Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Write in the SCIENCE FICTION genre (05/10/07)
TITLE: Hope, With Wings
By Jan Ackerson
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The official finally looked up from her monitor, smiling. “Congratulations, Ms. Lamport! The PLB has preliminarily determined that you and your partner may conceive a child…”
Dara leaned forward. “My husband.”
“What?” The official was clearly unused to interruption.
“Jim is my husband, not my partner. We’re married.” She glanced at Jim, who grinned.
“Oh, how quaint. We don’t get much of that any more. Well, there’s no place to indicate husband on my form. Let’s just continue, shall we?” She tapped again, and continued with her review.
“I have good news for you, Ms. Lamport. After analysis of your DNA, and that of your part--, um, husband, we’ve determined that the odds are infinitesimal that your offspring will be genetically inferior.” She looked up at Dara, clearly expecting joyous celebration.
“That doesn’t really matter to us, though—right, Jim?”
Jim nodded in confirmation. “We’ll be happy with any baby the Lord gives us.”
The official laughed. “The Administrator is hardly a lord, you needn’t call him that…oh, I see. You were being religious just then, weren’t you? Aren’t you delightfully old-fashioned?” More tapping. “Shall I continue?”
Dara nodded and squeezed Jim’s hand again.
The official modulated her voice; apparently this part of her routine called for seriousness. “Ms. Lamport, I must tell you that we’ve calculated a significant chance that your child may inherit the following minor genetic conditions.” She rotated the viewscreen toward Dara, who pushed it at Jim so they could read it together. A list of eight conditions appeared there, each followed by a monetary amount.
“Ms. Lamport, fortunately for you, each of these conditions can be eliminated with gene therapy, for the small amounts you see before you. If you’ll just allow me to scan your bank implant, we can see to this matter immediately.”
Jim shook his head. “We don’t want that, either. Just a baby…”
The official held up a hand, a gesture clearly meant to silence him. “Sir, you have no voice here. It’s highly irregular to have you here at all. The decision is solely Ms. Lamport’s, as carrier of the fetus.” She turned and spoke to Dara. “May I scan your implant, please?”
“No…no, I don’t think so. Please, we just want the baby God gives us.”
A snap of the head at the word God, pursed lips, more tapping. Nervousness swelled and pulsated in the room.
“Well then, Ms. Lamport, just a few more matters. This is the fun part! As you know, we can genetically design each child with desirable physical characteristics. Your child, for example, would be inclined to inherit your partner’s rather large nose. We can fix that for you—a minor tweaking of one gene. And you don’t want your child to have your frizzy hair, do you? Frizzy hair and a big nose—can you imagine the teasing? Through the wonder of genetic manipulation, there will be no more ugly people in the next generation. As I said before, the fee for each manipulation is quite reasonable.” She swiveled the monitor again. “Just touch any feature you wish your child to have—and of course you’ll want to pre-select its sex.”
Rather than reaching toward the screen, Dara sat back in her chair. “I—I don’t think I’ll select any of those. We’ll take our chances on the hair and nose, and on all those other things, too.”
“Very well.” With a final tap, the official’s computer folded into its niche in her desk. “Ms. Lamport, you may expect our final determination in a month or so. Feel free to contact me, should you change your mind on any of those genetic manipulations.”
Dara and Jim left the office accompanied by hope, with wings.
One month later, Dara stared at the message on her computer.
“We regret to inform you that your application for a Parenting License has been rejected. We have determined that any child born to you and your current partner would have a significant likelihood of developing anti-governmental and superstitious behavioral patterns. Feel free to apply again with another partner.”
She crumpled into Jim’s arms. “It’s time for us to go, my love,” he said. His hand caressed her belly, not yet swollen with the unlicensed child now nurtured in her womb.
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