After two years of testing, interviewing, genetic profiling, and legal hurdling, the official letter of governmental approval finally appeared by drone at Lucy and Ethan’s doorstep. They had been arguing for weeks whether the recent lack of communication was an indication of rejection, or if ‘no news was good news’. Lucy dreaded the worst, while Ethan remained hopeful, knowing that even if they didn’t have perfect DNA, they had money and perfect credit scores.
Both were in the kitchen when their home computer announced the delivery, “Good morning. A secure package from the Office of Human Genetics and Reproduction has arrived for you. A signature is required.” Lucy twirled and raced for the front door as Ethan took a moment to swallow his nutrient capsule and take one last swig of synthetic cappuccino.
Before he could catch up to her, Lucy was hurrying back with the envelope already half open. They stood there in the hallway, holding hands, reading the letter together out loud through tears and laughter. Lucy thumbed the embossed lettering as she read the last sentence proudly:
“From this day forward you are considered Family of the State, and have full reproductive rights and privileges as stated in Article 28.9, Section G, of the Human Genome Purity and Preservation Act.”
When she looked up, Ethan feigned indifference, even though his heart was pounding with excitement.
“See, I told you everything would work out.”
Lucy hugged him around the waist and rested her cheek on his neck. “Oh shut up!” she said, smiling.
Each thought about the future for the first time in months as they held one another in silence. There were no more calls, office visits, or forms to fill out. Every test had been passed, every signature collected. They could fully focus on the one thing they wanted more than anything else: a State Sanctioned Child. One who would be born into a life of privilege and protection, instead of obsolescence and struggle.
After a few minutes, Ethan asked, “So, are you going to make the appointment, or should I?“
Lucy was giggling when the pair exited their hyperloop pod. “Now that was a first class ride!” she cooed as the pod whooshed away.
“Yeah, I’ve never felt leather so velvety soft. The floor-to-ceiling holoscreen was a nice touch too.” Ethan recalled with slight awe.
“Not the mode of transportation, dumbass,” Lucy replied, looking coyly at his undone pants zipper.
“Oh yeah! That was the best part,” he said smiling before taking her hand. “Now let’s go!”
They ran down the platform and followed illuminated arrows along the floor, through the empty receiving terminal, and then to a wide staircase leading upward. Emerging into an immense courtyard, they stopped just outside the entrance, raising flattened hands above their eyebrows to shade against the afternoon sun. Any remaining postcoital euphoria dissolved into vague anxiety.
“Whoa…” they said in unison, somewhat alarmed.
The courtyard itself was a perfect square, about the size of 10 city blocks. Completely uniform Cypress trees lined each side, providing a natural barrier between the complex and rugged terrain beyond. Perfectly trimmed, deep blue-green grass filled the manmade expanse, interrupted only by circuitous walkways leading to a building at the center. The building was also square — a 1,000 by 1,000 foot reflective cube with no visible doors, windows, or any other structural details. As the couple made their way along one of the paths towards the structure, watching their tiny reflections grow from indistinguishable specks into recognizable figures, the effect was both stunning and unsettling.
“Are you sure we’re at the right place?” Ethan asked, realizing neither of them had said anything for several minutes.
“It has to be. They arranged everything. Even transportation to the hyperloop station,” Lucy replied. She looked down at her wrist to confirm the message displayed on a screen imbedded in her skin: You have arrived.
Their pace slowed as they approached the smooth, featureless building, stopping about 25 feet away from the nearest side. Lucy craned her neck upwards. Ethan glanced from side to side. “Is there anybody even here?” he asked, now noticing that they had not yet seen a single person. Before Lucy could respond, a large rectangle directly before them turned opaque black, and then slid away to reveal a tall woman dressed in a white lab coat, pencil skirt and glossy 6 inch heels.
“Hello Mister and Misses Chou!” the woman declared as she approached the tentative couple, hand extended, smiling warmly.
Ethan shook the woman’s hand first, “Hi, yes! I’m Ethan. This is my lovely wife.”
Lucy went next, “Lucianna Chou, but you can call me Lucy.”
“Wonderful! Welcome to the Center for Human Genetics and Biological Development. It’s a pleasure meeting you both. My name is Mary-Anne, and I’ll be your State Family Administrator. Please, join me in the reception lounge,” the woman offered, gesturing with her other hand towards the entrance.
They followed Mary-Anne through the opening and into an empty corridor wrapped in white, semiopaque panels of diffused light. She talked while they walked together towards a black rectangle at the end — presumably another door.
“I hope you found us okay?” Mary-Anne stopped, turned towards the ‘door’, and patiently waited as a small device emerged from the wall beside to scan her retinas.
“Yeah… kind of hard to miss,” Ethan responded, making a quick sideways glance at Lucy.
The rectangle slid away to reveal a spacious room filled with white leather sofas, arm chairs, and low tables. The trio walked towards a white solid marble counter on the right. There were no windows, only soft, glowing panels covering all the walls, ceiling and floors.
“This is the reception lounge.” Mary-Anne stated casually. “Once I get your signed consent to proceed, we’ll sit down together and discuss the itinerary for today. Sound good?”
Lucy and Ethan nodded together as Mary-Anne turned to the counter and tapped the polished, veined surface. A piece of the stone slid away to reveal a digital screen, showing a dark gray “X” and thin line against a blank background.
Turning back to face Ethan, Mary-Anne become very formal. “Ethan, do you grant the State permission to conceive and deliver your offspring into the care of The Family?” she asked, waving towards to screen. “If so, please sign here.”
When Ethan hesitated, Mary-Anne smiled again. “Of course, you will have full Parental Rights to any offspring you procreate. The State simply provides the means for an Immaculate Birth, complete care, and quality upbringing.” Nodding to both, she added, “You two will do all the hard work.” Her eyes became crescent moons above a wide grin.
“Um, ok…” Ethan turn to Lucy, shrugged, and then walked over to the screen and signed with his fingertip.
“Thank you,” The State Administrator said once he was finished. “Lucy?”
Lucy paused for a brief moment. “Let’s do this.”
Mary-Anne recited the required statement and Lucy signed then screen, which immediately turned black and disappeared beneath a marble slab.
“Excellent!” Mary-Anne exclaimed, abruptly walking towards a collection of plush chaise lounges arranged around a translucent table.
Before following, but after Mary-Anne’s back was turned, Lucy punched Ethan in the thigh.
“Your zipper!” she whispered, pointing with playful urgency. Ethan fidgeted at his crotch while the couple made their way to the empty chairs.
Once everyone settled, Mary-Anne continued. “I mean this literally: the hard part is over. Because you’ve already supplied us with ample blood, sperm and ovum, passed all of our tests and screening questions, qualified financially- “ Ethan pumped his fist “-and have now signed the last form, all you have left to do is meet with Doctor Spencer.”
Lucy looked over to Ethan, who had leaned into the white, silky hide and propped his feet up on the ottoman. “Sounds good.”
“She will go through all the options with you, in private.”
Just as Lucy was about to speak, Mary-Anne interjected, “Would either of you like a coffee while you wait?” Standing to straighten her lab coat, she made eye contact first with Lucy, “Cinnamon chai latte, whole milk?” Then to Ethan, “Semi-dry cappuccino, light foam?”
“Fuck yeah!” Ethan blurted. “Sorry, I mean, ‘Yes please!’”
Lucy grinned and rolled her eyes. “Yeah, sure. You obviously know our vices.”
Mary-Anne spoke over her shoulder, heading for the far corner of the lounge area. “We do our research.” Then, pausing, she faced Lucy and smiled. “It’s my job to notice the little details that make our patients feel most comfortable.”
“Well, thank you. Yes, I’ll take that latte then.”
Tapping the wall to reveal yet another door, Mary-Anne spoke to Ethan. “By the way, every wall in this room is also a holoscreen. Just look in any direction and ask for entertainment options.”
“That’s kind of awesome,” he responded as both Mary-Anne and the door disappeared.
“Also, what is that lovely smell? Lavender?” he asked himself more than Lucy.
“I don’t smell anything. Just clean.”
The translucent table instantly became solid, shiny, and black. An outline of a circle appeared on the tabletop, then slid away as two steaming hot beverages rose from the surface. Each were presented in perfect, porcelain cups – one large and wide for the latte, another tall and narrow for the cappuccino.
Instinctively, but silently, each grabbed their respective drinks and sank bank into their chairs. Meanwhile, the circle slid into its original position and the table became translucent once again. Just then, a portion of the wall just beyond the table turned black for a moment, before white lettering faded into view: ‘How may I entertain you?’
“Yeah,” she agreed, closing her eyes. “Now that’s a good latte.”
Dr. Elizabeth Spencer’s ‘office’ was more of a sparse, meticulously appointed penthouse. Each thing displayed evidence of extreme attention to detail. All furniture was made with the finest materials and superior craftsmanship. Every object was arranged just so. The polished, solid marble floors were spotless. Seamless walls pulsed with soft blue and white light, but were otherwise bare. A ceiling constructed of what appeared to be one, contiguous piece of brushed metal finished the space — no edges or light fixtures anywhere. On the far left wall, a giant window overlooked sheer granite hills beyond the courtyard. Dr. Spencer sat with Lucy and Ethan at her enormous, hewn granite desk on the opposite side of the room.
“I’m glad that you’re both excited, because now is the fun part!” The doctor said with a forced smile, hands folded in her lap, sitting upright in a custom task chair, legs crossed at the ankle. She waved a hand at a nearby panel, which immediately showed a detailed diagram featuring a generic newborn baby.
“Think of it this way: we have decoded your entire genome, and we have the ability to form human genes with precise specifications. Therefore, we take the sum total of all possible genetic variables captured in the specimens you provided many months ago, and then create a personalized matrix of those traits, as defined by your specific DNA.”
The doctor gestured to enlarge the diagram, activating more screens as she zoomed in and extruded the image into a holographic, 3-dimensional form.
“So, if Ethan and I could produce a child with hazel eyes, then that would be one such option available to choose from?” Lucy asked.
“Exactly. We have 13 of your eggs, and millions of his sperm. Considering that human DNA consists of roughly 30,000 genes, you actually end up with a lot of choices for customization.” Dr. Spencer waved a hand across the image, filling the wireframe baby with skin, hair, and eye color, while altering each part of the body and face slightly. The new, longer baby was creamy brown, with hazel eyes and a tuft of dark brown hair.
“Do we have to specify every trait?” Ethan asked.
“No. In fact, you don’t actually need to specify any traits at all. Undetermined attributes will be completely randomized, but still based on the genetic profile available. No matter what, in other words, it will be your unique child. Minus all the undesirable genes, of course.” She drew a horizontal circle in the air with her finger, spinning the holographic form like a top, until it eventually rested in its original position. This time the baby was rounder, paler, had brown eyes with epicanthal folds, and a full crown of black hair.
“What if we want something different than what’s in our genes?” Ethan asked.
Flatly, Dr. Spencer replied, “Modifications are extra. But yes, they are indeed possible.”
“We have plenty of money,” Ethan replied half jokingly.
“Yes, well, there are other implications. We can discuss those options if and when they come up,” she countered. “Anyway, the only modification we perform by default is the inclusion of a simple geolocation tracker. That can be upgraded as well.”
Lucy interjected, “Wait, what?”
“If, for example, you wanted your offspring to have hazel eyes, but your DNA did not allow for that possibility, then we can splice alternative genes — developed right here in the lab — into the DNA of the egg and sperm selected for conception, thereby prescribing otherwise impossible hazel eyes.”
“No, the geolocation tracker.” Lucy was perturbed by this.
Dr. Spencer wiped away something invisible from her knee. “Oh that. Yes, well, in order to ensure the safety of any child born into the Family of the State, and to confirm his or her identity at any given moment, anywhere in the world, your offspring will come equipped with a microscopic device that will never degenerate or loose operational capacity. This benefits you as parents, since you’ll always know where your children will be, and can sleep more soundly knowing that the State won’t allow any preventable harm come them – throughout their entire lives! Plus, when they grow into adults, your children will enjoy the privilege of worldwide access available only to members of the Family.”
She paused for effect, then added, “I just returned from a private island off the coast of New Nevada last week.”
Ethan’s eyes grew wide at this. Lucy pursed her lips.
“Although I don’t especially love the idea of a government device being implanted in our baby, I understand why it would be necessary. I also like that we’ll know where our child is at all times,” Lucy concluded.
“Right,” the doctor affirmed. “Now, do either of you have any more questions before we proceed with the Attribute Selection Process?”
They looked at one another briefly, then back to Dr. Spencer. “Just one,” Ethan ventured.
“Yes?” the doctor replied hesitantly while she readjusted the lapels of her lab coat, refolded her hands, and managed another smile.
“What about our kids? Will they be able to reproduce on their own?”
“Oh! That’s an easy one: any child born into the Family will automatically receive privileges to conceive and bare up to 2 offspring, without prior approval, once they turn 25, but so long as they are younger than 39.” The doctor tilled her head to one side, awaiting their responses.
“Sounds fair to me,” Ethan said, nodding his head up and down.
“I guess,” Lucy rulctantly agreed.
“Wonderful!” Dr. Spencer replied, turning again to the displays and made a closed fist. The 3-dimensional baby evaporated as the panels returned to glowing, blue-white light.
“So, shall we get started then?”
Dr. Elizabeth’s personal assistant, Samantha — also wearing an identical skirt, white lab coat, and heels – escorted the nervous couple from the penthouse office to hyperlift pods, which sucked them down to the ground floor in exactly 3 seconds (two of which were spent opening and closing the doors). Lucy and Ethan talked the entire way to the reception lounge.
“Do you think we made the right decisions?” she asked, squeezing his bicep tighter with both of her arms. Her eyes darted back and forth ahead of them, as if searching for something, while Ethan led the way. Just moments ago she was elated, literally bouncing with excitement. This abrupt fluctuation of conflicting emotions deeply unsettled him.
Wanting to assuage both her fears and his own, he answered unequivocally, “Yes I do. Don’t worry about it, my darling. We made every decision together, over the course of 14 long months. Don’t start second-guessing everything now.”
“I don’t know. Before today, I had this particular image in my mind. Now there’s a 3-dimensional holograph in my inbox depicting what she is going to look like… precisely.” Lucy sighed. “I kind of wish we’d just left it all to chance.”
Ethan thought in silence for a moment. “It’s true that there’s a certain appeal to the unknown, the random. But our hazel-eyed, soon-to-be-daughter will still have a personality we don’t yet know about, and a lifetime of experiences to influence who she ultimately becomes.”
He kissed Lucy on the top of her head as Samantha stopped beside the entrance to the lounge, allowing the two to enter by themselves. “There will be plenty of other unknowns to keep things interesting. Besides, we kept her ‘pure’. 100 percent our own DNA. Just a little… remixed.”
Lucy looked up and answered with a little more confidence, “Yeah. I suppose you’re right. The curtains don’t really change the house, after all.”
Ethan looked down, grinning. “Of course I’m right.” Then he pinched his eyebrows together, suddenly frowning. “And I really wish you’d stop mentioning the house. I know we need more space and at least another bathroom.”
The doctor’s assistant called from behind them, “Mary-Anne will join you momentarily.” They both waved from over their shoulders. Before either could say thanks, Samantha disappeared behind a black rectangle.
Standing alone together in the lounge, Ethan then faced Lucy, took her hands in his, and began to speak tenderly, “Hey. Look at me. I love you. Everything is going to be okay, my darling. We should be excited right now, not doubtful or combative.”
Looking him in the eyes, Lucy took a long breath in, “Yes. Excited. I can do that.” She let out her breath all at once, clapped her hands and then laughed. “Ethan! We’re going to have a baby!”
“Yes you are!”
They jerked their heads in the same direction at once, surprised to see Mary-Anne standing beside them.
“A beautiful girl with dad’s looks and mom’s intellect, to be exact,” she said while walking towards them with an extended hand.
“Hey! Yeah. You kinda sneaked up on us there,” Ethan responded as he shook the Mary-Anne’s hand.
“We’re pretty stoked,” Lucy added, wrapping one arm around Ethan’s waist.
“Good! Well, you both have a lot of preparing to do,” Mary-Anne continued. “Thank you again for trusting the Center for Human Genetics and Biological Development with your first child born into the Family. Now let’s get you on your way,” she said while walking towards the exit corridor.
They silently followed the Administrator a few paces behind. Eventually Ethan managed to asked, “So, there’s nothing else we need to do today?”
As they came to the building’s main ‘door’, Mary-Anne stopped to tap the adjacent wall. A black rectangle formed and slid away, revealing the expansive courtyard and Cyrpess trees in the distance. “Nope.” She gestured towards the opening as the pair exited. “That’s it!”
Exiting the building, Ethan and Lucy turned around and began to wave. “Okay then…”
Mary-Anne waved back. “We’ll email you in about 41 weeks, when your baby is ready. Enjoy the remaining 9 months of freedom!” The black rectangle slid back into position and melted away into the building’s mirror facade, reflecting Lucy and Ethan’s astonished faces.