Disclaimer: The story is mine.

Summary: Children are being genetically altered to fit the societal views of perfection, but things take a horrifying twist.

Heaven's Children

Chapter 2

Throughout the corridors, footsteps echoed steadily, becoming louder and louder as they ricocheted around the walls, flowing in and out of cells and sliding amongst the bars that held captive over twenty genetic mishaps, the children who had made grave mistakes throughout their lives; mistakes that had landed them in the only juvenial facility for the genetically perfected yet defected.

As the footsteps grew closer, the children in their cells looked upward, shifted in their seats, strolled over to the window, anything to relieve the stress that the Others had brought them all their years. One child shakily combed her fingers through a doll's soft hair, putting one lock over another in a braid, then tighter, then undoing her work and starting over. She began to make soft, inaudible clicks in the back of her throat as the two approached. She had no desire to look up and see their faces. She knew that one was a newcomer and one worked at the facility. A shadow fell over her as she sat on the floor and her hands stopped moving, but she still did not look up.

"This hear is Adam50," a familiar man's voice said.

"He doesn't look too screwed up," a woman answered. When she got no reply, she continued. "Is there anything I should know about him?"

"He, uh, he snuck into his parents' room one night with a steak knife. His mother was pregnant with her second born. I . . . suppose he had become jealous of the future attention his brother would have gotten . . . "

"And what did he do?" Sickness was imminent in her voice. The girl in the cell knew she had no desire to hear the story.

"He tried to cut the baby out of her belly."

"D-did he . . . succeed?"

No," a bitter young voice said from behind the bars and on his bed.

"If you mean," the doctor said, "did he kill the baby, yes. Yes, he did succeed. But his mother bled to death."

"And I ended up here."

The woman ignored the boy in his confined room. "Where is the boy's father?"

"The man wasn't too happy to begin with with genetic engineering. He denied the child to be his. Once a blood test confirmed the results, he wanted nothing to do with him."

"But he's so young!"

"Nine years old. He's been here two years."

The girl felt her head buzz, the same feeling she got when eyes turned to her and she began raking her fingers through the dolls hair again. Such pretty hair . . . Pretty, pretty, pretty . . . She forgot all about the people staring at her and fell into a deep meditation of the doll. She was awakened only as she vaguely heard the woman ask what had happened to her, and her mind snapped open as the doctor answered.

"She's our newcomer. Been here for three months now. Last December, she decided to smother her little brother with a pillow."

"Good God! She's only four!"

"Four and a half this March." The doctor put his hand to his head, perhaps to straighten his glasses. She wasn't sure. All she could see were shadows on the ground and she refused to see their faces.

"Is that . . . blood on her head?!"

The girl reached up and felt the gauze taped around her shaved head, her first movement of recognition to the people and the voices in front of her. She stroked the doll's head when she had brought her hand down to the floor on which she sat. Pretty doll . . . The doll was, in her opinion, a sorry knock-off of her well-loved Barbies back home . . . in her room . . . across from her parents . . . and next to her brothers. She didn't remember her brother, only watching him sleeping, and then, after he had finished sleeping and finished breathing, her brother lying in the crib. He had disappeared as she had fallen backwards from her perch in the crib. She had fallen back, hit her head on the back of the crib, and began to cry as the bruise began to form. Her parents and her parents' friends had found her, teary eyed, pink faced, sniffling, choking, and holding a large, soft pillow to her baby brother's head.

But as they had lifted her up, they had found blood on her hands, blood on the pillow, and blood around her baby brothers face. There were bruises forming on his eyes where she had hit him. As her mother began to cry, she had tried to wipe the tears from her face, trying to tell her that it was just an owie, just a boo-boo, that she was really okay. It took her only a few moments to realize that they were not crying for her injury, but for the death of her brother.

Home soon became an examining room, a surgery bed, a doctor's office, and, lastly, her cell, with it's bed, toys, rug, and hard, cement floor. Home became healthy diets, slow incorporation of the other, safer, children into her lifestyle. She had cried when her parents began to come around less and less often. And soon, barely at all.

"Oh, God, she's crying. Come 'ere, Nikki . . . " She heard the door open and felt arms wrap around her and lifting her up, her fingers entangled in the doll's brown hair, that was once very much like her own. She was bounced up and down until her sobs eased and she began wiping her tears away with the doll's hair.

She sniffed lightly and brought the doll closer to her as she looked over at the woman to her left. She had large, brown eyes that were visibly marked with horror at the many stories she had been told. She stared at her with her own brown eyes.

"We're very proud of our little Nicole here," the doctor said, still holding her. "She's come along way from the child that was brought in three months ago. Doesn't say much, but I chalk it all off to her therapy." He put her down on the ground and she took two steps back, farther away from the woman. "If there was one child I would recommend on adopting, Nicole would be the one." The girl proceeded to stick her index and middle finger in her mouth. "She's come a long way since her last surgery, thus the bandages on her head. True, she's not very fond of talking, but she can be a very nice child."

"I'm beginning to think this was a bad idea . . . "

"What do you mean?"

"When I thought I was going to adopt a child, I thought I was going to adopt a, well, a normal one, not one who's . . . killed another person!" The last section of the last sentence was said in a forced whisper, as if the woman were afraid that the girl would hear her. But she did hear her. "How did they, uh, how did they turn out like this?"

"The previous tests were rather successful," the doctor explained. "We engineered them as infants, outside of the womb. But afterward, when we had become fairly confident in our work, we began to engineer them inside the womb and conduct germline engineering - "

"I'm sorry, you're going to have to elaborate," the woman said, frowning. "I'm not really that good with scientific terms. Not one of my crowning achievements in high school."

"Germline engineering is when we doctor the sperm and/or the eggs to create a genetically engineered child. Or we can engineer them inside of the womb. That's what we've done with Nicole here." He gestured to the little girl, fingers placed shyly in her mouth and looking very timid. Not at all the the young girl who had only so recently murdered her baby brother in cold blood. "But," he added, "it also gave them some, er, feral tendencies. We're still trying to perfect them through extensive medication. So far, so good! They've become a little more . . . well, docile, for lack of a better word."

The girl walked over to her cell room, the doll dangling at her fingertips and her other two fingers in her mouth. Once she was behind the door way, she pushed at the cell bars.

"Does she need any help?"

"No. That's the beauty of these children: they're stronger than they look." The three year-old didn't look up, but she knew the tone of a smile. "Incredibly intelligent, too. Isn't that right, Nicole?"

There was a soft click as the barred door shut. The shadows on the ground shifted, signifying that the doctor was looking at her. The toddler shook her head, staring at the shadows.

"She really is. She's talking already, her teeth are coming in quickly, she's exceptionally athletic for a child of her age. She's one of our brightest stars."

"Then tell me, doctor, why is she here?"

She also understood the tone of a smile fading. It sounded like hope flying away, like snowy mountains at night. Frowns had always terrified her. Lack of smiles above all else. And because there was never an entire room smiling at once, she always had a reason to be afraid. But after the surgery, she wasn't afraid anymore. After the pills that they had put in her food that she wasn't supposed to know about, she was happier, calmer, and more loving. "She's here because not everyone's perfect. There were some . . . setbacks."

The girl ripped her fingers out of her mouth and snapped her head up to look at the doctor and the woman for the very first time since the two had arrived. "I'm perfect," she said earnestly. "I'm a perfect little star!"

The doctor smiled and the girl returned it, glad to find one less person in the world unhappy. "You sure are," he smiled.

"She's really a very good girl," the doctor whispered. "If it weren't for that unfortunate incident three months ago, she'd be perfect." Those words were not meant for her ears, but she listened anyway, eager to hear what other praise he had for her. Her smile began fade as she listened. "She's almost perfect right now, but not quite. She's still a little . . . " he held his hand up, parallel to the floor, and shifted it back and forth, and wrinkled his nose, " . . . a little bit off, you know? We're straightening out all the edges, though. We had a lot to work with. But, in just a few more months, you'd never find a better daughter. Now?" He bobbed his head back and forth. "Now there's a few little quirks. The thumb-sucking for instance. And the crooked teeth. She's almost finished."

She sat back down on the cement floor dejectedly, her cell turning back into a prison, her doll turning into her sole form of meditation. She raked her fingers through the hair. The pretty, pretty hair . . . The hair that had once looked like hers before they had shaved her head to "fix" her brain. Nicole's vision blurred together as she played with her toy. She drifted out of her body. She drifted out of the cell, out of the Facility, out of the city, state, country, into some demension only she was sure of existed. And all there was were her, the stars, friendly emotions, and a small, plastic doll to keep her company.

Such a pretty doll . . . So perfect . . .

"Hi, Nicole!" the woman cooed, bending down and putting her hands on her knees. "How are you?"

Her voice was strange and high-pitched, very much unlike the tone she had used with the doctor. That one was much more warm, much less strained. "Why do you talk like that?"

"Talk like what?" the woman asked, in her normal voice.

"Not like how you talk to the doctors."

"Do you want me to talk to you like an adult?"

"Yes, please."

"Okay, then." The woman twitched her shoulders in a small shrug. "I'm Terra."

"Hi, Terra." She stuck out her little hand for Terra to shake. What she received was a puzzled glance. "You're supposed to shake my hand and do this with it," she explained kindly, afraid that Terra was unsure of what to do.

"I know," she smiled, shaking her hand lightly.

Nicole walked over to a toddler-sized plastic red chair and sat down. "What do you want to do?"

"Excuse me?" Terra asked, as if she hadn't heard her right.

"You came over here. You're a guest. You can choose the activity if you want."

"Oh, uh, why don't you choose. I'm not that familar with this place."

"Okay." Nicole watched her as she bent down to pick up a Bittersweet Crayola Markerâ„¢ and a sheet of paper. The white bandages wrapped around her head prevented her from keeping her eye trained on Terra as she bent down. Once she had secured her supplies, she scooted her red plastic chair over to a white plastic table covered in scraps of construction paper, crayons, markers, and colored pencils.

"Get a chair," Nicole ordered. Seeing Terra search the room for a chair that would fit her, Nicole pointed to the corner by the door where a larger chair sat, oblivious to the confusion it was causing. It was also plastic, but blue and had metal legs, the kind she had seen the Big Kids using in their classes. Terra nodded her head and smiled her thanks as she retrieved the rusty little piece of furniture.

Terra sat, forarms on knees and leaning forward. "So. What did you have in mind?"

"Color." Nicole handed the woman a few crayons with the paper blotted and peeling and a blank sheet of white construction paper.

"Are you going to be an artist when you grow up?" Terra asked, keeping her eye on the paper as she sketched.

"No," Nicole stated simply, also not looking up, but from the corner of her eye she saw Terra look at her.


"I mean, if I grow up." Nicole was very much aware that Terra was staring at her now, wondering what she had meant. But Nicole decided not to say more unless asked. And, to her delight, she did.

"What do you mean?" Her voice was haunted with what she feared would be the answer, the fear of why this child would never reach adulthood.

"Because I don't want to," the girl said matter-of-factly, still refusing to speak unless pushed.

"And why not?" Nicole could see she had caught Terra's interest now. Nicole placed her markers and paper down and looked up, meeting Terra's eyes.

"Because they don't smile," she answered stoically, only slightly aware of the irony that she herself had not smiled once since she had met this new woman.

"Oh, we smile sometimes," Terra insisted, turning back to her paper. Nicole did the same.

"Only when no one is watching," the little girl answered her, lifting a green Crayola marker and watching as a small rabbit took form on her paper. "Adults don't smile as much as children, and I like to smile."

"Then be an adult who smiles."

"Why? It's easier this way."

Terra had no way to answer her, but thought it would be polite to do so. "Yes," she said. "I suppose you're right." Then she added, " I'd stop being an adult, but I have too many responsibilities."

Nicole looked up, confusion in her clear, dark brown eyes. "What does responsibilities mean?"

Terra then realized that Nicole's vocabulary was steadily growing, some words she hadn't heard yet. She was, after all, still a four year old girl. "It means that I have things I have to do. Things I have to finish."

"Oh," Nicole said, turning solemnly back to her sheet of paper. "Too bad for you." Nicole continued to draw and, after a moment's silence, Terra did so as well.

After a minute, Terra broke the silence. "How old are you, Nikki?" she asked, raising her eyes from the paper once more.


"You're smart for a four year old," Terra said, meaning her statement as a compliment. But the steely coldness of Nicole's voice drew her back.

"And you're smart for a grown-up," Nicole countered adding wings to her green bunny.

After a noticeable amount of time had passed, Terra Brighton brought her wrist above the table to visibly check her watch. Nicole didn't notice, or didn't seem to. Terra had been sitting ily nearly her entire stay with Nicole, watching her add more and more to her picture, creating a medley of seemingly unrelated colors and shapes. Nicole had been working diligently on her creation, only looking up to critisize something that Terra would say or do. Now, Terra watched Nicole attempt to write her name on the paper in the lower right hand corner.

"Nikki?" Terra asked, observing her for a moment. "What are you writing?"

Nicole looked up, a look of mild bewilderment and wonder marking her delicate features. "My name," she answered in a voice that insenuated that Terra Brighton should have known this already and that she should feel shame for having not known it.

"Uhm, do you want me to teach you how?" Terra offered kindly, watching her make odd, sharp and swirling movements on the page with her pen.

"No, I can do it," Nicole insisted, continuing her work. Understanding on some level the confusion of Terra, Nicole began to elaborate on her newfound alphabet. "See? That's the 'Nih" part - " she pointed to to a squiggled loop-de-loop with a dot and a horizontal line written through a vertical line, making a mock-cursive letter "T" " - and this is the "Kee" part." She gestured to the sideways "V"'s and wiggly lines.

"That's . . . very good," Terra said without enthusiasm. Terra looked over at her watch again. "I better get going now. I need to get home."

"Home?" Nicole repeated curiously, looking up with a questioning look in her eyes. She appeared confused and her tone of voice asked Terra to explain to her.

"Home," Terra said again. "Where I live."

"I know what a home is," Nicole said with tinted anger. "I meant where is it?"

"A couple hours north of here."

"Do you have your own room?" Nicole asked her, her question, though, soon took an eerie turn when she added, "Or do you have to share it with a stupid little brother?"

Terra was speechless. She was beginning to understand what the doctor had meant when he said that the genetic engineering had brought about a feral quality in the children. What would happen when she got older? Stronger? More bitter towards the world because of her lot in life? A human test subject?

Terra supressed a shudder. "I live alone," she stated simply.

"Oh," Nicole said. "Okay." And, almost as an after thought, she added, "My parents are coming to visit me tomorrow."

"Oh, really?"

"Uh-huh. They said they'd bring me a present."

"What do you hope it is?" Terra asked, hoping to gain some insight as to Nicole's true character. She held on to a hope that there was an infinite amount of innocence in children and hoped that Nicole's reply would verify that.

"A doll."

"Really?" Terra asked, smiling. "What kind?"

"A Barbie," Nicole explained. "One with long brown hair and brown eyes and very pretty and lots of pretty dresses."

"That sounds very pretty. Do you like Barbies?" Nicole nodded. "I did, too, at your age. I still have a few at home."

"Can you bring them next time? So I can do their hair?" Nicole asked sweetly enough with a hopeful voice.

Terra nodded, still smiling. "Sure." She then realized the reason why Nicole had put so much emphasis on the hair - the color of it, the length - and felt a sudden wave of pity for the girl: she had had to have her head shaved for surgery and now it was bandaged in white, thick gauze, encasing her skull and covering the coarse, wirey, black stitches. On the top of her head was faint brown stubble as her hair began to grow back. "I'll be back in two days so you can have some alone-time with your mommy and daddy." Although she attempted to put on a cool, calm, collected exterior, she realized that there was another conflict in having Nicole in her life, as a foster child: her mother and father. They still wanted her.

"What you want to do, Ms. Brighton," Dr. Carol told her, "has never been done before."

"I know. But that's only because no one will give these children a chance! No one will - "

"These 'children' were given a chance the moment they were born. And now they need to be pulled away from society, if only for a little while, so work can be done on them. For example, our Nicole, she has yet to have some of her enkephalins removed - "

"I'm sorry," Terra apologized. "I'm not that familiar with scientific terms - "

"Which is another reason you should not have this child. Enkephalins are proteins in DNA. It was first tested on lab mice in the mid and late nineties. Once removed, the mice became extremely hostile and moody and depressed. But these children are so soft-spoken. They hardly ever ask for anything once they have been fully, genetically treated. Nicole still has some willpower, but by the time we are done with her she will have close to none. Therefore, if we were to remove some enkephalins from her DNA, she would become more willful and become the perfect human being." Dr. Carol sighed and he began speaking again. "Nicole is not finished."

"Please. I love that little girl."

"As do her parents," Carol pressed on her. "Her brother may now be deceased, but she is not. And a parent's love is unconditional."

"What if I were to let Nicole visit her parents?"

"'Let', Ms. Brighton?"

"You know what I mean. If I were to talk with them, get them to say yes, then maybe I could take her! I would be her mother. Please. My love would be unconditional, if you would just let me adopt Nicole."

"If her mother and father say yes, I see no reason for you not to adopt her. After, of course, we have finished her."

Terra Brighton nodded and said good-bye to the doctor. After a half hour of arguing, she had gotten what she wanted.