We’d been asleep for a few hours when a gentle chiming noise filled the room, followed by the voice of the Agora saying, “I do hope you’ve enjoyed your rest. Miss Garcia would like to remind you that you have an appointment that cannot be rescheduled.”
“Huh?” I sat up, wiping the sleep from my eyes with one hand and fumbling for my sunglasses with the other. It’s amazing how quickly habits reassert themselves, even when they’re not really needed anymore.
“She means it’s time to go see the Monkey.” Shaun leaned over to grab his shirt off the floor before sitting up.
“I’ll explain on the way. Come on.”
Having just the one set of clothes made getting dressed to go substantially easier than it used to be. Not that I ever spent that much time thinking about what to wear, but when you own ten identical pairs of black pants, you sometimes have to spend a few minutes figuring out which ones are clean. We were both ready in half the time it would have taken before I died. Shaun led the way to the door, where he paused, looking back at me.
“I was tired of being a haunted house,” he said. “Thank you for coming home.” Then he stepped out into the hall, not leaving any space for my response. Maybe that didn’t matter. Maybe this was one of those things that didn’t need to be responded to. I followed him out of the room. The door swung shut behind me, the locks engaging with a muted “click.”
Mahir, Maggie, and Becks were already in the lobby, standing near the entrance to the airlock. Mahir paled when he saw me, looking for all the world like he’d just seen a ghost. In a weird way, I guess he technically had.
“Everything fit?” asked Maggie, as we walked into conversational distance.
“Like a dream,” I said. “Even the shoes are perfect. Thank you. You have no idea how good it feels to be dressed again. They wouldn’t even let me have a bra while I was under observation.”
Maggie shuddered at the thought of that indignity. Becks kept eyeing me, expression not giving away what she might be thinking about the whole situation.
“We were thinking you might not feel completely clothed just yet,” said Mahir, shaking off his shock. He dipped a hand into his pocket, pulling it out with the fingers curled around some small object. “If you would be so kind?”
Blinking blankly at him, I held out my hand. He dropped an ear cuff into it.
It was a small thing, barely weighing a quarter of an ounce, but it felt like the heaviest, most valuable thing in the entire world. I raised my free hand to my mouth, suddenly doubly glad for the familiar screen of my sunglasses. They would keep everyone else from seeing the tears in my eyes.
“Oh, God, Mahir, thank you.” I blinked the tears away as firmly as I could. More rose to take their place. “Thank you so much.”
“It only has three numbers in its address book,” said Becks, tone still tight with suspicion. “Tap it once for Shaun, twice for Mahir, and three times for me. Don’t try to reprogram it. There’s a safety lock on the controls. You mess with the directory, the whole thing will short out, and we’ll know.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” I said. “Seriously, thank you all. You have no idea how much this means to me.”
Maggie smiled. “I think I might have a bit of a clue.”
I smiled back before reaching up and delicately affixing the ear cuff to the shallow outside curve of my ear. It pinched the skin in a way I remembered from high school, back when I started wearing the portable contact devices on a regular basis. I’d have raw spots and blisters for at least a week while I got used to it. And I didn’t really give a damn.
“If we’re all prepared to wander gaily off to our dooms, we should really get moving,” said Mahir, tearing his eyes away from my face. “I’m sure our gracious hosts would prefer the doom not find us early.”
“You are always such the little ray of golden sunshine, Mahir, you know that?” Shaun grinned. “Let’s roll.”
What the f**k do you mean, “Danika was just in touch with you”? Danika hasn’t been in touch with anybody in years. She’s still on crazy safari in the crazy jungle, looking for the crazy magical herbal cure to the walking dead. Seriously, that woman is so much crazy crammed into a small space that she’s practically a crazy singularity. Have you been sticking your dick in the crazy singularity? Because that’s how you catch the really good social diseases.
My coordinates are attached. They’re good for another four days. Then I’m cutting bait and we’re getting ourselves to higher ground. The floods are coming, my friend. Try to disengage from the crazy long enough to get the f**k out of their way.
—Taken from an e-mail sent by Dr. Shannon Abbey to Dr. Joseph Shoji, August 3, 2041.
I’m not sure which is worse: the fact that Shaun was willing to accept this woman as his dead sister, or the fact that I’m beginning to believe it might be true.
Georgia Mason had a certain way of reacting to things—a kinesthetic language, rather than a verbal one. It wasn’t the sort of thing you could fake without years of practice. If this woman is an imposter, she hasn’t had years… and she moves like Georgia. She has all the little ticks and twitches down cold. When she came out of that elevator dressed, with those sunglasses on… I was ready to call her Georgia and ask what we were going to do next. And that’s not a good thing.
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