Sci-fi Short: Jump Start - Part 9

in cryptogeechronicles •  15 days ago

twisting_road.png

Memories.

If it wasn’t for Pullman’s memories he could have ditched him. Fango wouldn’t care who he was dealing with, the original Pullman or the clone. Maybe Fango would even find it amusing that he embarked upon a deal with a person, only to close it with his clone.

Clone or ghost?

In many ways the clone did feel like a ghost. The Cybertec Heist, as the media had been calling it, was all over the datasphere. They were calling it the crime of the century. It had become a fascination for many a citizen in the Sol System. Pullman’s plan had worked of course, his clone’s corpse had been found by his co-worker, who had become a minor celebrity in his own right. Everybody wanted to know what it was like to work with a sociopathic criminal genius.

The clone had watched over the entanglement feeds how at first the co-worker, Steve Dixon had seemed distraught regarding the death of his colleague. Then over the prevailing days grew more into the role of celebrity. He was the last one to see Pullman alive, the clone watched as they fired the same subset of questions at him in as many ways as they could. He watched as they attempted to wring every last drop of the story from the one tenuous lead they had. They talked to the cops of course, but they knew about the same as the press did.

A few of the smarter bloggers on the ‘sphere began to question what had gone wrong. The crime seemed perfect, after all, nobody knew where the Lad-D interface chip was. Why did Pullman kill himself? What could possibly have happened to drive him to suicide? That subject alone was hugely fascinating for the denizens of the datasphere. As far as anyone was aware nobody had committed suicide for at least two hundred and fifty years. What was the point? Anyone fed up with life could simply upload to the cloud, whereby they could stay in cold storage, or even trawl around the ‘sphere as a data monkey. However Pullman was not in the cloud, it seemed like he had gone for real and permanent death.

Dixon had stopped talking to the general press and had brought out his own ‘sphere series; Madmind. Good on him, he seemed like a nice guy, the clone had never known him of course, and that was the real story here. The one that nobody could ever know, or at least not know till the clone had managed to kill Pullman after retrieving his memories.

The clone wondered how humankind would take to finding out that it was not only possible to copy a consciousness chip, but to edit the memories on one while you were doing it. That news would relegate the Cybertec Heist back down to the level of the sunspot report. That was arguably the most momentous news since the human race had been able to digitise its consciousness. To find out now that not only were they not as ‘sacred’ as they had been led to believe, but you could somehow edit the chips. Leaving various versions of you walking around, now that was news that would set the ‘sphere on fire.

Tracking Pullman had not been that hard, he had given the clone an exact copy of his modified comms aug. The clone supposed that he hadn’t figured on him surviving past that first night. So why complicate things by obtaining another hard to get, and expensive hacked aug, when he would be dead so soon after the job was finished?

The clone was glad Pullman was stupid enough to do this, it meant that he could just check the logs on the ‘sphere and simply travel to the last destination listed. Without these ‘sphere logs the clone wouldn’t be here now on the outskirts of the Western Derestricted Zone, otherwise known as the Factory District.

Most of the district housed was made up of basic AI machine-run factories. It was possible to walk for hours in the Factory District without once coming across anything resembling a human being. Some of the district had been preserved for posterity’s sake, acting as some kind of ancient shrine to when humans were needed to carry out various manufacturing tasks. The contrasting effect of ancient brick and cement buildings nestling amongst gleaming diamond and carboplas hubs was quite startling, and one that drew the odd tourist party to the area.

Today though there were no such excursions, the rumblings of underground transports and distant metal clinking of automated machines were the only company the clone had. He’d tracked Pullman to one of the old factory buildings, and was now making his way up the stairs having methodically searched the bottom floors. In his hand he clutched a subcutaneous hypodermic containing a subtle neurotoxin. The poison would temporarily paralyse Pullman, whilst leaving him with an overwhelming desire to tell the truth.

There was one room left, Pullman was in there, he had a flash rifle but the clone was aware of the power limitations of such a weapon. At best Pullman had two or three shots left, and that was an extremely cautious estimate. The clone knew that reality was that he had zero to one shot left. It was so lightweight that Pullman wouldn’t have even been able to use it as an effective club.

The clone charged at the door, diving immediately to his right as he crossed the threshold. He was barely aware of white sparks showering off the doorframe as he landed hard on this right side and rolled into a crouch ready to attack. He saw Pullman in the corner, his body slumped against the far wall. Trying pathetically to get the rifle to fire one last shot, the clone stood and slowly walked towards him.

“Well, well we meet at last; Jason Pullman I presume?”

Pullman’s eyes were wide with fear, the clone continued his approach.

“Of course we met at close quarters that first night in the Forbidden Zone.”

The clone fingered his neck where Pullman had stabbed him, the scar was almost gone already, courtesy of the Lad-D interface. The clone drew to a stop six feet in front of the prone Pullman.

“I guess you shouldn’t have underestimated just how great ths tech is. I really have been having the most wonderful fun with it.”

Pullman just lay there and stared at his clone, he suddenly felt very tired.

“Well, aren’t you going to say anything?”

“What’s to say? I fucked up I suppose. You win, I’m dead. I don’t know; what would you consider appropriate?”

“How about a fucking sorry!”

The clone hissed, Pullman noted that it seemed to gather its thoughts and regain its temper almost as quickly as he’d lost it.

“I guess I am sorry.” Pullman said.

“Yeah, I bet you are, and I bet that sorrow has nothing to do with me, or how I might feel. Just because your pathetic miserable life is so close to its end. But first I want my memories back, once I have those we can move on with . . . Well, I can move on with my life.”

“It’s not your life, it's mine!”

“Not any more Jason, you forfeited your right to this life the moment you decided to create an edited version of yourself for your own measly gains. I get why you did, I just don’t believe that you actually did it. To you I might just be your clone, but I’m more than that I’m a person Jason, a real live person. Except you’ve made me a husk of a man, full of broken and missing memories. Memories which I’m going to take back from you.”

Pullman flinched back against the wall he was lying against as the clone took a step forward.

“Look! I’ll tell you what you want, how to get in touch with Fango, how to use the device he gave me to copy and edit myself. You can get everything back, you can live as me. Just allow me to cosmetically change myself and you can be you. You’ll be rich, Fango has a new body for you, a new identity, just take the lot, but let me live.”

A smile that quickly turned into a sneer curled onto the clone’s lips.

“I can have all of that anyway.”

He lunged forwards, the hypodermic in his left hand, he landed on top of Pullman and injected the poison into his neck just below the jawline. The neurotoxin paralysed him from the neck down and the truth serum left him with an uncontrollable desire to tell the clone everything.

That was two hours ago, the clone now sat next to Pullman’s lifeless body. In the near distance he could hear the low hum of a flier coming into land nearby. Fango.

The clone watched out of the broken windows as Fango’s flier landed and disgorged its occupants. There were two of them, one the clone guessed was Fango, the other he didn’t know. However his chiselled features and broad shoulders said that he was a beneficiary of one of FabTech’s fabricated biology systems. They found their way up to the second floor to meet him.

The slightly taller of the two men strode towards the clone with hand outstretched.

“Henry Fango.”

“And I am . . . you can call me, The Clone.”

“Yes, you’ll probably want to drop that name after today.”

The clone was looking at the second man who hadn’t taken his eyes off him. There seemed something familiar about him, but he just put that down to one of Pullman’s residual memories manifesting itself in his head. Fango acknowledged the clone’s stare and made to introduce the second man.

“Ah of course, how rude of me. Pullman’s clone meet . . . Jason Pullman. He looks a little different now of course, but of course you’ll understand why.”

Silence hung in the air between the three men, the clone’s gaze darted between the two men searching for more clues.

“What the hell are you on about Fango?!” He stabbed a finger behind him, pointing at the limp and lifeless body of Pullman. “That’s Pullman there!”

The other man spoke up.

“Oh no, I’m afraid not Mr Clone. That is just another clone of mine. You see the Lad-D interface was not really of interest at all. Well some I suppose. No, the real prize here was testing out conscience copying, finding out to what extent we could create a copy of someone and edit their memories. Would that person truly believe they were who they were meant to be?

That poor wretch behind you is just like you, well, an edited version of you. The only difference was he didn’t know he was a clone.”

The man calling himself Pullman stopped speaking but the clone did not respond for a few seconds more. When he did his voice was barely above a whisper.

“Why?”

“Why? Because FabTech are branching out into a whole new area of scenario modelling. From dating to advance military applications. Scenario modelling will be able to accurately predict how a person might act under certain circumstances. You were never the focus, it was Pullman, well the one who thought of himself as the original Pullman was the test subjet.”

The clone lunged forward in fury, he wanted to wring this man’s neck whoever he was. A feeling like a thousand volts of electricity shuddered through his body leaving him frozen in mid-lunge. His arms fully extended, fingers snarling round into claws, both feet off the ground. The man calling himself Pullman continued to talk as if nothing had happened.

“Oh dear, I thought you might have worked it out, using that Lad-D interface we sorted out for you. That’s real, however none of this is, we are in a virtuality. We’re actually back in one of the FabTech labs not too far away from where this place is supposed to be. Your consciousness chip is real of course. However shortly after Clone Number One had you copied, we placed you all in this virtual environment to watch how it played out.

We couldn’t risk a real robbery at Cybertec, too many unknown variables. You were always meant to work out you were a clone, but not the others. Anyway we couldn’t take such huge chances with real life scenarios so we placed you all in here where you couldn’t do any harm.

Anyway, I felt it was only polite to come and tell you and Clone Number One what had been going on. But Number One seems to have ah . . . No matter, in a minute or so we’ll turn you off and it will be like none of this has ever happened.

Don’t worry, you won’t feel a thing”

**
As his cruiser left low orbit and embarked on the short hop to Mars, Pullman reflected that the risk he’d taken using Cybertec technological secrets to carry out his crime had been well worth it. Unlike the faked Lad-D theft, this was completely untraceable. As far as the outside world was concerned he was headhunted by FabTech to run their new Simulations department.

It was indeed the perfect crime, so perfect that only he and Fango would ever know about it.

That was quite possibly the last thought that had time to cross his mind before his cruiser suffered an AM drive malfunction, resulting in an explosion that left no debris bigger than a few millimetres in diameter floating outwards from earth.

Hundreds of kilometres below in the penthouse suite of the FabTech offices. Henry Fango smiled at the impromptu fireworks display briefly lighting up the early evening sky.

End Of Line.

Title image: Taneli Lahtinen on Unsplash

Cryptogee

Authors get paid when people like you upvote their post.
If you enjoyed what you read here, create your account today and start earning FREE STEEM!
Sort Order:  

Okay, that twist is one that I should have seen coming based on the premise of the story but your writing disguised it so well that it was excellent. Bravo!

"End of line." This one I knew was coming, you know too much and you get killed in an industry willing to do this. Very realistic writing.

Another excellent series!

~ Mako

·

Thank you! I would have liked to spin it out a bit more and add a few more turns. However it was meant to be short! T'was a big challenge writing this one, so glad you liked it :-)

Cg

To listen to the audio version of this article click on the play image.

Brought to you by @tts. If you find it useful please consider upvoting this reply.

Just read the whole lot in one go. It was what a story should be, a page turner that I couldn't put down.

The set-up was thrilling, and every step of the mission was exciting, particularly the first rendezvous with Henry Fango.

The world you created, in particular a class segregated London, and bubble-buildings mostly underground, with ancient brick ruins, was believable and atmospheric.

If there was a drawback to the story, it's one familiar to a lot of noir, which is that motivations become so murderous, that the identification and empathy I felt with Jason Pullman, in particular his feelings of inferiority vis a vis Angela Ladbury, faded as he and his clones became one-note murderers.

Fango being a murderer I get lol. But one of the things I love about "Blade Runner" for example, is how much Harrison Ford's character's heart bleeds for the androids, and how much Roy Batty himself, though ostensibly a villain, nonetheless has so much compassion for other androids. In that respect, the ending is so poignant in "Blade Runner," where we care almost equally for both protagonist and antagonist, despite the brutal noirish world they live in, whereas here, the lack of compassion in any character hurts you, I think.

Another missed opportunity is that Ladbury herself is ditched as a character, although she is made tantalizing at the beginning, and I wanted to hear more about her. By contrast, for such a short story, you gave Steve Nixon his due, and your descriptions of him were simultaneously humorous and sympathetic, which is a neat trick.

For the first 6 chapters, this was a gripping peerless story, but as a matter of taste, for the reasons given above, it started to lose my heart from Chapter 7, though it retained my head to the (very) bitter end.

Congrats on writing such an incredible story! With some tinkering, it could be a really effective movie script. Wow. :)