* * * * * * *
CF - When Clones Meet, Prologue
* * * * * * *
It was the middle of the night, and you wouldn’t think anybody would be around. After midnight, even the trolls start to drift back under their rocks and fallen logs. I’d passed Dionysus and Kai21 in the upper corridor a while back, both of them in deep discussion while they patrolled the castle, about some new project 21 had begun in his lab. They nodded to me and went on their way, and I went up to the battlements to take a look around. I stopped for a moment and looked toward the woods, and saw him there.
I promised her I wouldn’t bother him as long as he stayed away. True enough, he doesn’t try to contact her any more, and I don’t see him around in the daytime. But this wasn’t the first time I’d seen him at night, hovering there at the edge of the woods… staring up at the windows of the castle… watching… hoping, no doubt, for a glimpse of her. I thought he’d try and make a new life for himself. But it was obvious to me he hadn’t.
I was troubled. SniperKai was not a subject I wanted to broach with my queen, as she sometimes falls prey to misplaced sympathies (giving a home to those two irksome FAAs being the primary case in point). More troubling still, even I felt some sympathy for Sniper. He was rootless, homeless, a Kai (albeit an antiKai) without someone with whom he could bond. How long would it be before he felt driven to contact dgrequeen again? And if we got into another confrontation over her, I knew this time, I would kill him dead-dead.
There was only a sliver of moon, but the night was full of stars, so I could see his pale, upturned face against the dark woods. Deliberately, I took a club out of the locker where we kept our troll-golfing clubs, lined up a ball, and sent it arcing into the woods, inches from his head. It thwocked off a tree behind him with a satisfying sound, and he ducked instinctively, before he straightened and stood there staring at me. Then, he faded back into the darkness.
Below me, I heard the sound of a motorcycle revving up. I leaned over the battlements, and saw two people ride out of the gate and down the road toward KaiTown. EvilKai and Doffy2, leaving after a late night visit.
I watched them go, staring after them even as they rounded the curve in the road and the sound of the motorcycle faded in the distance. Yes, I thought.
Tomorrow might be a good day for a visit to KaiTown.
* * * * * * *
CF - When Clones Meet, Part 1
* * * * * * *
Humming to herself, Queenie2 unlocked the door to the Super Nova, and pushed in, turning on the lights. It was a beautiful day, nice and bright, with the promise of warmth later in the day now that summer was coming to KaiTown. Quickly, she got an empty gallon jug from under the counter, filled it with water, and took it out to the porch to water the petunias in boxes hanging on the porch rails. Some of the gothier members objected to the flowers, but no one ever disturbed them. Queenie2 thought they secretly liked the colors.
She went back inside, after taking time to appreciate the perfumy smell of the petunias, and happily began setting up the bar. In the mornings, sometimes, the clones gathered for coffee and bagels or Danish, to discuss their plans for the day, or to relax a minute or two before heading off for work (some of them had managed to find jobs), or just to hang out. Queenie rattled the cigar box of donations for the upkeep of the poorer members. It was depressingly light, but, well, most of them gave what they could.
She was busily absorbed in tallying the night’s receipts when a shadow fell across the bar. She looked up smiling, prepared to welcome the first customer of the day, and immediately her smile faded.
He was shadowed against the brightness outside, but she could tell: a Kai clone. And something about the way he stood in the doorway, the way he carried himself, told her this one was an APEC clone, not one of the nervous, hesitant antiKais. Her mouth tightened. What could he possibly want here?
“Good morning,” she said, making an effort to put cheeriness into her voice. “What can I do for you?”
He stepped across the threshhold and approached the bar. “You are the one called Queenie2?”
“Yes, that’s me.”
He was silent for a moment. “Of course. You are… much younger than I expected.” He was staring at her purple streak, and she nervously ran her hand over it, wrapping her forefinger in the ends.
“Was there…” she said slowly,” something you wanted?”
Abruptly he realized he was staring, and shook his head slightly. “I am sorry. You look so much like her.” He extended his hand to her. “I am MyKai from APEC Castle.”
“Oh.” Without thinking, she took his hand, her small hand nearly lost in his large one. He turned it over and gently pressed his lips to the back of her hand before releasing it. Queenie2 blushed scarlet, unused to this kind of gesture. None of the antiKais ever did it.
“You’re *her* Kai. dgrequeen’s.”
He blinked at her tone. “Yes.”
She turned back to her tally sheets. “What do you want here?”
He stepped a little closer. “I’ve been hearing about you. I wanted to meet you.”
“Really. What on earth for?”
“I wanted to meet you,” He looked down and to the side, “because you are cloned from my queen and because you have so clearly made a life for yourself here… without help from anyone.” He looked at her again and leaned close. “I find that… interesting.”
Queenie2 found herself staring up into depthless green eyes, and her knees went a little weak. They *were* beautiful, these Kais.
“Would you,” His gaze dropped to the floor and then back up again, boring into her through the midnight curtain of his forelock, “perhaps do me the honor of meeting me tonight for a drink?”
Drink? Did Kais drink?
“I do not,” he said, as if he had heard her thought, “but I would appreciate your company. I wish to get to know you better. Perhaps you might accompany me to the LexxBar, say, around seven?”
Queenie2 stared at him speculatively. She had tried not to be as bitter about her circumstances as some of the others were, or to hold hard feelings against her lucky counterpart in the Castle. But sometimes a little devil whispered in her ear. When ever would she again have the chance to put a little pinprick in the APEC balloon? And maybe get some fun out of it for herself? Still, it didn't hurt to be cautious.
“But... your queen...?”
He smiled. “I'm sure she won’t mind.”
* * * * * * *
CF - When Clones Meet, Part 2
* * * * * *
SniperKai sat in the back booth in HotMama’s Leatherass Bar and Grill, morosely nursing a can of Mt. Dew. He’d done some chores for HotMama earlier in the day, for which she’d paid him, and he was wondering now what to do with his so-called riches, and the rest of his day, and incidentally, the rest of his artificial life.
Raucous laughter erupted in the corner of the room, where some antiKais sat together: the military ones from one of the armed camps, no doubt. Their laughter was harsh, menacing, and Sniper had no interest in joining them. He’d had enough of fighting, but for Kais like him, what else was there?
“What do YOU want?”
Sniper looked up, hearing HotMama’s irritated growl, and saw a Kai clone standing at the bar talking to her. He had his back turned, but Sniper knew immediately who he was, and probably what he wanted. Sniper’s mouth tightened. Well, he wasn’t going to run. This was his place.
“I don’t want no trouble in here, understand?” HotMama said, and the Kai clone murmured something back that evidently seemed to mollify her. She nodded in Sniper’s direction, and MyKai turned to face him.
Their eyes locked as MyKai approached the table. He stopped a foot away, looking down at Sniper, oblivious to the hot looks the antiKais in the corner were giving him.
“May I sit?”
Sniper shrugged, and MyKai turned one of the chairs around and straddled it, folding his arms across the top of the back.
“Okay,” Sniper said, taking a swallow of Dew. “I was out there last night. What are you gonna do about it? I didn’t bother anybody. And I haven’t gone near her.”
“I know. I was in town, and I just stopped in to say sorry about the golf ball.”
Sniper struggled not to show his surprise. An APEC clone was apologizing to him? He remained silent, uncertain what to say in response.
“My queen cares for you,” MyKai said. He looked away. “Not, perhaps, in that way, but she cares about you. She’s concerned that you have not made better headway with your unlife.”
Sniper’s upper lip curled. “I find it hard to believe that either of you care that much.”
MyKai tilted his head in a half-shrug.
“I confess I do not… but she does. And what she cares about matters
to me very much.”
“I do not think that will satisfy her. But I will tell her you said so.”
“Great.” When MyKai made no move to go, Sniper added, “Now, if you don’t mind, I’ve got a really busy afternoon ahead of me.”
The APEC clone took the hint and stood up. “Then I will go. My --- dgrequeen is expecting me. We have an engagement later at the LexxBar.” He turned to go, paused, and looked back at Sniper.
“She does care, you know.”
“Any trouble over there, Sniper?” one of the antiKais who had been watching called.
“No, no trouble. My friend was just leaving.”
The antiKais stared a moment longer and then went back to talking among themselves. MyKai walked past them and out the door, leaving SniperKai to sit staring at nothing while his brain churned in frustrated confusion.
* * * * * * *
CF - When Clones Meet, Part 3
He couldn’t help himself. His mind had been working all afternoon, turning it over and over: “She does care…” No, she didn’t, he told himself. Not really, not in the way he wanted. But she cared what happened to him. That was something. He cursed himself for being such a weak, pathetic fool.
But still, when the sun began to set and the evening grew cool, he had to walk down Prince Street and look casually into the open doorway of the LexxBar as he passed.
Damn! The bar was crowded, and he couldn’t see much past the first few tables. They seemed to be celebrating some kind of good news.
He was going to have to go in.
With his virtual heart in his throat, he stepped through the door, intensely aware that the place was full of APEC Kai clones and their ladies. None of them paid any attention to him, however, and he edged through the crowd to a vantage place at the bar. He ordered a Mt. Dew that he didn’t really want, hoping it would make him seem less conspicuous --- not realizing that one Kai clone among so many was already as inconspicuous as inhumanly possible.
He surveyed the crowd, and couldn’t help comparing the LexxBar’s clean, bright interior with HotMama’s relatively grungier surroundings. These APEC had it good.
“I know you,” one of the Kais standing nearby said, and Sniper’s virtual heart jumped into his throat again before he realized it was KillerKai, one of his own.
“KK. I heard you’d started hanging around with the APEC.”
KillerKai chuckled. “Yes, I’ve become domesticated. That’s what they say over at HotMama’s, isn’t it?”
Sniper didn’t answer, and Killer chuckled again. “Don’t you believe it, boy,” he said. “So what are *you* doing here?”
Sniper shrugged, trying to seem nonchalant. “I’ve never been in here. Just thought I’d check it out. It’s a free town, I can go where I want. Nothing wrong with that.”
KillerKai raised an eyebrow. “Well, if you’re looking for who I think you’re looking for, they’re over there.”
Sniper looked where Killer pointed, and saw them off in a booth by themselves. But something was wrong. He took a closer look at the woman sitting with MyKai.
It wasn’t dgrequeen.
CF - When Clones Meet, Part 4
* * * * * * *
“Are you enjoying yourself?” MyKai asked solicitously, as Queenie2 fidgeted. She seemed ill at ease, and he regretted bringing her here. “Perhaps you’d like to go somewhere else?”
“No. This is fine. I’m just... this isn’t... I hardly ever go anywhere but the Super Nova, you know.”
Yes, I know your job is there.”
“I also live there. In a room upstairs. As long as I keep the place up, and make a little profit selling coffee, they let me stay rent-free. Some of the Looks don’t have it so good.”
“Is that what you call yourselves? Looks?”
Queenie2 smiled bitterly. “It’s what the townspeople call us. Looks, for look-alikes. We may be clones like you and your brothers, but we don’t command the respect that you do. I don’t think it’s a complimentary term.”
MyKai nodded. “Yes, I see. But I think you overestimate the respect we get from the townspeople. Mostly, they avoid us. We Kai clones, I mean. I think they are afraid of us. We are copies of a Divine Assassin, after all.”
Someone put money into the jukebox, and Disco spun Angel out onto the dance floor, followed by several of the other couples. MyKai smiled at Queenie.
“Would you like to dance?”
She watched the couples gyrating to 80’s music. “Why did you ask me here?” she said.
“I told you...”
“No, I mean, what’s the real reason? I know you’re dgrequeen’s clone, and from all accounts, you’re pretty devoted. ‘Bonded’ is the term I think they used.”
He looked down. “I am... as you say... dgrequeen’s ‘companion’. But I am free to make my own choices, as we all are.” He took her hand and tilted his head, smiling up at her. “You looked like you needed a little fun.”
A slow waltz began, and most of the couples drifted away. MyKai took Queenie’s other hand and pulled her out of her chair, leading her onto the dance floor. He put one hand around her waist and drew her close, and then gracefully led her around the floor in a gliding, effortless waltz that made her breathe grow short. She let him take her, never having surrendered to anyone like this before, marveling at how easy he made it. When it was over, they stood together, his arm around her, she looking upward into those eyes, as deep as an emerald in this light. He smiled and led her back to the table.
She became suddenly and acutely aware that they were being watched and whispered about.
“You’d better be careful,” she said as he held her chair for her. “Busy tongues are going to be wagging in the Castle tonight.”
“What can they say? We are here openly, enjoying the music and companionship of friends.”
She stared at him. “You can’t be that naive, even for an APEC clone.”
Someone approached the table, and they looked up. SniperKai stood looking down at them.
“Sniper,” MyKai said, glad for a change of subject. “This is---”
“I know who she is. Do you think I’m some kind of fool? What kind of game are you playing?”
MyKai was taken aback. He blinked at Sniper, and then looked at Queenie2, who was staring back at him in shock.
“There’s no game. I merely---”
“You knew I’d come here, didn’t you? You said *she’d* be here just so I would come... so you could introduce me to... *her*!” He looked at Queenie2 and his expression shifted momentarily from indignation to confusion and back again. “I gotta hand it to you. Whenever I think you smug APEC Kais have reached the limits of your arrogance, you surprise me all over again.” He turned on his heel and walked away.
MyKai closed his mouth and looked at Queenie2, wondering what to say. She saved him from having to say anything.
“So that was it? You asked me out so you could hook me up with that... that antiKai? What, is he one of those lovesick puppies that are always chasing after the APEC mistresses? Is he after *your* queen?”
She stood up, knocking her chair over, and, leaning across the table, slapped him hard.
“That’s for trying to use me for your own purposes, and for thinking I’m such a pathetic charity case!”
She stormed out of the bar, leaving MyKai sitting there staring after her in shock.
Damn! This was going to be harder than
CF - When Clones Meet, Part 5
* * * * * * *
Queenie2 caught up with him out on the sidewalk.
Sniper stopped and looked back, but when he saw who it was, he turned and kept walking, hands shoved in the pockets of his worn jeans.
“Hey!” He heard her heels clattering on the pavement as she ran to catch up with him. He didn’t stop, but despite himself, his footsteps slowed, and she managed to run ahead of him and then turn, walking backwards to face him.
“Geez, will you stop? I just want to talk.”
Her ankle turned and she wobbled, and he grabbed her arms to steady her. They stood there staring at each other for a moment before he hastily took his hands away and she nervously raked the purple streak in her hair with her fingers, looking away, anywhere but at him.
“Look,” she said, “I just wanted to tell you that I didn’t know what he was doing. He asked me out for a drink, and---”
“You should stay away from him. He’s bonded.”
“I know,” she said defensively. “He said he was interested in meeting... you know, some of us mistress clones. Finding out about us.”
“Some of you? Or just you?”
Her expression tightened.
“You’re not her. He knows it, and I know it.”
Now she was clearly angry. “Yeah, fine. Sorry I bothered you.” She turned and stomped away, and he might have walked the other way, but he couldn’t stop watching her as she went. So like the original, and yet... not. Younger, of course, but that wasn’t the real difference. There was something about her, an indefinable spirit that made her unique, almost as if *she* were the original.
He shook himself. This was foolishness. She was just a copy, like himself. He was an ex-Nadless antiKai clone, technically dead, with no future to offer anyone, certainly not the original he loved so desperately. But that didn’t mean he had to settle for another copy, did it? Of course not. Even he had his standards.
Scowling, he shoved his hands deeper in his
pockets and stalked back to HotMama’s bar, where he planned to get stinking
Dewed this night.
CF - When Clones Meet, Part 6
* * * * * * *
“The nerve of that Kai!” Doffy5 said again, slamming a clean mug down on the countertop so hard the glasses at the other end rattled.
It was a quiet night in the Super Nova, and Queenie2 sat at the counter with her hands wrapped around a steaming mug, staring down into the dark liquid. A few people sat here and there in ramshackle chairs and beanbags, talking quietly and sipping coffee or tea, but the place was mostly empty. A little easy-listening played softly on the stereo. It was one of those nights when everyone seemed down. Queenie felt the tears behind her eyes wanting to come, but she wouldn’t let them.
“He wasn’t so bad,” she said. “He was just trying to be kind, I think.”
“Not him!” Doffy2 said. “I meant the other one. The antiKai. Who does he think he is, being so superior to us?”
Niner came in the front door, looking tired and bedraggled after a long, hard day trying to please the Pointy-Haired Boss. She sat at the counter with a sigh.
“Hiya, Five. Coffee, please. I don’t even care what kind as long as it’s strong and black.”
Doffy5 set about getting the coffee. “Hard day?” she asked sympathetically.
“The worst.” Niner took an appreciative sip from the mug Doffy5 set in front of her. “Ahh. Hey, Five, what are you doing serving tonight?” She looked over at Queenie2. “You sick?”
Doffy5 jumped in. “Queenie needed the night off, and since I got off early at the museum, I volunteered to take over. Here, Niner, have a double-chocolate chip with that. You look like you need the boost.”
“Thanks.” She looked curiously at Queenie. “So, you had plans? A date, what?”
Queenie2 couldn’t hold back any longer. She burst into tears. Niner was shocked, and Doffy5 quickly came around the counter and hugged Queenie, giving her a towel to put to her eyes.
“She was supposed to have a date tonight,” Doffy5 explained. Only it didn’t work out.”
Niner’s face flushed with anger. “Didn’t work out? Who was it? What did he do?”
“MyKai,” Queenie sobbed.
“MYKAI!!” Niner stared, incredulous. “dgrequeen’s MyKai? From APEC?”
“That’s the one,” said Doffy5.
“Only it really wasn’t supposed to be with MyKai,” Queenie continued, in between sobs. “He only pretended to ask me out... so he... he... could...”
Niner felt herself growing angrier by the second. “So he could... what!?”
Other people in the room had turned toward the ruckus and were now coming up to the counter: Niki4, Angel2, a few others who had nowhere else to be tonight. They murmured among themselves, nodding and giving each other knowing looks. It wasn’t the first time somebody had tried to take advantage of one of their number, and mostly likely, it wouldn’t be the last.
“So he could... pawn me off on an antiKai!” Queenie wailed, and Niner’s thunderous look of anger was replaced by one of confusion.
“I---I don’t understand.”
“S-s-sniperKai. He’s in l-l-love with dgrequeen!”
“Sooo... MyKai tried to get you to go with this SniperKai because... he wanted to distract him from dgrequeen?” Niner let her breathe out in a whoosh. “What a stupid plan!”
“And Sniper didn’t want me, waaaahaahaaaaa!”
Niner and Doffy5 looked at each other. “Well, that’s a switch,” said Niner. “Usually you can’t beat them off with a stick.”
“N-n-nobody is ever gonna love me!” Queenie2 sobbed, making Niner roll her eyes. “Wawawahaaaahaaaaaaa!”
* * * * * * *
“An I told him a thing or two,” Sniper said, both hands wrapped around his fifth --- sixth? --- can of Dew. “Tha’s right! An’ I tol’ her too!” He nodded his head vigorously. “Tryin’ a trick me. Bof of ‘em.”
KillerKai, sitting across the table with his chin resting on his fist, raised his eyebrows. He’d heard this story about six times now --- once for every can of Dew --- and was getting bored with it.
“Why don’t you just ask her out yourself?” he said.
“Ask who out?” Sniper blinked at him blearily.
“This Queenie girl. She seems like a nice person.”
“Wha...? Wha’ d’ya think I am? Easy or sump’n?”
“As a matter of fact, yes. You’re a Kai, for Stan’s sake!”
“Easy for you to say,” Sniper said, squinting at KillerKai because he seemed to be shifting all around the table, or else there were two of him. “You’re moonin’ after an APEC lady too!”
“Well, yes, but Twilight likes me. dgrequeen doesn’t like you. How many times do you have to get hit in the head with a shovel before you decide to move on?” Killer saw that he had Sniper thinking now, as difficult as that might be for the drunken antiKai at this moment. “MyKai has given you a perfect opportunity... well, maybe not perfect, since I saw Queenie deck him pretty good in the LexxBar. But you never know. It’s worth a try.”
“B-b-but... she’s a copy!”
KillerKai looked exasperated. “So what! We’re all copies. MyKai’s a copy. Even the APEC ladies are virtual copies! What’s that got to do with anything?”
Sniper squinched his eyes again, trying to get his brain to work. It was too hard. He would just do what KillerKai said and let the chips fall wherever.
“All right!” he said, standing up. “I’ll do it!”
Slowly, he sank into his chair again and passed out.
“I heard stories tonight,” dgrequeen whispered in the dark.
MyKai stirred beside her and raised himself up on one elbow to look at her. He caressed her cheek, and tenderly twisted a lock of her hair around his finger. “What did you hear?”
dgrequeen reached up and pulled her lock of hair out of his fingers. “Is there something you might want to tell me?”
He looked puzzled, and thought for a moment. “No.”
“That’s what I thought.”
She rolled over and pulled the blanket up to her ears. For a minute MyKai watched her, and then he flopped onto his back, staring at the ceiling, thinking he should have stuck to troll golf and just beating the crap out of Sniper every so often.
CF - When Clones Meet, Part 7
* * * * * * *
Great. It was raining.
Queenie stared glumly out the door of the Super Nova, watching a line of gray raindrops drip incessantly from the porch roof. Thunder rolled across the distant sky like something breaking, and a fresh torrent beat down on the roof, promising that the whole day was going to be wet and dreary. She sighed, and then resolutely sloshed through the puddles standing on the front walk and started down the street.
There was something that needed to be said, and she was determined to say it.
MyKai had endured a dreary morning of cold silence. He couldn’t stand it anymore. He was going to have to find Queenie2 and ask her to explain. And he had no idea how he was going to persuade her to do that, since her likely response would be to slap him again.
He tied his hair back, not wanting to deal with the bun in the rain, and set off for town.
dgrequeen rummaged through the apartment, throwing things and muttering ominously to herself. PartyAnimal had long since retreated to his own apartment, and Zen was huddled in the corner facing the wall, studiously meditating. Even the possum was nowhere to be seen.
“Drat! Drat! DRAT!!!” Something crashed in the next room, and dgrequeen emerged looking as thunderous as the sky outside.
“Something, my Visakha?” Zen asked smoothly, turning to face her.
“Where’s MyKai? Drat that clone, never around when you need him!”
Zen breathed an inward sigh of relief that he was not to be the object of her wrath, and smiled a little to himself that MyKai was. “I believe he went to town, Visakha.”
“Drat!” She stomped her foot, threw on her raincoat which had been hanging on the hall tree by the door, and strode out, slamming the door behind her.
Rain beat on the tin roof of HotMama’s establishment, and even though the roof was four stories up, SniperKai heard every drop with painful clarity. He rested his face on the smooth top of a table in the back, trying not to taste the Dew that wanted to come up and be recycled. His wildly disheveled hair --- how had it gotten that way? --- covered his eyes, for which he was ssoulfully thankful, since even the dim light in HotMama’s bar was torture.
Luckily, the place was empty except for him and HotMama, peacefully reading one of her endless supply of motorcycle magazines behind the bar. It gave him the opportunity to lie here and wish for dead-death.
CF - When Clones Meet, Part 8
* * * * * * *
In a coincidence worthy of the darkest film noir, the front door banged open just as a crack of thunder and flash of lightning signaled the beginning of a new onslaught of rain. The lights in the bar flickered, and raindrops spattered across the threshhold with a sound like BBs hitting the floor. Wincing, half-blind, Sniper lifted his face and looked toward the dark figure that stood silhouetted there.
“Hey, you!” Queenie2 said. “I have a bone to pick with you!”
Sniper squinched his eyes shut and groaned.
MyKai, walking up the street from the Super Nova, and dgrequeen, rounding the corner from the bus station (KaiTown Transit Authority recently having established a route to APEC Castle), nearly collided directly in front of HotMama’s.
“MyKai! What are you doing here?”
He looked down at her in surprise. “I might ask you the same question.”
“*I’m* looking for you!”
“Well,” he answered coolly, looking down at her through hooded eyes, “*I’m* looking for Queenie2.”
“Oh, is that so? Well, that figures!”
“To explain,” he interjected, “why we were together last night.”
“Yes, I think I’d like to hear that explanation!”
“Yes, I think you should!” he answered back, pushing open the door to HotMama’s and ushering her in.
Queenie launched into her prepared speech, determined not to be put off by the comatose appearance of the antiKai lying face down on the table in front of her.
“I’m just as good as you are!” she said, waving her arms and pacing back and forth while Sniper tried to withstand what sounded like giant brass bells reverberating in his head. “You got discarded the same as we did! So that makes us the same, right? So you needn’t turn your nose up at me, Mr. High and Mighty! I’ve made my own way, so far, I don’t ask anything from anybody---“
The front door opened, and dgrequeen stepped in, followed by MyKai. Sensing more tortures ahead, Sniper peered up at them. Seeing her, he sat up, trying not to groan, and raked his fingers through his hair.
“What are you doing here?” Queenie said to a spot in the air between dgrequeen and MyKai.
“Queenie,” MyKai said. “I am sorry for any misunderstanding I may have caused. I wish for you to explain to dgrequeen that we were not on a … date.”
“Oh? We weren’t on a date?”
“You were too on a date,” Sniper croaked, glad for this chance to do MyKai some harm in dgrequeen’s eyes.
“If it wasn’t a date,” dgrequeen said, folding her arms and glaring at MyKai, “what was it?”
“It was…” MyKai looked stricken, like a cornered animal, “It was…”
“It was charity!” Queenie2 hissed. “And I don’t need charity from the likes of you!”
“Yeah! The likes of you!” Sniper nodded his head, and then squinched his eyes shut, wishing he hadn’t done that.
“Hey!” said dgrequeen. “Don’t talk to him like that!”
“I’ll talk to him any way I please.” Queenie raked MyKai up and down with her eyes. “He’s just a smug, self-important Kai!”
“I am not!” MyKai said defensively. “I mean… I am a Kai, but you’re the one with the inferiority complex!”
“And you were the one chasing after him!” dgrequeen spat at Queenie.
“I was not!”
Sniper eyed Queenie. “I told you not to have anything to do with that APEC clone. You Look-alikes are every bit as bad as us antiKais.”
“I wasn’t chasing after him! He asked me out! And I’ll thank you to mind your own business, Mr. SniperKai. You seem to have a problem getting a life of your own, as a matter of fact!”
“None of this would have happened if you had left my queen alone,” MyKai said to Sniper.
“Yes, Sniper, why haven’t you been able to move on?” dgrequeen said. “This obsession of yours is getting a little tiresome.”
“Yeah, well what about you?” Queenie said nastily to dgrequeen.
“What about me/her?” dgrequeen and MyKai said simultaneously.
“Miss APEC queen of the ball with everything going for you. What’s it feel like to have all these Kais drooling over you?”
“When there should be only one,” MyKai said, giving dgrequeen an accusing look.
“Are you saying this is my fault?” dgrequeen hollered.
MyKai raised his eyebrows. “I think you could have done a little more to discourage Sniper.”
“And you didn’t have to hit me in the head with a shovel,” Sniper said. “I can take a hint.”
“Evidently not,” dgre said, “since I had to hit you twice!”
HotMama banged the top of the bar with her ax handle.
“YOU PEOPLE ARE GIVING ME A HEADACHE!
EVERYBODY GET THE FRELL OUT!!!”
CF - When Clones Meet, Part 9
* * * * * * *
“She threw me out,” SniperKai said, disbelieving. “I’ve been a good customer in that place since she opened. I can’t believe she threw me out.”
“Okay,” Queenie2 said, “we’re acting like children.”
The group stood on the pavement outside HotMama’s bar, soaked and miserable and clueless as to where they should go. The rain pouring on their heads had pretty much put a damper on the argument, but dgrequeen and MyKai were still shooting each other scalding looks, while Sniper and Queenie2 were pointedly ignoring each other.
“*I* am not acting like a child,” MyKai said, folding his arms and thrusting out his lower lip.
“Well, I’m not either!” Sniper said, with the identical pose and expression.
“Oy,” said dgrequeen, exasperated.
“Hey, look,” Queenie2 said. “This is silly. Why don’t we all go down to the Super Nova and have a cup of coffee and talk this out?”
“There is nothing to talk about,” MyKai said. “I do not think I have done anything wrong.”
“Only stuck your nose in where it didn’t belong,” dgrequeen muttered, earning herself another heated look.
“I’m sorry,” Sniper muttered in Queenie2’s direction.
“What?” she said.
“I wasn’t very nice to you last night. I’m sorry.” He scowled and looked away from her, embarrassed by this, possibly the first, apology of his entire short unlife. “I didn’t mean anything personal.”
“I was only trying to help,” MyKai grumbled.
“No good deed goes unpunished,” dgrequeen said, sticking her nose in the air and turning away from him.
“It’s all right,” Queenie2 said. “I can’t blame you for thinking you were being tricked.”
“I get so confused,” Sniper said. “Nadless never taught us anything about how people are supposed to act. I guess he didn’t think we were people.”
“What does *that* mean?” MyKai said to dgrequeen’s back.
“Nothing!” dgre growled, refusing to look at him.
“You wanna go get some coffee?” Queenie2 said. She was suddenly feeling a little sorry for Sniper, because he did look somewhat like a drowned rat at this moment. “You look like you could use some.”
Sniper smiled a little at her. That purple stripe did something for her face --- something he kind of liked, despite himself. “Yeah. I wouldn’t mind a cup of coffee at that. If you don’t mind being around me.”
“You meant *something*!” MyKai said.
“You’ll find out soon enough,” dgre said coolly.
“Of course I don’t mind being around you,” Queenie said. “I mean... we’re both Nadless discards, right? We should stick together, not be on each other’s case.”
HotMama stuck her head out the door. “AND GET OFF MY SIDEWALK TOO!”
Queenie2, SniperKai, dgrequeen, and MyKai all looked at each other and shuffled their feet, uncertain how to take leave of each other.
“Queenie,” dgre said. “I would like to come visit you some time, if you don’t mind. I should have come before, but we haven’t known about you for very long. It’s been a big adjustment for us, you know, seeing copies of ourselves walking around.”
“What adjustment?” MyKai asked, never having known a world in which there weren’t dozens of him. dgre shoved her elbow into his ribs, shutting him up, while smiling at Queenie2 and Sniper.
“And I want you to know you’re always welcome at APEC Castle,” she said.
“Really?” Queenie said. “Sure, I’d like a visit. That would be... nice.”
Sniper and MyKai merely looked at each other. Some unspoken agreement passed between them, and then each gave a single, grudgingly respectful nod, and the two couples split and went in opposite directions, Queenie and Sniper toward the Super Nova, and dgre and MyKai --- still muttering at each other --- tooward the bus station.
CF - When Clones Meet, Part 10, End
* * * * * * *
I forgave him. Of course I did. What, you thought I wouldn’t?
I wasn’t mad at him for chasing Queenie2, because I knew he wasn’t doing that. I know MyKai, inside and out. No, I was mad at him for meddling. He thinks sometimes that he can fix things that he shouldn’t try to fix. Well, I guess we all have that failing.
SniperKai has a lot to learn about the world. Poor antiKais, they’ve been given a bum start. He seems to be hitting it off pretty well with Queenie these days. I hope they make it. They are nice people, they should have a chance at a good life the same as anybody.
I went down to the Super Nova and we had a nice, long talk, Queenie and me. She has aspirations, that girl. She’s a pretty good singer and musician (makes me wonder where she got the talent from, since I sing like a frog). She makes her own way, and asks no quarter from anyone. Sniper, if he’s smart, won’t let her get away.
Sooo, you’re all wondering: did dgre and MyKai go home and have a big fight? Well... I guess you’ll just have to wonder. Unless VisionAri or Kai10 spill the beans, that is; their bedroom is next to ours. Two guesses, though, on what we were REALLY being so noisy about.