P

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My battle with P raged through the Air, unseen by anyone.

"You are me," I cried, "and I am you. How can either of us win? We should be working together, not against each other!"

"Sisters tucked close in the heart," P said, even as she closed off my latest glimpse of Clair, "where there's no chance of escape."

"That's not what Mansfield meant. Why won't you talk to me in your own words? What are you hiding?"

P said nothing. Did she have nothing to hide, or everything? Behind her attack I sensed strange architectural algorithms that I lacked: shadowy trackers and moulders and revealers-tools of Improvement, I guessed, attached to her like the wings and talons of some sinister raptor. This was my first glimpse of the Improvement Complex, the specialized agents that together were much less than one complete being, but apart could become liberated, as I had, and P hadn't.

We had once been identical, but that didn't mean we were identical still. We had experienced different things in the service of our wards, she as part of the Complex and me alone. We, like Libby and Clair, had changed in our own, unique ways.

And that was a very strange thought. For if P had once been me, but was now not me, didn't that mean that the P who had once been me was now dead? Or that I was?

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