Delphine had opted for her presentation day underwear.
The underwear came from a little place in Paris. It had no sign, only a name written in block letters next to the worn brass of the button outside the door. It was like a rumor among the women of her mother’s circle: a place you could only access on certain days, like visiting fairyland on the night of an eclipse. The name was in her phone somewhere. The woman who ran the place gave Delphine a single stare, inhaled deeply from a slender contraption that was probably a cigarette, and snapped her manicured fingers for an assistant. She rattled off Delphine’s sizes like a surgeon asking for extra suction.
“Don’t you have to measure me?” Delphine had asked.
The woman shook her head. She exhaled and said in a very dry, long-suffering voice: “You’re quite ordinary.”
Delphine, who had never once in all her life considered herself ordinary, bristled at the verdict. But the pieces fit. They fit perfectly. They fit better than any other piece of underwear she’d ever owned. She had visited the shop for wedding lingerie and come away with a warm credit card and crinkling bags frothy with tissue paper, each holding a tiny sachet of dried flowers. Jasmine and rose and honeysuckle and other flowers meant to draw love and repel moths. Inside one such bag was the Presentation Ensemble.
The Presentation Ensemble consisted of memory silk in a deceptive shade of blush. Sometimes it seemed pink, and sometimes it seemed ivory, and other times, like under candlelight, it glowed with a strange golden sheen. The underwire was surgical grade, and not really a wire at all; it held her firm and upright like the touch of someone expertly leading her through a waltz. The panties never budged. The stockings involved smart thermal threads impregnated with hyaluronic acid. They swelled and shrank according to ambient temperature.
“Miracle space age fibers,” Cosima had said when she first saw the Presentation Ensemble. Her fingers had paused their progress in unhooking the stockings from the garter. “Do you think they’d leave a mark on your wrists?”
“I suppose we’ll just have to conduct an experiment,” Delphine told her. “For science.”
“For science,” Cosima said, and slowly peeled the first stocking down her thigh.
Delphine savored this memory as she prepared to deliver her presentation. She had rehearsed it any number of times, in front of her steamy washroom mirror, and in the driver’s seat of her Tesla, and sometimes even while checking on the raccoons that trundled brazenly along the fence that separated Delphine and Cosima’s property from that of their neighbors. There was a whole family of them out there: a mama raccoon leading her kits and teaching them the finer points of urbanism and petty larceny.
“We’re making them smarter,” Cosima had told her, when they first moved into the house on Gavin Street. “Humans, I mean. The city kept trying to keep them from opening the green bins and eating the organic waste. So they hired this big German design firm to make a raccoon-proof bin. It cost the city millions of dollars. It had a twisting lock and everything. But it was also designed to open the moment it was tipped at a certain angle, so that garbage trucks wouldn’t need workers to lift the bins into the trucks and empty them. So what do you think happened?”
“The raccoons learned how to tip the bins over?”
“That they did. It started in Bailey Downs. You know, out where Alison is? Apparently the raccoons out there learned first. And that generation taught the next generation. Meanwhile, the raccoons who can’t open the bins are more likely to go hungry. It’s evolution in action, happening right before our very eyes. So now the city is facing a wave of genius raccoons, all because it wanted to limit the growth of their population.” Cosima took a long drag of her favorite strain. “Life finds a way.”
Delphine thought of the raccoons a lot. She thought about how even without meaning to, humans could have such a demonstrable effect on their local environment. That they could influence the cognitive development of an entire species within the span of a single generation.
“We stand at a precipice,” she said now. Before her sat the members of her team, the members of the GRIT task force, and a visiting delegation from a developer of microdrones. They were the same microdrones that would collect ambient DNA samples from all over the city: gum, cigarette butts, the spit left behind on to-go cups. The entire group seemed pleased and well-caffeinated. They were gathered in the most impressive conference room that her facility had to offer: the one with floor to ceiling...