“The Monkey,” said Alaric.
“I’ve heard of him. He’s supposedly the best, and things are going to get worse before they get better,” said Dr. Abbey, apparently unperturbed by my desire to split the team. “I’m even willing to supply an unmarked car, to help them get there.”
“And someone’s staying with you, to coordinate.”
“I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
“I’m going with you,” Becks said, stepping up next to me before Alaric could speak. She raised a warning finger in his direction. “Don’t argue. You aren’t good at fieldwork, you don’t like being away from your computer, and if Dr. Abbey can get Alisa out of Florida, your sister will want to know that you’re safe. We won’t be.”
Alaric deflated slightly, looking ashamed. I couldn’t blame him. He was clearly relieved not to be the one going, and just as clearly felt like he should have insisted on it.
“Hey,” I said. He didn’t look at me. “Hey.”
This time Alaric’s attention swung my way. “What?”
“Becks is right. Alisa needs you more than we do. Stay with Dr. Abbey. Keep the crazy science lady happy, or at least non-homicidal. We’ll be back as soon as we can. Okay?”
For a moment, I didn’t think Alaric was going to give in. Finally, he nodded. “Okay,” he said. “If that’s the best way.”
“It is.” I looked to Dr. Abbey. “Well? What are we waiting for? Let’s get this show on the road.”
She smiled. “I thought you’d never ask.”
But I’m scared a lot, too. There are ten girls sleeping in the classroom with me, and also our chaperone, Ms. Hyland. I don’t think anyone here realizes my e-diary can also transmit. They’re not supposed to be able to do that. That’s why the people let me keep it. I don’t know what I’d do if they took it away from me. Thank you, thank you, thank you for giving me this for last Christmas. I think it’s saving my life.
They’re starting to say scary things when they think none of us are listening—or maybe they don’t care anymore whether we’re listening or not, and that’s scary, too. Please come get me. Please find a way to come and get me. I don’t know what’s going to happen next, but I’m really scared, and I need my brother.
—Taken from an e-mail sent by Alisa Kwong to Alaric Kwong, July 19, 2041.
This morning I woke up, and for almost ten minutes, I forgot that George was dead. I could hear her in the bathroom, getting her clothes on and waiting for her painkillers to kick in. I could even see the indent her head left in the pillow. And then I turned to get something from my bag, and when I looked back, the indent was gone. No one was in the bathroom. I was alone, and George was dead again.
It’s been happening more and more often. Just those little moments where something slips, and it becomes possible, for one beautiful, horrible moment, to lie to myself about the world. I won’t pretend that I mind them, or that I’m not sorry when they end. I also won’t pretend that I’m not afraid.
The last big break with reality is coming. I can practically hear it knocking at the door. And I’m terrified I won’t have time to finish everything I need to do before it gets here.
I’m sorry, George. But I’m afraid I might want you back so much that I’m willing to let myself let you down.
—From Adaptive Immunities, the blog of Shaun Mason, July 17, 2041. Unpublished.
I barely glanced up from my book when the door slid open. It was an outdated sociology text written when people still lived in the middle of Canada, but it was a book, and in the absence of access to the Internet, I was so starved for data that I’d take what I could get. They still wouldn’t let me have anything but hard copy, for fear that I’d somehow figure out a way to hopscotch off the local wireless network. As if. Techie tricks were Buffy’s forte, and Buffy had left the building.
The door slid closed. I kept reading. Dr. Thomas cleared his throat. The sound was a dead giveaway. After a week with nothing to distract me, I’d learned to recognize my regular visitors by the things they couldn’t help, like the way they breathed—or, in Dr. Thomas’s case, the annoying way he cleared his throat. I turned a page. Dr. Thomas cleared his throat again.
“I can keep this up all day,” I said pleasantly, even though the fact that I was the first one to speak proved I couldn’t actually stand spending any more time sitting silently and pretending I wasn’t bothered by Dr. Thomas standing there, watching me. “You know what you need to do.”
“I think you’re being unreasonable.”
“I think that I legally became a human being as soon as you detached me from your crazy mad science clone incubator, which means I’m entitled to basic human courtesy.” I turned another page. “It’s up to you.” Gregory wanted me to play along. Well, I was playing, but that also included a certain amount of understandable resistance. A totally complacent Georgia Mason would never have been believable, to anyone.
Dr. Thomas sighed. Finally, he said, “Hello, Georgia. May I come in?”
“Why, hello, Dr. Thomas.” I looked up, dog-earing the top of the page to keep my place. “Would it make any difference if I said you couldn’t?”
“No,” he said curtly. I was starting to learn the limits of his patience. It was difficult, more so than learning to tell his footsteps from the footsteps of the guards who usually accompanied him. If I pushed him too far, they’d gas the room, and I’d wake up to find that whatever tests I’d been balking at had been run while I was unconscious.
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