I could make Shaun stop.
Shaun was alive, and he was doing something they didn’t approve of. Shaun was doing something they wanted stopped. But this was the CDC—they were the good guys. Whatever he was doing had to be something I would support stopping, right? Shaun was always good at making trouble, and I was usually the one in charge of stopping him. Take me out of the picture, and well…
For a moment, I lost myself in the pleasant fantasy of the CDC telling me that they were done processing me, everything was fine, and I could go. They’d hand me a pair of sunglasses and show me the door, sending me out into the world to find Shaun and give him a brisk smack upside the head. I was the only one he’d listen to, after all.
Regretfully, I set that pretty daydream aside. If they just wanted to make Shaun settle down, they’d hit him with a tranquilizer dart or something. Cloning a single sterile organ for a transplant patient cost millions of dollars. My shiny new factory-issue body probably came with a price tag somewhere in the billions. Shaun could cause a lot of trouble if he wanted to, but he wasn’t capable of that much trouble—certainly not enough to justify the cost of resurrecting me.
So what had he done that justified it? What did they want from me that they couldn’t get from him? My fingertips brushed the edge of the door. I stopped, turned, and paced in the opposite direction, letting the fingers of my other hand whisk along the wall. Fine; so they hadn’t brought me back from the dead for purely altruistic reasons. I knew that when I woke up. I represented too much money and too much time to be a purely scientific exercise. If this had happened before the Rising, human cloning might have been seen as a way to enhance and extend life. Worn out your body? Get a new one! Every cosmetic procedure imaginable in one easy step. Well, assuming you considered having your brain—whatever it was they did to my brain—having your brain somehow extracted and inserted into a whole new body “easy.”
That was before the Rising. Our modern zombie-phobic society would never embrace something that brought people back from the dead, even if they came back without all those antisocial cannibalistic urges. When I got out of here—if I got out of here—I was going to have a lot of extremely fast explaining to do, unless I wanted to find myself getting shot dead for the second time in my life.
There was something wrong with that phrase. I reached the wall, turned, and continued pacing.
Shaun was alive, Shaun was causing trouble, and they weren’t willing to risk getting caught in a lie if they told me he was dead. That might mean they were planning to use me against him somehow, convince me to spill private information about where we hid our network keys and offsite backup drives. That idea felt thin, like there was something I was missing, but it was a start. Every article begins with a line that can be twisted, somehow, into a hook.
Fine: The CDC brought me back so they could use me as a weapon against the only person in the world I loved more than I loved the truth. How they were planning to do that, I had no idea. Shaun knew I was dead. If anyone in the world knew, without question, that I was dead, it was Shaun; he’s the one who pulled the trigger. Seeing a woman who looked like me might make him pause for a second, but it wouldn’t be enough to bring him running.
The door opened abruptly, sending light flooding into my absolute darkness. I recoiled, more from the expectation of pain than anything else, stumbling to a stop and catching myself against the wall.
The light didn’t hurt my eyes the way it would have before my resurrection, but it still made them sting, blinding me for a few disorienting seconds. I raised a hand to shield them, squinting through the brightness at the man standing in the doorway. He wasn’t moving, and hadn’t moved, as far as I could tell, since he opened the door.
I dropped my hand. “Hello?” I hated the uncertainty in my voice. I was still unsteady, and the CDC was controlling too damn much of my environment. I hate being controlled.
Having two things to hate actually helped. I stood up straighter, frowning at the man silhouetted in the doorway. Being in pajamas should probably have made me feel vulnerable. Instead, it just made me angrier, like it was one element of control too many. Let them take away my connection to the outside world, my autonomy, and hell, even my body, but they weren’t allowed to dress me.
“I said hello,” I said, more sharply. I took a step forward. “Who are you? What are you doing in here?” Belatedly, it occurred to me that maybe walking toward a man I couldn’t really see was a bad idea. Human cloning was illegal, after all, and it was entirely possible that there might be people at the CDC who didn’t want me up and walking around.
“I saw you on the monitors,” said the man. He had a low, pleasant voice, with just a hint of a Midwestern accent. He stepped out of the doorway, moving back into the hall, and giving me my first real look at his face. His skin was a medium brown with reddish undertones, a few shades lighter than Mahir, a few shades darker than Alaric, with a bone structure I thought might be Native American. He had straight, dark hair, worn loose and almost as long as mine. It grazed his shoulders, tucked behind his ears to keep it from getting in his face. I’d have to remember that trick, at least until I could get my hands on a pair of scissors. He was smiling cautiously in my direction, like a man facing a snake that could decide to bite at any second.
I’d never seen him before in my life. But he was wearing hospital scrubs, with a CDC nametag pinned to his chest. That made him, if not an ally, at least a vaguely known quantity.
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