Inside the camouflaged booth, the process was complete. Clair was gone.
Her lenses recorded what they could. They couldn't tell her where she had gone. She could have been anywhere on Earth. I was looking for her, and she must have known I would be, but she didn't say anything about that. I have no idea for certain what was going through her mind. I can only take the fragments I gathered later and try to piece them together into something that makes sense.
"She is crowned . . ." I heard her whisper. ". . . crowned with immortality who follows where airy voices lead."
Keats again, almost.
"Let me kill her, Ant."
That voice wasn't Clair's. It was Libby's. The two friends had never before sounded similar, but now both voices possessed a quality that united them in a subtle, disturbing way.
Clair: "Leave me alone."
Mallory: "I've not done anything to you-yet."
Clair: "Get out of her, and get out of my head. I mean it!"
Mallory: "Or you'll do what? Close your eyes and hold your breath?"
Ant Wallace: "Give her some space, Mallory. Clair's here so we can reward her, not torment her."
Mallory: "She's here because of the homing instinct. You know none of us can bear to be away from you for long."
Wallace: "Still, there's no need to be unpleasant about it . . . ."
Clair: "Where is-?"
Wallace: "Turner Goldsmith? Safely uploaded and awaiting analysis, I'm happy to say. Without you and your plan, he would've gone to ground, and we would've lost him again. The error that allowed Turner Goldsmith to live so long was one of those that happen no matter how often we say they don't, but now he's safely uploaded and awaiting analysis, our future is assured. His genes are going to be very useful indeed. I will live young, well, and long enough to do everything I want. Isn't that all anyone desires?"
Clair: "You and who else?"
Wallace: "Don't be like that, Clair. You've helped give me what I wanted. I think it's time we returned the favour."
(sound of booth operating)
Zep: "I came as fast as I could. You look like hell, Clarabelle."
Clair: "What are you doing here, Zep? How is this possible?"
Zep: "I was watching the feed from the moment it went viral."
Clair: "What feed?"
Zep: "You know, from the chancellor's office . . . . Wait, this isn't college. Where are we?"
Clair: "I don't know, but you're not supposed to be here . . . if it is you. What did we argue about the last time we saw each other?"
Zep: "Do we have to talk about this every time?"
Clair: "It's important, Zep. Tell me."
Zep: "Libby and you and me, of course. You gave me an ultimatum. Remember?" (pause) "What's wrong with you, Clair? What's going on?"
Clair: "You're really you, not a dupe, but you're the last version of you, the one who went through d-mat before the safe-house . . . before you . . . ."
Zep: "Before I what, Clair?"
Clair: (shouting) "It's not going to work. Do you hear me? You can't buy my silence so easily!"
(sound of booth operating)
Zep: "Libby! Thank god. We've been so-"
Mallory: "Worried? I'm sure you have."
Zep: "Hey, Libby, put that down. It's always been you, I swear-"
Mallory: "Don't misunderstand us, Clair. It's not your silence we want."
(sound of gunshot, body falling)
YOU ARE READING
113 (Twinmaker)Science Fiction
A post-scarcity world transformed by free, instantaneous travel should be paradise, but nothing is ever as it seems. When an ordinary girl uses Improvement, a meme promising a complete physical makeover by little more than wishing for it, she brings...