Chapter Two – Dr. Smith
NOVEMBER 7, 3211
CITY-STATE – LAYER SEVEN
THE NATIONAL HOSPITAL
A tall man with a narrow, friendly face and lightly peppered hair met Jeremy at the Hospital landing port. On his white overcoat, he wore a stainless steel, laser-etched name tag that sported the national symbol of City-State: The Seven Point Star. The name Dr. Smith – StarChild graced the smooth surface of the name tag. Extending his hand toward Jeremy, he introduced himself, “Dr. Green? I’m Dr. Marlin Smith, the regional manager of The StarChild Project. Welcome aboard.”
Jeremy took Dr. Smith’s hand and returned a warm greeting to his elder. “Thank you, Dr. Smith. It certainly is an honor to be working here. Actually, it is a dream to work at the National Hospital.”
Jeremy was led into the hospital after the handshake ended. Dr. Smith put his hand on the young doctor’s shoulder. “The days of dreaming are in the past, Dr. Green. And this is reality.” Dr. Smith squeezed Jeremy’s shoulder and continued, “It is my reality. It is your reality. We’re doing some of the most important work in City-State. We not only save lives – we make them better.”
The smoky glass doors opened to the grand lobby of the hospital. The cavernous entryway spanned five floors. Jeremy’s eyes widened as he stood at the entrance of his personal and academic goal. He took a deep breath and smiled.
A large, circular reception area that was decorated in a color palette of bright whites and silver hues sat in the middle of the black stone floor. Dozens of men and women buzzed around the area as they fielded calls, answered queries, and assisted inquisitive customers.
To the right, Jeremy saw six glass tubes shooting up from the floor, disappearing into the ornamental ceiling which consisted of an expansive, bronze sculpture of Ishmael’s final battle against his nemesis, Ultros. Elevator lifts rocketed through the tubes at astonishing speeds, transporting hospital personnel to all floors of the expansive building.
Transparent walkways crisscrossed the empty space above the reception area, making the pedestrians appear to float across the upper reaches of the grand lobby. Just below the ceiling, fifty bronze carvings of The Builders, City-State’s founders, clung to the walls of the lobby. Each carving featured an individual Builder. However, all of their eyes were affixed to the center of the room’s large sculpture where Ishmael the Wanderer hung in eternal conflict with Ultros.
Floating overhead at varying intervals, advertisements for different medical procedures and products were displayed in brilliant high-definition colors. Among these ads were the mandatory governmental public service announcements that warned people about the hazards of life in City-State:
BE SURE TO EAT ALL OF YOUR NUTRIENT PACKS EVERY DAY TO KEEP YOURSELF HEALTHY.
SOMNIUM: THE PREFERRED END OF LIFE SERVICE CHOICE.
PREVENT MEDIA CONSUMPTION DEFICIT DISORDER! WATCH AT LEAST THREE SHOWS PER DAY TO KEEP A BALANCED LIFE.
TOO MUCH READING WILL HURT YOUR EYES – FOUR OUT OF FIVE DOCTORS AGREE. LIMIT YOUR READING, AND CHOOSE OTHER MEDIA ACTIVITIES TO MAINTAIN BALANCE.
REGISTER FOR STARCHILD – DON’T FORGET TO REGISTER. IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO MAINTAIN A HEALTHY CITY-STATE.
DOWNLOAD THE NEW GRECIAN APP. AVAILABLE ON ALL MEDIPALM DEVICES.
Dr. Smith guided Jeremy to the East Wing of the hospital and into the white, sterile halls of the research block. “The Early Detection Lab is the largest section of the research block, but there are other labs here such as virology and microbiology,” he said while nodding and pointing to a couple doors to his right.
Jeremy grinned as he passed the doors to the other labs. “Security is kind of lax here for such an important part of City-State’s healthcare infrastructure,” he noted casually. “Why is that?”
Smith’s mouth curled into a wry smile. “Because no one is that insane, Dr. Green. To compromise the various research projects would be to compromise all of City-State and all of human existence. Besides, there is nowhere else to go. The outside world is inhospitable and empty; City-State is the only place left that exists,” Dr. Smith shuddered at the thought. He composed himself after a moment. “And now – your dream. You haven’t seen anything until this moment, Dr. Green,” he said pointing to the end of the hall.
A heavy, steel door stood under an illuminated red sign that read: EARLY DETECTION – STARCHILD. The two doctors approached the vault-like door. They paused at a security panel. The rectangular plate was big enough to place an average-sized man’s hand upon it. Dr. Smith placed his hand on a sensor to the right, and a sequence of amber lights traced the outside of the panel. The lights changed to green, and an audible “click” sounded as the door unlocked. Dr. Smith touched the door, and it slid open automatically.
Jeremy and Dr. Smith both stepped through the entrance and into a small reception area where a young woman worked behind a desk. Her hair was twisted into a tight bun, and her jaw jutted out slightly. She looked at the two men with narrow, discerning eyes, and she nodded at Jeremy. “You’re new here? You must register. Place your hand on the sensor, please.”
The receptionist pointed to the left, and Jeremy placed his hand on the sensor. As with Dr. Smith, it traced his hand in amber lights. This time, it chimed approvingly instead of giving a “click”. This indicated that the registration was complete. Jeremy then looked at the receptionist who ignored them; she was browsing through something more interesting on her MediPalm media device.
“You can go through now, doctors,” she instructed with disinterest.
Upon entering the hospital’s most advanced lab, Jeremy finally felt a rush of excitement. The Early Detection Lab housed the most advanced medical and screening equipment available – The StarChild Program. The white room displayed dark gray trim and a raised floor where numerous cables, wires, and access panels were undoubtedly hidden from view. Opposite the entrance, on the far side of the lab, a glass room housed StarChild’s massive computer server – the engine that powered the program. Jeremy smiled at the comforting, quiet hum of electronics.
Jeremy noticed a section of cubicles located in the center of the lab. This was StarChild’s battlefield. The desks carried a multi-monitor workstation which displayed genetic and physiological data. The displayed information was related to the embryos of numerous pregnant women in City-State. The white monitors showed colorful, three dimensional renderings of the DNA pairings that each station analyzed. The workstations accessed the supercomputers which were also housed in the glass room. These were needed to rapidly scan and filter DNA sequences.
Dr. Smith, standing with his arms spread wide declared, “This is our lab – StarChild’s lab. Beautiful, isn’t it?”
Running over to the cubicles, he eagerly gave Jeremy the tour. “This is your desk here,” said Dr. Smith, standing next to an empty cubicle. “Look, you can see the display monitors that show embryonic data, raw data, DNA sequences, the readouts, and the recommendations regarding each fetus within the nation. As you know, each fetus as a specific destiny.”
Jeremy’s grin widened as he gazed at his workstation. But only a moment later, Dr. Smith’s animated movements directed the new doctor’s attention to the large video screen on the wall opposite the server room.
Dr. Smith continued, “Here, we can collaborate on the giant display. And over there,” he noted, pointing to a standing terminal, “is where we upload new sequence keys to the StarChild mainframe.”
Sitting down at his workstation, Jeremy flipped through different settings and data displays. “So, Dr. Smith, at what percentage do we terminate a fetus given the appropriate number of deficiencies?”
Smith strode over to Jeremy and leaned into the terminal. “Well, we start orders to terminate a pregnancy when genetic defect possibility level reaches 47%. At this point, those are the instructions – the government’s instructions.”
“Wow. This is such a huge responsibility. I get to decide whether a life is born or not. It’s an awesome task,” said Jeremy, forgetting Dr. Smith was even there. “This is just like I imagined it while I was in school.”
“Well, not exactly,” said Dr. Smith as he pointed to a button on Jeremy’s display. “All the term orders come from the government’s scheduling program called H-Sched, so it is automatically scheduled once we verify there is a triggered defect within the fetus. It’s precisely automated, but we still have to check the numbers to make sure.” He stood upright, and he crossed his arms in front of his chest.
Jeremy leaned back in his chair, thoughtfully reciting a quote from an older article he read on The StarChild Act: “Eliminating health concerns before they have time to develop. This is the way to keep our people healthy.”
“What’s that?” asked Dr. Smith.
Jeremy cleared his head with a shake and looked up at Dr. Smith. “Nothing, sir. I was under the impression that the doctors would have a little more leverage when it came to the patients.”
Dr. Smith’s tone became serious, “Dr. Green, I don’t have to tell you how the Neo-Progressives like to save money. This is one of the best programs for helping the health of City-State. To Neo-Progressives, this is tip of the spear, and it’s no secret that those NeoProgs watch us like hawks. StarChild wasn’t around the last time the Progressives were in control of the Senate. I bet they’d leave us alone and let us do our work. And the Liberals… I bet they’d jump at the chance to shut down StarChild altogether. Those idiots! Those loons!”
Jeremy’s heart sank. “Is everything tainted with politics these days?”
Dr. Smith noticed the change in his attitude. “Was that in poor taste? I’m sorry,” he sighed. “Politics are not a good topic in the lab. Again, I apologize. You’ll find out soon enough, I suppose. Politics are unfortunately interwoven within StarChild.”
Jeremy shrugged. “No, it is nothing you said. I just figured we would have more leeway when it comes to scheduling terminations. We are the doctors, you know?”
Dr. Smith breathed a sigh of relief. “Yes, I hear what you’re saying, and your input is actually quite valuable. Each quarter we reprogram the servers to account for more accurate data we’ve collected throughout the year. We, the doctors,” smiled Dr. Smith, “get to fine-tune StarChild to make it the most accurate as possible. Each year, the number of scheduled terminations goes down by a fraction of a percentage. That is thanks in large part to the data we collect and report. You’re S-Class. You are a scientific genius. You can help us in ways we’ve never imagined.”
“I don’t know how much help I can be. I’ve got a great head for pattern recognition, but not much for programming computers,” said Jeremy.
“Trust me,” assured Dr. Smith. “Your talents are going to help City-State in ways you have never imagined.”
“Well,” said Jeremy. “That’s at least something. That’s a lot of responsibility, and I’m ready for it.”
“It is very important work. Even if we reduce terminations by one-half of a percentage, that could mean thousands of lives saved.”
“Do the number of terminations always decrease?” asked Jeremy.
“Always,” confirmed Dr. Smith. “Think about it: healthy embryos make healthier people, and healthier people create healthier embryos. It’s been this way for years. The variance fluctuates, but the number always goes down.”
Jeremy nodded. “That makes sense,” he said, turning back to his terminal. He clicked through some data on his screen. “So, The StarChild Program is actually working? It’s actually reducing health issues in the population? Life expectancy rate is increasing?”
Smith coughed. “Yes, well… yes, it has increased – as far as we can tell.”
Jeremy raised a suspicious eyebrow. “What is that supposed to mean?”
Jeremy swiveled in his chair to face Dr. Smith, who adjusted his name tag. His fingers smudged the glowing red Seven Point Star. “The FEAB keeps recalculating the formula each year, so we really have no consistent data to work with, but overall, people seem to be living longer.”
“The FEAB?” asked Jeremy pointedly.
“Federal Economic Advisory Board,” answered Dr. Smith. “Sorry, we use FEAB for short in the lab.”
“What populations are not counted? Who is overlooked?” asked Jeremy curiously.
“Well, I don’t know what or who the FEAB really counts, but it only releases data on Layer Seven A-Class citizens. It’s their benchmark demographic. L7-A’s have a life expectancy of ninety years. The FEAB doesn’t release data for any other groups or layers, but we can assume that the other groups are also on the rise.”
Jeremy accepted the information although something deep down told him that he would love to see the life expectancy number for other classes. He sighed sarcastically, “Well, let’s just hope my curiosity doesn’t get the better of me.”
Dr. Smith laughed. “Please don’t get arrested before I can even train you. No hacking, Dr. Green.”
Jeremy smiled with a hint of arrogance and defiance, but he finally said, “Don’t worry. I’m sure the data is fine.”
“We have a few complaints,” admitted Dr. Smith. “But overall, the system is working. And in the near future, the system will even be better.”
“Why’s that?” asked Jeremy while rising from the cubicle’s chair.
“There’s a Senate vote today regarding The StarChild Program, and it is going to have a profound effect on our work,” replied Dr. Smith with a twinge of warning.
Jeremy scowled. “What do the politicians want now?”
“The S-Amendment,” said Dr. Smith as he glanced at his MediPalm. “Look at the time. I’ll fill you on the ride over. We’ve been invited to sit in on the vote. It’s about to start. Let’s go. Supreme Judge Harkin is going to give the primary address.”