â€œI still donâ€™t understand how anyone could justify putting a little kid through this.â€ Quinnâ€™s father glared at the doctor, viciously protective.
The doctor shrugged. â€œItâ€™s to discourage use. They didn’t intend it for little kids.â€
His mother had been begging hopelessly against the policy all morning. â€œThen why does he have to do it?â€ She asked.
The doctor was direct. â€œItâ€™s the law.â€ They came to the end of the white corridor. The doctor put his hand on the white door, and looked directly at Quinnâ€™s father. â€œTen minutes in the room, you are allowed to be present because heâ€™s a minor, but you canâ€™t block his line of sight.â€ The doctor held open the door. Quinnâ€™s father pushed the wheelchair into the room. There was a boy asleep on a metal bed in the middle of the room.
Quinnâ€™s father started his stopwatch. â€œIt’s starts now.â€
â€œRight.â€ The doctor sighed, shaking his head.
â€œQuinn, that boy isnâ€™t you.â€ His father gestured to the sleeping child. â€œIt may look like you, but it isnâ€™t.â€ Quinn couldnâ€™t see the boy on the table very well from his wheelchair, just the side of the Copys’ pink face and arm, the rest covered by a blue sheet. The Copy was totally bald, and everything Quinn could see looked soft. He had no spots or scars at all. The Copy had tubes in his arms that led to bags full of yellow goop and clear liquid. Quinn felt his father put a big hand on his tiny shoulder â€œHe hasnâ€™t even got much of a brain son, so you donâ€™t need to feel sorry for him. We just have to stand here in this room for a bit, because itâ€™s UN law, because they want to make little kids feel bad.â€
â€œThey make everyone who gets a clone done for parts do it.â€ said the doctor.
Quinns father whirled and pointed his finger. â€œYou just keep your eyes on your watch.â€ Quinns father knelt next to the wheelchair. â€œNow Quinn, itâ€™s important that you understand that boy isnâ€™t real, heâ€™s just a bunch of parts, like the Connect-A-Bits that we got you. He doesnâ€™t think and heâ€™ll never wake up. Heâ€™s just going to go on sleeping forever.â€
Quinn knew the truth, he knew because he had heard the other kids in the hospital talk about it when the grownups were out of earshot. They said that the doctors donâ€™t make the first cuts on the Copy; itâ€™s all done by workmen who havenâ€™t taken the doctors’ oath. They just go in and cut out a huge chunk of person in the area they need and then doctors take that slab of meat and carefully take the chunk they want. One of the kids said that sometimes the Copy wakes up and screams, but Quinn didnâ€™t believe that part, it sounded stupid, like it was from a scary movie.
Quinnâ€™s motherâ€™s eyes were glassy and she tightly gripped his hand. She looked at the Copy, her chin trembling, and her mouth tight. Her eyes were red.
â€œHeâ€™s breathing.â€ she said softly.
â€œYes, Sarah, itâ€™s breathing. It has to breathe. It doesnâ€™t mean itâ€™s alive.â€
They were silent for a long time after that, all of them watching the nameless, nearly brainless boy.
Which one of you did I go to the DEX with last night? Fess up fuckers, cause one of you left me floating in R-space without my pants.
At first, I didnâ€™t even know I was awake, there was light inside of my head and I couldnâ€™t make it dark. Then I realized that my eyes were open and I was staring out a window too drunk to move my head. My roll had worn down, though I had that freaky hungry feeling, the one where you want to eat mountains of citrus. I had my piece and my wad – still there, score one for the Socket – but I couldnâ€™t find my hi-glo pants, which had just begun to conform perfectly to the shape of my ass. I was sitting in a pile of wet plastic without my pants. Imagine my excitement.
I donâ€™t know what it feels like for Fucksticks, but a Socket can always tell if sheâ€™s had sex the morning after. Itâ€™s a relaxed ache that says that, yes; you got yourself good and fucked. That particular feeling convinced me that I had probably discarded my pants in the meat pile last night.
My Piece was warm from resting on my crotch all night. Guess what? The safety was off. I could have blown off my vag off in the middle of the fucking night and I would have been streaming to you from the hospital getting replacement parts.
I was feeling so shitty that I sucked the rest of my wad to relax. So Iâ€™m smoking, letting the hangover fumes do their work and Iâ€™m thinking, what did I do last night, did I swing Trans or Fuckstick? Or god forbid, another Socket. Iâ€™m usually Fuckstick, but I end up with Trans every time Iâ€™m drunk or rolling. Why canâ€™t I just meet a Trans when Iâ€™m sober, so that I can actually remember talking to them? Lizzie would say that itâ€™s because I donâ€™t want a real relationship, and that Fucksticks are just so easy to go through, like popping Animines. Personally I think Trans like me better when Iâ€™m stupid.
Iâ€™ve got a throbbing headache and Iâ€™m thinking about drinking again when this Fuckstick walks up to me and asks for a puff of my wad. I tell him to fuck off, and he starts spazing, flailing his limbs around making me nervous. I had to shoot the fucker. Course, this wakes up all the other shits passed out on the floor and weâ€™ve all got to clear out before the medic d-rots arrive and report an illegal gathering. I still donâ€™t have my pants, so I’ve got to take the pants off the guy who I just shot, who acts like a total dipshit until he passes out.
Some people just can’t take lead.
The day Korea went silent was the greatest single act of terror the world has ever known. There were no bombs in Samsungs tower, no poisonous explosions, no shootings, no crystal night. There was only that quiet dormant virus, spreading silently from one person to another, insidiously latching itself inside the most sensitive human organ.
Samsung tower dominated Seoul, an icicle rising from clustered silver buildings, connecting the heavens to earth in its mirrored windows. The wealth of United Korea was in its people: brilliant, poised, diplomatic communicators. Private industry and government invested in the advancement of United Korea’s primary resource, and at the vibrant center of that development was the merging of machines and men.
Each Korean citizen was implanted with mechanical discs that gave him or her access to an instant encyclopedia of knowledge and the full vocabulary of seven world languages. At the age of one year, each child could speak fluently, and the effect was eerie and magnificent. Within a few years, Korean teenagers were babbling in several languages simultaneously, the slang a sharp mixed tongue impossible for all but the most brilliant of linguists to follow. Within two generations, the world was relying on Korea for diplomats, programmers, managers, entertainers, businessmen and bankers. They said that to speak with a Korean was to open a library of world knowledge.
In sixty seconds on October 1st, the virus hatched from its incubation and destroyed the precious language center in each implanted mind. Some say that it was a group of Americans who did the job, angry that Samsung closed its U.S. offices and left them without work. Others claim it was done by religious conservatives, taking a hard line on the controversial issues surrounding the modification of the mind.
Stuttered half-words, grunts and screams ripped through the country. On conference calls business leaders grabbed their throats and shook their heads, their brains feeding meaning without words. Confusion and terror leaped from village to village; riots, mass hysteria and suicides swept the country. Terrible crashes occurred as transportation officials failed to communicate with each other. The minister of finance, at the age of 98, the oldest man in government, managed to reach out over international lines, flexing the muscles he had not used for 70 years as he cried across the oceans of the world. Help. Help.
During that silent time there were acts of great compassion. Mothers sang wordlessly to their children; strangers touched comforting hands on the street; lovers watched each other’s faces with new curiosity. The nation searched for meaning in the flickered expressions, the skin and eyes, the lip, the head. In a world dominated by screens, by virtual imitation, the forced exile from language made the people turn to each other. The heroes of that time go unrecorded, for they were all silent. Aid workers came, blue helmets and students from every continent on earth, coming to teach the ancient words. They expected chaos, but they found a new world.
Carol laughed, her plump cheeks rising over tiny eyes. “Admit it, you’re a genius.”
Jude shook his head and his dark silky hair slipped over his pale face. “I do okay, but I wouldn’t say I’m a genius.”
Carol smirked and put her hands on her fleshy hips. “How about Renaissance man? Come on! When you were seventeen you conducted experiments on global warming with Nobel Prize winners.”
He smiled rakishly. “It wasn’t just global warming. The simulations were dealing with the negative environmental effects of mankind on the planet. There were hundreds of variables involved; global warming was just one of them.”
Carol leaned on the bar. “Right, then you decided that wasn’t enough and you switched to medicine.”
Jude shrugged. “No one cares about the environment. It was too depressing to watch simulations of humanity killing itself.” Jude scowled, imagining his great grandchildren burning. “Besides, there is more money in viral research.”
Carol wiped her sweaty hands on her square skirt, a piece of clothing that looked like it was pulled from her grandmother’s closet. “Sure, yeah, you’re curing the worlds illnesses for the money.” Carol put her wide hand on Jude’s shoulder. He smiled flatly and pulled away. Carol grinned back at him, freckles stretching on her cheeks. “On top of all this professional stuff, you conduct those martial arts and survival skills workshops on weekends.”
Jude put down his beer. “That’s just for friends, it’s nothing big.”
“Right. Nothing.” Carol looked at their friends, smoking and drinking around the bar. “If I didn’t know any better Jude, I would say you were building an army.” Carol giggled, and Jude’s face went blank and grey, like a shut off television screen. He laughed a moment later, a hollow, dark sound. Carol’s eyes widened. She knew, and it was his fault.
Later that night, Jude went to see her, holding a bottle of old red wine in his hands. Carol’s house was cluttered, dried paint stains, magazine clippings and fabric in piles around the floor. It was two AM and she was drowsy, her eyes puffed and sleepy. She let him in and asked him what was wrong.
Jude had been crying.
He opened and poured the wine without asking. They drank as he told her everything she wanted to hear. Her face beamed, suddenly and unexpectedly pretty. Then she sputtered, wine dripping down her chin as she tumbled out of her chair and landed heavily on the carpet. Her body was heavy and soft, her nails trimmed and painted. Jude ran the tub and set her inside, gently laying her head on the ceramic. He hoped that Carol had drunk enough of the sedative that she would stay under.
Jude told himself that when they rebuilt the world, he will tell them about her, how she died to protect the secret of his plan. They would erect monuments in her name; he would see to that. After the plague his handpicked civilization would all know the truth. They would call her the mother of peace. The children might not know her face, but they would appeal to her as a saint. He told her this in the bathroom, her body slipping again and again under the warm water.
It surprised him how much it took to cut her flesh. It bent like rubber wrinkles around the razorblade. He had to try over and over before he punctured the skin, pressing hard against freckled meat. Blood slipped over her arm and under his fingernails. His hands were shaking. Jude sawed against the skin, grinding his teeth. This was for everyone.