Jump ship Fuwalda engaged in a lengthy turnabout maneuver
around the Transference Buoy to line up for another jump. She
had just made a jump through from another TB thousands of
light-years away. The Buoy was no bigger than a small house,
but the area around it, called the Otherspace Zone, was the size
of a standard Earth size planet. To cross the unseen boundary
between space and the OZ at the wrong speed or trajectory
would mean coming out at the wrong destination. A jump ship
had to build up speed and hit the OZ just right to get to the next
TB on its route. Fuwalda carefully sought out the manmade
satellite that had been set in place long ago that “painted” the
trajectory it would have to take to go through to the next
The system here had no major inhabited planets and was just a
Skip Point on the way to her final destination. During this
twelve day maneuver, the crew was involved in mundane little
tasks around the ship to pass their time. The Captain, William
Billings, had decided to take a stroll through the decks he would
normally not travel. Keep the crew on their toes as it were.
The ship, like any other jump ship, was old. No one had built a
new one in over three centuries, since contact with Earth had
been lost. If one stopped and listened, one could hear the ship
creak. If you thought about it, it might make you anxious, but an
old spacer like Billing never noticed it. Nor did he notice the
unique smell of the jump ship anymore. It was a moldy, acrid
smell of damp cloth, and human sweat. Land lovers found it
disgusting, but suffered through it. A jump ship was the only
way to travel between the stars.
In this corridor Billings was nearly alone. Of course, with miles
of corridor on the ship, that wasn’t uncommon. Up ahead was a
mind wipe fiddling with an ancient floor cleaning device. The
man was even more ancient than the machine. Captain Billings
held mind wipes in low regard, and this old one seemed even
more useless than most.
Pitiful creatures they were. Men and women who had committed
some crime worthy of death that were wiped clean of their
memories and programmed for obedience to their masters.
Although the practice was outlawed in some sectors, Captain
Billings thought it a fitting punishment for the scum they were.
This old man though, was hardly worth the trouble of keeping
him on board. No doubt someone had assigned him to clean this
section to keep him out of the way of everyone else. The man
couldn’t even work the machine properly.
As the Captain passed him, the old man became aware of him
and assumed the head down position of respect. “Carry on.”
Billings told him. The fool began whispering worshipful thanks
and aye aye Captains. Billings looked back at the man, thinking
to speak to the steward later about flushing the useless thing out
the airlock. As he turned himself a man and woman in civilian
clothing walked out of a corridor and nearly ran into him.
“Oh, excuse me sir, we’re very sorry.” The tall, dark haired man
pleaded. Billings had forgotten that these people were on board.
The man was called Lord John Clayton and his wife Lady Alice.
Billings wanted to smirk at the titles. They were nobility from
the Planet London, stockholders in the Star Trade Company that
owned every working jump ship in known space, including the
Fuwalda. Billings felt an ember of irritation alight in his gut at
the thought of these pampered land monkeys wandering about
his ship expecting him and his crew to bow and scrape like the
cronies no doubt did in their courts landside.
Billings kept a calm exterior as he was now forced to stop and
engage in some kind of communications with these spoiled rich
folks. He smiled kindly at the man. “Not to worry, my lord. No
harm done.” He found the word lord difficult to get out. He was
lord here on this ship, but politics demand he remain respectful
and polite. He continued, “It might be a good idea for you to
stick to the main hallways and familiar portions of the ship
though sir, if I may say so. One never knows what sort of
equipment one may stumble over in these corridors or the
mischief that might befall one who is not a regular crew. We
have mind wiped criminals working onboard. Well behaved
enough around command staff, but no telling what they may be
capable of around civilians wandering around where they are not
accustomed to seeing them. Weak minded fools the lot of them
This mild rebuke seemed to make the man ill at ease. The
captain noted this with some satisfaction. “Yes, well, of course
you’re right. We seemed to have taken a wrong turn or two.
Again, I apologize. If you could just point us in the right
direction, we were on our way to the galley.” The man replied
Billings was somewhat taken aback by this man’s humble
manor. He had expected a more arrogant attitude from an
important English nobleman. He decided that the man had taken
note of the way he as Captain carried himself and the confidence
of command that he exuded. He gave the man another friendly
Meanwhile, the old man behind them had figured out how to
start the machine and was now engaged in pushing and pulling it
over the surface of the walkway. He continued backwards
towards the three of them without their notice. He had come
within inches of the captain when Billings turned to point the
couple in the right direction. The old man’s elbow came back
hard into the captain’s side.
The frustration Billings had been feeling towards this couple
intruding into his life had already set him on edge. Now his
irritation turned to rage. First he yelled with surprise and pain,
then as he realized what had happened, he cursed the old man.
The mind wipe was overcome with contrition at the thought of
bringing harm to his master. He dropped to his knees and began
pleading for forgiveness and apologizing in a continuous chant
of worshipping supplication. In his anger, Billing kicked at the
man and he went over onto the floor with a yelp of pain.
At that moment another man approached the scene from the
corridor opposite the one the Claytons had come from. This man
was a clone, one called Black Michael 6.7. While not
considered to be exactly human, by instinct he acted with
humane concern at the sight of the abuse of the older man. He
had seen only the foot that had kicked out. He immediately cried
out and jumped between the man and the captain, yelling, “Hey
there, watch it now, he’s only an old man.” The clone put his
hand on the chest of the captain and then, as he looked him in
his faced, realized too late his mistake. He had confronted a
member of the command staff, the captain at that. He had yelled
at him and put his hand on him. Black Michael was filled with
That was when the captain lost his control completely. He
pushed the clone back, causing him to fall over the old man. The
clone began to apologize profusely, adding his pleas to those of
the mind wipe. The captain, his face red with fury, as he was
yelling something about disposing of both the worthless scum,
pulled his flasher out of its holster and aimed it at the pair.
Up to this point, the Claytons had only watched in horror the
things that were unfolding before their eyes. They were totally
unaccustomed to both the language they were hearing and the
brutality they were seeing. At the sight of the weapon, John
Clayton was moved into action. Stepping forward, he struck
down at the hand holding the weapon. He was quick enough to
save the life of the clone, but not fast enough to stop the captain
from firing. A blaze of bright energy burst out of the small
barrel and struck Black Michael in the leg. The beam took off
the leg directly under the knee, leaving a smoking stump, and a
puddle of molten metal where it had hit the deck. The clone
screamed in agony, holding his ruined stump and rolling back
and forth. Clayton grasped the weapon and wrenched it out of
the captain’s hand. At the same time an alarm began to sound
throughout the ship. Suddenly, doors slid down to block the
corridors in every direction.
Billings was now blind with rage. He turned on Clayton with
murder in his eyes. The normally civil Englishman quickly
turned the weapon on the captain and pointed it straight at his
face. Billings barely restrained himself from lunging at the man.
“You are under arrest sir! You will give my back that weapon
immediately and be restricted to the brig for your offenses.”
John had to raise his voice to be heard over the alarm, yet his
voice was calm and steady. “Perhaps I am under arrest, and I
may be sent to the brig, but I will not give you this weapon. We
will wait here until someone shows up that I can entrust with it.”
The head medical officer aboard Fuwalda was a man known to
the crew as Dr. Mallory. He had gone by many names before.
Ten years he had been on this ship, plotting and planning to take
it for his cause. Now, lying before him on the trauma bed was
just the thing he had been looking and waiting for. This
wounded clone, a fine specimen of the Michael Black series,
number 6.7 to be exact, was his ticket into the invitro banks. He
had finished the program he needed to take over the ship from
the computers that controlled it eight months ago, and had been
waiting for an opportunity just like this one. He needed several
other people to help him pull off his mutiny.
Each series of clones had several sets at different stages of
growth. Usually there were three to a set. The oldest set would
be brought into service as an active set was taken out of service.
The normal length of service was twenty years for a clone. This
was meant to keep all the active clones in top physical condition.
At this time there were four series that had reached activation
stage. For the doctor’s purposes, he would need all the available
sets, four sets in all. The computer would not allow more than
one set to be activated, but Mallory had found a way to bypass
Clone Series Black, Michael 6.10-6.12; series Philips, Daniel
4.4-4.6; series Jacobs, Orlin 4.1-3, and series Edmonton, David
3.7-3.9. Each one of these clones were given specific
programming to enable it to perform certain tasks that would
allow him to basically reprogram the computers onboard the
Fuwalda, putting him in control all the systems of the ship.
It helped his cause also that the ship was now in holding pattern
due to the investigation into the incident that had brought BM
6.7 into his care with a leg burnt off. Communications with HQ
were being relayed back and forth through Otherspace via the
TB satellites. Firing a flasher on a higher setting than stun while
inside a space vessel was a serious offense. Captain Billings
might have gotten away with it had it not been for the fact that
he did so in front of high ranking civilians. Mallory had seen
several incidents of “accidental” flasher discharges in the past
where serious injury or death to a clone or mind wipe had
occurred. The command staff of a jump ship was a law unto
themselves out here, especially on outer system routes such as
this one. Billings, as other members of command onboard, had
been put on this undesirable route as a punishment for repeated
offenses committed on previous assignments. He was known for
his hot temper and impatience. What a great co-incidence that an
English Lord and Lady had been there at just the right moment.
Mallory smiled at the thought. It was not a joyous smile, but one
that would make most people uneasy. It was a malicious smile.
He was not capable of any other kind. To him, this was just
confirmation that his cause was right. The universe was on his
side against humanity.
Since he had been a youth he had been far brighter than
everyone around him. He had come to understand how
inherently evil all humans were. Throughout all the thousands of
generations it had never changed. Although many civilizations
had tried to reform themselves, mankind continued to be self-
serving, aggressive, brutish and just plain evil. He saw it in
himself, and even tried many ways to change his own nature,
only to concede to himself it was no use. Through his adult
years he realized that human evolution was at a standstill, and
would continue on the same course unless something were to
nudge it along to its next step. His first encounter with a clone
had inspired him. Their very DNA was manipulated to make
them less aggressive, more obedient and non-violent. It was
through the clones the he would shove human evolution
It had taken several decades to build his movement. He now had
hundreds of followers throughout known space. Many others
were involved in offshoots of his movement, like the Clone
Rights movement, and the Better Treatment for Clones
movement. An unfortunate response to these efforts had been
the outlawing of cloning in many systems. Those corporation
that did continue cloning, sought out isolated locations and made
them super secure. It became more difficult to infiltrate these
operations. Now cloning had become what he referred to as a
sacred science, where only a few chosen initiates were
welcomed into the laboratories of life creation. He had worked
in several, but had never been able to progress in his endeavor.
The companies were not interested in improving humanity, they
only created tools to serve humanities craven needs.
The jump ships, he had decided, were the perfect target. If he
could take one for his own, he would not only have a complete
facility for his work, but he could go wherever he wanted or
need. No one would be able to stop him, and once he had
created the perfect new human, or Newmanity as he liked to call
them, he could spread them throughout the universe.
The first step would be to cut of the life support to all command
staff. Unfortunately, this meant the death of many clones as
well. It was a small sacrifice that had to be made.
Black Michael was severely wounded and in shock. The
protocol on this situation called for him to terminate the BM
6.7’s life. He had use for him though. The mind wipe that had
been involved on the other hand could be used as a decoy to
flush in the clone’s stead. No one was likely to miss the old
thing; his usefulness had long since passed.
BM 6.7 had been fitted with a prostatic leg by the doctor, but
had been told he was not to leave the sick bay. He had been
warned that life support was to be shut off to a large portion of
the ship. This made him very anxious.
That man, Lord Clayton, had saved his life. He couldn’t imagine
it. The Captain had been in his rights to flash Black Michael for
what he had done. He shuddered at the thought of what he had
done. How he had shouted at the Captain and put his hand on
him. The shame of it was unbearable. Yet Lord Clayton, a man
of such great stature, even greater than of Captain Billings, had
save his life. It made his head spin. He owed the man his life.
Yet now, Lord Clayton and his wife were in danger. He couldn’t
bear the thought. He knew he must obey the Doctor’s orders but
he couldn’t just sit by and let Lord Clayton be in danger. When
the Doctor was out of the room, Black Michael limped his way
over to the communicator. He wasn’t sure of the number of the
quarters that the Claytons were in, so he called the operator first.
John Clayton held tight to Alice’s hand as he made his way to
the docking bay of his shuttle. He had no idea how much time
he had which made him want to go even faster, but his pregnant
wife could only go so fast. They had argued at first what to do.
John thought it best to make the plot known to someone, to save
as many people as they could. Alice advised against it, saying
they had no idea who was involved with the plot and in making
it known that they knew they would ruin any chance they might
have to escape. John had finally decided that it would be better
if they were aboard their own shuttle and even off the ship
before alerting the others of the danger. In this way, he could
assure the safety of his wife and unborn child.
This time he had not taken any chances of getting lost and had
uploaded the directions from their quarters to the shuttle docking
bay from the computer terminal to his personal computer. It led
them there in just a few minutes.
The onboard computer started up the engines and communicated
to Fuwalda to open the door that would allow them to exit into
space. This was the moment that John worried most about. What
if the Fuwalda alerted the crew? What if they didn’t allow them
to escape? The doors slid slowly opened. John held his breath,
expecting at any moment a voice to come over the com
demanding they explain their actions. The voice never came.
The shuttle slipped past the hull and was free.
The question was, where to now. Clayton knew there were
weapons aboard Fuwalda that could vaporize their tiny shuttle
from hundreds of miles away. Should he still try to alert
someone aboard the ship? Of course, John Clayton’s conscious
would not allow him not to do so.
As they grew further away from the giant ship, John tried
several times to raise someone by radio. There was no response.
Surely if there was anyone left alive on the bridge, someone
would respond. After a few minutes, he gave up.
Now the question was, where were they to go? Clayton thought
it not wise to go too far from the Buoy. His shuttle had limited
fuel and supplies. They would need a jump ship to get to
civilization. He decided to sit here within a few hours of the
Buoy to wait and see what happened. He was certain that when
the Star Trade Company lost contact with Fuwalda, they would
send another ship to investigate.
Fuwalda had been three days into the ten day journey to the
point where she could begin acceleration towards the OZ at the
proper point. It was now day fourteen. The Claytons had
watched at a distance as the giant ship had changed course and
moved farther away from the OZ. He wondered if the mutineers
were even planning to use the TB or if they had closer
destination planned. If that was the case, they would most
certainly get caught. What they hadn’t been aware of was the
tiny probes that had launched from the Fuwalda that had now
reached each of the six stationary satellites around the OZ. As
the big ship turned to make its run to the jump point, six timers
now ticked down to zero within the small cargo space on the
Two days later the Fuwalda hit the OZ and disappeared in a
flash of light that took the Claytons breathe away even though
they were so far from the source. As John let out a sigh of
relief, and sat back in his pilot’s chair, thinking that at least they
were safe from the mutineers, a second flash caught his eye.
Sitting back up erect in the seat, he watched as a series of flashes
sparked faintly around an expanse of space.
“What was that?” he asked out loud. Alice, who had been beside
him, but had turned to look at him after the larger flash, said,
“What was what dear?”
He had never seen a jump in person, but he had seen illustrations
of it plenty of times. He knew what that first bright flash had
been, but those secondary flashes were not something he had
ever heard of. He felt his heart sink at the thoughts of what it
could have been occurred to him.
His shuttle’s computer was an Artificial Intelligence. Because it
monitored everything happening inside the shuttle as well as
what happened outside, it answer John Clayton’s question as if it
had been asked directly. “It appears as though the satellites that
were fixed in a stationary orbit around the Transference Buoy
have been destroyed by explosions.” Because this particular AI
had not been programed with a personality the intonation of its
voice in no way matched the gravity of the situation. It might as
well have been telling them what the internal temperature of the
shuttle was at that moment.
The gravity of the situation however, was not lost on John
Clayton. He sank back into his seat even as the truth sank in on
his soul. Alice knew less about interstellar travel than he, but
from his body language, she assumed this bit of information was
very bad news.
“What is it John,” she asked, not sure she really wanted to hear
the answer. The situation was already bad enough; she had felt
on the brink ever since she had witnessed the situation that had
started this whole mess. It had seemed to turn worse with every
moment that had passed since then. Nevertheless, she felt the
urgent need to know what was going on. “What does it all
mean?” she prodded.
He gripped the arms of his chair and assumed a more upright
position. The look of desolation that had washed over his face
turned into one of determined resolution. “What it means dear is
our communication with civilization has been cut off. We have
no way of knowing how long it will take for another ship to
come through. It seems we’ll have to fend for ourselves for a
Alice didn’t like the sound of that. It would be bad enough to be
in this position without being pregnant. If it were just her and
John, she would bravely face whatever their fate would be, as
long as they were together to face it. It wasn’t just the two of
them at risk here. What of her child? Another question gnawed
at the back of her mind as well. She only had two months until