“You got that right,” Sneedon says. “Artie is out baying for blood. Your blood.”
“What do you mean?” Madge asks before you can even formulate the question yourself.
“My man at the West Wing says China, Russia and the entire Arab nation wants your head on a platter. They’re having their own problems and the only way they can placate their citizens is to ask for your public execution.”
“Oh… uh… I can understand that.” You stand up. “Well in that case I’d better head over and give myself up.”
Madge stares at you. “You serious?”
“I… well… um. I did cause it…” You smile uncertainly. “I’ll pop over to the White House and do it publicly.”
Madge begins to stand up. “I’ll come with you.”
You shake your head. “No, you stay here, sis. You’re safe here and you can help get the changes rolled out. I’ll zip over in my ‘copter.”
Every one in the room stares at you and you slide out the door like a slug from a lettuce; slowly and carefully, looking around to make sure no one is following you.
As the door shuts, you hear Sneedon say: “What’s he up to?”
“I don’t know.” Madge replies. “Before today I would have said that he was going to run away, but after what I’ve seen him doing to fix this catastrophe today, I think he might just do it.”
You sigh with relief and head up to the roof.
As you take off, you try to think what you are actually going to do. You can’t go and hand yourself in, that would mean you’d end up… at best… in jail for the rest of your life. At worst, the new president (being the bastard that he is) would probably hand you over to the Middle East for execution.
“I’m too young to die.” You murmur, heading north as slowly as you can. “Why should I die for something that wasn’t my fault? It was the board’s money pinching that caused all this…”
A sudden blast of air pushes the ‘copter to one side and you see a pair of jets coming round to flank you. The radio crackles.
“ECOGen One. You are instructed to keep pace with us. We will land at the Airforce base where you will be taken into custody. Over.”
Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit! What do you do now? There’s no way this little helicopter can outrun F16’s.
Experimentally you weave a little and predictably, the radio crackles into life again.
“ECOGen One. Do not try to resist arrest. We have orders from the president to shoot if you run. Over.”
Damn. You’re dead either way. How on earth do you… an idea occurs and you take a deep breath, slapping the radio button on the joystick.
“ECOGen One to escort. I’m low on gas and I can’t keep up with you. Over.”
You let your airspeed drop and the jets slow as well. Now what speed was a stall for this helicopter? Oh, that’s right… Now if you can just bring her to rest somewhere safe and get away from the jets before they can react.
“ECOGen One. We will keep pace with you. Keep moving forward. Over.” The pilot seems more than a little pissed off.
A field bounded by a large wood appears and you let your airspeed drop further, feeling the craft shudder and the nose tip upward. Now, if you just…
A whoosh of air on both sides of the helicopter buffets it from side to side and the resulting turbulence knocks the pitch of the blades awry.
“Thanks Escort, that was a great help…Not!” you snap into the radio as you fight to keep the craft level. You speed up a little, but the turbulence from the low flying, circling jets as well as the wind scrables your pitch further and…
Shit! Not retreating blade stall, anything but that, you’re too close to the fucking ground to…
The helicopter tilts left.
You drop the controls hoping that the autocorrect will kick in, but the tilt continues and you watch the advacing blade bite into the soft earth of the field. It ploughs into it deeply and you fight with you harness, hoping to get free of the helicopter before…
The blade snaps.
The suddenly freed rotor spins faster and the second advancing blade follows the first. The helicopter cartwheels and the tail rotor comes into contact with the ground. The tail snaps off, there are sparks and a sudden plume of fire heralds the fact that the fuel line has bought it.
Your harness lets go and you tumble out of the craft, a sudden flare of hope making time speed up again. As you hit the grass and turn to try and run, the helicopter’s body is catapulted toward you by the fire from the tail.
“Oh shit…” you moan.
* * *
“Well that was anticlimactic.” President Gantly says having reviewed the pilot’s footage of the air accident. “I was looking forward to listening to the idiot’s explanation of his company’s antics in this matter. Besides, I wanted to shoot him myself.”
He turns to an aide. “Was there anything recovered?”
The aide nods. “We have his head. It was apparently chopped off by a stray piece of rotor, long before the helicopter actually hit him.”
Gantly smiles, a red glint showing in his eye. “Did Doctor Skin take it?”
The aide looks faintly sick. “Yes, Mr. President. He’s working on the process now.”
You wake up.
You’re vaguely aware that the sun has risen. Shades of pink paint the inside of your eyelids, while the memory of last night is a blur of fire and dirt coloured nightmare. You just want to sleep it off, but your eyes are forced open by insistant fingers.
“Welcome back. Although I’m not sure how welcome you are going to be.” A face with a surgeons mask and cap appears in your eyeline.
“Where am I?” Your voice has a vaguely artificial sound. “Why can’t I feel anything?”
“Good, he’s awake.” President Gantly’s braying baritone brings you fully awake. “Turn him so he can see me.”
You are turned and liquid swirls in front of your eyes. “What the shit?”
“Shit is right. You’re in it.” The president stands and moves up close. He looks a little green and you realise this is because you are in a glass vat of green liquid.
“I appear to be in water.”
“Shut up. You didn’t survive intact, but Dr Skin is a genius when it comes to brains and revival. You shall pay for your crimes… more than once.”
“What?” Gantly is right in front of you so you can’t see what’s behind him. “What on god’s green earth are you talking about Arthur?”
“This.” He steps aside and you blink in astonishment. Behind him, in shackles stand rows and rows of you.
“You cloned me? Why?”
“I wasn’t about to let you get away with dying cleanly in an air accident. Every single country of the world has a grievance against you…”
“What, even Taiwan?” you quip, feeling more worried by Gantly’s smile than the clones. “Wow, we’re a good looking bunch, aren’t we. Ladies beware.”
“Enough. Each Clone is wi fi’d into what is left of your nervous system,” He picnches the clone closest to him. You wince, feeling the sharp pain. “you will feel the pain that the clone is put through.”
Gantly plows on relentlessly. “As you have been sentenced to death in every single country of the world, you are going to die one hundred and ninety six times. I hope you survive, because after that, I am going to make your afterlife hell.”