Spacer Bloodlines 18
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    "Go away."
    Friendly woman. I actually asked Reilly today if she has a record, but he said he wasn't allowed to talk about things like that. "It'll just take a second, I want to check something."
    "What?" she scowled, opening the door,which she nearly filled.
    "Let me see your gloves for a second."
    "No. Last time you nearly blew Phoenix's head off."
    "I'm not going to put them on, I just want to check something. I promise," I added when she still looked reluctant.
    "Oh, all right." She handed them over.
    I confirmed my recollection from the collapsed building. "Good. At least I wasn't hallucinating. These things are alive." I handed them back and resisted the urge to go scrub my hands. The squirming gets to me.
    "They're alive." So she didn't know. Interesting.
    "How do you know?"
    I shrugged. "They have a bio-aura. I'm pretty good at sensing those now."
    "Well—what else can you tell me? Do you know how to use them better?"
    "I don't know anything else," I admitted, fending off her mood swing toward enthusiasm. "Just that they've got a form of life. I thought it might give you another avenue to explore."
    "Oh. Well, thanks." She went back to whatever it was she had been doing, and Reilly finally showed up, well bundled against the cold, with a file folder under his arm. I got him some coffee. Lucky passed by and snarled at him.
    "What's with her?" he inquired.
    "She's just Lucky," I shrugged, somewhat startled myself. "So, what've you got?"
    He had called in some pretty hefty favors, which makes me uncomfortable, in exchange for a lot of information. Not enough to make me happy, of course, but then right now there's not a lot that would.
    My... situation appears to have its roots in the life and death of a CIA agent named Shannon Burkowski. Agent Burkowski had been a top wetworks operations woman, with an almost pathological degree of skill at setting up false identities and acting them with remarkable thoroughness. There were suggestions that her brain had been something outside the ordinary, that she might have been that skilled at anything she turned her hand to, though she appears to have been perfectly human. She died in 1978, age 64.
    1978, as it happens, is the year Tempest came on the scene. Even from slightly out-of-date pictures, it's pretty clear that the three of us could be triplets. According to her record she's Deltal-level TK, but not a particularly bright star in the criminal world—the usual gang-of-thieves, smash-and-grab stuff. She got caught in 1980, was soon at large again, and shortly thereafter disappeared entirely; no one's seen her since.
    My own verifiable memories begin somewhere in the middle of 1985, the exact date uncertain, which is what really bugs me. Well, among other things. Not knowing when it is that I start.
    Susan Bates shares an almost exact duplicate of the fake background—whoever's behind this has a bit of a lazy streak. And who bothers to make a clone and then send her to work at a marketing firm? Was she involved in something we have yet to uncover?
    That of course begs the question, why make clones at all? Two theories present themselves: one, we're all clones of Shannon, and two, Tempest is a clone of Shannon and we're clones of her. If the first, then it seems likely the government is involved, trying to recreate and improve on one of their best agents, and never mind that there are laws against that sort of thing. If the second, it's almost certainly a criminal plot of some kind.
    None of this tells me who and why, and thinking about it at all makes me feel almost ill. Yasmina's remark suggests that there are eight others (I'd like to know how she knew). Where are they, and what are they doing? What's the point?
    I didn't have much time to ponder. Reilly went on his way, leaving me a copy of the information to pore over, and then we got a tip about our rocketeering friends. I wasn't inclined to waste time with those yo-yos again, but Lucky's mood had swung again and she wasn't going to accept that.
    "This is your job," she pointed out self-righteously, as if she hadn't been ducking that same statement forty-eight hours ago. Despite being annoyed by her flip-flopping attitudes, I'm nowhere near as good at ducking, and eventually gave in.
    The Blood Boards hang (or rather, hung) out at Josie's, this little place down by the waterfront that's a step down from a dive. Phoenix skulked around back; Lucky and I strolled through the front door. We haven't been around long enough for many people to recognize us; she looks more like a biker than anything else, and people don't usually look twice at me. We headed toward the pool tables.

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© 1999 Rebecca J. Stevenson