I felt like telling Celeste there and then that her maniacal clone lover had nearly ruptured my spleen, but something kept me from saying anything.
Sher had punched me and she seemed to be the leader of the strange rag-tag group. If I tried to complain about Mercy hitting me I'd probably get laughed at.
Or hit again.
I didn't want to admit it, but something about Mercy scared me.
Something wild had been unleashed inside of her since the last time we'd met. She had little or no restraint and even less remorse.
I wondered briefly what idiot chose a name like 'Mercy' for her. The clone seemed like she could go on various mass-murdering sprees without batting an eye.
Especially if it was people like me she was mass-murdering. I wasn't exactly an observant person but I could tell how much she hated me without much effort. And, even worse...
I could tell she was just getting started with me.
"So, Mr. Smith," Celeste started out of the blue, "How are you finding life among the Verisat?"
I didn't even dare to look at Mercy as I answered.
"Unpleasant. I've been drugged multiple times, tied up and hit, not to mention the fact that I was kidnapped. Do you find it any better?"
When my tone got on the edge of rude I saw Mercy's hands ball up into fists and I forced a touch of politeness into my words. Protective, much?
"I'm a religious activist, Mr. Smith. The Verisat have offered me protection."
Religious? Made sense, she seemed like she was full of bullshit.
"So you were one of those anti-cloning radicals?" I laughed, remembering the so-called 'Clone Wars' of 2985.
Celeste's amber gaze twinkled and she looked at Mercy with something profound in her eyes.
I couldn't tell what it was. I'd never really seen it before, but it looked to me like she was dreaming with her eyes open.
My curiosity forced me to risk a glance at Mercy, and she was mirroring her expression.
"Don't call them clones, Mr. Smith. They can live, breathe and feel...the only true clones are those that let society print its ideals on them without any thought. Those that abuse the power that they don't deserve."
She looked at me, smiling slightly.
"Don't you agree?"
I was speechless, for a moment. For a moment being the key words in that statement.
"A clone is programmed to serve a single purpose. Insignificant and short-lived."
Celeste cocked her head to the side, amused.
"Couldn't you say the same for humanity?"
"No," I stammered, "Humanity is real. Clones are-"
Celeste cut me off.
"-manufactured? Find me a single child in Superior America that wasn't born in a lab, and genetically altered to suit their parents' desires. I was born from my mother's womb into a stack of hay, and I don't happen to feel any more real than the people around me."
I wanted to ask what 'hay' was but it seemed like an anticlimactic prospect. Celeste continued talking, her hand in one of Mercy's.
"Do you remember what happened after the GMB boom? The elimination of so many diseases led to overpopulation, and subsequent deportation of 'randomly chosen citizens' to Inferior America. People that openly disagreed with government policy, or who were on welfare. My mother was one of them."
This was verging on conspiracy. The GMBs (genetically modified babies) were monitored by strict government regulations to keep that kind of a problem from happening.
"Now that's just paranoid. The Government would never-"
I was cut off again.
"-Didn't you wonder how ghettos emptied themselves in days? How there wasn't a single beggar left? Do you know what they did to people that couldn't afford to pay their own fare or were too weak for the express tubes? They sent them to the Superior American territory abroad, forced them to work in their sweatshops so that they could make a profit-"
By then I was sighing loudly, exasperated.
"Please. This all sounds like it came from a bad Wheelburg Mersie. The Government's been funding development in New Superior America for years! You've just been fed on so much propaganda that you're believing it all."
"You can tell yourself that, Mr. Smith. Maybe it'll provide something for you to think about during your time in the camp."
I looked back to the path to see a clearing, and what looked like a small village in it.
Who knew what would happen to me now?