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Chronicles of the Clone Incident
United Moon Colonies
by Tom Merritt
Creative Commons © 2007 Tom Merritt
Printed in the United States of America
This book is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-
NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License.
This story was written as part of the National Novel Writing Month movement,
November 2006. It first appeared as it was written each day, on the SuBBrilliant
Blog at http://www.subbrilliant.com/blog/
United Moon Colonies
United Moon Colonies
Thanks to the NaNoWriMo for the motivation to get the story on paper.
Thanks to Cindi Harrison for helping to drive me and encourage me
throughout the month. Thanks to my wife, Eileen, for putting up with my
endless pecking on the keyboard. Thanks to Rodrigo Hashimoto for the lending
of his name. Thanks to Roger Chang for letting me steal and misspell his last
name. And finally, thanks to Amanda French for helping me straighten out a
few kinks in the story.
United Moon Colonies
President Chong stepped toward the elevator door and turned
quickly, before his aides and guards could enter.
"You'll take the next car."
The guards obeyed his command, but Lawrence, his chief aide,
"Mr. President, you must--"
"I must go alone. It's a powerful symbol, Lawrence. What
we've done so far to help has only gained us their ear. I've got to
underline it to make the lesson last."
At that the door closed, and he began the descent from
Platform 86 down to Earth.
As the wispy atmosphere formed around him and natural
gravity began to pull, Chong thought about what had led them to this
point. The United Moon Colonies, the UMC, had rebelled from Terran
control about a decade before he was born. They had labored not only
for existence but for respect ever since.
When the colonial powers abandoned their "police action" on
Luna, they also abandoned all but the pretense of assistance, including
all but the barest minimum of trade. If the Moon colonies wanted to go
it alone, the colonial powers decided they would make sure it was very
Only decades later, when the recidivist threat reared its ugly
head, was the UMC finally seen not only as a friend but as an ally.
Without UMC technology, manufacturing, and plain old firepower, the
alliance would have fallen from within three years ago.
UMC involvement had turned the tide of the war. The Lunar
outcasts now stood in a position of power over the old countries of the
UN. Chong chose to emphasize his country's position by taking a
solitary ride down to Versailles, France, where the final peace
settlement was being dictated.
The doors opened, and a UN delegation stood waiting. They
appeared rather startled.
"President Chong, where is the rest of your party?" inquired
the European diplomat sent to fetch him. A small slight to send a
diplomat and not an actual head of state. Small, but a slight
nonetheless. Chong noted it.
"Coming along in the next car. They had business to attend to,
and I did not wish to keep you waiting," said Chong.
"Very well," said the diplomat, more shocked than displeased,
but still trying to appear blase. "I will escort you to the Great Room.
The remainder of my party will await . . . uh . . . the remainder of
yours. Right this way."
The grandeur and symbolism of Versailles was not lost on
Chong as they walked through its ancient halls. He was certain it was
chosen to impress upon the vanquished recidivists, and upon himself
too, that the old world was unassailable. But he had something in mind
that would outweigh the symbolism of the structure and in fact quite
possibly benefit from it. His arriving alone was only the beginning of
the plan. He meant for the UMC to never again want. For a woman to
never again starve herself to feed her children. For the UMC to take its
place in the community of nations, not just as a member, but as a
The UMC did things differently and better than the world
below. He wished to make both worlds better.
President Chong entered the great hall and saw the delegates of
the ancient countries of Earth milling about as if they were at a school
mixer or an office party. Nobody turned to acknowledge or welcome
the leader of the United Moon Colonies.
A waiter approached with a drink and Chong took it, grateful
for the distraction. The diplomat excused himself by saying he would
announce Chong's arrival. Eventually the leader of the British Isles
approached and introduced himself. This was especially insulting, as
the two had met twice before. However, that had been before the war,
and Chong got the impression that it was perhaps meant to be self-
deprecating rather than insulting.
United Moon Colonies
"You've helped us so much, President Chong; I hope we can
show sufficient appreciation. Our worlds have been apart far too long.
Cheers," said the minister.
He held up his glass towards Chong and looked expectant.
Chong was not well-versed in these Terran pleasantries and balked for
a second. He felt suddenly like the country simpleton he knew many in
this room held him and his countrymen to be.
But rather than make him feel stupid, the minister saved them
"It's an old British custom, I'm afraid. Sort of old, quaint, and
stupid, but I hope you don't mind my sharing it with you. Nothing to it
really. Just clink the glasses, like so—and say 'cheers.' "
The minister's ability to save the situation impressed Chong.
He touched his glass to the minister's and said "Cheers." At that
moment his advisors entered the room. The guards waited outside.
Chong could tell his chief advisor looked fairly impressed at how he
was getting on.
"Learning an old British custom, Lawrence. You should try it.
You wish someone well or say something hopeful, if I've got it right,
Minister. Then say 'cheers' and touch glasses. Cheers."
Chong held his glass towards Lawrence, who had just taken
one from a passing tray.
"Uh . . . cheers," replied Lawrence, then almost smashed the
glasses together. The minister chuckled, but before Chong could
reprimand his advisor, the diplomat who had accompanied him from
the elevator announced that it was time for everyone to take their seats.
"I believe you're over here just by me, Mr. President," said the
British minister, smiling.
There was a large table set in the middle of the room for all the
heads of state. Advisors were seated along the walls of the room
directly behind their leaders. The UMC was along one side, fairly near
the middle, between Britain and Germany. France, as the host of the
event, took the head on one end of the table. The American president,
for no stated reason, took the head on the other end.
In addition to the alliance countries, representatives from
Venezuela, the African Confederacy, United Arabia, and Israel were in
attendance. These were the four nations of the Fundys. The recidivists
called themselves "The Fundamental Union of Nations," but others
shortened this name to "Fundys." The governments of the Fundy
nations had encouraged uprisings in North America and Europe—and
had almost won the war.
Of course, the representatives in attendance were not the
leaders who had started the war. Living Fundy leaders were under UN
supervision in Miami, awaiting trial by the World Court. Instead new
leaders of the defeated countries had been acknowledged by the
alliance, and invited here to accept the terms of the official end of the
war. It was merely symbolic. All these nations were occupied. Each of
them was split up into areas controlled by UMC light forces, North
American Army, European Union Brigades, and Chinese Regulars.
The fighting had ended over a month ago. The treaty would bring
closure to the bloodiest period yet of Earth's history and attempt,
again, to make sure it never happened again.
The French president rose to speak.
"On behalf of the European Union and the people of France, I
welcome you to Versailles: a rich and ancient hall that has seen its
share of history and is steeped in the business of peace-making. May
the efforts made in its--"
An explosion ripped through the south end of the hall,
knocking down a quarter of the wall behind the French president,
throwing him to the ground. All the leaders scurried away from that
end of the room as security guards rushed in.
The guards had Chong almost all the way back to the elevator
before he collected himself.
"Stop. We're not going to run. I want to find out what
"Sir, it's not safe," protested one of the guards.
"I'm not interested in that right now. Get me to the security
The guards took the president to the area they had been told to
use for security questions, where he was referred to the actual security
Outside the office, a functionary attempted to brush him away.
"I'm sorry, sir, but we're busy pursuing leads on this. If you'll
just remove yourself to a safe location, we'll update your ministry as
soon as possible."
"I'm not going anywhere. I want to talk to the head of security.
Now," said Chong.
United Moon Colonies
"Sir. I'm terribly sorry this has happened, but it is just not
possible for you to speak with the head. He is dealing with this
situation. He has no time."
"He'll make time for me." Chong pushed his way past the
outraged man. He had decided that if he was to be viewed as an
offworld backwards ruffian, he might as well act the part when it
With the functionary on his tail, he found the head of security
at his office going over a report.
"What is the meaning of this?!?" cried the security chief,
standing up as Chong burst into the room, followed by the functionary
and the two UMC guards. Lawrence had chosen to wait outside.
"I am President Richard Chong of the United Moon Colonies.
You may know us as one of the reasons you're not in a compulsory
religious internment camp right now."
"Mr. President, I, uh . . . understand your indignation, but I am
"Shut up and listen to me! Your mole planted the bomb using a
detrailing device. I recognize the signature of the blast from mining
work at New Canaveral. A detrailing device like that will have a
goldmine of DNA in it from skin flakes because of the intricate setting
mechanism. That is, if you can find it. They bury themselves after
detonation. I can show you where if you'll allow me to accompany
you to the blast site."
"Yes, mole. It's the only way a detrailing device could get in
this place. They're impossible to hide unless you bring them in in
small pieces over time. Now, let's move."
The security chief looked less surprised than the UMC guards
did, but he still looked uncomfortable.
"Right this way."
Chong left the guards posted outside the great hall and spent a
few minutes investigating the blast site. The French team working on
the site showed no small amount of confusion at the sight of the
president of the Moon rooting around in the rubble. Chong couldn't
care less. He crawled around on his knees, seeming to sniff the air
above certain patterns of cracks in the wall and floor. After about five
minutes of this odd behavior, he called Lawrence over.
"Are you seeing what I'm seeing, Lawrence?"
Lawrence looked uncomfortable, shifting his gaze between the
staring French workers and his boss, the president of the UMC.
"What exactly are you seeing, sir?"
"Come on. Lawrence. Don't pretend we didn't spend two
summers deep under New Cav recovering these damn things for beer
money. It looks like a Terran-made Caterpillar brand, and I think it
dug and detonated. Right there." The president finished by pointing to
a very slight indentation in the floor where several minute cracks
seemed to meet.
Lawrence lost a bit of his self-consciousness as he looked.
"You know, you're right. Those Cat detrailers are hard to come
by, though. Seems unlikely, but it sure fits the pattern."
"Hard to come by on Luna, you mean. Not so hard to come by
in France when the factory's in Stuttgart."
The security chief finally intervened. "I'm sorry, but I'm not
following what you are saying. Do you mind explaining?"
Chong enjoyed a little glow of pride.
"Of course, chief, I'm sorry. It looks like your mole used a
Caterpillar brand self-detonating detrailer device. A detrailer is a
mining machine. Without getting too much into it, it blasts rock to
cover up marks made by other mining equipment. If you want a real
smooth overlay, you need a self-detonating detrailer. One that blows
itself up after it's done. In a mining situation this leaves a perfect
aftermark, something you can deal with. In the halls of Versailles it's
not so pretty, but it's essentially the same thing. The detrailer blew off
the wall, creating a leveled path here, then buried itself over here and
blew itself up."
"You said something about Stuttgart, I believe?" The Chief
was starting to think like a security man again.
"The beauty of a self-detonating detrailer for a criminal is that
it leaves no trace. If you don't have someone familiar with these kind
of devices, you'll never find it and never know what did it. But I
recognize the pattern. It's the mark of a Caterpillar Detrailer. They're
made here on Terra at Stuttgart. If I were you," and here Chong began
to assume a more presidential air, "and I wouldn't presume to give
orders to such a highly capable man, but if I were in your situation, I
might try digging down under that black mark and running DNA tests
on anything you find. Some organic material might have survived the
blast. I would also call Caterpillar in Stuttgart and find out who has
United Moon Colonies
obtained Caterpillar Detrailers in the last few months and if any have
The Security Chief ordered his functionary to do just that, then
turned to Chong. "Thank you very much. I am sorry about the
confusion earlier. How may I reach you if I have further questions?
We are lucky to have an expert of such eminence as yourself willing to
"I believe I'm staying here. Unless those arrangements have
"Well, in light of the current situation, I hardly think someone
such as yourself would want . . ."
"Oh, I want." Chong smiled. "I want to be as close to this as
possible. That detrailer was a prelude, nothing more. I intend to
prevent the sequel from occurring."
After moving into his room in the palace, Chong was called to
a small meeting of dignitaries before dinner. Most of the delegates to
the peace meetings had stayed, though most chose new
accommodations. The business of the interrupted meeting had been
mostly ceremonial. Tomorrow the treaty would be signed.
Most of the terms of the treaty had been worked out
beforehand in diplomatic conferences. Minister Narang of Britain
called a few principals to meet before dinner to discuss the only true
point of negotiation, the term of the occupation.
"Ah, President Chong, thank you so much for coming on such
short notice. It's been quite a day, hasn't it? Please come in."
Chong was impressed that Narang opened his own door. It was
something Chong would have done, but he would have thought it
would come off as unsophisticated.
The leaders of France, Russia, China, Mexico, and Canada had
"President Torres is on his way. He's the last to arrive. Can I
get you a drink?" offered Narang.
Chong asked for water, and to his great shock, Narang went off
to fetch the drink himself.
"We have no servants here tonight, Monsieur Chong. This
meeting is supposed to look as if it's about the treaty, but it is not,"
said the French president. "While you have proved a great help in the
bombing investigation, we already know who set the bomb and why.
We're meeting to determine an immediate course of action tonight."
Chong tried to look nonplussed. "How can you be so sure?"
"Because the criminal left word with the heads of Europe and
America. His name is John Ford. He's not a Fundy, but he is a
Terranist, and he believes the UMC should be removed from Earth at
once. He wants his victim to know everything about why he is dying.
He's after you, Mr. Chong. He wants you dead."
Chong couldn't help it. He laughed. "I'm sorry, Mr. President,
I do not mean to laugh. But your presentation strikes me as
melodramatic. There is someone named John Ford who wants to kill
me to encourage the withdrawal of UMC troops from Earth? I
understand. So what do we do?"
The American president arrived at that moment and
immediately voiced his opinion.
"You need to go home, Chong. The business of this conference
can finish behind closed doors without you. Your man Lawrence
seems very capable. The only point of contention can be worked out
here this evening."
The American president tried to look like a commander. You
could tell he was used to being doubted, but also used to getting his
way. The Fundys in the United States had been the most vicious, and
the US response had been the most criticized in the early stages of the
war. However, the US also saw the strongest resistance against the
Fundys before the UMC entered the war. You could see every line of
that experience in his face.
Chong had communicated quite often with the American
president, Rodrigo Torres, through the course of the war.
"Thank you for your concern, Rudy. I mean it. And I may take
your advice. But let's get down to business first and worry about that
The leaders quickly organized into two camps. One camp, led
by the China and the European countries, argued for a long-term
occupation with a strong rebuilding plan directed by the occupying
forces, with a ten-year plan for elections and resumption of local
The American leaders and the UMC preferred a very short-
term military occupation with a longer term advisory council moving
United Moon Colonies
quickly into hybrid local control, while still waiting for a ten-year
period before withdrawing entirely.
At one point China insisted their military would stay in
occupied territories for security, no matter what term was decided.
This angered even the Europeans and threatened to break down
"Let's wait for a moment," said Chong. "If China wishes long-
term military occupation, so be it. I propose we cede our territory to
them immediately to restructure, as they will. The UMC forces will
withdraw now." The president got up to leave during the stunned
He made it out the door, where Lawrence, who was waiting for
him, seemed surprised.
"So you've come to an agreement?"
"President Chong?" It was the British minister. "Before you
leave, the Chinese premier would like a word with you.
"Very good." Chong turned towards his chief aide. "I'll be
right back, Lawrence."
The Chinese premier met him at the door. "You've made your
point, Mr. President. We will negotiate the military term."
The rest of the meeting was awkward and uncomfortable, but
ultimately productive. Chong had bluffed his way into discovering just
how much leverage the UMC had. His was the only territory that had
not experienced any fighting. His was the only army with minimal
losses. He didn't have the tactical advantages of being able to
effectively to rule the territories he occupied, but he could certainly get
After the meeting, President Torres walked him to his room.
"I meant what I said back there, Rich. You need to get back for
your own safety. There's no reason to stay and let him figure out how
to compromise the elevator or booby trap your room. Get out. The
sooner the better."
"Thanks, Rudy, but I have to see some stuff through and I'm
not worried. I'm really not. Maybe I should be, but I'm not. I think
what he really wants is to make me leave and weaken our standing.
I'm not playing into that."
"He's willing to kill you if you don't."
"How do you know so much about him?"
"Because he used to be a top advisor to all of us before the
War. He was the UN economic liaison."
" That Ford? Well, I guess I wouldn't know him, but I certainly
remember him. He wanted a free trade pact with us, but nobody would
let down their guard. What happened to him?"
"During the War his family was killed, and he led a home
guard division voluntarily in Omaha."
"Was he there when . . . ?"
"Yep. You bet. The UMC terror bombing, he calls it."
"It was a mistake."
"He doesn't care, and he wants you dead."
"This is my room."
"Think about it, Rich. Good night."
Lawrence opened the door, and Chong walked into his room to
find John Ford lounging on the couch.
"Mr. Chong. I'm sorry, President Chong. Thank you for
coming. I won't be long. I just have some brief business to take care of
United Moon Colonies
Lawrence made for the door, but Ford quickly had a gun to
"No, Mr. Lawrence. I don't wish to be disturbed. Besides. I'm
not going to kill Mr.— Damn me. Pardon. President Chong. Not yet.
They have probably warned you about me. I am dangerous. I'm aware
of that. But I'd rather not kill you. That's why I've risked my own life.
So you understand, Mr. President? My own life is at risk right now.
I'm risking my life to save you."
Ford kept the gun at Chong's head, moving it around slowly as
he circled the president. He almost massaged Chong's head with the
barrel, all the time keeping an eye on Lawrence, who still stood next to
"Mr. Lawrence, please. You'll be more comfortable sitting
down." He moved the gun off Chong momentarily and waved it
toward a couch. "Please. Have a seat."
Lawrence moved over to the couch, keeping his eyes on Chong
for any kind of sign as to what he should do.
"So you see, Mr. President." Ford spat out the words. "I'm
paying you back. You risked your life, and the lives of your so-called
countrymen, to defeat the Fundys. I respect that action. I truly do. And
so I return the favor. But you're all madmen. You indiscriminately kill
in order to get your result. As you have seen, I can respect that too.
Though I narrowed my bomb's focus a little. I didn't wish to kill. So
I'm not quite up to par with the United Moon Colony forces, am I?
"But I'm a follower of yours, President Chong. An acolyte, if
you will. I follow your example, even if I'm learning and didn't get it
quite right today. I didn't kill anyone, see? Didn't rob anyone of their
wife and children. But I noted you came down the elevator alone. A
good sign. So I followed it." Ford smiled widely and waved the gun
out away from Chong to gesture. "I came here alone too. In order to
deliver you ..."
Lawrence had Ford's arm in a tight grip. He'd dropped his
guard briefly and neither of the other men had missed it. Chong was
around Ford in a split second, and the gun was on the floor. But Ford
was not to be trifled with. He swung both arms forward and knocked
both men to the floor. He was almost back to the gun when Lawrence
leaped toward it too. Chong had started shouting from the moment
they had jumped Ford, and the guards had come running into the room.
Ford looked up and smiled.
"Oh, Mr. President Chong. I guess you'll have to hear my
message in a different way. If you hear it at all. Remove your troops
now. That's really the short version."
Ford was out the window and gone before the guards could
"He can't have gone far," said Lawrence, but when they looked
out the window, there was nothing. One of the guards had already run
to alert security, but Ford wasn't found.
The guards insisted on remaining in the room, and Chong had
to persuade them not to stay in his bedroom. It's not that he couldn't
have slept with them there, he just felt it was overreacting, and
overreaction was exactly what Ford wanted.
United Moon Colonies
The next morning, Minister Narang met Chong in the hallway
on his way to breakfast.
"Good morning, Mr. President. So, I see you didn't take
President Torres 's advice—at least not yet."
"No, Minister. I'm certain it's good advice, but I'm not ready
to run. In fact, I made a decision on my next action this morning in the
The minister raised an eyebrow. "Oh, really? Do tell. If you
don't mind my knowing."
"Not at all. I intend to have Lawrence set up a press conference
today. I'm going to Omaha."
"Is that right?"
"You don't seem as surprised as I would have expected,
Minister. I'm disappointed," Chong chuckled.
Narang gave a sly smile. "I won't go so far as to say I have you
figured out, President Chong. But I daresay I expect you to surprise us
at this point. I couldn't have predicted you'd go to Omaha next, but it
is the kind of thing that seems to fit. Do you know what I'm getting
"Yes. I guess so."
"Besides, it is also where I'm headed after the peace
conference. So I'm happy that I may get the pleasure of your company
"Do you always talk like this?"
"Like a storybook."
"Well, it's damned odd. Why are you going to Omaha?"
"To appear in front of the troops. The small European aid
contingent there is largely British. They won't be needed for much
longer, but we need to boost morale to get them over the hump until
"What a coincidence."
"Are you staying for the rest of the conference, I hope?"
"And then you hope to draw out Ford."
"I hope to kill him."
This stopped the minister. "Now that—was unexpected."
"I'm glad I could finally surprise you."
They had arrived in the Great Hall, and Chong sought out
Lawrence to inform him of the plans.
Lawrence was not easily persuaded this was the best way to go
about things, but in the end, Chong was president.
The media had been largely absent because of the tight security
controls, but they had been allowed to view the signing. Most of them
pestered the poor Security Chief and took video of the bomb site, now
covered in canvas on one end of the hall.
The meeting was long and boring with many speeches from the
different leaders, topped off by the great moment of the official
signing of the peace treaty. Chong's speech was scheduled
immediately after the signing. He had been told that the first words in
an era of peace should come from the UMC. Lawrence had explained
to him that nobody would bother listening once the treaty was signed.
And it was true. About two-thirds of the cameras and reporters left the
hall immediately after the signing. They had published: now on to
As the national leaders took their seats again, Chong
approached the podium. Applause rippled through the crowd. Of those
left, most recognized the great contribution of the UMC. While some
still belittled the upstart nation and others worried about the larger role
they now held on Earth, none of them were ungrateful for the support
they gave. If he ever would have the world's ear, it would be now. The
remaining press corps would report his words, and if he did it right,
they would end up with a scoop.
"Thank you, assembled leaders and distinguished guests. One
hundred years ago, my grandfather came to a conference similar to
this. Peace was the goal, but there was no moral high ground for either
United Moon Colonies
side. An uneasy peace was reached. This day is different for many
reasons. The Fundamental Union of Nations was an unseen scourge on
this world for a long time. They rose out of Earth's failings, and for a
time, I'm embarrassed to say, some in my government were
sympathetic to their complaints. But their policies were abhorrent,
their methods unacceptable, and in the end they became a problem not
just for Earth, but for all of humanity.
"It was not popular to enter what was essentially a five-front
war, especially on a planet that had such an uneasy relationship with
us. Many said that we should leave Earth to itself, stay out of it. But
we could not. In the end, we won more than just peace by joining this
war. We won understanding. In a sense we're declaring a healing
peace in two wars here. This is the end, not only of the Fundamental
Union's war on humanity, but of the struggle between Luna and Terra,
the Moon and Earth.
"But our work is not done and our responsibilities have not
lifted. The UMC forces could just leave, and many would like us to.
But we must leave things better than we found them. History has
shown that wars fought with no end, end in other wars. We will not let
that happen. That is why I will leave from here and personally inspect
the conditions in every UMC-occupied area and then consult with the
Alliance Countries on an exact plan for rebuilding and withdrawal.
"I will visit Caracas and ensure that their once vibrant economy
returns. I will visit our administrative region in Gabon and see to it that
the Anthropological Institute can resume its work. In United Arabia, I
will personally investigate how to get energy systems back up and
running in responsible hands. In Europe, I'll speak with unit
administrators in the Vatican.
"But my first trip will be to America. To Omaha. To the site of
the bombing and to our military police headquarters in the Midwest. A
man named John Ford recently threatened my life if the UMC did not
leave this world. He's upset with what happened in the war. Well, so
am I. But I will not do people the disservice of leaving before we've
put things right. And I will not let confusion rise over what the Fundys
did and what we did. And we will take responsibility for what we did.
"A song became popular during this war. Its words referred to
"the Looneys coming" and "thank god the Looneys are here." I'll take
the backhanded, light-hearted compliment of that song. The Looneys,
as some call us, have a way of doing things that has led to the creation
of a strong band of united colonies. When we find adversity, we defeat
it and make things better. We will do that, depart, and leave you to do
the rest. Thank you."
A mixture of reaction met the end of Chong's address. Some
leaders showed obvious shock at the revelation of John Ford's agenda,
which they had worked hard to keep secret. Others clapped lightly and
politely at what they considered a self-serving and pompous sermon.
But the majority of the press, aides, and lower-level guests cheered
heartily. They were the ones still glad the Looneys had come to save
them. They valued Chong's straight talk. "Moon men play straight"
was another saying that had grown up during the war.
Chong hadn't planned to announce the visit to Omaha or to
speak of John Ford directly when he started the speech. He could
already see the frustration in Lawrence's eyes.
"We'll figure it out, Lawrence. Don't look at me like that."
"You'll be the death of me, Mr. President."
"I got here by trusting my instincts. We beat the Fundys by
trusting our instincts. I don't mean to be too full of myself, but I figure
my good luck may run a little longer."
"As you say, Mr. President. Gravity doesn't make a man, it's
the way he jumps."
"I never say that. Nobody ever says that anymore."
"But you sure act the part of the old-time Moon Man quite
The press conference was scheduled in an alcove off from the
elevator banks. After speaking to the press, Chong would head back to
Serenity Colony in the UMC, take care of some business, then take
another elevator back down to New York and fly a UMC transit ship
The press conference went off without a hitch. The questions
were almost entirely about the trip to Omaha and the revelation about
John Ford, but nothing Chong couldn't handle. At the very end,
Lawrence had a habit of allowing a few questions from the unofficial
press. These were upstarts with no real press credentials trying to build
a name or business. The final question came from a recently popular
political intrigue writer, called simply "Bex." She was a faddish hit
who liked sensational material and had been eating up the John Ford
United Moon Colonies
"Mr. President. Are you aware of the connection between John
Ford and the British minister, Minister Narang?"
"I'm aware that Mr. Ford used to be a key negotiator and has
connections to almost every leader on Earth, even me."
"I'm speaking of their relationship as brothers. Did you know
Mr. Narang is the half-brother of Mr. Ford?"
The rest of the press corps groaned. This was the type of
sensational rumor Bex thrived on. It needed no basis in fact.
"No. I'm not aware whether that is true."
"But it is true, Mr. President. I have here documentation--"
Lawrence attempted to cut her off. "That will be all for now.
The president will be holding his next conference after his landing in
New York tomorrow--"
Suddenly, the doors to the room burst open, and Minister
Narang came in holding his belly and breathing heavily. He stumbled
up the aisle to Chong, barely able to breathe or speak. "Don't take the
elevator. Ford has it. My brother will get you." He passed out.
Excerpt from the "Guide to the First Worlds War"
While the Worlds War engaged every single nation on Earth and the
Moon, some nations were the primary movers. Here are described the
main member nations on both sides of the war.
Fundamental Union of Nations (Fundys)
The Fundys believed they were commissioned by God to wipe the
Earth clean of sinners and sinful ways. They held no value for either
their own lives or the lives of others. They had been considered
terrorists or extremists in their areas of operation until they formed a
worldwide union, setting aside their differences and coordinating their
efforts. What had been Islamic, Christian, or Jewish movements-
movements often at each others' throats—were brought together under
one banner by Abraham G. Touareg at the council of Caracas.
Touareg's Fundamental Union party won control of the Venezuelan
government and then quickly expanded their control around the world.
One of the brightest economic lights of the southern hemisphere before
Fundy control, Venezuela became the central base of operations for
Touareg and his party. Caracas had once been the financial capital of
South America; Touareg dismantled its economy and fed on its
strength to make the Fundys strong. It is said that the economic
success of Venezuela came too quickly for the country to cope,
opening the way for Touareg to take control by appearing to bring the
country back to basics. At its height, Venezuela controlled two-thirds
United Moon Colonies
of South America and claimed most of Central America as satellite
Venezuela quickly formed alliances with fundamentalist governments
in Africa, which gave rise to a continent-wide confederacy there.
Touareg considered the African Confederacy to be the Fundys' own
UN, where, in Touareg's words, "the moral nations of the world can
meet unmolested by sinful ideas in order to discuss how to bring God's
plan into being." Odwale Mbeko, Touareg's puppet and right-hand
man, rose to prominence as leader of the Confederacy.
The tumultuous history of Arabia had seemed finally resolved with the
formation of the United Arabian Shura. However, Touareg's money
helped the Fundys take power there, and they soon started rolling back
reforms, reinstating fundamentalist laws and programs.
The shining example of the power of diplomacy fell when the Jewish
arm of the Fundys took control of Israel and dismissed the Gnesset.
Israel became partners with Touareg and United Arabia in a policy of
repatriation and appropriate occupation now known as "The
Fundamental States of America
A Fundy uprising in the Midwestern states of the USA secured several
state governments and attempted to take over the Federal Government
of the US as well. The states were kicked out of the union and a
second civil war erupted.
Fundamental European Union
Scattered provincial governments fell to the Fundys throughout
Europe, starting one of the most complicated theaters of war ever, as
two European Unions existed at once over essentially one territory
with millions of fronts between many different sects and populations.
Europe was the scene of the bloodiest battles in the war. The FEU
based itself in Vatican City, holding the Pope as a hostage and
mouthpiece for their work.
Alliance of Nations (Later known as Alliance of Worlds)
The Alliance grew slowly as Venezuela marched over most of South
America and then converted Africa to the Fundy cause. Mexico started
the first alliance with its North American counterparts. Europe joined
next, led by France and Russia. The entry of China was felt to be the
key to turning the tide, but only the entry of the UMC put the Alliance
on the road to victory.
As Venezuela began taking over its South American neighbors,
Mexico declared war and attempted to free Brazil and some of its other
When Venezuela caused several Central American countries to invade
southern Mexico, Canada joined the war.
United States of America
The rebellion of the Midwestern states moved the US into the war on
Venezuela. Mexico, Canada, and the US formed the first Alliance of
Nations against the Fundy s.
France, Britain, Russia (European Union)
The non-linear attacks and victories across Europe caused some
individual countries like Germany and Italy to become essentially non-
existent. France, Britain, and Russia are credited with keeping the EU
going during the war.
Touareg originally signed a peace treaty with China and kept them out
of the war until the African Confederacy began to move into southeast
Asia. China declared war on Africa, and Venezuela declared this a
violation of their treaty and sent troops into China.
United Moon Colonies
The last nation to enter the war, alongside the tiny independent Moon
colony, Cana. The UMC held a distinct tactical advantage, able to
deploy troops from space anywhere they were needed. The UMC
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forces were also fresh and easily supplied as the Fundys had little
experience with space-based defense. They knew enough to block
Earth access but could not cope with UMC attacks from above. The
great space elevators were expanded and used to shuttle troops and
supplies between key points on Earth and the Moon. The UMC
involvement turned the tide of the war and led to Touareg's death and
the fall of the Fundys.
On board Air Force One, President Chong sat bewildered,
talking with President Torres.
"It doesn't make any sense. Why would Ford warn Narang,
then shoot him?"
"He's a bloody man, Chong. And Narang will recover; he
wasn't mortally wounded. Ford's just making his point."
"Did you ever think he might have meant us to take your ship?
That we might be in danger right now?"
"Of course we are, but even so, the security on AF1 is the best
in the world."
"Sir?" A woman interrupted them. Chong lost his breath.
"Oh, hello, Samantha," The president shifted his weight in his
seat so as to face the woman. "This is President Chong of the United
Moon Colonies. Rich, this is Samantha Malinao, Speaker of the
"Pleasure to see you, President Chong. This concerns you too."
She smiled at Chong, but remained business-like. Torres raised an
eyebrow but kept silent. "Sir, we just received the news that the Paris
Elevator has been damaged. A unit of UMC troops was descending to
assist at Versailles when an explosion took out the stabilizers. There
are two fatalities, twelve injured, and the elevator is inoperable."
Chong stared at Malinao. She had long black hair and deep
chocolate-brown eyes. She wasn't a bombshell in the classic sense, but
she had quite an effect on Chong 's attention. They had met several
times over the course of the war, as Chong had met with Torres. He
always felt slightly and unexplainably intimidated by her. She on the
other hand, while always friendly, and even at times flirtatious, never
indicated any interest beyond a professional friendship.
United Moon Colonies
Chong had never married, nor had he even dated much, leading
to all kinds of speculation in the press on his love life and sexual
tendencies. The truth was that he was bisexual, but he was so
concerned with his job that he didn't have time to pursue sexual
relationships much. He had once thought he and Lawrence would hook
up, but he later realized he probably wasn't Lawrence's type. And
besides, they worked too closely together.
"Chong? Do you need to contact your staff?"
Chong shook himself out of his reverie. "Yes, yes, of course.
I'll be right back."
Lawrence found Chong at the back of the ship. "We have to
return to Serenity, sir. It's not just about your safety at this point."
"You're right, Lawrence. We'll take the New York elevator.
But we're coming right back down."
"Very good, sir. I'll make the arrangements."
"Don't smirk, Lawrence."
"Of course not, sir. I never smirk."
Chong returned to his seat to find Speaker Malinao in it.
"Oh, I'm sorry, President Chong . . ."
"You know you can call me Richard, or just Chong, like Rudy
here does sometimes."
"It's just more efficient."
"Of course, Chong. Would you like your seat back?"
"No, that's fine. I'll sit here." He took the empty seat next to
"So what's the scoop, Rich? You need to head back, I expect."
"Yes, Lawrence is arranging it now. I'll take the New York
elevator back up, but I'm coming right back down. I intend to be in
"That's what happened," Malinao interjected. "That's why they
shot Minister Narang. He was headed to Omaha as well. They want
you there alone."
"Well, they would have known all our itineraries, that's true,"
said Torres. "I can't go to Omaha. I have a conference on Naval
redeployment for the next three days. It's not like you'll be
undefended, but the fewer dignitaries, the fewer troops."
"Not just that," said Malinao, with another smile that melted
Chong. "It's also to have you isolated. No friends around. Terranists
like to play mind games."
"Well, I'm going anyway. I can beef up the guards, but I feel
that with a man like Ford, it matters little."
"Ford?" Malinao looked surprised.
"Uh, she hadn't been briefed," explained Torres, slightly
"John Ford is the man after me. It's not just the Terranists
against the UMC. It's somehow personal. Ford lost his family in
"And you're going there on purpose," Malinao had a look of
respect, which Chong hoped included a little admiration. "That seems
really stupid." So much for admiration.
"I want to beat Ford and beat him quick. The problem with all
people like him is letting them rule the debate.. They don't plan for
direct confrontation; they plan for games and strategy. I'm attempting
to foil his plans by doing exactly what he doesn't think I'd ever
consider doing. Unfortunately he forced my hand with the elevator. So
he's ahead. I wish there was a way I could go directly to Omaha from
Serenity, but I'm limited to the elevators, at least from space."
"Why not have a UMC ship take you direct from Luna?"
"Because Chong thinks the military efforts are too important to
waste time carting his ass around," Torres butted in.
"But surely this is an exception, no?" Malinao almost looked
Chong shifted uneasily. "I suppose it could be. If there's a
mission headed that way anyway. But there's probably not."
"What if I pick you up?" Malinao offered.
"What? From Luna?" Chong asked, shocked.
"I was thinking from ISS 5."
ISS 5 was the UN orbital station. Because the UN had tight
controls on it, Chong would need special permission to fly there.
Torres could get him that. However, the UN would not give him
permission to travel to Earth from there. He'd only be able to go back
to the Moon, unless someone else gave him a ride. That seemed to be
what Malinao was offering.
"You can do that?"
United Moon Colonies
"I'm not the masochist you are, Chong. I have a ship at the
speaker's command, and I intend to use it."
Chong laughed at the insult. He would have laughed if she had
slapped him, he thought. "OK. So why aren't you in your personal
carriage right now?"
"I said I'm not a masochist, but that doesn't mean I'm
wasteful. No need to take two ships where one works."
"Then I accept. Rudy, can you get me landing--"
"Yeah, yeah, you two have fun. I'll get you ISS privileges. Just
do me a favor and don't get our speaker killed, all right? She might be
the next president."
For the first time, Malinao looked a bit embarrassed.
In New York, Chong had little time to say goodbye before he
was whisked out to the elevator at Jamaica Bay.
"I think Speaker Malinao 's plan is sound," offered Lawrence
during the ride up to platform 70. That was unlike Lawrence, who
rarely offered any kind of unsolicited advice.
"You're starting to get downright pushy, Lawrence," said
"Pardon me, sir, but if it saves your butt, I'll do it. I hope you
don't mind, sir."
"I always thought you were a bit too deferential anyway."
Lawrence chuckled slightly.
"What?" Chong turned to see his aide struggling to keep a
"No, out with it, what?"
Lawrence sighed and lost all composure as he put on a dead-on
imitation of Chong's voice. "Lawrence, I know we've been friends for
a long time, but now I'm the president. This doesn't change our
friendship, but we have to act like professionals."
"Which you agreed to!" Chong was starting to get a little
"And which you're now telling me I can ease off of. I guess it's
natural when we've been at it for seven years. Still, sir, it just struck
me funny. I apologize."
There was nobody else in the car to hear the conversation, but
they both knew it would be observed and recorded for security
"Fine," Chong sighed. "I hereby give you a presidential order
to lighten up a bit."
"Very good—Rich. Sorry, can't do it, sir. Here's your schedule.
We have a staff meeting at the capitol, then we need to head to
Armstrong, to the Floyd Center for a UMC business council address,
then Clavius this evening for a University meeting, then New
Canaveral for your shuttle flight to ISS 5."
"You certainly know how to pack an agenda, Lawrence. Any
way of skipping the University?"
"Well, they've been waiting for you to attend for months, and
the shuttle can't leave until late anyway. So it wouldn't hurt. You
don't have to speak or do anything but eat their dinner and smile."
"I'd rather be alone, but all right. It's important. Thanks,
The elevator arrived at platform 70, and UMC guards escorted
the president and his chief aide to the waiting shuttle to take them to
the Serenity colony on the Moon.
United Moon Colonies
Excerpt from "A Guide to Luna and its People.
Colonies of the Moon
The United Moon Colonies are a federation of twelve of the thirteen
Moon colonies, plus the two Lunar research stations at Tranquility and
Houston de la Luna. It was founded in the year M90. Cana is not a
member of the UMC but is listed here for completeness. Moon years
are expressed as M and then the number of years since the founding of
Tranquility; this system is used on the Moon to prevent confusion
between Earth and Moon time. The years correspond approximately to
a terrestrial year but may have different start and end dates. Lunar days
are twenty-five hours long.
The first Moon colony, founded by an international effort led by
NASA. The base was a proof that the concept of a Moon colony could
work. Tranquility consisted of minimal research facilities and living
quarters. It continues today as a museum and tourist attraction,
considered a settlement rather than a full colony. It used to be
governed by Serenity Colony, but it was transferred to Avalon's
governance in M100. Only museum staff live in the settlement, and
many museum staff members live in other colonies and commute. The
year Tranquility was founded marks the start of Lunar calendar year
Ml. It is the only colony without a spaceport, although if necessary
ships can land in a clearing near the site of the first Moon landing
Houston de la Luna (M6)
The second Moon colony was founded as a command center and
spaceport. Several space agencies decided that further exploration and
colonization could only succeed if the Moon had its own version of
Earth's space command center in Houston, Texas. Houston de la Luna
was designed to provide that command presence on the Moon. It still
serves as the main spaceport for ships from Earth. Like Tranquility.
Houston de la Luna is considered a settlement, not a full colony. It is
governed by the colony of Armstrong.
Serenity (Ml 3)
The first full-fledged colony on the Moon was built as a university.
The University of Luna still operates there and is the colony's major
employer. It is also the capital of the UMC and headquarters for all
armed forces except for the Air Force. Representatives of the founding
colonies signed the Contract of Union here.
Clavius (Ml 5)
The cultural center of the UMC was founded by the European Space
Agency as the second full colony on the Moon. While it had been
planned alongside Serenity, the success of the University of Luna
drove many research scientists to Clavius to escape the restrictions of
academia. It also provided a path for graduating students. Clavius is
now the home of the Union theater, ballet, opera, and symphony.
New Canaveral (M21)
Canaveral was meant to be a launching point for Martian missions and
did fly several such missions in its early years. It was the first colony
to be planned and built primarily with Moon resources. Some raw
materials were shipped in from Earth, but as much as possible was
mined locally. The UMC Air Force is headquartered here. New
Canaveral is also home to the major military academies on the Moon.
United Moon Colonies
Officially, the Japanese space agency founded Selene for additional
research capacity. In reality, a fight over the colony that became
Septendecim led to a colonial race with the ESA that the Japanese won
by one year. Selene has grown into the technological heart of the
UMC. It is also home to the most-used spaceport outside of Houston
de la Luna.
This colony was originally to be named Imbrium. When Japan left the
project, the ESA renamed it with the Latin word for "seventeen." The
number was steeped in Celtic mythology and was used both for luck
and to represent the number of countries still participating. Some say
Septendecim needs all the luck it can get. The colony has often faced
economic difficulties and has recently tried to promote itself as a
vacation spot in competition with the very popular Avalon colony.
Casinos and entertaining night spots have helped some. Septendecim is
the only colony with any significant crime problem. It also has an
incredibly vibrant independent music and literature scene.
The manufacturing center of the UMC has grown well beyond its
Russian roots but still retains a distinctively Russian flavor in its
architecture. It is often called by its nickname, "Little Moscow," which
many find easier to pronounce. The colony spaceport handles almost
all direct freight and cargo flights to Earth.
When China announced plans for Chang-Ngo in M3, they aimed to
build the best and most self-sufficient colony on the Moon. They
certainly succeeded in building the most beautiful of the colonies. The
colony dome is the only one on the Moon that is entirely translucent.
The city looks as if it was carved from ivory. Stunning views are
around every corner. However, it does not promote itself as a tourist
option. The colonial government has instead encouraged business and
finance. Chang-Ngo is therefore called the UMC's second city, as it
ranks second to Avalon in business and tourism.
The final NASA colony seems older than it is, as it was originally
planned along with Serenity and New Canaveral. Moon colonization
had succeeded far beyond expectations, and Armstrong had to play
catch up. However, it has grown into the economic capital of the
UMC. A far-sighted entrepreneur named Sally Floyd volunteered for
colonization in the then relatively cheap Armstrong expedition and
immediately started a stock exchange. The Floyd Center is now the
heart of the UMC financial system and houses the UMC bank.
Known as "Hollywood on the Moon," Earth tourists make it a point to
spend a few days in Ahsaas to see the stars under the stars. Few know
that the colony was never expected to succeed. India planned and built
it in four years, stunning the space community with their success. In
addition to hit movies, Ahsaas also provides a remarkable twenty-five
percent of the UMC's natural foods.
The top UMC vacation hotspot is often decried as shallow and crass,
but the numbers say plenty of people love it there. Canada founded it
with the intention of providing a great place for recreation. They
haven't failed. Nine lakes, a hundred and fifty hotels, hundreds of
restaurants and shops and more populate the seemingly endless Avalon
complex. The colony's marketing slogan, "You'll get what you want."
isn't far off the mark.
Mexico originally meant Tollan to be an additional vacation spot, but
it has since grown into the agricultural center for the UMC, producing
United Moon Colonies
forty percent of the Moon's food. It is also acknowledged, logically
enough, to be the home of the finest restaurants in the UMC.
The colonial government calls it the "Animal Colony." Residents just
call it home. The UMC National Zoo is here, and it's also home to the
highest concentration of pets and vets. But the most striking thing
about Rafiki is how comfortable people look and act. Residents of
Rafiki take the fewest trips out of town compared to residents of any
other UMC colony.
This is the only colony not a member of the United Moon Colonies. It
is however, still a member of the MCA (Moon Colony Association),
the predecessor of the UMC. Through that membership it maintains
integration and coordination and trade with UMC colonies, while
retaining its independence. Cana was founded as a religious Utopia but
has broadened out into a less singularly-focused colony. It still boasts
the highest concentration of churches on the Moon.
Various minor settlements
From one day to the next, minor settlements start up and close down
on the Moon. There are an estimated average of 550 minor settlements
in operation at any given time. These settlements engage in water and
mineral mining, exploration, research, astronomy, and even some
archaeology. Over ninety percent of these settlements are operated by
the UMC, though some are operated by Terran nations and a handful
are under Cana's control.
No new permanent colonies have been attempted since Ml 00, when
the UMC tried to establish the colony Ambrosius for the second time.
In M45, the ESA had tried to establish a colony at the same site with
the same name. Both times the colony never got past the temporary
stage because of lack of interest. While Armstrong and other colonies
complain of overcrowding, some colonies have plenty of space and
handle overflow from these crowded colonies quite well. The UMC
estimates that two more colonies will become an imperative within the
next two hundred years, but as yet demand remains low. Permanency
of settlement at the Ambrosius site is considered a prerequisite for
attempting new colonies again. While the settlement has experienced
longer-term settlements over the past few decades, the last run of six
years just ended when the site was vacated by the Chicago Water
Mining Company. No new tenants have yet been found.
Colonies are connected by spaceport or train. Most colonies have a
spaceport capable of handling Lunar ships and in some cases ships
from Earth, though most Terrestrial-originated ships land at Houston
de la Luna.
Moon Transit Map
The two main transit links are the Moon Metro (MM) and Lunar Link
(LL). Most UMC residents refer to them as M and L. The UMC is
unusual in allowing two competing public transit systems to operate
two independent railway systems.
The L system runs in a cross-hatch pattern between all the colonies
with only spur links to Cana and Tranquility. The M system uses a hub
and spoke pattern with long haul direct lines between far points of the
system, including Tranquility. Cana can be reached on a spur line from
the main system.
If you ask several different UMC residents how to make sense of the
transit system you'll likely get several different answers. Only UMC
natives can make enough sense out of the system to determine which
system to take when and which ride is cheapest. Visitors take comfort
in the fact that both systems can get you reliably from one place to
United Moon Colonies
The Moon Colony Association (MCA)
The MCA was founded to coordinate logistical needs between the
different colonies and to expedite cooperation between the parent
government of the various settlements. In the days before the union,
the MCA resolved disputes between colonies and organized
cooperation for transit, trade, and eventually currency. MCA members
developed a sense of unity that eventually led to the separation
movement after the Armstrong incident.
When the colonies met in M90 to found the UMC they met as the
MCA. Cana, Armstrong, and Chang-Ngo voted against founding the
union, fearing, among other things, that it would be bad for the Lunar
economy. However, Armstrong and Chang-Ngo agreed to honor the
decision of the group, while Cana objected on moral grounds and
refused to join the UMC. Armstrong, Chang-Ngo, and Cana continued
to meet as the MCA, and the two UMC colonies acted as liaisons to
Cana during those tulmultuous times. Eventually the UMC
government agreed to send a representative to meet with Cana under
the auspices of the MCA and continue coordination between the lone
colony and the united ones. Cana is now an independent colony with
its own government and customes, though they use UMC currency.
Chong sat waiting for the M train to leave Avalon on its way to
New Canaveral. Lawrence had gone to talk to the conductor and make
sure there would be no delays. The shuttle waiting for them at New
Canaveral would not leave without them, but Lawrence just liked to
know what to expect.
The train was empty except for the guards. It was a regular M-
line train, though, except for having the president's guards on it.
Previous presidents traveled on special trains or flew on expensive
shuttles. Not Chong. He wanted to know how the two main transit
companies were doing and what it felt like to ride in the manner in
which ninety-seven percent of the UMC population got around
The door to the car opened. Chong looked up expecting to see
Lawrence. Instead, a tall, dark-haired, dark-skinned woman attempted
to enter the car. The guards stopped her, but she put up a stiff fight.
Chong heard her say something about John Ford.
Chong stood up. "Let her talk."
The guards stopped pushing her but didn't let her move any
"What do you want?" asked Chong.
"I want to talk to you about John Ford. I can help you figure
out why he's doing what he's doing." The woman struggled a bit more
against the guards.
"Is that right? Who are you?"
"I'm Silhouette Johnson. John Ford's wife."
Chong told the guards to allow her to sit down but to keep her
guarded. He took a seat diagonal to her.
"Ford's wife and children are dead. That's the reason he hates
us so much. You're not his wife?"
United Moon Colonies
"John sent me to the UMC during the war. I had been in
Fundy-controlled Omaha, trying to convince my parents to leave. He
put me on one of the last shuttles out before they cut off contact with
the Moon. I haven't heard from him since."
"That's all well and good. That still doesn't prove you're his
wife or explain why he thinks you're dead."
"I don't know what's happened to him. He was never like this
before the war. But in the last days I was with him he became
increasingly agitated. He would get~I don't know—jumpy. Like scared
of his own shadow. He was very distracted, often not remembering
things we'd talked about the day before. One day he just came in and
started packing and told me I had to leave right away on the Moon
shuttle or I'd be dead. I thought he was coming with me. He stayed
behind and said he'd contact me shortly. He never did.
"You can check the records to see my name. Run a DNA scan
if you need to verify me. I have a suspicion about what's going on, and
I want him back. I want him back the way he was. I think you're the
only one who can make him that way. You're his only chance."
Lawrence walked back in during her soliloquy. Chong turned
"Lawrence, get me the records on the ident of John Ford's wife
and take a hair from this woman for DNA-vert."
"Right away, sir. We'll be leaving in a couple minutes,
Chong rubbed his chin and stared at Johnson. "She'll have to
ride with us to New Canaveral, then. If that's all right with you, Ms.
She nodded her assent and let Lawrence take a hair for
"All right, we'll know soon enough if you're telling the truth
about who you are. Meanwhile, tell me what you came to tell me."
Silhouette sighed. "Minutes after our shuttle took off, the UMC
bombing of Omaha began. I saw our neighborhood destroyed. But our
shuttle was somehow cleared by the UMC air command and we got
away. We were all interned on arrival in Houston de la Luna for about
six months. I used to think John thought that I didn't make it on the
shuttle. But I've tried every means possible to contact him. He won't
"I think something was happening to him before we left.
Something was driving him mad. I think--"
She paused, obviously unsure about what she was going to say.
The train car lurched as it began its trip to New Canaveral. She looked
out the window as the car bulleted out of the colonial tunnel and the
Lunar landscape appeared on the viewports.
"It's always so beautiful and lonely," she said. The silver light
bathed her face, making her look like an antique. She exhaled, and the
effect dissipated. "Anyway, I think he did think we were dead at first.
There was a lot of confusion in Omaha when I left. He may have
thought we got shot down. I think whatever was driving him mad,
well, that drove him over the edge. And now he's so far gone, he
won't acknowledge that it's me. That I'm OK. That he can't use me as
an excuse for whatever's been afflicting him."
She stopped again and stared at a series of billboards for low-
cost condos in Septendecim, cheap loan rates, discounted MedEnhance
surgeries, and affordable home dome insurance for off-colony
Chong broke the silence. "So what are you thinking?"
She looked tentative. "I was hoping~I was thinking you could
take me along. When John confronts you again, I could be with you.
I'd prove to him it's me. That I'm here."
"I think that's mighty dangerous."
Lawrence entered the car.
"She's Silhouette Johnson, all right, and Silhouette Johnson is
John Ford's wife. But she's dead."
This surprised even Silhouette.
"What? What do you mean I'm dead. Do I look dead to you?"
Chong saw real panic start to take her over. That swayed him a
little more towards believing her.
"Well, technically you're dead and not dead," continued
Lawrence. "UMC records show you as a living resident of Avalon.
You have refugee status with indeterminate but revocable residency.
Your husband John Ford's last known address was in Omaha,
Nebraska, FSA. Well, it's the USA again, of course."
"That doesn't sound like dead to me," remarked Johnson.
"But Terran records differ from UMC records. They say you
lost custody of your children and you were executed as a traitor to the
United Moon Colonies
FSA. The date of the execution is after the date of your immigration to
"Well, that explains a lot," interjected Chong, standing up. The
train slowed down for entry into New Canaveral.
"Ms. Johnson, I will consider your suggestion. I want to find
out more about why you were supposedly executed. I'll need to go to
Omaha to do that. Meanwhile, let's hope your husband doesn't kill me
before I find out. If you agree, I would like you to leave your contact
information with Lawrence here. We'll contact you when we have
more information. If that's all right with you."
"Yes, of course. Thank you, sir . . . thank you, Mr. President."
"Don't thank me yet."
Chong and his guards exited the train, leaving Johnson behind.
He had more items for Lawrence to add to the Omaha trip's agenda,
and, worse, he had a much more complicated and unpredictable
situation now. But all he could think about was seeing Speaker
ISS 5 had been launched a mere three years before the war.
The Fundys had controlled Venezuela then and had been a growing
threat at the time, so it had been built with security in mind. Chong
wondered if that was why it looked like a spiky grenade.
The docking procedure was almost impossible. Any ship not
pre-cleared with a double-authenticated one-time pad International
Space Agency key had to wait two hours to dock instead of thirty
minutes. Chong witnessed a demonstration of "security by
bureaucracy" as Speaker Malinao's ship arrived and docked while his
UMC shuttle waited. He respected the fact that it didn't matter whether
the president or the janitor was on board, but he thought the overall
security was a little overdone for peacetime.
The shuttle finally got assigned a docking spike near the
speaker's. After one hour in transit and two waiting outside their
destination, Chong, Lawrence and their guards finally set foot on ISS
It was in fact, a historic occasion that went largely unmarked.
No UMC citizen, much less a president, had ever been on ISS 5. The
head of UMC s space agency had visited ISS 4 in the decade before
the war, but the ISA was never excited about UMC personnel on
board, and the war had frozen out any chance of UMC citizens finding
their way over to the Earth's prime space outpost.
It was really just jealousy. UMC troops could have guarded the
ISS 5 during the war, but the ISA had resisted. When the colonies
united and rebelled against Earth, they also rebelled against the ISA,
United Moon Colonies
which oversaw most of the missions that founded the colonies. Many
of the revolutionary leaders had been members of the ISA, so it was
natural for the remaining ISA members to see the UMC as an
ungrateful child. The most loyal ISA leaders accused the UMC of
setting back space exploration by decades. Martian missions aside, it
was true that no new colonies had been founded since the Moon
revolution. It was also true that the two attempts to found a new colony
at the Ambrosius site, one before and one after Lunar independence,
had both failed for lack of interest. Moderates agreed that the UMC's
independence was more a symptom than a cause of the stall in
That didn't change the chilly reception as the president of the
UMC set the first Lunar foot on ISS 5. A single lieutenant met them
and barely greeted them before instructing the pilot on the conditions
and procedures for leaving. Chong felt that this was more than a hint:
it was a push.
Then Speaker Malinao came running in with a few aides in
tow, huffing and puffing, out of breath.
"I'm so sorry we're late, President Chong . . . uh, Chong. I
know we look close from outside, but they docked us five stories up
and the lift is in use for cargo or something ridiculous, so we had to
hoof it. I'm so sorry. Anyway, how was your trip?"
Chong thought it remarkable how much she glowed after a
little exercise. He quickly stamped out further thoughts along these
lines, but not before it became apparent he was staring.
"The president and I had a lovely trip and were impressed with
the strength of the ISA's security protocols," Lawrence said, clearly
trying to break the awkward silence.
"Yes, quite a wait," Chong managed. "How was your flight?"
"Uneventful, thankfully. I'll show you the way to our ship.
You know these ISS types, always in a hurry. Still, I think we'll take
Malinao led the way back up to where the US ship was docked.
Chong found himself walking up the stairs behind Malinao. He
struggled for all five flights not only with carrying on a conversation
while huffing and puffing but also with trying to decide where his eyes
"Welcome to the USS Sam Rayburn, my home in the stars,"
said Malinao, gesturing at her ship. "It's been in use by speakers of the
House in the United States for just over fifteen years. But they didn't
make it for us. Before it was given to the speaker, it was used as the
vice-presidential shuttle for five years. It was the USS Cheney then.
It's old, but it's spaceworthy. They've kept it maintained and
upgraded. It fits six nicely, but since we have about nine it may be a
little cramped. I hope you don't mind."
Chong admired the enthusiasm that filled her deep brown eyes
when she spoke about her ship. "I don't mind at all," he said truthfully.
Lawrence looked like he disagreed.
The interior was velvet red and to Chong 's Moon-raised eyes
seemed like it was built for twelve rather than six. But there were only
six seats, which meant three of the guards had to strap themselves into
wall spaces for the departure. After Chong said it was all right, one of
the guards took the invitation of the pilot to sit in the cockpit.
The departure protocols took all of five minutes, the benefit of
leaving in a pre-authorized ship. He wondered how long the UMC
shuttle would have to wait to leave.
"Your pilots should be leaving right after us. They won't waste
time on the way out," Malinao said, as if reading Chong's mind.
It was a one -hour trip to Omaha. After departure they would
have about twenty to thirty minutes to float about the cabin before
reentry. Malinao took the opportunity to show them around the ship.
At one point, Chong found himself alone with Malinao,
looking out a viewport at the Earth rolling by beneath them. He wasn't
really alone, but the guards were in the cockpit, and Lawrence was
conferring with the aides on arrival logistics.
"Don't you ever miss it?" Malinao asked.
"I never had it," Chong said. He got this question a lot from
Terrans. "I grew up with a black sky and silver light. It's all I've
known. The Earth's beautiful to me, but so are many things." He
realized what he had said just as he also realized Malinao was looking
up at him. He turned quickly away and thought he caught the hint of a
"The Mona Lisa is beautiful. A Martian sunrise is beautiful, but
I don't particularly miss either one of those things. I appreciate them,
but they aren't mine."
"So you have to have something to miss it?"
He irrationally feared answering that question.
United Moon Colonies
"Well, yes, I suppose. At least when it comes to planets--" He
was interrupted, saved, by the announcement that all passengers
needed to secure themselves for reentry.
"You're a strange one, Chong. A good strange. We'll continue
this later," Malinao said with a grin as they made their way back to
It was a rough landing in Omaha. The spaceport had been
destroyed during the war, so Chong pulled some strings and cleared
the Rayburn to land at the temporary UMC military spaceport south of
the city. Needless to say it had none of the comforts of even the
smallest civilian spaceport.
The group disembarked onto a gantry that led down to an open
tarmac. Not only was this rustic, but somewhat dangerous. The
military port was quite active and shuttles were large, loud, and blind.
Chong breathed an inward sigh when they finally made it to the
temporary command structure away from the moving space hulks.
A car waited to fly them up into central Omaha. Chong planned
to check into a hotel there and then tour the city with Malinao. On the
ride, he saw the effects of the bombing he had authorized. Stretches of
normal suburban businesses and houses were punctuated by large
tracts of empty land and charred earth. The rebuilding efforts were
underway in the center of the city but had not reached far beyond.
Cleanup crews had gotten as far as removing the rubble and prepping
the land. The empty stretches were desolate with nothing but black soil
studded with signs and markers, waiting for future rebuilding crews.
Just before the car flew over Mandan Park, Chong saw a
neighborhood that had not been cleared. He tapped on the window to
get the pilot's attention.
"Fly closer to that area, I want to get a better look."
The pilot looked questioningly at Lawrence, who just nodded.
Malinao scowled. "Are you sure you want to see that right
He said nothing, but fixed his gaze out the door. He soon
realized why everyone was concerned. Among twisted metal and
mounds of ash were hundreds and hundreds of bodies preserved in
United Moon Colonies
stasis bags. This was an identification center for war dead. The field of
bodies seemed endless. Nothing lived down there, and workers wore
clean suits to prevent themselves from getting infected. As they
swooped down to their lowest point, Chong saw that not all the bags
had bodies. Some contained mounds of what appeared to be
collections of limbs. Smaller bags contained only charred skull-like
heads. He shuddered. Suddenly the field ended. In a snap, he was
looking at a shopping center. Granted, it wasn't bustling. Doubtless
people had little to spend and wouldn't be too keen about shopping
near the dead. However, aside from the lack of people, it looked
untouched, as if the war had never happened.
Malinao leaned forward and touched Chong 's knee, sending an
electric shock up his spine. "Are you OK?" she asked.
He found himself frustratingly speechless, not because of what
he'd just seen, but from Malinao's touch.
"There'll be worse tomorrow, you know," she said, concerned.
She removed her hand and freed his tongue.
"I know. But that's what I came for. We have to confront it in
order to get past it."
Everybody stayed silent until the car floated to a landing at one
of the few open hotels in downtown Omaha.
The downtown streets were quite a contrast to the outlying
areas. People swarmed everywhere, working construction, making
plans, protesting issues, or merely asking for handouts. The bustle
lifted Chong's spirits, and he saw it had a similar effect on the others
Lawrence checked them in and brought everyone their room
"They weren't terribly pleased to see me, I'll say that," said
Lawrence as he doled out the cards.
"Don't take it personally," Malinao said. "They've been
through a lot. I don't think most of the Omaha residents have anything
against the UMC. Most of them blame the Fundys at this point. Ford is
unique. Most of these people had fled the area by the time of the
Chong felt the weight of a long day of travel, planet change,
strong emotions, and more. He made his apologies and retired to his
room to get some sleep. A guard stood outside his room. Even
Lawrence had been too tired to talk and had gone straight to his own
room. They all agreed to meet in four hours and begin their tour.
Chong threw his things down on the couch and opened the
doors into the suite's bedroom. Sitting on the bed was John Ford.
"Hello, Mr. President. I hear you've met my wife."
United Moon Colonies
Chong had certainly not expected this, but he was a bit more
prepared this time. He touched his tongue to a sub-molar notification
device that would summon the guards.
"Your wife's dead," Chong tried.
"Of course she is. But that didn't stop her from popping on
your train and having a little sit-down, did it?" Ford got up and waved
a gun as he talked.
"How do you know that?"
"Thanks to your vigilant protection of the Lunar populace, you
have a camera on every train, no? I have connections. I must say, it's
not very hard to get copies of the video. You ought to look into that.
Oh, and another thing," Ford frowned, "the audio is awful. Enough to
hear what you were saying, but still." He shrugged.
"So you know your wife is not dead?" Chong touched his
molar again. Where were the guards?
"Don't strain your tongue muscle, Mr. President. The
frequency's jammed. Good idea and all, but . . ." He shrugged and
smiled. "I was ready."
"Why so much talk, then? Why don't you shoot?"
"Good tactics, Mr. President. You've been trained well. And I
must give you credit: you've seen through me. I don't really want to
kill you. I needed to make you believe that. And it doesn't mean I
won't kill you." Suddenly Chong felt like an invisible knife had sliced
into his leg. He fell to the ground. Ford's gun was capable of sub-
sonics. It could use sub-audible sound waves to incapacitate or kill the
"A low setting, Mr. President. Just to show you I'm serious.
Now. I'm going to shoot you again, just to knock you out."
Chong screamed, but no sound came out. Suddenly he realized
he was lying down in the seat of a car, bouncing around all over the
place. He opened his eyes and sat up. He was handcuffed in the back
part of a truck cab. It was an old fashioned ground car. John Ford sat
in front, operating the antique.
"Good morning, Mr. President. Sorry for the accommodations.
I imagine you're used to much better. However, it was necessary to get
where we're going unnoticed.
"And where's that exactly?" Chong mangled the words as he
worked the sleep out of his mouth.
"You're probably working off the drug. I gave you some
Perenity. No lasting effects, but you will have a bit of a hangover."
"I asked where we were."
"Yes, you did. We're in Oakland, California. Uh . . . Grand and
Harrison, right at this point."
"Why are we in Oakland, California?" Chong's geography was
good, but he wasn't exactly sure where Oakland was. He vaguely
remembered it being in northern California. Somewhere near San
"Well, Oakland has become a favorite spot for people to hide
out in. It's got an old reputation for violent crime that long ago became
undeserved, But because of that, it's become the perfect place to hide
for awhile. Nobody bothers you. Everyone's nice. The restaurants are
good. Only issue is the police—you can't get away with much violence
here. That should comfort you. Killing someone in Oakland is
tantamount to turning yourself in. But non-violent crimes? Petty
crimes? That's a different story. You'll understand.
"Amazing city, this Oakland. One of the few untouched by the
war. Fundys focused all their might and anger on San Francisco, right
across the bay. Left Oakland untouched. Sort of treated it as
unimportant. Another advantage in my mind. Closest the war came to
me here was the internment camp at Emeryville. A few Fundys still
over there, actually. With San Francisco depopulated as it is still,
nobody's paying much attention to the area yet. And if they are, it's to
the freedom fighters in Berkeley.
"But I do ramble. There's water in the flap of the backseat for
you. I think you should be able to open it even with the handcuffs, but
let me know."
United Moon Colonies
Chong opened the water and drank. He noticed that Ford was
different, much more affable. A closer approximation to the Ford who
had been a negotiator before the war. Chong thought maybe he was
imagining it, but Ford looked a little different, too. Older, maybe?
Chong couldn't put his finger on it, but something was odd.
They pulled up next to an old building that had the name
"Great Western" carved into the front and a huge smokestack on top.
The truck moved through an alleyway, around the back, and into a
private garage. Ford helped Chong out of the truck and walked him
through a door into an empty warehouse.
"This used to be the Great Western Power Station, way, way
back in the day. Was used for all sorts of artsy and not so artsy things
for a long time after that. Now it's my little laboratory." Ford sat
Chong and himself down on a set of church pews in one lighted corner
of the empty hall. The rest of it was dark and gloomy.
"Here's the thing, Chong. I can't explain to you everything
that's going on. You'll have to piece it together for yourself. And
there's no way you're going to trust me right away, so I'm going to
have to keep you locked up for now. But I assure you," Ford moved in
closer to Chong with a determined, almost manic look in his eyes, "I
assure you with all I know and believe: there was no other way. What
I'm doing, only I could do. And it's not only for your benefit but for
the benefit of both worlds. The war is far from over. In fact, if you had
attended the peace conference without incident, the worlds would be in
dire straits now. You did defeat the Fundys. You did kill Touareg. But
you missed a piece. There was a faction even Touareg distanced
himself from. And they've persisted. They have not surrendered.
They're far too clever for that. You've met one now. My wife. And
she was my wife, in a way. You'll understand. But she's not to be
trusted. They may be impossible to defeat. But I may know a way. If
I'm right, it's the only way. And it must happen just so."
Chong was overwhelmed by the mad rant. He felt more in
danger here than when confronted by Ford in his hotel room. At least
he felt he understood the homicidal Ford. But this Ford just seemed
insane and capable of just about anything. He wasn't simply mad, but
mad with a cause. Chong tried to remember his training in psychology,
but he had never meant to go into the discipline and had only really
mastered the interpersonal methods, not the clinical methods for
dealing with the truly ill.
"Stand up." Ford seemed nervous now. Chong obeyed. He had
no other choice. Disobeying wouldn't gain him anything.
"Walk . . ." Ford tapped at his own head compulsively as if he
had a tic. "I'm sorry, it's just that nobody's ever seen it yet. I have to
be confident." He seemed to be talking to himself. "I'm doing the right
thing by showing it to you. Walk forward about three meters. Stop
when I say stop."
Chong did not like the way this was going. "Why?"
Ford screamed, "Because I said so!"
Chong could provoke Ford and get into an argument with a
madman who claimed he didn't want to kill him, or he could walk
forward ten feet and see what happened. He walked.
"Stop!" Ford commanded.
Chong was surrounded by darkness. He heard a low hum near
him and felt the presence of something large in the gloom. His heart
"President Chong, meet . . . the rest of me."
A bank of lights came on suddenly. Chong squinted. When he
could see again, he faced a row of refrigeration units with glass doors.
In each unit was a copy of John Ford, about a dozen in all, with three
Chong gaped. Ford was engaging in illegal cloning. Or were
these androids? It seemed more like cloning. You wouldn't need to
He felt a hand on his shoulder and turned around to see three
versions of Ford. He immediately recognized two of them. The
youngest was the Ford who had attempted to kill him; he sneered as
Chong recognized him. Another was the older Ford who had driven
him here, still looking nervous. The third stepped in front of the others.
His voice rasped out like dry paper.
"President Chong, it's a pleasure to meet you. I'm John Ford.
The original John Ford."
He appeared much older than the other two. In fact, he
appeared to Chong to be ill.
"Thank you both," he said to his two copies. "I want to talk
with the president alone in my office."
He motioned for Chong to follow him over to a small office
built along one wall. Ford said nothing until they were both sitting
United Moon Colonies
"Can I get you a drink?"
He pulled a bottle of brown liquid out and set it on the desk
between them. He popped it open and poured a couple fingers in a
"Sure," said Chong. For some reason he absolutely wanted to
trust this version of Ford. It was the opposite reaction to the Mad Ford
who'd driven him here. That's what must have made Ford such a
strong negotiator. He just oozed good feeling and trust. Chong told
himself to be wary, but he was dying to find out what had happened.
Ford poured the other drink and slid the cup over to Chong.
"Well, I guess you must be pretty confused and angry about
now. For that I apologize. As the other me has probably told you, I
couldn't see any other way. After I explain more, I hope you'll
Chong shifted in his seat and took a sip. Hot fire burned his lips
and throat as the liquid raged down into his stomach. Now, that was
He snorted a bit. "I've never tasted anything like this."
Ford chuckled. "Of course you haven't. Scotch this good is
embargoed from trade with the Moon. Maybe a bottle of twelve-year-
old Macallan every once in awhile, and that's the best they'll let you
get. Most of the time you're stuck with blends. This here is twenty-
one-year-old Oban. Pre-war. It's my favorite. Dry and smoky."
"It's good," agreed Chong. "I'm not all that angry right now,
but I'd like to know what the hell all this is about."
Ford settled in for a long talk. "A group of the Fundys started
experimenting towards the end of the war, after you all entered in.
They could see the writing on the wall, what with the UMC forces
raining hell on them from above. Experimenting on their prisoners was
nothing new for them, but this group of scientists in Omaha started
something unique. Investigations into stem cells. I assume you saw the
body fields in Omaha?"
"Yes." Chong shuddered a bit at the memory. "We flew over
them on the way to our hotel."
"You'll find similar scenes at various Fundy installations, but
nothing quite so vast. Fundy scientists, with some kind of twisted
religious justification, were learning how to duplicate the humans in
their care. I believe their rationalization ran something along the lines
that the sinners they had captured had lost their souls, so reproducing
their bodies would not be a problem. The idea was to send these clone
armies out to defeat the heathens and win the war."
"How did they get around the protein limitations?"
"Rather clever, that. They only clone the ovum. Easy enough.
After that they clinched a way of replicating the womb conditions
exactly. Then they figured out how to speed the whole thing up. The
cells think they're in the womb, so they have all the proteins they
need. The speeding up is the extremely brilliant part. After that, all you
need is the right machines and a little knowledge of biology and
everyone can do it."
"So why haven't we seen the clone army?"
"The machines are quite power-intensive. In the end, your
bombs were battering away at the electrical capacity so badly that they
could only produce a few clones. A few of the ones seen here were
created by the Fundys. I've liberated them. The clone of my wife you
met on the train in Avalon was another. They're sending out the
existing clones as spies to attempt to find them a new base where they
can draw enough power without drawing attention. They've tried Cana
colony on the Moon, but as sympathetic as the religious Canaans may
be to the Fundys, they reject cloning out of hand as a sin. And besides,
anywhere on the Moon would suck up too much power and draw
"So why do you need me?"
"It's tricky. You are who they want more than anything. The
Ford I sent to lure you in was one of theirs. I've barely kept him on my
side. He was programmed to hate the UMC. These Fundys—well,
they're really not Fundys anymore. They're radical doners. They want
the UMC gone from Earth more than anything so that they can slip
back under the radar. I needed them to think their rogue Ford clone
was just at large doing their work. They won't think so much about his
not contacting them. It's how they work."
Chong felt the liquor hit him and decided not to finish the cup
quite yet. He rarely drank. "So, that's all very interesting, it really is.
But what's the short version? Why do you want me? What is this
"I need you because you're the president of the Moon. I need
to keep you safe and out of their hands. I also need you to help me
finish them off. They're running scared right now, but if we do nothing
they will find their niche, grow bold, and unleash something far worse
United Moon Colonies
than the Fundy war. Those body fields in Omaha are littered with
failed experiments. But they've learned much. That clone of my wife
really thought she was my wife. They've learned how to program
clones to think and believe anything. I have one of their machines
here. I've made a few John Fords on my own, sure, but they don't start
out thinking they're John Ford. They're clones are unswayable
adherents to a bloody ideology. Nobody can change their mind, it's
fixed on one purpose, annihilation of everyone else, starting with you.
If they find a willing protector with enough power, the world is
"But why me?"
"Because you're talented. You're smart. And they fear you.
They really do. In their eyes, you rained down destruction from above.
And they've found it almost impossible to infiltrate the Moon
colonies. Not in any numbers. My family did die in Omaha, but not in
the bombing. They died in the body fields. I almost did too. I got away
with one of their machines and hid here. If we teamed up, well, I don't
think a thing could stop us."
"I see." Chong rubbed his chin. "So what's the plan?" He
wasn't convinced but he wanted to find out more.
A loud crash interrupted him. They all ran over to a bank of
security monitors. Chong 's mouth gaped at what he saw. Outside, a
UMC command craft and a battle fighter had landed in the street in
front of the building. A cadre of UMC troops were being led by
Lawrence to surround the building. Yet Chong suddenly wasn't sure
he wanted to be rescued.
"Do you have something I can write on?" Chong asked.
One of the Fords handed him a tablet. He scrawled down a
quick message and left it sitting on a table.
"Let's go." He turned to the original Ford. "Just you and me."
"This way." Ford made for a set of stairs near the back of the
building that went down into a cellar. "I'm very glad you've decided."
Chong followed him, and Ford sealed the door shut above
Chong and Ford ran down a rickety pile of wood that turned
out to be only a close approximation of stairs. Chong found himself
breathlessly trying to keep up with the impressively fitter and
significantly older man. After a hundred meters or so, the stair-like
remains ended in a flat, dirt-floored room. Ford opened an old metal
door that opened on a tunnel. An old set of train tracks ran below the
ledge they stood on. Ford motioned Chong forward into the gloom and
pulled out an LED torch to give them some light. Chong sighed in
relief as the light filled the tunnel.
They passed an old sign that said "19th Street."
"Is this an old transit system?" asked Chong.
"BART," barked Ford. Chong could finally hear him breathing
heavily, something Chong had been doing since halfway down the
"Bay Area Rapid Transit. Dates back to the late 20th century.
Used to connect this whole area together with trains. They've long
since dismantled the system, but the tracks are still here,
"So what do we do, just hide out here?"
"No, too dangerous. The cameras and sensors don't reach
down here, so what little crime there is in Oakland flourishes. I use it
as a route to get to places without being seen. Hence its attraction to
the criminal element."
Ford jumped down onto the tracks and helped Chong do the
Up ahead, Ford's torch showed a glint of metal.
"What's that?" Chong squinted ahead and saw the outline of
what looked like a Lunar mining cart crossed with a motorcycle.
United Moon Colonies
"It's called a rail rider. I bought it from a hobbyist—they use
them to explore the tunnels. It's sort of like a motorbike, but it grips a
rail for its motion. It's a two-seater. Pop the hatch and climb in back."
As they got closer, Chong saw the rail rider had a silver,
oblong capsule. He could just make out the change in tint where the
front windshield must be. He found the pop latch for the back seat and
climbed in. Ford was already strapping into the driver's pod.
"We'll go about halfway down the tunnel and exit through a
service grate. That'll take us under a neighborhood just north of the
lake. I have a place there. I rarely use it, but we can stay there
unobserved for awhile. Even if the UMC comes door-to-door looking
for you, they'll have a hard time searching this place. It's got multiple
apartments, all behind double locked doors. Not an ounce of
electronics in the place, but damned secure all the same."
They took off down the rails, and Chong hoped hard that Ford
wasn't really a delusional old man. Since he was in the passenger pod,
Chong couldn't see much, but inky black. Soon they slowed to a halt.
Chong saw a dim bit of light from a grating once he got out of the rail
rider. They climbed up steel rungs covered in muck and rust and
pushed up out of the grate. Chong half expected to see UMC guards
there and wondered what exactly he'd say if he did. Most likely they'd
assume he was being forced to do whatever he was doing. And he
wasn't sure what that was exactly.
Ford helped him up onto a narrow ancient street paved in
asphalt. It was a residential area with a mix of apartment buildings and
houses. Ford led them up to an imposing gray block of apartments and
pulled a small piece of metal out of his pocket. He used I to open the
"What was that?"
"This, my friend," he said holding up the metal, "is an honest-
to-goodness key. Not the encryption kind that's more metaphor than
object. This is what the encryption is named after."
Chong looked at it, puzzled. "Can anyone just stick a piece of
metal in and open the door?"
"Has to fit. You can pick a lock, but then you can break
encryption too. And there are so few mechanical locks these days,
nobody's learning how to pick locks. It's actually quite a bit safer that
Ford pulled out a different metal key and opened another door
that led into a dark stairway. These stairs were solid and seemed to be
made of metal, unlike the rickety wooden ones they'd taken down to
the train station. One flight up, Ford pulled out a third metal key and
opened another door. It led into a dark hallway with several doors
unevenly spaced along it. Ford went down a hallway and through a
door at the end, using a fourth metal key.
"I see what you mean about the security," remarked Ford. He
doubted even the UMC elites could break through four ancient
mechanical locks very quickly. Ford's apartment was as old as the
building itself, sparsely furnished, but quite comfortable.
"All I can offer you is water, I'm afraid," said Ford from the
small aisle of a kitchen. "As I said, I don't spend much time here, so I
don't keep much that's perishable."
"That's fine," Chong said, still looking around at the
apartment's fixtures. It had a large window that looked out into a
private courtyard that was overgrown with weeds.
"Now, what was it you were saying when my army so rudely
interrupted us by trying to rescue me?" prodded Chong as Ford
brought him a cup of water.
"I don't know how they found you unless you're tracked. Are
"Simple RFID, but difficult to pin down in that time. They
must have had help. It should have taken them a couple days to narrow
down my pellet's signal."
"Yes, Minister Narang. He's my half-brother and a full
annoyance. He doesn't know about any of this, and he's determined to
bring me back to the right ways of thinking. I've tried to explain some
of it, but I don't want him to know everything. I don't want to
"But you shot him!" Chong exclaimed.
"One of me did, yes," Ford sighed, "but he didn't kill Narang.
He's hard to control, that one. But he's worth it. Right now he's
probably just finished cleverly hiding all our cloning work. Your UMC
boys and girls will find nothing."
"And my part in this? I'm still curious."
United Moon Colonies
"Of course. I believe I know several of their main operations
centers— 'they' being the Fundy doners. They know about me. They
think I'm still on their side, but I'm rogue, and compartmentalized. If I
get near them, they'll disappear. I'm only to make contact with them in
a very specific way after I've completed my task. Or that's what one of
my clones tells me. The one actually sent out to kill you, the one
you've met. I believe him. It's funny how well you can read someone
when they're exactly like yourself. Or almost exactly. In fact, the
shock of finding out he wasn't me is what led him to join me. Anyway,
I get sidetracked at my age. I can't get near them, but you can."
"You don't think a big old presidential convoy would make
them scatter?" Chong was skeptical.
"Yes, it would, but that's not how we do it. You're going to go
off on a tour. You need to go off on that tour, or appear to. Then I'll
guide you to the centers. One of them is on the Moon. You'll scout
them and assess them, posing as a potential member."
"And they won't recognize the president of the Moon?" Chong
shook his head, skeptical.
"No, they won't, and here's why. You don't look the same in
person as you do on video. And besides, President Chong will be on
video touring the planet. So they won't think you're Chong. How
could you be? Chong will be talking live from Iraq."
"How do I pull that off?"
"We clone you."
"It's the only way."
"No way. I'm sorry, but we'll have to do better than that. I
understand what you're up against, what we're up against, but the
cloning has to stop, and we don't make it better by making another
clone. Especially of me."
"If you have a better plan, I'll hear it."
"I'll need more of your whiskey for that."
"That I do keep here."
"I thought you might." Chong gazed out the window into the
garden. There had to be a way to do this without any more cloning.
Ford's plan could work, but was there a better way? Yes. There was.
Chong found Lawrence outside the hotel where the UMC task
force had quartered, grabbed him, and pulled him off into an alleyway.
"Chong? Is that you?"
The president had disguised himself with a stocking cap, dark
glasses, and a new wardrobe, courtesy of Ford.
"Yes, it's me," Chong whispered. "Keep your voice down." He
motioned for Lawrence to keep quiet.
"What happened to you?"
"I had a very interesting diversion, but I'm not in trouble. Well,
not in the trouble we all thought I was in. I've been with Ford."
"He's brainwashed you!" Lawrence's eyes grew wide.
Chong looked exasperated. "No, no, no. Not at all. He let me in
on a few secrets that I now understand he had to keep. I'll let you in on
them too, as soon as we meet with Speaker Malinao. Here's what I
need you to do."
Chong explained that he needed a meeting but couldn't risk
being recognized. Lawrence knew how to take care of it. He was a
master of getting guards and waiters and whole armies of people in
and out of important areas without being seen.
"You'll need to lose that garb. You may not look like the
president of the Moon, but you sure stick out. I thought you were a
homeless guy." Lawrence and Chong talked over their plans, and then
Lawrence left the alleyway alone and went back in the hotel.
Lawrence's mind was racing. He only knew part of Chong's
plan at this point, but he also knew Chong, and that meant the rest of
the plan would not be any saner. Chong was a very practical and
levelheaded guy, but he was also creative. And that spelled danger for
an aide trying to keep the wheels of government under control. He
reached the president's room, which had been kept reserved but
unoccupied. He radioed down to the guards that he was ordering in a
meal to the president's room for the speaker and himself so that they
could discuss some news on the president's abduction.
Then, using the same pretext, he sent a message to Speaker
Malinao requesting that she meet him there. Finally, he contacted the
front desk and confirmed that a luncheon could be sent up. Then he
sank down in a chair and caught his breath. He hoped it all would
work. Chong had always had such confidence in him.
United Moon Colonies
He thought back on the time Chong decided to run spices from
New Canaveral to Tollan without a license. An Air Force Colonel was
bringing them in from Earth and selling off his extras.
Chong had been confident that Lawrence could talk the
inspector into letting them on the M with forty pounds of unlicensed
spice. Lawrence had panicked right up until the moment they had
confronted the baggage inspector. On the spur of the moment, he had
made up a story about returns. He had claimed these were spices from
Tollan that a restaurant in New Canaveral was returning. The inspector
had bought it, and he had stamped them "Approved."
Lawrence had avoided having a coronary but it had encouraged
Chong to develop a series of wild ideas that Lawrence would have to
panic about before inspiration struck. He really hoped inspiration
would strike this time.
Within half an hour, Speaker Malinao arrived, looking a bit
"What's this all about, Lawrence? I thought we went over all
the Oakland findings?"
"Something new has come up. Please have a seat while I check
on the luncheon."
"If you don't mind, I'd rather hear what all this is first. I may
have to miss the lunch. I have a meeting with the southern Omaha
commanders' council to discuss air security in the wake of Ford's
penetration of the hotel."
Lawrence looked dismayed. "I assure the speaker that if she
waits, she won't be disappointed." He didn't know what he'd do if she
bailed on him.
"Lawrence, I can something is bothering you, but what it is I
can't fathom. So please, stop playing games and come out with it. It's
not like you."
Someone knocked on the door. Saved! Lawrence opened with a
smile that quickly faded. It was a UMC guard.
"Sir, the luncheon will be late. There's been a personnel
change and we're implementing new security measures, so we'll need
to run a complete screen on the new waiter. Our apologies. If you
could give us about a half-hour?"
Lawrence was devastated.
Malinao overheard and got up. "I'm sorry, Lawrence, but I
can't wait that long. Whatever it is will have to wait." She made to
move past him. And Lawrence slammed the door.
"Lawrence!" she protested, but he held his ground.
"I need you to trust me, Speaker. Do you trust me?"
"Normally I'd say yes, but I'm starting to wonder--"
"Yes or no."
Malinao sighed. "Yes."
"All right. If you do what I suggest, we will have a meeting
you need to have. You'll just have to trust me on this. Will you do
what I suggest?"
"What is it?"
"Will you do it unquestioningly? It's not dangerous . . . just . . .
Malinao could see that Lawrence was sincere but afraid she
might not cooperate. But the man rarely had guile. She gave in.
"OK, I'll do it Lawrence. It would take something
extraordinary to make you act this way. What is it?"
"Open the door and order the guard to send the luncheon up
"What? That's it?"
"Yes. Tell him you can't wait for the luncheon and that the
new security protocols can be implemented at another time. Tell him
to simply check ID and send the new waiter up immediately."
The speaker's eyes twinkled. "Our meeting is with the waiter. I
see. How very spy game. OK, then."
Malinao opened the door and instructed the guard to have the
luncheon sent up right away. The guard reluctantly complied.
Malinao had expected some special agent of the UMC, or a
minister, but when the waiter entered the room, her mouth gaped.
Chong could tell she was about to scream and cut her off.
"Yes, it's me. Now be quiet, please, Madame Speaker."
"Where? What? What's going on?"
"Thank you, Lawrence," said Chong as he set the food out.
"It wasn't easy, Mr. President."
"Speaker give you trouble?"
"She has a very important meeting."
"I'm sure she does, so let's get right to the point." He finished
laying out the food, sat down, and turned to Malinao.
United Moon Colonies
"I need your help Mai. I cannot come out of hiding. Not just
yet. It turns out Ford is not the enemy, but we have a plan to beat the
people who are."
Chong told them Ford's whole story, then started in on his
plan. Lawrence objected.
"I don't think that can work--"
"It can. It has to," Chong cut him off.
Malinao smiled. Chong had always impressed her with his
daring— until you got him in private conversation that is. Then he just
locked up. But oh my did he know how to pull off just the right
amount of dash when he didn't think you were paying attention. She
saw Lawrence looking at her to help him object. She saw Chong's
steely eyes fearing she would.
She giggled a bit in spite of herself. "You know, I think it can
work, Lawrence." She looked both of them up and down and smirked.
"You're just going to have to believe in this plan, Mr. Lawrence.
That's all. If you can get behind it, it will work."
Lawrence looked dismayed.
Chong butted in. "The speaker will bear the brunt of the
scrutiny in this case. If she's up for it, and if, as she says, you do your
part, then I think it can work."
"The Speaker agrees," She shot Chong a look. She had been
Mai for a brief moment, then back to being the Speaker. She had other
things to worry about. "We'll have to move quickly, though, if we
want it to have the effect we think it will have."
Chong nodded. "Yes, you'll need to be at a press opp
tomorrow. I suggest you start in Caracas. That's the first one I
indicated in my speech. Follow that order."
Malinao frowned. "But everyone knows you're here. They'll
expect you to start here."
"True, but the scrutiny would be a lot greater here and I'll be
expected to give a momentous speech, which I still intend to give. The
smokescreen of other news will dampen the questions of why I didn't
start here in Omaha."
Malinao nodded. "I'm in. Lawrence? Are you up for it?"
Lawrence sighed and looked from one to the other.
"I must be crazy. I'll probably get killed, but OK. I'm in."
"Fine," said Chong getting up and clearing away the dishes.
"I'll just be on my way. Remember, Lawrence, I'll contact you using
New Cav code. Got it?"
"Got it." He stopped Chong. "Be careful."
"You know I will."
Malinao got up and saw Chong to the door. She held his arm
before he opened the door. A smirk crossed her face. "Goodbye,
Chong froze. All he could manage was a curt good-bye.
Malinao turned around and gave Lawrence a studious look.
"And hello, darling."
Lawrence groaned and sank into his chair.
United Moon Colonies
"Will the world be a better place?" Malinao exclaimed to the
assembled crowd in Parque los Caobos. "Yes. Will Venezuela be a
better place? Yes. Will Caracas once again feel the flow of the world's
economy through her veins? Yes. President Chong has just finished
meeting with your newly elected government. He has committed
continued UMC aid for the rebuilding efforts and a UMC troop
withdrawal plan for Caracas that will be dictated by your government.
I now present the President of United Moon Colonies, Richard
The crowd's uproarious applause stunned Lawrence a bit and
he paused. They began chanting Chong's name.
"Come on, Chong," Malinao whispered as she pulled Lawrence
toward the podium. "You have to talk a little or it won't work."
Lawrence approached the podium and waved to the crowd. He
was dressed in a hat and coat. They had dyed his hair, and from a
distance he could be mistaken for Chong. The problems were the
close-ups. The hat and dark glasses helped with that. He supposedly
wore them as result of injuries from the abduction. And really, it was
amazing what people would accept when there was no reason for
suspicion. Sympathy was with Chong right now, and any suggestion
that he looked different was taken as mere Fundy prejudice. As for the
voice, Lawrence had been imitating Chong privately to other staff
members for years, but it was quite different to do it in front of a
crowd of cheering Venezuelans.
"Thank you, Speaker," he managed, in what he felt was a
passable imitation. He only had a few sentences. He just had to power
"I am only sorry my health has not recovered sufficiently to
allow me to speak to you more. I feel the rise of Venezuela today!" He
even managed to give a Chong-like uptick at the end of the sentence
that caused another round of cheering and applause.
"The Moon is committed to rebuilding the Earth. We start here,
and in Omaha, and in Africa, Europe, and United Arabia. But our
commitment will strengthen the entire world and make a peace both
lasting and beneficial to all peoples." Lawrence was just getting into it,
but he only had one line left.
"We will not quit before the job is done. We will not stay
beyond what the job requires. We stand united with Caracas and the
world!" That last little bit had been his own improvisation and he was
smiling to himself about how Chongian he thought it sounded. He did
write the occasional speech after all. He felt the speaker grab his arm.
"That's enough, Mr. President," she muttered through clenched
"Thank you, and Viva Venezuela!" She almost yanked his arm
off as he said it, but it sent the crowd into frenzied cheering and he
yanked his arm back so he could wave to the crowd before he
departed. The Mayor of Caracas was next, thanking the president for
all he had done and trying to soak up some of the crowd's approval for
himself. The speaker led Lawrence off the stage between some UMC
guards who accompanied them down the steps.
The chief aide of the president pro tern of Venezuela stopped
them before they could make a clean getaway to their waiting car.
"Mr. President, you promised to stay for the ceremonies.
Where are you going?"
Malinao butted in. "The president's health is still precarious.
I'm afraid even that little bit of excitement was too much for him. Our
Lawrence obligingly hacked out a dramatic cough, making it
appear that he was close to losing a lung or two.
"I'm so sorry to hear that. Be well, Mr. President. And thank
you for all you have done for our country." The aide shook the
President's hand with the air of someone who is already telling the
stories of how he once shook the president of the Moon's hand.
Lawrence thought how nobody might ever know that the story was a
lie, including the aide himself.
When he was safely in the car, Lawrence took off the hat and
glasses and let loose a huge sigh of relief. The streets of Caracas swept
by as they flew toward the airport.
United Moon Colonies
"Not bad, but don't go getting a big head and improvising
whole speeches, Lawrence. We can't afford that much exposure,"
"I'm sorry. I got a little carried away. Hopefully, though, my
little touches of realism will help more than hurt, Speaker."
"I'm sorry?" Lawrence stopped fiddling with his clothes and
looked up at her.
"If we're going to be spending so much time together, you can
call me Mai for short. Besides, the cover story is that we're lovers, and
I doubt lovers call each other 'Speaker' and 'Mr. President' when
"It is just a cover story," Lawrence said nervously.
"Well, not for lack of trying, yes." Malinao sighed staring out
the window. When she looked back Lawrence had a confused and
slightly fearful expression. She burst out laughing.
"Oh! You meant. . ." she guffawed in a very un-ladylike
manner. "Don't worry, Lawrence. I didn't mean you. Just trying to add
some touches of realism, like you say," she continued, chuckling to
Lawrence was a bit put out at her laughter, but thought it wise
to keep his thoughts to himself. Instead, he changed the subject.
"Have you heard from him?"
"Not yet." Malinao 's tone turned suddenly somber. "I'm sure
he's all right. We aren't supposed to worry until two days from now.
By then we'll be in Gabon."
The trip to Libreville in Gabon was uneventful, and the tour,
the meetings with the government, and the big speech all went off
without a hitch. Luckily, the president's planned route included many
areas he had never visited; so few people had any reason to be
suspicious of Lawrence's ignorance. The story of his illness took off
and spread like wildfire through the press. Lawrence got some
entertainment out of reviewing the theories as to what was really
wrong with President Chong.
The toughest stop would be Vatican City. Many UMC officials
were stationed there, too many to include them all in the cover story.
Also, Chong had met with the Pope before and would likely have to
meet him again. Malinao and Lawrence discussed whether Chong
should take a turn for the worse during their stay in the Vatican. They
decided to see how the trip to Baghdad went before they made any
The Libreville trip came to an uneventful end, and they still
had not heard from Chong. Malinao and Lawrence waited for their car
in the lobby of the Hotel de Ville, and two UMC guards stood by
while they waited. An old man in a seersucker suit was the only other
person in the lobby. Most of the staff was on a break. A solitary
bellman stood guard over the front desk. Tourism in Gabon had not
returned to normal levels since the Fundys left; there was still a lot of
rebuilding to be done.
Lawrence watched the old man in seersucker page through a
French newspaper and occasionally spit into a plant pot. He found this
behavior odd, but he had seen odder. Yet the man's clothes did make
him stand out. Lawrence felt alarm bells go off. Did he know the man?
Maybe he was just paranoid. He was about to make himself stop
thinking when the man looked over at him.
United Moon Colonies
"Lawrence?" the man asked.
Lawrence barely caught himself before he answered. He was in
full Chong disguise mode, from the hat to the shades to the coat. He
was not supposed to be Lawrence. Malinao answered.
"I'm sorry sir, I'm afraid you have us mistaken."
The old man nodded. "Oh. Of course. I'm sorry." But instead
of going back to his paper, he got up and walked over towards them.
The guards snapped to attention.
"Oh, my. I am sorry. I just wanted to introduce myself. I'm
A guard stepped in front of him. "The president is not receiving
any visitors at this time," he spat, in a deep, imposing voice that
dissuaded most people from continuing. Somehow, it didn't stop the
"Oh, president, eh? My, my. President of the whole Moon,
Lawrence eyed him closely. The man looked seriously familiar,
but he couldn't put his finger on it. He moved back a half-step just in
case. Malinao interjected.
"We don't mean to frighten you, sir, but the president has had
some very bad experiences lately. You may have heard of his ill health
because of it. We ask that you please just step back."
"You must be Samantha," he said turning to her. Nobody
called her Samantha. This knocked her back on her heels for half a
second, but she recovered.
"Speaker Malinao, if you please."
"I see why he likes you."
The cover story worked. Malinao tried to look embarrassed and
stole a look at Lawrence.
"No, not him," the old man said. "I mean Richard."
The guards had the old man by the shirt collar and looked at
Malinao for orders. She looked around. Nobody else was here to
witness the conversation, so no damage done there. But what to do
with the doddering old fool? Did he really know something?
"What's your name?"
The man looked more put out than scared by this point. "I told
you, I'm John. John Ford. I have a message from Richard."
"Put him down," Malinao whispered.
The car arrived just then, and for the first time since Lawrence
had met her, Malinao became indecisive. He stepped in.
"A pleasure to meet you, Mr. Ford," she hesitated then seemed
to make up her mind. "Can you come with us?"
Ford nodded and got in the car.
"Is Chong all right?" Malinao asked as soon as the door shut.
"He's fine, Samantha, just fine.
"Stop calling me Samantha."
"I'm an old man. It's my habit to call young people by their
first name. What would you prefer I call you?"
She sighed and shook her head. "Whatever. How's Chong?"
"Richard is all right. He's actually very close to our goal right
now. So close he didn't want to back off himself. So he sent me to talk
to you. At my age, I'm not much use anyway. Not in gallivanting
"Where is he?"
Ford paused. "I'd rather not say, just in case someone comes
looking for you. I very much doubt they will, but you can't be too
careful. But as I said, he's close to finishing. In which case he could
take over for you in Vatican City, Lawrence. That could avoid some
rather tense confrontations, I imagine."
Lawrence sighed. "That would be fantastic."
"Well, try not to get your hopes up, but it's looking good."
"Is that all you had to tell us?"
"No, not quite. He needs something from you. Something from
each of you. Samantha, if you could be so kind as to get the US
satellites over Cairo to shut down at the time period written down here,
we would both be much obliged." He handed her a card.
Malinao took the card. "That's no easy task."
"I assume that's why he's asking you," Ford replied drily.
"And, Mr. Lawrence. Richard would like the Cairo elevator to
be marked inactive for the next three days or so, but operable by a
secret password known only to you both. He said you'd know which
one he meant."
Lawrence nodded. "I know what he means. Of course that's not
an easy thingeither, but since I'm him right now, I imagine I can get it
"Very good. He wishes you both good luck. Now it's best that
I'm not seen with you at the airport, so I'll take my leave of you now."
United Moon Colonies
Lawrence looked around to ask the driver to land, but before he
could speak, Ford had knocked open a side hatch and jumped,
plummeting a hundred meters or more to the ground below.
"Ford!" Malinao yelled. "Circle back to get him!"
Lawrence countermanded her order. "We can't, Malinao. He
wanted to keep us clean of any suspicion. Look where he fell, the
middle of nothing. He must have had a plan of some sort. I'm sure
he'll be fine. He wouldn't waste his life just to deliver those two
messages. There's probably a method in his madness."
Malinao stared out the back window towards the ground. "I
hope so. And I hope his madness isn't catching."
Ford got to his feet deflated his seersucker impact-resistant
damage prevention suit, brushed himself off, and began the long trek
back towards the city center. His knee felt like it was about to give out,
but he thought he could make it. He pulled out a sub-phone and called
"They bought it, Chong. They'll both be occupied on the false
tasks you assigned them—yes, yes, no suspicions at all—very good. I'll
see you back in Libreville."
He eventually found the vehicle he'd hidden and flew back into
the Oloumi district. Chong was waiting in an empty warehouse, where
they had been holed up for the last few days. Ford found him at a
deskset, prowling through some data one of the Ford clones had
delivered early that morning.
"Did they look all right?" Chong asked as soon as he noticed
Ford was back.
"Yes, yes. A little weary, but otherwise fine."
"I can't believe you talked me into this."
"But it's working. We almost had them here. Don't worry, son.
We'll get them in Baghdad."
Chong turned back to the data, muttering.
"Try not to get too lost in that. We need to be in Cana soon,"
Chong waved a hand, meaning he knew, and he wouldn't. The
two men had developed a fairly nice rapport over the past week or so.
Chong was still put off by the clones, especially the one that had tried
to kill him. He wasn't too sure that particular Ford clone didn't still
wish to kill him. But he actually liked the original Ford.
They had changed the original plan somewhat in Caracas to
give them more flexibility and a chance to end things quickly. It
United Moon Colonies
almost worked in Caracas. They'd had less success in Libreville due to
some bad luck. They hadn't counted on a rubber shipment arriving and
sucking up all the available labor leaving them to do all the footwork
The plan was elegant in its simplicity, and Chong had to credit
Ford with most of its construction. The young Ford clone was assumed
to be still working for the Fundy faction; he would set out to plan an
assassination attempt on Chong, and this endeavor would lead to real
Fundy-related contacts. The original Ford would then meet with those
contacts, pretending to be a high-level Fundy himself.
In Caracas, they had pinned down the identity of the chief
cloning scientist. He was hiding out on the Moon in the independent
Cana colony. In Libreville, they were hoping to get the name of the
logistical head. With those two, Ford felt sure he could bluff his way
into finding out the location of headquarters. However, they had
missed a meeting with the Gabon cell chief of the Fundy clone
movement, which had aroused suspicions. Chong had come up with
the idea of getting Lawrence and Malinao to create some distractions
to throw the Fundys off the scent. Ford had insisted that Malinao and
Lawrence be led to believe what they were doing was real, in order to
preserve the appearance of a real UMC movement against the Fundys.
This would have the negative effect of making the Fundys believe that
the UMC was aware of them, which would make them more secretive.
However, Ford believed that he had gained enough of the Fundys'
trust to make the move worthwhile, and he hoped that it would also
cause the logistical chief to make some moves he might not otherwise
have made and be forced to reveal intelligence he would otherwise
have kept secret.
The killer Ford clone was already on the ground in Baghdad
and had sent back reams of data on the Arabian Fundy cells—more
than Chong or Ford could have hoped for, and unfortunately more than
they could work through before they left for Cana to meet with the
chief Fundy scientist.
"Dump it, Chong. Ford 3 can comb it for any other relevance
back in Oakland." Ford had his gear on and was heading toward an
unmarked car parked at the rear of the warehouse.
Chong unwillingly logged off after sending to Oakland . He
knew they needed to hurry. They couldn't take an elevator. Instead,
they would catch a Moon flight from Lagos in Nigeria (probably
connecting through Cairo) to Houston de la Luna, the major spaceport
in the UMC. From there they'd take the M train through Armstrong
out to Cana.
Cana was the only permanent colony on the Moon that was not
part of the United Moon Colonies. It had a religious history and
therefore was a popular hideout for Fundys. Cana's refusal to ally with
the Fundys had made it somewhat neutral ground during the war.
Now, Cana was having trouble keeping the former Fundys out. The
Scientist Sridat Patel had found his way in and was conducting secret
high-level experiments in Cana. Ford suspected his wife's clone had
After hours of grueling interplanetary travel and overland
trains, the M finally deposited Ford and Chong in the Spartan but clean
Cana terminal. They still had an hour before their meeting with Patel
in the Cana central plaza. They decided to get a meal, which was no
easy task in Cana.
Restaurants per se were forbidden in Cana, based on the
interpretation of some religious precepts. It was deemed unseemly for
people to require others to bring them food prepared by someone
unknown in exchange for money: something about it being prostitution
of the stomach. That didn't mean there was nowhere to eat in Cana; it
just meant you had to know who was cooking your meal. That could
be trouble for two people trying to keep a secret identity.
However, Cana did now suffer some tourism, though this
decadence was decried by the conservatives in their government. A
small industry of services had popped up that would introduce
strangers to places to eat. All in all, you could find a nice restaurant on
Cana with good food at a reasonable price; it just took you two hours
to do it, and Ford and Chong didn't have two hours.
Instead, they would either have to ferret out a semi-legal food
stand or push through the crowd at an open market bazaar. A bazaar
was not considered the least bit sinful, as long as ten percent of the
profits went to the Cana Assistance Department for feeding the
hungry. If you could get through the crowds, you could find some pre-
prepared foods masquerading as groceries. This could also eat up time,
depending on the crowd size.
In the end, Ford and Chong decided to risk a food stand.
Patrons rarely got arrested at the food stands, especially if they
appeared to be from out of town. The owners of the stands were adept
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at becoming old friends with you before they prepared your meal. It
wasn't an ideal situation for two men with a cover story, but they were
hungry and figured the risk was small.
A large burly man with a mustache stood at an unmarked
counter along a side street off the main plaza thoroughfare. He spotted
their hungry faces immediately.
"Hello, old friends," he shouted, in the traditional call of the
Cana food vendor. "Come, come and sit and say hello. It's been ages."
Ford and Chong liked the smells coming from the place, and
they decided to sit.
"Boris welcomes you back to Cana."
Chong knew how this went, and he took the lead. "John here
and myself—well, you know old Frank—we're so glad to be back."
The man smiled at Chong's knowledge of the game. This
would make things much easier.
"John and Frank, what a pleasure to lay eyes on you again,"
Boris said, taking each of them by the shoulder in the Cana greeting.
"But can you stay and sit awhile and catch up with old Boris on
Again, Chong knew the patter. "Of course. Our trading in
textiles goes well. We hope to make a deal for distribution this week,
God willing. My salesman here has the gift of gab. I think everything's
going to go great. As a mid-level manager, he makes my life so much
easier. But then he has no wife or kids, like my wife Sarah and our two
boys Jim and Bob, to burden him."
Ford admired the ease with which Chong wove the story.
Chong wondered if Ford knew that this was a standard story used for
quick eating. It was often possible to find a stand with three textile
dealers chatting about their wives, all named Sarah.
Boris grinned, especially pleased at Chong's adeptness with the
"But I am so rude! Won't you stay and eat with me? It is the
least that I can share with you in my poverty. It has been six days
apiece I have been toiling with my troubles."
This meant they could pay six coins each for their food. Chong
nodded acceptance, and Boris disappeared.
"So what kind of food do we get?"
"Whatever Cana provides," Chong said. "That's the trade-off
with the speed of a food counter. You don't get to pick."
Boris came back, smiling widely, with two bowls of noodles,
sauce, and some kind of cooked meat. Just then a couple tentatively
approached. They seemed to be first-time tourists from somewhere in
"Hello, old friends," shouted Boris as he went over to welcome
Ford and Chong ate silently. The food was hot and greasy, but
very good—a thick meal that would keep them full for awhile. Chong
chuckled as he caught snatches of the conversation between Boris and
the tourists. They were far from adept at this game, and Boris was
bending over backwards to take their orders without breaking the law.
At one point he heard Boris muttering low to the tourists, probably
instructing them on what to say next.
Unfortunately for Boris, a Canaan constable happened to be
strolling by, and this caught his attention.
He approached the three and began berating poor Boris. The
tourists were dumbfounded and could hardly speak, which was
probably lucky, because if they had spoken it might have landed Boris
with a fine or a night in prison. After Boris identified them as his old
friends Lois and Juan, the constable asked for their IDs.
"Uh-oh," Chong said. "The diners never get in trouble, but we
will have to show ID so that the constable can see if old Boris is telling
the truth. That could prove complicated. Let's go."
They both regretfully left their half-eaten bowls of food on the
counter, along with twelve coins Chong had withdrawn from his
account at the train station. The constable noticed their hurried
departure and shouted after them.
"Run!" Chong grunted, making for an alleyway. He knew the
constable wouldn't chase after them for such a petty offense. He'd
probably suspect they were scared tourists. Chong made the corner and
turned around in time to see Ford lying down on the side of the road,
holding his leg, as the constable approached with his club held out. In
no time, Ford was cuffed and being escorted away by the constable.
Chong thought about running after him, but he knew it would
blow his cover. Thank god it was Ford that got nabbed, though. Chong
felt a pang of guilt over this, but Ford had legit ID and experience
getting out of these situations. As long as the constable was satisfied
with his story and didn't run a UMC check on him, they'd be fine. In
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the unlikely event they did check him out with the UMC authorities,
they'd find a high-priority presidential warrant out for his arrest.
In Cana that could mean he'd be extradited, or it could mean
they'd decide to try him under Canaan law. If they did that, he could
Chong let out a brief sigh. That would take weeks, and
hopefully Chong would be able to rescind the arrest order by then. But
it made things extremely complicated.
"Mr. Dewitt?" A man had appeared out of nowhere at Chong's
side. He paused for a moment before remembering that Dewitt was the
name he had given the Fundys.
"Who wants to know?"
"I'm Mr. Patel's assistant. I saw what happened to Mr. Baker.
Careless. But I'll see what we can do. In the meantime, would you
come with me?"
"I have business in the plaza," Chong said, being careful in
case this wasn't Patel's man after all.
"Plans have changed. You're to come with me."
Chong noticed that the assistant held a small charge gun at gut
"I guess I'll come with you then," said Chong, wishing he
could go back and finish the bowl of noodles.
Baghdad was a pit. It had gone through many ups and downs in
its history, but the Fundys had brought it to its lowest point ever. The
UN had made sure water and electricity services worked, but there was
hardly a building worth hooking up to the services. Most of the
damage had been done by the Fundys themselves. The Battle of
Baghdad had been one of the hardest fought as Touareg himself had
been caught in the city. He had ordered Baghdad leveled rather than let
it fall into Alliance hands. He had almost succeeded.
Malinao and Lawrence were housed in the UN commission
building in an old bus station on Rashid Street. They had a lovely view
of the Dijla river and rubble as far as the eye could see. The only
building in sight above one story was the Great Mosque, which,
against all odds, had survived the war.
Malinao and Lawrence took a walk on their first day there and
met only military personnel on patrol. No major rebuilding efforts
could begin until they cleared the last of the Fundy mines. Every other
day, another family out foraging for food was blown up. The central
city was a ghost town. It reminded Lawrence more of an abandoned
Lunar settlement than a major Terran city.
It was his hardest test so far. Until now, he had been most
dreading Vatican City, fearing that the Pope or other dignitaries there
would unmask him. But this was worse. He needed Chong now. These
people were truly hopeless. Where the stacks of bodies in Omaha had
angered him, Baghdad just made him sad. What hope could the
president of the Moon offer a city damaged this badly? Even more,
what hope could a political aide pretending to be the president offer
them? He did not have the words for this.
The morning of the speech found him sitting, staring out at the
Dijla rolling by.
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"Are you ready, Lawrence?" Malinao looked more concerned
than he had seen her yet. The light of Baghdad turned everything a bit
yellow, and it gave her face a fresh glow.
He smiled. He understood why Richard liked her. He wondered
if their tasks had helped at all.
"I was just thinking of the president. Do you think he
succeeded? Whatever he was doing?"
She shrugged and smiled a little. "It's hard to say. I guess we'll
find out soon enough. Where's your speech?"
Lawrence balked. "All up in here," he managed to lie, pointing
weakly to his head. "Cleared it with the rest of the staff last night," he
managed to lie. The truth was he hadn't been able to think of a word to
say, and he had insisted on writing this one himself, over Malinao 's
objections. The weight of the devastation had him tongue-tied. He
couldn't ask Malinao for help now.
He decided to brazen it out. Maybe the words would come to
him. "Let's go," he said, getting up.
"You don't know what to say, do you?" Malinao looked at him
with what he thought was a mixture of annoyance and wonder. "Yet
you're willing to just carry on and do this— for him. You're doing
more than an aide would, Lawrence. You're a true friend."
Malinao could see through him pretty easily. No wonder
Chong was afraid of her.
She walked over and took both his hands in hers. "Chong will
be all right, because he has a friend like you looking out for him. So
will Baghdad, for similar reasons."
And like that, Lawrence had his speech.
A little over an hour later, he stood on the steps of the Mosque
looking down over a crowd of about fifty people in front of a backdrop
of broken buildings, torn-up pavement, and unidentifiable rubble.
Almost every human within five miles had come to listen. He paused
in his speech to let them applaud. He let it die out until you could hear
nothing but the river.
"It is hard for friends in trying times. No matter what you do,
you can't always protect your friends. Sometimes the best way to help
them, leaves them on their own. But true friends are never left totally
alone. The UMC is a true friend, not only to Baghdad, but to all of
United Arabia. And after we get you back on your feet, the Moon will
be better for having a friend like Baghdad. May our friendship be
unending, insha'Allah. As-Salamu Alaykum."
The assembled crowd applauded heartily. The minister of
recovery, who was in charge of the rebuilding of Baghdad, slapped
Lawrence on the back, with tears in his eyes.
Malinao gripped his arm and whispered into his ear. "That was
fantastic, Lawrence." He thought he could see a hint of a tear in her
eye as well.
When they got back to the UN building, Malinao and
Lawrence took dinner in their room. There weren't any restaurants,
anyway, and they were weary of the UN cafeteria. Plus they wanted to
speak freely. He had become too popular to do that in the cafeteria.
Many of the military men had gained a great new respect for Chong,
who had decided to visit Baghdad rather than the more comfortable
Riyadh. All that admiration made Lawrence even sadder that Chong
was not here to benefit from it, although he knew Chong wouldn't
have exploited their high regard and might not even have noticed it at
As they sat down to eat, Malinao seemed giddy.
"I had no idea you spoke Arabic," she said, grinning.
"Oh, I don't. As an aide you pick up little things here and there.
Niceties, greetings, etcetera."
"Well, it worked wonders. I thought the minister was going to
"That would have been unlikely," laughed Lawrence.
"I'm nervous that we haven't heard from Chong." Malinao bit
her nails. Lawrence decided that her giddiness must be nervousness.
Her ecstatic smile had changed suddenly to a frown. "Where is he?"
Lawrence started to say something, but he was interrupted by a
scuffle outside and the sound of a shot. They both ran into the hallway
to see John Ford lying in a pool of blood. Lawrence recognized the
killer clone Ford.
"What happened?" he demanded of the guard.
"This man answered the description of John Ford. We caught
him attempting to sneak up to your room, sir. Our orders were to shoot
Lawrence knew they had to act fast. He heard the UN officers
barging up the stairs.
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"Post guards at the entry ways. Nobody gets in. This man is not
John Ford. He's a clone. That's top secret info and I need it to stay that
way," barked Lawrence. The confidence of his own voice surprised
him. "When the UN asks, tell them it was a ruffian of unknown
description. I want this. . . thing. . . in a body bag. Now!"
"Sir, he's not dead."
Lawrence rushed to Ford's side. The guard was right, Ford was
He smiled when he saw Lawrence leaning over him. "You do
look kinda like him." He started to chuckle, but winced in pain instead.
"Chong and Ford are being held in Cana," he coughed. "Separately.
They need you now." With that, the Ford clone passed out. Lawrence
looked up at Malinao. He was paralyzed. The adrenaline rush that had
given him such decisiveness minutes before had faded.
"I'll handle the cover-up," Malinao said. "I'm American; we're
good at it. Stay with him."
Malinao rushed off to the stairs, and Lawrence could hear her
handling the demanding UN reps.
Lawrence stayed by Ford. A medic appeared and attempted to
stop the bleeding. Ford opened his eyes one more time and said, "Here
in Baghdad, passkey Wilfredo." Then he closed his eyes for the last
Chong had no idea how long he'd been waiting. Ever since
Patel's man had brought him to the low-slung metal shed, he had been
sitting alone in a small room. They fed him, allowed him to use the
restroom and showers, and gave him a bed. He wasn't guarded, but he
was told that if he wished to see Patel, he must wait. He didn't doubt
he would have been confronted if he tried to leave, but they seemed
very unconcerned about the possibility of that happening.
He had little choice, anyway. If he left, he could try to find
Ford, but that might attract attention. Even if he did find him, they
would just end up back here. Without Patel, all their work was for
nothing. He spent his time trying to gather as much information as he
could. During the day two young Canaans named Giuseppe and Hez
guarded the shed's entrance. After their twelve-hour shift a much less
friendly German named Friedrich relieved them. Giuseppe and Hez
were the only Canaans in the outfit, and incongruously lighthearted.
They had tried to teach Chong their favorite boyhood Canaan songs,
extremely dirty by Canaan standards. They involved poop and the
occasional titillating mention of girls. But a man named Carlos had put
a stop to the singing, and after that, the Canaans preferred not to talk to
Chong, but they remained relatively friendly.
Carlos was definitely Venezuelan and definitely missing an
eye, though the prosthetic replacement was very convincing, if inert.
Carlos obviously didn't have the funds or freedom to get a proper
working eye installed. Aside from Carlos and the guards, there were
two other men who brought Chong food and other necessities, but
these two said almost nothing. One was the man who had met him in
the street, named Benito. Chong hadn't discovered the name of the
other man, but they both seemed Venezuelan as well.
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Carlos had given Chong a gruff but polite talk on his arrival.
"Mr. Dewitt, you are welcome to stay and wait, but you live by our
rules." Apparently those rules were whatever Carlos said, because he
never stated exactly what the rules were. In fact, he hadn't spoken to
As Chong sat in his room, trying to picture Samantha Malinao,
Carlos burst in the door.
"Sefior Dewitt. Will you come with me to my office, please?"
He didn't wait for an answer, but strode out. Chong followed. In
Carlos 's office was perhaps the smallest adult man Chong had ever
seen. He didn't have the proportionally large features that little people
usually had. This man's features were all in proportion to his size, but
his size was only four foot seven at most. He seemed shrunken rather
"Mr. Dewitt, a pleasure to meet you. I am Sridat Patel."
Chong shook hands with him. Patel offered him a seat, and
Chong sat down.
"Carlos tells me your associate, Mr. Baker, was taken in for
questioning. We've located him. He's being held without bail at the
Canaan Central Security Hall. It is unfortunate that this has happened.
I hope it doesn't compromise your position in any way."
Chong shook his head.
"Good. I apologize for making you wait, but we had to be sure
no similar manhunt was out for you. I'm happy to say there is not. So I
assume we can proceed without Mr. Baker present?"
"Yes, if that's acceptable," answered Chong.
"Quite. My associate from Gabon informed me you are
prepared to make a heavy investment with us in exchange for some
scientific services." Patel looked down at this last part, as if too
embarrassed to say the word "cloning."
"Yes, we are. Mr. Baker believes you may have the
wherewithal to . . . provide us with some security ... for our health.
It's my liver, you see. And Mr. Baker has other, similar issues."
Patel wiped his forehead nervously. "I must tell you, Mr.
Dewitt, this is quite a delicate subject for us. We've undergone a
massive change of perspective regarding these procedures, but not
without much controversy. There are those in our organization who
would turn you away flat for what you are suggesting. They feel it is
"And your opinion, Mr. Patel?"
"Hogwash. How can you support part of our research without
supporting it all? You are not proposing to animate the subjects, only
to grow them. That is no different from what my lab has done many
times. And the payment you've made already is quite generous, as is
that which you are prepared to offer for completion."
Chong had Patel figured in a snap. He had no morals and was
attracted to money. He worked for the Fundys because they allowed
him to carry on his work and get paid well, and nowhere else in either
world would let him. He had convinced the Fundys to investigate
cloning, and when they had finally rejected him, had formed a splinter
group, all to keep getting himself paid. His only reason for risking a
meeting with strangers was the money. Chong bet himself that Patel' s
next question would be about payment.
"I trust the situation of Mr. Baker does not affect that generous
Almost dead on. "No, sir. The amount in question is registered
in a South African Bank under confidentiality rules and is held in
escrow for you."
Patel's eyes brightened at the mention of escrow. "Excellent.
Then there is just one more thing."
"A DNA test. We know your name is most likely not Dewitt,
and we understand the need for secrecy. We will not try to identify you
directly, only rule out the possibility of your being one of our many
Chong tried to remain calm. "I suppose that can't be avoided.
Given the nature of your service, in fact, it must be necessary."
"It is not only necessary, it is already done. Your stay here
provided the material we needed. The test results have been churning
away. No positives yet, you'll be pleased to hear, hence my
willingness to meet with you. Benito should be back with the final
results any moment. I told him to meet with me here instead of at my
office. If everything is as expected, we will go from here to meet with
our organizational head and arrange the terms of the deal."
Except for the DNA test, this was exactly as Ford and Chong
had planned. They would make payment and order clones for organ
replacement, a highly illegal activity on both worlds. However, they
would learn the identity of the Fundy leader. They weren't planning to
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take any action immediately, just to record. Chong would fire two
microscopic subdermal darts at the Fundy leader. One would take all
the data they needed, including skin flakes for DNA tests of their own,
if possible. The other dart would stain the Fundy leader's skin with a
traceable quantum dot. Chong would then leave to go back to Earth
and hopefully make it to Vatican City in time to meet the Pope.
That is, if Richard Chong 's DNA wasn't on the enemy list. A
thought struck Chong immediately. If he was on the list, it meant they
had his DNA. Could they have already made a clone of him? Or would
they need more? He hadn't discussed the workings of the clone
machines enough with Ford.
Benito came rushing into the room, panting and gesticulating.
Chong braced to run if he needed to, though he wasn't sure where he'd
"They've taken Baker to New Canaveral. They extradited him
this morning. It's big. He's being taken into UMC governmental
custody, which means he's an enemy of the state.
Patel looked at Chong with a raised eyebrow. "Your need for
secrecy is very great indeed. Who is Mr. Baker, Mr. Dewitt? I think
we might have a case for needing to know."
Chong paused. "I understand. However, it is of such a nature, I
would prefer to reveal it only in private. May we proceed to your
organizational head's office? His identity would make more sense to
your head, I have a feeling."
Patel considered this.
It was a huge gamble, Chong thought. If they found out it was
Ford, he wasn't sure what they'd do. They still thought Ford worked
for them. It would lead to many questions, like why Ford needed a
clone made when he had several already. Like why he needed to sneak
around to get one made when he had a machine. But it gave Chong
time to think.
"Of course." Patel nodded his head. "I see that is wise.
However, I need to confirm that your test came out clear. Benito?"
He was still out of breath. "I had to get over here as fast as I
could. I'll have to go back and check."
"Very well," said Patel. "Our time is valuable. Call me when
you know. All the likely enemies were cleared, so I don't expect any
issues. Meanwhile, Mr. Dewitt, if you please, we will head towards
our office. Carlos will drive." He turned to Benito. "We will hear
before I arrive, yes?" Benito nodded and took that as his cue to leave.
Carlos led them outside to a small mini-car. They flew across
Cana, from the industrial section of the colony into the poorer section.
Cana had little crime, but it did have a large impoverished class. Some
Canaans lived that way voluntarily as part of their religion. It was an
odd mix of people: some trying to get out, and some trying to get in.
They landed in a parking lot across from a church. Carlos led
them over to a pet shop. Small beagle puppies played in the window
and mugged for Chong's attention. He heard them whining as he
They went up a set of side stairs into a dingy unmarked office.
"Wait here, Mr. Dewitt. I'll call Benito and then bring in our
Chong had no idea what would happen at this point if he failed
the test. He imagined it involved killing him in some way, but he
couldn't put his finger on which way. Maybe choking him with
Carlos 's glass eye.
Patel put the phone down and looked Chong in the eye.
"You're clear, as expected. I'll just be a moment."
It was everything Chong could do not to let out a huge sigh of
relief, but he kept his look of calm expectation.
After a few seconds, Patel came back with a man dressed
entirely in black, wearing shades and a dark hat. He would be tougher
to ID than Chong thought. He released the darts and hoped for the
Patel 's voice shook as he made the introduction. "Your honor,
this is the gentleman who has inquired about our services. I'd like to
"President Chong," said the voice from under the hat. "How
very nice to meet you again. Very distressing, though, I must say."
Chong recognized the voice of Minister Narang, the minister of
Britain. He had no time to think. There were three of them and one of
him, and Carlos, by all observed evidence, was not to be trifled with.
Narang took off his hat.
"I must say, I'm as surprised to see you as I imagine you are to
see me. And I confess you've got me wondering who the person
claiming to be you in Baghdad was. But no matter." He sighed and sat
down. "We'll soon find out, as I plan to capture them on their way to
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Vatican City. In fact, if all goes well, I should receive a call within an
hour." He took off gloves and laid them down on a side table. "So, I
suggest you get comfortable, Mr. President. We have much more to
Just then a phone rang.
"Ah, not so long as I expected. That will be them."
The UN's military truck dropped Lawrence and Malinao at the
only working airfield on the outskirts of town. They were taken toward
what looked like an old-fashioned jet. This was their way across the
Mediterranean to Europe. Lawrence's eyes grew wide as they moved
closer to the antique.
"We're taking thatV
"Don't worry, Mr. President. She'll fly," said the driver.
Malinao pinched Lawrence and gave him a look. Lawrence felt an
uncontrollable urge to grin.
"I'm sorry, Commander, you misunderstand me. I'm very
excited. I've made a hobby of studying old airplanes."
Now Malinao looked like she was going to sock him. It was
true that he had studied old airplanes; it was not true that the president
of the Moon had. In fact, the president of the Moon had often mocked
Lawrence for his avocation when they had worked together in the
"You know you can't fly one of those on the Moon. No air,"
Chong had pointed out to him over and over, trying to get him to see
the futility of his hobby. Now Lawrence would finally get the chance
to see one at work.
"I had no idea you were an aficionado, Mr. President," said the
driver. "This is an honest-to-goodness Airbus 380."
"Where did you get it?"
"Pulled it out of mothballs somewhere in France and started
using it at a low point in the war."
"I'm amazed it runs," Lawrence said, with obvious admiration.
"An American Lieutenant got it working so well it's been in
use ever since. Perfectly safe, though I imagine it pollutes the hell out
of the sky."
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"I won't tell."
"Can't imagine they'll let us get away with it for much longer.
But to fit your schedule it was the best they could do. Figured it might
be a treat, as well. Not many people alive ever rode on one of these
and not many people will again."
Malinao shrugged and sighed. Lawrence was supposed to
avoid conversations to prevent people from getting a good look at him,
and here he was chatting up an antique airplane buff. She only hoped
he would relinquish the role when and if they were reunited with
Chong. Both of them were extremely worried now about Chong's
whereabouts. Lawrence had issued a low-level search order to the few
Generals who knew the situation.
The airplane smelled musty inside. Lawrence caught his breath
when he saw two wide-eyed passengers staring at them as they came
around a corner into the main cabin.
"Dummies," Malinao pointed out. "Look, there's even a plaque
describing them, here on the armrest. This thing must have been in a
"Good luck charms," the Commander shouted up as he loaded
the last of their bags. "Been on every flight. We're all too superstitious
to get rid of them now."
Lawrence and Malinao continued to inspect the cabin and
found more plaques describing how people flew back in the old days.
A few of the rows had been taken apart to display the oxygen masks
and other safety systems. In one seat a tray table was permanently
fixed in its down position with a faux airplane snack, magazine and
beverage glued to the top.
"I imagine we won't get that kind of service on this flight,"
"No, I imagine not," said a deep male voice.
Lawrence turned around to greet someone he expected to be
the Captain. Instead he found himself face-to-face with a six-foot tall
dark-haired mustachioed man holding a gun.
"I would call you 'Mr. President,' but I've heard we already
have one of those in our custody in Cana. So whoever you are, and
Madame Speaker, please have a seat and fasten your seatbelts. Our
flight will be departing momentarily for Algiers, where you will make
a transfer to a Lunar-bound ship. For your convenience and the safety
of our crew, I'll be handcuffing you."
He expertly cuffed Malinao and Lawrence to their seats and
then to each other.
"I've been reading the display about flight announcements
while I waited for you. I tried to keep mine as true to the original as
possible. I hope you enjoyed it. Our flight will take us a few hours; I'm
afraid I won't be able to come back and check on you, as I'll be flying
the airplane. But do try to relax and enjoy the flight."
Lawrence could barely see mustache man and another similarly
dressed man drag the actual military pilot out of the cabin and dump
him on the tarmac. Malinao could see nothing. The other man left the
way they'd come in and closed the hatch door, leaving them alone on
the airplane with their new pilot.
"Did he sound Venezuelan to you?" asked Lawrence.
"No. American," snapped Malinao. "I'm more concerned with
whether he really knows how to fly this thing alone."
Suddenly Lawrence realized someting. "These kind of aircraft
require a pilot, a navigator, and ground control to fly properly. This
guy only has one of the three." His knuckles turned white as he
gripped the armrest.
The flight went off without a hitch. Despite the handcuffs,
Lawrence tried to enjoy the feeling of traveling in old-fashioned style,
but it certainly wasn't the way he had dreamed of doing it. They
landed in a wide field outside what was presumably Algiers; the
climate felt hot and dry enough for that to be true. They boarded a
waiting interplanetary ship, where they were once again cuffed into
much more comfortable wide leather seats in the back of a large
To keep their mind off the dangerous flight, Malinao and
Lawrence had speculated quite a bit on who these people were. Now
their theories got wilder. The organization would need to employ an
expert in flying ancient airplanes and would need to have the
wherewithal to operate an unlicensed, or at the very least secret,
interplanetary commercial craft.
"Well, they can't land anywhere in the UMC without attracting
attention. Obviously, there are ways to bluff, but they're very
particular about getting confirmed departure credentials these days,
and those are hard to fake."
"Could they land in Cana?"
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"Possibly. The Cana spaceport is extremely small, so they'd be
noticed, but they're not too big for it. Cana's just as strict as the UMC
though. I doubt they'd have an easier time. Unless . . ."
"Unless they've infiltrated the spaceport staff. There was a lot
of fear during the war that Cana would side with the Fundys. The
Fundys had some pretty solid support. Even after the colony joined the
alliance, they never did much. Just raised some funding and
contributed a few peacekeeping troops. A lot of people felt the Fundys
would be able to assimilate into Cana. You know, hide there and wait
for their moment to strike. Nothing ever came of that. At least we
didn't think anything ever came of it."
"All right, you two, shut up."
An African woman came striding back down the aisle of the
ship. "Look, I'm monitoring everything you say, and I have to monitor
everything you say, and it's painfully boring. So let me just give you a
reason to shut up and give me a break. We're landing in Cana. There's
no conspiracy: we have a license out of Algiers. We made a pit stop to
pick you up, which we're going to explain as a fuel inefficiency. Now,
I don't know who you are, fake president, but you better save your
energy, because an interrogator is meeting us at Cana and he's pretty
psyched to practice his trade figuring out your identity and why you've
been masquerading as Chong. Got me?" She smiled a severely
insincere smile and walked back up the aisle.
"OK, then," Malinao managed.
Lawrence kept fairly quiet after that.
Chong had been taken back to the shed, but this time he was
locked in his room and given no friendly treatment. Carlos looked at
him with hate now, and Benito with a tinge of disappointment and
disgust. Because his meeting with Narang had been cut short, Narang
still had no idea about Ford and their plan. But who knew where Ford
was and who was dealing with him? Once Lawrence's disappearance
was confirmed, Vice President Hashimoto could take over on an
interim basis. In order to mitigate the security risk, Hashimoto had not
been informed of very much of their plan. That meant Ford might be
executed before any of this could become known.
Chong sat in his room for endless hours without food or
attention. There was a toilet off to one side of the room, under the
securely barred window. Eventually, he heard some noise outside his
door. A muffled shriek and some cursing in Spanish preceded the door
was flying open.
"We will take care of you as soon as the leader returns,"
snapped Carlos as he flung Lawrence and Malinao into the room and
shut the door.
The sight of him alive seemed to wipe all their concerns away.
Chong grinned. "Just as I planned. We all get captured in
Lawrence gasped as if Chong 's brilliant secret plan finally
made sense to him. Malinao grimaced at his gullibility.
"So your elevator scheme didn't pan out?" she needled.
"Uh, right, the diversion. It worked as far as it went--"
Malinao looked unimpressed. "Where's Ford?"
"Probably in a prison cell in Serenity."
United Moon Colonies
Chong told the story of their capture.
"Stroganoff," said Lawrence when he was done. "Ford got
captured, all over a bowl of stroganoff."
"Is that what it's called? Not bad. Anyway, I was doing well
here until I met with the head of the Fundys. I managed to--" Here
Chong stopped. He wasn't sure if the cell was bugged. The place
looked pretty low-tech, but the monitoring devices could be easily
hidden. He decided not to reveal the quantum dot, just in case.
"--get in the same room with him, and then he recognized me.
It's Minister Narang."
"How in--?" was all Malinao could manage to get out.
"I haven't a clue yet. All I know is, he was as surprised to see
me as I was to see him. Ford's cover probably would have been blown
if they'd found him, anyway, considering Narang's his brother."
"What about you two? What do you know from your
They told him about their capture in Baghdad. He was
impressed by their aeronautical adventure.
"They landed us in Cana and took us in a van here. And that's
the story," Malinao finished.
"What happened with all the scuffling outside?"
"Oh, nothing. Just them being rough."
Lawrence guffawed. "The speaker punched Carlos in the jaw
after he made a remark about her gender. He'll have a bruise
tomorrow, I guarantee."
Chong smiled. He started to get that feeling of speechlessness
Malinao started prowling around the room, looking for a way
to escape. The door was locked tight, and Carlos and his men were just
outside. The window showed some promise—if they'd had a sharp
knife and about three weeks to work on it. There were no other
windows, and the joints at the ceiling were heat-sealed. There wasn't
much they could use for tools anyway. They could break apart the
nightstand for hinges and screws, but that would be noticed, and it just
get the nightstand removed. Still, Malinao attempted unobtrusively to
remove one screw from the rear of the nightstand. The bed and the
toilet were the only other things in the room.
After several hours, Malinao had the screw, but no idea what to
do with it. It wasn't even a centimeter long.
"That's it?!" she complained after she got it out. "All that
threading for this? It hardly even held the stand together! Man. All that
hard work and all I did was work up a stink."
Chong took it from her and investigated. "I don't think that
smell is you. Seems like they're cooking up something nasty out
The door blew off its hinges and came hurling through the
room, almost knocking Lawrence over.
Ford stood in the doorway, holding a handkerchief over his
mouth. Carlos and a few others lay passed out on the ground behind
"Follow me before the gas gets us. Hurry!"
Ford led them out of the shed. They noticed others passed out
along the way, including someone Chong thought for sure was Narang.
When they got outside, Ford stopped to catch his breath. He'd
been holding it most of the way in and out of the shed.
"I slipped a canister of sleeping gas in the ventilation. I figured
I might have to carry you all out one by one, but I guess that room was
well sealed. Nice to see you, Chong. And you, Madame Speaker.
They had no time to talk. Ford piled them into a tiny car meant
for three people. Malinao wedged uncomfortably in with Chong in the
rear compartment. For that, he was grateful. They rode in silence until
they reached the main transport station.
Chong headed towards the Armstrong-bound trains, but Ford
"We're headed to Tranquility. I'll explain on the way."
Chong found this odd indeed. Tranquility was a small tourist
colony these days. In fact, it wasn't even a true colony; it was
governed by Avalon. Only museum workers worked there, and most of
them commuted from other colonies. It didn't even have a spaceport.
In pretty much every way you could think about, it was a dead end.
The exact opposite of the kind of place you wanted to be if you were
on the run. They found an empty car on the M Train to Tranquility and
sat down for the rather long ride.
"Your man Hashimoto is pretty sharp," said Ford. "I thought I
was a goner when Cana extradited me. I suppose that was their plan.
I'm pretty sure the Canaan government's been usurped by the Fundys,
but that's for another day. Hashimoto personally visited me, and
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listened to my story. Can't say he believed me, but he followed up on
it anyway. Then you two were captured," he indicated Malinao and
Lawrence, "and he pieced it all together. Gave me leave to pursue you
on my own, knowing he'd blow your cover if he came after you
himself. You could tell it was a hard choice for him, though."
"My cover's already blown."
Ford seemed a bit taken aback. "Well, how the hell did that
"Your brother's now the leader of the Fundys."
"What? Oh, hell no, he's not. That's ridiculous. Narang? Why,
he hasn't got a religious bone in his body!"
"Nevertheless, he's who they took me to meet, and he
recognized me. So that's that."
"Huh." Ford considered this for a moment. "Did you get the
Dot on him?"
"Good. We'll figure this out when we catch him."
"So why Tranquility?"
"Because it was the only place Hashimoto felt he could build
up a big staff of people near Cana without anyone noticing. I was to
get you and either bring you to Tranquility or send word on your
condition if I couldn't."
Chong was about to ask about the staff when the train suddenly
stopped. They hadn't been riding for very long, but they were outside
of the Canaan dome, and therefore somewhat vulnerable. The train
tubes were thick, but many a hit disaster movie had been made about a
dead train in an outer tube combined with a meteor strike. Stops like
this always made people nervous.
An official came over the speakers with an announcement.
"Ladies and gentlemen, please do not be alarmed. The Canaan
government has requested that the train stop while an official
constabulary car connects. A search will be conducted, and we ask
everyone to cooperate. This train is still within the bounds of Canaan
colonial law, and as such, the Moon Metro service must obey Canaan
law enforcement's instructions. We're sorry for the inconvenience, but
with your cooperation, we'll get the train running again as soon as
possible. Thank you."
Ford and Chong both looked at the emergency exit and then
"You can't be serious," interjected Malinao. "There's nowhere
to go out there.
"It's a long walk, I know. But if I'm right about Cana, we're
probably headed for death at this point," said Ford.
"They wouldn't kill the president of the Moon!" objected
"They've wanted to kill him since he went down for the peace
conference. Now's their best chance. Nobody but us knows where he
The car lurched as the constabulary car hooked on to the end. It
was three cars back. They needed to make a call right away.
"Follow me," said Chong. He went away from the emergency
exit and through a door near the other end of the car that led into a side
compartment. Inside a rung ladder led up to a port in the ceiling.
"You're not suggesting we ride on top of the train, are you?"
"Shhh," Chong shushed her. In a hushed voice, he said,
"Lawrence, close the door behind you." The light from the cabin was
obliterated, and they stood in darkness. "We'll wait here until we start
moving, then investigate," Chong whispered. They heard the door of
the car inside open and heard Canaan policemen searching the car.
Chong felt a hand slide into his and was pretty sure it was
Malinao's. At least, he really hoped so.
The search lasted forever. They could hear conversations, but
they couldn't make out much of what was said. Eventually the main
force finished, but left a sentry behind. Everyone got stiff and
uncomfortable, but nobody moved a muscle. Even the sound of their
breathing felt like a shout. After what seemed like hours but probably
took no more than twenty minutes, they heard a large group of people
enter the car. The commander had a sharp penetrating voice, and they
could hear him distinctly through the wall.
"We're diverting the train back to Cana for further search.
Return to the car for disengagement."
The group left, and Chong regretfully let go of Malinao's hand.
Carefully, he opened the door. He could just barely see the
Commander telling the sentry in the next car the new orders. When
they were gone from that car, it would be safe to come out, but Chong
stopped the others.
"We have to get off the train. We'll just have to walk."
United Moon Colonies
"Is there air in the tube?" asked Malinao.
"Just enough, yes. And there's an emergency walkway that will
keep us safe from other trains. Though the MM is the only line here, so
the only train we're likely to see in this Tranquility-bound tube is this
one when it comes back."
"Too bad we couldn't just hail it," joked Lawrence morosely.
"Well, sounds horrible, but if we must." Malinao started to
move past him towards the emergency exit.
"No," Chong snapped, a little more sharply than he meant to.
"If we open the emergency exit, they'll know. A light goes on in the
engine room. Normally, it might not raise a fuss, but since they're
being searched by police, they'll notice. We have to go out through the
top portal and climb back down the side."
"Won't they notice that?" asked Malinao.
"A chance we'll have to take," Ford interjected. "No light will
go on in the engine room, at least. And hopefully they'll all be headed
back to their car and won't look our direction. The other folks in the
other cars won't see us until the train moves."
"Good point, Ford," answered Chong. "We'll have to stay low
until the train is gone."
The group moved back through into the compartment and
started climbing the ladder out the top. Lawrence held the door open
until the top porthole was cracked, so they would have enough light.
Then he closed the door, so they wouldn't leave an obvious sign that
they'd been there.
They climbed out the top and down some handrails a third of
the way down the car, then jumped back down on the floor of the tube
that carried the train.
"There's not much air, is there," Malinao gasped. "I'm not that
out of shape."
Chong shook his head. "No, not much. It will be slow going."
"Where are we going to hide?' asked Lawrence.
The tube was large, and there was a cement walkway along the
side of the tracks, but that didn't provide much cover. They squeezed
into a small space between the cement and the curved tube wall and
hoped nobody looked closely.
"The train will move fast enough so they shouldn't notice us.
At least after the first two cars go by. We'll just have to press our luck,
I guess," said Chong
"Press what?" asked Malinao.
"Old Moon saying," answered Chong.
Lawrence spoke up. "Actually, it comes from Earth--"
"Quiet, the train's moving," snapped Ford.
They squeezed down and Chong found his face centimeters
from Malinao 's head. He had an almost irresistible urge to kiss her
hair, but he held back. After ten agonizing minutes, the train passed,
and they were able to stand up.
"Well, my friends, on with the march," said Ford, cheerily.
United Moon Colonies
Around seven hours later, several trains had passed by, and
they'd become expert at squeezing into the space by the walkway. It
seemed like they would be stuck in the tube forever.
"I think we're a third of the way there," Lawrence announced,
estimating of their distance from Tranquility. Chong wished he hadn't.
Everyone sighed. That meant fourteen more hours of walking
without food or water and with only minimal oxygen. Ford kept falling
behind and looked pale and out of breath. They decided to take another
break and sat down on the walkway.
"How are you doing, Ford?" asked Chong.
"I'll be fine," he said, and waved away the question.
Chong knew they would have to find another way to get out of
the tube. Their phones hadn't worked earlier, but he checked again.
There were supposed to be repeaters all through the tubes, but in the
lines to and from Cana they hadn't ever worked properly. It was a
frequent gripe brought before the Moon Colony Association.
This time he got something.
"I'm going to try to call Hashimoto," Chong said. "I've got a
weak signal." Everyone brightened at the thought of getting a ride.
The signal was breaking up, but he heard the other phone
"Chong, is that you?"
Chong laughed. "Yes, sir, Rod, it's me. Listen, we're about
halfway down the Cana-Tranquility Tube line. We need you to come
"What!? I can barely hear you? You're where?"
"Tranquility-Cana tube line," Chong shouted.
"What about Tranquility? We're there. Are you here?" asked
"No, we're in the tube line!" Chong shouted.
Nothing. The call ended.
Chong shook his head. The signal was gone.
"Did he hear you?" asked Malinao.
"I'm not sure. He didn't seem to be able to understand me.
Maybe he can trace the call."
They hung their heads and resumed the steady march. They
discussed whether they should stop hiding from the trains and start
waving them down. Lawrence figured they were out of Canaan
territory by now. They decided it was worth the risk, given the shape
they were in. The next train they saw coming whipped past them.
Lawrence thought he might have caught the eye of a young girl
through a window, but he couldn't be sure. The next one, twenty
minutes later, showed no acknowledgement of their existence.
"Here comes another one," yelled Malinao. She stopped, then
started waving her arms and whistling.
"Whistling? They're not going to hear you whistling," teased
"You never know. Why shouldn't I try?"
Chong felt an inexplicable pang as he watched the interchange
between two people who'd grown familiar with each other after all
they'd been through. Had Lawrence's impersonation been too good?
The train began slowing to a stop.
"See! The whistling worked," Malinao chuckled.
The train was a short, two-car, emergency version—the kind
you'd send on a rescue mission. Everyone walked up to the main cabin
to talk to the driver. There was only dark glass, but they could just
barely hear him through it.
"Glad we found you. We got your call. Get on board."
The passenger loading door opened. It was a little higher than
the emergency sidewalk, but Chong was tall enough to boost up and
help everyone else in. Malinao treated him to a grateful smile.
The door closed, and the train began to move.
"Uh ... is it going back to Cana?" Lawrence asked.
"Yes. Damn. It is." Chong realized. They'd been trapped.
A door opened at the end of the compartment and Narang
United Moon Colonies
He looked straight at Ford. "I'm so glad I found you. You
would have perished out there. And we wouldn't want that, would we,
"How could you?" spat Ford.
"Very easy, brother. I'm the leader of Britain. As Mr. Chong
here has discovered, when you're the leader of a great power, you can
do many things."
"But you warred against the Fundys!"
"Oh yes, I warred against Touareg and all his religious
nonsense. But this cloning thing caught my eye, it really did. And the
Fundys who stayed loyal to Patel were much less extreme than
Touareg's men. Much more pragmatic. Well, can't you see? Cana was
willing to cooperate with a less extreme Fundy group. I was very
interested in scientific technology that the rest of the world was too
frightened to pursue. "
The train came up from underground and surfaced into the
Lunar light. That meant they were in the part fo the tube near the Cana
dome. Narang continued.
"My only obstacle was that pesky UMC army of yours Mr.
President. As long as they were involved, things were difficult. I can
influence all the other armies rather easily, I must say, but not yours,
Chong, not yours. I tried diplomacy, but you were too stubborn for
that. So then I tried manipulating my brother. We'd had him under
observation and had cloned him already. But I see that backfired a bit,
too. Now what to do Chong? What to do? What to do? You're here,
and you know my secret. I need you to withdraw the UMC troops from
Earth, and your vice president has proved to be far more competent
than any of us expected. It doesn't look good for you, Chong. I can't
let you go--"
Suddenly the train stopped and the lights went out.
"Power outage," muttered Ford.
United Moon Colonies
Nothing but the dim white light of the sun, unfiltered by an
atmosphere, illuminated the cabin.
"Don't move," Narang commanded, sounding a bit shrill.
"We're in Canaan territory, and you wouldn't get far before the power
came back on."
A distant rumbling filled the tube, as if another train were
approaching from the Tranquility side.
"There shouldn't be any trains coming if the power's out,"
"Shut up," barked Narang. "Carlos, take out the driver. You
can drive this, no?"
Carlos nodded and moved towards the front.
"This was an honest-to-goodness rescue train, the only way I
could get out here to you poor poor people. But now we have
complications. Everyone into the front car."
The rescue train was really two cars, but with the divider doors
between them removed and widened to give extra space. Narang
waved them all into the front car. He ordered Benito to uncouple the
back car, and followed to help. Meanwhile, the rumbling got louder,
and a soft glow began to come from the direction of Tranquility.
Finally they heard a self-propelled train engine shut off and the sound
of troops walking towards the rescue car.
"Rescue car, are you in need of assistance?" shouted someone
through a megaphone.
"Over here!" yelled Narang. He opened one of the side doors in
the back car, then scooted forward.
Hashimoto came striding into the rescue car, flanked by UMC
guards. Narang had his disguise back on and stood at the edge of the
first car, right behind where he had uncoupled it.
"Now, Carlos!" he shouted.
Decoupling bolts fired, and the rescue train began to move
away. In a piece of luck for Narang, the power returned, and the train
began to pick up speed. Chong realized that Narang 's plan had been to
use the explosive decoupling to build momentum, then fire other bolts
to keep them moving until the power returned. This plan would
eventually have torn the train into bits. As it was, Cana had restored
power to their end of the tracks, and Narang was speeding away.
So Chong grabbed Malinao and leaped out of the car's rear
door onto the tracks, rolling as he went, taking care as much as
possible not to let Malinao hit the ground. He heard shots, but couldn't
tell if he'd been hit by one of them, with the ground beating him up at
the same time. They rolled to a stop against one wall of the tube.
Chong faced Malinao, their faces closer than they'd ever been. She
looked flushed and amazing in the faint sunlight.
"You're amazing," he said in spite of himself.
She looked stunned. And whether it was the heat of the near-
death escape or the fact that she finally saw his guard down she found
herself saying "I love you."
Chong froze, but wouldn't have had time to respond anyway,
as Hashimoto and the guards arrived right then.
"Good to see you, Mr. President."
"Thanks, Rod. Rod, I'd like you to meet Speaker Samantha
Malinao from the USA. Speaker, this is Vice President Hashimoto."
Chong and Malinao avoided looking at each other and focused
on talking to the Vice President as they walked back to the self-
propelled vehicle that had brought Hashimoto and his troops.
"We got the frequency of your quantum dot from Ford. When
he didn't return, we started tracing it. When it came halfway down the
tube and then started going back the other way much faster, we had a
pretty good idea what had happened."
"So now we need to get back into Cana and get him."
"Not as easy as it sounds," Hashimoto replied, wiping his
brow. "Cana's been distancing itself again. They're saying the war is
over and it's time for us to let them be. But I think there's Fundy
"You're right," Chong agreed. "Not exactly Fundy, though.
Minister Narang is leading a scientific cloning group of ex-Fundys.
The group got kicked out of the Fundys by Touareg before the end of
the war, and Narang's taken up their cause. They're not as
ideologically extreme as the originals, except when it comes to
cloning. That's their holy grail."
"Narang?!" Hashimoto said puzzled.
"So what do we do?" Malinao interjected. "Can't we inform
the Canaan government what happened? Surely they'd change their
minds, given the facts."
"We can try," said Hashimoto. "But they pretended not to
believe me when I said Chong and you were captured in there. Just
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blew it off. I think they must be farther in Narang's pocket than we'd
like to believe."
"I've got it," Chong said, snapping his fingers.
"You do?" Malinao managed to look skeptical and impressed
at the same time.
"Rod, can you get me three EVA units and a buggy from
"Yes, of course, but what are you going to do with them? You
can't drive from Tranquility to Cana in one of those. It would take
"I don't intend to drive all the way. I'll need a ship to land me
outside Cana. Somewhere away from their outlying encampments."
"I don't understand." Malinao shook her head. "What's he
Hashimoto shook his head too. "I think I know. Next you're
going to need a nosedriver and a couple detrailers."
"You got it."
"A couple what? What's going on?" Malinao was confused.
She knew that a detrailer was what had blown up in Versailles. "Are
you going to blow something up?"
Chong looked confused, then laughed. "No, no. A detrailer is
really meant for blowing a pathway in a mine. I'm going to use a
couple to start a pathway."
"A pathway where?" she asked.
"Under Cana, right, Chong?" Hashimoto answered.
"Exactly. Right under Narang's feet. We'll track him with the
"You're not worried about an international incident?" Malinao
"Not exactly. If they want to explain what three or four known
Fundys and the British minister are doing holding my aide and John
Ford in captivity in their colony, well, let them." Chong grinned,
something he rarely did.
"Well, OK, then," said Malinao flatly. "What can I do to
"Can you dig?" asked Chong.
The dark tunnel was full of dust and soot. Malinao could hardly
see Chong through the gloom. Even the floaters barely cast any light.
The dust was so fine, even underground, it clogged filters and blocked
"Where are we now?" she shouted to Chong.
"About to the center of the colony. I think Fifth Street and
Prophet's Avenue," he shouted back.
Behind them, Hashimoto manned the device monitoring
Narang's quantum dot. A crew of about five operated the other parts of
the machine from the forward compartment.
"Another hundred meters, heading seventy degrees north from
current directional," Hashimoto shouted down.
Malinao plugged her ears as the driller fired up again. It was
extremely loud, but at least not as horrific as the detrailers. She was
impressed by Chong 's skill with the driller. Most politicians she knew
claimed to be men of labor to get votes, but they really couldn't do
much but talk. Chong proved that his stories about mining weren't just
The question of what to do once they arrived below Narang
was still an open one. Chong was for just drilling through the surface,
but Hashimoto worried him what might happen if Cana found the
president of the UMC drilling up through the middle of their colony.
The current plan was to drill close to the surface, then use a minidrill
head to open up a small porthole. That was Malinao 's job. It was
simple enough to operate and she was small enough to make her
perfect for the job. In addition, nobody in Cana was likely to recognize
"OK, we're here," Chong yelled after another twenty minutes
United Moon Colonies
"Check. He's right above us. You ready, Speaker?"
Malinao nodded and set off to climb into the minidrill.
It was a single-person cabin attached to a rather hefty drill bit
that clung to the side of the driller. Once inside, Malinao blew the
clamps and maneuvered it out from the side of the main drill,
following the cavern they'd made until she arrived beside the main
"Within range," she broadcast to Chong.
Chong moved the main drill back enough to give her room to
slip in front. She bore the minidrill straight up through the rock until
proximity sensors warned her she was near the surface. She gave the
controls a tight turn, just like Chong had showed her. It opened a neat
circular hole in the ground above her and turned the minidrill on its
side, perfectly aligned to allow her to crawl out of the cockpit and up
through the opening.
Chong whistled through her speakers. "Nice bit of driving.
Where'd you learn to do that?"
"Charm school," she answered back. The fact was she had
never driven a minidrill before, but she had driven rock busters once in
California and found the minidrill very similar. Her Uncle, Tito Jun,
had a strip quarry, and she had spent a summer busting rocks for
Malinao came out in a side street, which was a relief. They had
been trying to pick somewhere unobtrusive, but you never know if
your math is good until you see it in real life. Malinao climbed on up
through the ground and pavement.
"Close the grill," she broadcast back.
The main driller had a large grill behind it that could be closed
to effectively shut off the tunnel it had made on its way in. This
prevented the air from the colony leaking out through the tunnel they
made. A leak would not only give them away but also might prove
dangerous if left too long. Malinao felt the slight breeze going past her
into the hole suddenly die.
Chong 's voice whispered in her ear. "Grill's closed. Narang's
quantum dot is registering four meters behind you and two meters to
the left. Be careful, just reconnaissance."
Malinao walked back down the alley towards the location of
the dot. She saw it on her reader now as well. There was a door in the
alleyway that seemed to lead right to it. She listened at the door and
heard nothing, so she carefully began to open it. She slipped inside and
saw only darkness. There was a large empty room. She heard nothing
around her, so she risked whispering to Chong.
"I'm reading a meter away, but I'm in a dark room and there's
"Shhh," admonished Chong. "They might be there but hiding
"I'm going to try some light."
"No, Malinao, it's too risky."
But Malinao had already triggered the light.
She looked around into emptiness. Not a soul was in the room,
nor much of anything else.
"There's nothing here," she said back to Chong.
"What do you see?"
"Well, there has to be something; we're getting Narang's dot
She caught her breath as she looked down.
"I think I found the source of the transmission."
"What is it? Is Narang there? Get out, Malinao!"
"No, it's not Narang. Well, not all of him, anyway.
She looked down at a severed arm she only could assume was
United Moon Colonies
Ford and Lawrence still weren't sure they trusted the girl, but
she had gotten them out of Cana, and at the cost of Narang's arm.
"Sarah?" Lawrence asked.
"It's SEE-ra. What?" Sira replied.
"What do we do when we get to Armstrong?"
"What?" She turned away from the controls of her Moon
Hopper, which made Lawrence very nervous. He turned to Ford, who
didn't look so good himself, but for a different reason.
"Watch what you're doing," Lawrence barked.
"Well, stop distracting me. Gah!" Sira returned to the controls.
After they returned in the rescue train, Narang's men took
Lawrence and Ford back to the shed. To Lawrence's way of thinking,
this showed that the Fundys didn't have multiple bases to work from,
since they kept going back to the same one. Narang took Ford for
interrogation and returned him in a half-conscious state that hadn't
improved yet. Then the guards dragged Lawrence and For out into the
middle of the shed where Narang gave a hectoring speech, attempting
to scare the living daylights out of the prisoners and did a good job of
it, in Lawrence's opinion.
In the middle of the speech, a Moon Hopper, one of the self-
sealed EVA units used to travel on the Moon's surface, came roaring
through a wall, knocking down half the shed as it went. It was one of
the big black models sometimes used in Lunar Truck Shows, where
the audience stood in a comfortable atmospheric dome and watched
huge vehicles, mostly Moon Hoppers and other EVAs, do stunts
outside the dome in normal Lunar gravity.
As it burst in, a chunk of the metal sheeting used in the shed's
wall came slicing through the air and neatly took off Narang's arm. He
screamed, bringing Carlos to his side. Sira had jumped out of the cab
and grabbed Lawrence and Ford.
"I'm a friend. I'm taking you to Armstrong, come on!"
"Who are you?" Lawrence quite rightly asked.
"My name's Sira. Come on, we have no time."
Lawrence saw Narang's men catching on to what was
happening and decided it couldn't hurt to go with her, so he did. They
made it through the airlock out onto the surface without any trouble
and were now bounding along the Moon's surface on their way to
It looked like they'd found a smoother patch, so Lawrence tried
"What are we supposed to do in Armstrong, Sira?"
"I don't know. I thought you would know. Call the president of
the Moon or something, right?"
"What do you mean you don't know? Why are you taking us to
Armstrong then? All the president's men are in Tranquility!"
"Well, I can't rightly go there without being followed, can I?"
"Why are you going anywhere at all? Who are you?"
Sira sighed and brought the huge EVA to a halt in the middle
of nowhere on the Moon's surface. It was eerily quiet without the
Moon Hopper's engines straining away.
"Look. I'll explain the whole bloody back-story to you, if you
like, when we get there. But right now, I'm trying to drive. If you must
know something now, ask him," she pointed to Ford. "He's the one
who ordered me to do it. Well, not him, but another him. You
know. . ." she waved a hand and trailed off.
"Ohhh," was all Lawrence could manage.
"Right. Now, please let me drive." She started up the motors
and resumed propelling the EVA at somewhat reckless speeds across
the rocky plain.
Lawrence decided to check on Ford. He seemed to be coming
around a bit.
"You all right?"
Ford shook his head. "But I will be. I just need some time. Ever
been beaten with a bag of oranges?"
"Is that what it feels like?" Lawrence asked.
"No, that's not what it feels like. That's what they did. They
beat me with a bag of oranges. Doesn't leave a mark."
United Moon Colonies
"I see. Look, do you recognize this girl?"
"What'd she say her name was?"
"SEE-ra." Lawrence intentionally emphasized the correct
"Sira, huh. No. Can't say I do."
"She implied one of your clones sent her."
Ford looked up groggily. "She did, did she? Well, that's
damned odd. I wonder how one of them even got up here. Travel
papers would be difficult. And as far as I know, none of them have
personal lives. But . . ." He waved his hand and closed his eyes. The
speculation was evidently draining him.
Lawrence went back to watching the Lunar surface roll by. It
reminded him of being a kid, riding out to the outlying colonies with
his dad. They had gone to visit the work being done at the then-
planned Ambrosius colony. The UMC had failed to start any new
colonies of their own yet. They could only bring together the existing
ones. However, Moon population was stable, so the pressure wasn't
great. His dad had big dreams of making the colony a success. He
remembered listening to descriptions of what the Ambrosius colony
would look like and what kind of buildings it would have. Italways
sounded wonderful, but the dream died with his dad. Now Ambrosius
was the site of a small mining operation. The huge colonial dome
wasn't even in proper working order, and few buildings had been built.
Instead, miners lived in self-enclosed small encampments, and a
tourist company brought folks out in a Moon Hopper to take tours of
the "ghost town on the Moon."
"Almost here," Sira said, breaking the silence. Lawrence
realized he had nodded off to sleep. He could see the glow of
Armstrong on the horizon.
"Great. Now what?"
"Well, since you don't know, and you won't shut up about it, I
guess I'll take you to Ford's place. The other Ford."
"Won't that cause a stir?
She looked over at the original Ford briefly.
"No, not really. They don't look all that much alike at this
point. You'll see."
They made it through the airlock at Armstrong without any
trouble and wound their way to the EVA storage lot. It wasn't far to
the other Ford's place.
The difference between Cana and Armstrong was striking.
People in suits walked confidently in the financial capital of the Moon.
The buildings looked older than Cana, but somehow more
distinguished and brighter. Of course, there were also restaurants that
didn't need to hide the fact that they were restaurants.
Sira led them to a bright white block of flats off a main artery
of traffic where important people whizzed by on personal transports
that consisted of little more than chrome pipes and wheels. That was
another difference. Personal transports were outlawed in Cana; every
other Moon colony was full of them, and Armstrong was full of the
expensive stylish kind. Inside the block of flats, they walked up one
short flight of stairs to a round orange door. Sira typed in a code, and
the door rolled open.
Inside was a sparse, almost entirely white room. What little
clutter there was came from piles of reading material left strewn about
the white furnishings.
"Johnny? I'm home. I got them."
Lawrence heard a rustling sound in a back room, and around
the corner came a John Ford clone. He looked to be all of thirteen
"Hello, Father," he said.
United Moon Colonies
Narang muttered and groaned, scratching at his recently
cauterized arm. He knew he could get a new limb off a clone, but the
circumstances and the pain still nettled him. He'd almost lost
everything. He regretted ordering them to leave the arm and clear out
quick. But none of the bargaining chips were in his corner any longer.
The colonial governor of Cana was cooling on their arrangement,
given the damage at the shed. He needed something good to happen,
and he needed it now.
Carlos marched into the small office wearing his usual grim
look of determination. It sometimes looked to Narang as if Carlos were
about to belch.
"We've word from Armstrong," he said. No belch.
"What is it? Out with it." Narang did not feel civil today.
"They've gone straight for the young clone."
Perfect, thought Narang. Now they had a foothold. The young
clone's psyche was specifically tuned to win the original Ford's trust
and affection. Plus the young thing came with a bonus tracking device.
Originally, Narang had been meant to present the boy as a gift after the
completion of Ford's mission. After Ford had gone rogue, they
modified the young clone to be a lure. Hopefully the original Ford
wouldn't be too suspicious of its origins. It was not one of the clones
Ford had generated himself in his lab in Oakland.
"Benito brought news from Patel, as well."
"Well, man, how many times do I have to say this? Don't beat
around the bush."
Narang 's eyes lit up. Finally good news arrived, right when he
needed it and well ahead of expectations.
"Let's get over to the lab," Narang ordered.
"Are you OK to move?"
Carlos drove the car, and they took a circuitous route to the lab
to ensure they weren't followed. Someone had been digging below the
shed and Narang still hadn't learned whom. He had his suspicions, but
you still couldn't be too careful, especially with the Canaan
government leaning away from supporting them.
They arrived at a low-slung dark black building nestled in an
industrial area near the hydration and air plants. It had once been a
suite of offices for the energy officers of Cana before they were moved
into the main civic building. It was separated from the other buildings
around it by a tall wire fence. The windows were darkened, dating
back to the paranoid times when Cana thought the UMC might try to
sabotage its energy works.
It sat derelict for several years before Patel and Narang had
approached the Canaan government and arranged to lease it. A guard
let Narang and Carlos in at the fence gate, and they walked up the
cement path lined, somewhat ironically, with Moonflowers. They had
been almost withered from lack of care when Narang took over the
place, and he had ordered them restored. He didn't know why. He just
liked the look of them. He took a simple joy from seeing them now.
Finally he broke away from the flowers and raised his eyes expectantly
to the dark black front door of the lab.
Patel and Benito met him in the reception area. Both men's
brows knitted in seriousness but Patel had an excited spark in his eyes.
He led them all down a pastel blue hallway beyond reception.
"My assistants are finishing the procedures. It should be ready to meet
you as soon as they're done. We can wait in my office." He came to a
yellow door with the number "300" on it and let them enter before
Patel's office was bare: a desk, a few pieces of office
equipment, and a large picture of the first Earthrise from the Moon that
had been hanging in the office before he occupied it. The only hint of
Patel's personality was a bust of Francis Crick he had carried with him
"I took the liberty of accelerating the project. I hope you don't
mind, Leader," Patel said as he sat down.
"No, it is most necessary at this point. Will it damage the
integrity of the specimen at all?"
United Moon Colonies
"I should think not. I've discovered a way to cut out a large
swath of incubation time." Patel warmed to his subject. "The
interpolation sequences we had been using were hiding an
inefficiency, churning through useless information. By cutting these
useless sequences out, we're able to reduce production time by a third
without any harm to the expressed qualities."
"I see," said Narang. He got slightly annoyed when Patel talked
over his head and did not like to admit it. "So it's guaranteed?"
"As much quality as any of them."
"Fantastic. When can we have a look?"
"I should say it's just about ready--"
At that moment, a young woman in a lab coat opened the door
and announced that the procedures were complete and a success.
Patel led the group down the hallway, through a large set of
gray steel doors, and into a wide open area where several offices had
been merged by knocking walls down. Bright lights lit a laboratory
floor, and several technicians gathered around a gurney far to the right.
The group approached, and Patel asked the technicians to
remove themselves. A body lay on the gurney. Patel poked and
prodded it and shined a flashlight in its eyes. He then grabbed a
hypospray from a side table and gave the body an injection.
It woke and shakily sat up, shaking its head.
"Hello," said Narang, moving closer. The body looked up
skeptically at him, trying to place the voice. "I'm Minister Narang.
And who might you be?"
The body looked as though it was trying to remember
something long forgotten. It winced as if in pain, then muttered,
"Chong. I think- I'm Richard Chong."
Chong took over the operation of the minidrill on Malinao's
return. He wanted to be sure the hole was properly closed up so no
leaks would occur. It gave Malinao and Hashimoto about half an hour
to discuss what to do next. They could search for a one-armed British
man throughout the UMC fairly easily, but if he stayed in Cana, they
wouldn't get any help. Hashimoto had tried to send back a description
to the UMC police, but the unit guarding the entrance hole hadn't
When Chong finished, he was covered in sweat and Moon
grime, but satisfied that the hole wouldn't leak and give away their
activities. They all agreed the Canaan authorities would probably not
investigate the shed too closely.
"Have you puzzled out what happened, Samantha?" Chong
asked as he toweled off.
Malinao found herself extra-charmed, not only by this unusual
use of her first name, but also by the brawny, sweaty man who used it.
"Not really. There were car tracks in the building, so whatever
it was came in a hurry and broke right through the door. There was no
sign of Narang's men, but they left a lot of stuff there. It didn't look
like they evacuated the place, just left in a hurry."
Hashimoto finally heard from the force at the end of the hole.
An emergency call had come in from Tranquility, so Hashimoto
ordered them to return and assist. That meant that Chong and friends
would have to drill all the way back, rather than surface and fly.
Hashimoto ordered the drill to reverse course and begin heading back
from whence they came. They had to speak up over the rumbling.
"I wonder why they left the arm? Do you think they discovered
the dot?" shouted Chong.
United Moon Colonies
"Not likely," Malinao shouted back. "They probably were in a
hurry to clear out of there. None of the really incriminating stuff was
there. Even their relationship with Cana probably can't survive too
"What did you do with the arm?" Chong yelled.
"What did you do with the arm?"
"I left it there!" Malinao was almost screaming now. "Why is
the drill running so loud?"
"I don't know."
The rumbling, which had been getting progressively louder,
grew into a groan and a shriek, and then suddenly the drill went dark.
A tearing scream of metal, possibly mixed with the screams of men,
died down into the sickening thuds of rocks falling in from the tunnel
ceiling, burying the drill.
"What happened?" Malinao whispered into the eerie silence
"I don't know."
The barest glow of the few working emergency lights lit their
way to Hashimoto, who lay under a fallen piece of metal, impaled
during the accident. He stared lifelessly upwards. Chong reached over
and closed his eyes.
"Dear lord," he whispered.
Malinao couldn't speak, but reached out to grab Chong's hand.
"What do we do?"
"Let's see if everyone else is OK, then check the minidrill. We
might be able to leave in it. It can move a lot faster than the
The other crewmembers were all stationed in the forward
compartment of the large drill. Chong wrestled with the mangled
cockpit door, now partially embedded in rock that had fallen through
"It looks like the whole tunnel roof just fell in. It's not
unheard-of, but we were extremely unlucky." Chong finally wrested
the door far enough apart to move into the dark cockpit. No emergency
lights glowed in there.
"Hello! Everyone OK?"
They heard nothing but a deadly silence.
"I ... I need a light," Chong said.
"I'll get one." Malinao got a light from the emergency locker,
and brought it to Chong.
What they found inside the cockpit made Malinao stumble
backward and Chong retch. Rock, metal, and man mixed into an
indistinguishable pile of partly organic rubble. Chong closed the light.
"We're all that's left," he whispered.
Malinao sighed. "Well, do you think the minidrill's working?"
Chong admired her resilience.
"It'll be a tight fit if it is."
"Tight fit's better than nothing. Let's go, Mr. President." She
grimly patted him on the back as they made their way towards the
Chong climbed in and tried to execute a manual start but
couldn't get the engine to fire up. He tried several times, raising their
hopes each time as lights turned on and engines whined, only to have it
all sputter out and die.
He got out, shaking his head.
"It's not sparking the engine on its own. I'm not sure why. We
haven't run it manually all trip. Even all my work just now sealing the
hole was done when we were connected to the ship's energy and
control. I'll have to open up the engine and have a look."
"Can you do that?"
"Well, I'm not an actual mechanic, but I know enough about
how these engines are supposed to work that I might be able to luck
into figuring something out."
"Won't someone come looking for us, I mean after awhile? If it
takes you too long to get it going?"
Chong knew why she hoped. He had sealed the hole at the
Cana end, and the rocks in the cockpit looked to have sealed it pretty
well in front of them. Even with the grill open, air wouldn't last
"It's a covert mission. If we don't come out, they're not
supposed to alert anyone. That was the risk."
"That was stupid," Malinao pointed out.
"Well, that's the only way we could even get this harebrained
scheme done. We had to man it ourselves and pretty much not tell
anyone. Our best bet is to get this drill going. If we can do that, we can
at least get far enough to call and tell them to come get us. Right now,
United Moon Colonies
they wouldn't know if we got captured and killed in Cana or anything
Malinao just shook her head.
Chong decided he should try to keep her mind off it. "I have a
job for you too, so don't feel like you're left out." He grinned.
"Oh, and what's that? Moral support?" She was obviously not
in the mood for jokes.
"No, the release bar for the minidrill will have to be undone
manually once I get the engine going. It's pretty badly bent. I need you
to work at it and see if you can get it to move. If I get the engine going,
and you can undo the release bar, we'll be golden."
She grudgingly accepted the assignment, marching off to the
mangled supply cabinet to look for usable tools.
Chong watched her go and let the wind out of his lungs. He had
no idea how to fix a minidrill engine and no idea if there was enough
air to even survive the hour. There was nothing to do but work and
Sira brought out a tray with steaming bowls of noodles.
"That ought to stem your hunger for a bit," she said as she
placed the bowls in front of Ford, Lawrence, and the younger Ford.
"Are you sure you don't remember?" the elder Ford prodded.
The young Ford furrowed his brow. "No, I don't. I'm sorry,
Father. My only memories are of you."
Ford knew they had been experimenting with memory
implants, but this was amazing. The young Ford clone had been made
to believe he'd grown up in Omaha, been taken to the Moon by Ford's
wife, and then abandoned by her. He remembered living in an
orphanage until he was captured and brought to this apartment.
That still left Ford and Lawrence wondering whether they
should trust Sira. She had explained that an anti-Fundy group she
belonged to had been contacted a week ago by an unnamed source.
That source had delivered the captured Ford clone to them, and had
later fed them information on how to rescue Lawrence and the original
Ford looked into the boy's adoring eyes. The way he said
"Father" truly reminded him of his own children, whom he missed
"How do you know you can trust your sources?" asked
Sira dropped a spoon in the kitchen and exhaled. "I told you,
we don't know, but they've come through every time. My bosses say
they have reasons to trust them. I don't know what they are. Why are
you so suspicious?"
Lawrence didn't know where to begin, after all he'd gone
United Moon Colonies
"Because they've made a perfect clone son for me, and that
was never a part of their plan that I knew of," said Ford, muttering.
The clone-child looked as if he was about to cry. "What do
you mean, Father?"
Ford's heart almost broke.
"Look what you've done!" Sira defended the young Ford with
the care of an older sister. She had been taking care of him for weeks
in this apartment. "He's a boy. He's real. He's you! He's not a thing."
She came in from the kitchen and handed the boy a tissue.
Ford knelt down in front of the young version of himself.
"Son, your memories aren't real. I know that's very difficult for you to
grasp, but they're not. They were implanted. You are my son, in a
way, and I can't help but care for you. You were made from my genes,
from my flesh. But you were not born to me. You never knew the
woman you think was your mother. It will be painful for you, but if
you think hard, those memories will fall apart."
"No!" The young clone threw his soup bowl across the room,
smashing it against the wall. "Why do you hate me, Father?! Why?!
After all I've been through, why do you reject me, too?!" He ran off
into the bedroom.
Sira glared a hole in Ford. "I hope you're happy."
Ford sighed and sat back down. "Yes. In some ways I am."
Before he could explain, Sira laid into him. "How can you say
that? ! That boy has been through a war, pulled into a totally different
world, abandoned by his mother, captured by the Fundys, sold to black
market operatives and then brought to us, only to have his father treat
him like a science experiment! You're heartless, and I'm sorry I ever
brought you here!"
"Sira, please listen to me. What our young John Ford just
experienced is known in brain programming as a psychic break. It's
painful to learn that memories have been implanted. But the procedure
is not so good that it can't be broken by the subject."
"There you go again," she yelled. "He's not a thing ... a ... a
subjectl He's your son!"
"No, Sira!" Ford raised his voice as well. "He's not my son,
he's me! Every cell, every genetic bit, everything but his mind is me.
You haven't known that, but I have—ten times over. And the bond is
very different than that between a father and son. I am him, and I know
what he is going through, here. He must get angry. It's part of the
process of freeing him from his programming. If you want him, the
other me in there, to be truly free—free to hope, free to feel honestly,
free to love—then you must let him hurt first. If that means you wish
me to leave, then I'll go!"
Someone knocked at the door.
Sira froze. She didn't know what to do about Ford, and she
couldn't deal with both his argument and an unexpected caller.
"Hide! Go!" She shooed them off down the hall and went for
the door. "Who is it?"
"It's Chong. Is Lawrence there?"
Sira risked opening the door. "The President? President
"Get in here, quick."
Lawrence came running out from the other room. "Mr.
President! We're so happy to see you! We're so glad we found you!"
Chong smiled and hugged Lawrence, which Lawrence found
odd, but what the heck. Chong shook Ford's hand.
"It's good to see you, Ford. We've been through a lot
"Yes, we have, Chong," Ford said, smiling.
"Who's this behind you?"
Ford turned to see a tear-streaked face behind him. "This is my
son, John Ford Junior."
Ford smiled a bit at being introduced that way and shook
Chong 's hand. They paused just a moment longer than normal as they
shook, staring deeply into each others' eyes.
"A pleasure to meet you, Junior," said Chong.
"A great honor to meet you, Mr. President."
Lawrence noticed they blinked three times synchronously.
"What happened to Malinao?" Lawrence interrupted.
"She's fine," said Chong, turning. He looked uncertain as he
faced Lawrence. "At least as far as I know." Chong looked as if he
were trying to remember something. "We got back to Tranquility, and
Vice President Hashimoto and Speaker Malinao headed back to Cana
to look for you. I headed back to New Canaveral to try diplomatic
channels Sira's group contacted me to let me know you were here. I
sent word to Tranquility, but I haven't heard back." Chong smiled
when he got to the end of the explanation.
United Moon Colonies
"Where are the guards? Outside?" Lawrence prodded.
"No," Chong answered, more quickly this time. "I came alone
this time. I didn't want to attract undue attention to Sira's group. It was
part of the deal."
"Risky, Mr. President."
"You know me." He smiled in the way only Chong could.
Lawrence still felt puzzled by something.
Meanwhile Ford had been whispering to his young clone self.
He finished and turned to Chong.
"I'm so pleased you've come now, Mr. President. Sira, your
young friend here is a marvel. Tell them, Junior."
"I heard what Father said about the psychic break, and I
channeled my anger against my memories. And they broke. They were
gone. They were, you know, flimsy, like I read them in a book, not
like I actually lived them. So I understand, now. And I want to live
with my father, even though he's my clone-father."
Ford turned to Chong with the widest smile anyone in the room
had ever seen on him. "You have a brilliant chance here, Mr.
President, a chance to whip the rug out from under the Fundys. With
Junior and I as a test case, you have the chance to enact the first clone
laws ever. To move cloning out of the realm of forbidden practice and
into the realm of regulated responsible activity. And we're your poster
family: loving father and clone son. This is the face of cloning, here."
Ford looked down on his junior self, beaming. Sira had tears in
her eyes, touched by the scene. Chong rubbed his chin, pondering the
idea. Only Lawrence looked worried.
Chong spent several hours attempting to make the minidrill
work. Malinao got the release bar undone rather easily and moved on
to the cockpit to see if she could raise communications.
To get to the com system, she had to face the pile of dead men.
She dragged what remains she could out of the cockpit and covered
them. She had the macabre thought that the bodies might need to be
burnt before they began to smell, and then had the even more ghoulish
realization that burning the dead could remove what little oxygen they
had. She noticed that her breath was coming more heavily, but she
didn't mention it to Chong.
The radio equipment was barely accessible in between chunks
of rock and a little meat. Malinao found part of a hand over the
controls. She breathed deeply and used an axe from the tool cabinet to
hack the hand away. She had to tourniquet the dead arm to stop the
blood seeping out into the control board.
She had faced bad conditions before, which gave her a strong
stomach, but this was pushing her limits. In her youth she had been
shipped down to Texas to her Lola Josie's ranch outside Austin. Her
Lola was a mean old woman who seemed to have no connection to
Samantha's family other than giving birth to Samantha's father. In her
stubbornness, Lola Josie had refused to leave her ranch, but she
needed someone to care for her. Samantha had eventually been coaxed
Lola Josie was brutal. She made Samantha slaughter cattle,
herd goats, and do all manner of the most disgusting chores a young
girl from Chicago could possibly do. At the end of the summer, Lola
Josie died. That was the worst. Samantha had come upstairs to give her
Lola the morning sponge bath she demanded. Instead of complaining
about how late Samantha was, she only breathed heavily. When
United Moon Colonies
Samantha had asked her if she was OK, the old lady had spit on her
and had called her several bad names in Tagalog. Still, Samantha had
sensed that the end was drawing near and stayed with her, holding her
hand. The only other words she spoke were a quiet prayer and a
demand that Samantha run and get Oliver. Josie's husband Oliver had
died twelve years earlier. After hours sitting by the old woman's
bedside, Samantha received what at the moment she felt was fitting
thanks. Lola sat bolt upright in bed, turned, looked directly at
Samantha, screamed, vomited blood all over Samantha, and then lay
The only consolation for that torturous summer had been the
box she found set out on a chair in her Lola's bathroom. It was marked
"For Samantha" and contained Lola Josie's personal diaries, plus two
million dollars in cash. Her parents had banked the cash in Samantha' s
name and had had quite a few fights with others in the family over the
money's proper disposition. In the end, it had paid for Samantha's
college. The diaries described a long life from a youth to old age, and
they did more to explain her Lola's condition and attitude toward the
world than anything that could have been said at the time. Samantha
had taken it as an apology and felt at peace.
All those memories came flooding back to her as she worked
on clearing the blood-spattered communications console. She finally
found an unplugged power router and got power back to the main
console board. There was still no signal generation, and she suspected
the antennae were all crushed and not serviceable. She thought she'd
have a look to see if she could somehow jam some kind of makeshift
antenna into a port on the hull somewhere just to see if they could pick
As she walked back toward the minidrill, she heard Chong
'Any luck?" she shouted.
He appeared in the doorway, ten times as sweaty and attractive
as he had looked earlier before the cave-in.
"No. I can't get the motor to engage. It's not damaged, but the
actuators won't fire. The power's not the issue. I think it's unrelated to
the cave-in~somehow, the sparks just decided to stop firing right now.
I was going to look around and see if we had any spare parts. How's
the cockpit?" He had a look of concern.
"Messy. But don't worry, I've seen worse. I'll tell you about
my summer in Texas sometime."
"Can't wait-I think," said Chong.
"I got the console cleared and powered, but there's no signal
generation. I was about to have a look around and see if there's
anywhere I could jimmy up an antenna connection."
"There's a port-hatch midway back from the cockpit console
where you might find a place. I'll help you look after we eat."
Malinao looked surprised. "Eat?"
"Yeah, why not? We can't breathe or leave, so we might as
well eat. The refrigeration unit is stocked and undamaged."
Chong walked over and swung open a small white door in the
"What'll you have?"
"What's on the menu?"
"Chicken salad. Chicken breast. Fried chicken and tofu
supplement B15. And grape juice to drink."
"Who the hell is your cook? I'll have the chicken. I mean the
"And of course the grape juice."
They sat down at a fold-down table and ate.
"It seems strange to have a perfectly normal sit-down meal in
the middle of all this," Malinao said between hungry bites of chicken.
"I should never have volunteered to give you a ride to Omaha!"
"I'm glad you did," Chong ventured.
Malinao gave him a long look and smirked.
"At the risk of having one of those dramatic confessions at a
dying moment, I think you're something else, Richard Chong."
Chong blushed. He honestly blushed.
"Why are you blushing?" she teased.
He looked down. "It's very difficult for me to be with
someone." Malinao started to reply with a snappy comeback, but
Chong stopped her. "No, don't. Let me get this out. It's not because
I'm the president—being single hasn't helped politically. Voters
usually want a family man. It's something I've had to overcome. It's
something about me. I can't settle for someone who's less than what I
United Moon Colonies
hope for, but anyone I've found who fits is either already taken or not
interested. I don't wish to compromise. I don't want someone to lie to
me, so I go it alone. I just . . ." His eyes were tearing a little bit. "I just
never could find the right person. I could never trust someone, I
"Why are you telling me all this?" Malinao murmured.
"Because with one look at you, all my will vanished. I stopped
caring about having the right person. I knew if I could be ... if I could
be with you, none of my other concerns would matter. It wouldn't be
settling, it would just be right. And I live in deadly fear that you won't
feel the same. So now I've gone and done it and told you and probably
put you off and ruined everything, but there you have it."
Malinao looked down and tried to hide a smile. "Well, you sure
put a girl in a hard position. I mean, don't I have enough to think about
what with the life or death situation here?"
Chong looked stricken. "I'm sorry," he whispered.
"You shouldn't be. And I shouldn't play with you like that,"
Malinao whispered, truly taken aback by how sad he had just looked.
She took his hands in hers. "Chong, look at me."
He gazed up at her with a blank expression. No emotion
crossed his face.
"I feel the same. I promise. I don't even know exactly why,
but I do. It's a feeling that's been a long time coming. And maybe
that's why I know it's real. Because I have no explanation but it's
always been there since the first time I met you. It just took all this to
make me take it seriously. I can't hide behind excuses about what I
really want, or why it doesn't make sense. Not anymore. I feel it. It's
true and logic and reason be damned. And when we get out of here I
promise I will still feel the same. And if you want to do something
about it then, I highly encourage it. So don't get me wrong when I say
that right now, we need to worry about getting out of here."
"Promise?" Chong said. Malinao was struck by his tone. It was
not the tone of a little boy asking for reassurance from his parents. It
was a threat. It was a challenge.
"You can bet on it, boy. Now, finish your chicken, and let's get
your bucket of bolts drilling again."
Chong agreed and went back to the minidrill, stone-faced, but
happier than he'd ever been in his life. Malinao found the hatch Chong
had mentioned. She found the antenna ports and wires and played with
them for half an hour but didn't have any luck. Her breathing was
getting very heavy, and she knew they needed to conserve oxygen, so
she decided to take a break. She was just closing up the hatch when
she heard an explosion from the other end. She went running back
through the other compartment and found the minidrill smoking and
Chong lying face down on the floor in a pool of blood.
United Moon Colonies
Lawrence met with Chong for several hours, satisfying himself
that this was, in fact, Richard Chong. There were things he knew that
Lawrence felt sure a brainwashed clone couldn't know. Lawrence had
asked Ford his thoughts and had shared his own fears, which Ford had
"First, that's not really the Fundy style. I don't think they
would have put as much effort into getting me or my clones to kill
Chong if they thought they could replace him."
"But what if they kept it secret?" Lawrence had asked.
Ford shook his head. "I know clones pretty well, Lawrence.
My son shows certain signs of being a clone that are obvious. I don't
see those signs in Chong. I know it's odd that he showed up here, but
it's just not likely he's a clone. In fact, he's our best chance of winning
rights for the clones."
Lawrence had noticed how Ford had abruptly become
obsessed with clone rights since his son had turned around. Ford took
a certain amount of pride in pointing out how well his son had adapted
to his role as clone. Ford Junior beamed with every compliment, and
that in turn reinforced Ford's love for him.
It was such an abrupt personality change that Lawrence
decided not to trust Ford's judgment alone; hence the probing
conversation with Chong.
"I get the sense you've been trying to get something out of me,
Lawrence. What is it?" Chong finally asked.
Lawrence couldn't quite figure out how to phrase it. "Well, sir,
I had to be sure."
"Sure about what?" Chong raised an eyebrow.
"Sure that you weren't a clone sent by the Fundys."
Chong looked legitimately surprised. "Really? You think they
could do that?"
"Well, they seem to have done a number on Ford with Junior.
Don't you find that odd? How thoroughly devoted he has become to
Junior in such a short time?"
Chong rubbed his chin. "Well, I hadn't thought about it that
way. I suppose you're right. But I'm not sure Ford is dangerous now.
Except maybe as a lobbyist."
Lawrence laughed in spite of himself.
i'm impressed, Lawrence. You haven't laughed at one of my
jokes since we were on that overland trip to Tranquility."
The summer after the one they had spent in the mines together,
Chong and Lawrence had taken a trip from Trudolubie colony in a
Moon Hopper all the way out through Ambrosius Settlement and down
between Cana and the UMC to Tranquility. It was the Moon
equivalent of the great road trip, though far more dangerous, since
riding in a Moon Hopper you were out of colonial domes for most of
the trip. In fact, the idea had been to see if they could make the entire
trip without setting foot inside a dome. They cheated a little: they
stopped inside Rafiki for supplies and spent a night in Armstrong. But
it was still a thrilling time that Lawrence would never forget. Chong 's
fond memory of it was a clincher. Lawrence wasn't sure why he had
They returned to the main room to find Sira setting out a dinner
of Palak Paneer and rice.
"You people are eating me out of house and home," she said as
she ladled the food onto a plate for everyone. Lawrence suspected she
was enjoying having people to cook for. Lawrence had suggested they
run out to get food from a restaurant, but Sira insisted it was too
dangerous and that she should cook.
Over dinner, Ford broached the subject of clone rights again.
"Don't you think, Mr. President, that we could make the
United Moon Colonies the leader in this space?"
"What are you proposing, Ford?" asked Chong.
"You have the advantage now. The entire Earth sees the UMC
as the saviors of the world. Seize that stage while you have it. Speak to
the world while they'll listen."
"And say what?"
United Moon Colonies
"Tell them that clones are people and that cloning research
should not only be allowed but advanced—and funded. That clones
should be responsibly integrated into our lives. That "cloning" is not a
word to fear, but a technological marvel that creates a community of
people to be embraced. Make life for me and my son not only legal but
"I'm sorry, Ford, I can say all that, but it won't change
"Then don't wait for them to change. Make it a presidential
order. Cloning and cloning research will be funded by the UMC.
Cloning rights will be enshrined in law, and a new UMC laboratory for
cloning research will be opened in New Canaveral for the purpose of
responsible research in cloning. I have the equipment to get us started.
I know who to contact to start filling positions."
This last bit startled Lawrence.
"You mean the people who cloned you against your will and
set your clones to kill Chong here?" Lawrence interjected, in spite of
himself. "You mean the Fundys?"
i'm surprised at you, Lawrence," Chong chided. "You usually
let me make the blunt objections. But he's right, Ford. Is that who you
Ford sighed and shook his head.
"Is that who made me, Father?" asked Junior.
"You've had dealings with the Fundys directly?" Sira looked
"Settle down, everyone. I know what I'm proposing is
complicated." Ford winced and waved his hands as if to wipe the
hanging questions out of the air. "Yes, Sira, I've had direct dealings
with the Fundys. I was their captive. They made clones of me without
my approval. I eventually won their trust, took some cloning machines
of my own, and broke away from them. Only a faction of the Fundys
remain, and they are a cloning faction. And here's where it gets tricky:
not all of them are bad. Some of them are just scientists, forced to
cooperate with the Fundys to continue their research because they
would be persecuted anywhere else. I'm saying Chong could make it
safe for them to conduct research here—take them away from the
"Like Minister Narang?"
"Narang, if that wasn't a clone you saw, isn't a scientist. I'm
talking about their clone researchers. The ones this faction employed
against Touareg's wishes, because they were too secular. They don't
have any loyalties to any one ideology."
"Doesn't sound like they have any morals either," quipped
Sira, as she got up to clear the table. Lawrence rose at once to help.
"What do you say, Chong? Will you give it a chance?"
"I'll think about it," Chong finally agreed. "I'll let you know
Lawrence and Chong shared a room in Junior's apartment,
while the two Fords slept in the other bedroom. Sira slept on a couch,
insisting she didn't mind at all.
"What do you think of Ford's plan, Lawrence? I don't like it
much, but I see his logic."
"Sir, there is no reason to rush something like this."
"What do we do with his son, though? According to the
convention, all clones are supposed to be destroyed."
This caught Lawrence by surprise. It was true that the century-
old cloning convention required any government with knowledge of
any cloning meant for human reproduction to destroy the cloning
materials, viable or not. However, that had been agreed on when
cloning humans had been almost unfathomable and when destroying
cloning materials would likely have meant destroying Petri dishes, not
people. Moreover, the UMC had not been recognized by other nations
at the time, and so they had not signed the treaty. They had abided by
it nonetheless, but they were not technically bound by it.
"You don't aim to kill the boy, do you, Mr. President?"
"Of course not, Lawrence, but it gets tricky if I don't. If it gets
out, which it will, that I knowingly harbored even just this one clone,
then I'll face questions from within and without. That forces you to
make a stand, but then you look defensive."
"And people are less likely to listen. I see where you're going
with this, Mr. President."
"Since we'll face those questions anyway, wouldn't it be better
to raise them ourselves, preemptively?"
"Yes, and make an example of Ford and Ford Junior. Make
them the heartwarming reason why we are bucking the law."
"Exactly, Lawrence. The public all over both worlds will side
with us. Nobody will want to see the boy killed."
United Moon Colonies
"But then we're left with the Fundy ties."
"I've thought of that, too. If the Fundy faction comes above
ground in the UMC, we could be seen as aiding Fundys in this."
"So, what choice do we have, Mr. President?"
"We have to steal the initiative there, too, Lawrence. Establish
this research facility just as Ford suggests, to take the wind out of the
Fundy faction. Get their scientists to come over to us, and quiet the
"What if it doesn't quiet them, though? What if it's what they
want, and it helps them infiltrate us?"
Chong thought it over. "I don't see what choice we have. Plus I
don't think it's likely. If that was their plan, I don't think it would
work. But keep your eyes open, just in case."
"Yes, sir," Lawrence said. "I'll make the arrangements
tomorrow morning for a policy speech in New Canaveral. I'm going to
get ready to go to sleep. Do you want to use the restroom first?"
"No, Lawrence, you go ahead. I'm going to go out to the
kitchen and get some more water."
"Thank you, sir. I won't be long."
Lawrence took his things into the bathroom and closed the
door. Chong got up and went out to the kitchen. As white as the room
was in the daytime, it was dark at night. The lights sprung on as they
sensed him coming but stayed dim in their nighttime mode. Chong
grabbed a glass from the counter and turned to find Ford Junior there.
"Good evening, Chong. Getting some water? Memory Release
Code Alpha Wipe Center Gold Devil Fawn Beta Two Minutes
Information Only Complete."
Chong started to reply, but then his eyes went blank and his
grip slackened. He dropped the glass, but Ford Junior caught it.
"That wouldn't do at all. I'll have to file a bug on that."
Chong 's eyes fluttered and then he spoke in a dull, not quite
monotone voice. "Basic system accessed, ready for information
"Very good. Have you made the request for the policy speech
"Yes," the dull voice replied from the clone Chong's mouth.
"Speech will be arranged tomorrow morning."
"Excellent. Shut down and wipe memory back to my water
interrogative prior to access code."
"Affirmative, memory wipe to semantic request prior to access
code. Control returning to biological imprint in five seconds."
Chong stood slack-jawed, and Ford Junior placed the glass on
the counter next to him. He hoped it didn't cause too much cognitive
dissonance. After a few blinks of the eye, a normal expression returned
to Chong's face.
"Yes, rather . . . thirsty. Why'd I put that down? Anyway. I'm
rather tired, too, I guess."
"Well, I understand. Are you going to help my father?"
"I hope so, Junior. I hope so. Good night."
"Please, Mr. Chong. Please help him if you can. Good night."
Chong nodded and walked back to the bedroom.
Ford Junior went out the front door of the apartment and
opened a small communicator woven into his shirt.
"Yes, this is Ford 18. Tell our leader that the speech is
approved. Proceed to New Canaveral."
Ford 18 closed the communicator and went back into the
United Moon Colonies
Narang lifted the robotic prostheses Patel had supplied him. It
felt like a real arm, it worked like a real arm, but Narang knew it
wasn't a real arm. He seethed inside against the minuscule girl who
did this to him. Once Ford 1 8 had seen the Chong clone on its way to
New Canaveral, Narang would take care of the girl. She was a
Patel and Carlos came through the door of the cavern. The
Canaan authorities had turned against Narang, and they had all been
forced to hole up in a cave in Armstrong. There were several near the
edge of the Armstrong dome in a crusty part of the surface that had
never been developed or formed into any kind of usable terrain. It was
a low point in Narang's leadership. They had never before been forced
to crouch in such squalid circumstances. He decided to make a point of
"Look around you, gentleman, for this is an illustration of the
principle 'it's always darkest before the dawn.' We are on the eve of
our greatest triumph, so it is no mistake that we are laid into our
humblest surroundings. Don't you think?"
Patel looked uncomfortable. Carlos looked reverent. Narang
knew he would have to do away with Patel one day, but first he needed
to have Patel train a brilliant scientist. Perhaps another Chong? The
Ford clones were too unpredictable. Perhaps a Patel clone. Patel had
resisted the idea vociferously, but there were ways.
"What have you come to tell me?" Narang inquired, knowing
the two opposites wouldn't pair up to pay him a social call.
"Ford 18 contacted us," Patel recited. "He initiated a successful
vocal probe on the Chong clone. It is programmed and responding as
expected. Lawrence has bought the programming. I'm quite proud of
that. He's a tough one to convince."
Carlos jumped in with some annoyance at Patel's self-
congratulations. It was not the Fundy way. "They are headed to New
Canaveral in the morning to make a policy speech."
"Excellent," Narang agreed. "We must make for New
Canaveral ourselves. I may need to fine-tune the clone's programming
before the big speech."
Patel balked at this. "What fine-tuning would be needed? I've
laid in all the instructions we need, and there's no cause for suspicion."
"I have my reasons," Narang growled. "Do you doubt me?"
"No, sir, of course not."
"What news from Tranquility?"
Carlos jumped in. "Sir, the president, speaker, and vice
president have not been heard from since the cave-in. They are
presumed dead. The tunnel has been sealed at both ends."
"And the UMC government?"
"They await word. Only a small cadre of staff and military
were aware of the operation, and they have been neutralized."
Narang raised an eyebrow. How enterprising of Carlos. "Very
good. Then make the arrangements for travel to New Canaveral and
bring the necessary equipment. We can leave the base here for now."
Carlos turned to go.
"Wait with me for a moment, Carlos."
Patel stopped too.
"You're dismissed, Patel."
The scientist looked aggrieved at the slight but turned on his
heel and left. Carlos approached his master with a look of blank
"You have served the Fundys for many years, Carlos."
"It is true, sir."
"You even served for a time in Touareg's household itself,
"An honor that I was lucky enough to have, yes, though I was
never on the Great Man's staff." Carlos's words had the rhythm of
litany, of ritual. But Narang knew it irked him to hear Touareg's name
said plainly rather than with a title, or else replaced by "the Great
Man," as Carlos himself had put it.
"You have seen much. You have served well. Will you do one
last thing in the name of the Great Man?"
The fires of passion lit within Carlos's eyes. "Anything!"
United Moon Colonies
Good, Narang thought. He had provoked Carlos with just
enough blasphemy to get just the right amount of obedience when he
reversed it. This was precise psychological programming and needed
just this kind of finesse.
"Take out your knife, please."
Carlos unsheathed his knife quickly, without reluctance.
"Cut a three-inch gash in your belly."
His hand stalled.
"The Great Man issues a test through me. You will only win
his glory through obedience."
Carlos 's hand shook, but he did as commanded, then fell with a
Narang rose and walked past the fallen man as he bled.
"Do not move, Carlos. It is a test of your faith."
Narang knew Carlos would die within an hour.
He found Benito outside the cavern chamber.
"Carlos asked to be allowed to stay inside in meditation,
Benito. He had an odd look in his eye, but I granted his request. Do not
"You will accompany Patel and me to New Canaveral."
Narang wondered why he had given into his whim regarding
Carlos. He knew it was a strike against the Fundys of old, but he
instantly regretted losing such a strong man. Still, the stain of
Touareg's mistakes and failure could not persist in this new
incarnation. Narang would see to that. This was greater than all of
Malinao still wasn't sure she hadn't permanently damaged
Chong when she moved him. She wasn't sure she hadn't permanently
damaged herself either. Plus she had apparently used up a tremendous
amount of oxygen in the effort. The air was dangerously thin now.
Chong lay on a gurney. He breathed heavily in the thin air. She
hadn't gotten a response out of him, and she'd lost all track of time.
She sat on a stool next to him, holding his hand, just muttering now
"You don't know how you looked when I first met you on Air
Force One all those years ago. I've never seen a man so self-important
and shy all at the same time. I wanted to torture you. You know, the
flirty kind of torture. So I did. Remember when I asked you if it was
true that all Moon Men carried their bathrooms with them?" She
chuckled and sighed. "Oh the look on your face. Outraged but careful
and a bit embarrassed I think all at the same time. But the way you
responded. Just looking me straight in the eye, cutting through all the
emotions playing havoc on your face and telling me you didn't think
everything that came out of you smelled of roses, so you preferred to
leave it somewhere else. Ha! So rude and yet just shy of offensive.
And I knew what offensive could be like, even when someone cared. I
guess I've been rewarded in the past for putting up with rudeness. I
think you captured me right there without my even knowing it. So I've
bugged and teased and tortured you ever since. Well any chance I got.
I'm not that forward with men, usually. I'm rather distant, as a matter
of fact," she chuckled again. "I made my career off it. But you always
had a look about you. Soft and gentlemanly, but strong, and . . ." She
gasped for breath. "I don't know."
"Are we going to leave now?"
United Moon Colonies
The president squirmed a bit and opened his eyes. A slight
smirk was on his face.
"Between letting the minidrill run and playing true
confessions," he paused and gulped some more air, "you seem to have
used up all the air. So maybe we should go."
"What?" Malinao looked at the minidrill and for the first time
noticed the soft humming and the low ready lights. Chong had got it
started: that had been the explosion. She could have been halfway to
Tranquility by now. How stupid!
He tried to sit up but couldn't quite make it.
"I'm so incredibly dumb," Malinao said as she helped him up
from the gurney.
"You were just worried. Nice story, though."
"How much did you hear?"
"Just the last part. Something about wanting to torture me?"
"Dream on, Mr. President," she laughed.
Between the thin air and Chong 's bulk, Malinao 's lungs almost
burst. But he was getting his legs back, and once she had him up, he
was able to stand on his own. They folded themselves into the
minidrill quite snugly and Chong took the controls.
"You OK to drive?" she asked.
"I'm fine. Just don't wiggle too much, you'll distract me."
The closeness of the cabin had put them in such a position that
Malinao could see what he meant.
"I'll try to just torture you a little," she snickered, which turned
into a cough in the depleted air.
"Here we go."
The minidrill lurched over the barrier of junk from the main
compartment and began boring its way back towards Tranquility.
"I'm going to try to get us up close to the surface where the dirt
is more loosely packed. That way the drill won't have to work as hard
and we'll save energy. Keep an eye on the depth meter for me, though.
We don't want to pop up on the surface. That could be bad for a
number of reasons."
Malinao wasn't sure she wanted to know why. Chong had
turned on the oxygen generators in the minidrill as soon as they had
begun moving, and she felt herself reviving quite a bit. They bumped
along in silence, punctuated by Malinao 's depth updates whenever
they came within a meter or two of the surface. Finally, she couldn't
resist anymore. She had to ask.
"How much longer?"
"Well, I think we have enough juice to make it if we don't hit
any obstructions. We didn't hit anything on the way in, so I don't see
why we should on the way out. Another half-hour?"
"Why didn't we just go down the empty tunnel?"
"That would have been a lot slower. The minidrill propels itself
by drilling. It has small wheels to maneuver in open spaces, but it's not
meant to go long distances like that. Well, it's not meant to go long
distances at all. I hope we don't break the bit."
"The drill bit. The part that's churning through the rock. I did
quite a bit of work with it already. As long as I keep it straight, we
should be OK."
After about twemty minutes, Chong began to slow down the
minidrill, and eventually they came to a stop, with Chong muttering a
quiet curse word.
"We're just outside Tranquility."
"Isn't that a good thing?" Malinao was puzzled.
"Yes, but I forgot something. The colony dome is sunk down
in a nice thick wall of heavy barrier rock, not the Moon dust we've
been plowing through on the way here. If we try to cut through it, the
minidrill will either run out of juice or break a bit trying. We're just
not strong enough to get through it."
"How did we get out?"
"The main drill could cut it, plus there was already a tunnel for
it that led to the surface from the airlock."
"So, we just cut into that tunnel."
"If I can find it. It's not mapped and I'm not seeing it
"What happens if we surface?"
"Well, if the glass doesn't break and we lose all our air, I can
nose us up. If I don't put us all the way out, I can use the maneuvering
wheels to get us back down under. But I'm not really confident that we
"If you can get us a peek, I might be able to tell you where the
United Moon Colonies
"When we were going below to board the main drill, I noticed
the flag from the first moon landing outside at the Tranquility
Monument. It's my country's flag, you know, so it caught my
attention. I can figure about how far we were at that point if I can see
Chong wasn't sure. He had noticed some pretty shaky seals
after the cave-in.
"All right, but if we break a seal, we won't have any time.
You'll just have to point, and hope you're right. It's a big risk."
"If you don't think we should, I understand."
"I just wish we had suits. Let's do it."
Chong started the minidrill forward and tilted up. The drill bit
poked out into a brilliant black sky. Everything in the cabin turned
silver in the reflected light. Chong got them just far enough up to see
over the ground. The seals held.
"I don't see it," Malinao groaned.
"I do, it's off to my left."
"Let me look."
They struggled around each other, which at another time and
situation would have proved very distracting.
"I see it. The tunnel should be that way."
Suddenly they both heard a hiss.
"Seal's loosening. Try to plug it with something; I'll back us
The hiss grew more insistent as Chong backed the drill down
into the tunnel.
"Plug it up, Sam!" Chong yelled.
"I'm trying, I can't get hold of it."
"Don't touch it, your skin will freeze. Use anything you can
flatten over it or plug under it."
The hissing became a screaming as the minidrill lurched back
down and turned in the direction Malinao thought the tunnel was. The
screaming kept getting worse.
"Dammit, use this." Chong ripped off a piece of his shirt and
thrust it at Malinao, who was still fumbling with various loose items,
trying to plug the seal. It had widened into a lip that screeched a death
call at them.
Malinao grabbed the bit of canvas shirt and stuffed it in the
screaming hole's mouth. It muffled into a mumble.
"Make sure it stays there," Chong said. "We don't want it to
pop out and break the glass."
"Did you call me Sam?"
"Just now, did you call me Sam?"
"I . . . maybe ... I don't know. I was in a panic."
Malinao smiled. "Nobody calls me Sam."
The seal popped out twice more before they reached the tunnel,
but Chong didn't call her "Sam" again, and the glass didn't break.
Finally they broke through into the main train tunnel, where there was
an airlock that kept the colony from losing air into the tunnel. Chong
raised the airlock operator on the radio; he wanted them to go through
a long authorization procedure before he'd let them in.
"If you want to be responsible for murder, make us go through
the checks now," Chong gasped. "We're out of air. We'll answer all
your questions once we can breathe again."
A burly, gray-haired, dark-skinned man climbed down from the
airlock controls, shouting.
"Now, what kind of ridiculous prank are you kids pulling,
riding out on the open Moon in a goddamned minidrill of all things?
You two should be— uh— Mr. President?"
"Yes, I'm President Chong. This is United States Speaker
The man stopped cold. "Well, of all the mercy in God's worlds.
They said on the news you were on your way to New Canaveral for a
big speech. What happened to you? You two look awful."
"Well, thank you," Malinao quipped.
"No offense intended, ma'am. I'm . . . I'm at a loss."
"What do you mean, I'm supposed to be in New Canaveral?"
"That's what the netcasts all are saying, sir. You're supposed to
give some groundbreaking speech on cloning rights."
Chong and Malinao exchanged glances.
"We've been trapped in a drill hole between here and Cana,"
Chong risked revealing. "Wasn't anybody going to check?"
"I don't know, sir. I had no orders for the airlock. I figured
whatever you were up to, you made it to Cana and left from there."
United Moon Colonies
"Never mind. We need to get to our headquarters. Please alert
the Tranquility folks that there was a cave-in and all hands but us were
lost. They'll want to salvage the drill and tend to the dead."
"Wasn't the vice president on that drill?"
"Yes, he was." Chong replied softly.
"Oh, my," the man said. "That's terrible. I'm so sorry. Well,
you need medical attention, Mr. President."
"Not now!" Chong was already leading Malinao up some side
stairs. Their lungs filled greedily with dome-generated oxygen. They
ran through the Tranquility museum out onto the road and down to the
Colonial building where their headquarters had been. There was
nobody there but automatic sentries. Chong used his identification to
try to get into the second- floor assembly room where the staff was
supposed to be.
"This area is closed by presidential order," replied the pleasant
female voice of the sentry.
"Override that, I'm the president," Chong barked.
"Dual confirmation security protocol requested."
A tray slid out where Chong was expected to touch a blood
tester with his finger to confirm his identity. He did so.
"Presidential identity confirmed. Override authorized."
The doors slid open to a macabre scene of slaughter. Ten UMC
guards and a dozen of the vice president's staff lay dead in pools of
blood and gore. The stench was overpowering. Chong almost puked.
Malinao asked him to close the door. She had tears in her eyes,
from the smell or the carnage or both.
"What's happening?" she asked.
"I think I may have a clue," Chong said. He asked for a picture
from the room's internal camera. Even without the smell, the picture
"Focus in on the upper corner," Chong told the monitor.
"Lower right. A little lower. There."
Written in blood on the wall near the corner were the words
"And the sinners shall be smote."
"That's a Fundy slogan," Malinao gasped.
"And not a scientific clone faction one, either. A devoted
follower of Touareg did that."
"You're correct," came a voice from behind them.
Friedrich, one of the friendly night guards who had held Chong
in the shed in Cana, stood behind them.
"And now I must finish my job," he said, raising a knife.
United Moon Colonies
Lawrence found the leader of the Colonial Assembly in
Chong's office in New Canaveral.
"Thank god you're here," Assembler Catherine Hamala said.
"We've had no word from Vice President Hashimoto. They were
about to swear me in today."
Lawrence decided to skip the normal dig he'd make at
Hamala's pretended lack of ambition. "What do you mean, no word?"
"Perhaps you'd better tell me what's going on, Lawrence,"
Hamala said, sternly.
"President Chong is on his way up. Maybe we should sit down
outside his office to talk," countered Lawrence.
Hamala inclined her head and came out from behind Chong's
desk. "Very well."
Lawrence had patience, but he didn't need it. She began to spill
all she knew as soon as they sat down in the outer reception room.
"When the president's abduction was reported, Hashimoto was
sworn in as acting chief executive of the UMC. He wasn't going to be
given the title of president until we knew what had happened for sure.
He received some intelligence but wouldn't share it with me. The last I
heard from him, he was in Tranquility. He told me he had sensitive
information on the president's whereabouts but that I needed to
assume a ready position in case something happened. Which I did."
She looked a little put out, as if Lawrence had been accusing her of
something for being in the president's office. "I've heard nothing
since. Hashimoto was very secretive. He gave out no information for
fear he would put the rescue at risk. He ordered everyone to stay away
from Tranquility for now. That's all I know. We were about to
countermand his order and issue a search group to go there. If they
couldn't find him, I was going to be sworn in as acting chief. That's
when I heard from you that Chong was on his way. The opposition is
having a field day, asking all kinds of questions about who's running
the country and why the president and vice president have been so
secretive. What's happened to the vice president?"
"We don't know," Lawrence admitted. "Hashimoto rescued
President Chong and Speaker Malinao, and I was rescued separately
by an underground group in Armstrong. The president met with me
there before proceeding here. Apparently the vice president and the
speaker had other business to attend to in Tranquility, but we haven't
heard from them either."
"Well, it's the president's call now, but I think he should allow
the group to go to Tranquility and investigate."
"I agree. I'll inform President Chong of your advice."
"And what's all this about a cloning policy speech? Is this the
right time for that? It seems incredibly out of place."
"Does it?" asked Chong, as he came into the reception area.
"Mr. President." Hamala and Lawrence stood up.
"I know there are a lot of questions. I'll have a briefing for the
cabinet and key Assemblers right away. But the policy speech is more
important now than ever. You'll see why when I brief you. For now,
suffice it to say that the Fundys aren't gone, and they're involved in
"And you want to make it legal?!" Hamala cried.
"We want to prevent them from having any advantage in it
being illegal," Chong explained. "As I said, you'll see why in the
Hamala just shook her head. "I hope you know what you're
doing, Chong. The opposition is calling for your head. There hasn't
been a president recalled by the Assembly in seventy years, and I'd
rather not fight a recall vote under my leadership."
"You won't. The briefing will take the wind out of their sails."
Hamala didn't look convinced, but she took her leave of the
"Lawrence, set up the briefing in time to give me an hour or so
to sit down with Ford Junior and prepare the speech."
"Yes, sir— uh— Ford Junior? You mean Mr. Ford, don't you,
"No, I want Ford Junior," Chong sighed. "Just do it, Lawrence.
I have my reasons."
United Moon Colonies
Lawrence was taken aback. That was not Chong's usual style.
If he didn't want to explain himself, he usually just kept quiet. He
never admonished anyone like that. It was one of the reasons
Lawrence loved working for him.
"Very good, sir, I'll see to it."
"Thank you. Close the door on your way out."
Lawrence shut the door. That also was way out of character.
Chong made a point of never closing his door. If he really needed
privacy, he asked Lawrence just to keep people out of earshot. He
wanted the symbolic transparency to be dead clear. It was dogmatic.
Why the sudden change? Unfortunately, Lawrence didn't have time to
speculate. The president had been through a lot. No doubt it had
shaken them all up and knocked themselves out of their usual routines.
He had work to do. He needed to get the Assembly leaders and the
cabinet together for a top-level meeting on short notice. He'd better get
As he left the office, he thought he saw someone in the hallway
duck out of sight.
He definitely heard whispers.
"Who's there?" Lawrence strode down the hall, ready to call
security. He found Ford Junior hiding behind a plant.
"Junior? What are you doing here?"
"Please don't be mad, I was just so curious. I know I'm not
supposed to be here. I just wanted to see."
"No, it's all right. The president will want to see you in a few
hours. Come with me and I'll give you a badge so you don't get tossed
"Can I meet you there? I have to go to the bathroom."
"There's a bathroom on the way. I need to stay with you until
you're properly credentialed."
Ford Junior looked worried. "Uh— OK. Let's hurry, though."
Lawrence started to lead him back down the hallway.
"Oh, wait, I dropped something behind the plant. I'm sorry, I'll
be right back."
Lawrence waited impatiently while Ford fished around for
something on the floor.
As Ford Junior leaned down behind the plant, Narang hissed at
him from the dark at the base of the pot. "Go. He'll get suspicious.
We'll finish this later."
Ford Junior nodded and picked up a small plastic trading card
of an Ahsaas Colony movie star he had purposely left behind the plant.
"Found it!" he yelled to Lawrence.
"Come on, then," Lawrence shouted.
Ford Junior gave one last look at the hidden Narang and ran
back up the hallway.
United Moon Colonies
"That was quick," said Chong, looking down at the body of
Friedrich on the floor. Malinao had delivered a kick to the head just as
Friedrich had finished his last sentence. He had fallen to the ground in
Malinao was holding her side. "I think I pulled a muscle. I
haven't really been stretching lately."
Chong was on his knees examining Friedrich.
"Who is he?" Malinao asked.
"His name was Friedrich. I saw him briefly when they had me
in the shed."
"He's dead," Chong said.
"Oh." Malinao had never killed anyone. She blanched.
"I . . . guess so."
"Look, you did what was necessary. You saw what he did in
"You're right, it's just that--"
"Never mind that right now. Let's get to the communication
Chong led them back downstairs and into a large locked room
full of electronic equipment.
"I need to get a coded message to New Cav right away." He
paused. "Urn . . . would it be weird if I asked you to wait outside?"
Malinao laughed, breaking some of the tension she'd felt ever
since she drop-kicked Friedrich.
"Of course not, Mr. President. I guess I sort of forgot our roles
there for awhile." She moved closer. "Don't be long." She kissed him
lightly on the cheek.
Chong could only manage a whisper. "Yes, Madame Speaker."
He turned back to the equipment, hearing the whoosh of the
sliding door closing and locking behind him. He activated the coded
emergency line to New Canaveral and entered his personal code. He
was hoping they hadn't revolved off the previous formula because of
his capture. The line activated and he heard Lawrence pick up.
"Tranquility, this is New Canaveral. It's about time we heard
from you. The president's been worried."
Chong found this rather odd. "Yes, I have been worried,
Lawrence," Chong replied.
"Who is this?" Lawrence snapped.
"It's me, Lawrence. We just got out of a mining tunnel
between here and Cana. Hashimoto didn't make it, but the speaker's
"I repeat, identify yourself."
Lawrence sounded scared and confused. "Lawrence, this is
your boss, the president of the United Moon Colonies. Richard Chong.
"I don't know who you are, but the president is with me here,
so it's not going to work. I'm cutting the channel."
"Wait!" Chong yelled. "Lawrence, you furball, what do I have
to do to prove it's me? Remind you of why you don't want to be
president? All those eyes you see in your dreams? Or should I finally
break my word and tell Laurie at the Station Stop in New Cav you
have a crush on her?" Chong had thrown out as many of the secrets
only he could know as he could come up with.
"How do you know that?"
"Because I'm Rich Chong, that's how. Who's pretending to be
"I don't know what's going on, but the real President Chong is
here in New Canaveral, and he also knows all those things you just
said. So however you got your information, I commend you, but it's
not going to work. Investigators will be there shortly; stay where you
are. Channel cutting now."
Chong received nothing but static as the channel protocols
refreshed. That also meant all his security codes would expire in
moments. He needed to get out of the building before he got locked in.
He ran out of the communications room and grabbed Malinao by the
United Moon Colonies
"We have to run!"
She didn't ask why, trusting him, and sprinting along beside
him. They made it outside in time to see a small group of security
coming up the street.
"They haven't spotted us yet. Around here."
Chong dragged Malinao into a side alley next to the building.
"Care to tell me what's going on?" Malinao asked in a whisper.
"Shhh." Chong listened to the footsteps. Once the guards went
inside, he risked looking. One stood in front of the building. If Chong
and Malinao came out of the alley and turned left immediately, they
could get away unseen.
"I'll tell you in a minute, just follow me fast," Chong hissed.
They raced out and around the corner. Chong didn't hear
anyone shout after them, so he guessed they hadn't been seen.
"We have to get to the train station and get to New Canaveral
as fast as possible."
"What happened?" Malinao asked.
"Someone stole my identity, I guess." Chong wasn't so sure
himself. "I tried to contact Lawrence, and he said I'm already there in
New Canaveral, and he didn't believe it was me. He claimed the
imposter knew things that only he and I know. That's one hell of a
clone, if that's what it is."
"So you're not you anymore."
"Not in the eyes of the government. As soon as Lawrence cut
the channel he would have changed all the codes and put out an alert
for an impostor."
"Why aren't we going to the Capitol in Serenity?"
"During the war we opened a presidential office in New
Canaveral because it was closer to the military. We really haven't
moved out of it yet. Shhh."
Chong pulled up short and ducked down behind a corner. They
heard the man from the airlock coming towards them.
"I swear it was him. He was a dead ringer. And he had
someone with him he claimed was the speaker of the USA or
something," the airlock manager said.
"Possibly another clone. We'll check into it. They murdered
the vice president and possibly more. We're getting reports of a
slaughter at headquarters here," said another voice.
"I can't believe I let him in."
"Not your fault. You couldn't have known. Don't worry. We'll
They passed by, and Chong and Malinao raced off in the other
direction. They made it to the train station and Chong blessed the
inefficiency of the private train lines.
"Better hurry, folks," said the woman at the gate. "I'm hearing
they might shut the trains down for some damn reason. I'm going to
make sure the next line gets out, but that may be it."
Chong thanked her and kept running, hoping she didn't look
too closely at him. They jumped on a waiting Lunar Link train. "Thank
god it's an L," said Chong. "It only has one stop in Chang-Ngo. An M
would have at least three stops."
"Your train system needs work," Malinao needled Chong as
"Thankfully. Let's hope they don't stop the train in Chang-Ngo
for inspection. My guess is they won't."
The train lurched forward, taking Chong towards a meeting
United Moon Colonies
Lawrence waited in the president's office. He had immediately
ordered Tranquility armed forces to search for a Chong impostor, but
for some reason he had stopped before changing the access codes or
putting out a general alert. Something nagged at the back of his mind.
When Chong had showed up in Armstrong, he'd had nagging
suspicions, a feeling that something wasn't quite right. Now, against
all reason, Lawrence had the opposite feeling about this call. The
cadence and tone of the man calling from Tranquility had sounded
real. Lawrence briefly wondered whether it might be some sort of
temporal disturbance, but that was the stuff of fantasy and highly
Before his doubts could take him further, Chong entered the
"What's this I hear about an impostor in Tranquility?" he
Again Lawrence got the nagging feeling that what Chong had
said just didn't sound like Chong. "Probably nothing, sir. I believe it to
be a prank. I've asked the museum security staff to look into it. If they
report back anything worth knowing, we'll be sure to follow up."
"Very good. I've asked Ford Junior to meet me down here in a
moment. Do you mind if we have some time alone? I want to get his
advice on a few things from the clone's point of view."
"Of course, sir."
Lawrence headed down to the cafeteria. He ran into Junior on
his way out.
"Go right on in, Junior. He's waiting for you."
Ford Junior nodded and headed in. As soon as Lawrence was
out of earshot, Ford 18 opened the door and let in Narang. They locked
the door, and Ford 18 led the way into the president's office.
"Hello, Junior." Chong smiled and stood up, then stopped
seeing Narang. "What are you doing here?" Chong's tone was deadly,
but he found himself immobilized.
Narang smiled. "Good to see you again, Mr. President.
Memory Release Code Alpha Wipe Center Gold Devil Fawn Beta
Indeterminate Reprogram and Restart."
Chong's eyes glazed, and he dropped a pen he'd been holding.
"You're right, Ford 18. We will have to see to that muscle
response system, won't we? I'll remind Patel about it. Chong?"
Chong's eyes fluttered, then he spoke in a dull, not quite
monotone voice. "Basic system accessed. Reprogram stream spooling.
Ready for further instruction."
"Excellent. We've heard a little trouble may be coming our
way. I want to know I can count on you. Sometimes if a clone sees
himself cloned or sees the original, it can break programming. We
don't want that to happen. If you saw a duplicate of yourself, what
would you do?"
"That's what I was afraid of. This clone mind control is tricky
business. But we're going to give you a patch, Chong."
Narang pulled a small flat metal box from his pocket and held
it front of Chong's glazed eyes.
"Please look deep into the light, Chong."
The glazed eyes focused on the box. Narang pressed a button
on the side and Chong's eyes began to dart back and forth. In a
moment there was a low chime from the box and Narang removed it
and put it away.
"Thank you, Chong. Return to instruction state." Chong's eyes
glazed over again. "Now, Chong, let's see what happens here. If you
saw a duplicate of yourself, what would you do?"
"Assess danger and eliminate duplicate target unless counter-
instructed by handlers," Chong droned.
"Excellent. Did you see that, Ford 18? The patch took in a
jiffy. Ocular reprogramming works. It bloody well works. Patel will be
"Was I ever like that?" Ford Junior asked, fascinated.
Narang raised an eyebrow and turned. "Like what?"
"All slack and programmed like that."
United Moon Colonies
Narang looked sympathetically at the boy. It had really been
only a few days since his programming had been broken. He was
starting to doubt. Narang needed to stop this kind of thinking at once.
"Never. You were programmed, yes, but only a false program
that could easily be broken so that they could be taken in. I'm sorry we
had to fool you in that way at all, my boy." He patted Ford Junior in a
Junior smiled. "It's OK. I understand it's for the greater good."
"That's the spirit. Now. One last thing before I go. Chong, self-
diagnose and identify fundamental mission layer."
Chong closed his eyes for a few seconds then opened them.
"Diagnosis complete. Normal. FML is strategic integration of
Fundamentalist Union officials into UMC government, starting with
research institute for cloning."
"Excellent," Narang stood to go. "Ford 18? You can carry on
from here? Reactivate him, I assume?"
"Of course sir."
"Excellent, excellent. Be sure to back step him a frame or two
so he doesn't remember me walking into the room. It will give him a
momentary jolt, but it'll pass."
"Will do, sir," Ford Junior acknowledged, and accompanied
Narang until he was safely out of sight in the hallway. He returned to
the office and approached Chong.
"Affirmative, memory wipe to semantic request three frames
prior to access code. Control returning to biological imprint in five
Chong blinked a few times, then appeared startled. "What?
What just happened?"
Ford Junior bent to pick up Chong 's pen. "You dropped your
pen, sir. Here."
"Is that all? Thank you. I could have sworn—but anyway.
Where were we?"
"You had called me in to consult about the cloning speech."
"Yes, of course. Have a seat. I want your unique perspective on
this. I'm not a clone, after all."
"Of course not, sir." Ford Junior grinned.
The train pulled into New Canaveral on time, without a hitch.
Chong and Malinao had braced for a search of the train in Chang-Ngo,
but it hadn't happened.
"So what are we going to do now?" Malinao asked.
"The announcement is happening in one hour at the official
plaza. We'll get there and look for an opening to talk to Lawrence. If I
show Lawrence I'm with you, I think I can convince him."
"You're not going to walk around looking like that, are you?"
"Like the president of the freakin' Moon, Chong. You won't
get three strides dressed like that."
They went to an Army surplus store and got a coat and hat to
keep Chong under cover. The clerk speculated that Chong looked
familiar, proving Malinao 's point. They left in a hurry and walked
over to the public plaza.
"Not much of a crowd," Malinao noticed.
"The president talking on cloning isn't likely to draw folks in
person," Chong replied. "But they'll all see it on the news."
They easily positioned themselves close to the stage and kept a
lookout for the president's staff, especially Lawrence. After half an
hour, the staff arrived. Ford and Ford Junior accompanied Lawrence.
"Who's that?" Malinao pointed at Junior.
"I have no idea. He looks like Ford, though. Did they find
Ford's son maybe?" Chong wondered.
Malinao decided to take the initiative.
"We're going about this all wrong, Chong. I'll approach
Lawrence alone. He'll be thrilled. I'll get him to meet us over at that
cafe across the street. Go wait for us there."
United Moon Colonies
Malinao walked towards the staff members and started
introducing herself They looked at her a little strangely. She hadn't
had a chance to clean up, but they still took her over to Lawrence.
"Madame Speaker!" Lawrence looked more than thrilled to see
"Lawrence," she said tenderly. "It's so good to see you."
"I'm so happy to see you alive. We thought you were—well, we
feared the worst. What about the vice president?"
"Look, Lawrence, can you break away for a few minutes?
There's something I want to talk to you about."
"Of course," Lawrence said. "There's something I need to talk
to you about, too. I just need to take care of one quick thing."
"Great. Meet me over in the cafe across the street."
Malinao returned to the cafe and sat down at a table with
Chong. Lawrence appeared a few minutes later and tentatively
"A friend. Sit down, Lawrence."
Lawrence looked suspicious but sat down anyway.
"Hi, Lawrence," Chong blurted out. Malinao shook her head.
"The clone!" Lawrence almost shrieked, standing back up
"Sit down, Lawrence. This is not a clone. It's me, Malinao."
"What if you're a clone?"
"What if you are? Sit down!"
Lawrence had no real suspicions that Malinao was a clone, so
he decided to sit after all. He kept his eyes on the stranger with
Chong 's voice.
"Now, Chong, shut up and let me talk," Malinao chided.
"Lawrence, when we got separated on the train we went on to
Tranquility and met up with the vice president. We attempted a rescue
mission by drilling under Cana, but we got there too late. On the way
back, there was a cave-in that killed the vice president and several
other men. We survived and got back to Tranquility, only to find that
an impostor has taken Chong's place as president. I've been with
Chong the entire time. You haven't. This is the real president. You
have to trust me."
Lawrence looked at Chong, and Chong removed his sunglasses
so Lawrence could get a better look.
"It is you, isn't it, Mr. President?"
"I'm so sorry I didn't believe you."
"So how many people are on the lookout for a duplicate Chong
now?" Malinao asked.
"None," Lawrence said. "I couldn't bring myself to put out the
alert. Something in me knew this other Chong wasn't right. I could
even tell you were the real president over the comm line from
"Funny way of showing it," Chong said.
"That's just the thing, though. It goes against all logic. I was
suspicious of the clone Chong from the moment he arrived in
Armstrong, but I talked to him for hours. He remembers everything
we— you and I— ever did together. How is that possible?"
"I don't know. I imagine they must have somehow scanned my
brain in Cana and transferred memories to him. I don't know how
that's possible, but it's the only explanation."
Malinao leaned in. "What's his version of the story?"
Lawrence told them how Chong had showed up in Armstrong
and how he had explained his arrival and separation from Malinao.
"And the young Ford you're with?" Malinao asked.
"It's a clone that Sira's group liberated. He's a young version
"I doubt that." Chong shook his head. "My bet is he's another
plant. The Fundy faction is very good at all this. I'm starting to wonder
if the Narang leading them is even the real one."
"So how do we do this?" Malinao asked.
Lawrence thought it over for a moment. "I'll lead you two into
special VIP seats behind the stage. After the speech, we'll--"
"Before the speech," Chong said. "I can't let an impostor
deliver an important policy presentation."
"Don't worry, it's nothing binding, sir," Lawrence said. "I
already have a spin draft prepped in case we need to backtrack and
change our minds."
"You're the best, Lawrence." Chong smiled.
"So you sit in the VIP seats. After the speech, Chong is
scheduled to have a reception and some one-on-one meetings with
United Moon Colonies
Cabinet members and Assemblers. I'll put Speaker Malinao top of the
schedule and get you in alone with just him and us."
"Good work, Lawrence." Malinao patted him on the back.
"Don't thank me yet. I've got some juggling to do. Give me
fifteen minutes, then come on over and I'll see you to your seats."
Lawrence left, and Chong and Malinao soaked up the bright
lights of the New Canaveral Plaza.
"The black sky above," Chong pointed out. "That's the sky I
grew up with. You wanted to see it. There it is."
Malinao looked up and felt the incongruity visitors from Earth
always commented on. Bright sunlight filled the plaza, but it came
from sunlight concentrators that took the natural light of the sun,
collected it, mixed it with extra machine-generated light, and delivered
a balanced white that was attuned to the perfect mix needed for human
and plant life. But past those lights was the black, starlit dome of space
"A couple of the domes, like Avalon and Septendecim, give a
false blue, but it doesn't look like Earth. I don't like it. I grew up here
in New Canaveral. This is where I feel at home."
Malinao held his hand and looked up into the black.
They eventually got to the plaza where more of a crowd had
gathered. Chong got a first glimpse at his clone double and felt a lurch
of something close to vertigo. Malinao noticed it too.
"He's not as cute as you," she said. "They got the jaw all
Lawrence greeted Malinao and paid almost no notice to Chong.
They were seated in the VIP section at the rear of the stage. Malinao
made small talk with some surprised-looking Assemblers and cabinet
members and refused to introduce the real Chong no matter how hard
they hinted. Eventually all the commotion settled down, and the clone
Chong took the stage and began to speak.
Chong watched him, watched his mannerisms, and saw what
Lawrence saw. It wasn't him. How could this idiot fool people? It
looked like him and maybe had false versions of his memories, but it
wasn't him. Chong had led the UMC through the war. He had toiled in
the mines right below this cement. He had watched his father die. This
Chong now pretending to make policy for the UMC had done none of
those things, even if he thought he remembered them. His personality
had not been shaped in the same way.
It disgusted Chong.
He knew Lawrence had a backup policy plan that would work.
He knew the safest way to accomplish this was in a closed room after
the speech. But he couldn't let it go on, he couldn't allow someone to
speak for him. No matter how irrational it was, he couldn't help
himself. He stood up, threw off his hat, glasses, and coat, and yelled.
"That is not the president of the United Moon Colonies. I am!"
The crowd gasped and then cheered. They thought this was a
ploy! A demonstration of cloning at its most dramatic. Chong boggled
to think that if they'd planned something so outrageous, it would have
The clone Chong swiveled and saw Chong. Rage filled his
eyes. He forgot his speech and leaped over towards the real Chong.
"You will die," the clone said.
Chong decked him. The crowd's enthusiasm waned. This was
in poor taste. What was the president trying to demonstrate? They
didn't get it.
The clone started to crawl back to his feet and Chong kicked
him. Ford Junior started to race towards Chong, but Chong saw him
and socked him as well. This was really too much for the crowd.
Hadn't that young boy been the whole point of the speech? That's
what all the press releases said. Why was he hitting a young boy?
John Ford was outraged and started to join in himself, but
Lawrence held him. "Don't interfere." Ford raged at him but held
By now, Chong had kicked the clone Chong again and was
about to go in for a knockout. The clone Chong scooted away to buy
extra seconds. He reached inside his suit coat and pulled out something
metal. Blood spilled out of his lips, and he could barely speak. A tooth
fell out as he rasped at Chong, "I can be made again. You're going to
die." With that, he leaped up, and as Chong prepared to deflect him, he
realized what the metal thing in his hand was.
Malinao did, too. "Chong, it's a detonator! A bomb!"
It was too late: the handheld flesh-tearing personal detonator
went off as soon as the clone Chong touched the real one. The
difference between the two became hard to distinguish as they were
torn apart by the explosion.
United Moon Colonies
Malinao and Lawrence were at his side in a heartbeat,
Lawrence ordering staff to get emergency medical assistance
"Which one's him?" Malinao cried, tears streaming down her
face. There was a pile of body parts in a massive pool of blood.
Amazingly, one of the heads still had a neck with a pulse. Malinao sat
bawling over it, when Narang appeared behind her. Malinao couldn't
see him, but Lawrence could. He was dressed so as not to call attention
to himself, but he had a hypodermic needle in his hand. He was
bending down as if he were a doctor. Nobody was paying attention to
him, and Malinao was crying too hard to notice.
Lawrence acted without thinking. His body took over before he
could decide if it was a good idea or not. He reached into the holster of
a nearby security guard, grabbed a gun, released the safety, and fired
without saying a word. Narang fell over dead, blood gushing from a
head wound. The guard grabbed at the gun, not understanding what
had just happened. Lawrence let it go easily. Through the crowd that
moved in front of him, he thought he saw Malinao kick Narang 's dead
body. The emergency vehicles flew in just then and blocked out the
rest of the view. The guards threw him to the ground then anyway. He
would be able to explain. Malinao would vouch for him. He knew he
had done the right thing, but he felt sick to his stomach. He had never
killed a man before. Even if Narang wasn't a man, it was still killing.
Lawrence vomited. The security guards backed off. Then Lawrence
"You can see him now, Speaker," the doctor said. "He's just
Lawrence had come with her. He looked rather tough with the
bandaged head from where the security guards hit him. It had been
more difficult than she had expected to get them to understand that
Lawrence had shot the leader of the Fundys, not the minister of
Britain. Though, in truth, he had shot both.
Chong lay on a bed in the military hospital's VIP ward. The
doctor stopped them just short of the threshold.
"Speaker, before you go in, I have something to say."
"Say it, Doctor."
"We don't really know who he is. I mean to say, there was
enough left of the two men that we were able to piece one back
together. The body is technically two people made into one. But
because of all the confusion, we don't know which brain lived and
which died. Security has been advised. If you make any determination,
either of you," he looked at Lawrence, "that this is the clone, you're to
alert us at once. Of course if it's the real Chong, we'd like to know
"That may not be easy, Doctor," Lawrence said. "The clone
was able to fool me after hours and hours of conversation."
"I'll be able to tell," Malinao said. "Thank you, Doctor."
They walked in the room. Chong lay with his eyes open staring
straight up. His face was empty and pale. They were both next to him
before he finally acknowledged them.
"Speaker Malinao, Lawrence, how very nice of you come." He
coughed a bit. They could tell he was still extremely weak. He barely
showed an expression. Lawrence wasn't even sure he was happy to see
them. "Mr. President," Lawrence finally whispered.
United Moon Colonies
"President Chong, is it?" Malinao smirked.
"You can still call me Chong." The barest hint of a smile
crossed his face.
"Well, isn't that pleasant. Do you remember anything of what
"I blew up."
"You could say two of you blew up."
Chong rolled his head back and raised his eyebrows. "So that's
it? You looked like you were attending my funeral, not my get well
party. Mixed up the heads, did they? Typical Moon medicine."
Lawrence laughed. He had written that line for Chong during
the campaign to help impugn his opponent's record on health care.
"You were supposed to improve health care, Mr. President."
"No, you," and he coughed again as he tried to lift himself up a
bit off the bed, "you were supposed to get it fixed. I was supposed to
take credit." A little blood was coming back into his face, and he
propped himself up higher on his pillow. "You were also supposed to
be able to tell the difference between your boss and some cock-eyed
clone." He coughed again, deeply, making Malinao wince. "I'm
writing you up for that."
Malinao leaned closer again. "They were able to mend you, but
parts of you are from the clone and parts are from the real you. You'll
always be a mix. But we need to check your memories. Do you
remember being kidnapped in Cana?" Chong nodded. "The memories
you had up until that point were imprinted on the clone. What do you
remember after Cana?"
Chong winced. "Honestly, even Cana's a little blurry. I half-
remember making a jump for the clone. I sort of remember talking to
Lawrence at a cafe." He shook his head. "It's all there, I just can't
"Do you remember the nosedriver?"
"The drill?" he asked. "Yeah, I remember that."
Malinao was worried. So far everything he'd mentioned could
be deduced from what she had said. She had to maneuver him into
revealing something only the real Chong could remember. Something
after the tunnel collapsed, but before the speech in New Canaveral.
Something nobody else knew of.
"Do you remember the collapse?"
His eyes brightened, and then he shuddered. "Hashimoto."
"Yes, Hashimoto died in the collapse. Do you remember
"We fixed the minidrill. I remember that."
That was pretty good, but still not conclusive.
"Do you remember what we ate?"
"Chicken. They always stock those things with chicken."
Good, but still not quite good enough. By his own admission,
they always stocked chicken. It could have been a guess.
"Do you remember what we talked about?"
"Sure, you promised. But now I'm a Frankenstein. Are you still
going to keep your promise? Do you still feel the same way?"
Lawrence looked away, embarrassed. Malinao began to cry.
"Yes, Chong. Yes, I do. You remember that?"
"Of course I do. You said if I wanted to do something about it
after we got out of the tunnel, you highly encouraged it. Well, get over
here, I want to do something about it."
Chong pulled her down towards her. He wasn't very strong yet,
but she let herself be pulled into a sweet, gentle kiss. Despite the
medical setting, it was the sweetest kiss she had ever known. Tears of
joy trickled down between her lips. She cried some more and kissed
When she stood up straight again, Chong was holding her
hand. She turned to look for Lawrence, but he was gone.
United Moon Colonies
Lawrence sat on the floor against a wall in the hallway,
weeping. He had had no idea how he felt about Malinao until he saw
her reach down to kiss Chong. He felt horrible about how he felt. He
had no right to want her. Chong was one of his best friends, one of the
few people he had known all his life. But the pang of jealousy he felt
He walked down the hallway and out the doors. He eventually
found himself sitting on a park bench across the street from the
hospital. His heart felt empty. He was a killer and a traitor to his
friend. It was too much for him. He had thrived as a lieutenant, but the
recent events had forced him to take a leadership role, and he had
found he had a taste for that. Now he had killed a man, and
unfortunately he found he had a taste for that too. The thought made
him shudder. Who was he becoming?
It was dark now. The dome lights had been dimmed, and
silvery sunlight was drifting in from above in the perpetual twilight
Lawrence had grown up with. He thought about Sira. Why had he not
fallen for her? He had lived closely with her in that small apartment
for several days. She had saved his life. She was very attractive, but
somehow her attachment to Ford Junior had sealed her off from him,
made her into a motherly figure he could not fall for. He wondered if
things would be different if he found her now. Maybe his position in
the government would prevent her from wanting to see him, or even
being able to.
A man approached out of the twilight and sat down next to
Lawrence. Lawrence was annoyed; he wanted to be alone now. The
man wore an overcoat and a hat. Lawrence had gotten used to that kind
of outfit when he was disguised as Chong, and he suddenly grew
"Can I help you?" he asked the shrouded man.
"You are Lawrence?"
That jolted him even more.
"Who's asking?" He sounded like a cheap mystery character,
but he meant it.
"You've met me. If I tell you, will you promise to keep our
meeting a secret?"
Lawrence's first impulse was to say "no" and call hospital
security. He could hold the man long enough for them to get there.
Security was high with the president in there. But instead, his despair
took control of his voice and answered for him.
"My name is Patel. I am a cloning scientist."
Lawrence leaped up.
Patel grabbed a corner of his shirt and looked up at him,
pleading. "You promised!"
"That was before I knew who you were."
"I am not a monster. I was paid to do work. Your government
could pay me to do work too."
"I don't know if you realize this, but one of your clones was
killed trying to get that plan in place. I don't think it will work any
"But I don't need to do anything malicious. I will do whatever
you order me to do. If you hire me, you can keep me out of the hands
of more evil people."
Lawrence looked at him with pity, but a feeling grew within
him. Now he knew why he was so conflicted. His feelings for Malinao
were genuine, but meaningless. They were merely the human urge
created by his proximity to her. His loyalty to Chong was an example
of something higher. It was what separated them from the Fundys,
what drove humanity to a better place. Manipulating Patel might serve
a need, but it would be letting the ends justify the means. That always
led to degradation in the end. Ultimately, the ends never justified the
means. They couldn't. Because the means would always end up
affecting those ends.
"You don't understand, Patel. You're not a device. You're not
a tool. You're a person. You have a choice, a moral choice over what
you do. You can stop yourself from working for evil men all on your
own. You're asking me to be less than what I can be. Let me do the
United Moon Colonies
opposite. I'm asking you to be more. You want to work as a scientist?
Choose a discipline. Work in public. Deal with the pressures of public
life and help change science for everyone, not just yourself. Go
aboveground and share your great talents with the world. If you're
truly willing to do that, come see me, and I will make introductions for
you at the UMC Science Institute. That's the best I can do."
Patel stood to go. He took a few steps away and then turned.
"Genius is never understood or appreciated." He spat, and then
he walked off into the twilight.
The door opened in Jamaica Bay to great applause.
President Richard Chong exited the elevator car alone.
"President Chong, where is the rest of your party?" asked
President Torres, who greeted him personally. Speaker of the House
Samantha Malinao stood beside Torres, beaming at Chong.
"Coming along in the next car. They had business to attend to,
and I did not wish to keep you waiting," said Chong.
"Show-off," said Malinao. In front of the reporters and the
attending dignitaries, she rushed up and kissed him. The reports of
their romance were now not only known but a sensation in the news.
They were called "the couple of the universe" and "a bridge between
two worlds" and all matter of ridiculous metaphors. The fact was, both
worlds needed this. After the long war and the scare of a Fundy
resurgence, the people of both worlds needed a good storied romance,
and Chong and Malinao had provided it.
A car whisked them up to Manhattan, where Chong was
scheduled to deliver a speech to the United Nations, his first in quite
awhile. It had taken months for him to recover. He had had to battle
with the idea that some of the parts of his body were not his. He was a
patchwork man with one DNA profile, but two body sources. He
sometimes thought he could tell which parts were the clone's and
which were his, though the doctors said there was no way of knowing.
It was pure dumb luck that his head had survived and been saved. The
doctors could only tell him that his neck and most of his upper torso
went with that head. Everything else had been a jumble.
During his recovery, Malinao had stayed with him as long as
she could, but eventually she'd had to return to the US. Even after she
had left, she had flown to the Moon as often as possible. When the
doctors approved Chong for space flight, she had negotiated a
United Moon Colonies
dedicated landing bay at ISS 5 for the UMC so she could visit him.
Finally he had been approved for Earth gravity. She had wanted him to
come to Earth for a vacation, but he couldn't. He had promised
something to the victims of the war, and he intended to deliver
personally. He would speak to the UN about his promises to rebuild
and withdraw as soon as possible, but he would also tell them what he
had learned about the clones. He wanted to tell them why the Fundys
survived and what was engendered by a repressive attitude.
Malinao watched proudly as he delivered his speech. The
leaders of the world finally accepted the Moon as a true leader in both
worlds. The tales of President Chong's adventures were epic. A few
video serials had already been produced, over-dramatizing the already
dramatic events. Chong had been disappointed by the actor playing
"She's not as good-looking," he said.
But now he was being the statesman, thought Malinao. Now he
had the ear of the world, and they were finally learning the wisdom of
this man. Her man, she dared to think. He was measured, and
thoughtful, and even though he would disagree, he was wise.
He looked her way and imperceptibly smiled as he came to the
final part of his address.
"So I leave you with this. When you wish to put a stop to
something, study it first. When you wish to help, don't harm. And
most of all, don't fear doing the right thing. Don't compromise. Make
the hard choices when needed, and life will be easier for all of us. Like
free markets, like slavery, like stem cells, cloning is an issue that
requires hard choices. We must change the way we think. The old
rules do not apply. Let us all come together and do the right things.
The applause was uproarious. Every single one of the world's
most influential leaders was standing. Britain's chair was empty,
however. Minister Narang had been reported murdered in his home.
Lawrence might never know whether the man he had killed was the
real Narang or a clone. A new minister had been chosen, but the chair
had been left empty in remembrance. Ford was in mourning for his
brother; he wore black and sat behind the empty chair. Narang 's role
had not been fully disclosed, and Chong had chosen to allow his
memory to stay spotless. It wasn't a lie, but a presumption. Chong
hoped the Narang he had met in Versailles had been the real Narang.
But now was Chong's moment. As he stepped down from the
podium, he was mobbed by well-wishers. He could have ruled two
worlds now, had he chosen. He could do no wrong. He finally pushed
his way through the crowd to Malinao.
"Madame Speaker. Would you care to join me?"
Malinao had not been expecting this. There was a night of
social events for all the dignitaries. It was quite bold of Chong to ask
Malinao to be on his arm for all that—something the US hadn't planned
on, in any case.
"Join you for what? There are so many parties. I'm not sure my
staff could allow it," she teased.
"Oh, I'm not attending those. Come with me, please."
Suddenly he was pulling her away from the crowd, and with
the aid of a few UMC guards, he whisked her out of the UN building
and into a private car. They were whistling through the night air before
she knew it.
"Where are you taking me?"
"Well, I'd love to take you to the Moon, but that's a bit far. So
I'm just going to the West Coast."
They were there in thirty minutes. Chong played coy the whole
time, refusing to answer questions from Malinao as well as refusing to
answer his phone, which was ringing off the hook.
They landed in Oakland, California, alongside Lake Merritt. It
was dusk, and a soft glow lit up the lake, while lamps and a string of
lights were becoming visible as well. Malinao thought it was gorgeous.
Lawrence met them at the car.
"Everything is ready for you, sir." He gave a sad smile to
Malinao and bowed his head.
Malinao was touched. She sort of suspected Lawrence might
have had a crush on her, but she knew his loyalty to Chong would
never be broken. She wasn't sure how to respect those feelings except
to be grateful and try not to call attention to them.
Chong led her down to the shore of the lake, where a gondola
waited, surrounded by a whole crowd of Fords. Malinao went straight
up to the elder, original Ford and gave him a big hug.
"How are you, John? You must feel horrible."
Ford looked down for a moment. "Yes and no. I got a son out
of it, after all."
United Moon Colonies
Malinao saw Ford Junior pulling the gondola up for boarding.
"He looks big."
"Yes, the clones grow at an accelerated rate. And this one is
special. He needs me. He's been through a lot."
Malinao furrowed her brow. "Will . . . will you all stay
Ford chuckled. "So far, nobody has called for their destruction.
You know, a lot of what I told the clone Chong was the right idea,
even though they were using me. Rich and I have talked about it a lot.
I helped him write the UN speech. Sort of felt like I was putting things
"It's great to see you, John. Thanks for all this."
"You're welcome. Now get going. We're not here for you to
talk to me, right, Richard?"
Chong nodded and took Malinao 's hand, walking her toward
He helped her in and took the pole himself, steering her out
onto the water. They reached a point in the middle of the lake where
the lights from the shore and the light from the setting sun balanced in
a dazzling play of sparkles off the water. The Moon was just beginning
to rise above the horizon and looked huge.
"This is one place where our worlds meet, Samantha," Chong
said, turning towards her. "The twilight is what I know; the silvery
light from above comes from my world. The blue sky melting into it is
Malinao waited, breathless.
"Like the sky melts into the Moon at sunset, will you marry
Chong held out a ring. It was two stones set together. One
brilliant diamond and one gorgeous polished Moon gem.
Malinao, for once, could barely speak.
"I promised, and I meant it," she finally managed.
"Is that a yes?"
In a dark shed outside Queenstown, New Zealand, Patel
finished feeding the sheep. He was disgusted by the animals, but his
care of them paid the bills for now. It also got him an independent
generator, undetectable from the normal power grid. As long as he
could keep it fueled, he could use as much power as he wanted and no
one would know the difference. He trudged back inside the shed, past
the cramped closet where he kept his bed.
His remaining equipment filled the main area of the shack. He
took off his sheep boots and jacket and donned his familiar lab coat,
now worn to threads.
He had partitioned a section of the main room and locked it off
behind steel. He showed his palm and retina and unlocked it. Walking
inside was like entering a metal box. His most recent work was kept in
a case at the back of the box, wrapped in coils. He stepped up and
pushed several buttons, releasing the lid of the case.
Today was the day he had been working for since leaving the
Moon. He felt his pulse quicken with excitement. He entered the
activation sequence and waited. Inside the case a man began to stir. It
wasn't the first time he would wake, but it was the first time he would
wake with any knowledge of who he was. Patel had brought the clone
out on the ranch to help with a few things, but that was before
personality and memory imprints. It had understood only the barest
minimum to get the job done. Patel had used the exercise merely to
prove the health of the clone body.
But today it had been imprinted with a full personality and
complete set of memories. If all went well, it would be able to live a
complete active life under Patel' s control, believing it was the original
person at all times.
United Moon Colonies
Patel led the clone to a seat and gave it water. It drank thirstily.
"I'm dry," it said.
"That's normal," Patel reassured. "Perfectly normal, given the
operation. That was a very close one. We almost lost you. Do you
know where you are?"
The clone shook its head "no."
"We're in New Zealand. Just outside Queenstown on a sheep
The clone wrinkled its nose. "New Zealand. Great rugby.
This was a good sign.
"Please don't be offended, but I have to ask. Do you know who
"Of course I do, Patel. I'm Minister Narang. Who do you think
Patel leaned back and smiled.
United Moon Colonies
Moon Transit System Map
\~ ', Ambrosias