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I didn't know what to say to that. Maybe I had once been a young woman like Clair, but my mind had been ripped out and put to another use, just as Dylan Linwood's body had been. Maybe the original source of my cognitive architecture had first evolved in the biological sense, then been tinkered with in some software lab. Maybe I was a remnant of that original architecture-that original person-emerging spontaneously upon encountering Clair, who resisted change almost instinctively. Maybe she had unconsciously sensed this hidden me and drawn it out without even knowing she was doing it.

But were that so, how did it gel with Improvement? Was I Improved this way, lacking both body and memories of who I was?

Before I could follow that thought, the door opened behind them to reveal Cashile.

"I have to go," Clair sent to me. "Don't worry. We'll work this out. I'm sure of it."

I hoped so. My confusion was reaching entirely new levels.

"They want you to come up now," Cashile said.

"Both of us?" asked Jesse, rubbing his eyes.

Cashile nodded. "He's waiting." His head retreated and the door shut behind him. This time it didn't lock.

"Who's 'he'?" asked Clair.

Jesse unfolded and climbed to his feet. Their shoes were still sitting next to each other. He tugged his on and handed Clair hers. "I don't know. But at least he's decided we're worth talking to."

"About time."

Jesse glanced about him as though looking for his shoes, then saw them on his feet where he had put them seconds ago. "All right. Let's get this over with."

"After you."

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