Disclaimers: This story isn't even the slightest bit graphic, but all the same... If you shouldn't be reading about same-sex relationships because of your age, location, or beliefs, consider yourself warned. The characters are mine, but they do bear a slight resemblance to a certain bard and warrior. Copyright © 1999 Artemista.
Feedback, especially constructive criticism, is welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Most days, Martin Walker loved his job. Family finances had denied him his dream of going to medical school, but in his mind, being a genetics lab technician was the next best thing. What other job offered the chance to touch so many lives before they even started? The endless paternity and maternity tests and cosmetic DNA alterations could be boring at times, but the tedium was worth the opportunities he had to change a child's future for the better simply by altering the DNA of its embryo.
Tonight, Mark felt very differently about his choice of employment. His wife was giving birth to their first daughter four floors above him, and he was stuck in the lab until he finished the day's orders. He had been present for every step of her pregnancy, and he couldn't wait to see it through to the end and meet his baby girl. He knew that she was going to be perfect. He and his wife had decided to have their daughter undergo all of the recommended therapeutic DNA repairs, but none of the common cosmetic mental or physical alterations. They wanted Corrina to be exactly the way she was meant to be.
In a rare display of compassion, Mark's supervisor had allowed him to tap into the hospital security system through his terminal and view the feed from the video sensor in his wife's room. It was no surprise, then, that he was somewhat distracted as he removed a tube labeled 'Female Embryo Collins' from stasis to complete his last task of the day. He carefully opened the seal on its nutrient bath and one by one added the enzymes and DNA solutions that would cure the young life of its cystic fibrosis, remove its extra rib before it even had a chance to develop, and drastically lower its likelihood of developing a number of different cancers in adulthood. But then, his wife started what appeared to be a particularly painful contraction. He was much too busy gazing at her image in silent support to realize that the final dropper he picked up contained sterile saline instead of the solution that would have cured the embryo of its final defect.
In a small room many floors up in a university dormitory, Kristen Collins lay in bed staring at the ceiling. She had been awake for hours, torn between her mind's desperate need to rationalize the events of the previous evening and her heart's desire to revel in them. She rolled over again and firmly told herself to go to sleep, but it was pointless. As soon as she relaxed, the memories returned.
The night before, she had attended a performance at her university's College of Dramatics. The play was in the antiquated style known as musical theater. She half expected to be bored by the experience. In her opinion, live shows were nothing more than pale imitations of the power and intensity of holovids. But, seeing a play seemed to be a better option than spending yet another Friday night slaving over a neural programming project, so she went anyway.
Kristen's expectations for the performance had been, for the most part, entirely accurate. The College had gone to great lengths to present a historically correct performance. The director stated in the program notes that since he chose Hair to highlight how different the attitudes of mid-1900s Earth were from those of the present day, he did not want to sully the performance by using theatrical elements more common to the current century. It's too bad he forgot to tell his actors, she mused. It had been obvious even to Kristen's untrained eyes that the cast would have been more comfortable in a show featuring anything but the colorful, loose costumes, flowing wigs, and blatantly emotional lyrics of the night's production.
In truth, most of the musical was nothing but a blur in Kristen's memory. She had intended to make the best of bad acting by studying the more technical aspects of the production, but a chance occurrence near the end of the first song changed everything. A bit of choreography brought a new group of actors to the front of the stage, and Kristen spotted Her. Unlike her fellow cast members, this woman looked absolutely at home with herself and with her character. She was barefoot, clothed only in a faded maroon tunic and loose pants made of a dark gold cotton fabric. Her hair was braided into long blond cornrows that framed her narrow face and sparkling green eyes. Her expressions were wonderfully unrestrained, her voice was beautifully smoky, and she danced as if she was truly a part of the moment. She was fascinating, and Kristen couldn't take her eyes off of her.
It was not until she passed a group of younger girls gushing over one of the male actors on her way back to the dormitory that Kristen realized the implications of her experience.
Sighing, Kristen shook herself to bring herself out of her memories. She obviously wasn't going to be able to sleep until she got her mind off of what had happened to her at the play. Nothing happened, she reminded herself forcefully. Yawning and stretching, she padded over to adjust the light sensor to full brightness, and then sat down at her terminal and gave it an irritated whack to wake it up. She always thought more clearly in front of a keyboard.
I've got to work through this logically. If last night was anything more than admiration for a talented actor, there has to be other proof that I'm defective. Kristen would have liked to dismiss this thought as an impossibility, but her subconscious had a ready supply of memories to offer up as evidence. Amanda, from day camp in fifth grade. Ms. Delaros in high school. The many men I've turned down for dates. That poster from Laurie Ciefan's latest holovid that's hanging above my head right now, and the poster of her by my bed, and her calendar on my door....
Shit. There is no way I can be right about this. I have to be normal, don't I? Her subconscious wasn't nearly as helpful this time. She knew that her parents had saved money for months before her conception so that she could have DNA repairs. If her genes had been abnormal, they would have been fixed in the lab before she was reimplanted. Kristen meditated on the question through several games of online solitaire, but she was not able to come up with any additional reasons to believe that here genes were normal.
I have to know for sure. Kristen grabbed her keycard and headed for the stairs.
Jenna was Kristen's oldest and best friend at the university. She was also one of the few genetics students Kristen knew who was more interested in helping people than in the power inherent to the profession. She was completely dedicated to her studies, and it was for this reason that Kristen wasn't the least bit surprised when a query to the university computer system showed that she was logged into a terminal in one of the genetics labs.
The trip across campus was relatively short, so Kristen was on the front steps of the Center for Biological Sciences before she had time to change her mind. She found Jenna peering into a microscope in a small laboratory on the sixth floor. Kristen closed the door, and cleared her throat softly to catch her friend's attention.
"Jen, I need a favor."
Jenna looked up, startled. "Anything, you know that. What's wrong?"
Instead of answering, Kristen handed her friend a scrap of plastifilm with a bit of scribbled information on it. "I need to you test me for this gene sequence."
"Sure, I...." Jenna skimmed the writing, and then went back and reread it more slowly. "Kristen, are you sure this is the sequence you need? It looks like-"
"Jenna, I know what it says. Something very strange happened to me last night, and the more I think about it, the more confused I get. Gene tests aren't like feelings. They don't lie."
The ensuing thirty minutes were without question the longest in Kristen's life. Jenna wisely decided not to ask any more questions, instead reaching for a sample tube and collecting a bit of her friend's blood into it. The actual testing process was remarkably simple. Kristen watched her friend as she added enzymes to break down the cells, centrifuged, added more enzymes to separate out the genes in question, centrifuged again, and siphoned off the top bit of solution. With each step, she became more anxious for the results, and more certain of what they would be.
Jenna put the sample tube containing the gene solution into the equipment that would run the final analysis, and went to sit by her friend. "Now can you tell me what this all about?"
Kristen looked as if she was going to refuse to answer again. For a moment, Jenna wasn't even sure if her friend was going to stay in the room. Then, Kristen crumpled back into her seat. "Please don't hate me," she whispered.
There was no pat condolence that was even remotely appropriate, so Jenna simply hugged her and held on as Kristen began to cry.
A high-pitched beep signaled that the computer had completed its analysis. Jenna picked up the first sheet of plastifilm that spewed from the attached printer and raised a questioning eyebrow. At Kristen's resigned nod, she began to read the report aloud.
"DNA was positive for a malformation of genes 12 and 27, chromosome 7. DNA was positive for a malformation of genes 341, 346, and 348, chromosome 10. DNA was positive for a malformation of genes 57 and 73, chromosome 11."
Kristen had expected to feel either depressed or angry if her suspicions were confirmed, but all she felt now was relief and a curious sense of rightness. She was fairly sure she knew the answer to her next question, but she asked anyway. "Jen? What's the adult gene therapy like to correct that sequence?"
Her friend smiled sadly. "There isn't any therapy. It's seven genes on three different chromosomes, and that's just too many to correct in an adult. I'm sorry, hon."
Kristen sat in silence for several minutes trying to process everything. She watched Jenna sterilize the equipment and store the enzymes in a stasis chamber, but made no move to help. When the lab was clean, Kristen packed up her things and joined her friend in the doorway.
"Kristen, should I come over tonight? I don't want you to be alone right now."
Kristen's answer, when it finally came, was quiet and halting. "Thanks, but I... I saw a play over in the Dramatics building last night. I think I might go again tonight."
Jenna still wasn't quite sure what had prompted her friend to ask for the gene test, but she had an idea of what might have happened. "Kristen, please be careful out there. You're not going to find many friends, and you're not going to find many women like you. Please don't do anything drastic."
Kristen showed no sign that she had heard her friend's plea as she continued with a note of confidence in her voice. "I went last night, and I really liked it. I'm going to go again tonight, and maybe stick around and try to meet one of the actors. Her name is Corrina..."The End
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