Then he stepped out of the elevator, leaving the five of us—my team, plus Steve—behind. I looked at the others. “Did that creep anybody else out, just a little bit? Or was it just me who was getting the weird ‘and then they found out he was dead all along’ vibe?”
“This isn’t good,” said Becks.
“No, and it isn’t getting any less creepy while we stand in this elevator arguing about it.” George stepped briskly out to the hallway, where she stopped, turned, and looked at the rest of us. “Well? Are you coming, or am I going to go get the scoop of the century by myself?”
“I don’t know about you guys, but I’m not letting the dead girl make me look like a wimp,” declared Becks, and shoved her way past Alaric to exit the elevator. She stopped next to George, folding her arms. “Okay, three dudes hiding in the elevator while two girls are hanging out in the scary hall? You are now officially wimps. In case you were wondering.”
“We can’t have that.” I put a hand on Alaric’s shoulder, propelling him along with me as I stepped out of the elevator to join them. Steve was close behind me. The elevator doors slid shut as soon as he was clear, and the light above them blinked off.
Someone to my left began applauding slowly. I whipped around, hand going for a gun that wasn’t there, and found myself looking into the face of a man I hadn’t seen in the flesh for over a year—not since George’s funeral, which he made by the skin of his teeth. The others turned with me, some of them reaching for weapons they didn’t have, others just staring.
It was George who managed to find her equilibrium enough to break the silence first. I guess after coming back from the dead, nothing else is going to seem like a big enough deal to knock you off balance for long.
“Hello, Mr. President,” she said.
President Peter Ryman smiled. “Hello, Georgia.”
Maggie’s parents have arrived, or so I’m told—I haven’t been allowed to see her since their plane landed, and for all I know, they’ve come, bundled her into their private jet, and gone, leaving me to settle an utterly astronomical bill. I do hope they take physical labor in exchange. Washing dishes should have us paid off in, oh, three or four hundred years. Give or take a decade or two. Nan will shout when she finds out I’ve become an indentured servant in America. Probably say it serves me right for being so damn stubborn, going off and leaving her alone.
Dr. Abbey sent an e-mail last night, saying the others were leaving her lab on another mission. She wouldn’t say where, and my mail to her has started bouncing. Either she’s blocked me, or she’s changed addresses. Either way, we’re cut off for the nonce, because none of my colleagues are answering their e-mail. And I alone am left to tell thee…
Damn. I thought I was done being the one who stayed behind to write the story down. Bloody journalists.
May they all come home safely.
—From Fish and Clips, the blog of Mahir Gowda, August 6, 2041. Unpublished.
Michael and Alisa are at the gift shop near the front gate, getting her some clean T-shirts. We’ve been at Cliff’s Amusement Park in New Mexico for two days now, and we’re all starting to run out of clothes. It should be safe to head back to Berkeley soon. Right now, it’s a media circus, and the only way we can avoid it is by acting like everything is normal. Alisa’s been a good sport about things, thank God. It probably helps that after Florida, nothing looks dangerous to her.
She’s a good kid. Even after everything she’s been through, she’s a good kid. Shaun and Georgia… they were good kids, too. Even after everything we put them through, they somehow managed to grow up to be good people. I don’t know how that happened. I guess that makes sense, because I never really knew them. I never wanted to. I suppose that makes me a hypocrite, because now that they’re grown and gone—gone for good, in Georgia’s case—I’m proud of them.
I wish I’d been a better mother when I had the chance.
—From Stacy’s Survival Strategies, the blog of Stacy Mason, August 6, 2041. Unpublished.
President Ryman was flanked by three Secret Servicemen of his own, along with a man I didn’t recognize, but whose CDC-issue lab coat immediately made my heart start beating faster. I managed to hold my ground only by reminding myself that Georgia Mason—the original—would never show fear in the face of a man who wasn’t holding a gun to her head, and maybe not even then. If I was going to deal with these people, I had to do it the way she would have done it. Nothing else was going to work.
“You don’t seem surprised to see me,” I said, tilting my chin up just enough to be sure my sunglasses would entirely block my eyes. I didn’t want him thinking of me as a science project. I wanted him thinking of me as Georgia, and Georgia’s eyes didn’t look like mine.
“That’s because I’m not,” he said. He looked tired. None of his Secret Servicemen were familiar—the only familiar face I’d seen among the guards was Steve, and Steve would probably have a job until everyone who’d been on the campaign was dead and gone. There’s something to be said for loyalty like his.
Shaun took a step forward, planting himself beside me, and all but glared at President Ryman. “You mean you knew about this cloning shit, too, and you didn’t tell me? Don’t you people think that sending me a note might have been a good idea?”
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