Daigo chuckled helplessly, Hannes was so right it was already a bad joke.
Things rarely went as they expected, but such was the life of dealing with good old honest criminals and other such sketchy individuals. The taxes on honest work and proper business were unsustainable for a single working ship like theirs so they had no choice but delve into a more legally skewed domain of employment.
As long as the Hornet’s Nest was independent, of both government and crime syndicates, Daigo was happy. As always, he was going to do everything to try and make it work…and hope for the best.
“I’M NO CLONE!”
Daigo and Hannes jolted in surprise, startled into different reactions. Daigo drew his gun, Hannes punched the clone in the face.
The clone and the box he had been lying on jerked out of the bed to fall on the ground. Once there, the clone scampered away in fear.
“AAhhhh!! Please, don’t kill me! I’m not a clone, I’m not a–”
“Hey! Yo! It’s okay, man.” Daigo looked around, confirming there was no alarm as his heart settled and his body des-stressed. He put the pistol back in the holster with a heavy breath, and smacked his jacket straight, looking over to the bald man in a white gown who had crawled to the corner of the room. Hannes was breathing heavily, fists clenched and body leaning towards the clone.
“Hey,” Daigo approached him and tapped his shoulder, “the guy woke up screaming, that’s all that happened.”
Hannes sniffed and shook his head, massaging his neck. He was now calming down but his hands were already sweaty. Daigo knew Hannes often had nightmares, even when awake. He had made it a rule in the ship to never wake Hannes in person, and also to never creep up on him.
“Now,” Daigo turned to the clone, “What’re you yelling about?”
The man looked scared out of his mind. His eyes trembled and jittered, darting between him and Hannes.
“I’m Wichmond Wallace, I’m very rich, I’ll pay you a fortune if you get me home safely!”
“You’re the clone of–”
“NO!” Daigo frowned, this time unnafected byt the abruptness of the yell. “I’m Wichmond Wallace, I promise! I do have clones, I’ll admit I,” he looked aside at the window, noticing space for the first time, “I don’t know where I am. Who you are, what you’re supposed to do with me, just please,” he started sobbing, “I’m the real Wichmond, I really am. That blasted clone, I never should’ve…”
“You have marks,” Daigo interrupted, as if pointing out a very obvious lie in an attempt to avoid a scene, “you’re all shaved and you have marks. Are you aware of that? You are definitely a clone.”
“No! He did that to me,” he complained, scratching the back of the head as if that would clean the bar-code, “that son of a…did that to me. Just listen, lemme…let me tell you.”
“No, you listen,” Daigo told him, suddenly impatient. “I already know what you have to tell me. You made clones so you could live forever. Hell, the real deal might be a clone himself already,” Daigo felt he was getting ahead of some plot points regarding the mess he was getting wrapped up in, “but I’m sure the idea was that whoever’s living isn’t supposed to know they’re a clone. Now something’s gone wrong… there’s two of you, and one of you was secretly being transported by a Human Spy. Who worked for Centauri Monarchy. Who was heading to meet with the very xenophobic lizards of Muena three.”
Daigo approached him and lightly kicked him in his now over-sensitive feet. “That’s you.
“So you tell us what’s going on. Right now.”
His brown eyes opened up and the man started crying.
“Oh for cryin’ out loud,” Hannes lifted his hands in a complaint, “really?”
“Fine, it doesn’t matter,” the man waved his hands, sobbing. “I can’t…I don’t know where I am or who you are.”
“You’ve said that.”
“I don’t know why I was taken…maybe…maybe the lizards want to be able to clone, I dunno, this is what matters,” he leaned forward in a pleading motion, “clone or not, I can access my funds. Okay? I’ll pay you. I’m not asking you to kill my clone or anything, just take me back and as far as my office. All I want is my life back, I’ll just put the clone back in its freezer. Then life goes on and you’re rich. So very very rich.”
The lizards desiring clone technology made sense. They already lacked any sense of family structure so the ability to mass-produce themselves, instead of having to reproduce naturally, might be very appealing.
“We can just call Wichmond,” Hannes suggested, “bet he’ll pay well just to space ya.”
That was also a good point and the clone knew it because he stuttered a wide array of pleas in-between an attempt at begging that mostly sounded like variations on the word “no” for almost half a minute.
Something was wrong with him, that much was clear.
But was it relevant? Doing his bidding would yield a lot of credits, and keep their involvement a secret, at least until the clone felt the need to get rid of them to make sure nobody ever finds out. Meanwhile, contacting the real deal would only be safe if they could force him to pay through data, to some kind of account not registered to them…
If they tried to go to the actual fortress to get paid physically, they’d likely get shot down. A missile is cheaper than what they would ask for. Data level…they could always just get tracked down. The end result would be same.
The safe thing was to space the clone and pretend nothing happened but the safe thing never paid. Maybe Sára could ensure a safe communication to Wichmond.
“I need to meet with my crew.”
“Wha? No, ya don’t.”
“I’m interested in what the rest of the crew has to say. You wait here and don’t move. Mister Wants-To-Space-You will be right outside.”
“This’s bad news, man,” Hannes told him outside after the door had closed, “we ain’t dealin’ wit’ some kinda drug-lord or pimp ‘ere, man, this’s heavy cloak and dagger sh–”
“Spook logged with his handlers for sure, they know he boarded us.” Hannes was visibly worried. “We’re bein’ hunted already. I’m tellin’ ya we need to deal with the heat, not do any more business.”
“I understand how you feel,” Daigo said stubbornly, “but I want to hear more opinions. As always, if you don’t like what’s going on, you don’t have to be a part of it.”
Hannes frowned, his teeth showing through his scar but Daigo ignored it and walked away.
“It ain’t that simple, boss. We’re in the middle o’ freakin’ space!”
It thankfully didn’t take Daigo long to gather everyone into the room. He started by sharing his own ideas. Then he wanted theirs.
“So I want thoughts. Sára, can we talk to whoever version of Wichmond is on the moon, maybe arrange for some data-level transaction?”
Daigo raised an eyebrow.
“I mean without getting traced, Sára.”
“Oh no, that’s impossible with the equipment we have here. I can send messages that are untraceable, that’s basic, but I can’t open an untraceable communication pipeline,” she said, not really paying attention to Daigo but rather slumped over the table, as bored and uninterested as always.
“Okay,” he sat down. “I have a plan to accomplish what our clone wants, and I think that’s the best thing for us to do.”
“I think best is space clone,” Spinz threw in casually.
“What?” Kyle reacted, “that’s so mean, we can’t just kill him!”
“That’s actually why I’m feelin’ this plan,” he crossed his arms, “it’s the only option that might end with nobody dying and us getting paid. The guy takes his place as the real Wichmond and puts the other back into whatever fridge he came out of. No deaths.”
“You want to give a clone his own moon,” Kiyin pointed out, “I give it two years before he starts replacing important people with clones.”
Daigo shuddered at the thought that that might already be happening.
“Honestly, thinking of stuff at that level is a bit over my head. All I want is to get paid right now, and not kill anyone.” Else.
“I care not too,” Spinz propped up from his book, “I want disruptors.”
“It’ll be alright, Kiyin,” Kyle encouraged, “Daigo’s plans always work out in the end!”
Kiyin sighed, her tentacles massaging her eyes, her hands propping up her head as she leaned it on them.
“Kind of…but sure, what’s the plan?”
Daigo smiled with pride. Describing plans was one of his favorite activities.