February 9, 2012
by Roge Slater
Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends. We’re so glad you could attend, come inside! Come inside! There behind a glass is a real blade of grass, please be careful as you pass. Move along! Move along!
The sound was engulfing, returning us to a scene of past glories. The Nineteen Seventies coming alive again with the return of the arena rock gods. All projected images, of course; Emerson Lake & Palmer have been dead for years. That’s got to be the epitome of progressive rock though; wasn’t it supposedly before it’s time?
Perhaps we were, too.
The biologicals said we were, anyway, when we achieved that record-breaking perfect season. Thirty-eight league games and twenty-three Cup ties, every single one a victory. Not a point dropped, and at a hundred thirty-eight to fifty-one, nearly three to one scored on average. Man-robots, they called us, just because we’d been engineered to be the best.
They actually said a lot worse, too: that we weren’t “real people”, and that we had taken all of the competition out of the sport, having being manufactured. We were even mentioned in the same breath — but with far more disdain — as the drug-fuelled Eastern Bloc who ruled the Olympics during the same era ELP were changing the face of music.
Genetically modified with the turn of pace of sprinters, the agility of acrobats, the balance of gymnasts and the speed of thought to go with it, there is no doubt we were bred to be unbeatable — and we were just that. Every sinew tightened, every muscle strengthened.
But we were still human. Perfect humans for the job at hand, no question, but we were still humans.
We weren’t the first of our kind, however.
It started in the Nineteen Nineties with tomatoes, potatoes, wheat, barley and such. Genetically modified to build disease resistance and to increase productivity, and supposedly to help feed the starving masses across the world. On the other hand, the radicals said it was directly linked to profit-hungry chemical conglomerates that were controlling science research dollars.
Then there was Dolly the Sheep, cloned from a single cell. She was certainly famous for her full fifteen minutes, but sadly, her life was not much longer.
Nevertheless, every failure was seen as progress. Experiments continued, regardless of public outcry growing almost by the day. The effects of engineered vegetables on the food chain, the capability of Dolly and her test tube descendants, the ethical issues surrounding stem cell research, ad infinitum — each and everyone becoming a tabloid headline. Flawed as it all might be, the science had been proven to work, and have potential. Thus the funding remained in place.
When the clamour became too loud to be ignored, the research was driven underground. Hidden from the light of day, even more audacious and seemingly pointless tests were undertaken. New species were created and Nature’s designs altered almost beyond recognition, all under a cloak of secrecy. It took tomatoes the size of footballs, creatures far more abnormal and helpless than Dolly, and plenty more that’s better glossed over, before the curtain was thrown back, and this hidden science was again shown in its full light.
With the western world suffering a double — if not triple — dip recession, and the UK putting on a dismal performance in the 2012 Olympics, Downing Street felt the need to recover our status as a superior nation, at the same time hoping to engender support from the populous.
War was out of the question. The last two had been so unpopular, and to be honest, expensive, nor was there much appetite to take the lead in the now limited space race. Industry had been overrun by the Chinese; the Indians were making great inroads in technology; even basic construction now required knowledge of at least one Eastern European language. In each case, the sheer mass of the respective populations provided a work-force that, especially at such low cost, could never be equaled in the West.
But, there was still science.
More accurately, Sport Science. Our once-great nation still possessed the basic resource in athletes, and the technology to develop those resources by selective breeding and cell modification. Here was an opportunity to put the nation back on top of the world, and, in doing so, engender massive support from the public. Just imagine, England’s footballers finally winning the World Cup again, while the cricketers retain The Ashes and the rugby players triumph in a Six Nations Grand Slam; The London Monarchs perhaps even winning a real ‘World’ American Football Superbowl.
The possibilities were endless. So, under the guise of the Sports Development College, a breeding program began.
Every sport was dissected to determine the requirements to dominate it, and how to most effectively achieve the goal. Athletes young and old were selected for the program. Sadly for most of them, breeding wasn’t conducted in the traditional method. Not that they had been apprised of the Sporting College’s true curriculum, to begin with. Everything was very much hands off, with nothing more than ‘samples’ being required.
A scientific research program was laid out to hone new training methods and new diets for top class sportsmen and women. Athletes, sports stars and anyone who had a useful characteristic, was invited to join the program. Rather than turning in homework, it was samples of skin, cells from the spinal cord, and eggs or sperm, for fertilisation which were due. Analysis was extensive, with every subject effectively reverse-engineered. The nearest the process came to the chaos and unpredictability of lovemaking was when test tubes were placed in the centrifuge to separate the wheat from the chaff, as it were. Once identified, samples with high potential were mixed and stored in controlled conditions to best ensure fertilization.
After a short gestation period, stem cells were extracted, then either developed as separate entities or implanted into still growing samples. Clinically, the selection process — or more predominantly, the rejection process — continued.
Finally, just two days short of what would have been Dolly’s twentieth birthday, the first embryos were allowed to fully develop. Born of science; the (quite literally) Pyrex Babies were nurtured in it, as well. The Training Program had begun.
The early days showed great promise, but there were many failures: deformities, short-lived children, and others that proved uncontrollable and — shall we say — were quietly ‘removed’ from the program. More still developed into their teens, but were unable to fulfill expectations. Much as with the uncontrollables, that was the end for them, as secrecy was paramount to success.
Unaware of the full scope of the failure, the western world watched as the last vestige of the former Empire slowly imploded. The realisation that they were no longer leaders in any field hit home with increasing regularity as sporting honours continued to elude the best that the nation could offer.
Some ten years after the program started, I was selected — though more truthfully I wasn’t de-selected — and was permitted to come into existence, though I could not fathom my good fortune at the time. We were allowed no memories of our early lives. All I can offer you is research data discovered much later in my life. From my first breath, and certainly by the time I was conscious of my own thoughts, the training program had already been initiated.
One of many, I was placed on a controlled diet from birth, my genetic structure pre-determined, height, weight, physical prowess, etcetera, already designated. Even such irrelevancies as hair and eye colour were not left to chance.
Before I had the cognitive and motor skills to do so myself, I was well exercised. Carefully placed into walkers and stretchers, my body was manipulated and toned as soon as its muscles showed form. It was all gentle in the beginning. Then, as I have seen with my potential successors, when I grew, the rigor of the training progressed, always keeping just ahead of my capabilities. Every focus of my being was on the training. When necessary, thought programming erased any useless clutter from my memory bank.
As I approached my teens, an element of active training was introduced, focusing on my pre-targeted sport. Upon reaching puberty, that development, for me, increased to include theoretical and practical study of tactics, set pieces and, most importantly, my first competitive outings, which would determine if my selection had been the proper choice. From this point forward, I became we, as I was trained and programmed to think collectively, for the betterment of the team.
Junior challenges with biological opponents were soon supplemented by secret competitions against other specially bred teams — some younger, some older, to allow our coaches and directors to determine our precise capabilities.
We passed every test, rising through and above ‘age group’ competition quickly. In short order, we took our places, as an eleven, in the Premier League, transferring in en masse to replace ageing and inferior biologicals.
For all the planning and secrecy which had led to this moment, the last step proved rash and ill-considered. In our first year, we were unstoppable, sweeping away every opponent. It all seemed to good to be true, and proved our downfall.
We had come from nowhere and been immediately invincible. Questions were asked. From where had we come? How was it that we arrived all at once, and together? Why had no one been aware of our development until it had been fulfilled?
The media shifted its focus from our incredible triumphs to the one flaw in the program; its Achilles heel. The one thing we needed for it all to come off hadn’t been given us. Instead it had been taken away. All anyone wanted to know was why none of us had a past.
It all came apart just as the final piece fell into place. Everyone wants to know the secret of invincibility, and every outlet had reporters digging deep to get the scoop. But no-one could trace any history of our birth, or childhoods whatsoever. It was no wonder, after all, as we had neither. Suspicion brought rumour, and rumour demanded truth. In the end, a disaffected scientist sold his secrets and ‘eased his conscience”. When his face appeared on the front pages of every tabloid, the whistle was blown on our careers.
All we had accomplished was immediately wiped from the records. The entire program was uncovered, with executives, directors and scientists all trying to deny their way out of jail. Funding ceased, the program was terminated, and we, who had been guided through every step of our existence, were suddenly left on our own.
We were outlawed from every league and every game, both as a team and individuals. Even television rejected us, as it was ‘better for the game’ to continue without us. Now that they knew of us, they wished they hadn’t, and attempted to obliterate any trace of our existence. We were left to try to fit into a normal society, one of which we had never been a part and could not understand.
I was one of a lucky two or three. We had not been stars of the team, and our lower profile benefitted us. Our knowledge of the program became an asset which garnered employment in as coaches and nutritionists. Like many biologicals, we took up the trade of our ‘fathers’, albeit attempting to create the perfect player from imperfect materials. None of our students had our genetic perfection, each limited in their abilities and will as biologicals. Shunned at first, our struggle against that rejection, and to fit into an alien society, began to be seen as an inspiration. We had been created to be superhuman, derided as inhuman, and finally accepted as human interest.
Many of our former teammates were less fortunate. Those who had been at the forefront of the adulation and honour, who had risen to unrivaled heights like Icarus reaching for the sun, were destroyed when the program came to light. Utterly unable to cope with the massive fall from grace, some took their lives. The rest chose to live apart, outcasts from society.
Those of us who found our way never forgot our brethren. As our lot improved, we reached out to them, hoping to show them there is hope for a life, of a kind. Some have returned to us, enough that we can take the next step. We will re-enter the competitive arena.
Of course, we will never be permitted to compete as equals, but, like basketball’s Harlem Globetrotters, we will be an exhibition team, ready to embark on tour, playing all comers in an everlasting series of challenges. Despite the passing of time and the less than perfect environment in which we now find ourselves, our heightened abilities remain, but the game and our part in it is now considered ‘safe’, a distant memory and cautionary tale, which the public can digest. They will be allowed once again to see — and hopefully appreciate — the skills and abilities bred into us, protected by the knowledge, that like the Trotters before us, our feats are staged, and, in the athletic sense, we are not real.
For us, however, it is very real. As I walk into the arena, part of a team again. I revel in the anticipation in the faces, and the noise of the crowd around us. Perhaps this is the end that justifies the means
Come inside! Come inside! The show’s about to start, guaranteed to blow your head apart! Rest assured you’ll get your money’s worth — the greatest show in Heaven, Hell or Earth. You’ve got to see the show, it’s a real dynamo. You’ve got to see the show…
Team Supreme by Roge Slater is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License