Doppelganger


He existed in the depths of nowhere. His life happened in flashes. Every moment was sudden and fleeting. It was like blacking out in a dream. His mind had been smashed like a mirror; his memories were like pictures reflecting on the jagged shards. His eyes would open to the burning beams of surgical lamps gripped by gleaming titanium claws, and the pain ran through his nervous system like an electric current, but sometimes he saw other things.
Sometimes he was able to dream, and it was in the haze of his subconscious that he had any clarity. He could see himself as if he were an outside spectator. He was a tall, thin middle-aged man. A man with a face aged beyond its years. His bruised and cracked flesh looked like it had been painted on his skull. His sunken black eyes were like empty voids. His lanky frail form was covered by clothes that were as worn and tattered as he was.
He lived in a room as small as his existence. The paint on the walls had all but chipped away. The wooden floors were slowly being eaten by a spreading rot. He was laying in his twin sized bed next to a rusted rattling radiator. He stared up at the ceiling and traced the cracks with eyes like he was following the lines on a map. A closed sketchbook sat on his chest, and his left hand gripped a pencil. Every sound penetrated the paper thin walls of the tiny bedroom.
All around him the collective noise made by dozens of lives culminated into a soundtrack of human misery. He listened to it as music. The hungry children, grieving widows, and raving drug addicts were like a choir of suffering that was almost rhythmic to him. In his mind's eye, the noise deformed what he was supposed to see and reshaped it into what it really was, and his hand effortlessly translated that onto the sketch paper. This dream was his memory, and it was one of the few that hadn't drown in the river of tranquilizers running through his veins. These brief trips into his sub-conscience were the only times there wasn't either blinding pain or endless nothingness.
  President Morris jolted from his nightmare. He was standing in a posh hotel bathroom. The first thing he saw was his reflection in the mirror. His pupils had wandered to the edges of his glassy eyes; his mouth hung open like a junkie nodding out on a train. He blinked, and the image of that dusty bedroom appeared to him in a flash, and as the image vanished so too did the memory. He knew, at least for a moment he had seen something familiar, but just like that he didn't know what.
He clenched his eyes trying to make that phantom stalking the unexplored corridors of his neural pathways reappear. Someone knocked at the door. The sound startled Morris. “Are you ready Mr. President?”
A cadre of secret service agents lead the beleaguered President to a gold plated elevator. Morris was silent his inflected eyes were looking inwards as people, places, and experiences ran through his mind like intruding aberrations.
The guests are waiting for you downstairs Mr. President.”
“I..I don't think I can make the speech”. Morris choked.
“Don't worry Mr. President this won't take long”. That was the end of the discussion. The elevator door opened up to a dark ballroom, and he was greeted by a chorus of applause and the blinding flashes of cameras.
As if by instinct, a smile grew across his face and his hand began waving to the crowd. Somewhere an unseen orchestra played hail to the chief. A spotlight came on and illuminated a stage just ahead of Morris.
“Please get me out of here.” The President pathetically pleaded through his smile.
The men in black suits ignored his requests. They kept him kept him moving forward. His vision tunneled and his stomach knotted. The blood rushed to his face and felt like it was boiling beneath his flesh.
He climbed the stairs, and his legs carried him almost involuntarily across the stage. He felt the glow of the spotlight engulf him. The painted smile hid his apprehension as he continued to wave to the spectators. A gunshot echoed through the ballroom, and the world disappeared from the imposture President's eyes. He never heard the screams or even felt the bullet that ripped through his faster than the speed of sound. The last thing his flesh would feel was the warm crimson pool spreading across his body. He drew in a sharp breath, the flashing lights and the silhouettes of the crowd blended into a haze
The spotlights were obscured by the encroaching darkness. He could hear the echo of his shallow breathing pulsing in his head. The ballroom spectators let out a collective gasp. The pounding their feet made as the tried to flee from the building was like the hooves of a panicked heard. He could taste iron in his mouth and feel a growing numbness. He pressed his trembling hand on his wound and felt the warmth of flowing blood. He watched the traces of crimson trailing down his hand. A jovial voice echoed over the sound system
“Ladies and gentleman... ladies and gentlemen.” The congenial voice said with just the smallest hint of friendly mischief.
“I'm ok!” the voice announced triumphantly.
“Help me...Help me, please!” Morris bellowed. His plea was drowned out by the roar of the crowd.
The crowd began to murmur, and occasionally a solitary voice shouted above the rest demanding answers
“Everyone please take your seats and let me explain what you just saw!” The man said warmly.
The room soon went quiet again.
As the world around blank grew dim the noise it made was drawing ever further from Morris's ears.
“Would you stand him up, please?” He asked an in an instant two sets of large hands grasped blank arms and pulled him to his feet.
Morris's body becoming increasingly paralyzed by creeping death hung flaccid. His head fell forward and he could see the blood spreading across his torso from the bullet's entry point. For a brief second, there was a burning pain that soon dulled away.
The man working the crowd like a ringmaster at a carnival was only a silhouette cut out of the stage lights.
“Ladies and gentleman this here is Number 9. He is what is referred to as a body double. Someone engineered to be identical to me. This is a tactic used to thwart would be assassins, and to mitigate the similar day to day dangers that come with wielding global influence. I'm sure most of you are already familiar with all of that though.
The crowd produced a chuckle.
“But what makes this particular body double so unique? This unit has been engineered with more than just my superficial characteristics. Neural nanotechnology and breakthroughs in identity re-engineering techniques have made it possible to make an exact copy of myself
“Is it robotic?” Someone shouted.
The spotlight followed the man as he walked across the stage. As he talked his hands moved in a seamless dance that directed the eyes of the crowd.
“Some neural computer implants have been integrated into the brain, but other than that he is 100% organic!” The man said proudly. In his brain have been implanted all my mannerisms, my ticks, and even my memories. In other words, he thinks he's me!"
“Well, go ahead just tell us where did the fucking thing come from?” An elderly lady hissed in a raspy German accent.
The crowd laughed playfully at the outburst. Even the energetic figure delivering the news about this apparent miracle of science chuckled with them.
“Ma'am this is just of billions of potential replacements that can be delivered up within 72 hours should your current one expire during service. Ladies and Gentlemen this model was not something we engineered over a long period of time or at any great expense.
“This man here was a volunteer...
the man was interrupted by chuckling
and again he found himself laughing with them.
"I'm...dying." Morris whispered. No one could hear him over the man with the microphone. He spoke in an energetic and congenial manner, with a voice that was uncomfortably familiar to Morris.
“A volunteer in around the clock recruitment program.” He finished.
“In just 72 hours MirrorAge can take anyone off the street and make exact duplicates of anyone in this room.
“Sir you look like you have a question?”
“Yes, what do you mean it's been implanted with all your memories?”
The man was suddenly walking over to Morris as he came closer Blank could begin to make out the details. To his horror he realized the smiling face he was looking into was his own.
“Body double?” He said weakly.
Morris was watching himself give a sales pitch while he died.
“Ah, you must be referring to the neural network. Different parts of the brain are responsible. For things such as memory recall as well as things like our behavior. An implanted memory is transmitted into the brain and created as a thought. Neural implants that regulate chemical activity work like a valve releasing the chemicals necessary to associate different feelings with the memory, so it seems more like an experience and not so abstract.
The room was silent.
“Let me give you a demonstration.” The president said with a smile.
He walked over to Morris and leaned in so his face was mere inches away. Morris looked into his own eyes and coughed out blood onto the floor. His twin smiled a pearly white smile.
“Who are you?” The president held up the microphone to his dying double.
“P...President Robert Morris....What are...who are you?" he struggled.
The President didn't answer the question he turned back to the audience and gave them a grin.
“Whats happening? Who.... choked as he felt blood running in his throat.
“Well, Mr. President” The second Morris patronized “if that's true maybe you could tell us something things, personal things that I...er I mean President Morris would know.” Blank said recovering from his playfully staged slip up.
“Any ideas?” He said looking around the room.
“When did you lose your virginity.” The German woman called out like she was an audience participant at an improv show.
Morris at the least the man who claimed to be Morris who wasn't currently moments from death laughed it off.
“You certainly are a straight shooter. I like a person who can be direct, but I'm not sure everyone wants to here that story.” blank laughed.
The woman answered with a dignified nod.
“Alright fair enough. Mr. President.” He said turning to face the dying double again tell them about the big night and the special girl.”
As if the switch was flipped on a projector in his mind he watched with clarity his 16-year-old self with his first girlfriend. For a second, he could almost feel her under him her body pushing against his.
“Her name was Kate”. He heard himself blurt out. The pain from the shot seemed to reverberate like shock waves in his abdomen.
“What.. are you doing...what is all this?” He pleaded.
“The neural chemical regulators should be releasing a limited amount of the chemicals excreted in the brain during sex. That makes the memory seem more real for the doppelganger and reinforces this man's conviction he is in fact me. Extremely personal information like this can go a long way in convincing captors of the hostage's authenticity. Now this is obviously very useful when it comes to those with sensitive information." The apparently real Morris informed the audience.
"Now why don't you tell us more about her?" He said mischievously.
Morris or whoever the man on display, was forced in his last moments to recount a sexual encounter he may never even of had. It was like telling someone else's dream.
The presentation given by the salesman President and his interview with the dying faceless science experiment went on for some time.
As his brain readied him for death, a flood of memories was released. In a moment, the man dying in front of a studio audience witnessed the lifetime of the same thin man from his dream and only in his last moment did he remember who he was
“Number 9 what do you remember about your childhood”? The real Morris asked.
The room fell silent as everyone waited for an answer.
“Lewis...my name is Lewis”. The man now dubbed Subject 9 declared before he slipped away into darkness.
The man named Lewis, a man sculpted by a lifetime had been stolen from his life. His face was carved into a mask, and his brain had been molded into little more than a hard drive containing pres-elected memories.
During his waking life his perceptions and his brain had been programmed to create a mirage. Most of who Lewis had been as a human was cut away, but somewhere in the depths of neural wiring were the impulses that held the memories and experiences that made him the man known as Lewis. It was a part of him that couldn't be altered, excised, or buried. It was the part of him that lived in his dreams and ultimately revealed itself in death.
In the depths of MirrorAge's, a subsidiary of Security Solutions Group subterranean labs research could be a euphemism for torture. He was the breakthrough in a new process designed to replicate people. He was the first in a new generation of look a likes for those looking to evade assassination. The project was called “Doppelganger”.
Throughout the lifetime of the project, 8 people became little more than data points on a chart and their bodies were carved up and thrown away. They were simply the cost of SSG's project and that cost was nominal. Lewis was subject number 9, and he had been deemed a successful test. That night SSG wrangled millions in investment dollars to continue the project, as well as a few interested clients. No one had any questions about the faceless man who had been killed in front of their very eyes.

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