When Beta awakened, she was on a cot under a scratchy blanket. A woman with shiny black hair and smiling eyes was standing nearby, seemingly watching over her. Beta tried to sit up, “Who--”
“Shh,” the woman said with a kind smile, “Relax, dear. You’ve had quite a day and I’m not sure what they were thinking giving you a shock like that. Please, let me explain. You just lay back and rest.”
Beta settled back onto the cot but she didn’t relax. Her insides felt coiled in a tight spring. “I’m Min,” the woman said, extending her hand for Beta to shake.
“Oh yes,” Min said, “we all know you. You’ve become something of a mascot around here. A reason why we are fighting for our cause.”
“Yes,” Min said, “we have all escaped in some way or another. We don’t like the Society. We don’t like the idea of cloning and assigning pathways. We are about freedom.”
“Freedom?” Beta asked.
“An antiquated idea,” Min said with a laugh, “call us old-fashioned.”
“But--” Beta began.
“Let me just begin at the beginning,” Min said, “I’m terrible at getting ahead of myself.” Min pulled a stool up to the side of the bed and with her chin in her hand, started her story. “There have always been those that didn’t like the cloning. We have tried our best to keep clear of it and we’ve encouraged others not to donate their DNA. There’s something very appealing about living on after you die though. Few people listen. It’s also difficult because we have to work in secret. The Society wouldn’t like us persuading others to have more children. We have a few influential helpers though that further our cause. Emil for example.”
“Professor Emil?” Beta asked.
“Why yes,” Min said, “Since he is inside The Training Center, he can keep us abreast of any comings and goings. He lets us know when someone has been taken to an Atrophy Camp and we try to intercept the transport. We want as many clones that are too rebellious to be useful to the Society on our side as we can get. Unfortunately Atrophies are few and far between. Recently, Emil let us know about you. The Society made a mistake with you.” Min looked up at Beta and could see the girl’s forehead furrow. “No, I don’t mean YOU are a mistake. The Society is a mistake. They clone like there’s no meaning in life, like people are nothing more than the sum of their DNA. They weren’t supposed to clone someone still living though.”
“Zenith?” Beta asked.
“Yes,” Min said. “It’s helpful to our cause that we have you now. Together you and Zenith will be a very obvious reason why the Society must be stopped. Of course, there’s also something very unsettling in all of this.” Min suddenly looked very uncomfortable.
“What is it?” Beta asked. To her the whole thing was unsettling, she may as well know all of the truth.
“It’s a question of how the Society got the DNA.”
“Which DNA?” Beta asked. “The DNA is provided by donors,” she recited. Every clone knew that fact.
“Your DNA,” Min said. “How did they get Zenith’s DNA? Zenith is the daughter of Diana Palmer who is the daughter of our founder and leader, Faxon Swindon.”
“I’ve never heard of any of these people,” Beta said. None of this made any sense to her and she wanted to go back to the Learning Center and get an assignment like all of her friends.
“Of course you haven’t,” Min said. “Some of us are worried though. If they got a sample of Zenith’s DNA, who else have they taken DNA from? Also, they must have someone inside our ranks. How else could they have taken Zenith’s DNA?”
There was a knock on the door and then the door opened. In walked Zenith followed by a woman that looked just like her. Min stood. “Diana, Zenith,” she said deferentially. Min ducked her head and took several steps back. Beta stared up into another face that mirrored her own.