1 They would schedule a rain for this morning. Dr. Thei Svengaard thought.Rain always makes the parents uneasy...not to mention what it does to the doctors. A gust of winter wetness rattled against the window behind his desk. He stood, thought of muting the windows, but the Durantsthis morning's parentsmight be even more alarmed by the unnatural silence on such a day. Dr. Svengaard stepped to the window, looked down at the thronging foot trafficday shifts going to their jobs in the megalopolis, night shifts headed toward their tumbled rest. There was a sense of power and movement in the comings and goings of the people in spite of their troglodyte existence. Most of them, he knew, were children Sterries...sterile, sterile. They came and they went, numbered, but numberless. He had left the intercom open to his reception room and he could hear his nurse, Mrs. Washington, distracting the Durants with questions and forms. Routine. That was the watchword. This must all appear normal, casual routine. The Durants and all the others fortunate enough to be chosenandto become parents must never suspect the truth. Dr. Svengaard steered his mind away from such thoughts, reminding himself that guilt was not a permissible emotion for a member of the medical profession. Guilt led inevitably to betrayal...and betrayal brought messy consequences. The Optimen were exceedingly touchy where the breeding program was concerned. Such a thought with its hint of criticism filled Svengaard with a momentary disquiet. He swallowed, allowed his mind to dwell on the Folk response to the Optimen,They are the power that loves us and cares for us. With a sigh, he turned away from the window, skirted the desk and went through the door that led via the ready room to the lab. In the ready room, he paused to check his appearance in the mirror: gray hair, dark brown eyes, strong chin, high forehead and rather grim lips beneath an aquiline nose. He'd always been rather proud of the remote dignity in his appearance-cut and h ad come to terms with the need of adjusting the remoteness. Now, he softened the set of his mouth, practiced a look of compassionate interest. Yes, that would do for the Durantsgranting the accuracy of their emotional profiles. Nurse Washington was just ushering the Durants into the lab as Dr. Svengaard entered through his private door. The skylights above them drummed and hissed with the rain. Such weather suddenly seemed to fit the room's mood: washed glass, steel, plasmeld and tile...all impersonal. It rained on everyone...and all humans had to pass through a room such as this...even the Optimen. Dr. Svengaard took an instant dislike to the parents. Harvey Durant was a lithe six-footer with curly blond hair, light blue eyes. The face was wide with an apparent innocence and youth. Lizbeth, his wife, stood almost the same height, equally blonde, equally blue-eyed and young. Her figure suggested Valkyrie robustness. On a silver cord around her neck she wore one of the omnipresent Folk talismans, a brass figure of the female Optiman, Calapine. The breeder cult nonsense and religious overtones of the figure did not escape Dr. Svengaard. He suppressed a sneer. The Durants were parents, however, and robustliving testimony to the skill of the surgeon who had cut them. Dr. Svengaard allowed himself a moment of pride in his profession. Not many people could enter the tight little group of subcellular engineers who kept human variety within bounds. Nurse Washington paused in the door behind the Durants, said, "Dr. Svengaard, Harvey and Lizbeth Durant." She left without waiting for acknowledgements. Nurse Washington's timing and discretion always were exquisitely correct.Herbert, Frank is the author of 'Eyes of Heisenberg' with ISBN 9780765342522 and ISBN 0765342529.