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Invasive Procedures

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Invasive Procedures

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Author: Orson Scott Card
Aaron Johnston
Publisher: Tor, 2007

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Book Type: Novel
Genre: Science-Fiction
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George Galen is a brilliant scientist, a pioneer in gene therapy. But Galen is dangerously insane - he has created a method to alter human DNA, not just to heal diseases, but to "improve" people - make them stronger, make them able to heal more quickly, and make them compliant to his will.

Frank Hartman is also a brilliant virologist, working for the government's ultra-secret bio-hazard agency. He has discovered how to neutralize Galen's DNA-changing virus, making him the one man who stands in the way of Galen's plan to "improve" the entire human race.

This taut thriller takes the reader a few years into the future, and shows the promise and danger of new genetic medicine techniques.


Chapter 1
Dolores never met a Healer she didn’t like until the night they took her away. It happened at the playground on Santa Monica Beach at about two o’clock in the morning. Dolores slept in the metal tube that connected the jungle gym to the swirly slide. For a homeless woman of forty, it wasn’t that bad of an arrangement. She had privacy here, and the garbage cans at the playground usually had enough juice boxes or snack packets to tide her over until morning.
A passerby would, no doubt, think Dolores older than her forty years. Time on the street had a way of aging a person in much the same way war did. Her greasy brown hair hung in knotted clumps beneath a black knitted cap. Her eyes were gray, distant, and tired. Years of wind and sun had leathered her face and left dark circles under her eyes. Beneath her heavily soiled trench coat were several layers of other clothing: T-shirts and sweatshirts and all kinds of shirts—far more than normal people would wear but just enough for someone who slept out in the cold.
Tonight the cold was especially cold, the kind that snaked its way into Dolores’s metal tube and then into the holes and folds of her clothing. It was a cold that had kept her up all night. And by the time the uninvited drunk man arrived, Dolores was in a particularly sour mood.
He stumbled into the playground, smelling like a vat of cheap liquor. From where she lay, Dolores couldn’t see him, but he was making plenty of noise and sounded like trouble.
Go away, she wanted to scream. Take your booze smell and the vomit smell that’s bound to be right behind it and go away.
Instead he collapsed onto the slide, and the metal rang with the sound of his impact.
Dolores inchwormed her way to the end of the tube and looked down. There he was, sprawled on his back in the sand, his arms spread wide, his mouth slightly agape. He must have slid right off the slide after falling onto it.
Dolores shook her head.
Whatever you been drinking, mister, you must have burned a lot of brain cells, because no poorly buttoned flannel shirt and holey pair of blue jeans are going to protect you from this wind. You need layers, peabrain. Layers.
She wriggled back inside the tube. Not dressing for the weather was about the stupidest, most inexcusable reason for dying Dolores could think of.
She was debating whether to move elsewhere for the night just in case drunk man here woke up and caused trouble, when she heard voices.
“Here’s one, sir.”
It was a man’s voice, strong, probably a cop. Good. Get that stinking heap away from my slide before he throws up.
“He’s drunk, sir.”
Of course he’s drunk. You got a clothespin on your nose?
“He’ll do,” another man said. An older man, by the sound. And quieter. Like somebody used to being obeyed without having to push. The kind of person who shouldn’t be in an empty playground on the beach after dark, in the winter.
She knew the smart thing to do. Lie low, don’t make a sound. They obviously hadn’t noticed her. And that was always a good thing.
“Help him to the van,” the older man said.
The van? Cops don’t take drunks “to the van.” They either book them or roll them.
So who were these guys? She had to get a peek. If she moved really slowly, she could keep silent. Then again, if she moved too slowly, they’d be gone before she got to the end of the tube where she could see. So she needed just the right balance of speed and stealth.
Got it wrong. They must have heard her, because someone started climbing the ladder.
Dolores’s grip tightened around her tennis racket. She’d never be able to swing it, of course. There wasn’t room. But she could at least raise it warningly if she had to.
A face appeared. “Hello there.”
It was the old man. White hair. Trim white beard. And a smile so wide, you’d think he had just walked into his own surprise birthday party.
Dolores kept silent. If she ignored him, he might think her crazy and leave. Always better not to take chances with a stranger than to open one’s mouth and let them hear the fear in your voice.
“A little cold to be sleeping outside, don’t you think?” the old man said, lifting a hood over his head as the wind picked up.
It was the hood that gave him away. He was a Healer. Only Healers wore capes with hoods like that. It was their calling card. Dolores thought the capes and hoods rather silly-looking but understood that they were more functional than fashionable. The cape was like a flag, a neon sign, drawing anyone who needed a Healer directly to one. It said, Hey, I’m a Healer. Come to me if I can help you, and I gladly will.
They were the Good Samaritans of the street. Healers made it their mission to give out free food and to treat people who were sick or injured—getting in trouble sometimes because they had no medical licenses, but not in really bad trouble because nobody could ever prove that they were actually practicing medicine and because they only helped the homeless anyway, people who couldn’t help themselves or get help anywhere else.
The only thing odd about this Healer, however, was his age. Dolores had never seen an old Healer before. The ones she had seen, strolling along the Third Street Promenade helping the homeless there, were all young, healthy, bodybuilder types. Big guys. Always guys. And always big. Muscle big. Don’t-mess-with-me-because-I-can-break-your-face big.
But this Healer was anything but a young Arnold Schwarzenegger, though he didn’t look particularly weak.
“You’ll freeze to death if you stay out here,” he said, still smiling.
Dolores kept her expression blank but was inwardly happy to see him. Free food was free food.
The only catch was that Healers could talk your ear off if you let them. Wellness of the body and soul and all that, helping the species reach its potential. Whatever. Dolores didn’t care what religion they were preaching. She just listened and pretended to care, until they gave her the food. Then she’d politely thank them and be on her way.
“I’m George Galen,” he said. As if that was supposed to mean something to her.
Maybe he was waiting for her to tell him her name, but she wasn’t about to, so she got to the point instead. “You got any food?” she said.
“We do,” he said. “Sandwiches in the van.”
“I ain’t in the van,” she said. “Fat lot of good your sandwiches do me.”
His smile widened. “Turkey or ham?”
“Turkey,” she said.
Galen looked behind him and called down the ladder. “She wants a turkey sandwich, Lichen.”
Dolores craned her neck a few inches, just enough to see who it was he was speaking to.
A young Healer—the normal kind of Healer, with big bulging muscles and wearing one of those capes over his shoulders—nodded and hurried away. Another Healer had an arm around the drunk man and was helping him hobble away from the playground.
Galen looked back at her, gesturing to the Healer who had run off to fetch the sandwich. “Lichen is one of my young associates.”
“Lichen? That’s his

Copyright © 2007 by Orson Scott Card

Copyright © 2007 by Aaron Johnston


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