One P Leads to Another
It was Monday evening. Tom had said yes to his promotion. He managed to negotiate quite a high rate of pay, higher than he should have got at his new level.
He spent the day getting used to his new office, organising his filing cabinet, pens, links, viewcom and various other bits and pieces. He wandered around the plant, saying hello to people he knew, most of whom congratulated him on his promotion and some of whom gave a more guarded welcome with jealousy in their eyes.
Ralph McManan's name was still on the door, but Tom had asked the name to be changed. It was going to be repainted later in the week. He’d asked for a different typeface. His request had been granted.
While he was at work he had a long conversation with Jack via viewcom. It seemed that Tom himself was no longer a key suspect; they didn't have anything on him anyway. Jack wanted to talk to him face to face. Jack looked troubled. No wonder. He was going to see Jack tomorrow evening, Tuesday. Still at least Tom appeared to have found a good woman in Elsee. For how long would they be together?
Annie busied herself finding other places for Tom and Annie to go for children. Her hot favourite was Phoenix.
In the evening Tom and Annie went ·off to the Phoenix development centre. It was one of the only places that let you see your child develop and gave you a free consultation before you committed any money.
It was an out of town place for kids, miles from anywhere and cheaper. You got a lot more for you your money than most of the places in Hertferd.
They kept their costs down by sheer volume. It meant Tom and Annie could afford more enhancements, which sent Annie skipping round the apartment.
Even transport was free.
The limo arrived at 6.30pm. A smartly dressed woman ushered them into the plush leather seats. They helped themselves to a free drink from the cabinet. Annie squeezed Tom's hand and snuggled up to him.
“Shall we look at the interactive infoscan? It gives us information about Phoenix."
All Tom and Annie had to do was give some material, sperm and eggs, and choose some enhancements. The former bit was easy the latter bit was really tough.
The screen popped up. There were several headings; the first one was entitled the history of ' The creation system.'
‘The history of the creation system ' the sweet female voice chimed.
'The foundation stone was laid in the late twentieth century, starting in the late 1980's when scientists started to map of the human genome, the genetic map of man.
'Genes are the bits of DNA, which give your body instructions on how it develops and how it maintains itself throughout life. The DNA is like a computer programme or language, it tells the computer, your body, how to behave, even if you can't actually see it. It's like the language, which created my programme; you can't see it, but it's running in the background.
‘The same applies with genes, you can't see them, they're too small, but DNA is present in the centre of every cell in your body. The expression of those genes, i.e. what you see is called the phenotype.
‘Some genes are relatively simple and form a specific function. For example, when you get drunk, there is a gene which produces a substance called alcohol dehydrogenate. This breaks down alcohol so that you don't have a permanent hangover!!
‘Some genes create what is called discontinuous variation, which is where the genes create a set phenotype or expression of genes for things like eye colour or blood type. You either have blue eyes or green. These things are discrete; your blood type is either A, AB, B or 0.
‘Other things are much more complicated and genes work in relation to their environment as they always do but some are more environments dependent.
‘Things like height and weight are the result of many genes producing many chemicals. How heavy you are is a balance between environmental factors, like how much you eat and how good your digestion is. The waste is fat on your body...'
“This is boring," said Tom,” I've had enough already; it treats you like you're three. We know this shit."
Tom, quiet I want to listen to this, there might be something we don't know”.
'..understanding how all the genes interacted took a long time and the collective and collaborative efforts of scientists all over the world. It took years for scientists to understand how genes interact to create skill sets such as musical ability, sports ability and intelligence in terms of aptitude for Maths, English, languages, social skills, intuition, spatial processing, cognitive processing etc...
‘The roots of creation lay in the practice of freezing eggs and artificial insemination. Women who wanted to keep on their career froze eggs and had them inseminated by their partners at a later time. At first a group of women called 'hens' became full time gestators, nurturing up to ten babies in their own lifetimes. They couldn't do more than this because of the wear and tear on their bodies.
‘This was taken a stage further when Craig and Malinowski first managed to allow foetal development actually outside the womb. Since more and more women work, families became dependent on the female dollar. Hence demand for artificial development started growing fast in the 30's.
‘When the International genetic banking services were set up, things gathered their own momentum. Initially this was financed by the International Monetary Fund, who had identified the massive economic drain that women leaving work had placed on the economies of developed and emergent economies.
‘Gradually, with advancements in development technology, it became cheaper and cheaper to develop children artificially. Once this was the privilege of the very wealthy.
‘Today as we all know creation is an economic necessity. If all the women of the United States took time out just to have children it is estimated that the GDP of the States would fall in one year by some 25% - equal to the GDP of half of Africa.
‘Today 99 % of the richer nations children are grown artificially and thanks to advances in genetic technology and understanding, choosing enhancements has become easier and easier and more precise. But we're still learning!
‘Craig and Malinowski could not know what a massive change they had unwittingly created. It was one of the most fundamental advances in technology and the way we procreate this century. It circumnavigated the increasing infertility of men, many of whom had. sperm frozen early in adulthood to preserve for later life.
‘Would the Wright brothers have ever known their invention would have led to package holidays? Would they have ever dreamt that modern flight gave people the liberty to commute from places like London to Frankfurt or Montana to California to work? Would they know that it has made vast areas of the globe, which were once isolated communities into global communities in their own right?
‘While we take this technology for granted now...' “Do we have to watch this?”
“Quiet, Tom, I'm interested."
“May I continue?" said the voice somewhat indignantly.
"Yes, please do, take no notice of my husband!" Annie said sternly and poked Tom in the ribs.
‘While we take this technology for granted now there was a time when many people opposed it on moral grounds or were frightened by it.
‘When electricity was first introduced it took a while to catch on. Many people felt this new 'magic' was dangerous. Early wiring caused many shocks to people and some fatalities but by the 1940's and certainly by the 1950's electricity became the norm. Similarly at first people felt even passive television advertising (such as the one shown here) was a form of brainwashing! Hard to believe now!!
“At first creation was rejected as being immoral. This is hard for most of us to believe now. Religious leaders felt it was not our right to tamper with nature and spiritual leaders felt the human race should not embark on such a journey; it was such thinking that gave rise to Nazi Germany's extermination of the Jews in the Second World War. 'Positive genetic tampering' was then called eugenics.
“It's hard for us to understand now. These are unfair comparisons. Man has always tried to help nature to improve herself. Pest resistant genes in wheat and corn seeds mean we no longer have to use large amounts of fertilizers and pesticides.
“As the chairman of International Genetics Development has said: ‘the whole of medicine is about playing God.’ Diabetics would be dead without insulin. People who receive surgery would often be dead if it weren't available. Heart disease victims would be dead without cultured hearts.
“Enhancements are just one more way which has enabled man to raise his quality of living for himself and his children.”
“We are pretty good at fucking things up too," Tom said ruefully.
‘Given the technology is now available ' the voice continued unimpeded, ' it is immoral not give your child enhancements. Most religions now accept that the benefits of Creation outweigh any potential negatives.
Creation has allowed people to increase their quality of their life, their longevity and given them enhanced skills to be more fulfilled. During the early part of this century a morality war waged which divided communities across the globe.
Just as people used to choose whether or not to terminate a severely disabled child for its own sake it was at one time regarded as immoral if you gave your child enhancements if you could afford to. As one of the early Hollywood stars said when she bought some of the first enhancements:
“Do you think my son would ever forgive me if he knew I could make him more intelligent and I'd chosen not to?”
You, too now have the opportunity to make this important contribution towards your child's happiness.
This is the brief history of creation.
As a parent embarking on the journey of creating and raising a child it is important to make the right decisions about enhancements.
As we all know it carries some risks. You are making decisions on behalf of an unborn child. But At Phoenix we offer you consultancy to minimise these risks. Phoenix is the largest and oldest development centre in the country having been established thirty five years ago.
Phoenix, “The choice for life."
This is the end of the first module. The next module is about choosing enhancements. Do you wish to proceed?"
“No," said Annie, "Can you hold it there please?" “I never knew all the history did you?”
“Well, I knew a bit about it. My grandmother was definitely against it when it all started. She said it was unnatural."
“Yep. I remember my Mom telling me about it. They used to have massive rows. Gran wanted Mom to have me the natural way and not give me the early enhancements I got. Just as well my Mom didn’t cave.
I remember them arguing. Mom told her that she'd been grateful that she had had orthodontic treatment but that was unnatural. If she'd had the teeth she'd been born with she said my Pop would never have fallen for her, she used to be ugly. Mom said enhancements were the same thing, making things better.
My grandmother disagreed.
Mom said how's it different? My grandmother said it was playing God. Mom said orthodontics was playing God. She said second and third generation uplift, which grandmother used to do, was playing at God. She told her she couldn't see the difference.
Then she called my grandmother a hypocrite, which made her really mad. She told her it was one stage too far but then she couldn't think of any reason to back it up. They didn't talk to each other for weeks and weeks apparently. They never talked about it again."
“It's going to be difficult to prioritise our enhancements," Annie said whimsically.
“I know but at least we can have a child now."
“I wonder what sort of enhancements the Mayor gets."
“I know," said Tom “we’re just going to have to do our best." “It’s so unfair in a way..." said Annie.
“Not necessarily," said Tom jovially," Anderton's starting material won't be up to much." Tom laughed.
“Lighten up! You know it's a mixture Annie; they can only build on what's already there. It's a bit of a lottery. If you're really dumb then enhancements will only help so far, there is only so much they can do. In any case so much of it is how you bring them up; make the most of what they've got. .."
Annie looked vaguely concerned.
‘Do you want to see the section on enhancements?’
“Yeah I think we ought to, it's quite complicated. Play the next module," said Annie.
‘Choosing enhancements. There are three basic areas to consider.
- Musical ability
- Sporting ability
The latter is by far and away the most complicated as there are many areas, which are encompassed by the general heading 'Intelligence'. It's important to be sure which area to focus on.
Broadly, as you might expect, one can enhance more scientific faculties or more artistic ones. It's important to remember these may interact and we cannot, as yet, predict the exact degree of interaction.
For example mathematical enhancement can _ lead to a greater aptitude for other related cognitive areas of thought such as reasoning, skills needed for sciences like physics and chemistry but this isn't guaranteed. There's still a lot we don't understand.
Also, it cannot be underestimated just how important environmental conditions are to the whole process.’
“How do you know they do any good at all?" Tom asked belligerently, becoming more vexed by the tone of this information.
'There is qualitative evidence, witness children who have more intelligence enhancements tend, overall to do better at school but this is by no means absolute.
There is quantitative evidence from twins. Twins are genetically identical.
Some parents chose different types of enhancement in each twin, to make the pair complement each other in different ways. Where this has been done, tests have shown differences between enhancement levels.
It's important to remember that for the enhancements to be effective and reach their full potential the responsibility to develop them lies with you.
In general it is better to build on your own strengths. We offer full diagnostic tests, at a small fee, which will allow you to determine where your own core abilities lie and those of your partner. We also offer counselling before and after these tests if desired.
We then take your genetic material and using new nanotech coding obtain its full genetic code. We can advise you on where we'd suggest you place your enhancements but naturally the final decision is yours.’’
The infoscan continued to diffuse information, to varying degrees of all the way to the Phoenix centre. By the time they arrived, Tom was glassy eyed.
They entered the gates, which had little gold cherubs on them, and the glass geodesic dome loomed in the distance. It was dusk and the dome emitted an eerie purplish, reddish light.
The limo pulled to a halt and they were ushered into the reception area. The whole atrium was highly decorated for Easter, with broken egg shells made of yellow furry material and little bunnies chasing after bigger bunnies in the entrance hall.
Large tropical plants, provided a calming greenish tone to the light and the habitual whale music, endemic to these places, droned, whined and squeaked in the background.
They were served coffee and leafed through some promotional magazines. There was an exhibition showing the development of creation and some early aborted attempts at artificial development, you could just see eyes. Eventually an amiable woman in her early fifties ambled in. She was generously proportioned and wore a bright twinkling smile.
“Hi there, how're you doin’? Good to meet you," she said extending her hand,” My name's Goldie, Goldie Schwarz. You must be Tom and Annie Busey. I understand you've come for an initial consultation and a look around."
“Yep, that's right."
“Well I was going to suggest a tour of the development centre and we can take it from there."
“That'd be fine, “Annie replied.
“Great, okay. I see you've had some coffee, is there anything else I can get you? Some water or some food?”
“No it's okay thanks, we had some food on the way."
“Well shall we get suited up and go? You know about suiting up don't you?”
“Yep," replied Tom smugly, “it was mentioned in the infoscan."
“That’d be great," said Annie with ample enthusiasm.
“It’s a very low risk that any of the chambers could become contaminated but unlike some other places, we don't like taking risks.”
Tom and Annie followed the shuffling woman through various white corridors illuminated from some unidentifiable source. Doors whisked and hissed clinically as they meandered through the anfractuous maze. In some places they peered in through the glass into labs. They watched white figures carefully placing droplets of totipotent liquids onto various trays, tubes, flasks and other assorted receptacles.
They finally entered the changing room and Goldie showed them their cubicles. She disappeared into an adjacent room and appeared with two suits made of some white rubbery type material.
“If you need to use the bathroom I suggest you do so now as the tour will take about forty minutes."
“I'm okay thanks," said Tom. “Me too,” said Annie.
"Well I'll leave you to have your 'decom' shower and to put on your inner suits on. I'll be back in about ten. Okay?”
Tom and Annie undressed. Annie carefully removed and folded her clothes into a neat pile and placed them on the small shelf provided. When she emerged her long hair flowed around her chest. Tom let his eyes rove around his wife's naked body, admiring and lingering on different, folds, crevices and curves. Her nipples had stiffened in the cold of the room and he felt a pleasing sensation in his groin. Annie noticed his rapid enlargement and smiled knowingly.
“Not now Tom, we can't."
Tom had a mischievous look in his eye.
“I thought that was what a decom shower was all about."
“Tom." Annie answered evenly and kissed him gently on the cheek. “At home, she's going to be back any moment, this place is public."
“I know," said Tom with a mischievous grin. Tom shrugged his shoulders.
“Okay, it’s okay, I'll behave."
They luxuriated in the decom shower. The water and other chemicals swirled around them; it was a warm, dreamy and the water tickled slightly. Then the vents came on and it was like being in a massive warm hairdryer. The little hairs on Annie's body became erect, like awakening cilia.
When they'd dried a voice told them to put on their inner skins. A hologram was projected in the chamber showing a couple going through the same procedure.
They followed the instructions accurately and as they did so they could feel the rubbery skin tightening like drying clay on their bodies. The skin's action stifled Tom's urges precipitating detumesence. When they emerged they were totally covered except for small spaces around their eyes and mouths - like wearing a giant condom.
Goldie presented the outer suits on complex hangers. This was a space voyage. The suits were in two white halves with a seal around the middle. When they put them on, the suits hissed and then joined seamlessly. The helmets were light and movement was effortless and fluid.
“Can you help me get these gloves on?”
Tom could hear Annie's voice echoing around his head from some source inside the suit.
Tom unfurled the gloves and delicately pushed each one onto Annie's slim fingers. They hissed abruptly which made Tom jump.
The door opened to reveal another proto-alien spacewoman, still wearing her potentially histrionic smile. Goldie beckoned them to follow. They left the changing room and entered the air lock. The light went off. The air became filled with a familiar, faint rhythm that they couldn't quite place.
They emerged into the purplish, reddish light, which appeared to swirl around them. It was disorientating, like a mirage decloaking from the shimmering heat of a desert. Tom and Annie wavered for a moment and Goldie held them.
The inside of the dome was humungous; its diameter was half a mile. They peered up at the roof at the brighter stars. Vast white spaghetti tubes grew towards the heavens in endless lines. On closer inspection they weren't white; or rather they were and they weren't. They had a pattern on them; they were white for about a meter and then glass, white and then glass. They were all the same.
There must have been hundreds of tubes all around them, connected by metal stairs, which ran in ever decreasing circles towards the centre. They were suspended at different levels, like a series of metal spider's webs. In the far distance they could see about thirty people, all clad in space like suits huddled at various desks and consoles, their visas all sparkling. Suits wandered around holding small portable consoles.
Impressive isn’t it?" Goldie said finally. Tom and Annie were still gaping.
“Sure is," Tom said in a bemused tone.
“This is the second largest single development centre in the country; we handle the growth of children from some twenty different states here. The largest centre is in New York State. "
Some light inside Goldie's helmet started to flash.
“I think you're going to be in luck, I think you're going to see one of them entering the world, come with me."
They were at the outer edge of the tubes. At this stage it looked like water inside, nothing was discernible. Annie walked up to the glass and peered through curiously. Below each glass portal there were a set of complicated controls computer generated evolving graphs.
“These are some of the local controls. You can see here the different levels of the main chemicals in the fluid; proteins for example are in red, sugar in green, fats in blue and various other colours for other minerals. "
Annie pointed at the glass window. “Why can't we see the baby?”
“It's too early here. The foetus is in there but it's about the size of a thumbnail. Can you see over there on the level above us?”
There were a series of about ten people all seemingly injecting some sort of fluid into a slot in the glass.
“That's what we call transfer. We've checked that cell division is occurring normally in some of the micro tanks in another part of the building. Once we're happy then we put them in here where they can develop normally. Transfer is one the area of the process, which requires the most care. We have to check that the change of environment doesn't in anyway impede the development of the little ones. Many companies go for automated transfer, which can lead to problems. We have a team of specialist doctors who do it manually."
They walked up five flights of the metal staircase at the outer edge of the dome.
“As they grow older they move towards the centre," Goldie said pointing into the distance, “all of these tubes are interconnecting, so as you move closer into the middle you will see the little ones are growing quite fast. As they grow our system here allows them to move ever closer towards the middle. It's a bit like a very complicated series of capsules in a big series of interconnected straws."
They followed Goldie towards the heart of Phoenix. As they passed each tube they could see more.
“Here Annie," she said pointing.
Annie peered into the deep reddish-purplish liquid. She could just make out the foetus, with its little arms and legs wriggling slightly in the middle. By the bottom of the glass she could see the words Mary-Anne.
Some people christen in here. Moms, come and look at their little ones
For hours...Pa's come too, “she added looking at Tom.
Annie peered inside. It was dark and very hard to see but she thought she glimpsed Mary-Anne. She was curled up in a ball, a tube went into what would be her belly button, and swathes of what looked like thinly veiled cotton were floating around in the glass.
“Look Tom I think she's wriggling! “Tom peered inside.
“You're right. You can just make out her eyes. She looks like she's glowing red. Annie look, if you look very closely you can see her, is that her little heart beating?" Tom sounded astonished.
“Yes it is. I come in here every day and I never, never cease to be amazed by it all. We all do, it's utterly amazing to see them develop; a sheer miracle that that ball in there becomes a person. Mother nature really is unbelievable."
“Is that her heart beating?”
Yes it is. In fact inside the glass there, she will be feeling the fluid vibrating just like the blood would inside, you know; we also put one of these and give it to Moms."
Goldie held up a small flesh coloured object that was about the size of a small-flattened pea.
“It goes over the mother's heart and that's the sound Mary-Anne can hear in there."
“Wonderful," Annie said shaking her head.
“Early on it we found they're much more active if they grow with the sound of a heart. Can you hear that vague rhythmic noise? Come closer."
Goldie fiddled with some of the controls of the console. And there it was the sound of a beating heart, regular quiet but discernible.
“Mary-Anne's Mum lives in Chicago, she's been down here several times already."
Come on, I want to take you down to see the birth, although we'll stand at a distance. We ensure parents aren't crowded.”
They followed Goldie at a swift pace for about two minutes.
“They grow so fast! “Annie exclaimed.
“Yes. Takes just six months now, with the new technology. In the old days it took nine months, because everyone was asleep for a third of the time. We're now on the 5th layer in, so these ones are at the equivalent of about five months into their development, the old fashioned way, although obviously they haven't been here that long. "
“The fluid is darker here, I can hardly see at all."
“Yes," said Goldie still marching on," that's because as their eyes become better we simulate the visual environment in the womb, which is quite dark as you might imagine."
They marched on past the sixth layer, the seventh layer and the eighth layer.
Goldie stopped, turned around and beckoned them closer.
You can see the central control point now with all our doctors. They monitor each and every baby that we have here, checking everything about their development and the fluid around them. We are at the forefront of systems development here. Most of the other centres like Gentech or Genesis buy their systems from us."
“Really, I wouldn't have guessed that."
“I know, that's what most people say. Let's wait here; if you look over there at about four o'clock you will see four figures. That's where the birth is going to be. Can you see the fluid level draining down? When that goes down they will cut the cord off and the baby will start breathing using its own lungs for the first time."
Tom and Annie were transfixed in awe. The fluid levels dropped, the baby cried and his or her mother held her, the reddish purple light twinkling on the glass of her front visa.
Annie shook her head dumbstruck. “Amazing isn't it?" Goldie stated.
“Would you like to come down to my room and we can discuss a few details and we can see if we can help you, that's if you have seen enough, that about concludes the tour? I'm afraid we aren't allowed into the central area. We don't like any distractions there."
Annie and Tom glanced at each other and nodded to Goldie.
She led them out of the nascent chamber, going backwards past the eighth, seventh, sixth, fifth, fourth, third, second and finally the first row of tubes where they were still inserting new embryos.
They followed Goldie back ultimately to her office, where they discussed the details about their future child and what sort of enhancements they would like, what sort of tests they ought to have and started to agonise over the business of choosing.
Goldie was very helpful and told them that they could get a consultation with one of their special consultants, who would help them to make these choices, after they'd had various tests. Annie and Tom were very pleased, as they hadn't expected free counselling as well.
Goldie was very patient and gave them coffee and drinks. She felt she ought to be. She felt quite a burden of responsibility, unlike people selling cars, or houses or something, she did her utmost to get it right.In Goldie's office the plans for a new child were born and began to gestate in Tom and Annie's heads.