"Right," said the receptionist, feeling as though she'd time-warped back to the early nineties. "Well, we can certainly help you with the child of your choice. Do you have an appointment or would you like to make one?"
"I'm seeing Dr. Sierra," said Alice. Her teeth had been whitened, as they were glowing faintly thanks to the extra ultra-violet in the Babybank's spotlights. "Now."
There was a gentle clicking as the receptionist checked the time and the appointment calendar, and then smiled. "Yes, I see your appointment." She pressed a button from a bank set into her desk, and a moment later inclined her head slightly to listen to what was being said in an earpiece. "Please, go on through." She indicated a door with a wave of her hand.
Alice stalked over, high-heels clicking menacingly on the polished tile floor, and Geoff walked behind her like a bodyguard. When they'd closed the door to the consulting room the receptionist breathed a soft sigh of relief and checked her drawers for chocolate.
"Alice and Geoff?" Dr. Sierra was in her sixties and wore a knitted shawl around her shoulders. She was short and had a grandmotherly face that wasn't quite wrinkled, but only because of careful, thoughtful plastic surgery. Her eyes were the green of old jade, flecked faintly with yellow.
"Yes, we established that last time," said Alice. Geoff nodded behind her, looked around the room and sat down on a leather chair. It squeaked, and he pulled sunglasses from his inside pocket and put them on. "We have decided. We wish to buy a baby."
Dr. Sierra smiled. "Well, as we also discussed last time," she said, her voice just a little steely, "it's more normal to have the baby yourself and avail yourself of our advanced screening and enhancement techniques to ensure favourable characteristics for the child."
"Our gym membership, combined, costs 2% of my take-home salary," said Alice. "Fabrice, my personal trainer, would actually have a heart-attack if I told him I was getting pregnant. He's advised forty-seven of his clients to miscarry, and they've all done as he said. I'm not paying for a miscarriage."
"Fabrice is my personal trainer too," said Geoff. "He'd put me in tight thermal underwear and prescribe metabolism boosters if I told him we were trying to get pregnant."
Dr. Sierra's smile faded away like snow in sunlight. "Have you considered that a different personal training, ah, regimen, might be a good idea if you want a child?" The looks she received were eloquently dismissive. "I see."
"So surrogate would seem the better approach," said Geoff. "We got maids, so we'll just pick on them to carry the child to term. There are a couple that are built like drayhorses, should be fine there I 'd think."
"Yes," said Alice. "I think one of them last year had two children while she was cleaning the pool, so they're definitely familiar with it all."
"That sounds... unsanitary," said Dr. Sierra, her gentle smile hiding the horror in her thoughts. "I wonder if you've really considered all your options though?"
"Pregnancy is not an option," said Alice. "My skin is not being stretched beyond repair like that."
"We have a second brochure," said Dr. Sierra, her smile not wavering. "There are techniques – well established, there's a long history there – that might suit you better. The child might be... well, it might accessorise better for you."
Alice and Geoff looked at each other, and their eyelids flickered. Dr. Sierra didn't pretend to understand, but she got the brochure out and set it in front of Alice.
"Teacup children?" said Alice. She picked it up.
"Roughly one-tenth normal size," said Dr. Sierra. "Pregnancy would be effectively invisible, and there'd be no stretching. Birth would be... well, probably not much harder that doing thirty sit-ups. The child is easy to put through X-ray machines at airports, fits into most airline carry-on luggage, is thirty-percent quieter than a full-size child and can be expected to be up to 60% more docile. They tend to be in the first quartile intellectually, and they have about 18% of the food-costs of a larger specimen. Doctor's bills are usually higher in the first three years, but this is balanced out by being substantially less thereafter."
"Sounds. Interesting." said Alice, her words being forgotten as she started perusing the brochure. After a moment Geoff leaned forward and starting looking at the brochure too. "Why didn't you tell us about this earlier?"
"The cost is higher," said Dr. Sierra. In the privacy of her own mind she thought the ethical considerations would make this a non-option for most people.
"Cost is not an option," said Alice. "This seems much more suitable."
"Yes," said Geoff. "Much more."