A/N: The following is a background scene for a novel I am working on, but it revealed too much of the story and so I had to cut it from the novel. In a future society, only parents determined to be fit parents are allowed to have children, and the licensing of parents has become as much a tool to screen for fitness as a means of keeping population numbers in check.


Sophie preened in front of the mirror. Finally, she thought, baby bump, not looking fat.

"We'll be late for your appointment," said J'Niyah.

"I was just thinking it was looking more like a baby bump instead of me getting fat," said Sophie, running a comb through her hair one last time.

"It's been looking like a baby bump for awhile," said J'Niyah, leaning to whisper into Sophie's ear, "when you're naked."

Sophie giggled. "Better get going, then," she said, hitching a breath to stop the giggles. "Or we really will be late."

The couple strolled from the house as the blue cab pulled in front of the house.

The cabdriver turned, thrusting a tablet through the slot in the partition. "Registration numbers and destination, please."

J'Niyah tapped in her number, passing the tablet to Sophie, who tapped in her own registration number and then the address.

The drive itself was short and quiet, and they pulled up in front of the cream-toned brick clinic.

"I'll wait here until they call," said J'Niyah, settling into one of the cushioned seats in the waiting area.

Sophie nodded, then walked to the window. Anatomy scan is rather long, but they'll let me bring her back for the reveal.

"My name is Ashlynn, and I'll be your tech today." The young woman wore her blonde hair in a loose fishtail braid and was attired in scrubs with the kitten Marie of Aristocats and pink ribbons all over the garment. "You may leave underwear on, but remove all the other clothes from the waist down—well, socks can stay on if your feet get cold. Just loosely drape that cloth and I'll give you a few minutes to get ready."

Sophie took little time to get ready, and Ashlynn returned to the room.

"Would you like some music?" said Ashlynn, offering a tablet.

Sophie scanned through the selections and tapped her favorite. Soft strains of a harp played against the sound of waves crashing on a beach as Ashlynn began the examination. Sophie felt the cool of the gel and gentle pressure of the transducer.

"Oh … this ..." Ashlynn tilted the screen away from Sophie, her fingers flying over a keyboard.

"What's wrong?" said Sophie.

Ashlynn was quiet, and Sophie felt her mouth going dry.

"What's wrong?" repeated Sophie.

Garbed in the usual white coat, Sophie saw her doctor, Dr Lyyn, enter the room, bending her head close to Ashlynn as the two of them whispered furiously back and forth.

"Please," said Sophie. "What's wrong?"

"Ms Duff-Curran," said Dr Lyyn, "did anyone come with you for this visit?"

"Yes," said Sophie, "my wife. She's out in the waiting room, waiting for the ..." Sophie's voice broke, she was unable to finish the sentence. "Please, just tell me what's wrong."

"You may get dressed now," said Ashlynn.

Dr Lyyn left the room, and a moment later, after clicking off the machine, Ashlynn also left. Sophie hopped down from the table, wrapping the drape around her as a sarong, and looked at the machinery as if it might, even in the inert state, give her some inkling as to the issue.

What can be so wrong, they won't even tell me? thought Sophie. I know we passed all the tests, and the genetic screenings with J'Niyah's brother, cross-referenced and all, and everything should be fine! Helpless, her mind whirling with questions, Sophie pulled on her jeans and slipped into the shoes.

Stepping into the hallway, Sophie found herself faced with a woman whose hair had been pulled into a rainbow-dyed series of cornrows, her well-cut gray suit barely softened by the cream lace of the shirt beneath.

"Sophie Duff-Curran?" The woman did not pause for confirmation, her words efficiently clipped free of emotion. "You will come this way, please."

Sophie followed down the short hallway, and the woman swiped a card and the door slid into the wall, and the new hall led to a small office. J'Niyah was already seated next to an empty chair, with Dr Lyyn standing near the desk.

Dr Lyyn stepped aside as the suited woman went to her seat. Numbly, Sophie sank into the empty chair beside J'Niyah, barely taking in the nameplate on the desk identifying the woman as Cumille Janus.

"I don't understand," said Sophie, "what's wrong?"

Cumille took the folder from Dr Lyyn. "Duff-Curran, Sophie … birthing mother; Duff-Curran J'Niyah, mother. Sperm from J'Diyan Curran, brother of J'Niyah. Registry number 63R15763452. All the pre-registration examination and the genetic review were properly completed. Expected due date August 16. This is all correct?"

Sophie felt her tongue dried to the roof of her mouth as she nodded.

"Yes, that's all correct," said J'Niyah.

"Dr Lyyn, would you please show the picture from the Duff-Curran exam?" said Cumille.

Dr Lynn tapped the tablet, and propped the tablet in its upright position, the image now visible to J'Niyah and Sophie.

"There's two heads," said Sophie, confused as her mind tried to make sense of the image.

"And there is the problem," said Cumille. "You have a license for one baby, but you are carrying two."

"I … how?" said Sophie.
"It's not common," said Dr Lyyn, "but it has happened. These are what are known as momo twins … mono-zygotic mono-amniotic—identical twins. We will explain the options and risks."

"And then you will need to give us your decision," said Cumille. "First of all, we understand that this is not your fault. You were inseminated after one egg was detected, there was no intention to conceive a second child. Therefore, you will not be facing the usual penalties for an unregistered pregnancy."

"Of course, the simplest option," said Dr Lyyn, "would be to terminate both and start over. The license would remain valid—you would not need to start the entire process from the beginning."

"I'm already almost halfway," said Sophie, "I don't want to do that."

"There is also the option of attempting to terminate one twin," said Dr Lyyn. "Of course, the risks are that the second twin would spontaneously abort or otherwise be harmed in the process."

"Is there any other choice?" Sophie voiced her question in a tone just above a whisper.

"You would have to be admitted to the hospital for monitoring until delivery," said Dr Lyyn. "There are risks of complications with this sort of twin, and we would need to keep you close to monitor the remaining pregnancy very aggressively for such complications. At the time of delivery, you would have to choose which one to keep."

"What happens to the other one?" said Sophie.

"The unregistered twin would be sent to the orphanage like any other unregistered baby. The only difference being that you would not be penalized for that unregistered birth," said Cumille. "You and your wife may now review your options and make a decision."

Sophie turned to J'Niyah, feeling the moisture that had fled her mouth now trembling at her eyelashes.

"Sophie needs some water to drink," said J'Niyah.

"Of course," said Cumille. She stepped across the room, took down a paper cup, opened a tap and poured some water. "Here."

Obediently, Sophie drank the water. "J'Niyah," she whispered, "how do we choose?"

"You already said you wanted to go through with this one, since you're halfway there," said J'Niyah. "They're identical, so …" Her shoulders moved in an expressive shrug.

"So it doesn't matter which one," finished Sophie. "The one who is born first, that's the one we'll keep."