“Who are you?” I asked, taking another step forward. “Did Dr. Thomas send you to check up on me?”
“No,” he said, with careful patience. “Like I said before, I saw you on the monitors. You looked unsettled. I thought I’d come down and see if you needed anything. A glass of water, another blanket…”
“What if I wanted to go to the bathroom?”
He didn’t miss a beat. “I’d call for guards to escort us there, so I didn’t get fired. But I’d be happy to get you some water and an extra blanket first.” He took the clipboard from under his arm, flipping back the top sheet. “Are you having trouble sleeping? This says you had some caffeine earlier. I know that when I have too much coffee, I can’t sleep for love or money.”
“I was sleeping just fine,” I said. “Then I woke up. My internal clock is all messed up. It might help if I knew what time zone we were in.”
“Yeah, it probably would,” he agreed. “I’m Gregory, by the way, Miss Mason. It’s a pleasure to see you up and about.” He turned his clipboard as he spoke, holding it against his chest with the paper facing me. “You had everyone concerned for a while there.”
I’ve had a lifetime of experience in the fine art of not reacting to things. Still, I froze as my eyes found the block letters on the top sheet of Gregory’s clipboard, clearly intended for me to see.
YOU ARE NOT SAFE HERE.
Gregory’s expression begged me not to react, like he knew he was taking a risk, but had gauged it a worthwhile one. I managed to school my face into something close to neutrality, tilting my chin slightly upward to hide the unavoidable wideness of my eyes. I would have killed for my sunglasses in that moment, if someone had offered me the opportunity.
“I’m not sure you can blame me for that. I was technically dead at the time.”
Relief flooded Gregory’s expression. He nodded, turning his clipboard around like he was reading from it, and said, “That’s true. You weren’t legally alive until you started breathing independently.”
“That’s interesting. Who got to make that fun call?”
“It’s part of the international agreement concerning the use of human cloning technology for medical research,” Gregory said, flipping over another page. “As long as the clone never breathes independently of the life-support machines, it’s not a living entity. It’s just meat.”
“So you’re allowed to call me a clone?”
“Dr. Thomas said you’d reached that conclusion on your own, and that we were allowed to reinforce it, if it came up. Said it would make you more confident in your own identity.” Gregory glanced up from his clipboard and smiled. “I don’t think anyone expected you to figure it out so soon.”
“That’s me, refusing to meet expectations,” I said, struggling to keep my tone neutral. This man said I wasn’t safe. Did I trust him? Could I trust him?
Did I have a choice?
“All we expect from you now is that you keep getting better,” said Gregory, with the sort of firm, bland sternness I’d been getting from medical authority figures since I was seven years old. He turned his clipboard around again, showing me the second sheet of paper.
I AM WITH THE EIS. WE ARE GOING TO GET YOU OUT OF HERE. GO ALONG WITH EVERYTHING THEY ASK YOU TO DO. DO NOT ATTRACT ATTENTION.
I nodded. “I’ll do my best,” I said, replying to both what he’d said aloud, and to what he’d written down for me to see. “Thanks for stopping by.”
“Well, you’ll be seeing a lot of me. I’m one of your night attendants. Now, are you sure I can’t get you anything?”
“Not just yet,” I said, and paused, suddenly alarmed by the idea of being left alone, again, in the dark. “Actually… I don’t know if this is something you can do, but can you turn the lights back on? Please? It’s so dark in here with the door shut that I’m not sure I’ll be able to get back to sleep.”
“I can turn the lights back on,” Gregory assured me. “I can even turn them up halfway, if you’d like, so that you’re not trying to sleep with things lit too bright.”
“That would be great,” I said. Tomorrow, I’d have to start trying to talk Dr. Thomas into giving me a lamp.
“I’ll do it as soon as I get back to the monitoring station,” said Gregory, putting a subtle stress on the word “soon.” “If you decide you need anything else, all you need to do is say the word. The monitors will alert me immediately.”
“Got it,” I said, suddenly glad I didn’t talk in my sleep. “It was nice meeting you.”
“Likewise, Miss Mason,” said Gregory. He turned his clipboard around one final time, hiding the message written there, and took another step back. The door slid shut almost instantly—too fast for me to have rushed out of the room after him, even if I’d been inclined to try—and I was plunged back into darkness.
I stayed where I was, counting silently. The lights came on as I reached a hundred and forty-five. The monitoring station, wherever it was, was approximately two and a half minutes away for a man walking at normal speed. That was good to know. That meant it would take at least thirty seconds for someone to run from there to here. There’s a lot you can do in thirty seconds, if you’re really committed.
I walked back over to the bed and climbed under the covers, stretching out with my hands tucked under my head as I stared up at the ceiling. So the EIS was getting involved… and they weren’t on the side of the CDC. That was interesting. Interesting, and potentially bad.
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