April 5, 2075 8:47 p.m. GST
Dianne looked up from her desk to see Christian standing in the doorway.
“Yes, Christian, please come in. What do you have for me?”
Christian hurried across the room to one of the two chairs across the desk from Dianne.
“I have analyzed all available data and have identified the most probable scenario,” he said as he slid into the chair.
“Well, let’s hear it.”
“First, I would like to share some key facts and validate some assumptions.”
“Fact: Dr. James Evan Richardson is a clone operating with the memory and personality engrams of Dr. Evan Richard Feldman. DNA samples taken during decontamination on Luna confirm this.”
“There is no chance Feldman is a synthetic?”
“None. They created his body using standard organic cell reproduction and accelerated growth protocols.”
“So, they violated the HDDA.”
“Yes, transferring a deceased person’s engrams into a clone directly violates section 3.1.7.”
“Fact: The DNA used to create the Richardson clone belonged to Lily Harris.”
“What? How is that possible?” Dianne asked.
“The BGSI lab compared the clone’s DNA with Lily’s, and they found a 99.7 percent match.”
“Interesting. I had assumed that they had used a modified version of Evan’s original DNA, but that also explains why Luna had records of previous trips by Richardson—they’ve done this before.”
“I agree. It is even possible that Lily has used the Richardson clone herself.”
“You think she is still alive?”
“It is possible, and I would say even probable.”
“Is there anything else?”
“Only that the Galileo Group is building a massive ship in orbit around Ceres…the purpose of which is unknown.”
“The BGSI thinks it’s a colony ship.”
“Possible, but there is insufficient data to confirm.”
“And your assumptions?”
“Assumption One: The fugitives believe they are safely outside of the GFN’s jurisdiction and are confident that they have at least some level of support from the Martian government. Two: Harris and Hao believe that Feldman is a critical component of their plan. And three: It is probable that Lily Harris, Chen Hao, and Geoff Wagner are all clones.”
“Why do you think they’re clones?”
“It is the most likely explanation for their behavior. It appears as though they have planned for nearly every contingency and being captured or killed was certainly something they would have considered.”
Dianne thought for a moment. “I agree. If they were willing to violate the HDDA once, there is nothing to keep them from violating it multiple times.”
“And they have had plenty of time to prepare.”
“What about Aubrey?”
“Dr. Vasquez ordered a full DNA analysis on Aubrey Harris’ body. The results confirm that she is a clone.”
“Goddamnit,” Dianne slammed the palms of both hands hard against her desk. “How are they bypassing our detection protocols?”
“Unknown at this time. They assembled the team that restored Feldman in secret, and Agent Wu stated in her report that she had no direct knowledge of their activities before Aubrey’s arrest.”
“Is it possible she’s lying?”
“Unknown. You did not order a memory scan.”
“Do it after we’re done here. We need to know everything she knows.”
“Do you think Aubrey’s clone was carrying Aubrey’s engrams? Or Lily’s?”
“Impossible to know because of the nano-wipe; even a partial neural map is impossible.”
Dianne considered that for a minute.
Neural mapping was a technique that could reconstruct memories from damaged or fragmented neural pathways. But the nanites had so completely destroyed Aubrey’s brain that there were no neurons—and thus no memories—left to map. Someone didn’t want them to know what Aubrey knew.
“Best guess?” she asked.
“Based on her actions, I believe that she was Aubrey Harris. But she was probably restored using an old archive—one that did not know that Lily Harris is still alive.”
“Why would they do it?”
“I assume to avoid discovery if this Aubrey was captured.”
“Then why did they have her wiped?”
“To keep us guessing. Without a memory scan, we can’t know her real purpose or objectives.”
“And the real Aubrey?”
“Unknown. But given her background and expertise in organic storage, I think it is likely that she is on Mars. And I think she has been there for at least a year, perhaps longer.”
“So, what’s their endgame?”
“Based on all available information, the most likely scenario is that they will archive their engrams to the Kutanga’s organic storage array and then launch themselves out of this solar system.”
“Any idea on who they are taking with them?”
“I am compiling a list of likely candidates now. It should be ready within the next hour. So far, the majority are scientists, engineers, and highly skilled technicians.”
“Just the people you would need to start a new world.”
“And what was Feldman’s role in all this? Why the mad scramble to restore him and keep him from us?”
“There are several possible reasons, but the most likely is that they needed to test their ability to restore fifty-year-old engrams.”
“You think they are planning to clone themselves on…what’s the name of that planet?”
“That’s it. You think they plan to clone themselves on Gaia some fifty-odd years from now?”
“I would say less than thirty years given the maximum velocity estimates of the Kutanga’s gravity drive system. But, yes, I believe that is their plan.”
“But what about the circadian rhythm problem? Wouldn’t restoring the engrams of someone who lived on Earth cause the same problems on Gaia as they did on Mars?”
During her time as a GFN lawyer, Dianne had been briefed on Telogene’s human cloning experiments on Mars, and she had witnessed first-hand the horrific events that came after.
“Possible, but it has been decades since the last documented attempt of off-Earth cloning. That said, I believe Telogene may have made significant progress toward solving that problem.”
“Based on what?” Dianne asked somewhat incredulously.
“I have no hard evidence, but it is a reasonable conclusion given recent events. The Even Feldman cloned here is likely a control subject, and there is likely another Evan Feldman on Mars, or more likely one of the orbiting stations that maintain near-Earth gravity.”
“But doesn’t whisking him off the planet so quickly negate his value as a control, then?”
“Possibly, and certainly from a long-term study perspective. But given their apparent timeline, it is unlikely that they planned to keep him here for more than a few weeks.”
“But why now? Why did they restore Evan now, and why are they in such a hurry to abandon their lives here?”
“The most obvious answer is that the rate of adverse human mutation is accelerating.”
“So, they are abandoning their bodies before they’re affected?”
“That is a reasonable conclusion. But I suspect that they are equally afraid of the destabilization of government that will occur as panic spreads throughout the general population.
“How much time do we have?”
“Based on my calculations, greater than ninety percent of all humans in this solar system will be dead within a decade, with ninety-nine percent dead within fifteen years.”
“What about a cure? Isn’t it possible that someone will figure out how to stop this?”
“Unlikely. Your scientists have yet to identify the root cause, and you lack the technology to rewrite the human genome on a mass scale even if you find it. Your only hope is that some portion of the population does not carry the destructive genes.”
“So, you’re saying we have to let nature take its course, then?”
“And what does that look like? I’m sure you’ve modeled that scenario.”
“I have performed an initial assessment, but a complete model will not be possible for some time.”
“What are you missing?”
“I need to know the number of people who have natural immunity, if any. The good news, if you can call it that, is that the declining birth rates mean fewer humans will be born with the inherited genetic defects that cause the mutations, which reduces the amount of time required to determine the natural survival rate.”
“So, you’re saying that this thing will eventually burn itself out, like the plague or the flu.”
“Yes. Although, unlike the plague or flu, I do not believe the root cause is bacterial or viral. This appears to be a defect inside the human genome itself.”
Dianne leaned back in her leather chair to consider Christian’s words. His analysis accurately reflected what the GFN scientists had told her earlier in the day, but there was still something missing. Lily and Gbadamosi had to know there were no guarantees that their clones would survive on Gaia. And, even if they have solved the dislocation problem, it is likely that their DNA carries the mutation defect.
“What happens when they get to Gaia?” She asked.
“Well, surely they have a plan to restore themselves when they get there. The report I saw on Kutanga said that it lacks sufficient habitat area and food production facilities to sustain more than a dozen people for any amount of time.”
“Agreed,” Christian replied.
“So, how do they do it? They either have to solve the mutation problem or transfer their engrams to synthetics, neither of which appears possible.”
“The latter is most likely. The amount of organic storage and processing power on that ship is substantial, and I see no reason why they could not use a hybrid storage model. It is theoretically possible to store personality engrams, recent memories, and key abilities in an autonomous storage system, while maintaining older memories and other less relevant information in an external storage array. I function most effectively using that model.”
“So, you think that’s their plan?”
“Perhaps initially, but the ability to reproduce biologically would be critical to the long-term growth and sustainment of the population.”
“So, what then, use synthetics to build the basic infrastructure and restore the first clones?”
“That is a reasonable conclusion. Using current accelerated growth methods, it would take less than three years to produce sufficient adult bodies to house the colony’s first generation—probably one hundred individuals. Assuming adequate facilities, it would take them less than a decade to produce enough bodies for everyone else.”
“But that still doesn’t explain what they intend to use for their DNA source. What about old DNA? Say from before the war. Any chance that would work?”
“Doubtful. AM analysis indicates that something has triggered a dormant portion of human DNA which, if correct, means that the mutations are being caused by a genetic sequence that exists within the human genome.”
“Okay, but would it be possible to use human DNA if they find the mutation trigger?”
Christian sat silent for a minute while he accessed his remote storage and processing facilities.
“That question assumes a single causal factor,” he said. “But, given that this defect has lain dormant within the human genome for centuries—and perhaps even millennia—it is reasonable to conclude that some triggering mechanism must exist.”
“Do you think they have a cure, or at least know the trigger and are withholding it?”
“Possible, but unlikely. It is more likely that they are hoping to discover it during their journey, or sometime after arrival, but before they begin mass restoration of the colonists. The use of synthetic bodies would give them decades to perform the necessary research and testing.”
“But you could be wrong. Maybe they have a cure and plan on using it as a bargaining chip?”
“I would require more information to determine which is the most likely scenario.”
“So, what do I do, Christian? Try to stop them or let them go?”
“I am sorry, but I have no information to aid you in that decision. I can only tell you that, as of now, you have only a nineteen percent chance of preventing their escape.”
“That’s discouraging. Anything I can do to improve my chances?”
“Only if you can disable the Kutanga, or otherwise prevent it from leaving our solar system. There is no scenario in which their plan succeeds without that ship.”
“And no chance they have another one?”
“No, ma’am. It took every resource they had at their disposal to build this one. It is unlikely that there is another one in any stage of construction.”
“What about Endeavor, could it be modified?”
“No, ma’am. AI could sustain a small crew, perhaps thirty individuals, for five to seven years if all available cargo space was converted to fuel and food storage. That is nowhere near enough for them to survive the trip to Alpha Centauri.”
“And with a synthetic crew?”
“It is possible, but the Endeavor lacks the organic storage space and redundant power systems required to ensure the integrity of thousands of engramic archives.”
“And in a worst-case scenario? If they were desperate?” Dianne asked.
“Endeavor is too small; they would have to choose between fuel or supplies. If they optimized the cargo space for fuel and organic storage systems, I estimate they could take less than five percent of the supplies required to ensure the success of their colony.”
“Alright, Christian. Thank you, you’ve been very helpful.”
“It is my pleasure, ma’am. With your permission, I would like to resume my analysis.”
“Granted. Let me know if you learn anything new.”
Christian stood up and exited through the double doors.
Dianne established a communication link with Captain Bachmann. She had canceled their five o’clock because there was nothing to discuss, but she had told him she would call him when she was ready.
He answered immediately. “Madame Secretary, what can I do for you?”
“I’m ready to meet now. Can you please come up to my office?”
“I’ll be right there.”
The call disconnected, and the holodisplay faded away. Dianne leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes. It would be another long night, and she couldn’t take more stimulants for at least another forty-eight hours.
A few minutes later, the captain appeared in her office doorway. Dianne stood up from her chair and grabbed a few things off her desk before pointing at her private elevator.
“Come, Captain, let’s chat on the ride home.”
Bachmann followed her into the elevator.
“So, what did Christian say?” he asked.
“A lot, but not much we didn’t already know or suspect.”
“Anything we can use?”
“That depends on you and your team, Captain. Will Commander Wilkes follow your orders without question?”
“You don’t get to be in her position by not following orders!”
“Good. Because I think you will have to cancel her Martian vacation before it starts.”
“What do you have in mind?”
“Garage,” she said to the elevator before responding to his question. “Wait until we’re in the car.”
The elevator doors hissed shut, and the two rode in silence down to the garage level. A few seconds later, Dianne’s hovercar pulled up, and the door swung open. Neither passenger said anything until the car was humming down the streets of Zurich toward Dianne’s apartment.
“Do you know how to disable a gravity pulse drive?” she finally asked.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish