You can’t barf in a Cadwallader, Swaine & Taft conference room, definitely not when a client is due. Even when staring at photos of smiling octogenarian heads stitched to muscular, teenage bodies.
I took a deep breath of filtered air. There were lots of horrors in the world. Mom got blown up. My mentor, “Iron” Lilly, got brain cancer. Anencephalic clones got harvested so rich old men could live longer. The Rules of Professional Conduct still governed.
At least my client opposed transplanting her father’s head onto a clone he grew in China. When she arrived, I’d—
Applebaum, the grizzly bear of a litigator who dumped this case on me, stomped through the door leading a woman with body armor, a crew cut, and a hard-eyed stare.
The woman—bodyguard?—nodded curtly. “Please close the blinds.”
“Uh, pardon me?”
She was so fast that before I finished speaking she’d slid past my armchair, flipped the switch, and dropped hurricane shutters over the 57th-floor view of the harbor. I was a cross-country runner myself, but she’d make a hell of a sprinter.
As the translucent shutters fell, the green-shaded brass library lamps lit. Into the false evening strode another girl, this one dressed in bluejeans and a hooded ballistic vest reaching past her hips. She stalked past Applebaum, dropped her hood, and looked at me, pinning me to my seat with eyes blazing like some Egyptian cobra goddess.
I struggled to my feet anyway. Most Trusts and Estates Department clients were old money. Old money demanded polite, and it was a habit I couldn’t, and didn’t want, to break. “Uh, good afternoon, Ms. Astos. Lucas Pratt at your service.”
I didn’t add, “unwillingly.” Now that my mentor, “Iron” Lilly, was a corpsicle, it was crazy to dream that anybody in lowly Trusts and Estates could force Litigation to handle its own cases.Especially T&E’s last wisp of a partner, old Stiles.
Mara Astos was laughing at me, cobra goddess gone. Blue, blue eyes in a freckled face, long red hair carelessly tied back. Maybe my age, but the super-rich were hard to gauge. “Shoo, Applebaum,” she said, without turning.
He tried to object, probably wanting to estimate how many junior associates he could justify assigning to the case, but Speedy Bodyguard was already herding him out the door.
The client chuckled. “Don’t worry, I’ll do fine alone with your ‘bright, accommodating milksop.”
Milksop? I tried to accommodate my clients as much as possible. I mean, the goal of T&E is to give clients peace of mind, but milksop?
Ms. Astos dropped into the swivel chair opposite mine. “I presume you read the file?”
Every page. However much it turned my stomach. “Uh, what you have is a case of first impression, Ms. Astos, and—”
“Mara.” Okay. “U.S. law clearly permits organ donation. Nothing on the books prohibits U.S. citizens from breeding a ‘reproductive’ clone in any jurisdiction where it’s lawful. The only law in our favor is the federal definition of ‘human being,’ a political compromise between the right-to-lifers and right-to-choosers. Anencephalic clones meet the definition of ’human being’, and if surgeons ‘kill’ them during a full-body transplant, which depends on—”
“Stop! I don’t care what the law is. You argue what I tell you to argue. I’ll find a judge to buy it.”
Uh. Well, she could just mean forum-shopping. “Sure, whatever you want, so long as it doesn’t violate the Rules of Professional Conduct.”
“You’ll do what I tell you to do.” The cobra goddess was back, scarier than Applebaum.
“Within the Rules?” It came out as a question, but it wasn’t. Really.
She rolled her eyes. “We don’t have time for this. If Daddy doesn’t get his transplant within thirty days, he’s dead. Just stall him. Can you do that?”
Maybe. But dead? “Uh, what exactly is your goal? Are you against using clones for parts,” something I’d be thrilled to work on, “or is it—”
“I want Daddy dead,” she said.
“Nobody lies to me, ever again. He’s done as puppeteer. Thirty days without the transplant, and I inherit.”
Shit. “Ah, even if we get a preliminary injunction against your dad’s transplant, he could just preserve himself cryonically, right?”
She shrugged. “Not if we freeze his assets first.”
There was that. But, practically speaking, “Uh, doesn’t he have assets all over the world?” Even if we got lucky with a judge, we’d barely have time to freeze his U.S. assets.
She frowned, terrifyingly, at what was obviously a rhetorical question about billionaires who commissioned clones in China. I persevered.
“Uh, unless you catch your father outside of China, in a jurisdiction with the will to extradite, or you have more influence in China than he does, there’s no way we can block him from accessing assets he’s already moved to China.”
The cobra goddess hissed and reared.
“Uh, is your Dad already in China?”
She spat, “Oh, yes, Daddy’s dining with his clone. A week ago, he told me he wanted to see the Stone Forest and the real Shangri-La before he died. Typical half-truth, hiding lies. When he didn’t invite me along, I knew he was up to something. Once I started digging, it didn’t take long to discover what the Lijiang ‘Health Center’ really did. What Daddy really did.”
Crap. A preliminary injunction wouldn’t work. Daddy could transplant before it issued. Could we trick him back into the U.S. by threatening his assets here? Then we might convince a court to penalize whole-body clone transplants so severely that Daddy would prefer freezing to losing his empire. But no court would order Daddy to freeze himself after the transplant.
Another thought niggled. Father and daughter usually went on vacations together? Meaning the bad blood was new? Good T&E lawyers always advised their clients to give themselves time to cool off before disinheriting relatives for recent screw-ups. Shouldn’t that apply to eliminating?
“You usually vacation together?”
“Ever since Mom died. Bastard pretending to be heartbroken… How’s that relevant? Focus on one thing: STOP THE TRANSPLANT!”
“Uh,” I said, actually regretting Applebaum’s departure, “Being in China already kinda scuttles—”
“Fine,” interrupted Speedy. “She’ll accept corpsicle.”
Mara bounced angrily from her chair but didn’t contradict her. “Just erase the man from my life.”
I spent the rest of the afternoon brainstorming how to lure Daddy back onto U.S. soil.
But the real issues kept distracting me.
Why did Mara suddenly hate her father?
How could you not hate somebody who created a clone for parts? I mean, it was legal to gestate a child to create organs for a sick sibling or to get transfusions and even a kidney from your kids, but was it right?
Since Daddy needed the clone’s whole body, our strongest argument was that anencephalic clones met the federal definition of “human being.” Although death row proved that not all human beings had a right to life, it was pretty clear that one human being didn’t have the right to kill another in order to acquire organs.
Except doctors who took organs from probably–
What bothered me most was intentionally breeding a brainless human, even though the courts refused to recognize a cause of action for “wrongful life” (declaring themselves incompetent to value the difference between nonexistence and life in an impaired state). And refused to interfere with deaf parents gene-selecting for deafness and dwarf parents selecting for dwarfism…
But the definition of “human being” meant we won. So long as the clone was gestated in a “mother” and not an artificial womb. So long as the clone “died” during the transplant.
But what if it didn’t “die”? Who knew the result of connecting Daddy’s brain to his anencephalic clone’s brain stem? Dead clone? Brainy clone? Or Siamese twins?
I was the wrong attorney for this case. I’d never win if I made up arguments for the other side. I had to think like a litigator. I needed to eat raw meat. Or at least raw fish.
I ordered (at the client’s expense) a deluxe bento box from Kobeyaki. The two block walk would clear my head.
Kobeyaki was crowded. Even though I’d ordered ahead, I had to stand in line in the dark, tempura-and-cherry-blossom–scented anteroom.
“Pardon me,” a melodious voice said behind me.
I half-turned. It was a pleasant-looking older Asian woman, dressed in a classic pinstripe skirt-suit.
“Ah, I was right!” she crowed delightedly, eyes crinkling. “Lucas Pratt, are you not?”
“Uh, yes,” I said. “I’m sorry, do I know you?”
“I went to Harvard Law School with your mother. I met you as a tiny child. You graduated from Harvard Law too, did you not?”
Words stuck in my throat. Did she know…?
Her smile dimmed. “My deepest condolences. It is almost a year since the accident, is it not?” She reached out to take my right hand in both of hers.
My chest loosened. Of course Mom’s classmates would have read about her death in the alumni magazine. As the lady squeezed my hand I thought…
“Please wake up, Mr. Pratt.”
My eyelids were glued shut, my hands heavier than feed-sacks. I struggled to rub my eyes.
“You remember me, do you not?”
The lady from Kobeyaki. But I was sitting—in an airplane?
I lunged to my feet, but my seatbelt stopped me.
“There is no reason for concern, Mr. Pratt. I am Ms. Gan.”
Ignoring her, I scrabbled at the belt.
“I truly am your mother’s classmate, though I cannot say I ever ‘hung out’ with her, as…”
The damn thing wouldn’t, let, go!
“…she spent all her free time with her family, did she not?”
This mattered how? “Where the fuck am I?”
“Ah, you resemble your mother more when you are frightened,” she said. “So I will answer you as straightforwardly as she would.”
Why couldn’t I get this off? Drugs. She drugged me. Was I even on a plane? Was this even a seatbelt? I tore and pounded at it anyway.
“You cannot unbelt until after we land at Lijiang Airport,” she said. “We provided IV and catheter support on the flight to ensure that you arrive well-rested, well-hydrated, and comfortable. The government-sponsored tour of the Lijiang Health Center will commence in one hour. Afterward, Mr. Astos will lunch with you. This schedule will enable you to return to your office by your usual Saturday arrival time, will it not?”
She was letting me go? Waves of panic subsided in a shiver. Wait, they catheterized me? No, not important. Mr. Astos? Suddenly, I was as hotly and coldly angry as ever my mother could be. “Mr. Astos had me kidnapped?”
“No, Mr. Pratt, my government. But Mr. Astos is a valued entrepreneur, customer, and resident of my country. Our interests coincide in the matter of his daughter’s litigation against his transplant.”
Stupid, stupid, stupid. I should have known this case would be bigger than billionaire v. billionaire. And not only the Chinese would have “interests” at stake. The minute I got home, I needed to chart out all the stakeholders.
“You prefer black coffee and orange juice in the morning, do you not?”
I took long, deep breaths. The opposition might be rougher than I was used to, but apparently the rules of professional courtesy still applied. “Uh, yes, thank you, Ms. Gan.”
She bowed and waved forward a white-jacketed steward.
When we landed and deplaned, I saw that the plane was ballistic. We’d been in space, and I’d missed it. Maybe they’d let me stay awake on the flight back?
Ms. Gan ushered me into the back seat of a limo and we drove away through undulating countryside, forest on our left and crops on our right. Beyond the forest and crops rose jagged cliffs.
“We will pass Lijiang City, capital of the Naxi ethnic minority,” Ms. Gan said. “After crossing Lijiang’s three rivers, we drive over the gorge…” And she kept up the travelogue about the spectacular foothills of Shangri-La until we arrived at Lijiang Health Center.
Driving under the central arch, we stopped in a white-graveled courtyard. The limo doors unlocked and Ms. Gan waved me out. A portcullis clanked shut behind us.
The sun made me squint, but my lungs expanded like they had never tasted air before.
“So, Mr. Pratt,” said Ms. Gan, “you need to see with your own eyes how the clones and surrogates are treated, do you not?” And she whisked me into the bowels of the beast—which was actually a bright, bracing space filled with plants, tantalizing aromas, and smiling faces.
Shy Naxi teenagers dressed in sheepskin capes crowded into a small interview room, competing for jobs as surrogates at the center. Assured Naxi women, speaking English as well as Ms. Gan, told me how surrogacy was their escape from poverty and paternalism. They boasted they spent their pregnancies learning English, Mandarin, and how to manage money. They were raring to try their skills when they turned twenty-six, the mandatory retirement age for surrogates.
“These are the wealthiest women in Yunnan province,” said Ms. Gan. “We place two-thirds of their salary into spendthrift trusts. Would you be interested in the details that prevent fathers and husbands from asserting control over the girls’ money?”
From Ms. Gan’s smug expression, the trusts obviously were her baby. Okay, so they took care of the surrogates. But “Don’t pretend the girls—uh, women—are never abused,” I said.
Ms. Gan shrugged. “Abuse happens in any system administered by humans, does it not? These girls can appeal to me. We greatly improve on reproductive industry conditions prevailing when I sold my own eggs for college expenses.”
She…? And I thought I had crappy college jobs?
I swallowed and let her sweep me to our next stop, where I started to drool. Islands of fruits, vegetables, soups, and yogurt stood among small tables of giggling pregnant ladies in white shirts and navy jumpers.
Ms. Gan led me into the kitchen behind, where sweating chefs yelled and laughed.
She unlocked a door in the far wall, and everything changed.
Quiet pandemonium of half-headed kids. Mostly Asian and white, but black and brown as well. Mostly male. All muscled and roving around in food-spattered white jumpers. Handlers in white scrubs. No laughs. No cries. No eyebrows.
Handlers fed the littler clones. Bigger clones grabbed stuff from a long counter themselves. There was no soup here, but built-in troughs of noodles, fruit, vegetables, yogurt, and fish. The clones swirled in a silence of soft slippers, grotesque Helen Kellers before she met Anne Sullivan.
Ms. Gan was talking. “…so our geneticists enhance the typical anencephalic brainstem with neural structures derived from native trout. This enables the clones to control their movements sufficiently to walk and grasp objects, helping develop their muscles and lung capacity, and, as you see, feed. For control, we add olfactory structures that attract the clones to certain scents.”
Well, I didn’t see any bruises. And though my drool had dried up, their food did smell as good as the food next door. But to live without sensation except smell. No pain, no pleasure, no memory…
I jumped. “Sorry, yes?”
Ms. Gan shook her head. “I said, Mr. Astos is waiting in the outdoor colonnade. Unless you wish to interview more staff who speak English?”
A half-headed toddler swerved toward us, handler in pursuit. Ms. Gan calmly diverted their vector with a shove. I stared at the flat, skin-colored plastic cap sloping from empty eyes to neck. Not Helen Keller. I shuddered. Not even a fish. But from the back, looking so much like children.
Suddenly I wanted to meet that bastard Astos. “Let’s go,” I said.
Astos’s table stood half in bright sunlight and half in deep shade. Daddy himself lounged in a wheelchair on the dividing line.
Was this some bullshit symbolic statement about nothing being black or white? I chose a chair completely in shadow. I wasn’t conceding Astos owned even half the moral high ground.
“Mr. Pratt,” he said, “my condolences on the death of your mother.”
WTF? “Uh, thank you.”
“I met her in negotiations settling the SpaceGas litigation,” he said. “She had Delmonico’s send bowls of fruit salad, four-foot subs, and cheesecakes. Told me straight-out that sharing food raises oxytocin levels and encourages cooperation. So,” he concluded as a chef materialized bearing a huge platter of finger foods surrounding a bowl of yogurt, “I’m following her lead. Please join me.”
The chef placed the platter in the middle of the round table, hot hors d’oeuvres in the sun, cold in the shade. Oh.
Astos dipped a fried something into the yogurt. I tried a tiny shish-kabob of steaming meat and vegetables. Delicious.
“Are you enjoying the yak?”
I nodded, mouth full of spicy wonderfulness. Yak. How cool was that?
“So you have no moral qualms about eating fellow mammals?”
I swallowed. “Uh, no qualms, so long as they’re raised and killed humanely.” I wasn’t an animal rights nut, but animal welfare champion? Definitely. Of course, the line between animal and person had been getting blurrier with discoveries that elephants, dolphins, and certain birds not only understood themselves as identities with pasts and futures, but understood “theory of mind.” Being the cautious sort, I advocated treating those species like Homo sapiens of “diminished capacity.” I certainly wasn’t going to eat or wear anything that worried I was raising it for slaughter.
Of course, anencephalic clones had neither worries nor minds, much less theory of mind. Which meant Astos would ask…
“So how are anencephalic Homo sapiens different?”
I put down my literal yak and dug in my figurative heels. “For lots of people, the difference is the soul. Homo sapiens are supposed to have souls, while other species don’t.”
“Do you believe that?”
“Irrelevant. We need to respect those who do.” I was going to ignore the fact that Hindus and Buddhists believed all species had souls.
“To the exclusion of helping mistreated ethnic minorities like the Naxi, who we all agree are thinking, feeling people? To the exclusion of saving lives of people we all agree have hearts and minds and hopes?”
“Okay, okay,” I said. “There has to be a balance.”
“So how is my balance wrong?”
The man was a fiend. He was making me ask and answer my own questions. I could say that intentionally depriving a fetus of its potential for mindfulness was prima facie wrong. But if it didn’t have a soul, why was it wrong? How many human organs did you have to grow in one sack before it was wrong to harvest them?
Where organs were grown couldn’t be the touchstone. I mean, except for sects believing test-tube babies lacked souls. The center’s surrogates were too well treated to argue about. And artificial wombs were coming….
Was anencephalic cloning wrong because only a fortunate few could afford to grow new bodies? Or if it wasn’t limited to a fortunate few, wrong because it would exacerbate overpopulation? But didn’t a fringe argue against all medical advances on that basis?
Or was the real question more basic: What, in this day and age, was a politically sustainable allocation of scarce resources among stakeholders?
In emergency rooms, we followed the time-hallowed practice of triage, which in that setting beat out the generally more popular “first come, first served,” “might makes right,” and “he who pays the piper calls the tune” traditions. For organ donation, though, the official preference was closer to “he who will make best use of the organ” wins it.
But for whole-body transplants, wouldn’t that usually favor the old? Wouldn’t that violate the rights of the young to their fair share of life, liberty, and the pursuit of property? The Constitution never imagined “human beings” having the right to eternal life, liberty, and property on Earth. But if not eternal, how long?
Astos ate his lunch and watched me debate myself, silent. My head was going to explode. It was worse than debating with Mom. And the hot food was getting cold.
But this wasn’t a family dinner. And Astos wasn’t my father.
It wasn’t my job to judge between Daddy and his clone. It was my job to use all lawful means to pursue his daughter’s objectives.
“Respectfully, sir, it doesn’t matter what I think. What matters is what your daughter thinks. And if you can’t convince her, then what matters is whether I can convince a bunch of judges that your actions violate current law, policy, and the public interest.”
Astos dropped his chop sticks and shook his head. “Damn law school brainwashing. I’d hoped for better from you. Please, enjoy your lunch.” And he powered his wheelchair backward, turned away from the table, and purred down the dark colonnade.
But then he stopped. “How was Mara when you met with her?”
He bowed his head. “Of course. Please tell her I’m sorry. Tell her it wasn’t just for myself.”
“Tell her.” He purred away.
I forced myself to eat another shish kabob. He wanted me to convey personal messages? He thought I should let my personal values, whatever they were here, compromise my actions as an attorney? Well, screw him. And screw section 8 of the Preamble to the New York Rules of Professional Conduct.
Back in the limo beside Ms. Gan, we rolled down mile after mile of forest to the river valley. We passed Lijiang City before Ms. Gan broke the silence.
“Your response to Mr. Astos was correct, Lucas. Your loyalty is to Ms. Astos. But in all family quarrels it is best to encourage settlement before litigation, is it not?”
I knew that. What about this case kept making me forget it? “I’ll contact Ms. Astos as soon as I reach my office,” I said. “Any chance I could stay awake for the flight?”
“My regrets, Mr. Pratt. Security does not permit.”
I woke up Saturday morning in my apartment, dressed only in running shorts. It was 10 o’clock. Plenty of time for my usual run to the office. I’d wait until I was sitting at my desk in One Chase before deciding whether the China trip was a hallucination.
I had hit my stride, lungs sucking in the air filtered through my nose plugs, missing Lijiang’s fresher air, when a long-legged black guy in a “Free the Enhanced®” t-shirt overtook me and slowed to my pace.
“IRS,” he said, flashing me a holo badge from under his shirt. “Any ill effects from your trip?”
I groaned and slowed.
“No, don’t break pace,” the IRS guy said. “The Chinese still have you under surveillance.”
“What’s the IRS interest?” I asked. Maybe I needed a new route to One Chase. But this one passed under the oldest trees planted downtown.
“Please, Mr. Pratt, the one percent. Astos dies, we get a nice chunk. One-percenters start living forever, we run out of money before Congress grows the balls to change the law.”
True. I really needed to finish my stakeholders chart, yesterday.
“So, the Chinese turn you?”
I stopped dead. “Fuck off,” I said. “My client is Mara Astos.”
Mr. IRS jogged backwards a couple of strides and grinned. “All I wanted to hear,” he said. And disappeared faster than my best sprint.
I badly needed to talk to somebody, and Lilly was gone. Mom was gone. I showered, changed clothes, and knocked on Old Stiles’ half-open office door.
His rumpled gray hair barely showed above the stacks of papers on his desk. I edged between stacks strewn around the carpet and perched on the one empty chair. A lot of the files on Stiles’ desk were Lilly’s.
“Uh, sir, this case from Applebaum—”
“How can I help?” He waved at his desk. “In five minutes or less?”
Five minutes? My heart instantly accelerated past 100 bpm.
“Four minutes,” said Stiles. “Stakeholder summary? Just the major players.”
Right. “Mara wants her dad out of her life and control of the family business. Dad wants to transplant his head onto the body of his anencephalic clone in China so he won’t die in a month. And wants Mara in his life. U.S. voters who believe in souls want everything they think is a “living human being” to be off limits for transplants. The U.S.-IRS wants estate taxes. The Chinese want the revenue from the clone and transplant business. The Naxi minority, ditto. I have no idea what anencephalic clones want.”
Stiles didn’t even blink, just smoothed his gray hair. “So what’s the hang-up?”
What’s the hang-up? Did I mention the Chinese kidnapped me? No, and I couldn’t if I didn’t want him to think I was crazy. “Um, there’s no way to get an injunction before Dad gets the transplant. And afterwards, all the legal and practical cards are stacked against Mara.”
“Injunction? Are you a zero-sum litigator who needs to prove he’s right and everybody else is wrong, regardless of the cost to the client?”
My mouth dropped open. All that came out was “Applebaum?”
“Forget Applebaum. Unless you want to switch to Litigation.”
“No? Then act like a T&E attorney.”
Act like a—?
Stiles sighed and shook his head. “Lilly was desperate, but it was wrong of her to let you litigate her case. Granted, your ‘Schrodinger’s Cat Trust’ brilliantly balanced cryonics stakeholder interests, but did litigating ruin you, Pratt?”
Lilly was wrong?
“Don’t look so stricken, boy. Think. What’s T&E’s superpower?
“We’re counselors, Pratt. Advisers. Not hired guns. We help clients find peace of mind. Take a breath and do it.” And he disappeared behind his stacks.
Back in my own office, I pondered peace of mind. For that, a negotiated agreement was always better than litigation.
Mara said she’d accept corpsicle Dad and control of the family assets outside China. But Dad would never agree to delay the transplant, and if that was successful, no court would require him to risk cryonic preservation. And then Dad would fight for control of all the family assets.
So what was our leverage against Dad? And what, short of cryonic preservation and complete control of assets outside China, would give Mara peace of mind? And not force the other stakeholders to challenge the settlement?
I charted the stakeholders and their interests, excluding Applebaum’s. I stared at the chart. And smiled.
The Cadwallader long-distance conferencing room was state of the art. You could smell the Lijiang clinic.
So it was like we were all sitting in the same room, except nobody in New York could shoot anybody dead in China. Which was good, given Mara’s glare.
In Lijiang, Mr. Astos sat at a small bamboo conference table, Ms. Gan beside him. Astos’s wheelchair bristled with IV bags. Chinese in scrubs hovered, adjusting whatever, walking in and out of sensor range.
At Cadwallader, I sat at the head of the glass table. Mara fulminated to my right, Speedy grim behind her armchair.
On my left, IRS Man fiddled while Applebaum burned. But Old Stiles sat solidly on a chair against the wall, “guarding your back since Lilly can’t.”
Whatever their reservations, everybody but the principals already endorsed my settlement proposal.
“Going for the sympathy bid?” asked Mara, waving at her father’s med-tech festooned wheelchair.
“No, just showing you the truth, for once, as you keep demanding,” said Mr. Astos.
“Oh, now you’re saying you did it to protect me?”
“Yes,” said Daddy. “Look.”
He lifted his chin imperiously and a handler led his white-clad clone into view. “This is my clone, made with your Aunt Lynn’s eggs.” Then another handler led a second clone into view. A female clone.
“So no, I did not ‘steal’ your eggs for myself, whatever your security reports. I took them to clone you. So I wouldn’t lose you like your mother.”
“YOU HAD NO RIGHT! YOU LIED! ‘STD-prevention contraceptive implants’ so I COULD ‘CONTROL MY BODY’ WHILE YOU WERE TAKING MY EGGS!”
Holy crow. Holy—
Stiles was out of his chair, arms around sobbing Mara. “Wrong actions, right reasons,” he muttered soothingly. “Awful. Unforgivable were he anyone but your father, stupid with grief.”
It was falling apart. Like Mom. Like Lilly. Again.
Mara pushed Stiles away. “NO ONE controls me, ever again. I’ll—”
NO! My fist smashed onto the table. It cracked. Everybody winced. “Ah, uh, listen! How about you control him instead! Without freezing him.”
Mr. Astos grabbed Ms. Gan’s arm. Guess she hadn’t told him anything besides we were talking settlement. But if Mara agreed to what the Chinese already accepted, for practical purposes, it didn’t matter.
Speedy was whispering fiercely in Mara’s ear. “Fine. I’ll listen,” Mara said.
I fixed my best cobra stare on her. Stiles harrumphed. I rearranged my face into what Mom called my puppy eyes. “Uh, how would you feel about a younger brother?”
Mara shrank back from me like I’d cracked.
“Really, it’s not crazy. What if your father acknowledges his clone as his son? Then donates his head to him? Daddy’s declared legally dead, and the clone becomes your fifteen-year-old brother and ward. You’re executrix of Daddy’s estate and you control everything until your new ‘brother’ turns twenty-one. Then he gets half.”
I looked back and forth between Mara and her father. “Get it? There’s something for everyone. Dad gets the transplant without legal penalties and without losing Mara. For six years, Mara gets control of everything, including Dad’s moral reeducation. After that, she still keeps half, plus a brother.”
Nobody said no. Applebaum actually looked the unhappiest, contemplating the loss of epic litigation fees.
“The U.S. gets estate taxes and doesn’t interfere with citizens booking the Lijiang Health Center. No changes to existing law, just an IRS opinion letter providing clones the status of ‘heirs of the body’.”
I waved my hands. “Everyone can keep debating when death occurs, what collections of organs grown in what conditions have a soul, and the ethics of designing disabilities into embryos.”
Daddy released Ms. Gan’s arm and snorted. Mara covered her face with her hands. But neither of them said no.
Claudia Casser (email@example.com), a graduate of Harvard Law School, worked as an antitrust litigator and a corporate in-house counsel before retiring to write and raise her children.