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Dedender, before he continued, allowed his listeners to stare at him. "No, this planet is dying, and we have the perfect opportunity before us to forsake death and embrace eternal life, life through our progeny." He raised his right arm and index finger to the skylight that allowed in the starlight. "Yes, I have always been a man before my time. I'm not afraid to admit it: at the end of the last century I firmly believed that civilization was at an end, that the Y2K bug would destroy the modern world. And so I sold my company, purchased this island, and prepared for the worst.

"But, at that same time, an entirely new opportunity presented itself, a sign that there was hope for the species Homo Sapiens, the man too wise for his own good. When I heard of Dolly the sheep, I instantly knew what she portended. I immediately searched out the finest scientists for hire, and threw all of my resources into creating viable human clones." Dedender neared one of the hundred women he had brought to the island to bear and raise clones, and ran a light index under her soft chin. "Yes, my timing couldn't have been more perfect: the former Soviet Union was chock full of scientists and surrogate mothers willing to help with this project."

Dedender removed his fmger from the chin, and removed his gaze from a pair of eyes that had already been averted. "And four hundred fine specimens I see before me here this evening," Dedender declared with a sweeping gaze along the upper steps. "Four hundred fine examples of what can come about as a result of determination and resourcefulness.

"Yes, there were grim missteps along the way," Dedender admitted with a glance at the floor, "for the cloning of any animal, much less a human being, was far from perfected. But perfect the technique we did, a technique which led to the birth of Aaron on the Fourth of July, two thousand two." The speaker extended the fingers of his hand in the direction of Aaron, who glowed in the attention.

Then Dedender was on the move once more. "And so was begun a new breed of humankind, a new subspecies of Homo Sapiens, yourselves." He opened his arms wide. "You are a select group culled from the finest examples of humankind! You are the carbon copies of Ivy League students, of Green Berets, of fashion models, of scientists, and other top examples of humanity.

First Star by W.R. Hammons:

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