The Thin Gold Line

thin gold line

So I spent a little bit of time imagining some of the malign ways that State and non-state actors could misuse genetic data, and I thought to hammer out a quick short story based on one of the ways that this could go wrong. Not based in any existing universes or books, a one-off.

Here goes, The Thin Gold Line.

Janine Saunders slouched at her workstation, her worn mag chair sighed as she shifted position. Her fingers danced across the holoboard, she shifted screens with eye movements and subtle gestures. Her feathery brows came together, she was doing what she loved.

She was hunting.

To be specific, she was tracking down another mongrel from the old databases that fools had enlarged back in the early part of the century; the idiots had given up DNA samples to satisfy their curiosity. Long ago, of course. No one was so stupid as to do that these days. Not voluntarily.

She tapped on her board. No-one with something to hide would give up a sample, she thought. Her own DNA was as purely Northwestern Euro as one of the vanished glaciers, she was white as a sheet; her racial pie-chart said so. Only a touch of suspect Southern genes, and zero Asian, African, or Native.

None at all. If she had that trace, or more than a trace, she wouldn’t be working here, at Government Tracking Services. Privately the employees called it Hygiene, and Janine was a “sniffer,” or a person who teased actionable details out of the abused and long since hacked databases of the old DNA ancestry services.

Oh, they were clever, the mongrels, she thought. Even witnessed samples could be faked, and for every action by the state there would be a counter action by the trash.

She moved around data and hummed a little song. “In the year 2525…”

The obviously undesirable P and G-types had been weeded out long ago, none of them stood a chance. Some had escaped into space, others had shuffled around the dwindling real estate on Old Earth. Many simply no longer existed; the War had been brutal. Final.

Janine was a guardian of the Republic, scarce resources had to be directed to the worthy.

She couldn’t breathe a word about her work outside of the ferrocrete walls of Hygiene, not even to her husband Bill. If she could have told him about what she really did, though, she was sure he would approve. He worked for the State, too. His security clearance wasn’t as high as hers, so she knew what he did fairly well. He was the leader of an enforcement crew, they did the rounds in the habitats tracking down those whose credentials, or their politics, were less than perfect.

A shiver of delight ran through her when she thought of his big, thick hands. She smiled faintly as she thought of his squat brawn. She liked that. As she shifted data, her eyes flicked to the image of her son Jake, a five year old pile of trouble. What better reason to fight for this better, more perfect society than for her children, after all?

She tapped on the end of her stubby nose. No reason that she could see.

Janine studied the pie chart in front of her, it had been emailed to someone fifty years ago. She frowned. The pie chart had been flagged for her attention, someone’s DNA had matched up to this old chart and genotype recently. She stuck out the tip of her tongue; this would be difficult.

Whoever “PS” was had never filled out their whole name, nor had they helped out by filling in their location data. That made it tough. But someone had thrown down bubble gum on 32nd Street that had been picked up by the City cleaners. The bubble gum had been randomly sampled by an undercover representative of Hygiene, and lo-and-behold whoever the gum chewer was, he or she shared 25% of “PS’s” DNA. DNA that sat waiting in the historical databases.

A grandchild thus, living on the lam in the City, a habitat reserved for the worthy.

Janine snorted. Whoever PS was, this XX, or female, was not racially worthy.  The old genealogy service made it all so easy, really. Color-coded and everything. Purple for African. Red for Asian. And, as she could so clearly see for PS, golden yellow for Native American.

Just like the gum-chewer. Betrayed by a thin golden pie-slice, ready to be purged as soon as she found the XY, a male.

She slid the data around. There was no obvious match for a descendent of PS in the city, someone had been using bootleg cheek swabs, perhaps. Maybe good, old-fashioned bribes. Purloined dandruff. The possibilities were endless. But she would find him, she did not doubt.

She made a spreading gesture with her hand and a map of the City zoomed out. She murmured a request and a series of bright blue dots appeared; more random samples of the DNA she was looking for. She had to ask the system; there was too much information otherwise.

Janine sat back in her chair; she had her man. She looked at his Patterns Of Life and placed her interwoven hands behind her head. What did he do, she wondered. Trash collector? Maybe that would explain his evasion of the strict genetic controls…

She sat bolt upright. This man was Law Enforcement. Maybe even known to Bill; no, certainly known to him. She subvocalized a request for an on-the-spot eugenic control; her supervisor would need to be brought in. This was a first-class breach, and it would be a real feather in her cap if the perp was caught. Maybe as soon as the end of shift. She smiled. This guy was going down. Her supervisor agreed to the snap inspection, the units were brought in one by one for supervised, rigorous sampling.

The Sniffer let her thoughts wander, and she started in on a new case. She lost herself in the hunt through the old archives; her duty day flew past. Before she knew it she was fifteen minutes from shift change.

Her supervisor cleared his throat behind her. Janine jumped a little and blushed; the creep had a real knack for catching her off guard.

“May I help you, sir?”

He nodded and smiled a little smile.

“You already have. We caught the perp, most disturbing.”

“A member of Enforcement?”


“Has he been rolled up?”

Her supervisor nodded. “Shot while escaping, unfortunately.”

Janine laughed. “A shame.” Her supervisor was looking at her with his head cocked.

“Is there something else I can help you with?” She wanted to go home; what a fantastic way to end the shift. What did he want, she wondered.

“Yes, there is a small matter you can help us with, Inspector Saunders.”

“Ask, sir.”

“We need a release for a genetic sample.”


Her supervisor rubbed his chin. “A delicate matter. It’s for a minor.”

“I don’t understand. Procedures handles those.” She noticed two Enforcement types had come with him. Her brows came together.

He shook his head.

“The release is for your son, Inspector.”



4 thoughts on “The Thin Gold Line

  1. I feel like this could be something from LOVE SEX ROBOTS, that Netflix anthology show. That’s a compliment!
    Have you seen that show?


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