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Rejuve

Tina Connolly's books include the Ironskin trilogy (Tor), the Seriously Wicked series (Tor Teen), and the collection On the Eyeball Floor (Fairwood Press). Her books have been finalists for the Nebula, Norton, and World Fantasy awards. She co-hosts Escape Pod, runs the flash fiction podcast Toasted Cake, and is at tinaconnolly.com.
A knock on the door and a small boy slipped into his office.
Dr. Adrian Forster (PHD) (MD) (JD) (TM) swore silently, the thread of his thought destroyed. It had been doing that lately. Harder and harder to regain his focus. Brutal once it slipped.
"Dr. Forster, sir?" said the kid, coming closer. "Head of BioResearch, Inc.? The one who pioneered Rejuve?"
"What are you, another star seeker?" grumped Adrian. "I haven't worked on Rejuve for decades. Moved on."
"I have a message for you."
He wasn't the regular office boy--was he? This twelve-year-old punk? Adrian really should know all this. Old age catching up with him. He reached into his desk drawer and palmed a handful of BrainStims! Endorsed by Dr. Adrian Forster himself! He wished they worked half as well as he claimed, but he popped a couple anyway.
"What is it?" said Adrian, in the testy, preoccupied manner he had perfected over the last half-century of being Dr. Adrian Forster, PHD, MD, etc. etc. Expectations were always high of the doctor.
"It's the clinic with your Rejuve, sir," said the boy. "If you're ready."
Adrian peered over the top of his tri-focals. The stims were kicking in. "About time," he said. "What is it? Liver? Eyes? God knows they both could use some work."
Suddenly the boy had a gun in his hand. He was pale. "It's wrong," he said.
Adrian almost felt bad for the boy. He was sweating so hard he might accidentally shoot himself in the foot before hitting Adrian. "Give me the spiel," he said.
"I-- I'm with the Clone Liberation Front," the boy said. "You Rejuve doctors-- you're wrong. Wrong to farm organs. Clones are people, too."
Grumpiness warred with jealousy-- the boy had his whole life before him. Adrian was at the end. "Clones haven't been made legal people yet," he adult-splained. "Only approved to be used in Rejuve. They treat their brains and keep them in a coma. They're not actual people."
"Imagine a room," said the boy. "A sea of white coffins. Each one the clone of someone wealthy enough to buy immortality. Each one a vegetable."
"I don't have to imagine it, I designed it," retorted Adrian.
"Imagine now that something goes wrong with one of them. Coffin 5,283. Imagine that the chemicals that are supposed to shut brain development down never happen."
Adrian yawned. "I have a button to summon the secretary."
"They feed those bodies stimulus, did you know?" said the boy. "Colors, sounds, educational TV, just as if their brains were going to wake up, but they don't."
"Let's get this over with before I forget entirely what I was working on," said Adrian. "You're going to kill me? Which will make it fair somehow? Which will stop research? This facility will go on with or without me, my boy. You going to kill all of us?"
"No," said the boy. "Only the one who was going to take my liver." He raised the gun, more steadily this time.
"Let's not be hasty," said Adrian.
"I've thought about this a long time," said the boy. "I got the idea from one of those TV programs I wasn't supposed to see. First I kill you. Then I take your computer and give it to the Liberation."
"You can't get into my computer," said Adrian. "I don't suppose you ever heard of biometrics in coffin 5,283. Or whatever it was."
The boy ran a hand through his curly auburn hair. It had been a long time since Adrian had seen that hair in his mirror.
"We'll see about that," he said, and the gun finally fired. Dr. Adrian Forster (TM) slumped to the floor. Dead as a doornail, dead as a discarded clone, dead.
The boy stepped over the old man and came around the desk.
The computer read his retinal scan and chirped, "Good morning, Dr. Forster! I have a recording for you."
The boy grinned.
On the screen popped up the old man's face he'd just offed.
The boy stopped grinning.
"Hello, Dr. Forster! Or, as I like to think of you, Adrian Number Seven!"
"The old bastard's offed six others of us?" muttered the boy. "Death's too good for him."
"This interactive file contains information about your new life," continued the man on the screen. "First, instructions on how to discreetly dispose of the body. Clones aren't legal people, you know!"
"That's why I'm here--"
"Next, you will go on 'sabbatical,' to bring you fully up to speed on your past selves' research. Much of the information has already been implanted in your subconscious during your time in coffin 5,283, and will only need triggers to recall it. Still, there's no substitute for hands-on practical work in the lab!"
"I just want to get rid of the clones--"
"A new clone will automatically be started for you in thirty years time, Number Seven. It is true that you have a minor quibble with your liver, but that's never what gets us in the end."
"Oh?"
The old man smiled, if a trace grumpily. "Early-onset Alzheimer's. Still nothing to be done about that." He leaned into the screen, it seemed. The boy looked back with wide eyes. "But we're working on it."
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, June 12th, 2018

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