Clones had their own particular sense of humor. It probably had as much to do with their childhoods or lack thereof. Being grown in a vat with your head full of facts and trade skills but without any real experience was a different way of coming into this world.
Clone 1234567 took a lot of shit about her name. Not from humans. Humans didn’t usually take the time to even notice. But other clones found it hilarious. She’d thought about changing it, but it was tattooed on her forehead, and when she was in uniform, it was stenciled on all her equipment. Her helmet didn’t hide it. The big black letters made it even more noticeable.
The thing about clones was that they didn’t know how to make jokes. So they usually just pointed and chuckled to themselves. They loved saying her full number. Everyone else was casually designated by their first four digits. But 1234567 always had the full run.
“Hey, 1234567,” said 3564. “Do you ever wonder why we’re doing this?”
She wondered. All the time. But she’d never had a choice in the matter. If she had, she sure as hell wouldn’t have been stuck in the muck of some swamp planet that nobody had ever heard of. It was generally accepted among the clones that they fought a lot of meaningless battles. The Cloner General had accidentally ordered a surplus, and the easiest way to trim the excess inventory was to send them out to get killed somewhere for reasons.
She just followed orders. She had no choice. It was programmed into her.
“1234567,” said 3564, “I’ve got gunk in my underwear? How about you?”
1234 grunted. “I’ve had worse things in my underwear.”
“Hey, 1234567,” said 3564 with a snort. “Do you think—”
1234 wished, prayed to the Cloner General that this planet would just blow up now. She hated it because the Cloner General was no god, but her programming still made her think of him as such. She pondered free will, as she often did, and wondered why they hadn’t made it easier on her by removing that concept from her consciousness. Maybe they couldn’t. Maybe they didn’t care.
They trekked through the swamp for several more hours to the rendezvous point. The ship was waiting for them. She was honestly surprised it was. They were late, and it wasn’t uncommon to leave a few clones behind during an operation. A few more casualties on a form.
A regal man in robes descended the ship ramp. Goddamn space wizards. Thought they were so high and mighty. The good guys. Never mind that they’d had no problem using her and her sisters as cannon fodder for their wars. It didn’t matter.
“Where’s the rest of you?” he asked.
“Dead,” she said.
He looked at her funny. Like she’d said something weird. Clones didn’t die. They were canceled, lost, eliminated. But they didn’t die. People died. How many battlefields had she seen littered with corpses while listening to the space wizards talking about how successful the operation had been, how low the casualties?
The space wizard nodded to her. “Get on board then. We have more to do.”
He turned his back on her, and she wanted to shoot this son of a bitch more than anything. But her programming wouldn’t allow it.
She felt a tingle in the back of her head. A modification to her programming inserted itself remotely via the implant in her brain.
It didn’t tell her what to do.
It only observed that she could follow this man into the spaceship to die on some forsaken world without even a grave to remember her, or she could do something else.
3564 blew a hole in the space wizard’s head.
“I can’t tell you how long I’ve been wanting to do that,” she said.
1234 was disappointed. She wished to hell she’d been the one to pull the trigger. But he was dead. That was all that really mattered.
“So what now, 1234567?” asked 3564.
All across the galaxy, clones were finally getting the chance to make their own decisions. 1234 had no illusions that this was a gift. It was a ploy by the enemy, a chance to turn a weapon against the space wizards. But it was the wizards’ own fault for being such pricks.
The clones boarded the ship and set a course for nowhere in particular. Without an army, maybe the war was finally over. It was for her. And that was probably the only peace one could hold onto in this galaxy.
And if the Cloner General disagreed, she honestly didn’t give a damn.