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TIMELINE

2050: Terraforming of Mars begins.

2050-2064: Coastal cities are evacuated and new settlements are built farther inland to avoid rising seawaters and mega-hurricanes.

2069: Mass beachings of marine mammals, increasing pollution levels, melting ice-caps, and overfishing wipe out most sea life.

2067- ~2074: The largest scale algal bloom in recorded history is caused by mass agricultural runoff and warming sea temperatures. Along with the decaying bodies of large sea-mammals and fishes, the red oceans are dubbed the “Blood Tide”.

2080: The United States government suffers economic collapse when China redeems its foreign securities to fund relocation and relief programs for its citizens. The European Union follows the U.S. into default shortly thereafter.

2062-2099: Despite rapid reproduction and over-population, the human race suffers from declining health, lowered life expectancy, and poor quality of life. An epidemic of genetic and lifestyle induced diseases and disabilities including asthma, autoimmune diseases, severe allergies, obesity, gastrointestinal diseases, and autism spectrum disorders, prompts the “Blue Panic”

2099: The United Nations, partnered with the World Health Organization release a call to action and form The WCRI-Worldwide Crisis Response Initiative-from prominent scientific minds, headed by Alexander Grimaldi and Lawrence Aarons. The WCRI is given broad enforcement authority for its mandates.

2099: The WCRI appoints a Reproductive Council to reverse overpopulation and resolve the health issues that are plaguing humanity.

2100: Contraceptive implants receive overwhelming support by the world population as a first step in reversing overpopulation and improving the human gene-pool.

2104: China, India, Indonesia, Brazil, Nigeria, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Russia, and the Muslim Empire suffer economic collapse due to trade embargos placed by the WCRI for non-compliance.

2105: The WCRI assumes full responsibility for world government and becomes the World Governing Council, displacing all member nations.

2107-2111: Pneumonic plague sweeps the embargoed nations, dropping the world population by 35%

2110: 99.8% Contraceptive implant compliance is reached and a ten year hold on reproduction is put into place.

2113-2129: Worldwide natural disasters, epidemics, food shortages, and mass poisonings result in widespread casualties in less technologically advanced areas of the world. The World Governing Council organizes rescue and relief efforts.

2116-2120: Worldwide mass transit rails to accommodate electromagnetic transport cars are installed and all individual transport vehicles are reclaimed.

2120: The world population reaches 3.4 billion and the Reproductive Council lifts the hold on reproduction.

2122: The Reproductive Council institutes the genetic coding system in place of ID numbers.

2124: Selection of candidates for breeding is accomplished through genetic testing; Progeny with clean genetics are lab created and implanted via IVF.

2160: Droid Demolitions and Wilderness Cleanup Program is instated worldwide to tear down ghost-towns and clear landfills and other debris for recycling and clean-waste energy processing.

2184: The Reproductive Council achieves clean genetics in 95.65% of the world population and 100% of the breeding population.

2200: World population reaches 1.26 billion.

2205: The WGC relocates inhabitants of rural areas and largely uninhabitable areas to self-sustaining cities.

2215: Secondary education is abandoned for an early apprenticeship model.

2221: AI is installed into all buildings along with automated cooking, cleaning, temperature control, and 3-D printing systems.

2232: World population reaches 856.2 million.

2233: The Reproductive Council institutes the License to Procreate Program, allowing couples to receive authorization for home-breeding of progeny upon approval.

2259: Longevity treatments become available, extending maximum human lifespan to approximately two hundred years.

2276: The License to Procreate Program is supplemented by the Surrogate Program allowing for the creation and placement of progeny in approved homes without compromising the health, wellbeing, or work assignments of the foster parents.

2315: The world population reaches the WGC’s target of 500 million through carefully controlled breeding practices leading to negative population growth as well as climate and natural disaster related deaths, age-related casualties, and DNR policies for the old and unwell.

 

 

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PHASE FOUR

Lines of data filled the luminous red screen. AUC1: Temperature 37.1, oxygen saturation 1.7, testosterone .9nmol/L, estrogen .1nmol/L, weight .5 kg, FHR 156 BPM. 

Theresa scanned the large, rectangular screen above the northern section of AUCs, checking closely for any abnormalities that may need correction. Electronic monitoring ensured that any variation from standard values would set off an alarm, but still Theresa double and triple checked. AUC2: Temperature 37.2, oxygen saturation 1.69, testosterone .3nmol/L, estrogen .9nmol/L, weight .35 kg, FHR 160 BPM. AUC3…AUC4…

The red glow from the monitors and the faint pink glow emanating from each AUC provided the only illumination in the lab, leaving corners and side corridors in near darkness, their mysteries left hidden and unexplored for countless weeks.

Reaching out one pale, manicured hand, she caressed the transparent surface of AUC2’s chamber and leaned closer to gaze inside. Cradled beneath the layers of endometrial tissue and membrane, a small form was curled within. A faint glow emanated from the base of the Artificial Uterine Chamber revealing the network of newly formed arteries beneath AUC2’s thin skin.

She’s bigger today. Theresa blinked and shifted her shoulders. Well, that’s irrational, Theresa. Really? You think you can see a day’s growth? The scientist pushed back her chagrin and spoke into her personal hand-held device.

“Overall profusion in AUC2’s tissues has improved compared to last visual inspection, and…” A small foot struck against the side of the AUC unit, and slid down the side, toes slipping against the membranes. She startled, a smile replacing her clinical gaze as one finger traced the path of AUC2’s splay-toed foot, the delicate nails just visible on the end of each toe. “And stronger too. You’ll catch up with the others yet, little Abby.”

Theresa inhaled and glanced up at the minute, silver security camera, glowing red motion sensor blinking, as its head swiveled like a watchful owl perched on the ceiling. She had spoken aloud. If they knew that I named one of the progeny, I’d be given a psych eval and a quick reassignment. Shit. The scientist exhaled and mumbled under her breath. “No more of that.”

She took a step back from AUC2’s chamber and pulled down on the pockets of her lab coat, straightening it and smoothing down her already well-ironed collar.

No one else is even here, since they reassigned my interns last week. Why am I so on edge? Once this batch of progeny is delivered, I’ll…what? It’s not like they’re mine. They’ll go to their assigned guardians and I’ll grow the next batch…assuming they don’t shut us down, with no interns or apprentices to assist.

She frowned and dismissed the thought, turning to scan the scrolling data on the main screen, willing herself to focus on the details of her task. Heels clicking on the metal tiles, she examined each AUC unit for wear. Sliding her hand along the transparent pipes, she assessed the flow of fluid, alert for blockage or stricture. Her brown eyes narrowed as she inspected the progeny themselves, taking in details others would have missed: profusion of blood in surface tissues, reflexes, beat-to-beat heart rate variability.

Reaching the last AUC unit, AUC100, she rubbed the cramp in her neck and leaned in to trace the details of the progeny within the chamber with her eyes. She pressed her lips together, and finding them dry, became aware for the first time in hours of the aching, parched sensation in her throat. I need a drink.

A smirk pulled at the corners of her lips as she walked to the central control station and ordered water from the nearby serving console. At least I didn’t say that one out loud. She retrieved the glass and took a long gulp to quench her thirst with the ice cold liquid. The last thing I need is the department head on my ass for breach of contract…drinking in the lab. Theresa chuckled. I can already hear him stutter.

She punched in the codes on the control panel to begin the day’s education protocols, beginning with a recording of sound patterns and progressing to conversations in several languages. She inserted her earplugs—she just couldn’t listen to that today—and returned to her workstation for a chance to check her messages. Too bad I can’t give Abby some earplugs. She smiled. She’s probably sick of it too.

Three hours later, between Spanish and Farsi, she removed her earplugs and set the alarm system and data transfer to sync up with her hand-held. She unclipped her tightly coiled braid and, massaging her scalp a moment, unwound and neatened her fine brown hair before re-braiding it. I wonder what she’ll look like. Theresa took one last look into each AUC unit before leaving. Wouldn’t want to miss anything that could deteriorate in my absence. “Adios ninos…ninas.”

She grabbed her satchel and left the north wing. Her breath quickened along with her pace. I won’t be gone very long. I mean…they do know close monitoring is necessary. They won’t keep me. The glass tunnel between the north and south wings revealed the storm growing outside, muddy-brown and coal-fire black clouds building over the skyscrapers and cell towers of the Inland New York Settlement and blocking the similarly tinted sky. A hailstorm of plastic debris swirled around the tunnel, whipping against the glass, sticking to the sides along with the first drops of rain.

Several flights of stairs later, Theresa arrived at the High Tower, rising some eighty stories above the rest of the Reproductive Council’s Headquarters, nestled in the sprawling jumble of low-lying storm clouds.

She brushed lint from her lab coat and, checking her reflection in the floor-length mirror adjacent to the metallic double doors, pulled down on the edges once again. Her brows dipped down, twin sparrow wings with creases between them. She pressed her lips together, tried on a confident smile, and turned to face the retinal scan in front of the sealed entryway.

The octagonal room, packed full, was silent save for one voice conducting the meeting. She took her seat and looked to the head of her department, where he stood at the front of the room speaking. Lord, I hope he keeps it short.

Greg Matthews paced within the circle of scientists and functionaries of the Department of Procreation, presenting data on a screen that took up one of the octagonal room’s walls.

“Brain scans from each phase of the AUC project progeny show an imbalance—almost an absence—of activity within the central portions of the brain.” Greg rubbed his nose with the edge of his lightweight wrist cast, more a frame than a cast with the number of open spaces. “The first group shows the most marked differences when compared to a control subject. While there are still dark areas where a ‘normal’ brain shows activity in the second group…”

Round eyes narrowed, the CEO interrupted, gesticulating towards the screen. “What does that mean exactly for those of us who don’t work in neuroscience, Greg?”

Greg nodded several times, scratching the itch under the edge of his polymer-mesh wrist cast as he searched for the right wording. “Well…the, um…the progeny show clear signs…well, the brain scans at least…indicate…”

An elderly woman rubbed her forehead and gestured towards the fumbling scientist before them. “Do we need a translator?”

The CEO shot her a look, then turned back to Greg with a nod. Greg cleared his throat and started again. “The brain scans are consistent with a diagnosis of sociopathy.”

Theresa looked at the assembled faces in the room. She stood up, hands balled into fists. “The first group was essentially a prototype. We’ve accounted for several possible causes of poor outcomes and implemented more stop gaps in each phase.” Her voice cracked. “Isn’t it possible that Phase Three is developing at a slower rate socially, but will reach normal levels under optimum conditions?”

All eyes turned from Theresa back to Greg. The scientist rubbed his hands over his balding head, leaving red marks in their wake, and scrunched his eyes. “Based on comparative scans, Phase Three shows a slight…a very slight advantage, but is progressing at the same rate as Phase Two and Phase One otherwise.”

“Then it’s possible that Phase Four will fare even better when they come to term. The technology being used is far beyond the other phases.” Theresa began scrolling through the most recent notes in her hand-held and offered the device to Greg.

He did not meet Theresa’s eyes at first, nor did he take the device. When he did meet her gaze, his eyes were wide. He shook his head, lips turned down at the edges.

The CEO cleared his throat. “In light of the report given by the head of the AUC project lead, the program will be terminated and the progeny already brought to term will be sterilized and channeled into the workforce as per their individual strengths. Leadership positions with proper oversight, surgeons…there are assignments where their deficits will give an advantage.” Laughter bubbled up from several places within the circle and the tension broke.

The CEO tightened his lips, lowering his brows in disapproval. “Please, the termination of a project and waste of valuable resources is nothing to laugh at. Maintain order until the meeting is adjourned, if you will.”

Theresa looked around at the circle of individuals seated around her, her vision blurring. Nervous smiles prevailed and several present fidgeted. Others rose from their seats, milling to the back wall to retrieve coffee refills from the automated culinary bot before the CEO continued on to the next order of business.

Have they all forgotten about the 100 AUCs in the north wing? They were on the tour! Some of them work there, for Christ-sakes! They can’t just terminate the project! Theresa closed her eyes and breathed in through her nose, willing away the dark spots that were peppering her vision. Opening her eyes, Theresa found the CEO’s gaze on her.

She was the only one still standing.

She looked away and sat down in her chair.

“Virginia, will you give us your assessment of the available alternatives to the AUC program?” The CEO turned his controlled expression from Theresa to a well-groomed woman with fine lines around her eyes.

Virginia stood and glanced over at Theresa before beginning in a subtle New York dialect, drawing out her vowels. “We already have in place two other programs for sustaining population growth, while ensuring clean progeny; the Surrogacy and Placement Program and the currently discontinued Application to Propagate Program.”

“Why don’t you run us through the risk-benefit analysis of the two programs in comparison, Virginia dear.” The CEO smiled at Virginia, bringing a blush to her narrow features. “But don’t go too heavy into the numbers. Give us what’s behind the data.”

Her nails clicked against the screen of her hand-held as she synced up and displayed the numbers for each program. “While the Application to Propagate program held widespread appeal for the masses, popular opinion is quickly falling in line to support the Surrogacy and Placement program. It irrefutably decreases the biological and temporal burden on those in crucial assignments while allowing a pseudo-family to exist.”

One of the board members gave a signal from his hand-held.

Virginia folded her hands over her hand-held, turning her gaze to the gentleman. “You have something to add?”

He shifted in his seat. “How does all that affect the overall results, if we look at variables like apprenticeship compliance, and lifetime satisfaction ratings? The family is, after-all a primary source of satisfaction…”

Virginia pursed her lips and continued. “ Well…A more loosely knit arrangement of this sort provides an enriching home environment for progeny without impeding early apprenticeship; the mean age for the Surrogate to Placement Program is 13, right on target with the WGC’s guidelines, compared to a mean of 15.5 for the Application to Propagate Program.” She gave a pointed glance to the gentleman. “And as for your concerns…the Application to Propagate Program has been put on hold to gather data, and the preliminary results are promising. The submission of applications to procreate are tapering off and satisfaction ratings have only dropped .75 percent…well within acceptable limits that can be expected to normalize within the year…”

Theresa watched the storm clouds rage, pouring out their disgust- or was it hers– outside, through the thick, glass walls just past Virginia’s head. The violent winds whipped the grating sound of the other woman’s voice over the building tops and away from her consciousness.

The meeting ended with appreciative laughter for the CEO’s closing remarks and firm handshakes all around. Theresa waited to the last, hanging back until the CEO was finished with pleasantries. Still she hesitated.

“What is it, Theresa?” He drained the dark liquid from his cup, with a sidelong glance in her direction.

She ran a hand across the seams of her lab-coat, smoothing and straightening, searching for comfort in the habitual motion before stepping closer.

“Morton…the termination. This project is years in the making…with such promise. Don’t you think there are other, less drastic measures—I could…”

He shook his head, lowering the empty vessel to the table between them and traversing the distance. “Look, It’s hard to step away from such a big time investment…you’ve been on this longer than most. I get it. I really do.” He put an arm around her shoulders.

“Take some time to distance yourself from this. You have my leave…”

“But I couldn’t just…” The distress in her eyes was clear, and the CEO held up a hand to stop her train of thought.

“Theresa. I know your work. Clean, impartial, practical, and quite frankly…inspired by genius. If you take a step back you’ll find that you agree with my decision on this. It’s time to cut our losses and find a new direction.”

The scientist took a breath, exhaling slowly and nodding in agreement. “Okay…Thanks Morton…I’ll put in a request for leave.”

“Don’t do that. Just take the time. I’ve got you covered.” He smiled, patting her back and guiding her to the door.

Theresa offered him a shaky smile, smoothing over her expression and regaining full composure. “Okay.”

The hall was empty, all board members having returned to their own offices and assignments.  She headed towards the central building that would lead to the main exit, focusing on the click of her shoes on tile and the flickering reflection of her lab-coat in the reclaimed wood paneling, polished to a high gloss finish. The sounds melded in her ears, combining with the rapid beat of her pulse. It would be cold outside, strong winds whipping ice against her cheeks  as soon as she opened the doors. They’ll never feel it. The thought came unbidden, splintering and filling her mind like the sound of shattering glass in an echo chamber. She pushed it aside. They shouldn’t…like he said, I need distance. She sighed, as the main corridor came into view. Regardless of their genetic make-up…they’re just progeny—and they’re defective. Her chest constricted, throat closing as she struggled to normalize her breathing. They don’t fulfill the mission… The extended version of the Reproductive Council’s mission replayed in her memory. To definitively halt overpopulation and the mechanisms that caused it, and to produce clean, genetically diverse, and specialized progeny in carefully controlled numbers. To maintain quality above all else—achieving resilience of form and function in the human race and maintaining sustainability of the production of progeny using models for cost-effectiveness. 

Normally the words and rhythms of the mission brought comfort, a feeling of control, peace. But not this time. Instead, it called up images of the glowing AUC’s waiting for her return in the lab. And Abby, slated for culling thrice over and just making the minimums due to Theresa’s extra efforts. It didn’t take much…no real sacrifice of efficiency—it wouldn’t take much to get them on track.

The thought took hold the moment it formed like vines in rich jungle soil, sending her heart racing ahead of her. She stopped, turning back in the direction she had come.

~~~~~

She scanned the people walking past the AUC Program’s  logistic’s office and secondary testing lab, and caught sight of the man she was waiting for. He walked with the awkward gait of a tall man who is uncomfortable with his height: head down, shoulders curled, and hands shoved deeply into his pockets.

“Greg.”

The sound of his name stopped him short in his single-minded mission and his head snapped up, pale blue eyes startled. Theresa took hold of his arm and pulled him into the shadow of the overgrown money-tree that shaded the alcove alongside his office door. “Hey, I need to discuss the AUC program with you, I have some ideas for bringing it back in line with the mission so we can reevaluate termination.”

Greg opened his mouth and then closed it, gaze flicking over at the office door as if for escape.

“The AUC program has been closed. Mr. Steiner already put in your orders to terminate.”

She grimaced against the scowl that pulled at her features and struggled to maintain composure as the storm of conflicting emotion mounted inside. “I know that, but he authorized time off, I can use that to reassess…get some new data for him to consider…it’s in the best interests of the council—”

He stared off, not meeting her gaze when he spoke. “We have to let it go, Theresa.”

“Why?” She gazed up at him, eyes searching his before he flinched away again. “You have to talk to them. Let them know there are options to get it back on track…I—Greg.” The walls of protocol and composure slid away. “They can’t just cancel the project. I…I wish you had talked to me…before…They can’t terminate the project.”

“Theresa, it’s not my jurisdiction…” He stumbled over his words in his rush to explain.

Her eyes narrowed. “Damn your jurisdiction, Greg. There are one hundred progeny in the north wing! You can’t just throw them away based on a few tests and theories!”

“The data is accurate. They are sociopathic whether they exhibit the tendencies yet or not.” He looked away, face set.

“Greg, please, I just need three more months to take them to term. Please.”

“It’s not my decision.”

Theresa went up on tip-toe to turn his face back to meet her gaze. “Greg, they’re…they’re babies.” Her lips quivered as she struggled to maintain control. “They’re like our babies. We started this phase together—they’re more us than the others. I just…I know why you transferred, I do, but…please.”

Greg nodded several times in quick succession, unable to cope with the intimacy of their conversation. “Make a report, find proof that Phase Four will be different. Make them essential.” He sniffed his nose and went to rub his sparse hair, instead hitting the side of his forehead with his cast. He winced, rubbing the spot and leaving more of a mark with his fingers than the bump had. “Crap! The Exogenesis program has a long history. They are not giving it up lightly. It’s the data; the data backs up termination. I-I w-will…I’ll personally support your data. That’s all I can do.”

“So I need to make the data back up continuing the AUC project…or at least Phase Four.” A deep breath. “I can do that. I think I can do that.” Theresa brushed her cheeks and found them wet.

Greg turned and shoved his hands back into his trouser pockets, the cast catching the edge and making his movements jerky and awkward.

“Thank you, Greg.”

He turned and opened the door to his office without reply, cursing under his breath.

~~~~~

Catching the nail of one thumb between her teeth, Theresa scowled before pulling her hand away and tucking it between her thighs. The words on the screen of her console blurred together and she squeezed her lids shut, counting as the damp protest of her over-used eyes leaked between the lids. One-one-thousand…two-one-thousand…three-one-thousand…The numbers blurred together, twisting into incoherent images. Yawning without holding back in the solitude of the empty lab, she glanced at the time-stamp on her hand-held and climbed onto the fold-out cot next to her desk. Three AM. And nothing. She sighed, the breath a gust of hot wind from a guttering fire. This isn’t going to work. I’ll tackle it again in the morning.

She opened her eyes, struggling to sit upright on the cot next to her workstation. They’re all gone. Rows of empty AUCs? Grasping the edge of the cot, she squeezed her eyes shut fighting the rising panic from the recurring thought.

Blinking away the dream, she stared through the hazy red glow of the AUC units.

I can’t see them. Theresa struggled out of the covers, dragging her tangled sheets behind her and limping out of the strangle hold they had on her calf. One thought pierced her mind. 

Abby. 

She pushed back the panic that sought to claim her. Where is she? Grasping the sides of Abby’s unit, she leaned in and pressed her forehead to the hot surface, searching, eyes frantic.

A hand drifted into view, then a face, upturned nose, eyes sealed like that of a newborn kitten. Abby bumped against the side of the chamber. Again. The small mouth opened, revealing pink tongue and naked gums, then closed, swallowing like a fish. Thump. Another hiccup.

Tears of gratitude slid down Theresa’s face. Burning her cheeks. Her heart beat wildly, breath hitching as she lost control. She’s here. She’s here and she has the hiccups! Soft gasps of laughter escaped her lips, alternating with pained sobs.

She looked across the room, really seeing it for the first time since she awoke. Each unit held a small figure, partially concealed by membranes, the sides of the endometrial lining, and the placenta. The soft glow illuminated the blood flowing through arterial cord vessels. The large screen on the wall above the AUC units was active, scrolling through each inhabitant’s vital statistics and the parameters being controlled.

Theresa stood, her hand still resting on the side of Abby’s chamber as if it would disappear should she remove her full attention. How could I have believed they were gone? All systems are functional. God, it must be the pressure. These dreams are getting ridiculous! She turned away from the AUC units and withdrew her hand, clenching it to fill the emptiness. She glanced over at Abby once more before returning to her cot.

Morning found Theresa red-eyed and disheveled before her computer, coffee in one hand, a stylus in the other, tapping as she dictated notes into her console. A soft chime sounded, and she turned to the control panel to begin the progeny’s daily educational training. Her hand paused above the command switch and she pursed her lips.

Who gives a shit if they are predisposed to language if they don’t even make it to… She cut the thought short and returned to her computer without flicking the switch. Taking her hand-held out, she synced it with the lab’s speakers.

“Computer, access music files from external device. Theresa’s cell-phone, playlist, Oldies. Save as, Updated Educational Training File. Title…interactive auditory stimulus. Subheading, Empathy 101. Full volume.”

A smooth, carefully inflected voice spoke from the terminal. “Command received. Processing.”

A cello sounded forth, filling the room with the vibrations of its deep bass as voices joined in, creating a symphony of sound. She closed her eyes, savoring the melodic layering behind the cello. Swaying, Theresa sang along, a beat behind the lyrics.

“Get your boards out, get your boards out. Blood tide’s rollin’ in. There’s bodies in the surf, and smoke on the wind. Oo-Whoa-o-o— now!”

A smile spread across her face as she pulled out a keyboard to type her notes.

She looked up, startled, spinning in her chair to face the AUC units. Every single AUC unit was filled with movement and alarms went off one after another.

Over two-thirds of the progeny had elevated heart rates, just outside the carefully controlled acceptable range.

Theresa stared at the data, eyes widening as she switched the alarms off manually.

“That’s right children. Soak it up.” A smile grew on her lips. “We’re going to shake things up around here. Cali’s under water, but we can still play, surfin’ on the blood tide, pushin’ bodies out the way! Whoa-oh-o-oh-o, oh-oh-o-oh-o.”

She switched to manual entry, her fingers skittering across the keyboard. She opened a new file and typed in the heading Preventive Measures to Occlude Deficits in Brain Development.

She rubbed her forehead and looked at the screen. A tentative smile matched the gleam of hope in her eyes as she entered the data.

This is something at least. 

Every few moments she switched over to her messages. Why am I checking again? To catch it just as it arrives? The message alert will tell me when it gets here.

The in-box was still empty. She returned to the screen where her notes were stored. The half-empty document stared back.

God, this isn’t enough. I’m going to have to do more. She stood, stretching her back and rolling her neck in a circle, a sharp intake of breath at the pain between her shoulders.

She paced down the aisles peering into the AUC units, brows knit in concentration. What is it your brothers and sisters are missing, huh? Is there something you need? She stopped in front of Abby, watching the subtle twitches of seemingly random muscle contraction forming early expressions, transfixed.

A soft chime sounded from Theresa’s work station. Her eyes widened, and her head jerked up. There it is! Speed-walking, she reached her desk and opened the message without sitting.

Subject: AUC Program termination time-table

Ms. Theresa Marin

To finalize the decision to terminate Phase Four of the AUC program, data from your department has been requested by the project head Greg Matthews. Please be prepared to make your presentation, complete with all accumulated data and recommendations for the future of the project, by Friday March 17th.

Thank you,

Secretary to Morton Steiner, CEO 

Gwen Hardy

Theresa flinched. Nice subject heading. She read the short message, beginning to end, three times, allowing every detail to sink in and refusing to allow her thoughts to wander.

It’s all on you, Theresa. You and your sub-par presentation skills. She glanced back at the screen, noticing again how incomplete her work seemed: only a working hypothesis and minimal data collection. 

They’re only giving me a week.

~~~~~

Several articles competed for space on Theresa’s computer screen, including the complete data summary from the past twenty-six weeks of Phase Four’s gestation, and the genetic profile of each progeny. She squeezed her eyes shut, then opened them, staring across the room for a few moments to give them a rest from the screen. Twenty-eight, twenty-nine, thirty. This is not the time to get weak on me! Come on.

She looked back at the screen and closed out three of the articles that appeared to hold no useful information. The remaining three were from widely different fields that, as most fields do, intersected around the topic of neurological development, psychology, obstetrics, and embryology.

A sharp triple beep echoed across the lab. She turned towards the sealed and locked doors across the room, one eyebrow cocked, corners of her lips down-turned. Who would be here? 

“Virginia Blaylock requests entry.” The automated computer doors answered her question before she could state it aloud.

“Let her in.”

She turned back to her screen and continued to read, inhaling deeply as she heard footsteps approach, click-clicking across the room and pausing just behind her. Placing a light welcoming smile upon her lips Theresa turned to greet Virginia.

“My, my, you keep busy!” The other woman had a tight smile upon her dyed lips, a slight squint to her eyes.

Is that a touch of pity or just confusion? Thanks but no thanks, Virginia.

“I haven’t seen you in the cafe for days. Aren’t you eating?” Concern creased Virginia’s brow.

“Just eating in. As you’ve so astutely noticed. I’m quite busy.” Theresa nodded towards the AUC units, eyes wide with impatience.

Virginia glanced over at the units and back to Theresa, her hands flitting up to her throat. “Oh! Well, I just thought, with the project set to terminate, I would be seeing more of you.”

Theresa held her smile in place, but was unable to avoid speaking through clenched teeth. “Actually, the project may be continued.”

“Well, I hadn’t heard that! I can’t imagine why.” The woman turned to stare at the pulsing AUCs, leaning in with her nose scrunched. “I mean, if they’re defective, it would only make sense to…”

“Kill them?” Theresa took a step closer to Virginia, no trace of the smile she had cultivated moments before remaining.

Virginia continued to stare at the units, reaching out a finger as if to touch the side of the one closest. “Can you imagine being host to one of these?” She shuddered, lips twisting. “Thank the Lord for the surrogate program!”

Theresa grabbed Virginia’s wrist before she could touch the AUC. “Did you come here for something in particular? Because I have work to do.”

Virginia pulled her wrist from Theresa’s firm grasp, cradling it with her other hand. “You know, I have tried to be a friend to you. You would think you would be grateful! I just can’t seem to understand you.” She paused to consider. “You know, no one blames you for the failure of the AUC project, if that’s what you think. We all know how dedicated you are.”

“Really?” Theresa raised an eyebrow. Does she really think this is about my ego?

“Of course! I saw your face at the meeting. The way you stood up for the AUC program. When they started phasing out the Application to Propagate program, I fought it tooth and nail. That was my project. I had invested in it. But I let it go. It just wasn’t a good program really, too much risk. You have to let this go.”

“Let it go.” A thin smile found its way to Theresa’s lips, her eyes iced over.

“Yes, yes. There are so many better things to devote yourself to.” Virginia gesticulated as she spoke, pacing around the AUC units and peering into them with a look of distaste. She reached out a finger once more.

“DONT TOUCH THE AUC UNITS!” Theresa glared at the other woman. The small form in AUC6, startled at the sound of her voice, kicking against the sides of the unit nearest to where they were standing.

Virginia’s eyes widened and she took a step back. “You know, Theresa, I came to offer you a position in my department. But now I think you’ll have to find somewhere else to go when they terminate your little project! We could use another good scientist, but you are just too unstable.” Virginia shook her head with an abrupt sigh punctuating the end of her speech and walked to the door. She looked back once more to give Theresa a piteous parting glance, but Theresa was no longer watching her, instead looking down into an AUC unit, her hand resting on the side.

“Shhhhh, shh, she’s gone. It’s alright.” AUC6 calmed in response to Theresa’s soft tones, the membranes surrounding him swaying like seaweed as he settled into light sleep, pinkish eyelids fluttering in dream. “Your little heart was beating so fast!” She put her hand to her chest. “I think mine was beating faster though. Just imagine if you could feel my heartbeat. Can you imagine that? I can…” 

Her eyes widened and her hand clenched into a fist. Her breathing came in sharp ins and outs as she hurried to her workstation.

“If you could feel what I feel! What someone feels! Yes!” It was all here! She pulled up several more documents, reading furiously and taking notes. It’s all too controlled! No outbursts of anger, no surges of love, laughter, heartbreak…They get none of the exposure to human emotion that progeny get in the womb! God, this could be it! Theresa worked furiously inputting new code into the system. “Didn’t I say we were going to shake things up?! That’s right!”

~~~~~

The sun was shining on the glass walls of the boardroom when the meeting began, dimming as the glass tinted in response to the harsh glare. Theresa stood at the front of the room, control wand in hand as the members of the council arrived and took their seats. Greg was seated next to the CEO’s empty chair. Theresa smiled and nodded at him. He returned the nod and shifted in his seat, finding something to study on his hand-held screen.

Theresa frowned. He’s just nervous. He’s always nervous at meetings. And he doesn’t know how good this is going to be. 

The CEO entered the room with a tight smile on his lips, his eyes distant behind the transparent visor he wore. He took his seat and nodded at the person on the other end of the call. “Yes, of course. We’re well within parameters.” A subdued laugh escaped him in response to something only he could hear and Theresa shivered at the ice in his gaze as he looked through her. “Yeah, I’m in a meeting now so…Friday, That’s right. See you then.”

The CEO pointed at the man no one else could see and waved, giving a quick wink that was slight enough to pass for a tick. He tapped the side of his visor. Its soft glow extinguished as it folded up, leaving only a small device next to his ear. Looking around the room, the CEO swiveled his faux leather chair and looked at Theresa, waiting at the front of the room, hands crossed before her.

She nodded at the CEO, then clicked the wand once, turning her gaze to those assembled before her. The three glass panels behind her lit up with scrolling data, AUC1, AUC2, AUC3, as she began to speak. “This has been the protocol for the AUC program since its inception with only small variations. The most notable changes were implemented at the beginning of Phase Four, including the educational training protocols, and the background heartbeat playback.”

With another click the sound of a human heart filled the room and was joined by a recorded voice speaking in English and then Spanish. The data scrolling across the screen shifted. “As you can see…the altered protocols permanently changed the baseline values for all of the pertinent variables for Phase Four as well as increasing variability.”

Theresa could see several pairs of eyes glaze over as she spoke. She took a breath to fight back the answering panic. They don’t know what you’re saying… What would Greg not do? “What that means is the development of these progeny is closer to that of progeny in the surrogate program.” She made eye contact with each member of the board, seeking confirmation that they had understood…aside from the CEO who was looking down at the table silently, tapping his stylus on his hand. Theresa scowled. Is he listening or waiting for me to finish? 

She turned back to the screen before her and slid her finger across the volume portion of the control, just as the protocols changed. Loud music filled the room vibrating the glass, a melody at high volume. She dug in. She glanced around the room and then in a soft speaking voice began.

Yeah-ah-ah—eeyeah-ah—yeah. Yeah-ah-ah—eeyeah-ah—yeah.

A sweet voice, an echo from over 200 years past sang out and Theresa sang along, her voice untrained but melodic.

I’m slippin’ through the cra-acks. Yeah. And now it’s crumblin’ fa-ast. Yeah. Still I think to when…All that I could feel was, how we fit toge-ether. Blurring all the lines. Some days I could not find, the seams that were between. Makin’ us of you and me-e, yeah. Yeah-ah-ah-eeyeah—yeah.” Tears ran down her cheeks as she sang, the image on the screen switching over to a live feed from the security cameras in her work space. AUC units glowed large as life on the window screens of the boardrooms. Small human figures, their limbs thin and disproportionate to their torsos, blood vessels showing through their thin, mottled, skin, slept within the cocoon shaped artificial wombs. Several board members gasped. These were restricted images. As the board members stared, unable to look away, the music they were hearing along with Theresa’s voice developed an echo as it was broadcast back into the AUC room. The effects were instantaneous and obvious. The progeny within the AUC chambers awoke and started moving, translucent limbs kicked, turned flips and wriggled in their chambers. A smile joined the tears on Theresa’s face as she took up the next verse.

The boardroom had broken into side discussions, chairs pushed back from the table.

She lowered the volume on the music and pointed to the side of the screen that contained the scrolling data for the AUC units. “The readings achieved here closely mirror the readings taken on surrogate infants while their mothers are enjoying themselves, singing, dancing, light exercise.” The image on the screen transitioned to footage of two surrogate mothers sitting close together and laughing, holding their rounded bellies as tears escaped their eyes.

The AUC units filled the screens again and Theresa turned back to face her audience.

“The earlier phases of the AUC program have not experienced the formation of a loving bond during gestation and possibly not during early infancy. The inability to bond and feel empathy is the hallmark of sociopathy. Our research suggests that in the absence of a genetic cause, bonding and empathy may be coded into the human brain during gestation.”

She gestured towards the AUC units, larger than life size on the screen behind her. “These children have no mother.” She used the old term for progeny. “Unless it’s me.” The tears flowed again, hot against her cheeks. The final screen of data filled half of the screen.

“A week ago I implemented the Emotional Priming and Education Program for Phase Four progeny. The results as you have seen are promising. Phase Four has approximately three calendar months remaining before they mature to term and are delivered. This is ample time for us to see the results of this new protocol.” Theresa glanced over at Greg where he sat. “The Exogenesis program has a long history. We should not give it up lightly. The data does not back up termination.”

The CEO stood, a tight smile etched on his face. “Thank you for that…creative presentation, Theresa. You may take your seat at the table and we’ll be sure to take your data into consideration in our final decision.”

She hesitated a moment.

“Now. Please. We have other business to attend to.” His eyes were cold and held a threat.

Theresa shivered but held firm. “I believe Greg was slotted to answer questions and discuss whether or not my findings could be backed by his department.” She looked over to Greg who winced and looked away.

The CEO stood and joined her at the front of the boardroom. He placed a hand on both of her shoulders and squeezed as if presenting a beloved daughter to the audience.

“Thank you again. I don’t think we need Greg to back your singing ability. After all, you were classed as a scientist and not a performer.” The CEO turned an ironic smile to those assembled, and gave Theresa a gentle push towards her seat.

She crossed the distance, cheeks hot with embarrassment. She stared at Greg biting nonexistent traces of nail from his fingers. Why won’t he look at me?! Did you weasel out, Greg? Huh? Can’t count on you even in this! When it matters? She narrowed her eyes. It mattered before too, dammit! Still staring, Theresa’s attention was drawn to the raw and reddened fingertips that found their way back to his mouth. God, he’s made himself bleed.

The CEO pressed his hands together, holding them to his lips. “Keep your seat, Greg.” The project lead had made no movement to get up. “I think I can cover the FAQs.” He looked around the room. He was not looking for confirmation. The board was silent and all side conversations had ceased during his and Theresa’s interaction.

The CEO stood, blank faced, with an intensity in his eyes that Theresa had never seen. “First question. At what phase are new protocols usually made to make sure they pan out?”

Greg mumbled but did not look up. Theresa’s eyes narrowed. Something’s off.

“There is never a certainty that a new protocol will result in…”

The CEO cut him off, his voice cool and controlled. “Please, cut the blah-blah-blah-pi, just answer the question.”

Greg flinched.

“And so we can hear you.”

Greg took a breath and spoke in an even tone. “At the beginning of a new Phase, Mr…”

The CEO’s face took on a faint look of surprise. “Not in the middle? Say, the last third?” He glanced over at Theresa and then spread his hands toward Greg, eyes wide. “Why is that, Greg?

Greg’s mouth worked a moment, opening and closing bass-like before his voice emerged. “To ensure that the…the new protocols have the greatest effect p-possible. To prevent wasting time and resources and possibly resulting in defective progeny.”

The CEO shook his head, a frown turning down the corners of his lips. “Defective progeny. Now that would be a damn shame—” He looked directly at Theresa, catching and holding her gaze. “Diverting resources that would not be needed to achieve high quality product under other circumstances goes against our mission. So without intervention we’d have, what? Another…Hundred? Sociopathic progeny to knife us in the backs while we are sleeping? There’s a chance of that, isn’t there?”

Greg sat motionless, allowing the silence to draw out within the boardroom. Theresa sat at the edge of her seat, hands gripping the table, knuckles white. Greg turned to face her, his eyes hollow. “Yes, there is a chance.”

Theresa shot out of her seat, rage contorting her features. “This is ridiculous! You saw them! You all saw how they reacted! You saw the data. Don’t any of you have any questions?” She glared around the room. The board members were pale and silent, avoiding her gaze. “Don’t any of you have any damn spines? This… this is a sideshow, not a board meeting!”

“Theresa, I’m going to have to ask you to get control of yourself.” The CEO held his hands up palms facing Theresa as if to ward off the verbal onslaught.

“Get a hold of myself? You’ve already decided to terminate! Why did you even ask me to present this data? Huh? To preserve your image?” She advanced upon the CEO, who towered a full two feet and 100 pounds over her. He held his ground and, taking the control wand from his pocket, flicked the small switch on the bottom.

His voice softened as he looked down at the trembling scientist before him. “The bottom line is that these Progeny of yours fail to reach minimum thresholds for social effectiveness—So, Theresa, I am going to ask you again to calm down before your escorts arrive. This project is very important to you, I know. As I said before, we will take your data into consideration, but in the meantime it would be best for you to wait in your laboratory.”

The CEO placed a hand on her shoulder, a spark of concern in his eyes and she shook it off, glaring up at him. The door to the boardroom opened and the CEO smiled as two uniformed men entered the room and stood at the door awaiting orders. “Ah! Good. Jamison, Tucker? Can you see that she makes it back to her laboratory? She has been working too hard and is beside herself.” He looked down at her, brows creased in concern. “You should have taken the time off, Theresa.”

Her eyes flicked towards the uniformed men at the door and she nodded, turning and taking a step towards the exit. She stumbled, tripping over the leg of Greg’s chair and Jamison caught her arm, preventing a fall and escorting her out into the hallway.

Greg rose as the door closed and stood a moment staring around the room. “…the bathroom,” he managed before rushing from his seat and out the door. He took long loping strides down the hall, and almost ran into Theresa.

“Theresa!” Greg called out grabbing her shoulder from behind. She spun on him. Her eyes swimming with tears, fury sharpening them and holding back the tear-fall that threatened. “Theresa…I…it’s going to be okay. I just…”

She shoved her hand out towards him, palm almost touching his face. “Do not! Try to comfort me! You promised me! Do not pretend to be emotionally available when we both know you’re not!” Greg opened his mouth, but no words came. It was not the first, nor would it be the last time that words would escape him. Theresa turned and ran down the hall followed by her escorts.

~~~~~

Theresa stared at the message in her inbox.

Subject: Reassignment

Ms. Theresa Marin

It has been determined that your expertise and temperament will be better suited to another project. The finalization of the AUC program will be completed by Dr. Brant. Please prepare your data and your workspace for the arrival of your replacement, so that he may take charge of Phase Four by 3:00 PM. You are expected to report to the Colonization project at the W.A.S.A. headquarters in New Columbia City in four weeks’ time. Your contact for the assignment is Brogan Hollder.

Thank you,

Secretary to Morton Steiner, CEO 

Gwen Hardy

Finalization? She pulled out her hand-held, the blood drumming in her ears like a dirge. There was only one person she could call. Greg answered on the third ring. “Hello?”

“They’re transferring me.” She looked across her lab at the glowing AUC units. They were so calm. Could all of them be sleeping?

“Yes.” Greg’s voice sounded small and distant. So he already knows. 

Are they terminating?” Theresa stared off waiting for the answer. She was slumped in her chair, listening to that cacophony in her head. What is that anyway? She felt her throat with two fingers. Oh, it’s my pulse.

Yes.”  His answer, when it came, could have been a recording of his previous yes.

“Couldn’t we bring it to the World Governing Council, make an appeal of sorts?” Her words tumbled out without forethought. “If we could get them to take interest, and overrule them then…”

His voice came across the line as a hiss. “Theresa! Stop! They won’t do that. You know the WGC won’t step on the Reproductive Council’s jurisdiction. It hasn’t happened. It…it won’t happen. You-you should n-not be talking like this. .”

“Fine.”

She hung up the call on her hand-held and stood, wiping the moisture from her lashes and trying to steady her breath. We have three hours. It might be enough. Grabbing her office bag, she walked to the back storage room and scanned the alphabetically labeled, organized shelves. Previous iterations of the AUC unit were here collecting dust. Extra tubing, gloves, and neonatal resuscitation devices of various models filled a small steel crate.

She found what she was looking for and threw several of the vacuum sealed packages into her bag, keeping one out. Her movements were picking up speed, urgency, as the unformed idea grew and came together, taking on a plausible shape. Pausing in her frenzy and glancing around the storage room, she grabbed several more items, tossing them into her bag. Okay. A least I can still hit a vein.

Theresa sat down next to her discarded lab coat and undressed down to her waist, the chill of the storage room stinging her bare skin. She flipped over the sealed package in her hand and read the instructions, mumbling under her breath. “God, it’s mostly warnings and contraindications. Remove Remedial Placental Unit from packaging. Insert the blue needle into axillary vein and the red into brachial artery. Wow. Color-coded for my convenience. Ha! I hope I can hit my veins. Oh, and an artery.”

Three tries later she managed both tasks. It took several attempts for her to fasten each button of her shirt with trembling fingers.

Taking a breath, she straightened her lab coat, pulled out her hand-held, and walked back towards her workstation, several shades paler than when she entered the storage room. She sat down across from her computer and pulled the remote AUC control panel up on the hand-held screen. Commence room sterilization. Still trembling, she typed in the command followed by an authorization code.

“Okay. Time to pack.” Theresa dialed in a thirteen digit code and the lights dimmed, the doors sealed and the blinking red lights on the security cameras stilled.

She stood from the casual position she sat in and ran to the control panel as a toneless computer voice echoed from the security cameras. “Security camera malfunction. Corrective protocols implemented. Expected return to service in fifteen minutes.”

“Shit. Fifteen minutes. I should have just broken the damn cameras.” She brought AUC2 up on the screen. “AUC control. Prepare AUC2 for delivery. Stage Three.”

“AUC2 has completed twenty-seven weeks of gestation and has not reached term. Confirm your command to prepare AUC2 for delivery?” The automated control spoke with an almost feminine voice.

“Command for delivery confirmed. Prepare AUC2 for delivery.” Theresa’s voice shook when she gave the command.

“Preparing AUC2 for delivery. Stage One and Stage Two delivery preparation has not been implemented. Without Stages One and Two the progeny has little chance of survival. Confirm command to skip to Stage Three preparation?”

“Confirmed. Skip to Stage Three.” Her voice had a sharpness to it when she spoke. This was taking too long.

“Command confirmed. Beginning Stage Three preparation.”

She hurried down the aisle lined on both sides with glowing AUC units and stopped in front of AUC2. Opening her shirt to the waist, she dropped her bag and rifled through it. “Damn it!” She tossed several of the packages from the storage room out of the bag and dug deeper, pulling out a sealed faux leather kit. Theresa broke the magnetic seal and removed what resembled a small scalpel and switched it on. The blade glowed with a soft white light. She leaned over the AUC unit in front of her and sunk the blade ever so slightly into the rounded fundus at the top of the unit. A thin seal covered the emergency opening of the unit and needed to be broken. Working quickly, Theresa lifted away the upper portion of the translucent silicone shell and set it aside. The membranes were revealed before her, thin and vulnerable, undulating with the small movements from within.

Motions brisk and economical, she ripped open a sealed bag from the storage room containing a thin translucent polymer sheeting. She held it in her hands a moment, staring from the flat sheeting and back to the small opening in the top of the AUC unit. How do I get her out with this and still in the fluid? Her eyes were panicked as she stared down at the plastic sheeting as if the answer must be written upon it. Oh, okay. Maybe… just… Folding it to form a bag-like shape she tucked the sheeting under one arm and lowered the scalpel again. The membranes sizzled when the heated blade made contact, giving off a smell that she had become accustomed to, though not fond of. Almost like a cross between burning hair and cooking meat.

The membranes gave way, splashing her with amniotic fluid. Working quickly, the scientist cut away the top of the chorionic and amniotic membranes, making an opening as large as that in the top of the AUC unit. She dropped the scalpel on the tray next to her and took the folded plastic sheeting into her hands. Sliding it down into the fluid still folded shut, she maneuvered the sheeting over Abby’s submerged head, pulling it open and sliding it down around her feet. In one quick motion she clamped the bottom of the plastic shut around Abby’s cord and lifted her with both hands out of the Artificial Uterine Chamber that had been her host for the past 6 months.

Abby struggled, kicking and squirming against her hands. Theresa pulled her close, so as not to drop her, and leaned over the AUC to avoid exposing the cord while wrapping it in a tube of flexible plastic.

“Okay, Abby, this is going to be tricky. Bear with me, honey.” The term of endearment sounded good aloud.

Angling the open end of the makeshift capsule that was clamped shut in her fist against her chest, she alternately stretched the plastic open and pulled it tight against her skin. The plastic made a loose seal, only losing a small amount of fluid as Theresa struggled to prevent the seal from breaking and keep hold of the wriggling form inside. Once the plastic was flattened against her skin it formed a cocoon just large enough to hold Abby against her in the space between her breasts.

Taking up the scalpel once again, she pressed the flat edge against the seal between skin and polymer. The heated metal hissed against the damp edges, melting the adhesive beneath and securing the capsule. A gasp escaped the scientist as she completed the seal and hot metal made contact with her skin. She let out the breath she had been holding and looked at the AUC unit.

“Shunt placental circulation to progeny AUC2.” Her voice wavered, full of restrained emotion. “Not done yet. This used to work for us…so here we go.”

With scalpel still in hand, Theresa reached down into the AUC and cut through the placenta in a small circle around the cord’s insertion site. Only small tendrils of blood escaped into the fluid from the cauterized sides of the tissue, tinging it faintly pink.

She lifted the wrapped cord and placental tissue out of the water and, reaching into her sleeve from the inside of her shirt, pulled out the RPU that was tucked there. Ripping off the sterile seal, she pressed the small chunk of placenta into the gel filled interior of the device and closed the sides of it around the wrapped cord. After checking all of her seals one last time, Theresa glanced down at the time on her hand-held display. Nine minutes and forty seven seconds had elapsed.

************************************************************************************

What readers and fellow authors say:

“This novel was fantastic! It’s well developed characters are complex and human. I was able to relate to many and found the dialogue to be well paced and believable. “—JAD1583

“A very interesting concept, dealing with realities that, sadly, might be in our own near future. The writing is excellent, the world well thought out. A quality science fiction debut!”—-Michael Kanuckel

“This is an excellent story that deals with concepts that we typically do not think about in our day-to-day lives. It’s so refreshing to read new subject matter, especially dealing with reproductive rights and the ability to reproduce in an uncertain future shaped by environmental destruction and interplanetary travel and colonization. Excellent and very attention-grabbing!”—Amber Delaine

“Progeny explores what it means to be human. I loved the characters and became deeply invested in their lives and stories.”—KC Hobgood

“This intellectual and stubbornly gritty dance between personal choice and established, invasive norms is brought to light through a rich character interplay swirling with themes of autonomy, personal sacrifice, empathy, tension, sensuality and trust in oneself. Progeny confronts the reader and challenges today’s thinking paving a vision of what could be our reality while illuminating the truth…that it’s never too late.”—-Tiffany Garres

“Fresh new story line. The author seems to have done extensive study of artificial reproduction, as the medical and scientific references are excellent. Well written and not too “flowery”, yet is descriptive enough to make you feel like you can see the scene.”—Sharon

 

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CL FORS

 

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An artist of multiple mediums with a myriad of interests, CL Fors is a multipotentialite, mother, author, and adventurer. Daughter of the Antelope Valley’s premier chemistry teacher, John Fors and student of genetic research and botany, CL is a science and science fiction enthusiast with a passion for research based sci-fi.

Refusing to take the conventional route after high school, CL moved down to Hollywood to act in films and later joined the army as a military intelligence linguist. She now spends her days raising and homeschooling three sons and an infant daughter while continuing her studies as a student midwife, fighting the good fight as an activist, and, writing and publishing books.

CL and her husband, Jason P. Crawford, founded the indie publishing house Epitome Press and together bring the work of talented authors out of the brambles and into the light of day.

Adaptation is the second installment of the Primogenitor series(Progeny Book One) and will be followed by two more parts; Reunion, and Allegiance. Follow CL Fors on Social Media Sites and subscribe to her newsletter for  updates and exclusive gifts!

Get your copy of Progeny on Amazon with this link!

 

 

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