Nayra hurries into the tunnel connecting her office building with the banking district while she completes her check-in process on her tablet. She places her thumb on the sensor as instructed and the operator at the Institute appears on screen, displeased.

“You’ve been running again, 13-25F.”

“I’ve just been walking quickly for a few minutes, that’s all. I didn’t want to be late.” Nayra tries to will her heart rate down, but the sweat on her face betrays her.

The operator leans into the camera and scowls. “You know the rules. It affects the quality of the product.” She leans back and starts to update Nayra’s appointment schedule. Nayra panics.

“No, please. I really need this. My landlord just raised the rent and my food bill is due. You know how I have to make the grade.” Nayra is scared. She doesn’t even want to think about what will happen if—

“I shouldn’t allow this but…” the operator green-lights the appointment. “OK. Proceed to tube C-51,” he whispers.

Nayra takes a deep breath, exhales a soft thank you, and scurries through the tunnel. The voice comes back on: “Slowly, 13-25F.”

In the bank lobby, Nayra joins familiar faces in the screening lineup. She waves to Quilla standing in the D queue. “You’re skin is positively glowing, Nayra. What are you eating?” Quilla shouts over to her.

The C-gate attendant looks up at Nayra and smirks. Nayra dismisses his attitude and focuses on the conversation with her girlfriend. “Oh! You know, benefactor’s stipulation. It’s not cheap.” The C lineup is moving quickly. She catches up to Quilla. “I can’t afford to keep this up though. This is my last appointment in the series.  The birth is scheduled for tomorrow.”

Quilla gives her friend a tight squeeze. “You must be so excited! Fostering a healthy new life. Do you know if it’s a boy or a girl?”

Nayra lowers her voice being careful to keep it out of earshot of the creepy C-gate dude. “They’re not supposed to tell.  You know, just in case I try to make contact, but I have a friend at the Institute.” She signals Quilla closer and whispers in her ear: “It’s a girl and her name is Winter.”

Quilla claps her hands softly in rapid succession. “I’m so happy for you.” But Nayra can still detect the sadness in her voice.

“Your blood levels will be strong enough yourself one day. Don’t give up, Quilla.” Nayra holds her friend’s hand and smiles.

The D queue starts to move quicker than Nayra’s but Quilla stays back and musters up the courage to ask a favour. “Would your friend at the Institute be able to hook me up? Maybe with someone who is more desperate?” She looks to her feet.

Nayra shakes her head and speaks warmly. “Quilla, you’re not defective. Your BPA is perfect. Don’t ever sell yourself short. It’s the system that’s fracked.” Quilla looks back up at Nayra with tentative hope in her eyes.

The D-gate attendant calls out: “NEXT!”

The girl behind Quilla gives her a little shove forward, but Nayra signals her to jump ahead as she reassures her girlfriend. “I’ll see what I can do. I’m off the diet starting tomorrow so I’ll have some extra cash to help you get started. The food will make a big difference, you’ll see.” She gives a teary-eyed Quilla a warm hug.

“Thank you so much, Nayra. You’re the best. Rest up well tonight. I have to go.” Quilla heads to the D-gate.

It’s Nayra’s turn now.

Oh how she wishes she could slap that condescending smirk off the C-gate troll’s mug. If only there weren’t any cameras watching, she might be able to sneak a smack in without anyone noticing.

Nayra daydreams seeing him passed out at her feet while she just stands there in apparent shock muttering: “He must be moonlighting or something. He just fainted.” Yes. She would enjoy watching the Institute Enforcers drag him away as he wakes up screaming: “No. It’s a lie. NO!”

There are ways not condoned by the Institute to generate more product and those who are caught doing it suffer severe repercussions. It’s all about controlling the delicate supply and demand balance while maintaining a high quality commodity, if that’s what you want to call it. Moonlighting is akin to murder in this fracked up society. The Institute would sooner source their needs elsewhere than accept a less than pure shipment.

“13-25F. 13-25F!!!” The attendant snaps her back to reality.

It’s Nayra’s turn now.

“Last time through?” He holds up a sealed medical kit and snorts sarcastically: “We’ll miss you.”

“I fracking won’t!” She jerks the package from his hands and charges through the gate thinking to herself: “I can’t wait till this is all over. There has to be a better way.”

…to be continued in BPA Nation.