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Switch Twins

"Thou hast the same hair, the same eyes, the same voice and manner, the same form and stature, the same face and countenance that I bear. Fared we forth naked, there is none could say which was you, and which the Prince of Wales."

-Mark Twain, The Prince and the Pauper

Ten days before my birthday, I was contacted by Daddy for about the five thousandth time. I expected the usual: "Here, you're going to have to learn this, too" sort of thing, another round of "This social policy does A, which leads to B, and in contact with C, D, and E, X is likely to happen." Not that that's not interesting- but once you get the hang of it, it's just a matter of educated guesses. And it's never an exact science, which is annoying- but part of the job I'm going to take. The way he tells it and from what I've seen, there are lots and lots of annoying things about the job. Backstabbing, assorted petty power games, and people desperately trying to kill you all fit into that category.

The perks, of course, do not.

"Howard- you're getting something. A number of things, actually.", he said, with the usual wide smile that I'm certain he reserves for only me. I can have basically whatever I want- thus, it's the surprises that I care about.

"Another Sarah?", I asked, smiling. Sarah's great. She does everything for me, especially when I fall asleep on the couch or I'm hungry or something. He did to her just what he did to the dogs, no problem. Besides, I need more practice with direct power anyway- another regular human or bioengineered human would help.

"Close enough.", he said with a wink. "It's a boy this time. Your age, too. His name is Billy; I think you'll like him. He'll help you with making this place self-sufficient. Oh, and if you're worried about the workers, well, don't. They'll be here in a few weeks or so." Before I could reply, the screen shut off again, leaving me surprised and a little bit bewildered. I wondered what Billy looks like. I hoped he isn't some lower-than-plebian idiot, like all those Mexican workers Daddy was telling me he'd get me to make this place "self-sufficient", a thing he casually mentioned as a requirement- I have no idea why.

Of course, no one would come to my birthday party. Such is the annoyance of near-total sequestration. It's been a rule for decades- no getting near the Inheritor until he's old enough to know who's trying what manipulative tactic. I knew I'd get the total power soon... but he never said exactly when, and he did say it would be a surprise when it happened.

When I heard that Daddy was going to give me him for my birthday, I told Sarah not to say anything to him until I did- the implants auto-designate for the first voice with a face seen and heard. And then I found myself impatiently counting hours and such- things that I, as a rule, never do. Sure, Sarah's nice and all, she's a great cook, she's a trained medic, and she's the mistress of covert operations with over two hundred kills under her 20-inch belt- but when it comes to flat out talking to her- personal information, trying to figure out what she'll think or what her reactions will be if X or Y happens (just for the hell of it)- I can't. I can command her, I can extract information from her- but when it comes to the emotional aspects, she either doesn't, can't, or won't respond. It matters in certain aspects- I'd like to leave her on her own if I'm going to send her off to do something, and although she's heavily trained, I need to know what she'll end up doing under fire. Even with the powers of total command on my side, understanding what makes people tick is still a difficult thing to do. Billy, however, would be an entirely different story. I knew it'd be nice having someone else.

That's why I woke up so late on my birthday. The first thing I did when I got out of bed was stare at the calendar/wall clock for about ten seconds. "April 27, 1998! Fucking finally!" I then flipped off the bed, and went down to accept whatever presents were there. A disk that said "WorldTrace 6.0" on it (almost certainly already installed- the physical medium is a formality). A strange device that seemed to be a distance metal detector. A set of shoes that, when put on, forcibly added a powered spring to your step- I put them in my closet of Stuff I'll Never Use But Don't Really Want To Throw Away. (Yes, I really do have a large closet named that, and yes, it is crowded. Sheeple are not the only ones with that kind of 'do I chuck it or don't I' concern.)

Before long I realized Billy wasn't there. The hell? Did they have problems acquiring him or is he elsewhere? Hmm.. they wouldn't do the strange/silly thing (this time, anyway..) and put him in packaging.. but where is he? I got pissed off- I had never been denied anything before, period, and acquisition should have been easy... Daddy never directly lied to me before either. I heard someone breathing super hard from behind me, I started to spin around, and then I saw someone was looking at me from up on the railing. He had white (but cut! Damn those normals.) hair and eyes just like me, was wearing thin grey pajamas, and his mouth was open in an expression of shock and disbelief. For a moment I was shocked as well.. was this Billy? Who else could it be?! "Billy?", I asked, and as I said his name he started shaking and crying a bit. I think he was really scared. He started to mumble parts of questions like "how did.." and "who are...", his muscles tense and shaking. Finally, at the end of all his blubbering and stuttering, he was finally able to get out a real sentence out.

"You- you're me!!" Close, anyway. Don't tell me they made two Dominators- no, they couldn't, and he's a servant. This is odd. Very odd. Not much odder than other things going on in the organization- but odd nonetheless. 'Your age' my ass. But having to deal with the unexpected is part of the regimen. I am certain Daddy is laughing his ass off right now- he's always had a thing for good pranks. And this is well beyond 'a good prank'- how did they do this one?!

And I too started to laugh. Daddy didn't tell him about this, making things even more interesting. "No," I said, "I'm not you. I'm the Grand Inheritor, but you can call me Howard. Down there's Sarah." She waved and greeted him with her usual smile, and Billy's muscles tensed up and he looked like he was going to panic. "Come on, Billy, sit down, I have some stuff to tell you." I motioned downwards, and we came down the stairs to the big, comfy, plush couch in the middle of the living room. Considering that it's going to be the seat of tele-power, it better be comfortable.

When we finally got down there, and he sat down like I told him to, he started to gasp and shake again. I think the implants did this to him, but if he's anything like Sarah, I figured it would wear off. I think Sarah understood too. She came up right next to him and said in her sweet, high voice, "Don't worry. You'll get used to it. It's not that bad, really, and he is nice."

The reaction was semi-predictable. "Used to WHAT?!", he screamed, in my voice. He then jumped up and started to run around the room pinching himself. I didn't understand him at first- what the hell is he doing? And then I heard him telling himself to wake up.

"Billy," I said, "you're not dreaming. Now sit down and calm down and stay seated down and calmed down until I tell you you can get up."

He did, of course, but his eyes were unblinking and wide open, and his breathing was still a bit quick. He started to stutter and mumble again. "w- where -- what the fuck did they- w- why do I always hafta do exactly.. how the hell..", I heard him sputter out. Then he grabbed my arm really tight and looked at me with wide open eyes.

At that point, I remembered Daddy's instructions. "You won't hurt me, nor will you do anything to my possessions or leave the island without my permission.", I said, just as I did with Sarah. As soon as I said it, his grip loosened a bit but his stuttering became a lot faster. Eventually, he caught himself and blurted out the question I was half-waiting for.

"How the fucking damn shitty hell do you make me do things?!"

In reply, I touched the part of his forehead where the implants were. He started clawing at his head and stuff saying in a very low voice, "no.. nonono.. that's impossible..has to be.."

"Forget it.", I said. "They're below the skull. Besides, I told you not to hurt my possessions; that includes you."

I think he was going to have a heart attack right there on the couch, even though he was doing what he could to calm down like I told him. Then he did something totally unexpected, he sat on the couch and just froze solid. The only muscles that weren't stiff were his heart, which was still pumping rapidly, and his diaphragm, which was still struggling to move at all. He untensed himself in 5 seconds or so, but he was still looking at me with unblinking eyes. Tears were draining out of them.

I pondered telling him not to cry, but then I realized that it wouldn't work. Sarah, who was still sitting next to him, squeezed his hand and looked him in the eye. He was still scared, and he looked like someone who just dodged a 100 mph car or fell out of an airplane with an extra-small parachute or something. I suppose I could look like that if I really tried...

"Billy, I really don't think he's going to hurt you. He's been waiting for you for a week and a half now, and I doubt he's going to do anything to you.", comforted Sarah, her face a mixture of motherly kindness and childish 'please stop crying, it's okay' playfulness- things you usually don't see from someone with her occupation. She then looked at me and said "why didn't he tell him?! It would have at least helped." I shrugged. I didn't know Daddy's mind all that well. Even when you have as much training and education as I do, the exact motives of any Illuminatus are usually incomprehensible (often to the Illuminatus with the motives, but that's another story).

At this point, Billy's mind regained more control of his muscles and my command took effect. His facial muscles were no longer tensed around his eyes, and his death grin loosened up. Part of his mind, I soon realized, was still in panic. I was finally able to relax myself (too bad I can't command myself to do things, it would make my life a lot easier) and the three of us just sat there for a minute or so.

Finally, I was able to say "Billy, I'm sure you have a lot of questions. I'll try to answer them all." I was going to, too- I think that's the reason he panicked, because he didn't understand where he was and what today is. Also, Daddy always told me how servants should be encouraged to avoid misunderstanding. He did relax a bit just then, and turned to look at me.

His first question was fairly obvious. "Why have you brought me here?", he rasped, obviously trying to sound like Rambo just captured by the Viet Cong. I chuckled. At least he has an imagination, or maybe he really believes I'm going to hurt him. That's going to make this even more fun. I have never had the opportunity to really take a normal and send him into total panic with displays of sheer power. Of course, since Billy is my (genetic? Yes, certainly.) duplicate, it's not going to be the same.

"Because it's my tenth birthday. No one told you anything?", I asked.

He shook his head no. I think he still thought he was dreaming, because he kept saying "when I wake up.." and stuff like that. He was still really scared. I wish Daddy would have told him everything like he did Sarah. I guess this is part of my learning and all that, although Daddy never told me what to do with servants who thought they were dreaming.

"Finish your sentence, at least.", I said to him, trying to be as calm as possible. That's one thing Daddy never told me and I had to figure out for myself; emotions are contagious.

He looked me in the eye, tried to control his breathing, and said firmly and loudly, in my voice again, "When I wake up, it will be my tenth birthday, I will be at the orphanage, and you won't exist.", with complete conviction. Denial is a powerful force, but it's not going to last him that long.

I cackled slightly. "Well, if I didn't exist, Daddy'd just have somebody else doing this. Now tell me what the last thing you remember before you got here is.", I replied, the adrenalin being replaced by ordinary exhilaration.

"I remember people in dark suits carrying me out of my bed, I remember them sticking something into my head, and then I woke up here, wherever here is.", he breathed out. I wasn't surprised. The Illuminati usually do things like that. Not sure how they'll do it- either he's dead or just disappeared, one of the two.

"You're on my island, about 100 miles off the coast of Oregon." At this, Billy put his hand on his head and groaned. "It's really big, about a hundred acres or so.", I finished. He was still a bit frightened and all, but he was getting quiet. I guess he was trying to ponder how he got here- it's easy. Carrying Billy to his recently-opened room was certainly easy for my unseen servants.

He was finally calm. "All right... Howard? Why am I here for your tenth birthday?", he asked, looking me in the eye. Daddy told me that that is usually a symbol of challenge and equality, but I didn't care. He was implanted for me anyway.

"You're here because Daddy sent you here. Sooner or later, you're going to help me run things, you're going to be my new taskmaster when the workers get here, you're going to tell me all about your 'normal' view of the world, and you're going to do lots of things you've never even considered doing before. I'm going to play with you a lot too, it'll be fun.", I said, in a slightly more evil voice to further panic him- the irony is that it really would be fun. He looked like he was going to say something, but then decided not to.

I, of course, have the 'burden' of omniscience. "What were you going to say, Billy?", I asked him, and he got another one of those shocked expressions- obviously, the result of the implants taking effect.

"Why.. did you bring me here.. for my tenth birthday?", he asked with some puzzlement. I really hadn't thought of that. Considering we look and talk the same, I'm not surprised we have the same birthday too. Yup. DNA's the same, probably the same birthday- same everything, probably. Except I'm the Dominator, and he's not.

"Well, if we're clones, we do have the same birthday.", I said. "Besides, I didn't bring you here. Daddy did. Daddy runs the Illuminati." I never thought I'd ever say that to anyone! "He can do anything he wants, even give me friends like you.", I said, watching Billy slam the panic button. I think I said that right. You can always find more agents and you can always buy more generic friends, but there are people who are unique and impossible to replace.

"Oh, that's the cake. I think it's done.", said Sarah, who got up, put on some oven mitts, and pulled the whole cake out. It was huge and dripping with icing. It gets bigger every year. I wonder how I'd eat the whole thing this time. I had to eat my last one in 3 days for my ninth birthday. This time it was almost twice as big, and Sarah could barely carry it out. It took her days to make it, too. "Is it ready now?", I asked, and came into the kitchen where the aroma was the most pungent.

Sarah smiled and said, "Yes, Howard.", intentionally sounding like she's hiding something. I couldn't tell her to prevent me from getting hurt- angry and/or semi-deranged servants could use that command to their advantage- but I could find out what she planned.

"Sarah, tell me what you're thinking.", I said very quickly. The implants, fortunately for some and unfortunately for others, don't control thoughts, only actions.

She turned from the cake, looked at me, and said in a clear voice, "It's very ready for you, all four hundred degrees of it, you little numb fuck! Eat and burn!" Billy broke out into bawling laughter from the couch. We do have torture implements in the house- Daddy showed them to me when I was seven, as a formality and for possible occasional use- of course, with implants, they are superfluous. And of course blaming servants for wanting to cause harm to their masters is a waste of time and a foolish gesture. After I told Billy not to laugh at me ever again (save myself some annoyance later), I reminded myself not to ask her thoughts too often.

I also don't think I've been served hot food before by a real human being- the one curse that the Inheritor bears is isolation. Sarah brought the cake into the dining room, and it had a large 'Happy Birthday Howard!' banner on the ceiling- obviously the crowning point for some trainee's lesson. The Inheritor's island is a long-standing training ground for covert ops agents, and stuff like midnight redecoration in utter silence (they wouldn't dare be heard) is good practice. A lot of stuff appears in my house and I don't know when- although I can usually guess how- it happened; they're quite a bit like Santa Claus, only they wear black, they are slim instead of obese, and they are also very, very good at removing things. Sarah took off the mitts, and brought a single ten-pack of candles conveniently placed on the table, and a lighter (which may or may not contain experimental fuels).

"What are you doing?", I asked. I don't know too many normal rituals, but familiarizing myself with them may help my thinking in their terms a bit. Which I find hard as hell to do, and hopefully won't have to do very much of.

She arranged the candles on the cake in a circular pattern and lit them all. "Normals blow them all out and make a secret wish. If you blow them all out in one blow, you're supposed to get the wish."

"I don't think it works for the normals." She laughed a bit.

"No. Didn't work for me either.", she replied, pouring three glasses of fruit punch (which were just conveniently there in the proper places) and giving me a look that said, 'You're not just going to leave him in there, are you?' I wouldn't do that.

"Billy, you can get up now. C'mon in here and sit down, you can have some cake too.", I called to him. I'd get sick trying to eat that giant cake, even with Sarah's help, even in three days. I do remember asking Sarah to bake a very big one. That's something else Daddy told me about the implants- be careful what you wish for, because you will get it if the servants can do it. Billy came in and sat, still a bit uncertain of where he was and what he was doing, but obviously hungry.

I took a deep breath and blew all the candles out easily and made the wish that the organization's been making for centuries. I think Billy was wishing for something; it was, of course, his tenth birthday. I didn't ask, it was most likely to be one of Sarah's insults, probably worse, probably something along the lines of 'may a meteor come down and turn the Inheritor into hot, bloody slag', because Billy was newer. Also, Sarah doesn't have his freedom illusion that will probably cause him some grief before he gets over it. Daddy says normal-born servants go for a year or so before, eventually, they accepted it internally and simply started following their master. A year is a really long time for me. Probably when you get older, the years start to come together like those geriatrics on TV say, although there is no objective measurement and it's definitely different for each person. The weirdness is greater here since I'm going to live forever. How fast would the years come together when I'm 10,000? Truly pondering eternity is no more easy to Illuminati than it is to normals, and certainly not for me, because I could live that long.

Billy was still only half-here, still a little confused, as if they hurt his head before he came here. Of course, they'd never do anything like that. They're way too good. They specialize in stuff the Gestapo wouldn't touch. They make ghosts look as obvious as a dancing clown, they make a shark look like it has bells on its fins. I've seen videos of them before, by someone able enough to keep a camera trained on them. They're professional incarnate. Still, it's hard to wake someone up and drag them off in the middle of the night without them remembering it, even if you use drugs. I'm glad these covert ops people are loyal. If one of them decided to fight us, he'd be able to do a lot of nasty shit. At least most of them are implanted after we figured out how to make them- of course, many of them have been replaced by personality-less Enforcers who can do such things much more efficiently. But sometimes a mind is required..

Sarah brought out the long steel knife and cut the cake into eighths, as rapidly as she slices throats. "How much?", she asked.

"Two. Give Billy two. He looks like he's starving. And eat one for yourself." Sarah's a girl, and Daddy warned me about how servant girls sometimes will starve themselves unconsciously (anorexia) because they start feeling suicidal and they just want to die- and Sarah has huge food requirements anyway. I hope Sarah or Billy never get truly disgruntled and do something I forget to prevent. Daddy said it was hard and expensive to get replacements for good servants, but that's bullshit- it's literally impossible. Billy's probably the only clone of the Inheritor (but why the hell would they.. never mind, I'll find out later), and Sarah was the best and most wanted assassin and assassin leader in the world before she got here, was created by the best genetic engineering there was 13 years ago, can handle most weapons with ease, and is a very good cook- that last part becomes very, very important when you've eaten pre-made food your whole life.

We ate in silence and with gusto, a semi-resigned Billy looking into his food- and then up at me. "Howard?"

"Yeah, Billy?"

"How long am I going to be here, anyway?", he asked, his fear slowly but surely turning to dull resentment. Oh well. It had to happen. He will fear me and curse me until he finally understands that there is no way out.

"Well, forever. Until you die." 70-80 years would be about the max- but he's my identical twin. So he'll live forever right alongside me. Good. I can appreciate some company. Of course, I read plenty of fiction involving immortals (Ironic, but what the hell) and the main problem that afflicts them is that they outlive everyone they know who isn't similarly endowed.

"Figured.", he mumbled, as he continued to eat Sarah's delicious cake. Even though he still didn't like me, I think the cake helped some. He'll get used to it and eventually start anticipating me- that's really the best kind of control, where they'll do what they think you want instead of you having to tell them- if, of course, that's possible. It might not be.. if he's my exact clone in thinking, his thoughts are pretty much uncontrollable.

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