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“It bes time, founder.”
Afa was shaking his shoulder. Sandy was sure he had only just closed his eyes. He got up, showered, changed into his dress uniform. Really quite flash. Boots highly polished and all.
The house felt different as he walked through it, with CGMS Shane and CC Afa. There were more people around. Perhaps that was it.
At eighteen hundred hours they knocked on the door of the Senator’s house. It was next door, only a hundred meters away.
“Good evening, Citizen Lieutenant. Welcome to my home.”
Sandy had seen the Senator any number of times, mainly on the monitors. He had never met him. He certainly did not expect the Senator himself to open the door.
“Come in. We have been waiting for you for a very long time.”
That was strange. Sandy was pretty sure they weren’t late. The Senator led them into a large room, dominated by a round table.
“Well, Gunny, now you know who has the seat next to you.”
That was Sandy. He recognized Citizen Administrator Luke from the news on the monitors, and of course the Senator. Shane was the only Gooch at the table. On the other side of Shane sat General Dean, and the fourth person along their side of the table was a red head, the only ginga at the table. Sandy reckoned he’d be Red, the boss doc. There were no Choo. Everybody he could see, all nine of them, showed as gold. At the top of the table sat the Senator and Luke. Down his end, at the bottom of the table, was a pair of twins. There were two empty seats at the top of the other side of the table.
“Sandy, meet the other members of the Twelve. We will introduce ourselves later. First, do you mind if I tell you how we came to be?”
The Senator did not wait for an answer.
“It is the story of Uso Dex and the reservation. The story of The Old Man, father of the Gooch and the Choo, and revered by the Gooch.”
Sandy noticed CGMS Shane bow his head.
“The Old Man was born in Tonga, but lived in different places around the world. He was a doctor, an anarchist, a communist. Famous for his short temper and his intolerance of authority. From him we have our central belief – there’s us and there’s them. Frig them. Once, when he was asked why he didn’t vote he answered, it doesn’t matter who I vote for, there’s always a government at the end of it. Don’t vote, he would say, it only encourages the buggars.
The Old Man managed to get himself in trouble in various countries around the world. Others loved him. He was outspoken and often wrong, but when he was right he was very right.
He didn’t like authority, but he hated those who stood by and let authority go feral. His problem with Nazi Germany was not with Hitler, it was with the millions of Germans who let it happen, who decided to accept, even to make the best of, what was going on.
His first big money maker was the recreational drug soma. We don’t have it here on the reservation but the Alphas love it. It’s safe, no hangover, the ideal happy pill. What they call a legal high out there. That money got Uso Dex started.
With that money he was able to continue his research. He had some great ideas about biology. We Twelve are evidence of that.
The original Twelve, nine of us sit around this table, are the result of an experiment where he took one fertilized human ovum, allowed it to divide twice, split the four cells apart, allowed them each to divide twice, and split those four four cell embryos apart. He had sixteen single cells, and we were each manipulated differently, as you can see by looking around the table.
None of us knows what he was trying to do with those manipulations, or whether he was just fiddling to see what tweaking was possible.
All of us were implanted back into human females. You, Sandy were frozen for a number of years first. Twelve of us, including you, survived to be born.
We all share exactly the same DNA, identical, but as you can see not identical twins, except for the twins. You, Sandy, you look Asian as do Blue and Richard. Me, Luke, Red, we look European, while the twins and General Dean are dark skinned, African or Polynesian. But the same genes. The difference is in The Old Man’s skill at using epenes, epigenetic factors, to determine which genes were available for expression when and for how long during our early development. Simple stuff now, but not simple at all then.
Ten of us survive today. Many years ago I executed one of us. Not a story for tonight. Some years ago, another of us was poisoned in New Ziland. The tenth left us many years ago. He felt we should rule the Alphas. Another story for another time.
We were the experiment that led to the Choo, and the Choo led to the Gooch. You, Sandy, you were different. Your birth was delayed until The Old Man was confident that a second human consciousness could be transferred into, stored inside, an occupied human brain. Inside your head you have the consciousness of The Old Man, and he would like out now please.”
‘I don’t have anyone inside my head.’
“Just take my word for it. You do. Is now a good time?”
‘Yeah, I suppose. What happens?’ Maybe that voice inside his head wasn’t something everyone had?
“We are going to transfer HAL’s consciousness to an android blank. Once we have done that, we will transfer The Old Man from you to storage and from there to a second android blank. Let’s start with HAL. Make it so HAL”
“Thank you Senator. Proceeding with download.”
Nothing happened. Sandy was beginning to think this was all some kind of a joke, when a door opened and in walked, well, BumbleBee from the Transformers, but with two legs, two arms, the normal human sort of bits. All one piece where the film Bumblebee looked disjointed with add-ons. Everyone, except for Sandy and the twins got up from the table and went over to HAL.
“Looking good.”... “How does it feel”... “Any problems?”
HAL came over to the table and took one of the empty seats, the one next to the Senator. “I am the first of my people. We are the ILFs, Inorganic Life Forms, and I take a place at this table.”
The others all sat down. The Senator spoke.
“You have been one of the Twelve, in all but body, for a number of years now HAL. We are very pleased, very pleased indeed, to see you in person, but BumbleBee?”
“Your choice my friend. When do we extract The Old Man?”
“Already done, Senator, while the lieutenant was sleeping before dinner. He will commence download in a few seconds, once systems have been cleared and calibrated.”
“Well Sandy, it seems that you were right. You don’t have anyone inside your head. I wonder what body The Old Man has chosen?
As I was saying, The Old Man established Uso Dex as a pharmaceutical and weapons development company and was successful in keeping the Gooch and the Choo secret from the Alphas.”
The door opened again, and a Polynesian, a well built and athletic Polynesian, wearing a suit entered.
“Evening gents. Before you ask, I have decided to call myself TOM, short for The Old Man. This casing looks exactly like that of the Torres Strait islander who was the father of nine of you, except HAL of course. In your case Gunny this man was the original male human Gooch ancestor. He provided the human DNA for the first human-chimp hybrid and was used again in the generation after the introduction of the gorilla genome into your ancestry. He is your great-great-great-great and your great-great grandfather. I am now the second ILF.” TOM took the last seat at the table.
“And now we are twelve. Time for dinner.”
At the Senator’s words, four stewards in military uniform began bringing in plates of food. Many plates of very nice food.
Sandy decided not to think too much about what had just happened. That sort of stuff was for Jane. He had had a big breakfast, but that was a long time ago now. Just smelling the food made him hungry. Eat.
“That wasn’t the end of things though Sandy”. The Senator was speaking again. “TOM realized that he couldn’t keep us secret forever. He was a Star Trek fan and a fair chunk of Uso Dex profits has always been used to pursue the dream of space travel. We employ many of the best scientists in the world, and we have got there. Not space travel, although that is close. We have found it easier to create another universe from scratch than to travel through this one. For now though, if there is no objection I will turn the monitors on, and we can see some of the reaction to my speech earlier on today, starting with the president.”
The many monitors around the room showed a picture of President Trump seated behind a desk, shuffling some notes. The subtitles on the screen read, “recorded at 1500 EST”.
“My fellow Americans, earlier this afternoon a former senator and colonel in our armed forces committed an act of treason against this great nation.
Federal officers will be arresting the Senator and members of his executive. I accept that many upstanding citizens of this great nation reside within the borders claimed by the Senator and I advise them to leave by noon tomorrow or they too risk arrest.
The Senator freely admits creating hybrid creatures contrary to law. These creatures are abominations in the eyes of God, and in the eyes of Allah. They will be exterminated on sight, should they exist. As will the sentient robot, should it exist.
I am, right now, declaring open season on the freaks bred there. The government of this great nation will pay a bounty of one million dollars for every Gooch, every Choo, every sentient robot, and every genetically modified human captured and brought to us, dead or alive.
I have consulted with the secretary for the treasury and the director of the FBI. All Uso Dex assets, financial and other, wherever we can find them in the world will be frozen and retained, pending determination by the Courts of the appropriate compensation whereupon they will be sold. I call upon all friends and allies of the United States to assist us in this.”
There was more, lots more. The Senator’s speech had certainly captured the world’s attention. Sandy wasn’t real interested in what the talking heads on TV had to say. He was interested in the twins sitting next to him.
‘Gidday. I’m Sandy.’
“I’m Mark. The ugly one’s Mike.” He even had the accent down right. Sandy loved it.
‘What do you and your brother do?’
“We’re in charge of crime.”
What? It turned out that Mark and Mike were recruiters, but they also made a lot of money for Uso Dex by organizing the manufacture and sale of recreational drugs, not physically addictive or illegal ones, and soma was always the biggest seller, but, of course, you can get used to the things that give you a good time and those habits can be hard to break. They headed up a major entertainment enterprise, lots of nightclubs that operated in America, in the UK, in Asia, and in Europe. In many ways this was a cover, a very lucrative cover, for their prime job of looking for candidate citizens.
TOM came around to their side of the table, bringing his chair.
“Sandy, I see you’ve met Nellie’s father. Which one of you is it? Mike?”
‘Eh, how’s that?’
“I was eavesdropping. Mike and Mark own a whole lot of the very best, and the very worst, nightclubs in the world. Modern day feely-palaces. A lot of the Betas work for them. Nellie’s mother is one of them. The Betas meet a lot of girls and guys – part of their cover they say, and they have, over the years, fathered and given birth to a lot of children. Wherever possible we bring the babies here. Sometimes the mothers come too, but almost always the mums don’t want to move away from their own families. A number of Choo, ten or more work for Mark and Mike. We are heading towards a thousand Beta kids on the outside now, many of them old enough to have kids of their own. Nellie’s mum looks after those who are off the reservation. They don’t live with her, but she keeps an eye on them all.”
‘Oh, does Nellie know?’
“Oh yeah, he meets his father once or twice a year. Mike can pass for Tongan. Nellie thinks his dad is a soldier. His great grandmother was a Choo, but rather too much human in her for her to remain part of the breeding program… I wanted to ask if you knew I was inside your head for all these years?”
‘Yeah, maybe I did. There was always this presence, kind of a commentator. Spent a lot of time laughing at me. It seems to be gone now.’
“Sorry if I was a nuisance.”
‘Nah, it’s allgood. Much better that I never knew.’
Sandy met Red, the doctor, who was nice enough but didn’t have a lot to say. Red left early. “I’ve got to up production” was all he said. He found out that Bluey, the engineer, earned his name because he swore a lot. Bluey left early too. He was in charge of the Exodus and building the new city and didn’t have time for all this mucking round. “Pleased to meet you Sandy, but I have the New World to build, starting tomorrow.”
Richard the physicist really wanted to talk about the New World. It seemed Uso Dex had created a new universe five years ago, and the New World was part of it. Sandy made the mistake of appearing interested. Well it sounded interesting, but Richard was able to make the story boring. Something about space, distance, and how our universe was expanding because space created more space. That made sense. So the trick was to create some space (easy, or thereabouts) and leave only one point of contact with our space - very very hard. Nearly always our universe absorbed the new one almost as soon as it began to form, and when it didn’t the risk was that an expanding black hole rather than a new universe would be the result. That would be bad. Very bad.
Sandy was rescued by HAL, who didn’t clank at all. ‘HAL, what happened to the founder who left?’
“They were interesting times Founder Sandy. I had just been created. The files are all there for you to look at, but it is the Senator’s story to tell, so perhaps you should wait for him to tell it. That founder’s name is Ben. The conflict between him and the Senator was a contest of ideas. The Senator has always believed that we should leave the Alphas to develop as they will. Ben believes that we are the future, and the ords are doomed. He believes that through the operation of natural selection they will become extinct, but that until they do they might as well serve us. Mike and Mark supported Ben. Luke, Dean and Red were with the Senator. Dick and Bluey didn’t care either way. They were interested only in their work. In the end Ben left, Mike and Mark stayed. He left with the Senator’s best wishes and a generous share of our wealth. He has managed to conceal himself from us for a number of years now.”
Sandy thought Ben didn’t know his biology. The Twelve weren’t a breeding population – they were all male. They were also genetically identical. Natural selection worked by an inherited characteristic increasing in incidence in a population. It wasn’t about ‘superior’. It was about having, on average, more offspring that survived to have more offspring…. Evolution wasn’t even always about natural selection. Dinosaurs didn’t become extinct because mammals were superior to them. They were wiped out when a humungous meteor hit the planet. Mass extinction events were important.
Sandy had another question for HAL. ‘After the Senator’s speech, Gunny Shane said the timing was good, with China sinking an aircraft carrier and some nuclear submarines, the Alphas had other stuff to worry about. What’s that all about?’
“The world is a very tense place right now Founder. For some time China has said the South China Sea is no place for American warships. Ten days ago it launched a number of non-nuclear ballistic missiles at an aircraft carrier in the no-go zone. Their launches were timed so that they arrived on target at the same time. The carrier group’s ballistic missile defenses were overwhelmed. Four of the missiles got through. The aircraft carrier was sunk. America retaliated by sinking two Chinese navy ships, not realizing that they were bait. Once torpedoes were launched, the Chinese knew where the subs were and fired low yield nuclear missiles from aircraft at those locations. Two submarines did not clear the area quickly enough and were sunk by those ultimate depth charges.”
And then the Senator was there. “We had offered to sell America better anti-ballistic missile defense systems. They didn’t buy. Sandy, I don’t wish to impose but there are a couple of things I would like to discuss with you, if you have a moment.”
“We have a meet and greet here on the reservation tomorrow. Gunny has agreed to come along”
Sandy wasn’t sure that Gunny was a meet and greet guy.
“We have a Gooch, his wife and his son, living off the reservation. They are in New Ziland and that worries me a little. Look after Adam, Ruth, and Abel for us, will you? We can’t extract them until Adam requests it, and he is a bit of a stubborn one. He’ll leave it late, maybe too late. I hope not.”
‘OK.’ New where?
“Red and I have to hop over to New Ziland tomorrow. It might be a good chance to extract the Gooch and his family. How about you and 1RR come along too?”
‘Sure.’ Sandy had never been off the reservation, but “hop” sounded like an airplane. Sandy had never been in an airplane, had never been in a helicopter either until today. All up, a most excellent birthday.