Paolo did not like the Darkside Lounge. For starters, it was in the Entertainment District, and should not have billed itself as part of "The Seamy Underbelly of the Zone." In fact, it was a carefully unremarkable bar, designed to cater to corpers who wanted to believe they had experienced the Zone without actually having their sensibilities challenged. As part of that goal, it offered an exceptionally wide selection of drinks, so no patron would be disappointed. Paolo needed something special, and was sure he could get it here.
The bouncer seemed to hesitate as Paolo approached, but waved him through. The management liked to have a few Zone natives present to lend the place that authentic air, and though the doctor's battered overcoat and wraparound shades were unorthodox, his hygiene was good. Paolo stepped inside and took a seat at the bar.
The waitresses—topless, with hair and make-up that was carefully outrageous—circulated among the customers with trays of drinks. The chairs and tables had a rough finish, but matched each other, something no other bar in the Zone bothered with. Even the smell was off—the air was fresh, obviously cleaned with the kind of filters found in an arcology, but was laced with a faint scent of tobacco and alcohol to give the place more faux ambiance.
At least the strippers aren't on yet, thought Paolo gratefully. It was still early afternoon, and the floor show had not yet started, so the management had put a newscast on an oversized viewscreen at the other end of the bar. The doctor noted with disgusted amusement that the case for the unit was old and battered, but the picture quality made clear that the innards were far more recent. The perfectly-coiffed anchorwoman on the screen turned to a story Paolo had read earlier, and he focused his attention on the set, hoping for new details.
"Shinkuu corporation announced today that the crew of Project Starblaze, the first manned mission to Titan, has been declared legally dead. The crew, which includes Captain Maria Raphael, First Officer Bernardo Daguerra, and three replicants, entered cryogenic suspension six years ago after system failures left the Starblaze orbiter unable to support life for the duration of its return voyage. Shinkuu has since launched two resupply rockets containing necessary spare parts, but the failure of both has left the crew in suspended animation far longer than intended, and medical complications now make revival impossible. In its statement, Shinkuu emphasized that the robotic components of Project Starblaze are still operational, and that 80% of mission objectives have already been accomplished.
"The move is widely perceived by the business community as a precursor to a restructuring of Shinkuu's Outer Planets division, and Shinkuu stock was up three-tenths of a point as of 1:54 PM Eastern Standard Time.
"Jinesi Corporation announced the construction of four new agronomics processing facilities in the Confederate States of America..."
Paolo stopped paying attention. No new information, he thought, nothing I didn't read in the report this morning. Nothing I didn't know twenty years ago.
* * *
The teenagers sat on the concrete floor, two bottles and a small bag of limes between them. The unused storage area was hardly comfortable, but somehow the lack of any surveillance cameras always left the three indentures in a festive mood.
It was not easy for them to access the room. Bernardo's contribution to the party had been to bribe the floor's security monitor with a small stash of cigarettes—real tobacco, not the synthetic gunk sold at the corporate store. After that it had been a simple matter of picking a few locks, something the students had become good at while growing up in the Shinkuu cr¸che.
The group had wanted to make this occasion special, and decided to mark it with tequila and lime. Paolo had procured the limes in a clandestine trip to the greenhouse, leaving the acquisition of liquor to Maria. But she had been unable to procure tequila and had been forced to settle for two bottles of brandy. The two had seemed incompatible when they were sober, but after two drinks the low-alcohol-tolerance teens had begun squeezing the limes into the brandy. The idea seemed to get better as the night went along.
"So," said Bernardo, pouring three more shots while Maria squeezed lime juice into them. "We should drink a toast to Paolo's success in Moscow!"
"We drank to that already," Paolo pointed out unsteadily.
"Well, then we will drink our success at Cape Kennedy," Bernardo declared, setting down the bottle as he leaned in to nuzzle Maria affectionately.
"We drank to that two," she responded, turning to kiss him.
The two kept their lips pressed together a long time, and Paolo declared, "Get a room."
"Got one!" said Bernardo in satisfaction as the pair finally released. Maria began passing out the drinks. "We should drink to eternal love."
Maria said nothing, but Paolo looked at his friend uncomfortably. "You know you can't control that," he said. "You may train together, but you don't know you'll fly together."
"Bah," spat Bernardo drunkenly. "We will always be together."
Paolo looked helplessly at Maria, expecting to find some fear or discomfort. Instead, she simply leaned into her paramour, smiling. "He's right. We will."
"I thought you knew better than that," said the Moscow-bound indenture. He was vaguely aware that he shouldn't have said that, but somehow the brandy seemed to have loosened his tongue and the lime had soured it.
She shook her head. "Love gives you hope," she said simply.
"Someday you'll know that, Paolo," Bernardo declared. "Maria and I may lose everything else, but we will never lose hope. That's what we should drink to!" He exclaimed abruptly, raising his glass. "To love and hope!"
The pair each took a pull from their drink at this, and Paolo followed suit. He had no wish to foul the mood, and he looked for a way to change the subject.
"Did you see that Shinkuu bought its first group of replicants today?" he asked.
"Yes," answered Maria. "Maintenance workers. The janitors are very upset."
"They should be," Paolo pointed out. "They're going to be out of a job if these work out."
"Do you think that's why they canceled the indentures program?" asked Maria. Three months earlier, Shinkuu had released indentures from all but its two most advanced classes, sending them back to homes most had not seen in years. The three new graduates had wondered at the decision, but no explanation had been given.
"Probably," answered Paolo. "Let's face it—the students they love most from our class are like robots anyway."
"Yes, they don't think," answered Bernardo. "But we, the delinq --, the delinques—the troublemakers," he finally got out. "We are geniuses! We have discovered the secret of brandy and lime!"
The group all laughed drunkenly at this, falling about the floor at Bernardo's wit. Then, as it got quiet, Maria asked, "What do you think they'll do with us?"
This thought was strangely sobering. "It will be a long time before they can make a replicant bright enough for anything technical," Paolo observed.
"Yes, but it will happen," Maria replied. "Then what?"
"Perhaps they'll let us go," Bernardo proposed. "Just decide not to bother with us."
Paolo almost objected, but he noted the expression on Maria's face. Clearly, whatever optimism love had granted Bernardo had not so thoroughly infused her. But by unspoken agreement the two let it pass.
Another toast occurred to Paolo. "Well, then," he said, raising his glass jubilantly. "Let us drink to our coming obsolescence!"
The three laughed again, and drank, and whiled away their last night together.
* * *
From that night, their paths had wound two decades and many millions of kilometers apart. Alone on his barstool, Paolo pictured the two lovers, gazing into each others' eyes as they entered their suspension chambers in Titan ground base. Bernardo, unshakably confident, and Maria, the truth buried in her smile as she chose to believe in their future. They would spend eternity together, locked in a moment of hope that would never fade.
"May I take your order, Sir?" the bartender asked at last. Paolo nodded.
"Brandy," he replied. "With a twist of lime."
"I walk in the rain"
- 20th Century Song Lyric
Sandra sat alone in the bar, a mournful blues tune playing behind her. She studied the glass before her intently. Whisky wasn't normally her stuff, especially not the cheap synth that places like this served. However, today was a very special day for her. She sighed and took the glass. After a moment, she swung it all back in one gulp. After a brief pause, she put the glass back down on the bar.
"Another one, please" she said, barely loud enough to get the bartender's attention.
The bartender grunted a reply, took the glass and re-filled it. Sandra took the glass and stared mournfully into it.
It was far from the best neighborhood in all of Neo York. However, compared to the urban wasteland that was the Zero Zone just across the river, it was pretty good. The apartment block they were in was reasonably maintained, and had a full selection of amenities. It was still rather dark and dank, and smelled vaguely of urine, alcohol and human sweat. It was silent, save for the sound of the rain from outside.
"Nice place" Sandra commented quietly. "When I retire, I'd like to live in a place like this"
"Very funny" Jeff responded. He was leading three other NYPD Inc officers on what was known colloquially as a "bust". He was a professional cop, and liked to play things by the book. He didn't like wise-ass officers who spent their time joking around on the job. Sandra admired his sense of duty, but thought that he was just a little too stuffy. "This is the place" he pointed out as they reached another relatively anonymous door, different only for the number on it.
"Remind me, what are we after this guy for?" Craig asked. He was the youngest of the team, on his first op. Sandra liked him. He was young and keen. He'd probably get kicked in the teeth by realty soon, and Sandra didn't want to be there when it happened. Still, he was a good kid.
"Let's see" Sandra began. "Assault, assault with a weapon, grievous bodily harm, possession of a controlled substance with intent to deal... oh here's one. Male rape. Better cover your date, Alan."
"You're a real comedian, Sandra" Alan Davies, the fourth member of the team replied.
"Right. Alan, you're on the Enforcer. Let's do this" Jeff commanded. Alan lifted up the Enforcer, a specially designed hand-held battering ram, made for opening doors with the minimum of fuss.
"I love this bit" He muttered. "Three... two... one" He swung at the door with the Enforcer. The door instantly gave way, swinging inwards.
"All right! Go! Go go go!" Jeff shouted. He, Sandra and Craig charged into the apartment, Jeff standing behind them.
Their man was right there, standing in the middle of the room, as if he'd been waiting for them. He was almost disturbingly slim, with long dark hair, deep, sunken eyes and a slightly unsettling look on his face. He couldn't have been any older than nineteen.
"Alright! Don't move! Put your hands in the air!" Jeff commanded.
The man didn't respond. Suddenly, the air around him was filled with swirling dust particles. The floor suddenly cracked.
"PK!" Jeff shouted. "PK!"
Before Sandra could respond, she was hit by an invisible... something. She felt sharp, burning pain in her face and all along her arm. Her vision went red. She could vaguely hear Jeff screaming something as she fell back onto the floor and everything went black.
It was raining. It had rained on this day last year. And, of course, on the year before that. Sandra thought this over in her head as she trudged home. Even with her heavy trenchcoat turned up at the shoulders, she was still getting water all over her hair and face.
"I wonder if it will be like this next year," she muttered to herself.
Sandra's vision slowly came back to her. She was in a white room. There was a smell of disinfectant in the air. A hospital. She hated hospitals. She'd had to deal with several victims and a few suspects in hospitals.
As her vision focussed, something about it seemed... wrong. The right side of her vision was dark. At first she thought that there was something over her right eye. But this felt... wrong. Like her eye was actually shut. Or worse...
Her right hand also felt odd. It felt like there was very little sensation coming from it, and it was rather reluctant to move. She gingerly looked down at her right arm. It was entirely covered with bandages, all the way up to and over her shoulder. Then, fearing the worst, she looked down at her right hand. The shape of the bandages said it all. She had her index finger, her thumb, and that was it.
Right hand gone... right eye gone. I'm a wreck. She ran the implications of that through her head. I'm also useless as an officer now.
Sandra trudged up the stairs to her apartment, tired, wet and with a slight headache forming. Booze does not make you feel better, she thought, no matter what anyone else says. She pushed open the door to her apartment and walked in, casually throwing her coat on the floor. Wandering into the bathroom, she opened the cabinet and rummaged through it. I know there's an asprin in here somewhere. Having found the pills in question, she shut the door and looked up, catching her own reflection in the cracked mirror above the sink.
Shaggy, unkempt hair. Scars along the right side of her face. What ever happened to me? She asked herself.
There had been an inquiry, of course. It had been very brief and not wasted any time. Jeff was found guilty of negligence in his actions as ranking officer. He made a convenient target, as he had been killed instantly. Alan had gotten several commendations, for staying with Sandra and Craig until backup arrived. Craig had died en-route to the hospital. Sandra had been the lucky one of the three.
With her eye and fingers gone, Sandra had been discharged form the Police force. She'd been given a generous disability pension, and sent on her way. Somehow, she'd ended up in a dodgey bodyshop in the zone, talking to a sleazy-looking, but supposedly qualified, cyber-doctor.
"Can you do it?" She asked.
"It's pretty easy stuff. It's the kind of standard job many of my customers get, chika" he replied. "Your money's good, so I can get you quality parts. The type that work right when you want them to"
"Uh-huh" Sandra muttered in reply.
"So, you doing this for a reason?" He asked. "Revenge trip, new line of work, simple fun... what?"
"Well" She replied. "I'm thinking about a change in career. And it sure as heck beats doing nothing."
Sandra collapsed back on her bed, and stared up at the cracks in the ceiling. Yeah. I can't think of anywhere else I'd rather be right now.
Karin sat at the kitchen table, a small assortment of weapons spread out before her on the kitchen table, all dissembled and waiting for her to put back together. The blinds were pulled closed but from what light made it through, she could tell that it was getting dark. It would be about another two hours before she made her raid on Ishiyama, a mega-corporation whose most vital secrets she would steal.
It was dangerous, suicidal, and would most certainly cost her her life if she made a single mistake...
And it was also what she was best at...
On the couch, Kim, assistant to Dr. Yuki Tokamura, lay bound and gagged on the couch, making muffled noises that were either ignored or unheard by Karin as she stared at the collection of weapons: her two shot Duen with the wrist holster, a large bowie knife, a bottle of pepper spray, and her Kuan-Ti outfitted with a laser sight and silencer. Ordinarily, Kim wouldn't have minded having guests over in her apartment, it was just the fact that Karin had tied her up, gotten information out of her about Ishiyama and had come in uninvited that really bugged her.
But Karin wasn't paying any attention to her, her gaze solely on the items before her, the items of a trade she had been given no choice in taking up, a trade whose training had costed her much in youthful innocence and any chance of looking at life the same way again.
Like a zombie she reached for the pieces of the Duen, the parts cleaned and oiled, and began to assemble, her eyes seeing and not seeing, the process one easily done by feel alone. Her mind raced back along past memories of two days prior and several years ago...
The face of a dead man, his eyes glazed over and unseeing as blood flowed from the perfectly placed shot in his forehead down into his hair...
Raven's dead eyes as she sat slumped in the easy chair, starring at a ceiling without looking at it as she thought of her inevitable future, a future suddenly devoid of hope...
Instructors of all kinds, of all classes and fields, teaching her day after day, driving her to the edge of her mental and physical endurance, and beyond. Their faces held no concern for her emotional state or what she wanted, merely that she be alive by the end of the day and asleep, ready to go through another day of intense training...
Raven, her smile like a sunny day, warm and friendly even in the throes of concern for her well being, advising her to leave a business which would leave her as good as dead as her targets, giving her a home to live in, a shoulder to cry on, and something else she had not had for a long, long time...
The frantic thoughts at the back of her mind, pushed and held there by the cool, calm desire to escape as she sneaked out of the mega-corporations main complex, past the security with a skill so sharp it cut her heart. And the running, the constant running and hiding since then as she sought to stay ahead of her pursuers, her trainers, her father...
Raven's kind smile and gentle soul showing her her new home, a large well furnished apartment where there was no need to hide, no fear of being discovered, where it was warm and dry and safe and nothing to put together anymore...
Karin blinked, her surroundings coming back into focus around her. She watched her hand grasp at nothing on the kitchen table, all of her weapons assembled with not a single piece missing.
She sighed, long and low, and ran a hand over her face and through her hair, hardly surprised at the sweat she felt on her face. A glance at the clock showed it to be nearing nine p.m. She would need to leave soon.
Reaching down to a satchel on the floor, Karin hefted it up onto the table and unzipped it.
"Just for tonight... just this once..." The words felt hollow, empty...
Kim watched silently, and wondered, if not for the first time, if she was crazy for watching an exact copy of herself assemble weapons and mutter quietly to herself as though she were in another world.
Then again, she did live in Neo York, so this sort of thing was to be expected...
Falcon leaned over against the dashboard of her motorcycle, sighing as she waited for her 'employer' to show up. Acting as a street samurai had seemed like such a good idea, and one of the few ways she could make much in the way of money with what she had. Given she'd blown several months' worth of savings in just the last couple of weeks.
She sighed again. What would her father think of her now?
Her father. Now there was someone she hadn't thought of in a while. Manager in a small company specializing in what he called 'glorified dumpster diving': Jersey Recovery Technologies had developed filtering equipment that allowed them to scavenge useful metals and glass from landfill sites, which were common enough along the New York-New Jersey border. Not exactly big business, but it worked well enough that the company made a fair bit of money selling the raw materials they'd pulled from the dump.
He always smelled a bit musty when he came home. Mother did temp jobs off and on, so was home a lot of the time. Such as it was; 'home' was an apartment about eight floors up, giving what might have been a nice view if there weren't another tall building just across the road. Other bits of memory flashed by... the self-defense course her mother enrolled her in after the near-mugging in the alleyway, the sound of her father's voice mangling Christmas carols while her mother rolled her eyes,
Eventually the company did well enough that they got bought out by one of the larger corporations in the spreading Neo York. Most of the employees were hired on as well, with some of them invited uptown. They finally moved into a larger apartment, away from the garbage, and for a few months, everything was perfect. Her father, in a big splurge of generosity from the sudden jump in stock values, bought them all a steak dinner. Real steak, for the first time in her life.
Then came the accident. Kristen's trip down memory lane continued with the same careening finality as the car ride itself, slamming into that one moment where she woke up from the shock, and looked into her father's dead eyes... from the back seat as his head hung crookedly over the front seat.
And, for the first time since that fateful evening, Kristen cried into her folded arms.
"Ma'am? Are you in here?" Kim wandered into the cold storage vault, looking for her boss. She quickly came across Yuki; she was looking up at a large, frosted-over glass tank, simply labeled with the number one. "What are you doing?" she said, walking up next to the profession.
"Just thinking..." Yuki trailed off into thought.
"What's the matter, ma'am?" Kim asked.
"You ever think... You know, if you could do it again, you'd do some things different?"
Kim blinked in confusion. "I don't get it, ma'am," she replied.
Yuki sighed. "I mean them." She nodded towards the tank. Within, a female figure could be seen.
"Here it goes," said the professor, almost breathless with anticipation. The medical team were standing by, ready to open the cloning tank. Prototype one floated inside; an imposingly tall and muscular woman. Kim waited by the professor as always, sharing in her excitement.
With a nod, she signaled to the technicians. The tank opened, spilling the viscous liquid inside and releasing its occupants. A brief struggle ensued, resulting in number one lying on the gurney, coughing and sputtering with her first breaths.
"It worked!" Yuki practically screamed with excitement, before checking herself. She looked embarrassed at her outburst, adjusted her glasses then headed to inspect her creation.
"The final test results are in," Kim said very nervous.
Yuki's face fell as soon as she heard Kim's tone. "Bad news?" Kim shuffled her feet for a few seconds, looking down. "Come on, tell me."
"Well..." Kim finally looked up. "There's no trace of esper power in her at all." Yuki looked shocked at the revelation. She slowly removed her glasses and set them down. Kim slowly continued. "We've tried all the tests, checked for errors and..." She trailed off. Yuki simply sat still shocked. "But it's no tall bad," Kim said, trying to cheer her up. "I mean, she's in excellent shape, the programming took properly, and she'd make a good bodyguard... or something." Yuki continued to look upset. "Cheer up, we can still try another prototype."
"It's not that," Yuki finally said. "It's just..." she turned to look at number one, sitting outside in the observation room. "How am I going to tell her?"
"You did the right thing, ma'am," Kim said, shivering in the chill of the storage room.
"Did I?" Yuki wondered as she walked down the row of tanks. Tell that to..." she paused, looking through the glass labeled four. "Tell it to her."
Yuki stood by the clone tank, waiting with grim anticipation. The room was oddly silent. Usually before the opening there was chatter, or at least some encouraging words from Kim. But number four was different. Unlike the rest, she was thin and pale, yet something had gone wrong in the cloning. Her right leg trailed off into a shorted, twisted and deformed mass of flesh.
Kim finally broke the silence. "Are you sure you want to go through with this one?"
"Yeah..." Yuki replied. "Trust me, I've lost a few nights thinking about this one. At the very least, we can tell if there's any psychic potential in her."
With a nod, she signaled for the technicians to begin the procedure. As they dragged the new replicant out onto the table, she was already screaming in agony, clutching the mass that should have been her leg. Yuki glanced away, almost unable to bear it, yet she new she had to keep watching.
"The pain's too much," she heard the head doctor call out. "We've got to sedate her."
"No!" Yuki yelled and walked over to him. The doctor looked on in shock, waiting for an explanation. Yuki faltered, then continued. "Tests show esper abilities often manifest in times of stress. If you sedate her, then-"
The doctor interrupted. "Look, the patient has a right to-"
"She's not a patient!" she yelled, not believing her own words. "She's an experiment. And she doesn't..." Yuki couldn't bring herself to finish.
For long moments, she locked eyes with the doctor. He could see the pain in her face, almost as bad as the newborn's. He shook his head and quietly said "Yeah, she doesn't have any rights. Isolate her!" he yelled to his team.
Yuki fled the room, crying.
The duo stood in silence for long moments in front of the tank. "And then we just locked her up again," Yuki said out of nowhere. Kim remained silent. "I wonder... Do you think she'll ever forgive me?"
"Ma'am, are you alright? You're not sounding like yourself."
Yuki slowly shook her head. "No, just not like myself now."
"Ma'am, are you feeling okay?" Kim wondered as her boss walked into the lab.
"Never better," the professor responded calmly.
"It's just you look... I dunno, different," Kim said.
"Nothing to worry about, Kim," the professor replied.
Kim pondered for a second, then suddenly burst out. I know! Where are your glasses?"
"Don't need them, Kim," the professor replied over her shoulder while checking some reports on the newest prototype.
"How come? I thought you couldn't see a thing without them, just like me," Kim said, proving her point by stumbling over the garbage bin.
Yuki turned to Kim. "Well, you remember that genetic upgrade program I started on a while back?" Kim shook her head. "Didn't think so. Well, the benefits are finally coming through. See?" she said and pointed to her eyes.
Kim leaned in and examined her boss up close. "Wow... They look really different. Bright blue eyes, huh. Maybe I should start one of those programs."
"They cost more than you could afford," Yuki said, turning back to her work. And I don't think anything could help you, the professor thought to herself.
The tank hissed open and released its viscous contents and prototype number five. The team had her on the table faster than usual. Yuki waited in anticipation of the result. She seemed healthy unlike the last one.
Some frantic calls from the medical team broke her out of her reverie. The prototype wasn't breathing! Yuki crowded around the table with the doctors, waiting for a response, anything. It seemed to happen so quickly to her; frantic efforts to start the replicant breathing, administering CPR, and then finally the faint pulse vanishing from the monitors. All too soon, it seemed it was over.
The head doctor turned to Yuki. "I'm sorry. Nothing we can do." He put a comforting hand on her shoulder.
She looked on, coldly, at the body lain out in front of her. "Take it away," Yuki heard herself say. "Put it in storage with the others. We may need to examine it later."
The professor watched as they wheeled it out.
"We may never need her after all." Yuki looked up at tank number five, at the body that floated within. It was as lifeless as the others; only this one would never breathe again.
They stood in silence for a while more. Kim nervously spoke up. "You know what? I... kinda miss the old you."
"The old me?" Yuki said, startled.
"You know, before the new ones."
Once again, the tank hissed open. As the team reached for its occupant, they could already hear it coughing and sputtering, drawing its first few shaky breaths. It staggered and fell to the floor, but was already strong enough to clamber onto the table on its own.
"Look at that, it's a healthy baby girl," Kim said, jokingly. The professor fixed her with an icy stare and walked over to the table, where the replicant was still coughing up the last traces of nutrient fluid.
"Seems fine," the doctor reported. "Slight discolouration in the hair," he said indicating to a streak of white near the left ear, "but perfectly healthy otherwise.
The replicant shivered, and muttered to itself. "I'm so cold..."
"Mentally aware already, and-" the doctor was cut off when a spare lab coat flew across the room and wrapped itself around the newborn replicant of its own accord.
Inside, Yuki felt the same joy as when number one had been released. Yet the professor didn't show a shred of emotion on her face. All around her, the team were celebrating their success, until she barked an order for them to return to work.
The replicant finally opened its eyes and looked up at Yuki. Each stared into the other's bright blue eyes.
"What do you mean, a name?" Yuki said, drumming her fingers on the bench.
"Well, I was telling her a few stories, and she picked one out for herself," Kim replied. "I mean, it's a pretty name, not really appropriate or anything, not that it really could be appropriate to anyone, only I had a friend who once went around-"
"What is it, Kim?" the professor interrupted her babbling assistant.
"Huh? Oh, Lilith," Kim responded.
The professor blinked a few times in abject surprise. "Lilith," she repeated. "What garbage. First off, it's a replicant. It doesn't need a name, and it certainly doesn't choose one for itself. Secondly, I'd like to know precisely what of your drivel inspired that choice from her."
Kim shrunk away from her boss in fear.
Lilith was already beginning to dislike the observation room. It was cold, it smelt funny, and it was too quiet. And now her creators were poring over her.
"I gave her a haircut like you said," Kim said, peering at Lilith from behind her boss.
"So why leave the white part long?" The professor asked.
"Well, I was going to cut it, but she wanted me to leave it long."
Yuki rolled her eyes and shook her head. "Kim, it's a replicant. It doesn't want for anything. Next time, just do what I tell you." The professor set about examining her notes.
"Hmm..." Kim said, examining Lilith. "Bright blue eyes, just like you boss." The professor glanced down at Kim, then at Lilith. She turned away from the pair in disgust.
"She's right," Came Lilith's small voice. "We do like alike."
The professor stopped dead in her tracks. She suddenly roared out "You are NOTHING like me!" and swung around, striking Lilith across the face. The replicant fell out of her chair, and in a moment Kim was kneeling beside her. "And don't you EVER look at me again!" she yelled in fury. A moment later, the professor had thrown away her clipboard and stormed out of the room, not even seeing Lilith's tears slipping through the cold grating.
Slowly, Yuki ran her finger over the number on the tank before her. "No Kim," she said quietly, "I think she's gone for good."
"Ma'am?" Kim replied, nervously.
"Nothing, I'm just tired." The professor turned and walked away from the empty tank, labeled eleven.
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