I never met a billionaire until my niece married one.

     The reception was at Rockwood up in Mission Canyon. A couple dozen people were chatting on the stone-walled terrace beneath a spreading oak as Santa Ana winds gusted down the canyon, ruffling hairdos. Every person out there was blond. I didn’t know any of them.  

     I didn’t go out there, I sat at the bar. “Sure are a lot of blondes here,” I said to the bartender. His nametag said “Bud.”  

     “Well, it is ‘Mr. Blondo’ getting married,” Bud said.


     “Tim Haynes, everybody calls him Mr. Blondo. He’s the CEO of BlonDNA.”

     “Oh, I didn’t know that. The bride is my niece, Nylla. My family isn’t close,” I said. “She’s my sister’s granddaughter and I haven’t seen either of them for years. My sister was supposed to be here but she’s stretched out on cot in the clubhouse. I don’t know anybody here except Jack Daniels.” I pointed at the bottle behind the bar. “With soda.”

     “Oh, that’s your sister? I heard she was overcome by the pressures of organizing the reception.”

     “She’s drunk on her ass,” I said. I shrugged. “I wanted to see what Nylla is up to. She’s been out and around in the world and she was in the news, once in a while, and then suddenly she’s marrying a billionaire I never heard of.

     “I haven’t seen her since her high school graduation five years ago. Seems like a lifetime ago, the way things have been changing so much. Her high school is a homeless encampment now.

     “She opted out of college and instead followed a course of study she designed herself in cooperation with her AI teacher. She has an online degree in Personal Studies from the University of California. I don’t know what that means.”

     “Yeah, things sure have changed,” Bud said as he handed me my drink.

     “So, when is this shindig supposed to start?”

     “They’re late, but they’ll be here,” Bud said. He turned his head and focused his attention on his earbud, then said, “They’ll be here any minute, Mr. Kelly. They’ve just turned onto Mission Canyon Road.”

     “I thought it would be a bigger party,” I said.

     “He has a tight inner circle and doesn’t socialize much,” Bud said. “They had a brief ceremony at City Hall. It’s all just a rush, they only found out Nylla was pregnant two days ago.

     “So it’s a shotgun wedding.”

     “No, it’s the billionaire’s requirement. He can only qualify for the zero-income-tax benefit if a baby is born. Given the generational decline in fertility–a response to climate change?–Mr. Blondo wanted proof of fertility.” 

     “How romantic,” I said.

     “They have to be legally married to qualify for the new rules of the Defense of Marriage Act. Just a routine formality that didn’t require the presence of guests, so it’s just a simple SUV-load of the core wedding party at the Courthouse, and then back up Mission Canyon Road here to Rockwood. The party starts here. Mr. Blondo has a pretty strict schedule. Tomorrow He and Nylla are flying to the Great Barrier Reef for a scuba honeymoon.”        

     “Who are the people who are already here? They’re all just kids,” I said to the bartender. He was a young Millennial.

     “It’s mostly BlonDNA employees and some vendors and competitors, I think,” Bud said. “This is my fifth event with Mr. Haynes. I’ve gotten to know his group a little bit. They’re not big drinkers. I thought there would be a lot more influencers here, Mr. Blondo is going to be vexed.”

     “So, ‘blondo,’ he made his money in the hair dye industry? I thought he was a computer programmer, or was it genetical engineer.”

     “No, he ended the hair dye industry.”

     “He sure did,” said a young woman as she approached the bar. Her hair was not blond: it was golden with stripes like an orange tabby cat. “Who’s your new friend, Bud?”

     “Esme Roverre, this is Mr. Kelly, he’s the uncle of the bride.”

     “Oh, of course, I saw your file, Mr. Kelly, at Mr. Blondo’s request. I’m the research director at BlonDNA. Yes, we ended the hair dye industry and we’re continuing to stretch our borders. We’re branching out into enhancements, not just activating the standard range of expression in human DNA. With BlonDNA, your cuffs and collars will match.” She shook her head to swirl her cascades of cat hair. “We’re working on lion DNA right now–if you want a mane, we can deliver it. Do you know how BlonDNA works, Mr. Kelly?”

     “No, I confess I’ve never heard of it.”

     “BlonDNA is a development of CRISPR technology. Send us a few of your hair roots and tell us what kind of hair you want, and we’ll program an RNA crème for you. Takes a while for it to penetrate into the roots of your hair and alter the genetics, but then it’s permanent. Your hair doesn’t eventually start growing out dark again. BlonDNA is the CRISPR crème that permanently changes your hair color at the roots.

     “There isn’t just one hair gene. The main hair color gene in humans is called MC1R. It makes the melanocortin 1 receptor that controls which type of melanin is produced by melanocytes. If the receptor is not activated or is blocked, melanocytes make pheomelanin instead of eumelanin. More pheomelanin creates a more golden or strawberry blond color, and more eumelanin creates an ash or sandy blond color.

     “But there are about 21 other genes that are involved, and everybody’s mix can be different. That’s why we need to read your DNA first to make a personalized creme.”

     I rubbed my head. “I don’t have any hair left. You got a crème for that?”

     “That’s a totally different problem, our labs are working on it.”

     Then she said, “Oh, they’re here,” and raced away as six people entered, including Nylla, who looked radiant. She didn’t catch my eye, she and Mr. Blondo were inundated as people streamed in from the patio to greet them.

     I watched from the bar and asked for another drink. “I’ve been to three of these things lately,” the bartender said. “The billionaires are buying into the Defense of Marriage Act as the ultimate tax dodge.”

     Marriage has a new resonance in 2032 as a result of the Federal Defense of Marriage Act that gives married couples freedom from income tax for eighteen years starting in the year of the birth of their first child.

     If your marriage breaks up before the 18 years, all of your unpaid income tax will be due.

     Well, at least some of the Kelly’s family’s DNA will survive into the future. The Defense of Marriage Act was intended to increase the fertility rate because at the rate we’re going, the human race is going to die out.

     “All that money, and he picked my niece to marry.”

     I saw Esme Roberts talking to Nylla and Blondo and they turned and Nylla saw me and did a double take and then hurried toward me. She was wearing only two diaphanous silk scarves. She was very blond.

     She hugged me. “Thank you for coming, Uncle Kelly.”

     Mr Blondo was lost in abstract thought but returned to the moment when I stuck out my hand. “Congratulations, Mr. Haynes,” I said.

     He shook my hand and said “Just call me Mr. Blondo. Or Blondo, that would do.” He was 5’4 and in his shorts and t-shirt his tight-skinned body had an incongruous pot belly while his arms and legs glistened with a light sweat. “Where the heck is everybody, Bud?” and then all the young attendees were clamoring for Blondo’s attention. He said, “It’s 95 degrees, let’s go outside into the wind,” they moved out onto the terrace.

     And just like that I was alone with the bartender again.

     “They’re all like that,” Bud said.   

     “Like what?”

     “Their metabolisms are always at full rev. They’re all strong despite not exercising, their skin is clamped down tight over their musculature without intervening layers of fat. They’re built like Olympic athletes, all from designer DNA.”

     I’d heard of that one. There were plenty of metabolism enhancers on the market. Re-set your body’s metabolic rate and eat anything you damn well please, and lose weight! Dial it up to the same rate as The Rock, without having to do eight hours a day in the gym!    Re-set your body’s parameters. Be the best you can be! It was a long-time regular niche in the supplements market but the new DNA products drove out the old brands overnight because they really worked.

     “The world keeps changing under our feet, faster and faster,” I said. “Moore’s Law is in effect in every area of technology. The Singularity is looming.”

     “Don’t feel like the lone ranger,” Bud said. “I’m lost in the dust behind these kids, too. I thought grew up with technology, but it was different back then. I was born in 1994, a late Millennial. I was 7 when the Twin Towers fell, I remember what a big thing it was. I had an email account before middle school, I got an iPad for Christmas when I was 17, plus my gaming Rig.  

     “But these new kids are immersed in ways nobody’s seen before.

These kids have grown up being able to consult a computer app for advice and information ever since they were babies. They’ve found the right path for themselves and trust their computer connection more than they trust their parents when it comes to advice.

     “They haven’t just grown up with technology—they’ve been completely immersed in it since birth. In their earliest formative years, these kids are comfortable speaking to voice assistants and swiping on smartphones. They don’t consider technologies to be tools used to help achieve tasks, but rather as deeply integrated parts of everyday life.”   

     “I couldn’t believe it when the public schools vanished,” I said.

The economy is in chaos over the defunding of public schools and the problem of four million schoolteachers now unemployed.

     “The AI teachers are far better, and the Alpha kids had the clout to close the schools. It was unbelievable. But true.”

     AI teachers were individually generated for each student. The AI teacher engaged the student and found out what the student already knew and presented new information in such a captivating way that parents had to pry their kids away from the screen. The AI generated personal rewards for each kid. The kids passed all the required State education tests in a breeze without a headset or smartphone.

     “There’s nothing uniting us,” I said. “There’s no longer a “standard American culture.” 

     Bud said, “Instead we have 350 million Venn diagrams that overlap only on the internet.”

     Then Esme was at the bar again with her cat hair. “They’re all in favor of Ryan Jensen,” she said.  “Even the Gen Z people, and they’re the largest fraction of the electorate now.”

     “I don’t want to talk politics, I said. The final Presidential debate before the election was scheduled for tonight.   

     “Mr. Blondo is a major donor to the Jensen campaign,” Esme said. “Our economy is hobbled by an archaic central government more dedicated to the continuation of its own power than to the general welfare.”

     “That’s Jensen’s campaign promise. I don’t see how he can win.”

     Bud refreshed her drink and she walked away saying “Don’t forget to vote.”

     Jensen is the third-party candidate drawing all the attention. 40 years old, and his “Jetson” campaign in which his AI avatar is the actual candidate. Jensen says he will rubber-stamp every decision that the avatar makes.

     Tonight was the debate between the Republican/Democrat candidate and the AI write-in candidate who’d won all the primaries, fronted by Ryan Jensen. Jensen’s prompt was simply the US Constitution and the laws of the United States. Given these parameters, what should the President’s decision be on any given item of interest? The AI has a complete grasp of all information. AI has no use for graft, no relatives to put on the payroll.  

     Then it was time for the Presidential debate, and everybody went outside to watch on the giant-screen TV. And that’s when I went home. Whatever happens to this country, it’s going to be these young genetically enhanced elites who will be making the decisions, not me. I’m out of the picture now.