Pecky Greenleg Chapter 11

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Dr. Warner cleared his throat. “My name is Dr. Silas Warner. I work for a large company that studies genetic modification.”

Jake’s mind reeled. “Genetic modification? What—?”

Let him tell his story, Jake.

Jake clamped his mouth shut, glaring at Dr. Warner. Pecky nodded to the doctor to continue.

“As I said, the company I work for HEN – Healthy Engineered Nature — studies and experiments with ways to improve plant and animal life through genetic modification. My team was working to create a breed that would grow quickly, but without injury.”

“Injury?”

“Yes,” said Dr. Warner. “You see, a few breeds of chickens have been selectively bred for meat production. These broilers grow to full size in about 6-12 weeks, eating half the feed of the old-fashioned breeds.

“What does this have to do with Pecky?” Jake interrupted again.

“Well,” continued Dr. Silas. “Everything comes at a cost. Sometimes there are unintended consequences. Because these breeds grow so quickly, their internal systems—heart, bones and joints can’t keep up.”

“They grow too fast for their own good,” said Gilbert.

“Exactly. Legs and spines can twist, break or bow causing pain and an unwillingness to move. Chickens get trampled or starve,” said Dr. Warner.

Jake’s face blanched. “That’s horrible.”

“It is,” continued Dr. Warner. “But at H.E.N., we were coming up with ways to fix this problem. To make sure that all body systems – muscle, bones, heart – grow at the same rate. And we were successful…or so we thought.”

Confusion clouded Jake’s face.

“You see,” continued Dr. Warner. “There are always unintended consequences. Our modification awoke a dormant virus that is normally not harmful to chickens and it started spreading through the test groups.

Jake glanced at Pecky as Dr. Warner continued.

“Every day, we lost more birds. It got so bad that an employee from another division accused us of intentionally harming the chickens. When no one would do anything about it, he decided to remove the birds from danger.”

Wide-eyed, Jake asked, “What did he do?”

“He snuck into the lab and nabbed the latest group—inlcuding Pecky. He thought by hiding them in the hatchery, he was giving them a chance. By the time we figured out what he had done, all of the birds he took had died—except Pecky.”

Jake swallowed and looked at Pecky. “Why did Pecky survive?”

Dr. Warner looked at Pecky with an appraising and excited spark in his eye. “Pecky is different than the others.”

Jake snorted. “Well yeah, he can talk!”

“No, no,” said Dr. Warner. “You mistake my meaning. The others in Pecky’s group also started to develop social behavior, and they still died. But Pecky is the only one in the group with green legs. We thought it was just another cosmetic mutation…”.

Ahem. Pecky ruffled his feathers.

“…but now we think it may be more than that. You see, Pecky has lived well past the others in his test group. He is stronger and his communication skills are more advanced.”

 Dr. Warner paused, looking Jake in the eye. “Pecky may very well be the key to curing this virus and saving future breeds.”

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