SOMETIME IN 2350...
Ryan Seager coughed, and a monitor bleeped. The numerous probes connected at different spots about his body downloaded information on his vitals and transferred them to the master computer at The Keeper’s desk, updating the displays by the second. The Keeper glanced up at the readouts with its yellow eyes; it wasn’t important—no significant changes. The man was sick…too bad. The Keeper returned to its dog-eared 1984 paperback with a soft snarl, propping its booted feet atop the deep green marble desktop. Rarely did The Keeper notice changes in the health of its charges, and what for? What could it do? Nanny them back to heath? Give them a sense of hope instead of a reminder of reality? The Keeper licked its fangs and continued to read; sickness would be the least of the worries KmY-7Zx would suffer if he voiced a complaint. The Keeper is a deadly warden.
Seager rubbed his hands together, desperate to return warmth to his numbed fingers, wary of the chilly air seeping into his confined cell. For a brief, fleeting moment he considered how he might escape from his current situation, to return to where he had come from—
Impossible, he determined, and cowardly. He would suffer through the worst they could give him.
He pulled himself up from his crouched position on the cold pewter floor, daring a fleeting glance at the nine hundred watt ceiling orb flooding his room with a painful whiteness. He grimaced and squinted his eyes shut, stumbling over to the wall, reaching for his dirty mirror. The Keeper had promised to clean his mirror…but then, The Keeper had promised many things—and only the painful ones came true. Seager now knew—painfully—truth no longer existed in the world, or the world as he now knew it. At one time truth flourished, but that was a time before the government killed morality. He blindly felt around the rough cement walls for a familiar touch. He suddenly found it—the smooth surface of the cold glass mirror. His eyelids crawled open; he glanced at his reflection, and inhaled through his teeth at what he saw.
He hadn’t shaved in days; the pale stubble stood out on his sunken cheeks and firm chin, giving them an aura like a hayfield at sunrise. His eyes, once bright and alert, hid behind the blotted maroon ovals surrounding them like dull gems set in deep pits. The brown leather jacket, given to him by his grandfather before the war, accented the off-white prison uniform he wore. His hair flared, ruffled and unkempt; he remembered worrying when his hair began to fall freely from his scalp as he showered. Its once flawless depth gave way to a thinning shadow, retreating up his forehead. He looked ten years older than he was. He couldn’t even remember his true age…he figured the host was at least thirty by now. He hung his head in sorrow, tears of rage and fear springing at the edges of his eyes until they flooded his cheeks. Host…He tore the mirror from the wall and flung it to the floor with a scream. It broke into dozens of shards that spilled in every direction. He didn’t care anymore, and neither did anyone else.
His true name wasn’t Ryan Seager. It was KmY-7Zx. To him, it sounded more like a code. The Keeper told him that, with a vicious grin on its maw, but somehow he already knew. The Keeper told him many things: he, Ryan Seager— KmY-7Zx—was a clone—a living duplicate of a decorated Marine officer named Ryan Seager, who survived a helicopter accident with horrid burns and complete paralysis several years prior. Seager’s parents, being influential agents, contacted several ‘favors,’ and late in 2347 KmY-7Zx awoke with the sole purpose of continuing Seager’s distinguished career, which included fighting for his valiant country during the Great Opposition. Many of the world’s countries resisted the Northern Coalition of Nations’ (NCN) Unified Earth project, and according to President Kane, ‘violence is a swift means to achieving true pacifism’. Seager didn’t believe that, but he was a lowly lieutenant in an army of clones bred to fight a war no-one wanted to fight. After the climactic end of World War III in 2317, the United States’ military force unanimously decided to fill all branches of service completely with clones, save commanding officers. They felt the sacrifice of a clone paled in comparison to the sacrifice of a true human being. Kane preached a common belief around the world at the time: clones are the next risk. A great persecution rose against the clones in the fall of 2321—the year after cloning became rampant across the planet.
The deep-pressure hisss echoing in Seager’s ears alerted him that someone was opening the cell across from his own. The frightening, raspy voice of The Keeper raked through the hallways.
“Get in there, scum!”
He heard the sound of a body hitting the ground and a woman’s voice cry out, then the deep-pressure hisss again as the cell door closed, followed by the stomping of the boots down the hallway…and finally silence. Seager could barely stand the intrigue; he hadn’t seen a woman since his detainment—well over two years. The final memory of his wife suddenly fell over him like a wave of nausea. He remembered the final tortured phone call: the choked sobs, the breaking glass, the screaming, and the awkward silence…interrupted by the roar of automatic gunfire in the background. The murder of his wife was dismissed as ‘clone-hate terrorism,’ an idea all of his former white-collared ‘human’ neighbors believed and practiced. He dare not look up in public or make eye contact with anyone for fear of beatings and hurled abuse. All the painful slurs—Fake, Clown, Copycat, Dupe—echoed in his ears repeatedly. He crawled over to the tiny window next to his cell door, slid it open and sat down against the wall.
The polished black floor reflected his face as he stared directly across the hall at the second cell, its window closed. Seager looked for The Keeper or one of its sentinels, but the area looked empty. Even the drone cameras buzzed lazily. He turned back to the second cell, sounding a hushed yell towards the closed cell.
He heard scuffling, and then the tiny window slid open. He saw a woman in her early twenties. She had a fair complexion and was very attractive. As she brushed her brown hair from her face, Seager noticed how puffy and red her eyes appeared, her cheeks stained by trails of dead tears. Seager nodded to her and smiled.
“What’s your name?”
“No…your real name.”
“Kate,” she replied quietly, her eyes looking down either side of the hallway. “Kate Childress.”
“Kate,” Seager repeated. “I’m Ryan Seager.”
She nodded silently, turned away from the window and closed it. Seager panicked.
“No, nonononono! Please! Please don’t go…”
The window slide opened again. “What is it?” she asked, annoyed.
“Please—I need someone to talk to…it’s been so long.” Seager knew he was pleading, and from his ears it sounded horrible, but he knew it was necessary if he wanted to keep his sanity. Cooped up in an eleven-by-ten foot plain grey cell could break anyone down eventually, he knew.
She scoffed. “Talk? About what? You know why we’re here.” Her voice took on a tone of fury. “Where are we, anyway?”
“I’m not sure what the name of the place is, but I think we’re somewhere west of the Mississippi…Montana, maybe.”
“Humph,” she dismissed angrily.
“I know why I’m here—but I don’t know about you,” he said.
She lowered her head, staring at her reflection in the black floor. “I’m an organ donor—a live organ donor. That was the reason I was grown: to provide the area hospitals with my vital organs when I grew old enough and any needs arose. Spleen, heart, liver, kidneys, stomach, lungs, intestines, gall bladder…well, I guess I’m old enough.” She looked up at Seager. “What about you?”
“I was grown too fast—my cells are breaking down.” Seager pointed to the small patches of white hair across his head and face, and bald spots on the sides of his head. “They’re gonna kill me before then though, I think. I’m a deserter from the Marines—98th Corps. They were sharp and determined, a full compliment of two hundred men—and now there are only four left. Well, three now, I suppose.” He chuckled sadly.
“What happened?” Kate asked, staring into his eyes.
Seager stared straight ahead, not looking at anything in particular, vivid memories burning through his mind’s eye. “We were sent to the Komadugu Yobe River in Nigeria. Our mission was to destroy a heavily-armed munitions depot that belonged to the Black Hand, a group of well-known terrorists. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of other battalions—enough, we thought—joined us to secure a two-hundred mile radius. But things didn’t go as planned…a hillside of snipers killed most of the front lines, and after the shelling began everything went to hell. I took a hit in my bicep and fell into the muddy bank, and before I got up someone stomped on my head. I was lucky. In one hour, twelve thousand clones were dead. It wasn’t a battle…it was a massacre. Somebody pulled me out of the bank after the sun set, when they started burning the corpses. There were so many fires, it was as bright as day. A few of us stumbled through the darkness and were located by a recon group. They weren’t happy to see us.” He cleared his throat and rubbed the back of his neck nervously.
Kate shook her head. “Don’t they know what kind of torment they’ve brought us into?”
“Sure they do,” Seager said, looking down the hallway, dimly lit and full of secrets. “But what you have to realize is: they don’t care.”
“Caring requires emotions,” Kate said, whimpering. “My mother drove me here—no, her mother.” Her uncontrollable sobs moved Seager.
“Shh,” he said. “Not too loud or they’ll hear.”
“I don’t care, either!” she cried. “I’m so tired…I don’t care!!!”
As if on cue, guards poured in from the darkness and converged on her cell. Seager stared in horror as they drug Kate out by her hair, screaming in pain and horror, and threw her into the hallway. She landed a few feet from Seager’s cell. The sergeant—Pike was his name—bent down and slit her throat from ear to ear with a dabo blade, spraying blood across the black floor and into Seager’s horrified face. He gasped, unable to breathe, unable to move—focused on Kate’s dying face as she drowned in her own blood, straining for her last few shallow breaths, the tears softly coating her paling cheeks. Before she could utter another sound, she fell onto her side, exhaling; whatever consciousness she had left the shell of the body. The sergeant smiled and licked the blade of his knife as the guards accompanying him drug her bleeding corpse down the hallway.
“It doesn’t taste the same, you know,” Pike barked at Seager, bending down to stare him in the eye. “Dupe blood tastes like tomato soup!” At this, he cackled. Seager leapt at the steel-enforced glass that separated them, enraged. The sergeant laughed at Seager’s vain attempts, readjusted his black cap, and stomped down the hallway following the crimson blood trail that disappeared into the darkness. “Get this dupe a mop down here, too…he’s got some cleaning to do!” Pike said, laughing.
Seager fell to his knees, gasping for air as rage choked the breath from his body. The sounds of screaming periodically erupted from other cells across the compound. He pounded the floor of his cell until the bottom of his fist broke open and bled. The speakers in his cell jumped to life as the ceiling orb varied from white to vermilion hue, announcing the hideous crackling voice of The Keeper.
“Beautiful, isn’t it? The death of a Dupe…”
“Shut up,” Seager said. “I’d rip your heart out, if you had one.”
“My, but aren’t we aggressive today? And what exactly are you trying to prove, young one? You know as well as I that you’re worthless. You’re used up, a dried ember in a fire that never should have been kindled. You were worthless the day some fool watched you writhe in that embryonic liquid you fell out of, and that is sad. You’re a member of the Insignificants. Quit trying to resist; give in and die…save us all some trouble.”
Seager clenched his fists, turning to the speakers in his cell as the horrible screeching sounds began blaring. The light grew in intensity; Seager found it hard to concentrate. He knew The Keeper was enjoying his spectacle, watching this poor clone struggle against the odds. It didn’t matter anymore, though, just as he’d told Kate. He had to make a point; no-one would speak on his behalf.
“You’re going to die, Kmy-7Zx.”
Seager raised his middle finger to the speakers. He felt his spirit rise as the words erupted from his throat, flying about the confines of the cell he had lived in for over two years. The screeching could not overpower his final words; determination would win the day.
“My name is Ryan Seager! RYAN SEAGER!!”
Clone unit KmY-7Zx suffered from ‘Rapid-Growth Syndrome’ (RGS). Government officials terminated him on February 12, 2350. Due to President Kane’s hatred of clones, the Civil Clone Amendments passed during his sixteen-year term ushered in a new era of persecution, breaking families apart, sending thousands to detention centers and prisons and murdering countless millions more. Jobs disappeared, bank accounts seized, individuals removed from their homes without a trace. Friends and neighbors became hostile enemies. Ryan Seager and Kate Childress, like the other fifty clones under The Keeper, did not deserve to die. They were killed, anyway.
“What is it that makes us human? Is it our minds? Is it our emotions? Is it our beliefs? The ability to dream? Whatever we are, THEY are not. We have made them, and we can un-make them. Whatever dark, twisted thoughts they have, they are not human. Whatever sick emotions they feel, they are not human. They have lungs that breathe and hearts that beat, but the blood those hearts pump is not human, and never will be! Damn them. Damn them all!” – Alvus T. Kane, Presidential Inauguration Speech, January 2347.
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