lie

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Clair joined Jesse before he could be shot for disobeying, and "Dylan Linwood" came out from behind the bike, picking up her gun on the way. Behind him, the sky was slowly lightening. In the pale, pre-dawn wash, both Clair and I could see the bruise on his forehead and the reddened eye, exactly as they had been the previous day.

"The man we killed back in Manteca wasn't the real Dylan Linwood," said Clair to the agent, "and neither was the man Gemma blew up. You murdered the real Dylan Linwood and took his place."

I felt a shock of amazement. Once again Clair had seen the truth before I could. And I should have seen it-I, who had inhabited another's body, who had watched this body appearing and reappearing all over the map. The strange behaviour earlier that evening must have been "him" being killed at the other airfield and another version of him being "resurrected" elsewhere.

"Who are you?" asked Jesse again.

"Don't talk to me unless it's to tell me about your friends in WHOLE."

"What friends? We don't know where they've gone."

"That's a lie. Tell me the truth."

"Or what? Are you going to tell me that my dad is still alive, and then threaten him like you threatened Clair's parents?"

"No, I'll just shoot her."

The pistol shifted to point at Clair. Complex shapes danced in his lenses. Orders? Map data? I couldn't decipher them.

"Who are you?" asked Jesse a third time, rage and fear quivering in his voice.

"Let's make a deal," Clair said. "You tell me who you work for and I'll tell you where the airship is."

"No deals," he said. "Tell me now, or I'll kill one of you at random."

"But we don't know," protested Jesse. "Why won't you believe us?"

"The longer you stall, Clair," said the agent, "the longer I'll take."

"I'm not stalling. I just want you to give me something in return. Like your name then, if you won't tell me who you work for."

"No."

Behind the scenes, my plan was finally coming together. All Clair had to do was keep "Dylan Linwood" talking a moment longer. I didn't know how she would respond, but I offered a tentative olive branch in the form of a text:

"Gemma Mallapur says to get ready."

Clair didn't respond. To "Dylan Linwood", she said, "What are you afraid of? You're going to kill us anyway."

"So what difference does my name make to you?" he said, pointing the gun at her chest. "You wouldn't know me, anyway."

"Whose fault is that?" she said. "It can't be easy, living a lie."

I texted her again, hoping she wasn't ignoring me out of spite: "Three seconds."

"No, wait," she sent back, "I think I'm getting through to him."

"Two."

Clair took Jesse's arm as though for solidarity.

"Come on," she said to "Dylan Linwood". "Give it up."

"I am no one," he said, the knuckle of his trigger whitening on the gun.

"Get down NOW, Clair," I texted.

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