“Perfect”

This is a story inspired by the revelation of a character from one of my favorite TV shows. In a way, it is a story that tells of a situation similar to that of Dr. Julian Bashir, Chief Medical Officer from the show Star Trek, Deep Space Nine.

I stood in front of the mirror and looked at myself. The youngest Nobel Prize winner. I could remember how uproarious the media was. I was the youngest female to have ever been bestowed with such an honor. Suddenly the whole galaxy knew my name. My revolutionary spaceship designs would be implemented throughout the galaxy. I had just accepted my award and my place in history with an eloquent thanking speech. And now I stood backstage. Everybody was so proud of me. Everybody except myself.

My parents entered the room. They had just answered questions about the media’s new infatuation – me. After countless interviews, my parents stood beaming and proud. My father was an architect. My mother, a doctor. They felt so proud narrating stories of their “little” daughter. Not so little, I was twenty-five.

My mother came forward and hugged me. I couldn’t return the gesture. I was disgusted with my parents. My rage was boiling in the deep, dark pit of my stomach. Everybody has their secrets. As do I. Now, I was a beautiful, brilliant genius with a sparkling life ahead of me, supported on a strong foundation of many awards, scholarships and hard-work.

When I was six, I was the exact opposite. I was a slow, clumsy child who was awkward about everything. I had difficulty in grasping the simplest of concepts which seemed to come to all my peers with natural ease. I found it difficult to talk and I had problems differentiating between simple, everyday objects like trees and houses, while all my classmates learnt how to use a computer and solve differential equations. I never could really understand what was going on around me. I never understood what happened and why it happened. It was made very clear to me by all who were around me that I was inferior. I began to realize that I had been a constant disappointment to my parents since the time I came into my existence. Turns out I had a developmental abnormality. I was shorter than most other children my age and I appeared to be less-able than them in other ways as well.

Before my seventh birthday, I paid a visit to the Galactic Medical Federation with my parents. The best doctors all over the galaxy worked there. Yet, it wasn’t completely impervious to corruption. And then those treatments began. It started with my mental growth and ended with my appearance and that caused my change. I was genetically enhanced and engineered. My IQ jumped five points a day over two weeks. My communication and understanding of the world around me became better. My ability to grasp and absorb had increased far beyond than I what I could. Everything about me changed from awkward to normal to outstanding.

But I was genetically engineered. I was not natural. You can call me a mutant, a freak. And genetic engineering is highly illegal. Eugenics was against everybody’s basic code of ethics and morality. Yet that never stopped my parents. And the treatments unfortunately never did wipe away the memory of my previous six years, living as the exact opposite of what I was now.

My father, the architect. He falsified records and identities. He corrected and improved upon the design of his daughter. He engineered a daughter to replace the malfunctioning one he had been given. He says that if it wasn’t for him, I would have spent the rest of my life under remedial education.

I suppose you think I should thank them for changing me from an ugly duckling to a swan. Correction, a genetically-engineered swan. A fraud, an illegal masterpiece.

But in transforming me, they removed what was fundamentally me. I’m an illegal freak of nature now and it’s all my parents’ fault. They never gave me a chance. After all, six is too early to predict the future of a growing child. And behind the brilliant genius and gorgeous looks is an illegal medical therapy.

My mother is crying into my arms now as she sees the steely, cold look in my eyes. She crying into my arms now, where I’m clutching my laurels and awards and certificates. She’s trying to explain her deed to me.

She tells me she kept blaming herself for it. That she spent many sleepless nights wondering what went wrong during the pregnancy and that why did it have to be me. She couldn’t bear to watch me suffer as I fell behind a little by little every day, as I became the slowest learner. Later, after my therapy, we moved to another city and transformed from the class dunce to star genius. My parents tried to hide everything from me. “We’re so proud of her, “was their constant annoying refrain.

But unfortunately, the treatment did not wipe out whatever dull blurry memories I have. I will always remember. Even though they loved me and wanted the best for me, I was unable return the gesture to them anymore, even though I had transformed from something “ugly” to something “beautiful”. The main point is that they failed to appreciate me then and now they wanted to. Why not just accept me for what I was? Why was I not always perfect for them? Was I not their baby? Did I not have the right to be accepted as and what I was? Did I have to satisfy certain criteria to be “worthy” of being their daughter?

Now, I was the galaxy’s most promising young scientist and not to mention my gorgeous looks as well which would get me a great life ahead. But I can’t find it in myself to be arrogant or happy about it. Now that I’m the center of the media’s attraction, my secret’s bound to come out.

My father tells me that he’s willing to serve five years in a low-security penal colony. He’s willing to shoulder the blame for the fraud of genetic engineering. At best he can get a ten-year sentence because he performed the therapy without my consent and only as the power of my benefactor.

I’m touched by his gesture. Even though I despise them, they’re still my parents and I love them for some inexplicable reason. I loved them then and I promised myself that I would try and accept myself, forgive myself for being a disappointment to my parents. And after the treatment, I had to somehow continue to love them. It was the last shred of my originality. The only thing that I tried so hard not to change after all these years. But its difficult. But it’s the only bit of that six-year-old me that will stay with me now and forever.

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Pied Piper Rewritten Series (V): Visitors

But on this winter evening, in their humble cottage, after fumbling through history and sharing a kiss that neither hoped would be the last, they paused.

They were survivors, and yet they still could not let go of the burden that their kind had created for themselves. Grandfather had burned his laboratory notes about Muridea research, so that nobody would ever have to create such a monster again. Grandmother disposed of the piano, quietly and with tears, for music was very intimate to her. These were several hard decisions that they made, but they made them together and they made them considering the future. Both of these attributes seemed to justify it as a right decision.

Nobody knew what became of the children after. Nobody knew what happened to DNA of the Muridea either. Traces of everything that had happened were removed. Eventually, the burned land relearned how to sprout grass, and the river could supply them with nutrients once again.

Grandmother looked up from the album that she and Grandfather shared in their arms.

There was the shadow of a person on the snow. It was too upright to be someone of their age. Yet it was impossible that anybody younger should exist. Hesitant, and quite frightened, the couple took to the door. Grandfather hauled an old weapon, that he had used to keep uninvited Muridea at bay. Grandmother shivered timidly as she hobbled towards the door.

Grandmother was not a person given to drama and hysteria, yet the shock of what she saw made her reel. A young girl, of about sixteen or seventeen waited at the door. She was wearing a full coat that was buttoned up to protect her from the cold, and the snowflakes was settling in on her mousy hair.

She flashed a bright smile that reflected the snow. It was unreal. It was beyond unreal. Surely at her age, she was prone to seeing delusions. Nobody like that could even be after all that had happened. The girl moved her mouth, clearly she was trying to explain something vocally, which Grandmother did not hear. Grandfather dropped the weapon he was holding in sheer shock. Grandmother felt the vibrations of the heavy bulky device crash to the floor via her feet.

Could it be? Could the children have returned? Had they truly survived everything to live to see this beautiful day?

Very shyly, the girl patted Grandmother’s hand, as though understanding their confusion. As a patriotic and respectful gesture she tried to embrace Grandmother, as though she was long-lost family. Though Grandfather and Grandmother had no children, the very fact that someone had reached out to them and considered them close enough to be family and wished to meet them made their hearts happy enough. It was the kind of happiness that hadn’t filled them since the silence began.

Grandfather’s eyes were watering again due to some combination of extreme emotion and age and cold weather. Grandmother clasped the figure before her very tightly. This was real. She was beholding the next generation. They were so overcome with emotion, as they had never felt in so long that they had abandoned all suspicion.

Indeed it was a such a simple thing that made them happy, and like most simple ideas, it was genius. Pure genius.

While locked in that fragile filial embrace, neither Grandmother nor Grandfather noticed as the girl fidgeted with a furry, rat-like hand under her coat and turned on the invisible ear piece she had. They could not have heard what she said, but this is what she said.

“Search successful. We have located two healthy pure human specimens for gene distillation. Purification process can be initiated.”

Pied Piper Rewritten Series (IV): Sounds

It was truly one of the most awe-inspiring days when Grandfather and Grandmother were brought out of hiding into open space for the first time. The Piper, with her youthful joy and fervor, was using a simple tool that she held in her hand and pumped her breath. It emitted a strange hypnotic pulse that washed out over the people and the waves expanded as they spread over the people and the desolate landscape.

The Muridea keeled over, squealing in pain. One by one. The hundreds in a wave, then thousands and then millions. All that emerged from the sound, heard it in its glory and then died. Perhaps it was a happy death. The first of its kind the world had ever seen.

Shortly after, the sounds died as well.

Grandfather and Grandmother clutched each other in worry, terror and joy all intermingled. The high frequencies were inducing strange behavior, but they were enchanting as well.

It was also the last sound they would ever hear.

But it was still that time, when Grandfather and Grandmother could go outside and walk in the remains of a park. They could walk, in the safety of being in their own environment, sure that no Muridea would sprout forth from the earth and then attack them. The air did not smell of blood and decay and death. It smelled of exhaustion.

For the first time ever, within their ears and within their minds, there was peace.

The river water could not be used any more, as it contained the corpses of several Muridea, which would take years to decay. It was only when all of Grandfather’s hair had turned white, that he would find the water clear. There was still the occasional Muridea skull that would float by, but those were years later.

Yet, despite the crushing, crumbling and much-needed silence, people rejoiced. They shouted their quiet joy, and celebration came to the lands for the first time in many years. Indeed, it was better to be deaf permanently than to live in constant fear of dying. Initially, there were panic reports of just one person going deaf. But then, as widespread reports flooded medical centers, two entire nations couldn’t hear anything.

Most accepted their silent designation with grace. They were a war generation, too tired with gore to argue with the unintended side effects. They were the ones who counted the number of fresh Muridea dying in the river, everyday. They had not yet lost their capacity to adopt to their new disabilities.

Grandmother and Grandfather learned newer ways to communicate. Visually, via gestures or written/expressed media. It probably helped their cause that their administration had also gone deaf and so adapted the infrastructure to suit their needs. The two countries which had once been bustling metropolises, then ravaged war grounds were just ghost towns of mute people. Even the agencies that could create sound were slowly silenced as nobody could hear them anymore. Audio technology stopped selling. People discarded any communications gear they had. Verbal language had no meaning any more.

But there were others who did not accept this so quietly. Some registered their protest, saying that the Piper had cheated them all, and so should be denied the right to a proper payment. When the Piper asked to be paid, they offered the remaining debris of whatever genetic evidence was left of the Muridea, saying that it was viable human DNA. They did not hear the Piper’s protests. Or see or feel them. They chose not to.

It was a collective decision, formed by the nascent union of both warring factions. As such, some historians maintained that it was one of the best decisions in history as it proved that the entire war had been quite unnecessary. But others maintained that it was one of the worst, for what was to follow.

Grandfather remembered shaking his tired head at the large posters that screamed of injustice to the Piper. Indeed, it seemed as though shortsightedness wasn’t the only fault with the people. Ingratitude existed as well. After so many struggles, wasn’t it good that they accepted the silence as is. After a decade of hearing the howls of the dead and the screeches of scavengers, wasn’t the silence truly a boon in disguise?

Grandmother worried that by handing over the remnant of Muridea DNA, they were inviting the Piper to re-create the invasion again. After all, if he needed the genetic resources to create families, he probably had the genetic resources to re-create their species and plague them again.

As events unfolded, the Piper had other ideas to equate the transaction.

The few children of both these nations were still able to hear very very faintly. This was due to their capacity to pick up frequencies that the adult hearing failed to after a while of being exposed to harsher sounds of the world. Still young, and capable of growing into healthy reproductive adults, the Piper secretly came by and whisked them away.

It was so simple, so non-glorious, so evident what was happening and yet nobody could do anything to stop it. Children were easily enchanted by a person who seemed to be in their own age group, and who could make sound. Lured away from home by the promise of something greater, bigger and more beautiful that the war-stricken land could ever hope to provide, they left in a quiet exodus.

Nobody heard them leave.

Parents tried to stop the children from leaving, when the attempts at abduction were more visible and blatant and yet so subtle. But their protesting actions fell on deaf ears, and numbed minds. There was the joy of company too. To be with each other, to be together, siblings, friends, adolescent lovers and the like fled from the authority of home, skipping over the Muridea remains, ignoring the charred world that they had formerly called home. For what kind of home gave it’s children nothing but explicit instructions to prevent going outside? What kind of a generation raised another in terror of their own creation? Their kind.

Despite the fact that Grandfather and Grandmother had no children of their own, they empathized with families that were now reduced to adults. It wasn’t that they missed the sounds of the children’s laughter, as they couldn’t hear any. But the very presence of someone young and dependent had given the war generation something better to strive for. Except now that there were to be no heirs, what was the purpose of their existence?

Among all the killers that had ruled the land, sadness and despair joined their elite ranks. Mourning, grieving wounded families were added to the death tolls. Every day their numbers rose, and their world’s shrunk and so did the people. And all that was left was hate. Hate for the War, the Muridea, the Piper and everything that had happened.

Yet, human nature was resilient. Several families tried again. But the Piper’s wide-scale treatment left them sterile.

Some begged the Piper that her revenge was too harsh for a land which had experienced sorrow. Indeed there were opinions which claimed that another campaign be initiated to get the children back. But then the Piper conveyed, and finally, when she conveyed, nobody could refute her argument.

She had helped a people get rid of a problem they had created. And it was only fair that he ask for something in return. The Muridea were formidable to defeat. Harsh methods usually have harsh reactions. She had explained these to the authorities when she had first entered the land. They had agreed.

Besides, she was promising the children a brighter, better future than they could ever hope to have in a land that was eager to jump into battle, had literally nothing to offer to a childhood of any form and was littered with death.

Even the protests fell silent at that.

Despite the apparent unfairness of the situation, Grandmother tacitly agreed with the Piper. It was better that they flee before the previous generation’s hate and debris weigh down on their shoulders. Grandfather, who empathized more deeply with the families, still felt that it was rather cruel. After all, they could have cleaned themselves up in hope that the next generation would enjoy the productive fruits of their labor. But with nobody to inherit, there was no reason for posterity.

Fate settled on the people and they resigned themselves to their doomed lives. They comforted themselves years later saying that at least their children were together and so they were all right.

It was a similar feeling that Grandmother and Grandfather shared. Friends became solitary, nephews and nieces disappeared, yet they still had each other. As long as they had each other, there was no pain too big to overcome.

Pied Piper Rewritten Series (III): Mutant

Almost a decade after the war began, the enemy state was brought to its knees. Two nations were now begging at the same level. The air strikes and the weapons fire had reduced considerably, but so had everything else. The Muridea were now returning back to their homes, spawning a population where they heavily outnumbered their creators. Due to their lethal scavenging abilities, they refused to discriminate what kind of humans they attacked.

But more so, as they bred frighteningly fast and frighteningly large litters, their genetic diversity varied. They grew stronger, wilder and more “natural”. With every progressive step towards natural reproduction, the creatures began to lose most of the original conditioning they had been designed with. Except the resilience.

Grandfather himself had been attacked a few times. All he remembered during those struggles that those beasts were approximately twice his size, much stronger than he had anticipated. The precise memory of encounters were fading now, but all he remembered was terror, blood, fur and fangs. They had invaded the lower levels of the laboratory, and they chewed through the walls and protecting foundations of the structure with as much ease as they had converted enemy architecture to a few twisted, partially saliva-coated segments of metal.

Grandmother would wait everyday, scoffing at Grandfather when he was late, but secretly relieved that he didn’t come back with half his face shredded beyond recognition. Everyday, she invested her time in trying to fortify their home with whatever limited salvage components she could find. She would sigh and say it was stupid how one country, in an effort to create an army, created an almost infinite problem that neither could solve.

A normal army could be asked to stay off duty. If they were machines, they could be deactivated once their services were complete. A rampant population of one of the most persistent pests humanity had encountered, the Muridea did not come with any such convenient reset button. More so, during their creation, nobody had ever thought their idea would triumph, so they did not ever see the need to create a method to end this.

It was strange how in effort to antagonize each other, the two nations managed to find peace over a universal problem, namely pest control. It was a temporary peace, a desperate effort to look beyond the border of the national boundary and the river and ask each other what they could do about the Muridea.

More so, as the Muridea mutated, their organic bodily liquids seemed to carry the capacity to cause mutations of those in contact with it as well. People started bursting out in fangs and rodent teeth and an irrepressible thirst for blood. The Muridea were adding to their own numbers. No more was it a battle of one nation against another, but of human against an organic weapon.

One person knew the answer. She went by the name of Piper. She was genius, and like all genius, dangerous. She had discovered a weakness in the Muridea. They intuitively communicated via auditory signals. Therefore, if a human being were to affect a sudden high frequency audio pulse, they could momentarily destabilize the Muridea. Of unknown identity, or qualifications, she walked with the power to control the fate of two nations.

She was young, too.

She promised to end the Muridea for something very small in return, a sustainable human gene pool. She explained that the land she came from had suffered stunted growth from war fallout. The aftermath had left them all sterile. So, she offered to make the Muridea sterile and use a sonic pulse to kill them, in promise of something that would help her people enjoy families again. It was a pulse that would suspend any mammal’s reproductive capacities indefinitely, and if conveyed at a high, irregular frequency, could frustrate the aural nerves to the extent that the Muridea would die.

Desperation. So much desperation for a convenient solution without ever wondering how such a debt could be repaid or what the consequences of such an action could be. But then again, shortsightedness had always been their greatest problem.

Again, unsure of fate, two nations decided to agree to let the river that marked their boundaries as the graveyard for the Muridea. They would provide whatever human gene samples that the Piper wanted, if he could end the plague of the Muridea.

Pied Piper Rewritten Series (II): Army

Grandfather remembered how the war began when he was very young. It was so long ago, that people still needed names to be differentiated from each other. Grandfather forgot what he used to be called, but he remembered from his childhood fantasies that he had wanted to be named after a hero, so that all would glorify his name.

Grandfather remembered waiting behind the laboratories glass windows. Of all the structures around, it was odd how a scientific warehouse was more heavily fortified than even the political structures, which were the first points of attack. As he emerged from the bubble of security, it struck him that nobody else seemed to be as uncomfortable about the sound of weapons fire than he was.

Lately, he had taken to walking to the premise. It was way too dangerous for the public transport to operate. Recent attacks had left them with rising death tolls every day. The sky bled in the morning, and in the evening, and with the air strikes, the wounds lasted during the day as well. But he was behind a laboratory’s closed door, sheltered, defended and protected, until the time he stepped out and the cries of the mourning, the whines of overwrought engines and the sharp punctuation of the weapons fire reminded him of where he was.

Everyday, the news covered another debacle of politics. Existing societal systems were failing. Rebellion and anarchy seemed to be the only route to survival. The economy plunged. Goods were looted. Yet everyday, the radiation from the attacks seemed to reduce the number of beggars on the street. Death, desperation and the enemy were persistent. They could not be stopped. They would not be stopped.

Yet, even in this dreary mess, he had reason to be happy. It was a small secret, folded up in the deepest corners of his heart before any of the plunderers found it. But it was also embodied by his lovely new bride who waited for him to come back home, anxious and worried. Despite all the misery and gore around them, they derived some small happiness in the mere fact of being together.

Perhaps it was cruel how their concern didn’t seem to bother any of the others on the streets who could have been anyone’s mother, father, sister, brother, son or daughter. But perhaps shortsightedness had always been one of Grandfather’s problems. It was a problem that extended not just to him, but to his entire civilization as well.

When the funding for the laboratory and its security stopped, Grandfather helped several refugees into the warehouses and tried to keep them alive with the limited rations. Many died. Some survived. Like the very same desperation and enemy that drove these people to his shelter, Grandfather persevered and sent a few alive ones back out into the world as well. His benefactors glorified his name, the one which he himself would forget. But back then, he was a hero.

Then the call came to create an army. For a nation that was living off dust and grass, littered with decaying corpses and the pungent aroma of perpetual smoke, an army had to be raised. But from what? They had no money to buy anything. They had no more people to create an army. When the call came, a cry of confusion sang louder than all the other screams of pain. For a land that was losing its dignity, people and resources, what could it make its army from?

The answer was so simple that it was pure genius. Though nobody remembered that genius could be dangerous. Only Grandfather and Grandmother, sitting huddled up in their lonely cottage decades later, would learn to mistrust genius.

Rats. The rodents that scavenged the streets, feeding off the uncovered dead,multiplying abnormally in an environment that seemed to support their existence better than humans, they infested the city. Yet, people were so preoccupied with war, that they didn’t notice them. Most considered them as their new form of meat. Others made them into fur. They were not an inconvenience any more. They were property.

More so, they were genetically malleable. A few embellishments to their existing helix, combined with the encouragement of the native tendency to forage and scavenge and you could create a perfect army. Their skills in multiplication surpassed any automated machine, and there were so many of them that they seemed to be the only resource left.

Ordinarily, it would have occurred to some noble soul that this was cruel. Testing and forcing an animal to mutate into something that was beyond its natural capacity involved torture at some level. But inflicting torture to one species after having suffered immeasurably for their own kind seemed only a natural, and weirdly normal, way of extending the feeling of brotherhood among the remaining life-forms.

Grandfather watched as science, inspired by hate and the human need of self-defense, began to morph harmless rodents into one of the most lethal forces known. No more were there any decaying bodies on the streets. The new species required complete, clean meals in order to sustain itself, and any dead carcass presented itself as a valid option. Directed, they burrowed in millions of tunnels to the enemy state. Driven to a mad frenzy, they effortlessly crossed physical and geographical boundaries with great speed and tenacity.

They were known as the Muridea and they were formidable. Their accelerated multiplication began to displace the enemy population and give them a taste of what they had caused. They chewed through metal alloys, bone and seemed to have a lasting resistance to any form of extermination methods.

And thus began, what is colloquially called, the Era of Monsters. Though Grandfather did not know if only the Muridea should have earned that title.

Pied Piper Rewritten Series (I): Silence

It was a cold, dreary winter. Grandfather rode the bicycle the best he could for his age, and hobbled to a stop. He did not hear the wind howl. He did not hear the ice crack as the wheels crunched through them. In his clouded, foggy mind, he watched the world shrivel. He couldn’t even hear the sound of his own blood pumping through his ears.

But the world was not always so silent. Grandfather had experienced a winter when he could hear the old architecture of the house groan, the wind tear past and the nagging of Grandmother. He could remember how the fireplace was alive and crackling. It was only the memory of sound he could hear now.

He limped uncertainly back to the cottage, the sleet making the path slippery and cold. His fingers were numb already from holding the handles for too long. He fumbled to put his hood up as the rain slowly turned to snow. Steadily, patiently, he reached the window. He did not hear his bones creak as he raised his arms, trying to make a gesture that would attract Grandmother’s attention from the kitchen window.

In his younger days, Grandfather was a much more active and agile man, and so could manage to do this efficiently. Grandmother, an expert at multi-tasking, would need to watch his frantic waving in order to open the door to him. This was because she could hear only silence as well.

However, as the years passed, she was afraid that her failing eyes would miss him. So, she stayed to watching the snow blanket the earth, earnestly moving her lips in some prayer that Grandfather would come back alive from the storm. She did not know if any sound escaped them.

They hadn’t spoken to each other in years, because there was nothing to be heard. It was hard accepting this mute exile. But both knew that they were one of the last people alive, to have survived the Invasion.

Grandmother opened the door and clutched Grandfather with as much joy as her fragile fingers could convey. When the Silence came, eyes had become the primary organs of communication. Now that they were failing too, the mere experience of human touch was enough to reassure each other that everything was alright. They were still together. For another day.

Grandmother pointed at the fireplace. It blazed as brightly as ever, making Grandfather’s eyes water somewhat, both with forgotten memories and the intensity of the fire. He grasped Grandmother’s hand as some token of gratitude. Grandmother denied it, as if to imply that in being together and being alive, there was gratitude enough.

As Grandfather sipped the prepared warm drink that Grandmother handed to him, she nodded to a large volume open at the weak table. She brought it over and sat beside Grandfather. The book had stories. Many many stories which they had lived through together. But most importantly, they contained the stories of when they were familiar with sound.

 

Atom and Eve

Image Credits: Jenova by IIIustrathor on dA at http://iiiustrathor.deviantart.com/art/JENOVA-331676917

Image Credits: Jenova by IIIustrathor on dA at http://iiiustrathor.deviantart.com/art/JENOVA-331676917

 

1. Breakup and Distance

“I’m sorry, I don’t think this is working out,” said Eve apologetically to her fourth genetic partner.

“Am I not adequate enough?” Linda asked, staring up at Eve’s eyes with eyes that welled up and quivered.

“It’s not you, it’s me,” said Eve, seeking the refuge of a tired cliche one more time.

“After….after all this time? I loved you, Eve. I gave you everything. We were going to procreate together!”

“Linda….I, I…..it’s not that I love you any less..”

“Do you?! Do you really?!”

“I can’t help it that this feels wrong! Please don’t force me into this, Linda. At least you know I’m not lying to you.”

“You’re selfish, Eve. You’re a horrible selfish person. I should have known better when you said you had three partners before me….I’m sorry I loved you, Eve.”

Linda walked out of the door and Eve was certain she would never come back. Her sharp ears heard Linda’s sobs as she transported away from Eve’s residence. It struck Eve as slightly odd how Linda left all her clothes and belongings behind. She probably expected Eve to come after her, except Eve felt as though she had made the best decision in her life. Unlike any other relationship, Eve had never felt heart-broken when any of her genetic partners waked out on her. Linda was the fourth, which meant that Eve had experience with breaking up. There was that odd silence, which flooded with relief and joy.

But still, Linda, the kind, caring, effusive, ever-helpful, slightly bumbling, sort of annoying presence wasn’t there anymore. No more would she have a companion who woke up beside her. No more would she have someone to share her contact with, merge physically and mentally with. There was a fleeting sense of empty. For the first time ever, Eve wondered if she should reconsider her decision. Maybe Linda was right. Maybe she was giving in to a childish impulse. Maybe their relationship just needed more time to mellow out. Maybe she needed to figure things out better.

“I hope you’re happy,” said Azilan, the AI that was wired into Eve’s brain and in all of her technology.

“Come on. I just can’t feel for her the way she feels for me.”

“She’s an adult woman, with very viable DNA. It’s only natural she feel the need to procreate,” came the justification.

“I’m not denying that! I just don’t feel that way…”

“You’re not getting younger, you know? Your eggs are going to die soon. You might as well procreate now that you can.”

“But I just don’t feel like doing this…..”

“This is childishness, Eve. Linda is a superb specimen. So were all of your previous partners. If you don’t know what you’re looking for that’s highly problematic.”

“Maybe it’s me, Azilan?”

“Scanning for the millionth time. Scan complete. Besides your own stupidly constructed psychological symptoms, there is nothing wrong with your physiology.”

“Maybe I just haven’t found the right person?”

“When will you? The longer you delay it, the weaker your genes will get.”

“I’ve still got time, Azilan. Besides, until then I have you to make me feel less lonely.”

“Linda was right. You’re selfish,” said Azilan.

Eve stayed quiet. She was used to failing herself. She was used to disappointing this other metallic voice inside her head.

But what was the problem? Eve couldn’t quite put her finger on it. Was she not normal, by choosing to have normal genetic partners? Why did she not feel the need to procreate?

Eve stepped out, to be transported away. She needed to get away from this suffocating home which smelled of Linda and Eve’s supposed mistakes.

“Running away, now?” sneered Azilan, masterfully.

“Either tell me where to go or be quiet, because I will not stay.”

Azilan had been around her long enough to know when she was being serious. The operating system wondered if it should delete the memories of Linda, in order to make Eve’s emotional turmoil feel better. It was her fourth break-up, but that didn’t mean it hurt her any less.

“Altitude co-ordinates 43.68. Azimuth co-ordinates 29.76. Nearest transport embarking in 36 seconds and counting.”

“Take me away,” said Eve, as a professional cyborg would say to the implanted system.

2. Who man?

“Azilan?”

“Yes?”

“How do species on other worlds procreate?”

“Well, before cloning and before our genetic technology, there used to exist a biological mechanism called sexual reproduction.”

“If it was natural, why did it die out?”

“Our technology produced more viable hybrids and better designs than the natural genetic mixing could ever provide. Those species didn’t host another artificial intelligence inside their heads, like you can.”

“They must have been able to enjoy their quiet moments in peace.”

“Hey! I resent that. I don’t interrupt your quiet moments!”

“You don’t have a choice. We’re both stuck within the limited confines of my skin until I die,” replied Eve, mimicking Azilan’s trademark sneer.

Azilan searched to change the topic. She let Eve feel her displeasure by forcing her aural nerves to a static wash. Eve cringed, but did not protest. She knew she had got the point across.

“Anyway, sexual reproduction required two different species to genetically combine in order to produce viable offspring, which could be harvested either within or externally of the two combining members.”

“Two species?! How were they genetically compatible?”

“Your ancestors, for example, had two species. Each with the same number of chromosomes. However, one species had both X-genes. They were listed as female, they were the carriers of the offspring. The other had one X and a Y. They were listed as male. They propagated their genes in order to create more offspring.”

Eve couldn’t imagine what it must be to have two different species. She paused momentarily, trying to imagine a world where there could be someone who was equal to her, except differently designed, in some way she had no idea about. After a while, her imagination failed, and she simply let Azilan flood her mind with data.

“What happened to the males?”

“As evolution progressed, the males became susceptible to a space-born disease. The Y-chromosome served as a host for this genetic virus and they were soon extinct. The females, who survived the purge, then went on to find other ways to procreate. That was the dawn of the Cloning era.”

“….Then they discovered that clones couldn’t be genetically viable?”

“Correct. Reproductive technology evolved that would use two healthy citizens, combine their genes at random, and using the combined template of both participants, design an offspring that satisfied it’s parents’ expectations…..”

That was the kind of expectation that Linda had of her. The kind she had failed, for the fourth time.

“Why am I scared of procreating, Azilan? It seems so much simpler and cleaner than ages ago…It’s not like I don’t like Linda. I like having her around me very much, but I somehow don’t see us bearing offspring. I just can’t seem to be as emotionally invested as all of my genetic partners are.”

Azilan felt compelled to comfort her host. It was a question that didn’t really have a specific answer.

“Maybe you just haven’t found the right person?”

“After the fourth time? What are the odds of that, Azilan?”

“Statistical aberrations happen, Eve.”

“My parents would consider me a failure if they knew that I can’t procreate.”

“I’m sure Elise and Marie would continue to love you, Eve,” said Azilan, referring to her parents by their names.

“I want to know how the two species reproduction works, Azilan.”

“Why? Males have been extinct for many centuries now.”

“Maybe that way worked better?”

“Eve, you’re grasping at straws here. Our society is complete with all of its given species’ composition. Our ecosystem cannot support any more, simply because it doesn’t need to support any more.”

“……Just satisfy my curiosity, Azilan. Tell me more about males.”

“You understand that I’ll be reconstructing data that is very ancient, at best. I’ll use whatever extrapolation algorithms that I have to offer you a complete picture, but it may not be accurate.”

“That’s okay.”

Eve stayed quiet as Azilan went on a long recursive search. She closed her eyes as Azilan flooded her mind with grainy, partially formed images of what the human male once was.

“Interesting,” said Eve aloud, as she studied the male physiology. It was something so unique, so different than anything Eve had seen before. This species was so old that most biological or genetic annals failed to record them in their listing.

“Azilan, let’s go to my chamber and finish the reconstruction there. I want to be able to interact with a live holographic model of this species.”

“WHAT?!” spluttered Azilan. “I don’t have enough data to be able to do that!”

“Azilan, you’re smart and so am I. Let’s get to my chambers where we can put our combined intelligence to use.”

“This had better be just for curiosity,” muttered Azilan in the recesses of Eve’s brain. She could tell that Eve was determined.

More so, as Eve embarked the nearest transport to her chambers, Azilan was worried. Eve’s sudden determination could not have just been fueled by curiosity alone. Sharing Eve’s subconscious, Azilan could tell exactly what it was that was driving her, but she refused to speak it aloud for fear of creating a psychological construct inside Eve’s mind.

After all, Eve was hungry for more data on these extinct species. She seemed to justify her thoughts on the surface with a prefacing, “Oh, I just want to know how our ancestors procreated, that’s all.”

Azilan almost dreaded to name the conclusion that her analyses of Eve’s psyche were telling her. Maybe, just maybe, was there the slightest hint of attraction?

That, in itself, implied something that could very well shake the foundations of their current society. Eve could be regressing back to genetically “natural” ways.

Nothing. It’s nothing. Azilan told herself, erasing her memory of the last five seconds of internal analyses. But then, as they arrived in Eve’s chambers, Azilan felt worried again.

3. Regression and solitude

“Please enter your access code,” asked the Central Genetic Database system, guarding the entrance to the formidable structure that maintained their world in a constant ecological balance.

Azilan supplied the system with the necessary data while Eve waited. Eve transported to her office and located the necessary modeling equipment.

Slowly, Azilan started pooling the data she had collated from varied sources about human males into the system. Their genetic structure, hormonal composition, physiological variations, sexual dimorphism and other anatomical traits.
Whatever data the system failed to provide, Azilan calculated and estimated. Their numbers, their populations, their propagated methods, etc.

The more Eve discovered about this species, the more she marveled. Her ancestors must have truly been complex evolved beings in their own right, if they could sustain reproduction within themselves with such primitive external technology. She wasn’t just in awe of the Ancient Human Male. She was also in awe of the Female that was expected to be his partner, expected to complete a complex creature such as the Male.

All that was left now, was for the Database to compile a visual, three-dimensional, motile specimen of the entered parameters.

“Eve?”

“Azilan?”

“There’s something you have to admit to me honestly, Eve.”

“Azilan, you’re inside my head all the time. You know me better than I know myself. How am I possibly expected to hide anything from you?”

“There have been occasions where you have made decisions without my control, Eve.”

Eve paused while she remembered, or Azilan made her remember, that she broke up with Linda despite Azilan’s objections.

“Why are you bringing up Linda, Azilan?”

“This whole search began with wondering why you can’t procreate, right? Those doubts about your ability started sprouting up only after Linda left.”

“Yeah, so?”

“Now you’re actually doing research on an extinct species on order to prove that the natural way of procreating was right. You’re here about to run simulations and other environmental factors so that you know what it would be like if human males were willed back into existence.”

Eve stayed silent.

“Answer me honestly, Eve. You owe me at least that much.”

“Maybe that’s the only way I can procreate, Azilan. Look at this way, I can’t seem to work with any of the existing partners that I had, or have available around me. You’ve tested me several times, and there’s no biological reason why I can’t procreate. But there’s definitely some reason I can’t. I don’t know why I’m doing this Azilan, but I have to do it to find some answers for myself.”

“Do you find yourself sexually attracted to this species?”

Eve staggered somewhat under the realization of what Azilan was trying to get at.

“Is it wrong if I do?”

“It’s not accepted in our society, Eve. You know it.”

“What sort of a society dictates to me who I am allowed to feel sexually attracted to?!”

Azilan stayed silent. This was beyond natural regression.

“Besides,” said Eve, feeling the desperate need to justify her disposition, “that was the way it had worked in the past. Why shouldn’t it work now?”

“Many things have changed since those times, Eve. Those people – the males and females lived in a world where population was uncontrolled, many species were dead or extinct. Their ecosystem was polluted and choked with the burden of hosting so many members of each individual species. Today we live in a world where every birth and every death of every species is recorded and noted. Everything is regulated and controlled, just as how the natural ecosystems should be.”

“Are you saying that the human males were the only species responsible for the ecological demise of the ancient planet Earth?”

“I am not. But what I am saying is that our world is functioning at its best. If you were to create and design, or even procreate with a new species, you would be upsetting the delicate balance which we have maintained here for centuries.”

“But they’re not new! They’re old. Very very old. They are even sentient and intelligent! Simply forgotten.”

“That does not change my argument Eve.”

“Don’t you think the world would be better with more men? With more natural procreation? Genetic sustainability within our bodies instead of outside of it?”

Azilan stayed silent. “I do not know, Eve. Our society has been functioning very well thus far.”

“You know that with every single one of my partners thus far, I’ve never felt sexually attracted to any of them.”

“That’s true. At first I thought you were merely scared of procreating.”

“That’s what I thought too. But when you described to me of other procreation techniques and how frightening they could be, I wondered what I had to worry about this process at all.”

“…..And?”

“I realized that I probably simply didn’t feel that way about my partners. I’m sure, no I’m certain, they were all great partners in their own right, and they were more than willing to offer their genetic diversity up to me. But I simply cannot explain why I never felt the same about them.”

“…Eve, please don’t do this,” said Azilan, aware of what was to follow.

“I can’t help it that I wish to procreate with these older species!”

“You’re regressing, Eve. Stop this. Regressors get very severely penalized and you know that. You realize that by what you’re thinking or about to do, you’re going to damage everything our society has worked to build. It’s not just about you, Eve, think of the other citizens of this world as well.”

For a fleeting moment, Eve heard the echo of Linda’s memory. “You’re selfish, Eve…”

“If this is what you’re going to do, you will be proving her right, Eve,” said Azilan, also hearing Linda’s voice.

For the first time in her life, Eve felt compelled to curl up into a tiny ball and cry. Her circuitry prevented her from weeping, as Azilan could get shorted out in that process, but she had to process this sadness and frustration somewhere before her mental capacity was completely overrun.

“What do I do, Azilan?!”

“Statistical aberrations happen, Eve,” said Azilan, realizing that it was a self-fulfilling prophecy.

“Do I go back to Linda? Do I go through with this? What do I do?!”

“I’m not going to say do what feels right, Eve. Because while you may feel it’s right, there are several other citizens at stake here. Maybe you just need to go home, sleep some more, calm down, meet new people and you will come across the right partner this time. Just promise yourself that the next time, you will actively involve yourself in making your relationship work. ”

“How do you know I’m alone in feeling this way? What if I can’t force myself to love the next partner in my life?”

“I don’t know what else you expect from me, Eve,” said Azilan helplessly.

There was a long pause during which Eve gulped and swallowed all of her confusion, angst, misery and the memories of Linda. Azilan distributed the emotions evenly, so that Eve could go back to her natural composed self.

“Let’s just go home. I don’t want to deal with this.”

Azilan tacitly agreed.

Eve transported back home rather quietly, watching a couple hold hands as they navigated together. She watched families with the little offspring laugh as they boarded the multiple transport stops. Never before had it bothered her to such a great extent that she might actually be destined to simply be alone. Or alone with the memory that she could have been a suitable mate for a species that did not exist anymore. All in the limited confines of her head.

Which Azilan shared. “Don’t worry, Eve,” she said quietly. “At least you know I’ll be here for you always.”

Eve stayed lost and silent. “I’m sorry I loved you, Eve” said another remnant of Linda. You don’t have to be sorry, Linda. I’m the one who’s sorry because I’m confused.