Methis was a Petri-Chimpanzee. This meant that she was produced from a genetically altered egg-cell, and that this egg-cell had spent it's first week floating on a Petri-dish. Then, as it grew, it was moved to a tank containing an artificial placenta, to which it attached. This meant the biotechnicians watching over her growth could control any and all of the myriad factors that would eventually produce an infant chimp.
This technique was widely used in University bases. Since the chimps' intelligence could be greatly enhanced, a single individual could be trained to perform a number of complex, but nevertheless routine and boring, tasks. Their metabolism could also be altered, so they required only one sixth of the nourishment a standard human needed per day. Put simply, they were better and less expensive to maintain than robots.
The instructions given to Methis' breeders were simple; the size of the brain was of primary importance. Everything else had a supporting role. She was designated as component A of project 292, Hot-labs, University Base. Project 292 was an attempt to grow living, intelligent interfaces for military-grade pre-sentient algorithms. The benefits of such were obscure, if there were any at all, but there was little doubt at this point that the project was close to it's successful completion. Methis had been trained for almost ten years, and could feed complex instructions to the computer in a minute fraction of the time even the best programmer, outfitted with the fastest mind-machine interface available, needed to complete the task.
Lately, however, she had been more and more reluctant to respond to the commands given her. The same was true when she was supposed to present the resulting output in any of the available forms (on a monitor, as a three-dimensional holo-projection or even by speaking). The best simian psychologist was consulted, and the answer was immediately received; Methis was lonely. She needed a friend, and none of the researchers qualified. Since the psychologist himself was busy (he said), Lewis and his team needed to find someone else.
Now, as he watched his daughter sit at the side of the chimpanzee's 'bed', her right hand holding the tiny, atrophied left hand of Methis, he knew he had been right in his choice. Methis now had the intellect of a seven-year-old, but this was expected to improve at an exponential rate as she got to socialize. Thus, also the project would benefit. And he had also managed to introduce his beloved daughter to the highest corridors of real power in University society. Only one man, Prokhor Zakharov himself, wielded more power than the University's corps of scientists. And of course, Dorothy now had a new friend. Always a plus, since her parents were very concerned about her social skills. Somehow, she didn't manage to acquire friends as easily as other children of her age.
All in all, Lewis Parks was unbelievably pleased with himself at the moment.
Meanwhile, Dorothy heaved out another shuddering sigh. That, and the red streaks on her cheeks, was all that remained of the initial fright of seeing Methis. Now she was merely sad. While she only had other petri-chimps to compare with, she could see that Methis was greatly malformed. Her head looked like an inflated coconut, and was nearly as massive as all of the rest of her body. Her legs were twisted stumps. Her arms were also small and twisted, but they were recogizable, and her hands had only three working digits. Her throat and jaw had been surgically altered to enable her to speak better. Methis spoke slowly, and her sentences were often incomplete.
"...Feel better now?"
"Yes." Dorothy looked down at her knees. She was slightly embarrassed of her initial reaction. While Dorothy was being calmed down, Methis hadn't shown the slightest sign of agitation.
"Good. Methis like.. new friend Dorothy."
"Um, what do you do for fun, Methis?"
"..Chess. Methis likes chess. ..Know chess?
"I do! I am champion of my class, but we're only four who know how to play yet."
"..Play.. chess with Methis?"
"Yes, I'd like to, but how? I don't see a board anywhere.."
Dorothy followed Methis' gaze. One of the holoprojectors sprang to life, and a chequered board seemed to materialize, with the pieces readily arranged.
Nine moves later Methis had won.
"How did you DO that?"
"..Trick. Methis show.."
While Methis explained the trap to Dorothy, Dr. Andersen walked casually up to one of the keyboards and typed in a short sentence. Methis' eyes flickered to him for a moment.
"Dorothy play.. again?"
"Yes, sure. I'll not fall for that again."
This time the game lasted much longer. Eventually, Dorothy won by a -she thought- ingeniously set-up trap for Methis' queen.
"That was fun! You really are very good at chess, Methis!"
"Thank you.. friend."
Lewis walked up to the pair. "Time to go, Dorothy. Mom has some pudding waiting for you."
Methis looked at Lewis, her eyes moistening. "Don't go.. Stay.."
"But I'll come back another time, Methis. Won't I, dad?"
Lewis looked from daughter to chimp with a calculating smile. "Sure. Methis has some homework to do first, but if she is quick you can come see her again tomorrow, firt thing after school."
"Methis.. quick. Dorothy.. back tomorrow."
"Yes. We'll play more chess!"
Lewis led his daughter back towards the entrance, and Dorothy waved good-bye to Methis.
She thought the chimp smiled as it looked at her.
End of chapter two.
[This message has been edited by Raging Mouse (edited March 11, 2000).]