I had a horrible dream.
I was in a cloning vat, and the two men whom I remember from my first moments out of that slime and filth . . . they were dragging me forcefully to a disposal chamber. I was being destroyed because I was not needed.
I awoke as the door opened, but it felt real, as real as the memories from the broken bridge of a starship.
All along, I have kept asking Who am I?
It seems it may not be that simple.
The real question appears to be Which who am I?
Ser Briggs rightly told me that I would find life easier if I simply sort out which memories are mine. Yet the problem remains. Which mine is mine? Which me am I?
What manner of man is this from whom I appear to have been derived?
For that matter, having worked in a cloning center and seen their inner workings, am I not simply a clone whose DNA was deliberately and cleverly contaminated with that of this other person?
I know I am a clone. I remember the vat. I remember the trauma of leaving it behind. I remember the stench of what I was floating in. Bio matter, they called it. I think there is another word.
My memories of a childhood are all strange. They are not from here, not this here, not like this place. Perhaps they are from the Before, but why then is there so little if any memory between then and now? What manner of man was I?
No, I know now that I must shake that confabulation from my mind. This is the man I am, this body, this me. I was not and am not this man whose memories have been imposed upon me.
So whose name do I bear? Is it right? Who was he? What happened to him? What about all those people he knew?
Why do I find myself comforted by the rather confusing words from the old books in the Ruins, . . . Seconds, years, hours, months, . . . What do these mean, and why do the people in "my" dreams use them as measurements, perhaps of time?
Yes, that would best fit the pattern, they are measurements of time, like units, segments, days, tenspans . . .
Or they could be mindless gibberish, perhaps the "me" imposed upon me had simply read the same books.
Then I drifted into consciousness as I emerged from my hotel room on Asimov Freehold. I headed into the Ruins, where I saw an old, familiar face. Toe Moss.
He looked quite surprised when I greeted him by name. Nearby guards also seemed surprised as they responded to his unholstering of his sidearm, but I think my smile reassured him enough as he put it away, walked along beside me and began to speak with that accent.
I found I rather enjoyed chatting with this fellow I would soon be shooting. I sound horribly psychotic at that point.
His confusion died down a little as I explained about all the Ruins Rat clones we had encountered on every station, but his interest was piqued by my tales of Amazon. Soon he too was covering his eyes, uttering those words that referred to deity.
"No, I'm not a god. I'm just a man."
He began to laugh. This might be more difficult than I had thought.
"No, really, I'm just flesh and blood like you."
His hysterical laughter brought the attention of another wanderer and he babbled something to him in that strange language they speak on Amazon. They both burst out in raucous, almost paralyzing laughter, his friend holding his belly and pointing at me as he doubled over.
As his friend staggered away, barely able to stay upright with his laughter, I pondered how I had brought such joy to such troubled men, and yet they continued to deceive themselves. I am not a god, much less their god.
"Later, Payaso," Toe Moss said with a smile. "Its a good name for you." And soon he had vanished into the Ruins.
I found my way to the Wilds, where my Syndicate was battling the thugs who had been terrorizing the station. There was Toe Moss, fighting a rapidly-losing battle against the mighty Ser Moritz.
My attention was quickly drawn away as I was swept into a skirmish of my own. At first, I fled and changed weapons, but then I blasted away at this fool in light repulsion armor. My Dot-Sender put many dots in his "armor," and soon he was on his way to Sick Bay.
I myself (which self am I?) was rather exhausted and walked wearily back to where this whole misadventure had begun... a private room in Section 85.
68 - I Had a Dream
I had a horrible dream.