Enslaved Chapter Two
Cosette stood sideways, contemplating herself in the mirror. Another few weeks and I won’t be able to hide this belly, she thought. At almost twenty-two weeks, she was beyond the baby bump stage, but still small enough she could hide her expanding middle with the right clothes.
The baby growing in her womb terrified her.
The pregnancy excited her, too, but she would be thrown in prison if it became known she was pregnant with a second child—a boy, at that. She could lose everything. How had she allowed Jarvis to talk her into it?
He’d tried to put off conceiving their first child, telling her it wasn’t the right time, and that she should focus on her career. She’d resented him—enough that she took her government-issued conception pills anyway. When she got pregnant he feigned excitement, but throughout the pregnancy he’d been almost completely uninvolved in preparing for their child’s arrival. And after Elena announced her arrival to the world, in a voice that had never really been silent since, he was distant with her. Cosette thought with time he’d grow to love his daughter, but when that didn’t happen, a rift developed between them. One that had never healed.
Part of her hoped he’d be different with the new baby, but as the months progressed her doubt grew.
When he had approached her with the idea, saying he had a source for another dose of conception pills, she’d told him no way. But he didn’t let up. He said they’d complete the Orion Project soon. They’d be on another world before she gave birth.
One day he dropped bright blue gelcaps in her hand. She didn’t ask where he’d got them. Blue pills meant they allowed the conception of a male child. Cosette came from a maternal line. Her mother, and her mother’s mother—all the way back to the first transfer—had been selected to bear only girls. She had always wondered what it’d be like having a son.
And he looked so genuinely excited.
In the end, she relented. Maybe it would repair the rift between them and give them a relationship more like her parents’. The older she got, the more she longed for that kind of connection, to have a relationship based on a dogged commitment to each other, no matter what.
She ignored the voice inside that said it would ruin everything and swallowed the pills. Immediately, fear overwhelmed her, but by then it was too late. Only weeks had passed before she tested pregnant. Her fear had only grown over the past several months.
The government had valid reasons for the one-child policy. With nearly all disease wiped out, the population on Earth had skyrocketed. But some people disagreed, having a second, or even a third, child. The government found them out eventually, though, and took their children from them. In this, the authorities brooked no leniency.
Cosette held back tears as the thought of losing her unborn child overwhelmed her.
What have I done?
She shook her head. No time for that. Today was a big day, the beginning of a new chapter for humanity. One that would allow women like her to have as many children as they wanted.
Jarvis entered the room behind her. “You grow more beautiful every day.”
“I grow... that’s a fact. I think the word you’re looking for is fat.” She stiffened as he stood behind her, reached around, and entwined his fingers with hers over her stomach.
“There is nothing more beautiful than a woman with another living soul inside her. And you were already the most beautiful creature in the universe.”
Laying it on a bit thick this morning, don’t you think?
She turned and kissed him on the cheek, extricating herself from his arms. “You keep telling yourself that and maybe you’ll actually believe it one day.”
He stood with a blank expression on his face, and then pasted on a smile and turned. “I need to get in the shower. We’ll miss the train.”
He’d been almost sickeningly sweet since she got pregnant. She should be happy. Perhaps he really did want to save their marriage. But part of her, if she was being honest with herself, suspected it had more to do with his eagerness to have a son—one he could transfer his memories to, like she had with Elena.
She couldn’t really blame him for that, could she?
For most of human history, each child who entered the world did so as a blank canvas. Through their life they grew and learned, making mistakes and adapting, until they died. At that moment, all they were, all their knowledge, vanished. As the old proverb said, “When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground.” Some of what a person knew might pass on to children, or students, or others whose lives they touched. They might leave a legacy behind that contained a glimpse of their insight—books, art, buildings, philosophies, discoveries—but even then, these works would reveal only a small portion of who they had been. In a sense, humanity’s progress took a step back with every generation.
This conundrum eventually sparked the creation of the human consciousness neural transfer—colloquially called the transfer. After all, what parent didn’t dream of leaving a better world for their children? What mother didn’t yearn for her child to avoid the pain she had suffered because of mistakes she had made?
Cosette’s great-great-grandmother, Dr. Abilene Rousseau, lead the research team that developed the technological and biological wonder that allowed the transfer of memory from one human into the consciousness of another. No longer would mankind need to reteach each successive generation. The library of a parent’s experiences would stand forever in the mind of their child.
And with each generation, the library grew. When a child who had received a transfer came of age and performed their own transfer, not only their memories, but also all the stored memories within them, transferred. Cosette now held within her the collective personalities of four of her predecessors. Four strong, capable women, tucked away in the recesses of her mind, three of them scientists, just like her. With just a thought, Cosette could access their information, their wisdom, their emotions. Her daughter Elena now had five generations from Cosette’s family line.
Unfortunately, that was the rub: the transfer only allowed for one parent’s memories. All attempts to allow both parents to transfer to a child failed. Each successive transfer would erase the one before it. So, if the mother transferred first, and then the father, all the mother’s memories would be lost. One parent and one parent only could transfer their lives on... in some way becoming immortal. Government regulations stipulated which parent would be allowed to do the transfer. Normally, the line of transferred memories would remain solely on the paternal or maternal side, unless the balance of genders tilted one way or the other.
Consequently, this led to 50 percent of the population unable to pass their personalities on, which sometimes led to dark results. She’d heard of black markets that dealt in children for people to transfer their minds to. This thought infuriated Cosette. Yes, humanity lived in a virtual utopia, but it had a sinister underbelly.
She turned back to the mirror. This would be one of the last times she could get away with going out in public. Soon she’d be caught for sure, and they would both go to jail. And the baby....
After everything she’d worked for, was this worth it? Never mind having to hide her pregnancy, what about after her son was born? Would she have to keep him hidden the rest of his life?
Stick to the plan, she thought. And we won’t have to worry about that.
“In my bedroom, sweetheart.”
Elena poked her head through the door. Her daughter wore a form-fitting black jumpsuit with a gold crinoline skirt. It didn’t look comfortable, but it was all the rage on campus this year.
“I’ve gotta go. My astrophysics final is today.”
“I don’t need luck.” She tapped her temple. “I’ve got you.”
“You know it’s not about what you know, it’s how you—”
“Apply it creatively. I know, Mom!” She rolled her eyes and turned back toward the door.
“Say goodbye to your father.”
Elena stiffened and turned back, her face scrunched up in that look Cosette had seen a thousand times. The one that said she’d rather do anything than speak with her father. “I’m gonna be late.”
She disappeared in a whirl of black and gold.
Cosette loved the woman Elena had become, but she missed the little baby with the big blue eyes she had once been. She caressed her belly—it wouldn’t be long. What would it be like having a boy? She had a few coworkers with sons, but had never been close with any of them. Perhaps she should do some research. But it would be tricky; any searches on the mindnet for how to raise boys would be flagged.
A red light flashed on her ocular heads-up display. A gentle voice sounded inside her head: “Leave now to arrive at your meeting in Cape Canaveral on time.”
Jarvis stepped out of the bathroom. “You ready to go?”
“Yeah, one sec.” She pulled on a blazer and buttoned it up, glancing in the mirror again, looking to make sure her belly didn’t show.
Cosette spent the tube ride into the Global Space Administration offices at Cape Canaveral lost in thought. Jarvis sat with his eyes closed, scanning the morning news on his ocular heads-up display. They didn’t go to the cape very often. They did most of their work remotely, but today was a big day. Her team would decide the target location for humanity’s first settlement outside the solar system. She’d worked for almost two years in preparation for this day.
Who was she kidding? She’d striven for this moment her whole life and so had generations before. A chorus of souls within her gloried to see the fruit of their labor: a massive ship, capable of carrying thousands to the stars, which would allow humanity to colonize planets far beyond their own solar system.
She glanced at the window display as the train slowed. When they’d first begun installing these tubes, ten-year-old Cosette had sworn she’d never get in one. She’d had visions of them breaking down, and of herself being stuck inside a concrete and steel tomb. But with the walls of the trains covered in screens that showed the world outside, she had found the experience to be a whole heap of fun. Years later, she still enjoyed a trip on the tube-train. There was no better way to travel around the country—or even the world—now that the transatlantic and transpacific tubes had been completed.
They passed the entrance to the GSA campus. A sign read “Global Space Administration: A Beacon of Hope for Humanity’s Future.” Cosette had always thought it an appropriate statement. Mankind had placed its hopes with the ship they developed here. In fact, they’d even christened it Humanity’s Hope.
It was her hope, too.
The train slowed more, and Jarvis opened his eyes. “Nearly there, are we?”
Cosette nodded. The express train from New York to Cape Canaveral had nearly reached the speed of sound, taking a little over two hours. That was insignificant compared to the speeds Humanity’s Hope would achieve, but even so, it might take them fifty years to reach their destination. She sighed. She could use the rest.
They passed the airstrip. Several large transport jets sat ready to ferry their passengers to the space elevator parked in the Atlantic. Its mobile platform moved it about on the equator, allowing it to avoid any of the rare hurricanes that churned the seas—and, more significantly, the dense blanket of space debris hurtling around the planet. One strike from an abandoned communications satellite would render the elevator useless. Hundreds of years of launching all this technology into space did cause some issues. However, in a few months, Humanity’s Hope would be ready to begin the journey to the stars. If everything went according to plan, she would be on board, along with Elena and her unborn son, and Jarvis would be forced to remain on Earth, unable to leave his job at the GSA—if Secretary Stephens kept up his end of the bargain.
She glanced at Jarvis. He’ll forgive me—won’t he?
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