More Than Spare Parts
by S Shane Thomas

Ronald Greymar and Ron Greymar Jr stared out the view port into a splash of stars. The men shared every likeness from their rusty red hair, freckled complexion, blocky shoulders, average height, even the flat left foot. Only age distinguished differences between the pair, the senior’s hair thinned from the forehead back, crow’s feet marked his eyes, and his posture slumped from the progression of time. In many ways the pair resembled father and son.

“Boot camp for the Colonial Security Force starts Monday,” Ron Jr said casually.

Ronald shook his balding head in disapproval, “I know you have more potential than that.” The elder reached his hand toward the other’s shoulder, but junior evaded the contact. “You’ve got a brilliant future in the astrophysics department of the starship’s university. As department chair I can insure you receive a position as soon as you complete graduate studies,” Ronald said, as he gazed at unfamiliar constellations.

“Thanks Ronald, but I’ve made up my mind. I want to be on the front line! No astrophysicist gets to accompany the science group for planetary exploration. I’ll be there when we first encounter intelligent life, I’ll protect the group from alien animals, I’ll protect people in the colony from crime, I’ll…” 

“Squander your mind!” Ronald cut in, his complexion flushed red with anger.

“Just like you squandered my first heart!” the youth countered.

In their colonial starship, on an eighty year journey to another world with conditions suitable for human life, ethical views on cloning humans for life extension had been reevaluated. A gene therapy with cells from newts allowed unborn cloned teens to regrow eyes, limbs, even internal organs, all prior to consciousness. Ron Jr’s life began to correct a defective heart valve that would have killed his elder five years ago. As a reward for their donation, the cloned youths were raised as children and given full citizenship upon adulthood.

“You can further my theories! Only you have the same mind as me, only you can make leaps beyond my theories when I’m gone,” Ronald said.

“I don’t have your mind. Maybe the same blank slate, but our lives have been totally different. I came to as a full sized man, you had a childhood! You had parents to care for you, and I had a man obsessed with his work during the off hours. I don’t owe you my career, I’m joining the Colonial Security Force with or without your approval,” Ron Junior gave the elder a piercing gaze.

“You’re just a pup!” Ronald yelled, “You would do well to take the advice of someone who’s been around a while. You wouldn’t even be alive if it weren’t for me!”

Now Ron Jr flushed with anger. Even as his complexion reddened the elder realized the flaw in his own argument. The fire in his eyes fizzled, his guts clenched, his mouth began to wag an inaudible apology.

“You owe me! You would have been a heart disease statistic by now if it weren’t for me. You want someone to advance your theories? You’re already five years beyond your biological lifespan, you could go another thirty. There’s your second go at astrophysics.”

Ronald’s features softened, the vein on his forehead sunk back until no longer visible. “I’m sorry Junior. I was too career driven to marry, it’s no wonder I struggle at fatherhood. Now that you’re a man, maybe I can be a better friend?”

Ron Jr cracked a smile, more from relief than victory. He didn’t know why, but Ronald’s acceptance felt every bit as important as the acceptance letter he had received that morning from the Colonial Security Force. “I’d like that. I could use a jogging buddy anyhow, CSF officers need to be in top form, and I don’t want boot camp to be too much for me. Besides,” He slapped the elder’s round middle, “We don’t want that heart going to waste now do we?”

It occurred to Ronald that the lad gave him a new heart in more than one way.

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