3. Imps

3. Imps

            Humans are a curious species, always poking or prodding at anything they can find, never content to leave things as they are. They discover things, both good and bad, for better and for worse. So of course there came a time in the course of history that humans craved to do more than merely observe the processes of life all around them – they wanted tocreatelife.

            To take control of evolution, to design a being that the hand of god had never touched…they thought that these things must be the ultimate culmination of power. They had their technology, of course, but computers and robots were but a pale imitation of real, organic life. So they began to toy with the genes of plants, then of animals, then of themselves. Before too long, they were able to manipulate the eyes and hair and even the health of their children before birth, until birth itself was obsolete, and the process of mating was reserved exclusively for pleasure. But it still wasn’t enough.

            The next logical step was to create a being that had no parents, but that was just as alive and sentient as a human. They drew up plans for the ideal life forms: “born” as adults with no pesky developmental processes to go through, strong and healthy for their entire lives, untouched by age and physical deterioration, capable of living for hundreds of years. They could be beautiful, the most aesthetically perfect creatures ever to grace the planet. And most importantly, they would be fueled by beating hearts rather than batteries and wires. In order to be perfect, they would have to beimperfect, with the same personality quirks and glitches in judgment that separated men from gods. An emotionless machine, with purpose but no satisfaction, thinking but not feeling, would never do.

            So the humans set forth on this new mission, and after a while, they succeeded. But their greatest challenge regarding the new life forms was this: what on earth were you supposed todowith them?

            Such was the creation myth of genetically improved humans, or imps…

 

            The acceptance of something that is radically new or different is a lengthy process, often riddled with controversy. When the new way of “making babies” was introduced, the world at large was shocked and appalled, not to mention wary. Why would anyone trust a bunch of strangers with their unborn child? Was it natural to preselect the traits of a person this way? Was it ethically acceptable for a baby to be born by combining the DNA of its parents in a cold, sterile lab, rather than safely delivered into its mother’s arms by a wise doctor in a hospital?

            The conspiracy theorists began to bleat at the top of their lungs about how the evil World Gov was going to alter the DNA of any babies that had been “testied” and that Big Brother was corrupting the pure human soul, but the new procedure continued to increase in popularity. Feminists in particular encouraged it. There might be men in the world who romanticized childbirth into a mysterious, majestic occurrence, but the truth of the experience made women more and more reluctant to go through it. And what was so immoral about this “New Way,” when it provided increased health and decreased risk to both mother and child? The list of benefits went on and on, and not even the conspiracy theorists could dig up enough legitimate information to disprove everything. Ten years later, “being testied” was considered to be just another part of everyday life and had become the standard way to have children in most developed countries. Doctors weren’t even required to learn about old-fashioned childbirth anymore.

            The first imps were, if possible, even more scandalous. Religious lobbies especially went up in arms about this new advancement. It wasn’t right for humans to play god, and what would become of the world now that these unnatural devil-spawn would be walking among thenormalpeople, and this was all clearly a sign of the upcoming rapture. (Of course, a few years later the World Gov would pass the Keep Public Secular act, which prevented religious practices outside of the home and places of worship and forbid religion to be used as a valid defense in politics, and the arguments of these lobbies would become both fruitless and illegal.) Most people were intrigued by the promise that these new “imps” represented. But nearly everyone agreed on one thing: imps were so new that they currently had no place in society, and no one was quite sure what to do with them. They needed to find a purpose, and the sooner the better.

            Over time, a system sorted itself out, and imps gradually began their integration into human culture. As more and more of them were produced, they were sold to human owners; this was considered to be an ideal setup because imps could learn how to behave in a socially acceptable manner, in exchange for performing simple household tasks and chores. Imps were like children, needy but curious, intelligent but naïve. Technology advanced further, and soon imps were able to be created with knowledge already loaded into their brains, so that they could speak and recite basic history and mathematics practically from the moment they first opened their eyes. But only experience could educate them in the culture and social norms of the society that they had just entered.

            At some point, one imp owner must have had a brilliant idea. Like most early owners, he was quite rich – imps were originally outrageously expensive, due to their scarcity and novelty – and he had accumulated his wealth through owning and managing a fairly large corporation. One day, he brought his imp to the company with him, and began training her in how to perform office tasks and reception work. After a few weeks, she had learned enough to actually be given a job in the company, effortlessly working long hours while the earnings were given to her owner. She actuallyenjoyedhaving a job, and while some of the humans around her gave her a wide berth, most were fascinated by her and found her demeanor and physical appearance to be pleasing. Right away, people realized that there was a way for humans to give imps a purpose in a manner that would be beneficial to both parties.

            The speed and numbers of imp production increased sharply, and the price of genetically improved humans was lowered proportionally. Before too long, workplaces across the world were finding that they had new employees who were strangely strong, fast, and attractive. Some owners would send imps to replace them in the work force, and they could continue to earn wages while having more time for their families or for leisure activities. Soon enough, the companies decided to get in on the action as well, realizing that they now had a source of labor that could easily handle dangerous or undesirable occupations. They made arrangements with the labs that produced imps, and the labs began to manufacture imps that were designed for specific jobs, pre-loaded with training and information like theme music players containing a band’s entire lineup. These imps even received their names based on what kind of work they would be entering, acronyms like Ver (Ventilation Emergency Repair unit) and Ana (Administrative Nursing Assistant). They were officially becoming integrated into the world.

            At the beginning, it was odd for humans to think that they might be working alongside a member of a different species every day. It was difficult to pick an imp out of a crowd of regular people at first, but eventually, certain clues would give them away to someone who knew what to look for. If the new man or woman in your department was practically always upbeat and cheerful, looked like a supermodel, and seemed constantly enthusiastic about the menial tasks that they were assigned, then you could assume that you were not dealing with a human. There was something else, too, a sort of oddness or deviation from default in an imp’s speech and mannerisms. Because of their unusual births and lifestyles, they had their own little dialect, in literal words as well as body language. But this wasn’t too jarring on the whole, and since they tended to increase the morale of their respected workplaces, humans quickly grew accustomed to them.

            The price of an imp continued to drop until it was equal to that of any other luxury commodity, like a super-HD spectrovision or a brand new comm. But instead of producing new bills to be paid each month, imps became the one item that kept giving back, providing a steady source of income and freeing up time for their owners. They were so charming that they could often overcome a prospective employer’s prejudices and get jobs that certain humans couldn’t. One heartwarming tale that was circulated told of a poor family who painstakingly saved their metaphorical pocket change for three years in order to purchase an imp. Once they did, the parents were able to take better care of their children, and eventually the imp secured a relatively well-to-do job that kept the family off the streets for good. This story, and others like it, ultimately helped people to warm up to the concept of “genetically improved humans.”

            Imps weren’t exactly being maligned by the arrangements, either. There were laws and unions to ensure that they didn’t end up with abusive owners or slave drivers, and they were given endless opportunities to interact with humans as well as their own kind. Over time, imps seemed to develop their own subculture, branching off into something like a different ethnicity – which was odd, considering that imps could have skin of any color, with features attributed to any nationality. But all around the world, they were more in tune to each other than they were to their human owners and coworkers.

            That was the way it was, and that is the way it still is.

            Humans were successful this time. Who knows what else they will decide to meddle in as time continues to proceed?

The End

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