This story has never found a home. I’m not sure why. The concept of Clones fascinates me. Privileged wealth terrifies me. Add the breakthroughs in medical science that seem on the verge of solving the ageing riddle and you have a volatile cocktail The future probably won’t be as bleak as this will it?
If I write it all down I might see a way out. Nash taught me the art. He thought that it might aid my development and teach me how to work through problems. “Writing allows you to tap into your subconscious,” he used to say.
He was one out of the box, Nash was. One of the few Regen’s who cared about our type. I guess that is why they killed him. Nobody can be allowed to upset the status quo, especially a mad bastard like Nash, who believed that we had rights and feelings. He would approve of what I did and say that Laura had overstepped the mark. But the law says different.
I am confusing myself. It is best that I focus on the problem and try to see a way out. Nick, Griffo and I had been hanging around the market, waiting for business I guess. Although none of us was really skint, it was best to take what was on offer. You never know when your model is going to become yesterday’s news. Then life is apt to become bloody impossible without some savings behind you.
The three of us have been inseparable since we became aware of our existence. We are what the Regen’s call complementary models. According to hem, we are completely different from each other, but possess personalities that allow us to coexist in harmony. I fear that I will not see them again. Our closeness is recorded on my data file and they will be watched. I dare not place them at risk.
She spotted us from a fair distance and her eyes locked upon me immediately. It was obvious that she meant to do business, and that in itself, was unusual. A Regen is normally circumspect in these matters, lest they be judged to have made a poor choice. Social standing is almost as important as pleasure to them. She strode purposefully through the bustling crowds to our small group and spoke directly to me. “How much?” she asked, dispensing with the usual banter that precedes such transactions. I was taken back a little by her manner, but it was not my place to object. Still, if she was going to treat me like a dog she could pay for the privilege.
“Five grand,” I replied.
She did not even blink. “OK, half now and the rest when we’re done.”
Griffo and Nick had moved away as quickly as possible. It is not the done thing to listen to business being transacted, but her manner had taken us all by surprise. I should have been wary of her and backed off, but the money on offer was over three times my normal rate and I thought that I had catered to all forms of madness. I was sure that I could cope with her demands.
“Done,” I replied and held my arm aloft for the first part of transaction. She moved her arm forward so that our wrists connected. We confirmed the transaction in the time honoured telepathic manner so that the funds were stored on my wrist.
“Come on. Let’s go,” she seized my wrist and literally dragged me through the market. It was then that I began to feel uneasy. Several people, Regen’s and Clone’s alike openly stared at us. Regens were not given to outward displays of haste and urgency. Her manner, to say the least, was unusual.
Once she had piloted me through the crowds, bundled me into her cruiser and got the thing on to the superway, we drove in silence for several minutes. Inexplicably, she threw her head back and laughed. It was a genuine, full-bodied girl’s laugh and for a brief moment, I glimpsed the girl that might have been centuries ago. I caught myself thinking that she would have been pretty then. Her eyes met mine and the icy madness in them swept away the young girl image.
“We need some mood music,” she said woodenly. Bored ice chips gazed out of her perfect face, sending a chill through my body. You can regenerate your body as often as you like, but the eyes give you away every time. Nash had said that the eyes mirror the owner’s soul. Now I know what he meant. Her eyes reflected an ugly madness that was impossible to be attracted to.
The vehicle was swamped with Regen music. Foreigner or maybe the Doobie Brothers, all that Regen stuff sounds the same to me. She laughed again and gave a voice command to the sound system. Hotel California replaced whatever had been playing. It repeated endlessly until we reached our destination. It was a traditional Regen house in one of their up market suburbs.
She bundled me into her house and shooed me into the living area. “Sit down,” she instructed. “I’ll be back in a sec’.”
I sat, unsure of my ground. Ordinarily, business is conducted immediately. The only Regen living area I had been allowed in to had been Nash’s. But that was different. We had been friends and I had been treated as an equal.
She emerged from what was her kitchen I guess, carrying two glasses and a bottle of wine. She placed them on the coffee table and sat on the couch opposite me. She smiled as warmly as I think she was able to. “Come, sit with me,” she whispered and patted the place beside her. I eyed the bottle suspiciously but moved over anyway. To not comply with her wishes would be fraught with danger.
She watched me closely and then gave a low chuckle. “Lighten up. I won’t make you drink it, nor will I tell a soul if you do.” She touched my face gently and traced a line down my cheek. “Let’s just relax and get to know each other a little.” The words were encouraging enough, but seemed to carry some veiled threat.
Despite my misgivings, I made an attempt to relax and moved to uncork the wine. She would not allow me to do so and performed the task herself. “Do you know why I chose you?” she asked as she handed me a glass.
“Why?” I was unsure of my territory and thought it best to say as little as possible.
She sipped her drink and then looked at the ceiling the way people do sometimes when they pretend to think. “The Green Series three is provided with all the necessary physical attributes as well as an even, honest personality that is not given to false flattery.” Her eyes fixed upon me, again scaring me with their coldness. “That is what your model specifications say. Are they correct?”
“True enough,” I replied, making no attempt to disguise the pain of being considered no more than a model.
Her eyes glinted. “Have I upset you?” she asked with a trace of a smile.
Without thinking I answered, “I am human. I do have feelings.”
She looked at me strangely. “So you have, I bet. It has been a long time since I have heard words like that.” She patted my knee the way a new owner pats a puppy. “I meant no offense,” she murmured.
“None taken,” I replied and took a cautious sip of the wine.
We sat in silence for a while. Then whatever was calling the shots inside her head flicked another switch. She squeezed my arm tightly and blurted, “I need a lover who sees me for what I am and tells me the truth.” Again I saw the girl that once was struggling to break through the Regen veneer. I felt a touch of pity for her. Not enough to let down my guard but pity all the same. Regens were not given to speaking of love in any sense to my type. Her behaviour was plain weird. It was best to remain silent and wait for her commands. I did not have to wait long.
“Why don’t you respond to me?” she snapped. Her eyes were blazing with madness and I think desperation. Her mouth was stretched in a thin tight line and her hands had balled into tight fists. She was ready to explode and I had to pick my path carefully.
“I’m unsure of what’s going on,” I replied truthfully.
The mood change was incredible. She smiled and lowered her voice to a conspirator’s whisper. “Of course, it’s not usual for one of us to want to talk to you. Is it?”
Again she looked up at the ceiling and chuckled. Then she turned, seized my arm and stared fiercely into my face. “You have it all you know. I saw you enjoying yourself with your friends. I want some of that. I want,” she hesitated a moment, “acceptance without having to play the game.”
“And buying me for a night will give you that?” It was a stupid question to ask, but she did choose me for my honesty.
“Insolent bastard!” she screamed and smashed her fist in to the side of my head, causing it to slam in to the hard fibre part of the couch that we were seated upon. Sharp pain stabbed through my skull and for a moment my vision blurred. While I was still trying to focus she was all over me whispering apologies and feathering my face with light kisses. I did not respond to her at all. Maybe I should have. Maybe things would have turned out differently. She drew away from me and fixed me with that by now familiar crazy stare.
“Do I appeal to you?” she asked. It was an amazing question. Regens were supposed to be physically attractive and I had imagined that they never suffered from self-doubt. I suspected that her question was loaded, as all her statements seemed to be.
“You are very attractive,” I answered honestly. She was. As with most of them though, her beauty did not go below the surface. You can polish a dry dog turd for as long as you like, but at the end of a day it’s still a dry dog turd. I was not about to voice that opinion. My model may well possess an honest even personality, but it also has some degree of common sense.
Her eyes flared angrily for a moment and then went blank. All the life seemed to flow out of them. “Always the same answer,” she whispered and hugged herself as if she had grown cold suddenly. Then, she refocused on me and touched my cheek tenderly. “You’ve cut yourself,” she said with what seemed to be real concern. “There are some bandages in the bathroom. You had better go and clean yourself up. When you’re ready, we’ll talk some more.” Her mood swings were frightening and it was fear that dictated that I do as directed. At least I would be putting some space between us.
She pointed the way and I half stumbled to the bathroom. The door was closed and I could feel her eyes boring into my back as I turned the handle and stepped in. It was lavishly Regen in style. All white tiles and gold fittings.
The colour scheme served to highlight the dried blood spattered across the floor. By the time my mind had worked out what the red trail was, I had journeyed far enough in to the room to see where the blood had come from. Lying in the bathtub, staring blankly up at me, was the corpse of a clone. He had my features and undoubtedly he had been chosen for his honesty as well. The numerous puncture marks in his chest left little doubt as to the cause of death.
I have heard it said that clones are less human than Regens and more capable of dealing with trauma. I am here to tell you that I felt vilely ill and my ability to think had deserted me. It was blind luck that drew me closer to the corpse and further from the door behind me.
“He didn’t find me appealing either.” Her voice came from behind and I turned to face her. She was leaning casually against the doorframe, smiling a Mona Lisa type smile and swinging a wicked looking long bladed knife in her left hand. In her right, she held a remote device, which she aimed at the wall beside me. It slid open to reveal a shower recess. Propped up against its wall was another body with my features. It too had numerous puncture marks in the chest. “Neither did he,” she giggled and then added, “It’s your turn. You must submit to me. It is the law.” She moved towards me slowly, with absolute confidence.
Years of training demanded that I submit and if I had been closer to the door, I believe I would have been victim number three. It was those extra few feet that I had gained by walking towards the corpse that gave me time to think of Nash. “We are no better than you,” he used to say, “in fact, we are worse, because we think we are better. Never forget that.” Fortunately, I had not.
I nodded to her, giving the impression that I would submit. She smiled and stepped within range. I lashed out with my fist and smashed her in the face. She fell backwards and dropped the knife. I could have grabbed it and finished her then, but my only thought was to get out. I leapt over her and bolted for the exit.
“You can’t get out,” she screamed. “Come back here. You have to pay for what you’ve done.” I ignored her, charged for the door and found it locked. She cackled with delight. I turned to face her.
She stood on the opposite side of the room with the knife held out before her and she looked horrible. Her nose was a twisted bleeding mess and her eyes glared at me with cold fury, but she was still smiling that idiot smile. “Nobody hits a Regen and lives,” she hissed. “The assembly would order a painful public execution. Come to me and I will make it quick.”
I shook my head. “You’re gonna have to earn your kicks this time,” I replied, hoping that my voice sounded calm and confident. “If you want to kill me, then come and get me.”
She threw her head back and laughed, sending a spray of bloody mucus across the room. Then, she fixed me with her best lunatic’s stare. “I’ve heard rumours of your type. I hoped I’d meet one. It makes things much more interesting. She held her knife out before her, the way the ancient soldiers held their swords as they charged in to battle. She let out a shrill piercing scream and raced full pelt towards me.
I waited until she was almost upon me before feinting to the right and wheeling away to the left. She fell for it and scraped past me, allowing me to catch her with a glancing blow to the back of the head. I was off balance and couldn’t get a lot of weight behind it, but I did cause her to stumble. She shrieked a curse and then cannoned in to the side wall. The knife fell from her grasp. Without thinking, I leapt astride her, grabbed her by the hair and with both hands, smashed her head in to the floor. She writhed like a snake and tried to throw me off. I snatched up the knife and plunged it in to her back. She gasped and made a chugging sound, and then she pitched forward on to her face.
Her arms twitched by her sides and her breathing came in ragged gasps. She would surely die. Unless I could make it look like an accident I had signed my own death warrant. I pulled the knife out and turned her over.
She was still conscious.
Her eyes fixed on me and she tried to say something, causing a flow of blood to trickle down her cheek. Fascinated, I moved closer in an attempt to hear her. She almost smiled at me. I lifted her head, allowing her to clear her throat. She coughed up a heap of bloody gunk and then fixed me with her stare again. This time her smile was softer and even through the blood and bruising, I believe that I saw the girl that once was. I think that I would have liked her then. She gagged and coughed violently and her body had begun to shiver, but still she smiled. She dragged me close to her and whispered, “Thank you for releasing me.”
She did not say any more and after a while she closed her eyes. Her breathing became more erratic until finally, it stopped. I looked at her for a long time before wandering off to find a sheet to wrap her body in. I don’t know why I did that. It just felt right. I carried her into the bathroom and lay her on top of the dead clone.
Instinct told me to run, but there was nowhere to go. So after scratching around for a while, I came across some paper and felt pens that she evidently had done some drawing with, and the idea came to write the story down. As I had hoped, it has enabled my mind to focus. The actual writing of Nash’s name in particular has helped.
In the days before his capture, Nash had begun to hint at subversive causes. Of places and people that had not taken the Regen way. They lived short lives in comparative squalor, but existed in relative happiness. His tales kept returning to a village hundreds of kilometers from the Superway. A place called Carey. “It is a place of sanctuary for the troubled. There is a publican called Barrington who welcomes anybody prepared to stand against the Regens.” It had been a strange message and I guess that he knew that his time was growing short. I had pressed him for more information, and he had grown coy. “Come now my friend. Surely you do not believe that I am the only Regen who is sick and tired of playing God do you?” Then he had steered the conversation on to other subjects and the matter had been forgotten -until now.
It occurs to me that Nash knew that his time was up and that he was trying to tell me that I did not have to submit to the system. But I was young and scared. When they killed him I hid for days, certain that I would be next. Nick and Griffo kept me alive. When I finally was game enough to reappear I did everything possible to become invisible. I have been a model clone until today. Now, when all seems lost I can see the raft of hope that Nash left for me. I know what I have to do.
Carey beckons and I am determined to make it. To do so I must cut the wrist chip from her arm. It will allow me to start her vehicle and use her funds until I leave the Superway. The indications are that she was a loner and if so there is every chance that she will not be missed. When her wrist chip stops transacting, an alarm will ring and they will come looking for her. By then, I hope to be in Carey taking my chances with the man called Barrington.