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“If you need to get out at any point, you get out,” I said. “But aside from that? For me and George? Yeah, no matter what. If this doesn’t end here, they’re never going to stop coming for us. So it ends, or we end, and either way, I won’t blame you for running.”

“Thank you,” said Alaric quietly.

“So what are we doing?” asked Becks. “What’s the plan? Does anybody have a plan? Or did we just get on a plane with this guy and cross the country because, hey, at this point it was the only stupid thing we hadn’t done?”

“Rick was involved with the program that had me cloned,” said George. “Dr. Shoji is taking us to Rick. Rick wouldn’t have done this if he didn’t think it was absolutely necessary.”

“Wow, you mean people don’t arrange to have their dead friends brought back at huge financial and ethical cost just because they miss them?” asked Alaric dryly.

There was a pause, all four of us looking at each other wide-eyed. Then we all burst out laughing. Becks leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees as she shook with laughter. Alaric sank back in his seat. George leaned sideways, her shoulder pressing into my hip, and tried to cover her mouth with the hand that wasn’t holding her soda.

Becks was the first to get herself back under control. Straightening up, she wiped her eyes and grinned at Alaric. “Glad to see you’re feeling up to being an ass**le again, Kwong,” she said.

Alaric half saluted. “Just doing my part for Assholes Anonymous of America.”

“Somebody has to,” I said. I sat down in Dr. Shoji’s abandoned seat, tossing the last turkey sandwich to Alaric before taking a sip of my still-warm coffee. “So basically, we’re going to hit the ground running.”

“Do we ever do anything else?” asked Becks.

“No,” said George.

I toasted her with my coffee. “And thank God for that.”

Becks laughed again as she stood and made her way back to the kitchenette. Alaric started unwrapping his sandwich. I smiled one more time at George before unwrapping my own sandwich and taking a large bite. We needed to keep our strength up. I had the distinct feeling that not only would we be hitting the ground running, we were probably never going to slow down again. Our lives—all our lives—had been measured in calms between storms for a very long time. Even when we were dead, in George’s case. Well, this was the last calm, and I was going to enjoy it while it lasted.

I’ve always lived my life—

No. That’s a lie.

Georgia Carolyn Mason, b. 2016, in the final year of the Rising, d. 2040, during the Ryman campaign, always lived her life by one simple commandment: Tell the truth. Whenever possible, whatever it requires, tell the truth. This blog was for opinions and personal thoughts, because those, too, are a part of the truth. No one is truly objective, no matter how hard we try, and unless people knew where her biases were, they couldn’t know when to read around them. Georgia Mason lived to tell the truth. Georgia Mason died to tell the truth. It’s not her fault some people couldn’t leave well enough alone.

I am not Georgia Mason. I am not anyone else. I am a chimera, built of science and stolen DNA and a dead woman’s memories. I am an impossibility. These are my biases. These are the things you need to know, because otherwise, you won’t be able to read around them. I am not her.

But my name is Georgia Mason.

And I am here to tell you the truth.

—From Living Dead Girl, the blog of Georgia Mason II, August 10, 2041. Unpublished.

Listen to the clone girl. She’s got some pretty good ideas, and oh, right, if you so much as look at her funny, I’ll blow your f**king face off. We clear? Good.

—From Hail to the King, the blog of Shaun Mason, August 10, 2041. Unpublished.

GEORGIA: Thirty-three

Despite Becks’s dire predictions, no one shot us out of the sky. The computerized voice of the autopilot came on over the intercom as the plane touched down on the main runway of the Montgomery County Airpark, saying, “Welcome to Montgomery County, Maryland, where the local time is nine fifty-seven P.M. Thank you for flying with the Epidemic Intelligence Service. Please remain seated while the sterilization crew secures the plane. Any attempts to get up and move about the cabin will result in the immediate activation of security measure Alpha-16.”

“Meaning what?” asked Shaun.

“Meaning the plane fills with knockout gas and we stay unconscious until somebody comes along and shoots us full of the counteragent,” said Alaric. We all turned to stare at him. He shrugged. “While some people were taking naps and f**king around with their guns, I was reading the security information card. Well. Security information booklet. They take security seriously around here.”

“They are the EIS,” said Becks.

“Which has meant basically jack shit for the last twenty years,” said Shaun.

“They saved me,” I said. “They can secure us as much as they want.”

That killed the discussion. We looked at each other, then toward the front of the plane. There was still no sign of Dr. Shoji.

“You know, if he was planning to double-cross us, this would be the best time to do it,” said Shaun.

“If he was planning to double-cross us, wouldn’t he have just crashed the plane somewhere over Iowa?” asked Alaric.

“Not if he wanted to live,” said Becks. “And not if he wanted to dissect us. I mean, Shaun’s immune, Georgia’s a clone…”


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