Friday, October 1, 2010

The Weight of My Father's Sins

You're not suppose to, but I woke up in the clone tank floating in the mix of warm saline and nutrients. All the doctors and scientists swear that a clone's mind is not fully imprinted with the source consciousness until he or she are decanted and have the final wetware interface probe removed from the brain. Until then the books say the clone is comatose and has no awareness of the world around them. Nice theory but I clearly remember being in the liquid-filled tank and seeing the various doctors and technicians on the outside monitoring my very accelerated development. I could even feel the wires going into my bald skull and, if I closed my eyes and relaxed, see bits and pieces of the life I lead before I was killed.

My curiosity about why I was awake in the tank was minor to the concern that I felt wondering how I was killed. See even while I felt all the blanks in my previous life being filled I already had a basic outline in my head that in my first life I was an assassin for the Unified Corporate Authority. Call it just professional disappointment but even then in the tank I could feel an instinctive urge to get back out in the world and find the person that terminated me and happily return the favor. Despite my eagerness all I could do was wait and relax letting all the memories and feelings fill the blank spaces and get reintroduced to myself.

It took about a week to finish everything with me, I could tell from the huge clock mounted on the wall. Electric fire ripped through my mind as the interface was disconnected causing me to pass out. Sometime later consciousness returned with me lying on a metal table just like one they use in a morgue. From memories of my previous life I knew enough to understand that this was going to be the tough part of being brought back to life. If any of the many tests they were about to perform on my body didn't meet standards I would again be terminated with another clone put on express lane development.

The funny thing was that of the five or six Geeks checking me over, and who would kill me if I failed any test, I knew enough to kill them all in less than a minute but I was still weak as a newborn baby and if you wanted to be technical I guess that is exactly what I was at that moment.

Bless whatever entity that controls the universe because the Geeks gave me the good-to-go and I was transferred from the metal table to a stretcher and moved to a comfortable but Spartan room. A couple of days later a very attractive 40-something blonde who was in charge on the cloning department came in and handed me a computer tablet and began watching me answer questions about general common knowledge making sure I had all my marbles. The final part was when a group of corporate suits walked in my room along with some grand poobah doctor forcing me to recite from memory what was now my life.

I told them about me growing up in North Carolina, dropping out of college because of lack of funds and then joining the United States Army. Next were detailed accounts of my combat tours in Latin America and Africa, then going into special operations where I saw action in the California Insurrection. The final segment I talked about was being recruited into corporate intelligence for the Authority which superseded all national governments across much of the world. The last thing I remembered was a vacation on one of UCA's floating resort cities in the Caribbean which was the summer of 2075.

"Son," the chief corporate suit in the room said, "have they told you what year it is now and how you died?"

I said no and fell into near shock when he told me it was 2090. It didn't really matter when he told me I was ambushed and killed by my intended target in Sidney, Australia but somehow I had gone fifteen years since the last time I made a recording of my memories and consciousness. That didn't make any sense although I was smart enough not to ask any questions.

The blonde, named Karen, hung around after they left and told that the whole purpose for my resurrection was track down a shadowy threat to the Authority who was also the person that killed me. Deep inside I felt the fire for revenge come to life and had already begun planning how I would kill that person slowly. However, as I watched Karen start to undress revealing a very fit body I allowed myself to be diverted from my mission for a few hours.

A fifteen year hole in an assassin's life is far too big to let he or she loose right after rebirth so I spent three months at Langley catching up on my training. It was a curious time for me getting adjusted to the idea that according to United States laws and Authority regulations I was officially forty-nine years old although they had stopped my accelerated growth at around twenty-five. My younger body did come in handy in passing the new assault courses and with several of the female instructors who I remember going through initial training with in my first life back when we were all recruits.

As much as I liked catching up with them it wasn't long before I was on a sub-orbital flight to Nairobi using one of the several names the Authority had issued me. On the plane I looked at the face on my passport card finding it difficult to remember the actual name my mom and dad had given me back in Wilmington, North Carolina. I could only guess at what fifteen more years of the undercover life that was missing from my brain would have done to my personality. As the stewardess announced that we would be landing soon I pushed those thoughts out of my head, my mission was to sneak into one of the member states of the Global Cooperation Alliance, the counter weight to Authority influence, and begin tracking down my killer.

My cover had me as an entry-level software salesman from Portland, Oregon trying to sell educational programs to the Kenyan national school system. It was almost too tame a cover, the spooks at Authority Intelligence did see fit to add a military service record hopefully to throw off any suspicions by Kenyan customs which would be sent immediately to Alliance Intelligence headquarters in New Delhi and Beijing. Relations between the two global power blocs were tense back in 2075 when my earlier self had made his last consciousness recording and from what I had read its only gotten worse since then. It was so bad that direct contacts between the principle nations of each bloc were very rare but travel to those member states on the periphery were frequent keeping at least some lines of communications open. I just hoped that the computer nerds had given me a solid cover because Kenyans were well known to take a dim view of Americans since the 2011 coup, if I got through them I should be good at least till I got to my hotel room.

And I did, I was out of customs and in my hotel room far faster than I ever thought possible. So fast that I did four sweeps of my room for listening devices and made two runs around Obama Park checking for any tails of other signs of being watched. It was later that night as I slipped out of the hotel room looking to make contact with another Authority agent that things went to shit. Some dude, curiously enough about the size as me, stepped out of the shadows with a stunner hitting me with the highest setting and I fell to the ground as limp as a gutted fish.

When consciousness returned I found myself tied up on a metal table tilted up at an angle. I got to admit I was pretty disgusted with myself, here I am carrying my older self's reputation as being the best spy in the business, along with a good bit of his experience and memories and after only four months it looked like another clone would soon be in the tank. It was then that things went totally surreal when I heard a door open behind me and someone enter the room.

"Hey, I called out, "you've got the wrong person. I'm just a salesman from Portland with a family waiting back home. Please I'll give you all the money I have, just don't hurt me." It was the usual response to being captured while undercover, the idea being that if it was common criminals they might go for it giving the agent a chance to get loose and kill them for ruining his or her day.

The only sound I heard was laughter that was uncomfortably familiar for some reason. Something told me that this was no common criminal or street thug. I really got worried when I felt the unknown person place a device on my right temple, I instantly knew it was an interface device. The shit head was about to reprogram me, something that was very unpleasant to say the least. With a skilled technician and enough time I could be turned to betray the Authority. I tried to feel for the fake tooth in my mouth that if bitten on the right way would release a chemical killing me. But the person about to reprogram me must have saw my small movements and laughed.

"Damn, can't believe they are still installing those fake teeth in agents, I removed yours right after I stunned you. My God those things were outdated during the Cold War back in the 1970's. Listen son, calm down you will begin to understand a few things once I let you see me, more after I give you the full memory update."

"Oh shit," I said as I realized who was talking to me and as my older self stepped around the table to allow me to see him.

"Hello Steven," my older self said calling me by our real name, "I guess you never thought for a second that the big bogeyman the Authority fears was you, or at least the older version of you?

"Kiss my ass, what turned you Steven?" I honestly asked truly puzzled as to why I would ever think about betraying my country and the Authority which had done so much for its members.

"Just relax you will understand everything once you have the update,” my older self sad sadly.

Let’s just say that the pain that started as the memory update began was very intense, far worse than anything I had ever felt. So bad that I cursed myself and knew I would have killed both of us if I had any possible way to get loose knowing that once a memory update is begun it cannot be stopped. Once the data started to flow into my brain the pain knocked me clean out.

When I woke up yet again it was in a small cabin of what I guessed to be some sort of boat and since I was not bound or locked up I casually went up on deck to check things out. The memory update worked and where I was a loyal agent to the Authority before it, I now understood the crimes it had committed as far back as the 2020's with me guilty of some of the more recent ones. The one that really hit me hard was the nanotech plague my older self had released in Lagos, Nigeria that killed over one-hundred thousand people before it burned out.

Looking out from the companionway of a large sailboat I saw older Steven up next the bow working on a small satellite antenna, it was then that I noticed his right leg was cybernetic. I knew now that he lost it in an ambush a few years back, I remembered the pain like it was my own, which it was in a way. But it felt even more bizarre to know from his point of view that it had been an earlier Steven clone Authority Intelligence had sent out that had fired the shot. Only blind luck had saved Old Steven and prevented the earlier clone from successfully finishing the mission.

Other things that hadn’t made any sense before also fell into place. The first being that I woke up early in the clone tank to prevent an obedience program just like the one downloaded in the earlier Steven clone. That the beautiful Karen was not only the person responsible for deleting the program but was also my ex-wife, or at least Old Steven’s ex-wife. The biggest thing was that my sole reason for existing as far as Old Steven was concerned was to complete the plan to bring down the Unified Corporate Authority that he could no longer carry out.

Standing there I was struck at how messed up it was that my whole reason to exist was to alleviate the guilt my older self felt for the things he had done to satisfy his former masters. I clearly understood the reasons why he betrayed them, but it was asking a lot for me to carry the combined weight of our guilt and our chances at redemption. The question going through my mind though was where did his guilt end and mine begin? I wasn’t the one that had turned a huge part of the population of major city into gray jelly.

He turned to me with a stern look on his face and walked back down the side of the boat to take a seat in the cockpit next the companion way. He pulled two beers out of a small refrigerator mounted into the outside cabin wall. He handed me one and then turned away looking out at the expanse of empty blue ocean. "You ready to begin?" He asked me with such deep sorrow that I felt it in my own bones.

"Yeah," I said, taking a seat on the other side of the boat.

“Promise me one thing,” he began after taking a long drink of his beer, “once the Authority is destroyed you have to terminate me. I don’t want to live with the memories of the things I have done any longer.”

I realized from the get-go that legally clones aren’t responsible for what earlier versions of themselves have done, even if they carry the recollections of past crimes. But that was small comfort to me seeing in my head the faces of half-melted children crawling along the ground.

“You can count on it.” Was all I said to the monster sitting across from me.


David Barber said...

Beach, that was a great read and a great idea. I hope you're thinking of expanding on this. You've got the makings of something excellent here. Keep at it mate.

Have a great weekend.

Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

If I could ever be cloned, double b, I wouldn't mind it coming back at 25, either - all the experiences built in, and the youth to appreciate it, too.

Ryland Grace said...

David: It was great! Had a fantastic beach trip, usual problem though, I had to come back home.

Will: Yeah, I'd be damn near dangerous, and in the good way.

Marja said...

Oh what a great science fiction. Here they had a NZ made series on TV about a village in which peoples memories were uploaded and changed all the time. Fascinating but scary idea as well. Well written

Ryland Grace said...

Marja: Thanks, I've read a few things about actual research in loading memories on microchips. Its in the very early stages and I can see how it might benefit many, although there is a dark side that could let it be abused.

I guess its like that with all science and technology.

Life As I Know It Now said...

That is a seriously messed up story Beach. Have you read any Phillip K. Dick? This reminds me of that kind of writing.

Ryland Grace said...

Liberality: I've read a few things of Dick's, great stuff to say the very least. My cousin gave me the idea for this story although it drifted away from the main point he tossed at me.

Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

Double b, does this blond named Karen have a wave in her hair? I'm telling you, I wouldn't protest one iota if she did.

Tim said...

I think I like Will Harts idea...
That put a smile on my face...

Ryland Grace said...

Will and Tim: I pictured a MILF with straight hair, see I have this hot chick doctor roaming the halls of the hospital and I make sure I ride the elevator with her whenever i can.

Oso said...

Great job,Beach. You know how to casually mention things, implying the reader already knows about them (california insurrection) which really gets our imaginations going.
Better and better man, it just keeps getting better and better.

Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

Strategic elevator riding, huh? I thought that I was the only one who did that. LOL

Ryland Grace said...

Oso: Hey, I follow the old saying if you can't dazzle them with brilliance baffle them with bullshit.

Will: Just the fantasies of a poor deluded soul. My one advantage is that I recognize but I am constantly surprised by those who can't tell the difference between it and reality.

Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

My latest fantasy is getting stuck in an elevator (again, the elevator theme) with Ann Miller and Cyd Charisse (circa, 1953). Private dancers, so to speak.

Ryland Grace said...

Will: Going with Ann Miller on this one, Cyd is gorgeous but Ann Has that some extra I like.

My blond doctor is something of a curiosity to me, I'm pretty sure she works NICU and I have spoken with her several times but never in an overly friendly way. Tight body and dresses upscale even on night shift. She does not wear a ring and it maybe my imagination but seems sad and genuinely glad when someone speaks to her.