Chapter 5Mature

Floating slightly in thick orange liquid was a fully formed foetus. It was curled up with its knees by its chin and it sucked sleepily on its own thumb, long-lashed eyes closed in the serenity of undisturbed sleep. She had expected a horrifying, malformed creature to be born today, yet here in this tank lay a human infant, unremarkable in any way save for its circumstances.
“Leicester!” Amanda shouted involuntarily, “is it conscious?”
She felt a hand between her shoulder blades and Leicester bent down to peer in to the glass beside her.
“Is any baby genuinely conscious before birth?” he mused, “I don’t suppose we’ll ever know. Though hopefully it will be in a matter of minutes,” he left her gazing open-mouthed through the glass pane.
Just as Amanda’s back began to ache from having been doubled over so long Leicester returned to pull her away and straighten her up.
“You need to put these on, darling,” he handed her a pair of surgical gloves. She slipped them on, not bothering to snap them as Leicester did when he pulled the latex over his forearms and let go. He beckoned Patel over and the three scientists stood before the large white cylinder, each with different degrees of anticipation and nerves.
“Dr. Niels, are we ready?” Patel asked nervously.
Leicester started and looked at his assistant.
“Yes! Yes, Mr. Patel. Let us begin!”
Patel swiped a hand over an area on the left of the tank and a computer screen faded into view. The scientist then proceeded to tap at the screen, directing his way through menus and sub-menus and, having typed in no fewer than seven security codes, stepped aside to allow his superior access to the panel. Leicester stepped forward and placed his left palm upon the screen, lifting it only when a small green light appeared upon the side of the tank.
“Dr Bell, I’d love for you to do the honours,” he said.
“W-what? I…”
“Please?” he smiled at her and cocked his head, looking at her with large blue eyes. When she hesitated he took hold of her hand once more and extended her index finger. Still smiling, he waited for her to nod before raising her hand and using it to press the green light.
With a soft humming sound the side of the tank began to move. Two lines had appeared about a meter apart and the area of the tank between them was sliding away, receding in to the floor. Revealed beneath the tank’s surface was a second tank of the same UV-protected glass as the window Amanda had peered through before, though this glass tank was missing a lid.
Leicester approached the tank and rolled up his sleeves. Taking a deep breath he plunged his arms in to the thick, syrupy liquid and lowered them slowly in to its depths.
“Artificial amniotic fluid,” he informed the other two as they covered their noses and his own wrinkled, “stinks.”
The thing inside the tank twitched as Leicester’s long, slender fingers gingerly prodded its leg, causing him to bark an excited laugh. He touched it again, more confident this time, and placed one hand beneath its bottom and the other under its head, lifting it steadily towards the surface of the orange liquid with painstaking steadiness.
So sudden that all three scientists gasped, a loud wail erupted from just outside the tank:
The baby was crying.
Leicester turned to his colleagues, beaming.
“He’s healthy!” he cried, “he’s okay!”
He began to soothe the screaming infant, rubbing its belly in an effort to ease the shock of waking in an unfamiliar world, of breathing cold oxygen for the first time in its young life. He held it close to his chest, oblivious to the orange fluid smeared over his otherwise pristine shirt and lab coat, and cooed over it.
“The first ever human clone,” he whispered as its cries subsided, “Amanda, you must hold him!”
Amanda opened her mouth to protest but the excited Leicester forced the baby into her arms before she could object and she instinctively raised her arms to support its tiny frame.
“Meet Adam,” Leicester’s pride was plastered all over his face.
“It’s… Alive,” Amanda breathed.
Leicester laughed at her gleefully. He then threw his arms and head to the heavens in a dramatic gesture and yelled “It’s alive!”

The End

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