***Author’s note. This is an unedited sneak peek into 2050: Psycho Island. Please excuse the block formatting and grammar mistakes.
Chapter 3: Summer Stock
Summer sat on the toilet, peeing on a stick. She washed her hands and checked the tiny digital screen on the stick. Nothing yet. She leaned on the sink and stared into the mirror. Summer’s wavy brown hair touched her shoulders. She had a round face with wide set blue eyes, a prominent nose, and glowing skin. Do I even want a baby? I’m not getting any younger. She’d just turned thirty last month. Can we afford it? Summer sighed. It’s never a good time. She checked the digital readout again, the result now clear. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes for a moment, not sure how to feel. Summer placed the test in the bathroom wastebasket, shoving it to the bottom and covering it with the existing trash.
She padded to the kitchen. Her fiancé, Connor, sat at the breakfast table eating cereal, watching his tablet.
“Good morning,” Summer said without conviction.
“Morning,” Connor mumbled, his eyes glued to the shadowy figure on the screen, AKA Braveheart. Connor’s hero.
The kitchen was tiny, barely enough room for their table for two. Summer turned sideways to pass between Connor’s chair and the counter. She filled up her water bottle and grabbed a banana.
Braveheart’s rant was apropos. “Now, with every wealthy couple designing their own super special bundle of joy, the gap between the haves and the have nots continues to widen.”
“I need to talk to you,” Summer said.
Braveheart continued, his voice digitized, “We continue to fall behind, and that’s exactly the plan.”
“Can you turn that off?”
Connor held up one finger, still mesmerized by Braveheart.
Summer sat across from Connor, eating her banana, as Braveheart finished his rant.
“The elites don’t need us anymore. Robots do the work we used to do. They do it better, cheaper, faster, and without any bitching and complaining. The elites don’t need or want us to train for the new economy. They have us chipped, tracked, and using the same currency worldwide. Now, they want us to shut up and except our fate.” Braveheart paused. “Until next time, stay safe and watch your back.”
Connor stopped the video and looked up from his tablet. He had a handsome face: blue eyes, a strong chin, and perpetual stubble. He wasn’t overweight but his body was soft and doughy from his sedentary lifestyle. “You gotta listen to the beginning of that before they erase it. It was crazy.”
“The NSA’s probably monitoring everyone who watches Braveheart,” Summer said. “It’s illegal hate speech.”
“It’s not illegal to listen to hate speech.”
Summer shrugged. “I think you’re tempting fate.”
“Stop being such a drone. Nothing’s gonna happen. Too many people watch his videos.”
“If you say so.”
“Did you know that the first designer babies were made in 2019?”
“It was in the video. These Chinese scientists removed the CCR5 gene to be resistant to diseases linked to chronic inflammation. Then they found out that removing that gene gave people better memories. And they were using the DEC5 genetic mutation way back then.”
“The mutation to reduce the amount of sleep people need?”
“I thought the first enhanced babies were in 2032?” Summer said.
Connor had a crooked grin. “You’re so PC. You can call ‘em designer babies. I’m not gonna tell big brother.”
“I’d rather not get in the habit. I see a lot of enhanced people at work. Can you imagine what would happen to me if I called someone a designer baby? I’d be fired in a nanosecond.”
“This PC bullshit is out of control.”
“I agree, but this is the world we live in.”
“Unfortunately.” Connor rubbed the back of his neck. “Anyway, you’re right in a sense that the first designer babies were in 2032. The earlier models focused on disease prevention for the most part. It wasn’t near as much of an advantage as the ones in 2032. Braveheart talked a little about how they’re eighteen now, and almost every one of them is super successful. Half of them already graduated college. A lot of them have corporate and government jobs. Almost all the Olympic gymnasts are designer babies. They’re totally dominating high school sports now. In the next few years, they’ll start dominating college sports, then the pros. Must be nice to be a designer baby.”
“Do you think a natural baby can compete?”
“A stock baby? Hell no. I would not wanna have a stock baby.”
“Don’t say that.”
“Now I can’t say stock baby? I don’t get how that’s offensive. I’m a stock baby. You’re a stock baby. We’re all stock babies.”
“It’s upsetting to people. It’s belittling.” Summer discreetly wiped a tear from the corner of her eye. Connor didn’t notice. Summer stood from the table. “I should go.”
Connor furrowed his brow. “Are you mad at me?”
“No, it’s getting late. I need to hurry if I’m gonna finish my run before work.”
“I’ll see you tonight.”
Summer nodded and left the apartment. The park was only a few blocks from her apartment. She jogged on the sidewalk passing apartment buildings, restaurants, hotels, and commercial high rises. A digital billboard urged Americans to vote in the mid-term elections. The ad portrayed a group of diverse people wearing I Voted t-shirts and big smiles, with a headline that read, Real Americans vote. Exercise your right to vote today! 11-5-2050.
Facial recognition cameras hung from every stop light and every building, covering every square inch of Arlington, Virginia, and deterring most would be criminals.
The traffic was moderate, and flowed efficiently, with perfect spacing between vehicles, given that most of the automobiles were autonomous. Driving wasn’t the American pastime that it once was. With high energy prices, high unemployment, many working remotely, and playing at home in VR, less people owned cars, preferring to use autonomous car services as needed. A few trucks rattled the morning with their diesel engines, but most of the vehicles were silent, running on batteries. Some thought the Greater Depression of the 2020s was sparked by rising interest rates exposing shale oil companies as insolvent. Most of these companies went bankrupt. They’d already exhausted the profitable oil fields, and what was left was uneconomic without the cheap money to finance their Ponzi schemes. Their bankruptcies, and the subsequent decline in oil production destroyed the myth of American energy abundance, and created shortages, which led to a spike in the prices of all commodities. The shortages were exacerbated by government enforced rationing, which caused a panic, further hoarding, and even higher pricing. Ultimately, the high commodity prices popped the worldwide stock and debt bubble, leading to the decade long Greater Depression. After that, rich people bought electric cars. Poor people bought bicycles.
Washington & Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park was built on an old railroad bed, with massive powerlines overhead. It boasted forty-five miles of nearly straight running and biking paths. The asphalt was cracking, but that fact kept the bike traffic to a minimum. Despite the many fissures and imperfections, Summer glided along the trail, expertly adjusting her stride as needed. She passed walkers, joggers, and even a few bikes. The powerlines hummed. Traffic was still audible beyond the narrow buffer of the woods.
She felt strong. Fast. She ran the 800 meters in college. Summer wondered if she’d even make the team today, given the domination of the enhanced athletes. She tried not to think about the baby. The stock baby. Even if they could afford an enhanced baby, this baby would be stock. Enhanced babies were planned, enhanced in a lab, and implanted in the mother. Only poor people had unplanned pregnancies. They’re like animals. They can’t control themselves. That’s what the wealthy mothers at the hospital said about the poor mothers and their stock babies. Of course, they never used the term stock. Natural was the correct term. They were too classy to use lower class slang. She’d helped doctors deliver enhanced and natural babies alike. The haves and the have nots shared the nursery space in those first few days. She wondered if that would be the first and last time they’d be treated equally.