You’re walking through the space station, minding your own business, when you’re suddenly attacked by a stranger. You fight back, but they’re tough and they manage to kill you before the guards can arrive to break things up. Usually, you wouldn’t be too worried about this. Most sick bays have a grim shared mantra: “If we can scrape you off the pavement, we’ll get you back on your feet.” There aren’t too many wounds they can’t fix. There’s a problem, though: you’re on Bordeaux Station and it doesn’t have a sick bay. Those fatal wounds all over your body are, for once, actually fatal.
Luckily, in Tau Station, death is not necessarily the end.
Cloning Licenses and Amygchips
For most people in Tau Station, death occurs much in the same way that it does now. You have one shot at life, and you’d better do your best to get it right. A luckier few have access to cloning technology and can afford to be a little less careful. Cloning requires a license, though, and those licenses are generally reserved for highly skilled workers and others who are deemed invaluable to society for one reason or another. If you were a highly placed government official, or even someone very rich, you might be granted one – but a normal citizen? No way. Fortunately, there are ways for an average person like yourself to get your hands on a license of your own, if you don’t mind breaking a few laws in the process.
Once you’ve got the license, you’ll have an amygchip implanted in your brain. The chip itself is something of a mystery; the cloning center staff know enough to make and install them, but any understanding of how they actually work was lost to the Catastrophe. The chip scans your brain and begins broadcasting the encrypted information via the “mesh,” a massive information network tied to the galaxy’s jump gates. When you die, your amygchip stops transmitting and your most recent clone spawns with all your memories.
An Imperfect Process
It would be a mistake to think that cloning is a cheat to avoid death, as there are serious limits to what the technology can do. Clones always grow to match their progenitor’s age at death, so you can’t create one and then die ten years later hoping to come back as a younger version of yourself. If you have a disease or a pre-existing genetic disorder when you make a clone, it will still be there waiting for you when your current body dies. Lastly, the cheapest clones are also prone to mutations that can land you in a body that’s not quite identical to the one you left behind.
Another restriction is that the amygchip usually only saves the contents of your mind. Your memories, the skills you’ve learned, your experiences; these will all be transferred to your clone when you die. But if you’ve been working out at the gym a lot, or had some genemods installed since the last time you were cloned, those physical changes will be lost.
It is possible to create clones that adapt to your changing physique, but they’re expensive to grow and maintain. Most people only have the credits for the cheaper clones which cost less in the moment but need to be replaced frequently to stay current. It’s kind of the universe’s way of saying “save early, save often.”
When you’re ready to buy a clone, you’ll have three options: 3D printed, vat grown, and premium.
The cheapest type available, 3D printed clones come with an important caveat: there’s a risk of a printing error causing a mutation whenever you have a new one made. It’s not always a bad thing; it’s possible you could wake up from a death stronger than you were before. That said, you could also wake up to find yourself slightly less intelligent.
Clone storage space is limited, so if you print a new clone on a station where you already have one waiting the older clone will be killed to make room. This is often casually referred to as “discarding” a clone.
If you’re not keen on having to deal with unpredictable mutations, you can spend extra to buy a vat grown clone. They’re much more expensive than the 3D printed version, but they come with a no-mutations guarantee. They provide an additional significant benefit: when you gestate a vat grown clone, you can swap your current genotype for another. Tired of being Baseline and want to try out life as a Belter or a Harsene? Buy a vat grown clone.
Like their 3D printed brethren, these clones are “discarded” when you’re ready to make a new one.
Premium clones come with the highest price tag and the most benefits. In addition to being mutation-free and giving you control over your genotype, they use highly advanced technology to modify the clone so that it stays current with your physical state. If you die with a premium clone brewing, the body waiting for you on the other end of the amygchip transfer will be identical to the one that just died. You’ll wake up just as strong, just as fast, and still in possession of any genemods installed before your fatality.
Premium clones differ from the others in another key way: they are updateable. Rather than having your old clone killed when you’re ready to print or gestate a new one, you can broadcast updates to your premium clone from any sick bay or cloning center in the galaxy. For some people, this peace of mind makes saving up the credits to buy one worth the effort.
Mindless Meat, or Humans Beings?
Clones have been a fixture in the Tau Station universe since long before the Catastrophe, and a range of attitudes have developed toward them. Most people see them as disposable; just mindless meat that exists to guarantee their owner’s survival. While this attitude is the norm, and some argue that having a clone is a fundamental human right which should be available to everyone, others view the casual killing of clones as tantamount to murder. Clone rights advocates exist on nearly every space station, and in a few cases have even organized into groups to attack cloning centers and “liberate” the clones inside.
Life is dangerous in the Tau Station, and attempting to make your way through without the safety net of a clone can easily result in your permanent death. Without a clone, there are no do-overs. The decision of whether to buy a one, and which type to use, is entirely yours to make. Just don’t be surprised when you meet people along the way who will do their best to sway you to their point of view on the subject.