Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Rome Babies Part One - REVISED

This is a revised version of a story I started to post back end of last year.

It's a piece I wrote as a radio play, so say unlike The Maddening Rain there is only sound direction. The good news is that this is a play I completed - I'm currently in the process of rewriting it all - I wrote the whole thing a few years back and it sucks big time in places, so I trying to make it better.

Sorry about the formatting - I'm still not getting to grips with this after a 6 month break.

As always, your thoughts, comments etc are most welcome.



Sound: Fade in. We are in an office. A phone rings out in the in the distance before falling silent. This is quickly followed by a blind snapping shut.


MAX: You listening closely Dunc?

DUNCAN: (NERVOUS) What do you want with me?

Sound: MAX slaps DUNCAN. DUNCAN screams in pain

MAX: Duncan, are you listening closely? Hmm...? I want you to listen to my joke.

DUNCAN: (SOBBING, DESPERATE) Why do you keep hitting me? I haven’t done anything.

MAX: Oh, but you have.

DUNCAN: I just work in a lab.

MAX: John decided life would be much easier if he had a clone.

DUNCAN: Why would he think that?

Sound: MAX slaps DUNCAN again. Again DUNCAN screams out in pain.

MAX: (SLOWLY, POINTEDLY) John decided life would be much easier if he had a clone.

(PAUSE, THEN NORMAL SPEED) So he went to see some clever little bods and had one made. Once it was ready he sent him out to work in his place. John meanwhile stayed home and relaxed.

At first everything was terrific, and John was very pleased with himself.

But you know what happens when you’re all smug about what you’ve done, don’t you Duncan?

DUNCAN: What? What do you mean?

MAX: You know Duncan, you know what happens when you think you’re so clever and nothing can touch you?

DUNCAN: No, no I don’t know what you mean, sorry, I don’t know.

MAX: Oh dear.

DUNCAN: Don’t hit me again, I’m begging you.

MAX: (WHISPERS) Eventually it’s going to backfire.


MAX: It backfires, see that’s what happens to John. One day his clone comes home and says that he’s been fired. John is stunned and immediately demands to know why. The clone explains that he’s been fired from John’s job for making lewd comments to the women in John’s office.

John is beside himself with rage so he decides he’ll get rid of his clone before things get any worse. Which is probably the first sensible thing John has done. So John takes his clone to the top of a tall building and pushes him off.

John watches as this exact replicate of himself falls screaming to his inevitable death. Again John is extremely pleased with his actions; he’s learnt nothing because as it turns out John was witnessed executing his double.

He is arrested and convicted on the charge of making an obscene clone fall.

DUNCAN: That’s not how it works.

MAX: What?

DUNCAN: Cloning doesn’t work like that.

MAX: It was a joke Duncan, that’s all. Admittedly it was a terrible joke, but it does serve as a good introduction to what we will be talking about this evening.

DUNCAN: Please just let me go…

MAX: No.

DUNCAN: But I haven’t done anything.



Sound: MAX slaps DUNCAN again and again and again. Then we hear MAX tape up DUNCANS mouth.

No more screaming out now.


I’m sitting there in this traffic jam just the other day…

Hmm, just the other day,

Duncan are you listening?

Sound: MAX slaps DUNCAN again. DUNCAN mumbles an exasperated scream from behind the gag.

Good. I’m sitting there in this traffic jam. Sitting there and I’m getting increasingly angry. I dunno why at first, I can just feel it creeping up on me.

It’s just a typical Monday morning, cars backed up for miles. I can’t even see what the hold up is but I know it’s something trivial and it’s going to make me late. Again.

Sound: DUNCAN again mumbles an exasperated scream from behind the gag.

MAX: (MOCK FRUSTRATION) For God’s sake Duncan, do you not understand the conventions of story telling at all? What is it?

Sound: MAX tears the gag from DUNCANS face.

DUNCAN: (DESPERATE) Please, you’ve got to listen to me, you’ve got me confused with some else. I haven’t done anything…I’m not who you think I am, you’ve confused me with someone who’s done something to you, but it’s not me…

MAX: Hmm. That’s interesting, because that is a genuine possibility. I mean, you confused me with some else didn’t you? That’s why you let me in here.

DUNCAN: (CRYING) I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I thought you were Christian …I didn’t know…

MAX: (ANGRILY) I’M MAX! (CALMER) Now listen, because this is really important.

DUNCAN: (SOBS) But I haven’t mmmmm….

Sound: MAX reapplies the gag to DUNCAN there is a scuffle and heavy breathing as DUNCAN resists, but he is quickly overpowered by MAX

MAX: To recap, I’m sitting in my car, this crappy family saloon company car that has a broken climate control and no self drive, which as you know comes as standard in most cars today. I’m sitting there in this traffic, in this chaos and I’m really starting to burn up with rage.

All these things, all these things that I’ve kept under control for so long… my idiot boss threatening to fire me, my colleagues cheating me out of my paltry commission, my wife walking out on me…

The red mist is starting to descend, and I mean literally…I can feel this uncontrollable anger taking hold. My bloods boiling, my hearts pumping faster and faster. I’m sweating like crazy; I can feel a million microscopic insects biting into my flesh. tears pouring down my face.

I’m beating at the steering wheel with my fists, pulling the vinyl away from the stitching with my finger nails.

With my fingernails - I’ve seriously, seriously lost it.

When (PAUSE) all of a sudden, I feel calm. My breathing slows my body temperature falls. The red mists clears.

I’m calm now, at ease.

And it was the strangest feeling…but then you’d know all about that wouldn’t you?

Sound: Max slaps Duncan across the face.

MAX: I’m almost finished.

So I’m calm, really really chilled. Life suddenly feels like it’s worth living again, and I just can’t understand why I got so upset before.

(LAUGHS) Ha! Even the traffic’s moving now. I’m driving with a smile on my face, on the way to work, like a happy little Christian.

Like a happy little Max.

I’m okay; everything’s going to be fine.

…and as the traffic moves I get to the cause of the delay. It’s a basic slow moving traffic collision; they say that it can’t happen anymore, but we know better right? Both drivers are out of their cars and are going for it; really arguing the toss and getting in one another’s faces. The arms are waving about; fingers are pointing in all directions, the whole bit. I don’t know whose fault it is and I don’t care.

Then the driver of the car that got hit looks away from the woman he’s arguing with, just for a moment, and I see his face for the first time.

Guess who I see?

DUNCAN: Mmmm….

MAX: Hold on.

Sound: MAX again tears the gag from DUNCANS face.

MAX: (PAUSE, THEN ICY) Guess who I see?

DUNCAN: I don’t know I don’t know…

MAX: I see myself.


MAX: I see myself.

DUNCAN: Oh…. Oh no… no.

Sound: Fade out on Duncan sobbing. Fade up on what sounds like a baby inside a womb, a slow deep rhythmic beating of a tiny heart. This continues throughout the narration

ALISON: (NARRATION) You remember when it started, don’t you?

Not very well I bet, but you do remember that miracle sheep?

You probably won’t remember them telling us that we were stupid to worry about the consequences. It was after all, far too difficult to replicate it in humans. In fact, it would never be done. It was too hard, too difficult and too dangerous.

Then those two renegade doctors appeared, Zavos and Antinori with their two thousand volunteers and claims that we were only a year away from the first cloned baby.

Naturally there was outcry in the media but it never really became the headline news it needed to be. There was always something nore immediate to worry about. A little war here, a financial slump there.

So the research went on, relatively unopposed.

After all money was already changing hands.

It didn’t happen straight away, it did take time. But Zavos and Antinori and all the others who hadn’t been quite so vocal about their intentions used that time and they perfected the techniques required.

The scientists were closer than anyone ever believed.

Jose Cibelli cloned himself using a cow’s egg; he kept this secret for three years.

Dolly the miracle sheep was seven months old before her creators The Roslin institute went public about their remarkable achievement.

So, how long then, would the scientists working away on reproductive cloning take to reveal to the world a successfully cloned human being?

Never?…Not for a long long time?…Not in our lifetime?

This time next year maybe?

One day in the autumn of 2008, which was far sooner than we thought, we were introduced to a three-year-old boy called Tom, and his genetically identical copy, Tim.

It was then that the world stopped and listened and then we spoke.

We said how identical they were.

Which was crushingly obvious. On a genetic level, these two little boys were 99.9% identical.

We said that it was a crime against nature.

However we’ve been committing crimes against nature since the first day we dragged ourselves from the primordial sludge. Nature already had a compelling case against us, so really, what difference did this make?

Besides, nature had created clones. They were called twins, or triplets or whatever, we were just catching up.

We said that it was an outrage against humanity.

But really, what humanity? Out of sheer boredom you were stuffing your over fed face with a cheese burger made from a toxic cocktail of chemically fed bovine bi-product and genetically altered high yield wheat, whilst half a world away a family died of starvation.

So really, with what humanity did we have the audacity to make such a judgement?

We just looked on at two little boys that were one. Tim’s beaming smile full of confidence, Tom sucking his thumb and looking scared…

Or was that Tim?

Where there were once loopholes, laws were tightened. After all Governments had to be seen to be acting.

It was of course all too late, they were already here.

This is it. This is the future and we have lived here for almost twenty-five years.

Cloning is now officially illegal across the entire planet, and has been for over twenty years.

However, for the ten years that followed the statements made in Rome and in Washington DC in 2001 there was a period of extensive research, of extensive trials and of extensive failures.

They, being the teams of Scientist engaged in this race to be the first, operated from countries which had no formal regulations on either of the two cloning methods then available; embryo splitting and nuclear replacement.

It was just as Dr Brigitte Boisselier the Scientific Director of Clonaid had said;

“The demand is huge, the demand is there…this will be done,”

Done it was.

By 2013, the failure rate had dropped significantly, and demand was higher than ever. We never called them clones we called them Rome Babies.

In the year before the worldwide banning of all reproductive cloning, the Government in this country estimated the number of Rome Babies to be approximately three-quarters of a million.
Three quarters of a million children aged between 2 months and 6 years old.

The trouble was not just that there were so many, it was the fact the Government really did not know who they all were, or indeed, where they all were. The same was true across Europe, into Asia, through Australia, Africa and the United States.

President Richard Taylor made an address to the American public in 2015 that stated that the menace of human reproductive cloning and any associated long-term threats would be stopped, at whatever cost.

What a cost it is.

All known Rome Babies must be registered.

All known Rome Babies have restriction of movement within the United States of America and in the United States of Europe.

All known Rome Babies are genetically tagged for security reasons.

All known Rome Babies are automatically sterilised.

If you are found to be a Rome Baby and you have not declared your status you are prosecuted and jailed.

Any child of a Rome Baby is automatically exposed to the same restrictions, including enforced sterilisation, at whatever age.

If you are found to be harbouring a Rome Babies without surrendering them to authorities, you are liable to spend a lot of time in jail.

If you are found to be engaging in any form of research toward an aim of reproductive human cloning you are also liable to spend a lot of time in jail.

As you already know, China had it's own methods of dealing with Rome Babies.

The question is how can we treat Rome Babies this way? After all, are they not our fellow human beings? The intention of these laws is to stop the very act of human reproductive cloning for whatever reason. They are not about the individual; they are about the concept.

We could not have grasped the impact these laws would have on the individual. How could we? When President Taylor made his address, the eldest clone alive was only eight years old.

No one ever thought to ask the simple question…

How will you feel to know you are a clone?

To know that you are nothing more than a copy?

Sound: The sound of a heavy wind rushing over a hill top somewhere in North Wales.

GREG: I can’t see anything from here.


GREG: I can’t see the entrance properly from up here, it’s too dark.

ALISON: Give me the binoculars.

GREG: Fine, see for yourself.

ALISON: Hmm… why didn’t we bring the night sight?

GREG: I don –

ALISON: (CUTS) Okay got it.

GREG: Sure?

ALISON: Yeah sure, I can see the office block.

GREG: Can you see the cooling towers to the right of the building?


Sound: Pages rustles as Greg spreads the map out.

GREG: According to the plans, you should look up and to the left of the three large cooling towers, past the row of loading bays.

ALISON: Hold on…yeah, got them.

GREG: And the main research lab should be a …erm, a three storey building with a gatehouse out front.

ALISON: This is the eastern staff entrance isn’t it?

GREG: Yes, yes of course it is.

ALISON: Okay then I can see it.

GREG: Well, what’s happening?

ALISON: Nothing is happening.

GREG: He’s already late.

ALISON: What time do you have?

GREG: It’s gone nine.

ALISON: Right then, where the hell is Max? He should be out by now.

Sound: Birds twitter and there is a distinct sound of a gentle babbling brook. An electric car is coming towards us, pulls up. An electric whirr as the car window is lowered.



KIM: What’s your name?

MAX: Max.

KIM: Max what?

MAX: Max Hollingham.,. erm, M, Maximum 10.

KIM: Maximum 10?

MAX: Er... yeah.

KIM: Okay Max, I’m Kim, now get in we need to move.

Sound: We’re in the car now and we can hear the electric engine motoring away in the background and muffled electronic traffic reports.

KIM: Max, this is Alison. You’ve spoken before.

MAX: I don’t think…

ALISON: You know me as Louise Brown.

MAX: Oh, er…

KIM: We’re treated like right wing extremists Max. You must have seen us on telly?

MAX: I don’t really watch the news, well not until recently that is...

ALISON: The media talk about us in the same breath as the Pro-Life anti-abortionists, ‘right to lifers’.

KIM: Terrorists, murdering innocent scientists and benevolent right minded thinkers.

MAX: Why do they think that?

ALISON: A scientist we were investigating died. We got blamed.

MAX: Oh. (PAUSE) So how many of you are there?

ALISON: Can’t tell you that at the moment Max.

MAX: Okay.

KIM: But, we can tell you
Max is that you’re with friends now .


Sound: Fade out. Fade up the windy hill top in North Wales.

ALISON: Something’s obviously gone wrong.

GREG: Rubbish. Nothing’s happening down there, the security hasn’t moved in hours. It’s just another windy night in North Wales.

ALISON: Max should have finished by now.

GREG: Perhaps he can’t find anything.

ALISON: (PAUSE) That’s it, I can’t wait any longer.

Sound: There is a small scuffle as Greg tries to pull Alison down by her coat.

GREG: Alison what the hell do you think you’re doing?

ALISON: I can’t just sit here and wait Greg. Something’s happened, I can’t just wait, I’m going down there.


I will write part two I promise.

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