Chapter Three


By the third class we were getting pretty familiar with each other. And today turns out to be a pretty special one for Both Miranda and Jaden.

Miranda's New Job

Miranda comes to class beaming, just beaming.

"Good news?" asks Jaden.

"Very good," she replies, "I got a job as an assistant therapist at the Nomad Relief Center in Astoria."

"Congratulations." said Jaden in a neutral way. And, in truth, it didn't sound like much to me either. These days there was a new twist on that old saying, "If you can't do, teach." The new twist was "If you can't teach, be a therapist."

"It's so good because my family and I are now in the system." she says, "We now all have insurance. And my mother now has a free membership at the community center. She has a place to spend some time other than at home, and she can take some English classes there."

"It sounds like a nice first step." I say, and I mean that. I'd forgotten just how far the An's had to come now that they were in the US.

"What will you do there?" asks Annette.

"Some of the nomads get pretty discouraged with their lifestyle. When they do some of them go overboard and get into self-destructive lifestyles. That gets expensive for them and the community."

"I'll say!" grunts Adrian.

"We help them transition back into something more sustainable."

"What will do you do, specifically?"

"Oh, I mostly help get the patients get to and back from their therapy sessions. I help them get comfortable. In truth, it feels a lot like working in a tea house back in Laos. There girls like us helped the customers lose their stress. Here I'm doing the same thing... but the American way."

We all laugh at that.

"Welcome to America." adds Adrian.


Jaden's Class Act

Jaden had come into class strutting and beaming too -- something good has definitely happened.

"And what's your good news?" Annette inquires.

"My students and I just won first prize in the state competitions for a video we did."

We all applaud and cheer. Jaden beams even more.

"It was a science fiction short. Dinosaurs invaded the school! We had the kids running around and screaming, and we added some really neat special effects dinosaurs chasing them around. One kid did a great job of getting eaten! We ended it with it being just a dream."

"Sounds like a classic." I add laughing.

"It was... and we even got called up on one point in it by a paleontologist geek. He pointed out that in one scene one of the kids points at a dinosaur off screen and calls him a Stegosaurus, but what we put up next was a Dimetrodon. I couldn't find the Steg clip, so I punted."

We all laugh at that.

"It was a lot of fun, and I got a personal congratulations from the State Superintendent."

"So... are we looking at a future Assistant Principal?" asks Janet.

Jaden beams back, then adds, "This TMG I got is making quite a difference."

"TMG? As in: Taj Mahal Girl? You got one of those? What kind?" asks Ruby.

"Oh, it's just a virtual one. The state started providing them to selected teachers last year. It's part of the new contract we negotiated. It's an experiment to see if we can boost productivity.

"So far, I've been pretty happy with mine. I call her Ginger. I can feel that she's given me a lot more energy. In fact, she's partly why I'm here."

"How so?" asks Ruby.

"She's making me comfortable with my nest-building instincts again." laughs Jaden.

"Sounds quite useful for this class." says Ben.

"OK, folks," I said, bringing the class to order, "Let's get started on today's lesson..."


Dahlia Lesson

Lesson Two -- Sperm and egg producers

Historically the most common sperm producer was the husband in a marriage and the egg producer was the wife. Although even in pre-history there have been many variations on that theme -- variations such as adoption, infidelity, rape, romantic encounter, and incest.

Nowadays there are many variations available. Sperm banks provide numerous male donor options, with the advantage that there are many choices and these can be tested and rated in many categories. Egg banks offer eggs, but not with nearly the variety that are available in sperm banks.

Because they are so much harder to acquire from living, breathing females, the eggs in egg banks are mostly either clones of the best eggs from high-profile donors such as Olympic winner Brenda Bonnie, or spawned in ovary banks from vat ovaries that have never experienced life in a whole human. In theory eggs that have never experienced real life is not a problem, but... this is a topic of much discussion among child raisers these days.

How these translate into personal choices:

You as a baby raiser have three basic choices, then lots of variations on those.

a) Use your own sperm and egg. The variations then come in the form of how much inspection and modifying you want to do on your own legacy source. This can range from little -- a few choose none at all, trusting in God -- to a whole lot. Most choose some and how much is determined by what a person sees as cost effective and within their budget. The choices plentiful and widely varying in terms of price, promise, what can be modified, and proven effectiveness.

I will caution you: there is a lot more promise being offered out there than tangible delivery. But, baby growing is such a deeply emotional process that paying for feel-good sometimes seems to make sense.

One of the main functions of this class will be for us, as a group, to sort through what we find is offered and try to make a reasonable assessment -- how much of an offering is real and how much is feel-good? I freely admit that even though I'm the class teacher, and I scored well on the PAT, I don't have all he answers -- things change too quickly, and each of us will feel different things are important.

So we will research together, and we will make different choices. This is the nature of modern baby making.



Fashion Week


As I said earlier my day job is with DeMuzzy High Fashion. And the yearly high point of that job is Fashion Week.

Fashion Week is living hell, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

The rest of the year at DeMuzzy High Fashion is all about Fashion Week, or so it seems the closer we get to it. This is when we strut our stuff. And, if we strut it well, we are busy the rest of the year filling orders. If we don't, we stare across the table at each other, sweating blood, as we prepare for next year's Fashion Week.

I've had it go both ways, and believe me, you really do want to spend the year filling orders!

The first step is researching what went well last year -- which means researching what is selling well this year. This is something you have to watch constantly, there are always surprises.

Each year, six weeks after Fashion Week ends, Mr. DeMuzzy, our head honcho, calls a meeting. The purpose of the meeting is to declare the theme for next year's Fashion Week. This is not the first meeting on this topic, it's the first of the finals -- the choice gets reality-checked twice more before the final push for Fashion Week is mustered.

In the six weeks before the meeting, people are getting out of their warm-fuzzy from completing the last Fashion Week, and getting their noses back to the grind-stone. The grind-stone in this case means figuring out what is trendy.

The creations are constantly tabulating what's selling and what's not. They do it for our stuff as well as for the rest of the industry, and they do it by channels -- stores, mobles, sales categories, by sales and specials, any way you as a human want to slice it.

We watch sales, and we watch people. We each program our bots to track what celebs and other trend-setters are wearing. It's our job as humans to decide who is trend-setting. Once we do, our bots take up the spy part and keep them under surveillance.

This part used to be tons of fun for me -- I was getting paid to do star-watching! But it's getting to be more and more of a chore. I've seen all this now, through a couple of fashion cycles, and, I admit it, I'm getting out of touch. It seems these younger generations have their taste all in their mouth! What do they see in these trashy choices they make? Was I really making the same kinds of trashy choices when I was young? (In truth, I find that hard to believe... until I take a hard, business-like look back at the fashion cycle I grew up in.)

These days instead of playing instinctive I play smart: I spend my effort on carefully picking who to watch, and I'm pretty cold-blooded about it. My youngest and most enthusiastic compatriots can't understand how I can watch Virginia La Gnocchi with a yawn instead of a gasp, but I still track her closely. The ones that are a bit older figure I've sold out, but they respectfully pay attention to my choices because I seem to get good value from whatever I've sold out to.

Once the theme has been hashed out at that first theme meeting, we start mustering people, companies and creations to support it. The good news is: We did this last year, and the year before, and so on, so the people- and creation-relations and contacts are all in place. The bad news is: Each year is different, so there are constant changes in who we have to work with.

One constant is the question of what can we afford? The theme is always a big enough idea that it could suck down ten times our budget and look grander for each dollar spent. The hard, hard question is what is the last dollar we can spend that gets us another dollar in gross profit? That's what this first theme meeting, and the reality check meetings, are all about.

When the meeting is finished, the marshalling begins. The fashion creators and designers start programming their creations -- programming them in the sense of describing to them what they want. They are definitely not nerds! While they are working those over, I'm working over the model line-up: Who's going to be hot this year? Who's going to be the impressive fresh new face? Who are the cost-effective bargains?

The hardest part is deciding who to cut bait on and how to ease them out? Sometimes those going over the hill make it easy -- if they start gaining weight or become part of a juicy scandal, my job gets easier. That happens sometimes... other times I just have to be harsh with them, and that's no fun. I explain that their style just isn't part of this year's theme. If they've been good to work with, I will then try to kick them upstairs in some fashion -- something which will give them more work to do but less profile. I try... but if the girl has no skills but walking a runway and smiling for a camera, it's tough. And some are that way: They've dedicated their whole lives to this lifestyle, and their parents have backed them one hundred percent on that choice.

Another issue is just how artificial a girl can look and still be acceptable? Some years and themes, the girls can look as artificial as android creations and do just fine... as long as they look young, too. Other years and themes the natural look is in. Then they have to look natural... and young. Of course natural-looking is in the eye of the beholder -- I've seen as much "plastic" under the skin of some of those natural beauties as Robbie the Robot had metal skin.

Whatever... it's my job to pick and choose. Then I pick and choose the creations who will do the tending, wardrobe fitting, and cosmetics of these young beauties.

There is so much at stake here, but these really are young girls! They are human, young human. As Fashion Week approaches and commitments are made, it gets truly spooky how much is riding on these girls strutting their stuff in a polished and professional way. Their tending creations are there to keep stupid things from happening.

But some have been so bred, primped, and trained for this lifestyle by their success-driven parents that they are God-like stunning on the outside, but psycho babe-monsters on the inside, and even the best tending creation can't stop a catastrophe. Part of my job is keep those out of our line-up, but it's hard because those driven parents are often quite cunning and persuasive.


We're at the meeting, and this year the grand theme is... Shit! Boys!

Not only are we going to have hot women and girls working the runway, we will have to find sweet-looking boy escorts for them! HOLY HANNA! It's been looming in the pre-meetings, and I've been voting against this from paragraph one. But fashion is fashion, sigh, and I can see clearly where this theme is coming from, and it's clearly a hot trend this year.

It appears I'm going to have to do some big time selling out for this Fashion Week this year!

It looks like it, but halfway through the meeting I get a reprieve -- harsh reality strikes: It's not a facilities issue, it's a legal issue: If we're going to mix boys and girls backstage and onstage we will need sex predator insurance. It doesn't take five minutes to look up the rates on that, and that idea goes out the window, fast!

After a bit more mulling, the acceptable compromise comes to life: We replace the boys with avatars built to look like sweet-boy manikins. They will be expensive, but not nearly as expensive as the insurance. The discussion now centers on what they should look like, what they should be able to do, and how to make them into quick change artists.

Whew! This is a theme I can buy into, and the rest of this theme meeting goes as smoothly as these things ever do.


Tea with Ruby

After our third class session I got a message from Rubyzin inviting me to an afternoon face-to-face. "Let's get a bit more acquainted, if you have an hour?" said the text. We set up a time and met at the Starscents near the school.

Ruby was quite gracious. "I've checked out your resume, and I'm impressed, Dahlia. You've had a lot of experience getting things organized. I was wondering if you could help me out with a small favor?"

"I'd be happy to try." I replied.

"I've just written a new children's book and want to put some illustrations, photos actually, in it of girls wearing my Rubyzin's Fashions. Is this something your company, and you specifically, could help out with? The money I make on the book itself will go to charity."

The money from any fashion sales she would keep, of course, but this was a common marketing model these days.

The only curious part was... she was schmoozing me? It should be the other way around. She was much more of a powerhouse in entertainment and business than I was. But, odd as it was, it was opportunity knocking.

"Sure. I can put some time into this." I said.

"Excellent!" she said, and she sounded like she meant it, "I hope this is the start of a couple of mutually beneficial projects."

We spent the rest of the hour chatting and going over preliminary details.

The project went well. It was straightforward and there were no surprises. The book started selling well and raised both Ruby's profile and mine. And while the shoot was happening, Ruby and I got to spend some face-on-face time together, too.

We did some workouts at the gym together. I'm mostly a naturalist. I huff and puff and do whatever my body can do unassisted -- other than the nanobots, of course. Ruby is an augmenter, it's body plus some subtle equipment -- not surprising considering dance is part of her performance. She works out with augmentation so that her dance routines get better. Compared to what dancers could do even ten years ago, she looks supernatural in ability, but quite natural while she's doing it.

I enjoyed working with her on that first project, and it seemed she did too. She invited me to help her with another project, and I got her a couple of guest appearances at our presentations.

Then came the kicker. She invited me to dinner one night after the Winter Fashion Week had run its course and we at DeMuzzy were all on recovery time. "Girl's night out." she announced in her text. Fashion Week and the time leading up to it was the usual frenzy, but the week had gone well, and now this was just the kind of relaxing that I needed.

We met at Da Munchie's. In spite of the hokey name, it was a place with a solid reputation among the old wealth. It was quiet and paparazzi were not welcome.

"This is a place I can let my hair down a bit," confided Ruby.

After we ordered Ruby got to the point.

"Dahlia, there's another project I want to propose we join forces on: Our baby making."

I was little surprised, but just a little. I knew Ruby did things for good reason, she was not the success she was because she wasted time or energy.

"You're not a teacher at Child Champs for no reason. And over the last few weeks I've found you good to work with. So... let's work on the big one together." She concluded with a smile and a touch of my hand.

"It's an interesting possibility, Ruby. What exactly did you have in mind? Who else would be involved?"

"I'm proposing we set up shop together. I don't have a boyfriend at this point. Of course I've met a lot of studly virile types, some of those dancers... Whew! The muscles and the moves! ...But I haven't found one I'd feel comfortable waking up with day-after-day. They're good and they know it, they come across as so self-centered, and yet no business sense! In my heart, I'm a business lady.

"Which is why I'm talking to you. I sense simpatico with you, Dahlia." She touched me again, and, I admit, it didn't feel bad at all. This was a powerful woman whom I respected. And, over the last few weeks and projects, I'd come to respect her even more. This proposal was certainly flattering, if nothing else!

I touched her back as I said, "Wow! ...In truth I don't know what to say, Ruby. I'm certainly honored, and I've enjoyed your company very much. ...This is just way outside of how I was figuring I'd get into baby-making."

Ruby smiled, "I'm not surprised. And I didn't expect a 'Yes! Yes! and big kiss.'" she laughed, "But I wanted to start you thinking along these lines.

"If we team up, we can do this in a business-like way and we can get our kids the best of everything -- everything." her eyebrows arched as she said that, "I've been researching who makes the best DNA, and who makes the best wombs. I think you've researched who offers the best child-raising services. To my mind this is going to be my real legacy, not my performances or my businesses, so I want it to be my best."

"You're not planning on carrying your own child?"

She frowned a bit, "I've given this a lot of thought. I want to. And, in truth I worry that my baby won't know me if it hasn't spent time inside me. But I've been assured that that's not the case. And, as I said earlier, I'm a businesswoman at heart. Business is important and I haven't figured out how to keep my career moving with a baby swelling up inside me." She looked into my eyes, this time with some sorrow showing, and touched me again, this time looking for support, "This isn't the fun part."

Then she brightened a bit, "That's why I want to team with you."

"Do you mind if I carry mine?" I asked.

"Not at all! I'd be delighted! It's something we can share." she brightened more, "And we can get you the best-of-the-best, too. We can have kids that will rock this world!" She smiled warmly at that thought, got up and actually came over to give me a little hug, and then sat down again.

It sure was good that this wasn't a paparazzi place. We finished our dinner, both feeling warm and fuzzy. I wasn't sure I wanted to pick up on this project in the real world, but I was sure enjoying thinking about it as a possibility as we talked that evening.

My mind was singing, "Me and Ruby and baby makes three... no, four!" LoL! We sure could rock this world!