“God, I love this job,” Martin Ebb said as he laid his cards down and reached for his winnings piled in the center of the table. “Taking your money is just icing on the cake, Pete.”
“I should just give you my money and my lunch everyday instead of wasting time playing cards.”
“Then what would you do on your shift? Work?”
“Maybe I will.”
“Watching monitors through the night… such a challenging job.”
“Better than cleaning toilets,” Pete smiled.
“Shut it. I don’t just clean the toilets,” Martin said as he kicked his feet up on the table and leaned back in his chair “I am the foremost authority of the goings on here.” He took a bite of Pete’s chicken salad sandwich and smiled.
“Oh. An authority, are you?”
“Yep,” Martin said with a mouth full of food.
“So… you know what happened last week in Incubation?”
“What?” Pete quizzed with a raised brow and wry smile on his face.
“They put down a clone. All of maintenance knows. I am sure you saw the footage.”
“You did?” Martin dropped his feet from the table and sat straight in his chair, eyes wide.
“Yeah, I did,” Pete said, “If you must know, that Dalton kid woke her up.”
“Dr. Dalton’s grandson?”
“Yeah, and get this,” Pete leaned in toward Martin and whispered, “he was kissing her.”
“You’re kidding me?”
“Freaking disgusting. Did they tell his wife he was making out with a meat puppet?”
“Oh no, he’s only fifteen. No wife. Matter of fact, he was supposed to be matched last night at the ceremony.”
Martin’s eyes grew even wider. “Supposed to be?”
“Yeah, listen. Nancy works on the 22 in the basking room. She usually just monitors UVBs but she happened to overhear a meeting between Chairs. I think it was Foster and Barnes. Anyway, that Dalton kid killed himself the night before.”
“No shit? That’s crazy.”
“Yeah and even crazier, they were discussing what they were going to do with his match.”
“Do with his match?”
“They mentioned ‘the surface’, but I am not really sure where that is or what level it is. They are going to monitor her and then bring her back in for testing.”
“Testing? What kind of testing.”
“You got me. Nancy said radiation and contaminates. Makes me wonder what they are doing at the surface.”
“Hmn… I’ve never heard anyone mention that before. Sounds kind of strange; are you sure Nancy was overhearing the Chairs?”
“She swears by it, but you know how women are; always gossiping.”
“That’s the truth. Oh well, I guess I better make my round.” Martin said finishing off the last bit of sandwich. “Same time tomorrow night?”
“I guess. I still don’t know why I bother to play cards with you.”
“If it makes you feel better you can just give me your money and your lunch.”
“Nah, I’ll take my chances. See you.” Pete said as he took off down the hall.
Martin left the break room with heavier pockets, and made his way down the corridor and into his small broom closet. He grabbed his mop and bucket of soapy water, and began tracing wet patterns on the floor.
Time flew by as Martin busied himself mopping, but he eventually found himself standing in front of the sliding glass doors etched heavily with the word “Incubation”. With a look of disgust, Martin stepped slowly onto the pad and the doors slid quietly open.
It was hard to ignore row after row of sleeping girls at various stages of pregnancy, but Martin tried his best to keep his eyes on the floor. His thoughts kept returning to the boy kissing the clone, and his stomach turned.
Increasing his pace, Martin began to drag the mop along the floor as he moved backwards through the room. He was making better time, but lost his footing and stumbled backward into one of the beds. As he raised himself up, a petite arm slid off the bed and dangled.
Martin froze. He watched as the clone’s tiny fingers danced to a stop, and then he slowly dropped to the floor. Sickness was inching up on him; he closed his eyes and took a couple of deep breaths before getting to his feet.
He grabbed the young girl’s wrist and delicately placed her arm back at her side. Her arm was not cold like he had imagined, it was warm and soft; much like his own. He looked into her face and a wave of nausea washed over him.
Slapping both hands over his mouth, Martin sprinted out of Incubation, down the hall, and through the heavy wooden doors of the Eden Corporation. He barely made it a step away from the bin when he began to be sick; splattering his lunch down his arms, the side of the bin, and the front of his shirt.
“Hey, I’ll clock you out, bro. Go on home.” Pete shouted from Eden’s doors.
Martin grunted, and Pete watched him stumble down the corridor toward the elevator.
A smile spread over Pete’s face. “Serves you right; maybe next time, you let me win… asshole.”