Chapter Seven


The Attack

Miranda came in. She was quieter than usual. She sat down and said nothing. It wasn't until break that we finally found out what the problem was.

"My mother is in the hospital. She was mugged."

"My goodness!" I said, "When and where! Is she OK?" Everyone was concerned.

"It happened outside the community center. She was walking home. Some nomads followed her out of the community center, knocked her down, and stole her purse."

"How terrible!"

"She broke a rib and her wrist. The doctors now say she suffers from osteoporosis. She was lucky she didn't break a hip."

"Is insurance covering it?"

"Yes! ... well, a lot. There are some things the doctors have told me about that will help her recovery, but insurance won't cover."

"Oh my..." whispered Janet, she looked at Ben, he was non-committal looking back, then she said, "Where can we send flowers?"

Miranda told them.

"Did they catch the nomads?" asked Jaina.

"Well... they know who they are. The surveillance cameras show them leaving just after Mom. They've questioned them, but they haven't arrested them."

"Why not!" we all asked.

"Their ID's were spoofed. Their public defender says we can't be sure these are the right people."

"That sounds pretty wacky. They have pictures and they say they don't know who these people are?"

"The police I talked with say it's a common legal tactic in that neighborhood. It's something they learned from the gypsies. They won't get off forever, but it'll be weeks, and they'll move on before the legal process grinds through. They'll be arrested if they ever come back to New York, but they won't come back."

Janet sighed, "Well, if they come back within seven years, actually, there's a statute of limitations on unproven allegations. Those thugs are gaming the system."

"Doesn't the fact that they've seriously hurt someone make a difference?" I asked.

Janet said, "It does. Ironically, it makes it even harder to arrest them. Because this is a more serious charge, there are more vigorous identity protections. This new system was set up about ten years ago in response to the wave of outrage over how many false arrests there had been fifty years ago -- back before DNA sampling and biometrics were commonplace. The most common victims of false arrest were poor people, so the protections were set up to protect poor people even more.

"The intentions at the time were the best." she sighed.


Bad Santa!

"So how did the Santa Claus job go?"

Jaden flinched, "Not so well, now that you ask. The job itself went fine, but I got a notice that I'm being sued for child molestation."

"What!" most of the class's jaws dropped.

"It seems that one of the women who brought a child makes litigation her hobby. She brings up a dozen cases a year on anything and everything. It's so bad she's even got a nickname in local legal circles, "Ms. Sewer". She brought her child and then said I was touching her child inappropriately. Said it with the help of a lawyer, and they are ready to take the claim to city court."

"Ouch! Have you got insurance" I asked.

"No. But the teachers union is offering to help out. I guess that's because the litigants are hitting all the deep pockets, and that includes the union."

"What about the shopping mall?" I asked.

"I didn't know it at the time, not that I would have thought it made much difference, but they went bankrupt six months ago and they are still working through that. The court didn't consider child molestation insurance for a holiday season Santa essential so they had to stop paying for it."

We were all concerned, but what we could do? After some thinking I finally said, "Well, we all wish you luck. Let us know if there's anything we can do to help."

Everyone agreed with that, and I went on to start the class topic.



Dahlia Lesson

Lesson Five -- Late Stage Incubating Choices

In the historic human pregnancy, during the first trimester the zygote transforms from a single cell into a blob of cells called a blastula and then through a further series of morphologically dramatic convolutions into something that physically resembles a small baby. During the second and third trimesters that small baby grows in size and maturity, but the changes are of a different nature from those which occur in the first trimester.

We can now take advantage of this change in the development process to change the developing medium. So sometimes the fetuses are left in the phase one womb to continue to maturity and sometimes they are removed and put into a phase two womb.

Phase two wombs are usually late stage incubators, or vats, not wombs. This is because the development can be monitored more closely and the environment customized. This customizing becomes more important with babies designed for frontier environments such has high pressure ocean or low pressure, low G, MMS environments.

The other reason for two-staging has to do with a harsher reality: just as mother nature does in the all-natural process, there is a lot of experimenting going on with each component in this living system. And... some of those experiments are successes which will turn into live babies... and some are failures and don't.

In the purely human system the failures are called infertility and miscarriages -- for any of hundreds of reasons an egg can not be turned into a zygote, a zygote into an embryo, an embryo into a child living and breathing at birth. When the mother's body decides the experiment isn't going to work out, it cuts bait.

And, as with the purely human system, there is increasing cost the further along an experiment is carried -- bearing a stillborn child after a difficult labor is a lot more traumatic than just missing a period or two.

In the artificial forms, the transition to second phase raising is also an important time to check on progress: Is this experiment turning out well, or is this one to cut bait on?

These embryos are products of science, but we can't watch every gene, that would be too expensive. These days we examine closely and craft about .05 percent of the genome, and examine about two percent for gross errors--known genetic defects. The remaining ninety eight percent is ready to surprise us. And if these are MMS babies the chances for bad surprises skyrocket.

So, a lot of experiments are started, and when two-staging is used, about one percent make it to the phase two incubators.

How these translate into personal choices:

When you decide to make a baby by modern methods it is likely you are going to initiate a hundred or more zygotes. If you are paying, it will be your choice, with professional advice, how many and which fetuses you want to carry through to second stage incubating. You choose. Those you select, that also pass modern prediction standards, some people are willing to risk more and ignore those standards, have a better than 95% chance of becoming your cuddly little bundles of joy -- some will late-stage fail, but not many -- so this is when you are committing. This is when it's time to start painting the baby room, folks.

But here you run into differences in the laws. At what point a synthetic child becomes legally alive -- when you can be accused and convicted of killing it -- varies between different jurisdictions, statewide, nationwide and worldwide. This is something people are still arguing about vigorously. The most restrictive jurisdictions say it becomes viable when it could be moved to a second stage incubator. The most liberal say it is not alive until it has been living viably out of the womb for a full year.

And those are just the laws, what various groups of people believe varies even more widely -- some groups believe that synthetic babies should never be made, and some believe they never become human.