The Identicals

17 Dec

Yed Presta had reason to feel astonishment at the type of crimes occurring in recent days within his home city of Djuna.

His years as a homicide detective had coincided with the introduction and development of the identicals into the social system of the urban community.

This new, unprecedented section of the population was unlike the original native inhabitants. They were products of genetic engineering in the advanced bio laboratories. Technology had progressed to a point where synthetic human bodies had become possibilities. Although still a small minority, these identicals were now visible on the streets of Djuna. They lived and worked just like the so-called natural citizens.

Their work at ordinary jobs enabled them to purchase houses and begin families. But there was one unique feature about these identicals.

They looked like each other, sharing the same facial looks and features.

From the very start, the rest of the city came to call these synthetic human beings by the name “identicals”.

Detective Yed Presta was part of the newly formed police squad assigned the task of dealing with the multiple killings among these new citizens.

This was not going to be an easy wave of murders to solve, the investigator realized.

“You are the one chosen to interrogate the president of Dupliform Corporation, Yed,” said the Chief of Police to his most skilled homicide detective. “You must treat him diplomatically, with kid gloves, yet squeeze as much data as possible out of this fellow.”

Yed grinned, but said not a word. This was not at all going to be an easy assignment to fulfill.

Kaln Goe, the head of Dupliform, occupied a gigantic office on the summit of his company’s tower in central Djuna.

The bio-tycoon, the main stockholder in the enterprise, stepped forward with vigorous energy to greet and shake hands with the homicide plainclothesman.

Goe led his visitor to leisure chairs looking out over the city through a large panoramic window. He went directly to the matter at hand concerning the recent deaths.

“What is happening to identicals here in Djuna is tragic,” he moaned in a sad tone. “I do not understand what might be motivating these horrible crimes. You must get to the root of this as soon as possible.

“I am eager to help you however I can, Detective.”

The two stared at each other until Yed came up with a question.

“I have never understood the reason that all these manufactured synthetic humans share exactly the same facial characteristics. Does the standard face make the process of creation and construction easier than it otherwise might be?”

“We do it for economic reasons,” declared Goe. “Once the general face started at the beginning, it has not changed at all.”

“I see,” muttered the investigator. “It would be helpful for me to talk with the head of the bio-designers behind the common model used. There is much about identicals that I am ignorant of.”

“Very well, I will arrange that for you.”

The scientific chief at the company laboratory was a small, bald man with thick eyeglasses named Devo Ksix. Yed found him busy at work in an ordinary corner office. He introduced himself and shook hands with the designer of the original identical.

“Please be seated, Detective,” said the little researcher. “I think what has happened was a terrible shame, an awful series of events. It is the duty of all of us to uncover who is responsible. I am ready to help you find the guilty party or parties behind these murders.”

Yed frowned. “I have never, of course, been on any case or cases like this. Djuna has witnessed the murders of eight of these synthetics. What the reason for someone choosing these particular victims is profoundly mystifying.

“I can’t even figure out where to begin looking for evidence, or even clues.”

Devo Ksix seemed to drift away in his thought. “If we had never succeeded in developing neoderma there would never have been any identicals at all. That was the breakthrough that permitted us to construct the skin surface and the internal organs of our models.”

“You were involved, then, in making a very important discovery that opened the door to an artificial form of human skin and organ tissue?” inquired the policeman.

Devo grinned with self-satisfaction. “It was a very difficult problem, the synthetizing of the epidermal coverings of the body of a constructed human being. It was easier to create ceramic bones and silicon nerve connections.

“Human skin, for instance, is an extremely complex protective system.

“We have five layers of differing material substance. These are the strata with the technical names of basale, spinosum, granulosum, lucidum. and carneum. Each of them is unique in its composition and structure.

“Human skin includes basal laminas, prickle cells, granule cells, and keratinized squares. There are the important, vital stem cells that migrate with time outward. They are part of the dermis beneath the outer epidermis, and are by their nature keratin producers.

“It is a difficult system to reproduce, but I and my research crew succeeded, after long, hard work in our lab.

“The key to making identicals possible lay in creating artificial secretion glands to implant in the neoderm. That was the solution to the problems that we faced.”

“The sweat glands?” asked Yed with heightened interest.

Devo smiled with pride. “I was able to put together a substitute for the natural exocrine sweat glands of the skin. My neoderm is able to produce sebum oil as well as the cloudier apocrine secretion of heavy sweat.

“A single artificial glandular mechanism is able to create all of the compounds that come from different types of skin glands.

“Three kinds of natural glands can be replaced with the one that I and my team constructed in the laboratory.” He paused for a moment. “That is what has made the identicals possible, I truly believe.”

With Yed staring at him, the scientist fell silent for a time.

The detective excused himself and departed, his head swimming in new, unexplored thoughts.

Yed Presta had always been one with the capacity to fall asleep in the evening with a puzzling problem on his mind, then wake up the following morning with a decision or solution ready to place in operation or the test.

The is precisely what happened after his first interviews, with the corporation president and the chief scientist in charge of the creation of the identicals.

The idea that had come to Yed during the night was a simple but highly logical one. Was there any individual in Djuna who had ever had a conflict or dispute with an identical? It made sense for the detective to check the court and the police files for any such case.

Could any ordinary citizen in the city be come so enraged with the synthetic human creatures as to evolve into a mass murderer of those beings? Could hatred or vengeance drive someone into that category of homicide?

Such a search was facilitated that all identicals, alongside their varying given names, used the very same surname, as if they all shared the same family descent.

Every single one of the identicals went by the same last name, whether a male or a female. They were not equipped to reproduce on their own, but the new models coming out of the factory had the same surname as the earliest ones. He or she was called a Synthet.

Yed used his electomonitor to survey legal records for any court case that might offer him a useable lead of some sort.

He noted down on a pad any law suit or action that might have set off a spiral of killing.

His investigation of records began at the present year and proceeded backwards in time. He discovered property and business disputes and cases. Divorces had occurred between identicals and even between identicals and ordinary humans.

Yed rolled though the files, on and on.

Until he stumbled upon the earliest court case involving one of the identicals.

Its nature startled and fascinated the detective. As soon as he started to study the facts, the suit captured his thought and imagination.

Perhaps the conflict involved was absurd in nature, but it could have set off a tragic chain of events.

Yed phoned Kaln Goe at once to set up an appointment with him.

The President of Dupliform would certainly have memories about this legal suit that occurred several years back in time.

Yed began to explain why he had come back as soon as he was seated in the office of the top executive.

“Something has come to my attention about which I have some questions in mind. Can you tell me as much as you know about the identical called Abo Synthet?

“Why did an identical bring suit in court against Dupliform?”

The two of them exchanged steady, penetrating looks.

“That was some time ago,” explained Goe. “In fact, Abo happened to be the very first model released at large by our company. It was a sad experience for all of us involved with his construction. I myself felt like one of Abo’s creators.

“He sought to win a court order forbidding the use of what he termed his own face on later, newer models. His aim was to force us to place a different, original face on every identical we turned out into society.

“We argued that with different faces our costs of production would rise and become prohibitive. And how could they be called identicals if each one had an appearance to him or herself?

“It was an impossibility, and the corporation won that first case.

“But Abo did not at all give up. Year after year, he has filed suits against us. But because of what happened that first time in court before a judge, the matter has never again come to any kind of trial.

“Does that answer your question, Detective?”

Yed gave an affirmative nod, rose to his feet, and departed without saying anything more.

It took the investigating sleuth less than an hour to locate the high-rise apartment tower where the earliest of all the identicals lives.

No one has ever been able to predict how many years these synthetic creatures will live, Yed told himself as he rang the doorbell of the rooms that Abo Synthet rented.

The identical who opened the door had the young looks that all members of his category maintained, even as time passed.

Yed asked him if he was the resident he was looking for, and Abo replied that he was.

“I need to speak with you, sir. May I come in, please?”

The identical moved out of the way, though the stranger had not at all identified himself. This was an intentional omission by the police detective, in order to gain voluntary entry and not alarm his target in any way.

Abo invited him to take a chair and himself sat down on sofa.

Yed went right to his business at once.

“I have come to see you in order to learn what I can about the suits you have been filing against Dupliform. Are you still continuing your conflict with that corporation?”

All of a sudden, the face of the identical turned brick red, a sign that an emotional switch had been turned on.

“Indeed, sir. As long as I continue my existence, I intend to continue my fight. My will is a solid one that never gives up. As long as my lungs continue to draw breath, I will go on through the court system.

“And I know that I shall in time win what I aim for.”

“What in particular is that, may I inquire?” said Yed.

“A new, different and individual face for each and every synthetic man and woman, even for those already here today.”

“That is an elevated dream, I would dare say,” reacted Yed, trying not to alarm or frighten the one he was there to question. “Tell me how far it is justifiable to go when in pursuit of such a goal as the one you have described for me? Are there definite limits on what can be done in such circumstances?”

“I would be willing to go as far as becomes necessary,” asserted the identical with emotion. “Nothing is beyond my boundaries.”

Yed decided it was time to take action that would reveal what his purpose was in having come to this apartment and conversing with Abo.

The investigator sprang to his feet and swiftly removed the pair of handcuffs lodged in his coat pocket. He took two steps toward the identical and came to a stop.

“It is now my duty to arrest you and take you away for an official interrogation at a secure site,” he revealed. “I am an officer of the homicide squad of the Djuna Police Department.”

Yed was astonished when Abo smiled upon hearing this said.

“I had a vague suspicion in the back of my mind,” muttered the synthetic human being. “But if I am put on trial, there will be a public opportunity for me to give voice to my reasoning and my motives, won’t there?

“I have long rehearsed in my mind what I am going to tell the inhabitants of our city.

“They must realize the need to correct the terrible error made in giving all of us synthetics exactly the same, identical face. I do not intend to remain quiet, not at all.”

Yed came near the identical and placed his hands in the cuffs.

“You will have all the opportunity you want in order to deliver your message, Abo Synthet,” predicted the detective with a feeling of final success and victory over crime.


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