Killer mice, also known as scorpion mice (they chew the heads off scorpions), occupy great spaces in the West, and up till now have been left alone.

But of course they have unusual potential. As Marty Stouffer said on television, in his show on killer mice, they are indeed "cute." Furthermore, they are the only mice, and one of the few mammals, that can boast fathers that take care of the young. The mice are born in an underground nest and both parents seem to play with the babies a lot, rolling and tumbling about.

Unlike your regular house mouse that is happy with a few crumbs of Wonder Bread and which breeds in dresser drawers rarely opened and containing your great-grandmother's collection of lace, the killer mouse is a macho beast.

It attacks scorpions, snakes and I suppose anything else it can manage. It gives a victory cry said to resemble the howl of a distant coyote, but to me it sounds almost exactly like a police whistle in the next block.

It is astonishing to see this wee timorous beastie slaughter a coral snake then raise his sweet little head to shriek in triumph.

Nowadays, as you know, genetic engineering is quite the rage. Human genes have been introduced into regular mice so that they produce in their milk what is said to be a valuable protein that humans can take to prevent heart attacks.

There is no reason human genes could not equally well be introduced into killer mice. This milk business is all very well, but when you have a mouse that likes to bite heads off scorpions there is no need to fool around with milk. This animal could, beyond any doubt, be bred and adapted to any number of human uses.

People who are persecuted for having pit bulls would probably be glad to have a good killer mouse for a pet -- one that could do the same things but which was more cuddly and smaller.

And when you consider our modern horses descend from the eohippus, no larger than a hare, we may hope the little killer mouse could be raised to equal stature. Maybe a new branch of military service could be established, manned by these mice.

First we would have to work out the trifling moral question of making mice fight wars for us, but that will be no problem. It is never a problem to solve a moral dilemma if it's something profitable, convenient or pleasurable. Like that wonderful tuna fish you used to see on television ads, the mice would be enchanted to fulfil their destiny toting Browning Automatic Rifles about in exotic places for us.

You might say these mice could never be bred up to human intelligence. That is another silly objection. Careful breeding can work wonders.

Come to think of it, extremely little work has been done with killer bees. The killer bee breeding program was misconceived to begin with. The aim was to breed them with other bees, select the offspring, and back-cross and generally fiddle about over a few generations until we had a domestic bee with many new and valuable qualities. As everybody knows, nothing much came of that attempt, except the nuisance of some unimproved killer bees escaping and flourishing to the annoyance of many humans.

If instead of futzing around with other bees the killer bees had been given human genes (in carefully controlled breeding programs, naturally) we would be farther down the road. They almost certainly have military uses and could be teamed with the killer mice for projects not requiring much judgment, like Grenada.

Bees, mice, gars, cockroaches and other underutilized fauna could all prove tremendous assets, once some of our own genes were introduced into their bodies and thence into their offspring.

You can expect outcries, yes, from the overly cautious who keep babbling that human genes ought to stay in human bodies and not in mice or bugs.

But already you see the boon likely from mouse-human milk. And if the new improved killer mice can spare us some of the human costs of human wars, then protest will stop entirely.

Some will say -- for there are always nitpickers and nervous nellies among us -- the new giant improved killer mouse might have consequences we have not yet thought of.

Oh, baloney. Man's destiny is to go for it. Forging ahead is what made the stock market that in turn makes America. Risk is the American way. If there are a few accidents, well, you have to keep a rational perspective. We had a stock disorder in the '30s, but are we any worse off for it now? Germany and Japan lost wars, but look how well it all turned out for them. New drugs sometimes give us kids without arms, etc., but in general the nation is better off.

This gene business is tricky since we have no idea what we're doing, but that is true of so much of life. We shall muddle through. And if not, the cute mice will have their turn at running the world, which seems only fair.