Edited Version

Shattered Beliefs

The howling wind pounded against the weak walls of the dilapidated, wooden shack, making them shake in a bewitched fashion. Outside the storm raged on: light rain sprinkled downwards, the ferocious wind ripping branches and debris from the nearly bare trees. Occasionally a branch would strike the side of the control hut and it would tremble on its foundations. The sky was covered by thick, menacing clouds that threw the whole area into darkness.

Inside the building, illuminated by a single candle and sharing a tattered red blanket, were two girls. Both appeared dishevelled and undernourished, especially the eldest one. With her dirty, tangled, blonde hair, cloudy brown eyes and oversized clothes, she did not appear nineteen years old. The girl of African descent in her arms was struggling to keep her dark brown eyes open and her dark head with its tight, curly hair kept falling lower and lower.

"You can go to sleep sweetheart," the eldest whispered.

"Are we safe here Leala?"

Leala replied, reassuringly, "Yes. We are safe here. We'll stay for a couple of days until I decided whether we should actually place our trust in such a stranger."

"But they'll come after us, won't they?"

Leala's eyes travelled to the bag beside her and the stack of documents sticking out of it.

"Yes, they certainly will," she replied, pulling the six-year-old closer to her.

The air lock door popped ajar and a company of people entered, led by a young man with spiky, blonde hair. He was trailed by three other people; Justin, Nadia and Isaac. Following their leader, Xavier, they walked into a gleaming white room, bare except for a plastic, circular table and four chairs, suspended from the ceiling. Each took a seat around the table and instantly the centre opened up to reveal a pile of four folders.

Justin took the folder with his name on it and was surprised at its thinness. Nadia beside him, a woman of his age with strongly defined cheek bones framed by rich brown hair, had a folder at least three times as full as his. This struck Justin as odd. Usually they all got the same folder- they were a team: Team JINX.

Unwilling to disturb the silence first, Justin flicked open his folder to reveal two pictures and one sheet of typed paper. The pictures were of two female clones; one was an African girl of age six and the other, a slender Caucasian girl, aged nineteen. A brief scan of the document showed that this was his easiest assignment ever. It was a simple case of securing the girls for reprogramming and retrieving some secret documents they'd stolen.

"What the hell's going on?" Isaac exclaimed, a little man with a big voice. "Why have we all got different tasks?"

Xavier, the big, blonde haired leader, looked up from his folder. "I was told earlier that this might eventuate. There have been such increases recently in the number of escaping clones that the army are being stretched thin and have requested our help. Therefore, we are required to take on an ordinary case each when the need arises. So let's just get out there and get it done."

Justin strolled down one of the old main streets of Sydney. It was no longer the prosperous city it once was. It now stood as a painful reminder of better, easier times. Even in its disintegrating state, the city will probably always remain as the main site to visit in Australia. Justin remembered the time when he was only a scrawny boy with jet black hair and his mother had taken him to Sydney. He found that the memory was the fondest one he could recall about his mother.

As Justin passed an abandoned set of swings his memory travelled to rest on the known history of Earth. Hundreds of years ago when the non-renewable resources threatened to run out, the Government ignored the problem. They just thought that the reports were hyped up exaggerations and by the time that it did eventuate, it would be someone else's predicament. They were wrong.

The resources ran out and the world was not prepared. It is only recently that they have started to put to use the renewable resources available. The biggest resource in use is Ethanol. A person can see the components of Ethanol, the starch and sugar-based crops, stretching for kilometres, covered by protective shields from the pollution storms and being constantly tended to by clones and lower humans; the product of breeding between clones.

Above, the sky was always dark and cloudy. A photochemical smog had oozed into every corner of the city and had suffocated the sun. Long ago, back when people were living the good life, nitrogen dioxide from exhaust gases mixed with sunlight and formed ozone, which became trapped by the surrounding mountains to produce the smog. At first it hadn't been a problem, however, extremely cold weather, produced by deterioration of the ozone layer, and a continued light mist, increased the effect of the smog until it smothered the city. These build ups of high emissions of sulfur and nitrogen dioxides in the air also generated acid rain. Once acid rain had been slightly acidic; nowadays, it was lethal.

Walking past a flickering holographic tree, Justin turned onto a path and stopped, knocking on a thick, solid door. It opened spontaneously to reveal a petite, middle-aged woman- a clone. He could tell she was a clone because of the complacent look on her face and her self-doubting stance. Clones seemed to have no life about them, and he figured that's why it was said that they did not possess a soul.

"I'd like to speak with Senator Lynch about," he opened up the manila folder, "clones Leala-129 and Nina-57."

Immediately she bowed and stepped aside. Justin walked down a hallway and entered a lavishly decorated room with old-fashioned mahogany furniture and thickly carpeted floors. Here and there he could see some more modern touches such as the holo-telle and the ARC (All Room Communication).

The subhuman gestured to her left so he followed her down a long hallway lined with expensive paintings. She stopped him in front of a metal door.

"Just on your right Mars," she said, addressing him in the term that signified his higher status.

He knocked twice as the subhuman left. A camera zoomed in on his position before the air lock door hissed open. Senator Lynch's office was styled differently to the rest of the house. The whole room was mirrored and stifling hot. Justin cringed at the sight of his scar.

About five years ago, when he had been the cocky and arrogant age of fifteen he had found himself in an extremely dangerous situation. Having only been hunting clones for two years, he had, alone, taken on probably the most dangerous clone they had ever encountered. The clone had caught Justin and had tortured him for the whereabouts of the rest of the team with the only thing available: a piece of flaming wood from a nearby fire. If it had not been for his comrades-in-arms he could have been burnt worst than he was now. For the rest of his life he vowed to carry the scar on his left jaw line as a reminder of his early carelessness.

Justin found it hard to believe that the skinny, young boy he had been was now the broad shouldered man he saw before himself. Quickly he turned away from the reflection of his own tall, black haired frame and unsightly scar to concentrate on Lynch.

"Good afternoon Sir," Justin said bowing a little. "Sorry to disturb you just before dinner hour, but I'd like to talk to you personally about the two runaways. Would that be possible?"

Senator Lynch, a thin man with a long, hawk-shaped face and slightly greying hair looked up from his work and cast an annoyed glance over Justin before nodding his approval. Justin could tell that he was a powerful man from the fact that he had such young clones. Only such men could have had them made after Ban 113 was placed on the resources. Senator Lynch raised an eyebrow in impatience, prompting Justin to begin with his questions.

The information he acquired off Lynch was scripted virtually the same as the file in his hands. He was abrupt and evasive, constantly checking his watch.

"Senator, have the girls ever left the premises?"

Lynch started for a second before replying, "Yes, once, when I took them out to my brother-in-law's in Zone E."

"Address?" Justin requested, recording the response in his PDA. He nodded then said, "Well, thank you for your time Senator."

As Justin was two steps from the door, the Senator spoke again and his words drew immense disgust from Justin. He said, "I don't care what you have to do to them, because they can always be replaced. But, whatever you do, retrieve my files!"