Author: Rick Tobin

Her lips were soft as marshmallows fresh out of the bag—tender yet unyielding to Aaron’s hard press against them. They’d been torn apart from their love for years, but now, suddenly renewed, he could not hold back tears as they kissed. His strong hands held her thick dark hair as he pulled her face tight to his. Then electric shocks woke him as they had every day during his forced deep space mission. It was his shift to join the crew in the ship’s control center to seek out new worlds to conquer. He had no choice. There was no time for his feelings, only a new automated injection of Chlorfaxian20 in his arm through his iridescent-blue bodysuit.

“Pilot, get to your station. You’re late!” Captain Zamose barked at Aaron, disregarding the crewman’s superior stature.

“The lifts were overcrowded. Couldn’t get here sooner.” Aaron tried to call off the verbal abuse with an honest assessment. Zamose was not having it.

“The one thing we require above all on the Caroeto is discipline. That’s three marks for you. Is there a problem?”

Aaron stood away from his post, which was forbidden, striding back to his superior, into Zamose’s personal space, glaring intently.

“I’m tired of this, and you, and this stupid voyage. I’ve seen the status reports. There’s no return trip back home. No reuniting. It’s all a lie…a damnable lie, and you support it in your little purple suit like some pumped-up turnip. I’m done with this. I refuse any more juice. Find someone else.”

“Memories of your loved ones, I suppose.” Zamose looked to the side in disappointment. “It’s the sign, but you’re earlier than usual this time.” Zamose pressed a small blue button on his jumpsuit sleeves, arousing two robust robots wearing covered black face shields to rush into the center.

“What do you mean, ‘this time’?” Aaron snapped back.

“The juice is having less effect as the centuries go by. Whether it’s the age of the drugs or our worn-out DNA, we don’t know. I’m not supposed to know. I’ve been replaced a dozen times whenever I start remembering my father in his wheelchair. When that’s not blocked any longer, I’ll probably be joining you in the recycling tanks so my replacement can take charge.”

“What…what are you talking about?” Aaron tried resisting the metal grips of the security forces, but there was no use. One injected him with a red fluid, causing Aaron to buckle before the robot lifted him into its arms like a newborn.

“Poor Aaron. She must have been special. At least you didn’t remember your child these last two times. Clones don’t have that right or need those thoughts. It’s getting harder for me as I sometimes see my father and smell his rancorous odor from cancer during hospice. I should have been there for him. The guilt is growing in me, distracting my duties.”

Aaron slumped, unconscious, as the server bots took him deep into the ship’s cloning recycling operations.

“It’s a shame, Father, for that one to fail like that, in anger. Now I’ll have his duties until the next Aaron fills the duty roster tomorrow. Help me in your strength so that I may not refuse my duties this shift.”