I feel Father grab my hands in his, and I open my eyes. ‘We don’t think anything will go wrong, Angel. But we don’t have any long-term data for a project of this magnitude. The Bio Gel has only been in use for eight years and then it’s only been used for isolated organ transplants, not as an entire nervous system. The problem might be if there are conflicts between your original brain tissue and the Bio Gel, signals that might create almost an antibody effect, with one trying to override the other. We haven’t seen it yet and we don’t expect to, but scenarios like that are why we have backups. Just in case.’
I don’t want to blink out of existence. Images flash through me. Ethan’s stormy eyes. Mr Bender’s sparrows. Allys smiling. Claire holding her arms out to me. The forest and sky that mesmerized me for hours. New images from my new life. Images that are not in my backup. That’s a different Jenna. I want to keep the Jenna I am now.
‘Here we go.’ Lily plops another bottle of wine down on the table and places an extra glass in front of me.
‘Have you lost your mind, Lily?’ Father says.
‘It’s not like she can get drunk.’
‘But it still—’
‘Leave it, Matt,’ Mother says.
‘Pour up, Lily,’ I say, lifting my glass.
She does, and Father doesn’t say another word.
I don’t get drunk, but I do feel it warm my insides. However primitive my digestive system may be, it seems to appreciate Lily’s effort, even if the wine is tasteless.
‘Why are there backups for Kara and Locke?’ I ask.
‘It was me,’ Mother says as she rubs her temple. She takes another sip of her wine and looks out across the pond. ‘We had already scanned you. We had hope. But a few days after we moved you, I had to go back to the hospital to retrieve some of your belongings and I saw Kara’s and Locke’s parents and the agony they were going through. I begged your father to scan them, too, in case they didn’t make it.’ She sighs and looks back at me. ‘So he did.’
I’m ashamed as I look at the pain etched on Mother’s face, and yet angry, too, because of a missing scar on my chin and two lost inches and a perspective I will never see from again. The angry m
e overrides the shamed one. I am entitled, after all, the entitled Jenna. I mix in some sarcasm, too, so I get the full value I have coming to me. ‘And where are their new-and-improved bodies?’
‘There are none,’ Father says. ‘Right after I scanned them, the police report on the accident came back and their parents wouldn’t even talk to us, much less let us get close to Kara and Locke. Locke died a few days later, and we couldn’t even get something as simple as a skin sample. They cremated his body. Same thing with Kara. She was moved to another facility, and we weren’t allowed access. We don’t even have any original DNA. Nothing to build from. They will never have new bodies.’
I feel sharpness, like a razor is slicing through me, cutting one part away from another, a part that can never be stitched or put back together. Kara and Locke, forever not here or gone. ‘How long do you plan on keeping them?’
‘We don’t know.’
‘As long as we can.’
‘As long as charges—’
‘At least until—’
‘There may come a time when we can use their scans.’
‘For the accident. Something they know might help. We have to keep them as long as there is a possibility—’
‘Witnesses?’ I say. ‘You’re keeping them as witnesses?’
‘Not them, Jenna. It’s only uploaded information.’
Is that all I was? All those months, my thoughts crammed into a formless world? Only bits of information? And if that’s all I was then, am I any more than that now? I just have better packaging. Does the ten percent of original brain really matter? My whole brain was scanned and uploaded. The fleshy human handful seems more like a sentimental token. Or does it really communicate my humanity to the neural chips in mysterious ways even Father doesn’t understand?
Only uploaded information. Kara and Locke in that dark world forever. Can I live with that?
‘Something they know might hurt me, too,’ I say. No one comments. We all know that opportunity would never transpire. Anything bad Kara and Locke might have to say about Jenna would never be heard. They are being saved only in case they could help me. I reach out to refill my glass, and Lily stops me.
‘You’ve had enough,’ she says.