ADIL SHAHN, once revered for his significant hardware and software contributions during the early days of replacement cloning, appeared to be biding his time in his last year before retirement.
The year is 2065.
“What advances?” asked Putana, his wife, coming from the kitchen setting in front of him his evening bowl of Mulligatawny soup and chunk of crusty bread.
He shook his head sipping the warmth and sensing her disapproval.
“Tomorrow,” Adil said and she hmphed.
He knew he would not fail. She wouldn’t allow it.
Adil Shahn perseveringly loved Putana and her ways, more now than in earlier days when they shared their life with a cat and a daughter, Raja and Vrinda.
He surrendered his own will to the wishes of his ‘Divine’.
“Call me before lunch,” she said kissing him on the forehead before retiring to her room.
“Yes, my Divine.”
In silence Putana fed Adil his five am breakfast, two eggs, a piece of toast, a bowl of yogurt with strawberries, walnuts, blueberries, and orange juice. He had his coffee at the office since that was one of the many things she would not allow after Raja died. First Raja died, and then Vrinda was taken, as they both called it. Adil understood but never discussed it. If Putana couldn’t enjoy them he wasn’t allowed either. She allowed a hearty breakfast, which he secretly enjoyed, but nothing was enjoyable to her except her obsession. It was all she talked about for over twenty years. It was her one marital expectation even if it was the only remaining achievement in his life. It seemed to him after this one last task was accomplished he could die as far as she cared. The breakfast was for that, his final commission before he turned seventy, when he would retire.
Every morning was quiet and still in the laboratories from six until eight. Adil was a permanent fixture and the topic of pity and ridicule among his younger coworkers, an animated statue paying honor to the archaic far distant past, only truly appreciated by a lone colleague named Dmitri. They never saw Adil arrive and never saw him leave since they worked nine hour days between eight-thirty am to six pm. He had to finish his project before they arrived and pretend to maintain the instruments, running tests, diagnostics, and other menial computer hardware and software systems maintenances until lunch when he would call his Divine and report.
After all the other coworkers left in the evening Adil was back on task. Most evenings Adil worked until ten or eleven pm and it was getting later and later the closer he got to his birthday.
Adil was one of the originals, only twenty-eight years old when the first human clone was born at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas under the supervision of Dr. Consuela Quiasua. More than a few of his computer aided instruments were used in bringing Baby SUE (backwards for Engineered Under Supervision) into the world. Vrinda was born to Adil and Putana the same year as Baby SUE. Twenty years later human clones were banned globally and Vrinda was gone. Only reproductive and therapeutic cloning remained, leaving many unused unmaintained laboratories in the company’s vast complex of buildings. Many of the originals retired or gave up replacement cloning or went to prison attempting to continue.
One could say Adil Shahn was born for the cloning industry because in 1994, one year before he was born, the green fluorescent protein (GFP) found in only one species of Jellyfish, Auequorea Victoria, was sequenced and cloned. In less than two decades schools all over the world began incorporating gene tracing experiments in their biochemistry classes, including Adil’s American high school biochem AP class.
Watching bacteria fluoresce ignited Adil’s passion, a lifetime dedication to genetic studies.
It was his computer engineering over a period of twenty five years that led to the most intricate genetic measurement devices the world has ever known.
Adil made the lunchtime call and reported to Putana, good results.
He could see by the look on her face on the tablaphone she was pleased.
That evening his Divine was happy and she served Adil the usual dinner but with Kheer. In their early years when she was delighted or ecstatic her special treat was an invitation to her room for the evening. Kheer was the equivalent post Vrinda Raja.
Sipping the milky nutty dessert brought back memories of his daughter. Every evening Vrinda’s eyes lit up when Adil Shahn came home. It was the last hour of her day and they spent it together while Putana tended to the kitchen. The living area became a home theater with lengthy puppet shows, fashion parades, ballerina rehearsals, dance parties, forts, and the like. Night after night for years the little girl lived to perform for Dadda, until the day she was no longer with them.
Raja was a frequent guest star in the program and never has there been a more willing tabby cat to the strict and stringent demands of a seven-year-old director. The grayish-brown Raja eagerly dressed in the most elegant gowns, sipping tea, tango dancing, or performing the character of Petruchio in an abbreviated version of the taming of the shrew. Vrinda would smile an eternal grin. Get it, Dadda? PETruchio? At the end of some evenings Raja was dragged to bed with Vrinda literally pulling Raja’s tail without a fuss from the fawny feline.
For Adil Shahn, Raja’s death was a natural part of life, very sad but to be expected, in contrast to Vrinda being taken. On the other hand, Adil saw it was clearly more devastating to Putana when Raja passed into the next stage than when Vrinda left them. Putana didn’t speak for weeks and some evenings left Adil to serve his own dinner.
Raja’s apparent cause of death was toxic poisoning. A declawed indoor cat, Raja rarely saw the outdoors but on occasion would stealthily slink out at the feet of Adil when he left for work. Putana would blame Adil and he would hear about it. A few times Raja was gone for a day or two and would return as most cats do, as if nothing was unusual. The evening of the last excursion Adil found Raja under the back patio table shivering and he brought the explorer inside.
At the lab the next morning Adil received a tablaphone message from a frantic Putana.
Look at him, Adil, Raja is convulsing!
Adil could see the poor writhing Raja was suffering. Take him to the doctor, Putana!
That evening when he arrived, Putana was pacing, pointing to Vrinda’s room, which had become Raja’s.
Raja is suffering, Adil! Listen!
Adil walked back to Vrinda’s room and could hear Raja moaning and growling. The strong overwhelming pungent smell of cat spray filled the hallway as he approached.
He entered and saw Raja’s brown and grey fur had become mangy. Adil knelt down trying to comfort Raja and as he did Raja violently convulsed and Raja’s mouth clamped down on a paw. Poor Raja, Adil sympathetically said attempting to sooth the animal. Adil picked up the cat after it seemed to calm down and together Adil and Putana Shahn took Raja back to the veterinarian for the second time that day.
We’re sorry. There’s nothing left to do.
And so Putana left the room and the doctor injected the poor cat as Adil held Raja in his arms. He felt Raja’s body slowly relax slipping into an eternal dream.
That terrible and traumatic day changed their lives forever.
Putana blamed Adil for their misfortunes.
First Vrinda, then Raja, Putana said to Adil many many times.
And so his project had been laid out by Putana. For nearly twenty years he had secretly arranged everything for his final assignment and day after day, month after month, year after year, he got closer to succeeding.
Adil was surprised one day to find his secret was known to a colleague in the laboratory. They were sitting having lunch at the window in the employee lounge that sat high above the complex looking down at most of the other laboratory buildings.
But your secret is safe with me, Adil.
His name was Dmitri, the last of the originals. They had known one another for years and had been in each other’s homes for dinner many times. They were Nutcracker partners several times when their wives annually made them watch the Seattle production, before Putana was ‘done with those things’.
But how did you know?
I thought one day that Adil looks too tired to only be maintaining systems. You are too good a programmer to be stressed by them. He must be up to something, old Adil, I said to myself. So I decided to find out and I am very happy for you, Adil. I know you will succeed. And it will be a triumph! But, why do it, Adil? Why risk your pension, prison, everything? And only months from retirement!
Adil appreciated the questioning from one of his only remaining friends in life but he was still processing the implications of someone else knowing his conspiracy. He hadn’t thought about the consequences of his undertaking if he were found out. The company had completely trusted him for his entire career, had lavished on him everything under the stars. They would not be forgiving if he brought any retribution on them for such an act and neither would the government. He would surely be stripped of everything. When he was finally able to think about Dmitri’s question at once he knew the answer.
Dmitri was puzzled.
Forgive me, Adil, if I am too honest. Your wife hasn’t loved you in a long time. How can you say you are doing this for love?
It is not for her. It is for me.
This perplexed Dmitri even more and the look on his face caused Adil to laugh a belly laugh like he hadn’t in years.
It was too difficult to explain. It would become clear to Dmitri, Adil supposed, when he could explain later.
Although the pressure from the final months proved to be fuel and his final efforts had been profitable, Adil Shahn was cutting it close. The final phase, the delivery, would be just two weeks before his last day of employment, his last day of access to the laboratory. He had originally given himself eleven weeks leeway but complications had caused him to need an extra nine weeks. For this reason, in those final weeks a pit in his stomach had formed like a house guest staying much longer than agreed.
Adil found it impossible to sleep in the last days before culmination.
Putana knew Adil felt the weight of it but was unsympathetic.
She served him his dinner and kept him on task.
Adil, your work will pay off.
Even if you have to spend the rest of your nights in the laboratory it will be worth it.
He would just shake his head and say ‘Yes, my Divine’.
And he did stay all through the night for the last two weeks at the laboratory, only sleeping and eating after the constant check-ups were accomplished, even managing to make them with a full house of scientists during the day. And with help from Dmitri who had become a full consort and assistant to the project.
Appropriate weight gain. Increased appetite. Small frequent meals. Proper supplements.
In the final days Adil knew his preparation was through and all that was left was to make sure the surrogate mother remained calm and comfortable and that the room where she was would remain private until delivery.
The mission was accomplished. And so he delivered her and his Divine was happy.
The next two weeks passed in a hazy blur for Adil Shahn but he had indeed successfully pulled it off without a hitch. The final day came with cake and commemorative video in the employee lounge, and visits from the CEO and the Governor of Washington.
After the exit interview Adil sat down in the employee lounge looking out the window thinking about his career.
There it is, said Dmitri, pointing at the building where they had done it.
There is where you accomplished something I never shall, I suppose.
Adil smiled and shook his head in humility.
But what now, Adil Shahn?
Adil Shahn thought about the many things he had planned for retirement.
Fishing. Watching old episodes of the British version of the Office from when he was a child. He would go for long walks along the Sound two or three times a week. He knew what he would do for sure.
What now, Adil?
I will do what I could not.
Adil Shahn retired, saying goodbye to the laboratories of the company and his friend, Dmitri.
Two weeks later Adil Shahn knew Putana and the little one would be okay if he left so he picked up his travel bag and walked out, leaving them to enjoy one another’s company.
NOW he was in retirement and he could be happy with his final mission accomplished.
His first stop was Los Angeles, sunny and bright L.A., an appreciated change from dreary Seattle. When the train came to a halt he was immediately received upon deboarding by seven beautiful children and their parents. It felt like he had won some championship and was being welcomed by a throng of adoring fans. Hugs and kisses and hearty handshakes warmed his heart. This was a beautiful new beginning and a long awaited reunion.
Adil was ushered like a king into the home of this beautiful family he saw before him. He sat down in the chair opposite of the proud parents, his daughter who had become a wife and the husband who had taken her away. Tears rolled down his cheeks as he smiled a long and generously toothy smile.
How is Mother, his beautiful grown up Vrinda asked.
Good, she is very good, now, Adil answered.
Won’t she be lonely?
Adil shook his head, smiling, sharing a deep sigh of satisfaction.
No. She’s not alone. Not now, he said.
She won’t be alone again, he thought, not for a long time, maybe several years or more.
Adil envisioned Putana at this very moment, flitting around, bouncing from one room to the next, continuing to remake the house into a home and constantly checking in on her new arrival.
Putana is rejuvenated, alive for the first time in decades, finally seeing her wildest dreams come true with her own eyes.
Fawning over her precious new-born miracle, Putana’s warm heart-felt thoughts went out to her husband, Adil Shahn, wherever he was, because her fondest, most cherished Raja was back home.
Home safe and sound.
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