1. Tin Man
"Come on. I dare you."
Nervously, Patrique glanced over her shoulder before following her sister into the ventilation shaft. Marick had been sneaking out of the dome this way for months. This was Patrique's first time.
The tunnel was long and narrow. Patrique was scared that it would never end. After a couple of turns, she saw a light. She scurried to the end of the tunnel and dropped to the ground.
There was an unpleasant, acrid odor in the air. "What's that smell?" she asked, wrinkling her nose.
"The smell of freedom." Marick grinned. "This way."
Her big sister darted through the maze of streets. Patrique had to run to keep up with her. She caught only glimpses of the world into which she had tumbled. An ancient space craft which had been remodeled into a dwelling. A human wearing a ceramic mask walking a lizard on a leash.. Shops which sold dead animals, their skins peeled away to reveal the muscle underneath---meat, she thought with a shudder. This must be the Untouchables Quarter, a place where people dined on the roasted corpses of other creatures and killed each other with knives in arguments about sex and money.
A tall, thin figure dressed in voluminous faded yellow silk trousers was watching them from the corner up ahead. Patrique had never seen a man in the flesh, but the lack of breasts told her his sex. He was taller than any of the Mamas. He wore thick brown boots made of snake skin. Faceted green stones sparkled on each earlobe.
"Hari!" Marick shrieked joyfully. She threw herself into her lover's arms.
Patrique approached cautiously. There was something stuck in his belt. A knife. The handle was smooth and black, and the blade was wickedly curved with a serrated edge. This was no kitchen knife for dicing turnips and roots. This was meant to cut flesh and bone.
Men, meat, weapons--it was too much for her. With a stifled yelp of fear, she turned and ran back the way she had come.
Heart pounding, Patrique fled the dangers of the Quarter. She did not stop running until she saw her own pink and white tinted dome up ahead. There is was, the small opening of the ventilation shaft. She knelt and stuck her head in--
And was jerked back. She landed on the pavement with such force that the wind was knocked out of her. Shading her eyes, she peered up at a man. It was not Marick's man, Hari. This one wore different clothes made from a clingy black fabric that revealed the outline of his broad shoulders and flat chest. His face was partially hidden by a mask, but she glimpsed his eyes, ice blue and full of cold fire. His hands were encased in supple black gloves. One hand held a knife and the other a thin nylon cord knotted into a noose.
"Make a sound, and I'll gut you."
Patrique lay on the ground shivering. The masked man leaned over her. He slipped the noose over her neck, drawing it just tight enough that she could feel the pressure of the nylon cord against her pulsing arteries. His breath was hot against her ear. "If you struggle, I'll pull it tighter, and you'll die. If you're good, I'll let you live." The tip of the knife blade touched her chin, nicking her skin. A single drop of blood trickled down her throat. "For a while anyway--"
His expression changed from angry to suprised, then from suprised to blank. A few seconds later, his head tumbled into Patrique's lap. His headless corpse swayed back and forth, then, it too fell forward, pinning her to the ground. Bright, warm red blood gushed over her. Patrique finally found her voice and started screaming.
"No need to sound the alarm," the serv-bot said, its tone polite as alawys. "I have already called for help." Effortlessly, it picked up the headless corpse and tossed it aside, freeing the girl. "Have you suffered injuries, child? Are you in need of medical assistance?"
She tore the cord from around her neck and leapt to her feet. The murderer's severed head rolled to the ground and came to rest beside the wall of the dome, where it stared up a her, its blue eyes now glazed.
She looked away.
"Are you injured, child?"
Patrique had never seen so much blood, and she had never, ever seen another human being die. The world as she knew it was gone forever. In this new reality, only one thing was certain As long as the serv-bot was here, she was safe.
She threw her arms around it and pressed her face to its smooth, cool chest plate. Through the thin but sturdy metal shell, she could hear the whirring of tiny gears and the soft click of mechanical parts. "Don't leave me alone," she sobbed.
Serv-bot RedE9 folded two of its four arms around her. "I will not leave you, child. Not until the mistresses arrive."
"Don't ever leave," she begged.
Mama 2 appeared. Her eyes widened. "What's going on here?"
"This human male was attempting to harm Miss Patrique, " the serv-bot replied calmly. "I was nearby, performing garden tasks, when I heard the noise. I neutralized the male with these." It held out a pair of long, sharp gardening shears. The twelve inch blades dripped fresh blood.
Mama 2 turned pale. "You c--cut off his head?"
"Yes, ma'am." The silver gray skin of its face plate was as smooth as a baby's, and its eyes were as guileless. "The assailant had a blade at her throat. A verbal warning might have precipitated a hostage situation. I judged it prudent to take decisive action."
Patrique tightened her grip on the serv-bot. The soft whirring in its chest soothed her. "RedE9 saved me."
Mama 2 was not listening to her dome-daughter. She was staring at the serv-bot with an expression of shock mixed with fear. "You---you killed a human?"
"Yes, ma'am. Would you like me to power down, now?"
A few days later, a woman came to the dome. She was a representative of the RedE serv-bot manufacturing company. The engineers wanted to do tests on the malfunctioning model in order to determine why its prime directive had failed. She had all the appropriate documents. The dome mothers turned the serv-bot over to her, glad to be rid of the problem.
From her room, where she had been confined for a lunar month as punishment for leaving the dome without permission , Patrique watched on a video terminal. Her best friend was being hauled away. It was so unfair. RedE9 had saved her life, and how did they repay it? By sending it to a place where they would take it apart. If a human had done what the serv-bot did, she would be called a hero.
It was so unfair.
2. Cowardly Lion
He was a medical marvel, a triumph of genetic engineering, a testament to the determination of man. And he was bored.
The toys which had delighted him so much as a boy-cub now failed to amuse him. The rodents and birds, which he was encouraged to hunt for the pleasure of his owner were little more than nuisances. He preferred the taste of cooked food to raw. The fur and feather covered flesh of those creatures he trapped and killed with his clawed hands and razor sharp teeth revolted him.
Tail twitching from side to side, he paced back and forth across the garden on all fours. From time to time, his eyes rested on the stone wall which surrounded his master's small but expensive bit of earth and greenery. The wall was two stories high, with pressure and motion sensors embedded in the simulated marble at forty centimeter intervals. Could he leap so high? Certainly. A cat could leap ten times its own height, and he was two meters tall. The difficult part would be landing precisely on the small, safe areas. His humanoid feet and hands were small, like a cat's, but were they small enough? Was he precise enough?
Experimentally, he jumped forward twelve feet, aiming for a small red tile. Perfect landing on one back foot. His forearms and tail balanced him. It was easy. Now to combine the two....
He was distracted by an odor. It was something he had smelled before but never this strongly. It made his breath quicken and stirred the blood in his groin. Carefully, he lowered his other back leg and stood upright, like a man. Turning slowly, he saw his master's daughter. She looked much as usual, short, round, with straight brown hair pulled back in a braid. She was ugly and clumsy, like all humans, but her scent was intoxicating. Slowly, he approached her. A deep purring sound formed in his throat. His eyes narrowed.
"Why are you looking at me like that, Kit?" Angelica had seen him grow from kitten-infant to lion-man and was not the least bit afraid of him. However, something about the way his golden eyes watched her made her feel self conscious.
Because you smell good enough to eat,he thought. Kit had a full human cerebral cortex in addition to his feline attributes. He knew enough about the ways of humans to guess that being complimented on her scent would not please Angelica. "Because you are so beautiful," he purred. He moved closer and nuzzled her neck. She shuddered as his tawny fur caressed her skin. "I never realized that you were so beautiful."
He had no older felines to teach him, so he did not realize that the scent he detected in her was the human equivalent of heat. Not until they were copulating on the lush green grass of the garden. By then, the damage had been done. His seed was within her. A few weeks later, when Kit's master discovered that Angelica was pregnant, he demanded to know who the father was.
She hung her head and whispered "It's Kit. He...he raped me."
Rape indeed. She had been a willing participant. However, Kit knew that his master would not care whether the act was forced or voluntary. His daughter had been sullied by his pet.
A quick, quiet abortion was arranged for the daughter, who was then sent away for a visit with her aunt on Titan. Meanwhile, the problem of what to do with Kit remained.
His hearing was as acute as his olfactory sense. Through a faux wooden door fifteen centimeters thick, he overhead his master talking to his mistress. "I paid twenty thousand marks for that man-cat. I'm not going to have him put to sleep."
"What if he attacks other girls?" his mistress countered.
"He won't," his master said. "I'm going to have him fixed."
Kit knew what the euphemism "fixed" meant. The rational, human part of his brain had been expecting this all along. It was the feline part which had insisted that he remain in his master's house, where the food was plentiful and tasty. Now, however, it was time to give up creature comforts. If he stayed here, he would be well fed, admired--and castrated. The only alternative was escape.
He growled softly. Better to be cold, alone and hungry than a coward.
He polished off his meal of roast quail stuffed with mussels garnished with caviar. Then, he found a cloak that would help him disguise his tail. He sauntered into the walled garden. There was no one outside the house---he did not even have to look. His nose would have picked up any human scent, and his ears would have detected the sound of breathing. Now was his chance. He crouched on the ground, tail twitching once, twice, three times and then he leapt--
Landing lightly on one back paw on top of the stone wall, he listened for the "silent" alarm, that annoying high pitched whine that was silent only to humans who were born half deaf. He had missed the sensors. So far so good. The street below him was deserted. He leapt again and landed on four feet on the ground. He took a few steps before he remembered that he was supposed to be disguised as a human. Pulling himself up onto two legs, he wrapped the cloak around himself and disappeared into the shadows.
"Assassins do not retire," Phipps had advised Shara early in her training. "They are retired."
His warning seemed pointless. After all the surgeries and the months of recuperation, why would she want to turn her back on her chosen profession? She was an assassin. She came from a long line of assassins. Thanks to her employers, she was now the best of the best, a killing machine equipped with bionic limbs, infrared vision, augmented hearing, a back up artificial heart and diaphragmatic stimulators in case she lost respiratory function. She carried an array of poisons in the hollow molars on the left side of her jaw and the antidotes to those poisons in the hollow molars on the right. All this within a five foot two inch slender female body that could have belonged to anyone, a school teacher, a doctor, a waitress. With her blue eyes, fair skin and golden hair, she looked as innocent as an angel. In fact, she was as deadly as a viper. She could kill a man with two fingers and kill a small woman with one.
Up until now, it had always been easy. Receive assignment, carry out assignment. Don't think about it, just do it. When her target was a Martian businessman or a Conservationist Party official, her work was simple. Business as usual.
Today, her orders were different. Today, she had been told to take out a child. Not just any child. A four day old embryo in cryogenic suspension. The unusual nature of the assignment raised alarms, and so she did something she never had never done before. She questioned her orders
"Why do you need me? This isn't murder. It's abortion. Hell, at four days, it doesn't even qualify as abortion. Just pay one of the techs at the reproductive lab to pull the plug."
"This isn't an ordinary embryo," her contact informed her gravely.
No shit. "Why do you want it eliminated?"
As usual, the intermediary between her and the Counsel was clothed from head to toe in gray, his face hidden, his voice altered. However, from his mannerisms and speech rhythms, she recognized this as the one she called the Big Honcho. He always delivered the most important, hush-hush assignments, and a robot guard always accompanied him. Could he be a Counsel member?
The Big Honcho's next words caught her completely off guard. "This is the cloned embryo of Michael Kansas."
With those words, everything changed. Michael Kansas, the genius. The man who invented most of the bionic technology that made her what she was. The man who successfully incorporated organic neural material into computers, ushering in the golden age of information technology. The man who had spent his entire life strapped to a wheelchair, dependent upon machines to breathe. The man who rejected the bionics he had invented, because he never gave up the dream of walking on his own two legs.
Shortly before his death from sepsis at age 42, he had commissioned a clone of himself. The embryo would be stored on ice until scientists developed a cure for the neurogenic disorder which had turned his first body to jelly. In the meantime, his memories and thoughts had been recorded in wetwear, also known as a CMP or computer mapped personality. The CMP was said to be every bit as smart as its human parent. In the last year alone, it had patented six new inventions.
"His people must have extra tissue. If I take out this clone, they'll make another."
"Not if the brain of the outfit is gone. That's the second part of your assignment. You will steal the clone. You will get into contact with the Kansas CMP. You will infiltrate its organization. You will kill machine and embryo."
As well ask her to kill the future.
"Why now?" She was going way out on a limb. Assassins were paid to kill, not to ask questions.
"They're planning to implant the embryo. That means they've found a cure. If the child is born, it inherits everything. It can have children of its own, found a dynasty. We can't let that happen."
"So get a court order giving the State guardianship of the embryo. With Kansas officially dead, that should be easy. Then block the implantation on the grounds that it would be cruel to bring a child suffering from Hoffberger's Syndrome into the world."
"We tried it. The High Court has granted the Kansas CMP citizenship status, including the right to determine when and how his genetic material will be replicated. Crazy bastards. Who ever heard of a computer citizen?" The Big Honcho was not usually this talkative. The Kansas situation must have her employers spooked.
Now, she was spooked, too. If she refused the job, they could use it as an excuse to call in the loans for her expensive upgrades, knowing full well that the removal of her bionics would kill her. On the other hand, if she completed the job, they would probably kill her to keep her quiet.
Stalling for time, she said "The treatment must be new. That makes it experimental. Odds are that his clone won't survive infancy."
"We wish to improve the odds. Will you take the job?"
Did the bastard think she was stupid? If she said "no", it would be the last thing she ever said. "Sure, I'll take the job." Take the job and shove it where the sun did not shine. "After I steal the embryo, how do I make contact with the Kansas CMP?"
The courtroom was buzzing. What had at first appeared to be an open and shut case had suddenly been thrown wide open when famed attorney and jurist Price Justin had strolled through the door and announced "I'm here to represent the clone, Dorothy 7."
Now, rather than talking about how beautiful the young girl was and what a shame it was that she was going to die, the spectators speculated about what feat of legal magic Justin would use to rescue her. For only a miracle could save her. Despite her youth and her beauty, the law was clear in these matters. A clone belonged to its parent. If the parent died, the clone(or clones) assumed the parent's wealth and position, but until the parent ceased to have brain function, its clones were considered part of its own body. And what with the advances in transplant technology, those rich enough to afford clones seldom died any more. Instead, like legendary film star Dorothy Ann Hope, they relied upon clones to supply them with new skin, new hearts, new kidneys, new limbs.
This clone, Dorothy 7 had been slated to become a partial brain donor. Dorothy Ann Hope was suffering from acute Parkinsonism, acquired from the use of the designer drug Bliss, and she needed fresh neural material to replace the tissue she had damaged. The fact that extracting that material would kill Dorothy 7 did not matter. The laws were clear. If individuals did not have complete control over their own clones, DNA piracy would be rampant. The rights of every citizen of New Earth were at stake. So what if one girl had to die?
Oh, but she was so young, barely sixteen. So lovely, just like her parent when she first appeared on the video screen. Cinnamon brown skin, thick licorice colored hair, almond eyes, whiskey smoke voice, sugary sweet smile---all the adjective used to describe Dorothy Ann Hope included references to food. One critic had declared her the most "delicious creature alive."
The original Dorothy was not quite what she used to be. For one thing, she moved slowly due to her Parkinson's Disease. Her flawless skin was a trifle too tight, and her eyes had lost some of their luster. However, she was still beautiful, and the members of the audience could not decide which woman to stare at, the legendary movie star or her doomed clone.
The trial was supposed to be a formality. A physician would present evidence to show that without the transplant surgery, Miss Hope would suffer significant morbidity. The judge would declare that sufficient grounds existed to deprive Dorothy 7 of her life. They would take the young girl to the lab where her skull would be opened, her brains exposed, and her short life snuffed out.
Then, Price Justice walked through the door of the courtroom and everything changed.
"Your honor," he began moving straight to his argument. Even the judge was in awe of Justice Justin. He sat mute as counsel presented his case.
"How do we define an individual? With all the symbots and inter-breeds and replicants running around nowadays, how do we say 'This is me, and that is you'? We do it based on our human DNA. Our unique human DNA" Price took a stroll across the court room. His skin was as black as smoke, and when he smiled his teeth caught the light. "This is the basis for Shah versus Shah, the case in which the courts decided that a clone is the property of its parent. We are born owning only one thing---our genetic code. In the case of identical twins, that code is shared, but otherwise the law is clear, one individual, one code." He turned to Dorothy 7. "She is the image of her parent, is she not? The same chin, the same dimple, the same hair, the same figure. In every way she resembles the woman whose DNA created her." He paused for dramatic effect.
The members of the audience were silent, waiting for the punch line. Dorothy Ann Hope leaned forward and clutched the back of the chair in front of her, her lovely face contorted with rage as she saw her chance for eternal youth being snatched from her. "Who hired him?" she hissed to her attorney.
"No idea," he whispered back. "I didn't know he was going to be here. Shh. I want to listen."
Justice Justin faced the audience. "Did you know that even clones do not necessarily have the same DNA pattern as their parents?"
This fell like a bombshell. The courtroom erupted in noise.
"Quiet!" shouted the judge. "Quiet or I'll clear the court." To Justice Justin "Continue."
From his briefcase, Justin pulled out two documents. "Here we see the DNA mapping of Dorothy 1." This was greeted by titters. It was an insult to refer to the parent as one of a series of clones. Miss Hope scowled. "Here we see the DNA mapping of Dorothy 7. As you will note, there are nine points of difference."
"How did he get those medical reports?" Miss Hope hissed.
Her attorney shrugged his shoulders. She might as well ask how does the sun make light or the wind know how to blow. Where there was evidence to be found, Price Justin would find it . If there were no evidence, he would create it.
The courtroom was mesmerized by Justin's voice. "Nine points of difference. That may not sound like much. But multiply nine times nine times nine over the course of a thousand generations, and you get significant genetic change. The kind of change that allows a species to adapt and survive. What if this girl, this clone, " he emphasized the last word "Carries the seeds of a gene which will one day wipe out cancer? Or even mortality and aging. Can we snuff out that hope? Are the needs of one woman greater than the needs of all of humanity? Your honor, I rest my case." He sat down.
He had turned the usual argument on its head. "Point noted," said the judge. "I will retire to my chamber to deliberate."
Everyone in the courtroom knew that the case had already been decided. Everyone, that is, except Dorothy 7. She sat in her isolation booth, where she was protected from possible viral contamination looking very young and very frightened. It was not until Price Justin instructed the guard to unlock the door and stepped inside to take her hand, murmuring "It's over, my dear. You are free" that her expression lightened.
"Free? You mean they aren't going to---" She choked over the words.
"No, dear. They are not going to kill you. You can leave now. I would recommend that you get out of here as quickly as possible, before your parent decides to launch an appeal."
Dorothy 7 stood. She was wearing a hospital surgical gown with nothing underneath. They had almost shaved her hair in preparation for the surgery, they were that convinced that the judge would rubber stamp the procedure. However, she had cried and the surgical tech, who felt sorry for her had said "We will shave it off later. After you are asleep."
"Where will I go?" she asked her unexpected savior.
Justin smiled. "To see the one who hired me. So that you can thank him in person. And perhaps, repay him in turn." He turned and headed towards the door of the courtroom.
"Who?" she demanded as she followed him through the crowd. People moved aside as Justin approached, much like the waters of the Red Sea parting before Moses. "Who hired you? Why? What does he want from me?"
Justice Justin glanced over his shoulder to make sure that there were no microphones close enough to pick up his next words. "I was hired by Michael Kansas," he whispered.He his mouth with his hand since most reporters had computer-cams that could read lips. "As to what he wants you for, you can ask him that yourself."
Frowning, he covered her mouth with his hand. "Shh. Not so loud. Someone will hear." Unlikely, considering the chaos in the hall outside the courtroom, but it was better to be careful.
Dorothy 7---now just plain Dorothy lowered her voice to a whisper. "Michael Kansas is dead."
The lawyer smiled enigmatically. "Not for long."
5. The Wizard
It had to be her idea. She must make the offer without prompting or coercion. I made this decision, before I hired Price Justin. The gift I gave her--her life--came with no strings attached. If she wanted to say "Thanks. Gotta run," that was the way it would be.
The only thing I demanded was that I meet her once, so that we could discuss her future. Soon, Dorothy 7 would discover that she had traded one set of problems for another. At the very least, she needed a body guard. Plastic surgery might not be a bad idea. If her resemblance to her genetic parent was obliterated, she would have no value as a slave, trophy wife or porn video star, practically eliminating the risk of a kidnapping. Money shouldn't be a problem. She could easily support herself giving interviews or selling her DNA. However, if she choose honor and anonymity, I was prepared to offer an annual stipend, again, with no strings attached.
As I adjusted the holo which would represent me, I realized that I was as nervous as a teenaged boy before his first date. In a way, it was my first date. The problem wasn't lack of opportunity. Plenty of women would have been delighted to play the part of muse for Michael Kansas. However, in life I had other things to preoccupy me--like breathing around the phlegm which clogged my airways, getting enough oxygen to my brain and clearing my blood and urine of chronic bacterial infections.
Death had freed me from these mundane preoccupations. Death gave me something I never had in life---youth. Critically, I examined the holo image of the Michael Kansas who could have been. Too thin. I added twenty pounds. Too fat. I subtracted ten. Hair shorter. Lose the glasses. Bring back the glasses. Change tortoise to wire rim. An earring? God, no!
Ready. Bring her on.
Seeing her stand before me was a shock. She had the beauty her clone parent possessed fifty years and ten plastic surgeries ago. Dark, sultry, but with a wide eyed innocence, like a wild creature which has just ventured out of the jungle for the first time.
"Mr. Kansas?" She clasped her hands together. Her wide, dark eyes darted from the holo to my optical sensory apparatus then back to the holo again.
"Hello, Dorothy." I couldn't call her Miss Hope. Hope was her slave name. Maybe I should dub her Dorothy X. A giggle shuddered through my circuits but was firmly blocked before reaching the voice simulation module. "Please, call me Michael."
She searched the room for the source of my voice. Finally, her gaze settled once more on the holo. "Mr. Price says you're the one who asked him to save me."
That was one way to put it. Asked with six zeros attached to the end of the request would be more accurate. "I suppose you are wondering why."
Smiling, she shook her head. Lord, she was beautiful! "I know why. I've met your friends. The serv-bot, Kit, Shara. You have a soft spot for..." Her brow puckered as she sought a word or phrase. "...subhumans."
"I prefer to think that my friends as superhuman." My voice sounded fake, too precise, like the simulated voice of an expensive elevator. Make the enunciation less precise. Increase the modulation. Vary the volume in sync with simulated breathing. "Do my motives bother you?" Much better.
My question made her smile. "It reassured me. I was afraid some rich---" She bit her lower lip.
Even her blush was charming. "I was afraid someone wanted me for my looks. It's nice to know that you thought my brain was worth saving."
Did she think a computer mapped personality couldn't have libidinous thoughts? Good. Let her go on thinking it. "The next few weeks are going to be difficult for you. You can stay here, if you like. You'll be quite safe. Our security is state of the art. " And then some.
She nodded her head. "Shara said you would probably let me stay. She told me about you . How you offered her sanctuary when she refused to carry out her employers' orders. Most people would have had someone like her killed, just to be safe. You've got a kind heart. If there is anything I can do to repay you---"
"The fact that you are alive and free is reward enough."
The next time we met, she took one look at the holo, then she fixed her gaze on my optical sensory apparatus. Looking me right in the eye, so to speak. "I hear you've finally been granted human status, too."
"That's old news."
"There's talk about a clone." She paused. When I offered no reply, she added "I didn't know they had found a cure for your disease." She studied the console, as if hoping that my interface with the world would reveal my emotions.
How her eyes flashed when she was angry! "Then why bring a child into this world to suffer the way that you suffered?"
"There's no cure, but we've found a way to treat the disorder. My clone won't have the physical problems I did. He'll develop normally."
"Ah." Her hostile expression did not change. "What do you intend to do with your healthy clone?"
"I plan to see that he gets the best education money can buy, and when he turns eighteen, he will inherit everything I own. I'm not looking for a replacement body, Dorothy. I'm perfectly content where I am. However, years ago, I made a promise to a little boy. One day, I told him, he would walk and run like other children."
Tears sprang to her eyes. "I'm sorry. I should have known better. You've been so good to me. So good to everyone."
We talked for another twenty-eight point seven minutes. As she was leaving, she glanced at the holo. "You don't need to do that for me. I'd rather talk to the real you."
At that moment, I discovered that even a computer's heart could sing. I'd rather talk to the real you.
* * *
The days passed. The assassin, Shara began to get edgy. "They're going to locate this bunker sooner or later. "
"By the time they find me, it will be too late for them to affect my plans."
She crossed her arms and began to tap her foot. "Just ask her. She's always trying to find work to do. She knows she doesn't have the skills that RedE9 and I possess. Tell her that her womb makes her valuable. She'll be relieved."
"I don't want her to be relieved." My simulated voice was a bit too natural. It revealed emotions I preferred not to share.
Shara bared her teeth. "You want her to do it out of love. Because you're in love with her. It's happened before. Usually between computers and their designers."
She was referring to the Pygmalion Syndrome. "I'm not a computer."
Shara did not bother to comment on this absurdity. Once upon a time, I had a body--of sorts. That did not change the fact that I was now a CMP. "Dorothy knows about the clone project. She's been asking questions. Wants to know how you're going to overcome the enzyme deficiency that wrecked your nervous system. Wants to know whether the fetus will be grown in vitro or in utero." She laughed. "She asked if I was going to be the mother. I told her I got rid of my uterus and ovaries to make room for a rapid DNA identification system that allows me to ID men by their sperm. You should have seen the expression on her face. She is so incredibly naive, like a medieval princess raised in a convent."
Greedily, I absorbed every detail she shared with me about Dorothy . I was jealous of the time she spent with the others, especially Kit. He had a very important part to play in my scheme, and I hated him for it.
Who would win in a gladitorial contest, Shara or Kit? It was a good question. She had hardware, but he had the fighting skills of a lion combined with human cunning. Luckily, the serv-bot RedE9 could take care of both of them, if the need arose, and RedE9's loyalty was beyond question.
RedE9 was also concerned. "Once we initiate the operation, we will require ten days to complete the process. The embryo clone will be out of cryo, undergoing preparations for implantation. An emergency evacuation during that time would be very risky. "
"I know all that!"
RedE9 took no offense. He was programmed to recognize and interpret human emotions, but they had no more moral significance for him than the ambient air temperature. Just another variable to be factored into the human equation.
Impulsively, I asked "Have you ever wondered what it would be like to experience emotions like anger or love?"
Without hesitation, he replied "I am programmed to analyze any situation from a wide variety of perspectives. Some of these perspectives are indistinguishable from the states which humans call emotions."
"So you know what it means to be in love?"
His smooth, featureless face stared at my console, though his optical sensory apparatus was actually located in his torso. His almost human posture, head position and hand gestures were for my benefit. He was programmed to put people at ease. To him, I was a human, though he looked more like a man than I did. "If my goal was a romantic relationship, the optimum outcome would be one in which Dorothy 7 expressed a desire to serve as mother for the clone without prompting, since it would indicate that she reciprocated my feelings. On the other hand, if my primary desire was the birth of my clone, I would utilize any form of persuasion at my disposal that would increase the likelihood of this event occurring."
"So tell me, what do I do?"
"You must decide which is more important, your clone or Dorothy 7's affection."
I swore. Yes, CMPs do that, too.
"If I may offer a suggestion." The serv-bot paused for the required 1.6 seconds. When I stated no objection, he continued "Given my analysis of human emotions in general and those of you and Dorothy 7 in particular, I believe that an active attempt on your part to expedite the second event will result in an increased likelihood of the first."
In other words he was suggesting that I tell Dorothy that I loved her so much that I wanted her to be the mother of my only child. Brilliant.
She agreed immediately. "What do I have to do?"
This was the hard part. I began with an explanation of the embryonic enzyme deficiency which resulted in the atrophy of my peripheral nerves. "Maternal enzyme levels aren't usually high enough to make up for the deficiency. However, if the mother's levels can be increased, the cloned fetus should develop normally."
She absorbed all this easily. No one had ever accused her clone mother of being stupid. "Are you saying I will need injections? Or a continuous infusion?"
"The hormone is unstable in vitro. The only way to administer it is by introducing an organism capable of producing it into your body."
She blanched. "A parasite?"
"That's one word for it. In this case, it will be a second fetus. A fraternal twin. There is one class of humanoids which has been genetically altered to produce the necessary enzyme in super physiologic amounts in order to support its own complicated fetal development. By taking advantage of the genetic manipulation which has been performed on this species, I am saved from having to play genetic roulette with my clone."
I think she had a suspicion of what I was about to say next. "What kind of second fetus?"
"A human, animal hybrid."
Her eyes widened. "Kit?"
"Artificial insemination?" She held her breath waiting for my response.
She groaned. "He's a beast! Do you know what his favorite game is? He likes to hide behind corners and jump out to scare me. I thought I would have a heart attack the first time he did it. Plus, he despises me. He's always telling me how ugly I am and how bad I smell. Once, I caught him urinating on my clothes."
"Wait until you ovulate. His attitude will change."
She shook her head. "Dorothy Ann gave us all shots to keep us infertile. Mine won't wear off for another six months."
"There's an injection that will stimulate ovulation within forty-eights hours." All possible rational objections disposed of, I moved on to the more delicate topic of emotional objections. "If the thought of mating with Kit is too repugnant, I can find another woman to carry my clone. I asked you, because you are the woman I would most like to be the mother of my child."
"Of course, I'll do it." She bit her lower lip. "There's just one thing."
"Shara's worried about her former employers."
"I've taken steps to ensure your safety."
"I'm not worried about my safety. I'm worried about yours. What are you planning to do if someone attacks this bunker?"
"I've made arrangements for you and the others to escape to a neutral country. There are bank accounts in your name. I've signed RedE9 and Kit over to you, so that you can claim them as your property. I trust you to look after them. Shara will look after you."
She scowled. "What about you? You mean you stay here as a decoy and let yourself get destroyed while the rest of us escape, don't you? No good. I won't leave without you."
She was talking to a machine. A machine that had been granted the rights of a citizen but still a machine. A machine that discovered that it was capable of feeling the emotion of joy. It was all I could do to keep from singing. "I'll see what I can do."
I saw her one more time before the ovulation inducer took effect. She was in good spirits, and as she left, she blew me a kiss.
The next time I saw her, she looked subdued. "We did it, Kit and I." Her voice was so soft that normal human physiologic hearing would not have perceived it. All my senses were augmented.
"Bad?" I tried to suppress my happiness at this news. The jealousy which had plagued me for the last twenty-four hours evaporated.
She shrugged. "Not really. I closed my eyes and pretended it was you."
My heart was soaring somewhere beyond the moon. "The worst is over. We wait nine days, and when the gestational hormone levels are right, RedE9 will insert the second clone. If hope you don't mind having a serv-bot perform a medical procedure on you."
For the first time, she smiled. "I like RedE9. He's nice. Almost as nice as you. Have you come up with a plan for saving yourself if the bunker is attacked?"
"Yes." It was the truth. The answer had just occurred to me.
One month later, after a hair raising early morning emergency departure from the bunker, Dorothy Kansas sought political asylum in the Independent Commonwealth of New California. She listed as dependents one human-animal hybrid name Kit, one augmented human named Shara, a male fetus named Michael Kansas Junior, heir to the financial and technical empire of Michael Kansas Senior and a second fetus, gender not yet determined, though early tests suggested a true hermaphrodite. She was accompanied by a serv-bot, one of the older models. Its official name was RedE9, but she was heard to call it Michael. The customs officials were mildly scandalized when she stood on tiptoe and kissed the serv-bot's smooth cheek. They were even more confused, when the serv-bot kissed her back.
" RedE9, are you sure you don't mind sharing your body ?" she whispered to her metallic companion.
"I am programmed to acquire as much knowledge about humans as possible, " RedE9 replied. "This is an unexpected learning opportunity."
The other entity which inhabited the serv-bot merely said "I love you, Dorothy."
Bio: McCamy is a long time contributor to Aphelion as well as Assistant Short Story Editor. You can find out all about her and her work by following the link below to her website.
URL: (Post) Millenium Fiction
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