Note: This story takes place after the short story entitled cloneship and is considered the second chapter to this crew.
The two hundred eighty clones had escaped Earth and were now set onto a course of unknown future and well expected danger. A little over a hundred of the clones were designed identical to one another and fell into the bottom ranks of the clone hierarchy. The others were clones designed with different templates of appearance. Humans of Earth had long been conditioned to the idea and early reality of clones being identical. The cloning project was shut down, at least publicly after humans had learned that many clones designed on purpose to look different had infiltrated their ranks. Those different in appearance clones were rounded up and along with their other clone brothers and sisters marked with a black dot identification code, which was covered with a circle that hosted wavy lines inside it. The men were marked on the left side of their necks, and the women on the right side. They had been herded into their own societies.
Earth had been invaded by the Ubides and some other race in humpback shaped warships. The starship, Beacon, had become their haven and was casted into the shadowed stars of the Earth’s solar system with no hyperdrive. The battle of Ubide shaped saucers fighting each other and the humpback shaped starships that took no Ubide sides was put behind them. With no hyperdrive and a top standard speed reading as ten, they would not be able to elude those starships but a forward course with no turning back instructions was set and engaged. In Earth terms they had traveled four and a half months in time. With older space travel engines, it would have taken twice as long. With a hyperspace or lightspeed engine, it would have only taken twenty-three minutes. They had reached the shattered remains of the Mars Space Station and through sensors had registered equal destruction to the planetary station on the surface.
The command crew of the Beacon existed of four different in appearance clones. A curvaceous blonde woman referred to as Mandy had been installing and merging systems with stolen Ubide tech. She had mentioned a patchwork recorded account of what had happened here. She had an infatuation or perhaps others would call it obsession to please the elected clone leader, Captain Spencer Jommy in every way. She recommended that they at least send a salvage team to the planet station for any useful equipment and supplies. She could have simply made the recommendation to Spencer in a verbal yet, non-seductive tone and without brushing close against his muscular body and rubbing a hand through his short curly brown hair.
Just as Spencer was about to make his decision, the Native American clone, Kimi Falcon, with her clone marking on the right side of her neck concealed by a skin grafting, had reported another starship approaching from the other side of Mars. It was moving fast toward a type of portal suddenly opening in space ahead of them. It was not Ubide or the humpback shaped vessels that Mandy’s merged Ubide tech had now identified as Derth. It seemed to have an Earthly origin but hyperspace capability. The other command crew clone, named Darron Glean asked if there was a ship designation. He was even more brawly looking than Spencer, with an imperial style mustache. He wore no shirt to proudly display his upper torso and arms that were covered with several different and spaced-out tattoos. He even had a human skull tattooed onto the back of his bald head. Kimi claimed it was the Shocker Four.
The starship had vanished into the hyperspace portal it had created. Spencer asked if they could ride through the same portal that was now beginning to slowly close. Mandy stated that without an actual hyperdrive of their own, the Beacon would likely crush or more likely break apart throughout hyperspace. Just then Kimi noted other hyperspace portals opening, and from them were coming the large saucer shaped Ubide starships. Darron spoke up quickly with the statement that they stay here and surely be destroyed or abducted versus their chances at risking likely destruction in hyperspace. He added, “It depends which way you want to live out your final moments?” Mandy contemplated that a Ubide abduction would not mean certain death but all reports did verify severe examinations and, in some cases, attempted alterations. Spencer stated, “In those situations, it may be better to die.” Mandy spoke up with a calculation that with anti-gravity space gear and shuttles, they may have the chance to survive the Beacon’s destruction and find a planet to inhabit. She did add that her survival calculations had a rather small percentage of success. She continued in an excited panic, “The portal is almost closed, unless we want to try going through one of the Ubide hyperspace portals, and risk running into an entire Ubide saucer fleet, we need to go now!” Spencer had called for red alert status and a push for the hyperspace portal.
The Earth based vessel; the Beacon had slipped through the hyperspace entrance portal as it fully closed behind the starship. The Beacon was in immediate distress as all clones aboard in desperation, began to don their anti-gravity space gear and head for evacuation shuttles. Their time as their starship crumbled away around them was longer in passing than what it had seemed.
The Beacon’s debris burned up in hyperspace. Those pieces that did not were tossed into random areas of an infinite starfield. Spencer, Mandy, and Kimi had made their way into the same shuttle that had also taken damage. The small breaches were easily and quickly repaired from the interior. After the initial rush to repair the breaches in the shuttle’s hull with torch tooling and metal scrap patching, Spencer noticed many clones in anti-gravity gear floating about their shuttle’s location. There was also a shattered shuttle nearby that had been ripped open and drifted in three pieces of debris. Many of the clones had not fully donned their anti-gravity survival gear and had been cold burned and suffocated by space. Other clones floated all around them with anti-gravity survival gear that had failed oxygen systems. The three of them were gripped with fear and sadness as they observed their companions drift away in death. Kimi found no life signs but suddenly released a breath of relief. She had found one life sign clinging to the outside of their shuttle. It was an unconscious male and his anti-gravity space survival gear hosted a hook and cable that had attached to their outer hull. Mandy opened a port side round airlock hatch from the shuttle’s helm controls. Spencer and Kimi in their own anti-gravity space survival gear exited to retrieve their companion. They drifted quickly in the pull of space but were able to engage short bursts of energy from their boot boosters. They further aided their traverse over the shuttle’s outer hull with tether lines. They used their combined strength to release their companion’s unconscious body and slowly dragged him along the shuttle’s now much more visible outer hull damage. They managed to bring him in through the airlock hatch and pressurize the enclosed area around it that they referred to as the vault. They then removed the helmet of their companion with much relief and glee as the brawny built Darron Glean awoke in their arms.
An estimated full two Earth days in time had elapsed before the shuttle came across and landed on a breathable planet with heavy cloud cover and a dense fog covered surface. Through that fog Mandy pointed to where she thought she had seen a flickering light that was now gone. Not only were they clones from a starship but as far as they knew at this point, they were the last surviving clones of Earth. They still had hope that others had survived but for now, the four of them were their own cloneship. Darron and Kimi both turned to Spencer and asked, “What do we do now?” Spencer looked to where Mandy had pointed and the others followed his gaze. Spencer spoke with not fear or uncertainty but with a great tone of strong confidence. He stated, “We go forward.”
Not the End
The cloneship will return in future short stories and in an upcoming Shadowed Stars book 7