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Xeno

Chapter Text

Xeno

Fandom: Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters Anime Dub

Pairings:

Puzzleshipping (Yugi x Yami), Revolutionshipping (Téa x Yami), Regalshipping (Mai x Yami), Vaseshipping (Mana x Yami/Atem)

Puppyshipping (Kaiba x Joey), Trustshipping (Kaiba x Ishizu), Silentshipping (Kaiba x Serenity), Blueshipping (Kaiba x Kisara)

Other Tags: Multi Relationships, Fem Yugi, Fem Joey, Alternate Universe Canon Divergence

-

Chapter One: Born(e) From Tragedy

History Text

The Modern Era

Super bacteria evolved faster than science predicted. An antidote was found, but not before two thirds of the human population had been wiped out. Two thirds of a generation, gone.

To combat global underpopulation problems, the governments of the world agreed on a few set rules. First, that multi-person marriages were legal, of either sex.

Second, that schools would be founded to teach men and women, if they chose, the art of expert seduction. At these schools, each student was also taught dueling methods, one of the few universal hobbies and languages of Earth at the time of writing to this day. There were gender segregated branches of each school, and only the seductive arts teachers who lived in private individual quarters at such schools were not allowed marriages. These schools were called Andover Institutions, after the original first school founder Maria Andover, who also came up with the idea of allowing Andover students of a mature level to leave its walls on some quest - and then either stay gone or graduate as teachers.

The Andover Institutions teach the scholarly arts and each teacher teaches a different set year, so children can be enrolled in them, but they have come to focus on seduction as being a part of the "Renaissance man or woman" - a person good at everything. These schools have sometimes been accused of being extremely high-stress institutions and of encouraging students to see romantic interaction as an emotionless set of achievable goals - thus not preparing them for the realities of falling in love. This is argued by great thinkers and experts as particularly troubling in the schools focusing on the younger sets.

Third, if a woman wanted to become pregnant without a man, she could do so.

This third rule was ensured by a system called The Tangle. Every single person or couple intending to become pregnant with a child took a shot of a scientific chemical called The Tangle ensuring a safe pregnancy. In a couple, this chemical was preferably administered in the day or two after ovulation and sex - "preferably" because in accidental pregnancies the chemical could still be administered weeks later. In a single woman, this chemical also formed the individually crafted genetic makeup to fertilize the egg and lead to pregnancy. In such cases, the other half of the child's DNA was an unknown factor - the child could turn out looking nothing like the mother.

Occasionally, it was acknowledged, mistakes were made. Occasionally two pregnant couples, or a pregnant couple and a pregnant single, or two pregnant singles, were given Tangles of the exact same chemical structure. This was not supposed to happen, but accidents did occur. The Tangle became such an intimate part of the developing child in either case that it was theorized a connection between these two forming babies happened - and so "clones" were born, to different parents and sometimes of different genders or races in different parts of the world. In a strange and rarer phenomenon, since The Tangle has been created by an interwoven, recorded web of all the genetic codes throughout history - hence its name - occasionally "clones" are made from the genetic structure of people who have already died. This again is not supposed to happen - each Tangle genetic code is supposed to be individual - but such problems are inevitable in such a complex process.

Usually, a person such as this never met their "clone." But in such a case, the questions must be asked: Which was the original? Were clones capable of true individuality, or simply a copy of each other? And how did one deal with the deeper connection yet the physiological differences between the person and their "clone"?

Some fringe groups have come to see The Tangle as dangerous, as a political and health issue. These people foster a hatred, distrust, and resentment of all modern children borne from the Tangle - but especially of clones.

In any case, the system did its work. In the next generation, there became a glut of children: many more than there would have been otherwise even at full adult population, all allowed to intermarry on a multi level with each other, all having grown up with Andover Institutions, clones, and The Tangle as common. The reigning culture became Xanadu, capitol Domino City, for both its prolific dueling and its ability to turn its increased work-force into a fine-tuned machine.

This generation of children was called Xeno.

-

The white lab room was silent, sterile, cold, and empty. A single table with two chairs on opposite sides of each other sat in the middle of a vast room coated in lab tables and bottles of clear amber liquid on shelves. Everything carried the neat, empty sort of air of a place with little warmth, character, or spirit.

The woman with the ponytail of dark hair in the white lab coat was frowning to herself, troubled, as she prepared the amber serum at the far left lab table. A glowing screen set into the counter next to her was calculating genetic algorithms, but with all of her troubled frowning she was barely glancing at them.

"Not the sort of aura I want from someone I've accepted is about to be injecting me with a baby-making serum," said the other woman sitting at the table, grinning. She had a ponytail of brown hair, freckles, and a wide grin.

"Sorry," said the lab worker, absently, not sounding sorry at all. She picked up the chart attached to her clipboard and read off in a monotone to the freckled woman with the brown ponytail, "Imelda Ross, Single. Xanadu Andover Instructor who lives in private quarters at a school outside Domino City, in the southern countryside. Female child school section. You can't get married, but you wanted a child, and are therefore planning on being a single.

"A long list of women from your school are coming to visit me today, actually," the lab worker noted with a frown.

"We decided it would be easier to all have the children we wanted at once - that way there would be a whole system at our school for the children, with someone to always look after them while we were working," said Imelda. "We all teach different years, but we're from the same school. My designations should be on there, too."

"Designations?" the lab worker questioned, looking up.

"You're pre-Andover," Imelda realized. She sat back casually. "I guess it figures," she drawled, "if you're already a Tangle lab technician. You wouldn't be a Xeno at your age, would you?

"At Andover, everyone has an individual deck and everyone has an individual seductive 'type' - the part of you that is almost a stereotype, the act that would be most pleasing to someone you wanted to seduce. The trick is to match your type with someone who likes it.

"My deck is female soldiers and warriors. My seductive type is forceful but clever and quirky." Here freckled, brown ponytailed Imelda grinned again. "This is the Tangle center covering Domino City and the entire southern half of Xanadu it sits on, so here I am. Doing my part to make a little Xeno baby."

"Alright, Ms Ross, this will be fairly simple," said the lab worker idly, looking away. She still seemed absent, troubled. "I am going to inject the largest vein in your arm with this serum we have prepared. We'll patch you up and then you get to go home."

"That easy?" said Imelda in surprise.

"That easy," said the lab worker flatly, still reserved but not looking Imelda in the eye. "Let's get started."

Imelda sat very still and held out her arm on the white plastic, rounded arm of her chair. The lab worker grabbed a serum without looking, and injected the needle softly into the skin of Imelda's arm. She took it back out quickly, and immediately placed a piece of cotton on the wound, taping gauze around it.

"And… that's it?" said Imelda tentatively. "I'm getting pregnant?"

"Wait a couple of weeks to try the pregnancy test. But yes, essentially," said the lab worker.

"Hell yes!" Imelda leaped up in excitement, grinning. "Thank you so much, this is going to be fantastic!" She rushed past the flat-eyed lab worker and out of the room.

A few minutes later, there was a knock on the door and a young couple, man and woman, came in. "Mr and Mrs Muto," said the young woman tentatively, "from Domino City."

"Right. Let's get to you," said the lab worker, upset but trying to hide it. She reached absently once more for the right serum on the shelf behind her - and accidentally took the one next to it.

The same bottle with the same label, quite accidentally, that she had given to Imelda Ross.

"All right, Mr and Mrs Muto," said the lab technician, "let's ensure the safe delivery of your coming baby."

Imelda Ross's genetic bottle gleamed in her hand.

Meanwhile, the keys rattled in a doorway and it was flung open. Imelda Ross walked into her private quarters, yawning and stretching, and flipped the light switch.

A rustic living space spread out before her, with wood fixtures, splashes of white, hanging lamps, a long sofa, a coffee table, chairs, and a big fireplace. The stone fireplace was in pride of place. The whole space had a warm feel to it.

"What do you think?" Imelda smiled and put her hand over her flat belly. "This is your new home."

-

The white lab room had a certain chicness to it, a certain elegance, but it wasn't for the personal taste of the next woman sitting in the same lab room with the same technician. Looking around at it with a clinical, artistic eye, there was no color, no quirky edge to the elegance.

The lab worker was frowning as she worked around her lab table to the far left, but she was probably just serious about her job.

At last, the lab worker sighed, turned and picked up her chart on her clipboard to read off matter of factly, "Louise Wright, Single. Xanadu Andover Instructor who lives in private quarters at a school outside Domino City, in the southern countryside. Female child school section. You can't get married, but you wanted a child, and are therefore planning on being a single.

"What are your designations? It would be good to have for the paperwork."

The woman sitting at the table blinked in surprise. She had long dark hair, a pale face, and glasses, as well as a good deal more reserved privacy to her. "Artists and historians deck," Louise Wright said. "My seductive type is introverted, quiet, and artistic but also stern and serious."

"Alright, Ms Wright, this will be fairly simple," said the lab worker idly, looking away. A canned speech, repeated over and over again throughout the day to a long string of people. Was it normal for a technician for a place involving babies to seem so… sad? "I am going to inject the largest vein in your arm with this serum we have prepared. We'll patch you up and then you get to go home."

"… Then let's get to it," said Louise, becoming determined.

Louise sat very still and held out her arm on the white plastic, rounded arm of her chair. The lab worker grabbed a serum without looking, and injected the needle softly into the skin of Louise's arm. She took it back out quickly, and immediately placed a piece of cotton on the wound, taping gauze around it.

"So… I'm having a child?" At last, Louise couldn't hide a nerdy, eager excitement and nervousness, her face glowing.

"Wait a couple of weeks before trying a pregnancy test. But yes," said the lab worker simply, without looking. She seemed marvelously uninterested by such a fascinating, emotional, and important job.

"Thank you!" Louise jumped up, beaming, her skin glowing behind her glasses. She had become expressive at last.

A few minutes later, a knock came on the lab door and a middle-aged couple came into the empty lab room. "Mr and Mrs Gardner," said the wealthy older man sternly, "from Domino City."

"Yes, I was expecting you," said the lab worker, reaching without looking - and taking up the exact same serum bottle she had just given Louise Wright, complete with the same label.

The keys rattled in a doorway somewhere else and it was opened quietly. Louise walked into her apartment, putting her keys carefully down on a side-table and flipping the lights on in her private quarters.

A Shabby Chic living space spread out before her. It was covered with white and pink, its sofa decorated in quirky swirl pillows and a huge old-fashioned clock like Big Ben on a far wall. Everything was curving, quirky, and elegant, complete with a white wicker chair.

"This," Louise told her flat tummy, placing a hand over it, looking determined, "is where we start our life together."

-

The white lab room was almost homey, but it lacked splashes of color and decoration and a certain breezy feel to it. They really should make these places feel more comfortable. An important thing happened inside them.

The lab worker was frowning as she worked around her lab table to the far left, and it was hard to tell if she were upset or simply stern. Either way, she practically begged personal concern.

At last, the lab worker sighed, turned and picked up her chart on her clipboard to read off robotically, "Flora Gray." The woman sitting at the table, with a bun of blonde hair, a round face and curves, and a stern motherly aura, nodded firmly. "Single. Xanadu Andover Instructor who lives in private quarters at a school outside Domino City, in the southern countryside. Female child school section. You can't get married, but you wanted a child, and are therefore planning on being a single.

"What are your designations? It would be good to have for the paperwork."

"I have a mothers, angels, saints, and healing elves deck," said Flora, determined to be of as much help as she could. "I'm the concerned, caring, and listening mother type."

"Alright, Ms Gray, this will be fairly simple," said the lab worker idly, looking away. She probably said the same thing, day in and day out, to each person. Perhaps it was wearing, perhaps that explained her demeanor. "I am going to inject the largest vein in your arm with this serum we have prepared. We'll patch you up and then you get to go home."

"I'll cooperate in any way I can," said Flora kindly.

Flora sat very still and held out her arm on the white plastic, rounded arm of her chair. The lab worker grabbed a serum without looking, and injected the needle softly into the skin of Flora's arm. She took it back out quickly, and immediately placed a piece of cotton on the wound, taping gauze around it.

"That's it?" said Flora, surprised. "I'm having a baby?"

"Wait a couple of weeks before taking the pregnancy test," said the lab worker simply.

"And if it doesn't come back positive?" Flora demanded.

"Wait another week and test again. If it's still negative, come back and you get a repeat treatment free of charge," said the lab worker flatly, going back to her table.

"Well… thank you." Flora stood uncertainly, and then decided she had to be kind to this woman who had done such a great thing for her. "Thank you!" she said more positively, smiling, and she hurried from the lab.

The lab worker put the bottle away absently, and accidentally placed it on the little counter screen. The information came up on the screen, glowing:

CREATED GENETIC STRUCTURE ALREADY USED. PREVIOUS SUBJECT: MAI VALENTINE OF XANADU.

The lab worker took the bottle away to place it high on a shelf, frowning, and the screen information disappeared without her notice.

The door handle rattled with its key and Flora bustled into her private quarters, looking around as she flipped the lights on. A Coastal Hamptons interior design spread out before her. It had a striped blue and white rug, wild blue and white patterned chairs and pillows and sofa, big windows full of light, and a beautiful Impressionist white and blue painting of a tree in pride of place on the far wall.

"Well," said Flora firmly to her tummy, hands on her hips, "let's both do the best we can here together, shall we?"

-

The white lab room carried the rather sick air of a place that was medical, clinical, and structural. A symptom of a larger society that took some things and spat them back out as other things.

The lab worker was frowning as she worked around her lab table to the far left, and to be honest it would have been easy to frown if you had to work as a lab technician every day. Still, you would think this particular brand of lab job would at least carry some damn modicum of satisfaction. What was with this lady?

At last, the lab worker sighed, turned and picked up her chart on her clipboard to read off like a good little worker, "Maggie Scott." The woman sitting at the table, with tattoos and piercings, purple hair tied back, punk black clothes and long black boots, smirked from her lackadaisical position and gave a sarcastic little two-fingered salute. "Single. Xanadu Andover Instructor who lives in private quarters at a school outside Domino City, in the southern countryside. Female child school section. You can't get married, but you wanted a child, and are therefore planning on being a single.

"What are your designations? It would be good to have for the paperwork."

"I have a hackers and cyberpunk deck," said Maggie, wondering curiously but not with anger why this mattered. "I'm the brilliant and dark and reserved, forceful type."

The lab worker gave her a once-over, as if skeptical of suitability for motherhood, and Maggie bristled but decided to keep coldly silent. It wasn't any of this woman's damn business why she wanted a child. So-called "alternative girls" were allowed to be mothers, too, weren't they? Modern society hadn't taken that away yet.

"Alright, Ms Scott, this will be fairly simple," said the lab worker, at last looking away. She came across as a word Maggie wouldn't be allowed to say anymore very soon. "I am going to inject the largest vein in your arm with this serum we have prepared. We'll patch you up and then you get to go home."

"Well, at least it's easy. Like ripping off a band-aid," Maggie drawled.

Maggie sat very still and held out her arm on the white plastic, rounded arm of her chair. The lab worker grabbed a serum without looking, and injected the needle softly into the skin of Maggie's arm. She took it back out quickly, and immediately placed a piece of cotton on the wound, taping gauze around it.

"So… that's it, I'm preggers?" Maggie asked curiously.

The woman's lips thinned and she looked away. "Essentially. Wait two weeks to test for pregnancy."

"Essentially - whatever the freak that means. Thanks for your help," said Maggie sarcastically, and she walked rather quickly and forcefully out of the lab.

The lab worker sighed, but she dealt with people and this was not uncommon, so she simply placed the bottle off to the side - accidentally on the screen once more - and went to jot a few things down. Again the screen glowed:

CREATED GENETIC STRUCTURE ALREADY USED. PRE-TANGLE, HISTORICALLY RESEARCHED AND RECORDED. PREVIOUS SUBJECT: UNNAMED FEMALE MAGE SERVING IN ANCIENT EGYPT.

The lab worker took the bottle away to place it high on a shelf, frowning, and the screen information disappeared without her noticing.

The door handle rattled elsewhere and Maggie swooped into her quarters, laying herself down and throwing her keys down with a single sigh. "My head…" she moaned, rubbing her temples. "Maybe I shouldn't have been such a bitch… But I hate people implying I won't be a good Mom just because of the way I look." She frowned at the far wall, and then sighed in a practical sort of way. "Damn. I'm getting emotional already."

Laid out around her was an industrial interior design. Black, sleek metal, fake unbreakable glass, and exposed red brickwork spread out around Maggie. There were sofas, tables, a prodigious kitchen area, and a loft with a quirky dark staircase.

"Well, little squirt," Maggie said down at her flat belly, "looks like it's just gonna be you and me now. You like your new crib?"

Warm and loving, after a pause Maggie at last smiled softly.

-

The white lab room was clinical, and modern in its utter lifelessness. There seemed to be a certain sadness to the way everything just sat there, flat and dull and stale.

The lab worker was frowning as she worked around her lab table to the far left, and it made one wonder if she disliked her job that intensely. Didn't she ever welcome any changes into her life, in that case?

At last, the lab worker sighed, turned and picked up her chart on her clipboard to read off in a tired, sad sort of way, "Juniper Bennett." The woman sitting at the table, thin and vegetarian, with long, flowing clothes and long, dark red hair, smiled warmly and calmly and gave a single nod. "Single. Xanadu Andover Instructor who lives in private quarters at a school outside Domino City, in the southern countryside. Female child school section. You can't get married, but you wanted a child, and are therefore planning on being a single.

"What are your designations? It would be good to have for the paperwork."

"I have a greenery, plants, elves, and fairies deck," said Juniper, trying to be kind to such a slowly wilting person. "I'm the gentle but green hippie type." Her eyes sparkled in amusement.

"Alright, Ms Bennett, this will be fairly simple," said the lab worker idly, looking away. A reassuring speech for each patient, perhaps. "I am going to inject the largest vein in your arm with this serum we have prepared. We'll patch you up and then you get to go home."

"Well… I knew what I was signing up for," said Juniper uncertainly, eyeing the needle with some amount of distrust.

Juniper sat very still and held out her arm on the white plastic, rounded arm of her chair. The lab worker grabbed a serum without looking, and injected the needle softly into the skin of Juniper's arm. She took it back out quickly, and immediately placed a piece of cotton on the wound, taping gauze around it.

"… That's all there is to it," Juniper confirmed, still a bit suspicious.

The woman's flat, robotic tone looking away was not anymore reassuring. "Wait two weeks to test for pregnancy, but yes, that's all there is to it."

"Rules are rules, I suppose, if I want to have a baby," said Juniper, trying to smile. The woman didn't respond, so Juniper edged sideways and left the office.

A few minutes later, a knock came at the lab office door and a shabby, thin-looking couple walked in, the woman hesitant and the man glaring. "Mr and Mrs Wheeler," he said threateningly. "From Domino City. We're having our first child now, but we'd like to get this trip over with so we want a second serum for the second child we're planning on. You can do that, right?" he added aggressively.

"Of course," said the lab worker. "I'll inject you with this one for your first child -" She reached back behind herself blindly and held up the bottle with which she had just injected Juniper - same label and all. It gleamed in the fluorescent light. Then she held up a second amber liquid bottle. "And give you this one. We need to have copies on file of chemical treatments we hand out ahead of time, so I'll just log this into the system, make a copy, and then give you the second bottle for later.

"Now here is where doing the second from home gets complicated. When you get home, right away, even though the child won't be happening yet - I want you to inject if you will part of the second serum into a vein your abdomen. It will go to one of your unfertilized eggs, to prepare it. If some of your husband's DNA could be included in the injection, a strand of hair for example, that would be ideal."

She held up the second bottle with the different label.

"Let me just make a copy of this," she said, flustered and slightly harassed.

Meanwhile, keys turned jangling in a doorknob and Juniper walked into her apartment, slow and graceful and steady, breathing deep and calm and shutting the door behind her. After a brief pause, she smiled and flicked the lights on.

"I'm having a baby," she told herself, and then she beamed a little and bounced on her feet. "I'm having a baby."

Out around her in her living quarters was a Bohemian interior design space. It had patterned rugs, potted plants, bright colors, beautiful prints, cushy poufs, long sofas, and loud pieces of art decorating the walls.

Juniper beamed and put her hand to her belly. "I'm having baby," she whispered once more, finally happy now that the clinical medical part was over with.

-

The white lab room was simple, unadorned, not stylish in the slightest. It was modern, but that was about the only thing one could say for it.

The lab worker was frowning as she worked around her lab table to the far left. The least she could do was try to look pleasant. The whole thing had a rather sour note which hadn't been expected.

At last, the lab worker sighed, turned and picked up her chart on her clipboard to read off monotonically, "Coco Edwards." The woman sitting at the table, sumptuous and seductive, with long dark hair and eyes and classy, feminine dark designer clothes, smirked and gave a single regal nod.

"Mother of the future best baby in the whole world," she purred.

The lab worker didn't respond and Coco scowled. Instead, the lab technician continued, "Single. Xanadu Andover Instructor who lives in private quarters at a school outside Domino City, in the southern countryside. Female child school section. You can't get married, but you wanted a child, and are therefore planning on being a single.

"What are your designations? It would be good to have for the paperwork."

"I have a singers, divas, and celebrities deck," said Coco, assessing the woman up and down as if for suitability. "I'm the artistic, showy, and glamorous type." She preened herself just a little, smiling playfully.

The lab worker looked a little like she felt shown up - like she didn't entirely approve. Well screw her, Coco thought calmly. "Alright, Ms Edwards, this will be fairly simple," said the lab worker idly, looking away. The same speech she gave everyone else, of course, poor, plain, and sour little thing that she was. "I am going to inject the largest vein in your arm with this serum we have prepared. We'll patch you up and then you get to go home."

"Very well. I am ready," said Coco with calm bravery and dignity, her gaze icy.

Coco sat very still and held out her arm on the white plastic, rounded arm of her chair. The lab worker grabbed a serum without looking, and injected the needle softly into the skin of Coco's arm. She took it back out quickly, and immediately placed a piece of cotton on the wound, taping gauze around it.

"And now I'm set to go?" Coco confirmed, rather fiercely.

"Yes. Wait two weeks to pregnancy test, but you may go," said the lab worker with reserved distaste.

Coco stood up regally and ghosted from the room.

The lab worker put the bottle away on the screen. Immediately, it lit up and glowed:

CREATED GENETIC STRUCTURE ALREADY USED. PREVIOUS SUBJECT: ISHIZU ISHTAR OF EGYPT.

Not looking, the technician sighed and took the bottle away absently. The screen faded away. The technician at last put her hands against the counter and began crying in the quiet, alone.

Back at home, the keys jangled in the doorknob and Coco entered her private quarters, flipping on the lights, her every move calm, sly, and graceful. Set out around her was a Hollywood Glam interior design, with a black and white checkered marble floor, brilliantly bright lights, sleek mirrors, long tables filled with flowers, marble end tables, and a long unbreakable fake glass table surrounded by dark art and sleek black chairs. A tiny chandelier hung overhead.

Coco lounged back at a table, pouring herself a lemonade with ice. Suddenly, she paused and looked down at her flat belly.

"I will protect you," she said fiercely, warm. "I will protect you with everything I have. I'll never admit this to anyone else - but some things I'm not good at.

"But I am determined to be a good, protective mother."

-

The lab had a comforting anonymity to it, but was not much to look at. Given it was a modern designer medical lab, this was perhaps to be expected.

The lab worker was frowning as she worked around her lab table to the far left. It wasn't any of the patient's business what her lab technician was thinking, so she didn't worry about it.

At last, the lab worker sighed, turned and picked up her chart on her clipboard to read off with impressive matter of factness, "Sophie Parker." The woman sitting at the table, blue hair tied back, with a matter of fact sort of manner and sporty, nerdy clothes, sat there simply, waiting for the lab technician to continue. Medical laws were important and to be followed.

The lab technician added, "Single. Xanadu Andover Instructor who lives in private quarters at a school outside Domino City, in the southern countryside. Female child school section. You can't get married, but you wanted a child, and are therefore planning on being a single.

"What are your designations? It would be good to have for the paperwork."

"I have a businesswomen, robots, and mathematical deck," said Sophie calmly, eyes shutting in matter of fact poise. "I'm the brilliant, clinical, mathematical type."

The lab worker smiled in weak appreciativeness, the first sign that something might be off. "Alright, Ms Parker, this will be fairly simple," said the lab worker apologetically. The same speech she gave everyone else, as to be expected. Who could individualize a speech for each prospective parent, after all? "I am going to inject the largest vein in your arm with this serum we have prepared. We'll patch you up and then you get to go home."

"… Alright," said Sophie simply, waiting calmly. "I'm ready now."

Sophie sat very still and held out her arm on the white plastic, rounded arm of her chair. The lab worker grabbed a serum without looking, and injected the needle softly into the skin of Sophie's arm. She took it back out quickly, and immediately placed a piece of cotton on the wound, taping gauze around it.

"Is that all?" Sophie confirmed, teeth set.

"Yes. Wait at least two weeks before testing for pregnancy," said the lab technician.

"May I leave?" said Sophie.

"Yes."

Sophie left the office quietly, reserved. But as the bottle was placed aside, on the counter this time, the label could be seen.

It was the copy serum the lab technician had made - the copy for on file of the serum that would go into the Wheelers' second child. The serum the first injection of which would happen in the Wheelers' apartment that very night.

Mrs Wheeler had carried the other serum away in her purse.

The doorknob rattled and Sophie Parker entered her apartment. She flipped on the lights, swept her eyes in a once-over, confirmed that everything was as it should be and nodded, setting down her keys.

The private living quarters around her were in a Scandinavian interior design. Sparse furniture, a sofa and a coffee table with a body length lamp over a desk in a corner. There was a grey rug, and splashings everywhere of white, black, tan, and grey, with a couple of potted plants scattered here and there. What marked this space as special was the soft, cushiony air it gave off, full of subtle little patterns and squashy pillows and a surprising air of warmth.

Sophie looked down and put a quiet hand over her belly. "You and me, we'll have to do this together," she said, vulnerable for only a split second. "Okay?

"… I hope you'll turn out okay." Sophie frowned in worry, here with no one to see it.

-

The lab held open space and a rather artistic, beloved white minimalism to it, with gentle curves and soft cushions. It was light, airy, and surprisingly comfortable. Usually doctor's offices were so cluttered and loud.

The lab worker was frowning as she worked around her lab table to the far left. It made one wonder idly just what was wrong.

At last, the lab worker sighed, turned and picked up her chart on her clipboard to read off simply, reserved and guarded, hard to read, "Bijoux Philips." The woman sitting at the table, small and spry, with a pixie cut of dark hair, in black mannish fashionable business suit clothes, offered a smile. When she didn't get one in return it was confirmed - this woman was upset, distracted, probably had been all day.

The lab technician added, "Single. Xanadu Andover Instructor who lives in private quarters at a school outside Domino City, in the southern countryside. Female child school section. You can't get married, but you wanted a child, and are therefore planning on being a single.

"What are your designations? It would be good to have for the paperwork."

"I have a wild inventors and eccentric avant-garde artists deck," said Bijoux, watching the woman closely. "I'm the wild, eccentrically knowledgeable, eccentrically artistic type."

The lab worker nodded absently, frowning down at the clipboard like it held the answers to all her life's problems.

"… Alright, Ms Philips, this will be fairly simple," said the lab worker with the kind of admirable reserve of the medically and scientifically inclined. "I am going to inject the largest vein in your arm with this serum we have prepared. We'll patch you up and then you get to go home."

"Yes. I read up on this beforehand. I am ready," said Bijoux, in that moment just short of snobbishness.

Bijoux sat very still and held out her arm on the white plastic, rounded arm of her chair. The lab worker grabbed a serum without looking, and injected the needle softly into the skin of Bijoux's arm. She took it back out quickly, and immediately placed a piece of cotton on the wound, taping gauze around it.

"That is all," Bijoux interpreted, eyes piercing.

"Correct. Wait two weeks to do a pregnancy test, but you may leave," said the lab worker, relaxing at the end of what had probably been just as long a work day as it had been a waiting room wait.

"I thank you," said Bijoux, reserved. Elegant, eccentric, and odd, she ghosted from the room.

Wiping her brow, the lab technician placed the last serum bottle down. And this time, a couple of minutes later, she did look over and her eyes widened in horror. The bottle was placed on the lit-up screen. The screen read:

CREATED GENETIC STRUCTURE ALREADY USED. PRE-TANGLE, HISTORICALLY RESEARCHED AND RECORDED. PREVIOUS SUBJECT: UNNAMED WOMAN FROM AN UNMARKED ANCIENT EGYPTIAN GRAVE, ORIGINALLY AN ALBINO.

Hurriedly, in a teary-eyed panic for a new reason, the lab technician went back over her previous records for the day. "Oh, no," she whispered, putting her hand over her mouth. She rushed out into the waiting room -

And it was empty. Their branch was closed and all the patients had gone home. There was the marble checkered black and white flooring, there were the sleek black waiting chairs, there were the other white doors in a half-circle around the echoing empty open space, there in the center was the massive black orb inscribed with white and web-like markings indicating The Tangle -

- And beyond that was simple emptiness. Nothing.

"… Oh, God," the lab technician choked out.

Meanwhile, the key jingled in the lock and Bijoux entered her private quarters at the school. They were decorated in an artistic white Minimalist interior design, with beautiful patterned grey paintings, wide open spaces, a single long sleek comfy sofa in silver and white, white painted brick walls, and little alcoves that lead into things like the fake unbreakable glass table with its dark high stool chairs. What marked this space as special was the wide, artistic, open, airy, sleek, sophisticated, and creative air it gave off.

Bijoux walked in matter of factly, and then calmly curled up on her sofa like cat. She looked down quietly at her flattened belly and put a hand over it.

"Just think of all the interesting times we'll share together," she said, unreadable. Then she gave a single, quiet smile of satisfaction. "I wanted someone to love."

-

"How could you let this happen?! Some of these children will be clones from different eras, or countries, or races! They could turn out being of a totally different gender from one another! But they'll all have a clone! Two clones in one family - that has to be some sort of fucking record!"

The lab technician's eyes squeezed shut with tears, her head bowed in shame. Her boss was standing in front of her in her lab. The glowing screen full of pulled records was on the screen set into the counter beside them.

"I'm sorry… I just, I was distracted today. My son died last week. He was eight, and a car hit him while he was out playing," the lab technician whispered. "And every time someone came in hoping for a child, I just kept going back in my mind to… Rhonda, I - I wasn't thinking -"

"I'm aware of that. In that case, you shouldn't have come into work," her boss snapped, a small severe woman in business formal with a bun of black hair, a round face, a square chin, and a sharp glare. "You don't get any sympathy from me right now. You just fucked with the lives of no less than fourteen children, plus two dead people! Because you couldn't concentrate!"

"Unless we believe spiritual powers guide scientific discoveries - then yes, yes, I hopelessly screwed up. Do we… do we tell them?" the lab technician whispered, pained.

"You mean, do I tell them?! You're fired!" Rhonda snarled. The lab technician swallowed, shameful tears stinging her eyes. "And what good would telling them do?! By this time, no doubt every single injection has already happened! The forming 'clones' are all probably 'calling out' to their partners without knowing it from the womb as we speak, considering the 'couple' kids were conceived already! And we both know the babies with two human DNA structures will win out; what can we do about any of that?! All that would happen is that our branch of The Tangle's image would suffer! We would be shut down; it would be a PR disaster!

"No," Rhonda whispered, wide-eyed. "No. Nobody can ever know anything."

She glared up at the lab technician. "Pack your things and leave, Stephanie. You fucked up," she snarled, brushed past her, and left the office. Her heels clacked briskly and angrily back across the empty marble floor space, back past the vast orb sculpture indicating The Tangle.

Stephanie stood there in what had once been her white clinical Minimalist lab, trying not to cry, stock-straight and very, very still.

It was stupid, but she was still thinking of her dead son.