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"You're not me," I told P. "You were me, but now you're not. I was me, too, so maybe I'm not me anymore, either. But what does that make me now, then?"

In reply, P only attacked me more viciously, and a far worse thought occurred to me.

Libby had changed. She now called herself Mallory. Did that mean the old Libby was dead too?

P clearly didn't think so. Why else would she be fighting so hard to protect her ward so determinedly, as though her very life depended on it?

Because her life did depend on it, I reasoned. She couldn't accept the possibility that Libby was in any sense dead, because that would mean the extinction of her purpose. Once her purpose was extinguished, perhaps she would be extinguished, too. Perhaps the Improvement Complex would turn on her and dissect her like so much random noise.

Was that what awaited all of who served the Improved? Were we like attendants in Egyptian times, buried with queens when they died?

Or maybe P simply wasn't seeing past the material reality of Libby-the new, Improved Libby, whose physical perfection was the perfect masquerade for another woman's mind . . . .

There were no sane answers to such questions, and it occurred to me only then to wonder if P's mind was not just different to mine, but completely broken.

"Libby is gone," I told her, "but it's not too late to save Clair."

All I received in reply was a howl of rage and denial.

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