The final two movies, directed by the legendary Moira LeQuivalence, were flops which only stayed in theaters a few weeks and have since become almost impossible to find. Thanks to user Begferdeth from the subreddit for the idea. The orbital mechanics test. All the fitness tests. But this will be easy. We want to make sure we get only the healthiest, most on-point individuals for our program. Things were really touch-and-go for a while, but then we came up with a suitably non-invasive replacement.
He would pretend to be one of those. The supervisor raised an eyebrow, but he went on. According to studies, stressful experiences — anything from starvation to social marginalization — change the methylation pattern of your genes. And not just your genes. Of course, it would be illegal for us to take a sample and check your methylation directly — but who needs that! Of course you did! Here goes nothing, he thought. Two weeks earlier, he had thrown a wad of cash down on a granite table in a downtown apartment.
The man across from him leaned forward in his wheelchair, extended a trembling arm to slowly take the cash. You still have your whole life ahead of you.
You can still make something of yourself. I used to be the best swimmer in the state, maybe in the country.
I was going to the Olympics. With a spotless family history like mine, there were no limits. I had a fluke defeat. After that, why go on? That loss stressed me out, Vincent. It made me feel bad about myself. I experienced lowering of my social status. It was my future children too. How was I ever going to marry when I would have to look my wife in the eyes and tell her our kids would be epigenetically tainted forever?
So I did the only thing I could. I threw myself in front of a car. So here I am. Not a single microaggression against any of my ancestors since the Mayflower. And now, this…whatever it was. Everything had been set up. Now, as the supervisor ushered him into a sterile-looking interview room, he could already imagine the headlines. But Vincent had thought it prudent not to mention his exact job description, lest his brother start asking the wrong questions.
Finally he put himself together and spoke. One of the executives. Before you ask, yeah. I faked my epigenome. I found a guy willing to sell his identity. I saved up, bought it from him, gave it to the suits here. You were always such a good kid! Anton was five years older. Female infants with good epigenes were sent to live a sheltered existence in Denmark, the most equitable country in the world, and kept drugged on heroic doses of beta-blockers to prevent them from feeling any trauma or anxiety.
They were raised in special houses by caretakers who denied them nothing, then sent to special schools where it was impossible to fail or feel inadequate. Then, when they reached puberty, they were artificially fertilized — no way the program was going to let them deal with something as stressful as sexual relationships — until they pumped out five or ten kids each.
The most innocent were brought back to the shelters to restart the cycle. It had all gone so well with Anton. But a year after he was born, everything had changed. One of the nurses had gotten sick, and an untrained nurse was brought in to cover.
Faced with this sudden awareness of patriarchal beauty standards and devaluing from a human being to a sex object, her histones had wilted instantly, her precious DNA inundated with methyl groups.
When the scientists found out, they discharged her from the breeding program, she married a similarly damaged man, and the result, a few years later, had been Vincent. I never told you this, but a few years ago, he broke his leg biking. He remembers what happened.
He read it three times, lost in thought. He had always wanted to be an astronaut. Now he realized why — it was to escape his own epigenome. More than that — it was to escape a world that held epigenetics in such high regard that his epigenome mattered.
He would still go to space. But he no longer felt like there was nothing for him on Earth. There were people who would judge him as a full human being, not just a methylation pattern shaped by familial disadvantage. And someday — he vowed — everyone would be able to say the same.
All the physicals and health panels. We want to make sure we get only the strongest, most intelligent individuals for our program. Then we tried epigenetics, but it turned out they made a movie about that one too. Really, our luck in all of this has been terrible. This time, we know how to identify truly superior human beings who deserve to be astronauts, no creepy biology involved. So-called meritocracy is a sham designed to justify inequality.
Now tell us what college you went to, so we can figure out what Greek letter to assign you on your application. The Alphas get positions like executive or astronaut. The Betas get positions in middle management. The Gammas and Deltas have jobs like clerks and call center reps. And the Epsilons do the really dirty work, the stuff nobody else will touch.
Is your moral system so fragile that its results depend on whether you refer to something with Greek letters or not?
Two weeks earlier, he had thrown a wad of cash down on a marble table in a suburban apartment. I used to be the best football player in the state.
Got accepted to Harvard on a football scholarship. Then I learned that college football causes so many concussions that it increases your risk of chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Stick around, and I risked degenerating into the condition you see me in now. Top-tier institution, absolutely Alpha quality. With this, every single door in the world will be open to you.
I faked my degree. Vincent had ended up with a degree from a Gamma-level state institution; Anton had gone to Yale. You remember how he started a synchronized underwater molecular gastronomy team at his high school? Apparently all the other kids have been going to the Third World and starting synchronized underwater molecular gastronomy teams there, and we never knew about it.
Now he realized why — it was to escape his own low-tier college degree. More than that — it was to escape a world that held degrees in such high regard that the college he went to mattered. There were people who would judge him as a full human being, not just a set of letters after his name.