shocking

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Clair looked around, startled. She went back to the menu called Environment and found the options for the giant booth. She switched off the PA, made sure the door would stay locked, and then cut the air supply to avoid being gassed. She expected to escape long before the oxygen run out.

"Is that better, Q?" she broadcast.

"Yes, Clair." I couldn't hide my relief. "Oh! I was so worried. Do you know where you are?"

"That's not important right now. What's happening, Q?"

"One Penn Plaza has been shut down by PKs. The Farmhouse is under attack."

"Are my parents all right?"

"They're with the municipal authorities. I called in a bomb scare."

"Good thinking. Thanks, Q." She sounded both worried and relieved. "Now, I just want to get home."

"I'm partway into the system," I told her, "but you have greater access than I do at the moment. If I lead you to where the others are being held, you can transfer them-and yourself-anywhere you want to go."

"All right. Can you show me what you see?"

I couldn't show her everything, but I did my best. Through her, we probed every nook and cranny of the station. Data was streaming all around us. Together we opened the cache containing Jesse, the WHOLE activists and the farmers, their patterns frozen, nothing but dead data waiting to be brought back to life. Clair's relief was energizing. There were menus she could access with no more effort than snapping a finger. A thrill of vicarious power ran through me, a feeling that came second-hand from Mallory, and neither of us tried to suppress it. With a dance of options Clair selected her friends and prepped their patterns for transfer. It took just moments to send them to booths in New York, where they would be safely out of Wallace's grasp, holding back only the patterns for the grenades they had been carrying in their packs, lest they be picked up by the peacekeepers. She kept Turner, too, while she looked for the cache containing Dylan Linwood and everyone else who had died.

I knew who she was looking for. But Libby's pattern was not one we could find in the station. There was a limit to what even the two of us could see.

"She'll be stored somewhere else," Clair said. "We just have to find her."

"We're running out of time." Already I could feel security tightening like a vice. Squirming inside the vice with us was my twin, P. She was beginning to sense a new and very real danger to Libby: with a snap of her fingers, Clair could shut off life support to the entire station, if she wanted to.

"All right. One more thing, though," Clair said. "How do I erase someone's pattern before they can come out of a booth?"

I wasn't sure I'd understood her.

"You mean . . . kill them?"

"I guess you could put it that way."

The thought was a shocking one. "It's not possible, Clair. That would mean breaking parity."

"I know. So?"

"We can't do that without breaking everything. Remember?"

"Everything's already broken. Just tell me how to do it, if you won't."

"But . . . I can't."

"Why not?"

"I . . . I don't know how."

"How to tell me or how to do it?"

I didn't answer.

She was asking me to kill my parents.

Was that Clair or Mallory speaking?

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