He killed me. He’s actually killed me. May could barely breathe. I’m dead and I know it. When the boost wears off, it’s all over.
She had started the night with twenty bodies, the maximum number she could fully control while boosted. It was an almost overwhelming experience to have such a degree of control. Twenty pairs of eyes to see from, twenty pairs of hands to use, and twenty pairs of legs to walk on. Best of all, she had twenty brains to process information with, giving her the capacity to actually operate all of the bodies at her disposal. It was so different from her normal surrogates, where only a handful of basic functions could be done by both bodies simultaneously.
Stealing military equipment from the bases that had been established in the wake of Sunlight City’s destruction was a cinch. Being your own perfectly functioning team made distracting and misdirecting guards a breeze, especially when she had access to useful gadgets Krieg provided them with.
But the helicopters she’d taken were all gone, destroyed by Emilia along with six of her bodies. Kevin had just killed three, including her original. She’d already had to let go of two before the carnage began and soldiers had already killed three of the ones tasked with running interference while they escaped. That meant she had at most another ten to fifteen minutes before every one of her bodies died.
“No,” Jared said. “You can’t die. You can’t.” She found it oddly comforting how much fear was in his eyes. He really does care. She always wondered while they were kissing how much of it was to maintain their cover and how much of it was because he actually had feelings for her.
“My original body is gone. Kevin shot it through the head. I watched him do it. How surreal is that? I wasn’t even able to take him with me. So lame,” she said weakly. Tears were in her eyes. All of them, which was a problem for the bodies she was actually trying to do things with. One swerved too soon in front of the military jeep she was trying to block from pursuit and was broadsided, the body dying instantly as a couple tons of steel slammed into it. At least the jeep is stopped for a minute.
“We’ll get him, I promise you. We’ll get him together if that’s what you want. Just because your original body is gone doesn’t mean you’ll die. Maybe you don’t need it!” he said fiercely.
She thought about that for a minute. What did it mean if she didn’t die in ten minutes? If she was still here when the boost ended, did it mean she was still alive after all? Or that a copy of her was? Did it matter? May wasn’t sure she even believed in souls, so was there a meaningful difference between a copy of someone who had all of the original’s feelings and memories and the original itself?
She didn’t know the answers to any of the questions running through her head, and wasn’t sure she dared to allow herself the hope that she’d still be around to try and figure them out.
“Look at me, May. How much control over your bodies fading do you have? Can you make sure this is your last body?”
“Moderate,” she replied numbly. “But not perfect.”
“Then kill your other bodies now before one of them ends up the last one,” he said. She flinched at the suggestion. Kill them all? If they were normal surrogates, the suggestion wouldn’t cause her a moment’s hesitation. It was a simple matter to abandon a surrogate, withdrawing herself from its mind and leaving the body empty and comatose.
But it wasn’t so easy with the clones. As long as the boost lasted she couldn’t just cut them off. She had a little control over which ones dropped out first as the boost wore off, but it was far from perfect. She would have to get every single one of her other bodies killed to guarantee this was the one that remained if any did. And as she had recently learned, she experienced every death.
She’d sensed more shock than pain when her original body died, but the final clone left standing against Kevin took a bullet to the stomach before he’d finished it off. The pain had caused her to throw up with several of her clones. She was no stranger to pain using the surrogates, but she couldn’t numb it even slightly with her boosted clones. Fortunately, most of those who’d died had gone quick, but she couldn’t guarantee she could finish off all the remaining ones in as efficient a fashion.
Another clone dropped out of her network though and she realized she didn’t have much time. She took an assessment of everyone who had ammo left and quickly shot herself through the head with anyone who did. That left two clones besides the body in the car with Jared.
A Humvee was driving past where one of them was located and she considered throwing herself in front of it. The risk was too great though. If it ran her over without killing her and then she lost control of the body that was with Jared, what little chance she had of surviving the boost ending would be gone. Either her final body would die of trauma from the vehicle or she would probably end up in a coma like Jared’s sister.
Could I get the soldiers to kill me? Maybe, but if they capture me instead it won’t end up much better than getting run over. She paused in her contemplation of killing that clone and turned to the other one. It was hanging around outside a store front in preparation of their pursuers passing by. The store had a plate glass window that would probably serve her purposes nicely.
May slammed her boot into the window in a side kick and the glass shattered to pieces. She quickly identified some shards that might work for her purposes and picked one up.
“Put your hands up!” she heard from behind her. She wondered for an instant whether it was a regular police man or a soldier, but decided not to turn around to find out. The sliver of glass was already close enough to her target and with a single deft movement she slit open her neck. For a moment she wondered if she’d made a huge mistake as her body went into shock from the blood loss. She was confused and disoriented, struggling to keep consciousness with any of her bodies and not crash the car she was driving. But it only took a minute before her wounded body fully lost consciousness, its connection fully severed shortly thereafter.
“Hey, hey, stay with me,” Jared said, clearly trying hard to maintain a sense of calm. Despite his efforts, she could sense the near panic he was in. “What’s going on?”
“One left,” May said. “But I have no weapons on that body and I’m not sure I can do that again.”
“Do what?” Jared asked.
“Cut my own throat.”
“Christ, ok, yeah don’t do that again. For a second it looked like I was going to lose you after all. How far is your other body from the rendezvous point? Not my first preference, but if you think you can make it there then we can all head for it instead of killing yourself. We can just meet up there if you lose this body.”
“Too far,” May said. “That body has none of Krieg’s equipment. If a soldier stops it, the only thing keeping me from being identified is a wig and a few false documents.” Jared leaned back and thought a moment.
“How about the hospital?” he said. “It’s back the way we came, so I assume it’s closer to your other body. Do you think you could make it to there if you lose this one? Patrick’s captured or dead, so there’s no real reason to meet at the original rendezvous point anyways. And if Black Rain figures out who I really am, there’s a good chance my sister is in danger.”
May thought about her knowledge of the hospital’s whereabouts and tried to calculate out how far her other body was from it. Only a couple of miles. I could make it on foot, so a lot less chance of being stopped in a stolen car.
“That might work. What’s your sister’s room?” May’s second body took off from her hiding place, making her way along the street as if she had every right to belong there and acting as if the sirens were perfectly normal. She crossed her fingers that she wouldn’t be stopped by any random soldiers. Would they have declared martial law? They certainly would have in Redarctica, but the Consolidated States were not nearly as prone to such reactions.
“3309A,” Jared replied. “And I would suggest we go immediately, but it seems we’ve attracted attention. As much as I prefer your real face, you should change your appearance a bit.” He leaned forward and drew her into a kiss, covering both their faces with his own. It may have just been a distraction so they could both change Krieg’s holo-settings to that of random civilians, but the heat was very real.
If it turns out these really are my last few minutes alive, I can think of worse ways to go. Jared’s kisses were more desperate than usual, hungrier, as if he thought he could force her to live through them. There was a sharp rapping on the window. It couldn’t have been more than thirty or forty seconds, but it felt much longer. She didn’t want to stop. But after a few more seconds, the rapping became more insistent and they let each other go.
The face that stared back as Jared pulled away was a honey colored brown, hair dark black. She glanced at her face in the rear-view mirror and saw her own hair and complexion had similarly darkened, Krieg’s device perhaps trying to adapt their disguises based on the light quality of the environment. Or maybe Krieg just knew that since they were pasty pale white folks that a darker skin tone would serve to better throw off pursuers.
Either way, she was fairly confident that there was no chance they’d be recognized. The police officer standing outside had a very similar complexion and she wondered if that’d be a good or bad thing.
“What are you two doing at a place like this at this time of night?” the man asked.
“Oh, you know, sir, trying to escape all the siblings back home and get some alone time.” Jared said with a very slight Destrian accent, aiming for a slightly leering grin. She wasn’t sure if he was trying to play towards stereotypes or not, but his comment bought them no rapport with this officer.
“Not really,” the officer replied humorously. “I was an only child. Surely there are better places to make out than a parking lot of a gas station.”
“Well…there used to be.” May said, trying to look slightly choked up, feigning a distant look on her face. She didn’t need to say anymore, given how close they were to the crater’s edge. The officer got a distant look on his own face and clearly decided they weren’t worth his time on a night like tonight.
“Ok, I’m just going to give you a warning this time about loitering on other people’s property. Go home to your families. It’s not safe out tonight.”
“Thanks sir. May I ask what’s going on?” Jared said, a look of concern coming over him. His arm was wrapped around May protectively.
“Need to know basis kid, just get yourselves home,” the officer replied. May suspected that meant he had no idea himself.
“Will do sir,” May told him, turning the vehicle on. The office walked back into his car and got in. May pulled out of the station and saw the cruiser following them. She wondered for a brief moment if the officer actually intended to follow them “home” or if their cover was even blown completely somehow. But then the cruiser sped past them, turning on its lights as it went. Maybe it was responding to one of the many scenes of destruction her clones had left in their wake. She let out a sigh of relief.
“That was close,” Jared said tensely. “But I think we’re going to be okay.” He put a comforting hand on her knee, unable to do much else while she was driving. For a second she could almost believe it. “Just in case we’re separated, I want you to know that I –“
She lost control of the body driving with Jared before he could finish his sentence. Jared! she thought in horror. She hadn’t been going too fast, but if he hit an oncoming car….
No, he’ll be fine. Even if his boost has worn off, there’s no way a little thing like a car crash can keep him down for long. But I’m stuck without him and that holo device. She was still a mile from the hospital and she realized a flaw in their plan. The battle with Blue Skies had left a great many wounded, many of which were heading to Saint Celeste’s for treatment.
There was probably no helping it now though if she wanted to see Jared again. But the truth was, if her life in this spare body was only the result of the boost, she only had about four or five minutes before she dropped dead. If there is a God, I hope he wouldn’t let me just die alone like this. If I were going to die, couldn’t it have been while doing something pleasant?
But then she realized something. She was walking. Jogging actually, with her own two feet and sensations not dulled in the slightest. Actually, I guess if I had to choose a way to go out for good, there wouldn’t be too many ways higher up on the list than this. And most people who almost get powers drop dead instead. So I guess this isn’t so different, was just living on borrowed time is all.
She resolved not to let fear or grief overwhelm her and enjoy the pleasure of her legs burning for the next few minutes, letting the rush of adrenaline and endorphins flow through her. Whatever happened, whether she lived or not, she had the sense things would be ok.