GMB Inc.

By Zebuline Carter

sfgenreFor Dee Preston, it had been a harrowing night: fourteen hours of labour without the support of her husband, who was away on business, and then the usual battery of tests and jabs — all deemed absolutely necessary and essential — before she could finally lay back against the pillows and nurse her newborn baby girl. Just like mothers had done for thousands of generations.

Bone-tired, she closed her eyes, allowed the muted sounds of the maternity ward to wash over her.

But a very loud, “Ah, there you are!” jerked Dee out of impending slumber. Blearily, she opened her eyes.

The overly cheerful voice belonged to a clean-cut middle-aged man with a hint of silver in his sideburns. He could have been in cell-phone sales. Or vacuums.

“Congratulations, Mrs Preston!” He held out a business card. “I'm from GMB Incorporated. From here on in,” he flipped an eyebrow, “for the rest of Baby Y's life, actually — I'll be her, and you and your husband's — personal liaison with the rest of the extended family.” He beamed. “Think of me as a special uncle of sorts, one mindful of Baby Y's interests and special needs.”

The man reached out to touch the baby:

Dee pulled further into the pillows, “What the f — ”

He cut Dee off. “Oh, please don't be stressed, Mrs Preston! We must think of Baby Y.” He flipped open a tablet, thumbed the screen. “As you well know, Baby Y was made possible due to the partnership you entered into with Genetically Modified Babies Incorporated”.

Dee sighed, it all came back to her: the pre-natal genetic assessments and dire warnings; the fear, drummed into them, and finally, nowhere else to turn, the signing of the contract. Shared genetic materials may have produced the tiny pink wonder in her arms, but the special moment was lost.

A stray thought interrupted, “Why do you call my little girl 'Baby Y'?” Dee asked.

“Oh, that's simple: she is the first of our 'Y' generation of modified babies. So, until we can agree on a formal name, the 'Baby Y' designation is simplest for all.”

“What do you mean by 'until we can agree'? My husband and I will be —”

Baby Y's new uncle sighed, tapped at his tablet, flipped the screen for Dee to see. “Mrs Preston, as you well know, you signed an agreement with GMB Inc, and in that rather lengthy document, the sponsoring company — after all, we paid for the preliminary research that made this miracle possible, and bore the brunt of the procedural costs — has a majority share. Actually, in this case, that share amounts to approximately 57 percent of the genetic material incorporated in Baby Y. So, GMB Inc will be calling the shots on the big decisions, and I'm sure you would agree that a name, something that will last for Baby Y's entire life, represents a major decision.” More softly, he said, “Mrs Preston, it's not just that we must get a return on investment — we do of course — but we have shareholders to answer to.”

Remembering some of the finer details, Dee answered, “But my husband and I have shares in our daughter too.”

Baby Y's uncle winced at the use of 'our' but rallied quickly: “Good! Then you understand. It’s like Baby Y now has thousands of parents — the shareholders. Of course, though, some of those parents hold majority shares, and their wishes must be respected.

“Don’t worry though — you’ll have access to Baby Y on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.”

“What?”

“Well, on Sundays, some of Baby Y’s other, ah, more prominent shareholders — I mean parents — wish to have their own quality time. And Sunday is traditionally often seen as a family-centred day.”

“What about Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays? What happens on those days?”

“Baby Y will be spending some quality time with our geneticists and technicians.”

“Quality time?”

“Well yes — quality control is essential: we must thoroughly evaluate our new product, I mean family member, check for flaws, and investigate new avenues for commercialisation. Think of it as Baby Y spending time with her other uncles and aunts.”

“I don’t understand — she’s just a baby.”

“Oh, that and much, much more. Perhaps it would help if you thought of Baby Y as a prototype of sorts — our first effort.”

Dee winced at the use of ‘our’.

The child’s new uncle kept speaking in cheerful tones, “By the time we’re ready to produce some siblings for Baby Y, we have to make sure that our ROI — sorry, our return on investment — is secure. These first days in Baby Y’s life are crucial for our GMB development program.” He checked his wristwatch. The smile melted into a frown. “Now, we really must be getting along.”

He reached for the infant.

Dee recoiled against the pillows, clutching the infant. “What do you think you're doing?”

The uncle who looked like a sales rep pulled a face and sighed: “Mrs Preston ... today is a Monday.”

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About The Author

Zeb Carter

Zeb writes:

Last week, on a whim I submitted some of my own musings to ‘Nuke’, and when I checked back today — my time in my ‘verse, which is plus six years comparative to you — I saw that he had published some of them! I wasn’t even sure the contrived email and attachment would get through, let alone end up published on your internet of things. (BTW - We have nothing quite like your ‘net, but we’ve gone far further into the solar system than you have. Figure that!)Now that I know a connection is possible, I thought I’d tell you a little more about myself and where I’m from. So, from the beginning…

Hi. My name is Zebuline Carter — that’s Zeb for my friends or Zeb-you-leen if you want to get formal — and I’m a forty-two year old former astronaut now working as an administrator at Farside, on Luna. Farside is a research base, where innerscopes are just starting to peel back layers of our sheath of the local multiverse. Because our work is so sensitive to em influences, Farside is situated within a one hundred klom diameter exclusion zone.

In my late teens I earned a double major in aerospace and business but passed over grad school for civilian astronaut training. As a kid I collected coupons from cereal boxes until I had enough for my first telescope, and built scale models of all the commercial shuttles and orbiters. Growing up, I’d always felt slightly out of place, like I was meant to to be somewhere else and part of me already was — until, that is, I had my first trip into low orbit aboard a high-riding intercont-cruiser, or ICC. That was a high-school graduation present from my Uncle Jim, and during the fifteen minutes of freefall I found that other part of myself, grabbed it tight, and never let go since.

Did I also mention I’m 180 cents tall with bobbed chestnut hair? Or that because of heart damage from a bad landing, I’m also marooned in low gravity? But heh, there are now six bases around Luna, supporting a permanent population of around twelve thousand Lunans, and a transient population of several thousand tourists and stopovers returning form the outer system, so it never gets boring and I don’t get lonely. And living in low G means I won’t age or sag as fast, either.

Until next time —

aus25grn

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