Friday, August 30, 2013

Fiction Friday: Methuselah: Bad News

For other posts in the series, visit the Methuselah page on this blog. 

They made up. Of course they did. And, as Marta had suggested, they called for appointments with their Genetic Counsellors. Because she had been offered a reproduction permit, Agnes got her appointment within days; Glen was still waiting for his.

Agnes hadn't seen her counsellor since her renewal decades earlier. Since she'd chosen career paths with her two previous Sesquis, it hardly mattered. So long as she could afford it, she could undergo indefinite renewals without genetic screening. Genetic counselling only mattered if you were considering reproduction.

Dr. Bundchen asked Agnes to open her mouth. He swabbed the inside of her cheek and placed the sample into a test tube on the counter behind his desk. He took his seat and they made small talk until a quiet ding signalled that the analysis was complete, confirming her identity. Agnes' dossier opened on his monitor.

"Well, congratulations, Agnes! This is big news, indeed. I thought you were going to follow the career path indefinitely - or so it seemed at our last meeting."

She did not feel his comment warranted any kind of response from her. It was really none of his business what she decided to do, or when. She nodded politely and made a noncommittal murmur.

"You've left things a little late this time, I see," his brow serious now. "Shouldn't we have seen you a couple of years ago? Wait. Six years ago?" He didn't even try to hide his astonishment.

"Well, you know how these things go," she shrugged, "busy and all that. No perfect time, no Mr. Right. Didn't want to give up life in the fast lane,"  she laughed.

His patronizing smile made her want to smack him with her bag.

"Unfortunately, time has not been on your side." He spun his monitor so that she could see the display. An incomprehensible array of bars and codes filled the screen. He used his fingers to expand one of the bars and tapped a purple segment. "That shows some genetic entropy of the telomeres on your fertility segment. It's not grave, not yet. But it is not reversible with renewal. You should know this."

Agnes felt as though she were sitting in front of her grade-school principal. She couldn't help blushing and looking down. She'd been taught all this, of course, before puberty. But it hadn't mattered to her then.

"Women keep thinking they can push this off indefinitely and modern medicine will magically make it all better. Well, we aren't gods! When we first started the renewal therapies, a fifty-year Sesqui seemed a reasonable amount of time to wait before resetting the genetic clock. And it's true for most aspects of aging, but fertility is still a very odd thing. It's only a matter of time before they close the door to reproductive permits after the second Sesqui. Count yourself lucky for getting in before the door closes.

"Ordinarily," he continued, "if you had come in for renewal on schedule and if it were in your second Sesqui rather than your fourth, you would expect a reproductive window of about a decade, more or less. Every woman is different, of course. But the damage you have allowed to take place has reduced that window. Can't say by how much. Maybe by two years, maybe by five." He turned away from the monitor and looked at Agnes, who was trying desperately not to cry, her chin and cheeks twitching. Dr. Bundchen pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes. "When is your renewal?"

"Two weeks." Her throat constricted.

"Well, my advice to you is this: if you want to have a child, do it now. You're not getting any younger." He glanced again at the bars and codes, shook his head and pressed his lips into a disapproving line.

Agnes pulled a tissue from the box on his desk.

"I'm sorry I didn't have better news for you, Agnes," he softened as he saw her eyes and nose glow pink. "But the good news is that you are still able to reproduce. Your ova have been preserved with no damage, so the implantation should be unproblematic.  Whether your body can sustain the requisite hormonal production to sustain a pregnancy is another matter, of course." He noticed he'd made her cry again and mercifully stopped talking.

"I will submit the validation of your fertility status to the Department of Reproduction," he concluded. "What happens after that is up to you."

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