I grimaced slightly as I heard a harsh voice raised against my personal assistant. This was not going to be an easy meeting.
I stood as he barged in, an impressive specimen of a man, perfectly symmetrical features blemished only by the flush of anger, a face that still looked in its mid-thirties despite being well over 90. "Welcome to the Roberts Clinic", I smiled and inclined my head.
"I know where I am, I own the damn place!" snapped Roberts. Contempt flared in me but I didn't bite back. the endowment wasn't a purchase, but it was bigger than my pride.
"What the hell did you do to my son!"
It was not a question.
Roberts slammed his fist on my desk, and shouted into my face. “I paid for perfection, and you screwed up!”
“Please Mr Roberts, take a seat”. I sat down, and flicked on the relaxant. Technically it was illegal to use the oxytocin aerosol to modify someone else’s mood, but things were getting out of hand. Besides, I justified, really I am using it to help control my own emotions.
Roberts took a deep breath and sat down. He swiped his fingers down his sleeve – the latest smart-fabric – and flicked an image off, to hover above my desk. “Do you see what this is?”
I already knew. Junior’s transcript from his first year at the Helú Business School. A row of Bs and a C.
“Mr Roberts, these are not the best grades, but I don’t understand why you are talking to me rather than the Dean at Harvard.”
“I paid you for perfection! A two billion dollar investment buys me the perfect son. You said that my cloned cells would have all the genetic imperfections removed, but clearly you screwed up!”
Clinically detached I noticed the slight distortion around the edge of his face. He really should avoid scowling if he wants to hide his age, the stem cell restoration works a treat with skin epithelium, but doesn’t restore those peripheral facial nerves - most people wouldn't notice, but it was a tell to an expert.
“I assure you Sir, Junior is genetically perfect. Every mutation known to give even the slightest risk of disease was removed, every genetic advantage we could give him physically or intellectually was added. Although, honestly, he had such great genetic material to start with that we didn’t need to change much". I was pandering shamelessly - we had had to fix a hypomethylated repeat sequence that would have increased the risk of early-onset dementia. I still shuddered at the effort it took to develop CrispR-dCas9-DMNT1 to methylate that repeat without causing widespread epigenetic pollution.
Mollified, he leant back, the anger ebbing from his face. As he shifted, his eyes flickered to the wall. Instantly his rage returned. “What the hell is that!”, pointing to an iron plaque on the wall.
He bounded out of his chair and tried to rip the plaque from the wall, but the neodymium clasps held. Merde! I’m so used to virtual meetings I hadn’t thought twice that today he’d be seeing my office in the flesh.
“I pay two billion for the Roberts clinic, and you take my money while sitting here with the ‘Mayo clinic’ getting all the credit! This comes down today!”
“Okay, I’ve have it moved. Sir, I know Junior has struggled with the transition from school to college. These grades aren’t great, but he’s got the potential, he just needs to work.”
Roberts took a step towards me, his finger wagging in my face. “I paid for a genius, you guaranteed me a genius and he’s just average. You screwed up, and I’m going to hold you responsible. I’ll sue the hell out of you and the clinic if you don’t fix this.”
The arrogant bastard. I took his cells, made a perfect clone and tolerated nearly 30 decades of erratic abuse at board meetings, and he blames me for his kid’s grades! Without thinking I stood too.
“Look, Roberts. Genetically, that kid has more potential than Einstein. He should beat every child of his generation without trying. But you know what, it takes more than golden genes to be a genius, and he’s failing because of you! You raised a spoiled little self-centered brat who runs to daddy crying for a hand-out. You think that geniuses are born? No, they are nourished by intellectual engagement and inspiring examples, and all this kid had to look up to was a blow-hard father and private tutors paid to give him complements!”
Roberts swung wildly at me, the rage of a man who had never had anyone yell at him since his own father had passed along the family fortune. I made the security gesture and Roberts crumpled to the floor, instantly unconscious. An image of our head of security leapt up above my desk. “Isabella, please have Mr Roberts removed, and pass along the datastream to the authorities”.
A fifty year career at the Clinic over, I’d have to resign for sure. Worth it though. I could probably get a job in the UK, Roberts wouldn’t have any clout over there. I wonder if the Boots-Crick Institute is looking for someone?