only have twenty minutes between the regular checkups. We can't
risk getting caught," Max Sawyer said urgently. "You
don't have any official reason to be in there."
know. Still..." Joseph sighed and shook his head. "I
Max didn't pat the other man's shoulder. Major Walsh wasn't a man
you did that with. "Remember, Joe," Max said, laying
his hand over the sensor pad to trigger the DNA sensor which
opened the inner breeding hall. "The biggest difference
between them and normal humans is at this stage. That's because
of the advanced cognition development. To make it possible at all
some of the natural development schemes were altered. They don't
change their hair and eye color later, like normal babies do;
that already happened in late fetal phase. And be careful --
avoid contact. Normal babies are able to identify their mother's
smell within three days after birth. STs can recognize *and*
memorize you precisely with their first breath of air. Their
response to pheromones is equally fast. That's why access here is
strictly limited." Max sighed. "They shouldn't synch to
anybody. It would prevent their systems from responding to the
controlled pheromone signals provided by the nurse
shuddered slightly at that. "But he's all right?"
measurements are good since he was decanted this morning,"
Max confirmed. "But they aren't designed to measure the
alteration of the carrier DNA, only the extent of integrated
abilities and the stability of the code. And they are at max in
Sawyer nodded. "I calculated very precisely to avoid
reaching an amount that would alter his genetic base, but I
didn't have much time back then. His injuries were extensive and
his constitution, especially after the lax care given to test
cultures, was decreasing rapidly." He lowered his head. "He
might be more of them then of you."
lines around the major's face hardened. "We'll see about
walls of the perspex container were opaque. The child inside it
seemed to sleep peacefully in spite of the continuous hubbub of
the holographic interaction devices arranged around and above the
sterile-looking cradle, providing the constant sensory input
necessary at this stage of development. If the input broke off
even for a few minutes while the child was awake, the risk of
autism rose dramatically.
had taken those risks were taken because within two years the
little boy would have to have a general understanding of the
principles of time, space, creatures, technologies, food... Still
a childish, naive understanding, but enough to act reasonably, to
understand properly given orders and execute them within his
all that Joseph saw was a tiny fragile-looking body, not fully
curled up on the bare surface. Warmth came from the thermal lamps
above and in the walls of the cradle, not from blankets. Still,
the baby seemed cold. And lonely.
wisps the color of ripe, sun-bleached wheat covered the head. The
color was repeated in the first hints of brows; the lashes were
darker, with traces of copper, in contrast to the very light
skin. Joseph held his hand in the cradle and noted how dark his
skin looked against the fair boy.
green eyes flew open, focused with startling intensity and
curiosity on his face. Delicate hands grabbed his hand, a little
bit clumsily, and pulled it with astonishing strength towards the
tiny, meticulously formed face. Joseph swallowed. The boy sniffed
at him, while great green eyes sized him up. The warm breath was
followed by wetness. The child licked at his fingertips, began
sucking at his index finger as if he were a pacifier.
"I'm sorry, Joe. I
really hoped..." Max, looking over Walsh's shoulder,
distracted. "What are you talking about?"
eyes." Max shook his head. "I never saw eyes like that.
The STJ must have--"
Sawyer's surprise, the major smiled. "But I have, Max. My
father-in-law's were that color. My first impulse when I met the
man face to face was to ask if he wore colored contact
were a bright emerald green, Max." Walsh sobered, his eyes
returning to his son. "His mother said from the very
beginning that her child would have them, too..." The
sadness in his voice increased at the thought. "She was
"It's a pity
we already have a 'John' in the project."
The major blinked. "Not John, Max. That's too obvious a
connection anyway, as would be the Russian Ivan." His gaze
rested on the child that cuddled against his warm hand, holding
fiercely to the first personal contact in his life. No, his son
was no chubby-cheeked laughing bundle of joy. He appeared more
like an elf, though Joseph had no idea where that thought came
from. His mouth twitched. Or maybe he did. Maybe it was right. In
the twisted world Walsh had helped create, the boy was something
like the changelings of the Irish faery tales his mother had read
to him as a child. Irish... He smiled down at the child, whose
green eyes blinked back. "Hello, Shane."
Max whispered behind him. "Think of the sensors. The next
eyes had fallen shut. The boy slept again, the wheat-wispy head
cuddled into Walsh's hand, obviously drawing a sense of security
*Oh boy, in the world
you'll be growing up in, there won't be much of
"Come on, now.
With a little luck the uncommon vegetative synch might go
unnoticed, but if we're caught in here..."
know." He carefully lowered the child's head from his hand
back onto the perspex before he stepped back, clenching his fists
as he followed Sawyer, who hurried out of the room.
relaxed visibly after they had reached Walsh's office and the
door closed behind them.
you sure the foreign synch will go unnoticed?" Walsh asked
him after a moment.
or less," Max said with a sigh. "Do you know the
black-and-white patterned girl in the nursery?" At Walsh's
nod: "I made your mistake with her." He made a
fatalistic shrug. "She reminded me of the EEC
test bunnies we had in the labs. You remember the fluffy beasts
that blinded you on your first visit to Liberdom?"
Joseph wasn't listening. His hands propped on the sill, he stared
blindly out into the falling night through a window that still
carried warning labels about radioactive spray from the water.
"How do I go on?" It wasn't clear if he was speaking to
his reflection in the window pane or to Max. "How do I
protect him?" He closed his eyes, leaning his forehead
against the stained pane, and saw blue-green eyes in a beloved
face now gone, giving him a silent order he had no idea yet how
This was no place
for their son. Not for the fragile little elf who had snuggled
into his palm with an inborn trust Joseph prayed he deserved.
to Elizabeth 'fatima' Bales and S. 'Trivia' Blank for their help