Gray agreed. Still…
He crossed to one of the locked steel doors. "Begs the question, what're they storing?"
The sign on the door read: embryonaal.
"Embryonic lab," Marcia translated.
She crossed to join him, eyes guarded, wincing slightly as she moved her bandaged and splinted arm.
Gray raised Ischke's card again and swiped it. The indicator glowed green and a magnetic lock released. Gray pushed the door. He had shouldered his rifle and now had his pistol out.
The overhead fluorescents flickered then came on steady.
The room was a long hall, a good forty meters. Gray noted how chilly the air was in here, crisper, filtered. A flush line of floor-to-ceiling stainless-steel freezers covered one side. Compressors hummed. On the other side were steel carts, tanks of liquid nitrogen, and a large microscope table wired to a micro-dissection table.
It appeared to be some form of a cryonics lab.
At a central workstation, a Hewlett-Packard computer idled. The Screensaver spun on the LCD monitor. A silver symbol rotated against a black background. A familiar symbol. Gray had seen it depicted on the floor of Wewelsburg castle.
"The Black Sun," Gray mumbled.
Marcia glanced at him.
Gray pointed to the spinning sun. "The symbol represents Himmler's Black
Order, a cabal of Thule Society occultists and scientists obsessed with the superman philosophy. Baldric must've been a member, too."
Gray sensed they had come full circle. From Ryan's great-grandfather to here. He nodded to the computer. "Look for a main directory. See what you can find out."
While Marcia aimed for the workstation, Gray crossed to one of the freezers. He pulled it open. Frigid air welled out. Inside were drawers, indexed and numbered. Behind him, he heard Marcia tapping at the computer. Gray edged one drawer open. Neatly arranged in clips were a score of tiny glass straws filled with a yellow liquid.
"Frozen embryos," Marcia said behind him.
He closed the drawer and looked down the length of the hall at the number of giant freezers. If Marcia was correct, there had to be thousands of embryos stored here.
She spoke, drawing him over. "The computer is a database, logging genomes and genealogy." She glanced over to him. "Both human and animal.
Mammalian species. Look at this." Strange notations filled the screen.
NUCLEOTIDE VEHANDEUNG tDNA) [CROCUTA CROCUTA't ThuNnvd 14;56:25 GMT
VERANDERING L vi .'t.". "Ii.¦ i¦¦—-¦-¦-_-r—-i-_—
A.0.2. Dipi-rimidinc to Di Thymidine fc[CT]>TT)
ATGGTTACGCGCTCATG G AATTCTCGCTCATG GA ATTCTCGCTCGTCAACT
A.ijA. Dinudcoridc d ran scrip tic]
B.5.L.5 Cryptischc pkatrnttrvcrLng
Loci B J.
B.7.5.1. FeatamidsDtide rgfTACAGATTC]
Term i ndjtrdc ?r.i bil ircic}
CTAGAAATTACGCTCTTA CGCTTCTCG CTTGTTAC GCGCTCA
GTTACGCGCTCGCGCTCA TG G4ATTCTCGC TCATG
ATGGTTACGCGCTUCGC TGGAATTCTCGCTC ATG GAATTCTCGCTC
"They appear to be a list of mutational changes," Marcia said. "Defined down to the level of polynucleotides."
Gray tapped the name near the top. "Crocuta crocuta,"he read. "The spotted hyena. I've seen the end result of that research. Baldric Waalenberg mentioned how he was perfecting the species, even incorporating human stem cells in their brains."
Marcia brightened and tapped back to a main directory. "That explains the name of the entire database. Hersenschim. Which translates to 'chimera.' A biologic term for an organism with genetic material from more than one species, whether from grafting like in plants or insertion of foreign cells into an embryo." She tapped one-handed at the computer, focused. "But to what end?"
Straightening, Gray glanced down the length of the embryonic lab. Was all this any different from Baldric's manipulation of orchids and bonsai trees? Just another way to control nature, to manipulate and design it according to his own definition of perfection.
"Hmm…" Marcia mumbled. "Strange."
Gray turned back to her. "What?"
"As I said, there are human embryos here." She glanced over a shoulder to Gray. "According to the cross-referenced genealogy, all of these embryos are genetically tied to the Waalenbergs."
No surprise there. Gray had noted the similarities in the Waalenberg offspring. Their patriarch had been tweaking the family lineage for generations.
But apparently that wasn't the strange part.
Marcia continued, "Each of the Waalenberg embryos in turn is referenced to stem cell lines that are then tracked to Crocuta crocuta."
Understanding and horror grew. "Are you saying he's been planting his own children's stem cells into those monsters?" Gray could not hide his shock.
Did the man's atrocities, his conceit, never end?
"That's not all," Marcia said.
Gray felt a sickening jolt in his gut, knowing what she was going to say next.
Marcia pointed to a complicated chart on the screen. "According to this, stem cells from the hyenas are cross-referenced back to the next generation of human embryos."
Gray pictured Ischke holding out her hand and stopping the charging hyena. It was more than just master and dog. It was family. Baldric had been implanting cells from his mutated hyenas back into his children, cross-pollinating like his orchids.
"But even that's not the worst…" Marcia began, pale and disturbed to her core. "The Waalenbergs have been—"
Gray cut her off. He had heard enough. They had more to search. "We should keep moving."
Marcia glanced to the computer with reluctance, but she nodded and stood. They left the monster lab and continued down the hall. The next door was marked foetussen. A fetal lab. Gray continued down the hall without stopping. He had no desire to see what horrors lay inside there.
"How are they achieving these results?" Marcia asked. "The mutations, the successful chimeras…? They must have some way of controlling their genetic manipulations."
"Possibly," he mumbled. "But it's not perfected—not yet."
Gray remembered Hugo Hirszfeld's work, the code he hid in runes. He now understood Baldric's obsession with it. A promise of perfection. Too beautiful to let die and too monstrous to set free.
And certainly the concerns of the monstrous didn't scare Baldric. In fact, he bred the monstrous into his own family. And now that he had Hugo's code, what was Baldric's next step? Especially with Sigma breathing down his neck. No wonder Baldric wanted so desperately to know about Painter Crowe.