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Joe and Mary Christianson have tried to become parents, but each attempt meets with failure, frustration, and tears. Looking for a fresh start, the couple leaves Philadelphia and selects Bethlehem as their new home. The Christiansons are pleased to discover that an old friend of Joe's, Dr. Benjamin Gabriel, is a successful fertility doctor in town, and they seek his help to start the family they've dreamed of.
Dr. Gabriel accepts Joe and Mary as patients, but they have no idea they have now become part of the Bethlehem Project, a secret, government-sponsored research initiative that is working to manipulate genetics. Doctors are able to enhance a child's physical and mental abilities in order to create superior humans to participate in special missions. It's a project they hope to keep under wraps. But as their children age, the Christiansons become suspicious.
Genetically Privileged is the first in a series of works that explores the consequences of genetic enhancement and what it means to parents, the children, and the world.
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.45(d)|
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By A. W. Daniels
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 A. W. Daniels
All right reserved.
Mary Anita Nelson was a beauty from the day she was born. Granted, you always hear that all newborn babies are beautiful. But Mary, she caught everyone's eye in an instant. Even those who were afraid to hold a newborn found themselves drawn to this child. They were hypnotized by her bright, blue eyes, which seemed to know the secrets of anyone who dared to offer more than a glance. Those who were captured by those mesmerizing, cobalt spheres often lost track of time itself, having to be shaken to consciousness by Mary's next unintended victim. Some of those who held this child swore that one look into those oceanic pools soothed and healed the soul.
But Mary's parents knew from the beginning how to stir her soul. Music—any and all kinds of music—got Mary's undivided attention. From lullabies to rock, classical to country, it didn't matter. Her mother, Anne, was a music teacher who played music throughout the day and whose access to musical instruments allowed Mary to experiment with a plethora of what would become her tools of expression. Even at a young age, Mary would dance around the house to anything her mother would be playing, but one day, when she was particularly young, something stopped her in her tracks. It was Mendelssohn's violin concerto. When she first heard it, Mary turned immediately to face the phonograph. Even though she seemed almost still from her outward appearance, inside she was moving to the music. Her body swayed tensely as she stood on the tips of her toes during the rapidly ascending movements, absorbing every note. Mary felt this music. When the last movement was finished, the teary-eyed preschooler turned to her mother and said, "That is what I want to play, Mommy."
Mary had a violin the next day. Her lessons went very well under the tutelage of Mrs. Davidson, who probably would have preferred that her young student begin learning music with a less complicated instrument. But seeing the desire Mary displayed, she decided she was not the one to quell this child's ambitions. So the lessons proceeded, somewhat painfully at first, but over time they progressed nicely as Mary's focus and determination unfolded.
But soon Mary would be confronted with a new impediment to her first love. It began with a simple earache. The antibiotics helped at first, but then the problem would come back. At first the doctors explained it away almost dismissively.
"This is not unusual in a child this age, Mrs. Nelson. You see, the Eustachian tubes link the middle ear to the back of the throat and enable ventilation and drainage to occur. In a child these canals are level with the throat, so drainage can be inhibited, but as the child grows, the angle of the canal increases allowing for the secretions to drain easily. We'll insert tubes to help with drainage and relieve pressure on the eardrum. Mary will be just fine."
The tubes seemed to work at first. But the pain would eventually come back. It would turn into a nasty cycle that was threatening Mary's ability to be with her first love. Then one morning with her head on her pillow, she awoke to see her mother standing over her with a concerned look on her face. Her mouth was moving, but Mary didn't hear a thing. When she lifted her head from her pillow, she was relieved to hear her mother's voice and the usual sounds of the morning. She told her mother she would be right down and laid her head back down on her pillow with a child's relief. But she immediately noticed the silence. Crying, she went to the safety of her mother's arms, hoping that a simple hug would allow her to hear again.
Was it the tubes they had put in her ears? Maybe it was all the painful earaches she had suffered through. How was a young girl to know? She only knew that one side of her was silent all the time. Mary told herself everything would be okay; she would just hear things differently now. Her music would still be with her. Even though she tried several "aids," Mary chose not to use them, as they only got in her way when she played. This caused her violin lessons to become more of a struggle. Mary found it hard to explain why something didn't sound quite right, not quite the same. If another child was playing an instrument to her immediate right, the sound of the other child's instrument overwhelmed her ability to hear what she herself was playing.
Mary didn't know that playing the violin with her left hand was unorthodox. She just knew that her music was clear to her again when the violin was on her right shoulder. In the kitchen one morning Mrs. Davidson tried to explain to Mary's mother the future ramifications of playing left-handed, but it wasn't as though Mary's mother wasn't already aware of this, since she was a music teacher as well. Eventually Mrs. Davidson told Mary, "We're going to make some adjustments, dear." The next day the chin rest was on the other side of the instrument. "We still have some changes to do, Mary, but how does this feel?" As Mary bowed, it felt so natural, so easy. Mrs. Davidson commented on the grace of the sound and then said something to Mary's mother about restringing and moving pegs. They stepped into the kitchen again. Upon returning, Mrs. Davidson said, "Well, it does sound much better, as long as the consequences don't bother you. We can always use a mirror to practice in." Mary didn't care; she was in heaven again.
And she did nothing but excel. All through her school years, the left-handed violinist impressed everyone who heard her play. Scholarships were mounting for the young prodigy. The soloist was making a name for herself. But there was concern about whether the profession would be as kind to her.
Recitals were easy for Mary, as her poise and grace on the stage were beyond her years. It didn't matter if a representative from the Philadelphia Philharmonic or other musical dignitaries came to see the prodigy. Mary was there for her music. Even when she overheard one such dignitary comment to another, "She plays over the bridge; she'll never be able to fit into an orchestra," it didn't sway her from her love. So when her future mentor came to her after one such recital and told her, "I don't care how you play, there is always a place for your talent in our profession," it almost seemed secondary. Mary would always have her music.
When he was a child, Joe was pure boy, through and through. He loved the mud and bugs and cars! Oh, cars! He admired them, played with them, crashed them, fixed them. If it had a motor and four wheels, it caught Joe's attention. Fortunately his childhood nickname, "Crash," didn't follow him when he got his driver's license. The only thing Joe loved more than cars was his mother. She would scoop him up in her arms when he'd earned his nickname and bandage his scrapes. Then she would kiss him on his forehead and send him out to confront the usual dangers of boyhood, only to heal him when he returned. His rambunctious attitude would take him far in the world of sports.
He learned a strong sense of fairness from his mother and never tolerated a bully who preyed on those less talented, on either the playground or any organized field of play. That quality caught the eye of many coaches with whom Joe came into contact, as he not only impressed them with his physical capabilities but also with his sense of teamwork and leadership. He made everyone around him better at their respective duties. Even his privileged friend Adam had to respect the integrity Joe displayed at such a young age, whether or not Adam was the target of Joe's sense of fairness.
The specific sport didn't matter to Joe; he excelled at anything he tried. The trophies just kept on coming and then came the scholarships with all the accolades. But Joe was no simple jock; he was smart. Maybe not as smart as his friend Cowboy; no one was. But Joe was smart enough to use his physical attributes on the field to put him in a position to use his head to see the patterns that were developing on the field of play and capitalize on any situation in order to win. He could carry a team on his broad shoulders.
Joe's achievements resulted in full athletic scholarship offers from several schools. The national press was even beginning to notice his accomplishments. But, although he tried, he never fully recovered from the reconstruction of his knee. His attempt to play again ended in a second operation and years of pain. The press called it a shame to lose such a talent to injury and then moved on to extend its praise to the next athlete in line for greatness.
Joe's engineering degree, as well as his minor in business, would never fail him, though. They would prove valuable in the next stage of his life. He and his business partner Adam developed neighborhoods all around the Philadelphia area. Their initial financing came from Adam's father, of course. But as their business grew, Joe always wondered why Adam avoided the daily activities of building a business. Whether Joe was on site working with his men, making them better at their jobs, or checking the books and material orders after hours, Adam seemed to be more interested in his other business venues. True, the other businesses were just as lucrative, be they wholesale medical supplies or manufacturing some widget to make life easier. But building the perfect domain for a family seemed so much more satisfying to Joe.
And when the housing bust put an end to that chapter, Joe felt fortunate that he had made and saved enough to be more than comfortable. He began thinking, Maybe I can do this on a smaller scale just to keep busy. I would need to find a place that would make Mary and me comfortable, away from all the memories of disappointment and pain that we've had here." They both truly loved Philadelphia. It was a thriving, cosmopolitan city filled with opportunity. But perhaps it was time to clear their heads and rethink their priorities. Priorities that included having a family.
Eventually it came to him: Bethlehem, the town where his old friend Cowboy had set up shop. Joe knew that his friend had a successful fertility clinic there. Perhaps the answer to several of their dilemmas was just a few hours away. Maybe he could see whether those Christmas cards Ben had been sending him over the years were depicting his future home.
Even though Adam's family technically lived in the same general neighborhood, their estate was almost as large as the neighborhood itself. Adam's father, Adam Sr., had done well, considering his humble beginnings. His lone convenience store had multiplied many times over. His real estate investments grew to support a venture capital enterprise that eventually was involved in everything from shopping malls to auto dealerships and candy manufacturing. He sat on the boards of more companies and institutions than he had luxury cars parked in his driveway during one of the benefits he hosted for some cause about which he knew little. But Senior was always very sure of what he liked. His entourage of ex-wives alone could have populated a local beauty pageant, and picking a winner would have been difficult at best.
Then there was Adam Junior. Could his attitude be blamed on the neglect of his powerful father? A father whose ambitions regularly took him to all corners of the globe, leaving his son in the hands of envious hired help? Or perhaps it was because of his confusion as to whom he was to address as "Mother"? The poor guy spent a fortune on stamps alone on Mother's Day. But there was no question that he had money to spend.
One thing about Adam Jr. though, was that he had a mean streak. Not that he ever tortured animals as a kid, though if he did I'm certain it would have been an animal of an exotic variety. Nor would he crash his luxury cars, only to have them replaced by a newer, better model. They were always turned back in to the dealership in fine condition, with just a few more miles on them. (Maybe that's what drew Joe to maintain a friendship with him?) No, Adam placated himself by showing his superiority over the less privileged in more subtle ways, in an almost passive-aggressive manner. If someone in the neighborhood got a new car, Adam would buy the newest version. If a new girl moved into town, Adam would be the first to date her. Then, when he was finished with her affections, Adam would invite her and her next boyfriend over to a pool party at his mansion with fifty or so of his best friends to view his latest exploitation or indulgence.
But he could never get under Joe's skin. Joe maintained his dignity and righteousness even when he was kicking Adam's butt for feasting on those with less physical ability or fewer financial resources. So he had no choice but to admire Joe, since anything less would be noticed by the audience to which he played. And he would then be labeled as just another rich brat because he wouldn't be perceived as being able to recognize true greatness. So Adam would take out his frustrations on others, if not by inflicting wounds socially, then by doing so on the playing field. He was a nasty competitor. The coaches would sometimes deliberately play him, if the situation was right, because of his "attitude" on the field. Adam was the one who would take a foul to send a message to the other team.
He often thought maybe it wasn't an accident he got blocked into Joe's legs during full contact practice. Maybe he was playing the correct call on that blitz that sent him through the pocket toward Joe? Well, Joe did come back to play only to be reinjured, but he didn't have anything to do with that injury. Hell, after all was said and done, it was he who set Joe up in a business that would take care of his finances for the rest of his life. So if there were any indiscretions in the past, he considered them fully repaid.
But what about the trespasses Adam would inflict on Joe in the future? Could anyone ever be compensated for those forthcoming acts of deceit?
Chapter FourMary and Joe
The college campus was only daunting for a short period of time. The ambitions, dreams, and desires of the students soon overwhelmed any petty fears that existed when they first arrived on campus. Friendships were developed rapidly, some of which would prove to be a major part of their lifelong experiences.
Mary was just entering this new stage of her life. She was already being heralded by the faculty and student body, not only as a prodigy, but as a fully developed talent. Her on-campus engagements were fully sold out, but she knew she had to maintain time for study, as well as the social work she found so fulfilling. Most of the men/boys on campus had already made her a target of desire, but she could handle that. It was nothing new for her.
It was almost impossible, though, with the football season in full swing, for her not to hear about the great Joe Christianson. He was the junior quarterback who was taking the team to a national ranking that would add to its historic achievements. Probably just another jock. No shortage of them around here, she would think to herself. But neither of them realized that while they were on their respective stages, the other one was noticing them. Mary didn't notice the man in the back of the amphitheater wearing a letterman's jacket who was admiring the talent and intensity of the soloist performing. Probably just another prima donna, he thought. No shortage of them around here. Nor would Joe see the woman in the stands at the stadium on a crisp Saturday afternoon as she was listening to the other girls' comments about how The Great Joe's anatomy was enhanced by the pants worn by all the players. Was that a feeling of jealousy? Nonsense! Mary still had her first love. Besides, she had noticed that The Great Joe was signed up to volunteer with the Thanksgiving meal at the Family Services Center on the other side of town off campus. She nearly backed away from volunteering when she saw his name but then stubbornly signed up anyway. Though she did find herself with the desire to help the needy just a little more than usual that day.
Mary even noticed that she was paying more attention to her appearance that morning as she was getting ready to race across town to arrive early. Did she really have to be so fastidious about her makeup to serve a charity meal? Or get that upset when her blow dryer quit working in the middle of doing her hair? Regardless, there was quite a bit of activity going on at five thirty in the morning when she arrived and saw The Great One setting up tables and directing other volunteers. She approached all the activity, wondering where she should be, when she heard someone ask her a question. "What are you here for?" The question was being directed at her by The Great One himself. At first she took offense to it but then realized the reason for the question and answered, "Food prep and dispensing. Where should I go?"
"Elizabeth is in charge of that side. She's around the corner in the kitchen. My name's Joe," he said, putting out his hand.
"I'm Mary," she responded. What soft hands for a jock, she thought.
"You're from the campus, aren't you?" Joe already knew the answer.
Excerpted from Genetically Privileged by A. W. Daniels Copyright © 2012 by A. W. Daniels. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Kirkus Indie - A Kirkus review service writes; "An inventive, intriguing novel. Daniels skillfully develops the sense of threat."