23rd September, 2050
Mary passed through the automatic doors and approached the reception area with her coat clutched protectively under her breast. Looking over her shoulder she saw David panting as he caught up to her, suitcase in tow. The receptionist finished his call and smoothed his hand across the otherwise empty desk in front of him.
“It’s Mary and David Ruskin! Welcome back to HGMM. Whoa, it’s been 9 months already? You’re early, but Dr. Endliche is ready for you. I’ve signed you in,” a yellow glint flashed across his iris as he tapped his temple with his finger and smiled. “Go straight through to room 4, it’s just along the hall through those doors,” he pointed to the left of the desk- “Gosh, it seems like yesterday since both of your parents were in here. Good luck!”
David slung an arm around Mary’s shoulders as they turned towards the doors.
“I love that guy. Memoragens are rare though, he must be pretty expensive to keep.”
“It’s an HGMM clinic; they own him. Hey, did you remember to pack my laptop?” She looked nervous for the first time. “I need to work on my story straight after the section.” Her husband took her coat from her and patted her bump.
“Relax Janeaust-gen. Brought it.”
“That’s offensive, Michaelangelarsehole. Let’s go give birth.”
“Charming. Yes, and so begins the second generation of our kind. Our musical virtuoso. If he ends up on the X Factor when he’s older I’m bringing him back for a refund.”
“Did you just make a chromosome pun? And yes, agreed, though I have a feeling that the talent show industry will become obsolete in our son’s time.”
14th October, 2075
Liemannen slid back the glass door with a snap. “Morning to the crème de la crème of HGGM,” he groaned inside each time he said it, but he relished the fact that he was formidable enough to force laughter from his employees. The tap of the man’s crocodile-skinned brogues punctuated his stride as he made his place at the head of the table, setting down his Filofax and coffee mug. The twelve individuals seated around him twitched their papers anxiously as their CEO pretended to flick through the agenda. He raked his hand through his thinning grey hair without looking up.
“Another of these monthly meetings. Unsure why it’s necessary for me to be here to be honest,” he glanced up briefly, making eye contact with the person stationed to his left, “Curran - you’re here? You normally fill in for me with these things. Where’s the fire?” A smile rose and died on the man’s lips within a second of registering the panel of terse faces before him. Leimannen impatiently fingered the pages of his diary as he met the eyes of his Chief Operations Officer.
“Good morning, Dr. Liemannen,” Dr. Gina Curran smiled faintly as she too looked over her copy of the morning’s line-up. “It’s not the usual. The Prime Minister has ordered a conference call between ourselves, Mr. Verlieren at GenPres and the chairman of the World Health Organisation.”
“GenPres? Interesting combination, why is the charity joining us?” He gave his associates a conspiratorial smile, swinging his mug upwards and taking a sip. “We have given Verlieren enough bloody money over the past 25 years and we’ve increased our donations at least every five. The influence the charity has over our clients is at the PM’s discretion, so their reasons for contacting us must be financial. They’re not shaking their begging cup at us again, are they?”
Curran met Liemannen’s eyes with a coldness that withered all bravado. “There is a problem with the programme that requires the immediate and combined attention of all parties concerned. The World Health Org. has sent in reports confirming that the second and third generation has started to defect.” She looked down at her watch, “We now have five minutes to pull a proposal together before we’re called into conference.”
This time he read the agenda. The blood drained from his face. His eyes were only capable of bringing themselves to the level of the mug before him. HGGM: Human Germline Genetic Modification Inc. ‘Because your child deserves better.’
28th October 2075
My name is Dalston Ruskin. I am 25, 5ft8 and member of vixitdumvixitbene, (a band that used to be a big deal and made up for most of my other shortcomings). At least until recently. My father and mother were creative types like me; an artist and a writer. Past generations might say it ran in the family, though that makes no sense nowadays. As a child you are not asked what you want to be when you grow up. You’re asked what you are going to be, as if they didn’t know already.
Like my mother and father, I am a genetically modified product of HGGM Incorporated. My parents used to enjoy telling me the story of the company’s rise to power. My grandparents were norms like most of the generation at the time, but they were amongst the first offered the treatment.
Germline genetics was only made available as a service to the public around 2020, after scientists had conducted tests on over 500 donated human embryos. The initial characteristics they had managed to enhance were intelligence, memory and extended life. To pre-empt any potential threat to the gene pool the subjects were also born sterile and subservient. These types of modifications were never made available to the public; it was too much of a minefield of morality. After reaching full development and fulfilling their role as successful test subjects, HGGM retained them and they were duly set to work within their fertility clinics across the UK. I heard they only gave the Semimmortals jobs as doctors; an ever-rational investment of training for an individual whose lifespan they predicted might reach 150 years.
My parents were the first generation of GM babies. By this time, HGGM had established itself as a reputable organisation that had gained the public’s trust by accepting both government guidance and supervision. My grandparents had organic DNA and didn’t need to be screened and tested physically like my parents were, all they needed to do was fill out an application and discuss the procedure with their doctor. Characteristics came in batches and were tailored towards particular vocations. There was the Creative class, with its subclasses of various career paths and the associated behavioural traits needed. For my writer-mother, the traits were self-assurance, imagination and articulacy. My painter-father’s combination was expression, imagination and dexterity. There were common traits amongst the subtypes of each class, which my parents explained made it easy to find like-minded individuals. They were far from the same, though. My father had his head in the clouds and lacked common sense; my mother was logical and could convince you that cold was the new hot. They were a good balance.
As my parents hit their teens, GenPres was founded, or the Society for Genetic Preservation. Established by civilian norms of the original generation, they worked closely with the government and collated records of all registered HGGM babies. ‘Donations’ were voluntary initially, but its funding eventually came from the taxpayer and the government soon ensured that HGGM revenue was pumped into the initiative, as well. It was far from a charity, more of an endorsement of the genetic supermarket. People who were not planning to rear GM children sure as hell were going to now – the service had already been paid for through their income, after all.
The organisation provided guidance to prospective parents of GM offspring. They held speeches at schools alongside contraceptive classes. Many of its representatives worked as MDs at big-time firms who either preached the virtues of the Logi-gen trope for the law industry, or the charisma-subtrope package that would allow any young entrepreneur to get to ‘the top’, fast. The reps always had sharp, darkened features. As the sun filtered in through the assembly window, you could occasionally see dashes of red flickering behind their irises. Their smiles never reached their eyes and they spoke incredibly fast.
“How would you like your child to become the Alan Sugar of the 22nd Century? Take a look at the brochure for our Business subtypes. They’re methodical, calculating, but you never need worry about getting thrown into a state-funded nursing home, right?”
One rep after another trying to sell you the best deal. It was like being at a fruit market in the East end.
Each business was subsidised by GenPres for their troubles, but in return GenPres received finance from the converted, recruited offspring in the form of taxes. It was a well-oiled machine, but it was corrupt and became less about preserving genetic diversity than it did producing as efficient and as rich of an economy as science allowed. With the second generation, it was no longer about our future since it had already been pre-determined; it was about our child’s future. We had been processed and spat out by the system from the moment we took our first breath.
As I write this, I am being held in a detention centre surrounded by second generation types like me. We are grouped together, I am in the second-gen creative wing. We are supposed to be fairly stable as our parents were effectively screened. We were rounded up like cattle from our homes a couple of nights ago and sent here by order of the government.
The problems started in the last month, escalating in the last two weeks. Independent news sources claim that a rogue chromatin has actively mutated amongst the second-generation Ambitious and Enterprising subtypes. In the case of the Ambitious, the phenotype has been linked to Retinitis. Over the past 4 weeks, 40% of offspring possessing an element of the Ambitious gene has become irreversibly blind. According to the Gen Pres report last month, 70% of our latest third generation is now said to possess the defective allele for Retinitis, with symptoms likely to set in once they hit their thirties. By this time, many will have given birth to the fourth generation. With the majority of top earners blinded, pride has driven a considerable amount to suicide, or at the least permanently out of work. Funding to GenPres has been disrupted.
In the case of the Enterprising subtypes, rashes of younger third generation individuals have broken out into psychotic behaviour, which at this stage I know little about, though I have heard it is irreversible. In the past month I have seen my neighbours screaming from their doorsteps as their children get dragged away by HGGM workers to never return. Since third gens are little past 6 or 7 years old it is likely that GenPres will ensure against their contribution to the gene pool by any means necessary.
As I sit in this room surrounded by GMs with their flickering irises, our futures aren’t clear. We are awaiting tests that will confirm whether or not we are a liability. Some of my comrades suppose a vast majority will get sterilised, if not dealt with by other means. It is difficult not to feel apathetic when you’ve had all the decisions made for you before you were even born. I’ve never been one for children.