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art by Melissa Mead

Ned Thrall

Amalia Dillin began as a Biology major before taking Latin and falling in love with old heroes and older gods, but sometimes she relapses into science in her fiction. She lives in Connecticut with her husband, and dreams of the day when she will have space for goats (or maybe space goats). You can find Amalia online at blog.amaliadillin.com and on twitter @AmaliaTd.
...choose from a wide variety of the finest genes. Galactic athletes, interstellar stars, and even Dr. Habber's own genetic material is on file in our banks. Remember, with the right combination of traits, you'll be giving your child the best start to a successful life!
"Can't you turn that off?" Ned asked. "Is there a reason I have to suffer that insult every time I show up for a check-up? How do you think that makes me feel?"
The medical-bot raised its head, staring at him with yellow eyes. "If you'd like to record your feelings for the doctor, you may begin now."
Ned cursed and kicked its plastic chassis with his hairy foot. "I don't want to record my feelings. I want you to shut off the effing advertisements, you pile of bolts."
"Does the advertisement make you feel angry, sir?"
He growled. "How would you like to be treated as a second class citizen just because you weren't grown in the right kind of vat? You think just because Homo sapiens learned to fight dirty faster that it gives you the right to jerk with peoples' chromosomes? By all rights I should be particles of cosmic dust right now, but no, you fools just can't leave well enough alone. Thanks for nothing, Doc!"
"Saved to your file, sir," the bot said. "The doctor will see you now."
It floated away before Ned could give it another piece of his mind, and he scowled, rubbing at his oversized and too-hairy jaw. He'd need to go see the specialist. Body fur was sprouting everywhere, again. And of course all the fancy zap-it-once-gone-forever hair removal treatments weren't approved for use on Neanderthals. Only Humans got that kind of perk. The ones that were even designed to grow body hair at all, anyway.
"Well, well! Ned! And how is life outside the crèche? Are you assimilating well?" Dr. Habber took out a scanner, plugging it into Ned's ear without so much as a by-your-leave. "Good, good. Brain function is still high. Impressive how the genes haven't deteriorated yet. I wouldn't have thought we'd have a viable male for years, but there you were. Kicking and screaming and ready to club us over the head." Dr. Habber laughed, and Ned's hands balled into fists, his heavy brow falling over his eyes.
"Andy will be reaching maturity soon, too, you know. We'll set the two of you up in a nice place. Food and shelter is in the contract, of course! And a bonus for any children. Even still-born! Anything we can pull the genes from will do quite nicely!"
"And then what?" Ned growled. "You want us to have kids so you can take them apart? Offer us on special to the paying customers with odd tastes?"
Dr. Habber laughed again, clapping him on the shoulder. "Don't be silly, boy! It's your stock we need for that new planet opening up. You'll get a nice world all to yourselves as soon as we've worked out the kinks with the crumbling DNA. Well. At least until it's been terraformed into something habitable. Then I suppose they'll move your kind to the next one...."
"My kind."
"Today's human is hardly fit for that kind of labor. Not a shred of insulation left on our bones anymore. No one wants any kind of fat. We don't even stock it! And of course you've the natural strength, that fine pelt on your back, and the thicker bone structure. Built for hard labor, even if you are bit on the primitive side."
Ned's knuckles cracked when his fist hit the doctor's face. The man's jaw snapped and Dr. Habber dropped like a rock to the floor.
"Sorry, Doc," he said. Even if the man was unconscious the room would record it and put it in his file. "Must've been the Neanderthal coming out. Nature versus Nurture, you know."
He made sure to stop at the desk for his lollipop on the way out.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, November 9th, 2011


Ned Thrall sprang from a challenge by a fellow writer to stretch myself. A series of conditions were set, including genre, and a doctor named Habber. Maybe someday Andy will throw a few punches, too.

- Amalia Dillin

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