Naninami woke up in her room in the lab and saw Professor Myrna Jipson. The professor had visited Nani several times since their first meeting, but today was different. When the professor had first walked into Naninami’s room, she said “Sorry, Nani.” Then she said the magic words and Naininami had fallen asleep. Now Naninami was awake again and Professor Jipson was in the room with her, busy entering data into a tablet computer.
“Professor Jipson,” she said. “Don’t you want to talk to me today?”
“Sorry, honey. Didn’t see you wake up,” Mryna answered. “Of course I want to talk to you. That’s why I’m filing my report in here.” She showed Naninami the tablet.
“If you want to talk to me,” the puzzled girl asked. “Why did you make me sleep as soon as you came in?”
“Oh, I’m so sorry. Force of habit, I guess. I’m so used to just walking in here and poking and prodding you while you’re sleeping I didn’t think about it. I needed to get some tissue samples and take some measurements for my report to Corporate. I’m afraid the process can be a little unpleasant, might even hurt. It’s easier for us to do our work if you’re not fussing, so we put you to sleep.”
Professor Jipson thought for a while then added, “But now that we’ve been talking and you’ve started your lessons, I guess it’s not fair to automatically do that anymore. From now on, I’ll tell you when I need to get samples or perform an examination. I’ll try to give you a realistic assessment of how unpleasant it will be. Then it will be your choice to go to sleep or not. OK, sweetie?”
“Yes, Professor. Thank you.”
“Now I’d like to ask you a favor,” the professor continued. “Please stop calling me Professor. My friends call me Myrna. Please call me Myrna.”
“Yes, Pro…” Naninami hesitated then broke into a huge grin. “Of course, Myrna!”
Myrna sat on the bed next to Naninami. “Say, Nani. Want to see what I’m telling Corporate about our best girl?” With that she handed Nainami the tablet.
The girl stared at the screen. At first, all she could see were lots and lots of tiny dots. But after a few moments she realized groups of dots formed letters, the letters represented sounds, and the sounds made words. She spoke the first words aloud, “Weekly Report on Test Subject 7,273.”
“Good,” Professor Jipson interrupted. “The written language imprinting is taking as well as the verbal. I have to add that to my report.”
“Myrna, what is Test Subject 7,273?” Naninmai asked.
“That’s what Corporate calls you. It means you’re Adastra Genomics’ seven thousand two hundred seventy third attempt to genetically engineer a creature. Most of the experiments were on simpler animals like single celled organisms for making medicines, and many of the experiments failed. But, after a lot of work, we were able to make you.”
“But…” Naninami thought for a moment. “Doesn’t Corporate know I’m Naninami?”
Myrna smiled, gave Nanami a conspiratorial wink and said, “That’s our little joke on Corporate. The boss has a rule, lots of rules really. But one of them is ‘Do not name the test subjects. Only refer to them by their serial number.’ Well, I think that rule’s silly. If we’re going to find out your potential as a person, we need to treat you like a person.
“So, I’ve played a little trick,” Myrna continued as she took the computer back from Naninami. “It’s a word game. If I write the numbers 7-2-7-3 in kanji, that’s a kind of Japanese writing,” she wrote the kanji on the touchpad. “And then say them like they were katakana, another kind of Japanese writing, your name becomes Na-Ni-Na-Mi, Naninami—a cute name for a cute girl.”
Naninami didn’t know anything about Japanese, or any foreign language for that matter. But since she had started her lessons, she’d picked up a little about “Corporate” from the white coats. Corporate was discussed in hushed whispers like a demonic force that would arbitrarily bestow favors or inflict punishments. The fact that Professor Jipson, no, her friend Myrna would play a prank on the demon with the intent of making Naninami a better person amazed her. “And Myrna thinks I’m a cute girl,” she thought and scooted closer to her friend. They spent the rest of the afternoon discussing the words on the tablet.