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Chapter 5
February 26, 2017

Technology's Fetal Attraction [ARNS]

by LAURIE NEIDERGAARDEN, Alternate Reality News Service Medical Writer

Pluto (her parents couldn't agree on whether the name should be short for Plutonium or Philatelist, so they settled on Plutocrat) Akhenaton Jellyfish looked like a peanut on the sonogram (not to be confused with a Sondheimogram, which annoys you at your front door with off-key renditions of songs from Sweeney Toad). Looking at the image, Snowflake Peritonitis had a craving for an ice cream sundae (they always taste better on the weekend) with Caramelite sauce (because children should be brought up believing in something, even that belief is based on a bad pun). Food cravings are not unusual during pregnancy; the fact that Snowflake Peritonitis was Pluto Akhenaton's father just showed how committed he was to his soon-to-be child.

As she lay on her back on the hospital waterbed (which was rented out to priests to conduct baptisms on weekends), Miranda Butch thought, Is it too soon to be worrying about whether my child will get enough experience with computers early enough in life to develop the skills needed to get a sufficiently high paying job in today's competitive workplace to be able to take care of me in my old age after her father has passed away - the thoughtless, cowardly bastard! - and society has abandoned me?

Why, no, Miranda Butch. It is not.

Researchers at The Institute for the Application of Applied Solutions (Calimari Branch) are hard at work creating hand-held gaming devices for fetuses. "If we give unBourne babies [those who have yet had the pleasure of watching a Matt Damon film] the opportunity to experience electronic devices starting in the sixth week of fetal development," explained Samarta E. Pahnts, Deputy Director of Urgent Restraint at the Institute, "they will have a headstart in getting enough experience with computers early enough in life to develop the skills needed to get a -" I felt like I had heard this all before, so I smoothly extricated myself from the quote and moved on to the next paragraph.

Pregnant women would have the devices (current working name: SuperNEF, which stands for Numinous Excitement of Fetuses) medically inserted into their...pumpkin patches. SuperNEFs would theoretically - very theoretically - almost comically so - stimulate the fetus' brain, causing its synaptic connections to grow faster than moss on the hide of a rhinoceros (or, at least, faster than fetuses whose only wombal stimulation was dreaming of retiring to Tahiti); this would give it an edge when it was post-born and started attending pre-pre-pre-pre-very pre-kindergarten.

Despite enthusiasm from expectant mothers Everywhere (a small city just outside of Lunenburg), the development of the technology has been plagued with problems. "Now, now," Pahnts waggled an admonitory milk moustache at me. "A problem is just an opportunity with an identity crisis that has been blown all out of proportion by a transdimensional journalist out to make a name for himself. Or, herself. Your name can be ambiguous that way. Ahem - not that I mean you specifically, you understand. Lots of journalists' names can be ambiguous. Like Carl. Or, Edward." To bolster his argument, he pointed at a sampler on his office wall depicting soldiers eating at a long table with the caption, "God bless this mess."

I decided not to pursue the point.

The first iteration of the tech (known as the GameBoy...or Girl, We Can't Really Tell At This Point in the UnBourne [but at least they have all those great Robert Ludlum novels to look forward to reading!] Child's Development) had a tendency to disintegrate in amniotic fluid, creating a toxic soup of chemicals. "We had a steep learning curve in the beginning," Pahnts Rue McClanahanfully admitted. "But the parents were well compensated, and their offspring have as much as 30 per cent normal brain function!"

Another pro-pportunity was that women's bodies had a tendency to reject the gaming devices even before they started to become toxic. "One minute, you'd be giving a report to your board of directors," Pahnts sighed, "the next, something would hit the ground between your legs, something so disgusting even nobody in the marketing department would touch it!"

The obvious solution was to create a living gaming console out of tissue donated by the mother, a console that would grow with the fetus. (Actually, the obvious answer would have been to stop pandering to parents' fear of their impending senescence, obsolescence and second adolescence - hey! - that's not a half-bad band name! - but that option was never even the first sharpie stroke on the whiteboard of life.)

Once the technical pro...issues had been overcome (by which I mean addressed - by which I mean considered), another prissue arose: what sorts of games would a fetus be able to play? "Text-based games were a bust - makes sense for creatures who have yet to form the concept of language. Clearly, something more visual was in order; early tests suggest that fetuses respond to Space Invaders, Centipede and other classic games. So, once we get over the copyright infringement lawsuits, we should be good to go to market."

Pahnts is confident that the kinks in the system's hair will be worked out. But, is it wise to subject a fetus to potential dangers in the hope that it will get enough experience with computers early enough in life to develop the skills needed to get a sufficiently high paying job etc. Etc.?

"You have to ask?" Snowflake Peritonitis had to ask.

Of course I have to ask. I'm a journalist. It's my job to a...please don't look at me like that. I would appreciate it if you wou - those eyes! That glare! Enough, already! Alright! Alright! I have to ask. But I don't haaaaaaave to ask!

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