User LJ: asyndeta
Other Characters: Toshiko, Iroh & Shego
Character Name: Sonmi-451
Series: David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas
Age: ...technically she's between three and four years old. However, she has a fully adult body, mind and personality; see Abilities/Powers and History for other details.
From When?: Immediately before her execution at the Lighthouse.
Inmate/Warden: Inmate - by a hair, and more on a 'deserves a second chance and needs guidance' ticket than the 'is a a bad person' ticket . Although Sonmi's actions (see History) would be considered morally right by most observers, they were informed by a deep anger, mistrust and cynicism felt towards the human race. What personality she has is almost completely shaped by this one driving need to see justice done by her people. While she didn't live long enough to put any of her plans in action, she also endorsed the use of 'whatever force is necessary' against her oppressors, and agreed with plans to raise an army.
Abilities/Powers: Sonmi is a 'fabricant', a vat-grown clone designed or 'genomed' to serve a specific purpose and no other - in her case, to work in a fast-food restaurant, standing for nineteen hours a day without tiring. She is more robust than the average human - basically, she's harder to break - but has no other superhuman abilities. (Additionally: Like all fabricants, her only sustenance is a liquid called Soap, without which she will starve to death after forty-eight hours. Human ('pureblood') food and drink is poisonous to her if consumed. For Barge purposes I assume that Soap would show up in the blood fridge and confuse the staff.)
Personality: After her 'ascension', when Sonmi first gained sentience, she was very open to the wide vista of opportunities that had suddenly been afforded to her. She learnt astonishingly quickly, trusted easily, and even when she was being shown the darker side of her world she was still capable of making friends and probably even falling in love.
However, since her revelation that her ascension and her journey had been choreographed by the very people she was campaigning against, much of her personality was inverted. On a mass scale, she still has a certain amount of faith in humanity; when asked if she hated the whole world, she replied: 'Not the whole world; only the Juche and the Corpocratic Pyramid'. She surrendered herself to the certainty of her own death because she trusted that her Declarations (see History) would eventually seed a revolution that would bring down Corpocracy. However, on an individual level, her brief existence as a sentient being was coloured by such experiences that by the time of her death, her ability to interact with other people had been severely damaged. She would find it almost impossible to trust or reach out to anyone, for fear of being betrayed, unless appearing to do so would be of benefit in the long term. Almost everyone she meets she will believe to be cruel and manipulative, or wilfully ignorant and easily led.
She's well-educated, observant, sharply insightful, and highly politicised; her mode of speech is quite formal and unsurprisingly she has a tendency to keep others at arm's length. She never really 'switches off', never relaxes, and has no identifiable sense of humour. Like everyone from her world she uses a dialect of English that has been simplified in many ways (for example: 'xist' or 'xecute' instead of 'exist' or 'execute', 'brite' instead of 'bright', 'thru' instead of 'through'. Many words for technologies have been replaced by the names of their most popular providers, e.g. 'nikon' has become both the noun for a camera and the verb for photography).
In many ways, though, her identity is still forming. Although her views on certain subjects are absolutely concrete, the way she communicates with others and her capacity to form relationships may change more easily than it might in other people. In canon, when she encounters a new experience - for example, exploring a shopping district - she clearly doesn't know quite how to deal with it. There are many seemingly mundane things she's never had the chance to do - develop hobbies, for example, or work in a job of her choosing, or make friends without ulterior motives, or live in a space she can genuinely call her own - that will impact upon her behaviour and eventually make changes in her personality.
Arriving on the Barge, Sonmi will find it extremely difficult to accept the Barge at face value; her life so far has been stage-managed and it would be tempting for her to assume that it's all some sort of elaborate invention or 'reorienteering' exercise. Even when (if?) she does eventually accept what has happened to her, it will take longer still for her to bond in any sincere way with anyone on board.
Path to Redemption: Sonmi is...incomplete. She will be unable to really function in any society for as long as her experiences and her ambitions have such a narrow focus. Although she has all the emotional and intellectual capacity of a human being, her sentient self was 'created' to be a revolutionary martyr almost as completely as her nonsentient self was created to serve fries. To empathise with human society and to understand it - personally, not just intellectually - she will need to live it.
She will need a Warden who is open, honest and extroverted. She will shut down immediately, and completely, on anyone who gives a sense of not telling her everything or having ulterior motives.
The absolute first thing that needs dealing with is the fact that she came to terms with her death long before it was scheduled to happen - she needs to be convinced that there is a reason for her to continue living and making any effort. Otherwise, simply being out of the terrible environment she's come from will do a lot to help by itself, but what she needs to do long-term is be encouraged (or flat-out forced) to interact with people and learn that they aren't as hopeless as she's come to perceive them.
History: Sonmi was created in a world approx. 150-200 years in the future. After the 'Skirmishes', some sort of major international conflict, the world was completely realigned. North Korea emerged as a world superpower (possibly the world superpower), expanding to swallow not only South Korea but also Japan and much of China - up to perhaps all of Asia and Europe. The world is now a plutocracy, divided into Consumer Zones (densely populated cities), Production Zones (Africa and Indonesia among other places) and the deadlands - increasingly vast swathes of land polluted to such toxicity that humans 'perish there like bacteria in bleach'. All organised religion has been ousted and, effectively, replaced by Corpocracy - a term used by some characters like blasphemy in times of stress.
For the first two years of her existence, Sonmi-451 (Sonmi being the name of her fabricant series, 451 being her specific identifier) worked at a Papa Song's dinery, a fast food restaurant, in a district of Seoul in Nea So Copros (New South Korea). During most of this time she was mindless, knowing nothing but love and loyalty for Papa Song (a 'Logoman', Ronald McDonald by any other name); any individuality was suppressed by amnesia-inducing drugs in her Soap that prevented her from assimilating new language or new ideas. She was befriended by another server, Yoona-939, who had 'ascended' into sentience because (unbeknownst to them at the time) her Soap had been differently concocted as part of an experiment. Sonmi begged her friend to cease defying the six Catechisms that governed their lives; Yoona refused, and in trying to escape the dinery to the world of 'Outside' (a place servers expected never to see) she was shot and killed.
Soon after, Sonmi herself began her ascension. Before this was discovered by the authorities, she was recovered by Boardman Mephi of Taemosan University and entrusted to the 'care' of the wealthy, idle postgrad student Boom-Sook Kim, who was undeservedly credited with the aforementioned experiment. Because of his neglect, she had time to acquire an education by way of a 'lost' computer; within six months she had the equivalent of a high school education, and after two more had assimilated a huge breadth of literature.
After an incident in which Boom-Sook almost killed her, Sonmi was taken into the care of Dr. Mephi and started a university-level education. At this point she was introduced to Hae-Joo Im, apparently a fellow student, who took her on sightseeing trips into the local area; gradually, they bonded, and a friendship formed.
Eventually, the worst happened: Sonmi's presence was discovered by Unanimity, the ruling government, and Hae-Joo revealed himself to be a member of Union, its underground and outlawed opposing body. He and Sonmi escaped the university; their journey took them through some of the worst (and, arguably, best) areas of Nea So Copros: to Huamdonggil,a slum for the destitute and migrants from the near-uninhabitable Production Zones, and to a near-destroyed Buddhist abbey where a small number of disenfranchised purebloods lived in a community outside of the corpocracy's demands. Sonmi learnt that Union planned to ascend some six million fabricants to rise against Unanimity, and that she was intended to act as a leader and ambassador for them.
Finally she was taken to a ship owned by Papa Song Corp - a ship that fabricants were told would take them to Hawaii for retirement after twelve years of service - and witnessed her sister servers being killed like cattle and sliced apart to provide biomatter, for Soap and the food served in Papa Song's dineries. Sonmi was transformed and hardened by the experience and announced her willingness to use whatever means necessary to convince the populace that fabricants and purebloods were no different.
She went on to write Declarations, a catechism for ascended fabricants; by this time, however, she had realised that everything from her ascension onwards had been a sham; too many events had happened with strangely convenient timing, too many risks had been taken unless the whole arc of her ascension had happened by design. She concluded that Union was run by Unanimity, so as to control idealistic malcontents and provide an enemy for the population to be united against. Hae-Joo Im, Sonmi knew, had been working against her all along.
Her overdramatic discovery and arrest, and the subsequent show trial, were all exercises in fearmongering designed to foster mistrust of fabricants, but she didn't care: her Declarations were published, and even though they were widely referred to as blasphemies she was convinced they would provide a seedbed for revolution further along the line.
She was sentenced to execution in the euphemistically-named 'Lighthouse', where she gave an account of her life to an archivist for the benefit of the Ministry of Testaments. Moments before her death, she would be brought to the Barge.
The kitchen and dinery were a world away from Papa Song's - nobody barking their food orders, no bright boastful AdVs, no crying children, no Logoman towering on his plinth - but Sonmi suspected that she would think of that place in any eatery. Her Warden had asked to meet with her here - perhaps wanting to make a point of the dissimilarities, perhaps not.
She sat at a corner table and fidgeted with her sac of Soap. Her appetite was dull but her curiosity hungered; she watched the Inmates serving food under the eye of a loud man with an accent she'd heard before but couldn't name. They swore and argued pettily while they worked, nothing alike to the blank-minded obedience of her sister servers. It was difficult to contend with the fact that she stood now on the same strata as so many purebloods, that she was spoken to not as a disposable fabricant nor as a figurehead but as an equal. Even the Soap had been served to her with obvious curiosity but no complaint over the clear role reversal taking place. Most of them came from a world before the Skirmishes; it was as likely as not that they didn't know or care what she really was.
She watched her Warden emerge from the servers' counter and approach her table, acknowledging the pureblood with a nod.
Special Notes: I do plan on writing even her voice/video/spam dialogue with dialectic spelling. It's how the book does it and it feels like it works for me.