It had all started with the Chinese. The scientific community in China had become the “Wild West” of the science world. Chinese scientists didn’t have the same limits that many other nations imposed upon research, such as the outlawing genetic engineering of human DNA or the banning of the use of human embryos in scientific research. Chinese scientists had begun to experiment with the genetic engineering of human embryos – something that had been outlawed in most other industrialized nations decades earlier as the fear that people would begin to design their own babies’ intelligence and looks. The Chinese reported that they had tried to manipulate the genes that were responsible for various genetic diseases in the human body. They insisted that the embryos would have never survived and that the data gathered was never planned on being used to create “designer” babies. The Chinese government, after discussions with the United Nations and other nations, closed down the facilities engaged in the research and the world thought that that was the end of it. As time passed, genetic engineering of plants, animals, bacteria, and viruses became a common technology that eventually settled into academia and failed to get the attention of the news media. Laws became more relaxed and often quietly discarded. Some nations began to actively seek out those Chinese scientists that had experimented with genetically modifying human DNA. Biotechnology companies sought out the brightest of those scientists. For years, despite rumors and protest campaigns, companies remained quiet concerning any research involving the modification of human DNA, until that day Ethan was presented to the world.
The world at large didn’t know about Ethan until he was six years old. When he was presented at the international news conference, people immediately fell in love with the adorable child. He amazed everyone with his intellectual abilities and physical skills. Of course, many thought that he was just an ordinary child – until it was proven that he really was the first genetically modified human. A DNA test was done live at the press conference under the skeptic eyes of several noted scientists from various international universities. The scientists who presented him to the world talked about the various genetic changes and genetic protein coding. They merely glanced over the topic of “insertion of other taxonomic genetic material”, but the world was more enchanted with the sweetness of the child they saw online singing “Jesus Loves Me”. Some questioned the phrase “insertion of other taxonomic genetic material”, but the scientists would state that it was merely inconsequential biological material and unimportant to the discussion. The procedure, according to the scientists employed by the American Bio-Tech Consortium (ABTC) was completely safe - Ethan was as human as anyone else. The procedure, they explained, took DNA from a human egg and a human sperm and merely modified them to bring out the best qualities possible. It was no different, they assured, than buying a car and then adding the best options available to it. Ethan was a child with the best options that could be found in DNA.ABTC said that there had been extraordinary testing of the procedures involved in producing Ethan. They admitted that there had been four other children before Ethan who had not survived but that finally all the problems of viability had been solved. The ABTC scientists gave lectures at every major university on the development and future of genetically engineered children. They asserted that Ethan would have a normal, if not extended, lifespan and that he was as healthy, if not healthier, as any child his age. Doctors across the globe backed up the claims of the ABTC, signing letters supporting the work, which were published in newspapers around the world. Governments quickly approved the procedures and gave ABTC a wide leeway. Many thought it would be a new golden age for Mankind.
The year after Ethan turned eleven, couples from across the world had embraced the new technology to create their own baby. It was estimated that well over 1,000 couples had initially signed up when the technology was first offered. Many people wondered if it could solve their infertility. Some just wanted the best child money could buy. Some just wanted a bright healthy child like Ethan. ABTC reported that by the first anniversary of the procedure, fifty thousand couples had CNM children.
Genetic engineering wasn’t a foreign thing to people at the time. It had become an accepted part of life. Genetic engineering was to this time, as chemistry was to the 20th Century – the way to a better life. There were still non-GMO fundamentalists that would complain or protest, but no one took them seriously. It had been many years since genetically modified organisms had lost their patents and they were now everywhere. You couldn’t avoid them since practically all life now contained bits of altered DNA –“genetic pollution”, as some radicals called it. “Organic” came to mean merely anything grown stationary in soil since the locomotive vegetable barrier had been broken. Cross-taxonomic organisms, locomotive or not, had become a fact of life. Before Ethan the greatest genetic engineering feat had been the creation of the avocado steak, the first non-locomotive meat, from a “tree”.
By the time Ethan had turned 20, he had been joined by over 4,020,730 other “Children of the New Mother”, or CNM. They had been given that name by a journalist who coined the term to differentiate them from unmodified children, or “Children of the Old Mother” – “Old Mother” referring to the mythological Mother Earth. The “New Mother” was science. The ABTC preferred to call them “non-CNM” children –it made them to be seen as lacking something important.
Most of the major hospitals of the world had CNM franchises. The franchises were so popular because of the huge profits that could be made by selling CNM products and services. After the biological mother had been implanted with the CNM egg, she could be sold a multitude of prenatal packages; after the birth, there were the various other products based on the age of the child. Of course no one wanted their CNM child to be the one lacking the best. The financial floodgates really opened when the CNM franchises began to offer products and services to parents of non-CNM children. The best-selling product for non-CNM children was CNM cellular injections. Hospitals were also urged to consider CNM services for certain illnesses and conditions in adults.
Anyone visiting a CNM franchise couldn’t get away from Ethan’s image. Cardboard cutouts of Ethan would direct you to various areas. Posters of the cute little boy staring out at you asking, “How important is your child? If they aren’t Children of the New Mother, then try CNM CogniTherapy today!” Videos played in every hospital waiting room and lobby showing Ethan solving intricate math problems and laughing. The ubiquitous t-shirts with his drawings or watercolours were usually sold-out. The Adventures of Ethan comic books were on every shelf.
People had not seen much of Ethan himself since his 16th birthday; anyway, the world was busy with its new prodigies. The ABTC stated that Ethan was living a regular life and that they did not want him to be under the scrutiny of the press every day. Of course, you would hear a rumor or see a photo, but there really wasn’t too much press about Ethan. The tabloids would report that he was supposedly dating some young film star or a royal, but not much else.
The children born after Ethan, however, were constantly in the news. Many were the focus of human-interest stories. The stories focusing on their rights and conditions always made the top news stories. The American Bio-tech Consortium had made the claim that genetically modified children had to attend the ABTC School of Science and the Arts (available at most franchises), and many parents complained; the court ruled that the parents had signed a waiver upon implantation of the modified embryo and had to comply or give their child up to the guardianship of the ABTC. In the ruling the court stated that the children were too mentally advanced for regular public or private school and only the ABTC could effectively and completely educate them. One couple had been imprisoned for endangering a minor and child abuse when they went to live in the mountains with their CNM child. There was a big media blitz when one couple won a lawsuit against a church that had refused to allow their young boy to enter the cathedral during a vacation, the priest saying, “that the child was an abomination unto the Lord”.
The biggest scandal on record occurred after a journalist attempted to interview Ethan on his 25th birthday. The ABTC had issued an official birthday packet, covering what Ethan had been doing since his 16th birthday. According to the packet, he had attended a major university and had started a job at ABTC as a genetic engineer/advisor. The journalist, Laura Hopkins, had wanted more information as well as a personal interview with Ethan but ABTC refused again and again. She finally went undercover as an ABTC franchise employee, ultimately making it to ABTC central headquarters. She published a story on the eve of Ethan’s 33rd birthday that totally blew Ethan’s life open to the world. The world was shocked. Many refused to believe it, however, Miss Hopkins had documented everything perfectly.
According to the Hopkins Report, there was a reason Ethan disappeared from the public when he was 16 and it didn’t follow the story released to the public. When Ethan started to experience puberty, some hidden genes had begun to exert themselves; Ethan began to develop physical changes beyond those of a normal puberty, including but not limited to extremely excessive hair growth, bony growth projections on his jaw, and rough hard epithelial cells on his skin. Besides the physical changes, Ethan had begun to experience intense moments of rage so bad he had to be restrained and sedated. Hopkins also reported that Ethan could now only consume raw meat, becoming very ill and violent if he did not. Ethan had also begun to fail many mental skill tests, although he had maintained his excellence in physical skills. ABTC commented to say only that the report was a lie and they were talking to their lawyers. ABTC did admit that certain treatments had been given free to CNM children after Ethan to correct certain irregularities. However, they refused to admit that Ethan wasn’t the accomplished young man that he was portrayed as being. A judge asked to meet with Ethan face-to-face, and ultimately the ABTC had to admit that that was impossible, due to Ethan’s violent nature. For the next two years, there was a torrent of legal battles, suits and counter suits.
Parents of CNM children began to give up their children to ABTC guardianship or to the appropriate authorities, although some parents refused to even consider it. One couple came out and publicly said that they were well aware that they had made a mistake genetically engineering their child, but that they were ready to accept the responsibility of their actions. The couple was killed by their CNM son who himself was shot by the police who answered the emergency call. When pictures of the boy were leaked online, many considered it a joke. The pictures of the dead boy were considered by many to be photographs of an animal that had been altered. When it was proven it was indeed the boy, people became outraged and frightened.ABTC franchise hospitals began to report that the parents of CNM children were overwhelming them. Many of the children had started to become ill and many of the hospitals were unprepared for the onslaught. Governments didn’t get involved until one of the children went on a rampage and killed four nurses. The death of the nurses started people openly talking about what would actually happen when the children grew up. Riots around the world damaged and sometimes destroyed ABTC facilities. Doctors, scientists and others connected with ABTC were attacked.
At the last count there were 220,267,000 CNM children worldwide. An estimated third of all non-CNM children worldwide had received at least one CNM cellular treatment, designed to enhance their DNA. People began asking the question –who was really truly human?