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And Down Will Come Baby, Madmen And All by By Damien Walters Grintalis -

And Down Will Come Baby, Madmen And All by By Damien Walters Grintalis

And Down Will Come Baby, Madmen And All
By Damien Walters Grintalis

Ellie stared down at the catalog on her desk and grimaced. Blue eyes? No, Seth’s were brown; hers, although enhanced for vibrance, were naturally green. Blue, although possible in nature, might appear strange. She flipped to the temperament section. Who in their right mind would choose willful? She’d prefer a quiet, biddable child.

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The Newsfeed (Always On Because You Deserve to Know Now!) droned on in the background, a steady hum of voices and flickering images.

Apex Corporation unveiled its new East–West Coast Monorail design. The new monorail will run entirely on echofuel, allowing it to make the coast-to-coast express trips in half the time and less than a quarter of the cost. Echofuel, with its regenerative properties, was developed by Apex’s lead scientist, Algimantas Vilkas.

“Are you and Seth going to be parents?” her assistant, Marian, asked from the doorway.

Ellie closed the catalog. “We’re thinking about it. Not now, of course, but maybe in a few years. I was just going over the options.”

It wasn’t a total lie. Seth wanted to be a parent; she was . . . undecided. He’d even mentioned adopting a defective from one of the state-run facilities, an idea she’d vetoed straightaway.

“Which breeder are you going to use? My sister used Lifeline. Expensive, but worth it. Colin is a gem. They have top-of-the-line surrogates, too.”


The Newsfeed monitor on the far wall flashed red, and a photo appeared onscreen—a woman with fluffy blonde hair and full red lips curved up in a recognizable, sexy-yet-girlish smile.

This morning, Redux announced their latest genetic, Marilyn Monroe. This comes only a week after they revealed plans for both John Wayne and—

“Oh, no, they didn’t,” Ellie said, rising from her desk with hands clenched into tight fists. She brushed past Marian and stormed into Paul’s office.

“Did you see it?”

Her brother, co-owner of Skintec, looked up from his desk and gave her a half-smile. “See what?”

“Turn on your Newsfeed,” she spat. “Scan back a few minutes.”

When asked what plans they have for Ms. Monroe, Redux spokesperson Diana Jonas had this to say: “We have grand plans for our new star. However, I’m not at liberty to discuss them at this point in time. Suffice to say, it will be unforgettable, as befitting a star of Marilyn Monroe’s caliber.”

“Now you know. Turn it off,” Ellie said as she sank down in a chair. “Her voice makes me want to scream. Why didn’t we know about this?”

“I told you our contact left Redux two weeks ago. We haven’t found a replacement yet. Redux is giving hefty bonuses now, and that makes it harder to get information.” Paul shrugged. “It doesn’t matter. We have Rita Hayworth and Mae West—”

Ellie’s fingernails dug into the arms of the chair. “And neither one of them can hold a candle to Marilyn. How in the hell could they afford to buy her?”

“Maybe they have a new investor with cash to burn. You know, Mae’s done pretty well so far, and the movie that Rita is filming—”

“But have you seen either one on the Newsfeed lately? No, I didn’t think so. We might as well start the retirement plan. We need something big. No, we need something huge.”

“Why don’t we create some dead authors? They could pen new work. I bet they’d be guaranteed best sellers.”

“Please. Authors? How mundane. That’s not real entertainment.”

“Okay, then. Do you have a better idea?”

She jumped up from the chair and paced back and forth. “We need something spectacular. I wish we could get into the government Genepool. Can you imagine if we created one of the old dictators? We could have an old-school trial and a public execution. The people would love it. How long has it been since there was an execution? A hundred years? More?”

“I really don’t think this is such a big deal. You know what we have coming up.”

“It’s not good enough!” She jumped up from her chair and paced back and forth, her thoughts spinning in circles.

“So what do you propose?”

Ellie stopped and crossed her arms under her breasts. “Do you know what the problem is? It’s become commonplace. We make a star and send it out on the entertainment circuit. When it runs its course, we toss it in cryo. But it’s the same thing over and over again, just with different faces. We need to give people something they won’t ever forget. A grand spectacle like they did in the beginning, when genetics was new and groundbreaking.”

Paul leaned back in his chair. “Something like the Parade of Dead Stars?”

“Bigger, more exciting, shocking. Something to make people’s jaws drop.” She spun around, smiling. “We need to come up with something that will make Redux look like a child’s game.” With that, she left his office at twice the speed she’d entered.

###

Rubbing her temple, Ellie glared at her monitor. The archive files were a jumbled mess of data, some searchable, some not. She chose dates at random, the headache behind her eyes increasing with each dead end.

She’d already found a half-dozen people of interest, but none of them were in the Genepool, the database that contained the names of everyone who’d donated or sold their biological material along with material culled posthumously from others. Businessmen, no matter how groundbreaking their technological discoveries, didn’t make good press. Writers and artists were no better. Redux had made an Edgar Allan Poe once; all he wanted to do was drink and moan about his dead wife. Eventually they’d euthanized him. The humane thing to do, of course.

But without a specific name to search for, the Genepool was nothing more than an endless list. Ellie sighed, dry-swallowed an energy tab, and scrolled to the next article.

###

When Paul walked in the next morning, she was sitting in his office.

“You didn’t go home last night, did you?”

“No, I didn’t, but it was worth it. I found something. Do the names Bianchi and Buono mean anything to you?”

He shook his head.

“Dahmer?”

Another shake. “Should they?”

“Exactly.”

“What do you mean?”

“Doesn’t matter. Their biomat isn’t in the Genepool.” She dropped a data folder on his desk. “But his is. It looks like he was declassed as dangerous a few decades ago. Take a look. I also have a prelim plan. Do you remember the circus?”

“Of course I do. Remember how angry Mom was when Dad took us?”

“‘It’s cruel,’” Ellie mocked. “‘You don’t bring mammoths back to teach them tricks.’ But anyway, take a look, and let me know what you think. Oh, and I ordered his biomat. It should arrive tomorrow. I figured we should have the lab make sure it’s viable before we get too excited.”

###

Paul and Ellie stood outside the examination room, a wall of glass separating them from the scientists and the subject on the table. Ellie’s heart was racing a madcap rhythm in her chest.

“Please let it work,” she whispered.

Because of degradation in the old samples, nearly fifty percent of all genetics ended up nothing more than lumps of human-shaped flesh that wore diapers, had to be spoon-fed, and were ultimately euthanized. It was a delicate and risky process, not to mention expensive. Unlike cloning, they didn’t need a growing-up period. They created the flesh shell according to the age at time of death; memory implantation occurred after the physical specimen passed inspection. And because of the old biodata format, they had one shot to get it right. After creation, if everything went well, backups could be made, but even those offered spotty results. Working with new material was much easier.

With Rita and Mae, they’d done extensive plastic surgery post-memory implantation to restore them to the look of their peak years. For marketability purposes, of course. After Audrey Hepburn had committed suicide, they’d learned that implanting an old memory directly into a young body proved disastrous. They’d been lucky with that situation, though. They had not yet issued the press release about her creation.

Ellie chewed the inside of her cheek while the scientists administered their tests. The man on the table said something, and the scientists laughed. One of the scientists turned to the window and gave a thumbs-up.

Ellie grabbed Paul’s arm. “I knew it would work. I knew it.”

The man on the table turned to the glass wall. His eyes were a darker blue and far more intense than she’d anticipated. No wonder he’d been so . . . successful.

“He’s better looking than I thought,” Ellie said. “And look at that smile. Charming doesn’t even begin to describe it. He’s going to look great on the Newsfeed.”

“Do you really think we can pull this off? It’s been what, a hundred years since one of them made the headlines? Do you think people will even care?”

“Oh, they’ll care all right. Remember how big the Gladiatorial Games were when Phillips Production put them on? People love controlled danger. He’s going to be huge,” Ellie said. “I can feel it.”

“You don’t think we need to worry, do you? What if he’s still dangerous?”

“Dangerous? We keep them under lock and key. We can set up extra security if it really concerns you, but I don’t think we have to worry. We’re going to make him a star. That should be enough.”

###

Everyone is abuzz with speculation as to Skintec’s upcoming production. Details are a closely guarded secret, but a representative from the company said the show was going to be unforgettable. Skintec, the corporation started by Anthony Maxwell, dealt solely in gene-splicing and manipulation until his death, when his children turned the company into a pioneer in the entertainment industry.

“Tickets for the first show sold out in an hour. One hour, Paul. I told you this was going to be amazing. And did you read the acclimation report? Our boy is well ahead of schedule.”

“And not a word has leaked out. That’s a feat in and of itself.” Paul smiled. “Have I mentioned lately that you’re brilliant?”

“I am what our father made me.”

###

Paul and Ellie stood off to the side of the stage, watching the final preparations. Several actors in old-fashioned police uniforms and gun replicas stood around the stage with menacing frowns on their faces. A stagehand pushed a broom across the floor; another shook the curtain into place.

The stage manager, a prissy man with a goatee, emerged from behind the curtain, said something to the stagehands, and made his way over to Paul and Ellie. “Everything is in place. The line is all the way around the building.”

“Let’s start letting people in.”

Paul extended his arm. “Let’s get our star and take our seats, shall we?”

###

The lights dimmed, and a man in a tuxedo and top hat stepped from behind the curtain. “Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the Traveling Circus of Madmen.” His voice, a rich baritone, boomed from hidden speakers, surrounding the audience with his tale. A spotlight followed his path to the center of the stage. “Let us travel back in time, to a day and age when bloodshed and mayhem was commonplace, when the news reports were filled with war, deprivation, and human degradation. Let us leave our civilized lives behind for a time.” He spread his hands wide and gave a grandfatherly smile.

The crowd roared. Goosebumps rose on Ellie’s arms and a chill ran down her spine, thanks to mood enhancers pumped in through the air vents and undetectable by scent or taste. Their seats, off to the side of the stage, provided them with an unobstructed view of the audience as well as of the stage.

“One hundred years ago, people lived in fear of a nameless terror, one that would strike without warning, without provocation, one that preyed on strangers. You could be anyone, anywhere. No one knew when they might catch the eye of one of these monsters. And in that instant, their fate was sealed. We no longer live in that fear, but tonight, that fear has come to step from our pages of history and pay us a visit.”

Ellie smiled as the holograms flashed behind him. Men with bland faces, and in some cases, lines around their eyes and mouths. A few years back, someone had made the asinine prediction that laugh lines were coming back in style. Luckily, that prediction proved to be false. The lines were aesthetically unappealing, and ugly was ugly, regardless of its popularity.

More holograms appeared. A young man with oversized glasses. Another man, older, dressed as a capering clown. All the holograms vanished, leaving only the announcer. The spotlight narrowed, highlighting only his upper body.

“Tonight, these men, these strangers, these—” He paused; the tension in the room twisted tight in absolute silence. “These serial killers, they walk among us. And one of these men is a genetic, with the memories of his progenitor still fresh in his mind and the stain of blood on his hands. Which one, ladies and gentlemen, is up to you to decide.”

Gasps filled the air, and with a puff of smoke, the announcer disappeared.

Ellie watched the crowd. The woman next to Paul cried out and sank down in her chair, fanning her face, but her lips were curved up into a wide smile, and a faint sheen of sweat glistened on her forehead, visible even in the muted light. The spotlight panned the audience in lazy arcs. The silence filled with whispers and nervous laughter.

The spotlight moved along the rows, heads turning to follow its path. The smell of cologne drifted in the air, a cheap and tawdry stink. Ellie’s smile grew wider.

“They could be anyone,” the unseen announcer intoned. “Anywhere.”

More nervous laughter rose from the crowd. The spotlight flew across one row and stopped at the seat on the end. “Seated, perhaps, next to you.”

A man stood up. Several people shrieked, high and shrill. The man smiled at the crowd and walked down the aisle, his steps slow and measured, the spotlight marking his way. Thanks to a skilled plastic surgeon, his face was a perfect match to the hologram photos.

“And they did not always work alone!”

The beam of light split into two, the second moving across the aisles. It came to a stop on a man with thick dark hair and a mustache. Another woman screamed.

The theater filled with a reddish light. As both men stepped onstage, holograms swirled into being, images of pretty young women, several little more than children. The cheer of the crowd drowned out Ellie’s thoughts.

The men stood together in the center of the stage, both wearing wide grins.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the duo known as the Hillside Strangler, a deadly pair of cousins who killed at least ten young women in California.”

The holograms faded into images of discarded, abused bodies; autopsy photos; newspaper headlines. The crowd shrieked and clapped. The announcer filled in all the gory details as the simulation began.

Eight more men were brought onstage. More holograms, more bloody photos and twisted bodies. More horrified screams and shouts. The crowd reeked of excitement.

The theater darkened once more, and the announcer returned to the stage. “And now, for our last exhibit. This man killed without remorse, without pity. Almost forty women that we know of, though there could have been more, lost their lives at his hands.” The holograms flashed again. Women, young and pretty. Bones half covered in dirt. A tire iron flecked with gore. Handcuffs.

Ellie sat forward in her seat.

“He was a true monster in the shape of a man, a man with a smile so charming he could lure any woman away. He bludgeoned them, took them to secluded locations for nefarious purposes, then revisited their corpses again and again.”

The spotlight took shape, sliding across the aisles, moving closer and closer to the front rows.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, Ted Bundy.”

The spotlight stopped on the seat next to Ellie. Ted gave her a wink before he walked up to the stage.

More holograms flashed. More old-style newspaper clippings, pretty faces, crime scene photos of shattered skulls, bloody sheets.

The crowd shrieked at a fever pitch.

###

As their limousine pulled away from the theater, Ellie and Paul watched the Newsfeed monitor set in the center console.

The opening night of Skintec’s Traveling Circus of Madmen was a rousing success. Ten actors, plus one genetic, with the identity of the genetic unknown. Eleven more sold-out shows in as many cities will occur in the following weeks. Skintec’s stock prices are already rising.

“Eat your heart out, Redux,” Paul said, pouring out champagne.

“When we make the announcement,” Ellie said, “the Newsfeed is going to hand us stardom on a silver plate. We’ll have Ted’s face everywhere. I can see it now. Book deals and movie cameos, interviews, star appearances at benefits, award shows and museum openings, and the plastic surgeons will love it. Men will want to look like him. Women will want to look like his victims.” She shivered, thinking of the media rush and frenzy to come. “It’s going to be phenomenal.”

“All of the fame and none of the mess,” Paul said.

And if Ted caused too much trouble, they could always have him euthanized. It would be a shame, but it was an option. He was only a celebrity. If they made one, they could make another. Of course, if he did manage to escape, the headlines would be amazing.

She tapped her chin and hid a smile behind her hand.

###

The night guard didn’t blink an eye when Ellie walked in at three in the morning. He buzzed her in before she could swipe her passkey. Humming under her breath, she took the elevator down five floors below the surface to the secured wing accessible by only a handful of the Skintec staff. She passed the flesh shell growth labs, the implantation suites, and the cryo storage, her heels clicking on the tile floor, and arrived at a nondescript, unlabeled door locked with both key and bioscanner. Paul had insisted. After the scanner pricked her finger and verified her identity, the door slid open with a soft hiss.

Inside the small room, the Newsfeed monitor (she’d insisted) was set on whisper mode and the programmable hologram wall displayed a generic city at night with stars twinkling in the sky. How unimaginative, she thought. After the door locked shut behind her, she flipped on the overhead light and smiled as he sat up, blinking, with the covers pooled around his waist.

“What would you do with freedom?”

He frowned. “What do you mean?” he asked in a sleep-thick voice.

She stepped closer to the bed and dropped her voice to a whisper. “Would you kill?”

He swallowed several times before answering. “If someone with a similar history was out in the world, the urges inside might be too strong to resist. I suppose someone like that might act out—”

“Spare me the third-person bullshit. Would. You. Kill?”

“I don’t know. This world is pretty interesting. Someone, even someone like that—”

She turned toward the door.

“Okay, okay. Someone like me might realize what kind of opportunity this is. A new life, so to speak.”

“Really? You wouldn’t want to watch some pretty woman with long dark hair, maybe take her for a ride up to the mountains? We still have mountains. And we still have many, many pretty young women.”

He shifted in the bed. “Maybe I would. Probably I would. It’s a good thing I’m locked up tight in here, right?”

His expression was inscrutable, but his eyes told another story.

She waved one hand. “You were good at escaping, or so the old reports say. Do you think you could escape from this facility?”

He dropped his gaze.

“So you have thought about it. Good.”

He looked back up, his eyes shining in the light.

“But don’t waste your time. You can’t escape. You don’t have entry or exit access. Security is much different now than when you were around the first time.”

“Yeah, I’ve noticed.”

“We’re going to reveal who you are on the final night of the circus. After the announcement and your encore, while you’re being led out, perhaps something will catch the guards’ attention, or perhaps they’ll leave you in an unlocked room to check on the transport’s arrival. Who can say? These things happen. If such an opportunity were to arise, I want you to take it. And let me make it clear. Once you have your freedom, I want you to make your progenitor proud.”

“And if I don’t?”

“Then we’ll find you. Cold storage, if you’re lucky.” She tapped her fingernails on the wall. “Euthanasia, if you’re not. We can always make someone else. Someone who will be more . . . amenable to this opportunity.”

“What do you get out of this if I do as you suggest?”

“Why, you get to play. Isn’t that what men like you like to do? And while you’re playing your games, you make us all rich.” She turned to leave but paused with one hand on the door. “And Ted? It wasn’t a suggestion.”

###

On the circus’s final night, Ellie slipped backstage after the announcer made the revelation. The audience was screaming “Bundy! Bundy! Bundy!” and the echo of their shouts muffled the sound of Ellie’s footsteps. Media requests for interviews and appearances were pouring in, as expected; Paul already had Ted booked on every show imaginable for the next several months. It was a shame, really, but her way was better for business in the long run.

The guards standing watch outside the door to Ted’s dressing room nodded as she approached. Both were loyal Skintec employees about to receive sizeable bonuses in their next paycheck if they followed her instructions to the letter; if not, they’d find themselves unemployed before the night was out.

Ted was standing shirtless in front of a full-length mirror and met her eyes without turning around. Due to the subtle muscle enhancements, his current physique was far more appealing than that of his former self.

“I assume the guards filled you in?” Ellie said.

“I thought maybe you were joking,” Ted said, wiping sweat from his chest.

“I don’t joke about money, speaking of which.” She held out an envelope. “This should help.”

He draped the towel over his shoulder, thumbed through the bills, and whistled.

“Good luck and have fun. And please, when you’re finished, leave the bodies where they’ll be easily found.”

###

Skintec confirmed today that the rumors of Ted Bundy’s escape are indeed true. The details are sketchy at this time, but it appears a miscommunication between guards left Bundy alone in an unsecured area for a brief period of time.

Paul was waiting in her office when she arrived, pacing back and forth.

“Did you do this?” His eyes flashed. “Did you confirm the news?”

“Of course I did.”

“I thought we’d agreed to wait another week.”

“I changed my mind.”

He sank down heavily in a chair. “I still can’t believe you let him go. I’ve had to cancel all the scheduled appearances, the photo shoots. Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I knew you’d be too hesitant. Don’t worry, we’ll give the families genetic replacements. Free replacements. Imagine the press they’ll get after that. This is a win-win situation, Paul. Have you seen our stock prices? Relax.”

###

A fifth body was found today in the Highpoint Mountains, featuring Ted Bundy’s signature bludgeoning and subsequent decapitation. Mr. Bundy is nothing if not prolific. This is the fifth body in three months.

Beautiful Disaster Boutique unveiled a new line of Bundy T-shirts yesterday. Customers can pick from several slogans, including “Ted, I Want To Be Your Victim,” “Bundy, Baby, I’m Yours,” and “Ted Bundy Is My Hero.” All six designs are already on backorder.

“Where is he now?” Paul asked.

Ellie checked her handheld tracker. “Just outside Seattle. I guess the lure of the old hunting grounds was strong. Did you see the cameras out front already?” She nodded to the young woman behind the glass. “Her family isn’t coming to pick her up for another six hours.”

“Do you realize how much this has set us back? They aren’t cheap. We should never have agreed to replace them for free. And the added memory manipulation to create the death experiences? The programmers’ fees are astronomical.”

“Don’t worry, Paul. We’ll make a fortune from her media appearances. She’s our property now.”

Paul hissed in a breath. “Did you tell her parents that?”

“Of course not. Do you think I’m a fool? She truly is lovely. I can see why he picked her.”

###

Two bodies were found today in Snohomish County, Washington, which brings the number of Ted’s victims up to eight. Will he stay on the West Coast or move to the East? No one knows, but everyone is hoping for a glimpse of Ted! One of the latest victims was wearing a Beautiful Disaster Bundy T-shirt, and in response, Beautiful Disaster is offering free shipping for the next two months—

Paul stormed into her office a full minute later than she expected. She folded her hands on her desk. “Do you know how expensive this is getting?”

“Isn’t this fantastic? I told you, Paul.”

“We need to get him back in here and put him on ice for a while. At this rate, we’ll be broke in a year.”

“Hush. This is brilliant.”

“Ellie . . .”

“What?”

“If he keeps up this pace . . . Look at the projected figures for the next twelve months. He’s a liability.”

“No, he isn’t, and he’s better than anything Redux could come up with.”

###



Ted’s first victim, Kara Germann, made her first media appearance today on Wake Up World, giving the show its highest ratings since they interviewed Marilyn Monroe. Ms. Germann revealed her new line of perfume, inspired by her experiences with Ted Bundy. And Redux announced today they’ve created John Wayne Gacy.

Ellie snorted. “Please, he’s doesn’t have half of Ted’s charm. And what are they going to do? Put him in clown makeup and have a parade? Let them. They’re fools. According to the Newsfeed, he was the circus’s least-popular exhibit. I so wish we’d branched out into the plastic surgery arena. Do you know how many men have already had their faces altered in Ted’s likeness?”

“Ellie, this is getting out of hand. We’ve had four shell failures so far with the replacements because of the rush to completion dates, and the last one was touch-and-go for a while. We can’t afford—”

“Paul. I’ve heard enough. Shut the door on your way out, please.”

He opened his mouth to speak, but shook his head instead and left her office.

###

On the heels of the announcement by Skintec that Ted Bundy has been euthanized, seven women in Maryland jumped off the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in protest. The note they left behind said they didn’t want to live in a world without him.

A source at the Entertainment Regulatory Committee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, called it a serious blow to the industry.

Ellie swept the contents of her desk to the floor with one motion. Her monitor landed on the floor with a thud and a crack, pens went flying, and a statuette from the ERC, commemorating Skintec’s innovativeness, split in two. “Get out of my office, Paul.”

“Let me explain.”

She slammed her fists on the desk. “You cowardly son of a bitch. You couldn’t even tell me? You had to let me find out from the Newsfeed? How dare you do this. How dare you!”

“I was going to tell you this morning. Ellie, we couldn’t keep him. I told you, the replacements were costing too much. It was killing us.”

“We should’ve changed the policy then and charged the families half the price. We could’ve come up with something, but this. I can’t believe you destroyed him!”

“It was your idea to give the replacements away,” he said in a soft voice.

Ellie curled her hands into fists. He didn’t even have the good sense to pretend he was sorry. “Why didn’t you just put him in cryo?”

“Because how long would it have lasted? How long would you have lasted? I did it for the good of the company. Our company.”

“You’ve ruined us, Paul.”

“No I haven’t. You’re being overdramatic. We’ll make plenty of money with the victims.”

“Not enough. Damn you, Paul, for being so shortsighted.”

He held his hands out. “Look, we can make another one. One who won’t kill so many.”

“But it won’t be Ted. It won’t have his charisma, his charm. You know that Redux has made a pittance with Gacy.”

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“Maybe if you hadn’t let him go, things would’ve been different, but Ellie, you’re acting no better than one of those crazy Ted fans. Should I alert the media? Are you planning to jump off the roof?”

“Get out of my office.” She slammed her fists down again, this time hard enough to rattle the windows behind her. “Get out of my sight!” She put her head in her hands. He was so stupid, so incredibly stupid. When her hands stopped shaking, she pulled out her laptop, logged into the network, and scanned the cryo lab, but no recent entries had been made. It was too much to hope for anyway; Paul never could lie very well.

Then she checked their biomat database, but Paul, ever the efficient one, had also destroyed the backup. There was nothing left. Nothing at all. Unless . . .

She scanned the file bank of post-op samples, and there she found what Paul had overlooked. Granted, it wasn’t quite the same thing, but if the samples were viable, it was . . . workable. With a smile, she relabeled the samples, moved them into her private store—accessible by only her, or Seth, in the event of her death—and erased her data trail.

###

Paul Maxwell announced the formation of his new company today, PJM Enterprises, which will focus on research and development for the private sector. The industry was abuzz with rumors of familial discontent when Mr. Maxwell left Skintec last year, not long after Ted Bundy’s career was cut short.

When asked for comment, Skintec stated they wished PJM well with its future endeavors.

Ellie closed the door to the nursery behind her and tiptoed over to the crib. She smoothed back the dark hair on the infant’s head; he waved his chubby arms and legs in response. The nursery’s hologram walls showed a gentle pattern of light and shade, all meant to simulate the in-utero experience for a calmative effect. Pricey, but her son was worth every penny and then some.

Seth adored the baby, and he was a wonderful father. She couldn’t ask for much more. He didn’t know the truth, of course. He merely thought the blue eyes were a cute indulgence on her part.

She wasn’t the first person to pay a Lifeline technician to switch biomats. They didn’t care, as long as the material was viable and passed the testing. She would’ve given the surrogate a bonus, too, except they gossiped, and Ellie didn’t want anyone to know this infant was special. There would be plenty of time for that later.

No one would be able to euthanize her son. He was real, not property. And one day, he would make her very, very rich.

 

©Damien Walters Grintalis
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Damien Walters Grintalis

Damien Walters Grintalis

“Damien Walters Grintalis lives in Maryland with her husband and two rescued pit bulls. Her short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Strange Horizons , Beneath Ceaseless Skies , Daily Science Fiction , and others. Her debut novel, Ink , will be released in December 2012 by Samhain Horror.”
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