The incident that occurred in the field that day encouraged Sandra and Woody into paying more serious attention to the adult clones and less attention to the lab. In the days ahead there were important changes made in the management of the clone population.
From the beginning of the Clone project underway in Eden, there had been countless problems, which Sandra and Woody claimed to have factored in the process. One serious problem, which bothered Nicole, who managed the clone lab, was the failure rate of the female eggs and male somatic cells (35%), the death toll of embryos (22%), and death toll of fetuses (11%). Though Ingrid had obligingly given the Last Rites for all the offspring past and present and persisted on humoring Nicole by continuing this rite, the death rate seemed unacceptable to her. Nothing could be done about this, however. As it was explained by Sandra, who had the human’s religious convictions in mind, science couldn’t fix everything. The mortality rate in the lab was in God’s hands. Whether or not she was sincere or merely humoring the humans was debatable. Even more troubling to everyone than the mortality rate of the lab was, of course, the occasional death of a newborn. When this happened the Last Rites weren’t enough for Nicole. Each the dead infants would be given a funeral and be buried in the colony’s cemetery.
Other than a small number of infant markers, the graveyard was quite empty. None of the staff had died. There were no deceased children or adults. Unlike the health problems plaguing humans on Earth, other than rare congenital maladies, the clones had reached adulthood without serious illnesses. They were collectively healthy specimens. None of the childhood diseases such as flu and pneumonia were evident in the new world.
The physical well-being of the clones was never a serious issue. From lab inception to adulthood, their physical condition was carefully controlled and monitored. Their psychological makeup, however, had been seriously neglected by Sandra and Woody.
While Nicole managed the clone lab, a purely physical aspect of cloning, the other humans were given roles as nannies (or, at times, it seemed, ‘zoo keepers’ ) of the clones, taking turns watching the toddlers in the nursery, children in the enclosed play areas (broken down into age groups), and a growing number of young adults, restricted only by the boundaries of the electrical fence. As the incident in the field clearly indicated, the last group of clones required most of their efforts. The division of labor during the daytime for the four zones of clone security was: nursery (one persons watching the infants ), playground (two persons watching the children), patrol (one person patrolling perimeter), and field (three persons watching the adults). Working in shifts around the clock, the nannies would rotate hours and placement with each other, so that everyone shared the different shifts and zones of each groups equally. All three groups of clones had to be monitored when they were awake and when they were asleep. Sleeping quarters for the children were broken down into age groups as they were in the play areas. Because of the promiscuity of adult clones, they were, of course, separated into a male and female dorms. Because the dorms were all locked, all that was required were night watchpersons at that point. The number of nannies for sleeping hours was, therefore, only four (one for each zone), giving the other half a break, until the subsequent night when it was their turn.
The closest that the managers ever came to a psychological program for the clones, however, was the use of drugs. Not long after the psychotic lapses in the field, Skip gave Sandra and Woody approval for pre-emptive drugging for malcontents. All seven of the nanny’s would carry syringes in a pouch and a dart gun in their holsters for ‘bringing down’ difficult cases when it was their turn to watch the adults. ‘Bringing down’ was a polite word for rendering ‘berserkers’ almost unconscious. When this happened, the malcontents were taken to a special room in the compound and placed under observation. After that first serious encounter between the keepers and their charges, a fear had grown up among the staff and the managers that there might be a genetic reason for psychotic lapses among the clones. Whether it was caused by cryogenic freezing or was an inherent problem with clone manufacture was not known but this was what Sandra and Woody were going to find out. In subsequent days, a study began to compare the DNA of various subjects in order to isolate possible gene mutations in the chains. Though this would actually be the worst case scenario for the colony, it would at least isolate the cause for some of the clones’ behavior. What the managers had in mind with such a study—lobotomies, chemical castration, or euthanasia—remained a mystery to the colonists, and yet, during their remaining years, the issue of the clones was a heavy burden and shadow on all of their lives. More importantly, in the long run, after the donors passed from the scene, such a ‘killer gene’ would become a disaster for the human race. There would be no way of knowing how many mutants existed or would be produced in the future.
Fortunately for the human race, tests conducted on troublemakers showed no malformations in the DNA chains. After studying the clones at play and, as adults, at work doing their chores, the managers concluded that the meltdowns for the clones were random acts caused by stimulus to response (you push me; I push you) mentality—learned behavior, normally exhibited by children, which was more easily controlled in children than in adults. Unfortunately, it was soon discovered, the adults, if they could even be called that psychologically, remained essentially immature. Mentally, they never grew up. From early childhood, inspired by sight, sound, and smell, they had run around aimlessly at play, a pattern changing little until puberty when the sexes had to be watched carefully for dalliances. Because they were still much smaller than the keepers, these dalliances could be easily broken up. The second example of learned behavior—fear of their keepers—therefore discouraged them from acting inappropriately. Regrettably, the young clones were more influenced by the mob. There were and would be no follow-the-leader mentality in their ranks, other than, the loudest, most aggressive, and foolish among them. Since there were no role models among the children, mob mentality won out. This pattern was true throughout their development, from children to adults. Until adulthood, this pattern could be controlled by constant vigil and required relatively mild correction from the keepers, who were bigger and stronger than them, but when the clones reached adulthood and were merely younger copies of themselves, the pattern became intolerable.
At the core of clone behavior there was no biological determinate, as Skip had half hoped. There was the learned behavior of the mob, which had been controlled until the clones reached adulthood. Physical similarity and the resulting lack of individuality coupled with what Sandra called the X-factor (X equaling the unknown), had robbed the clones of initiative and reasoning power. Despite the managers’ theory of clone behavior, Sandra still suspected an inherent problem in the psychological makeup of clones. Whether it could be cured somehow by chemicals of advanced psycho-therapy or whether or not natural breeding of humans in the future might mitigate this problem, depended upon the X-factor, which by definition was as yet unknown.
Regardless of the outcome of the observations made by the managers of the malcontents and clones at play, there would, Sandra confessed, still be a problem with the clones. Unless clone behavior could be modified with some form of psychiatry or electric shock, which would require pre-emptive therapy, the problem couldn’t be easily solved. Special procedures would have to conducted on virtually all of the clones to prevent what was, they concluded, normal clone behavior. Because of the social influence of the mob and the X-factor, all clones, especially the adults, were prone to psychotic lapse, which made attempts at therapy short termed fixes, limited to isolated individuals. Unless more drastic measures were taken to at least weed out problem cases, all that could be done in the foreseeable future was drugging and incarcerating the worst members of the mob.
Despite this grim forecast, except for an occasional psychotic episode among the adults, Sandra and Woody were satisfied with this operation. Most of the time, they were able to turn in a good report to Skip, who—the eye in the sky, as Carla dubbed him, would offer his compliments to the staff. Except for the normal amount of grumblings from the nannies and keepers, who would never be happy with this state of affairs, all went fairly well in the lab and on the grounds in opinion of the managers, Sandra and Woody, and lab supervisor Nicole. There were, of course, a few minor outbursts among the adults and a collective surliness in the mob that kept the keepers on edge, but now that the adults knew what would happen to them if they misbehaved, there were no major incidents in the field.
One morning, though, as nannies watched the children in the nursery and play area and as the keepers kept guard over the adults as they gathered vegetables, weeded the garden, and picked fruit in the orchard, two major incidents, happening at almost the same time, occurred in the orchard and field. The incident in the orchard was, as almost all adult misbehavior, triggered by the sexual drive, but the incident in the field seemed to be simply a random act of rage.
Only moments before both episodes, an important meeting occurred between the caretakers and lab supervisor. With Rusty standing watch on the bridge, Skip had come down for his weekly report for the colony. Nicole made the usual reports of nannies and keepers being impatient and, in come cases, abusing the clones, but Sandra and Woody had found no physical signs of abuse on the children and had spied enough on the crew watching the adults to know that they were the ones suffering abuse. Unfortunately, because of the frequency of bites, scratches, and rocks thrown, in which the culprit melted into the clone population and also the inability to tell the identical look-a-likes from each other, it was impossible to make a case. The best the keepers could do was to keep their distance from teeth or claw and be on guard constantly from missiles thrown. Skip was well aware of Sandra’s and Woody’s theory of clone behavior, but it did little to solve the problem. Using a volcano as an analogy, he replied sarcastically, “we all know what causes a volcano to erupt, but that does little for the villagers below.” Skip was especially disturbed when he was told that virtually all of the troublemakers who had been drugged, placed in holding cells, and then released, might be among the ‘attack and run’ group again.
“This is dreadful!” he said, shaking his head. “What a nasty lot! What are we producing in that lab, Sandra? If you listened to Nicole, you’d think they’re a lovely bunch. That woman’s touched in the head. It’s no wonder our staff hate their charges. If only there was physical cure like all those diseases on Earth, instead of this being a psychological problem or that silly thing you call the X-factor, Sandra. We have entirely too much theory and not enough solutions. If only it was a physical problem—a mutation, we might solve it—terminate or at least lobotomize the troublemakers. Are you certain Sandra and Woody that there’s no other apparent cause for this condition. It’s not caused by cryogenic freezing or a hidden genetic disorder—something we can cure?”
Sandra looked Skip squarely in the eyes. “I see normal, healthy adult clones (if there are such adjectives for any of them), who might emotionally explode and become nearly uncontrollable pitted against seven keepers, whose only defense are the drugs supplied to them—a method good for no more than one troublemaker at a time. We’ve been lucky so far. They haven’t ganged up on the keepers. No one has been seriously injured or killed. But it’s only a matter of time!”
“It could happen any time,” Woody stepped forward now, “When I strolled through the field, I watched them glare at their keepers and sensed their unspoken resentment. It’s because of the new procedure of drugs and isolation that we’ve been able to study the clones up close, but all this shows us are the general patterns of clones. In my opinion, they’re all volcanoes ready to blow. From a distance, as they run amuck, we can only study mob behavior, which changes like the flying pattern of birds. We can simulate a meltdown during isolation by keeping them away from the mob. We can in effect chemically castrate the males with the needle and darts. But there isn’t a lasting cure for their sporadic violence short of lobotomies—”
“Then do it!” Skip socked his fist. “Lobotomize the troublemakers. Maybe the others will get the point if we shoot a couple of them too.”
“Sir,” Woody objected, “we don’t know when they meltdown or who will meltdown. We can’t predict when and not really why. We’d have to lobotomize troublemakers each time their was a flare-up. Who knows how many that would be. Most importantly, because of groups of them all look alike, we’d have to treat them all. Though they hate the clones, the keepers might not submit to such solutions. It’s not in their natures!”
“So,” Skip said grimly, “it’s an even worse problem. There’s no cure. It’s a natural tendency for them to go berserk.”
“That’s correct.” Sandra nodded grimly. “It’s caused by social conditioning or part of their mental makeup—the X-factor. Their maturation isn’t normal. They never grow up. Had they been born naturally and raised as individuals, they would probably have more predictable behavior. What we see in the clones is a psychological problem, which is not an individual phenomena, but a mob reaction, which makes it so difficult to control.”
“I don’t agree.” Skip held up his hand. “What if we made examples of few of them? Zap some of the troublemakers, maybe kill a few.”
“You mean stun them, don’t you?” Sandra frowned.
“Yes!” Skip jumped on the idea, “but if that doesn’t work, use a blaster. My special weapon has numerous settings, from knockout to vaporization. That would teach them a lesson!”
Sandra and Woody were speechless. Rusty was mumbling in disbelieve on the bridge.
“All right,” Skip spoke slowly now, as he gathered his thoughts. “…. What we must do isn’t pleasant. First, you will tell none of the keepers about what I said at this meeting. Don’t tell Nicole either; that woman’s slightly mad, herself. After computing the odds, I can find no way out of this other than making a lesson out of hardcore troublemakers.”
“What!?” cried Woody.
“You mean termination?” Sandra muttered incredulously “…Death!”
“Skip.” Rusty’s voice was heard on the bridge. “You can’t be serious. Surely, there has to be another way!”
“Listen to me,” Skip replied solemnly. “There’s no other way! We can’t allow the keepers to be harmed and the clones to run amuck. On behalf of the colony and human race, you must control those troublemakers or put them down like wild beasts!”
“Will the keepers ever accept this?” Sandra posed the question. Answering herself reflectively, she closed her eyes as she envisioned the future. “….They might want to lock them up. But will they be willing to kill troublemakers, themselves…. They won’t, sir. Woody’s right; it’s not in their nature, especially Nicole.”
“Well, that’s too bad!” Skip folded his arms resolutely. “I won’t allow them to threaten their keepers. If we can’t weed out malcontents in the lab, we’ll make examples of those caught in the act. Just one good example might do the trick. Let them know we mean business!”
With this grim solution in mind, Sandra, Woody, and Skip stood at a distance expecting more problems. As they watched and waited, Max continued to patrol the perimeter of the colony, Carla, Mbuto, and Said monitored the infants and children, respectively, and once again, as they had during the last incident, Abe, Sheila, and Ingrid each stood, dart gun in hand, in a triangular watch of the field and adjacent garden, as the adult clones busied themselves filling grain baskets or picking weeds. What kept the adults from acting on their natural urges was the line of sight. If they could see one of the keepers, gun in hand, they would normally return to business. It didn’t really matter to the keepers how much work they accomplished. They could even run about the field or garden aimlessly, as long as they stayed in the line of sight, didn’t try to sneak away, and likewise kept their distance from their keepers. In a fit of anger, Said swore, after his last turn in the field, he would empty his dart gun on the next clone who tried attacking him. It appeared now that the vast majority of the adults had learned to follow the basic rules of not-to-close and not-to-far-away.
All it took today was one slip-up, so subtle at first, Ingrid didn’t notice until it was too late. As she pondered her faith, which was tested greatly by her role as nanny and keeper, she looked away just long enough for a couple to slip away. Like the other guards, she dreaded getting bitten or scratched and, in the field, getting pelted with rocks, so she would maintain the maximum distance, just barely in line of sign. This might have been all right if Abe and Sheila had been more alert that day and weren’t watching a different portion of the triangle. The slight rise she stood on prevented the couple from ducking down in the field for mischief but at Ingrid’s corner of the triangle, which bordered the orchard, there were low-lying saplings providing a cover that the young man and woman crawled beneath.
“Oh dear Lord!” she screamed. Raising her communicator to her ear, she cried breathlessly. “Captain! Captain! I’m going after a pair. They ran into the orchard. I think it might be too late!”
“Sheila,” Abe barked, “watch your corner! I’m coming Ingrid. Don’t hesitate to use your darts!”
After listening to their conversation, Skip and the managers were racing to the scene. Abandoning the infants, who were safely corralled, Carla also ran took to her heels. At this point, something inexplicable happened as they rushed to the scene. In the least guarded corner of the triangle now, Sheila watched helplessly as a quarrel broke out between two men. Later it would be determined that Max-10’s hoe accidentally cut into Said-18’s shoe. Anger, which was common among natural humans, was normally abated by an apology, but for clones, who flew into uncontrolled rage, an apology made no difference. Before, Max-10 could even say a word, he was cut down by Said-18’s shovel, his head slit open, causing him to drop unconscious to the ground. The other clones reacted as a group, the entire team fleeing the scene. In a panicked overkill reaction to prevent a pregnancy, Ingrid, Abe, Skip and his team, and Carla, who had abandoned her post, managed to break the couple apart but not before the female was impregnated with sperm.
“We’re too late!” Ingrid groaned.
“Are you sure?” Sandra poked her head into the nest.
Lying there beneath the small tree, the couple seemed oblivious. Four pairs of hands—Abe, Max, Skip, and Woody reached in to pull them apart. In a rare fit of rage, Sandra throttled the man with her fists. Even Nicole, who rarely left the lab, had raced frantically to the scene.
“You bastard! Look what you did!” Sandra said through gritting teeth.
“This isn’t good….This isn’t good,” muttered Max.
“How did he do it that fast?” marveled Carla. “One moment Ingrid sounds the alarm. The next moment it’s over. What a stud!”
“This isn’t funny!” Nicole shouted tearfully. “He’s signed the infant’s death warrant!”
Both the man and woman were given the drug, jerked upright and, on wobbly legs, pulled up to their feet. “You fools!” Skip shouted at them. “You damn fools!” Several meters away from the murder scene, as the couple was escorted by the managers to isolation, Sheila was at this moment standing in shock, unimpressed with the incident in the orchard as Said 18 stood staring at her, bloodied hoe in hand. After running away as a group, the adult clones mulled awhile near the electrical fence, then gradually trickled one-by-one back to the field. Upon learning of the incident in the orchard, everyone had gathered at the site. Mbuto and Said, who heard the commotion from a distance, had, like Carla, abandoned their posts and ran to the scene, unaware of the greater tragedy in the field. Fearful that the clone would attack her, Sheila finally came to her senses, took aim, and fired a dart at Said-12. Had she known what he had in mind, she would have fired her dart gun earlier. Now one of the clones on her watch appeared to be dead.
The dart, which had hit Said-12’s hand, seemed not to phase the man, so she fired another, this one missing the mark completely. Raising her communicator to her mouth, with quivering voice she called, “Captain Drexel! There’s been an incident! A clone is dead!”
“I’m on my way!” cried Abe.
At this point, Skip demonstrated his superior running speed, racing far ahead of Abe and the others. A crackling noise and the smell of ozone indicated that shots were fired, and it was over by the time the others arrived on the scene. When he saw Said-12 standing there with his bloodied hoe, Skip had chosen his setting, took careful aim with his weapon and, in front of the other clones, by all appearances shot Said-12 dead. Looking down in horror at the two men on the ground afterwards, everyone were shocked by happened. The clones formed a circle around the group. Fearing retribution, with dart guns drawn, the keepers turned to face the clones. Skip now waved his weapon sideways at the clones as if to say, “Go away!” but it soon became obvious by their docile expressions that they weren’t a threat. An example had been made with Said-12. At last, a lasting impression would be made on this generation. What many of them felt was a righteous kill was interpreted differently by Nicole, who thought the crime was spontaneous, which was how clones normally behaved about everything. For her, therefore, it should have been considered manslaughter, a fact that made Skip apparent execution of Said-12, in her eyes, murder. No one, however, paid attention to the distraught women as she ranted and raved, and, for a moment, until Sandra came out to escort her back to the lab, everyone feared Skip might shoot her, too.
The look detected in his stony expression told them that he meant business. For the longest time, as Sheila and Ingrid wept quietly to themselves, no one said a word to Skip. Everyone understood what he had to do. Everyone had been reminded of who was the indisputable leader of Eden, and what this meant for the future. No one really knew what had happened…. Skip had played a trick on them all!
Sandra and Woody, who inspected the two men before Doctor Max Rodgers arrived on the scene, knew at once what was afoot after Skip gave them a hand signal. When Max bent down excitedly to check their vital signs, Skip raised him up rudely by his collar and whispered shrilly into his ear, “Keep that information to yourself!”
“Take the bodies to the hospital.” He ordered Sandra and Woody.
“Oh yes,” Max sputtered obligingly, “they’re quite dead.”
“But I saw Max-10 move!” Mbuto pointed excitedly.
Stunned by this event, Carla and Said nevertheless had the presence of mind to agree.
“I saw him crack his head open!” Sheila pointed at Max-10. “Skip shot Said-10 dead!”
Catching on to the ploy, which Sheila gave credence to, Abe shouted at Carla, Mbuto, and Said, “There dead, you fools. Give us a hand!”
Having caught on finally, the remainder of the seven nannies and keepers, helped the managers usher the unconscious men from the scene. As far as the other shocked and horrified adult clones were concerned, Skip would let them think Said-12 had been executed after his apparent murder of Max-10, so they would finally get the point: there would be no more incidents in the colony!
Their eyes wide with fear and mouths gaping, the clones froze like statues in the field. The impact made upon them was dramatic and lasting. But Skip wasn’t quite finished. Taking in the assembly at a glance, he shouted in a booming voice, “Listen up, all of you! There will be no more running off out of sight or silly games. From this day forward, you’ll obey the humans of Earth. As your donors, they’re also your masters. As first generations of clones, you, the children, and infants owe your existence to them. You are the future of Eden. Earth’s remnant are its foundation over which the Celestial God watches. He sees and hears everything you do. As his chosen on Eden, you’re in His debt, too. He let you live. But he can, as he once did on Earth, just as easily destroy you!” “You’ve been forewarned!” He wrung his finger at them. “Go and sin no more!”
Upon hearing Skip’s grandiloquent proclamation, the colonists were greatly amused. For the first time anyone could remember, the adult clones were silent and still. The effect of Skip’s words was mirrored in their faces. Virtually all of them had been shaken to the core. In using the Celestial God introduced by Ingrid, he had gone beyond the trick played upon the clones. In addition to the threat to individual perpetrators who would suffer the same fate as Said-12, he had given a warning to the clone population as a whole. They would behave themselves or suffer the wrath of the Almighty. By using bombastic language to reinforce his words, Skip had, like a prophets of old, put the fear of the Lord in them. The Celestial God had won the day.