Nathan heard the pounding of feet on the stairs and the thump as the bathroom door was pushed open too hard.

“Daddy, daddy, you have to see the news,” a shrill voice pleaded.

He turned from the sink to see Abbey, his daughter, stood in her pyjamas.

“Hon, I’m trying to get …” A mouthful of cleansing wash stopped him from saying anything else.

Nathan spat the fluid down the drain. No matter what the adverts said, he never found it comfortable to swallow the little creatures. Behind him Abbey had run out of patience and was pressing at the bathrooms wall screen. The thumping sounds of hip-hop were replaced by the voice of a weather caster talking about drought across the Midwest.

“What’s got you so excited?”

“It was a minute back,” Abbey replied as her small fingers flicked across the screen.

The images skipped backwards. Nathan began to turn back to the bathroom cabinet.

“Freddy has been shot.”

That caused him to stop.

“What do you mean …”

“Got it.” Abbey stepped back from the display.

“We are getting reports that Dr Alfred Bensal has been killed in a shooting outside his home,” the newswoman said. “Initial information is sketchy, but eyewitnesses claim to have heard gun shots and the sound of a motorbike speeding away.” The image changed to show a suburban street. Two police officers stood next a patrol car. Beyond them a grey privacy wall had been erected. “These are the first images from the scene, taken by a local resident, Karen Baldwichz.” A change of view to overhead showed the road and the surrounding houses as well as the shimmer rectangle of the area that had been blocked out. “Dr Bensal worked at the Born Natural clinic in West Ridgemount. If, as is suspected, he was an anti-meddler this will mark the third killing of those opposed to genetic manipulation in as many weeks. A number of groups are …”

Nathan reached out and touched the off button. His hand was shaking. “Shit,” he said quietly, then, “sorry, hon.”

Abbey looked up at him. “S’okay daddy, I didn’t hear you. Is that really Freddy? Why would someone want to kill him?”
“I don’t know.” Nathan made an effort to keep his voice level. “There’re a lot of bad people out there and some of them don’t think the same way we do.” He paused to rid his throat of a lump.

“You mean they think you’re doing something wrong?”

“It’s complicated.”

“You always say that. Mom never used to.”

A long breath escaped his lips. He sat down on the edge of the bath and pulled his daughter close.

“I’m sorry. I’ll try to explain.” He hoped even the thin smile he offered would comfort her. “Since the world got crowded many people think that there should be fewer children born, because they will use up what little food and energy is left. They also believe that before kids are born they ought to be changed so that they are good at doing something that the world needs.”

Large brown eyes stared at him. “But you always say I can do anything I want.”

“And you can, but that’s not the same for other children. Some have their genes altered before they are born so that they can do one thing better than everything else. The people who don’t like what I do, what Freddy did, can’t stand that they haven’t got their way, so they try to stop us.”

Abbey stepped closer pushing against his knee. “Do they want to kill you as well?”

“No.” The word came out before he had thought about it. “Probably,” he corrected, “but I’ll be fine. I’ll speak to the office and make sure they have security sent over.” His daughter appeared reassured. “Now, before you make me even later for work than I already am, why don’t you go and get dressed.”

Nathan stood up and turned his daughter around.

“But I haven’t finished my breakfast.”

“You can eat it when you’re dressed.” He directed her out of the bathroom and towards her bedroom door. “You’ve got five minutes or …” The closest wall screen chimed. “See, that’ll be Mrs Bakewell and you’re not ready.”

This time Abbey did not encouragement. Nathan watched her start dragging off her pyjamas and then headed downstairs. As he reached the front door one hand was already bringing up the number for his office on his mobile phone. He glanced down at it as he flicked the lock off and let the chill spring air rush into the hallway. Only when Mrs Bakewell failed to offer a morning greeting did he look up.

“Dr Shannon,” the masked man said, “you have to be stopped before you ruin the world.”

Five bullets punched holes in his chest, and Nathan was dead before his body hit the floor.


3 December 2010
Two nuclear scientists in Iran have been attacked in drive-by bombings; one was killed. It is believed these were assassinations by a group or nation opposed to the country’s current reactor program.

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