by Kate Runnels
A bright flash of white, vivid in its intensity, shocked her and then sudden and complete blackness engulfed her.
They were ghosts, whispers of what they once were. Fragments; fragments from her implants, her external memory. Nothing was clear. Everything jumbled together out of order, without any semblance of synchronicity.
Lia’s links, all of her connections that reached into cyberspace connecting her to any net, had gone blank. Lia was cut off. She was in a darkness so deep the fear faded in the vastness. Panic came and went, washing over her like sheets of rain, pounding down and then fading only to come back.
She knew only one thing. She had been wiped.
There were things she should know, but didn’t. She had relied too heavily on her cybernetic memory enhancements. But organic memory degraded and blurred with time. Lia tried to access file after file. Each one came up empty, blank.. Everything had been wiped from her memory.
She had been wiped!
The anger and outrage swept over her and for long moments she couldn’t think of anything else.
Lia couldn’t help but wonder how? She had always been careful, set barriers-attack and passive- firewalls, even virus mazes, to defeat or deflect hackers from accessing her mind and gaining the classified information within. She knew what became of those wiped of memory, not able to even dress themselves; they were reduced to an infant state. Then there were those who’d been hacked, or imprinted with false memories, not knowing who they really were and always questioning their actions.
Lia was an Agent, she protected others from this or brought to justice those who perpetrated such things.
The empty spaces in her mind informed her that she had been wiped. Maybe it hadn’t been a hack? With her brain and the cybernetic parts shielded, it would have had to be a short range, pinpoint blast with an EMP. If that was the case whoever perpetrated this act needed the knowledge of where her cybernetic implants were located. How had this happened?
That memory, too, couldn’t be accessed, wiped clean.
Lia initiated her search program, entering keywords.
2B y47-m04-d11: a memory file she knew from days ago. It blinked at her: File not found. Empty; Empty; Empty. But there had been something there.
She had been wiped!
Pounding at the void, uselessly, frustratingly, she struggled within her mind for the remembrances. It took a very long time to calm herself. She would have to try and piece everything together from her organic side. That would take time. Time she felt she didn’t have.
She tried to piece the fragments together. But they were true ghosts, with little left to them; a shape without substance.
She searched her other memory, searched for fragments to tie together. Her long-term memory remained, untouched. She thanked whomever for that, but everything up to two weeks ago – gone. She thought back, she had arrived at work, heading for a meeting with her boss. Was her boss now trying to hide something from her? Was the H.K.S.A? If her own employers were out to get her, she had done something terribly wrong. She had to know!
“Hong Kong Security Agency; what is the nature of your call?”
Another phone rang farther on down the row of desks answered in a similar fashion by a similar receptionist.
Agent Liana Sasaki wound her way through the maze of desks with the ease of long familiarity. Lia carried no discernable weapons; it helped in many cases to put victims as ease. She didn’t need weapons. Her left arm had been cyberized, and when it opened up she needed nothing else.
The room was small and packed to capacity and even overflowing into the agent’s offices in all dimensions, up, down and around. Greeting a few of the receptionists by name, she continued past, without stopping to chat, toward the back offices. They were busy and she had a meeting to attend in a few minutes.
The Agency hadn’t changed very much since she began working for them seven years ago. It had grown from what she remembered, having then only six receptionists who took calls and greeted people as they walked in from the street. Now the Agency had sixty in three shifts round the clock. And back then, she would have been one of the units sent out to handle one of the emergency calls. She still remembered her designation: 5-2-4. But she was no longer Unit 5-2-4, not since her partner Ming had died and if she didn’t hurry she would be late.
Lia stepped into her boss’s office. Matt Decoto. He wasn’t the president of the agency, he had never wanted much responsibility, but he had been around since the Agency’s conception. He sat now typing into his computer. He had a thick head of grey hair, a body that had at one time been fit, but a long time in the past. He used DNA specifics to keep his bulk reasonable, but mainly to increase memory and working speed. Typing was an old affectation.
He looked up as she came in.
“Sit down, Senior Agent Sasaki. I’ll be just a moment.”
Lia sat and waited until he turned to her. “Sasaki.”
“Yes, Chief of Investigations Decoto. Why the formality?”
“There is a case I want your personal attention on. Unit 10-23 handled the original call. A gang of cybernetic enhanced children, children who’ve rejected their tech attachments-”
“The autistic’s who’ve even rejected treatment?”
“Yes. They attacked and molested a young natural woman with no enhancements and carrying no discernable tech. The attack itself is unusual and where it occurred. But the victim has disappeared after the attack.”
“That is strange, but not unheard of. Do we have any identification on the Disappeared? And I assume we’re considering him/her to be kidnapped at this point in time?”
“Of course. The disappeared is Sunny Shirow’s, our silent partner’s, daughter.” He leaned forward, the chair groaning as he shifted his weight. “He and I want your expert skills on this case, and handled with the utmost discretion.”
“Of course, Matt, when have I ever been anything but discrete?” She smiled at him as he glared at her from under his bushy eyebrows.
“Just handle it, and handle it quickly, Lia, we don’t need or want the media coverage on this.”
“Yes, boss. No problem boss. Don’t worry about a thing, boss.” She still smiled as she stood and left his office to find Unit 10-23; Agent Sung and Agent Maxwell.
Heading to a different part of the building, she hoped to catch the Unit at their desks. She didn’t really like them and the feeling was mutual.
They looked up from their computer terminals, and the sheets of paper spread out around their desks. She asked without greeting them, “Have you filed a report yet on the disappearance?”
“Sending it now, Senior Agent Sasaki,” said Agent Sung, pressing a button on the touch screen. The report came in, and she took a moment with her cybernetic enhancements to bring it up in front of one eye to read it.
“Well, this is different,” Lia said. “What happened to shoot first and tell lies later?”
“Funny. Get out of our space, Sasaki, and let us do our work.” Sung went back to typing.
Agent Maxwell still looked at her. “Can’t see why Decoto wanted you on this case, you can’t even keep a partner.” There was no love or warmth one might feel for humanity between them.
Lia came out of her memory searching for more, but she couldn’t remember all of the details. She hated organic memory. She couldn’t access it anytime she wanted with full detail of sound and visual.
So what happened after?
Lia initiated another search using different parameters. File not found. Empty. Empty. Empty. After the third empty, words appeared: Delete. Delete. I. Eat. Meat.
She had been tampered with; those were her safe words for any type of tampering within her mind. At the same time, it informed her that those who had wiped her were still around even though she couldn’t access sound or sight, in some way the program could.
Lia knew now there was something beyond the void in which she existed. She would proceed, cautiously.
The next memory, and the one following, there would be clues as to what happened. She tried to remember what had happened after meeting with unit Ten-twenty three. She had headed to the specified address in their incident report.
The door opened and an old woman peered up at her through old-fashioned corrective lenses. Lia doubted she had ever seen something like that outside of history books or old movies. With cybernetic implants, and DNA specifics, many people opted to replace their defective eyes; the old woman had not.
The woman might not be a hard line naturalist and no Transhumanist, but it was no wonder she had called in the assault and kidnapping of a natural, by cyber autistics. Lia would ask a few question 10-23 hadn’t thought to cover during the original call.
A car honked behind her. She saw it flash past in the lenses of the glasses facing her. There was so much movement there, cars, people, bikers, dogs, but the eyes behind those lenses gazed at her steadily. The old woman blinked slowly through her think lenses. Bringing one age-lined knuckle-swollen hand, she rubbed at her eyes underneath the glasses. “I must be seeing things.” She looked again at Lia. “No. I’m not. But it can’t be real.”
“Ma’am, are you, Mrs. Chan?”
“Yes,” she answered. “Are you Liana Sasaki?”
“Yes,” she answered slowly. What was going on here? This old woman had taken her completely off her stride with one simple question. The sounds of the street intruded, people laughing, talking on their links to someone else, maybe a block away, maybe half a planet away. Lia missed what Mrs. Chan said next.
“What did you say?”
“I said,” the old woman repeated, “you haven’t aged a day in thirty years. It’s remarkable, even with the tech advances nowadays. I know it has been a long time, but surely you remember me?”
Lia shook her head, uncomprehending. She was supposed to question Mrs. Chan, not the other way around.
“I’m Alison Chan.”
“That can’t be possible. That must be your granddaughter or daughter.”
“I only have a son who is unmarried. I’m sorry, but that is me, I assure you. You really don’t remember? Anything? We served together with the UN peacekeepers in New Congo during the war. Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion.”
“No.” She stepped back, off the front entryway, slipping on the last step and stumbled into a pedestrian. Catching herself, she gave a hasty apology and crossed the street as fast as she could to get away from those motion reflecting glasses and the unwavering eyes behind.
Lia gave one last bewildered look at Mrs. Chan, a friend from a long time ago. One she hadn’t seen if Lia believed the old woman, in thirty years. That couldn’t be correct. Since leaving school only ten years has passed, ten years, not thirty.
A car honked and Lia moved out of the way. She needed a place to think, a place to get information. She pushed the case into a secondary position in her mind, not entirely forgotten, but not at the top of priority. She could hack into the City Traffic database to find the surveillance footage and ID the assailants then put a virus in to track their movements. Later. First, she would find somewhere where she wouldn’t be distracted. All thoughts of the Carime Shirow, of her abduction, were gone.
She needed answers of a different sort now. She headed for a Cyber café, she could plug in there, think and get information.
The memory dulled and she came back into herself, still thinking. She had found information on herself by delving throughout the web. Some info had taken little time, but others took much longer and then she found it: her original birth certificate. It had to be a fake, a forgery, some hacker tampering with information for a joke.
It had listed her date of birth as 2084. That wasn’t possible. She was born 2119. 2119 not 2084, however, with the two facts so close together, the old woman and the birth certificate; it wasn’t coincidence.
What was going on? Who had wiped her? Why had she been wiped?
What had she done next?
She still hadn’t believed. She had gone back to the Agency, gone deep down below the main offices to the labs and had her cybernetics checked and updated. There she had snuck into the security mainframe for the Agency. If she’d had the time she could have found all the answers to her questions, but Decoto had paged her over her links.
Then, the memories fogged, she could only catch glimpses, as if she were trying to remember a dream, days later.
She relaxed and let the images come of themselves, and then she had one; later, but clear and along the path to answers.
“Do you remember when the police forces around the world failed?” Decoto asked her.
An odd question, but she would go with it. He had paged her so quickly after her access of the information on the net; he must have had it flagged. He had the answers. She waited, stalling. Knowing the truth would change her in some inconceivable way she couldn’t anticipate. Lia wasn’t sure she was ready for that.
She shook her head. “I was no older than a couple of months, back then.”
“No, you weren’t.” He smiled, the stubble on his face parting to show his white teeth. “But tell me what you remember, from history books and what not.” He sat behind his desk and leaned back in his chair, observing her, watching her.
“Fine. It happened almost immediately after the African Nations War,” she began. “the natural resources in Africa drew the global powers which funded, directly and indirectly, to militia’s, warlords and even the countries. As the war dragged on- it pulled the world into a recession. So after the cease fire, and with the treaties signed, the governments sent their military’s home. but that only worsened the recession. This is when the police forces around the world failed.
“Poverty, hunger, and disillusionment, were widespread with governments in many countries doing little to improve the situation. Street gangs, the poor, the disgruntled, those who’d served their countries and gotten little in compensation and many more struck in force. It led to riots occurred in all major cities of the world. Many of the police officers perpetrated crimes at this time, expecting, in the confusion, to be overlooked, and get off without punishment. But the crimes only fueled the anger of the populace and the police forces were overwhelmed and ineffective. Before the respective countries governments declared martial law, ex-military, ex-cops, and many others banded together to create the first all-encompassing security agency.” She scrutinized Decoto while she spoke.
His only motion was to blink at random intervals. His breathing was loud, but he was a large man and always breathed loud. His beefy hands never twitched, never moved, he only stared at her.
“The security agencies put down the riots and brought peace to the streets when the police could not. Around the world, the other cities followed suit, as what happened here in Hong Kong. The Agencies don’t work for the governments and are funded more like insurance companies. After a year in business, no one called the police for help any longer. The governments disbanded all but a token force and put the funding elsewhere. It helped stimulate the economy, creating jobs, and a safer living and work environment. Government money was now being used in necessary areas, instead of a police force that was shown to be corrupt and ineffective. ”
She paused, remembering his words. “What do you mean; I wasn’t a baby back then?”
A million other thoughts and possibilities flashed through her mind in that brief moment. Decoto rubbed at his stubble of a beard before answering her.
“You already suspect it; it is why you are here. You accessed information you weren’t supposed to find, buried as it was under useless data. But it only confirms for me how close we are to reaching full potential. Lia, you missed one large fact: you were one of the co-founders of this agency.”
Decoto gazed steadily at her.
“It’s not possible,” she said. “I have cybernetics but I am not a full body cyborg. I should show some signs of aging. I look twenty-seven. I am twenty-seven! I had to work my ass off to become a senior agent, the youngest ever! I am not that old.”
“But you are.”
“Shouldn’t I remember this past you speak of? I remember going to military Academy; I remember graduating; school, my parents, friends, my childhood. I do not remember co-founding the Hong Kong Agency. Why don’t I remember?” Why didn’t she remember? She wanted to know the truth. She readied one of her cybernetic parts in her arm with a thought, readying for a strike. She wanted answers and, so far, he hadn’t been very helpful. She could change all that.
“It’s all in there.” He pointed to her head.
“What – suppressed, blocked?”
“By your orders? The executive board? Chairman Zhang?”
“No; by yours.”
“You lie. I want to know the truth. Tell me.”
“I think I have said too much. There will be many repercussions from this.”
“You will tell me.” Left arm, as fast as an eye blink, split apart, changing into one of her interrogation tools: one that subdued or drugged. Before she could use it, Decoto laughed at her and faded from sight.
She snarled again but to herself. Talking to a hologram, how had she missed something like that?
The organic memory fuzzed at the edges, but she could catch more, slightly more.
She remembered wanting to track him down to kill him, no, to make him suffer as he made her suffer, and then end it.
The needed answers continued eluding her. Decoto had done something to her. She was older than she looked and remembered, but how? And where was she now? How did she get here, wherever here was? Had what happened to her happen to Carime Shirow? Were their cases similar?
Back at the Cyber Café, she found the recorded images of the attack reported by ten twenty-three. She thought hard to remember. Why had the Autistic kids turned after they had passed by her and then attack? Carime had nothing cybernetic in her records, but were they fake too? She’d done enough rewriting of data to know records were never true. There was something she was missing. The records might have been hacked and tampered with, but there was one thing. The image on the screen showed a young girl, but the records stated her age as 26 and deceased in a transportation crash. She was dead; she was alive? What was happening? She’d found all this before being paged by Decoto. Was any of it relevant?
Who had attacked her: Decoto, the autistic cyber children, or an anonymous third party? Lia wanted to remember what had happened to her, what happened after leaving Decoto’s office?
She wanted to remember.
That’s it! She had wanted to remember. Decoto had answered a question. She had suppressed and blocked memories. Those could answer what she needed. But to do that they had to be retrieved. She’d contacted someone in the sub-basement. She could trust him. She’d had no one else; she had to trust him.
“I need your help, Holt.”
“Memory retrieval and possible reconstruction.”
“Now you’ve got my attention. Blocked, I bet. Any barriers, attack viruses, mazes, burn-outs? I’ll have to go carefully. Who’s the subject?”
He blinked, slow to open them back up, his almost complete black eyes vanishing for a long moment. “Why are you coming to me? You hate me.”
“Hate is such a strong word.” He raised his eyebrows. She took in a deep breath and said, “Fine. Hate. I am calling because you are the best. And I need the best.”
“That doesn’t make me like you any better.”
“Sorry. But I’m still flattered.”
She shook her head at the image on the screen. “When can we do this?”
“A half hour? A lot of the stuff I need is at the office. Can we meet at my lab?”
“I’m at the office. What do you need; I can get it for you.”
“You’re at the office?”
“So am I.”
“I’ll be right down.” Lia cut the connection. She paused and looked around the office, thinking – would it still be the same office for her? Her chair, she’d had for two years, with the squeak when she leaned back: the indented carpet where she paced when she thought. Would they be the same? Would she remember a different office? Would the photos be different than she remembered? With different, unknown, unknowing people staring at her. Would she still be Lia?
Would she still be Lia? That was the million dollar question.
Her memory jumped.
She was in the lab with Holt going through the procedure. She tried, but could not bring anything into focus from before that. Hopefully, it was nothing important.
Lia lay on a cool table; the cold started to bleed through her clothes and deep into her; maybe not all of it came from the table. She did not know what to expect, but she would not back out now.
Her eyes flicked from the equipment and tech above her to different things around the small lab in nervousness; wires, computers, racks, displays, lifts and much more. She did not understand any of the stuff or how it worked. She didn’t care. Only caring with what it did. It would give Lia her memories back.
But would she still be her? Would it change her? Would she find that everything she believed in, every truth she held might be wrong? She had already found some truths to be wrong. The table shook as Lia shivered on it, wondering if all of her would be tossed to the side. But that fear wouldn’t stop her, she longed to know.
Lia glanced from the bright lights to Arzi Holt. His thin body walked back to her, while fiddling with something in his long fingered hands.
“Will it hurt?” she asked.
“It all depends on what memories are unlocked, if there are any to unlock.”
“There are. But that’s not what I meant.”
He looked down at her then, meeting her eyes. “No, the actual process will not hurt. Close your eyes and try to relax and we’ll begin the process.” He disappeared from sight behind the machines beside her. They began whirring as they started up before settling down into a constant hum. Closing her eyes, she took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. He was right; she didn’t want to watch any of his actions, always wondering what he did now – what would happen now? It would be much easier to let the memories come to her in blackness.
Lia jerked upright with a gasp!
Where was she? What had happened? What was that?
Glancing around, she found herself in a small office, lying on a couch pressed tight against one wall. A desk crammed the rest of the office; scattered objects littered every available space – papers, books, tech, toys and the tools of a cyborg specialist. Ordinary in its clutter, plain almost, nothing to frighten her here. Except—
She blinked. She hadn’t dreamed. It hadn’t been a nightmare. All of it was as real as this moment. If she rested now in Holt’s office, then the procedure worked-had worked. Not a dream; a memory.
She had died.
Lia remembered dying. She cupped her face in her hands. The feeling of the knife sliding into her flesh, felt as real now as it had then; the searing, tearing, burning pain; turning to see the gleeful look of the hyped and overloaded Cyborg; of herself slipping down the wall, gasping for breath and going into darkness. Lia took in a deep ragged breath and let it out just a shaky.
Holt stepped into the office. She glanced away from her memories to see his face. It wasn’t the same face she remembered. Though his face hadn’t changed with the introduction of new/old memories. Everything she saw there screamed sadness to her. Why was he so sad?
“You’re awake? Did you feel any pain? No lasting effects of the hack/dive and suppression removal?” He paused. “Did it work?”
“It worked.” Lia managed, not trusting her voice for anything more complex.
“I know what happened.” He stepped closer, his voice matching his face, his whole posture. The arrogant hacker she’d arrested, was gone; where? Where was the youthful pride that she resented and hated? She wished for it now “While you slept, I went diving into the secure files section in the main frame. I found some very interesting things.” He handed her a handheld data comp with the info displayed on the five-inch screen.
“Hacking again? That’s what got you busted down here in the first place.”
“I know, but I think you’ll thank me for it. It seems, well, I’ll let you read.” He fell quiet and Lia glanced one last time at this changed Arzi Holt, before studying the info. And studied the screen- and then re-read it a third time. Finally, she let it droop into her lap. Slowly she met his eyes.
“I did die. I thought, hoped, it was only a dream when I woke up.” She cocked her head to one side. “I remember it. I know I died, and yet know it wasn’t me who died. Only it was. Can you begin to understand this? I can’t. It’s so confusing a jumble of thoughts and emotions of who am I? What am I? Everything is in here. All of it.” She licked her lips; swallowed, knowing she rambled but not able to stop. “All of it. I’m a copy? A copy. I can’t connect the two of me. Can I connect the two? Holt, some memories- my childhood- for example, are the same. But it’s like laser beams merging, converging for a time, before separating and going their own way but at a different trajectory then the ones they were on before meeting. I really don’t know how to explain it.”
But now she knew why she had blocked these memories in the first place. Her company needed to continue, but this whole process was experimental, as well as extremely dangerous. She’d signed the release only days before her death.
Who knows what might happen if someone hacked her mind and found she was not only a clone, but with original memories and illegal cybernetics; dangerous, and very scary. Decoto had gone too far. He had abused his knowledge and position; more than once. He went far beyond her original instructions to him. Plus, he had tried to kill her, had managed to kill her. She would deal with him.
Were these thoughts now, her own, or part of the original? Where did the original end and the Lia she was now actually begin? Was she only an extension of something that died twenty years ago? Who was she really? The person who’d created HKSA after the collapse of police forces, or the one who’d let a hacker off and even had him join the company in repayment to those he’d harmed? Did she have her own thoughts, reactions, could she think creatively, respond originally, or was that programmed in from the original?
Her mind refused to focus on these issues, but they had to be resolved. She wanted to pace, but there was only a path to the desk and from there to the door. How could Holt be so ordered and precise in his codes but live like this? The question let her relax for a second on something other than herself, herselves?
Holt spoke up then, “They keep some of the original cells in the central vault in sub-section twelve.”
“Yeah; I read that.” She studied his face for a moment, down turned, sad. But she knew him, having profiled him for years before tracking him down, he hid something from her. “There’s something else.” He didn’t answer. But there was something else, some discrepancy with her memory and the information she had been given. “Something’s not right. If I, well, the original, died twenty years ago, this body – I – should be older.”
“How many others have there been of me? Of the original?”
“I don’t know.”
“Somebody does; I’m sure somebody does. Somebody in this company, yes. This company for so long keeping peace and order, it’s gone above the law. It wasn’t like this before. But I know who to go to.” She stood up, she knew what she should do, but uncertain if the idea was hers, or the other. The life she had stolen or the life forced upon her. She needed time to think through all of this new info. She really didn’t know where to go, or what to do. Every action brought questions; was that her or the original? Every action brought doubts. She doubted habits, likes, dislikes, her very beliefs and ideals. Lia was now more confused than she had been; but she had answers. She had answers.
A depressing thought.
Lia wandered out of Holt’s office. She headed out of the building and walked aimlessly in the crowded, colorful Hong Kong streets. She usually loved to walk the streets; to hear the people: the haggling, the talk and the gossip. She loved to see the bright flashing advertisements, seeing new things or different things. Buildings loomed over her. Lights flashed in all different colors across her face and people passed all around her, sometimes bumping, sometimes swerving. Tonight she took no notice. The places didn’t matter; the people didn’t matter; only thoughts mattered.
But were they her thoughts? Did the original control everything she did, had done? Will do in the future? How did she even know, how could she tell the difference?
Lia liked to walk when she thought, but was that truly her? Or was it an action of the original? She searched through her new memories and found so many she couldn’t distinguish from her own and that of the original. Some merged, overlapped, but sometimes even that overlap differed. She may have sat instead of standing, or jumped over the rail instead of taking the stairs. But she couldn’t differentiate between them. Which were hers? Which the originals? Was anything hers?
Who was she?
Am I an individual with my own thoughts, actions, responses, or am I only a part of another, an extension of someone else?
Who am I really?
Lia kept walking.
So that was it.
She had confronted Decoto. She had gone back to the Agency building and headed down to sub-section twelve and the central vault. There she found many interesting things in the databases not connected to the main hub, and the culture tanks and re-growing new bodies. She found Carime Shirow, being grown anew. Had they found the other dead or given up hope? Somehow the Cyber Autistics had known she was a clone. The how was beyond Lia. And now, Carime was being re-grown for Daddy. She wondered if Decoto had something to do with this. She didn’t find out then for security personnel arrived.
She had underestimated Decoto. A security force charged into the culture room with the grey banks of monitoring machines; elements of the security force she had helped train! They had her trapped. But they had underestimated her too, she had not informed everyone about all of her special modifications. Unit ten–twenty three no longer existed. Lia had never liked them anyway. But in the end, she’d been overwhelmed. The capture happened quickly.
Something seemed to snap within her mind. Something invisible – that had held her immobile. Her eyes flicked open and she could hear voices as if they stood far away on a quiet day. She turned up her hearing receptors as she studied what she could see in front of her. She didn’t want to risk moving too much until she knew her situation.
She lay on a flat metal slab of a table, tilted nearly forty-five degrees to vertical. And the room was cold. She couldn’t feel it for some reason, but she could smell it; the way it affected machines, screens, metal and wires – leaving a distinctive scent. Wires trailed away from her body to connect out of sight with several monitoring machines and possibly more. Lia heard them humming contentedly to themselves. She didn’t know what they did or monitored. Some might even inform others she was awake and aware now. That couldn’t be helped.
Lia lay half turned on her left side, to help reach her cybernetic implants in back. She sensed something more than other machines behind her.
One of the voices sounded all too familiar.
Her eyes slid to look out of the corner of her right eye, to see beside her as best she could. The motion very slow so as not to draw attention. She saw the front of the lab, with a large glass paneling separating the room. The glass soundproofing making the voices beyond sound far away: to men still spoke.
One – in a doctors white lab coat –explained something to the other. The other – Decoto, her boss, stood looking imposing and important. Lia guessed he wasn’t her boss anymore, and thinking back, she had first hired him for his position. She was his boss. Ironic.
“The new clone isn’t taking the memories,” the doctor said. “By some process, the old clone has erected several blockers, firewalls, attack viruses and barriers around her memories. And, this is the amazing part, even around the organic tissue. And though we couldn’t access those memories because of the preventive measures, we managed to wipe them.”
“How can you be sure if you can’t access the area?”
“We know the exact location of the implants from the files, I helped install many of them and the EMP blast targeted those areas.”
“That might be taking it a bit too far, very unnecessary. The clone will be disposed of soon anyway.”
“Maybe, but the EMP pulse will wipe memory and if the clone is tampered with before dumping of the body, it is a good precautionary measure to clear all the short term memory.”
So they had wiped her! Not all of it. They had tried a dump and wipe, but couldn’t get at it. Lia would have to thank Holt for that. He had done more it seemed, than unblock her memories, improving upon her own security measures She didn’t like people messing around in her mind, but in this instant she could almost kiss Holt. Almost.
The glass showed a slight reflection of the room around her. She could make out her own body, with parts missing. She trailed cybernetic linkages as she might intestines or ripped flash. Her left arm, the cybernetics taken off below the elbow, looked hallow, almost forlorn. She could see behind her.
The new clone. They had yet to begin installing cybernetic parts. The body remained whole, clean, pure, pristine. It made Lia sad in a way. The two men continued talking, distracting her.
“And the bodies?”
“I doubt we can learn anything more out of them. Have them taken to the incinerator.”
How callous! She was Decoto’s superior. She had started this agency, not him! He would not dump her or harm her in any way or form. Lia, more than just a clone, more than just a cyborg, she had her own thoughts, her own feelings. She was not a thoughtless automaton, like the car AI or the coffee machine.
Pushing off with the stump of her left arm, she ripped wires out of it with the other. Lights began flashing in the other room. They stared at the read outs, then looked up to stare at her through the glass. Their expressions were more than she could have hoped. And she still had some special surprises they didn’t know about.
“You will do no such thing, Decoto!” She may only be a clone, only a cyborg; with the cells and memories of the original in her, but she was more than that. Changes were inescapable in life, but people remained who they were and so would she. With the memory wipe and the implanted memories of an original-lost-past not her own. She lived and Lia would be Lia and acquire new memories. She had the right to choose, as did the clone next to her.
She may not have chosen her birth, but who does? She might not be able to choose the time and place of her death, but who does?
But she will choose to fight to keep her life. No confusion clouded in her mind on that issue; the original and clone had no doubts. She faced Decoto, wires trailing out of her, one armed, naked and unarmed. But she had never needed nor relied on a weapon.
“How dare you Matt! Are you trying to create a super human, to go along with your transhumanist ideas?”
“We’re not trying to turn Homo sapiens into homo superior. We are only gaining our full potential as humans, striving to bring it close to us and into us as humans.
“You’re a genetic clone with gene sequencing to make you faster, stronger, smarter, all of it, Lia, no eye sight problems, no arthritis, no debilitating diseases, with, on top of all that, artificial enhancements. Top of the line, experimental, and the in best cybernetics.
“Can’t you see what you are bringing about by being alive? You vindicate what we’ve worked toward for years. The revised cloning act of 2118 can be repealed by you.”
Lia shook her head. “I am not a tool to be used, cast aside, made anew, and used up. I have my own desires, goals and thoughts that are not a part of your super human plan. You made me, but you made me human.” And what she wanted was vengeance.
She stalked forward.
– end –