Archive for November 14th, 2006

November 14, 2006: 9:58 pm: UMC

Chong had no idea how long he’d been waiting. Ever since Patel’s man had brought him to the low-slung metal shed, he had been sitting alone in a small room. They fed him and allowed him to use the restroom and showers and gave him a bed.  He wasn’t guarded, but only told that if he wished to see Patel, he must wait.  He didn’t doubt he would have been confronted if he tried to leave, but they seemed very unconcerned about the possibility of that happening.
He had little choice anyway.  He could try to find Ford, but that might attract attention, and if he did find him, they would just end up back here.  Without Patel, all their work was for nothing. He spent his time trying to gather as much information as he could. The shed was guarded at the entrance during the day by two young Canaans named Giuseppe and Hez. They were relieved after twelve hour shifts by a much less friendly German named Friedrich. Giuseppe and Hez were the only Canaans in the poutfit and were incongruously lighthearted.  They had spent some time trying to teach Chong they’r efavorite boyhood Canaan songs. They considered them extremly dirty by Canaan standards.  They involved poop and occasioanlly the titillating mention of girls. A man named Carlos had stopped that quickly and the Canaans were friendly but prefered not to talk to Chong now.
Carlos was definitely Venezuelan and definitely missing an eye, though the prosthetic replacement was very convincing for something inert. Carlos obviously had not the funds or freedom to get a proper robotic eye installed. Aside from Carlos and the guards, there were two other men who brought Chong his food and other necessities but said almost nothing.  One was the man who had met him in the street, whom Chong had discovered was named Benito. Chong hadn’t discovered the name of the other man, but they both seemed Venezuelan as well.
Carlos had given Chong a gruff but polite talk on his arrival but hadn’t spoke to him since. “Mr. Dewitt, you are welcome to stay and wait, but you live by our rules,” Carlos had told him.  Apparently those rules were wahtever Carlos said, because he never stated exactly what the rules were.
As Chong sat in his room trying to picture a memory of Samantha Malinao, Carlos burst in the door.
“Senor Dewitt. Will you come with me to my office, please.” He didn’t wait for an answer but strode out.  Chong followed. In Carlos office was perhaps the smallest adult man Chong had seen, that wasn’t a midget. His features were all proprtional to his size but his size was only 4 foot 9 at most. He seemed shrunken rather than short. The small man stood upon chong’s arrival.
“Mr. Dewiit, a pleasure to meet you. I am Sridat Patel.”
Chong shook hands with him and took a seat when offered.
“Carlos tells me your associate Mr. Baker was taken in for questioning. We’ve located him. He’s being held without bail at the Canaan Central Security Hall. It is unfortunate that this has happened.  I hope it doesn’t compromise your position in any way.”
Chong shook his head.
“Good.  I apologise for making you wait, but we had to be sure, no similar manhunt was out for you.  I’m happy to say there is not. So I assume we can proceed without Mr. Baker present?”
“Yes, if that’s acceptable,” answered Chong.
“Quite. My associate from Gabon informed me you are prepared to make a heavy investment with us in exchange for some scientific services,” Patel looked down at this last part as if too embarrassed to say the word cloning.
“Yes, we have.  Mr. Baker believes you may have the werewithal to — provide us with some security — for our health.  Especially our organs.”
Patel wiped his forehead nervously. “I must tell you Mr. Chong, this is quite  delciate subject for us.  We’ve undergone a massive change of perspective regarding these procedures, but it has not left behind its share of controversy.  Ther eare those in our organization that would turn you away flat for what you are suggesting.  They feel it is sacrilege.”
“And your opinion Mr. Patel?”
“Hogwash. How you can support part of our research without supporting it all. You are not proposing to animate the subjects, only to grow them.  That is no different from what my labe has done many times. And the payment you’ve mad already and are prepared to offer for completion, is quite generous.”
Chong had Patel in a snap. He had no morals but he was attarcted to money. He worked for the Fundys because they allowed him to carry on his work and get paid well where nowhere else in both worlds would let him.  He had convinced the Fundys to investigate cloning, and when they finally rejected him, had torn apart a splinter group, all to keep him paid.  His only reasoning for risking meeting with these strangers was the money. Chong bet himself that his next question would be about payment.
“I trust the situation of Mr. Baker does not affect that payment?”
Almost dead on. “No sir. The amount in question is registered in a South African Bank under confidentiality rules and held in escrow for you.”
Patel’s eyes brightened at the mention of escrow. “Excellent. Then there is just one more thing.”
Chong nodded.
“A DNA test. We know your name is most likely not Dewitt, and we understand the need for secrecy.  We will not try to identify you directly, only rule out the possibility of you being one of our many enemies.”
Chong tried to remain calm. “Is that absolutely necessary?”
“It is not only necessary, but already done. Your stay here provided the material we needed. The test results have been churning away.  No positives yet, you’ll be pleased to hear. Benito should be back with the results any moment.  I told him to meet with me here instead of at my office. If everything is as expected, we will go from here to meet with our organizational head and arrange the terms of the deal.”
This was exactly as Ford and Chong had planned. They would make payment and order clones for organ replacement, a highly illegal activity on both worlds.  However they would gain the identity of the Fundy leader.  They weren’t to take any action immediately, just record. Subdermal implants would take all the data they needed including skin flakes for DNA if possible. Another subdermal dart would stain the Fundy leader’s skin with a trackable quantum dot. Chong would then leave to go back to Earth and hopefully make it to Vatican City in time to meet the Pope.
That is, if Richard chong’s DNA wasn’t on the enemy list.  A thought struck Chong immediately.  If they did have him on the list it meant they had his DNA.  Could they make a clone of him then?  Or woudl they need more.  He never discussed enough of the workings of the clone machines with Ford.
Benito came rushing into the room panting and gesticulating. Chong braced to run if he needed to, but he wasn’t sure where he’d go.
“They’ve taken Baker to New Canaveral.  They extradited him this morning. It’s big.  He’s being taken into UMC governmental custody, which mean’s he’s an enemy of the state.
Patel looked at Chong with a raised eyebrow. “You’re need for secrecy is very great indeed.  Who is Mr. Baker, Mr. Dewiit? I think maybe we might have a case for needing to know.”
Chong paused. “I understand.  However, it is of such a nature, I would prefer to reveal it only in private. May we proceed to your organizational head’s office?  His identity would make more sense to your head I have a feeling.”
Patel considered this.  It was a huge gamble.  If they found out it was Ford, he wasn’t sure what they’d do.  They still thought Ford worked fro them, but it would lead to many questions, like why Ford needed a clone made when he had several already. But it also gave Chong time to think.
“Of course,” Patel nodded his head. “I see that is wise. However, I need to confirm your test came out clear. Benito?”
He was still out of breath. “I had to get over here as fast as I could.  I’ll have to go back and check.”
‘Very well,” said Patel. “Our time is valuable. Call me when you know. Meanwhile, Mr. Dewitt, if you please, we will head towards our office.  Carlos will drive,” he turned to Benito.  “We will hear before I arrive yes?”
Benito nodded and took that as his cue to leaves.

Carlos led them outside to a small mini-car.  The flew across Cana from the industrial section of the colony into the poorer section.  Cana had little crime, but it did have a large impoverished class.  The irony was that some Canaans lived that way voluntarily as part fo their religion, so it was an odd mix of people trying to get out and trying to get in. They landed in a parking lot across from a church. Carlos led them again over to a pet shop.  Small Beagle puppies played in the window and mugged for Chong’s attention.  He heard them whining as they passed.
The went up a set of stairs to the side and into a dingy unmarked office.
“Wait here Mr. Dewitt, I’ll call Benito and then bring in our leader.”
Chong had no idea what would happen at this point if he failed the test.  He imagined it involved killing him in some way, but he couldn’t put his finger on which way.  perhaps choking him with Carlos’ glass eye.
Patel put the phone down and looked Chong in the eye. “You’re clear as expected.  I’ll just be a moment.”
After a few seconds, Patel came back with a man dressedall in black, with shades and a dark hat on. This would be tougher to ID than Chong thought.  He activated the Quantum Dot and hoped for the best.
Patel’s voice shook as he made the introduction. “Your honor, this is the man who has inquired about our services.  I’d like to present–”
“President Chong,” said the voice from under the hat. “How very nice to meet you again.  Very distressing too though I must say.”
Chong recognized the voice.  It was British Minister Narang.

: 1:14 am: UMC

Baghdad was a pit. It had gone through many ups and downs in its history, but the Fundy’s had brought it to its lowest point ever. The UN had made sure water and electricity services worked but there was hardly a building worth serving with them left. Most of the damager had been done by the Fundys themselves.  The Battle of Bghdad had been one of the hardest fought as Touraeg himself had been caught in the city. IN a fit of rage he had ordered Baghdad leveled rather than let it fall into Alliance hands.  He almost succeeded.
Malinao and Lawrence were housed in the UN commission building in an old bus station on Rashid Street. They had a lovely view of the Dijla river, but other than that all seemed to be rubble as far as the eye could see. The only building over one story left in eyesight from the UN building was the Great Mosque which against all odds, had survived the war.
Malinao and Lawrence had taken a walk on their first day there, and had found only military walking through the wreckage.  No major rebuilding efforts could begin until the area was certified free of mines that the Fundys had left strewn throughout the city.  Every other day another family out foraging for food was blown up by a mine. The central city was a ghost town.  It reminded Lawrence more of an abandoned lunar settlement than a major Terran city.
It was his hardest test so far.  Until now, he had most been dreading Vatican City and his fear that the Pope or other dignitaries there would unmaske him.  But this was worse.  He needed Chong now. These people were truly hopeless. The stacks of bodies in Omaha filled him with anger, but Baghdad just made him sad. What hope could the President of the Moon offer a city damaged this badly.  Even more, what hope could a political aide pretending to be the President offer them.  He did not have the words for this.
He was to speak on the steps of the Mosque. That morning Malinao found him sitting staring out at the Dijla rolling by.
“Are you ready Lawrence?” She looked more concerned than he had seen her yet. The light of Baghdad turned everything a bit yellow and it gave her face  fresh glow.
He smiled.  He understood why Richard liked her. He wondered if they’re tasks had helped at all.
“I was just thinking of the President. Do you think he succeeded?  Whatever he was doing?”
She shrugged and smiled a little. “It’s hard to say?  I guess we’ll find out soon enough. Where’s your speech?”
Lawrence balked. “all up in here,” he managed to lie. The truth was he hadn’t been able to think of a word to say. The weight of the devastation had him tounge-tied.  He was too nervous to ask Malinao for help.  She was here to accompany him to the car that would take them across the river to the Mosque.
He decided to brazen it out.  Maybe the words would come to him. “Let’s go,” he said getting up.
“You don’t know what to say do you?” Malinao looked at him with no small amount of wonder. “Yet you’re willing to just carry on and do this for him.  You’re doing more than an aide would Lawrence.  You’re  atrue friend.”
Lawrence pondered how astute Malinao was. She could see through him very easily.
She walked over and took him by both hands. “Chong will be all right because he has a friend like you looking out for him. So will Baghdad for similar reasons.”
Like that Lawrence had his speech.
A little over an hour later, he stood on the steps of the Mosque looking down over a crowd of about 50 people in front of backdrop of broken biuildings, torn up pavement and unidentifiable rubble.  Almost every human within five miles had come to listen. As their applause died down there were no sounds but those of the desert and Dijla. He was almost finished.
“It is hard for friends in trying times. No matter what you do, you can’t always protect your friends.  Sometimes the best way to help them leaves them on their own. But true friends are never left alone. The UMC is a true friend to not only Baghdad but all of United Arabia. and after we get you back on your feet.  The Moon will be better for having a friend like Baghdad. May our friendship be unending insha’Allah. Ansalamu Allaikum.”
The assembled crowd applauded heartily and the Minister of Recovery in charge of the rebuilding of Baghdad slapped Lawrence on the back and had tears in his eyes.
Malinao gripped his arm and whispered into his ear. “That was fantastic Lawrence.”  He thought he could see a shade of a tear in her eye as well.
When they got back to the UN building, Malinao and Lawrence decided to have dinner in their room. There weren’t any restaurants open, and they were weray of the UN cafeteria. Plus they wanted to speak freely and could not do that int he common dining area. Many of the military men had gained a great new respect for Chong deciding to visit Baghdad, rather than the more comfortable Riyadh. All that admiration made Lawrence all the more sad that Chong was not here to benefit from it. Although he knew Chong wouldn’t let it go to his head if he accepted it or even noticed it at all.
As they sat down to eat, Lawrence thought Malinao seemed giddy.
“I had no idea you spoke Arabic,” she said grinning.
“Oh I don’t.  As an aide you pick up little things here and there.  Niceties, greetings, etc.”
“Well it worked wonders.  I thought the Minister was going to marry you.”
“That would have been unlikely,” laughed Lawrence.
“I’m nervous that we haven’t heard from Chong,” Malinao bit her nails. Lawrence decided her giddiness must be nervousness.  her ecstatic smile had changed suddenly to a frown. “Where is he?”
Lawrence started to say somethign but was interrupted by a scuffle outside and a shot. They both ran into the hallway to see John Ford lying in a pool of blood. Lawrence realized it was the killer clone.
“What happened?” he demanded of the guard.
“This man answere the description of John Ford.  We caught him attempting to sneak up to your room sir. Our orders were to shoot on sight.”
Lawrence knew they had to act fast he heard the UN officers barging up the stairs.
“Post guards at the entryways.  Nobody gets in.  This man is not John Ford, but a clone.  That’s been top secret info and I need it to stay that way,” barked Lawrence.  He was surprised at the confidence of his own voice. When the UN asks, it was a ruffian of unknown description.  I want this man in a body bag–”
“Sir, he’s not dead.”
Lawrence rushed to Ford’s side.  The guard was right, Ford was breathing.
He smiled when he saw Lawrence leanbing over him. “You do look kinda like him.  He started to chuckle but wince in pain instead. “Chong and Ford are being held in Cana,” he coughed, “separately.  They need you now.” With that Ford passed out. Lawrence looked up at Malinao.  He was paralyzed.  The rush of adrenaline that had gave him such decisiveness minutes before had fled.
“I’ll handle the coverup,” Malinao said. “I’m American, we’re good at it. Stay with him.”
Malinao rushed off to the stairs and Lawrence could hear her handling the demanding UN reps.
Ford opened his eyes one more time before he passed away. The only other words he managed to say to Lawrence were, “Here in Baghdad, passkey Wilfredo.”