16


THE PAST

Like precious gems in a jewelry case display, row after row of Petri dishes pass with the press of a button, each row representing a set of biotic samples with variations in color, texture, moisture, resiliency, and numerous other features less conspicuous but equally definitive. Cultured from embryonic stem cells these lines of living tissue are infinitely replicable. Derived from totipotent blastomeres—derived, in turn, from donor eggs—each group owes its origin to a 'baby-in-waiting' never to be born. It is this 'potential' viability that has stirred a wasp’s nest of controversy. When are humans human, not mere clusters of cells, and why are they ,are we, off limits when conducting certain experiments? Stuyvesant Fink, quite frankly, cares not one jot. What interests him, at the moment, is neither why nor when but…

"Who, I'd like to know, could be the source for a swatch as superb as this?"

The skin specimen labeled '2NA’ is positively opulent.

Stuyvesant, consigned to routine tasks of brain-numbing repetition, recording sequence upon sequence of “a” “c” “g” “t” and countless permutations, is impatient to strike out on his own, and has, in fact, engaged in some renegade experiments—none endorsed by the University, all indeed abhorrent to the culture at large.

"Beautiful! Flawless! On a scale of 1 to 10, this is a 12! Flesh like—hers, I presume (?)—is worthy of a patent. Would that all integuments could glow with such luminosity!"

Shedding his right latex glove, Stuyvesant ventures a touch—index finger jerking away on contact with the uncanny cross section, its feel so uncannily alive its surface threatens to blush at his naked indiscretion, goose bumps raised in truth from his digit's inquisitive reintroduction, stroking now massaging now irresistibly fondling the prepossessing flesh, pondering where on the anatomy (were it to have one) the sample might reside.

This, in turn, serving to underscore the problem faced by engineering grafts; namely how assign a specific stem cell to a specific area on the body’s multi-functional envelope? Furthermore, how to match it with a given recipient’s sex, age, race, and size? Questions still unanswered. About which Stuyvesant Fink, restating his attitude, cares not one jot; his agenda and that of the university's already have diverged.

With one hand placed on the specimen, the other hand rifling through a file, Stuyvesant garners details, comparing errant guesses against pre-recorded facts:

an eighteen-year-old
freshman

(incorrect; she is a nineteen-year-old sophomore),

impregnated by her boyfriend during foreplay, pre-ejaculate ushered further in by his subsequently-sheathed member, penetration causing her to claw rouge-red tattoos on his piston-pumping bum

(wrong again: she donated eggs after answering an ad in our student body newspaper)

motivated by greed, no doubt, or to fund her burgeoning drug habit

 (a hike in school tuition was her stated reason for needing financial aid)

shortly afterwards panicking, her production labeled "meager"

(the fertility drug administered, to the contrary, induced a record yield)

consent form kept a secret from her traditional Chinese parents

(correction: French-Vietnamese parents)

reluctant to be photographed in the buff, she tried to hide her face

(nope; here she is, face front, eyes on the birdie—amazingly pure complexion)

5 foot 6, slim of hips, breasts like plump persimmons, and scarcely any body hair

(5 foot 5)

tresses black as obsidian

(‘tresses’? That's a ponytail)

almond eyes, lips full—arranged as by a pout

(or a pucker)

and tip to toe ensconced in the most exotic, erotic epidermis

(which admittedly is the donor's most dazzling trait).

Caught, or nearly caught, by an interloping lab technician, Stuyvesant breaks both augury and contact, releasing the laminated info-card with withdrawing his unprotected hand, leaving the dish and its pulchritudinous sample for later 'requisition.'

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