been closing in on the project for years, and a typical report on their
progress appeared in a 1976 issue of The London Observer. The headline read HOW
NEAR IS THE AGE OF THE TOO COMMON MAN? and the article described a breakthrough
in the zoology labs at Oxford. Cloning, the cell-fertilizing technique that had
produced thousands upon thousands of identical toads and frogs, had been
applied successfully to mammals. The Observer story looked ahead to carbon-copy
people and, indeed, within eight years cloned humans were born. By the year
2000 they were entering the work force, a breed within a breed, individuals
genetically identical in all respects. They took their place in society—a low
one—as a worker caste. By the turn of the century scientists were producing
better clones for more specialized services—but just how special didn't become
evident until the stunning events of 2032. Here, for the first time, the man
who developed the Royal Hunter tells his story.
It began over a
dozen years ago during my first season in corporate sports. I was one of 50
image modifiers working shifts at the central office of U.S. Syndicated
Athletics. Our department redesigned the features and biographical data of
contracted athletes who, although they had fallen considerably in viewer
popularity, were not yet sufficiently burned-out to be retired. The job
required a high degree of skill and training, yet even plastic surgeons earn
Too poor at the
time to afford the cheapest house clone, I lived a fair distance out in the
city's lake district in a small two-room automated apartment. I rode the public
glide to work each morning in the company of computer programmers and
junior-grade statisticians. One day was like any of a thousand others: recycled
hi-pro for breakfast, a window seat on the glide, the long, silent ride over
streets that seem deserted in spite of the methodical gray-clad army of clones
sweeping the pavement and collecting garbage.
I worked all
morning on a series of portrait sketches for the surgical department. I was
redesigning an affable red-haired Irish third baseman who had recently slipped
in the ratings. In a couple of months, he would reappear in the ball park as a
dark and surly Cuban outfielder. Strictly a routine modification.
Near the end of
my shift our section chief rang. We had a visiting executive: a florid
gentleman whose robust form bespoke a diet of meat; no more powdered food once
you attain executive status. He made a speech about clones. His rich, deep
voice boomed with energy and enthusiasm. He waved his arms in small circles
like a man in a balancing act. "Mankind has been forever freed from
drudgery," he exulted. "All of the hateful, menial jobs that plagued
our ancestors have been assumed by these efficient, single-minded laborers.
It's miraculous! Chromosome control enables us to design the workers to fit the
task. The cloning process asexually divides a single cell almost indefinitely.
Unlimited numbers of identical beings! Genetic engineering! The possibilities
rubbed his hands and glanced around the office, letting us know he had at last
come to the point. "Our beloved Chairman," he murmured, a plump hand
fluttering to rest over his heart, "has taken a bold, innovative step
destined to revolutionize the sports industry. For years, secret research at
our bio labs explored the genetics of the perfect athlete. Yesterday's dreams
become the products of today." The executive snapped his fingers and an
assistant flung open the office door. A giant lumbered in.
"Gentlemen," the executive beamed, "allow me to present prototype
No. 916, a triumph of bioengineering. The 916 is a physiologically perfect
athlete, the matrix of our new sports system. From one cell we have cloned
thousands of mirror twins. Currently, they are undergoing specialized training,
and very soon entire teams of identical players will take the field against our
rivals. I can guarantee you one thing, gentlemen: Syndicated Athletics has
forever altered the history of corporate sports."
hear," our section chief applauded, and the entire department stood and
sang the company anthem. The executive joined in on the chorus. Even prototype
916 hummed along tunelessly, his clonish features inert.
held up his hands for quiet. "It is a great moment for Syndicated," he
said, "but our work is just beginning. If 916 is as successful as
predictions indicate, it won't be very long before our competition comes up
with similar models of their own. We've got the jump on them, in any case. Even
with the accelerated hormone treatment, it takes 10 years to bring a clone to
"The bio labs
could not be expected to pay very much attention to the prototype's image.
That's where you gentlemen fit into the picture. By the time Trans Am or
ProSports produce clones of their own, we intend to be ready with a new image
for our champ here."