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REPROGRAMMED


By Doreen Bradley Satter


“...I know we’re headed for some terrible disaster with Jade--it’s only a matter of time before she does something that we won’t be able to save her from. That’s the fourth school Ron! The fourth school she’s been kicked out of, and now she’s out of this one too. She can’t keep on like this, and neither can we!”

“I know Kat. I know. Maybe I should try to get us in again with Dr. Knott. I hope he’ll still see us even if he won’t see Jade again. I’ll just tell him we’ve reached the end of our rope. I really don’t know what else to do. What else can we do?”

“It’s that gang again. I know it is.” continued Katherine Starling. “She’s still in contact with them some way. I can’t police her all the time. Neither one of us have a life anymore Ron. It’s always Jade! I’m running out Ron. I really am!”

“Maybe it’s time for that place in Vermont that Knott told us about. I don’t know how we’d afford it, but the way it’s going now...”

“God, Ron. Twelve thousand something for three months and we don’t know if it will even work! How can we ever do it? We already have a second on the house...”

“I guess we could refinance the whole thing again, get out of the second and just have a higher payment. What other choice is there? Nothing else has worked. We’re loosing her Kat...we're really loosing her.”

“Unless we’ve already lost her. I don’t know...”

“Don’t even think like that! We have to keep trying. There must be something...anything...

“Oh God, Ron. I just can’t think logically about this anymore! It has to stop or I’ll, I’ll...”

“What Kat? She IS our child, you know! We have a responsibility. When we got her we agreed to raise her. No guarantee’s come with them, you know. It’s our responsibility! Part of you and part of me is in her. We both have to take responsibility for her actions until she’s of age. Have you forgotten the agreement?”

“No, of course not. Don’t get mad at me!. I’m trying, Ron, but It’s just so hard sometimes...”The rest of her sentence disappeared in a loud blast of rock music coming from the direction of Jade’s room upstairs.

“TURN IT DOWN, JADE!” Kat yelled. The music continued to blast.

“I’ll tell her” Ron said as he walked slowly towards the stairs. “She can’t hear you.” He shook his head.

===

Jade sat cross-legged on a huge chartreuse bean bag in the corner of her dark room. Her spiked green hair blended with the color of the plump cushion. The room was painted entirely black with no pictures or posters on any of the walls. A twirling mirrored disco light sent sparkles dancing across the room in time with the music on her boom box. Jade snapped her gum as she painted her toenails a dark purplish color. She didn’t hear Ron knock and looked up startled and annoyed as he opened the door and walked in.

“Dammit! Knock first!” she yelled over the music.

“I did Jade. Several times.”

“Huh?”

“Turn down that music for a few minutes. I want to talk to you.”

“Huh?”

Ron walked over and turned off the music.

“Ask first. It ain’t yours.”

Ron signed, too weary to correct her grammar.

“I’d like to talk to you for a few minutes, Jade.”

“Why?”

“I heard what happened at school today. Mr. Jones called this afternoon. It’s just a wonder that you aren’t in jail right now! What were you thinking, young lady? Where did you get the knife? Jade, this is really serious. You threatened that girl. It’s just lucky that all you got was an expulsion. They could have arrested you. I really don’t understand why they didn’t! You’re just damn lucky!”

Jade was concentrating on her toenails, popping her gum and blowing bubbles. Ron wasn’t even sure she was listening.

“Jade, do you understand what I’m saying?”

“Yeah, whatever,” she snapped, not looking up.

“Your mother and I don’t know what we can do now. You’re only fifteen. You have to attend some kind of school. It’s the law. There just isn’t anything left that we haven’t tried. The only thing we can think of--the only thing left is sending you to that camp in...”

“The hell you are!” Jade was standing now, screaming and shaking in anger. She clenched her fists as she took a step towards Ron.

“I won’t go to no damn boot camp! You can’t make me do that so don’t even try...”

Ron instinctively took a step backward. He’d met with Jades fists too many times before.

“Scared huh?” Jade hadn’t missed a thing. “If you think you’re scared now just try to send me there. Just wait and see what happens...” She hissed.

“We’ll talk more later, Jade...” Ron said as he reached for the door and backed quickly out.

“No we won’t!” She screamed at the closing door. “I ain’t goin' and you’d better not even try or you’ll be sorrier than shit!” Jade threw the polish bottle at the closed door. Ron heard the crash just before the volume on the stereo was turned up as loudly as it would go.

“SHIT!” Jane yelled, kicking the bean bag hard before plopping down.

“God Damn it, SHIT!” Jade yelped as she felt the sharp stab of pain. The metal alarm box that was locked around her right lower leg had dug into her protruding ankle bone.

===


“I didn’t get anywhere.” Ron yelled above the noise and motioned for Kat to follow him into the kitchen where it was slightly quieter. “She knows I’m afraid of her and uses it. I can’t help it. I am afraid of her. When she goes off like that I can’t stop her. She’s like a rabid dog or something.”

“See, that’s what I mean. I know we’re beyond being able to control her. I’m at a loss here. The only reason she hasn’t run off again is because of that ankle alarm. If it wasn't for that...”

"I know Kat, I know." Ron picked up the kitchen phone. “Let me see if I can reach Knott before he goes home.” He dialed the number from memory. After a brief conversation Ron hung up the receiver and turned to his wife.

“He can see us tomorrow at eleven. I told him we’d both be there. He won’t see Jade. He hasn’t relented on that subject. He was adamant about it.”

“Shall we have Mrs. Cooper come over to stay with jade?”

“I wouldn’t feel right about leaving Mrs. Cooper here alone with her--especially if Jade gets wind of where we’ve gone and thinks we’re arranging something with that camp. Mrs. Cooper hasn’t seen Jade in quite a while. She doesn’t know how Jade’s changed. Let’s just chance it. I’ll call the District Relay and alert them to the possibility of her leaving the house. They’ll take care of it.”

===

Dr. Knott was just closing Jade Starling’s thick chart when his secretary buzzed to announced the Starling’s arrival. He sighed, not looking forward to the next couple of hours. These things were always so hard...

“Nice to see you again Ron, Katherine.” Giving them each a hardy handshake. “I won’t even ask how Jade is doing. I’m sure you are at another impasse and that’s what brings you in. Sit down and tell me what’s been happening since our last visit...”

The Starling’s spent the next hour relating the turmoil of the past six months. Dr. Knott sat and listened. He’d heard it all before, many times with many clients, and didn’t see the need to take notes on this case either. He knew from experience that there was only one solution...

“Well it certainly has been a rough time for you both. I can see you’ve tried everything possible to no avail. I need to tell you, Jade is not in control of her behavior and is presenting a great danger to both of you, to herself, and certainly to anyone else that crosses her. When a family finds itself at this stage I’m afraid there is no further help available. She can not be allowed to progress any further...”

“What! What do you mean, ‘cannot be allowed to progress any further’?” Kate said with alarm.

“How can we stop her? We’ve tried everything, we can’t stop her!” Ron added.

“Yes, that's just it. You can’t stop her. I can’t stop her. She can’t stop herself. The only available resource, and let me stress that this is absolutely the last resort, but I feel it is what you must do: Jade must be reprogrammed.”

“Reprogrammed?” Kat and Ron both spoke the strange word together.

“Yes, reprogrammed. It is a relatively simple process, certainly painless for Jade, but for the two of you...” Dr. Koch paused, not quite sure of how he could present this to the Starlings in the least painful way. He got up and poured himself a glass of water. “Do either of you...” He nodded toward the pitcher.

“No thanks. What about that boot camp you mentioned last time we were here..." Ron began.

“It’s much too late for that now. She is well beyond any help like that I’m afraid. This really is your only option at this point.”

“This is rather difficult to explain and will be very difficult for you to hear. I will proceed as gently as I am able...You have never heard of this process because it is kept very secure. You will soon see why.”

“As you know, fifteen years ago when you put in your order for a female child and presented your specimens, you agreed to guide the child through life until she reaches the age of twenty one. In most cases this is not unusually hard to do, but very infrequently it becomes impossible to carry out. This is where you are at this time with Jade.

“The karyogamic programming the child receives, which is a combination of the specimens of you both--not unlike the old DNA used to be--is analyzed very carefully for any contradictions before the project is begun. A contradiction can be altered at the beginning to prevent future problems. Sometimes, and this is extremely rare, a mutant gene slips by without detection. When this happens, serious future problems result that cannot be corrected. This is what has happened with Jade, I'm afraid.

“The hardest part of this for the parents is that by the time the defect is discovered, an extremely close bond has already been formed with the child. The Genetics Code Rulings state that such a child must be prevented from progressing further in its undesirable development. The unacceptable behavior is already so disruptive and dangerous that it is in the best interest of everyone involved to arrest the development of the child. That is when reprogramming must be chosen. It is absolutely the only solution available at the present time.

There are no guarantees with this procedure but there is no other solution available. There are other tests being conducted but they are only at the very beginning stages and it will be several years before they are approved for use. Sometime in the future, perhaps, other options may become available, but for now Jade must be reprogrammed.

“It is necessary to reset the child to its original mental state. When I say mental state, I mean only the mental state. There are no known means to alter the physical state at this time...”

“You...you mean to say that Jade would be uh...like an infant, like she was when we got her but still look like she does today--like...like a teenager?” Kat stammered in disbelief.

“Yes, that is exactly what I mean. Her present programming will be erased and she will be returned to an infant mentality. She will have to relearn all the skills she knows now. It will take the same period of time that it originally took. But--and this is the most important part of the entire reprogramming--you both must remain vigilant to her progress. Extremely vigilant. When the first minute inklings of the undesirable behavior start to become apparent again it will be time for the second stage to be done: Arresting her growth at that point. You will have a perpetual child--but a child that will be normal and bright and without disruptive behavior. Indeed, a very easy child to live with.”

Dr. Koch talked with them another fifteen minutes or so, explaining the details of the procedure and what must be done afterwards.

“I know this is quite a lot for you to process. I’ll stop now and give you both a chance to digest it all. Keep in mind though, we absolutely must begin the first step of the deprogramming process immediately. You or anyone that comes in contact with Jade will not be safe until it is done. Call me Monday morning so we can make arrangements for the procedure. Don’t mention anything to Jade. Not a word. We will take care of that later. Treat this entire matter with strict confidentiality. No one can know about any of this.

The Starlings left Dr. Koch’s office in a daze. Neither spoke a word on the drive home. The next 72 sleepless hours passed at an agonizingly slow pace as the Starlings went over everything Dr. Koch had told them. There were many tears, arguments and discussions between Friday night and Monday morning. Then, on Monday morning at 9:00 am Ron wearily placed the call to Dr. Koch.

After the solemn conversation, Ron relayed information to his wife. “We’ll have one more short meeting with Koch this afternoon at 1:45 and then the team from the Genetics Center will come to his office about 3:00 to meet with us. A Dr. Sylvia Bremmer will come here to pick up Jade while we’re at Koch’s office. We won’t be able to see Jade until the procedure is completed. They will call us when it is over, sometime around 8:00 pm tonight, I guess. We have to be at the Center by 9:00 pm with some clothes and things to last us for a week or two. The Genetics Center will arrange to get the rest of our belongings and sell the house and cars.

“Are you sure we are doing the right thing, Ron?” Kat asked through her tears. “Does it have to be done like this?”

“We’ve agreed on our decision, Kat. Actually, it has been already made for us. It’s really out of our hands. We have to go through with it. Koch said it was a legal obligation according to the Genetics Code agreement we signed when we had Jade made. We agreed to follow all the rulings when we signed up with the Genetics Center. This is the only way. It’s the only chance for us all to start over.”


“But can we really just start over? What about all that has happened? How can we just relocate and leave everyone we know here? Have we really thought about what that will mean?”

“Kat, we discussed all this and agreed that we have to do it. Fortunately, neither one of us have any family left so we are better off than most. Friends can be remade somewhere else. It will be hard to leave our friends behind, sure, just drop out of contact forever with no explanation, but it can be done. It just has to be this way. That’s all there is to it. We have no choice.”

“How can we just start over with Jade? How can we raise an infant again, an infant that really is fifteen years old? Will we have enough strength, enough stamina to do it Ron? Will we really even want to do it after a while? Will we evenwant to do it at all, Ron? We haven’t even talked about that. Right now I know I don’t like Jade very much. What if I don’t even loveher anymore? I know that sounds awful, but that’s what I’m feeling. And, what if we miss the crucial time Dr. Koch talked about--the time we first notice a disruptive behavior starting? What if we miss that, Ron? What if all this happens again? What happens if she turns out just like she is now? I don’t know if I could take that. And, what about ourplans? We had plans for the two of us when Jade was on her own. Now those won’t happen for years, maybe never. Maybe things...”

“We just have to be strong. Do what we have to do. I know what you’re saying. I feel the same as you do, Kat. I’ve been fighting those same feelings. I keep telling myself it’s just the circumstances--all the problems and her behavior. If things were different, if we start over, we will feel differently. Maybe those things Koch mentioned--the things that are being tested--will help us with all of this one day. That’s all we can hope for. We’re in this together, Kat. We both have to give it our all for it to work. We have to be strong together. We wanted a child and Jade is our child. We’ll just take one day at a time. That’s all we can do.”

The meeting with Dr. Koch was a rehash of the same questions, misgivings and explanations of the previous Friday. There were a few small reassurances but no guarantees. The Genetics Team had a few new things to add, but again, they could offer no guarantees either. The Starlings were sent home to pack their suitcases and wait for the call from the Center. It was a long evening.

At 7:45 pm the phone rang. Almost afraid to answer, Ron stared at the telephone for three more rings, then slowly lifted the receiver saying to his wife, “Well, this it it.”

“Yes...Yes it is...What? What did you say? How...” Ron listened for several minutes without saying anything more. Then, “...yes. I...I understand, I think...Yes...Tomorrow by 5:00 pm...Yes, I understand...” Ron Starling slowly replaced the receiver in the cradle and looked blankly at his wife, unable to speak.

“What is it Ron? What did they say for heaven’s sakes? Is it over? Is she all right?”

Ron finally took both Kat’s hands in his own trembling ones and said softly, “There were complications, Katherine...”

“Is she...is she ...dead?” Kat asked quietly, tears forming in her eyes. Then in alarm, “What happened, Ron? Tell me! What happened to Jade?”

“She’s gone...no, I mean, she...she...” Ron could hardly speak.

“Damn it Ron, what’s wrong! Is she dead? Tell me! Tell me!” Kat screamed at her husband.

“This is hard, Kat, hard to even understand. I’m not sure I understand. I’ll tell you what they said. They said the procedure went all right until towards the end, and then--I can’t remember exactly what words they used--but they said they took her mind back to infancy but then there was a complication or something, and they couldn’t stop it or something like that, and they went beyond infancy...”

“What? You aren’t making any sense Ron! How could they go beyond infancy? What do you mean for God's sake?” Kat was getting angry at the lack of information she was getting. WHAT EXACTLY DID THE CENTER TELL YOU?”

“They said she has gone back to the form of the specimens we gave them fifteen years ago...she’s almost what they started with. Jade has no mind...she is just in physical form now and that form cannot exist without a mind. Her body is disintegrating. They didn’t call it dying, they said she’s disintegrating. They said that Jade is no longer a living person in that sense. She exists only in...in liquid form.”

“Oh my God! Then she IS dead!” Kat’s voice was a low moan.

"No, that’s what they kept telling me! No, she’s not dead...she just...just..it’s like she hasn’t even been developed yet...”

“What does that mean? My God! What does that mean, Ron?”

“They said we have to make a decision Kat. They said we have to...we have to decide...decide...”

“Decide what? What’s there to decide? If she’s dead, if she’s gone...”

“No Kat! LISTEN TO ME! We have to decide NOW...we have to decide if we want them to make her again. We have to let them know if we want them to make us a new baby girl...If we want them to start over. To make Jade again!”

©Doreen Bradley Satter
2010


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