"Mom, you make it sound like I am some sort of prized bull being rented out to stud!", a young James Possible was convinced his mom had lost her mind.

"Not exactly. Think of it as arranged marriage between two people who in this case, won't bring peace to two warring nation-states, but between two people who carry the genes to produce children who can and will one day save the world."

"Do you know how crazy that sounds!"

"Son, Do you know that the best thing that you can do to help guarantee a long, healthy life is to pick your grandparents?"

"Mom, you can't pick your grandparents!"

"No, but the Blue Heart Society has in your case, effectively picked your grandparents for you."

"You mean… Wait, what about you and Dad?"

"Really son, do you think a dashing Professor of Archeology surrounded by pretty coeds would pick a plain, young naval lieutenant? No, our relationship was arranged."

"And it is all just genetics?"

"No, many of us believe nature predominates but nurture helps. The best outcome would be that the two of you raise the children yourselves, followed by one of you raising the children, and lastly, adoption. Quite frankly you don't have the best nurturing score, but the proposed match would provide a team that should do nicely in raising children."

"You and dad weren't around a lot for Slim and me."

"No, and I regret that. But we were having to deal with cold war and the appearance of super villains. Both I and your father, God rest his soul, were proud of you boys and treasured the time we did spend with you."

"Is Slim being given the same offer?"

"He probably will. But as of this minute, no. All I am asking you to do right now is have dinner with this young lady. Meet her. Look over the contract options. Discuss the crazy thing that the Blue Heart Society is proposing. The only decision you should make on the first meeting is when to meet again to talk."

"And if I refuse?"

"If you refuse then I and the rest of your family will love you as we have always loved you. You will be cut out of the family trust which is managed by the Blue Heart Society. Graduate school will be on your own dime, I do not have the personal funds to pay for it."

James sat nervously at a table in the back of Charley's Tavern, a locally owned restaurant that Ann had recommended. He had suggested that Ann pick the place as he would be coming from out of town and she would know the best places to eat. The "date" was to be at six o'clock and trying not to look too eager he had only been ten minutes early. At six o'clock exactly, a waiter showed a young red haired woman over to his table. She was dressed casually, slacks and a sporty blouse and had the most incredible blue eyes. The picture he had been given did not do her justice.

"Hi, I'm Ann Credible," she said, holding out her hand.

"James Possible, I'm pleased to meet you" He stood up, took her hand and shook it. Her fingers were cool and long, her grasp firm.

She sat down telling the waiter that she only wanted water with a slice of lime. The waiter took James' drink order, unsweetened ice tea.

Alone, James struggled with something to start the conversation when she said "Thanks for not doing any wordplay on my name".

James replied "Wordplay on your name?", thought for a moment then, "Oh, do guys really do that?"

"Yes, more often than you would think."

An uncomfortable silence spread over them.

"So," Ann said, "You have seen the terms of the contract and the options?"

"Yes, I have. I have a copy in my coat pocket if you need to see them again", replied James.

"No, I have read them enough times that I think I could dictate them. What do you think of this whole idea of our being selected to have children that will 'save the world'", Ann asked.

"I think it is crazy, mad scientist crazy, that it would be a sweet deal for me and puts all the burden on you."

"Donating eggs and sperm for a surrogate and adoption seems nearly equally burdensome on the both of us."

"I don't think I could go through life wondering if I had a child out there somewhere, not even knowing its name." James looked a little embarrassed. "And the idea of getting someone pregnant and leaving her or someone else to raise the child seems wrong."

"Yes, it does. So how do you propose that we do this?"

James smiled. "Learned counsel, my mother, told me to make no decisions tonight except for the time and place of the next meeting"

Ann returned the smile, "Your mother seems like a wise woman."

The waiter interrupted with their drinks. They listened to the specials of the day, Ann selected a grilled salmon Cesar salad, James went with a chicken Parmesan dish and then it was just the two of them again.

James continued, "I will be here over the weekend and fly back Monday to be in time for classes Tuesday."

"So we have the weekend to get better acquainted then. What do you like to do?"

"I was looking in the paper and there is a ski lodge near here - no snow right now, but we could walk the mountain trails and then have dinner at the lodge. We could take in a movie. There is a presentation at the observatory that sounds interesting, uh, if you like stars."

"So you like stars, James?"

Ann had hit the jackpot on what to ask James to open up. She herself knew that stars came in different colors and different sizes but that was about all. She didn't think that stars were all that interesting, just pretty to look at, but James talked for a half hour non-stop about science, exploration, and discovery. The young man she had thought would be just an engineer geek had a passion for knowing and discovering. And that made him interesting. That wasn't enough by itself to make him an acceptable partner for this endeavor but was a start.

"If you don't mind me asking, what were you offered?" Ann asked taking a sip of her water

"Full ride to finish my doctorate in physics and aerospace engineering. A chance to see if I am good enough to work at the planned Middletown Space Center. That's a pretty good deal for me to basically be a stud for a couple of nights."

Ann spluttered a laugh and grabbed a napkin to dry the water coming out her nose. "Sorry, that was rude of me to laugh, but 'stud' did seem awfully self-confident. My dad warned me that you'd be like that. He suggested that I bargain for more compensation."

"I was going for self-depreciation, but funny is acceptable." James said dryly, "So what were you offered, if you don't mind saying?"

"All my student loans paid off plus the chance to do my residency in one of the top neurological surgery hospitals in Germany which also specializes in military combat trauma treatment and surgery."

"That's good?"

And so James was treated to an excited Ann talking about her desires. Where he wanted to explore new worlds and push the boundaries of man's exploration of the solar system and stars, Ann wanted to push the boundaries of surgery and the healing arts, particularly in the areas of the nervous system and the brain.

When she mentioned that there would be a chance to be forward deployed close to combat areas, James was taken aback. "That sounds pretty dangerous to me, Ann."

"Yes, but I will be in the company of rough men with guns and maybe I can be the difference in whether some of their brothers come home whole or even come home at all. After all, it's these rough men that allow us to sleep safe at night."



"The 'people sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf' that was Rudyard Kipling, right?"

"I thought it was George Orwell."

The rest of the evening was spent in conversation on politics, religion and child rearing. That is, they got the 'make or break' topics out of the way. As luck would have it, neither was a major sports fan so no land mines there. After dinner, they walked back to Jame's hotel. They were met there by Ann's dad who introduced himself while looking at James with a death glare. That pretty much ended the evening.

James went to sleep that night totally infatuated with Ann and wondering why all the hate from her dad. He was looking forward to walking the mountain with her tomorrow followed by dinner at the lodge.

Ann went to sleep that night feeling that a disaster was in the making. James seemed like a nice guy and all. Like someone she could work with. The offer from the Blue Heart Society was amazing. First the benefits to her and her career were amazing. Then Ann spent two days pouring over society records and she now truly believed that their children would benefit the world as well. But there was Paul. The contract didn't require her to marry James, not even have sex with him. She just needed to have children with him. Paul said that he loved her and any children would be half hers so they could make it work. But she had her doubts. After all, the same situation didn't really work out with her dad…