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1vin·tage

Pronunciation: \'vin-tij\

1 a (1) : a season's yield of grapes or wine from a vineyard (2) : wine; especially : a usually superior wine all or most of which comes from a single year b : a collection of contemporaneous and similar persons or things : crop

2 : the act or time of harvesting grapes or making wine

3 a : a period of origin or manufacture <a piano of 1845 vintage> b : length of existence : age

 

"I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons." – Abraham Lincoln

 

 

 

You know sarang means 'love' in Korean, right?

*

The news dubbed me Clone Five, but you can just call me Sam.

I went to the cops the minute I could crawl out of the tube, and spent the first thirty-six days proving I wasn't the intellectual property of Lunar Industries, and that I was an American citizen.

I got lucky on a technicality, since it turned out I’d been “born” in a straight-up secret lab hidden in Nevada. A firm called TransMetro, known for its perfectly legit vat-grown individual human organs for transplant, also, it turned out, had a nifty little escort service on the side featuring "stunt doubles". Oh, wait, let me be more specific: it’s not really like the clones had much say in it, or papers, or day jobs, or didn’t have to be held in seclusion... so basically TransMetro bred and sold made-to-order sex slaves. Yeah. Fun. The company picnics must have been a blast.

When I went public, reporters dug up the brothel, and when that story broke, twenty-seven women and fourteen men immediately sued for trespass against Personality Rights. One of them was yours truly. Well. Sam Bell Version 1.0, anyway.

Most of the clones ended up crashing with me at The Jamboree. Some stayed on. Prostitution, after all, is legal, and hey, sex work is work, and some of them were getting short on their contracts and wanted to stay with what they knew.

As for me, I’ve spent the last two goddamned years crusading for personhood, and doing my level best to foment public fuckin' outrage.

Three weeks ago, the legislature passed the Bell Code, adding some real pointy teeth to existing laws, and clearly stating that human clones could not be bred, full stop. They also specified that human clones could not be claimed as property. So I won the civil suit and the release of 94 in-stasis clones – Clone Six got rescued six months after I got back by a fifteen-year-old girl. She'd built a moon jet out of stuff she’d scavenged from a scrapyard with a cousin who ran a chopshop in the midlands. To be honest, I kinda lost track of them once I made sure neither of them would face jail time. Besides, Six had not been jazzed about being left holding the bag up there, and he’d liked it even less when I’d explained that the original plan had been to wax him, plant his corpse and send Four home in the tube, instead.

I’ve been forgetting things lately; I’ll ask Knowles or Jinjin to look in on them, maybe invite them to The Jamboree. Maybe Ten. He spends a lot of time trying to get his arms around this; maybe a project will help get him out of his own way.

*

Knowles is in Law School, and Lamarr is taking a few on-line courses in Electrical Engineering. She’s been tinkering with TONEY because the garage door keeps sticking, and the disco lights in the kitchen keep kicking in at random. TONEY is insisting he’s doing it on purpose; it’s weird that the computer that automates The Jamboree had a personality right out of the box, and baked right in. GERTY was nothing but ultimate butler-y compliance and kowtowing, while bullying you along without you really realizing it.

Twenty-Two says he likes the kitchen disco. Even lobbied TONEY for some club fog. Keeps things fresh, he says, reminds him how much Tess loved karaoke. He’s been planting seedlings for an herb garden. He and Seven and Twenty-Three want to start cooking more; they’re thinking about opening a restaurant.

“It would be one hell of a theme,” Twenty-Three says. “Think about it – every server, every cook, all just one guy!”

I gotta say I respect that. Dreaming big. I like to see ‘em planning for the future. What they have of one.

I bought The Jamboree so the new kids would have a place to stay when they woke up, and it’s huge and all, but it’s also kind of a dump, aside from the TONEY installation, I guess. Back in 2017, some poor sap lost the place to foreclosure after spending his life building an 8,500-square-foot doomsday compound with an entire room full of showers, an underground bunker lined with lead surrounded by a bitchin’ fence and a bunch of sheds that Ten calls cabanas and Eight calls Sugar Shacks. There’s a pool, too. Why not?

It has a weird sort of 70s rumpus room vibe that kind of reminds me of the Sarang base. A big chunk of it is mostly concrete walls with no windows. A place to start that reminds us of where we thought we were supposed to be.

The memories are a bitch, I’ll tell you that for free.

It was pretty fucking surreal here at breakfast that first day. Now there are 96 of us, 97 if you count 1.0, and two of us have requested gender reassignment. That was kind of cool. Weird, unexpected, but cool. Wait, no, there are 96 of us. Nine killed himself yesterday.

I didn’t really forget. It’s just hard to think about, since pretty much everywhere you look, there’s a Sam looking back at you.

Well, there are the Old Pros, too. That’s what Ford calls them. The actor they based him on died before 1.0 was even born, but he was famous for a movie about clones, so Ford kind of grits his teeth about situational irony a lot and plays a lot of poker with Eight and Sixteen, Sixty-Three and Sixty-Nine, who, jokes aside and no judgment, I’m pretty sure are sleeping together, Jinjin and Fisher and Barrymore. They smoke a lot of weed and refuse to play with Lamarr because she counts cards and lives to fuck with them.

Gong Yoo is around my age, relatively speaking, and he’s been in the kitchen making smoothies that he swears will extend our lives. He seems to think it was like, Gamma rays or some shit, that kept the Sams on a three-year contract. I don’t say anything about it, and I do what I can to pretend I’m grateful and that his smoothies don’t taste like ass. He jogs a lot. Shirtlessly. The girls seem to dig it. He goes to the yoga class the Beharies hold most days. There are three of them. There are two Scarletts, too. There’s actually an entire cast of some big movie she was in. The guy who ordered them is busy cooling his heels in the clink, even though he owned like, 1/3 of the Americas. So there you go. Justice.

Most of the other pros are singles, like Gong Yoo and Ponhea, and Juno and Conilette, based on people who got famous while I was away. While we were a series of stooges for a vast, faceless corporation that greased a lot of palms to bring us into existence and ship us to the moon like so many crates of Vienna sausage.

Wanna know what I get stuck on? The tattoo. Some asshole tattoo artist was perfectly willing to ink up 100 unconscious, identical guys with the same goddamned rooster. For some reason, that’s the thing I can’t forgive. Not the scientists who were stewing us in a vat, or the three assholes who lied to my face on tape delay about a “broken antenna”, but that motherfucker with the needle. There’s a guy here, Polunin, he’s a dancer. He’s basically covered in tattoos. He says he used to fuck the artist in trade for new ones.

“It’s not like I had money to pay,” he told me. Shrugged. “I like them.”

A bunch of the more “recent” Old Pros met their makers, so to speak, and filmed a PSA together about human rights. Polunin’s template was supposed to be there, but he died of a heroin overdose just before the shoot.

Lamarr and Knowles pretty much run the place now, while the other Sams are getting their feet. We have, like, one therapist a piece at this point. Jinjin insisted on it. She’s based on an Olympic fencer who has a side gig as a model; they took a trip to Disneyland together when the whole thing came out, and they keep in touch. She’s pretty much the most well-adjusted of everybody here, even if she does keep the poker room dank with all that Kush. She was worried about Nine, and look what happened with him. She wants me to keep tabs on the 90s, thinks they feel left out. What Lamarr and Knowles don’t care about, we all leave to TONEY.

Did I ask about getting a GERTY installed? So what if I did. Doesn’t matter, either way, since they’ve discontinued the model. It’s not like GERTY misses us, after all. And that kid with the moon jet banged the shit out of it coming in hot, so it wasn’t like I could go up there myself. Anyway, GERTY is actually planetside now. Knowles says he’ll be in evidence lock-up for another 18 months, and I’ll be long gone by then. And with the reboot, he won’t even remember us anyway. The others can figure it out.

The courts drew me up a stack of legal documents, starting with a “birth” certificate: Samuel Lincoln Bell IV. Father, Samuel Bell. Mother, blank. And the date I landed planetside in the tube. You may have noticed that I changed it to Lincoln, when it used to be—or I thought it was—Joshua. I admit to a little self-aggrandizement there. I may or may not now own a custom tee shirt that reads EMANCIPATOR, but hey. You gotta make your own fun.

I don’t have as much free time as you’d think, and that’s not a dig on my expected lifespan. I just mean that, hey, I’m a man of considerable means. The courts forcing Lunar Industries to award me the fee they’d negotiated with Sam 1.0, adjusted for inflation, and including the back pay for each of the Sams who’d come and gone before me, as the nearest living relative. Enough to buy this place, and set up a trust for the Old Pros and the Sam Bells. We won a mountain of cash in the class action suit against Lunar and TransMetro, I don’t mind telling you. Everybody here could move out into their own private estate tomorrow, if they wanted. Some of them have. A bunch of the thirties and seventies skipped out on their own. The whole set of forties bought a motherfucking yacht, if you can believe it. They’re sailing to Fiji with five of the Old Pros. Franzi is with them; she sends a lot of pictures.

*

Fifty lobbied to invite 1.0 and Eve to visit us all here at The Jamboree. The motion was passed, but it wasn’t unanimous. I abstained, but I’ll tell you now I would have voted no.

We haven’t actually sent the invitation yet. I think Fifty’s having second thoughts. But maybe I’m just contrary, because now I’m looking forward to it a little. Thinking, Eve will be in college soon. Thinking: Holland’s a good kid, I bet she’d like him. I was pretty relieved to find out that the kid he was based on wasn’t actually as young as he looked. He’s kind of the house mascot here, and maybe because he looks so much like an actual high school schmo, I worry maybe more about him than my own Sams, even.

It’s a hell of a thing to have just three years, but at least most of us have memories of doing... something. More.

Lamarr was into her second bottle of wine last night when she pronounced that the entire human race will only rule the planet for a blink compared to the reign of the dinosaurs. "And you and me? We'll last as long as a soap bubble on a sidewalk."

She's not wrong, but I still feel like I've built something here. Something that will outlast us. Besides, even if we nuke the Earth tomorrow, the moon will shine at night. Sarang will last until the sun implodes.

"As long as a meteor doesn't strike it first."

Lamarr is fun. She's a party person.

*

There’s a lot of experimental facial hair going on, in an effort to be able to tell ourselves apart. Some hair dye. Dueling mohawks, in the case of Fourteen and Eighty-Nine. Seven stress bakes, Eight drinks a lot and Ten asks a lot of questions. Most of us drink a lot; I shouldn’t just let Eight take the fall for that. I mean, why not? It helps me answer Ten’s questions. His first one was: why didn’t you wake us up one at a time?

My answer to that is, I didn’t want to bequeath that kind of responsibility to one lonesome person. This way, you wake up, you get that slap in the face, and you get the full force of it, and it’s fucking inescapable. There are almost a hundred of you, and you’ve only got three years to live. You can’t write it off or deny it, you’ve got to embrace it and move on, and you’ve got plenty of people with the exact same problem to commiserate with. It took me days to accept that I wasn’t the only Sam, and at the goddamned time, there was only two of me. Well, three. But anyway.

I knew we didn’t have time for all that WHY ME bullshit, and so I pulled the trigger on that, made the command decision: all of us genies out of the bottle at once.

It’s not that bad. Sure, a lotta existential anguish, but I’ve gotta tell you, stacks of cash take some of the sting out of it. My dreams are shitty, or maybe just sad. We all still dream about Tess.

*

Knowles wants to establish a scholarship in her own name. Lamarr is building something she calls a Jaeger. Barrymore and Shcherbina set up a shelter for battered women, and a bunch of the Old Pros volunteer there. Boseman and Giantalo have been writing plays together. Ford has an after-school program where he teaches carpentry to underprivileged elementary school kids. Holland teaches them parkour there on weekends, and helps Ford with the kids on weekdays so no one loses a finger to a bandsaw. He and Fourteen keep adopting dogs. They’ve got like, eight now. Each.

Eve’s gonna be a very rich woman someday, I’ll tell you that much. Most of us have at least half of what we got in a trust for her. And it’s not like her dad isn’t already loaded.

Jinjin thinks I should get out there, date a nice lady. “You’d be just the thing for a bored divorcée, oppa.”

“Maybe you just take a little of your own advice, kid.” I’ve got my memories of Tess, and I’m content to keep it real in the daylight with Mary Tyler Moore reruns. It would be pretty shitty to get some woman’s hopes up, since I’m coming up on my expiration date. If I get needy, I figure one of the other Sams would be mellow about it, and Polunin has a pair of tight shorts that have DTF written right across his ass, so I guess I could take a swing there, too.

Jinjin is tight with most of the Old Pros, but she doesn’t sleep with any of them. The Beharies are dating most of an all-girl pop group from Japan, but they’re on tour right now. The Sams are only three weeks old – they have a little more time to get it figured out.

“I’m not ready. Maybe I won’t be. It’s okay. Twenty-three says we can have disco pancakes for dinner. I’m going to try and eat six!”

“Dare to dream, girl. I got my money on you to win.”

*

Don’t spread this around, because the last fucking thing we need is some asshole figuring it out and the Government trying to make weaponized clone armies, but maybe we’re a little bit psychic. Or there’s a Sam hive mind or some shit. I haven’t exactly found the time to ask the Beharies about it. Seems... intrusive. Rude.

When it was just me and Four, though, we... knew about each other. Sam 1.0, too. Not like, directly. But there was always an echo of the other one in the corner of our eye. I dreamt about him.

How did I know what Eve would look like? How else did I know to go out and find us in the rover?

I know the 40s love the shit out of that yacht.

Somewhere out there, Six is falling on his ass trying to learn how to rollerblade.

*

Nine hung himself in the shower. Ten found him. He’d cut him down and called 911 before he came to get me.

I guess we’ll have to figure out some kind of funeral. Ten is trying to decide how we should dress him, what he might have wanted. We’re gonna go with a closed casket. We’ll see him everywhere we look for as long as we live, either way.

If Eve does come to visit, we’ve decided not to mention Nine. Which feels shitty, but. None of this was Eve’s fault; why make it harder on her than it has to be?

*

It’s weird as hell to see the moon outside at night. I had an empty field of stars to myself out there, on the dark side. When you look up at it now, even with the telescope we have on the roof, the moon still looks like it did when I was a kid. You can’t tell it’s all scarred up on the other side.

Lamarr could probably tell me how they’re going about mining these days, but I don’t wanna know.

I bet she could fix up that kid’s moon jet, though. Even if it took a year or two. And then the last Sam standing, maybe Ten or Eighty-eight, could see to it that all of us, even the Old Pros if they’re into it, get vacuumed up and settled in the back seat.

That girl with the moon jet, her name is Rithee. She’ll be 21 or so, and her Sam will have been dead a while by then.

All in all, I don’t think it would take much to convince her to take us back to Sarang.

*

I got a letter from 1.0. He swore on our daughter's life that he had no idea about us, and I believe him. He's me, after all. We all got hosed, him included.

Eve sent us each a letter, did you know that? One a piece. It must have taken a fucking month. Hand written. Each one is different, too. She wrote some poetry for some of us, sent copies of cards she'd made for her own dad when she was little, photos of her and her mom, that kind of thing. It was real nice, and the one thing we can agree on is that we'll bury Nine's with him.

Turns out Rithee went to school with her. Six said they weren't that close, but that was how she heard about him up there, on his own. Since I'd knocked down the jammer, she was able to call him and they just. Kind of needed each other, I think.

I guess that's the other reason I woke us all up at once.

I hope Ten gets that. It sucks that it wasn't enough for Nine to hang on to, but I'm gonna try to keep Ten focused. Have Jinjin give him fencing lessons, have the Nineties take ballroom dancing from Polunin, try to give us all every minute we have.

Until the bubble pops. 

 

END