Day One of Dant de Meyde
Kantan de Meyde looked on, unsettled: his wife Justine had been in labor for nearly an hour and the strain was starting to show. He wasn’t at all happy, having paid a good price in advance for an uncomplicated birth. Next time he would be sure to book sooner and guarantee getting a consultant. Justine had told him many times how she was dreading the pain and he believed her; it wasn’t just fussing. So far Doctor Manyon had put in a mostly convincing performance: he was happy to let the midwife do most of the work but seemed to know the trade well enough. Still, Kantan was glad to see him take a more active role: like a finely attuned predator, he seemed to sense the end was near.
Justine was too distressed and could only shake her head.
Manyon wiped the sweat from his brow and left a bloody smudge on his head, "Just one more push."
Justine followed his instruction and let out a scream louder and longer than any before it. With a practiced hand he finally delivered the baby and ended the ordeal. As it slipped into his hands the midwife swooped in and took it from him, wrapping and cleaning it on a bedside table. As she made it presentable Kantan took his wife’s hand proudly; he knew the effort and drugs had taken a heavy toll.
A nurse interrupted them, pushing him aside to examine Justine. He didn’t complain; he knew the most dangerous part of the day was still to come. As the midwife moved the baby over to the Company Interface he took a deep breath and did a few stretches.
The Interface was like a small CAT scanner, built into the wall, with an equally small bed extending outward. Carefully placing the baby on the bed, the midwife tapped the wall just beside it. Its surface melted away, changing to reveal a black computer screen with the company logo at its center. A calming blue light flicked on as the small bed retracted. The baby's cries were eased as soon as the light touched its skin. Above the Interface a much larger section of the wall changed from stark and flawless white to deepest black. Once again a single logo shone at the center: Lambeth Co. The ocean sounds and birdsong that had calmed the mood in the background throughout the birth faded away; in their place, a brief jingle familiar to all inhabitants of Lunar One. It always accompanied the arrival of the logo.
"Begin Identification sequence" The midwife’s command was instantly obeyed: the blue light flickered and changed shade and intensity as the scanner did its job.
"Assuming you’ve filled out your network forms correctly?" She paused and looked up expectantly. The screen changed to display every detail of the child: size, weight, a digital image, DNA map, fingerprint, retinal scan and probable interests and attributes. At the very top of the screen was the name ‘Dant de Meyde.’ On seeing it Kantan’s mouth dropped. The midwife turned, "Problem?"
"Problem!" His voice was raised, "It should say Dante de Meyde."
Justine was roused but noticeably drowsy, "Kantan, what is it?"
He flung his arms in the air like a petulant child. Justine focused her eyes on the screen and understood the problem.
"Oh." She laid back and pondered it for a moment, "It’s not so bad, is it? Dant could be a good strong name."
Kantan was outraged, he couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Dant! It's not exactly managerial, is it?"
Justine shrugged and closed her eyes.
"He sounds like a booster scrubber." Kantan got no response, so turned back to the screen, his face white with stress. "What are the in-laws gonna say?" He was talking to himself, "Dant; he'll be a laughingstock."
The midwife had been busy monitoring the data, "Well, he’s healthy. The readout says ninety-two per cent of high athleticism, not prone to heart or arterial problems, and potentially very intelligent."
Kantan’s face changed; a glimmer of hope returned.
She didn’t give him time to savor it. "The final countdown is about to start."
Hope gave way to panic, "What about the name?"
"Too late now." The midwife was unflustered; she looked as if she’d seen it all before.
He looked back to his wife. "Justine?"
She waved him away without opening her eyes.
At the top of the screen next to the baby’s name a countdown appeared: ten, nine, eight.…
Again the screen changed, this time displaying the Personal Shares market in realtime, even down to the second. It tracked from right to left, time marked along the top and value at the sides. Two people’s share values were currently tracking, shining white lines that sparked continually into existence at the centre of the screen and left long tails that ran off to the left edge. Two small labels identified them: ‘Kantan de Meyde’ and ‘Justine de Meyde.’ Justine’s value had dipped a while back but with news of a successful birth spreading fast they were both on the increase.
Three, two, one.…
Kantan didn’t know what to do; he wasn’t used to having so much go wrong and no one to blame. He steeled his nerves; whatever happened, he would just have to deal with it.
A new line sparked into life: ‘Dant de Meyde.’ He was currently valued at the base rate, tracking far below his parents. Kantan shuffled nervously on the spot; he knew that he had put in the groundwork, made the necessary contacts and trade deals: he had every reason to think interest would be high. Still, something stirred in his chest.
Twenty seconds passed with no interest and no rise in value. The nervous tension in the room was palpable; sweat now lined Kantan’s brow. He knew that all citizens were graded at either level two, three or four by their share value at exactly a minute after birth—if there was no significant rise in Dant’s value, the effect on his and his father's long-term prosperity could be disastrous. The attention span of traders these days was so short that most families took matters into their own hands, saving all they could to buy shares in their children as soon as they became available, the idea being that the children would buy their shares back in later life—or for the more ruthless families, as soon as they were satisfied to sell. Of course there were those who shunned the relative safety of owning their own shares for the thrill of having their value determined by others on the open market. It was considered by many to be the only way to measure success.
Today something was going terribly wrong. Kantan racked his mind for an explanation: confusion over the name, broken promises of investment … it could be anything. The worst possibility of all pecked away at the depths of his consciousness: an organised and systematic attack on his reputation. It was too horrifying to contemplate. As far as he knew there were no enemies either bitter enough or powerful enough for him to fear. No; it must be the name.
Time ticked on and still Dant’s value plodded along at base rate. Kantan was losing his temper, "That damned brother of mine. I should have known he’d let me down".
The midwife intervened, "Mr. de Meyde, have you bought any shares?"
The blood drained from his face. He and Justine were wealthy and respected enough that they hadn’t thought it would be necessary to buy shares; there were so many others interested that they simply hadn’t planned for it.
Like a striking cobra his hand shot to his trouser pocket and rummaged around inside. He produced a credit card and passed it to the midwife. She swiped it across the interface; a calm, computerised voice responded. "Credit approved, Kantan de Meyde."
He was so eager to speak that he stumbled on his words, "P … purchase maximum allowance of shares.…" He bit his lip; the next words were obviously hard to say: "Dant, de Meyde."
Dant’s share price moved, but only slightly. Kantan rushed over to Justine’s bedside and gave her a good shake, "Darling, where is your card?"
She didn’t open her eyes and sounded annoyed, "In my bag; ask a nurse."
He spun around and gave the midwife a desperate look. She was already holding the bag out to him. He grabbed it like a mugger and rifled through it, leaving the contents and empty bag discarded on the floor. He gave the midwife Justine’s card with great relief; again she swiped it and received a digitized response.
"Credit approved, Justine de Meyde."
Kantan prompted his wife, "Sweetness?"
She was a little groggy but did her best to speak clearly, "Purchase maximum shares, Dant de Meyde."
The share price moved again, this time slightly more, Kantan rushed back to the screen, gripping the nurse's shoulders like a sports coach invigorating one of his charges. "Come on, come on." His eyes flicked between the share price and the time: forty, forty-one.…
"Perhaps there’s been confusion due to the last-minute name change." The midwife spoke curtly; she didn’t look impressed with him.
He responded sarcastically, "You think so, and anyway we didn’t change.…" He sighed and waved his hands in resignation, "Forget it."
"Sir, if you leave hospital grounds you’ll be able to use your commumicator"
"There isn’t time, he’ll be graded in …" forty-nine, fifty "… ten seconds." He paced around the small circular room, "I can’t believe it; years of good business and good breeding wasted. What will my father say?"
No one replied.
"And what about the partners at the Company? I’ll be out on the street in a week."
Something happened. "Mr. de Meyde?"
Kantan looked up. "What?"
The midwife didn’t seem sure. Kantan was at his wits' end and had no time for false hope. There it was again, some unprompted movement in the share price—this time significant. His eyes widened.
Again it moved: rough coughing breaths started coming out of his mouth. Like a caveman witnessing fire for the first time, he was lost in the beauty and magnitude of the events unfolding on the screen. The value of Dant’s shares rose, then rose again, higher and higher. Finally he found words, closely followed by tears. "How … who?"
The nurse tapped a few instructions into the interface. On the screen a new window of information appeared, overlapping the existing display. Names scrolled from top to bottom: they were the names of those buying the shares, and they were many. The rate of purchase was so high that they were almost impossible to read.
Marcas de Meyde, Annabel de Meyde, Douglas Kopton.…
"My boss. Justine, Mr Kopton bought maximum allowance.…" Justine was out cold.
Aurther Jones, John Lu Chang, Shelton Ameobi: they were all there, everyone he did business with, even some friends. Dant’s price was soaring and Kantan broke down totally. Dant’s value was higher even than Kantan’s had been, higher than they could have hoped. He didn’t think about what had caused the delay; he didn’t care. The buyers' sudden arrival was causing a cascade of interest; names were even starting to appear that Kantan had never seen before.
Fifty-eight, fifty-nine, sixty.
It was done: the most important test of young Dant’s life had been passed. As the first minute of his financial existence came to an end he was valued at five-hundred-and-forty-seven percent above base rate.
The computerised voice returned. "Dant de Meyde, Grade Two confirmed": the highest possible rating at birth.
Kantan was shattered; he sank to his knees. After a moment of private thanks he rose shakily and made his way to Justine’s bedside, sobbing with relief and joy. "Justine." She didn’t respond, "Justine we did it".
She managed to make a few unintelligible noises.
Kantan laughed. "He’s going to be fine; with this value he’ll get all the best placements."
Justine half-smiled and surrendered to sleep.
Kantan turned back to the midwife. Even she was suitably surprised and had relaxed slightly. "Madam, fetch me the wine list; it’s time for a celebration."