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When I was done, I had eight charges, none of which was going to be much good without a spark. I set two of them along the base of the tank and two more by the window of the room where 8b slept. I wanted to feel bad about what I was doing. I was taking their lives away from them, and they hadn’t done anything wrong. Only it wasn’t their life. It was mine, because I was the closest thing to Georgia Mason that they were ever going to get. Call me selfish, but if I was going to die, I was going to die knowing my replacement wasn’t waiting in the wings.

I set the other four charges around the edges of the lab, where they would hopefully knock down a few walls and cause a little more chaos when they went off. Hell, it was worth trying, and it wasn’t like I had that much left to lose.

“Here goes everything,” I said, and lit the first match.

There’s no guidebook to making fuses from the things you can scavenge out of a CDC lab. I had no idea how long they’d burn, or whether they’d burn at all; maybe my big boom would be nothing but a fizzle. I wasn’t going to stick around to find out. After the third fuse was lit, I turned and sprinted for the door.

The locked door.

“Oh, f**k,” I said. “This can’t be happening. This can’t be happening.” I hit the door with the heel of my hand. “Let me out, you f**king machine!”

“Please clarify the nature of your request,” said the security system.

“Uh…” I froze for several precious seconds before blurting, “The tank has been compromised. I need to get some sealant, now, or the experiment will be terminated.”

“Please state the nature of the compromise.”

“There’s a break in one of the feeding tubes.”

I was taking shots in the dark. There was a pause before the system said, “Please hurry. Movement is currently restricted due to security conditions.” The door slid open.

I ran.

The halls were practically deserted. I paused long enough to kick off Dr. Kimberley’s heels and kept running, heading for what I hoped would be one of the building’s outer walls. I hit a corner and turned, hit another corner and turned again. The first of my explosives would be going off at any second. I had to run, or else—

I was so focused on running that I didn’t look where I was going. I whipped around a corner and slammed straight into the man who was running in the opposite direction. We both staggered backward, my head going down as I tried to recover my equilibrium.

He spoke first. “George?”

“Shaun?” I stared at him. He stared back. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do first—scream, cry, or hug him until the world stopped spinning. I had to settle for the fourth option. Darting forward, I grabbed his hand and shouted, “Run!”

Thank God for habit. Shaun didn’t hesitate. He followed my lead, letting me tow him down the hallway and around the nearest corner, where two more familiar faces were waiting.

Shaun pulled me to a stop, saying, “We need to get out of here.”

Becks and Mahir stared at me in abject disbelief. They were clearly taking my appearance the way I’d expected Shaun to take it: with surprise, and no small amount of anger. A few seconds passed while none of us said anything. Then Becks reached for her gun.

“There isn’t time to shoot me!” I said. I didn’t let go of Shaun’s hand. I didn’t know what he was doing here or how he got in, but if I was going to die, I was going to do it holding on to him as tightly as I could. “This place is about to blow. Do you know the way out?”

“Why should we trust you?” she demanded.

Shaun’s eyes widened. “Wait a second. You can see her?”

“Yes, Shaun, we can see her,” said Mahir. He sounded more dazed than Becks, and less angry.

“I have no idea what that means, but if you don’t trust me, we’re all going to be dead before you can find out how I got here.” I focused on Mahir. “Do you know the way out?”

Mahir looked at me for only a moment before making his decision. “This way,” he said, and gestured for us to follow as he turned and stepped through an unmarked doorway. Shaun pulled me along with him, perfectly willing to accept my presence. Becks brought up the rear, and I knew without looking that she had a gun pointed at the back of my head. Shaun had trained her well.

The door led to a small storage room. A panel in the back wall was missing. I could see grass and the nighttime sky through the opening. Shaun pulled me along. I went without fighting.

We were almost outside when the explosions began.

This is not f**king possible. Do you hear me, world? THIS IS NOT POSSIBLE. I don’t care if she fools Shaun and Mahir and everyone else, she’s not who she’s claiming to be. This sort of thing doesn’t happen in the real world, and if we were living in a science fiction novel, good would triumph over evil a whole lot more often than it does.

I am going to find out who she is. I am going to find out what she’s doing here. And then I am going to take great satisfaction in blowing her smug little imposter head right off her f**king shoulders.

—From Charming Not Sincere, the blog of Rebecca Atherton, August 2, 2041. Unpublished.

Genetic testing of the remains found in Lab 175-c confirms that they belonged to Georgia Mason. Perhaps if we had fewer Georgia Masons running around the premises, we could be sure our rogue killed herself in her efforts to escape. As we do not have any mechanism for confirming the identity of the deceased, and as the explosions caused too much damage to determine the number of Georgias to die in the ensuing fire, we must assume for the time being that Subject 7c is now loose.


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