One Thing

 

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Turned Into One Man

And when the dust settles, a new era will begin.

 

         No one asked for this to happen, nobody would have thought it would have come this far. Well, maybe someone out there had but no one in the lab did. The idea that such a grand idea, such a brilliant idea, would go so wrong was never thought of. It was a far fetched idea, it really was, they knew the dangers of it and were able to handle whatever predictable incident happened within the first couple of years; but they weren't prepared for what could have happened fifteen years after it all started. They were in a safe period after three years, it should never have happened. It shouldn't have ended the way it did. The idea was durable and indestructible - The only problem? The people weren't.

 

         I was a captain in the United States Military. Captain Stevens Ford. I wasn't really much of a captain anymore though, my entire platoon was killed in action during a tour in Afghanistan when we were attacked by the Taliban in the middle of the night. No one expresses to me how they feel about me being alive versus their loved ones or friends that died instead. The only commanding officer at the station in the night and I survive? I've been accused of staging it but I could never do that to those men. We had all went through the same experiences over in the Middle East, and that bonds people together.

         They kept me in Washington after the incident, saying that it was too traumatizing for me to return back to the front lines after what happened. Secretly I was happy, I could stay home and not have to worry about waking up in the middle of the night wondering if those gun shots were right outside of our trailer, or if they were echoing across the cavern from the other side. I didn’t have to worry about food rationing or eating bagged foods, and I could see different people. Spending your time with the same people, no matter how many, becomes irritating after a while; two years of the same twenty-six people.

         My new mission was to serve as an intelligence officer for the new soldiers going over. I would help with the training and get them prepared for what was on the other side. Most of them were excited to go over and start serving their country, but they never realized what was really happening. During my training sessions there would always be a general sitting in the back, a doctor, and a video camera taking in everything that I said even if it was the same speech every time. I was informed that this would be happening, but they didn't tell me why. The only conclusion I could come too was so they could take the footage and use it in other training centers around the country like in Georgia and South Carolina. The reason for the doctor I always assumed was to see if anyone reacted badly to my story so they could rat out who didn't belong or who didn't seem strong enough to handle the truth of warfare.

         Sadly, their intents weren't as innocent as I had thought they were.

 

         “Captain Ford,” General Walker approached me after one of the training lectures. The hall was empty of new recruits and just the doctor was left sitting back in his seat by the camera.

         “General,” I put my hand up to my forehead and he followed suit. “What do you need?” He hadn't spoken to me after my lectures before. I was assuming he was getting ready to ask me if he had my permission to use my videos in those other centers around the country.

         “You have quite the story there, Captain.” He pushed his hands into his pockets and stood at a casual stance. He was dressed in the camouflage pants and jacket with the basic white tank top underneath and dog tags hanging off of his neck. “Very moving, very moving,” he reached up with his hand and stroked his mustache before putting his hand back into his pocket.

         “Thank you sir, that means a lot,” I said quietly.

         “I’d like to talk to you, Captain. We've been watching you closely during your talks and we think you’d be the perfect candidate to test out something we've been working on for a few years now.” He stayed calm as he spoke.

         “And what would that be, General?”

         “Well for that, I can’t explain nearly as well as Doctor Brandt.” He turned and looked to the back of the room where the doctor was sitting still observing us. “Doctor? If you could come over and explain to Captain Ford please.” He turned back to me and smiled.

         Doctor Brandt walked over as casually as General Walker had. When he came up he reached out his hand for me to shake. “My name is Doctor Brandt, as General Walker has already informed you. As he said, we have been watching you and we believe it is time to commence something we call Operation Synthetic Persona or OSP. Tell me Captain, have you ever heard of stem cell research?”

         “Yes sir,” my wife had been dyeing before I left for Afghanistan and with her permission they attempted to construct her a new heart through stem cells. The pain she went through for them to get the material needed to print the organ, a new technology, wasn't worth it in the end.

         He seemed as if he knew what I was going to say, “So I’m sure you've heard about a tissue engineering where the stem cells are harvested from the bone marrow of a patient, and then fabricated into a brand new organ which can be put back into the patient’s body without any cause of rejection. A revolutionary piece of medicine but still in testing in certain laboratories.”

         “What does this have to do with me?” I asked, I had to know. I was curious and the conversation had nothing to do with my talks.

         “And I’m sure as an older male you've most likely read a comic book with the famous “Star Spangled Hero” Captain America,” Doctor Brandt implied.

         I didn't say anything back to him.

         When my silence was clear he continued, “Captain Ford, OSP is a nonfictional science on a fictional creation. Science has come a long way since the nineteen forties and now in the twenty first century we have the capability to create the same concept of a super soldier without the pain and trouble they had before.”

         “What are you talking about?” I looked up at General Walker for an answer.

         “Captain Ford,” Doctor Brandt drew my attention back, “With your permission we would like to take your DNA and turn it into a super soldier capable of going into war without the repercussions on you yourself. We don’t need bone marrow here, just a sample of DNA is enough for the computer to calculate exactly how your body is formed, and create a virtual print out that can take your position in the military. The best way to keep this technology a secret is to make it public, did you really think Captain Steve Rogers, Captain America, was a fictional character? He was just the beginning.”

         I was shocked, how else do you react when you find out the military has the ability to clone people by printing out their carbon copies? “And if I don’t give my permission?”

         “We do it anyways,” General Walker said.

         I felt a pinch behind my head and turned around quickly. Another man in a lab coat was holding strands of my hair between tweezers and was placing them into a test tube.

         “If we succeed,” Doctor Brandt was talking again, “Then we can change how warfare is done and once again have the best military in the world. Once we test your clone for any issues, we can mass produce the rest of the military and never have to worry about another human death. As long as we have the DNA we can replace anyone who dies on the front lines.”

         “General,” I should have noticed the problems arising but they weren't significant at the time, “That’s over two-million people you’ll be kicking out of the military.”

         “Negative, Captain. That’s two-million lives we’ll be saving with our new technology.” He looked up at the doctor who took my hair, “Start the process. In twelve hours we’ll have two Captain Fords. Thank you for your cooperation, you've done a great service to your country.” Doctor Brandt had left with the other man and now General Walker gave me a salute before walking out himself. I was caught in something I didn't understand.

 

         Three years had passed since I had been approached about OSP. I had yet to see my clone, or to know if there really was one. After that encounter in the training room General Walker and Doctor Brandt didn't show up again to watch and observe me. I had reason to believe that they were lying about the clone, but the rumors were too strong to keep the belief for long. Every now and then another soldier would approach me and ask how I got from point A to point B so quickly. I told them I was a fast walker, but in reality I knew exactly who they had seen.

         I was given a break from my talks five days a week. There was only a certain number of people coming in at a time and there was no point in talking to the group twice about the same events. During one my five day breaks I was called down to the lab. I could feel it, it was time.

         General Walker and Doctor Brandt were the first two people to see me as I came down the hallway.

         “Captain Ford,” Doctor Brandt walked up to me quickly and shook my hand. “It’s been three years since we've begun the process with your DNA and we have been able to have successful results the whole way.”

         “We did it, Captain,” General Walker smiled at me again, “We did it.”

         Doctor Brandt put his hand to my shoulder to guide me down the hall. There were windows into the lab located all around but inside was another small room blocked off so no one could see inside. They brought me through the doors and straight to the makeshift box of a room. Doctor Brandt stopped and went first. He pushed the door open for myself and General Walker to go in and right in front of me was another version of myself. No one really knows how to react when they see their doppelganger, I guess I took it well. When I looked at it, it looked back at me. His eyes, its eyes, looked like mine. Its face was structured the same and its movements were as rigid as my own.

         “Now the DNA switch,” Doctor Brandt started, “didn't bring over any personality traits. Merely genetics meant to look like you and act like you in ways of movements. Included with the DNA is the toxin created to make the clone into the super soldier we were aiming for. If you were to injure this man, he would heal at an incredible rate.”

         “So what now?” I asked him.

         “Now we engage in a more secure battle with the terrorists.” General Walker said proudly.

         “With one man?” I stared at the clone longer, “One thing.” It stared back at me.

         “Of course not, Captain. With an army.”

         “What army?”

         Doctor Brandt said, “Three years was our safety testing for the clone. Nothing bad has happened with this clone so we have begun constructing replicas of all the personnel on the base.”

         “Did everyone agree to this?” Everything was moving quickly, “I thought it was going to take you twelve hours to create one person.”

         “During those three years we've had time to perfect the system. We can now make ten copies in thirty minutes. In the process of one day we can produce forty-eight military men.”

         “Isn't it great, Captain?” General Walker clapped my shoulder with a sturdy hand. His smile hadn't gone away.

         “Did everyone agree to this?” I asked again.

         “I think you should go back to your lecture, Captain Ford,” Doctor Brandt said turning away from me.

         “Did everyone agree to become clones?” I asked again with more force in my voice.

         “No one knows, Captain,” General Walker stated, “and they won’t find out.” His voice became stern.

         “How many days has it been since the three years was up?” I asked. I wanted to know how many they had produced already.

         “Sixteen,” Doctor Brandt said directly.

         “Sixteen days? That’s almost eight-hundred people.”

         “And they've all been sent overseas.”

         “Time to head out, Captain,” General Walker grabbed my shoulder. “Soon we won’t be needing your lectures anymore. All the men will be programmed to take the kind of damage your platoon experienced and keep going.” He maneuvered my shoulder to turn my body and started giving me a push back out of the swinging white doors.

         “This isn't a good idea!” I started saying. I turned around to look at Doctor Brandt when I spoke. He paid no attention to me, but the clone refused to move its eyes from mine. People had said before about how some people have the ability to look directly into the soul of other beings, this synthetic creation had the ability to turn mine to ice.

         Classified information is just that, classified. I had been the only person to know about what was going on beyond the white walls and I was cursed to be stuck with that information. I didn't have anyone I could have gone home to and told, but the threat was still there and they kept a watch on me.

         After five more years, my service had dwindled from two lectures a week to once a month, to not at all. The base was clear of real people except for the scientists and some generals, and any interaction with other persons resulted in cheap salutes and machines ordered to do certain tasks. I was discharged from my service and spent my time at home waiting for the call to come back. No one wants a discharged military member, and now there were over two million men and women wondering what to do with their lives.

 

         Several more years had passed and the public still wasn't aware that the people overseas and located in the local bases were fakes. How they didn't know I wasn't sure, but if the army had the ability to make fake people they probably had the technology to erase the memory of everyone who had ever thought they were an important part to the security of the country. A report every now and then mentioned an officer or soldier acting in a strange way, but it was soon covered by a story of how they had contracted a local disease in the country or area they were stationed. This disease soon took the entire platoon and they all perished. I knew that General Walker and Doctor Brandt were behind it. When they announced the base they had come from before heading out, I knew it as my own. Only about three times had it happened.

         Within the next year more occurrences of these weird acts where happening in the stem cell made soldiers. This time they weren't stopping and the groups would disappear mysteriously. Everyone blamed the Taliban for it but they didn't know who to blame when the acts came over to our own country. Army bases started having freak accidents happen and soon those who were real where found dead while the rest were missing. The news grabbed onto this quickly but the military shut down most of the broadcasting. All the locals knew was that something strange was happening to their soldiers but it wasn't anything of concern to them of the time.

         As more eruptions of death and missing persons happened nearby cities were shut down and evacuated. It had been a little more than fifteen years since all of this began, and finally the clones were doing something strange and dangerous. Some footage would leak every now and then of what was happening to them. Someone with a cell phone would catch it while a soldier in uniform walked down the road, or found footage in an empty army base would show how it started.

         They would start with ticks. Small ticks that were barely noticeable, something that you get from too much caffeine. Quickly it developed into a limb thrashing. Their arms would fly around their body and end up in ways that were unnatural for the human anatomy and the knees would dislocate. By this point the person filming started screaming or crying, praying for mercy that whatever infected that human being, that fake human being, wouldn't get to them. It would soon stop moving and just as quickly, pull out a gun and start shooting anything or anyone it could find until the bullets were gone. At this time the camera man or woman was normally killed but some ran. They ran as fast as they could.

         The only cause for this was biological warfare caused by the terrorists. But of course the real reason was a malfunction in the genetically engineered super soldiers.

         Because these soldiers looked like the men and women from the army, warrants by the states were given out for the arrest and quarantine of everyone in the military. Whether they wore the badge now or in the past, anyone with an affiliation was called in. As the chaos pilled the secrets weren't kept secret for much longer and every news station started to broadcast the riots and strange happenings. Groups of soldiers weren't disappearing into the arms of General Walker and Doctor Brandt anymore, they were moving into large cities and killing the innocent civilians that existed there. No matter how hard the police tried, they couldn't stop the mass genocide of American citizens in our country. It never stopped with America, it moved onto the Middle East where other make shift creations were placed. Intervention from other countries didn't stop the murder.

         These indestructible monsters were taking over and no one could do a thing.

         In the next couple of months, at least twenty-four of the fifty states had been almost completely depleted of people and others were nearing emptiness. The boarders to Mexico and Canada had been closed, and India, China, Russia, Western Europe, and Eastern Africa had been keeping the lose barbarians inside the Middle Eastern countries.

         Sometimes, I would think of how lucky my wife really was. Dying when she did. The pain she went through was horrible, but the knowledge of what caused the extinction of one-hundred and fifty million Americans, and two-hundred million others was almost just as bad as a needle being pushed into my bones; as bad as the hope that was only lead by failure and sadness. I never received a call from either General Walker or Doctor Brandt after my discharge. I was alone. I never made it to see an end to these clones or the havoc they brought. America’s mistake was ruining the world.

 

         Coming up on the sixth month in with another eight states killed off, I finally got the call I had been waiting for.

         “Hello?” The phone hadn’t rung in years, I almost forgot what it sounded like. Generators and a few emergency power lines kept what they could going.

         “Stevens Ford,” it said back.

         “Yes, this is Captain Stevens Ford.”

         The person on the other side had a struggle in their voice, “I am you.”

         “Excuse me?”

         “No one,” they paused, struggling again, “will miss you.”

         “Who is this?”

         “One thing, turned into one man.” The phone clicked and the buzz sounded. The last thing I heard was an echo of my own voice on the phone before the entirety of the United States was engulfed in the only source capable of ending the reign of terror brought on by thoughtless science and ignorant men: The nuclear bomb.

 

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