Pre-conception screening hadn’t turned up anything, so the Kieslowski-Millers spent their entire discretionary health stipend on a Headstart Elan package for Harriet-to-be. Most parents of healthy children did. Harriet’s parents chose a popular CEO package, the sort that pre-qualified her for Harvard. If she kept her grades up — and there was no reason to think she wouldn’t — she could choose from one of twelve sponsor corporations after graduation. From there she would have been in the hands of the market.
But nothing can prevent accidents. Two months after her six birthday, Harriet and twelve other children were crushed in their school bus. Fault was batted through the legal system by corporations and civic government. The Krell motor company implicated Automated Driving Systems Incorporated. They blamed Gregarious Research, the manufacturer or the forward sensor array. That company pointed out that local government was responsible for the state of the roads. Finally, the city fired and reprimanded the lowest paid employee in the chain — the geologist who had failed to detect the precursor conditions that lead to the sinkhole. During which the board of the Elan program waited to recover their investment in Harriet.
For six years her family sailed those rough seas, rising and falling with each new challenge. In all that time, Harriet remained in the hospital, her brain damage too severe for conventional regenerative treatment. Early they decided to slow development. Everyone assumed she would come out at the end, and everyone knew that she would miss the best years of her life if allowed to undergo puberty while in a coma.
Halfway through the legal proceedings, the Kieslowski-Millers had another child. Andros was born without Harriet’s advantages, but most people were. The Kieslowski-Millers assumed that when Harriet came back to them she would teach her little brother, to help him with some of the things that came naturally to her. So Andros had a big sister, a sleeping princess patiently waiting for a doctor’s kiss.