I barely understood as we entered the sub-level floor. A flashlight switched on, revealing the corridor of metal in front of him. Not five meters ahead was a chamber filled with dense, milky fluids, in which a young woman was suspended, her throat covered in a sort of foundation, a feeding tube running in through her throat, nutrients absorbed through a sterile tracheostomy. I wondered who she was, and kept walking.
Only a few more steps and we passed into a larger room, a basement but very cold, and we could hear heavy panicked footsteps shuffling around above us, surely wondering how we made it out. Any minute, we thought, continuing to look at each chamber we passed; each filled with what looked like amniotic fluid, making them steam-punk wombs, born doppelgangers and given the machinery to mimic.
How long had this facility been here? How many clones had been born? I then realized, suddenly, how much one could do with the ability to print people. Each person you encounter, you could kill them and leave the body alive, bringing the other one to this — this chamber, injecting them with these machines, and using them to reprogram them, to repurpose them as labor or entertainment, robotics with blood, unfeeling eyes seeing nothing in mirrors in which the only hint of a real human being in the reflection is the uncanny lie of that unnatural alchemy. Only absolute power could have approved an operation such as this.
My panic was interrupted when just up ahead, just out of sight, I heard the sound of breaking glass, and large glass too, not a falling plate or cup, but something that buckled, like an orb, shattering in unnumbered pieces. And then stumbling, a horrified groan, and the glowing arm lit the scene before him on the floor. I rushed to help the person to their feet, looked down, and saw my own face looking back at me. I didn’t think before speaking, asking the naked man, covered in the viscous liquid, “Who are you? What are you doing here?”
The man looked at me just as strangely, “I’m Caleb, are you another one of the clones?”
I was standing in my birthplace, suddenly not quite sure of the memories I had and the life I thought I had lived as I stared at Not-Quite-Caleb.