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The mid twenty-first century saw the first human clone born to a couple incapable of having children naturally. The technique effectively produced a copy of the girl's mother. The knee-jerk reaction from most governments was a ban on clone research. Of course, some didn't.

So far, no group has been able to accelerate the clone growth as per the popular conception of a science fiction clone (ie: you speed grow a copy of yourself and copy your mind into the "blank").. You cannot just "grow yourself a new body", nor have copies of yourself complete with all your memories. At present clones are effectively your twin, only separated by a generation.

THE CURRENT STATE

Advances in other areas have lead to a better understanding of tissue rejection; the human genome and the discovery of what is now called o-type tissue. That is, tissue that virtually no one will reject. The shortage of o-type tissue pushed cloning research onward. It is now possible to grow a single organ or limb to order. This was deemed more ethically acceptable than breeding human clones for spares.

Indeed, similar technology is used to create much of the food required using tank grown animal meat. Food scares, increased costs and massive demands forced the hand of both the public and suppliers. Eating a true animal is becoming increasingly rare and hideously expensive (although rat-meat remains cheap). In some countries, eating animals has been outlawed, although the population continues to eat clone grown factory protein.

Intertile couples - or same sex couples for that matter - have been using new cloning techniques for some time. Science has been able to take genetic material from both parties and use them to fertilise a blank human egg.

TANKS & A-WOMBS

The drive for artificial wombs was to increase the survival of premature babies. This was very successful and as with many things, the technology was put to other applications. An artificial womb is like a small fish filled with a special liquid and various lifesupport umbilicals for food and waste products. Although a-wombs are more commonly used for premature births and organ growing, there has been a few cases of them being used to grow babies totally in vitro. Some parents have had children from "tanks", but the costs involved make "natural" birth still very common.

Critically injured patients, burns victims, or those with a highly infectious disease, benefit from a-wombs. Tissue transplants heal very quickly due to the tank's soup and sterile environment. The soup is a combination of nutrient caring liquid with anti-bacterial and anti-viral nanotechnology. A series of umbilicals deal with any bodily functions. In virtually all tanks, conscious patients are plugged into virtual reality, as being inside a tank can be too close to sensory depravation for some. It also makes it easier to communicate with the patient.

A spin off from artificial wombs was the development of the tissue tank. This is a sterile tissue friendly environment which is used to grow o-type or clone parts in. Tanks can be anything from monitor sized, for eyes, fingers or testicles; up to large chest freezer like systems. These coffins are used to grow a batch of limbs or organs (including skin). The space industry has expressed an interest in these tanks, with an eye to convert them for long term life support under heavy/low gee environments.

CONSPIRACIES ABOUND

Just because clone farming has been outlawed, this does not mean it does not go on.... allegedly. Rumours circulate of the rich and powerful cloning their bodies; raising the clone in vitro to a suitable age; "dying" and transplanting their brain into the new body (effectively killing the original "owner"). Investigations have been carried out by Interpol and the Corporate Council, but nothing has come to light. There have been no obvious cases, nor public prosecutions. So this is evidence enough, to the conspiracy nuts at least, that it is going on. But then They tell us that The Greys run REvolution and the net contains alien AIs trying to create cybernetic hybrids to infiltrate our power bases. Take your pick.