No. 6 volume 1 chapter 2 — a quiet beginning

Index Case (First Discovered Example)

Male, aged 31 years. Employee at a biotechnology firm. Engineer. Already dead upon discovery.
Confirmed address…

The man sank into a bench in the Forest park, and sighed. He wondered how many
times he had already sighed that morning. He sighed, and looked at the head of lettuce in his
hand. It made him sigh again. Crisp, green leaves firmly wrapped the head of lettuce ― as far
as quality went, it was first-class. He tore off a leaf, and brought it to his mouth. It had a delicate
taste, and the texture was excellent. First-class, indeed. Then why wasn't it selling?
The lettuce was this man's piece of work. He had long worked in the development of
biotechnology to produce fresh produce, namely leafy vegetables. He believed that these safe,
affordable and delicious bio-vegetables were the solution to the rising food crisis, and would
soon become a mainstay in food distribution. He had the confidence it would. But market sales
were not doing as well as he expected, and the man was losing hope. Buyers seemed to prefer
produce trucked in from the fields of the Southeastern Blocks, rather than his bio-vegetables.
The trend was especially strong for leafy vegetables, like cabbage and lettuce. If this continued,
his boss had told him, he would have to start thinking about discontinuing production.
The base of his neck itched. It had been itching for a while now. The man was prone to
getting rashes when he was tired. By tonight, a red rash would probably have spread to his
whole body. Too many unpleasant things were happening today. He sighed again. The lettuce in
his hand felt heavy.
A beeping sound rang from his breast pocket. The mobile telephone screen on his ID
card lit up, and young woman's face appeared.
"Greetings from the Municipal Information System. This is to notify you of the results of
the Children's Examination you have registered for. To confirm your account, please enter your
Citizenship Number…" Before the woman was even finished speaking, the man began to key in
his number. Today was the day of his two-year-old daughter's Examinations. She was a bright
and adorable little girl. He had never dared to say it out loud, but he secretly harboured an
expectation that she might be acknowledged as a top ranker.
"Thank you. We have confirmed your fingerprint and registration number. Your
information is as follows…" His daughter's name was displayed, followed by a set of detailed
numbers. Weight, height, bust measurement, condition of health, condition of nutrition,
development stage, ranking of various skills… all grades ranged in the average A to C. She was
neither overly behind, nor outstandingly brilliant. That was it. The man gazed at the screen for a
moment, and then put his card back into his pocket. He thought of his daughter's smile.
Oh well.
The man spoke to himself, and grinned at the head of lettuce in his hand. Gifted or not,
his daughter was still his daughter. He cherished and adored her. And that was good enough.
Suddenly, an idea sparked in his head. Had he, perhaps, been too trapped in the idea of the best, most perfect? It was true ― there was nothing to complain about this lettuce. But
maybe its perfection was also the bane of it. If these identical, perfect heads of lettuce were piled
up row after row, consumers might not feel as inclined to buy it. What if its perfection was
actually scaring consumers away?
A cleaning robot was approaching.