Short Story: Clone Improvement

I don’t drink, which has confused the situation somewhat because I am sitting in a bar listening to a blathering drunk go on about his damaged hand, the hard times and how it could have been. I am not getting drunk and he has never been sober so the connection he thinks we have is only one way. Not only are we not on the same wavelength I’m beginning to think he isn’t tuned in at all. His breath stinks and now his “could have been” has been pawned twice and the proverbial problematic hand has mysteriously transformed into a lame leg. Okay buddy. All right. Whatever you say – just quit spilling strine, or whatever it is you’re drinking, on my Fez-Cardon poly-fibre suit, it’ll interfere with the atmospheric settings.

Where was I? Damn, sobriety doesn’t guarantee lucidity.

He has stopped talking and is staring forlornly into his misty whisky tumbler, lost in better days.

The Bartender, who has been eyeing me suspiciously for close onto three hours, appears to have found the nerve to approach me on the delicate subject of my bar tab which, according to my Bill-Sure programming, stands at a not to conservative 9200 ExTerra-Dollar-Pounds – enough to buy a small Geodesic Dome on the dayside of Io. The bartender is anxious I will exceed my credit limit. Every time I eat more of his peanuts the Bill-Sure transmitters, embedded in my teeth like fillings read the chemical make-up of the food being chewed (one has to chew 33 times by law) and charge me according to the availability of the product I am eating. Organics cost a fortune up here because they are so expensive to import and peanuts are up there with fine wine and apples. Synthetic alcohol is cheap; natural products cost the Earth. My last mouthful cost me at least 1 ExT and the barman can take it no longer. He clears his throat and points at the bowl of peanuts, “Mr – sir, do you think maybe you’ve had enough? The salt content is pretty high for the atmosphere settings up here –” he breaks off as I deliberately pop another ExT’s worth of peanuts into my mouth and chew on them pointedly.

He resumes polishing glasses with his spotless white cloth, shaking his head.

Suddenly it dawns on me that I am sitting in the most exclusive bar on moon Io and wonder profoundly at how the drunk was ever allowed past the door server, and how he could afford to be so inebriated. I hesitate a glance in his direction and am surprised to find him watching me intently, not a trace of the dirty slovenly drunk in him. His eyes, alive and sober, twinkle in the LED haze.
He is remarkably well refined and, I believe, wearing a suit more expensive than my own. I have to do a double take. He is not drinking whisky at all but a cool, expensive and authentic orange juice without ice. It is definitely the same man but shifted in an intangible way. A smile twitching at the corner of his lips finally breaks and he reaches into his pocket for a pair of heavy black, square spectacles.

It’s Michael Caine.

Or at least a genetic replica of Michael Caine – the real one died years ago, although no one is entirely sure.

This one, probably one of the first judging by age, would certainly be experiencing “difficulties” with self identity and the layout of his awareness on his SoulGridMatrix™.

The early replicas’ consciousnesses faced a dire struggle to navigate and categorize all the already existing cellular and genetic memory frames inherent in the fully formed neural networks of the adults they were replicated from.

Before this issue was properly identified the early replica’s SoulGridMatrix™, or SGM, was unintentionally uploaded with unusable data. Activated logic frames (thought to reside in the grey area between encoded gene memories – within the source genes – and the fully formed neural networks of the original adult brain) were being dumped to the SGM in an illogical sequence of information. The “consciousness-pilot”, “soul” or “personality” (call it what you will), then reading this grid in a replica as a “map” or “manual” to control the mind and body, was confused and disoriented. Replicas, unpredictable as they still are, were terrifying in the first days. Some simply vanished upon activation into a mess of primordial goo, their sense of time perhaps reading backwards, who knew? Some appeared normal, at first, until the axiom that “You have to crawl before you walk” became the foundation for The First Principle of Replicant Developmental Psychology and Physiology; A must be experienced before B: B before C and so on. Once fundamental and simple experiential frames of reference are created in a logical sequence they can be arranged and applied to create further functional activities. An example could be seen in the task of making a cup of coffee; some replicants, when asked to make a cup of coffee, would stir the coffee granules and sugar on a table with their fingers for hours with no results (no frame for the necessity of water, a spoon or a cup)

To put it in simple terms, they had a full engine but not enough nuts and bolts to hold it all together and were always one wrench short of a fine tune.

Unlike clones, whose “consciousness-pilots” develop into functional adults from embryos and cultivate the necessary neural networks over time in logical sequences and then learn to co-ordinate these into the world in and around them, most early replicas came through with fundamental frames miswired or missing altogether and their nervous systems instantly fried like moths on a million watt black light – their frames malfunctioning at a very deep and mysterious level.

The rest like our friend Michael over here were normal to a degree only replicas could reach; his “consciousness pilot” driving a machine with faulty wiring and temperamental brakes.

Suddenly eating the equivalent of a small planet’s gross national product in peanuts isn’t so exciting anymore – anything can happen.

“’ad you going there didn’i I squire?” He jabs me playfully in the ribs, “Thought I woz a drunken, broken man didn’tcha?” he jabs me again, a little harder this time, too hard. I nod, avoiding his gaze. Seeing that I am not really interested in a chat he grasps his glass of authentic cranberry juice no ice and sighs.

Turning to me he says, “Do you know, I can be anything I want to be mate, anything at all?”

I do not respond.

“I can be anyone I want to be anytime just by thinking about it and yet – yet I cannot, for the life of me, remember who the hell I am.”
I am compelled to respond but, before I can, he grimaces in pain, grabs his gut and lurches off his stool towards me. I glimpse blood but I cannot be sure. He tumbles past me smashing empty glasses of strine to the floor moaning like a wounded soldier and clutching his belly.
Stunned I am not sure what to do, I heard no gunshot but someone has just plugged Michael Caine in front of my eyes! The Bartender, his back turned to the turmoil calmly replaces the strine glass he has been polishing for an hour. “Cut it out Mick, Leave the nice man to drink in peace or I’ll chuck you out myself, and don’t think you can act your way past the door server next time; she’s programmed to spot you a mile away.”

Adjusting his spectacles, Michael Caine pulls himself off the floor using a barstool.

There is nothing wrong with him, of course, but damn he sure can act as if there is.

This Michael Caine can act – it’s his SoulGridMatrix™ miswire. Raw unassimilated acting talent, mutated into a distortion of N dimensional space-time reality so that he takes the term Method Acting onto a whole new level. A transparency of information overlaying all other programming causes him to infuse reality into whatever he acts with potentially disastrous results. Say he acts as if he is shooting someone, for example, he would actually end up killing whomever he pointed his “gun” at. His consciousness-pilot, who is unable to distinguish between pretense and actuality, will automatically construct the event as real, warp a few unwarpable aspects of the space time continuum and bend the unreal into real, so as you can imagine, his film career was very short and disastrous.

He is not the only one with such problems.

Noting the time, I rise to leave, swipe my thumb over the Pay-Sure scanner (to authorise it was in fact my teeth doing the chewing) and tip my hat to Michael Caine with my free hand.

“Who was that polite gentleman guv’na?” I hear Michael Caine ask as I head towards the exit.

The bartender polishing the strine taps replies incredulously. “Christ Mick ain’t you ever seen Bill Gates’s replica before?”

Michael gasps, “Bill Gates? The computer guy?”

Larry shakes his head, as do I.

“Nah, not any more, rumour has it this one doesn’t even know how to switch one on. Still, he knows how to make money though.”

Nodding in agreement I pull on my coat at the door and step out into the thin, conditioned air of Upper Io Manhattan and my teeth tingle with the 10 000 000 Exts of credit stored in them.

It’s there, in my account, every morning when I wake up.