Archive for November 19th, 2006

November 19, 2006: 10:15 pm: UMC

Narang muttered snd groaned scracthing at the recently cauterized arm. He knew he could get a new one off a clone, but the circumstances and the pain still nettled him. He felt he’d almost lost everything.  None fo the bargaining chips were in his corner any longer.  The Colonial Governor of Cana was cooling on their arrangment given the damage at the shed. He needed a break and he needed it quick.
Carlos marched into the room with a look of purpose on his face.
“We’ve word from Armstrong,” he said.
“What is it?  Out with it,” Narang was in no mood to be civil.
“They’ve gone straight for the young clone.
Perfect, thought Narang.  Now they had a foorhold. The young clone had been implanted with a tracking device and his psyche specifically molded to win the original Ford’s affection. Originally it had been meant as agift after the completion of Ford’s mission, but after Ford had gone rogue, they changed the young Ford to be a capture device. Hopefully the original Ford wouldn’t be too suspicious of its origins. It was not one of the clones Ford had generated himself in his lab in Oakland.
“Benito brought new from Patel as well.”
“Well man, how many times do I have to say this.  Don’t beat around the bush.”
“It’s ready.”
Narang’s eyes lit up. This was good news indeed and well ahead of schedule.
“Let’s get over to the lab,” Narang ordered.
“Are you OK to move?”
“Quite, quite.”
Carlos drove the car and they made the circuitous route to the lab to ensure they weren’t followed. Narang still hadnt learned who had been digging underneath the shed, but he had his suspicions. You couldn’t be too careful, especially with the Canaan government starting to lean away from them again.
They arrived at a low slung dark black building nestled in an industrial area of the colony by the hydration and air plants. It had once been a suite of offices for the energy officers of Cana before they were moved into the main civic building. It was separated from the other buildings around it by a tall wire fence.  The windows were darkened, dating back to the paranoid times when Cana though the UMC might try to sabotage it’s energy works. It had sat derelict for severl years before Patel and Narang approached the Canaan government to lease it. It was perfect for their purposes. A guard let Narang and Carlos in at the fence gate and they walked up the cement path lined somewhat ironically with Moonflowers. They had almost withered out form lack of care when Narang took over the place and he ordered them restored. He didn’t know wy he just liked the look of them. He took this simple joy with him as raised his eyes expectantly to the dark black front door fo the lab.
Patel and Benito met them in the reception area.
Patel ushered them down a pastel blue hallway beyond reception. “My assistants are finishing the procedures. It should be ready to meet you as soon as they’re done.  We can wait in my office. ” He chose a yellow door with the number 300 on it and let them enter before him.
Patel’s office was bare.  A desk a few pieces of office equipment and a large picture of the first Earthrise from the Moon that had been hanging in the office before he occupied it. The only hint of Patel’s personality was a bust of Francis Crick he had carried with him since school.
“I took the liberty of accelerating the project.  I hope you don’t mind Leader.” Aptel said as ahe sat down.
“No, it is most necessary at this point. Will it damage the integrity of the specimen at all though?”
“I should think not.  I’ve discovered a way to cut out a large swath of incubation time,” Patel warmed to his subject. “The interpolation sequences we had been using were hiding an inefficency, churning through useless information.  By cutting these useless sequences out, we’re able to reduce production time by a third without any harm to the expressed qualities.”
“I see,” said Narang.  He got slightly annoyed when Patel talked over his head, and did not like to admit it. “So it’s guaranteed?”
“As much quality as ny of them.”
“Fantastic.  When can we have a look?”
“I should say it’s just about ready–”
At that moment a young woman in a lab coat opened the door and announced that the procedures were complete and a success.
Patel led the group down the hallway through a large set of grey steel doors into a wide open are where several offices had been merged by knocking walls down.  Bright lights lit a laboratory floor and several technicians were gathered around a gurney far to the right.
Thr group approached and Patel asked the technicians to remove themselves. A body lay on the gurney.  Patel poked and prodded it and shown a flashlight in its eyes. He then grabbed a hypospray from a side table and injected the body.
It woke and shakily sat up, shaking its head.
“Hello,” said Narang moving closer.  The body looked up skeptically at him.  Trying to place the voice. “I’m Minister Narang, and who might you be?”
The body looked as though it was trying to remember something long forgotten.  IT furrowed its brown and then muttered. “Chong.  I think I’m Richard Chong.”

: 7:26 am: UMC

Ford and Lawrence still weren’t sure they trusted the girl, but she had got them out of Cana, and at the cost of Narang’s arm.
“Sarah? Lawrence asked.
“It’s SEE-ra, what?” Sira replied.
“What do we do when we get to Armstrong?”
“What?” She turned away from the controls of her Moon Hopper which made Lawrence very nervous. He turned to Ford, who didn’t look so good himself, but for a different reason.
“Watch what you’re doing,” Lawrence barked.
“Well stop distracting me, uh,” Sira returned to the controls.
It had all happened so fast, Lawrence still wasn’t certain he believed it. After they returned in the rescue train, Lawrence and Ford had been taken back to the shed. This had revealed to Lawrence’s way of thinking that the Fundys didn’t have a vast number of bases to work from, since they kept going back to the same one. Ford had been taken for interrogation by Narang and come back in the half-conscious state he was now.  They had both been brought back out into the middle of the shed while Narang gave a hectoring speech, attempting to scare the living daylights out of Lawrence and doing a good job of it.
Suddenly a Moon Hopper, one of the self-sealed EVA units used to travel on the Moon’s surface came roaring through the wall knocking down half the shed as it went. It was a big black model sometimes used in Lunar Truck Shows where the audience stood in a comfortable atmospheric dome and watched huge vehicles, mostly Moon Hoppers and other EVAs do stunts outside in normal lunar gravity.
As it burst in, a chunk of the metal sheeting used in the shed’s wall came slicing through the air and neatly took off Narang’s arm. He screamed, bringing Carlos to his side. Sira had jumped out of the cab and grabbed Lawrence and Ford by the arm.
“I’m a friend.  I’m taking you to Armstrong, come on!”
“Who are you?” Lawrence had quite rightly asked.
“My name’s Sira. Come on we have no time.”
Lawrence saw Narang’s men catching on to what was happening and decided it couldn’t hurt to go with her, so he did.  They had made it through the airlock out onto the surface without any trouble and were now bounding along the Moon’s surface on their way to Armstrong.
It looked like they’d found a smoother patch so Lawrence tried again.
“What are we supposed to do in Armstron, Sira?”
“I don’t know. I thought you would know.  Call the President of the Moon or something right?”
Lawrence gaped. “What do you mean you don’t know.  Why are you taking us to Armstrong then?  All the President’s men are in Tranquility!”
“Well I can’t right go there without being followed, can I?”
“Why are you going anywhere at all?  Who are you?”
Sira sighed and brought the huge EVA to a ahalt in the middle of nowhere on the Moon’s surface.  It was eerily quiet without the Moon Hopper’s engines straining away.
“Look. I’ll explain the whole bloody back story to you, if you like, when we get there.  But right now, I’m trying to drive. If you must know something now, ask him,” she pointed to Ford. “He’s the one who ordered me to do it.  Well not him, but another him. You get the picture?”
“Ohh,” was all Lawrence could manage.
“Right.  Now please let me drive.” She strated the motors up and resumed bounding the EVA at somewhat reckless speeds across the terrain.
Lawrence decided to check on Ford.  He seemed to be coming around a bit.
“You all right?”
Ford shook his head no. “But I will be. I just need some time. Ever been beaten with a bag of oranges?”
“Is that what it feels like?” Lawrence asked.
“No, it doesn;t feel like that, that’s what they did.  They beat me with a bag of oranges.  Doesn’t leave a mark.”
“I see.  Look, do you recognise this girl?”
“What’d she say her name was?”
“SEE-ra,” Lawrence intentionally emphasised the correct pronunciation.
“Sira huh. No.  Can’t say I do.”
“She implied one of your clones sent her.”
Ford looked up sharply. “She did, did she? Well, that’s damned odd. I wonder how one of them even got up here. Travel papers would be difficult. And as far as I know, none of them have personal lives that I was aware of.  But–” and he waved his hand and closed his eyes.  The speculation was draining him.
Lawrence went back to watching the lunar surface go by. It reminded him of being a kid, riding out to the outlying colonies with his Dad. They had gone to visit the work being done at the failed site of a new colony called Ambrosius.  It was one of the failings of the UMC that they had not been able to start any new colonies of their own yet, only bring together the existing colonies. However, Moon population was stable, so the pressure wasn’;t great for one. His Dad had big dreams of making the colony a success. He remembered listening to descriptions of what the Ambrosius colony would look like, what kind of buildings it would have.  It always sounded wonderful.  But the dream had died with his Dad. Now Ambrosius was the site of a small mining operation. The huge colonial dome wasn’t even in proper working order and few buildings had been built. Instead miners lived in self-enclosed small encampment off to the side, and a tourist company brought folks out in a Moon Hopper to take tours of the “Ghost town on the Moon.”
“Almost here,” Sira broke the silence. Lawrence realized he had nodded off to sleep. He could see the glow of Armstrong on the horizon.
“Great.  Now what?”
“Well, since you don’t know, and you won’t shut up about it, I guess I’ll take you to Ford’s place. The other Ford.”
“Won’t that cause a stir?
She looked over at the original Ford briefly.
“No, not really.  They don’t look all that much alike at this point.  You’ll see.”
They made the airlock at Armstrong without any trouble again and wound their way to the EVA storage lot. It wasn’t far to the other Ford’s place in Armstrong. Lawrence marveled at the difference between Cana and Armstrong.  People in suits walked with purpose here in the financial capital of the Moon.  The buildings looked older than Cana but somehow more distinguished and brighter.  Plus there were restaurants not trying to hide the fact that they were restaurants.
Sira led them to a bright white block of flats off a main artery of traffic where important whizzed by on personal transports. That was another difference. Personal transports were outlawed in Cana. Every other Moon Colony was full of them. They walked up one short flight of stairs to an incongruous round orange door. Sira typed in a code and the door rolled open.
Inside was a sparse almost all white living space. What clutter there was came from piles of reading material left strewn about the white furnishings.
“Johnny?  I’m home.  I got them.”
Lawrecne heard a rustling in a back room and around the corner came a John Ford clone. He looked to be all of 13 years old.
“Hello Father,” he said.