Short Story: The Newest Generation, Part Two

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Part Two

One thing the government is afraid of is exposure. They utilize a lot of energy trying to hide things in plain sight so that no one gets suspicious. Using this logic, the peculiar children of Central Valley were required to live in the homes they were born into. So far, none of the families had moved. Perhaps some of the reasoning was because they were so centralized in one location and therefore already convenient for study.
Still in contact with Jody, Arnie asked if there was a way to meet Addie and the child she had borne.
“I’ve discussed this with my sister,” Jody conceded, “and we haven’t been able to figure out a way. We’re taking a chance as it is, even communicating with each other under the radar. Considering the security involved, it’s surprising we haven’t been discovered.”
Knowing Jody had developed a system for messaging her sister clandestinely, Arnie didn’t ask particulars. He didn’t want to know.
The professor pressed Jody for information, asking about Addie’s routine. A chink in the armor appeared, and the two conspirators decided to make use of it. They designed a way to get a small window of access, one that would limit the chances of Jody’s sister being exposed.
Addie and her offspring made two trips a week to a centralized medical facility. She was allowed to drive the two year old from their home to the building, followed by security in a government vehicle. Security was not allowed to associate with either Addie or the infant.
    
The plan went off without a hitch. Two grad students with questionable theses, caught in the act of plagiarism, were recruited to drive vehicles. They boxed in the security team at a blind corner with a believable fender bender, delaying them. Addie accelerated ahead and stopped at the next intersection even though the light was green, picking up Arnie. He exited the vehicle at the next corner with blood samples and pictures. Addie arrived to her appointment within the allotted time frame, and no one in the government car was the wiser.
§
The descriptions of the unhuman child did not prepare Arnie for what he experienced. Seeing was believing. The child was not human, but it was beautiful. More petite in size and features than a human baby, it barely had a nose. Overly large eyes tracked the professor during their short encounter, obviously intelligent. Still, the first impression was of a small primate. Fine hair covered the child’s body except for its face.
Later that evening, Jody and Arnie consulted by cell phone regarding the information they had gleaned.
“Well, Addie says she’s seen them all. Even the Kansas kids were flown in to be evaluated in the Cali facility. They all look alike, even the ones with the black parents.”
The professor paused and then expressed, “That’s two of the Kansas couples, right? That’s interesting. Apparently the genes affected are dominant to human coloration. Perhaps they even replace those genes. So, all of the kids have the same patterns, too. Going from a uniform coloration to a natural appearing pattern suggests devolution, but I had the strong impression the kid was highly intelligent.”
“No reason to think otherwise,” Jody commented, “since the older children are vocalizing words. They just seem delayed.”
“We can’t assume delay,” mused Arnie. “After all, humans are vastly more delayed than other primates. In fact, delay may mean more highly evolved.”
Changing the subject, Jody brought up a newly discovered piece of information. “So have you been able to find the mother that lost her baby? I really would like to talk to her. She’s got to be a wealth of information.”
“Yeah, I agree. And no, no luck finding her. Once she stopped getting paid, she seemed to vanish.”
Arnie considered the single mother’s disappearance suspicious, but he was trying to maintain his objectivity until he had better information. There were enough conspiracy theories floating around in their investigation, to say nothing of the wild fancies that imagination inspired.
The conversation continued, winding down as fatigue dulled thoughts and sleep beckoned. They covered a lot of ground until then. Much of the conversation centered on finding the mechanism for the sudden genetic anomaly. So far the only factor in common seemed to be a rural environment. Arnie and Jody agreed that they would have expected mutation in an urban setting. The last thoughts of each were similar before they drifted off. Where was the missing mother, why did her child die, and the always nagging question… were there others?
§
While Saknussen and Jody made every attempt to keep their investigation clandestine, and they were fairly successful using amateurs that knew nothing about the big picture, it was inevitable they would fail. After the secret program directors in charge found out their cover was blown, their first impulse was to squash the unauthorized interest. Unusually, the head honcho, Doctor Foster Iekido, was an out-of-the-box thinker. He conducted his own investigation and was intrigued by the ramifications of Saknussen’s field of study and his unusual ideas. He vaguely remembered the professor being mentioned as the government HR department churned through employment possibilities for the “Alien Child” program. Since it looked like the dangers to the program could be easily contained, and close scrutiny could be maintained while Iekido harvested anything Saknussen found, he decided to feed the professor and his associate some information under their radar. Perhaps a new set of eyes might find something worthwhile.
§
“Professor… I found something. There’s a rumor of an older child. Nothing I can confirm, but I just had to call you.”
“Good timing, Jody… because I just got some new information. The woman we’ve been searching for is living with her sister in northwest Arkansas. A little town called Decatur. Three hundred miles, more or less. How do you feel about a road trip? We can talk about your lead on the way. If the info pans out, it’s even more exciting than mine. Maybe the missing mother will know something about an older child. After all, she was one of the first.”
“I’ve got classes until Thursday. Can we leave Friday morning?”
“I’ll pick you up at your rooming house. Seven too early?” 
§
After waiting for Sandy Shultz to wake up, and again for her to shower, and now to clear her head from last night’s drunk with strong coffee, Arnie and Jody were beginning to unravel. The two had arrived at the decrepit older house before Sandy’s sister had left her house for work, just missing her husband’s semi pulling out on a long run. The sister listened unenthusiastically but let them in, warning the two that if they wanted anything from Sandy they better let her wake up on her own.
Inhaling a vape, the woman that might have answers sat on the sagging couch with a thud. She didn’t bother looking at her visitors, instead rifling through magazines and searching the cushions for the remote control. Jody, anticipating, had hidden it with Arnie’s approval.
“We need some help, Sandy,” began the professor.
Sandy looked up, but remained silent.
“We know about your child,” explained Jody in a low voice.
No response.
“Don’t you want to know what’s going on?” The professor decided to change tactics. Perhaps the loss of a child would need answers, and they could give her something. Even if it was only speculation.
“Naw, I got no interest. The thing died, an’ they stopped my payments. There ain’t nuthin’ more to say.”
The loss of a child seemed to have little interest with Sandy, and her attitude seemed unlikely to produce any information of use.
“Addie says ‘Hi,’ Sandy,” tried Jody. “She asked us to find out what happened to you, that you just up and disappeared, and she was worried about you.”
This news seemed to wake Sandy up. She considered it, seeming to be making an effort to focus.
“I liked Addie. She was as scared as I was,” responded the disheveled woman, “an’ she was sorry my thing wasn’t right.”
She laughed, sounding desperate.
“Right… as though any of them were right.”
Arnie decided to take the plunge. He expected Sandy to shut down quickly, and if they didn’t get some information soon, she would probably never give them anything.
“Why did your baby die, Sandy? What was wrong?”
At first, it seemed they had gone too far, but suddenly…
“They said it was the alcohol. Fetal alcohol syndrome. They said even a human baby woulda had problems. They blamed me for drinking.” Sandy looked stricken, but she continued. “Hell, I didn’t even know I was preggy. I didn’t know until it was six months along. I knew somethin’ was wrong as soon as I figured out I was preggers. I had two kids already, kids I gave up. I woulda give this one up, too, but they wouldn’t let me.” She hesitated. “It was a cute little shit. I gotta admit that. But it was never right.”
The two travelers were encouraged. They’d never expected so much, and they dove in with more questions. Sandy opened up. The more she spoke, the more she wanted to speak.
Although alcoholism made Sandy appear ignorant, she was cannily aware of what went on in the facility inspecting her product of birth. Sometimes, she seemed confused in relating her time there, but for the most part she recalled a lot and related it willingly. She also knew about an older child. She had met him. She even remembered his name and his parent’s names. They lived in Kansas City. The parents worked for a company the professor and Jody recognized. A company famous for genetic manipulation.
For Professor Saknussen the cosmic tumblers began to fall into place.
§
Driving back, the Professor of Evolutionary Genetics explained his new understanding to the young grad student with the vested interest. They would have to interview the older child’s parents and get samples to confirm Arnie’s theory, but everything pointed to a direct fit with his ideas about sudden evolution. He never imagined the human race would be the species providing the example proving species could evolve dramatically without missing links, but it was ever more clear that he should have suspected.
§
A year later there were thirty-two more unhuman children for a total of forty-four. The rate of birth was increasing, and it was becoming problematic keeping the program under wraps.
Soon after the  interview between Professor Saknussen and the twelve year old unhuman’s parents, he and Jody were “invited” to the secret facility Jody’s sister continued to visit regularly. Doctor Foster Iekido greeted them warmly, thanking them for assisting in the clandestine investigations without their knowledge. They were properly shocked and somewhat perturbed on finding they were under surveillance without knowing. Doctor Iekido already knew everything contained on Professor Saknussen’s computer and quoted much of his conversation with Jody during their cell phone discussions. But he wanted to speak to the expert geneticist in person to extend an invitation to join the program. Jody was offered a job as well.
§
Arnie agonized over his personal journal. He wrote, 

“The numbers project greater frequency of the new species being born than human births within twenty years at current rates. Although many people have panicked, trying to suggest everything from euthanizing all new species children to finding a vaccine (not a chance). They just don’t understand, there is no going back. The children continue to amaze me. They are kinder than us, and they work better together. Not that they can’t be aggressive, because I’ve witnessed them in action. They seem to understand the world better, reality at least. They have no delusions as far as I can see. I’m not sure they will be technological. They understand, but have little interest except when it benefits everyone. It seems so much of our technologies don’t really benefit us, and they have shown us by example. I consider, over all, they are superior to us. I suspect the GMO cascade that created them, farm families taking the brunt through increased exposure, will diminish after humans become a minority. One thing… my theory is proven, but I have no legacy. There will be no human legacy that matters to the newest generation.”

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