Saturday, March 3, 2012

Guest Post: Katherine Hawkings

 What Exactly Is Michaela?

This is a question that has come up frequently, ever since my first beta-readers laid eyes on the manuscript, so I thought it might be about time to address the issue. First, let me tell you, Michaela and the girls are chimaera. What's that? Well in Greek mythology it was a fire-breathing monster, commonly represented with a lion's head, a goat's body, and a serpent's tail. In science, it is an artificially produced individual having genes of several species.

When the scientists initially began their project, they were attempting to combine different strains of genes into one creature to create the perfect warrior; fast, strong, healthy, smart... perfect. Unfortunately, their technology wasn't quite up to the task. There's no doubt Michaela and the rest of the project's results are advanced, but they're far from perfect.

In their creation, thousands of unique genes were either modified or replaced. I can't go into ever single detail, but I can let you know about a few of the major ones.

Sight: The girls' sight is comprised of several genes, from hawks, buzzards and cats. The hawks and buzzards have incredible eyes, and they can see rodents from 15,000 feet in the sky. Cats, on the other hand, have pupils that can expand (to a greater extent than ours) until they pretty much double their ability to see (and hunt) in the dark.

Hearing: A variety of animals were used in the fine-tuning of the girls sense of hearing, including owls, elephants and dolphins. Owls have very large ear-holes, with one slightly above and one slightly below eye level. Although the girls have ears at same height, they have a larger than normal ear canal. The difference in size between their ears and ours is not totally excessive, and would hardly be noticed unless the person in question looked at a lot of ears, but they're big enough to make a huge difference. Elephants, too, have exceptional hearing, and are able to hear frequencies up to twenty times lower than humans. If you've read The Sphinx Project that'll explain why they hear that well before anyone else. Lastly, there are the dolphins. Dolphins use echolocation, a biological sonar system. Although the girls don't emit clicks like dolphins (and bats) they are able to use other noises, in much the same way as the blind superhero Daredevil.

Smell: When it comes to smell, the girls have another physical modification. Although, once again, you wouldn't know unless you were looking right at it, and knew what you were looking for. Inside their nostrils, their skin is covered in tiny flaps which hugely increases the surface area like a bear, which allows for many more receptors than those in a normal human nose.

Immunity to cold: This comes from a combination of two animals. Firstly, the rather unoriginally named ice fish, who produce a natural antifreeze in their blood which allows them to withstand waters of zero degrees celcius. There is also the weta, which can remain frozen for months without frostbite.

Speed: It's hardly surprising to know that the girls' sprinting speed has been enhanced with genes from cheetahs. You probably wouldn't have guessed though, that there is also another animal in the mix. The pronghorn anteloper has a top speed close to that of a cheetah, but they have one thing a cheetah doesn't.. endurance.

So there you have it; the basics of what makes the girls so special. Like I said, there is so much more to it than that, but we don't have all day. I have another book to write! If you could share the genes of any animal, what would it be?

This was so much fun!! I really enjoyed reading this, and I hope all you guys did too!! 

A special thanks to Katherine for such a great post!

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