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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 1 (v.1) - Saffron

Submitted: October 03, 2015

Reads: 2810

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A A A | A A A

Submitted: October 03, 2015



It wasn’t until after I killed Randleman and stole his pock that I began to understand why naturals treat us the way they do.  Pock is the slang we use for communication devices.  A hundred years ago they were called smart phones.  We, being the clones.  We are not considered human by the naturals, and have no rights or standing in their society.

When I was growing up at the clone facility, I did not understood why we were treated so poorly.  It was clear to me from an early age that we were no different from any natural.  Essentially, I was the identical twin of some human on Earth, who had full rights under the law.  Unlike my twin, I was nothing more than property.  I could be bought and sold like a pair of shoes.

I never understood, until I read the history of the human race on Randleman’s pock.  I learned about things like the Holocaust, and how common slavery had been throughout history.  There was no reason to expect naturals to treat clones as equals.  They had spent thousands of years refining the art of shitting on each other before they began making us.

When humans began populating the solar system, every colony and transport company experienced the same problem.  They couldn’t find enough people willing and able to do the most dangerous of the jobs.  Construction and mining are risky on Earth.  Try operating heavy equipment in a bulky suit, with little or no gravity to keep your feet planted on the ground or to a ship.  Spaceships and ports need maintenance.  You don’t want to get a hole, even a microscopic one, in your suit.  You don’t want to be on the outside when an unexpected solar flare kicks in.  Thus the clones.

It was the poor on Earth who sold their DNA.  They would never see their twin brothers or sisters, or know what their life would be like, somewhere in the dark and cold of outer space.  I expect my twin had already spent the money she made long before I was old enough for the training.

Long before I was old enough to get a chip, a collar, and a tattoo.  And to be sterilized.  The naturals wanted to make sure we did not reproduce.  Later I would appreciate the sterilization.  It kept me from getting pregnant all the times Randleman raped me.

We were raised in a facility that orbited the Moon.  The training was all technical.  Welding, electrical, pipe fitting, that sort of thing.  We learned how to handle heavy equipment.  Always wearing suits.  We were shown videos of clones who were careless and punctured their suit.  The lecture that day was titled Explosive Decompression.

The chip and the collar work together to control us.  They make it easy for our owners to find us, should we try to escape or inconveniently die on the job.  The tattoo on our forehead, of our identity number, makes us stand out even more.  Clones do not have names, just numbers.  There was no doubt who was a natural, and who was a clone. 

In the event I experience amnesia, all I need to do is look in a mirror, and I will see F94476487A49, backwards.  F is for female, A49 refers to the training I received to make me less likely to die while mining asteroids.  The rest of the number is me, good old clone number 94476487.

When our training was complete, we were sold on the open market.  Being bought by an arrogant fool like Randleman was the worst thing that could ever happen.  And the best thing.  Buying me was definitely the worst thing, and one of the last things, that happened to Randleman.

That wasn’t apparent later that day, the first time he raped me.  The cruiser was already on auto-pilot, heading for a small, nickel-based asteroid that Randleman coveted.  It would be a few days before the ship reached its destination.  Once there, I would operate all of the equipment while he stayed in the comfort and safety of the ship.  The dangers of surface mining in outer space were preferable to what awaited me after the work shifts.

Randleman’s undoing was his carelessness.  He underestimated me.  He didn’t notice that I saw him type his password into the ship’s console.  While he slept off his hangovers, I had free reign with the computer.

I taught myself to read and write.  I learned words I had never heard before.  Words like fun, and laugh, and love.  I saw pictures of how naturals lived.  I saw the look on other women’s faces when they held their babies.

While Randleman was awake, I cut pieces from the asteroid and loaded them into the cargo bay.  Afterwards, I didn’t complain or fight back when he put his hands on me.  While he slept, I found he used the same password for everything.  I became master of the ship.

Throughout the fifty years of cloning, there had been occasional rebellion.  Clones would attack their owner or run away.  That stopped when the chips and the collars were put into use.  The devices worked autonomously and could shock or kill if the software decided the clone presented a threat, or strayed farther than the owner allowed.

The collar was not going to be a problem.  Since Randleman didn’t bother to secure any of his applications, it was a simple matter to power down the collar and unlock it.  They needed occasional maintenance and the battery had to be replaced after a few years.  I took it off and put it back on several times.  Then wrote a program that turned it off and unlocked it by voice command.

The chip was a different matter.  It had been surgically implanted in the middle of my abdomen.  They are designed to last a lifetime, and extract their power from the 2 millivolt electrical charge that red blood cells carry.  But they do occasionally malfunction and need to be removed and replaced. 

The ship’s medical robot could do that.  But that would require administrative access to the computer.  That is only granted via a palm scanner.  A device that can detect the unique pattern of blood flowing through the veins in a hand.  In this case, Randleman’s.

I was planning on killing Randleman.  But he had to be alive for the palm scan to work.  Without a beating heart pumping blood through the veins in his hand, I’d be stuck with the chip. 

I would have to be careful.  If I pointed a weapon or swung a tool at him, the chip would send an electrical pulse and my muscles would spasm.  I would have a seizure, then unconsciousness.  But the software had limits.  It couldn’t read my mind.  It couldn’t connect step one of my plan to step two.

My days are spent cutting, loading, and transporting chunks of metal.  A robot arm loads them into the coal car.  That is an archaic term, like using the word horsepower to describe an engine’s output.  There is no coal in outer space.  These coal cars have maneuvering jets, not the railroad wheels of their planet bound relatives.  Yet they serve the same purpose.

Everything is weightless in outer space.  But an object still has the same mass as if it were on the surface of a planet.  My mass is 60 kilograms.  When loaded the coal car is 6000 kilograms.  You do not move one without careful use of the maneuvering jets.  You could easily mangle the cargo bay entrance.  Or be crushed between the car and one of the containers already locked in place in the bay. 

The coal car can be operated in manual or automatic mode.  I steer it myself as I take off from the asteroid, and get the car pointed at the ship.  I’ll coast across the short distance, then push the Entry button on the keypad.  That activates the auto-pilot.  The controller sends a signal to the cargo door to open, then uses its sensors and the lights mounted on each corner of the bay to steer the car inside.

Then a push of the Load button, and the crane will attach to the car’s container, carry it to a docking slot, and install an empty container on the car.

The age and condition of the equipment Randleman owned meant it was nothing unusual when I radioed him and told him the fuel line to one of the jets had split.  The radiation and cold of outer space make materials brittle over time.  If he inspected the line, he would notice it had been cut with a knife.  Him living long enough to do that wasn’t part of my plan.

I clamped off the cut line.  We’d still be able to get the car into the cargo bay.  The jet I disabled would only be essential when steering through the door.  But the autopilot could not be used.  This was going to be a tricky, two person job.  Randleman suited up and met me just outside the door.  He took my place at the controls.  I attached a chain to the front of the car and strapped myself to stays on the cargo bay wall.  I wouldn’t need to be strong enough to move the car.  Just strong enough to provide the same amount of force the small maneuvering jet would, to keep the sled on a straight line.

The car inched forward and the door closed after it was inside.  The bay pressurized and we took off our helmets.  The hard part was over.  Randleman pushed the Load button on the remote I had handed him earlier. 

The one where I had deleted the code for the Load command and replaced it with the instructions for Reverse.

I was taking a chance by making the car back up and crush Randleman.  If I killed him, I would not be able to get the chip out.  But I pushed the emergency stop button on the backup remote just as the car pinned his legs to the floor and I heard bones snapping.  He was screaming, but alive, and his hands were uninjured.

I was counting on the pain and shock he was experiencing being enough to keep him from thinking through my sabotage.  I got the car off of him and said, “You must have pushed the wrong button.  I’ll get a cart and get you into surgery.  The bot will be able to fix your legs.  And I will get you some morphine.  Lucky for you A49s have medical training.”

Two hours later, Randleman was resting comfortably.  Various screws and plates secured the fractures.  The drugs kept his pain under control, and made him high as a kite.  It also made it easy to convince him to give me temporary control of the ship.  He was in no condition to be in charge.  He pressed his hand against the palm scanner.

I decided not to kill Randleman until after the robot removed my chip.  I strapped him into his bunk, attached the monitor leads to his chest, and set up a pump to give him a continuous stream of medication.  He would be very happy while I was under the laser.

The pain was intense when I woke up but I had things to do.  Job one was incinerating the chip.  When I saw it in the specimen bottle on the table next to me, a giddy sense of freedom replaced the pain for a moment.

The pain came back as I grappled my way to the utility area.  Being in outer space is an advantage when you have a fresh abdominal incision.  Weightlessness, and not having to take steps, made for less painful movement.  I closed the incinerator door and watched the temperature gauge go up.  The chip melted, then burned down to carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, along with some metals and trace elements. 

I’d removed the collar after I settled Randleman in.  It went into the incinerator next.  Along with the chip, its chemicals would be used by the printer to make replacement parts, or food, or perhaps some girl clothes for me.  I had never worn anything but a uniform. 

From now on, I was in charge of the printer, and everything else including the ship.

I had dreamed of many painful ways to kill him.  I took the easy way out.  I removed the IV bag from the pump and squeezed it until all the morphine flowed into Randleman’s body.  His breathing got slower and eventually stopped.

I placed his naked body in an empty container and ejected it from the cargo bay.  Randleman would spend eternity orbiting the sun in the asteroid belt.  It would not take long for him to freeze-dry in the cold vacuum of space.  In the unlikely event the container was recovered, the finder would be able to identify his killer.  I had written my clone number on his forehead with a marker.  An artist always signs her work.

All of Randleman’s personal belongings went in the incinerator.  Except for the pock.  It was time for me to rest, heal, and educate myself.  The ship allowed me the freedom to go anywhere I wanted in the solar system.  The pock allowed me to become as knowledgeable as any natural anywhere.

The first thing I did was choose a name.  All humans deserve a name.  Even dogs and cats have one.  I would be F94476487A49 no longer.  I instructed the pock to play some happy music.  It selected a silly but pleasant song from 150 years ago.  I found my name in the first line.

The song is Mellow Yellow, by a Scottish folk musician, Donovan Leitch.

I'm just mad about Saffron

She's just mad about me

I instructed the computer to refer to me as Saffron from now on.  And I began making plans for how to free other clones.

© Copyright 2018 Serge Wlodarski. All rights reserved.


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