NA Science Fiction
“Incarnate-F2MS, time of birth—zero five hundred hours.”
“The subject is stable,” a voice echoes. “Lavage stage three complete. Resume scans.”
I open my eyes and blink furiously, blinded by the light. It’s too hazy to distinguish shape or form—I concentrate on my other senses instead.
A dull, cold surface lies beneath me, even hum of a machine gliding above me. A strong antiseptic smell invades the room, and the incessant beeping only amplifies my dread. I sense a cold wetness spread on my chest, promptly followed by a sharp pinch. The process is replicated with agonizing slowness on other parts of my naked body.
“Sensors implanted. Vitals look good,” a gruff voice says.
After an eternity of white noise, my vision comes glaringly into focus. I’m surrounded by a multitude of figures in white body suits, touching me, probing me.
It’s hard to focus. Where am I? I want to ask, but the words don’t come out. I want to stave off their instruments, but my arms don’t move. My heart is pounding. Something is wrong. Something is very wrong.
“The subject is awake, Doctor.” Someone behind me says.
He shines a light in my eyes. “Pupil’s reactive. She is conscious.” His eyes above the white mask stare at me curiously. I’m certain he sees the terror in mine, but he doesn’t seem to care.
The doctor sighs. “Do something about it. Would you?”
A pinch on my arm. My eyelids feel heavy.
“Too much brain damage in the original. Synapse replication has failed,” he says in a faraway voice. “Product defective,” I hear, before it all fades to black.
I wake up groggy, this time seemingly alone. Turning my head to examine my surroundings, I exhale with relief. I can move! No longer in that room of terrors, I focus on the here and now. And my mind fills with questions to understand what I’m doing here, what here is or who I am for that matter. In reply, I only find nothingness.
I struggle to get up, my body is weighed down by an invisible force. Then I see them, the tubes inserted into my arms and legs—even my neck. At once, I’m in the grip of fear again.
“It’s not time to rise yet. You need your sustenance.” A voice addresses me, followed by an image on the wall. A middle-aged woman with dark hair and large emerald eyes stares right at me. “Don’t be scared,” she says in a soft placating voice.
“Who…?” I try to ask.
“My name is Dr. Sarah Owens, and you are F2MS, Mia Spencer. We will talk more, once you’ve moved into your apartment. Until then, sleep tight.”
I move fast through a tunnel, awake I think, yet the images switch so rapidly it seems like a dream. But this is no dream. Strange tingling sensations run all over my body.
I wish I knew the significance of these faces and why I see them at night. Especially that one face, repeating more often than any other. Who is that man? The tingling has become a lot more intense now. The images move faster too. I want to hold on to the sensation, but I’m floating. “Mia,” a voice calls out to me through the blur. Then it all fades away.
“Do we know if the subject has retained memories from her original?” Her voice reverberates through the room.
“It’s unlikely she’ll remember any of her experiences.” Another woman replies softly. “Will that be a problem, Director Langston?”
“Not for us. For her keeper? Rather tragic, actually. Leaves the chances of acceptance slim,” Director Langston says.
“Do you think he’ll have her replaced?”
“Replaced, purged… whatever works. The sooner, the better,” she quips dismissively.
I keep my eyes shut and pretend to be asleep. The words don’t mean much, but her apathy almost sounds like wishful thinking.
“You are aware, Dr. Campbell has requested complete isolation for her.”
“Yes, Director Langston,” she says in a cowering voice.
“Ensure the regulation is adhered to under all circumstances. Any change in her condition, and you come directly to me.”
My eyes flit open. Standing before me is a statuesque, intimidating woman with platinum hair, slicked back. Her cold, grey eyes stare at me from her browless face, with visible distaste.
“She’s all yours, Sarah.” With that, Director Langston leaves.
I turn my gaze towards the other figure in the white lab coat. I remember her face, the woman on the screen, Dr. Sarah Owens. When she comes closer, I clench my fists instinctively.
“You have nothing to be afraid of,” she says. “Do you understand?”
I nod, examining her carefully. Dr. Owens has the same serene smile on her bright red lips as before—a smile that doesn’t reach her eyes.
“What… is wrong… with me?” I ask.
“All in good time. You must be patient,” she chirps, focusing her attention elsewhere. “Epoch,” she calls out.
“I’m here, Dr. Owens,” a voice replies and the walls in the room come alive. The patterns on them move with unique rhythm and design, at once calming and mesmerizing. Epoch—the operating system, plays with colors—awaiting instructions.
“Show me the complete diagnostics for F2MS,” she commands. The information appears instantaneously on a glass panel in her hand. “And the multi-sensor analysis?”
Satisfied by what she reads, Dr. Owens swipes the panel clean. “Alright, let’s get on with it. We haven’t been properly introduced. I’m Dr. Sarah Owens and you are Mrs. Mia Spencer.”
For some reason, her voice grates my nerves to shreds. I ignore the effect and focus on her words instead. “Are you my doctor?” I ask.
“I’m your designated companion for the next few weeks. It’s my responsibility to ensure you gain the required learning from your time here, at the Learning & Rehabilitation Institute of Helicon Genetics.”
“I don’t… understand,” I say.
“Yes of course, first the basics. You are an incarnate from the HC-280 release, Id F2MS,” she relays mechanically. “A biological copy of twenty-two-year-old human, Mia Spencer—DNA owned by husband, Adrian Spencer.”
I stare at her, unable to keep up with the flood of information. “Biological copy?”
“Clone, if you will. But one expected to replace her original—an Incarnate,” she says.
"An Incarnate," I repeat. Does that mean I am her? I wonder. Or am I me?
“As a product of Helicon Genetics, you will be expected to understand and abide by our rules and regulations,” she continues in a clinical manner. “Epoch is here to help with your instructions.” The walls glow a bright green and swirl, in response. “And I will guide your learning process.” Dr. Owens pauses to flash me a brief impersonal smile. “Now I know you’ve been stuck in bed for way too long. So how about you and I go for that prescribed daily walk?”
She taps the device in her hand and at once the bed elevates me into a sitting position. I swing my legs off and attempt to stand on them. A little shaky at first, but soon my body adapts to the movement.
I’m still reeling from the dossier she has so hastily doled out, to make sense of any of it. A clone of Mia Spencer. Product of Helicon Genetics. I must follow the rules, learn at this institute. Through it all, one question nags at me. “Learn what?” I ask.
“To be Mia, of course,” says Dr. Owens.