Written in 365 Parts: 119: Servitude

The woman stood as Marsh walked through the door and into the room. Drick had told Marsh that she was identifying as female and was happy with female pronouns. “Hi,” he said after a brief pause.

“Hello,” she said uncertain. She smiled briefly and a slight look of puzzlement crossed her face. “You seem so young and yet older than I expected,” she said with a nervous laugh. “I don’t know what I was expecting really. Do you know who I am?”

“I know your name and I was told that you are the person who gave birth to me, which is a rarity on this planet.”

“It’s been a rarity for a long time. What do I call you?”

“Well I am not sure I can stomach you calling me son, so let’s stick with Marsh. Do you want to sit?”

“Yes,” again a tight smile, “thank you.” She sat down and waited for Marsh to take a seat. He pulled out a chair and sat opposite the one she had sat in.

“You wanted to see me?”

“Yes. I wanted to,” she paused, “I don’t know what I really wanted if I am honest. I think I wanted to apologise to maybe make something right. But I seem to have made a bad job of that.”

“Do you know what happened to the others? Like me?”

“I don’t have full details. I know they died.” She looked down. “I paid a researcher a considerable amount of money, over some length of time, to give me as many details as they knew. It was them in the car. The person who died. They had an accomplice who got away.”

“Who were they?”

“They worked at the lab where you were raised. I know they had experience with the last three of the Marsh children. They did the programming of events. I don’t fully understand what it was about and they didn’t explain much to me. I saw them a few times while I was pregnant before tracking them and approaching them. They were the most likely person to respond to my offers of money.”

“How did you know that?”

“Expensive detection work revealed they had a lavish lifestyle they enjoyed but could barely afford.”

“Money. Figures. And their friend?”

“Another researcher at the lab. I have a bit of information about them. I had a name and a contact number which I guess is a start. I met them a few times, they generally switched their look a lot. Advantages of working out of a major pharma genetics lab I imagine.”

“I guess that you should tell us everything you know. I have no doubt that Drick will want to talk to them. I know I do.”

“Of course. Anything I can do to, well, help I guess.” She looked at the artwork being cast to the walls for a few minutes. “I never realised what I was signing up for, when I originally did this. You realise that?”

“I’m afraid I don’t know anything.”

“I suppose I seem like an inhuman monster or something.”

“Not really. Why don’t you tell me about it. I really don’t have many stories from real people in my memories, they are all fake, a different me. So it would be good to have something real, to know something about my own past and the lives of the people I am actually connected to.”

“Yes.” she paused again and took a sip from a drink. “I was greedy. I would love to claim that I was young, or naive, but that wasn’t true. I had been tanked almost forty years previously and was onto my third genetic alteration. I was working as a hostess for hire.”

“What’s that?”

“A well paid prostitute is what most people use the service for. But some just want to be seen with a partner who gives them all their attention. It is a power trip either way. A status symbol. If you can afford the rates of high class service staff you indicate your corporate position. So many of the executives are on the same basic pay grade, with duplicate houses, the only way they can show their bonuses is in objects. That’s what I was, an object on show.”

“Seems empty.”

“It was, it is. But you can earn a decent living and the clients are usually very respectful of boundaries and rules. I rarely had to insist on good behaviour and the tips were often generous.”

“So how did you wind up being a mother to the Marshs?”

“I had to have very regular health and genetic checks. People paid for a quality of person. I have always been fortunate in that my genetics were of very good quality and my tank was the best. A product of wealth and a parent who worked at the right genetic facility. I was invited to have a deeper set of DNA tests and examinations from my records kept by the organisation. They had discovered my close match to your parents.”

“How is that possible?”

“I really don’t know, I am not an expert in genetics.”

“Sorry, go on.”

“Well it was simple, they suggested that if I underwent a procedure to change my genetics to be an exact match I could be a surrogate for a child that they needed to be raised via natural birthing techniques. I would be the recipient of someone else’s sperm and egg, pre-combined of course. For that I would be paid handsomely, have access to medical procedures to extend my life and never work again. I jumped at the chance.”

“I see. So what changed?”

“I would love to say that giving away the first child was hard. But I am afraid it wasn’t. I knew I was getting a great deal and I had every reason to believe the child would be taken care of well since they had paid so much. I didn’t want children of my own. But when they asked me to do it again, it was a little harder. I grew tired so quickly of knowing nothing, I got little information. The money kept coming but I also knew that they had me only as an investment. They needed me alive and well so they could keep trying to make you, for whatever purpose they needed you. I was a hostess once more. A servant. A prize. Just a very expensive one. I had a significant wealth and I had managed to invest it well. So, although I continued to be a surrogate I started to amass money and the means to gather information. I have been thinking about what to do for over fifty years, I just didn’t know it would go so badly wrong.”

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