Would you like to read more #3: Sins of the Fathers

Sins of the Fathers

Squashed among the other passengers on the train to Teterboro Airport, I worried how to cram everything I needed to know into my brain before I met my new client. What I should have been worrying about was why the Joint Congressional Committee on Health and Workforce needed a Trusts & Estates lawyer to work on the proposed constitutional amendment titled the “Right to Offspring.”

Before today, I never paid any attention to all the Twenty-Eighth Amendment hype. And before today, I could rely on my Trusts & Estates mentor, “Iron” Lilly, to brief me about anything important before I met a client. But she’d been stuck with half the other Cadwallader, Swaine & Taft Partners in some hush-hush meeting all week.

Of course, nobody who accessed public hard-space or v-space could miss the war of memes for and against the “Right to Offspring.” There must have been twenty billboards on my daily morning run along the lower Manhattan dike from my apartment to Cadwallader. But all that stuck with me was the pro-amendment faction’s retelling of Aesop’s fable about the Lion and the Sow:

A smirking sow, lying beside a huge litter of piglets, loudly accosts a passing lioness. “Behold my multitudinous brood!” brags the pig. “How many children do you bear?”

“Only one,” says the lioness, “but that one is a lion.”

Moral: Quality wins over quantity.

Great advertising for the proposed amendment, but nothing that would impress the client.

So, swaying with the other passengers, clutching the strap of my carry-on, I tongued my fake tooth to call Cadwallader’s research AI. I’d earned the direct connection to Wendell last year. It meant I could work hands-free anywhere: jogging along the dike every morning, or sailing in the middle of a British monsoon off the Cornwall coast. Okay, it also meant Wendell could read enough of my vitals to know where I was and what I was doing, twenty-four/seven. But every Associate knew that a direct link with Wendell also meant a shot at making Partner.


“Uh, thank you for responding so quickly, Wendell.” My T&E clients demanded old-fashioned courtesy, and it felt wrong to treat co-workers differently. Even if my “inefficiency” just annoyed the AI. Wendell’s silence got me to the point.

“Ah, might you link me the language and legislative history for the proposed “Right to Offspring” amendment?” We both knew it wasn’t a question, but I couldn’t help the polite rise in inflection.

Immediately, the title to the Congressional resolution flashed on my contact lenses, overlaying my view of the tops of the other passengers’ greasy hairdos. You could always tell when wash-water allocations ran short.

Relaxing my eyes to soft-focus, I read “Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States Guaranteeing the Right of Each Registered Voter to Optimized Offspring.”

Lion cubs for everyone! But what if you didn’t want a lion cub? And how could a world over-populated with lion cubs survive? Who would be their prey?

Or was I just inventing idle, negative scenarios? My shrink would say even attorneys could take their job of forecasting “what could go wrong?” to unproductive levels. She’d take a big breath to model what I should do to brake my spin down the rabbit hole, of which there would be none, if only lions populated the world.

Did she only pretend not to know that it was the swelling of her impressive breasts, not the deep breath I would imitate, that refocused me?

Our train zoomed around a gut-wrenching bend and a little girl sitting on her daddy’s shoulders lost her lunch. I scrabbled in my breast pocket for my nose filters, stuffed them in, and blinked to the next screen.

Upon the Effective Date of this Amendment:

  1. The right to offspring is limited to Registered Voters. A “Progenitor” is any Registered Voter who desires to exercise that right.


  1. Each Progenitor has the right to conceive, optimize, gestate, deliver, and obtain infant care for one offspring (the “Offspring”) at the expense of the Federal Government.

“The purpose of this proposed Amendment is to substitute (a) a new, robust, explicit Constitutional right to engender one offspring at the government’s expense for (b) the existing, nugatory, Court-implied right to engender an indefinite number of offspring at a citizen’s own expense.”

Heavy shit. Frightening, if I ever thought about having kids. If I ever found the right girl. But exciting, too: free access to genetic tech for “optimization” only the rich could afford now.

But even if such a law passed, could it work? Would offspring limits be enforced? How? And wouldn’t optimization for even one kid per citizen cost too much? Where would the money come from?

Jammed into a packed train car when it wasn’t even rush hour, I couldn’t argue overpopulation wasn’t worthy of a Constitutional solution. But legislating conception? In a republic that venerated individual rights? After lessons learned from China’s experiments?

This could never fly. Why the frack would the Joint Congressional Committee on Health and Workforce even propose this?

I must have sub-vocalized. The text of the Sustainable Earth Treaty flashed on my screen. Not “legislative history,” strictly speaking, but Wendell wasn’t a program, he was an AI. An AI, come to think of it, who was a Registered Voter. Did Wendell want offspring?

But I digressed. What Wendell wanted right now was for me to read the Treaty text. I read.

Hard deadlines??! Self-executing sanctions with teeth for missing the deadlines? Who advised and consented to that?

But I was digressing again. Not my issue. Which brought me back to the fact that I didn’t actually know what my issue was. Why was Cadwallader sending a T&E Associate to this Waterloo?

Could some of my clients’ charitable trusts be sponsoring the amendment? I sub-vocalized, “Wendell, if you could please provide lists of official and unofficial spo—?” The lists sprang into view before I finished the word. Screen after screen. That was a lot of crazies. Or, maybe, just a lot more agendas than an overworked, mid-level Associate ever thought about.

Noncombatant though I was in politics (except regarding rights for Enhanced® “animals”), I recognized some heavyweight players. Cosponsors included leaders of the One-Percenter Rights Caucus, the Women’s Rights Caucus, the Children’s Rights Caucus, the World Unionist Population Minimization Council, the Gaian Party, and the Transhumanist Alliance. People who were more likely to tar-and-feather each other, than to co-sponsor bills.

But not a single Cadwallader Trusts & Estates Department client.

The blare of the train’s announcement of “Next stop, Teterboro Private Aviation”, cut through my goggling. If I could exit my car, I could ask the client.

Elbowing and wriggling toward the door, I finally resorted to bench-pressing my carry-on above my head.

The train stopped, door slid open, and I fell into the slippery uniformed arms of a subway-packer.

She pushed me into a heaven of open space. High ceilings and armchairs. Even empty armchairs. For a second I just breathed, then remembered to extract my nose filters.

Swiveling my head back and forth to search the private terminal, I asked Wendell to scan for the client. Or, really, the client’s counsel, Bradley S. Lanister, Esq. Wendell flashed a match with a guy lounging in a captain’s chair, long legs stretched up to the blast window. His suit showed the subtle imperfections of hand-tailored, natural fibers. Old money. Maybe his family was a Cadwallader T&E client?