November 28, 2006: 12:33 am: UMC

Lawrence was out in the hallway weeping. He had no idea how he felt about Malinao untilNaNoWriMo winner he saw her reach down to kiss Chong. He felt horrible about how he felt. He had no right to want her. Chong was one of his best friends. One fo the few people he had known all his life. But the pang of jealousy he felt was unavoidable.
He walked down the hallway and out the doors. He eventually found himself sitting on a park bench across the street from the hospital. His heart felt empty. He was killer and a traitor to his friend. It was all too much for him. He thrived asa lieutenant but the recent events had forced him to take a role of leadership and he found he had a taste for it. Now he had killed a man, and unfortunately he found he had a taste for that too. The thought made him shudder. Who was he becoming?
It was dark now. The dome lights had been dimmed and silvery sunlight was drifting in from above in the perpetual twilight Lawrence had grown used to. He thought about Sira. why had he not fallen for her? He lived closely with her in that small apartment for several days. She had saved her life. She was very attractive. But somehow her attachment to Ford Junior had sealed her off from him. Made her into a motherly figure he could not fall for. He wondered if things would be different if he found her now. Or would his position in the government prevent her from wanting or even being able to see him.
A man approached out of the twilight and sat down next to Lawrence. It annoyed him. Lawrence wanted to be alone now. The man wore an overcoat and a hat. Lawrence had gotten used to that kind of outfit when he was disguised as Chong. He suddenly grew suspicious.
“Can I help you?” he asked the shrouded man.
“You are Lawrence?”
This jolted him even more.
“Who’s asking?” He thought he sounded like a cheap mystery character but he meant it anyway.
“You’ve met me. If I tell you, will you promise to keep our meeting a secret.”
Lawrence’s first impulse was to say no and call hospital security. He could hold the man long enough for them to get there. Security was high with the President in there. But instead his despair took control of his voice and answered for him.
“All right.”
“My name is Patel. I ama cloning scientist.”
Lawrence leaped up.
Patel grabbed him and looked up at him pleading, “You promised!”
“That was before I knew who you were.”
“I am not a monster. I was paid to do work. Your government could pay me to do work too.”
“I don’t know if you realise this but one of your clones was killed trying to get that plan in place. I don’t think it will work any better now.”
“But I don’t need to do anything malicious. I will do whatever you order me to do. You can keep me out of the hands of more evil people.”
LAwrence looked at him with pity, but a feeling grew within him. Now he knew why he was so conflicted. His feelings for Malinao, were genuine, but meaningless. They were merely the human urge instigated by his proximity to her. His loyalty to Chong was something higher. It was what separated them from the Fundys. What drove humanity to a better place. manipulating Patel might serve a need, but it would be letting the ends justify the means. And that always led to degradation in the end. In the end the ends never justified the means. It couldn’t. Because the means ended up affecting those ends.
“You don’t understand Patel. You’re not a device. You’re not a tool. You’re a person. You have a choice. A moral choice over what you do. You too can stop yourself from working for evil men. You’re asking me to be less than what I can be. Let me do the opposite. let me ask you to be more. You want to work asa scientist? Choose a discipline. Work in public. Deal with the pressures of public life and help change the methods of science for everyone, not just yourself. Go aboveground and share your great talents with the world. If that’s truly what you ant to do, come see me and I will make an introduction at the UMC Science Institute for you. That’s the best I can do.”
Patel stood to go. He took a few steps away and then turned.
“Genius is never understood or appreciated.” He spat and walked off into the twilight.

The door opened in Jamaica Bay to great applause.
President Richard Chong exited the elevator car alone.
“President Chong, where is the rest of your party?” President Torres greeted him personally upon exiting. Speaker of the House Samantha Malinao stood at his side beaming at Chong.
“Coming along in the next car. They had business to attend and I did not wish to keep you waiting,” said Chong.
“Show off,” said Malinao. In front of the reporters and the attending digintaries she rushed up and kissed him. The reports of their romance were now not only known but a sensation in the news. They were called the couple of the universe and a bridge between two worlds and all matter of ridiculous metaphors. The fact was both worlds needed this. After the long war and after the scare of a Fundy resurgence, the people of both worlds needed a good story to latch onto and believe in and Chong and Malinao had provided the romance they needed.
A car whisked them up to Manhattan where Chong was scheduled to deliver a speech to the United Nations. His first in quite awhile. It had taken months for him to recover. Mentally he had to battle wiht the idea that some of the familiar parts of his body were not his. He was a patchwork man with one DNA, but two body sources. He sometimes thought he could tell which parts were the clones and which were his, though the doctors said there was no way of knowing. It was pure dumb luck that his head had survived and been saved. The doctors could only tell him that his neck and most of his upper torso went with that head. Everything else had been a jumble.
Malinao had stayed with him as along as she could, but eventually she had to return to the US. She had flown to the Moon as often as possible. When Chong had been approved for space flight, she had negotiated a dedicated landing bay at ISS V for the UMC so she could visit him. Finally he was approved for Earth gravity. She wanted him to come to a vacation on Earth but he couldn’t. He had promised victims of the war something and he intended to deliver perosnally. He would speak to the UN about his promises to rebuild and withdraw as soon as possible. But he would also tell them what he learned about the clones. He wanted to tell them why the Fundys survived. What a repressive attitude towards anything engendered.
Malinao watched produly as he made his way through the speech. He saw the leaders of the world finally accepting the Moon as a true leader in both worlds. The tales of President Chong’s adventures were epic. A few video serials had already been produced overdramatizing the events to make them even more dramtic than they already were. Chong had been disappointed by the actor playing Malinao.
“She’s not as good looking,” he had said.
But now he was being the staesman. Now he had the ear of the world, and they were finally learning the wisdom of this man. Her man, she dared to think. He was measured, and thoughtful, and even though he would disagree, he was wise.
“So after all of this, I leave you with this. When you wish to put a stop to something, study it instead. When you wish to help, don’t harm. And most of all, don’t fear to do the right thing. Don’t compromise. Make the hard choices when needed and life will be easier for all of us. Like free markets, like slavery, like stem cells, in the past, cloning is an issue that engenders hard choices. We must change the way we thinkg. The old rules do not apply. Let’s all get together and do the right thing. Thank you.”
The applause was uproarious. Every single one of the world’s most influential leaders was standing. The one notable exception was the empty chair for Britain. Minister Narang was reported murdered in his home. Whether the man Lawrence killed was the real Narang, or a clone, we may never know. Ford wore black in mourning and sat behind the empty chair as a temporary represntative to the conference. A new Minister had been chosen, but decided to leave the chair empty in remembrance. Narangs role had not been fully disclosed, and Chong chose to allow his memory to stay positive with the British people. It wasn’t a lie, but a presumption. Chong hoped the Narang he met in Versailles had been the real Narang.
But now was Chong’s moment. He was mobbed by well wishers congratulating him. He could have ruled two worlds now had he chosen. He could do no wrong. He finally pushed his way through the crowd to Malinao.
“Madame Speaker. Would you care to join me?”
Malinao had not been expecting this. There was a night of events for all the diginitaries. It was quite bold of Chong to ask Malinao to be on his arm for all that. Something the US hadn’t panned for in any event.
“”Join you for what? There are so many parties. I’m not sure my staff could allow it,” she teased.
“Oh I’m not attending those after all. Come with me.”
Suddenly he was pulling her away from the crowd and with the aide of a few UMC guards, had whisked her out of the UN building entirely and into a private car. They were whistling through the night air before she knew it.
“Where are you taking me?”
“Well I’d love to take you to the Moon, but that’s a bit long. So I’m just going to the Pacific Ocean.”
They were there in 30 minutes. Chong played coy the whole time, refusing to answer questions form Malinao, as well as refusing to answer his phone which was ringing off the hook.
The landed in Oakland, California, alongside Lake Merritt. It was dusk and a soft glow lit up the lake, while lamps and a string of lights were becoming visible as well. Malinao thought it was gorgeous.
Lawrence met them at the car.
“Everything is ready for you sir.” He gave a sad smile to Malinao and bowed his head.
Malinao was touched. She sort of suspected Lawrence might have had a crush on her. But she knew his loyalty to Chong would never be broken. She wasn’t sure how to respect those feelings except to say thank you and try not to make to big a deal of it.
Chong led her dwon to the shore of the lake where a gondola waited. He helped her in and operated the pole himself, steering her out onto the water. They reached a point int he middle of the lake where the lights from the shore and the light from the setting sun balanced in a dazzling play of sparkles off the water. The Moon was just beginning to rise above the horizon and looed huge off int he distance.
“This is one place where our worlds meet Samantha,” Chong sayed, turning towards her. “The twilight is what I know, the silverly light form above comes from my world. The blue sky melting into it is yours.”
Malinao waited breathless.
“Like the sky melts into the Moon at sunset, will you marry me?”
Chong held out a ring. It was two stones set together. One brilliant diamond and one gorgeous polished Moon gem.
Malinao for once could barely speak.
“I promised and I meant it.” She finally managed.
“Is that a yes?”

In a dark shed outside Queenstown, New Zealand Patel finished feeding the sheep. He was disgusted by the animals, but his care of them paid the bills for now. It also got him an independent generator, undetectable from the normal power grid. As long as he could keep it fueled, he could use as much power as he wanted and noone would know the difference. He trudged back inside the shed, past the cramped closet where he kept his bed.
The main area of the shack was filled with his remaining equipment. He took off his sheep boots and jacket and donned his familiar lab coat, now worn to threads.
He had separated a portion of the main room, and locked it off behind steel. He showed his palm and retina and unlocked it. Walking inside was like entering a metal box. His most recent work was kept in a case at the back of the box, wrapped in coils. He stepped up and pushed several buttons releasing the lid of the case.
Today was the day he had been working for since leaving the Moon. He felt his pulse quicken with excitement. He entered the activation sequence and waited. Inside the case a man began to stir. It wasn’t the first time he would wake, but it was the first time he would wake with any knowledge of himself. Patel had even brought the clone out on the ranch to help with a few things, but that was before personality and memory imprints. It had understood only the barest minimum to get the job done and prove the health of the clone body.
Now it had a full personality and complete set of memories. Ifa ll had gone well it would be able to live a complete active life under Patels’ control, believing it was the original person at all times.
Patel led the clone to a seat and gave it water. It drank thirstily. “I’m dry” it said.
“That’s normal,” Patel reassured. “Perfectly normal given the operation. That was a very close one. We almost lost you. Do you know where you are?”
The clone shook its head no.
“We’re in New Zealand. Just outside Queenstown on a sheep ranch.”
The clone wrinkled its nose. “New Zealand. Great rugby. Awful country.”
This was a good sign.
“Please don’t be offended, but I have to ask. Do you know who you are?”
“Of course I do Patel, I’m Minister narang. Who do you think I am?”
Patel leaned back and smiled.

November 27, 2006: 8:27 pm: UMC

Malinao and Lawrence were at his side in a hearbeat, Lawrence ordering staff to get emergency medical assistance immediately.
“Which one’s him?” Malinao cried, tears stremaing down her face. There was a pile of body, intertwined with a mass of blood, but amazingly one of the heads still had a pulse. Malinao sat bawling over it, when Narang appeared behind her.  Malinao couldn’t see him but Lawrence could. He was dressed so as not to call attention to himself but he had a hypodermic needle in his hand.  He was bending down as if he were a doctor.  Nobody was paying attention to him and Malinao was crying too hard to ntocie either.
Lawrence acted without thinking.  His body took over and finished before he could decide if it was a good idea or not. He reached into the holster of a nearby security guard, grabbed a gun, released the safety and fired without saying a word. Narang fell over dead with blood gushing from a head wound.  The guard was trying to grab the gun, not understanding what had just happened, but Lawrence let it go easily.  Through the crowd that moved in front of him, he thought he saw Malinao kick Narang’s dead body. The emergency vehicles flew in just then and blocked out the rest of the view.  The guards were throwing him to the ground then anwyay.  He would be able to explain.  Malinao would vouch for him. He knew he did the right thing, but he felt sick to his stomach.  He had never killed a man before. Even if Narang wasn’t a man, it was still killing.  Lawrence vomited. It got the security guards to back off a bit.  Then he passed out.

“You can see him now, Speaker.” The Doctor said. “He’s just coming around.”
Lawrence had come with her.  He looked rather tough with the bandaged head from where the security guards hit him.  It had been more difficult than she expected to get them to understand he had shot the leader of the Fundys, not the Minister of Britain. Even though in truth, he had shot both.
Chong lay on a gurney in the military hospital’s VIP ward. The Doctor stopped them just short of the threshold.
“Speaker, before you go in there’s one thing I have to say.”
“Say it Doctor.”
“I don’t know who he is.  I mean to say there was enough left of the two men that we were able to piece one back together.  The body is technically two peopls made into one. But int he confusion, we don’t know which brain lived and which died.  Security has been advised. If you make any determination, either of you,” he looked at Lawrence, “that thi sis the clone, you’re to alert us at once. Of course if it’s the real Chong we’d like to know that too.”
“That may not be easy Doctor,” Lawrence said. “The clone was able to fool me after hours and hours of conversation.”
“I’ll be able to tell,” Malinao said. “Thank you Doctor.”
They walked in the room.  Chong lay with his eyes open staring straight up. His face was empty and pale. They were both next to him before he finally turned towards them.
“Speaker Malinao, Lawrence, how very nice of you come.” He coughed a bit.  They could tell he was still extremely weak. He barely showed an expression.  Lawrence wasn’t even sure he was happy to see them. “Mr. President,” Lawrence finally whispered.
“President Chong, is it?” Malinao smirked.
“You can still call me Chong,” the barest hint of a smile crossed his face.
“Well isn’t that pleasant.  Do you remember anything of what happened?”
“I blew up.”
“You could say two of you blew up.”
Chong rolled his head back and raised his eyebrows. “So that’s it? You looked like you were attending my funeral not my get well party.  Mixed up the heads did they?  Typical Moon Medicine.”
At this Lawrence laughed.  He had written that line for Chong during the campaign to help impugn his opponents record on health care.
“You were supposed to improve that, Mr. President.”
“No you,” and he coughed again as he tried to lift himself up a bit off the Gurney,”you were supposed to get it fixed.  I was supposed to take credit,”  alittle blood was coming back into his face, and he propped hinmself up higher on his pillow. “You were also supposed to be able to tell the difference between your boss and some cock-eyed clone,” he coughed again deeply making Malinao wince. “I’m writing you up for that.”
Lawrence chuckled.
Malinao leaned closer again. ” they were able to mend you but parts of you are from the clone and parts are from the real you.  You’ll always be a mix. But we need to check your memories. Do you remember being kidnapped in Cana?” Chong nodded. “The memories you had up until that point were imprinted on the clone. What do you remember after Cana?”
Chong winced. “Honestly even Cana’s a little blurry. I half-remember making a jump for the clone.  I sort of remember talking to Lawrence at a cafe,” he shook his head. “It’s all there, I just can’t reach it.”
“Do you remember the nosedriver?”
“The drill? ” he asked.  “Yeah I remember that.”
Malinao was worried.  So far everything he’d mentioned could be deduced form what she said.  She had to maneuver him into revealing something only the real Chong could remember.  Something after the tunnel collapsed, but before the speech in New Canaveral. Something nobody else knew of.”
“Do you remember the collapse?”
His eyes brightened and then he shuddered. “Hashimoto.”
“Yes Hashimoto died in the collapse. Do you remember anything else.”
“We fixed the minidrill. I remember that.”
That was pretty good, but still not enough to sway Malinao.
“Do you remember what we ate?”
“Chicken.  They always stock those things with chicken.”
Good but still not quite good enough.  By his own admission, it could have been a guess.
“Do you remember what we talked about?”
“Sure, you promised.  But now I’m a frankenstein.  Are you going to keep your promise?  Do you still feel the same way?”
Lawrence looked away embarrased. Malinao began to cry.
“Yes, Chong.  Yes I do. You remember that?”
“Of course, I do. You said if I wanted to do something about it after we got out of the tunnel, you highly encouraged it. Well get over here, I want to do something about it.”
Chong pulled her down towards her.  He wasn’t very strong yet, but she let herself be pulled into a sweet kiss. Depsite the medical air, it was the sweetest kiss she had ever known.  Tears of joy mingled with her lips.  She cried some more and kissed him again.
When she stood back up straight, Chong was holding her hand.  She turned to look for Lawrence but he was gone.

November 26, 2006: 10:42 pm: UMC

The train pulled into New Canaveral on time and without a hitch. Chong and Malinao had been ready for a search of the train in Chang-Ngo but it hadn’t happened.
“So what are we going to do now?” Malinao asked.
“The announcement is happening in one hour at the official plaza.  We’ll get there and look for an opening to talk to Lawrence.  If I show Lawrence I’m really with you, I think I can convince him.”
“You’re not going to walk around looking like that are you?”
“Like what?”
“Like the President of the freakin’ Moon.  You won’t get ten feet like that.”
“Good point.”
They went to an Army surplus store and got a coat and hat to keep Chong under cover. The clerk started speculating that Chong looked familiar though, proving Malinao’s point. They left in a hurry and walked over to the public plaza.
“Not much of a crowd,” Malinao noticed.
“The President talking on cloning isn’t likely to draw folks in person,” Chong replied. “But they’ll all see it on the news.”
They found it easy to position themselves close to the stage and kept a lookout for the staff and especially for Lawrence. It was about a half hour before the staff arrived.  Lawrence was accompanied by Ford and Ford Junior.
“Who’s that?” Malinao pointed out Junior
“I have no idea.  He looks like Ford, though.  Did they find Ford’s son maybe?” Chong wondered.
Malinao decided to take the initiative.
“We’re going about this all wrong, Chong.  I’ll approach Lawrence alone.  He’ll be thrilled.  I’ll get him to meet us over at that cafe across the street.  Go wait for us there.”
“Brilliant.” Malinao walked towards the staff members and started introducing herself. They looked at her a little strangely.  She hadn’t had a chance to clean up, but they still took her over to Lawrence.
“Madame Speaker!” Lawrence looked more than thrilled to see her.
“Lawrence,” she said tenderly. “It’s so good to see you.”
“I’m so happy to see you alive.  We thought you were dead. Have you heard from the Vice President?”
“Look Lawrence, can you break away for a few minutes.  There’s something I want to talk to you about.”
“Of course,” Lawrence said. “There’s something I need to talk to you about too. I just need to take care of one quick thing.”
“Great, meet me over in the cafe across the street.”
Malinao went back and sat down at a table with CHong.  Lawrence appeared a few minutes later and tenatively approached the table.
“Who’s this?”
“A friend.  Sit down Lawrence.”
Lawrence looked suspicious but sat down anyway.
“Hi Lawrence,” Chong blurted out. Malinao shook her head.
“The clone!” Lawrence almost shrieked standing back up again.
“Sit down Lawrence, this is not a clone.  It’s me Malinao.”
“What if you’re a clone?”
“What if you are, sit down!”
Lawrence had no real suspicions that Malinao was a clone so he decided to sit after all. He kept his eyes on the stranger with Chong’s voice.
“Now Chong, shut up an dlet me talk,” Malinao chided him.
“Lawrence, when we got separated on the train we went on to Tranquility met up with the Vice President and attempted a rescue mission by drilling under Cana.  We arrived too late.  On the way back there was a cave-in that killed the Vice President and several other men. We survived and got back to Tranquility only to find an imposter has taken Chong’s place as President. I’ve been with Chong the entire time.  You haven’t.  This is the real President.  You have to trust me.”
Lawrence looked at Chong and Chong removed his sunglasses so Lawrence could get a better look.
“It is you isn’t it Mr. President?”
“Damn right.”
“I’m so sorry I didn’t believe you.”
“So how many people are on the lookout for a duplicate Chong now?” Malinao asked.
“None,” lawrence said. “I couldn’t bring myself to put out the alert.  Something in me has known that this other Chong was the clone.  I could even tell you were the real President over the comm line from Tranquility.”
“Funny way of showing it,” Chong said.
“That’s just the thng though.  It goes against all logic.  I was suspicious of the clone Chong from the moment he arrived in Armstrong.  But I sat talking to him for hours.  And he remembers everything we, you and I, ever did together.  How is that possible.”
“I don’t know.  I imagine they must have somehow been able to scan my brain in Cana and transfer memories ot him.  I don’t know how that’s possible, but it’s the only explanation.”
Malinao leaned in. “What’s his version of the story?
Lawrence told them about Chong showing up in Armstrong and how he explained his arrival and separation from Malinao.
“And the young Ford you’re with?” Malinao asked.
“It’s a clone that Sira’s group liberated.  He’s a young version of John.”
“I doubt that.” Chong shook his head. “My bet is he’s another plant.  The Fundy faction is very good at all this.  I’m starting to wonder if the Narang leading them is even the real one.”
“So how do we do this?” Malinao asked.
“I’ll lead you two into special VIP seats behind the stage. After the speech, we’ll–”
“Before the speech,” Chong said. “I can’t let an imposter delvier an important policy presentation.”
“Don’t worry, it’s nothing binding, sir” Lawrence said. “I already have a spin draft prepped in case we need to backtrack and change our minds.”
“You’re the best Lawrence.” Chong smiled.
“So you sit in the VIP seats.  After the speech, Chong is scheduled to have a reception with some one on one meetings with Cabinet members and Assemblers. I’ll put Speaker Malinao top of the schedule and get you in alone with just him and us.”
“Good work Lawrence,” Malinao patted him on the back.
“Don’t thank me yet.  I’ve got some juggling to do.  Give me fifteen minutes then come on over and I’ll see you to your seats.”
Lawrence left and Chong and Malinao soaked up the bright lights of the New Canaveral Plaza.
“The black sky above,” Chong pointed out. “That’s the sky I grew up with.  You wanted to see it.  There it is.”
Malinao looked up and felt the incongruity visitors from Earth always commented on. Bright sunlight filled the plaza but it came from sunlight concentrators that took the natural light of the sun, collected it, mixed it with extra machine-generated light and delivered a balnced white that was attuned to the perfect mix for human and plant life. But past those lights was the black starlighted dome of space beyond.
“A couple of the domes, like Avalon and Septendecim give a false blue, but it doesn’t look like Earth. I don’t like it.  I grew up here in New Canaveral.  This is where I feel at home.”
Malinao held his hand and looked up into the black.
They eventually got to the plaza where more of a crowd was beginning to gather. Chong got a first glimpse at his clone double and felt a lurch of something close to vertigo.  Malinao noticed him too.
“He’s not as cute as you,” she said. “They got the jaw all wrong.”
Lawrence greeted Malinao and paid almost no notice to her companion.  They were seated in the VIP section at the rear of the stage. Malinao made small talk with some surprised looking Assemblers and Cabinet Members and refused to introduce the real Chong no matter how hard they hinted.  Eventually all the commotion settled down and the clone Chong took the stage and began to speak.
Chong watched him.  Watched his mannerisms and saw what Lawrence saw.  It wasn’t him.  How could this double fool people.  It looked like him and maybe had false versions of his memories, but it wasn’t him.  He had led the UMC through the war.  He had toiled in the mines right below his feet.  He had watched his Father die.  This Chong now pretending to make policy for the UMC had done none of those things, even if he thought he remembered them.  His personality had not been shaped in the same way.  It disgusted Chong.  He knew Lawrence had a backup policy plan that would work.  He knew the safest way to accomplish this was in a closed room after the speech.  But he couldn’t let it go on.  He couldn’t allow someone to speak for him. No mater how irrational it was he couldn’t help himself.  He stood up, threw off his hat, galsses and coat and yelled.’
“That is not the President of the United moon Colonies.  I am!”
The crowd gasped and then cheered.  They thought this was a ploy. A demonstration of cloning at its most dramatic. Chong boggled to think if they’d planned something so outrageous how it might have worked.
The clone Chong swiveled and saw Chong.  Rage filled his eyes.  He forgot his speech and leaped over to the real Chong.
“You will die,” the clone said.
Chong punched him and decked him.  The crowd’s enthusiasm waned.  This was in poor taste.  What was the President trying to demonstrate.  They still didn’t get it.
The clone started to crawl back to his feet and Chong kicked him. Ford Junior started to race towards Chong but Chong saw him and socked him as well.  This was really too much for the crowd.  Hadn’t that young boy been the whole point of the speech?  That’s what all the press releases said.  Why was he hitting a young boy.
John Ford was outraged and started to join himself, but Lawrence held him. “Don’t interfere.” Ford raged at him but held back.
By now Chong had kicked the clone again and was about to go in for a knockout.  The clone Chong scooted away to buy extra seconds. He reached inside his suitcoat and pulled out something metal. Blood spilled out his lips and he could barely speak.  A tooth fell out as he rasped at Chong. “I can be made again.  You’re going to die.” With that he leaped up and his Chong prepared to deflect him he realised what the metal thing in his hand was.
Malinao did too. “Chong, it’s a detonator!  A bomb!”
It was too late, the handheld flesh-tearing personal detonator went off as soon as the clone Chong touched the real one. The difference between the two became hard to distinguish as they were torn apart by the explosion.

: 4:34 pm: UMC

Lawrence sat waiting in the President’s office. He had immediately ordered Tranquility armed forces to search for a Chong imposter, but for some reason he had stopped before changing the access codes or putting out a general alert.  Something was nagging at the back of his mind. When Chong had showed up in Armstrong, he’d had those nagging suspcions caused by the idea that something wasn’t quite right. Now, in the face of all reason, Lawrence had the opposite feeling.  The cadence and tone fo the man calling from Tranquility had sounded real. He considered some sort of temporal disturbance, but that was the stuff of fiction and highly unlikely.
Before his doubts could take him further, Chong entered the office.
“What’s this I hear about an imposter in Tranquility?” he asked.
Again Lawrence got the nagging feeling that what Chong had said just din’t sound liek Chong. “Probably nothing sir. I believe it to be a prank.  I’ve asked the museum security staff to look into it.  IF they report back anything worth knowing, we’ll be sure to follow up.”
“Very good. I’ve asked Ford Junior to meet me down here in a moment.  Do you mind if we have some time alone.  I want to get his advice on a few things from the clone’s point of view.”
“Of course sir.”
Lawrence decided to head down to the cafeteria and happened to run into Junior as he was leaving the office waiting room.
“You can go right on in Junior. He’s waiting for you.”
Ford junior nodded and headed in. As soon as Lawrence was out of ear shot, he opened the door and let in Narang. They locked the door and Ford Junior led the way into the President’s office.
“Hello Junior,” Chong smiled and stood up, then stopped. “What are you doing here?” Chong’s tone was deadly but he found himself immobilized.
Narang smiled. “Good to see you again Mr. President.  Memory Release Code Alpha Wipe Center Gold Devil Fawn Beta Indeterminate Reprogram and Restart.”
Chong’s eyes glazed and he dropped a pen he’d been holding.
“You’re right Ford 18.  We will have to see to that muscle repsonse system won’t we. I’ve told Patel about it, but I shall remind him. Chong?
Chong’s eyes fluttered and then he spoke in a dull, not quite monotone voice. “Basic system accessed. Reprogram stream spooling. Ready for further instruction.”
“Excellent. We’ve heard a little trouble may be coming our way.  I want to know I can count on you.  Sometimes if a clone sees himself clones, or see the original unprepared, it can break programming. We don’t want that to happen. If you saw a duplicate of yourself, what would you do?”
“That’s what I was afraid of.  This clone mind control is tricky business.  But we’re going to give you a patch Chong.”
Narang pulled a small flat metal box from his pocket and held it front of Chong’s glazed eyes.
“Please look deep into the light Chong.”
The glazed eyes focused on the box. Narang pressed a button on the side and Chong’s eyes began to dart back and forth.  In a moment there was a low chime from the box and Narang removed it and put it away.
“Thank you Chong, you can return to normal input state.” Chong’s eyes glazed over again. “now, Chong, let’s see what happens here. If you saw a duplicate of yourself, what would you do?”
“Assess danger and eliminate duplicate target unless counter-instructed by handlers,” Chong droned.
“Excellent.  Did you see that Ford 18?  The pacth took in a jiffy.  Ocular reprogramming works.  It bloody well works. Patel will be overjoyed.”
“was I ever like that?” Ford Junior asked.
Narang raised an eyebrow and turned. “Like what?”
“All slack and programmed like that.”
Narang looked sympathetically at the boy.  It had really been only a few days since his programming had been broken.  He was starting to doubt.  Narang needed to stop this kind of thinking at once.
“Never. You were programmed yes, but only a false program that could easily be broken so that they could be taken in. I’m sorry we haad to fool you in that way at all, my boy.” He patted Ford Junior in a fatherly way.
Junior smiled. “It’s OK.  I understand its for the greater good.”
“That’s the spirit.  Now. One last thing before I go.  Chong. Self-diagnose and identify fundamental mission layer.”
Chong closed his eyes for a few seconds then opened them. “Diagnosis complete. Normal. FML – Startegic INtegration of Fundamentalist Union officials into UMC governemtn starting with research institute for cloning.”
“Excellent,” Narang stood to go.  “Ford 18?  You can carry on from here.  Reactivate him I assume?”
“Of course sir.”
“Excellent, excellent. Be sure to back step him a frame or twoi so he doesn’t remember me walking into the room.  It will give him a momentary jolt, but it’ll pass.”
“Will do sir,” Ford Junior ackknowledged, and accompanied Narang until he was safely out of sight in the hallway. He returned to the office and approached Chong.
“Affirmative, memory wipe to semantic request three frames prior to access code.  Control returning to biological imprint in five seconds.”
Chong blinked a few times then appeared startled. “What?  What just happened?”
Ford Junior bent to pick up Chong’s pen. “You dropped your pen sir.  Here.”
“Is that all thank you.  I could have sworn– but anyway.  Where were we?”
“You had called me in to consult about the cloning speech.”
“Yes of course.  Have a seat.  I want your unique perspective on this.  I’m not a clone of course.”
“Of course not sir,” Ford Junior grinned.

: 12:49 pm: UMC

“That was quick,” said Chong, looking down at the body of Friedrich on the floor. Malinao had delivered a kick to the head just as Friedrich had finished his last sentence. He had fallen to the ground in a heap.
Malinao was holding her side. “I think I pulled a muscle.  I haven’t really been stretching lately.”
Chong was on his knees examining Friedrich.
“Who was he?” Malinao asked.
“His name was Friedrich. I saw him briefly when they had me in the shed.”
“He’s dead,” Chong said.
“Oh,” Malinao had never killed anyone.
“Good kick.”
“I– guess so.”
“Look, you did what was necessary.  You saw what he did in that room.”
“You’re right it’s just that–”
“Never mind that. Let’s get to the communication center.”
Chong led them back downstairs and into a large locked room full of electronic equipment.
“I need to get a coded message to New Cav right away,” he paused. “Um– would it be weird if I asked you to wait outside?”
Malinao laughed, breaking the tension she’d felt since she drop-kicked Friedrich.
“Of course not, Nr. President. I guess I’ve sort of forgot our roles there for awhile.” She moved closer. “Don’t be long.” She kissed him lightly on the cheek.
Chong could only manage a whisper. “Yes, Madame Speaker.”
He turned back to the equipment hearing the hush of the sliding door lock behind him. He found the emergency coded line to New Canaveral and activated it with his personal code.  He was hoping they hadn’t revolved off the previous formula because of his capture.  The line activated and he heard Lawrence pick up.
“Tranquility this is New Canaveral. It’s about time we heard from you.  The President’s been worried.”
Chong found this rather odd. “Yes I have been worried, Lawrence,” Chong replied.
“Who is this?” Lawrence snapped.
“It’s me Lawrence. We just got out of a mining tunnel between here and Cana.  Hashimoto didn’t make it but the Speaker’s OK.”
“I repeat, identify yourself.”
Lawrence sounded scared and confused. “Lawrence, this is your boss, the President of the United Moon Colonies. Richard Chong.  What’s wrong?”
“I don’t know who you are, but the President is with me here, so it’s not going to work.  I’m going to cut the channel.”
“Wait! Chong yelled. Lawrence, you furball, what do I have to do to prove its me, remind you of why you don’t want to be President? All those eyes you see in your dreams? Or should I finally break my word and tell Laurie at the Station Stop in New Cav you have a crush on her!” Chong had thrown out as many of the secrets only he could know as he could come up with on a moment’s notice.
“How do you know that?”
“Because I’m Rich Chong, that’s how. Who’s pretending to be me?”
“I don’t know what’s going on, but the real President Chong is here in New Canaveral and he knows all those things you just said.  So however you got your information, I commend you, but it’s not going to work. Investigators will be there shortly, stay where you are.  Channel cutting now.”
Chong received nothing but static as the channel protocols were refreshed.  That also meant all his security codes would be changed in moments. He needed to get out of the building before he got locked in. He ran out of the communications room and grabbed Malinao by the elbow.
“We have to run!”
She didn;t ask why, trusting him and sprinted along with him. They made it outside in time to see samll group of museum security coming up the street.
“They haven’t spotted us yet, around here.”
Chong dragged Malinao into a side alley next to the building.
“Care to tell me what’s going on?” Malinao asked in a whisper.
“Shhh.” Chong listened to the footsteps as they came up the street.  Once they went inside he risked looking. One guard stood in front of the building.  If they came out and turned left immediately, they could get away unseen.
“I’ll tell you in a minute, just follow me fast,” Chong hissed.
They raced out and around the corner.  Chong didn’t hear anyone shout after them so he guessed they hadn’t been seen.
“We have to get over to the train station and get to New Canaveral as fast as possible.”
“What happened?” malinao asked.
“Someone has tolen my identity I guess,” Chong wasn’t so sure himself. “I tried to contact Lawrence and he said I’m already there in New Canaveral, and he didn’t believe me at all.  Even the things only he and I know, he claimed the me that’s already in New Cav knew too.  Thats one hell of a clone, if that’s what it is.”
“So you’re not you anymore.”
“Not in the eyes of the government. As soon as Lawrence cut the channel he would have to change all the codes and put out an alert for an imposter.”
“Why aren’t we going to the Capitol in Serenity?”
“During the war we opened a Presidential office in New Canaveral because it was closer to the military.  We really haven’t moved out yet. Shh.”
Chong pulled up short and ducked down behind a corner.  They heard the man from the airlock talking coming towards them.
“I swear it was him.  He was a dead ringer.  And he had someone with him he claimed was the Speaker of the the USA or something,” the airlock manager said.
“Possibly another clone.  We’ll check into it. They murdered the Vice President and possibly more.  We’re getting reports of a slaughter at headquarters here,” said another voice
“I can’t believe I let him in.”
“Not your fault. You couldn’t have known.  Don’t worry.  We’ll catch him.”
They passed and Chong raced off in the other direction. They made it to the train station and Chong blessed the inefficiency of the private train lines.
“Better hurry folks,” said the woman at the gate. “I’m hearing they might shut the trains down for some damn reason.  I’m going to make sure the next line gets out but that may be it.”
Chong thanked her and kept running hoping she didn’t look to closely at him. They jumped on a Lunar Link train waiting for them. “Thank god it’s an L,” said Chong. “It only has one stop in Chang-Ngo. An M would have at least three stops.”
“Your train system needs work,” Malinao needled as they borded.
“Thankfully.  Let’s hope they don’t stop the train in Chang-Ngo for inspection.  My guess is they won’t.”
The train lurched forward, taking Chong towards a meeting with himself.

November 25, 2006: 3:45 pm: UMC

Lawrence found the President of the Colonial Assembly in Chong’s office in New Canaveral.
“Thank god you’re here,” Assembler Catherine Hamala said. “We’ve had no word from Vice President Hashimoto.  They were about to swear me in today.”
Lawrence decided to skip the normal dig he’d take at Hamala’s pretended lack of ambition. “What do you mean no word?”
“Perhaps you’d better tell me what’s going on Lawrence,” Hamala took a stern tone.
President Chong is on his way up, so perhaps we should sit down outside his office and discuss,” countered Lawrence.
Hamala inclined her head and came out from behind Chong’s desk. “Very well.”
Lawrence had the patience to wait to make her talk, but he didn’t need it.  She began to spill all she knew as they sat down in the outer recption room tothe President’s office.
“When the President’s abduction was reported, Hashimoto was sworn in as acting Chief Executive of the UMC. He wasn’t given the title of President until we knew what had happened for sure. He received some intelligence but wouldn’t share it with me. The last I heard from him, he was in Tranquility and told me he had sensitive information on the President’s whereabouts but that I needed to assume a ready position in case something happened, which I did.” She looked a little put out, as if Lawrence had been accusing her of something for being in the President’s office. “I’ve heard nothing since. Hashimoto was very secretive.  He gave out no information for fear he would risk the rescue. He ordered everyone to stay away from Tranquility for now. That’s all I know.  We were about to countermand his order and issue a search group to go to Tranquility.  When they reported back, if they couldn’t find him, they were going to swear me in as acting chief. That’s when I heard from you that Chong was on his way. The opposition is having a field day, asking all kinds of questions about who’s running the country, and why the President and Vice President have been so secretive. What’s happened to the Vice President?”
“We don’t know,” Lawrence admitted. “Hashimoto rescued President Chong and Speaker Malinao and I was rescued separately by an underground group in Armstrong. The President met with me there before proceeding here. Apparentl the Vice President and the Speaker had other business to attend to in Tranquility, but we haven’t heard from them either.”
“Well, it’s the President’s call now, but I think he should allow the group to go to Tranquility and investigate.”
“I agree.  I’ll inform President Chong of your advice.”
“And what’s all this about a cloning policy speech?  Is this the right time for that?  It seems incredibly out of place?”
“Does it?” said Chong as he came into the room.
“Mr. President,” Hamala and Lawrence stood up.
“I know there are a lot of questions.  I’ll have a briefing for the cabinet and key Assemblers right away. But the policy speech is more important now than ever.  You’ll see why when I brief you.  But suffice to say for now, the Fundys aren’t gone and their involved in cloning.”
“So you want to make it legal!?” Hamala cried.
“We want to prevent them from having any advantage in it being illegal,” Chong explained. “As I said, you’ll see in the briefing why.”
Hamala just shook her head. “I hope you know what you’re doing Chong.  The opposition is calling for your head.  There hasn’t been a President recalled by the Assembly in 70 years and I’d rather not fight a recall vote under my leadership.”
“You won’t.  I think the briefing will take the wind out of their sales.”
Hamala didn’t look convinced but took her leave of the President anyway.
“Lawrence, set up that briefing in time to give me an hour or so to sit down with Ford Junior and prepare the speech.”
“Yes sir– uh– Ford Junior? You mean Mr. Ford, don’t you sir?”
“No, I want Ford Junior,” he sighed. “Just do it Lawrence.  I have my reasons.”
lawrence was taken aback. That was not Chong’s usual style.  IF he didn’t want to explain himself he usually just kept quiet not admonish like that.  It’s one of the reasons Lawrence loved working for him.
“Very good sir, I’ll see to it.”
“Thank you.  Close the door on your way out.”
“The door.”
Lawrence shut the door. That also was way out of character. Chong made a point of never closing his door.  If he really needed privacy he asked Lawrence to just keep people out of ear shot.  He wanted the symbol of transparency to be dead clear. It was dogmatic. Why the sudden change? Unfortunately Lawrence didn’t have time to speculate.  The president had been through a lot.  No doubt it had shaken them all up and knocked themselves out of their usual routines.  He had work to do to get the Assembly leaders and the cabinet together for  atop level meeting on short notice. He’d better get to it.
As he left the office he thought he saw someone in the hallway duck out of sight.
He defeinitely heard whispers.
“Who’s there,” lawrence stroded down the hall, ready to call security.  He found Ford Junior hiding behind a plant.
“Junior?  What are you doing here?”
“Please don’t be mad, I was just so curious.  I know I’m not supposed to be here.  I just wanted to see.”
“No, it’s all right.  The President will want to see you in a few hours. Come with me and I’ll give you a badge so you don’t get tossed out.”
“Can I meet you there?  I have to go to the bathroom.”
“There’s a bathroom on the way.  I need to stay with you until your properly credentialed.”
Ford looked worried. “Uh– OK. Let’s hurry though.”
Lawrence started to lead him back down the hallway.
“Oh wait I dropped something behind the plant.  I’m sorry I’ll be right back.”
Lawrence waited impatiently while Ford fished around for something on the floor.
As Ford leaned down behind the plant, Narang hissed at him from the dark at the base of the pot. “Go, he’ll make you suspicious.  We’ll finish this later.”
Ford nodded and picked up a small plastic trading card of an Ahsaas Colony Movie Star.
“Found it!” he yelled to Lawrence.
“Come on then,” Lawrence shouted.
Ford gave one last look at the hidden Narang and ran back up the hallway.

: 11:29 am: UMC

Malinao still wasn’t sure she hadn’t permanently damaged Chong when she moved him. She wasn’t sure she hadn’t permanently damaged herself either.  Plus she had apparently used up a tremendous amount of Oxygen in the effort. The air was dangerously thin now.
Chong lay on the gurney she had rolled over. He breathed heavily now too in the thin air but she hadn’t got a response out of him and she’d lost all track of time. She sat on a stool next to him, holding his hand just muttering now and then.
“You don’t know how you looked when I first met you on Air Force One.  I’ve never seen a man so self-important and shy all at the same time. I wanted to torture you. You know, the flirty kind of torture.  That’s why I stole your seat. But you captured me right there without my even knowing it.  I’m not that forward with men usually. I’m rather distant as a matter of fact,” she chuckled. “I made my career off it. But you just had a look about you.  Soft and gentlemanly but strong and,” she gasped for breath. “I don’t know.”
“Are we going to leave now?”
The President squirmed a bit and opened his eyes.  A slight smirk was on his face.
“Between letting the minidrill run and playing true confessions,” he paused and gulped some more air, “You seem to have used up all the air. So maybe we should go.”
“What?” Malinao looked at the Minidrill adn for the first time noticed the soft humming and the low ready lights. Chong had got it started.  That had been the explosion.  She could have been halfway to Tranquility by now. How stupid!
He tried to sit up but couldn’t quite make it.
“I’m so incredibly dumb,” Malinao said as she helped him up fromt he gurney.
“You were just worried. Nice story though.”
“How much did you hear?”
“Just the last part. Something about wanting to torture me?”
“Dream on President,” she laughed.
Between the thin air and Chong’s bulk, Malinao’s lungs almost burst.  But he was getting his legs back and once she had him up, he was able to stand on his own. They folded themselves into the minidrill quite snugly and Chong took the controls.
“You OK to drive?” she asked.
“I’m fine.  Just don’t wiggle too much, you’ll distract me.”
The closeness of the cabin had put them in such a position that Malinao could see what he meant.
“I’ll try to just torture you a little,” she laughed, which turned into a cough in the depeleted air.
“Here we go.”
The mindrill lurched over the barrier of junk from the main compartment and began boring its way back towards Tranquility.
“I’m going to try to get us up close to the surface where the dirt is more loosly packed.  That will save us energy. Keep an eye on the depth meter for me though.  We don’t want to pop up on the surface. That could be bad for a number of reasons.”
Malinao wasn’t sure she wanted to know why.  Chong had turned on the oxygen generators in the minidrill as soon as they had begun moving, and she felt herself reviving quite a bit. They bumped along in silence, punctuated by Malinao’s depth updates whenever they came within a meter or two of the surface. Finally she couldn’t resist anymore and had to ask.
“How much longer?”
“Well I think we have enough juice to make it if we don’t hit any obstructions. We didn’t on the way in, so I don’t see why we should. Another half hour?”
“Why didn’t we just go down the empty tunnel?”
“That would have been a lot slower. The Minidrill is meant to propel by drilling.  It has small wheels to maneuver in open spaces but it’s not meant to go long distances like that.  Well, it’s not meant to go long distances at all.  I hope we don’t break the bit.”
“The what?”
“The drill bit.  The part that’s churning through all that rock.  I did quite a bit of work with it already.  AS long as I keep it straight, we should be OK.”
After about 20 minutes, CHong began to slow down the minidrill and eventually they came to a stop with Chong muttering a quiet curse word.
“What’s wrong?”
“We’re just outside Tranquility.”
“Isn’t that a good thing?” Malainao was puzzled.
“Yes, but I forgot something. The colony dome is sunk down in a nice thick wall of heavy barrier rock, not the moon dust we’ve been plowing through on the way here. If we try to cut through it, the minidrill will either run out of juice or break a bit trying.  We’re just not strong enough to get through it.”
“How did we get out?”
“The Main drill could cut it, plus there was already a tunnel for it.”
“So we just cut into that tunnel.”
“If I can find it. It’s not mapped and I’m not seeing it anywhere.”
“What happens if we surface?”
“Well, if they glass doesn’t break and we lose all our air, I can nose us up. If I don’t put us all the way out, I can use the maneuvering wheels to get us back down under.  But I’m not really confident that decompression won’t happen.”
“If you can get us a peek, I might be able to tell you where the tunnel is.”
“How’s that?”
“When we were going below to board the main drill, I noticed the Flag from the first Moon landing outside at the Tranquility Monument.   It’s my country’s flag, you know, so it caught my attention.  I can figure about how far we were at that point, if I can see the flag.”
Chong wasn’t sure. He had noticed some pretty shaky seals after the cave-in.
“All right, if we break a seal, we won’t have any time. You’ll just have to point, and hope you’re right. It’s a big risk.”
“If you don’t think we should, I understand.”
“I just wish we had suits. Let’s do it.”
Chong started the minidrill forward and tilted up. The drill bit poked out into a brilliant black sky. Everything in the cabin turned silver int he reflected light. Chong got them just far enough up to see over the ground. The seals held.
“I don’t see it,” Malinao groaned.
“I do, it’s off to my left.”
“Let me look.”
They struggled around each other, which at another time and situation would have proved very distracting.
“I see it. The tunnel should be that way.”
Suddenly they both heard a hiss.
“Seal’s loosening, try to plug it with something, I’ll back us down.”
The hiss grew more insistent as Chong backed the drill down into the tunnel.
“Plug it up, Sam!” Chong yelled.
“I’m trying, I can’t get a hold of it.”
“Don’t use your had it’ll freeze it. Anything else you can flatten over it or plug under it.”
The hissing had become a screaming as the minidrill lurched back on it’s way and turned towards the area Malinao thought the tunnel was.
“Dammit, use this,” Chong ripped off a piece of his shirt and thrust it at Malinao who was still fumbling with various loose itemse to plug the seal.  It had widened into a lip that seemed to be hissing a death call at them.
Malinao grabbed the rough canvas bit of shirt and stuffed it in the screaming hole’s mouth. It muffled it into a mumble of quiet gurgles.
“Make sure it stays there,” Chong said. “We don’t want it to pop out and break the glass.”
“Did you call me Sam?”
“Just now, did you call me Sam?”
“I– maybe–I don’t know I was in a panic.”
Malinao smiled. “Nobody calls me Sam.”
The seal popped out twice more before they reached the tunnel, but Chong didn’t call her Sam again and the glass didn’t break. The broke through the tunnel and convinced the airlock operator to let them in before they explained.
A burly grey-haired dark-skinned man climbed down from the airlock controls shouting.
“Now what kind of ridiculous prank are you kids pulling riding out on the open Moon in a goddamned minidrill of all things.  You two should be– Mr. President?”
“Yes, I’m President Chong.  This is United States Speaker Samantha Malinao.”
The man was stopped cold. “Well, of all the mercy in God’s worlds. They said on the news you were on your way to New Canaveral for a big speech. What happened to you?  You look awful.”
“wellt hank you,” Malinao quipped.
“No offense intended, Ma’am.  I’m– I’m at a loss.”
“What do you mean I’m supposed to be in New Canaveral?”
“That’s what the nescasts all are saying sir. You’re going to give some groundbreaking speech on cloning rights.”
Chong and Malinao exchanged glances.
“We’ve been trapped in a drill hole between here and Cana,’ CHong risked revealing. “Wasn’t anybody going to check?”
“I don’t know sir. I had no orders for the airlock.  I figured whatever you were up to you made it to Cana and left from there.”
“Never mind.  We need to get to our headquarters. Please alert the Tranquility folks that a there was cave-in and all hands but us were lost. They’ll want to salvage the drill and tend to the dead”
“Wasn’t the Vice President on that drill?”
“Yes, he was.” Chong replied softly.
“Oh my,” tha man said. “I’m so sorry.  Well, you need medical attention, Mr. President.”
“Not now!” Chong was already leading Malinao up some side stairs.  They ran, their lungs greedily filled with dome-generated oxygent, through the Tranquility museum out through the road to the Colonial building where their headquarters had been. There was nobody there but automatic sentries. Chong used his identification to get in and they raced upstairs to the second floor assembly room where the staff was supposed to be.
“This area is closed by Presidential order,” replied the pleasant female voice of the sentry program when they tried to enter the staff room.
“Override that, I’m the President,” Chong barked.
“Dual confirmation security protocol requested.”
A tray slid out where Chong was expected to touch a blood tester with his finger to confirm his identity.  He did so.
“Presidential identity confirmed. Override authorized.”
The doors slid open to a macabre scene of slaughter. Ten UMC guards and a dozen of the Vice President’s staff lay dead in pools of blood and gore. The stench was overpowering and almost made Chong puke.
Malinao asked for the doro to be closed and had tears in her eyes. “What’s happening?” she asked.
“I think I may have a clue.” Chong said. He asked for a picture of the internals of the room to be displayed.  It was shocking enough without having smell it at the same time.
“Focus in on the upper corner,” Chong asked the monitor. “Lower right.  A little lower.  There.”
Written in blood on the wall near the corner were the words, “And the sinners shall be smote.”
“That’s a Fundy slogan,” Malinao gasped.
“And not a scientific clone-faction one either.  That’s a devoted follower of Touareg did that.”
“You’re correct,” a voice said from behind them.
Friedrich, the night guard from the shed in Cana stood behind them.
“And now I must finish my job,” he said rasiing a knife.

November 24, 2006: 11:30 pm: UMC

Narang lifted the robotic prostheses Patel had supplied him.  It felt like a real arm.  It worked like a real arm.  But Narang knew it wasn’t a real arm. He seethed inside against the miniscule girl who did this to him. Once Ford 18 had seen the Chong clone on its way to New Canaveral, Narang would take care of the girl. She was a nuisance.
Patel and Carlos came through the door of the cavern. The Canaan authorities had turned away from him and they had been forced to hole up in a cave in Amrstrong. There were several near th eedge of the dome in a crusty part of the surface that had never been developed or formed into any kind of usable terrain. It was a low point in Narang’s leadership. They had never before been forced to crouch in such squalid circumstances.  He decided to make a point of the irony.
“Look around you gentleman, for this is an illustartion of the principle, ‘darkest before the dawn.’ We are on the ve of our greatest triumph, so it is no mistake that we are laid into our humblest surroundings.  Don’t you think?”
Patel looked uncomfortable. Carlos looked reverent. Narang knew he would have to do away with Patel one day.  But he needed to have him train a brilliant scientist. Perhaps another CHong?  The Ford clones were too unpredictable. Perhaps a Patel clone.  Patel had resisted the idea vociferously, but there were ways.
“What have you come to tell me?” Narang inquired, knowing the two wouldn’t pair up to pay him a social call.
“Ford 18 has contacted us<" Patel recited.  "He initiated a successful vocal probe on the Chong clone.  It is programmed and responding as expected. Lawrence seems to have bought the programming.  I'm quite proud of that.  He's  tough one to convince." Carlos jumped in with some annoyance at Patel's self-congratulations.  It was not the Fundy way. "They are headed to New Canaveral in the morning to make a policy speech." "Excellent," Narang agreed. "We must make for New Canaveral ourselves.  I may need to fine tune the clones programming before the big speech." Patel balked at this. "What fine tuning would be needed?  I've laid in all the instructions we need, and there's no cause for suspicion?" "I have my reasons," Narang growled. "Do you doubt me?" "No sir, of course not." "Very good," then make the arrangments for travel to New Canaveral and bring the necessary equipment.  We can leave the base here for now." Carlos turned to go. "Wait with me for a moment Carlos." Patel stopped too. "You're dismissed Patel." The scientist looked aggrieved at the slight but turned on his heel and left. Carlos approached his master with a look of blank obedience. "You have served the Fundys for many years Carlos." "It is true sir." "You even served for a time in Toureg's household itself no?" "An honor that I was lucky enought to have yes, though never on the great man's staff itself." Carlos' words had the rhytym of litany, of ritual. But Narang knew it irked him to use the Toureg's name plainly rather than with a title or simply 'the great man' as Carlos had put it. "You have seen much. You have served well.  Will you do one last thing in the name of the Great Man?" The fires of passion lit within Carlos' eyes. "Anything!" Good, Narang thought. He had provoked with just enough blasphemy to get just the right amount of obedience when he reversed it. This was precise psychological programming and needed just this kind of finesse. "Take out your knife please." Carlos unsheathed his knife with a quick motion. "Cut a three inch gash in your belly." His hand stalled. "The Great Man issues a test through me.  You will only win his glory through obedience." Carlos' hand shook but he did as commanded and fell with a grunt. Narang rose and walked past the fallen man as he bled. "Do not move Carlos. It is a test of your faith." Narang knew Carlos would die in an hour. He found Benito outside the cavern chamber. "Carlos requeted to stay inside in meditation Benito.  He had an odd look in his eye but I granted his request.  Do not disturb him." "Yes sir." "You will accompany Patel and I to New Canaveral." "Yes sir." Narang wondered why he had given into his whim regarding Carlos.  He knew it was a strike against the Fundys of old, but he regretted losing such a strong man.  Still the stain of Touareg's mistakes and failure could not presist in this new incarnation.  Narang would see to that.  Thsi was greater than all of them.

November 23, 2006: 9:04 pm: UMC

Lawrence met with Chong for several hours, satisfying himself that this was in fact Richard Chong. There were things he knew that Lawrence felt sure a brainwashed clone couldn’t know.  Still, Lawrence had asked Ford his thoughts and Ford had dismissed them immediately.
“First, that’s not really the Fundy style.  I don’t think they would have put as much effort into getting me or my clones to kill Chong if they thought they could replace him.”
“But what if they kept it secret?” Lawrence had asked.
Ford shook his head. “I know clones pretty well, Lawrence. My son shows certain signs of being a clone that are obvious.  I don’t see those signs in Chong. I know it’s odd that he showed up here, but it’s just not likely he’s a clone.  Instead he’s our best chance of winning rights for the clones.”
Lawrence had noticed how obsessed Ford had become with clone rights since his son had turned around.  Ford took a certain amount of pride in pointing out the adaptation of his son to his role as clone. Ford junior beamed with every compliment and that in turn reinforced Ford’s love for him.
It was such a turnaround, that Lawrence decided not to take Ford’s judement alone. Hence the hours of conversation with Chong.
“I get the sense you’ve been trying to get something out of me Lawrence, what is it?” Chong said finally.
Lawrence couldn’t quite phrase it. “Well, sir, I had to be sure.”
“Sure about what?” Chong raised an eyebrow.
“Sure that you weren’t a clone sent by the Fundys.”
Chong looked legitimately surprised. “Really?  You thought they could do that?”
“Well, they seem to have done a number on Ford with Junior. Don’t you find that odd?  How thoroughly devoted he has become to junior in such a short time.”
Chong rubbed his chin. “Well, I hadn’t noticed it.  I suppose you’re right. But I’m not sure Ford is dangerous now.  Except maybe as a lobbyist.”
Lawrence laughed in spite of himself.
“I’m impressed Lawrence.  You haven’t laughed at one of my jokes since we were on that overland trip to Tranquility.”
The summer after the one they spent in the mines together, Chong and Lawrence had taken a trip from Trudolubie colony in a Moon Hopper all the way out around through Ambrosius Settlement and down between Cana and the UMC to Tranquility. It was the Moon equivalent of the great road trip, though far more dangerous since to ride in a Moon Hopper, you were out of colonial domes for most fo the trip. In fact, the idea had been to see if they could make the entire trip without setting foot inside a dome.  They cheated and stopped inside Rafiki for supplies and spent a night in Armstrong. But it was still a thrilling time that Lawrence would never forget. Chong’s fond memory of it was a clincher.  Lawrence wasn;t sure why he had ever doubted.
They returned from the room thay had been talking in, to find Sira setting out a dinner of Palak Paneer and rice.
“You people are eating me out of house and home,” she said as she ladled the food onto a plate for everyone. LAwrence suspected she was enjoying having people to cook for.  Lawrence had suggested they run out to get food form a restaurant but Sira had insisted it was too dangerous and that she must cook.
Over dinner, Ford broached the subject again of clone rights.
“Don’t you think Mr. President, that we could make the United Moon Colonies the leader in this space?”
“What are you proposing Ford?” asked Chong.
“You have the advantage now. The entire Earth sees the UMC as the saviours of the world. Seize that stage while you have it.  Speak to the world while they’ll listen.”
“And say what?”
‘Tell them that clones are people and cloning research should not only be allowed, but funded and advanced.  That clones should responsibly be integrated into our lives. That cloning is not a word to fear, but a community of people to be embraced.  Make life for me and my son, not only legal, but exemplary.”
“I’m sorry Ford, I can say all that but it won’t change people’s minds.”
“Then don’t wait for them to change. Make it a Presidential order.  Cloning and cloning research will be funded by the UMC. Cloning rights will be enshrined in law and a new UMC laboratory for cloning research will be opened in New Canaveral for the purpose of responsible research in cloning.  I have the equipment to get us staarted.  i know who to contact to start filling positions.”
This last bit startled Lawrence.
“You mean the people who cloned you against your will and set your clones to kill Chong here,” Lawrence interjected in spite of himself. “You mean the Fundys.”
“I’m surprised at you Lawrence,” Chong chided. “You usually let me make the blunt objections.  But he’s right Ford. Is that who you mean?”
Ford sighed and shook his head.
“Is that who made me Father?” asked Junior.
“You’ve had dealings withe Fundys directly?” Sira looked shocked.
“Settle down everyone.  I know what I’m proposing is complicated,” Ford winced and waved his hands as if to wipe the hanging questions out of the air. “Yes, Sira, I’ve had direct dealings with the Fundys.  I was their captive.  They made clones of me without my knowledge.  I eventually won their trust and took cloning machines of my own and broke away from them. Only a faction of them remain and they are a cloning faction. And here’s where it gets tricky.  Not all of them are bad. Some of them are just scientists, forced to cooperate with the Fundys to continue their research because they would be presecuted anywhere else.  I’m saying Chong could make it safe for them to conduct research here, and take them away from the Fundys.”
“Like Minister Narang?”
“Narang, if that wasn’t a clone itself that you saw, isn’t a scientist.  I’m talking about their clone researchers.  The ones this faction employed against Touraeg’s wishes because they were too secular. They don’t have any loyalties to any one ideology.”
“Doesn’t sound like they have any morals either,” quipped Sira as she got up to clear the table.  Lawrence rose at once to help.
“What do you say, Chong?  Will you give it a chance?”
“I’ll think about it,” Chong finally agreed.  “I’ll let you know tomorrow.”
Lawrence and Chong shared a room in Junior’s apartment, while the two Ford’s slept in the other bedroom and Sira slept on a couch, insisting she didn’t mind at all.
“What do you think of Ford’s plan, Lawrence.  I don’t like it much but I see his logic.”
“Sir, there is no reason to rush something like this.”
“What do we do with his son though.  All clones are supposed to be destroyed according to convention.”
This caught Lawrence by surprise.  It was true that the century old cloning convention required any government in knowledge of any clonig meant for human reproduction, was required to destroy the cloning materials viable or not. However that had been agreed on when clonig humans was somehwat unfathomable and likely to mean destroying petri dishes not people. Add to that the fact that the UMC had not signed that treaty as it was not recognised by other nations at the time.  They had abided by it nonetheless, but were not technically bound by it.
“You don’t aim to kill the boy, do you Mr. President?”
“Of ocurse not, Lawrence, but it gets tricky if I don’t. If it gets out, which it will, that I knowingly harbored clones or even just this one, then I’ll face questions from within and without. That forces you to make a stand, but then you look defensive.”
“And people are less likely to listen.  I see where you’re going with this Mr. President.”
“Because we’ll face those questions anyway, wouldn’t it be better to raise them ourselves, preemptively.”
“Yes, and make an example of Ford and Ford junior. Make them the heartwarming reason why we are bucking the law.”
“Exactly Lawrence, the public will side with us all over both worlds.  Nobody will want to see the boy killed.”
“But then we’r eleft with the Fundy ties.”
“I’ve thought of that too.  What if the Fundy faction comes above ground in the UMC.  We could be seen as aiding Fundys in this.”
“So, what choice do we have Mr. President?”
“We have to steal the intitiative there too Lawrence.  Establish this research facility just as Ford suggests to take the wind out of the Fundy faction.  Get their scientists and quiet them forever.”
“What if it doesn’t quiet them though? What if it’s what they want, and helps them infiltrate?”
Chong thought this over. “I don’t see what choice we have. Plus I don’t think it’s likely.  I don’t even think it would work if it was their plan. But keep your eyes open, just in case.”
“Yes sir,” Lawrence said. “I’ll make the arrangments tomorrow morning for a policy speech in new Canaveral. I’m going to get ready to go to sleep. Do you want to use the restrroom first?”
“No Lawrence, you go ahead.  I’m going to go out to the kitchen and get some more water.”
“Thank you sir.  I won’t be long.”
Lawrence took his things into the bathroom and closed the door. Chong got up and went out to the kitchen.  As white as the room was in the daytime it was dark at night. The lights sprung to light as they sensed him coming but stayed dim in their nighttime mode. Chong grabbed a glass from the counter and turned to find Ford Junior there.
“Good evening Chong.  Gettins some water? Memory Release Code Alpha Wipe Center Gold Devil Fawn Beta Two Minutes Information Only Complete.”
“Chong started to reply then his eyes went blank and his grip slackened.  He dropped the glass but Ford Junior caught it.
“That wouldn’t do at all.  I’ll have to file a bug on that.”
Chong’s eyes fluttered and then he spoke in a dull, not quite monotone voice. “Basic system accessed, ready for information retrieval.”
“Very good. Have you made the request for policy speech cloning?”
“Yes,” the dull voice replied from the clone Chong’s mouth. “Speech will be arranged tomorrow morning.”
“Excellent. Shut down and wipe memory back to my water interrogative prior to access code.”
“Affirmative, memory wipe to semantic request prior to access code.  Control returning to biological imprint in five seconds.”
Chong stood slackjawed and Ford placed the glass on the counter next to him.  He hoped it didn’t cause too much cognitive dissonance. After a few blinks of the eye, a normal expression returned to Chong’s face.
“Yes, rather– thirsty. Why’d I put that down?  Anyway.  I’m rather tired too I guess.”
“Well I understand. Are you going to help my father?”
“I hope so Junior.  I hope so.  Good night.”
“Please Mr. Chong.  PLease help him if you can.  Good night.”
Chong nodded and walked back to the bedroom.
Ford Junior went out the front door of the apartment and opened a small communicator woven into his shirt.
“Yes this is Ford 18. Tell our leader the speech is approved. Proceed to New Canaveral.”
Ford closed the communicator and went back into the apartment.

November 22, 2006: 10:05 pm: UMC

Chong had spent several hours attempting to make the minidrill work. Malinao had gotten the release undone rather easily and moved on to the cockpit to see if she could raise communications while Chong performed surgery on the minidrill.
The first order of business for Malinao was facing the dead men.  She moved what men she could drag out of the cockpit and covered them.  She had the macabre thought that they might need to burn them to prevent the smell, then the even more goulish realization that burning the dead could remove what little oxygen they had.  She noticed her breaths came heavier but she didn’t mention it to Chong.
The radio equipment was barely accessible inbetween chunks of rock. Malinao found a part of a hand overthe controls. She breathed deep and used an axe from the tool cabinet to hack the hand away.  Ironically she had to tourniquet the dead arm to keep the blood from seeping out into the control board.
She had faced bad conditions before which gave her a strong stomach, but all this was testing her. In her youth she had been shipped down to Texas to her Lola’s ranch outside Austin. Her Lola was a mean old woman, who aside from giving birth to Malinao’s Father, seemed to have no other connection to her family. In her old testiness she refused to leave her ranch but needed someone to care for her. Malinao had eventually been coaxed into volunteering.
Lola Josie was brutal.  She made Samantha slaughter cattle, herd goats and all manner of the most disguting chores a young girl from Chicago could possibly be given. Finally at the end of the summer Lola Josie had died. That was the worst. Malinao had come upstairs to give her Lola the morning sponge bath she demanded. Instead of complaining about how lates Samantha was, she only breathed heavily. When Malinao aske her if she was OK, the old lady had spit on her and called her several bad names in tagalog. Still Malinao had sensed the end was drawing near and had stayed with her holding her hand. The only other words she spoke were a quiet prayer followed by a request that Samantha bring in Oliver. Oliver, Malinao’s Loloed twelve years earlier. After a half hour od sitting by the old woman’s bedsied Malinao had been thanked for her troubles by watching her Lola sit bolt upright in bed turn, look at Samantha and scream, then vomit blood all over her and everything and lay down dead.
The only consolation for that torturous summer had been a box she found set out on a chair in her Lola’s bathroom.  It was marked, “For Samantha” and contained her Lola’s personal diaries and two million dollars in cash. Her parents ha dbanked the cash in Samantha’s name and had quite a few fights with others in the family over the proper disposition.  In the end it had paid for Malinao’s college. The diaries described a long life from a young age to elderliness, and did more to explain the Lola’s condition and attitude toward the world, than anything that could have been said at the time. Malinao had taken it as an apology and felt at peace.
All those memories came flooding back to her as blood spattered on her while she worked on clearing the communications console. She finally found a power router that was unplugged by the cave-in and got power back to the main console board.  There was still no signal generation and she suspected the antennae were all crushed and unservicable. She thought she’d have a look to see if she could somehow jam some kind of makeshift antenna into a port on the hull somewere just to see if they could pick up anything.
As she walked back toward the minidrill, she heard Chong coming.
“Any luck?” she shouted.
He appeared in the doorway, ten times as sweaty and attractive as he had looked earlier before the cave-in.
“No.  I can’t seem to get the motor to engage.  It’s not damaged but the actuators won’t fire.  The power’s not the issue.  I think it’s unrelated to the cave-in. Somehow the sparks just decided to stop firing right now.  I was going to look around and see if we had an spare parts.  How’s the cockpit?  He had a look of concern.
“Messy.  But don’t worry, I’ve seen worse. I’ll tell you about my summer in texas sometime.”
“Can’t wait– I think,” said Chong.
“I got the console cleared and powered but there’s no signal generation.  I was about to have a look around and see if there’s anywhere I could jimmy up an antenna connection.”
“There’s a porthatch midway back from the cockpit console where you might find a port.  I’ll help you look after we eat.”
Malinao looked suprised. “Eat?”
“Yeah, why not.  We can’t breathe or leave, so we might as well eat.  The refrigeration unit is stocked and undamaged.”
Chong walked over and swung open a small white door int he wall.
“What’ll you have?”
“What’s on the menu?” Malinao asked.
“Chicken salad.  Chicken breast.  Fried Chiken and Tofu supplement B15. And grape juice to drink.”
“Who the hell is your cook?  I’ll ahve the chicken.  I mean the chicken breast.”
“And of course the grape juice.”
“Of course.”
They sat down at a fold down table and set to eating.
“It seems strange to have a perfecetly normal sitdown meal in the middle of all this.”
Chong agreed. They fell to talking about the how they’d been thrown into this situation.
“I should never have volunteered to give you a ride to Omaha!” Malinao chuckled.
“I’m glad you did,” Chong ventured.
Malinao gave him a long look and smirked.
“At the risk of having one of those dramatic confessions at a dying moment, I think you’re something else, Richard Chong.”
Chong blushed.  He hoestly blushed.
“Why are you blushing?” she teased.
He looked down. “It’s very difficult for me to be with someone,” Malainao started to reply with a snappy comeback but Chong stopped her. “No don’t.  Let me get this out. It’s not because I’m the President.  Being single hasn’t helped in that respect.  It’s something I’ve had to overcome.  It’s something about me. I can’t settle. Yet anyone I’ve found that fits what I hope for, is either already taken, or not interested.  I don’t wish to compromise, I don’t want someone to lie to me, so I go it alone. I just,” his eyes were tearing a little bit. “I just never could find the right person.  I could never trust someone I guess.”
“Why are you telling me all this?” Malinao murmered.
“Because with one look at you, all my will vanished. I stopped caring about having the right person. I knew if I could be–if I could be with you– none of my ther concerns would matter.  It wouldn’t be sdettling, it would just be right.  And I live in deadly fear that you won’t feel the same. So now I’ve gone and done it and told you an dprobably put you off and ruined everything, but there you have it.”
Malinao looked down and tried to hide a smile. “Well you sure put a girl in a hard position. I mean don’t I have enough to think about what with the life or death situation here?”
Chong loked stricken. “I’m sorry,” he whispered.
“You shouldn’t be.  And I shouldn’t play with you like that,” Malinao whispered back, truly taken aback by how sad he had just looked. She took his hands in hers. “Chong, look at me.
He gazed up at her with a blank expression. He allowed no emotion to cross his face.
“I feel the same. I promise. And when we get out of her, I promise I will still feel the same.  And if you want to dom seomthing about it then, I highly encourage it. So don’t get me wrong when I say, right now, we need to worry about gettin gout of here.”
“Promise?” Chong said. Malinao was struck by his tone.  It was not a little boy’s tone asking for his parents to keep a promise.  It was a threat. It was a challenge. And Malinao found that excited her all the more.
“You can bet on it, boy. Now finish your chicken and let’s get your bucket of bolts drilling again.
Chong agreed and went back to the minidrill stony-faced but happier than he’d ever been in his life. Malinao returned to the cockpit and found the hatch Chong had mentioned on her own. She found the antenna ports and wires and played with them for a half hour but didn’t have any luck.  Her breathing was getting very heavy and she knew they needed to conserve oxygen, so she decided to take  abreak. She was just closing up the hatch when she heard a large explosion from the other end. She went runningback through the other compartment to find the minidrill smoking and Chong lying face down on the floor in a pool of blood.
“Chong!” she screamed.

Next Page »