Were all of the True newborns? If they were, it made sense. Based on what I remembered from accessing the birthing chambers’ library, they could crank out a generation a day or maybe less than a day. They had 24 there and were working on another twelve.
The ones they had guarding the doorway had to come from a previous batch—which made me wonder where the other ten were. Were they outside walking the perimeter? Guarding some other location?
Another possibility struck me, this one on the creepy end of things. I couldn’t help but note who’d been cloned. Cassie could be explained. They had connections with the Nine and Cassie herself was a gender swapped clone of the original Captain Commando. We’d already seen them use an exact clone, so it was likely they had samples available.
Emmy and Stephanie though? Victor might have seen Emmy’s potential for predicting people’s actions. Victor might have recognized that Stephanie had brilliant insights in how the human mind worked. That might be true, but I also remembered his temper when he thought I was dating Stephanie and how he wouldn’t leave Emmy alone after she’d broken up with Sandy.
Bearing in mind that Victor had an Abominator Citizen’s Mark which forced even sentient Abominator creations to follow his commands, it seemed possible that he might be using at least one or two of them as sexbots.
It could be that I wasn’t being fair to Victor. He might not be as bad as I imagined.
Still, if true it was messed up on multiple levels. Even the oldest of them could only be months old. According to my implant, Abominator birthing chambers were capable of embedding years of combat experience into their creations and enough personality for them to follow orders. It occurred to me that using them as soldiers under those circumstances wasn’t any better morally.
It didn’t put fighting them in a good light either, but even if they were child soldiers, they were deadly. We’d fight them if we had to.
All the same, I suddenly understood why so many stories of the True’s origin included killing their creator.
Movement drew me back to watching the True. One of Stephanie’s clones pulled a sleeping bag over his feet, tried to pull it up past his waist while it was still zipped, but couldn’t muster the coordination. He didn’t try to unzip it. He might not even have known what a zipper was. In the end, he pulled it over himself like a blanket.
Whatever the Nine and maybe the Abominators included in his packet of memories, it didn’t include zippers or sleeping bags—which brought me back to the thought that they were basically child soldiers.
I sent everyone a copy of what I’d watched so far.
It didn’t take long for people to watch it, but when they were done, Vaughn said, “When Lim sees this, it’s over for Higher Ground, Uncle Russ and everyone. The Feds are going to roll in and charge everyone they can.”
“Pretty much, yeah. I should send it to him the moment we’re out.” I looked around us in the dark. From what the Rocket suit’s sensors could show, we were still alone.
“Dunno,” Vaughn stared out into the darkness. “Maybe you should send it to him now and see if the Feds can’t get moving immediately. I don’t know whether those True are wiped out post birth or whether they’re ready to go, but if whoever Uncle Russ was calling arrives, we might be too busy to send it before they start dismantling everything.”
“You should send it to him,” Tara said, “but it’s too late. At least one batch has already been created and they’re not all here. That’s enough to get them started. We should contact Lim immediately so that they can contain everyone here, but they’re going to have to search out the rest. They won’t be able to be sure until they know how many were created and how many they’ve found.”
She stopped, frowned. “If I were a commander of the True, I’d say that we should go in there now while they’re weak and kill them immediately.”
Vaughn looked at her. “That’s pretty harsh.”
She shook her head. “It’s harsh, but realistic. The True are made to reproduce ourselves. We can choose to get pregnant and to accelerate the child’s growth rate. Even without the birthing chambers, we can double the population of True every two years if we’re left alone an they’ll all be perfect clones of the originals.”
“I’m not wild about just killing them,” I said.
Haley stopped looking out towards the woods to say, “Me neither.”
Tara nodded. “I know. We’re not evil. I think they can all be rehabilitated, but they have to know what they are to know that they can’t trust certain… urges.”
I began to say, “What urges,” but stopped when Haley held up her hand.
“Someone’s coming. A lot of someones.” She looked over at me. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say it was you.”
I turned up the suit’s sensors and after a few moments, I heard the distant sound of rockets. Seconds later, I saw the first person in powered armor appear above the trees on the edge of the clearing. The “PF” logo of Protection Force glowed blue on the figure’s chest, visible in the dark.
Within another second, there were three more.