Chapter 14: What's in a Clone?
Okay, so a little gray alien. That is something new, even by our standards.
"Well, it's kind of a good news, bad news kind of deal," says the colonel once he is done with the introductions.
"I am afraid I do not understand, O'Neill," says the alien, blinking rapidly.
"You see, the good news is that we seem to have found two women with the Ancients' gene and a group of people who claim to have identified over a hundred of them... the bad news is that they don't really seem to be on board with the whole idea of helping the Asgard in the first place," he explains.
"You have already succeeded?"
"Have they provided any sort of explanation for their refusal?"
"It's just that there are a couple of questions we would like to have answered," says Giles, addressing the gray alien as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
"What kind of questions?" asks the Asgard.
"Well, for starters, what exactly do you need our help for," jumps in Willow, having gestured for Buffy and Faith to keep quiet.
"As I am sure Major Carter has already explained, we clone ourselves but after countless generations our DNA has deteriorated to the point it can no longer be used. As a result we need to find a compatible species that will enable us to survive."
"Yes, we got that part but what we want to know is if you want to use human DNA to repair the one that has been damaged or if you just want to replace it," she explains.
"It is too late for us to repair the damage. It cannot be done," says Thor.
"In other words, cut and paste is no longer an option?" asks Willow.
"Cut and paste? I am afraid I do not understand."
"You take a bit of DNA from here, mix it from a bit of DNA from there and presto, healthy DNA," she says.
"No, that is not an option. Our DNA is too badly damaged and --even if it were not-- human DNA is just too different for such an approach to succeed. What you refer to as cut and paste would be no different than trying to recreate our own DNA base for base... and we have already attempted to do that. Unfortunately the resulting bodies were not viable."
"In other words, what you need is more than a little nudge in the right direction?"
"That is correct."
"So, if we were to agree to help you, you would basically go from being Asgard to being human, at least genetically?"
"Yes. You have to understand that human DNA is a viable option mostly because human evolution can be described as being parallel to early Asgard evolution and therefore it should be possible for a human body to accommodate an Asgard consciousness if certain conditions are met, however the fact that an Asgard consciousness can theoretically exist in a human body does not mean that our species are genetically compatible."
"And that is the problem," says Giles.
"Why?" asks Thor.
"Because from where we are standing it sounds as if you would essentially be using those clones as hosts and that sounds a tad too Ghoa'ulish for comfort," says Willow.
"She means it sounds too similar to what the Goa'uld do," explains O'Neill.
"But you referred to the Goa'uld by their ancient name," says the alien, blinking rapidly and turning his attention back to Willow.
"So?" she asks.
"How did you know that name?" asks Thor.
"Because, contrary to what clan GI Joe here used to believe up until a few hours ago, not everyone here on earth had forgotten about the Ghoa'ul," says Buffy.
"Hey! Clan GI Joe?" asks O'Neill.
"People, could we please get back on track here?" growls General Hammond, and I can't help but wonder how much spit the man would save if he were to record those words.
"Sorry," mutters Willow.
"So you are concerned that by transferring our consciousness into a human clone we would essentially be taking that clone as a host?" asks Thor.
"Exactly," says Giles.
"I can assure you, that would not be the case. Without a consciousness of its own to animate it, the clone is merely an object," explains the alien, sounding almost confused.
"Yes, but is it an object with the potential to develop a consciousness of its own? That is the question," insists Giles.
"I am afraid I do not understand," says Thor.
"You claim that a clone has no consciousness of its own but is it because it can't develop one or is it merely because it's not given a chance to do so? From what I gather the clones are artificially-grown, adult, bodies devoid of memories or experiences of their own, right?"
"That is correct."
"And they have no means to communicate, not before the 'new' consciousness takes over, right?"
"Yes, that is correct. The clones themselves cannot speak until they have a consciousness transferred into them," says Thor as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.
"In other words, you are assuming that the clones lack of memories or experiences of their own --combined with their inability to communicate-- automatically translates into them having no will of their own. That is the part that bothers us, the fact that you are assuming that the absence of A entails an absence of B when A and B are traits that are essentially unrelated," explains Giles... though I have to say that, as far as explanations go, that one leaves much to be desired.
"I see," says Thor before going on, "however, by refusing to help us, are you not tacitly assuming that they do have a will of their own, even if there is no evidence to support such a theory?"
"That's the thing, I'm not assuming that they do, I'm just not denying that they may. There's a difference," insists Giles. "You see, in my experience 'clones' --for lack of a better word-- can turn out to be quite different from the original if given half a chance."
"Wait, in your experience? You mean to tell us that you've actually met a clone before?" asks Dr. Fraiser and all of a sudden I see Giles turn white as a sheet. Apparently he had gotten so caught up in his philosophical argument with Thor that he had all but forgotten about some of the other people in the room.
"It's complicated," he says, glaring at the doctor, who doesn't seem to be particularly inclined to let it drop.
"But our technology is nowhere near advanced enough!" exclaims Major Carter.
"We know," says Willow, trying to divert their attention.
"Okay, so you know our technology is nowhere near advanced enough but you claim to know a clone... have you encountered the Asgard before?" asks O'Neill.
"Then how did you meet a clone in the first place?" asks Major Carter, sounding more than a little puzzled.
"Well, even though our technology is nowhere near advanced enough, magic is an entirely different story," Willow reminds her.
"Magic?" growls the major and I can't help but roll my eyes at her reaction.
"Please don't tell me we're going to have to go over that again! Yes, magic!" says Willow, who seems to be more than a little frustrated, though hopefully she's not frustrated enough to give the major a little demonstration. Of course, the fact that Tara has a hand on Willow's back and is obviously doing her best to keep her grounded is not lost on any of us... and that familiar gesture is also causing a couple of raised eyebrows among the military.
"You know a clone that was created by magic?" insists Major Carter.
"Yes... and let's just say that when it comes to their personalities, the clone and the original are not even a close match."
"Well, mini-me is not really an exact match either but..." jumps in Colonel O'Neill and I wonder just what on earth this mini-me is.
"Mini-you?" interrupts Willow.
"My clone," explains the colonel.
"You have a clone?" she asks.
"Sort of... he didn't age properly so he looks like a kid, but he shares my memories and all that jazz."
"So, what about your 'magically created clone'?" asks Major Carter, who apparently is not going to forget about that any time soon.
"She doesn't even look like the original and their memories are different so..."
"If she doesn't look like the original and they have different memories, how do you even know she is a clone?" she interrupts.
"Long story," replies Willow.
"Did you create her?"
"No, of course not."
"Someone else did," says Willow, obviously determined not to volunteer any additional information.
"And you were there when she was 'created'?"
"Then how can you be so sure she really is a clone?" insists the major.
"Because she is," says Willow, shrugging her shoulders.
"Can you prove it?"
"What do you mean by 'prove it'?"
"Would it be possible for us to compare their DNA?" asks Major Carter, still not willing to back down.
"It's not my call," says Willow.
"Could you at least ask them?"
"Why not?" growls the major.
"Because for you to compare their DNA in such a way that you would actually believe that the samples came from different sources you would have to collect those samples yourselves and that means we would have to tell you who they are. That is not a risk we are prepared to take," explains Willow.
"But if this so-called 'clone' is one of the main reasons behind your reluctance to help the Asgard, won't you at least give us a chance to prove to you that she is no clone at all? After all, you say you didn't create her and you weren't there when she was --in fact you even admit that she doesn't even look anything like the original-- so couldn't this whole thing be a fraud somehow?" insists the major.
"Not really... it's complicated."
"I promise, there won't be a paper trail," pushes Major Carter.
"And if we were to prove to you that she is a 'clone'?" challenges Willow.
"I don't know," admits the major, who obviously hadn't even considered that possibility. "Does that mean you'll let us test them?"
"It's not up to me," Willow reminds her.
"So when will you know? I mean, under normal circumstances I'd assumed you'd have to make a phone call, but somehow I don't think you'd trust us enough to make it from here."
"Actually that won't be necessary," says Willow with a smile.
"What, more magic?" growls the good major.
"Not this time," Buffy reassures her.
"So how are you going to manage?" asks Major Carter.
"How long would you need to confirm that someone is a clone?" asks Willow, totally ignoring the original question.
"Once we have the samples? A few minutes. The test would be a lot simpler than the one we had to conduct in order to determine whether or not Buffy and Faith had the Ancient's gene, why?" says Dr. Fraiser and I cringe when I see the glare Willow throws at her. Up until now she had been careful not to mention Buffy and Faith's names in front of Thor but now the game is up and the way in which the little alien is looking at them is not reassuring.
"And we have your word that you won't report this, that you'll keep this off the record?" insists Buffy.
"You have my word," promises General Hammond.
"And you will let us destroy all samples once you are done?" asks Willow.
"Yes," concedes the major.
"Well, I still don't like this but..." mutters Buffy.
"I think it's the only way," says Giles. "They need some sort of proof and this is something they may actually believe."
"Yes, well, I'm not so sure that they believing us is such a good idea to begin with so..." she trails off.
"It's your call," he says, though he already knows what her answer is going to be, just like I do.
"Okay, let's do it," she says, rather grudgingly.
"So how are you going to contact them?" asks Major Carter, turning her attention back to Willow.
"She doesn't have to. We are already here," explains Buffy.
"WE?!" exclaim both Dr. Fraiser and Major Carter.
"Yups, we," she confirms, still looking far from happy.