This story is faithful to the movie version of Cloud Atlas, and involves two of the storylines. It is an investigation of how special relationships developed in two separate eras. How did Somni and Hae Joo and Meronym and Zachry fall in love? With this story I hope to answer so many questions I had left after the movie about how these souls came together in those unsettling times. For simplicity, I only refer to the story of the book for a few small details. I hope you enjoy…
I did not create some these characters nor do I receive monies or compensation for David Mitchell's masterpiece. Any break from canon, however minimal, is intentional and for the purposes of entertainment.
WARNINGS: Angst, trauma, hurt, violence, war, slavery, mature sexual situations, etc...
Chapter 1: Artifact
Meronym looked out at Big island, growing smaller and smaller as they rode across the abyss of cerulean sea, the corrugated green mountains rising steep to the azure sky, craggy cliffs and tumultuous memories fading into the distance as the silver hulled boat rode onward. She was going back to her land, back to her home, one filled with sickness and death, a people with hope slipping away like the lives of many of her kin. But her life, her star was a beacon of hope, because in this far away little land, the emerald seamount, she found the way to call her celestial brethren for help. Now there was a chance, however minute, that her prescient tribe, one of the last remaining on the earth as far as they knew, would be saved from their destruction. A tumultuous few weeks it had been for her, but her intuition and hard work had paid off. Just when she could celebrate, tragedy befell the land of her newfound friends. It was much emptier of a place now, after the placid folk of the village lay massacred by the cannibal hordes. Her attention turned to the two new passengers; Zachry and his niece. They stared at the little island growing fainter in the distance too, strained looks on their faces, sadness in their eyes. Theirs was a new world of lonesomeness and grief. The little girl's hand reached up and touched the glass.
"Muchy smaller now, our home. But it not our homeplacen be reconin'." Said the Catkin girl, her fingers separated by a small space. She peered at the green island through these fingers with one eye. She pouted and put her head on Zachry. "I trying not past livin, but my moma on my mind. I be wishing she here with us on the water bird." the girl said.
"In my mind she staying something fierce, little one. She never leavin'. That be alright. The body don't stay but in your mind she stay. Sometime futurelike it not hurtin like fire in your chest. One day smile you will when she come visit your dreams." Zachry replied, hugging her close and rocking her in his stong arms. His good eye wandered over to Meronym, to whom he dared send a pained smile. His gazes were often times intense; Meronym thought that they revealed a fraction of the complexity that dwelled in his soul. A conflicted, imperfect soul, she felt, one that intrigued her enough to convince her shipmates to bring them along with them. Meronym smiled and turned away, walking slowly down the hall to an alcove that had become her office on the transport ship. She waved a hand and opened the wall completely, so that even once inside, she could look out over the waters. If Zachry needed her, he knew where to find her. Best to leave them alone for now.
Meronym sat at her desk, deep in thought. She was forever intrigued by this island man, a man she was drawn to, inexplicably, since he first sneered at her as a guest of his sister's at their home. They recognized each other. But how? She had never been on that island before; he had never left the island since birth. It was peculiar. She felt they had been in each other's presence for years. She wanted him to come with them; actually it was what was best for them. But she did feel he wanted to come, too, behind that rough, surly exterior. And Catkin, even though saddened by her family's death took to the new experiences with the flexibility and tenacity of childhood. Meronym was not worried about the girl eventually doing well, just her sometimes brooding uncle. She was the one who would lead their journey, since Meronym was a linguist and the Prescient tribe historian, one who knew intimately about the Valleymen's language and cultural norms.
The trip back to the Prescient homeland would take some days, and that left Meronym with some time to work on the ship. During her long voyage searching for a satellite link in the remaining parts of the reachable world, they uncovered many places and artifacts in their expedition. Finding the religious buildings and the artifacts were fascinating, though not helpful in Meronym's quest to find the signal posts she needed to get a message to the off-world colonies. After all that had happened in Zachry's Valley, they laid in wait for the results of her signal. She finally had some time to further her inquiries into these recently found treasures. For the moment, Meronym was allowed to return to her former position as historian.
She looked down at the carefully wrapped package she had placed in her desk; an artifact rescued from a recently deadlanded area near New Seoul. The place appeared to be a house of worship yet it hid a military academy, the excavator said. The researchers felt this site was held by Union and was the origin of a little known part of their religion: a sect of religious soldiers. The Liberator Priests were founded by General An-kor Apis himself, according to rumor. This group was not well understood because of the secrecy necessary early in the uprising. The suspicion was they were instrumental in furtively aiding and supporting the newly enlightened fabricants and spreading the religion of Somni, until their uprising eventually toppled the entire government. They scattered after The Fall. Unfortunately the Fall became a death knell for the their civilization.
The package had been cared for delicately; wrapped securely and put in a safe box, found stored in what they thought was an altar in the newly flooded cathedral. Meronym pulled on her gloves, in order to keep the oils on her fingers from damaging the find. It felt precious, sacred, the pages worn by reading, folded in places, fragile. Meronym's historian's hands moved them gently; she documented everything on the recorder; lest the book implode or disintegrate before her eyes. The pages were hand written, rather unusual for the day. As she lifted it out of the wrapping, it separated and startled her. It was a set of four books actually. In the first section, the tenants from Sonmi were fully written out, the fading ink neatly printed on fabric-like pages. Meronym gasped…the writing was familiar… could this be the originally written tenants by Somni or Archivist Park? For a moment, she dared to dream. Even though she did not believe in the idolatry of Somni, it was still breathtaking to believe that she was holding something with such significance.
The next three were journals, it seemed. The second book drew her attention the most; it was a small book, rounded edges, worn and dirty. This was titled "Libera" by a piece of paper now loosely affixed to the front cover. She peeled back the label gently, under it was the simple word "JOURNAL". It was a diary, a memoir with notes interposed. "Hae Joo Chang" was the name scrawled on the inside cover. Yet someone had then named it differently, and obviously held it in high regard. Her eyebrows rose instinctively; who was this man? Meronym gently fanned out the fragile, sticking leaves with bated breath. The writing was small, hastily written, it seemed. On several pages there were faded fingerprints. Some pages were water damaged, barely readable. There were pages inserted and affixed by glue that were slightly larger than the original. She took care to keep these loosened pages in the order found.
On an inner back page there were pictures; one was the ubiquitous Image of Somni, but different than she had ever seen. She seemed younger, innocent, determined. There was a softness in her eyes, she appeared hopeful. She was wearing a stylized off shoulder embellished top in deep blue. There was no collar on her neck, as found on fabricants, so Meronym surmised that this picture was taken after her rescue. Meronym knew that Somni came from a line of replicants; her face was commonplace. Yet Somni 451 had a different look; her eyes were transformed, filled with knowledge and wisdom. This image, she believed, was Somni 451 but it was unique in the fact that she was actually smiling. Meronym bit her lip and she sighed. The images of Somni 451 kept by Unanimity were stark, dark. Even in her broadcast, Somni was somewhat melancholy. Those images always gave Meronym pause; there always seemed to be such sadness in Somni's eyes. Meronym scolded herself; why did she put so many emotions to a visage? It was just a picture after all.
Below this was a headshot of a young Korean man of mixed lineage. His expression was serious, lips pursed tightly yet his eyes were gentle and deep. His face was oval, his hair fairly long, swept across his forehead so it made him seem boyish. There were several faint scars across his cheeks. The messaging implant, a precursor to the ones the prescients now used, on his left temple was also just barely visible. He was wearing the simple black high neck jacket of workers in his day that became the identifiable symbol of everyman, the uniform of Union. Full of idealism and intention, she thought. Was this Hae Joo Chang? Obviously, he must have been a man of some significance, to be pictured next to Sonmi. Meronym did not know what the hierchy of the Union was at that time; it became stronger and larger once it rose out of the canals of Old Seoul. Meronym had never seen his face before.
Meronym flipped to a group of pages that were added in the very beginning. She leaned back into her chair and began reading. She had to find out why this journal was "Libera".
A note from General Apis
Meronym's eyebrows rose again, and inside, she became excited. Was she looking at script from the renowned General's own hands?
This journal was given to me by Commander Hae Joo Chang shortly before he left with the delegation to the outpost where Sonmi 451 delivered her great message. I tried to dissuade him from going. He was too important to the Union to lose in such an endeavor. He flatly refused my urgings; he would not leave Somni's side, even though he knew the probable outcome. He felt that his being with her was essential to strengthen and allow her to do what she needed to, so he convinced me. He had discovered her, nurtured her, and protected her. I believe he was correct. No one other than Sonmi was taken back from the island alive. She soon perished by the hands of Unanimity as well. We will be forever grateful for their ultimate sacrifice; that small band of revolutionaries gave freedom to many.
The death of Commander Chang is quite a loss for Union, as well as for me personally. It has taken me some time to read his journal. Hae Joo was like a son to me. I first met him while he was young, a student in the University as he studied cytogenetics. He eventually learned the truth about the fabricant industry, the murder and cannibalism of humans. It was effortless to bring him to our cause. Despite his quiet demeanor and mild nature, he took to our military training quite well. Chang was agile and strong for his tall, slim frame. He was focused and effective during battle, a born marksman and adept at hand to hand combat. He became my own guard for some time, yet I believed him wasted in this position.
Chang and the other science officers eventually began working on a plan to free fabricants. The Union had toyed for some time with the idea of affecting the fabricants in some way; at first by trying to convince them, so they would just talk with them. This proved fruitless, the officers then believed a virus or a drug that would be needed to change their docile nature. The fabricants had faster metabolisms; they grew to adulthood quickly, they learned quickly, they grew old quickly. They had little time for social and emotional development. Unanimity "recycled" them after brief lives of backbreaking labor. They outfitted them with collars that a Seer could use to kill any fabricant at will. We also realized that the collars were a way to track a wayward fabricant out of the range of their detonation devices. Anyone humane looking at this in a logical, rational way could see this as wrong. As criminal and cruel. There were enough of us who felt the same.
Mother Nature in her divine wisdom did our job for us. After some investigation of the fabricant industry, we discovered problems favorable for our purposes. As the clones were duplicated, each line mutated bit by bit. The mutations manifested in intolerable behavior problems around fabricant 1000; therefore they terminated each line around that number. The fabricants were also becoming more intelligent each passing iteration. The attitude and personality issues became more difficult to spot while still in the manufacturing facility. They "decompensated" and grew more unmanageable and unpredictable the older they became. More of a problem for Unanimity. Therefore they limited their lifespans, but the market drove them to produce more and more fabricants despite these issues.
Certain lines, such as the female servant fabricants, seemed to have a higher incidence of late unpredictable behavior, according to our sources in the governing body. We concentrated on observing those in their working environments in Neo Seoul. I sent out a group of my most trusted officers to scout out and attempt to recruit these fabricants, Commander Chang being one of them. I felt his gentle nature and kind ways would work well in this endeavor. These fabricants needed to be approached gingerly; they were kept naive and indoctrinated that if they were disobedient they would be "excised." The powers that be could not call it what it actually was: execution. Multiple attempts at freeing and then supporting the development of a free-willed fabricant were unsuccessful. That was, until Chang spotted a pair of fabricants in Papa Song's restaurant who seemed to have developed a friendship, which was unusual. While undergoing closer scrutiny, the Yoona unit was killed after she struck a consumer and tried to escape. Chang acted on his own and quickly retrieved Sonmi 451 that night, afraid that the enforcers would catch up with her. And the rest, as they say, was history.
I questioned him about his success with Somni 451. Chang said the key was that from the beginning, he always gave her a choice. He exercised her free will from the moment they met. She CHOSE to go with him. She was scared but CHOSE to stay, and did not try to return to her Seer as did the others. She CHOSE to read, and learn, and develop into a realized human. When he lost her briefly, during her incarceration, he would not rest. He was more agitated about her than I had ever seen him. Chang, though injured from his fall, insisted on being the one to free her so against our advice, he broke into the prison and stood watch by her door disguised as a guard, waiting for the best time to act. It was sheer luck that this jailbreak was successful. He brought her back to his hideout in Old Town. I chastised Chang for his recklessness and was contemplating bringing Somni underground. He would not have it. I saw a fierce protectiveness in his eyes, and a genuine concern for her that made me reconsider. He was all she knew and if he was successful in helping her develop into a free willed replicant, we would have what we needed. It was not the time for rebuke. I agreed, but asked him to start keeping a journal, so that we would have record of occurrences from his perspective. He complied, as you see.
Sonmi and Hae Joo had become close; I did not know until reading his journal just how close. The essential element of interpersonal chemistry and the attachment that was immediately apparent between them was what I felt made this attempt successful. He brought her to meet me only when he felt she was ready. She developed beyond our expectations in such a short time under his doting, protective care, so I left them largely alone, allowing him to be her constant guardian and teacher. I should have known that the rules, all rules that governed the fabricant's lives would be eventually broken by Sonmi 451. She became so much more than I imagined was even possible, and to my chagrin, she became more human than I realized. At first I was appalled when I found out what happened between them. To become involved with one's charge was forbidden; it complicated matters. I initially placed the onus on Hae Joo; I felt he should have shown restraint. After thinking about it more in the ensuing days, it all made sense. It was easy to see how it all fell into place, in retrospect.
It seems that two young souls discovered a greater motivator than the high ideals of the Union in the dark, flooded alleys of Old Seoul. The leadership of Union had, in all its aspirations to help the fabricants be courageous, free humans, underestimated the necessity and strength of the most human emotion of all. The simplest way to tell their story is that a revolutionary officer and a free willed fabricant fell in love and then propelled a revolution. It was through that mutual adoration that Somni found true freedom, which allowed her the strength to develop as she did. The truth is their brief, yet tragic, love bore tremendous fruits: The death blow to the foundation of Unanimity.
I have often thought their meeting was probably not by chance alone. That the whole lot of us being at this time and place was not just by happenstance. I learned much about both Hae Joo but also Somni in his rather candid and complete retelling of their time together. Somni's words of truth, her tenants, have become essential spiritual food for the revolution; which was something that we were missing. In large part, we have Hae Joo Chang, and whatever led him to her, to thank for Somni 451 becoming a part of our revolution. I have to admit, I am not one to delve in the belief of divine intervention but something was afoot here that I am still trying to understand.
I now give you the words of Hae Joo Chang, the liberator and most adoring follower of Somni 451. Within it you will find my historical notes, like these, added where I find it pertinent. You can then form your own opinion.
General An-kor Apis
Meronym leaned back and took a deep breath. Now she knew who this Hae Joo Chang was. She had only heard vague stories about this male figure. In some rare images, he was depicted as a larger than life figure who held a glowing Sonmi aloft, above him as trampled remains of Unanimity lay beneath his feet. It was not the image of the real, young revolutionary who loved the real Sonmi. Her hands shook with the realization of what she had found: books that were the birth of a religion. She was in awe of her discovery.
"By Somni…" Meronym muttered, then laughed out loud as she realized what she had said.