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´╗┐Title: Reject
Author: Johnson, John
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Reject" ***

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                            BY JOHN JOHNSON

                  _The officials had been napping the
                 day Donnie passed inspection.... How
                 else could you explain such an error
                    in his emotional conditioning?_

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
              Worlds of If Science Fiction, August 1956.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

Donnie clenched his small fists and tried not to cry, but two
elliptical tears ran slowly down his cheeks. The sight of them made Mr.
Ames even madder.

"Look at him," he stormed, turning to Martha. "Just look at him. Every
damn time I try to reason with him, he starts to snivel like an animal,
instead of acting like a normal human being." Mr. Ames flicked his
cigar ashes toward a vacuum cup on the wall and looked down at the boy.
"Now stop that stupid crying and tell me what this is all about."

Donnie sniffled a couple of times and wiped his nose on the back of one
of his blue uniform sleeves.

"Well," Mr. Ames said, coldly.

The boy took a deep breath and raised his head. "I want you to spend
some time with me," he said. "I want you to--" he searched the elusive
shadows of memory until he found the word he wanted--"I want you to
_play_ with me. That's it. I want you to play with me once in a while."

Mr. Ames blinked his eyes and stepped back. "Play," he repeated. "What
do you mean _play_?"

Donnie hesitated. "You know," he said, finally, "take me on long walks
and sit down and play games and tell me stories once in a while."

"But you've got all the stories you need," Mr. Ames said, waving his
hand at the banks of audiotapes stacked neatly on the wall shelves.
"And your audio-prompter can tell them better than I can."

"Yes," Donnie said, "but that's a machine and I want--"

"What's wrong with a machine," Mr. Ames said, his face getting red.
"Some of our best things come from machines. Didn't they teach you that
at the Incubator?"

"Yes," the boy said, "but isn't there anything besides machines? I
can't play with machines, I want to play with you!" He began to sob

Mr. Ames dashed his cigar to the floor. "I give up," he said. "By the
Red Balls of Jupiter, I give up!"

"Now, Henry," his wife said. "Remember, the boy's only seven."

"Don't 'Henry' me," Mr. Ames said, "And besides, what does being seven
have to do with it. When I was his age, I was an honor student in
physics. _He_ can't even pass algebra."

Donnie stared at the toes of his boots.

"I've given this kid everything," Mr. Ames went on. "He's going to
the best pre-nuclear school in the whole hemisphere. He's got his own
rocket kit. Why, he's even been on a study cruise to the moon! How
many kids his age have been to the moon already? I bet no other kid in
our project has been there. And what do I get as a reward." Mr. Ames
didn't wait for an answer. "Trouble. That's what I get, trouble. Why in
Galaxy he can't leave me alone like a normal child is more than I can
understand." He stopped for breath and lit a fresh cigar.

"Maybe the boy's sick," Martha said timidly.

Mr. Ames ignored her. "I've tried to be a good father to him," he said,
his voice self-righteous. "I'm giving him a chance to make something
out of himself. All I ask is that he be of service to the world, and
make me proud of him some day. But what does he do? Does he concentrate
on his career, like the rest of the kids? Hell, no, he wants to hang
around me, always underfoot, always asking stupid questions. Play!" Mr.
Ames snorted.

"It's not just play."

"Heh, what's that?" Mr. Ames jumped.

"I said it's not just play," Donnie repeated, bravely brushing away
his tears. "You don't give me any--" he searched again for the right
word--"any _companionship_. A boy needs companionship. Don't you

"No, I don't," Mr. Ames said. "And I'm sure they didn't teach you
that in the Incubator either. Don't you realize you should be fully
coordinated by now. Instead, you want me to take time from my work--Why
it's preposterous. It's, it's--unscientific!"

"But, all I want--"

Mr. Ames held up his hand. "Enough of this," he said. "I refuse to
discuss it anymore. Now go to your room and get ready for your study

The boy burst out crying again and ran out of the room.

Mr. Ames shook his head. "Definite neurotic tendencies," he muttered to

"What dear?" his wife said.

"Nothing, Martha," he answered. "Just talking to myself." He sat down
heavily on the couch and sighed. What was wrong with Donnie, anyway?
Where did he get those archaic ideas from? Surely he had been taught
that the whole purpose of the incubator system was to speed up learning
and growth processes so children wouldn't have to waste precious years
growing up, like they did in the old days. Why their new technological
age simply had no time to fool around with infantile desires. There
were too many things to do, too many knotty scientific problems to
solve. Emotions, Mr. Ames mumbled to himself, you never could trust
your damn emotions.

That night, after Donnie was in bed, Mr. Ames went to his study and
pulled out the boy's file. It explained what he was fitted for, what
abilities he had inherited, and what his primary training included.
Mr. Ames noted sadly that the boy's Scientific Quotient was 142, well
above normal, and that he would stand six feet tall and weigh close to
195 pounds when fully developed.

Mr. Ames, who was incubator-born himself, was completely sold on
the ingenious system the Federation of World Councils had devised.
No more hit-and-miss mass reproduction, where morons were gradually
out-breeding intelligent beings, but instead, selective artificial
insemination through which only the best strains were permitted to
reproduce. Each generation, the human race got healthier and smarter.
Insanity and inherited diseases were a thing of the past and nature's
primitive law--only the fittest shall survive--was now a glittering
reality. Why the Federated Incubators even took over the burden of
educating the children for the first five years. Parents no longer
had to be bothered caring for helpless, bawling brats. By the time
Incubates were placed on the available list, they were completely
self-sufficient and emotionally conditioned to fit into any family
group. Parents simply picked what they wanted. Mr. Ames, of course, had
selected a future nuclear-chemist.

It was a beautiful system, Mr. Ames told himself, and even more
important, it worked. But somehow, some way, there was something
radically wrong with their child.

"Definite neurotic symptoms," Mr. Ames murmured, half aloud. By
Jupiter, there was only one thing to do. He shut the folder firmly and
spun around to the trans-audio. A green light appeared on the panel
almost immediately.

"Your connection, please?" the automon said.

"Give me the local Incubator."

There was a pause, then a click. "Federated Health and Service,
coordinator speaking. May I help you?"

"Yes. This is Mr. Henry Ames, over at the Amarillo Group Project. I
have a complaint to make."

"Yes?" The coordinator, a woman, was carefully polite.

"It's about the child you sent us."

"Specimen please?"

"What? Oh, it's a boy, Class Triple A, breed, nuclear chemistry. We got
him about 18 months ago and--"

"What is your number please?"

"It's ... just a minute." Mr. Ames consulted the folder. "My number is
34-72-oh-41. And we've got a three-year guarantee," he added pointedly.

"Yes, sir. Just a minute sir." There was a whirring sound at the other
end of the circuit. After a short wait, the coordinator's voice came
through again.

"Well, sir," she said. "You have the select model in our scientific
line of seven-year-olds. According to our records, he checked out
perfectly on all phases of learning and aptitude. Have you tried memory

"Yes, I've tried memory teaching. He learns fine." Mr. Ames stopped.
"Look, you don't seem to understand. He's okay as far as performance
goes. He does everything we tell him and all that, but he's
still a real pain in the--I mean, he's developing very annoying

"Please go on, Mr. Ames." The coordinator's voice was warm and
sympathetic. "How does he annoy you?"

"Well, for one thing, he's getting pronounced possessive tendencies. He
almost seems to resent being left alone. Why, just this evening he told
me he wants us to _play_ with him!"

"Did you say _play_ with him?"

"That's right," Mr. Ames said, triumphantly. "And he says he needs
companionship, or something like that."

"Companionship," the coordinator repeated. "Oh, dear. This is more
serious than I thought. I'm afraid you definitely have a reject,
Mr. Ames. If he shows these tendencies at this early age, then the
situation will be intolerable later on."

"It's intolerable right now," Henry insisted. "Anyway, I thought you
people were supposed to clear up all this emotional unbalance in the
primary psych indoctrination."

"We usually do," the coordinator agreed, "but every once in a while,
one slips through inspection with faulty communal-perception. The
one you've got is obviously a throw-back." The coordinator coughed
apologetically. "It's really not the boy's fault, of course, but I'm
afraid we'll have to reclaim him."

"The sooner the better," Mr. Ames said. "This mess is upsetting my work
at the lab. When can I get a replacement?"

"We'll send a new model over when we pick up the reject. Will tomorrow
morning be convenient?"

"Sure. Fine. Just make sure this one is normal. You better check our
physio records too. I hear the people down the circle got one that
didn't look like them at all."

"Don't worry," the coordinator assured him. "You'll get a boy you can
be proud of this time. Will there be anything more now?"

"No, no, I guess not." An uneasy feeling slipped into Mr. Ames's
consciousness. "I just wondered," he said, suddenly. "What will happen
to Don--I mean, the reject you sent us. Will he be--uh--destroyed?"

The coordinator laughed. "Heavens, no, Mr. Ames," she said, lightly.
"He'll be sent to the Biological Reservation and allowed to live out
his life span with other rejects. He'll be much happier there. We're
not savages, you know."

"That's right," Mr. Ames said, his tone matching her brightness. "We're
not savages. Well, we'll be expecting the new one tomorrow, and thanks
for all your trouble."

"No trouble at all," the coordinator said, smoothly. "Feel free to call
on us any time."

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