Chapter 3 – Conflict of the Clones
“Okay, just so we’re both on the same wavelength here-” I call out, bounding down the hill after the Newt Queen “How violent are we going to be about this whole ‘betrayal’ scenario? I’ll admit I’m slightly less invested than you are-”
It’s entirely possible she’d just pulled ahead too far and didn’t hear me, or likely her hateful screeching mantra which had devolved from “Crush! Shatter! Diiiiiicks!” to the garbled stuttering and raw rage I now heard, but regardless, she didn’t answer.
I rushed after her, my sword hopping and gouging the hillface behind me as I let it trail in my wake. Which was actually pretty fun.
The newt goddess (she was certainly of deity size) had pushed ahead, her bulk pushing into the greens territory.
I lagged behind, though not deliberately. My sword, my size and my cardiovascular health were holding me back.
I’d been lugging my sword across the ground for a bit too long, so I hefted it up onto my shoulder with a little angling and a lot of legwork, prepping my patented gravity-focused swing. The slightest glance at my sword shows it as a mud-encrusted and gently dented husk of it’s former self, but it’s still a large dangly chunk of metal with a handle, so I’m pretty happy with it.
I feel capable, aware, definitely headed for the winning side of a lopsided fight. Purple had re-nestled in my scarf, my sword was ready for the one swing I have in me before I resort to plucking newts from their bowls and throwing them at each other… we had the element of surprise. I definitely feel good, for a moment.
Immediately, that moment passes and is followed successively by another moment lacking that same air of triumph.
My sister – the genetic re-assemblage of my own constituant parts, made for my convenience by the green horde of spacious aquariums – stood in front of an amassed green bowl army. Apparently, the queen and myself had approached with less than adequate subtlety.
That would be okay. Genetically speaking, she and I are are an even playing field but with my sword and superior aquarium-ally, I would have had the edge. Hell, my Y chromosome ought to lend me a hand. Only, with what was either the knowledge gleaned from my mistakes or a crude application of her own noggin ( a mind purely derivitive of my own, I might add) she’d gotten a sword.
Our swords are pretty different, for clones with so little time to develop differentiated tastes. Instead of carrying around a big lump of steel too heavy to lift above shin-crippling heights (requiring a pause to wrestle physics) she’d instead been gifted a sliver of steel with a fancy hilt that flickered and danced through the air as she waved it at me, taunting me with a scowl on her face and her tongue poking out a little.
Without a hint of self-deprecation, I really hate myself sometimes. That bitch.
The battlefield is forming around her. My ally the large red queen roams in crazed circles, by chance skittering around instead of through the nearly formed green bowl regiments.
Old-purp squints at the forming battlelines from within my scarf. I droop a flappy bit of the fabric back over him. He doesn’t need to see this.
New-purp is at the back of his battle lines, bleeping fury. He’d cared enough for newt tradtition to usurp a bowl and a colour that hadn’t been his own (whatever his had been) so this new chaos must’ve ruined his day.
I find myself smiling I’ll admit, I can be petty.
I creep forward, towards the edge of the gathering mass of bowl-dom. The Red Bowlqueen was seething at the centre of it all, twisting rapidly and scattering crimson droplets all around as her insides churned, the exceptionally circular newt inside her red-bowl flinging itself with abandon at the glass and sending her own bowl twisting.
Greens surround her as new-purps yapping bleeps command and pelt against the thick glass of her goo-home, the many husbands suddenly invigorated and directed with gusto to strike at their queen, who seemed to have somehow lost their favour at some point during her crazed chant of “DICKS!” and “GRAAAAAAAHHH!”. Or perhaps beforehand. Again, I’m a little out of the loop here.
I find Her Roundness’ warcry to be a lovely mantra, but all meaninful poetry is often divisive like that. Not everyone can see the beauty in “I’ll crush you – Damn you all, I tried so hard!”.
Poetry is a deeply personal thing.
As much as I enjoy standing back and letting the colourful view of spontaneous jelly fountains and unexpected chaos envelop me, my clone and I differ greatly, again. She strides towards me, her thin rapier making a show of slicing neatly through the air. Odd patterns, lunges, an artistic interpretation of gouging out a spine through sheer force of will, she mimes it all out as she draws closer. It was well thought out, spiteful, and were it not directed at me, I’d be impressed. I certainly don’t recall learning any of that.
I let the war of the bowls rage on around me. I had family matters to attend to.
She faces me, the war of the Bowls at her back. I have a view of everything, she has a view of me and a recently pockmarked hill.
“I’ve surpassed you already, brother. No one needs to know my origin, anymore. I’ll never be linked to you.”
“So, this is penis envy.”
“I’ve always thought so, but we can’t – we’re related.”
Her face twisted in on itself. Comedy is another rather personal thing, fairly subjective.
“Brother, do you even know who or what these people are?”
“I’ve actually been really struggling with settling on a name, but I’ve grown attatched to guessing so I’d really prefer not to know.”
“Only fools choose ignorance. That the original pattern matches you so closely disgusts me deeply.”
“Closely? I don’t recall any changes between the me now and the me then.”
In truth I really don’t mind, but delaying sister dearest more would give Newtqueen more time to deal with her own nonsense and then help me out. I’m about to be one of a kind, after all. (confidence is key).
“You wouldn’t notice the changes. I didn’t actively recall any differences myself, but I’m astute. I think, instead of drone through life staring at colours and patterns.”
“I’m a master at colouring between the lines, too.”
“You wont be good at anything soon.”
“Ooh, very intimidating.”
I relish the comfortable weight of my sword pressing down on my shoulder, prepped for the one downwards two-handed swing I can manage before I’m struggling to lop off toes and hoping sister dearest takes after Achilles.
“My point, dear brother, was that you had longer here than me and know nothing of the world you are in beyond the things you’ve seen. I had answers, and I got even more.”
“The ‘newts’ are not sea-faring folk. There was more to this world than your dim mind would ever have thought to explore.”
“Great, thanks for the tip. Now, I’m not much for infanticide or familicide or whatever this would count as, and my giant bowl clearly trumps your smaller bowls, so get on your way.”
Condifence is coming to me pretty easily, with the sight of the newtqueen’s energetic rampage sending bowls soaring and looping through the air in plain view. The crunch and shatter of broken glass rings out, as my proud Red Royalty roars and crushes and roars some more. An inspiring sight.
“No, brother. There’ll be no peace. I don’t want this world flooded with replicas. We’re the last there will ever be of the original, and you end here.”
She crouches, shifting her weight to her thighs and stretching her arm out towards me, her rapier extended.
She has range, form, and a sensibly weighted weapon.
My large lizard warrior ally is held up fighting the significanty smaller lizard warriors. For a bit, at least, I am alone.
I started at her, a little dumbfounded. My plan had been delay and improvisation, but she was poised for battle, which I really didn’t want to have. I could either take on a fighting stance and get cut down promtly by the least loving clone of all time.
I held my awkward, vaguely diplomatic standing position. She remained frozen in a stern-faced battle stance.
We stayed rigid and stare at each other for a bit.
It is perfect. She may be a bit off, but she was definitely still me. She’d let a miniature victory get in the way of the bigger picture, and was delaying her assured victory until she got a minor one.
I enjoyed watching the Newtqueen rampage in concentric circles, mowing through and over bowl after bowl of arrogant greenjerk. The ground was coated in a thin film of greenjunk. It was truly beautiful.
I’d enjoy it even more if Newtqueen had dispatched, displaced or otherwise disabled each and every amphibian threat, but she was thoroughly occupied for now. I believe heartily she would have gotten around to defending me, but the puddle of green goop she was making spread and reached my sister and I, at the edge of it all.
The puddle of green stretched towards us, until it was squelching against my sisters feet, and she shifted to look down at that distinctly green gunk.
Maybe she’d expected the fight to be less one sided, and was hoping for whatever colour you get when you mix green with red. As it was, it was a solid green not at all diluted or polluted by red (the queen’s liquids or my own were all very thankfully internal)
The doubt was enough to arouse my sister’s curiosity, and she turned to scan the battlefield behind her.
The Newtqueen patrolled and raged unmarred, the greens lay scattered, broked, or indifferent (a very committed and entirely neutral janitorial staff had been busy throughout the affair).
Maybe she’d expected me to be more honourable, less reflexive, less competent or just more whimsical about things, but I took my chance and swung my single gravity-aided swing with everything I had. My blade clunked into her skull with a jarring THUNK, the entire sword shuddering as vibrations ran down to the hilt, hurting my wrist.
I dropped my sword, pinching my joints and wringing my hands, curious about the twang running through my wrists, even as sister dearest crumbled facefirst into the green goop, unconscious and/or dead. I’m indifferent. She wont know what way I travel, and unlike her I’m not insecure enough to need to be the only me wandering the world.
Still, I make sure to grab some mud and scuff up her dressing gown, as well as break her finnicky litte sword in half over my knee.
Revenge, much like poetry or comedy, is a deeply personal thing.
Squinting at her broken sword, I can only hope nobody will make her another and someone starts to call her’Halfblade’ or ‘Halfwit’ or ‘Half as good as that clever chap who looks a bit like her but isn’t at all effeminate, if you get me’.
‘Ol-purp peeps out of my scarf, gaping first at my sister beside us and then the carnage beyond. His beady eyes settle for a second, then seem to glaze over. He’d made his peace.
Either that or newts look like that all the time. Again, I’m really not in my comfort zone with any of this.
I look at the battlefield, and regretfully decide that this place is not quite for me.
With a silent farewell to the Newtqueen, I gather my things and decide to find somewhere that is.