It had arrived.
Months of self-imposed confinement, however, did very little to prepare me for the accompanying shipping agent of the package.
“Don’t tell me they saw fit to send a little girl to protect something this valuable,” I sneered, hoping to inject enough venom in my voice to sting just a little.
I waited for a response as I searched her nubile face. Expressionless, she gave nothing away. Despite her youth, I could tell immediately she was born before The Fall.
50 years prior, give or take, the World Regulation Agency (WRA) really fucked up. In an effort to “improve the genetic quality of the human population” (their bigoted and politically motivated words, not mine), they began enacting policies subtlety designed to control reproduction and proliferate the existence of desirable genetic traits.
Now, literally anyone should be able to understand the folly behind an agenda based on eugenics. I mean, these were the greatest minds of our time? Just because you’re good at Algebra, can string a few words together to sound intelligent and you were born into inherited wealth shouldn’t mean that you’re in any way qualified to determine what “desirable genetic traits” look like.
But, alas, they did. Idiots.
And, of course, the selection criteria was entirely driven by the group with the most political pull. And thus began the most obscene violation of basic human rights on the grandest scale imaginable.
Their agenda was underway before we even really knew what was happening. I was only 10 at the time, so events like arranged or prohibited marriages, forced sterilization of “unqualified” people, pregnancy screenings that often resulted in forced abortions, gestational surrogacy, and such became the norm.
Soon after, other forced segregations were enforced. Compulsory dating services designed to fit you with the right partner, though many born after me knew immediately upon birth if they’d ever be able to reproduce. Different schools intended to teach you about the new way of life, utterly white washing any “ugly” part of human history. How dare anything not be perfect, right?
Language and currency became standardized. Indigenous languages became taboo and many were forever lost. Books were burned and invaluable knowledge seemingly erased. Even the workforce changed. For the first time, both women and men held value only in their genetic composition.
Entire generations being born with smaller waists, lighter skin and lighter eyes and lighter hair. Diverse beauty standards across the world became offensive and unfavorable. People not born into this new world order went to dangerous lengths to fit in.
Now, that isn’t to say there wasn’t any push back. People everywhere were rightfully furious. Scientists and politicians the world over rallied against this outrageous and unmistakably racially prejudiced practice. Didn’t anyone care about basic human rights? Or the very drastic loss of genetic diversity leading to inbreeding? What about disrupting literally millions of years of genetic evolution which could have remarkably adverse effects on immunity and species resilience?
Did no one care that there’s no such thing as perfect genes or perfect people?!
And, to no one’s surprise, they were one by one silenced. The world broke apart into factions. There were always violent protests. But gods, it’s so hard to fight against a current of false superiority. Nothing gives a person more arrogance than when they think they’re on the right side of an unquantifiable genetic lottery. Those born into this new inherited wealth became a veritable army of artificial righteousness.
But, what the World Regulation Agency couldn’t breed out of many of us, was the grit and fortitude and resolve of a collective humanity bent on justice.
About 10 years ago, the figurative wall finally broke. The main hydra of men (of course) promulgating these asinine beliefs were finally infiltrated and terminated. Their doctrines of hate and bigotry finally made available for the world to see. Understandably, there were, and still are, many humans unduly influenced by the social constructs of their time that continue to perpetuate the principles of eugenics.
After The Fall (original, I know), you’d think the world would be in complete chaos, right? It’s certainly not the same. The arbitrary lines that once delineated countries and cities have long been forgotten. There is no single law enforcement, and yet most people still abide by remembered rules, desperate for some preserved structure. Various industries still operate at some capacity. Since language and currency became nearly universal, there are still banks in many places with less barriers for understanding. The earth’s population slowly dwindling, the air is cleaner and the oceans less stressed.
It’ll take time, but we’re rebuilding. And I’m hell bent on helping The Collective.
I, like so many, was deemed unfit for reproduction. Chemically sterilized before I even hit puberty. To even measure the scale upon which these coerced castrations took place is largely unfathomable. Billions of biologies just…ruined.
And now…it had arrived. And with it, a girl.
“What’s your name?” I pressed after a few minutes of easy silence.
“Rome,” she told me, still impassive.
“Well, Rome, is there a reason they felt this package needed an escort to my lab?”
“Yes,” she deadpanned.
I waited for her to further explain but realizing nothing else was forthcoming, I fought down my irritation.
“Care to enlighten me why?” I asked through gritted teeth.
“Yes. There’s enough of the raw chemicals you requested for you to create and test your theory. Upon confirmation of positive results, I’m to assist you in the next step,” she explained, with a serious nature inconsistent for someone of her age. But then, the last few decades have been hell.
I carefully took the proffered package and placed it reverently on my lab table. The fruition of my life’s work ready to manifest into a chemical liberation from infertility. I’d spent years working the formula and theorizing just the right combination to reverse what was once thought to be a permanent sterility.
I, of course, am far too old to benefit from this now. I do this work driven by my own grief and loneliness. That I never got to be a mother due to the circumstances of my birth is a devastation I think I can alleviate for so many. Frankly, I’m fucking thrilled.
Abruptly, I remember the girl. Rome. What did she say? The next step?
I turn back around and observe her for a moment. She’s lightly trailing her fingers along my bookshelf. It’s mostly filled with rare and unbelievably useful scientific texts. Remember the book burning? So much science was vilified in their attempt to discredit those of sound mind. These books are my fabricated family.
She pulls down an unusual tome on aerospace engineering. She flips through until she lands on a specific page. With one hand holding the large hardback, she scrolls her finger down the text with the other until she apparently finds what she’s looking for. Nodding her head a few times, she slams the book closed and looks back up at me.
I get the feeling I’m a cog in the wheel of her design. Who is this girl?
I remember myself.
“What next step? I’ve been briefed. The Collective knows what I’m capable of. This will work,” I begin to argue. I can feel her eyes making bruises on my ego. Do they doubt me so?
She holds a placating hand up. A mollifying gesture as if I’m the immature and irrational one.
“No one doubts your aptitude or your motivations. However, there’s an additional step that we need you for,” she calmly states. Do her eyebrows even move? Do they Botox children now?
“We? Are you speaking French? Who is We?” Hah. Yeah.
“French? What? Your mental stability right now is a disaster. We, as in the universal We of The Collective, need your help obtaining a method to deliver your chemical salvation once complete. I’ll stay here with you in the lab for testing purposes. You can use me to test your final formula. Until then, I daresay I may be useful in helping draft a plan of sorts to procure the desired distribution system to…everyone.”
I’m speechless for a moment. Maybe my time in isolation really has addled my brain. I’m trying to read between her carefully crafted lines. A delivery system?
“And what’s The Collective’s preferred delivery system? I’ll be honest, I hadn’t thought about next steps. My only goal has ever been to create the formula,” I reply, trying to keep the confusion out of my voice, but failing.
“But then what? How will we get this to the literal billions of people who would benefit from it?” she counters back.
We both stare at each other for a few spaces. I’m agitated and she’s entirely unruffled. Honestly? It’s unnerving.
She relents, probably realizing my bafflement.
“My dear chemist. Do you remember the Solar Impulse aircrafts The WRA deployed to furtively spray entire cities with calming chemical agents?” she asks as if this has ever been common knowledge.
“What?” I demand. “That’s…I’ve literally never heard of such a thing. Are you sure that’s –”
I’m cut off before I can even begin.
“Oh yes. If you’re interested, I can even tell you about the automated submarines designed to change the salinity of water reserves in areas where the undesirables used to frequent. I have a host of horrifying tales detailing what cruel and devious methods they used on us all. But first, we need your help. The Solar Impulse aircrafts? They’re currently being held by an admittedly intimidating group of Eugenic Believers in North America.”
She pauses here and for the first time since she’s been in my lab, I begin to see some expression in her face. A half smile begins at the corner of her mouth and her eyebrow raises (finally!) in question. She looks far too devious this way.
“And before you decide to play the morally ethical card,” she smirks at me, “we know all about your involvement in creating and marketing some of the most popular hallucinogenic drugs that are still being sought after. And your little…accident involving the co-creator. Trust me, no one is particularly concerned about that.”
I just stand there, slack jawed. What in the actual fuck was happening?
“So, here’s the deal. I know you don’t want to hear or admit it, but we need to trust each other. For this to change, for us to be successful…” She lets the statement hang in the air.
The tension builds. It seems we both have a stubborn nature incapable of folding. Though, perhaps we can both bend, just a little. For this? I would.
Warily, I motion my hands for her to continue. “And? What do you want from me besides the formula?”
She’s full on grinning at me now. I don’t care for it AT ALL.
“Care to plan a heist?”