The Extraterrestial Expansion Grants Committee was in session. “Next we have Dr Rozina Tortosa,” the Secretary read from the agenda. “Dr Tortosa is going to present on the viability of her proposal to genetically engineer settlers for Guel1974e.”
“She would be unaware of item two, wouldn’t she?” The Chairman glanced around the table.
“The information has been very close held,” answered the Committee member who’d presented item 2. “However, as the press release is being issued as we speak, I think we should tell her.”
“Agreed,” the Chairman nodded. “That will allow her to move onto a new project as soon as possible. Ms Gosling, please show Dr Tortosa in.”
The young woman in the dark suit rose from her place at a side table and went to collect the doctor from the antechamber.
Dr Tortosa was a dark haired, olive skinned woman in her thirties who wore a tailored charcoal suit and front buttoning white shirt with a pastel baby sling across her front. “Mr Chairman, thank you for allowing me to present today. I trust all the Committee members have had a chance to review my notes?”
The Chairman spoke up, “Before you proceed, Dr Tortosa, you should know that there will be no colonisation of Guel1974e.” He held up a hand as she went to speak, “It is not because the authorities have decided that there is no viable colonisation strategy, it is because sentient life has been found there.”
“I…see,” the doctor seemed stunned. “I’ve put a great deal into the Guel1974e project. I never expected this.”
One of the committee members, a gene-engineered hermaphrodite with pointed ears said, “Dr Tortosa, please sit down. You seem quite shaken. Perhaps we could discuss your technique and review your viable specimens? If I understand your method correctly, it would seem to have applications beyond your Guel1974e work.”
“Thank you, yes.” The doctor sat down. “The advantage of this method is that you drop the new gene template in over the existing genetic material so you don’t have to design the entire person.”
“You told us that last time,” replied the Chairman. “We’re looking for a proof of concept.”
“Oh, yes,” Dr Tortosa undid the baby sling, “this is Jevva.” She picked the blue skinned baby up off her lap and held it up to her shoulder, patting it comfortingly on its nappy-swathed bottom. “She’s six weeks old, has been meeting all her milestones and her tests in a Guel1974e simulated environment have been excellent.”
“So, she can adjust between a Terran environment and the one on Guel1974e?” That was the military member of the Committee.
“Of course, Colonel,” the doctor spoke calmly around the baby, “my aim was to create human colonists, not a new species.”
“And what will you do with her now that colonisation of Guel1974e isn’t a possibility?” The pointed-ear member of the Committee asked, leaning forward intently.
“Take her home and bring her up, of course.” The doctor looked at the Committee member as if she didn’t quite understand the question. “I had thought she’d be one of the first colonists, but that’s obviously not going to happen. She’ll have to go into something else.”
“So,” the ethical specialist spoke up, “where did you get access to an artificial womb for your proof of concept, doctor? I don’t believe we gave you authorisation for that, last time we met.”
“I couldn’t get access to one,” Dr Tortosa admitted, “so I gestated her myself. Jevva is genetically and bodily my daughter.”
“And the paternal parent?” It was the Colonel who asked that.
“I purchased a sample from a commercial reproductive supplier. As part of their standard contract, I have all parental rights.” Dr Tortosa looked defiantly at the Committee.
“Somewhat dubious, Dr Tortosa,” commented the ethical specialist.
“I would not have done it if I had not been satisfied that it would work.” Defiance was practically hissing off her.
“Dr Tortosa,” intervened the Chairman, “your technique obviously works in at least the short term and we would like to discuss among ourselves the possibility of putting you in contact with certain other projects that could use your expertise.”
She was surprised. “Thank you.”
“And Dr Tortosa,” the pointy-eared hermaphrodite was holding out a small, translucent oblong, “please take my business card. I may not be the only one of my kind, but I can talk to Jevva when she’s older about being the first of my kind.”