Lily is sitting in the back of her parent’s BMW. Since she is in the seat behind her mother, she directs her question to her father who is in her line of sight: “Hey Dad, do any of your Jewish friends give you a hard time for owning a German car?”
“They used to, honey. It’s become acceptable for Jews to drive German-engineered cars. There is only so long you can hold a grudge if you intend to have a positive outlook on the future.”
“Try saying that at a Rodney King rally.”
“Lily, watch your tone.”
“I meant nothing by it, Mom. I’m sorry. So, to sum up the car lesson today, ‘holding a race-based grudge too long can hinder a positive outlook on the future of humanity.’ Gt it!”
“Don’t be melodramatic, Lily. This family subscribes to a simple mantra: We are all God’s children. Everything works according to his plans. Our part is to be accepting of everyone and never judge what they believe.”
Lily’s mom looks out her window and does not reply. This is usually the case when she rides with her parents. Someone starts a conversation and offers what they believe to be the only possible points and counterpoints. Then, Lily weighs in with the voice of another generation, causing her parents to go quiet and stare out a window. There is little she can do about it—“their car, their rules.” Lily is not allowed to play her music to escape these mini-conversations. Her Walkman and headphones are off limits. For some reason, her parents like to think of travel time as family time. No matter, Lily is bored with the game at this point, so she drops the discussion.
A few miles later, they arrive at the security checkpoint for Humanetics, Inc. The guard greets her parents kindly, but gives them the third degree about Lily’s presence on the grounds. Her father asks the guard to check the guest pass with Dr. Steven Abbott. “We have Lily cleared at Level Two security. She can go anywhere we are authorized to go.”
The guard returns to his small office to make a phone call and ask for a copy of the clearance. After he taps a few more keys on his computer keyboard, he seems satisfied. He lifts the gate with a forced smile. “You are free to enter. Please pick up Lily’s security badge from Dr. Abbott. Then I can clear her instantly on future visits. Lily, carry this form with you until issued a badge. Enjoy your time here.”
“Duly noted. Thank you.”
Lily’s mind is already racing. She totally intends to enjoy her time here. She is on a quest to understand DNA engineering as it pertains to the next generation of humans—and to impress her debate group with her new insight into the designer baby industry. “I am going to break this topic wide open at George Washington University.”
Bruce smiles at his daughter’s confident remark. “I have never doubted you will change the world, Sweetie. Your mother and I have some strong feelings about that. So Lily, this is where your parents go every day after you head off to school. Security is tight, so follow all the rules if you want to maintain your Level Two clearance, okay?”
“I understand. No biggie.”
A minute later, another group of guards stops them. They check Bruce and Deborah’s badges as well as Lily’s security paper. They take a photo of Lily.
“Jeez, what is with all the security? Is there a cure for cancer in here insurance companies are paying these people to keep under wraps?”
“Lily Rose Parker. You are not to make such accusatory or cynical remarks on—or, for that matter, off—these property grounds. Do you understand? This is a place of science, focused on the advancement of humanity. There is no room for sarcasm here. These scientists take every statement literally. Because of the nature of the work done here, any innuendo made regarding impropriety could be grounds for revoking your security clearance. To use your vernacular—‘got it?’”
When Lily’s parents use her middle name, it is a sure sign that they are not messing around. She addresses it immediately. “You’re right, I know better. I promise not to do it again. Forgive me?” Lily flashes the dimples.
Bruce parks the car and opens Lily’s door. When she rises to stand before him eye-to-eye, he answers her with a tone that is his equivalent of yelling. “That promise better stick.” Lily knows a response is not advisable at this point. Her father was perfectly clear.
The next hurdle for the trio’s entrance into the facility is a huge set of iron doors protected by two women. They just want to check badges and the security pass. The guards obviously know her parents well and were expecting her to be joining them today. Once the family is through the iron doors, there are no more people in sight. There isn’t even a reception area—just two long hallways of doors. It strikes Lily as odd there are no windows. It is a completely sterile environment. Even the doors are nondescript. They do not have titles or names on them, just codes.
They walk about halfway down the hallway and stop at a door on the left. The code on the sign is simply “DNA-MOD3.” Her parents use their respective thumbprints to unlock the door. A female voice comes from the speaker next to the door and asks for Lily’s security clearance. Bruce gives her the requested information. The door opens. Inside, there is a beautifully decorated seating area, a small kitchen, and two offices on opposite sides of an open sunken living room.
“This is where we do our paperwork and come to relax on breaks.” Her mom shoots her a smile. “Not bad, right?”
“It’s nice. Do you ever worry about not having windows?”
“It’s part of the security requirements here. The panels on the wall open to the outside if there is a fire or other safety concern. So we aren’t exactly locked in.”
“I wasn’t asking a safety question, I was wondering if you miss natural light and seeing nature—like trees and rain.”
Lily’s mom picks up a remote, points it at a blank area, and pushes a button. A digital image fills the entire wall. It’s a waterfall scene—complete with sound effects. “Will this do?” Her mom smiles as she puts down the remote.
“Cool. So what do you do first?”
“We pray.” Deborah walks to the sofa and sits down. “We begin each day by asking the Creator for wisdom. We ask our work be without error and done to the best of our abilities. Does that seem odd to you?”
“I guess not. It does seem a little redundant since you ask for those same things every night in your prayers at home.”
“Are you suggesting something?”
“Are you worried the Creator forgets things from the day before? I mean, when you repeat prayers—are you doing it because you want to remind him, because you doubt him, or because you want to show him you really, really want this thing?”
Lily’s father steps back into the conversation. “Lily, you’re doing it again.”
“Innuendo. This time, you’re questioning our worship methods.”
“Okay, okay. I’ll stop asking questions altogether.”
“And now we are back to the melodramatics.”
“Lily, don’t use that dismissive word. You know we don’t approve of it.”
“Sorry, force of habit. Can we just do the prayer thing? You must have a boss waiting on you somewhere.”
“Yes, we can begin. First, we join hands… and before you say anything Lily, just do it.” Bruce closes his eyes. Her mother does the same. Not that they would ever know it, but Lily closes her eyes as well.
“Dear Creator, we stand before you on this beautiful day with joy in our hearts. Deborah and I want to thank you for the great responsibility you have bestowed upon us to perform the work we do. On this special occasion, we also want to express gratitude for having our wonderful daughter here with us. Please open her mind to receive the blessings you have planned for her this day. We ask you help us to responsibly handle the intricate human tissue into which you breathe the very essence of life. Help us to know the boundaries of where we end and you begin. Guide us so we do not inadvertently destroy any life you create here in this facility. Amen.”
Lily pats her father’s back. “Amen, Dad. That was beautiful. Where can I start?”
“Well, the first hour is pretty standard. We answer emails, upload data from the evening shift and analyze any anomalies. If you can hold tight for an hour, we can get you doing something more exciting.”
“Great! Can I walk around the place?” Bruce looks to Deborah for approval. She nods slightly.
“Ok, carry your security paper with you and if you’re stopped, be respectful and explain you’re an intern here. Have them call us.”
“Lily, if you are granted access to any of the labs, be careful not to touch anything. There are cameras everywhere, and there is no denying responsibility for contaminating an experiment. Scientists are mild mannered people until you mess up their work.”
Lily smiled. “I know Dad. I’ve seen Dr. Jekyll turn into Mr. Hyde.” She giggles, picks up her security paper and heads into the hallway. She is convinced of one thing—people who willingly work in this morgue-like building must be the most boring people on Earth. She supposes there are corpses behind some doors. That would explain the absence of windows. I wonder if they take cadavers that look like Brad Pitt, scrape off some DNA cells, and make more hot men, she thinks. That is totally what I would do if I were in charge of a DNA facility.