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Holly Schofield

Wyld FLASH May 28th 2021

Danielle dashed out of her apartment building onto the icy New York sidewalk. She’d have to hurry if she was going to visit her fetus before meeting today’s clients.

Ahead, the store windows darkened and the billboards went out. “Hell!” First, the pandemic, then taxis on strike and, now, another blackout. NYC was turning to crap. Why couldn’t people smarten up?

At least her local power grid hadn’t failed: her own apartment block was still lit. Maybe she should head back home? No, not with her new parental duties. Her boyfriend Jared thought that visiting the eight-month-old fetus was as pointless as talking to a houseplant, but he was wrong. Danielle had made herself a promise: weekly visits right up until the decanting–and she hadn’t become a top divorce lawyer without keeping to her high standards. She was determined to do all the dutiful things a parent was supposed to do. Well–she stroked her flat stomach–all but one. Being compromised by actual physical pregnancy would mean her billing hours would drop–and that would be completely unacceptable.

Ahead of her, high rises began to light up as backup generators came on. Hopefully, the artificial uterus clinic had a backup system in place, too. Danielle threw herself into the back seat of the uber and occupied her mind with possible lawsuit structures if the amniotic broth of several hundred client’s potential children suddenly went cold.

Forty minutes and twenty-five blocks later, the pink and blue doors of the clinic gave way to her impatient push. She stomped slush off her boots. She’d say the minimum recommended words to little Emma, then rush to her office.

 The receptionist rolled her chair over to the counter. “Welcome to Twinkle In Your Eye Ltd., where happy babies are–oh, it’s you.”

Danielle gave a perfunctory smile. “I’m here to see Infant X7834TR.”

The receptionist pressed her lips together and buzzed open the laboratory door.

The usual lab technician jumped as Danielle strode in. “Our backup power is good for a super long time. Honest!” She tucked frazzled strands into her hairnet.

“And how many hours might that be, exactly?” Danielle switched to her court voice, assertive and no-nonsense.

“Um, six?” The technician avoided looking at her, glancing instead at the racks of blinking acrylic boxes, each the size of a large old-fashioned microwave oven.

Danielle held up her phone, showing the results of the search she’d done during the uber ride. “Last time this downtown power grid failed, it was offline for four hours. And the time before, five and a half. You’d better be prepared.” She laid still-icy fingers on the warm plastic of Tank X7834TR. Murky liquid and dozens of skinny tubes obscured the tiny creature within. “Little Emma,” she murmured. She was sure–quite sure–she could feel an emotional connection.

“That’s X7834RS,” said the tech. “Yours is over here.” She pointed at the next rack, one row below. “We shuffled them to accommodate some extra orders.”

Well, honestly! How was Danielle to have known? Parenting didn’t come with instructions, and she’d declined the artificial hormone treatments some people used.

Something the tech had just said pulled at her. “So they can be moved?” It did seem reasonable that the tanks were detachable, given the upcoming growth stages.

The tech nodded. “In fact, if the power outage continues much longer, we’ll be taking the tanks to our warehouse…I mean, our secondary facility in Jersey.” She flushed.

“And this…warehouse…is fully equipped?”

“Sure, the tanks can be plugged into any standard socket. And each tank has a small power unit for travel, good for three hours of heat and air. No worries.”

“I didn’t say I was worried. Irritated, definitely, but not worried.” How dare they mess with her fetus like this? As if Emma was an abandoned suitcase at the airport, left to freeze on the tarmac. Danielle stroked the tank. A warmth filled her, a solid glow of resolution and firm resolve, like when she’d testified to Congress about marital asset division.

This shoddy organization wasn’t good enough for her little Emma.

Her daughter needed a safe environment.

A place with reliable power.

Like her apartment.

“I’ll be taking my daughter with me. Right now.”

“Huh?” The tech blinked.

“I hope you’re recording this.” Danielle raised her voice and stared toward the security camera. “I’m withdrawing my biological property from this processing facility as is my right under our mutual contract signed eight months and fourteen days ago, the day my stored egg was inseminated.” She knew the date by heart. Jared had given her champagne and a chocolate cigar.

“Um, are you sure?” The tech gulped air. “The tank weighs forty pounds and it’s going to snow all day.”

And the cabs were on strike.

And the tank wouldn’t fit into most ubers.

Well, she’d just have to persevere. That’s what parents did. She marched back out to the receptionist. “Get up.”

“Beg pardon?”

Danielle used her best court voice. “I’m taking your chair under the Emergency Act of 2024 of the state of New York.” There wasn’t any such thing but they could try and charge her with theft of the chair later.

The receptionist hesitated, then stood and pushed it forward.

A few moments’ work with the belt from Danielle’s coat and the tank was tied securely to the chair. Danielle wheeled it out the door and then bumpily along the wintery sidewalk to the first intersection.

She was breathing hard. Good thing she’d done all that pilates at the gym this past year.

One block down, only twenty-four more to go.

Someone smiled at her in passing and she bared her teeth at them. No, parenting wasn’t easy, dammit.

But she was clearly so very very perfect for the job.

Author Bio:

Author Bio: Holly Schofield’s stories have appeared in Lightspeed, Analog, Escape Pod, and many other publications throughout the world. You can find her at hollyschofield.wordpress.com.

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