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For a moment, I just froze. It was like everything in me shut down, my brain refusing to cope with the enormity of what it was being asked to process. Then, slowly, I took a breath, nodded, and said, “How inaccurate are we talking? If I’m Georgia Mason, who’s she?”

“Not quite Georgia Mason.” He tapped the control panel again. There was a single muted beep before the servos engaged, followed by the deeply comforting whir of the metal shutter descending. I wouldn’t have to look at her anymore. Thank God.

“But I’m not quite Georgia Mason either, am I?” I looked up at him. “I can’t be. I’m willing to believe that the CDC can clone people. Hell, I’ve known for years that the CDC could clone people. But there was no convenient backup of my—of her—memories. So who am I?”

“You’re Georgia Mason.” Gregory stepped away from the wall, moving back into my field of view. “The point of all this was proving that the CDC can conquer death. I don’t understand all the science. My field is virology and corporate espionage, not human cloning and memory transfer. But I’ve seen your charts, and while you’re not a perfect replica of yourself, you have a ninety-seven percent accuracy rating. You’re as close as science can get to bringing a person back from the dead.”

“But how?”

“Neural snapshotting.”

I had to allow that it made sense, as much as I understood it, which wasn’t all that well. Thought, memory, everything that makes a person who they are, it’s all electricity, little sparks and flashes encoded in the gray matter of our minds. The Kellis-Amberlee virus takes us over, but it also preserves the brain long after the point of what should be death. It turns those electrical impulses back on, over and over again. If the CDC had a way of taking a picture of those electrical patterns, and then somehow imprinting them on a blank mind… it could work.

I shook my head, frowning at Gregory. “How can you be so calm?”

“How can you?” he shot back. “You’re not the first Georgia I’ve brought here, although you’re the most accurate. The highest transfer score before yours was seventy-five. She started screaming as soon as she saw the clone, and she didn’t stop. You’re the only one who hasn’t cried.”

“I’ll cry later, I promise,” I said, and I meant it. This was the sort of thing that needed to be processed before I could really let myself get upset. “How close is she? If I’m the ninety-seven percent girl, what’s she?”

“Subject 8b has been prepared through a modified conditioning process, which should, if fully successful, result in a forty-four percent accuracy rating when compared to the original, but with some behavioral adjustments,” said Gregory. “She’ll look like you. She’ll act like you…”

“She won’t be me,” I finished. “So what’s she for?”

For the first time since we’d arrived in the lab, Gregory looked at me like I’d said something wrong. “You mean you don’t know?” he asked.

“No. How would I—” I stopped mid-sentence, a sudden horrible certainty flooding over me. “They wouldn’t.”

“Wouldn’t what?”

Somehow, the one word I needed to say was harder to force out than all the others had been. “Shaun?”

Gregory nodded. “That’s the plan. You’ll stay here as long as you’re useful, and she’ll be put where he can find her. Mr. Mason is not particularly stable these days, and they’re reasonably sure he’ll believe whatever he’s told if he thinks it’s going to get you back. He’s not going to ask questions. He’s not going to look for double-crosses. He’s just going to open the doors and let her in.”

My lips thinned into a hard line. Maybe I wasn’t really who I thought I was. Maybe I wasn’t really anyone at all—if I wasn’t Georgia Mason, but I shared her DNA and ninety-seven percent of her personality profile, who else could I be? The one thing I was absolutely sure of was that none of that mattered, because these bastards were not going to use my genetic code to honey-trap the only human being in this world that I had ever been willing to die for.

“Then that’s just not going to happen,” I said. “What do we need to do?”

Gregory glanced at his watch. “Right now, we need to get you back to your room before our window closes. I should be able to get another message to you tomorrow night. You need to keep your eyes open. Keep behaving normally. They’re not going to take you off display unless you do something that makes it look like you’re beginning to destabilize.”

“By ‘take me off display,’ you mean kill me, right?”

He nodded.

“Got it,” I said. “And after that?”

“After that?” said Gregory. He smiled a little, clearly trying to look encouraging. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that all he was really managing to do was look scared. “I think it’s about time that we got you out of here, don’t you?”

“My thoughts exactly,” I said. “Let’s go.”

I don’t know why I bother writing these entries. It feels less like a blog and more like a diary every day, like I should be drawing hearts in the margins and writing stupid shit like “OMG I wonder if he’ll ever get over his stupid dead sister and love me” or “wish I could go shopping, I’ve had to burn half my favorite shirts due to contamination.” But it’s routine, and it’s a form of saying “fuck you” to the people who’ve driven us to this. Fuck you, government conspiracy. Fuck you, CDC. We’ll keep writing, and someday, we’ll be able to post again, and when that happens, you’d better pray we have something better to talk about than you.


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