“She’s coming around,” I heard Ma-rye-a announce.
“I’ve had people be surprised, but I have never had anyone faint before,” I heard Attalla say to Ma-rye-a.
“She was very fond of your predecessor,” Ma-rye-a said.
I was just awake enough to think this was a very odd conversation. When I opened my eyes I found myself lying on the bed in my cabin with Attalla sitting on a chair at my side.
“Are you all right?” Attalla asked. I noted that Chee had left me and was curled affectionately around Attalla’s neck.
“I held you when you died,” I said in a stunned voice. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that Attalla had arrived from the surface and was sitting at my side when I knew his body was in stasis below decks in the storage bay.
“No,” Attalla said. “You held Attalla Five when he died. I am Attalla Six.”
“They are clones,” Ma-rye-a tried to explain. “He told me there has been an Ambassador Attalla for over five hundred years.”
“There was an original Attalla centuries ago,” Attalla picked up the thread of the story. “Number One was elected by the people. He was a popular and effective Ambassador. He managed to establish treaties that others before him found impossible to accomplish. He brought peace and prosperity to the solar system. It was decided that the system could not live without his wisdom and guidance. Doctors and scientists were commissioned to clone him so that the people would never be without his leadership. There is always a new Attalla ready to step in and take over. We all have his collective memory, his morals, and his general outlook. Of course, we do have individual experiences when we venture out from the collective.”
“How many Attalla’s are there?” I asked coming up on one elbow to a sitting position.
“Currently, me and three others,” Attalla answered. He offered me a glass of water supplied by Moby from the prep unit. “The cloning is spaced out so the people have one available anytime we are needed to take over. I am approximately ten years younger than Attalla Five. Seven is ten years younger than me and Eight is ten years younger than Seven.”
I shook my head to his offer of a drink.
“Nine is ten years younger and Ten is currently being cloned. He is in the tube still,” Attalla finished.
Whether it was the shock, or the so-matter-of-fact explanation of the loss of someone I thought was so special and unique, I started to cry. Even though I had only known him a few months, I loved him. I could have become very attached to him.
“Please, don’t cry,” Attalla soothed. “Five will be missed, but he is not gone. I am the better part of him and can hopefully settle the dispute between the iisadsu and the oacoco.”
Six was mistaken. He was just a copy of the man I knew. The man I knew was a product of his personal experiences and he was gone.