Virtual Mother

When I was a young man of 28 – recently married, with two
young children–the last thing I expected was to become
the head of a major company. But that was just what
happened when my father the owner and president of
Joycor Industries died suddenly on the golf course. Per
his will, I became the new president, and I was
thoroughly overwhelmed.

It was not until two years later that I had a good grasp
of the family business. I already knew we made most of
our money from virtual reality hardware, but I was
surprised to learn that we also had a lucrative sideline
in pharmaceuticals.

Our success was largely due to our head of research–Dr.
Erwin Derwanger, a brilliant chemist in his mid-fifties–
but I soon had reason to worry about the doctor and his
laboratory. It was well known that Dr. Derwanger had an
unhealthy admiration for Nazi Germany, but I didn’t
realize how disturbed he really was until I learned (from
one of his frightened young lab assistants) that the
doctor was using cloned human embryos for his drug
research. Aside from being sick, it was also a violation
of federal law, and I had no choice but to fire him and
his senior staff.

“You’re making a dreadful mistake, Dana,” Dr. Derwanger
said; “I need your laboratory.”

“Erwin, you’re lucky I don’t tell the police what you’ve
been doing; it’s unconscionable!”

“Your father didn’t think so; he knew the rewards would
be worth the risk.”

“What rewards?”

“Drugs you can’t even imagine: a universal vaccine
against cancer, ulcers, heart disease…”

“You’re insane.”

“Am I?”

I thought about that a long moment before replying.

“Yes. Now get out.”

The doctor gave me a surly look, but finally left with a
sneer. Although the shakeup in R&D affected our stock
value the next quarter, I felt I had narrowly averted
complete disaster. In Derwanger’s place, I appointed
another chemist who had helped me expose the doctor’s
research–a matronly woman of 50 named Magda Johannsen.

At first, I was concerned that she might have been too
close to Derwanger to trust, but she seemed to have a
genuine dislike for him. She revealed that he was
actually the grandson of a concentration camp doctor–and
I was startled to see confirmation of that fact in his
confidential personnel file; the report of a private
detective (hired by my father) indicated that Derwanger
belonged to several racist and ultra-conservative
organizations, and that he was secretly obsessed with
creating a perfect white Aryan through genetic
engineering. Evidently, that was the ultimate goal of his
work with the cloned embryos.

“Amazing,” I said to Magda in my office, after reviewing
the file;

“who’d have thought it, here in the 21st century?”

“It’s probably just as well he’s gone,” Magda offered,
laying a briefcase before me.

“What’s that?”

“I’m glad you asked,” Magda said, opening the briefcase
and taking out a black garment vaguely resembling a scuba
diving suit. There was a virtual reality helmet in the
briefcase as well, but the helmet was the only part I

“This is our new virtual reality prototype.”

“I thought our V.R. units were helmets and data gloves.”

“This is different,” she explained. “Instead of merely
watching a scene, and interacting with it through a pair
of data gloves, this suit allows you to feel the virtual
reality with your whole body.”

“Wow, neat. Can I try it?”


“What’s the matter? Isn’t it safe?”

“Oh, it’s safe,” Magda said; “it’s just you might not
like the demonstration program. It’s a simulation that
lets a man feel what it’s like to have sex as a woman.”

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