As Morgan Proctor settled into her acceleration couch on the rocket, she spotted the snobby, wealthy woman that she’d had difficulty with in the ticket line coming her way. She then realized that she was going to have to suffer her company for the whole 10 hour journey back home from Mars in the same compartment. Both women fastened themselves into their respective couches and prepared for the trip.
Soon the face of the familiar Martian actress Collerna Nogreservan filled the screens in front of them, dispensing the valuable knowledge needed for the beginning of their trip; Martian hieroglyphs appeared at the bottom of the picture as she eloquently described the use of the acceleration couch. A flight attendant came by and quickly checked their safety harnesses. After a few minutes both women then took a breath as their rocket was raised back onto its pad – Morgan always hated this part, when they were placed on their backs for the journey out of Earth’s skies - it reminded her of being strapped into a strange carnival ride. She quickly found her handy airsickness bag and got it ready.
The rich woman looked over at her companion in horror. “Oh for crap’s sake, you surely don’t intend on using that…”
“You’ll find out in about three minutes…mainly when we get into freefall. I eat cheese crackers beforehand, which helps. You know, one time I...”
The rich woman threw up her hand. “Okay, okay...I get the picture.”
"Oh well," Morgan thought, "the awkward clumsy girl went too far again. Serves her right, the snobby old bag..."
After the brief countdown, the entire cabin shook as the main engines cut in. The rich woman glanced over and spotted Morgan crossing herself.
“Will that help?” she asked the young college student in an elevated voice above the roar of the engines.
“What you just did…I notice that you’re a catholic.”
“You say that like I’m a leper or something.”
“I’m just making conversation. Will that cross-thingee help us? I've always wanted to know...I've seen it in movies.”
“If he’s a good pilot it will.”
Morgan didn’t hear the woman’s response above the engine noise. “Smart-aleck.”
As soon as the ship left the bonds of Earth and leapt into the dark blue of space, Morgan’s earlier statement came true like a prophecy. The rich woman cringed as the young student used the bag.
Not much else was said until the wealthy woman was sure that the girl wasn’t going to get sick again. "Are you going to live over there?"
"Yes...why? I'm a little young to die..."
"I just have never seen...oh, forget about it."
"What, someone get sick on a rocket flight? People used to get sick on hypersonic airliners back in the day. And on the old jet airliners before that. I saw an Airbus in a museum once...I could just imagine flying in one of those primitive things. They didn't even fly much above 35,000 feet..."
"I said forget about it."
A few more awkward seconds rolled by as both of them felt the weightlessness coast through the ship. Morgan released a ball point pen as if to test the gravity level - it floated above her lap.
Finally the rich woman spoke again. "You a student? I noticed the Syracuse hoodie."
"Yes. I'm working on a business degree."
"And then what?"
"Oh, I don't know. My mom still wants me to go to med school, but I don't want any part of that. Some schlep on Mars wants to recruit me into the Bureaucracy, but my mom would have a seizure." Morgan pointed a finger at the air for emphasis and changed her voice to a mock serious tone. "I don't want to see you in one of those stupid bellhop uniforms."
The wealthy woman chuckled. "I find them to be a pain in the butt myself. Well, what brings you to Mars?"
"Class trip - I got some needed credits doing this, and I spent half of my childhood there. You? Surely it couldn't be a tourist thing. See the Red Planet...visit with the charming natives...buy some trinkets..."
"Business. I actually hate that rock, but I've been looking into buying some property there. That is, if I could beat that cranky old Leo Wong to it. He already owns nearly everything in Olympica City."
Morgan laughed out loud. "Leo Wong? Him?"
"Why - know him?"
"I've argued with that old snake. His wife gave me the nickname of 'The Tiger Woman,' and I'm quite proud of that. My father still won't let me live it down."
"So you've sparred with that old barnyard dog - you're full of surprises."
The college student smiled. "My mother taught me well - she could argue with the devil himself, and drop off a subpoena to him while she was at it."
"You sound like you admire your mother."
Morgan waited a few seconds before answering. I admire her. She's tough - tough as nails. But I know that somewhere deep inside she cares for us kids. She just has a rough way of showing it."
The wealthy woman began to take an interest in the young college student as she produced a business card. "Young woman, I'm an entrepreneur. Why don't you look me up when you graduate? You could help me make some more money, and not live too badly yourself."
Morgan accepted the card. "It's not about the money, Miss..."
"Carol...just call me Carol."
"Carol...to me it's more about the attention to detail, getting all the paperwork and the odds and ends right."
"Good God, you do sound like a bureaucrat."
"Don't tell my mother that - she'd take a swing at you."
Morgan looked at the business card that she was handed. "Mom's Friendly Robots. I haven't heard of you."
"Oh, you will. You will."
After a nice meal of roast beef and gravy, Mom had a long nap; she then had to put up with another round of Morgan getting sick when they prepared to land on Earth. "Crap spackle," she thought. "Was I ever that young? Was I ever that clueless? Oh well – I have plans for this young woman."
After Morgan returned to Earth, Jackie Downey stood in front of her apartment door waiting for it to open up. When it did, he was almost sorry that he'd waited.
"What do you want?" asked the college student sternly.
Jack began a carefully prepared speech. "Honey...I just wanted to explain and say how sorry I was that things got so messed up..."
Morgan had a pile of Jack's things waiting by the door. "Explain what? That you took one of my friends to bed?"
She poked an angry finger at her breastbone for emphasis. "One of my friends, Jack - one of my friends. I've known Betty Jo for years. You took my friend to bed. What else is there to explain? How well it went? I don't want to hear it."
"But...what we had..."
Morgan's eyes burned with anger. "What we had was a disaster - it ranks up there with several ship disasters, a volcano, and at least one earthquake. The only difference between our relationship and the Titanic was that the Titanic went down with music."
Morgan's eyes squeezed in rage. "I've noticed this with you guys - you make me so angry! You call me 'mama,' you call yourself 'my baby,' and you call my apartment your 'crib.' I should have seen this as a pattern developing long ago. I should have just adopted a damn baby...at least it would have given me love and been grateful to me when it grew up."
Morgan began handing him some of his items.
"Here - take your tennis racket. Take your gym shoes. Take your Olympica City jacket. Oh, and here's a bill."
"Yes - you gobbled down four whole boxes of Fishy Joe's Cheese Thingees in my apartment - that comes up to 5 bucks."
"Sweet zombie Jesus...you're billing me for snack food?"
Morgan snatched the paper from his hand.
"Here - I'll cancel the debt. How about you just hit the bricks and get lost? I'll absorb the cost of the snacks, even though I'm not made of money..."
The door slammed in Jack's face. He slumped his shoulders, took his property and slowly left.
In New New York, a professor with a small shock of red hair on his head carefully prepared a mixture in a beaker in his lab.
"Hubert? Are you there?"
"Thanks for slamming the door on your way in - thanks for that."
"Are you messing around with your chemistry potions again? No wonder we could never keep a marriage going."
The professor sighed quietly. "I could have...if you hadn't been such a mean bully."
"Oh, whatever. Anyway, I made a discovery on my trip."
The professor continued pouring a green liquid from a test tube into the beaker. "Did you get that hotel, or whatever it was that you were going to buy?"
"No, it's going to have the name of Wong written on the front of it - it will probably become one of his latest Martian cathouses. Anyway, on the way back I ran across a young college student that I want to hire and put on my new project. And the best part is that this young girl is already an enemy of Daddy Wong and his snake of a wife - she actually locked horns with the old bat. In a way, she’s already an ally of ours. All I have to do is to break her like a horse, and we're off like a shot."
He squinted his eyes at the beaker. "Oh, yes - you were into clones or something."
Mom poked him in the shoulder. "That's what I could never teach you, Hubert - good business is where you find it. You can play with your science kit in here all you want, but I intend on growing my business."
"Thanks for poking me in the shoulder - if I spill any of this, you won't have a floor left."
"You'll get over it."
As Mom started to take a step forward, she noticed an old DOOP army blanket on the floor.
"What - are you keeping cadavers in here now? Raiding the morgue?"
She kicked it with her boot. The blanket began to move, and a red lobster-like claw came from underneath.
Mom's eyebrow curled upward. "John Zoidberg?"
"What? I was sleeping - you all make so much noise! Alright already with the petty conversations."
"What are you doing sleeping on my floor?"
"This is where I live - I have no money. You know that."
Mom lit up a cigarette. "I thought you were a doctor - aren't doctors supposed to be wealthy? I know mine must be loaded." She blew out a big pall of smoke. "Anyway, hello John."
"Carol...always good seeing you. I trust that the journey was productive."
"Hardly - I was robbed again by that Chinese John Wayne in the 10 gallon hat." She drew another puff of her cigarette. "Anyway, What do you know about cloning?"
The lobster man got up from the floor. "Perfect copies of their human masters, they are. Miracles of modern science. Programmable for anything you might need them for."
"Yes, whatever. What do you know about organ harvesting?"
He gave an evil smile. "Very lucrative, for some people maybe. It happens quite often on my homeworld of Decapod 10, but you humans are very squeamish about it for some reason. Oy - we just breed and then we're gone...kaput." He then waved a claw. "I wouldn't speak of it in public circles, I wouldn't - people would talk."
"You've been very helpful, John. Go back to sleep - it's what you're best at."
"Yes - but I'm hungry, I am."
Mom squeezed her eyes as she took another drag off of her cigarette. "John, you know where the refrigerator is." As John Zoidberg left the room, Mom barked out a warning in an elevated voice over her shoulder as he walked by. "And don't you dare touch the brie - that's mine for later."
Zoidberg let out a burble of glee as he left the room.
"Mooch. Hubert, why do you let that sad-sack stay here?"
"Carol - we've been through this before. He's just a doctor down on his luck...as soon as he gets a practice, he'll be on his way. Besides, he's a friend."
"Balderdash." Mom picked up two small flasks from a shelf, both filled with a dark green liquid, and placed them side by side as cigarette smoke flowed out of her nose. "I think this clone thing can make us some money - study up on it, won't you?"
On her way back from economics class Morgan spotted a sight that she didn't want to deal with; a number of students were passing out flyers on the commons. After a tough day of classes she was hardly in the mood for this, and never really liked to be hawked about anything. As much as she tried to avoid the little mob, one young girl found her; she held out a pamphlet to her possible prospect. Morgan walked quickly to avoid being solicited.
"Miss, do you realize that clones are being harvested for their organs?"
"Oh yeah? What is that to me?"
"This is important - it deals with human life."
"Look honey - I've had a hard day, okay? Just let me get back to my apartment and leave me alone."
The girl persisted. "But you look intelligent - not like most of the others I've run across. People are using clones for their organs...like cattle."
This struck a chord with Morgan, and she got angry. "Listen up, honey - right now my mother is slowly dying of Martineau's Disease, and she could use some of those harvested organs you're chattering about. Have you been with your mother in the hospital? Held her hand as she suffered? Now, good day."
As she walked away, she could still hear the girl still speaking to her in a sad tone. "But, if you won't care, who will?"
Morgan Proctor put up a hand as she walked away. "You'll find someone, I'm sure of it..."
When Morgan got back to her apartment, her roommate Lanny Pranata was there with a friend. "Hey - you're back from Mars..."
"It's been a hell of a day - I haven't had a bit of rest. And you? I thought you were going back to Jakarta for the Spring Break."
"Oh, that's tomorrow evening. You look pissed off, but that's normal."
"Damn protestors - I wish they'd clear them off of the Commons. It's always something...this time it was clone's rights. As if clones had rights." Morgan then noticed an icy silence in the room. "What? What did I say?"
Lanny glanced over at her friend. "Show her your tattoo."
The girl pulled back her hair on one side, and there it was - the bar code that every clone has on their skin.
Morgan put her hand on her mouth. "Jesus, Joseph and Mary - I had no idea. I am so sorry..."
The girl offered a sympathetic smile. "I don't advertise it much. Not many people know, or would understand. I just like to think of myself as one of you guys - just one of the gang."
A look of confusion hit Morgan's face. "But...you went through the Clone Underground? That would mean that you're no longer...you're no longer..." Morgan grappled with the word.
"Property? No. I'm no longer owned by a corporation. The Clone Underground even let me pick a new name. I'm Josephine...with no number tacked on behind. Just Josephine."
"She's free as long as she doesn't run into one of those corporate thugs; they'd shoot her with a tranquilizer dart and drag her back to the company."
Morgan Proctor felt weak in the knees; she had no idea of what to say next.
Lanny grinned at her friend. "See, I told you that she comes off like an ogre, but deep inside there's a heart in there. Trust me - you just have to look for it."
Morgan groped for her next words. "But...help me out here. Those folks are out there spouting some ridiculous claptrap about harvesting organs..." Morgan's wrist thingee went off, and she looked at the screen.
"Some lady I was on the ride back from Mars with - she wants to hire me right after I finish up my degree." Morgan then began packing some things in an overnight bag.
Lanny got a look of excitement. "You got a job offer thrown at you like that? How lucky can you be?"
"Oh, I dunno. This is just some Miss Moneybags that works with robots or something."
Morgan started putting some clothes together.
"What are you doing?"
"I'm heading home for the weekend - I have to talk to my mother. And it's nice to have met you - Josephine."
As Morgan hurried back out of the room, Lanny told her friend: "Her mother is an attorney here in Syracuse."
"It looks like she's on a mission. It wasn't anything I said, was it?"
Lanny looked at the door. "No, not at all. But I can always tell when that brain starts to percolate, though."
As Morgan rifled through electronic files in her mother's home office, she was surprised by the sound of her voice; she continued to arrange the floating files by moving her hands like a symphony conductor.
"Can I help you find something?"
Without looking back, she answered her. "Mother - have you ever run across anything to do with the organ harvesting of clones? I know it sounds crazy..."
"Why? How in God's name did this come up?"
"I've got people on the campus trying to tell me that they raise clones just to harvest their organs. Tell me that this isn't going on."
"There is a state law forbidding it," Blair told her. "Look up Ronson vs. State of New York,2959. It is technically against the law to transport, sell, buy, or operate on a clone for the sole purpose of harvesting their organs."
Morgan pulled up the legal document in the air and studied it. "That's an old law."
"Not many people seem to know about it nowadays..."
"So it doesn't go on - my friends were wrong."
"I didn't say that. It goes on - just under cover of darkness. The Bureaucracy are the only ones who raise a stink about it - mostly because they get cut out of the money part of it. By the way, I keep getting junk mail from them - you aren't still thinking of becoming a bureaucrat, are you?"
Morgan turned to her mother. "Oh, for the love of God - they actually do that?"
Blair Proctor's wheelchair floated up next to her daughter. "Morgan, I had a case a number of years ago where a patient died after a kidney replacement. The typical reason that organ harvesting goes on is because there is almost no chance of the patient's body rejecting the organ. In this case, something went wrong. The family tried to sue the surgeon, but because this law came up, they were unable to collect anything. The judge threw the case out of court. The family was furious, but they didn't have a leg to stand on. There wasn't a thing I could do. And I don't want you running around telling people that story, or I could be in the soup."
Morgan stared at the computer file floating in the air. "Then my friends are right - they do use these people like cattle. They cut them open..."
Blair began to cough, and pulled out a disposable inhaler. "People? You know the law views them as property...as chattel..."
Morgan felt over the ancient word - it was once used in reference to slavery in Earth's past. Horrible images of chains and slave ships came into her mind, mixed in with more modern images of clean happy medical campuses for the modern clones to live in. "Chattel...an item of property other than real estate. Moveable property...like a damned copy machine, or an office telephone..."
"Honey I have a law degree - I know what it means." Blair took a blast from the inhaler. "Morgan, you aren't going to get involved with those ya-hoos protesting on the campus? I forbid it."
Morgan shot her mother that look.
"Then again, you've got that look in your eyes that your father always had. That wild, dreamy look. Forbidding you to do something is like forbidding a lion to pounce on a porterhouse steak." She took another hit off of her inhaler. "At least take my Black's Law chip with you - be as prepared as you can."
Blair turned her wheelchair and floated out of the room. "And we never had this conversation."
Saturday on the campus was unusually nice; Morgan often laughingly told people that the sun was never seen in Syracuse, but yet here it was in all of its glory. Morgan's roommate and friends were surprised to see her on the commons as they got ready for their protest of the medical building. Lanny greeted her.
"Selamat Pagi! What are you doing back? I thought you were home for at least the weekend..."
She was tired, but she smiled. "I took a taxi back to the campus this morning. I wanted to see what you ya-hoos were up to."
Lanny Pranata got a cautionary look on her face. "Now Morgan, if you've come here to try and stop us..."
"Stop you? I'll do no such thing. I figured you might need a little help."
"Help? From you? No offense, but..."
Morgan put the law chip into the palm of her hand. "I thought you guys might need a little ammunition for this movement of yours."
Lanny's eyes lit up. "Morgan, I take back every dirty, rotten thing I ever said about you."
Morgan shot back a toothy grin. “Why? I wouldn’t.”
Morgan's wrist thingee went off again; being the huge classical music fan that she was, the tone was a tiny section of Berlioz's Symphony Fantastique.
"Who keeps blowing up your wrist thingee?"
"It's that lady who wants to hire me for her project; she's got business here on campus, and she wants to interview me this afternoon."
"Wow," said Lanny. "Who is this Mamma Warbucks?"
"Some gal named Carol - runs a robot company or something."
"Mom's Friendly Robots?"
"Yeah, that's the one. She's starting a new project of some kind on Mars. She just doesn't get that I have no interest in robotics."
Lanny Pranata bit her lip. "Morgan, Mom, as she calls herself, is trying to open a secret clone clinic on Mars - she's who we're protesting this morning because she’s trying to hire doctors from Syracuse University."
Morgan Proctor's face looked like someone had hit her with a frying pan. "But she's on her way over here to the commons..."
"Yes - that's the whole idea."
Lanny's clone friend Josephine chimed in. "Morgan, we won't think any less of you if you were to leave us now - we'd understand. We're all here to make a career..."
This drew a stern look from Morgan. “I've never left a friend...and a Martian Matron never leaves those under her charge."
Lanny whispered a wish of good luck as they watched the skinny woman walking their way. "Semoga Beruntung"!
"Miss Proctor...good to see you again." Mom's countenance quickly turned sour. "What are you doing with these losers? Hopefully reading them the riot act…"
Morgan turned. "No, I was preparing to read you the riot act. And hopefully we won't have a riot here today - unless you start one."
"You heard me. Now I know why you were all hot-to-trot to buy property on Mars - to make a secret clone clinic. You figured that because the Martian government has different laws, that you could get away with making a clone chop-shop there."
Mom’s mouth flew open. “Young woman, do you have any idea the kind of offer I was going to pitch you this morning? I would have hired you right out of college. How many young people have that opportunity offered to them? Right out of graduation, no less…”
“I appreciate the offer, but I won’t make a deal with the devil. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I don’t exactly live hand-to-mouth – I’ll survive without your charity.”
“Why are you hanging around with these ragamuffin bums? You’re not one of them.”
Morgan placed her hands on her hips. “These ‘bums’ as you call them happen to be my friends. And how do you know what I am? And I've read about Ronson vs. State of New York.”
Mom lit up a cigarette – she was furious. "How dare you throw that up in my face."
“And I’d appreciate it if you’d leave, and take that cancer stick with you.”
She pointed her fingers, still holding her cigarette. “You blew this job right out the window, sister.” With that Mom turned and left.
Morgan couldn’t resist one more parting comment as she left. “And don’t forget to visit us at the medical building today.” Mom responded with a hand gesture without looking back.
Morgan addressed her friends. “Well guys, she just showed us how many friends she has, and how high her IQ is.”
“Morgan really does have a heart,” said Josephine.
Morgan managed a subtle smile. "Just don't tell anyone...it's our little secret."
Lanny was less cheerful looking. “That would have been a good job opportunity…I can’t help but think that we wrecked it for you.”
Morgan looked off into the distance at something. “Oh, I think I’ll survive.”
Lanny and Josephine craned their necks to see what she was looking at – it was a poster for the Bureaucracy with the familiar person in the uniform, and the slogan “You could be one of us.”
Morgan reached into her purse and pulled out her billfold; inside of it was the business card given to her by Leon Horvath on Mars when she was a teenager. As she studied it, her mind drifted back through the years to her row with Momma and Daddy Wong. She could still hear Inez Wong calling her a ‘tiger woman’ in Chinese, and Leo describing what that meant. Morgan then activated her wrist thingee. “I’ll join you girls later, but first I have to make a phone call.” She looked back up at the poster, and got a strange smile on her face. “Alea iacta est.”Lanny giggled. “What does that mean? Is that Martian?”
Josephine answered. “It’s Latin – it means ‘The die has been thrown.’”
The family room was dark when Morgan entered it. Morgan’s mother was watching the old movie “Bureaucrat Jane” with one of her favorite actresses, Melvina Hawke. “Mother, I’ve got something important to tell you.”
“Melvina always has been one of my favorites. She’s been gone quite a while. She got killed in a rocketing accident. I'll never forget that day...”
“Yes mother, she was a great actress.”
“And those Bureaucracy uniforms looked so silly; they had all those buttons in those days. Sort of like an American Civil War uniform. And those ridiculous hats…back then the bureaucrats proudly wore a brass badge on their hat with the motto Nunquam non Paratus – ‘never unprepared.’”
“I suppose they do look silly, mother.” Morgan could tell that she’d just had her breathing treatment, and would be in no mood to be trifled with. “Mother, I have something important to tell you.”
“What would that be, Morgan? We really haven’t discussed much since you’ve gotten your degree. I'm going to need to know if you're going to graduate school.”
Morgan cleared a lump out of her throat. “I leave for Bureaucrat training in Pennsylvania on July the 12th.
Her eyes met her daughter's. “What do you want me to say – congratulations? You’ll grow up quickly, that I’ll wager.” Blair turned the wheelchair around and began to float out of the room. “Your father was right – you always were the stubborn Leo girl.”
As her mother left the room, Morgan mumbled to herself as her gaze dropped to the floor. “I guess that’s the closest thing I’ll get to a stamp of approval.”