The company’s children
Originally published on ForgeFiction
At a disciplinary meeting
Tara stood frozen as Kristen’s words sank in. She had known the rules, of course. Donating genetic material (aka having children) was forbidden, and violating the Rules of Global Conduct was the gravest offense one could commit within Kidsor Inc. But she had thought that her love for her partner, another employee within the company, would be enough to keep them both safe.
Now, she stood accused of breaking the rules and carrying a child, a child that would be taken away from her and sold to another company-nation. Tara felt her heart break as she realized the enormity of her mistake.
Kristen’s voice broke through her thoughts. “What is your choice?”
Tara felt her heart sink as Kristen presented her with the ultimatum. She had always dreamed of having a family, but she knew that her loyalty to the company came first.
Without hesitation, she straightened her posture and looked Kristen in the eye. “I choose the company,” she said firmly.
Kristen nodded in approval. “A wise decision, Tara. You understand that the Rules of Global Conduct must always be upheld.”
Tara felt a twinge of sadness in her chest as she imagined what could have been. But she quickly pushed those thoughts aside and focused on her duty to Kidsor Inc.
“I will pay the regular fine as originally intended,” she said, determined to accept the consequences of her actions.
Kristen smiled. “Very well, Tara. You have shown that you are a true Kidsor Inc. employee. I have no doubt that you will continue to serve the company with distinction.”
Tara nodded, a sense of pride swelling within her. She knew that she had made the right choice.
The very next day
Tara received an email from Kristen Tolden. Her heart sank as she read through the disciplinary notice. Kristen reminded all employees of the strict Rules of Global Conduct, emphasizing that physical intimacy between fellow employees was forbidden and would not be tolerated. Tara knew that this was directed at her.
As Tara scrolled down, her eyes fixed on the fine of +1000 credits. She couldn’t believe it. This was a significant amount of money, and she didn’t know how she would ever pay it back. The email continued, detailing the procedure for the fetus removal, which would be performed by Dr. Carrera during her work break at 2 pm.
Tara felt a wave of despair wash over her. She knew that she had no choice but to comply with the company’s orders. She couldn’t risk losing her job, and she knew that the company always came first.
Feeling defeated, Tara paid the fine and accepted the meeting invite.
Four years later
“How long has it been since you last saw her?” Mai asked Tara, a question she posed at least once a week since transferring to Kidsor Inc. six months ago. Mai’s eyes widened with curiosity, while Tara’s narrowed in evasion.
“I haven’t seen her at all,” Tara lied. “She was placed in a synth womb a month after conception. I don’t even remember how old she is anymore.”
It was a reflexive response. Tara knew precisely how old her daughter was: four years and twenty-eight days.
Mai collapsed into her chair, sipping her coffee. “At Trantor United, genetic donors still get to see their offspring at least a couple of times a year. I heard that back in the day, donors and offspring used to live together in families. Why do you think they stopped?”
Tara stifled a groan.
Mai was a rare transfer from another company. She was all pink sneakers, colorful scarves, and irrepressible curiosity. From day one, she was assigned to the desk beside Tara’s and housed across the hall from Tara’s room. Proximity alone would have cemented their bond, but they also connected emotionally.
But she despised when Mai started the “why” game.
“The offspring get more benefits from the company than they would if they lived with their donors in a family. Plus, donors can have more fun and less work. What’s not to like?”
Tara remembered a time when she too craved deeper connections and questioned the underlying truths of their society.
“Doesn’t it get tiresome hearing about this all the time?” Tara asked, stirring her tea for the tenth time in thirty minutes.
Mai shrugged. “Not really. It’s more tiresome to just keep toeing the line with Kidsor - earning points by working every day and spending it on fun perks”
“Hey, speaking of fun perks,” Mai said, leaning over towards Tara’s desk, “I booked us a spa day this weekend. You’re coming, right?”
Tara hesitated for a moment, thinking about her daughter and the guilt she felt for lying about seeing her. But Mai’s invitation was a rare opportunity to escape the monotonous routine of work and earn some well-deserved relaxation.
“Yeah, I’m in,” Tara said with a small smile. “It’ll be good to unwind for a bit.”
Mai grinned in response. “Awesome, it’s going to be so much fun!”
From: Tara Venkatesan email@example.com
To: Mai Ngân firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Raincheck on spa day?
I can’t make it to our spa day this weekend. Sam gave me a special assignment and I need to impress him for my next promotion. Let’s reschedule for Monday.
From: Kristen Tolden email@example.com
To: Everyone firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Company announcements - Week of 5/22
Good morning Kids!
We exceeded our sales target by 11%, and as a result, everyone gets a +20 credit bonus.
The Trantor United meat benefit will be reduced from +50 to +10 credits and RetroFit’s Spa is out of commission until the weekend after next.
Don’t forget to congratulate our new graduates and join the online ceremony at the 2-3pm break.
We also have two departures, Ravan Na was let go and Mai Ngân passed away in the spa malfunction. Free donuts in the break room for Mai’s funeral.
Kristen Tolden from HR
On her way to her desk
As Tara read the email, her phone slipped from her hand and clattered to the ground. Mai, her friend and colleague, was dead. The shock of the news hit Tara hard, and she couldn’t help but question why she hadn’t gone to the spa with Mai that day. Her voice grew louder with each repeated question, drawing the attention of her coworkers who shifted away uncomfortably.
As Tara’s agitation grew, Sam approached, but his concern seemed more like a thinly veiled threat to comply with his wishes. Tara felt powerless, wondering if she would ever be strong enough to stand up to middle management like Sam.
In the break room, Tara watched in disgust as her coworkers pushed and shoved each other in the donut line, oblivious to Mai’s death. The lack of empathy and compassion made Tara question if anyone cared about her own life or death. She made a quick excuse to Sam and left.
Tara’s mind was racing, her thoughts consumed by Mai’s sudden death and her own life choices. She couldn’t concentrate on work anymore. Why was she busting her butt for a company that didn’t care about their employees? Mai was right. Tara needed to take action and see her daughter, no matter what it took. She would do whatever it takes to make it happen.
Tara slammed her laptop shut and stood up from her desk, feeling a newfound sense of determination to see her daughter no matter what it takes.
Tara’s heart raced as she sat unauthorized at the desk, cluttered with Charizad figurines, of an HR employee. She knew she had to act fast before her absence during work hours was noticed and she was placed on leave. Her hands trembled as she attempted to guess the HR employee’s computer’s password, her mind consumed with the fear of being caught. Desperate to see her daughter, Milli, Tara knew she had to access the children’s ward, but she had no idea how. So, she pretended to wait for Kristen, hoping to sneak in when the opportunity presented itself. But an hour had passed, the fear of being caught was overwhelming, and Tara already felt like she looked too suspicious.
As soon as one of the HR employees left, Tara seized the opportunity and sat down at the desk, which was covered in Charizard figurines. She had to act quickly before her absence during work hours raised any red flags and she was put on leave or let go of.
Could the employee really have been so obvious as to use “Charizard” as their password? Tara wasn’t sure, but she decided to give it a shot anyway. And to her surprise, it worked. She was now logged in and had access to the employee’s computer.
Her hands shook as she navigated the system to find Milli’s information, unsure of what she was doing but determined to try.
She ran a curl command from the terminal to grab the temporary token and apply it to her credentials. This might allow her to trick the computer systems into thinking she was this careless HR employee checking out the children’s rooms. Tara knew there were holes in her plan, but she still had to try.
Using HR employee’s credentials, Tara made her way to the children’s ward, hoping to blend in with the other employees. The camera’s watchful eye made her nervous, but she had to take the risk. She knew she only had a few precious minutes before her break ended, and she had to find Milli before then.
As she searched the rows of cribs, Tara’s heart sank. There were so many children, and she had no idea which one was hers. She knew she had to be quick, but she couldn’t risk drawing attention to herself by getting back from her break late. She was already too suspicious, and she didn’t want to make it worse.
Tara tried to push aside her desperation and break the task down into manageable steps. She knew that every child in Kidsor had a unique ID, and the employees likely used it to differentiate the cribs. After examining a few cribs, she found a white label with a number on the side, giving her a lead. But she only remembered part of Milli’s ID, which meant she had to rely on Kidsor’s obsession with perfection and optimization. She was certain that Milli, like all other Kidsor employee-citizens, was born slightly premature after eight months and five days. This placed Milli’s birth month around February, which meant she had to be in the next five or six rows of cribs.
Two minutes before the end of break, Tara paused halfway through her search, feeling the weight of the camera’s watchful eye on her. She knew she had already broken the rules and the consequences could be severe. Her desperation grew as she considered the possibility of getting caught, but she pushed the thought aside and kept searching. Even if she never found Milli, Tara knew it was too late to turn back now. The urge to run out and confess her mistake surged through her, but she quickly dismissed it. Maybe, just maybe, her extreme circumstances would be taken into account.
Tara’s mind began to spiral, and she recognized it as a result of Kidsor’s conditioning to always follow company rules. She knew she had to push her thoughts aside and stay focused on the task at hand. She needed to find Milli, no matter the cost.
Tara’s heart raced as she peered into the crib, and her eyes locked onto the little brown girl in white scrubs. It was Milli, the missing child she had searched for tirelessly. Her hands trembled as she reached for the name tag, and her eyes brimmed with tears as she whispered, “This might be her.”
But her joy was short-lived. Milli’s cries shattered the moment, and Tara froze, unsure of how to silence the child. She reached for Milli’s mouth, and to her surprise, Milli’s tiny hands grasped her own. In that instant, Tara felt an electric shock pass through her body, and the room fell silent.
What did Tara expect to come of this? She would see her little girl and then leave her again. Everything would go back to the way it was. Maybe. But maybe something would be different.
The weight of the moment overwhelmed Tara, and she collapsed onto the floor, holding Milli tight. Her sobs mixed with Milli’s coos, and time stood still. It was as if the world had stopped turning, and all that existed was the warmth of Milli’s body against her own.
As Tara lifted her head, her eyes locked onto Milli’s, and in that moment, she knew that her search was over. The sun rose again, and Tara felt the weight of her past fade away. All that mattered was Milli and the bond they shared, a connection that could never be broken.