Chapter Six – At the Office
NOVEMBER 8, 3211
CITY-STATE – LAYER SEVEN
THE NATIONAL HOSPITAL
The pressure weighed on Jeremy’s chest. The encounter with Harkin disturbed him in ways he never thought possible. It wasn’t debilitating, it was more like a cloak of sadness, coupled with a small bit of food caught in his throat. He poured himself into his work in order to forget the events from the night before.
Jeremy perused over the flood of DNA data scrolling across his screen. His mind easily navigated the genetic maze as DNA sequences flew past him. His eyes caught small flaws in the sequence, and he pressed the pause button on his terminal. Scrolling backwards in the sequence, he saw what to him, was a glaring error. Jeremy squinted his eyes and tunneled into the computer screen. His mind immediately recognized the pattern of a common form of inherited heart disease.
Switching screens, he double-checked his findings with the computer scan. With a smile, Jeremy noted that the computer had not yet caught up to him in the scan. “Stupid computer. Move faster,” thought Jeremy.
After a moment, the computer finally reached the anomaly his sharp eye had caught minutes before. Sure enough, the readout indicated a 58% chance of inherited heart disease.
Shaking his head, Jeremy brought up the H-Sched window on his monitor. He entered the embryonic ID code to bring up the profile. Embryo 771-117.0047-G was its only identifier. No names. No family. No bias. Jeremy lifted his hand to the screen. His finger hovered regretfully over a button labeled “Terminate Embryo”.
With a sigh, he pressed it.
The screen flashed red for a brief moment. Then, without ceremony, embryo 771-117.0048 appeared on his screen.
“Next,” Jeremy breathed quietly.
Jeremy caught Alaya looking over at him on occasion. Her desk was situated directly to his left. Of the dozen or so doctors in the lab, they were the only ones who seemed distracted. Did no one else care about the events of the night before? Jeremy thought it was incredible that some of the same doctors who were so angered at the violence, were so pacified the next morning.
“Hey,” Jeremy said looking up at Alaya. He could not contain his dissatisfaction with the previous day. “Is it me, or does everyone seem like nothing happened yesterday?”
Alaya signified her disgust with an sarcastic laugh. “Certainly not just you,” she said as she turned to him quietly. “Can you guess what happened?”
“I guess I’m just too naive when it comes to politics,” admitted Jeremy. “Everything at the party was so civilized. Compare that to the Senate? I just give up. Who can blame our colleagues for just pretending nothing happened?” Jeremy took a deep breath. The weight still clung to his chest.
“You could blame Harkin,” Alaya suggested. “You know, the guy who is actually to blame.”
“Cut the chatter please,” Dr. Koenig said irritably.
“Did he do something after the party?”
“Yeah,” Alaya whispered loudly. “Kind of big. He…”
“Hey!” Said Dr. Darius. “With all the talking. Stop.”
“I saw something on the VREEL about additional funding for StarChild. Was that some kind of payoff to keep us quiet?”
“Seriously!” Said another doctor, his name was Gaxon. “Could you please shut it?”
Alaya smiled at Jeremy. “You need to work on your subtlety,” she said cryptically.
Jeremy’s smile faded as Alaya turned back to her work. He looked back at his screen. A new embryo called for his attention. Its DNA needed to be scanned by his expert eyes. He could allow the computer to do it, he supposed, but where was the challenge in that? Besides, his brain had an unmatched ability to recognize patterns – like those found in human DNA.
But as he stared at the screen, he could not find the motivation to work anymore. He looked back at Alaya. His eyes met hers. She quickly turned back in her chair and began typing feverishly on her MediPalm.
“Alaya,” said Jeremy. Several heads turned toward him. “Sorry.” He was a bit embarrassed. He pulled out his MediPalm and typed a message. He heard the silent buzz as Alaya’s MediPalm received the message.
Coffee? Let’s go downstairs.
Alaya pulled her MediPalm from her pocket and typed back.
Sure! Let’s go. Can’t concentrate right now.
Jeremy stood up and put his monitor on power-save mode. The screen went black. He grabbed his white overcoat and slipped it on. To his left, Alaya did the same. They exited the Early Detection Lab, dashed down the stairs, and moved down the twisted halls until they came to the main lobby.
The colorful advertisements floated by, flashing their neon lights and pushing their products. Alaya and Jeremy pushed past a small crowd of children taking a tour of the hospital, and they made their way to the coffee stand. Jeremy purchased a latte while Alaya ordered a flavored coffee called French Vanilla. The two found a small table and sat down.
“What’s up?” asked Alaya. “You upset about yesterday?”
“Yes,” said Jeremy with a twinge guilt. “I just having some trouble reconciling democracy and… whatever that was last night.”
Alaya said nothing, but just looked at Jeremy with sincerity. He continued. “Does it bother you that Harkin said that there would be requirements for S-Classers to identify in the future?”
Alaya cocked her head to the side. “Did he say that? I was so angry, I might have missed it.”
Jeremy sipped his coffee as the two sat in awkward silence. Alaya seemed as if she wanted to say something but was holding back. Jeremy let his vision wander away from Alaya’s face. It came to rest upon the class of children taking the tour. The children were young, probably in second or third grade of an A-Class Transitional School. He saw a girl with a small frame and short brown hair.
“Did I ever tell you I had a sister, Alaya?” asked Jeremy abruptly.
“I’ve known you for less than two days, Jeremy,” Alaya responded with an eye roll. “Half the time you’ve trying to shut me up so I don’t get myself into trouble.”
“Just trying to protect my colleague,” Jeremy offered in his defense. He watched in meloncholy as the children lined up near the Customer Service Desk and were led out of the lobby on tot heir tour of the Hospital. The children were happy to walk in a straigght line. The Hospital representative towed the cheeful children beind her as they obiediently followed.
Alaya’s manner changed. She focused on Jeremy’s face. Her eyes showed a sad expression. “I’m sorry,” Alaya said sincerely. “I’ve been such a bitch about all the politics… I’ve never even asked about you.”
Jeremy smiled. He hadn’t even noticed. “It’s alright. Yesterday was a crazy situation. But, I do have a sister, and her name is Charis. She’s in A-Class Senior High School.”
“A-Class?” Alaya asked curiously. “I thought S-Class genius was genetically related. That’s what that whole mess was about yesterday. The government wants us to test for genetic traits in embryos to identify S-Classers.”
“The problem there is that you can never be sure,” admitted Jeremy. “There are genetic factors relating to S-Classers, but nothing solid. The best we can do is correlate certain genes with a propensity for genius.” He looked down at Alaya who was looking at her MediPalm. “My concern, after this S-Amendment thing, is that in the future, she won’t have a choice…”
Jeremy almost launched into a tirade but he noticed Alaya’s eyes gazing at her MediPalm. The horror of whatever she was watching was displayed in her face. Jeremy swore he saw fire reflected in her eyes. “What is it?” he asked nervously.
“Terrorism,” replied Alaya. She turned her MediPalm’s screen toward Jeremy .