Jane 26

There's a hiss of escaping air like the world's tiniest sigh and the cryopod opens at the end of the cantilevered walkway. I catch myself as I fall to the faux marble floor, whorls of mica glittering like gold flecks inches from my face. Chandeliers of fake crystal light the cavernous room, which is itself shaped like an egg, or an even larger cryopod. Mahogany panels - or some convincing synthetic - line the walls. I'm in the embrace of a mechanized orange, segments along the wall smooth except for crimson candelabras with flickering electronic candles. 

The effect is cheap techno-boudoir, but I am not.

This entire operation is a gaudy success. It's as embarassing as it is effective. I rise to my feet, a momentary hesitancy in my left anterior cruciate ligament the only defect. Next time, then. We're not gods, but we've got a head start. Childhood was too slow. Evolution was too slow. Giraffes, as ungainly as they look, can walk an hour after being born. We have that down to seconds. Give us time, and we'll have human beings shot from a cannon that literally hit the ground running.

I stride down the walkway, reaching for the cashmere robe that was left for me. "26" is printed on the back. How cute we are! There is no tag to scratch my neck because it's a perfect fit, just like I am. At the end of the walkway, a door silently slides open at my approach.

In the room on the other side, I face myself. The mirror is there so that we can perform self quality assurance, although that's been unnecessary since that mishap with number four. We're all perfect on the outside now, the only possible defects internal or psychological. Still, they keep the memory of number four's deformity coming in the cortical downloads.

"Never again," is our motto and masochism is our strategy. Is that a psychological defect? We don't test for it.

The robe comes off for a moment as I spin around, the movement looking capricious but simply the belaboring of routine. I am exactly 1.8 meters tall and weigh 60 kilos, a sheath of dark hair falling to my midback. My skin tone marks me as a member of no specific ethnicity, although it indicates I'd be accepted as a native of one tribe or another on any continent.

My musculature is smoothly defined and more powerful than a casual glance would indicate; if my upper limits were widely known, world records would need an asterix appended to them. Of course, I'd be a failure if my existence was uncovered. In old days they'd bag unwanted animals in a canvas sack and cast them into the nearest body of water. That sounds lovely compared to what would happen to us.

We left mere efficiency behind three iterations and a dozen and a half of me ago. Now it's all about improvement. How dense can we pack the muscle fibers, the neurons, the osteoblasts? How many wavelengths of visible light can we detect? How quickly can we reknit our existing tissue to achieve mission objectives? How far behind us can we put vanilla human?

One day something will leap out of the cryopod and usher in a new era. It won't be long now; maybe number 42, or 57. On that day we'll glady accept our ordained obsolesence, bowing to allow the giant we birthed to stand astride our uniform shoulders. She will be radiant, like the sun, and so beautiful our machined eyes will scarce be able to take her in.

God made us in his likeness; we'll simply be returning the favor.