in the genome and are now too damaged to escape. Without one of them, we wouldn’t even be able to breed; the gene the virus used to escape destruction by the immune system is used by babies for the same purpose, preventing the mother’s immune response from attacking her child. The professor reasoned that if one gene can get in that way, and be used by the body, why not more? Genes for more efficient and faster muscle proteins, regulatory modifications for more bulk and tone, changes to the type and density of nasal, auditory and optical receptors, changes to brain chemistry for faster learning, better concentration and stronger memory, all inserted into our cells by noncontagious retroviruses... physically, it would make us the equal of Charles’ engineered body, and with our extra knowledge we’d be able to control any situation.
I realised at the time that there had to be a reason why they didn’t just use this on American soldiers, and I came up with a couple of conclusions. One, it was probably new and untested; it wouldn’t have surprised me if we were the first human subjects. Secondly, it was probably a lot more risky than the professor made it out to be. He always was overconfident.
In any case, that was why we needed to be unconscious, with our bowels empty. For two weeks, our bodies wouldn’t recognise themselves, and what happened then... well, it wasn’t lupus.1 But it was close. Our immune system wouldn’t recognise half the body as what it was supposed to be protecting, we’d have organ rejection across our entire system. So we were to be packed full of immune suppressants and kept unconscious until it was safe for us to leave a sterile area again.
Hell of a way to spend your summer.
It’s never lupus.