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Becks scoffed.

To her credit, George ignored her, and continued. “One of the orderlies, Gregory Lake, was actually an EIS doctor assigned to infiltrate the facility. He’s one of the people who got me out. He told me I’d been created from a combination of electrical synapse recordings and implanted information. I’m supposed to be a ninety-seven percent match to the original Georgia Mason.” She looked toward me. “I’m not her, and I am, all at the same time.”

“So you’re not really her, and we can shoot you now, right?” asked Becks.

Mahir shook his head, frowning. “No.”

“What?” Becks gave him a wounded look. “Why not?”

“I’ve read some of the memory recovery studies. It arose from research aimed at assisting brain damage victims.” His frown deepened. “We’re nothing but electrical impulses stored in meat. If you can measure and codify those impulses, you can transcribe what a person remembers.”

But I was dead, said George. How could they measure my thoughts if I was dead?

Whether I liked it or not, it was a good question. “George was dead,” I said. “So how does that work?”

“Kellis-Amberlee keeps turning the electricity in the body and brain back on after the point of death,” said Maggie. We all turned to look at her, even George. She shrugged. “Raised by pharmaceutical magnates, remember? Kellis-Amberlee really improved our understanding of the human brain, because it won’t let the brain die. It turns back on again and again, trying to keep thinking. Only the virus starts getting in the way of those electrical impulses. It scrambles them. The body can’t translate what the brain wants anymore, and so the virus just takes over.”

“If the CDC’s built a system for recovering the electrical impulses from an infected brain, cleaning out the static and then implanting them in a new mind, it’s entirely feasible that they’d be able to accomplish what you’re claiming.” Mahir looked thoughtfully at George.

“I’m the closest match they ever made,” said George. “That’s why they decanted me. I was their show pony. I think they were planning to sell the tech that made me. Immortality for the highest bidder.”

Every eye in the room went to Maggie. She blinked, and then slowly shook her head. “No way. My parents wouldn’t do something like that, even if they could afford it.”

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“Yes. I am.” Her tone was firm, cutting off further discussion.

George bit her lip. “Anyway. I wasn’t supposed to be here.”

“You keep saying that, but how do we know you’re not lying?” asked Becks. “Maybe you’re telling the truth, only the ninety-seven percent Georgia died at the CDC, and you’re the Judas.”

“It’s a possibility,” George agreed. “I guess we’ll just have to wait and see whether I’m consumed by the urge to betray you. Thus far, no urges.”

“No one is betraying, or shooting, anyone right now,” said Mahir firmly. “Please continue your story.”

“Gregory said he wanted to get me out, but we’d need to find a way to do it. If we weren’t careful, things could get ugly. He had another associate in the facility, working undercover with the CDC. She said her name was Dr. Shaw, but then after they managed to get me away from my handlers, she started calling herself Dr. Kimberley. She—”

“Dr. Danika Kimberley?” Mahir sat up a little straighter.

“Yeah.” George blinked at him. “You know her?”

“She’s an epidemic neurologist, specializing in infections that alter the behavior of the brain—including Kellis-Amberlee.” He frowned, focusing on George. “Describe her.”

“Tall, white-blonde hair, really blue eyes, looks sort of cold. She wore incredibly stupid shoes.” Her face fell. “She gave them to me when she told me to run.”

“And she had a Scottish accent?” asked Mahir.

George frowned. “Welsh, I think. She never told me where she was from.”

Mahir nodded like she’d just passed some sort of test. “They got you away from your ‘handlers.’ Then what?”

“Then they drugged me and operated on me without my consent.” Her lips thinned. “Guess the people who made me wanted to protect their investment. They had some lovely surprises implanted in my muscle tissue, designed to release neurotoxins when they decided they were done with me. I guess that seemed more humane than taking me behind the building and shooting me. Have I mentioned recently that I hate science?”

“You didn’t need to,” I snarled. The urge to go back to the CDC, find some survivors, and start punching them in the face was almost too strong to be denied.

Down, boy, said George.

“Oh, good. I hate science. That operation is probably why you couldn’t find any trackers when you scanned me. The EIS doctors took those out, too.”

“Or maybe the CDC always thought there was a chance the EIS would smuggle you out, and they wanted to be sure they couldn’t get any useful information out of you,” said Maggie quietly. Again, every eye in the room went to her. She reddened. “It makes more sense than ‘and then we implanted really expensive biological bombs in somebody instead of using a bullet.’ She was a booby trap. Just not for us.”

“I wish that didn’t make sense,” muttered George.


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