Preamble: This the ninth chapter of a serialized science-fiction novellette concerning failures of fidelity in the transmission of culture. (Previously: Chapter 1, and Chapter 2, and Chapter 3, and Chapter 4, and Chapter 5, and Chapter 6, and Chapter 7, and Chapter 8)
by Cheeseburger Brown
PART II, Chapter 9.
In the legends of yore it is to Little Red Robin Hood that the Big Bat-Wolf famously declares, "Growing up is losing some illusions, in order to acquire others."
I should probably say right now that I'm embarrassed. Reading over what I've writtened so far I sound like a tard. I've been fixing it up, but Captain Gateway says if I keep revising my record it won't be a record any longer, but instead will become an example of creative writing. But it pains me to look back and see how poorly I made my letter shapes and how wantonly I fucked up elementary issues of proper and appropriate vocabulary.
We've come a long way, babby.
It's been two months since Captain Gateway and his crew of anti-founderites rescued me from being burned at the stake, spiriting me away in a flying machine that caused everybody to drop to the ground, covering their heads and wailing. I thought it was a guise of Causation Prime come down to escort me and the child inside me to Heaven, but it turned out to be a getaway car.
As we flew away arrows and spears thunked and thumped against the machine's metal skin and windows, but the skin did not dent and the windows did not scratch. "Blasphemers!" screeched the bishop. "Bastards!"
The engine keened as we accelerated away, minutes later swooping in low over the outlander camp and bumping down for a gentle landing. Wrapped in a blanket I paused at the threshold and saw where I was. "I guess I'm never going home again," I said sadly, thinking of all my poor cats.
"I'm sorry," said the captain. "But we had to save you."
"But why? They'll foist war up yours. To the mayoralty you might as well be in league with Darkwins himself now. You'll all be declared heretical decepticons. You've made your lives difficult by doing this deeply derpy thing. You have soft, gooey hearts."
"We didn't do it out the goodness of our hearts, Jolly," he said. "Make no mistake: you are a strategic acquisition."
He said, "Because our doctor believes the child you're carrying holds the key to curing about a hundred kinds of cancer. You're special, Jolly. Your genes are special. And right now the human race is very interested in good genes."
"Then you mean to kidnap me."
He paused, considering his answer, then simply shrugged. "Yup."
Come knight I maded my escape. I crawled between the tents, squirming on my side so as not to put too much pressure on my belly. I chosed my moment to dart for the gates when the guard turned to the dirt to relief himself. He kept his back at me. I clambered over the stiles.
...And stopped dead when I came to the road and saw monks there. They looked up. They grinned like lizards, drawing their swords. "Justice is up yours," said one. "Let us pray."
"Ready your repenties, douche," said the other.
"Please your holiness. Have mercy. Spare my child. Use your clerical magic to give her life. She is blameless."
"She is tainted," he argued.
"I will cut babby from your sex oven," offered the first monk, "and if she says the words of repenties I will bless her, and she will cross over on my blade. I promise."
The expressions on the faces of the monks changed, so I turned around to look behind me. Captain Gateway stood there flanked by battered robots with long, gleaming guns. The guns hummed as they cycled up to discharge.
"Gentlemen: take your swords home or I'll melt them. That is all."
The parties stared at one another. The monks were frozen. The robots didn't budge. I sighed, frowned, and walked swiftly past Captain Gateway and back into the outlander compound. "Shut up," I hissed as I passed. He chuckled.
Escape was possible, and easy, but fatal.
And so I have buried myself in the library, peering endlessly through the mystic window that shows book pages and pictures and even moving pictures and even pictures you can look around inside and see behind things. Damian stooded patiently at my elbow, offering assistance when necessary, reminding me to drink or to undrink when prudent. "Madam, a break is advised."
Ur, Babylon, Rome, Paris, London, New York, Beijing, Nirgal, Huo Hsing, the Joviat -- the march of linear history, from misty past to the intricately captured present. To my shame the people to whom I could relate best had all been dead for millennias. The people who looked a little like my people, who danced as we danced, and dressed as we dressed, were called "primitive." No modern human wore skins or maded sacrifice. No modern human hunted.
My belly camed ripe. Dr. Waterful set up a special bed for me in the white tent but when nobody was looking I sneaked away and hidded in the bushes on the periphery of the camp to bear my child, so I would not be bothered by outlander malarkey or have to think about using proper words. Dr. Waterful and her robotic nurses discovered me as the child lay on my breast to suckle while I chewed on the umbilical line to sever it. I smiled at her, blood running down my chin. "It's done," I whispered. "She's here."
They tooked away the placenta before I could eat it.
The next time I sneaked out of bed I camed upon them in the mess, and I hugged the ground so that I could not be told from a table. I didded this cause they were conversating about babby and me. When they knew I was listening they maded their translators speak Classical English for me, but when they were alone they spoked another language that sounded like baby-talk -- ma, so, ta, hee, su, ba -- it was all bite-sized bleats, with none of the thickness and trills or gargles and texture that makes classical speaking sound so significant.
Their secret language, which they seemed to assume I could not hear, was called "Go" as far as I could discern. Only a few weeks of listening had made understanding it easy, but I didn't let on. It was the physician Dr. Waterful who used the Go words now, its simple sounds and her reedy voice combining to give the strong impression of a happy, babbling toddler.
"It's her. Again."
Captain Gateway frowned. "I'm sorry?"
"The child and the mother are identical. It's the same individual -- replicated," said Dr. Waterful. She waved at the air and a picture appeared there, though I couldn't make any sense of it. "As is normal for female infants, she's been born with ovaries full of ova. What's completely unexpected is that each of those ova shares a common genome."
The engineer ventured, "She's a clone?"
The physician hesitated with a caught breath. "She is and she isn't. There are unusual loops of epigenetic feedback that may play in a role in passing on a library of anti-cancer adaptations. But fundamentally it is the same individual, reiterated, with an unusually aggressive package of environmental adaptations."
"Wait a minute -- aren't ova diploid cells?" said the doughy astrometricist who had only recently been declared well enough to resume duty. "They only contain half a genome, don't they?"
"That's true for human ova, yes."
There was a weird silence. I can only imagine they were looking at one another. I could only see the floor.
"So..." said the captain. "Is she technological? From a farm line?"
"No. She may have started there. The farm lines led to a lot of death. Death stokes the engine of adaptation."
"You think it's biological."
"Yes. The world's first observed instance of genuine apomictic parthenogenesis in a mammal."
"That's a mouthful," said the chef.
The captain's stool creaked as he shifted. "But when did it start...?"
"We can only guess how far it goes. I'm willing to say it's clear that she's her own great-grandmother. Beyond that my view is hazy. But at some point in all the massacres and mutations one of her ancestors evolved a distinctive strategy -- at least, distinctive for a primate: to favour stability at the expense of diversity. What seems to have developed is a persistent gametophytic regime enabling continuous thelytoky. In other words, she's the only human being to ever demonstrate fully functional multi-generation asexual reproduction."
The engineer grunted. "Then she's not really a human being, is she?"
"I don't like where that kind of labelling leads," said the doctor at last.
"No," argued the captain, "Smith's right. Jolly's not a human being."
"Right," said the engineer.
"She's a race," finished the captain.
"She's the most self-contained race there's ever been. She's unique Solar sentience -- Code 8. And that makes our duty clear. Wherever we go, she goes. Now we're Noah's Ark and she's our precious cargo."
The astrometricist chuckled. "Noah's Ark? But...there's only one of her."
"That's lucky," said Gateway, "because our ark is very small."