WATERMELON KIDS Tom Mazanec It is not necessary to alter one's body to be transformed. Sometimes learning something about yourself can do the job... Brandon was awoken by his father, while the sun was beginning to shine through his bedroom window. "Congratulations on turning 14, son. We will have to stop at the genescan center for your genescan, and afterwards I'm taking you out to the restaurant to celebrate. It's too bad your Mom isn't with us this year to see what a nice young man you are turning into." "I know, Dad. But I already received a birthday present last night. The Demontfort University emailed me that they accepted an article I wrote comparing the disputed Tercentennial Election last year with 1800, 1876 and 2000. I'm a published author two years before I drive! That should help me get accepted there in three years!" "I'm proud of you, son. But already a year ahead in school and a straight A student. You have nothing to worry about getting into college, my boy." Brandon and his father walked past the display case already accumulating basketball trophies to have breakfast. They decided to skip lunch, in order to have more room for the celebration dinner. The genescan center was only a few blocks away. Brandon knew enough to bring along an e-tablet to surf while waiting, while his father was reduced to reading an old paper book someone had left in the waiting room. Finally, Brandon was called in for the genescan that would become his adult ID code. The technician pressed the probe to the back of his hand, and Brandon felt a prick of the needle. Several seconds passed, and then the probe made a loud buzzing sound and a small red light lit up on its base. The technician frowned, and punched a button on the side of the probe. The light and buzzing stopped, and the probe was pressed to Brandon's arm. A pinch, the light went on and the buzzing resumed. "Something wrong?" Brandon asked. The technician said "Something seems to be wrong with the probe. Wait a moment." He went to a closet and took out another probe, and repeated the genescan. With the same results. "Is there anything...unusual...with you medically?" "I was a '63 baby, so I was lucky to be born...I had to be transferred to a tubewomb because my Mom caught the Lilith virus. I also got four extra premolars when my permanent teeth came in. The dentist said that happens once in a long while. Would that cause the problem?" "The teeth might be a mutation, but that shouldn't do this. And we've already had some kids who were in tubewombs, so that can't be the problem. Look, you have all month to get genescanned, and this isn't your fault. I'll talk to my superior and see what she has to say. We'll get back to you in a few days." Brandon and his Dad went to the restaurant, his father grumbling about incompetent government workers. Brandon pretty much enjoyed the meal, but was vaguely uneasy about the odd experience. ********************************************************************** Daniel proudly held up his sign "MAMMALOID=BESTIALITY=ABOMINATION" while his mother brandished a cross at the demonstration at the mammaloid factory. He said "What about the genescan centers? Should we do something about them? Especially as I turn 14 next month? Will we demonstrate there next? And what about the tubewomb clinics? Aren't they demonic, too?" "They are sinful, yes. But Daniel...I think I'd better tell you something about them. Women use them now because they don't want the inconvenience of pregnancy, but 14 years ago was different." "They were still wrong! Sin is sin! Those women should have let their babies die and be with the Lord. Isn't that what God wanted?" "I don't always see God's way. But that was not God's work. The Friends of Gaia created the Lilith virus to make women unable to bear children and "humanely" exterminate God's most beautiful creation. Women were desperate to save their unborn children...as was I. Daniel, me and your father were not Born Again at the time. You were gestated in a tubewomb yourself." "WHAT!..." "Dan, Dan, it's not your fault. Any sin is mine and your father's. And you will not make that mistake. If you feel that genescanning is wrong...well, I don't know about that one myself...our Church is still debating that. But if you feel opposed to it, we will back you up. The government claims it helps catch criminals, and lowers health care costs, and tries to force Americans to have it. But there are Christians in jail who could walk out today by being genescanned, and if you decide to join them for the Lord, we will both be very proud of you!" There were tears in his mother's eyes. ********************************************************************** The carnival was mobbed by visitors, and virtual reality booths, floatball games, and quorpoid stands were doing a hefty business. Joshua waited for his father to finish his seventh attempt at the dunk tank. Twice he had hit the target eight times, and once he got nine hits, missing the last ball. But he hadn't got the necessary ten in a row. The armadillo mammaloid simply sat on the chair above the tank, a small but deep pool recessed in the ground. It was impossible for an almost reptilian face to show human emotion, but its entire body seemed to radiate fear and despair. Joshua stepped closer to the wall around the tank, stepping over the red line. "Hey, get back, kid! That ain't water there! You get a few drops of that splashed on you and you'll get a burn you won't forget for a good while! We pride ourselves on our safety record, and we don't want anyone to be injured at this carnival." "Why do you make people hit the target ten times straight to drop the toon? We already have to stand so far back. It must take years for someone to dunk a toon." "Well, we go through about one or two toons a year. Remember, we have to pay extra for exotic mammaloids like pangolins or armadillos, that are the ones people want to play dunk-a-toon with. We have to make a profit, you know." "Why do you use them, then? Why not just use a ferret or rat or rabbit mammaloid?" "Armadillos and pangolins have protective scales. It takes them a minute or two longer to die in the tank. The crowds get to watch longer, so they have more fun. Sorry, it looks like your Pop had another nine. Want to try again? You're the best I've seen this year." "Damn right. I've got plenty of e-credits. I'll dunk that toon if it takes all day!" Again, the numbers on the LCD screen climbed. "Why won't the toons try to run away?" Joshua asked. "Where can they run away to? The nimrods would be after them like flies, and they have implanted transponders. They would be dead within a day, instead of a year." "Why not use a mannequin or a big dog?" "A mannequin's no fun. And animals are not artificial, like mammaloids are. It's against the law to be cruel to animals." Joshua's Pop had played a lot of baseball for his company team. He hit the target the tenth time... ********************************************************************** "TRI-V NEWS breaks the news! We have just learned that several "children" have been genescanned as lemur mammaloids. This particular species, of course, are the most human looking of the mammaloids, with their use mostly in the sexual recreation trade. The mammaloids apparently had their tails amputated in infancy, and were actually raised as human. We now bring you an interview with Dr. Tanya Ling-Chu of the Genetek Mammaloid Corporation. Reporter: Could you please tell us how the **** this could have possibly have happened? Ling-Chu: The individual responsible was my predecessor, Dr. Maria Cortez. As you know, she became an advocate of the crack-pot cause of mammaloid rights after working with them for some years. But we can hardly believe still, that she would do something like this! There are some details that will remain confidential, of course, both temporarily, while the...defects...in our system are plugged up, and probably permanently. But basically, it's a consequence of the Lilith virus. Many thousands of children had to be transferred to tubewombs in order to survive to birth. The mammaloid factories, both ours and our competitors, were commandeered to provide this service. The cure came in December 2063, but until then we were the only institutions able to meet the crisis. Dr. Cortez amputated the tails of some lemur mammaloids and used xenotransplantation to graft them to some '63 babies. And raised those children as mammaloids, too. We will, of course, cooperate in rehabilitating these children... Reporter: But how could animals pass as humans? Can't you tell someone doesn't have a human mind? Ling-Chu: The mammaloids have human level IQ's. In fact, some mammaloids, such as the ones in the Moon Base, have second generation intelligence amplification genetics, and have IQ's approaching 200. Reporter: You mean they're smarter than us!? Next you'll claim they have human instead of demonic souls! Ling-Chu: I am a scientist. I don't deal in souls. But we have applied genetic engineering to create new sapient species at least as smart as we are, and yet we cannot use gene technology on the sacred human genome because that is blasphemous. And the Protocols halted technological research everywhere but the moonbase, to protect the biosphere. Then a glitch fills the base with carbon monoxide, and we put some even smarter mammaloids up there because mammaloids are expendable and space is too dangerous for humans. We could be playing hare to their tortoise. Reporter: But the moon toons are only a few thousand. They depend on Earth for supplies, and are constantly remote monitored. What could they do? What would God let them do? Ling-Chu: Well, doesn't Revelation 6:8 say they'll kill a fourth of mankind? Reporter: I thought you were an atheist? Ling-Chu: Well, I've had to learn the Good Book to hold my own with the Bible Bangers. Reporter: Anyway, aren't these things kinda like "mulattos". Can't you just see that they aren't people? Ling-Chu: Well, by your analogy, they are more like octoroons. To get a functioning mammal, you really have to be mostly human. They are more like altered humans than altered animals, although as they are engineered cells grown in tube wombs, that's rather academic. But the lemur mammal, in particular, are genetically 98% the same as humans...about the same percentage as a chimpanzee, so just relax! Most mammal are designed to look as much like bipedal raccoons, foxes, etc. as possible. Even so, the physical differences are mostly cosmetic. Lemur mammaloids are designed to seem like tailed humans, since they are intended for use in brothels and such. They have a face a few millimeters longer than "normal", eyes a few percent bigger, and so on. But without the tail, they can pass for human. That is why they are required to have their foreheads tattooed with that Da Vinci style- We interrupt this interview to bring you a special report. A massive explosion at the ceremony celebrating the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Los Angeles Desalination Complex has killed at least 100, and possibly over 300 people, as well as destroying the complex. Governor Clark has declared L.A. a disaster area, and is implementing stringent water rationing. A group calling itself James 3:11 has taken credit for the blast, a spokesman stating "The Word of God clearly teaches that desalination is a sin against the Creator. The people who perished by His terrible swift sword today are burning in Hell, begging Lazarus to give them a drop of water on their tongue." ********************************************************************** "Mr. Resnick, what do you mean they didn't know? I sure as **** would know if I wasn't human!" "Mr. Porter, please. They were raised as human. That was all they had ever known. They had no way -" "Don't they have bones in their...you know?" "The males have vestigial bacula deep in their body. Unless they were used to feeling both themselves and human boys *very* thoroughly, they would be unlikely to notice a difference." "What about our daughter? Why can't we just take her home? Start her in High School?" "Mrs. Porter, she cannot even read. It was not stressed in her training. We train lemur mammaloids in both conventional and unconventional sexual techniques, because that is the market we sell them to. Similarly, a mongoose mammaloid would be trained to fight giant cobras for carnivals and fairs, a raccoon mamma - " "Can't we just take her out for a few days?" "Mr. Porter, she is having trouble adjusting to clothes. As you know, it is against the law for mammaloids to wear clothes. Once, we had someone smuggle a pair of pants into the factory. A young mammaloid...six years old...was caught wearing them. The entire stock was made to witness his termination, and then his body was hung in the outdoor commons until it rotted off the rope. That's how she was conditioned." "Then just tell her she has to wear clothes now!" "Look. My great-uncle lived shortly after the turn of the millennium. He was only seven years from retiring. They ordered him to take a drug test. Two men had to watch him provide a urine sample, to prevent him from substituting urine or doing some of the other tricks people did then. He had what was called, if I recall correctly, a bashful bladder. He was fired from his job and lost his pension because he could not pee in the cup with two police officers watching him. Now, we train mammaloids to have a clothing taboo. The only clothes allowed are voders, pain collars and handicaps..." "Voders I know, but what are pain collars and handicaps?" "Pain collars put a low amperage, high voltage current into their spine for minor forbidden actions, such as using personal pronouns instead of saying "this mammaloid"; as opposed to major ones, like wearing clothing that could conceal weapons or make them uppity. Handicaps are, for example, if that mongoose wins 10 or 20 times in a row, he would be handcuffed to give the cobra a better chance and be more interesting to the audience - " "So maybe in a few months..." "That reminds me. Your daughter received...training...from several men, both with and without...protection. Since we thought she was not the same species...well, we didn't think this would be possible. But would you wish her to have an...abortion?" "OUR...DAUGHTER...IS...PREGNANT!?!?" As if to put a finishing touch on this day, the door burst open and a distraught woman charged in, followed by a security guard. He grabbed her and began pulling her out, but Mr. Resnick motioned him to wait. "Please wait your turn, Mrs. Shapiro..." "THEY SAY MY SON IS DEAD! WHAT HAPPENED! WHERE IS HE BURIED!" Mr. Resnick sighed, then seemed to come to a decision. "He was killed in an accident three years ago. His body was sold to a corporation which makes, among other things, pet food." "What do you mean, pet food?" "We thought he was a mammaloid. That's what we do with dead mammaloids. We are a business, you know." A moment of quiet. "NAZI-NAZI-NAZI-NAZI" echoed as the guard dragged her away. ********************************************************************** The lemur mammaloids had all been destroyed by the National Mammaloid Regulatory Department. Genescans were mandatory every five years starting at birth. The display case of basketball trophies was gone. The watermelon kids, named in analogy with some twencen movie, had been sent home to their families, Genetek washing its corporate hands of them after a few months. Brandon's father opened the bedroom door. "Today's your 17th birthday. One more year and you're legally an adult. Then you're on your own." He slammed the door. Brandon began silently weeping into his pillow.