She came into the room, small and quivering like some sort of frightened rodent. James could tell that the girl wanted to wrap her arms around herself, to huddle in the corner and hide away, but she carried on walking, her hands at her sides, stiff and awkward.
James had once tried to reverse the roles and think about how he would feel if he were a Donee – that had made him laugh. How on earth could he envision himself as one of them? Still, he did try, and he came to an obvious conclusion. How could he possibly be nervous about something he was born to do? Granted, that some of them weren’t born into the system, but those that signed up had even less of a reason to be scared. Besides, Triple S looked after them, gave them shelter and food, cared for them and asking for nothing but cooperation in return.
They’d had some troublemakers in the past, those that tried to escape. It was dishonourable, foolish, illegal and never ended well. Donees were legally signed away as Triple S property as soon as they entered the programme. They had no choice if they were chosen whether they liked it or not.
The girl stopped and waited in front of the long table, her shoulders still shivering. She couldn’t have been cold. It was roasting, heat flying out from the radiators attached to the plain white ceiling. She was definitely nervous. James was yet to meet one that hadn’t been nervous actually. Even the ones that Carer Marie had warned them about. “She’s a handful that one, Sir. A disgusting excuse for a human-being.”
James had been told Carer Marie was the best Head of the Female Donee Department (FDD) they’d had in years, but he found it hard to believe. For one, they obviously had very different definitions of the word ‘handful’. The girls she’d always described as problematic always seemed to be snivelling by the time they entered the Meeting Room. They were just in need of a firm hand. That was all.
She’d given a description for this one too. “Completely brain dead. Nothing between the ears but air, Sir. I hope that doesn’t affect the formula?”
Stupid woman, of course it doesn’t affect the formula. They’re taking their bodies and souls, not their personality!
James waited for Professor Keenston, the Head Advisor, to speak, say his usual introduction to the Meeting. It was the typical corporate, dull formality that he’d heard a thousand and one times, but they were obligated to explain the process to them before the procedure.
James puffed out, ready to shut down his brain for the next ten minutes when he saw them. Big brown eyes staring into his. He froze. She was staring at him directly in the eye as if…as if it was nothing. In all the years James had worked as an Advisor, he’d never once seen a Donee do that. It was a sign of utter disrespect and disregard for your superiors. Everyone knew that.
“Do you consider yourself better than your superiors, Donee?” Professor Keenston had noticed too. His voice booming angrily next James. He was a large man, with a stomach so wide that it was practically sitting on the edge of the table and a bald head, covered by an conspicuous combover. If anyone needed Formula Y it was him. James often wondered why he didn’t use it.
The girl looked over at the Professor and then shook her head, short, blonde curls catching in the light from the small window behind the desk. She still hadn’t lowered her gaze.
James’ heart was fluttering. It was devastating to see such disrespect from such a low being as a Donee, but also rather entertaining. The life of a Triple S Advisor was well paid, but terribly mundane.
“Then lower your eyes Donee!” The Professor shouted. James wrinkled his nose, as he watched the spit flail onto the white top of the table. He hated sitting next to the Professor. It was like holding a spoon under a tap of running water and just standing there.
The Professor was panting now. All that shouting had made him out breath. James didn’t know anyone so overweight or vile as the Professor, but he was not someone you wanted on your bad side. He just wished if he was forced to look at his ugly face everyday that he would use some Formula Y and get some exercise. It really wasn’t that difficult. The minus thirty formula would do nicely on him. Three times a week at the gym and he’d been looking great.
James enjoyed exercise. It would have been harder if he’d been like Professor Keenston, the formula only made you look younger, it didn’t take away the fat. Of course, the Professor could always get that sucked out. He could afford to do that. A few of James’ friends had done that at the golf club. But to James, there was nothing better than the feeling you got after a long run or session on the squash court.
James had actually just changed from the minus ten to the minus twenty formula after he noticed Freddie, his squash partner, was looking a lot younger and better than him. They had a competitive friendship on and off the court.
“Twenty’s the new forty,” Freddie had said with a quick shake of the hand and a wry grin, after beating James again at squash.
James looked back to the Donee, who had now lowered her eyes to the floor. She was still shaking, but her hands were clasped. He studied her carefully. Her nails had been bitten, chewed right down as far as they could go, but the rest of her was neat and shiny. The Carers always made sure they looked nice for their Meetings. She was small though. Too small for fourteen. He checked the papers just to be sure.
Donee type: Current Pregnancy Donation (CPD)
Donator: A. Miller
A. Miller. He knew that name. She was a frequent donator. One of her other ones only had their Meeting last week. He looked up at the small blonde girl again. She didn’t look anything like the last one, except for the curls.
“State your name,” Professor Keenston’s voice was cold and distant. He usually introduced himself first, but James could tell he had been thrown by the girl’s bad attitude. He was hardly looking at her now, his eyes staring down at the paper. He was probably checking her age as well. They couldn’t use the wrong age. Each formula was different and making sure you had the right, specific age was essential. He’d heard horror stories of when they first started developing the formula. People dying because their cells aged too young, too quickly. Then there were the mutations some suffered with…
“Ana,” the girl said.
Ana? James had heard from Carer Marie that some of the girls had – “a stupid habit of renaming themselves – utterly ridiculous” – but none of them had ever introduced themselves like that to the Professor.
The Professor looked up at her, his eyebrows raised. “Your real name, A2-2195.”
“Oh…my code? I think you just said it, Sir,” she replied quietly.
“I think you just said my code name, Sir. A2-2195, Sir.”
“Do you think you’re amusing, A2-2195?”
The girl shook her head.
“Do you know what I think?”
The girl shook her head again.
“Do you want to know what I think?”
“I…I don’t know, Sir?”
“Let me tell you what I think. I think that you think you’re very amusing. I think that I’m going to tell you exactly what the process involves and then I think I’m going to tell you that I’ve stripped your last week privileges and then I think that you’re going to go back and tell everyone why I’ve done that. Any questions?”
She paused and the nodded. “Sorry Sir, but what do you want me to tell them?”
The Professor stared at her for a few moments, his lips twitching and then he screamed. “Get me Carer Marie now!” More spit landed on the table.
James tried hard not to pull a face at the saliva. He looked at the girl again and then back to the Professor. “Professor, if I may…Carer Marie did advise that the girl may have some cognitive issues.” He tapped the side of his head gently with a finger.
“I don’t care if she’s the next prodigy child or her brain’s a pile of mush! I am not prepared to allow a Donee to speak to me in such a derogatory manner. It’s preposterous!”
The girl was looking at them again, her eyes wide and pleading. “Oh Sirs, I am so sorry. I didn’t mean to upset anyone. Please I -”
The Professor let out another low scream, not letting the girl finish. His chest puffed angrily under his shirt buttons as he shouted, “get me Carer Marie. Get her now!”