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Wednesday, February 5, 2003
By Paul Ford
A tale of genetics and budget cuts.
Her story is so familiar, I need only outline: the budget cuts at the state level which led to the unlikely university-mandated merging of the biology department, operated by Dr. Megan Frandall, and the linguistics departments of Dr. Charles Hrum; the decision to merge Frandall's experiments in breeding goats to produce penicillin in their milk with Hrum's gorilla linguistics experiments; the subsequent breeding of a goatrilla, named Kiki, with the idea that she would produce penicillin in her milk and further research into primate cognition in one go, with an estimated savings of over US$200,000 per year.
Kiki was an adorable baby, scampering around with her floppy ears, hooting and baaing in that strange combination, waving to the camera from the tall, read-headed Frandall's lap. Then an air of mystery surrounded her, and it was not until she resurfaced at age 13 with perfect SAT scores and a vocabulary of 230,000 words that we realized why she had been taken from the public eye for her own protection. The world, it had been feared, was not ready then for a genius goatrilla.
Certainly this was wise. Frandall and Hrum explained that goat's had “gene-triggered latent cognitive abilities.” Once those genes were expressed, goats would have something like 30,000 times the synaptic connections of the average human. In Kiki, the gorilla genes had set off the goat genes, and thus Kiki was unchartably brilliant, and of a species unto herself: totally alone.
She took to writing. Kiki's first book, published while she still lived in the geneguistics laboratory, was Ikik, the story of a love affair between a linguistics professor and a half-sheep, half-chimpanzee named Ikik. The subsequent removal of Dr. Hrum from his post surprised no one, with Kiki under 18 at the time of publication. Hrum was immediately pulled into the SUPRGOAT project at DARPA and raised the team of goats who would develop the cold fusion displacement tesseract bomb and destroy the Andromeda galaxy; a story for another day.
Following the publication of her book, Kiki moved into the university-funded RMS Building, a special center for the gifted-but-alienated mostly populated by computer programmers. It took some time for the other residents to warm up to her, but she soon became a regular at the role-playing games and in the TV lounge, and apparently had a number of lovers. Much speculation regarding her fertility ensued, but it was hushed by the birth of her child Felix, shown above, with his gorilla head and tiny hooves. Felix was a media sensation, and Kiki, raised under fluorescent lights, insisted on bringing her child up in the open, as “naturally” as possible. She moved to Vermont, and together with her son, climbed trees, hooted, and, in a nod to the goat-half of her heritage, ate fresh laundry from the line. Felix's birthdays made national news.
But shortly after his third birthday, the “unintended effects,” as Frandall put it, of various forms of gene-manipulation, resulted in Felix's quick mental deterioration, and subsequent death. Kiki, disconsolate, disappeared from public view again. She found refuge in an alternative community in Oregon, outside of Portland, with others of her own kind, fellow experiments and their children. A gate, monitored by cyborg dogs, kept out human interference.
The exact nature of life inside the compound was never known. Certainly Mr. Gruff, the dog/goat (“gog” or “doat”, depending on your faction) leader of the compound, was actively encouraging radical separatism and the right of animals to set policy for their own genetic manipulation, and Ms. Trotsky, the animalarchist octopony, was a frequent visitor. Kiki wrote numerous editorials, increasingly angry and critical of “hegemonistic exploitation of feathers, fur, and scales”, and finding it harder and harder to be published over the next 10 years.
Then, at the end of a sequestered decade, Kiki moved out of the compound and re-entered society, rejecting her radical ways and embracing the “new right” then dominant in the country. She wrote a syndicated newspaper column which she used to mock animals and their fight for independence. She was feted and praised, called a “model goatrilla” and “almost human.”
Then, as we all know, during the visit to the White House, the terrible fruit of the genetic manipulations that had gone on in the Oregon compound came to light. It's still not certain what techniques were used to modify Kiki, because when she shot the laser beams out of her eyes as she put her heavy paw into the President's hand, her eyes themselves evaporated, destroying the evidence. Reviewing the video of the event shows nothing but tumult and confusion. Kiki was shot 7 times, killed by the third shot to the chest by a secret service agent (who, it was later revealed, was part rabbit). The “disappearance” of her Oregon colony was barely reported upon by the media.
Given her unique status, she had few post-death rights. The anthropology department, long threatened by her presence, rejected the offer of the body; the genetics lab, fearful of association, had no place for it, and she was frozen in one of the cryonics bays for the next 30 years. It was not again brought to light until the Benevolent Goat Party took over and, with their strange ways, insisted she be stuffed and mounted “as a reminder”. Today, she is in her birthplace, looking questioningly from a seat on a pedestal, under the light of the glassed-in foyer of the geneguistics building, her violent end in harsh contrast to her fascinating life. Farewell Kiki! All hail the Benevolent Goat Masters!