art by Tim Stewart
by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Most of Noma's study friends were growing their own boys with the new Vampire, Werewolf, or Wizard Seed kits. Her best friend Celestine invited Noma to the grow room in her family compartment to take a look at a half-grown vamp.
"I specified the golden hair and dark eyebrows," Celeste said, "but he opened his eyes for the first time yesterday, and they're this weird greenish color. I ordered sky blue. Skies were blue, right?"
"They look that way in the history holos," Noma said. Noma glanced sideways into Celestine's eyes, which were the blue they had always called sky.
Celeste turned toward Noma, and reflected grow-light flared in her eyes. "What?" she asked.
Noma shook her head and rubbed sweat from her forehead. The wet air was thick with the smell of grow matrix, acrid and sour. The grow room sweltered under too-bright lights; its dark red walls were beaded with water. It was small, a standard-sized room for growing things that didn't need a lot of space. Noma and Celestine barely fit into it with the boy; the tending station was designed for one person. "Can't you turn on the blower?"
"Not while he's growing. He needs this atmosphere," Celeste said.
Noma squatted and stared at the naked boy rooted in the growth matrix. He was still in his chrysalis, a membrane containing him, binding his arms to his sides, and cloaking him in a glistening layer of cloud. His face had fae eyebrows, straight lines that started at the bridge of the nose and aimed above the ears, like an interrupted V. The features were perfect, just like the vamps in the trancies. Noma leaned closer, staring into that perfect face with its slender nose and full red lips. The rows of dark eyelashes fluttered. The eyes opened. They were larger than human eyes, almost anime eye-size, and they were a strange pea-paste green. She leaned away from him, bumping Celeste. "Eww. Did you buzz the dispensary?" Noma asked.
"They said they'd send someone to collect and replace him if I wanted, but I'm kind of curious now. Once he hatches, the warranty expires, though, and I'm stuck with him. I think I have a couple more days to decide. What do you think, Nome? Want one like this? Or are you going to be a traitor and go to the wolf or wizard side?"