The story so far:
"Children," Pete said slowly. He raised his hands from the loose knuckled fist they generally hung in as he folded his arms tightly across this chest.
I moved my aim a little higher, level with his head, in an attempt to wordlessly state that I meant business. As I studied his reaction, there seemed something different about Pete. His posture was straighter, his stance was steadier, and the wrinkles that surrounded his eyes with his normal smile were gone with the expression that was beginning to look angrier and angrier.
With all my training, years of experience, this man had convinced me he was at least 20 years older than his natural age, simply with his body language.
He was good.
"She asked you a question," I felt Robert reach the top stair next to me. A quick glance in his direction revealed a gun in his hands, mirroring my aim. There must have been a gun in the car; I ran out so quickly, I didn't even bother to notice if he immediately followed or not.
"Children," Pete said again, "I don't think we'll be using that word. That insinuates that they are human. No, children isn't the right word at all."
Even his voice sounded younger. I could have kicked myself for falling for his guise. I was better than that.
"Are you saying that they aren't human?" Robert's voice rose incredulously, his shock faltering his cool. He attempted to regain it, "Nevermind. Your opinion in this does not matter. Tell us where they ARE!"
Rage shook the last word. I let my eyes slide to look at Robert momentarily. Robert was always cool as a cucumber, no matter what the situation. Even moments before when discussing our daughter's death, his voice never rose.
I looked back at Pete, pushing the suspicious thought out of my mind. We had been apart for so long and been through so much, surely he had changed. Nothing unusual about that.
Pete eyes began to crinkle in a familiar way as his mouth broke into a grin. I watched the smile touch the skin around the eyes, but not the eyes themselves. Those remained unmoved, cold.
"Pete," I began, "I will kill you if necessary, but right now, you need to answer us. Your lack of cooporation here won't make me kill you, but know that I WILL SHOOT YOU!"
I silently wished for a revolver for effect. While generally a pointless gesture with today's guns, there is nothing that puts fear in the heart like the sound of a gun cocking.
"Oh, Maribel, don't you understand?" Pete said, unfolding his arms and taking a step forward, "I'm not the bad guy here. The FBI isn't the bad guy here. It's those who choose to play God that cause the problems."
"Playing God?," Robert laughed as he asked, "You can make that argument about any sort of science! How is replicating someone playing God anymore than creating an artificial heart?"
Pete never took his eyes off me, still smiling, "Robert, you know the answer to that. Maribel, have you and Robert discussed what happens to these 'replicas' around ten years?"
I kept my gun steady, but my will faltered.
"What are you talking about?"
"Go ahead, Robert," Pete finally turned his gaze from me to look at Robert, "Tell her what you left out of your explaination."
I angled myself to keep the gun trained on Pete, but to look at Robert. I turned to see Robert's face falling, a wave of horror washing over his expression.
"What?" I demanded, "Tell me what is going on, SOMEONE!"
Robert's gun fell as his arms dropped to his side, his head dropping down as well, not looking at Pete or myself.
"How do you know?" He asked, I assumed it was directed at Pete.
"Did you really think you had successfully kept that under wraps? Did you really think that we hadn't found out, that we wouldn't find out?!," Pete spun back to me, "Maribel, our goal is to terminate this project, to terminate the ABILITY to do what they are doing. In theory, what your husband is doing sounds noble, but there has been significant evidence that any replicants that age 10 years...well, I don't know if explaining it is the way to go."
My mind was swimming. He was trying to say that something goes wrong, but what? Robert's posture remained defeated, as I looked to him for guidance. How do I react? What am I reacting to? My stance weakened, and I let the gun fall to my side.
"I'm working on that," Robert said, still never looking up, "We're in the process of fixing that...glitch."
"GLITCH?!?!" Pete roar, diving at me suddenly, getting the gun from my hands with no effort at all. He swung around to face Robert, who had sprung back up with his gun.
They stood facing each other, hardly three feet apart, guns steadily trained on each others head.
"A glitch?!" Pete yelled again, enraged,"That's one HELL OF A GLITCH! Glitches don't cause the death, glitches don't cause destruction! Glitches don't jeopardize the safety of MILLIONS OF AMERICANS!"
Robert was back to his cool self, never flinching at Pete's word as he kept his own gun steady.
I had enough.
I stepped in the small space between the two guns.
"Someone BETTER explain to me what the HELL is going on, RIGHT NOW!"
Neither lowered their gun as I glared back and forth.
“Robert?” Pete said, his smile again lost, “No? I have to do it? Okay…Maribel, the reproductions, as the society calls them…don’t they seem too good to be true? A child lost? Oh well, you can just pick up a copy! And such a good copy that it picks up right where your child left off, same memories, same personality!”
“Just because something is a great scientific discovery doesn’t mean it’s always ‘too good to be true’,” Robert pushed through clenched teeth.
“Oh ho!,” Pete laughed, “But this IS! The copy, the replicant is just perfect, but around the tenth year in existence, something starts to go wrong. The society might have a better idea of ‘why?’ exactly than we do, but the FBI isn’t really concerned about the ‘why?’. We’re concerned about the ‘how do we stop it?’.”
“I think you can plainly see that is not the standard result,” Robert allowed himself a smile, seeming satisfied with himself.
“Can we?” Pete continued on, “I suppose there is always going to be a difference in replicating an adult verses a child, but can you guarantee that it won’t happen? That maybe it takes longer for an adult? Maybe even 12 years?”
I was getting panicky. What was he talking about? An adult replica?
“Oh yes,” Pete began, seeing my expression become frantic, “Stepped out for a cigarette? The porch wasn’t far enough to go. Maribel, your husband indeed died in that blast.”
The wind was knocked out of me. My husband was alive. My husband survived. My husband didn’t survive. It was too much to take in.
I felt the ground come up to meet me as I hit knees first. I was conscious, but unable to control my body as I fell to the ground. I began to slip into blackness, just as I heard two shots fire…
I awoke with a start in a dark room. I felt around frantically, my first thought being that I was in a hospital bed, but there were no IVs or softly beeping machinery to confirm that. I sat upright, and let my eyes adjust to the dark. I swung my legs off of the bed and pushed my tiptoes down to find the floor, and stood myself up.
“The tests showed no concussion from your fall, but you should probably sit back down.”
I spun around to try to find the source of Pete’s voice, but found myself dizzily sliding back to the floor. Arms suddenly wrapped around me and lifted me back to the bed, as the light suddenly flicked on.
Pete stood over me as he removed his arms from around me, both of us blinking at the sudden light. As I looked around, it appeared that I was in a non-descript hotel room, the generic middle ground establishment. A glance towards the door revealed who had flicked on the hotel light.
“Chomsky!” I attempted to jump back up, but Pete’s looming body prevented any further movement, “I deserve to know what is going on!”
Chomsky strode across the room, slightly unsteady on his feet, reaching the foot of the bed, immediately sitting. “Maribel, forgive me, the last thing I thought would happen tonight is all of this. I’m not as coherent as I’d like to be right now, but I should sober up soon enough. Where to begin?” Chomsky sighed, “The threat to your life was never a real threat by the FBI, I know tonight you have received conflicting information, but we are dealing with facts here. Now, we’ve not been very upfront with you during this assignment, but we needed you to be as unaware as possible for this to work.”
“For what to work?” I pushed Pete away, and pulled myself back to an upright position, “Where is Robert?!”
Chomsky sighed again as he pulled a cell phone out of his pocket, and lifted it to his head. The phone must have been on vibrate, because Chomsky was immediately listening intently. He rose up and began to walk towards the door, but first motioned for Pete to take a seat in the nearby chair. Pete ignored his instructions as he took a seat on the side of the bed as Chomsky stepped out of the room.
“Maribel,” Pete began, “First of all, I am Agent Peter Schwartz. I was placed here about 6 months prior to your arrival. My job here was to establish how many replicates where active in this town, and who they were exactly. Your late husband’s Society had been working in the same manor for the last 12 years – providing services for a nearby town, but always moving on when we got too close. It was getting out of hand; the number of copies we had to terminate was getting out of control – the organization itself needed to be stopped. We had been waiting for just the right occasion for Robert to reach out to you. We began to realize only a threat on your life would cause that.
“As I tried to explain earlier, Robert had been working with the Society for years prior to Danya’s death. With you thinking he was dead, the Society was able to obtain a remaining fragment of Robert and replicate him.”
My head was swimming again, but I pushed through the haze. I NEEDED answers.
“What were you saying about ten years?” I combed back in my mind to the conversation earlier, “What happens in ten years?”
“For the children we have observed, around the 10th year of existence the molecular structure of their DNA begins to breakdown,” Pete began, “To a point where all systems in their body begin to breakdown, making them susceptible to diseases virtually unheard of for centuries. Leprosy, the bubonic plague, smallpox…one child we observed tested positive for all three of those diseases! The death toll it would cause is not a risk we can take. These replicas needed to be destroyed. Robert has been in existence for twelve years with no signs of DNA breakdown, but we couldn’t exactly ‘wait and see’, could we?”
“You killed him?!” I leapt up, only to be restrained again. I struggled frantically. I HAD to get up. I HAD to get out of here. Regardless of what was being said, I just couldn’t feel safe. Pete effortlessly kept me pinned down as Chomsky reentered the room, cell phone away.
“Leaving a replica alive is NOT an option,” Chomsky firmly stated as walked to the second bed in the room and began shaking the bedding loose, never looking at Pete or myself.
“Maribel,” he continued, still not looking away from the second bed, “What caused your first pregnancy to end in miscarriage?”
I stopped struggling in shock. Why was this relevant?
“I became eclampsic at 5 months,” I recited what I had explained to so many people, “I was forced into labor early, but the baby was too undeveloped to survive. Why does this matter?!”
Agent Chomsky turned away from the second bed towards the bed where I was still being held down by Pete, holding a pillow in his hands.
“We have raided the Society’s current location,” he began, an odd far away look in his eyes,”We have found a file on each specimen. I was called when they found your file.
“The same thing happened for your second pregnancy,” He continued as the stepped closer to me, “Only that time, the child survived and you did not.”
The realization of what he was saying dawned on me as Pete’s grip on me tightened and Chomsky lowered the pillow to my face.
Blackness began to close over me as I heard Chomsky again state, “Leaving a replica alive is NOT an option.”