Connecting to the soldier’s implants digitally was almost trivial. The hard part was the actual manipulation of data. For obvious reasons, the implants were designed to resist this exact sort of tampering. Covering her tracks was time consuming as well.
Fortunately, most Janes were conditioned to ignore anything that wasn’t part of their immediate task. When Jane drew the curtain around her rack, none of the other Jane’s would bother her and her guest.
“How did you know where I was from?” The soldier asked as Jane worked.
“Hmm?” Jane mumbled as she finished pulling the cable from her arm, plugging it into the power connection by her bedside.
“You knew I was from Akiing…er…ES-89 I mean. How?” The soldier asked.
“Oh,” Jane plugged the cable into a port in the soldier’s armor, “You mentioned you were in the same division as the dead soldier. I made an assumption.”
“I could have been from anywhere though,” the soldier protested.
“It’s…your hump…on your back…I’m sorry, but I assumed it was a mutation. ES-89 is where most of the mutants come from,” Jane tried to sound apologetic as possible.
The soldier chuckled, “Not all of them.”
“Most of them,” Jane flicked her fingers in front of her as she navigated her display.
“I could have been from ES-63. Lot of mutants there,” the soldier made an exaggerated gesture with their hand. They didn’t seem upset, though that helmet made everything sound threatening, they seemed to just be making conversation.
“True, but they don’t have as many soldiers in the service,” Jane explained.
“How would you know?” the soldier waved a hand over the faceless mask.
Jane grinned, “I’ve seen the demographic records. They barely have a viable population as it is. They can’t afford to be sending too many people off world.”
The soldier shrugged.
There was a long lull in the conversation as Jane setup the process she needed to wipe evidence of her conversation.
She wondered if she was being paranoid.
She’d met at least a couple Does who’d been away from the Homeland long enough, and indulged by their owners enough, that they would speak that openly about their feelings on the Julians.
But in those cases the Julians had found it humorous.
Linisa wasn’t a Julian though, as much as she tried to be, and underestimating her intellectually would probably be a mistake. She’d risen this far hadn’t she; from soldier, to management, to Director General of this installation? Add to that the fact that she had that job because a soldier had turned on her predecessor. She was unlikely to be forgiving to even vaguely seditious utterings.
Better to err on the side of caution.
That was how you survived.
“You haven’t told me about your home,” the soldier finally said.
“What’s to tell?” Jane asked rhetorically, “It’s a world, like yours.”
“Yours sounds cleaner. No mutants. Or are you all just really lucky mutants?” asked the soldier.
“We had a nuclear war, like your world, but ours started very early compared to most, before we had many bombs. Not as much radiation left over,” All this had happened generations before Jane had been born. Generations before the Julian traders had come. “The Homeland had almost all of them too. We were guaranteed victory. It took a long time though.”
“I see,” the soldier nodded, “How come you all look alike then.”
“We don’t look that much alike,” said Jane, half joking.
“Maybe you don’t see it,” said the soldier, “but trust me, to the rest of us, you all look creepily similar.”
Jane nodded, “We may not have had many nukes, but our war was…when Homeland finally won, our global population was only about 20% its pre-war numbers. Homeland made out much better than most, but even they were suffering a massive labor shortage.”
Jane found the words kept coming. It was against the Rules for Does to learn too much about the history of the Homeland, but Jane had carefully reconstructed it over the years. She was always worried she’d get another chance to share it with anyone besides Koya.
“Even after they had secured control of nearly the entire planet, Homeland was growing concerned about the possibility of occupied populations re-establishing communication and organizing against them. Homeland’s solution was to just clone a new global population from those left alive in the Homelands.”
The soldier stiffened a bit, “That..seems pretty fucked up.”
“It absolutely was,” Jane agreed, “It became Homeland’s default solution to all it’s problems. If any population began resisting them, they’d simple be wiped out and replaced with more clones. At this point, we’re all related to at least one clone. That’s why we all look so similar.”
“…Sounds rough,” said the soldier. Jane was sure it was meant to sound sympathetic but that mask made it sound evil again.
“Would you mind…?” Jane made a gesture toward the helmet.
“Oh…I mean…sure…,” The soldier reached up and released the latch mechanisms on the helmet, pulling it forward, over the head.
The person beneath was copper skinned with long black hair that matched the color of their armor, tied back tightly. They were quite beautiful, by the common standards of coalition, not at all like most mutants from Akiing.
“So was your mom or dad a clone?” The soldier asked. Hearing their real voice for the first time was jarring, like talking with an entirely different person without breaking the continuity of the conversation.
“I’m a clone,” explained Jane.
“It’s true. I’m a clone of a woman in the Homeland whose parents were themselves both clones. How’s that for fucked up?” Jane said.
The soldier smiled, “You’re not bad company, Jane.”
Jane smiled back, “You’re not so bad yourself….”
“Bineshii,” the soldier replied.
“Bineshii….” Jane repeated.
“A lot of the Julians just call me ‘Benny,’” Bineshii offered.
“I really like Bineshii, but if you prefer….,” Jane started.
Bineshii smiled again, “Bineshii is good.”