Choose Your Kid's Adventure
by Meghan Renee Jenkins
The salesman pulls another file out, hoping against hope that he'll get to go to lunch soon--an appointment had gotten flipped in his directory. Instead of a quick consult to help a middle-class family choose their children's virtual reality upbringing, he's helping a general and his wife flip through book after book of real-world upbringings. Each of them is engineered for maximum excitement--for the upper classes who can afford them. He's halfway through pitching an option where their son would be raised as a janissary, then go on a mission to return a "magical" jewel, when he mentions the 20% failure rate. He winces as the woman's shrill voice cuts through the air.
"I'll not have our child dead, so if we could please see some reasonable options." The salesman nods agreeably, and pulls out the packets of safety-guaranteed upbringings from his right-hand drawer. The scarred face of the man across from him stretches into a grimace as his wife settles back, satisfied. She rests a hand on her belly, round with child.
"One of our most popular options is that of a country boy who finds passages under the house of his aunt. As it's a closed environment--some little cottage our company's bought in Scotland--there's more room to customize the experience." The mother shakes her head.
"No, he'll need something a little more refined. I myself was raised as a princess near a unicorn glade, perhaps you have an alternative for a prince, with a dragon?" The vendor stands and rummages through the fantasy upbringings on the top shelf - they aren't often called for, compared to the more modern or timeless ones, as they're god-awful expensive. "And all perfectly safe, of course, we'll want--"
"No!" The general's face has reached a shade hovering near mulberries, and his clenched hands are very close to leaving dents in the cheap wood of his chair. "I won't have it--no guarantees of safety. He'll live and die by his own merit."