"I think any more can wait until the morning now, Darnelle."  Dr. Conjeeca leaned back in his chair wishing he had a better way of dismissing her, something polite but subtle.  When she showed no sign of moving from her chair he pushed his desk slightly forward again, reducing her leg room to the point of discomfort.

"I think you'll want to know about this last one, Hank," said Darnelle, fidgeting.  "What happens to him will probably have relevance to your little experiments."

"What?  What do you mean?"

"His name is Malik, and he's cryogeny."

There was a long pause, and Dr. Conjeeca's face twisted around as he went through several emotions.  Fear showed most, but there was curiosity, a hint of dread, and a definite sneer when he met Darnelle's eyes.

"What do mean by that, Darnelle," he said eventually, pulling the desk back in towards him and releasing her legs.  "Cryogeny?"

"Cryogenic progeny," she said.  "His mother is someone in cryogenic storage.  His father appears to have gone into the freezers and harvested eggs from her.  He then mixed her eggs with his own sperm and implanted them into several artifical uteruses at the Institute for Controlled Reproduction."

"His mother was in cryogenic storage?"  Dr. Conjeeca's voice was hushed and awed.  "The only women in cryogenic storage are the Mothers of the State!  No-one's even allowed to know their names."

"Yes.  He's got a very distinguished lineage."

"What happened to his father?  He was executed, I imagine.  Violating a Mother of the State is a crime."

"An horrific crime," corrected Darnelle, her eyes narrowing.  For a moment or two Dr. Conjeeca wondered if perhaps she might be thinking of reporting him to the People's Police.  "So is breaking into cryogenic storage, Hank.  Not just anyone gets preserved for rebirth.  And that's where the problem lies: his father appears to have gone into cryogenic storage himself."

"Oh.  So they... they can't get him out?"

"Or kill him while he's in there.  The documents are a little vague on it, but there's a hint in there that they don't really know who the father is, he could be one of six or seven people put into recent storage."

"So why was the child allowed to be born?"

"The same reason that he's here now.  The problems with both parents being in cryogenic storage meant that they had to go to the courts to get an order to destroy the eggs in the womb.  As you're aware, the anti-abortionist movement is currently rather strong within the People's Protectorate, so the legal debate and battle dragged out for so long that one of the eggs successfully hatched, producing Malik."

"The egg didn't hatch, he's not a chicken," said Dr. Conjeeca.  "Surely though he's just reclaimable biological waste?"

Darnelle shuddered.  "No child is biological waste," she said, her voice sounding thin and squeaky.  "Not even those you... experiment on."

"As soon as they turn twelve, if they've not been fostered out, they're legally biological waste," said Dr. Conjeeca.  His voice was flat and mechanical, this was a response he'd made many times.  "They are no longer eligible for State support, and my experiments at least offer them the hope of a productive life in the State as adults."

"You're trying to breed merfolk!"  Darnelle heaved a deep breath that set her folds of fat jiggling.  A red flush started up her neck towards her face.  "And you keep killing the children!"

"I am breeding merfolk.  We have three viable mermen and a mermaid so far.  And I don't kill any child, Darnelle.  Some of the biological waste proves unsalvageable and we have to recycle it."

"They're children!"  Darnelle was screaming now.

"Not in the eyes of the State!"

"Well Malik's here because they couldn't agree whether he was human or not either, and he turned five before they sorted it out.  So he's human by default, of all things, but the court case is carrying on, and they might yet decide that he's biological waste again."

Dr. Conjeeca said nothing, but pursed his lips and his eyes took on a far-away look.

"What are you thinking?"  Darnelle paused barely long enough for Dr. Conjeeca to think about replying before shouting, "You monster!  You utter monster!"

"Get out, Darnelle," said Dr. Conjeeca calmly.  "You're overwrought, and clearly getting emotionally attached to the children.  I think perhaps you need a holiday."  He leaned forward, his left hand slipping unobtrusively under his desk and pressing a recessed button to summon two security guards.  "I'll authorise it before I go to bed."

"Monster," said Darnelle, her whole frame heaving now and her face bright red.  Little flecks of white spittle dotted her lips.  "He's a little boy.  A cold, frightened little boy."


"Yes, Hank.  He's unnaturally cold all the time."

The door to Dr. Conjeeca's office opened and two security guards walked in.  They ignored everyone, flanking Darnelle and lifting her bodily off the ground.  Only one of the guards grunted with the effort, and they carried her out of the office.

The End

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