Count Down to Clone with D. L. Jackson
Countdown to Clone
In less than twenty-four hours I will be releasing my story, Clone, the Book of Eva. This work has been in progress for over five years. And I promise it is different from anything else I have written. For Clone isn’t a romance—it’s a love story, with a twist.
So, please join me Thanksgiving Day, November 28th 2013 as I launch the first book in the series.
When a world leader’s daughter meets a clone, a doomed love affair begins.
In the year 2087, a great war erupts on the planet and a struggle to survive begins. One hundred-fifty years later, the continent of America is divided into two factions, Aeropia and The United Regions. There is a shortage of food and an abundance of illness, leaving most to live on the scraps of the wealthy who wallow in excess.
This is the world Olivia Braun inherits. Sick from birth, she wakes up from surgery with a new heart, only to discover she is the youngest president of Aeropia, an empire that has created and used clones to maintain their position of supremacy since the war. However, Olivia’s rise to power is no accident. Before her transplant, she conspired with a clone to free those enslaved, but the outcome is not what she expected.
Now, enemies hide among the population, and even friends can no longer be trusted. Olivia must make a choice that will decide the fate of an empire. Before her tale of corruption, forbidden love and war ends, the mighty will be brought to their knees.
By a clone.
Eva stared at the crowd forty floors below. Her toes hung over the ledge. She didn’t draw a breath or feel alarm in the tightening of her belly as most would when they faced death. The people clustered around the gates and paced along the street, appearing as nothing more than bugs she could squash under her heel. Tininess aside, the roar of fright reached her, rumbling through flesh and bone.
They’d gathered around the palace because of the riots. They wanted her sympathy, her reassurance things would continue as usual, that the towers they’d built for themselves would not collapse.
The Aeropite Commander of Joint Forces, General Michael Axis, stood near her on the deck, clutching the rail, as though he dared not get any closer than the ten feet that separated them. His knuckles were as white as his face, and for the first time since they’d met, he truly looked frightened. All he’d worked for threatened to die with her, and his soldiers, collared for the moment, were about to be released. He could do nothing about it.
The wind whipped loose tendrils of her coif, beating the strands against her face in an angry assault. The fine silk of her suit snapped around her like a banner in a hurricane. For the first time in her life, she knew her purpose, had no fears. Concede. Die. Fight. Live forever.
“Madam President, you need to come off the edge.” He trimmed his soft words with a threat no one else could hear. Sharp like a razor, cold like forged metal, Michael used his coercive blade as he always did, but this time, it had no effect. She’d stopped caring. “Ana.” Angrier, a little harder, more pronounced. He might as well scream, “heel, heel.”
Not today. He knew her name, and it wasn’t Ana. He’d put her here, given her this power. When his plan failed, and he realized he could no longer force her to do his bidding, Michael had stooped to begging. Pathetic as it was, she savored every moment. No, you heel. The smile came, tied to joy, something she’d waited a lifetime for. Oh, she planned to finish this, but not as he intended. “They’re free.”
“Don’t do this. Your country needs you. The people are frightened. I have no idea what to tell them. There have been murders, clones that have somehow broken free of their girdles.”
Eva twisted slightly, enough to make eye contact with Michael and catch the outline of several figures clustered inside the room. There they stood, his grand audience, inside the balcony doors, flash frozen puppets with no voice. Eva surmised they’d accompanied him to talk her down, yet they did nothing to help. If they discovered she wasn’t their leader, they’d certainly push her over.
The trigger he held, well, that was different. Designed to bend her to his will. Useless now. She didn’t care if he took her life. Her time had come, and he could not win this standoff.
“Not somehow,” she said. Hundreds of thousands were free of their bonds and tasting liberty for the first time. In a few minutes, the soldier clones would follow, their collars falling from their necks, their hands filled with weapons he’d put there. Michael was a general with no control of his army, and they were about to turn on him.
The people of Aeropia would suffer for the pain they’d heaped upon the clones. He would pay for what he’d done, and when the sun set and his body lay broken in the street, no one would take pity on his corpse—or his human soul. If he had one. He could not escape his fate any more than she.
“I feel for you that you’ve lost your husband and friend. It’s a tragedy, but the people need you. Your daughter needs you. Come down.”
Her wrist monitor beeped as the last code locked into place and the satellite transmitted the order to the soldier clone’s collars, releasing every last one. Michael glanced at the blinking band. His face grew paler and he swallowed, as though he choked on his own bile.
“You, bitch.” Boom. Loud blasts sounded around the city, coming from every direction. “No,” he muttered. “You can’t do this to me.” His slid his thumb over a button on the device in his palm and pressed.
Eva gritted her teeth.
Jab, jab, jab. Michael poked the button over and over, before he lifted his chin and scowled. “How did you…?”
For several seconds she held his gaze, waiting for the pain in her head, the ending he’d promised if she didn’t do as told. Dante. “He didn’t lie.” The words were not for General Axis, but to herself as she came face-to-face with the truth. Dante had loved her. He’d freed her.
She’d killed him.
“Who didn’t lie? What are you talking about?” General Axis’s eyes popped wide and his mouth fell open. “You can’t do this. I…. What do I tell the citizens to reassure them of their safety?”
“Qu’ils mangent de la brioche.” Let them eat cake. At least one queen could really say it. And today, she was a queen. She spread her arms and greeted the open air, falling forward into the storm, and back to the arms of the man she loved.
As forty floors rushed by, a young woman in the same tower began her tale about the clone who freed the world. For the first time, she spoke of treason, lies, and a forbidden love born in a time of darkness.
While you wait to enter my world, take a peek at the other side of the planet—into the unknown. I will be posting a chapter online every week until the story is finished, and then it will be offered for free on Amazon, as part of the series.
Clone—The Lost Chapters
Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.
– Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955)
August 1st, 2137 Anno Domini….
Using the back of my hand, I pushed aside the hair stuck to my forehead. With the panel open, I had a good view of the hive’s processor, but no clue why it malfunctioned. Reaching in, I touched the mother-board. Code scrolled across the screen. It looked perfect, but I knew it wasn’t. Even though it said optimal, I continued to tweak the programming, working out the kinks in the hive’s micro-processor, hoping this would be the last time.
The hive told me it was operating without errors, but it failed to tell me what the bees were doing. They sure weren’t pollinating. Not this hive anyway. I’d spent months bringing the hives in this sector back online, and this one remained stubborn. If I didn’t get it fixed and quickly, the problem would spread through the network and I’d be back to where I started.
After I shut the panel on the hive, I rechecked the readouts. All clear. It lied. I tipped my chin to the sky and knew I had only a little while before I had to be in quarters. No exceptions, even if I had the responsibility to bring the life-saving technology back to functional, I didn’t want to risk being outside and finding out what happened to those who didn’t follow the rules. I’d research more, first thing in the morning.
It would be all over soon. Things would go back to the way they were, but it wouldn’t calm the uneasiness that had settled over Sententia. If it happened once, what would stop it from happening again, and that question reverberated through the population like a sickness.
As the energy storm settled down, the bees returned to normal, well mostly, but the crops would be weak this harvest season. There was nothing we could do about it. With the bees back to work, we should be able to salvage some of the later fruiting crops to replace the stolen stores, and that should get the colonies through the difficult winter ahead, or so I hoped.
I glanced over at a soldier guarding the field. He nodded at me. With a shiver, I turned back to my work. It gave me little comfort knowing he was there. Many of the bee-keepers had been kidnapped lately, in hopes that we could get private hives up and running. I wondered if that was why he stood over a fruitless field. Protection or not, the way he watched made me nervous.
Finished with my task some five minutes later, I took a moment to look over to my companion again. Tall, with dark hair and a face hidden behind a tactical shield built into his helmet, I could only guess if he was attractive. Not that it mattered. I didn’t particularly like the soldiers. They hung over the food plots like a threat, armed and able to kill with the pull of a trigger. And still that nagging question of where those who had resisted had gone. It lingered in the backs of everyone’s mind, including my own.
If the storm had gone on much longer, the people would have starved, or worse. We weren’t violent by nature, but we would’ve killed each other to prevent our families from suffering that fate. We were scared and hungry—trapped with nowhere else to go.
This made what I did all the more in demand. I had an important job, earned lots of credit. But all that wouldn’t be worth a damn if I were dead. This wasn’t about the money anymore, it was about survival, and the more viable the hives, the better chance Sententia stood. God help us if another storm flared up.
One of the ento-robites buzzed around my head. My attention snapped to the bee. Curious. They usually didn’t approach anyone. I popped the panel back open and glanced down. Nothing looked off in the programming.
The robite landed on my shoulder, heavier than it looked, it seemed more bird than bee. Another odd action. They always avoided contact. When I lifted my hand to brush it off, it gave me a shock. Startled, I backhanded it into a tree, where it sparked and popped, dropping to the ground.
That wasn’t right. I grabbed a glove out of my bag and slipped it on, picking up the ento and dropping it into the bag. Perhaps it was a defect with the bot? I’d have to take a closer look at it later when I had time.
Warning alarms began to wail, indicating I had one hour before curfew. I dropped my tools into my bag. Later than I’d thought. Grabbing my gear I glanced one last time at the guard before starting toward my glider. The sky had darkened and a sense of foreboding sank into the landscape. I shivered.
Rubbing my arms to chase away the phantom chill, I stepped onto a side runner, swinging my leg over the seat and pressing my palm onto the scanner, a soft gel-like material that read my print. The engines started, its soft whirring sound reminded me of a kitten purring. A lurch and the glider lifted off the ground.
I slipped on my viz-gear. The clear half helmet dropped over my eyes and instantly activated, offering me a multitude of navigational choices. By staring at visual control indicator, the special function engaged. By taking a firm grasp on the handles, the thruster activated and the hover shot forward. I eyed the main strip and the glider turned into traffic, following the movements of my eyes.
“What would you like to listen to this afternoon?” the drone voice of my glider asked.
“Urban buzz.” The unsettling feeling grew stronger. I usually chose silence to accompany me home, but today I yearned for a distraction, something to ease the tension winding me up like a wire spring.
The speakers in my headgear kicked on, and the corners of my mouth lifted in pure joy. The beat throbbed through my body, striking my core, blocking out the horns and yelling of people who’d long since lost their patience.
The drive wouldn’t take long on the glider. The sole purpose of owning one was to navigate through gridlocked hovers and safely get inside before the city locked down. I weaved in and out of traffic, eyeing the shifting holoboards that covered the surfaces of skyscrapers in Tetran, Sententia’s capital city.
Models smiled at me from the changing ads, with perfect teeth, flawless skin and glossy hair. They peddled anything from the latest styles of clothing, to cosmetic surgery that would create shifting hues in the client’s eyes, or erase age like magic. In an hour, those billboards would contain warnings about breaking curfew.
For now, they seemed normal, almost excessive for what people were going through, reminding me of what a self-centered society we’d become. Everywhere color vibrated in brilliant shades of pulsing blues, electric pinks and neon greens. I looked to the left and the glider turned, pulling into a parking garage.
I navigated into a space. “Disengage engine.” The glider sank onto the parking pad. Swinging my leg over the seat, dismounted, tossing my viz onto the seat. “Lock down.”
A solid dome extended over the vehicle, securing it for the night. Iia started for the lift that would take me to my apartment, humming the buzz song from the ride home. I checked my wrist chronograph, knowing I’d made good time. Fifteen minutes to spare. I’d eat, toss on my comfy clothes and look into why the bee malfunctioned. I should still have time to watch my favorite holo show. There had to be a simple answer for the bee’s behavior, even though my instincts screamed there was more to it.
Perhaps my fatigue caused the anxiousness that twisted my insides, or maybe the thoughts of why the bee had shocked me. Whatever it was, I didn’t notice the man until his hand clamped over my mouth and he dragged me toward the lift.
Right. Why did attackers always tell their victims not to fight? Possibly because docile females were easier to kill? Not this woman. I’d taken self-defense classes and the last thing I planned to do was make it easy to kill me. I kicked back, driving my heel into his shin. His grip loosened for a second, but not enough for to break free. Iia grabbed his elbow and tried to twist. He lifted me from my feet, where I flailed and kicked like and angry toddler.
“I told you not to fight. I’m not going to hurt you.”
Not going to happen. Rule number one: Don’t let the attacker take you some place private. Nine out of ten times the attacker did it so he could kill without getting caught. I kicked again.
“I have tranq-gun. If I remove my hand and you scream, I’ll use it.”
And some rules were meant to be broken. Staying conscious would be a necessary part of getting out of this. Iia knew not to chance it. Better I go with him now and take the first opportunity presented to introduce his balls to his tonsils with my boot. My odds of escape improved if I remained awake and in control of my body. I gave a nod, to let him know he could take his hand away.
“What’s your unit number?”
“I’m not letting you into my apartment.”
“We can’t stay out here, unless you want to get shot.” He spun me around, grabbed my arm and escorted me toward the lift with the business end of the tranq pressed against my arm. “And that’s what they do to bad little boys and girls that don’t follow the rules.”
Was it? Those soldiers carried blaster rifles for a reason and I wouldn’t be surprised if what he said was true. “Bravo two-three.”
“Do you live alone?”
“I have a big scary boyfriend with lots of blasters and lasers.”
“So you live alone. Let’s go.” He shoved, forcing me into the lift. “Bravo two-three,” he said to the lift control. The door slid shut and it began its ascent.
Damn, he knew I’d lied. I eyed him. Was he that good at reading faces, or was he something more sinister, like a stalker who’d studied my every move?
“It doesn’t take a genius to know that if you had a big scary boyfriend up there, with an arsenal at his disposal, you wouldn’t warn me,” he said as though he’d read my mind.
He let my go and I stepped back to lean against the other side of the lift and get a better look at my attacker, which proved to be impossible with the disguise that covered his upper face and nose like some kind of Renaissance ball mask.
A radical. The navy blue, head to toe rubber jumpsuit gave him away. Otherwise known as the condom patrol, the radicals were the primary reason the city went into lockdown. They incited the riots. They made people doubt the technology we’d relied on for years. They had otherwise peaceful communities at each other’s throats and encouraged the people to revolt and migrate to the other side of the planet, to never be heard from again.
His agenda could be anything, but one thing was a guarantee. It wouldn’t be good.
I slid my hands along the rail and gripped it tight on both sides of my body, until my fingers began to tingle. Nobody would miss me. I had no family here, and my job was an on call thing. Since I was finished out my contract for the next week, nobody would know I was gone. There was a better chance it would be longer, at least three weeks, when I was due to run the hives through another test. By then I’d be dead or who knew where.
“I know you’re scared, but I assure you, I’m not here to hurt you.”
“Yeah.” I bit my lip. “Of course not. Forced abduction is always a sign of good intentions.” Freak. Running around in rubber, believing the bees would attack and determined to shut down the power net. I knew there would be no reasoning with him. As if the malfunctioning hives weren’t enough, his people wanted to finish the extinction.
My heart pounded against my ribs and each second felt like an hour ticking by in the silence of the lift. What did he intend to do? Rape and murder me? Or was he one of the revolutionaries kidnapping the bee keepers? Regardless the disguise, something felt familiar about him. The more I engaged him, the better chance I would have of figuring out why. “Come here and abduct women often?”
“Gee, I feel special.” I took note of the soil on his boots. With the cities covered in pavement and moving sidewalks, the only way he’d have dirt on his foot gear, was if he’d been in the fields or forests, making it even more likely he was one of the radicals responsible for the bee-keeper kidnappings, and not an independent radical.
“You have no idea how special.” He held my gaze.
“I have credit, lots of it.”
“I don’t want your money, sweetheart.”
“Don’t call me that.”
“Then tell me your name.”
His brilliant blue eyes flashed with amusement from the holes in his mask. One corner of his mouth twitched. “Nice to meet you, Queen Elizabeth. My name is Nicodemus.”
“Well Nicodemus, if that’s really is your name, what do you want with me?”
“And that would be the billion credit question, wouldn’t it?”
“I think if you’re going to abduct me, the least you could do is answer.” I stared back, refusing to show him my fear. “Especially, if you expect my cooperation.”
“Ah, so we’re negotiating now?”
“Are you a negotiating man?”
“No. I just take what I want. Deal done.” He shrugged his shoulders as if to say it was a normal, everyday occurrence.
Yeah, I’d called it. Nothing I said would make a difference. “And what is it you want?”
“You. I want you, Queen Elizabeth.”
“What if I told you there were real bees, not the flying hairbrushes you call bees, right here , on the planet, thriving—across the seas.”
“I’d say that was impossible. Nobody has ever come back from overseas.”
“It is? Is it also impossible the Teslan power grid is responsible for killing them? What if I told you I’d traveled across the ocean to a place called the United Regions?”
“I’ve heard that conspiracy theory and no, I think we’d have figured that out a long time ago if that were the case. The other half of the planet is dead, it has been for years.”
“No, not dead. As for our government lying to us, certain individuals stand to make billions off the power grid—and are. Of course they will lay the blame on something else. Do you realize how much credit they stand to lose when we shut it down?”
“That power grid has been around since before the war. If it was a source of the bee’s demise, we’d have done something long before now. Besides, it’s impossible to shut down.”
“They did do something. They created the ento-robites, and no, it’s not impossible to shut down. It does have its issues though. Did you know those bees have default codes that can turn them into a weapon? Or that they can take matters into their own wings and opt for self-preservation. The ento-robites learn from experience. Since we’ve been trying to shut the power grid down, they’ve gone on the defense. They need that power grid to continue, and they’re smart enough to know without it, they’re useless scrap. They’ve already begun the process of becoming independent of the hives and have begun writing their own programming. I hate to tell you, but it’s not the storms that are the issue. There are no storms. It’s the net.”
“You have no proof.”
“I saw that ento shock you. They’ve been displaying this behavior since the hives were brought back online.”
“And your point.”
“The bees are going to attack and when they do, they’ll do it in swarms. That shock you felt will be a thousand times the voltage, turning anything they touch to ash.”
“Unless I slip into the stylish rubber jumpsuit you wear.” I shook my head. Weirdo. They ran around in their rubber in ninety degree heat, proclaiming Sententia’s Apocalypse was coming, instilling panic in the portion of the public that bought into their conspiracy theories. And he really believed I wanted to join his ranks?
Not likely. The entos were not going to attack, and the power grid was not responsible for the real bee’s demise, and we were alone on this planet. I was a hive keeper and would know if the bees were doing what he’d claimed they were. I snorted and rolled my eyes. How could he seriously believe this?
“Laugh now. You won’t be laughing later. You’ll wish your ass was in one of these rubber suits, grounded and safe.”