Prologue
2156 CE

The doctor, powerful shoulders hunched beneath his traditional white coat, peered into the crib, the only one of the private clinic’s nine cribs that was currently occupied. The infant girl stared at his coarse, graying beard with surprising focus.

The door opened and closed behind him. “Prophet Avram—”

Sarai! Please address me as Dr. Shemesh in any verbal communications even when you think we are alone.

Sorry. Is she the one?

Perhaps. The probability is high, but if you recall, when her mother was born, I estimated that the probability that she was the one was also high.

But since then, you have proven that more of the human DNA that human scientists thought was just taking up space in the genome truly is important.

It is true that in the last thirty years, I have determined that more of a human’s DNA is important. Most human scientists still believe that seven to ten percent of their DNA is functional and that the rest of their DNA doesn’t seem to matter that much.

When Anita was born, I thought that since each human is born with fifty to a hundred new mutations that if every piece of the genome were essential, then many of those mutations would lead to significant birth defects. With the mutations multiplying over many generations, if a significant number were essential, humans would have become extinct. Well, a few of the mutations that I thought were insignificant prevented Anita from becoming the one.

And her daughter?

I manipulated her DNA long before she was born. We shall see.

“Dr. Shemesh, you have a patient waiting.”

He looked at his watch, unnecessary for him, but typical of a human. “Sarah, please let Mrs. Martinez know that I will be in to see her son shortly.” He took one more look into the crib and looked up. Adon, may she please you.

Part I
2161 CE

Naami bounced on the trampoline that her dad had bought for her last week, two weeks after moving into their new house. She sighed. I miss my old house. Although her room was bigger and sunnier, even after the furniture came, her room and the rest of the house felt gloomy and empty to her. She sighed again. The old house that she had loved was gone, and she would never see it again. Her last memory was of the blackened cement block foundation, charred beams, and cold, gray ashes. She felt tears fly from her cheeks as she thought about the good times she had in her old house with her old friends.

She hadn’t made any friends here, far from her old home in Minneapolis. While she could chat with her old friends over the net, it wasn’t the same as being with them. She tried to talk more with her mom and dad, but between organizing the house and their work, they didn’t have much time to talk with her. Her dad promised her that things would get back to normal soon.

Her mom had nodded absent-mindedly in agreement, preoccupied with her research. She wondered if there was ever a time that her mom wasn’t thinking about work. By age three, she had already figured out that her mom was smarter than everyone else but obsessed with her work.

After the fire, her mom had collapsed, unable to speak for nearly an hour. Although her gran had kept her away while her dad quietly consoled her mom, she had listened in on the entire conversation. Not even her parents knew how well she could hear, and she meant to keep it that way. She had heard her dad tell her mom that everything was going to be OK, that she was just having a panic attack. When her mom finally had been able to speak, she seemed less panicked at the loss of their home and more by the interruption of her work.

They’re hiding something from me, Abraham.

Don’t whine, Naami. If your parents are hiding something, it is because they believe it is best for you. Besides, if they are hiding something, you will figure it out.

I always do. Don’t I?

Abraham didn’t respond. His accuracy with rhetorical questions had improved greatly during the last year.

As she bounced, she noticed a boy sunbathing in the next yard. Because of the hedge that divided the two yards, she could only see him at the top of her bounce. He had brown hair, and his skin was tan for this time of year, although not as dark as hers.  She bounced higher so she could see more of him. He’s a lot older than me. I wish he were closer to my age. Maybe he’ll be fun to talk to anyway.

Would you like more information about him?

No, Abraham. I already know his name. Sometimes it’s more fun to learn about people when I meet them. Maybe after I meet him, I’ll want more information. We’ll see. She continued watching him as she bounced.

Aaron slowly became aware of a rhythm: thump, thump, thump… Before opening his eyes, he requested the current time and the time he had slept. Almost two hours. Where is that thumping noise coming from? He stood up and looked around. Over the hedge, he could see a mop of curly brown hair appear and then disappear.

Mom said the Schmidts’ had a daughter. I should go say hi. He stood up, pulled on his shirt, walked over to the hedge, and squeezed through a spot where one of the bushes was dying off. Their gardener was going to replace the bush tomorrow.

She was looking right at him as he popped out on her side of the hedge. “Hi! I'm Aaron. I live next door.”

“I’m Naamah, but most people call me Naami.” She giggled.

Underneath the mop of curly brown hair that flopped up and down as she bounced was a cute face. Aaron was immediately drawn to her amber eyes and big smile. As she bounced, he could see well-defined leg muscles ripple under her dark skin. Wow, she has amazing muscle tone for her age. Well-muscled himself, he wasn't sure that he had been that cut at her age.  “How long have you been bouncing?”

“7137 bounces.”

He leaned on the trampoline and laughed, “7137, really?”

“Well, 7143 now. Don't you believe me?” She stopped and sat down near him with her legs dangling over the edge of the trampoline. “How tall are you?”

“I'm six feet two inches tall, and I believe you.”

She scrunched up her face. “I don't think that you really believe me. How old are you?”

“I'm fifteen.”

“I'm five.” She giggled. “Well, I will be in about a month. Is six feet two inches, tall for your age?”

“I'm one of the taller guys, but there are a few guys taller than me in my school.”

“Are any of the girls taller than you?”

“Not in my grade; a few are almost as tall as me.”

With a rapid-fire delivery, she said, “I'm three feet nine inches tall. That's very tall for my age, but my mom says that I probably won't be over six feet tall when I grow up. She’s worried that I’m growing too fast, but I want to be six feet tall. How tall do you want to be?”

“I'd like to be six five.”

“Why?”

He felt like he was being interrogated by one of the Shirley Temple characters from one of his mom's old vids.  “Because I like to play basketball, and six five is a good height for a guard.”

“I like basketball too.” She hesitated and then giggled. “But I like gymnastics better. Are you good at basketball?”

“I'm the starting point guard on our team, and I like gymnastics too. I took gymnastics classes until I was nine.”

“Oh. So you run the team. Is that why you quit gymnastics?”

He laughed. “No. That wasn’t it at all. When I started playing on basketball teams, the gymnastics coach said that I couldn't be good at both, so I stopped going to gymnastics.”  As he spoke, he noticed the thick cable about twelve feet long and two feet high stretched between two posts. He also saw a bar almost five feet high between two other posts. “It looks like you already have a lot of gymnastics equipment.”

“Yes. I have a cable for balancing and a bar for doing tricks. Let me show you.” She stepped onto the two-foot-high, wooden box that stood next to the cable and then onto the cable itself. Like a ballerina, she walked across it to the other end.  Without ever looking at the cable, she walked backward the entire length.

“You have great balance.”

Cartwheeling to a handstand on the cable, she looked at him. “Thanks!” She dropped her feet to the ground and cartwheeled over to the bar. “Watch me.” She jumped up, grabbed the bar, and pulled her chin over it. Lowering herself so that her arms were bent at a right angle, she slowly raised her legs, perfectly straight and together, to another right angle and held it.

“Nice strength move. Can you do a kip?” He wasn't sure that she would even know what a kip was.

She first swung forward in a pike position, and at the most forward point in her swing, she lifted her toes to the bar. With her toes just below the bar, she swung back; pulling on the bar, with her legs close to it, she rose upward, ending in the textbook support position on the bar, with the bar on her hips.

Holding up both hands with his fingers spread, Aaron said, “I give that a ten.” She doesn't just look strong; she is strong. That required strong abs, hip muscles, shoulders, and triceps. Moving over to the bar, he adjusted it so that it was tall enough for him. “Let's see if you can do this.”

Reaching up, he grabbed the bar and cocked his wrists slightly so that they were higher than the bar. Pushing his legs out slightly in front of him, he pulled the bar to his chest and then pushed himself to a straight arm position above the bar.

Naami said, “I can do that!”

After he lowered the bar, he opened his mouth to give her pointers, but she didn't wait. She easily pulled the bar to her chest but then struggled at the transition point for two or three seconds before dropping down. “Show me again,” she commanded. “I obviously didn't see your technique correctly the first time.”

Obviously and technique, those are big words for a five-year-old, he thought as he did another muscle-up and dropped down.

“Lift me up. I've got it now.”

He lifted her up. This time, she cocked her wrists as he had done, and as she pulled up, she wasn’t under the bar as far. As she hit the transition, her head and shoulders moved over the bar right away. She made the move look easy. “Outstanding,” he said as she dropped to the ground.

Taking his hand, she led him over to the trampoline, batted her eyes at him, and pleaded, “Teach me tricks on the trampoline!”

“First, I have to teach you to bounce correctly.”

“Show me!”

Aaron bounced on the trampoline while she walked around it watching. “Do you know what I am doing differently than you?”

“You always bounce exactly in the center of the trampoline. You use your arms more, and the path of your arms is different. Your fingers are together, making a knife hand. Your feet and toes stretch down as soon as you jump.”

She is very observant! Knife hand? I wonder if she has watched martial arts. Climbing down, he said, “Your turn.”

Naami climbed back up and began bouncing. He guessed that she was bouncing twenty percent higher than when he first saw her, and without looking down, she was bouncing exactly in the middle of the tramp. Her form mimicked his almost exactly. “Now visualize yourself exploding off of the bed.” She bounced higher yet. “That's good!”

Climbing down, she asked, “How can I jump even higher?”

“Your form is good. To get any higher, you’ll need to get stronger.”

“How do I get stronger?”

Aaron laughed, “You are already very strong for your age. I'm not sure how much stronger you can get right now.”

With a look of annoyance, she demanded, “Well, what would you do to get stronger?”

I wonder how long her attention span is. Let's see what she can handle. “I would do lots of step-ups onto a box. I would do squat jumps. I would do jumps from the ground up onto a box. Of course, I would also practice bouncing on the tramp.”

“Show me,” she insisted.

Walking over to the box by the cable, Aaron said, “First I'll show you how to do step-ups.” He lifted his left foot onto the box and stepped up without touching his right foot to the box. He stepped down to the ground with his right foot and then with his left foot. “Now the other side,” he said as he repeated the process starting with his right foot. He then did several repetitions of both sides.

Pushing him away, she said, “My turn. Watch me!” She did about ten repetitions and declared, “That was too easy. Are you sure that this will make me stronger?”

“Yes, it will. Just do them many times, at least 30. You might be sore the day after you do them.”

“I don't get sore. What happens if I step up to something higher? Will that make me stronger?”

At five I don't think I got sore either, but I don't think I pushed myself like she does. He nodded. “The higher you step, the harder it is and the stronger you will get. Start at this level, though. Later, you can try higher steps. You also can jump up with both feet onto the box.” He showed her.

“That looks easy. What are squat jumps?”

“Before I show you squat jumps, I'm going to show you another exercise called a calf raise that you can also do on the box.” With the balls of his feet on top of the box and his heels hanging off, he lowered his heels lower than the box and then raised them so that his body was a straight line from his shoulders, to hips, to knees, to ankles, to the back of his toes.”

“Tippy-toe raises,” she giggled. “Those are easy. I did those from the floor in the dance class that I used to go to.” She frowned. “I miss my dance class.” Her frown suddenly disappeared. “But Dad promised to let me start Tae Kwon Do class now that we have moved. Will you teach me some tricks on the trampoline after you show me the squat jumps?”

Aaron smiled at her. He had noticed the momentary mood swing. Poor kid, I wonder what's really going on in that little head of hers. 

He showed her how to do squat jumps. “You may want to find a wall and put marks on it to measure your best jumps. It will let you see your improvement. If you practice, that is.”

Huh. He won’t believe how much I will practice. Abraham can track my improvement. She jumped five times. “OK, enough of these. Teach me some tricks!”

Aaron climbed onto the trampoline. “I'll teach you a few basic tricks. My old gymnastics coach always said that if you master the basics, the difficult tricks are easy. I'll show you the tricks from his basic list.”

He started bouncing. “The first trick is the stop bounce. You probably won't think it is even a trick.” He took another bounce and then stopped by keeping his feet in contact with the bed, using his knees and waist to absorb the rebound of the trampoline. He repeated it several times as Naami walked around the trampoline watching.

“I get it. Let me show you.” She climbed back up as Aaron climbed down. After bouncing three times, she came to a stop just like he had. She bounced three more times and stopped again. Climbing down, she said, “New trick, please!”

Aaron and Naami repeated this for all the other tricks. He would demonstrate the trick several times as she circled the tramp, and then she would do it. They went through a tuck jump, a straddle jump, a pike jump, a half twist jump, a knee drop, a seat drop, and swivel hips. She did them all nearly as well as Aaron did and he told her so.

“I think that's enough for now,” he said.

“Are those all of the basic tricks?”

“No, there are more, but you have eight to remember already. If I show you more, you might not be able to keep them all straight.”

“I don't forget things,” she insisted loudly.

“OK, show me. If you can show me all of the ones we just did and do them correctly, I'll show you a couple more.”

She climbed up and went through all of the tricks. At the end of the swivel hips she whispered, “There's a blond girl over there who has been watching us. Is she a friend of yours?”

He turned and waved. “Erica, come meet Naami.”

Naami said, “I know who you are. You’re Erica Carlson. Your mom won an Olympic silver medal in saber, and you are ranked in the top five in the nation. How tall are you? Is Aaron your boyfriend?”

Looking at Aaron, Erica said, “Why I think she made you blush Aaron.” Turning to Naami, she said, “Aaron and I are just good friends. The answer to your other question is that I'm six feet tall. Why do you ask?”

“Aaron said he was six two, and you look almost as tall. I want to be six feet tall when I grow up. Mom says I probably won't, but I know I will.  Are you still growing? Why isn't Aaron your boyfriend?”

Erica looked at Aaron, who had turned even redder, then turned back to Naami and said, “I'm sixteen, and most girls don't grow too much after they are fifteen, so I probably won't grow much taller.”

“Oh, you're older than him. Is that why he's not your boyfriend?”

“No kiddo, that's not the reason. We’re just friends.”

Aaron sighed to himself. What she didn't say is that she has had a steady string of boyfriends since she was twelve.  The thought that she could be his girlfriend was inconceivable to him. In his opinion, she was the most beautiful girl in the school.  Her deep blue eyes, high cheek bones, and wonderful smile were his picture of the perfect girl.

Naami looked at Aaron and then Erica. “Oh, I guess maybe I was wrong, but I'm not wrong often. Do you want to watch me learn some more tricks, Erica? Aaron promised me that he would teach me more tricks if I showed him that I could do all of the tricks that he already taught me.” Turning to Aaron, she declared, “And I did all of them correctly, right Aaron?”

“Yes, you did.  Get down, and I'll show you a front drop.” He climbed up and demonstrated the front drop several times as Naami walked around the tramp.”

Naami exclaimed, “Enough! My turn!”

“Are you sure, Naami?” asked Erica, looking concerned. “You could hurt yourself if you land wrong!”

Naami started bouncing. “There's no need to fear, Underdog is here.”

“What?” said Erica.

“I am a hero who never fails. I cannot be bothered with such details.” She dropped to her stomach and back up to her feet.

“Perfect!” laughed Aaron.

“My front drop or my imitation?” She giggled.

“Both!”

She scrambled down. “Well then, next trick, please!”

Aaron climbed up. “This trick is a combination of two of tricks that you already know. Watch.” He did a seat drop and then without going to his feet, he bounced up and over to a front drop and then up to his feet.  He did this several times while Naami circled the tramp. He stopped and slid off the tramp as Naami scrambled up.

She executed the combination perfectly and then pleaded, “One more?”

“Do you have time?” Aaron asked Erica.

“Sure. I have time if you have time.”

“Where are you going to go?” asked Naami.

“We're going to an archery range,” they both said simultaneously.

“Can I come too?”

“Sorry sweetie,” said Erica, “We’d have to get permission from Rebeka Lee. She has an archery range on her farm.”

“Ask her to let me come watch you because I'm going to pester you until you do.” What she didn't say was that she knew Rebeka Lee.

Aaron climbed up. “The last trick for today is a turn table. There are three variations of it. First I'll show you it using a tuck, then a pike, and then a layout.” He did a front drop, and as he bounced up, he pulled his arms and legs into a tuck position with his back still horizontal. Then, he turned 180 degrees, landed in another front drop, and bounced back up to his feet. He did this several times before changing it slightly.

Instead of tucking between front drops, he bent at the waist with his torso and legs straight, doing the turn table in pike position. He did it this way several times, and then he changed it slightly again.

Instead of piking, he kept his body perfectly flat between the front drops, doing the turn table in layout position. As he finished, he received an incoming peer-to-peer thought. She shouldn't try this. It's too hard! The thought came from Erica. He thought his response back to her, She’ll be fine. Don't worry.

Naami watched them closely as they exchanged thoughts. Abraham, do you think they are talking about me?

I estimate that the probability is greater than 95 percent that they are connected and conversing.

Using a suspicious tone of voice, Naami asked, “Hey guys, are you talking about me?”

What? thought Erica. No way she knows we are connected!

Yes way, Aaron replied and closed the connection.

“How could we be talking about you?” asked Erica innocently.

“Abraham and I think you were talking across a peer-to-peer connection to each other.”

“Who's Abraham?” asked Erica.

Naami hesitated, “He's ah, he's ah, he's my pretend friend. You might call him an alter ego. I talk to him about things.”

Aaron saw a connection request but ignored it. Changing the subject, he challenged, “Bet you can't do all of the turn tables!”

Erica shot him a dirty look.

“Just watch me! When Naami's doubted, she does not shirk. She shows the doubter who's the jerk.”  She proceeded to do the turn table perfectly in all three variations, and then bouncing higher, she exclaimed, “When the trick is easy, this I know, I can make it go and go.” She proceeded to do five turn tables in a row without coming back to her feet. Stopping, she stuck out her tongue and said, “So there, naah, naah, nah, nah, naah, naah!”

“Excellent,” said Aaron, “You showed me! Let's see if you still remember all of the tricks next time!”

“Naami, will you promise us not to practice without someone watching you?” pleaded Erica.

“OK,” said Naami, crossing her fingers behind her back. “What tricks will you teach me next time?” she asked Aaron.

“Let's see. There's the backdrop, the half twist to a backdrop, a backdrop to a front drop, a front drop to a backdrop, and a cradle.”

Naami repeated them all to herself. She said, “Thank you, Aaron, for teaching me these tricks.”

Aaron received a connection request from Naami. Aaron?

Yes?

Will you be my friend?

Yes.

Oh good! And Aaron?

What?

Erica really should be your girlfriend. The connection dropped.

Aaron shook his finger at Naami as he said to Erica, “Let's go before the Empress of the Absurd zings me again!”

“What?” Erica looked confused.

“Thanks! Bye!” yelled Naami.

As Aaron and Erica walked away, Naami was able to listen in because of her exceptional hearing.

“Who is Underdog, and why did you call her the Empress of the Absurd?” asked Erica.

“Underdog is a cartoon superhero who was popular over a hundred years ago. I called her Empress of the Absurd to tease her because she teased me.”

Erica opened a connection. She's too young to have a sensory splice!

I would have thought so too, but she proved otherwise. She’s a bundle of surprises. I've never seen a five-year-old learn that fast.

“She seems like a fifteen-year-old trapped in a five-year-old's body.

“Kind of like the inverse of Josh in the movie Big.”

“I’ve never heard of that movie.”

“Really, Erica?”

As the two disappeared from Naami’s view, she heard a motor opening one of Aaron’s garage doors. A faint higher pitched noise became clearer as the garage door clanked to a stop. Looking up, Naami noticed a small delivery drone fly over his house and continue past her. She stared at it until it disappeared. Abraham, save all video of drones that I see.

Why?

I think I’ve seen that same drone twice before today. Mom said to pay attention to suspicious activity.

It’s probably nothing, but I will save it. Normally, Abraham stored just over a day’s worth of video before either purging it or archiving it to what Naami referred to as big brothers.

The young girl, born to wealthy scientists, was the result of generations of breeding and genetic enhancements. Highly intelligent and curious, she also was augmented with nanotechnology, including artificial intelligence. What would it be like to grow up with all of these advantages? Would she fit in?

Others saw her and her kind as a threat. They secretly watched, planned, and plotted against her. Did she control her own destiny? Would she even survive?

Renegade World: Future Past