The New Generation
The days following Skip’s deception and proclamation, saw a transformation in the behavior of the clones. As stunned eyewitnesses to the lesson shown to them, they realized at last who were the masters of the colony. When Said-12 was revived from the knock-out blast from Skip’s weapon, he was told, in front of a selected group of clones, that it was a miracle. Ingrid, who felt responsibility for one of the day’s incidents, had helped Max resuscitate Said. Hearing Skip praise her for bringing him back from the dead, she felt obliged to support this exaggeration. Max-10, who had a concussion, was more seriously injured, and didn’t awaken for several days, at which time Skip orchestrated a brand new audience to witness a second miracle by Ingrid, this time with a carefully thought out prayer. To her surprise and dismay, these deceptions, like Skip’s first deception worked. His proclamation had set the stage for what became almost a theocratic state. Skip insisted on Abe, who had been captain of Earth’s remnant, being the secular leader of the colony. In the eyes of the clone witnesses, Ingrid’s alleged miracles had greatly strengthened her role as religious leader among the clones, but made her seem like a charlatan among her human colleagues. None of them could blame her for going along with Skip. The success of the deceptions seemed justification enough. Yet by her own estimation, she had sold out for the sake of peace.
“What’s more important than peace?” Carla tried reasoning with her.
“Truth!” Ingrid replied.
“Truth….What is truth?…. Where is the peace?” Said rolled the words around in his mouth. “Long, long ago we set out to explore Neptune’s dark moon and wound up, after four savage planets, in cyber-sleep for a hundred thousand years. Here on Kepler 186, which we renamed Eden, we found another savage world, which had already destroyed one civilization greater than our own, and kept us bottled up behind a protective electric fence watching over a race of clones manufactured, not out of love, but from our genes. How comforting is this? Where is the peace? Now, as we age, we look ahead to a day, we ourselves shall not see, when enough of these synthetic beings are produced to allow normal procreation on a world five hundred and fifty seven light years from Earth…. By then we, the last of our race, will be dead. Where is the truth or peace in this?”
Ingrid remained silent, as she contemplated his words. Drawn to Said’s illumination, Abe, Sheila, Max, Carla, and Mbuto, listened, deeply moved. Back aboard the Phoenix now, Skip also heard this gloomy summation from their communication links, but, not wanting to intrude this time, remained silent.
“Is that how they all feel?” he whispered to Rusty.
“I don’t know.” Rusty shook his head. “Sometimes I relish the cold darkness of space!”
“We can leave yet” Skip murmured. “They’re not ready. All of them have grown in strength and wisdom, but lack enthusiasm. The religion of Ingrid Westfall has helped make them masters in Eden but reluctantly so. This hour Said, once the greatest thorn in my side, sounded like a sage, but it wasn’t philosophy I wanted to hear. Their improvement is marred by attitude. Most of them share Said’s pessimism and still view their service with disdain.”
Skip could not leave the colony in the hands of such a gloomy bunch. In addition to the general malaise of the group, an important member of the human staff had become mentally unfit after that fateful day. Her mind already befuddled, Nicole was brought further to the brink of insanity by the forced abortion of the pregnant clone—an action that caused everyone dismay, especially Ingrid, who saw it as another taking of a human life. This was, of course, broadcasted to the adult clones as a warning of what will happen if female clones were impregnated.
From this day forward, all levels of clone development, from toddlers to adults was monitored by a no-nonsense code, reinforced now by a higher power. For the adult clones, who had been the only serious problems in the colony, this translated into two unwritten and unsaid mottos: (1) you play/you pay; and (2) you kill/you die. No acts of violence were allowed against keepers or fellow clones. Troublemakers would be darted and placed in isolation for a period of time equal to the offense. Repeat offenders would be lobotomized, a procedure that was feared more than imprisonment or death.
The children naturally became the most compliant members of the clone population. Their smaller size helped the nannies maintain order in this group. Darts and needles were seldom necessary in making them behave. Only the adults had required constant reminders of what will happen if they step out of line, and now that they were threatened with extinction by the Celestial God, himself, if they didn’t tow the mark, they evolved into obedient and hard-working members of the community.
During the long periods of watching over the clones as they assisted them in tending the garden, greenhouse, fields, and laboratory, the eight original humans had become old and worn out. With the continuing generations of clones under Sandra’s and Woody’s constant management, the humans of Earth assisted them, acting as nannies and keepers, while Nicole continued her role as lab supervisor for the new batch of clones, whose genetic material continued to be extracted from a previous batch. In addition to these most important tasks, seven of the nannies and keepers still had to maintain the upkeep of the habitat as well as control of the gardens, greenhouse, and fields.
The clones were taught to read, write, and the fundamentals of math and science, but until they were at the stage of interbreeding, which was many years in the future, their education was limited to basic education. As Skip once explained, they were, as non-breeding clones, merely a stage set for normal propagation. The period from toddler to adult, unlike the accelerated clone development in the lab, was at the normal growth rate of approximately eighteen years. Long before normal propagation would occur, however, time had taken its toll on the original colonists. No longer stellarnauts and explorers but caretakers themselves, they lacked the androids immortality. They had become old men and women. Because of the endless periods of hibernation in space, time had become irrelevant to the humans until they finally settled down in Eden. A hundred thousand years passed and none of the stellarnauts had aged, and yet memories of their families, friends, and the scientists who had given them such a fine send-off when they embarked upon the Triton mission had been as fresh in their minds as if it had happened only months ago. After the years passed and, after the habitat became a city, the laboratory produced embryos, fetuses, and newborns, and the nursery graduated batch after batch of children, who grew into young adults, time had finally caught up with them. By that point, their memories had begun to fade and their bodies succumbed to human mortality.
The first member to die was Nicole, who had lived far beyond expectations. Despite the efforts of Doctor Max Rodgers to save his onetime assistant, her small body was worn out and wracked by the wasting disease caused by laboratory exposure and, Max suspected, a microbe contacted in the field. The poor woman died thoroughly insane, flailing about and trying to bite her physician and her friends. Nevertheless, as rows of her patients looked on sadly, Nicole was given a grand funeral by Ingrid, who, despite her efforts to offer a uncomplicated religion to the colony, took the opportunity to exorcize the demon that spouted obscenities from her mouth then after Nicole was pronounced dead, worried that she hadn’t been truly saved, gave her Extreme Unction, this time as merely a preacher concerned for her soul. In the end, in the manner of the aged suffering dementia, Nicole forgot Ingrid’s efforts at appeasement and their current friendship and cursed her for her attitude about the clones. Because of Ingrid’s use of Catholic rites, a precedent was set for the new humans. It was pointed out by Skip, who did research on the subject, that the original church was, like Ingrid’s religion, a primitive church with little ceremony and ritual. It seemed only natural to Ingrid that she follow history, after such a momentous event. At this stage it wasn’t important to refer to the church as anything but ‘the good news.’ Whether or not she was called a preacher, reverend, priestess, or priest didn’t matter. Despite this insistence on simplicity, however, Nicole, who was called the Clone Master by the androids, had become in the eyes of her patients a saint.
The truth was, of course, Nicole had been right to suspect Ingrid’s sincerity about the clones. Ingrid had never really accepted the notion that they had souls, until Skip lectured her that one day. Since then, with lingering misgivings, she was, at times, forced to mix apples, oranges, and bananas, as Max saw it. After all, Said was a Muslim, Carla had her own special conception of God, and the other colonists agreed with Nicole that it was unfair not to include all levels of human development as being saved. Already institutionalized when Nicole was given Extreme Unction, the rite of Last Rites was considered retroactive and preventative, inoculating all embryonic, fetal, and current unborn infants; and all newborns were automatically baptized into the faith. No one was exempt from salvation. Even the androids, though considered manufactured animations, were listed among the congregation. Like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz, who was given a heart, each of them were assigned crude crosses to signify that they had souls. Skip exhibited his sense of humor by uttering an embarrassed laugh, and yet, to please Ingrid, he wore it constantly around his neck. Hence, all things considered, there was a hybrid and complex undercurrent below the simple foundation of Ingrid’s church, which had grown from a handful of skeptical earthlings into hundreds of colonists—natural and manufactured.
By this time, the walls of the colony had been expanded, so that they reached the dome forest and several kilometers south. The crusade to conquer paradise had not yet begun and, as before, cautious expeditions were made to various corners of the new world. The most important function of habitat would be for a long time to come to generate a new population of humans, one able to interbred and act on its own.
The next member of Earth’s survivors to die was Max, who had been a middle aged man when he went into space. Living to the ripe old age of 110, he expressed few regrets when he took ill one day. Fearful that the doctor had never really been sincere about the church, Ingrid offered to hear his confession. Once again, Max reminded her that she wasn’t a Catholic priest, but by then it was too late to recant her suggestion that he confess his sins, which she uttered in front of his colleagues and several dozen children and young adults. Another precedent, seen by the inheritors, had been set for the future. Before Max had a chance to change his mind on this matter, he died in the presence of the others, a smile on his wrinkled face and garland of flowers, placed by Sheila, in his white hair. Without seconds thoughts this time, Ingrid gave Max the Last Rites, certain that God would accept this good man.
As fate or the Lord’s well would have it, the others suffered their mortality one-by-one in less than a decade. Carla was the next to pass away, both confessing her sins and accepting the Last Rites ahead of schedule just to make sure. Stricken personally by the death of this spirited woman, Ingrid painted a tearful picture for Carla before her last breath of a wondrous city, similar to the Crystal City, but with millions of other resurrected bodies mulling about—old friends, family, and her friends from the colony, waiting in the timeless corridors of Paradise as Carla passed through its golden gates. Carla’s last words to her in whisper, which summed up her irreverence and sense of humor, was a question that put Ingrid to the test, “will those infernal clones be up there? Are they not children of an alien god?”
Fortunately, those in attendance hadn’t heard the question, but Ingrid looked around self-consciously and uttered a hysterical laugh. No one would have blamed her equivocating then, but Ingrid thought carefully and, in a whisper, gave Carla a careful answer, “The Lord’s well is inscrutable. All things are possible with God.”
The following year claimed Captain Abe Drexel, the next oldest member of the Triton crew. Abe had simply dropped dead in his tracks while in the Control Center, so all that was required was the Last Rites. So grief-stricken was Sheila, she had a nervous breakdown and threatened to take her life. What kept her from suicide was Ingrid’s stern promise that this was the quickest path to hell. Hell, after all, like heaven had been institutionalized in the church, being the best way to make them all behave. Not long after Sheila’s vow to hold on until she and Abe could reunite in Paradise, as Ingrid had promised, she too expired—this time in the garden, where she also, as the congregation looked on, received the sacred rite.
Mbuto, of all the colonists, died prepared. Not only had he confessed his sins and prayed constantly during the last months of his life, he told everyone as he lie on his death bed that he was ready to meet the Lord. No one saw Ingrid perform the Last Rites which did not seem to be needed in Mbuto’s case, but she admitted later that she had done so quietly, because of his earlier request. Unlike the straight forward path to salvation for Mbuto, Said had been born a Muslim, who considered Jesus to be a mere prophet like Mohammed. Because she had mentioned Jesus’ death and resurrection as the cornerstone of being born again, Said had seemed to accept this keystone of the church, and yet the last words before he expired, “There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet!” were exactly what a good Muslim would say. Once again, as her last act of spiritual equivocation, she turned to the androids, the last member’s remaining of the original crew, and exclaimed simply, “He’s delirious!” Then performed the Last Rites.
The last member of the human race of Earth to die fittingly enough was Ingrid, herself. At 108 years old she was worn out and needed a rest but was not really ill. For this reason, her sudden death, while she was preaching her last sermon, was devastating for the children of Eden. Skip and his crew performed their last service to the colony by supervising her funeral and the erection of her memorial. Already there were eleven smaller grave stones in the colony’s cemetery. Because Ingrid had felt obliged to make Nicole a saint, she felt it only proper to given the others sainthood too. The previous headstones merely gave the saint’s name, his or her birthday, and the words ‘Rest In Piece’ at the bottom of the stone. The date of their death, which would have been too complicated, was left out. When the much larger stone for Ingrid was raised in the midst of her colleagues, it had a much grander inscription below her name and birthday”
Blessed be the founder, whom God chose to rebuild his church.
Heir to the prophets of Earth and Vicar of Christ, whom God gave the keys
to His Kingdom, will forever be the inspiration of the children of Eden.
Now that the last stone for the Twelve Apostles of Eden had been raised and it appeared as if there was nothing more for the Caretakers to do on the humans’ behalf, Skip gathered together the children and gave them startling and disturbing news. It was time that the new generation be on its own. They had learned to take care of themselves. Because their numbers had swelled into the thousands, they were able to interbred naturally. They didn’t need Caretakers anymore. The longer that Skip and his crew stayed the longer would be the children’s dependence on them. Without fanfare and even time for the audience gathered in the garden to protest, Skip climbed in Phoenix One with Sandra and Woody and returned to the ship where Rusty sat waiting on the bridge. As the two medics sat idly in the passenger compartment, their purpose in life now gone, Skip gave a simple order, unlike the one he gave Rusty when the Phoenix began its odyssey to find a new world. This time he knew the destination: Earth. After over one hundred thousand years, it was time to return!