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Black Sheep

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Rian did not put her hand over her eyes, nor did she sigh, despite the privacy she was certain they had. It was, she had come to learn, exactly the same response she had with all the children who had been created with that genetic material. Not so many, unfortunately, after the first two died.

The first had stolen a shuttle, barely twelve years old and inexperienced enough to disable all the safeties without understanding why they were there. The horrific accident which had claimed his life was an anniversary Rian observed, silently, each year. The second had left the planet upon her majority and, according to reports, gotten herself executed by outraged local officials on a planet where she had been...liberating someone. Or something. The reports had been vague but the results were clear. Rian had been desperate to ensure the next would live long enough into adulthood to have some point.

In a delicate tone Pel asked, "I thought this one had no voice?"

A lack of vocal chords was a genetic trait not uncommon in the history of the Star Creche, where every imaginable variation had been studied and developed and explored over the decades. The hairless ba of the previous century had been preceded, for an entire generation, of ba with no vocal chords. It had been deemed a suitable course for this project to ensure the next one listened to his teachers.

That had been the plan, at least. Rian said, "He taught himself -- no," she corrected. "He invented a sign language. Which he then taught the other children." Then used his ability to command them to incite... Well, it most certainly was not a riot. Ba, no matter their age, had too much genetic propensity for obedience and civil manner to riot.

But for seven year old ba children, it was most definitely a riot. Ba behaving in distinctly non-ba ways, following the lead of the child who should not have had the ability to-- she would not use the word "corrupt" because the child was, really, fascinating to watch and a delight to those who knew him, even as they wished to strangle him. Rian had to confess that the discovery of unexpected impact of genetic material was part of the process of mapping that material.

If only it were a bit less chaotic a process, she told herself. Though she had no one but herself to blame, as she had known the progenitor and should have expected....

Pel was watching her, head tilted as she regarded Rian. Rian did let herself sigh, then. "The next one will reach schooling age in three years," she said, though she suspected Pel was keeping as close an eye on things as she herself was.

"And has the nursery given you any indication of the child's personality?" Pel asked, mouth quivering slightly as if the entire project amused her greatly.

Which, Rian had to confess, it very well ought. Pel had known Miles as well as she, and had observed as much, if not on occasion more, than she had. Suppressing a smile of her own, Rian confessed, "The nursery has requested that should we use the same amount of Miles' genetic material in another child, that the child be sent elsewhere to be raised."

Pel blinked. "The child is only two."

Rian nodded.

"And she unmanageable as that?" Pel sounded dubious, though only just. Child-rearing techniques on Cetaganda depended a great deal on knowing what sort of personality traits a child was born with. Rian was certain that no children, before her project began, had ever been quite like this.

The nurses at the Star Creche nursery had threatened to rebel on more than one occasion, until Rian had promised to attempt to breed for a bit more obedience. Although every time she had offered to take the children away, the nurses had again rebelled....

It seemed the next two were going to be much like the previous ones. She wondered if she ought warn the Emperor.

"Oh, dear." Pel pursed her lips together, then smiled. Rian let herself smile as well, then, after a moment, laughed.