A few months later, Jeri turned 13, and was moved to a teenager dorm. She still saw Robin during the day. They would play during free time and sit together at lunch. She would go and visit him before lights out bell at the pre-teen dorm, but she was lonely at night without him next to her in bed.
One day, he told her not to go to sleep after lights out that night. As she lay there, she heard feet approaching her bed, and opened her eyes to see the silhouette of a boy approaching her bed.
“Hey,” Robin whispered as he slipped under her covers, and lay next to her.
“Robin? How did you get in here?”
“Same way I got out of my dorm. There’s a small, high window in every dorm’s bathroom,” he whispered.
Overcome with joy, Jeri turned on her side, facing away from Robin, and pulled his arm over her body, and against her chest, locking it in place with her own arms, spooning close against his body as she stroked his hand.
Robin giggled. “I’m glad to see you too.”
“I’ve got good news for you!” The woman behind the desk said.
She was in her mid-fifties, and, like all of the adults at the center, was a post-breeder. She had been born with a female appearance, like Jeri -what they referred to as a “natural-born-female”. At some point in her mid to late thirties, like all breeders, she had stopped phasing between genders, and reverted to her birth appearance, which she would keep the rest of her life. All of the adults at the Center were beyond breeding age, but they chose to continue their service to the Syndicate by raising the next generation.
“Good news?” Jeri whispered. She stood in front of the woman’s desk, trying not to make eye contact with her.
It was the woman’s job to help determine if a pre-breeder such as Jeri was ready to take the enzyme. Although they were biologically responsive to the enzyme at the onset of puberty, most pre-breeders weren’t determined by the Syndicate to be mentally fit until about age fifteen. In addition to passing a battery of academic tests, pre-breeders were also carefully screened with psychological tests in order to ensure that they would be loyal citizens of the Syndicate and follow its laws once released into human society. Pre-breeders that were determined to be discipline problems would never get the enzyme, would never leave the Center, and they would be considered of no use to the Syndicate. The Syndicate didn’t waste its time with useless things.
Jeri thought of Stacy.
“She’s only 2 years old!” the dark-haired seventeen-year old girl with pigtails held out a blonde-haired, blue-eyed baby doll. She was sitting in the bed next to Jeri’s at the teenager dorm. Jeri, only just turned 13, was unpacking her bag. The doll made her think of Robin, and how she missed him already.
“You shouldn’t have that!” Jeri whispered as she looked around. “It’s prohibited!”
Human baby dolls weren’t acceptable toys. They were considered a device used to socialize human females to the task of motherhood, something none of them needed to know anything about.
“They let Stacy keep it on account of she won’t stop wailing if they try to take it away from her,” a kid in the bed on the other side of the dark-haired seventeen-year old girl with pigtails said.
“Her name is Jennifer…Jennifer Stacy. Stacy is her last name, because she’s my baby. Isn’t that a pretty name? Do you want to kiss her?” Stacy asked as she held out her doll to Jeri.
“Uh, no thanks,” Jeri said as she continued to unpack, trying to ignore Stacy’s contumacy.
Over the following weeks, Jeri learned that Stacy hadn’t gotten enough oxygen when she was born. She could read and write on the same level as a six-year-old. Despite her disability, she was still one of them, and their law said that all pre-breeders had the right to earn breeder-certification until puberty ended, when the enzyme was no longer effective.
About 6 months ago, when Jeri was fourteen, Stacy still hadn’t been breeder-certified. One day, as Jeri was lying in bed, reading a book, while Stacy played with her doll, a man had come.
“Time for you to go to the doctor for a checkup,” the man said to Stacy.
Jeri thought nothing of it. They often had routine medical checkups.
Later that afternoon, after a class, Jeri had been walking by the medical building as two men were loading a long wooden box, about two and a half feet wide by five and a half feet long by 2 feet deep into a white van. The man in the back had lost his grip, and dropped his end of the crate. As the crate fell, just for a moment, the lid came off. Jeri saw a wrist and a hand before the crate hit the ground, and the lid slammed back into place a half a second later.
Jeri felt a chill run down her spine.
The man cursed, and picked his end back up off the ground, and they finished loading the crate into the back.
When the van was gone, Jeri walked over to the door they had hauled the crate out of. She pushed it open, and saw a trashcan just inside. She looked down and saw a blonde-haired, blue-eyed baby doll lifelessly staring up at her.
Jeri moaned and felt hot tears squirt out of her eyes.
Once puberty ended, they were too old to take the enzyme. They were biologically incapable of becoming breeders at that point, and they were deadweight in the eyes of the Syndicate.
Jeri heard the woman speak again, and she returned to the present.
“You’ve been approved to receive the enzyme treatment! Soon you’ll be a breeder!” the woman said.
Jeri had just turned fifteen.