(01-12) Midget Switching

The American Futures counselors always went out to lunch at Mr. Ping’s on Tuesdays, when Mr. Ping’s Root Beer was free with the buffet. The root beer was an aphrodisiac, as well as having a mixture of herbs that caused mild hallucinations. The counselors would typically be about ten minutes late, and mildly perceptually altered, every Tuesday. This would give Louis enough time to remove the vent and disappear into the ductwork.

As requested, Louis showed up, with A-Bomb, fifteen minutes early for his one o’clock appointment. It took less than ten minutes for the blood draw and for the admin person to check his paperwork. “It seems to be in order,” she said. “Please understand that the selection process isn’t personal, and the criteria are based on genetic diversity as well as selection for intelligence and physical attributes.”

“You don’t get many midgets applying, do you?” Louis asked.

“I’m not allowed to discuss that,” she said. “If you’ll come with me to the to an examination room to wait for the counselor? And you …” she said to A-Bomb, “will have to wait here.”

She used a remote to click open the door to the secure area. She held the door for Louis, who had in his pocket a device which recorded the remote’s signal frequency and could replicate it.

The American Futures Project was an attempt to save the human race during a time when the atmosphere of the planet was facing the possibility of methane poisoning from the warming oceans. The human species was preparing for self-destruction as impotency in males accelerated. Potent males, as Louis proved to be, were becoming more rare. Their sperm was being collected if they proved genetically compatible with the injectable DNA computers developed by the corporation. “This problem will be solved and we will rise from this a stronger human race,” the President had said. Nobody paid very much attention, as he had not proved to be credible on anything else.

The idea of selection for a master race seemed almost charmingly naive, something from a hundred years ago. There were cluster designs done by computers, now, based in population distribution of genetic material that was dormant, but needed to be preserved to provide maximum diversity. What qualities might make the difference between evolving and not evolving in an unknown future were guesswork at best.

The DNA computers would select what was needed for a particular environmental adaptation, and size was one card needed in the deck. If Louis was selected he would be assigned two writers and a director. They would reduce his life down to a set of stories which could be programmed into the computers in his sperm. These stories would be the personal history of any descendants sired by him, and would be activated along with his genetic code.

Louis had correctly guessed that a perfectly formed midget would be of interest to America Futures Corporation because in an more intense gravitational field smaller size would be imperative. He had suggested this on his application, which Paris had read. “If the criminal mind turned toward noble purpose it would succeed as well as it does in confidence games,” she said.

“Sure,” Louis said, “but I am what I am, and I’m not going to do all that work. What we’ve got here are some very rich and powerful people who know they aren’t going to survive the collapse of the atmosphere. None of us will. So they’re going to gamble on sending their sperm, armed with supercomputing power, into space. How are they gonna do that? I’ll tell you how; they’re going to clone themselves. All they need people like me for is genetic variation, and it’s going to be turned off unless required.

“There’s not gonna be a clone that looks like me, I can tell you that. The only genes they might turn on from my little donation are the ones that select for size, so I’ll just supply shrinkage for some fat cat, you see?”

“I don’t really understand it,” Paris said, “but I’ll take your word for it.”

“Good, because I know what they’re doing. But what they don’t anticipate is somebody stealing the god brew right out from under their noses. Everything is supply and demand. As soon as we have the supply we can make the demands. The only hard part is what to demand. Cash isn’t what it used to be. They can trace it.”

“So what are you going to demand?”

“We have to wait for the negotiations,” he said.


“We’ll see what they offer. It doesn’t matter much because all I’m doing is stalling them. I don’t have any intention of giving them back their god brew.”

“Then what are you going to do with it?”

“All in good time,” he said. “People don’t understand what I do, Paris. This job, it isn’t for the money. This is my art. I know when you say it’s not the money, it’s the money. Sure it is. But the money is just part of the art, not the reason for it. What I’m doing, what we’re all doing, is performance art.”

It was one o’clock. Louis left the examination room and went back to the door. He held the recording device close to the lock mechanism and played back the signal. The lock clicked open. A-Bomb slipped through the door. They quickly went back into the examination room where A-Bomb scooped Louis up onto this shoulders to put him at eye level with the vent. In less then twenty seconds the vent was removed and Louis had disappeared into the ductwork. In another twenty seconds the vent was back in place and A-Bomb was slipping out the door. He used the recording device to trip the lock and when the door opened, Paris, dressed exactly like Louis, slipped through. He pointed to the door where she was to go.

At fifteen minutes after one the counselor stood in the examination room, saying, “It’s not unusual for someone to get second thoughts, Mr. Short. Take some more time to think it over if you need to. It’s a big commitment.” If not for the effect of the Mr. Ping’s root beer she might have wondered why this was such a pretty man, but she didn’t wonder. She was hallucinating a little and at one point thought Paris looked like her Uncle Harold, who was six feet tall and had bad skin.

Paris rode on A-Bomb’s shoulders past reception, so that Louis would be seen leaving.

The admin didn’t give them a second glance.

Posted: Sat - April 19, 2008 at 07:15 PM