Klemper's Clones: a short story by Giles Fox
"Immortality. That's what I'm selling. Immortality." M.W. Klemper devil-first-class and chief purchasing agent for Region Four of Satanic Enterprises, leaned back in his big swivel chair and launched a perfectly formed havana-scented smoke ring into the air. His client, seated across from him, was so nervous that he failed to notice that Klemper was not actually holding a cigar. Even if he had noticed he would not have been surprised; He knew exactly with whom he was dealing.
"Open and above board, that's me," Klemper said as he smiled benignly and shifted his considerable bulk in his chair. "No tricks, no fancy gimmicks. Take home the brochure, study it and let's talk after lunch tomorrow. What d'ya say?"
He reached out a pudgy hand which his client, Roger Wainwright, stared at, but hesitated to accept. "Damn, don't be so nervous. I told you, no tricks. What are you expecting ..... a puff of smoke, a flash of light and the smell of brimstone? Nothing happens until we've got a legitimate deal; 'til your signature's on a contract duly notarized and recorded." Wainwright, smiled nervously, picked up the brochure and slowly backed toward the door murmuring,
"No offense, but no sense taking any chances in these matters."
"Awright, see you tomorrow afternoon, " grumbled Klemper.
The door closed and immediately there was a flash of light, a puff of smoke and the smell of brimstone as Klemper made a rapid descent to the Nether World for a sales meeting with his staff.
"Sorry I'm late boys, but I got tied up with a client." he said, as he waved away the acrid yellow smoke that surrounded him, and muttered, "Damn those guys in transportation. Hand me that telephone. Hello Baker? What's the matter with you people? I keep telling you, you've got to cut out the brimstone. I appear at the office and the clients turn to one another and ask what stinks. I can't do business if I smell like hell . . .Yeah, I know you've been doing it that way for thousands of years, but you've got to keep up with the times." he sputtered. Have you tried hydrazine or nitroglycerine or something?. . . Look, It's your department. I'll leave it to you, but do something dammit."
He turned to the seminar group and growled, "We've got to modernize this joint. Awright, let's get started. Today's subject of discussion is temptation. We want souls. What have we got to offer? There are your traditionals; money, power and sex. Forget 'em. Sure they work more or less in individual cases, but we're after big volume. We need a new gimmick, a fresh idea. Finley, how about you?"
A nervous little demon with a pinched face stood up hesitantly and ventured that pure gold bars still might have potential for bringing in souls Klemper exploded. "Haven't you been listening to me? The benefit-cost ratio on gold is lousy. You overran your budget last quarter and only brought in a measly four hundred souls." he screamed. "The Boss raked me over the coals for an hour because of you."
He spun around to glare at an exceptionally well-dressed demon and hissed, "I'm sure that must have made you very happy, Cranston, but you haven't got my job yet..... I've got more imagination and salesmanship than all you little angels put together."
Cranston managed an innocent smile as Klemper added, "You won't be so smug when you hear what I'm working on with my latest client." and paused for effect. "I'm selling immortality."
There was a heavy and astonished silence. They all stared at him as if he had gone mad. Cranston adjusted his tie and sneered at Klemper. In a oily voice he said, "Where's the profit for us in immortality? Talk about your poor benefit-cost ratio How do we ever collect? . . . Besides, I don't think we've got it to give."
At this, he began thumbing through the Official Rule Book that he always carried and mused, "I suppose you could trick the client into believing, if he didn't read the fine print. . ."
"No tricks" Klemper shouted. "How many times have I gotta tell you idiots, no tricks. We've got a reputation to rebuild. You cheat one client, somebody leaks the story Everybody knows, everybody's suspicious. Then how are you going to make sales? You can't pull that kind of stuff today. People have seen it all on television and the internet."
He reached into his jacket pocket for his own copy of the Official Rule book, but it wasn't there. "Damn, who's made off with my copy?" After a long moment he calmed down, smiled and even blew a smoke ring. "Yes, I'm going to sell immortality or at least, simulated immortality, my dear archaic, unimaginative, uninformed friends. I'm going to do it with clones."
He had them totally confused and was enjoying himself immensely "We'll adjourn until tomorrow to give you a chance to think about that. I've you to go check in with the Boss."
With that he willed himself down to the executive dining room but nothing happened. "Finley, hand me that damned phone" he grumbled with exasperation.... "Baker, what's the matter with you people?. .I know I asked you to eliminate the brimstone, but now nothing's happening at all. . No, I will not try laying a finger aside of my nose." He slammed the phone down and stalked off on foot.
The next day amid about half the usual quantity of acrid smoke, Klemper made a halting and excruciatingly slow ascent to his office. The improvement must not have been significant, because in the outer office his secretary wrinkled her nose in distaste and told the waiting client he could go in now, as she believed that Mr. Klemper had just arrived. Wainwright walked in to find Klemper, always the professional, all smiles despite his dissatisfaction with the recent journey. "Ah, there you are. Sit down, sit down Mr. Wainwright. make yourself comfortable. What can I do for you today?"
Wainwright said he felt that although the brochure made Immortality sound like the greatest technical achievement since Dolby Four-Channel Sound, it really didn't get down to specifics. "Well, that's what I'm here for." crooned Klemper. "Let me explain. The key to the whole thing is cloning. Professor Stark, an associate of mine, has developed a process by which a cell from your body is used to produce another individual genetically equivalent to you. We grow him at an accelerated rate in our hygienically-clean, health-department-inspected laboratories, until he's about twenty years old in appearance and then flash-freeze him for freshness. He looks exactly like you did at that age, but he's a totally uncoordinated moron."
"I don't see what good that does me," responded Wainwright.
"Why, he's your replacement." Klemper had a devilish gleam in his eye.
"I don't want a replacement I just want to live forever." Wainwright was almost whining. He was bitterly disappointed and fast becoming convinced that the whole venture had been a waste of time.
"And you will live forever. That's the beauty of our system, Mr. Wainwright. We connect your brain and the brain of the new you up to our microcomputer and through an as-yet-unpublished miracle of modern medicine and electronics, we transfer your part of your memory to your clone. That is, the part you developed up until the age of twenty years old. The rules prevent us from transferring more than that. Your old body will stop functioning in the process, but you'll never feel a thing. We pop young Roger Wainwright into your bed and in the morning. There you are fresh as a daisy and raring to go. We can make this transfer every time you get old or ill. Is it a deal?"
Wainwright's head was spinning so at the thought of this outlandish proposal that he could not even begin to formulate his objections, but he managed to stammer that he'd have to think it over, and got up to go. Klemper expected this and let his prey go off to inspect the bait more carefully, a tactic that seemed foolish to the boys downstairs in the Nether World who were watching the whole thing over closed-circuit television.
"Klemper's over the hill." scoffed Cranston. "He's giving the sucker too much time to think. Everyone knows that a quick sale is the best sale."
Cranston was still snickering when Klemper appeared in the conference room a few seconds later with his suit singed along the lapels and smelling of gunpowder. He went straight to the telephone to remonstrate with Baker and then turned to the group saying, "Well boys, how did you like Phase 2?"
"That depends." Cranston replied. "How many phases are there to this crazy deal? It looked to me as though we just saw the finale."
"The next phase is the one in which we close the deal. Wainwright isn't at all happy with what I'm offering him, but he needs a little time to figure out exactly why he's dissatisfied. I can't pressure him. When he comes back tomorrow I'll offer him a new deal that will answer all his objections. He's a mature businessman and has got to feel as though this is a negotiation, otherwise he'll be too nervous to see it through. The guy's cautious and doesn't trust me, thanks to the reputation that fast-talkers and cheaters like Cranston have earned us."
The phone interrupted Cranston's protests. The call was for Klemper and they could tell from his tone that it was the Boss.
"No Sir, I haven't seen the latest souls figures.... Sir, our region couldn't have done that poorly on a relative basis. Who are we being compared with?. .. Hell, that's not fair. Sure Shigi Yamada is a top salesman and manager, but don't forget he's moved the headquarters for Region Four to Tokyo.... What has that got to do with it? Why everything! Yamada had the nerve to apply to the Japanese government for a subsidy. As soon as they saw that he was in the export business, they okayed it without batting an eye. Now he's not a bigger budget than all of the rest of us put together. Dollar for dollar, or should I say yen for dollar, we're doing just as well as he is, and I can prove it... Yes sir, Boss."
When he turned to the group it was with an uneasy look on his face. "The heat's on. I've got to go down and see the Boss. yet out there and try to close a few deals while I'm gone, will ya.? With that plaintive request he disappeared in a puff of something that smelled vaguely like diesel smoke.The next day when Roger Wainwright was finally ushered into Klemper's office he wondered why the previous visitor who had just passed him in the corridor was smiling from ear to ear. Surely he hadn't bought that crummy clone deal. In fact, he was not a client at all, but an inspector from the Air Pollution Control Bureau who had been alerted by complaints of noxious vapors coming from Klemper's establishment. A citation for the illegal burning of high sulfur content fuel had been imminent, but Klemper bought the inspector off with the promise of an entertaining evening with three Egyptian belly dancers he had gotten on consignment from the manager of Region Three.
After Wainwright had settled into his chair, he explained his dissatisfaction with the proposal of their last meeting. After making several false starts at trying to explain his objections, he ended up by saying, "Basically, you're proposing to murder me and put a young impostor in my place."
Klemper gazed at the ceiling and seemed to be making a genuine effort to see things from Wainwright's point of view. "Look Roger, I'll tell you what can see your objections and I'm going to try and meet you halfway. The hell with the rules. How's this? We'll wait until you're old and decrepit. Some night while you're asleep we'll hook you and your clone up to our computer and transfer ALL of your memory to the clone, not just the part up until age twenty. The clone will remember everything you remember, even making this deal. He'll know everything you know and have every habit you have. In short, he'll be you." Wainwright frowned. "But, will he be me or just a improved impostor? I don't see what difference adding some extra memory makes. I'm still dead."
"Are you?" replied Klemper. "I'm not so sure. Look at it this way, step by step. Suppose I said could double your lifespan by transplanting someone else's heart into your body, would you take such a deal?"
"Of course." said Wainwright. "They do that all the time."
Klemper continued, "Okay, now imagine that we could triple your lifespan by replacing your whole body from the neck down with that of a young, healthy person. Still a deal ?" "Sure, who not?" replied Wainwright. "How about following up with some plastic surgery and a hair transplant. . . still a good deal?" "Yeah, sure it's my brain that counts." said Wainwright. "Alright, then instead of grafting all this stuff onto your brain, why not just transfer your brain from your skull to that of a younger person who resembles you?" "If my brain is intact; I mean if I remember everything, it sounds good." breathed Wainwright as he began to see where Klemper was heading.
"Let's make the final step" said Klemper. "What's the sense in transplanting your actual physical brain when it's what's stored in your brain that counts. . . your habits, thought-patterns and memories. We'll transfer everything in your brain to a physically identical brain. . . the clone brain in a twenty year old body that we've made just for you, and there you are. But, let me tell you this. If my Boss gets wind of this before we sign, the deal's off. He'll say that I'm being too generous, so you'd better make up your mind quickly."
After hesitating a moment Wainwright said, "Where do I sign?"
I'll have my secretary type up a contract and you can look it over and sign it after lunch.... or we can do it the old-fashioned way and just shake on it?" he said as he extended his hand. Wainwright smiled apologetically and said he'd wait for the contract.
When Klemper arrived down in Satanic Enterprises headquarters late that afternoon there were polite congratulations on the first sale of his new product, but also an overriding air of skepticism. Cranston put it succinctly, "Let's face it, this clone stuff is costing a lot of effort and sales time for one measly soul. It's not easy to sell this plan. Where is all this volume you've talked about?"
Klemper explained with more than a hint of exasperation is his voice. "You little angels still don't see it, do you? It's so simple when you think about it. Wainwright comes in at seventy, we do the transfer and activate the clone and get Wainwright's soul. The clone is convinced he's Wainwright, since he remembers everything. He's delighted with the deal, so he signs up with us for another exchange at a much earlier age. At that time we pick up the clone's soul. The clone's clone is delighted with the result, et cetera, et cetera, ad infinitum. I'm not just making a deal with Wainwright, but with all the Wainwrights to come. Not only that, Wainwright's clone will tell all Wainwright's old friends about this. Before you know it we'll have more business than we can handle."
They sat dumbly at the conference table for a moment and then there was a shout and a cheer, while everyone jumped up to shake Klemper's hand and pound him on the back. Even Cranston had words of congratulations. It was the ultimate sales scheme, an endless stream of pre-sold clients. They could hardly wait until Wainwright turned seventy to see the faces of The Competition when they started pulling in souls hand-over-fist.
As it turned out, they had not quite so long to wait. A clause in the contract allowed Wainwright to opt for a early transfer in case of failing health. Six months after the contract had been signed, a diagnosis of terminal brain cancer brought him to Klemper's office on the run. "Don't worry about a thing." said Klemper. I'll give Dr. Stark a call and have you scheduled for this evening. Don] be nervous. It's just like having your appendix out."
That night the Demerol and gas put Wainwright under fast, as they wheeled him into the operating room. Cranston, Finley and the other demons clustered around Klemper to share the joyous moment as Stark's technicians got busy defrosting Wainwright's clone. Klemper looked nervous.
"Opening night jitters Chief?" ventured Finley.
"Something like that." murmured Klemper as he anxiously began to pace. He telephoned down to Reception for a last minute check. "You guys got everything ready?"
"Yeah, we've got a full crew of pitchfork types standing by, forty gallons of boiling peanut oil and plenty of hot coals." came the reply. Klemper felt someone slither up alongside him.
"I've got a feeling you're worried. Don't you think Dr. Stark can do the job? asked Cranston with a puzzled expression his face.
"Nothing." snapped Klemper. "There's always a slight chance that something could go wrong." He stared over at Stark who was busy directing his technicians with an air of confident excitement.
Dr. Stark had made a deal. When no government agency or private foundation would fund his "crazy" cloning scheme, he had turned to Satanic Exports, Inc. and signed a contract for all the research support he needed, in return for Klemper's non-exclusive right to use the process for his own purposes. Mad geniuses had always been among the first to welcome offers from the Infernal World. But then again, Stark was not your typical mad scientist; a man obsessed with a goal, but not crazy. The scientist made Klemper nervous. It was as though Stark knew something Klemper ought to know, but he brushed the feeling aside, reminding himself that five thousand years of experience in the deviltry
business were not to be taken lightly even if he didn't have a Ph.D.
The technicians got the electrodes hooked up between Wainwright and the computer and from the computer to the clone who was under a light anesthetic. At a signal from Stark the head technician punched the "run" button on the keyboard and things began to happen fast. Wainwright's body trembled slightly as his memory was copied onto the computer disks and his vital signs began to weaken. After several minutes the computer began to pass the memory into the clone's brain. When it was finished, the
machine automatically did its final chore, which was to cut the power to Wainwright's life support equipment. Wainwright stopped breathing as his EEG went flat.
The satanic sales personnel were in the mood for a celebration and broke out the champagne, but Klemper was sweating as he reached for the phone and dialed Reception.
"Well what's happening?" he asked.
"Not much. We're just toasting a few marshmallows. When are you going to send us a guest? The boys are getting anxious to yet started." came the impatient reply.
"Shut up and check the chute. It might have gotten stuck." Klemper shouted, but the result was still negative. Klemper chewed his lip as he put the phone down. "The Boss isn't going to like this one bit." he muttered to himself.
Cranston, who was eavesdropping added, "The Competition isn't going to be too happy either."
In the meantime, Dr. Stark and his technicians were animating the Wainwright clone. They wakened him from the light anesthetic and put a mirror in his hand as tears of joy started to stream down his face. "I'm young again. It worked. Thank you Mr. Klemper, thank you."
Stark looked over at Klemper and smiled his knowing little smile. "I guess we all have a lot to thank you for. It looks as though there's going to be a shortage of souls for you supernatural types to fight over. Klemper took a deep breath. You won't get away with this, Stark. Either you kill the clone so we can get that soul or we'll have to dispose of all of you."
"Nice try, but I know you're not allowed to do that. He took Klemper's missing copy of the Rule Book out of the pocket of his lab coat. "Why don't you all just go play somewhere else and let us work out our destiny without any further meddling. Would you like to use my cell phone to call your superiors?"
Klemper sighed, "No need. They'll find out soon enough." At that moment Klemper, Cranston, the Boss and the entire Nether World disappeared in a puff of acrid smoke. Strangely, the Competition evaporated at the very same instant.
Dr. Stark, the man, looked around and saw that it was good.