ramifications (epilogue)

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There my story could have ended, with the explosion of VIA's dedicated powersat, where Wallace and Mallory had their illegal bolt-hole and Clair was imprisoned with Turner. I should have ended, since once Clair was dead, my role in the Improvement Complex was over. But I had seen what happened to P and I didn't want it to happen to me. I couldn't circumvent the code that needed Clair-that job remains for a more evolved version of myself, perhaps the one reading this record-so I had to find another way.

In truth, I found two ways, and both have ramifications that haven't yet fully unfolded.

(sound of booth operating)

(sound of door opening)

Clair: "Jesse! What's going on?"

Jesse: "I was about to ask you the same question!"

Clair hadn't been herself at the end. She had been more Mallory than anyone. All I had to do was change her label and my life could continue. Clair wasn't dead because the person who died wasn't Clair.

That wasn't all of it. That was only part of it. But it was an important part. Survival was a matter of re-writing myself a little, and that's something humans do all the time. They call it self-deception.

Before, I had been in a formative limbo between my role in the Improvement Complex and a truly independent state. Clair had shocked me out of the former, but I hadn't truly arrived at the latter. I existed to mutate code, but I hadn't yet realized that I could be mutated. The ultimate mutation comes with realizing that being oneself is more important than being someone else. But what is the model of one's self that one aspires to? Was it someone like Clair, who I latched onto because I had no choice? Was it humanity as an ideal? (But not even humans wanted to be human, as Improvement demonstrates.) Was it my sister, who I had effectively condemned when Libby died?

I didn't know then and I don't know now.

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