“Beta, please come here and sit down,” was Professor Emil’s answer. She walked calmly to the table even though she was shaking slightly. She was fearful, not just worried or concerned, and it was a new sensation in her life. Professor Emil turned to the rest of the clones at the table, “Everyone else is dismissed. Please meet Professor Green on level 201 as there will be no further work here until after the federation has come and collected Beta.” The clones rose and left as a group. There were no backward glances at Beta, no looks of sympathy for her plight, nothing. They just left. Beta hoped her friend Zeta wouldn’t turn into someone like that.
Professor Emil sat down. “Beta, I don’t know how this happened and I don’t know why it happened and I don’t really know what is going to happen. I am especially perturbed that I was not informed of this earlier but the fact is that the Federation is on their way to collect you. You are not an atrophy but I assume you will be going to a camp to live out your life in whatever useful way they deem appropriate, probably in hard labor. I am telling you this because I want you to be prepared for what lies ahead. We have not trained you for such things but you are a capable clone, one of the best in your class, and I know you can make the most of it.”
They sat in silence. She was not an atrophy but something far worse, a clone of someone alive. What would they do with her? She looked around the room and thought about what was to come. She had a fleeting thought of escape but realized she did not know how to leave the building let alone live anywhere outside of this building. She had spent her entire existence here. She was to be here until her Pathway was chosen but she had not expected this. She heard the whirling of the helicopter before she saw it landing on the pad outside her glass cell. As soon as the helicopter landed, two men dressed in black jumped out and moved toward the glass room she was in. This was it, they would be taking her to her future.
Professor Emil stood up, “Don’t forget the skills we taught you here. I hope they may be of some use to you in your future.”
Beta looked at him in confusion. She did not know how anything she had learned would help her in the atrophy camps. When the doors opened the room was filled with the noise of the helicopter and she turned back toward the men entering the room. One was carrying a clipboard and he consulted it as the doors closed and the room was left in relative silence. “Professor Emil?” asked the man with the clipboard.
“Beta?” asked the man again, looking in her direction.
“Yes,” responded Professor Emil.
The man without the clipboard took Beta’s arm and led her to the doors.
“Thank-you Professor Emil. That will be all.”
All three of them left through the doors. The man holding Beta tipped down her head and led her to the helicopter. She was helped in by another man who was in the helicopter and he strapped her in. As soon as straps locked, the helicopter started to take off. The men scrambled to get their straps on. It seemed like a hasty departure. As they were leaving, she saw another helicopter in the distance. She had never seen one helicopter and now she had seen two in the same day.
As they flew through the air, she contemplated her simple Pathways ceremony and how it had taken a turn she couldn’t have conceived that morning. She was in a helicopter, flying to an uncertain destiny. She realized as she looked around at the buildings, the sky and the sun that the world was exactly like her computers depicted. She wished she was back with Zeta working in the children colonies or the geriatric class. She did not want to be on her way to the atrophy camps.
They had been flying through the air for awhile when Beta noticed a helicopter in the distance. She could not help but wonder if there was another clone as confused and befuddled as she was in that helicopter who was headed to an atrophy camp as well, perhaps the same camp as she since they seemed to be travelling in the same direction. Beta closed her eyes and rested. She had not slept well last night. She had been nervous about receiving her assignment today. Nothing she had thought possible last night had come true today. She sighed and eventually she slept.
Beta opened her eyes and felt very confused. At first she could not remember where she was but then the entire day’s events came rushing back at her. She was still in the helicopter but the scenery had changed. There were mountains and trees now where before there had been only buildings and cement. This fascinated her. Perhaps the atrophy camp wouldn’t be so bad if it was in the mountains.
She felt the descension of the helicopter and was glad they were in the mountains but there did not seem to be anywhere to land let alone a camp below them. They gradually came to a flat area and the helicopter landed. Men jumped out from behind the trees and started putting brush and small bushes around the bottom of the helicopter before the blades had even stopped. The man with the clipboard undid her straps for her and jumped down out of the helicopter. He reached for her hand and helped her out of the helicopter.
“Beta, please follow me,” he said. Beta followed him into the woods where there appeared to be a small opening into a cave in the ground. He lowered himself into the cave and then one of the men from the helicopter assisted her as she shimmied through the hole. It was very dark with only a small light coming from the cave opening. She moved forward to allow the other men to enter behind her. The man with the clipboard turned on a powerful flashlight and indicated she should follow him. The men behind her also had flashlights so the way was lit very well. Beta was glad for the light. They wound through many tunnels that branched off in different directions. She saw people who seemed to be working in different parts of the tunnels and wondered if that was what she would be doing soon. They came to a small room that was lit by a lamp overhead and which had a table set up in the middle. Men and women were seated all around it. They seemed to be having a heated discussion until she entered the room and then everyone grew quiet.
“Sir,” said the man with the clipboard, “this is Beta.”
“Ahh, Beta,”said the man at the head of the table, “we have been waiting for you. Gam, get your sister. Beta, you can be seated over there by the wall.”
Gam, the man with the clipboard, left the room and Beta sat quietly against the wall. The discussion continued and Beta tried not to listen overly much. She could not understand what they were talking about anyway. Beta waited patiently in her chair and after a few minutes Gam came in, followed by a girl. They moved to the head of the table. Gam’s sister was in his shadow on the far side of him so Beta could not see her very well.
The man at the head of the table beckoned to her. “Beta, come here please. I’d like you to meet Zenith.”
Beta moved to the head of the table where the man was standing. She looked over to greet Zenith and got the shock of her life. She started to shake and her knees got wobbly. She felt like she was looking in a mirror at herself only it wasn’t herself she was looking at, it was Zenith, Gam’s sister.