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.