by Mary E. Lowd
Originally published in Daily Science Fiction, February 2014
Chloe lay on the table in the doctor’s office, wearing a paper sheet over her legs and one of those weird gowns that opened in the back. She didn’t want to be pregnant, but she didn’t want to need an abortion. She couldn’t help thinking about David — it had to be David — and what amazing genes he must have. He’d talked like a character out of a fast-paced TV show, everything clever, insightful, and… much too articulate. They’d argued corporate law for hours, until she’d shouted at him in a flurry of frustration that she was done arguing, and he should leave her alone. Instead, he’d kissed her. God, he was handsome, too.
But, no, she didn’t want a baby, even a brilliant and handsome one. She wouldn’t let a few squishy, hormone-inspired feelings derail the rest of her life.
Dr. Orton wheeled an ultrasound machine into the room and set it up. She slicked Chloe’s flat belly down with goo, and then slid the wand around in it. “Let’s see if we can find a heartbeat, shall we?”
Chloe’s own heart clenched at the word “heartbeat.” Maybe she should try to look David up after all…
The blue images on the screen of the ultrasound looked like nothing to Chloe. Then, the machine clicked. An atonal mechanical voice said, “…will repeat every minute of the first trimester.”
Dr. Orton looked troubled.
“What’s the machine talking about?” Chloe asked.
“That… uh… wasn’t the machine talking,” Dr. Orton said. “That sound came from your uterus.”
“What?” Chloe didn’t understand. She argued with Dr. Orton — surely the machine was broken — until the atonal voice began speaking again.
“Greetings, new FemCloud employee. You have been recruited by David Livell, founder and CEO of FemCloud, to join FemCloud as an Incubational Assistant. If you do well, you will be promoted to Administrative Caretaker at the end of your preliminary nine-month term. Your sexual actions with David Livell constitute a legally binding agreement. Any action that you — or anyone else — take to damage the corporate property that has been entrusted to you as an Incubational Assistant is in violation of this agreement and will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. We hope that you enjoy working with FemCloud and will continue serving us for the next eighteen years. This message will repeat…“