Victor walked through the halls of the bunker, of Project Phoenix, following one of his fellow researchers, a Human woman named Jane, to the east wing of the labs. He was a ghoul, and compared to some of the other ghouls in the project, he was a relatively recent conversion, having only been turned about ninety years prior. Still, his dedication to the project was strong, and his experience invaluable.
“Here we are, Victor, the latest group of subjects have nearly finished their development. Only two of the subjects failed, the other fifteen should be perfectly viable and ready for testing in a few days.” Jane said after they stopped in front of the line of glass tanks. Each vat was filled with a blue, bubbling liquid which suspended a rather large, genetically modified gecko. All of them were larger than regular geckos with noticeably different body structure.
“Excellent, are there any anomalies or concerns I should be aware of?” Victor asked.
Jane looked down through her notes for a moment. “Nothing that should affect our experiments. All of the geckos are expressing the desired traits from the ghoul DNA. Our initial tests show that they should react to radiation in the same manner, and their cellular regenerative systems are nearly identical. Strangely, they do not express the same phenotypes as ghouls. We expected that they would have many of the same physical traits, like decaying flesh or decreased muscle mass, but none of the subjects are expressing any of these traits. If anything, they have even greater muscle density. We will need to perform more tests to determine why.”
“You may do that, but it is not a priority. These geckos will serve as adequate analogues for ghouls just as they are. How much genetic variability is there in this group? The last batch was useful, but they were all clones of one another.” Victor responded.
“There is quite a bit of variation, actually. There is enough genetic difference that we could breed them without needing to worry about inbreeding, if we need to. We have noticed a few unexpected traits manifest themselves, though. As you can see they are all quite a bit larger than your standard gecko, and their body structures have been altered as well, more…Human, almost.” Jane explained as she approached one specific tank. “Then, there is this one. He is an outlier among them.”
“He is certainly a big one, isn’t he?” Victor commented.
Jane chuckled. “Indeed, but that’s not the only way he is different. All of the geckos have a brain size to body weight ratio much greater than that of standard geckos, and most animals in general. The ratio on this one is much higher than theirs.”
Victor looked over to Jane curiously. “How high?”
“Off-the-charts high.” She responded.
-- Five Days Later --
Victor looked over the stacks of notes scattered across his desk one last time as he finished entering the last of the relevant data into his computer. They were just about to start their first true experiments on the geckos, so he needed to make sure everything was in place. Once he was finished, he let out a sigh, then reached over to his holodisk and pressed the button to record.
Lead Researcher Victor Richardson, Project Phoenix, Gecko experiment logs, day one. We have hit a standstill on our ghoul experiments. Two feral ghouls died in our last experiments, so we have suspended all tests on live ghouls. Instead, we have decided to use lab-grown geckos modified with ghoul DNA. We have noticed an increase in potential intelligence for these geckos, but they still should not be any more than mere animals. We are preparing five of the geckos to receive their first imprints. The machine should connect directly to their brains and imprint them with the knowledge from a template, an adult gecko, in this case. We have also made sure to provide two templates, one for the males and another for the females. I have high hopes for this experiment, we have improved the process considerably since the last attempt with the cloned geckos. If we ever hope to rehabilitate feral ghouls, this machine will be invaluable. If we ever manage to repair the minds of the ferals, they will not immediately regain their old memories. We will need to re-teach them how to survive. This machine could cut that process down from years to days, or even hours.
Lead Researcher Victor Richardson, Project Phoenix, Gecko experiment logs, day seven. The results are everything we hoped for, though at first it did not seem to work. When we first placed them in their enclosure, they wandered around like infants, doing little more than moving from place to place and eating food that was offered directly to them, but after about three days, they started to become more active, moving and hunting like true adults. Their social structure has formed itself to be identical to everything we would expect from a family of geckos. It appears as if it takes time for the imprints to take hold in their minds, but once they understand the information, they can apply it just as if they had learned it through conventional means. Our experiments with the imprinting machine will now focus on how to speed up the process. The information we imprinted onto the geckos is nothing compared to massive amount of data we will need to imprint into the minds of rehabilitated ghouls, so it will likely take more than a few days the ghouls to process the information.
Lead Researcher Victor Richardson, Project Phoenix, Gecko experiment logs, day twenty-five. Our gecko experiments are producing real and useful results. We have managed to reduce the amounts of time required for imprints to take effect by injecting the subjects with a series of drugs, but we still believe we can fine tune the process further. We have also managed to grow a few groups of geckos with decayed brains similar to feral ghouls. We hope to use them to find a way to reverse the decay process. Since they are significantly harder to work with, however, we will be still grow most of our test subjects with unmodified brains.
(Pause of several seconds)
And, on a slightly…unrelated note, I have discovered something unusual about one of the geckos, who I have taken to calling Rex…unofficially. Gecko packs do not have alphas, but this one seems to be far superior to all the rest in pretty much every way. He is bigger, stronger, faster, and, most importantly, smarter. All of them are superior to normal geckos in intelligence, but this one takes it to a whole new level. Since they are well fed, all of the geckos are rather playful, and Rex is constantly outsmarting them. We often hide their food in some way to keep their minds stimulated, and Rex has been the one to find it every single time, without fail. If it were not for the fact that they share food amongst the pack, the rest of them would have starved. Whenever I have the time, I think I am going to see exactly how intelligent Rex is, just as a sort of side project. It shouldn’t interfere with our primary projects as it has been taking our salvage teams longer to find the necessary resources for our experiments as of late. (sigh) I’ve had plenty of free time.
Lead Researcher Victor Richardson, Project Phoenix, Gecko experiment logs, day forty. There has not been much progress with the imprinting machine. We cannot seem to get the geckos to process the information any faster than we already have, though Jane suggested an idea to me about an hour ago that has promise. We will need to wait until the salvage teams return to test it, however. Fortunately, our tests on decaying brains have yielded better results. So far, we have managed to bring the cognitive ability of decayed subject up by twenty percent. We still have a long way to go before we can fully rehabilitate a decayed mind, but it is a start.
As far as my personal project goes, I have been greatly surprised by Rex’s intellectual ability. I’ve been testing him with puzzles and, so far, he has solved every one. Most recently, I gave him the mirror test, and just as I suspected, he recognized himself as an individual. I’ve compared his results to pre-war tests conducted on animals, and he has scored better than even the most intelligent primates, and even bottlenose dolphins. He is also quite…enjoyable to be around. I’ve never had a pet before, but I can see why people like them. He is quite energetic and playful, and I do believe that he has his own distinct personality. I…had an idea, something I want to try on him. I think his brain is advanced enough to take in the information we intend to imprint upon ghouls. I am going to create template for the imprinting machine using my own mind and try to apply the information as his. I will attempt to remove my own personal memories so that only my skills and experiences transfer over, though I doubt it will be perfect. It will be a good test for refining our templates down to basic information, rather than the entire collected memories of an individual. I highly doubt Rex will be able to understand most of the imprint, after all, he isn’t human, but I look forward to seeing what information he gets out of the imprint. Perhaps I will be able to teach him to do tricks.
Lead Researcher Victor Richardson, Project Phoenix, Gecko experiment logs, day one hundred. Gecko experiments have been progressing smoothly, but Rex…I cannot do this to Rex anymore. He is far more intelligent than I could have imagined. He is close to, if not on par with human intelligence. So far, I have kept him in the general experiments with the rest of the geckos, but I am taking him out right now. I am just thankful that he hasn’t been hurt, I don’t need that on my conscious. He has been becoming more and more…human ever since I imprinted him with my experiences. The things I have seen him do…there is just no way he is a simple animal. I was in the room with him trying to teach him…something trivial, I don’t even remember now, and he spoke to me. I knew that he could mimic words like a parrot or deathclaw, after all, I taught him to do it with a few words, but he started saying things, full sentences, that I never taught him. He was speaking to me in a way that made sense, he knew what he was saying. I have no idea how we created something like him, but I am going to make sure we do not create another. The entire reason we are testing on geckos is so we do not harm ghouls, but what use is that if the beings we create think just like us? We are going to take extra precautions to ensure that all future subjects are kept at an animal level of intelligence.
As for Rex, well, I’m taking him out of this place. He is not going to be a test subject. Salvage teams have started to bring in resources more quickly, so I don’t have time to give him the attention he deserves, but Jane has been working with the ghouls over at the West bunker for a few weeks now and she said that she would be able to take care of him and help teach him everything he will need to know. I’ll visit when I can, but I don’t know how often that will be. I’m lucky that one of the salvage teams returned today with more ghouls, because I was able to load him onto a truck headed for the West bunker about half an hour ago. Poor thing, he didn’t like being put in that box; he looked so afraid. Hopefully, Jane will be able to explain everything to him once he arrives.
(Deep sigh, followed by several moments of silence) He called me “father.”