Chapter 1: Natural Selection
Sarah is gone.
She’s always been good at disappearing. Sometimes that means ducking out on an abusive shithead. Sometimes it means leaving her family to pick up the pieces of the latest thing she’s broken.
But this, this is the last time. She’ll take what’s in her bag -- a couple changes of clothes and a stolen bag of coke -- and start again. Because she can. Because she knows he’s wrong.
We’re not good people, Sarah.
She knows it was only his idea of a joke, just another in a line of stupid things to come out of his mouth, but that was the end of it. That was when she knew it was over. She’d never admit it, but he hurt her more with those words than he ever could with his hands.
She’s not a bad person. Bad people don’t admit when they fucked up. Bad people don’t try to fix their mistakes. Bad people don’t come back for the people they left behind.
She’ll fix it. All of it.
Sarah is gone, this time for good.
Chapter 2: Instinct
Alison never asked to be special.
The path was laid for her the moment she was born. Go to school. Find a husband. Raise a family. It’s what was expected of her. It’s what she wanted. So she did. And she was happy.
Not that there weren’t hiccups along the way, but she overcame them, and they made her stronger. There was nothing she couldn’t handle.
Until Beth came along.
Alison hears the words, but they don’t register. Another one has turned up out of the blue, and Alison doesn’t have it in her to hear what she has to say.
But she feels it. A sharp twist in her gut as the words hit her. Alison has barely even allowed Beth to become a reality in her mind, and now she’s dead?
It hurts her. It hurts her so much more than she would have expected. These women are nothing to her, nothing but glaring reminders of what she is. Nothing but reminders of the paths she could have chosen.
She wants to scream. She wants to grab this woman by the neck and tell her to shuffle off to wherever the hell she came from.
But she doesn’t.
“You wait for a call.”
She doesn’t know what it is, but something doesn’t let her.
She steps outside. The pain lingers.
Chapter 3: Variation Under Nature
Helena knows the rules. Stay hidden. Isolate the target. Don’t hesitate.
But she did. Every prick of the needle through her skin is another reminder of her mistake. The copy lives. The copy has seen Helena’s face.
She pulls at the needle, winces as the wound closes tighter.
Why? Why did Helena hesitate? Why did she choose to walk away? One pull of the trigger and the world would have been cleaner.
But she felt something. It was a long time ago when a copy last made her feel something, back when she was young and emotional and stupid. She knows better now. She thought she knew better.
But Not-Beth is different. Something tells her this. Maybe it is God. Maybe it is something else. She will find what separates her from the others, and then she will put her down.
The needle pierces her skin. It hurts. It doesn’t hurt enough. She presses harder.
Chapter 4: Effects of External Conditions
She should never have come back.
Sarah regrets the thought the second she has it, but it’s there and it’s real and it hangs over her. Things were simpler before. Not good, but simpler, back when all she had to worry about was how much was left in her bank account or where she’d be spending the night. Now she has so many lies piled up around her, she can hardly breathe.
She opens her eyes. She rolls away from another woman’s boyfriend, gets out of another woman’s bed, walks out into another woman’s kitchen. She slides open the back door and steps outside.
It’s still dark and far too cold out here, but she doesn’t care. Just for a second, she needs to not be living a dead woman’s life. Just for a second, she needs to remember why she’s still here.
The moon hangs low in the sky. She smiles to herself, then raises her arm and waves goodnight. Whether it was the first time or the hundredth time, it always made Kira laugh just the same. Sarah wants so badly to hear that laugh again.
“See you soon, Monkey.”
Chapter 5: Conditions of Existence
It’s convenient. Cosima has to admit to herself that this feels all too convenient. If the ones behind the experiment really value the science over the ethics — and she expects no less from anyone involved in illegal cloning — there will be observers in place, seamlessly inserting themselves into their subjects’ lives.
But Cosima doesn’t see anyone here more than a few times a week, like Scotty. No one she’d consider close. Not since…
And suddenly she’s reexamining the entirety of that relationship, memories she was happy to keep locked away for a while. Not because they were bad, but because they’re still raw. And now, because maybe they were all lies.
But Emi’s out of her life now. Cosima goes about her day-to-day completely unmonitored. So what’s a shadowy organization to do?
Bring in someone new. Someone completely and utterly Cosima’s type, a metric she would have considered impossible to quantify, except she knows that someone somewhere has spent years exhaustively quantifying it.
And so she meets Delphine.
Her heart flutters. She smiles.
It’s convenient. Cosima knows it.
Chapter 6: Variations Under Domestication
Alison wakes up early. The house is still a mess from yesterday’s potluck. No one was in the tidying mood after everything that happened, not that Alison can remember all of the details.
So she cleans. If she’s efficient, and she usually is, the place will be immaculate by the time anyone else is up. Occasionally, a fragment of yet another mortifying memory creeps into the front of her mind, but she pushes it back and finds another filthy surface or misaligned piece of furniture to tend to.
While arranging the bookshelf, she notices her finger, a dangling piece of nail she missed with the clippers. She picks at it.
She can ignore the small things, like screaming at Charity over crackers. What she can’t ignore is that she very nearly tore her family apart.
No. It would be easy to blame herself. But she is only doing the best she can under impossible circumstances. She is only trying to protect this life that she’s built.
They’re the ones to blame. She doesn’t even know who they are, but she’ll find out. She’ll make things normal again.
Alison winces as the piece of nail comes off between her fingers. A trickle of blood falls to the floor.
Chapter 7: Parts Developed in an Unusual Manner
The angry one, the one who lied her way into a police station and into someone else’s bed. The one whose life Helena has spared three times now. Her name is Sarah Manning.
The name feels different to her, in her mind and on her tongue. She speaks it out loud and feels a hitch in her chest.
No copy has made her feel grateful, like when Sarah Manning protected her from the police. No copy has made her feel proud, like when Sarah Manning pressed a knife into her leg. No copy has made her ache, like when she and Sarah Manning are together.
No copy has made her ache, like when she and Sarah Manning are apart.
Tomorrow, she will have to tell Tomas that the copy still lives. Tonight, she will lie alone in Sarah Manning’s jacket and laugh until she cries.
Chapter 8: Entangled Bank
Blood pounds against Sarah’s skull. She can’t hear herself scream.
She pulls Kira off of the street, cradles her close. She is still warm, still breathing.
“Stay with me, baby. Please stay with me.”
Sarah has never felt pain without anger, and she has never felt pain like this. She bites down hard on her lip.
She wants to lie to herself, to shift the blame like she always does. But she can’t. Not this time.
This is her fault. She knows it’s always been her fault.
If she’d been a better daughter to S, if she’d been a better mother to Kira, if she’d never left…
If she’d never come back.
But she can still make it right, if she’s given just one more chance. God knows she doesn’t deserve one, but Kira…
She takes her daughter’s hand, buries her face in her hair. She closes her eyes and starts to hum a tune into her ear.
Kira’s hand squeezes hers.
Chapter 9: Unconscious Selection
Helena sees Sarah, and stupid thoughts fill her head. Visions of the two of them and little Kira running far away from this place. Maybe, she thinks, maybe they could find a place where she belongs.
Sarah holds the gun to Helena’s head, and those thoughts turn to dust.
She sees then. She sees what Sarah sees: a monster, a beast who knows only killing. Maybe this is where she has always belonged, locked away in a cage.
No. She belongs in the dirt.
“Do it,” she says.
Where will she go, after it is done? She was promised paradise. She was promised many things, but now she is here, all of her faith carved out of her. Wherever it is, she can only hope it will be better than here.
She closes her eyes and waits for the light.
Chapter 10: Endless Forms Most Beautiful
To know oneself, to well and truly know oneself, is a privilege afforded to few. Rachel Duncan understands this.
Alison Hendrix, Cosima Niehaus, Sarah Manning, they do not.
The truth, their truth, carries with it a responsibility, one Rachel has known since birth. It is a part of her, just as much as it a part of the rest of them. They have long believed they were in control, but now they have seen the illusion crumbling around them. The truth has been laid bare, the privilege of knowledge presented at their feet.
And they reject it.
She sees it in Sarah Manning’s eyes as she speaks: the mistrust, the impotent anger. She still thinks that she can walk away from this, return to the endless series of poor decisions that she calls her life. And she thinks she can take her daughter (another privilege) with her.
“Take 24 hours to think about it,” she says, but she senses Sarah isn’t the type to back down from a rash decision.
Regardless of the consequences.
Chapter 11: Nature Under Constraint and Vexed
“We don’t have them.”
Sarah almost laughs in Rachel’s face. It’s an obvious lie; it has to be. She didn’t claw and scrape her way here to hear this. She won’t hear it. She will find out where Kira is right here and now or she will burn this place to the ground.
She fires into glass and Rachel recoils. She’s scared. Good. Finally, Sarah is the one in control.
Once again, she points a gun at a woman with her face. This time, she knows she’s capable of pulling the trigger.
Rachel’s voice shakes when she speaks.
Sarah was able to push ahead to this point, to turn away from the painful truths tied to what she’s done. But here, a thought enters Sarah’s mind, unbidden.
Was Helena scared too?
For a second, Sarah sees what she’s become. She would do anything to protect her daughter. She killed for her. She would do it again.
It terrifies her.
Sarah blinks, and the moment passes.
She strikes Rachel across the face and sends her to the floor.
Chapter 12: Governed by Sound Reason and True Religion
It’s one thing to hear Sarah talk about Rachel Duncan. Meeting her in person, now that’s a whole other thing.
Cosima isn’t prepared for it. She thought she was. She can almost say she’s used to the whole clone thing by now, so it isn’t that which hits her.
It’s that when she looks at Rachel, she sees her future.
She knows by now the allure of DYAD, the promise of working with the greatest scientific minds to better the lives of she and her sisters. She knows how easy it would be to buy into it completely. Maybe they really do want what’s best for her. Maybe she could believe that.
But then there is Rachel, one of their own, content to live her life as patented property, willing to manipulate Sarah at her most vulnerable. DYAD is all she knows, and DYAD is all she is.
Cosima can’t become that.
Rachel closes the door behind her, and Cosima brings a hand to her mouth, letting out the cough she’s been holding in. Blood speckles her palm.
Chapter 13: Mingling Its Own Nature With It
Jennifer does the best she can to hide it, but the pain in her chest only deepens and spreads. Her trips to the bathroom become more frequent.
It’s during a swim meet that she has her worst attack yet. Her cough brings her to her knees, dark blood splattering onto the cold tile.
The event is postponed, and it’s decided she’ll be put on sick leave.
Today is her last day, at least for a while.
The air is cold and bitter as she steps out into the parking lot. She breathes in, and it stings her lungs.
She turns to see Leah, one of her star swimmers, racing down the back steps after her.
“Leah, hey!” she says, forcing a smile. She won’t let it show, not here.
Leah finally catches up to her and slouches over, catching her breath.
“Geez, what’s the emergency?” Jennifer asks.
“Sorry,” Leah offers. She holds out a card.
“What’s this?” Jennifer asks. On the front is a photo of Natalie Coughlin posing with her half-a-dozen Olympic medals.
“I tried all the shops but… I ended up just making one myself. It’s kinda low-res, but just, you know, keep it at a distance and it looks okay.”
“Leah, this is…”
Jennifer stops short as she opens the card. Every inch of it is filled with well-wishes from her swimmers and her students.
“I don’t know what to say,” she says, and it’s taking everything she has not to break. “Thank you.”
“You didn’t let me quit,” Leah says, and Jennifer realizes she’s crying. “So I’m not letting you quit, okay? Whatever it is, you’ll beat it.”
Jennifer doesn’t have the time to respond before Leah’s arms are wrapped tight around her.
“Come back soon.”
Jennifer closes her eyes and brings her arms to Leah’s back. She breathes in. The air doesn’t hurt so much anymore.
“Don’t worry,” she says. “I’ll be back before you know it.”
Chapter 14: Governed As It Were By Chance
Sarah blinks, and she’s there in front of her. Her greatest fear. Her greatest regret. Red on white. Death walking.
Sarah screams her throat ragged. She struggles so hard, her wrists bleed.
When Helena cuts her free, Sarah crumples against her. Her body goes numb. Her vision clouds. Her breath comes out in choked gasps. She’s blacking out.
She calls to Helena for help but the only words that come out are “ I’m sorry.”
She closes her eyes and the world goes dark.
Chapter 15: Ipsa Scientia Potestas Est
Once, not that long ago, Helena had been the good one. A crusader carrying out God’s will.
Now she knows the truth. She knows what she is. She knows what she’s good at, all she’s ever been good at. She sees a problem like Rachel, and she knows how to get rid of it.
This is what they left her with. No light, no love, only the ability to kill.
But now Sarah is here. She’s here and she’s standing in front of the gun and she’s pleading with her to stop. She’s asking her to turn away from the only thing she knows.
And she does. Because it’s Sarah. And now she doesn’t know what good she could ever be to her.
Together, they step outside into the cool night air.
“What now?” Helena asks. She wants to say so much more.
“Dunno,” Sarah sighs, and it feels like she understands. “But we’ll figure it out.”
Chapter 16: To Hound Nature in Her Wanderings
Cosima has always been good at making friends. She loves to laugh, even at the stupidest jokes, her natural curiosity makes her a great listener, no matter the topic, and if she needs it, she usually has a baggie on hand that can help the relationship along.
Above all else though, she’s always been known as the chill one. She’s lost count of how many times she’s received the label. She knows what it means because she’s always made a point of it: she doesn’t burden other people with her problems.
Now that reputation hangs heavy around her neck.
“Are you gonna be alright, Cosima?” Sarah asks.
Cosima doesn’t know. Her chest hurts every time she breathes, and each day, it hurts a little bit worse. Each day is one day closer to joining Jennifer. She’s scared. She’s really scared. She wants to scream.
“Yeah,” she says. “Of course.”
Chapter 17: Knowledge of Causes, and Secret Motion of Things
Alison listens on as, one by one, another addict recounts their own personal rock bottom. By now, she’s heard all the stories she can stomach, every reason for starting down the wrong path: parental neglect, money problems, destructive relationships.
And then there is Alison.
Healing begins with honesty. That’s what one of the social workers said to her, and Alison laughed in her face. If she told the truth about how she ended up here, they’d pull her out of the rehab facility and straight into a mental hospital. And that’s if DYAD didn’t get to her first. They’re the ones who did this to her, and now everyone expects her to take responsibility for it.
It’s only when one of her groupmates mentions their kids that it all comes rushing back to her mind, memories she’d tried so hard to hide away. The day she learned she couldn’t have children. The days and weeks afterward when she assured her husband she was okay, only to sneak out of bed and drink until she could fall asleep. The day that she felt her car drifting into oncoming traffic, and, just for a second, took her hands off the wheel.
She draws a shuddering breath and feels her eyes begin to well up.
“Who would like to speak next?” Yvonne asks the group.
Alison raises her hand.
Chapter 18: Variable and Full of Perturbation
The bus rushes past the outer edge of Toronto, and then Tony is gone. It’s a long road to wherever the hell he ends up next, and for now, he’s in no rush to get there. He leans back in his seat and shuts his eyes for what feels like the first time in weeks.
Last night was a long one, and he came out the other side a clone. He laughs to himself. Sure, it’s kind of a head trip, but he was done with the whole ‘identity crisis’ thing years ago. A large part of him wants to kick down those scientists’ doors and ask them if he was what they were expecting.
But he’s got a family to look out for now. He’d never admit it, but he doesn’t hate the thought of it. Maybe after everything dies down, he’ll swing back across the border to say hi. For now, he’s got his fresh clone phone on hand for when Felix notices the three hundred bucks missing from his sock drawer.
Chapter 19: Things Which Have Never Yet Been Done
Rachel has never stood on this side of the glass before, on the outside looking in. The room looks so much smaller from here. At one point, it had felt like her entire world. Perhaps she wasn’t far off.
Kira turns in her sleep, and Rachel’s heart jumps. The poor girl. She’s been through a number of ordeals these past few months, thanks in no small part to her mother’s reckless actions. But Rachel has dealt with types like Sarah before, the sort of person who blames the world for their own shortcomings. The cold truth is that here, her daughter is finally safe.
But Sarah will never see it. She will lash out with the last of her impotent rage, and then she will crawl into DYAD with her tail between her legs. Until then, all that’s left is to wait.
“Good night, Kira.”
She pulls open the door and steps out into the hall.
Chapter 20: By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried
On the nights when she’s home, Charlotte’s mother will often tell her a bedtime story. When she was younger, she’d ask to hear tales of fairies and princesses and dragons. These days, she wants to hear about her sisters.
She isn’t allowed out much, but it’s easier to imagine it when she sees pictures of grown-ups with her face, a hundred possible futures laid out before her. Maybe one day, she’ll be like Brianna, the wildlife conservationist. Or Elizabeth, the police detective. Or Miriam, the musician. Her mother once told her she could grow up to be anything she wanted, but it wasn’t until she learned about her family that she really believed it.
But pictures and stories are one thing; meeting one of her sisters is another. When she sees Sarah, her heart quickens. She knows then. She doesn’t want to become them. She just wants a family.
“Are you going to stay?” Charlotte asks her, hopeful.
Sarah frowns and crouches down to her level.
“I can’t,” she sighs. “But I’ll be back to see you again soon, yeah?”
She raises a hand up and holds out her pinky.
With a smile, Charlotte reaches out and wraps her finger around Sarah’s.
Chapter 21: The Weight of This Combination
It’s dark here. Sand clings to the sweat on Helena’s skin. The air is so hot, she nearly chokes on it.
She is caged again. It’s a feeling she’s known all her life. The nuns who watched her every minute of every day, waiting for her to step out of line. Tomas and Maggie who kept her on a short leash while they poisoned her mind. Henrik who found the holes in her heart and filled them with lies.
Sarah who used her to find Swan Man and then left her behind.
But last night was different. Last night, Sarah called her sister just because it made her smile. Last night, she took Kira’s hand just to feel the warmth of it. Last night, she danced with her family, and everyone felt safe. Free.
She was free.
But it’s gone now, somewhere far away. There’s nothing left of it but a fading glow in her chest. She pulls her arms tight around herself and holds on to the feeling.
Chapter 22: Transitory Sacrifices of Crisis
Goodbyes were always easy for Sarah. She learned a long time ago the lies she needed to tell herself, that she was right to run, that she wasn’t hurting someone she loved. When no one expects anything from you, can you really hurt them?
Now, when Sarah takes her daughter into her arms, when she says goodbye, there are no lies. She’s doing the right thing, and it’s the hardest thing she’s ever had to do. Maybe this was her once, on the other side. Maybe she was someone’s hardest goodbye. Before they learned better.
“I love you,” she says. She feels it then, every ounce of hurt she left in the wake of her mistakes. She won’t be that person anymore. This is where she belongs, she and her family. She won’t let anything stand in the way of that.
She will find her sister and bring her home.
Chapter 23: Formalized, Complex, and Costly
Memories flicker behind Rachel’s missing eye. Standing over Sarah in the operating room. Playing in the park by her Cambridge home. All the hurt in between.
She tries to speak, but her thoughts die before they reach her tongue. They are trapped, just as she is.
When she sleeps, she is herself again. Able, powerful. Her dreams become violent things. Here, she is free of the experiment, free of expectations and politics and the chain of command. For once, she is free to hurt them.
The waking world is her prison. But she will wait. She will heal. She will serve her sentence. And when she is set free, she will take what she is owed.
Chapter 24: Newer Elements of Our Defense
“Since she left, I feel like I’m missing a part of myself.”
Felix took the words as most anyone would, a sappy sentiment born of a broken heart. But Cosima’s truth is more than that. When she’s alone, she feels she doesn’t know who she is.
Of course, she isn’t alone, not really. The science of her sisters fascinates her, of course, but so do their lives, the myriad paths they’ve taken. She had always struggled with impostor syndrome all throughout her academic career, dreading the day when the illusory bubble around her would burst and everyone would see her for the scared and desperate girl she is. Meeting her sisters only made it worse. Her identity became a fragile thing, a fragment among fragments.
Delphine was what she needed when she needed it, a trellis to grow and shape herself around. She wasn’t just a part of Cosima; she became everything that held her together. With her gone, she doesn’t remember how to be Cosima Niehaus. Maybe she never knew.
She balks when Felix offers to help her meet someone new. She owes it to herself to grow and thrive as she is, alone, to become a whole person. But she is also sick. She’s sick, and she’s exhausted, and every day brings a new threat to her doorstep, another attack on her and her sisters’ humanity.
So she agrees. Maybe soon, she’ll begin to reform, grow into something new. Maybe soon, she’ll be whole again.
Chapter 25: Scarred by Many Past Frustrations
Helena sits perched atop the compound’s outer wall. She turns back. She can sense her there, her sister trapped and alone. Helena left her sister behind.
She was right to walk away. She used to believe in things. In God, in other people. She put her trust in others, and they betrayed her again and again and again. She wanted to believe Sarah was different, the better side of her. But she lies. Everyone lies.
Her muscles are still stiff from a night locked in a box. She can still feel the water entering her lungs. They stopped because she had a child growing inside of her. But now they have Sarah.
Her chest aches, her heart and the bullet wound beside it. She slides her legs over the edge of the wall and jumps.
Chapter 26: Certain Agony of the Battlefield
Staying still was never an option for Sarah. She learned young what it was like, letting the hurt take over. Push through it. Move forward. She’d been free of that life a long time ago, but it’s a part of her now. Instinct. She can never stop, even when it hurts the ones she loves.
Now she’s so deep in her own mind, she can’t see the way out. Reality has become a distant memory. Her body floats on dust particles. The world glows with an impossible light. Her dead sister stands in front of her.
She knows what waits for her outside of this place. She still feels the traces of it, all the fear, the pain, the anger.
Here, for the first time, she feels safe. She feels herself forgetting, and it feels good. She wants to stay. She wants so badly to stay here with Beth, to let the traces of outside fade away to nothing.
But she can never stop.
She opens her eyes.
Chapter 27: Community of Dreadful Fear and Hate
Alison can’t pinpoint the moment the word changed for her. Maybe it was Sarah stepping in to salvage her potluck and rescue her marriage. Maybe it was one of the many times Felix was there to support her in one of her darkest moments. Maybe it was learning Beth was gone and the hole it left inside her.
For most of her life, she felt shackled by family. When she learned about her sisters, the word became suffocating.
Now, her family is her lifeblood. Her husband, her children, her ever-expanding circle of sisters. Her new family made her realize how alone she once was, what a fool she was for turning away from them. Finally, she understands what’s important. Today, she fights for her children. Tomorrow, she fights for her sisters.
Chapter 28: Ruthless in Purpose, and Insidious in Method
Establish a morning ritual.
Krystal Goderitch can’t remember where the advice came from, a conversation with a customer or a magazine article maybe, but she took it to heart regardless. For as long as she can remember, her routine has been the same: shower, smoothie, meditate, Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo (i.e. outfit, hair, makeup, nails), Instagram, then out the door and down the street to her favorite coffee shop for a latte. If she’s lucky, Tina will be working that day and excitedly spill all the details on the show she watched last night about a man with bark for skin or a 50-pound tumor. It’s gross, but she makes it cute.
At least, that used to be true. The truth is she hasn’t seen Tina in weeks. Last month, after the worst night of her life, her routine changed. Now she takes the other door out of her apartment, the one that leads to the back stairwell and out into the parking garage. It’s silly; she works only four blocks away, and she always enjoyed the walk and the occasional awestruck stare she’d receive on the way. She gave that up because of them.
Those men are still out there, and the people who are supposed to keep her safe refuse to take her seriously. That part is no surprise. It’s the same old story she’s heard a thousand times, only now she’s afraid to turn the page. She never once changed who she was for someone else, to play their game just to earn their meaningless idea of respect. She never compromised herself.
Every time she gets into her car in the morning, she feels like she’s compromising herself.
Today, she pauses at the back door and stares down at her hand on the knob. Her nails are a shimmering green. She smiles, to no one but herself.
She draws a deep breath, then turns and crosses her apartment to the front door.
Chapter 29: Insolvent Phantom of Tomorrow
Cosima knew how to trust once. She can remember it, the feeling of giving herself over to someone else, wholly and completely. Maybe she was naive. But if this is the alternative, maybe she wishes she’d never learned any of it.
She’s one of the good guys, fighting for her sisters, for their freedom, for their autonomy. That’s what she thought.
Shay may never trust again. Cosima took that from her. No, worse yet, she stood in the background while Delphine did it for her. She ruined her, like DYAD ruined so many others.
And she would do it again. If she found someone else, she’d do it again, because that’s who she is now. Poison, she and Delphine both. Finally, she realizes it.
They deserve each other.
Chapter 30: History Yet to Be Written
It was only a few weeks ago that Helena learned she had brothers. Now, she’s lying on the floor of Alison’s garage watching the life drain from one of their eyes. She should feel sad, she knows that. People feel sad when their family dies. But he’s hurt too many people, and she’s hurt too many people, and she doesn’t feel much at all.
When he tells her that they’re the same, she denies it. But the words cling to her like dried blood. She was once where he is now, dying on the ground while her sister stood over her.
“You’re nothing to me,” she said. Those words cling to her too.
Rudy was something to his brothers. To his mother.
The person who Helena was then, the person who did all the wrong things, she was nothing to Sarah. She was nothing to anyone. Did she change because it was right, or because she was tired of being alone? All she knows is that, if she isn’t careful, she’ll become nothing again.
Rudy’s eyes flutter and then stop. Helena is alone.
Chapter 31: The Collapse of Nature
Beth could get used to this. The realization scares her, in a different way than everything else in her life scares her. She knows all it would take is opening her eyes, turning to Mika, and speaking three little words.
“Let’s run away.”
They’d be gone before sunrise. The thought saddens her, and she doesn’t know why. What would she really be leaving behind? A fraud of a boyfriend. A partner she can never be honest with. A couple of women with her face, counting on her to be more than she could ever be. She’ll let them down. One way or another, she’ll let them down.
Maybe that’s what hurts the most, that this is what her life has become. She remembers graduating from the academy, the look in her mother’s eye as she took the stage. Beth never forgave her for everything she turned a blind eye to in that house. But she could see it all on her face at that moment: the pride, the remorse, the belief that this was the start of something better. And Beth believed it too.
She opens her eyes, turns to Mika chewing at a fingernail in the glow of her laptop. Her eyes pop up, flitting to Beth’s, then back again. She brushes her hair over her face.
Beth blinks, and a tear falls down her cheek.
“I have to get back.”
Chapter 32: Transgressive Border Crossing
MK thought she’d left this kind of pain behind, the kind that slices you open and hollows you out. But underneath it all, she is still that same child who saw her world burn down in front of her. She learned a hard lesson fifteen years ago: stay hidden, stay away. How could she have forgotten?
Beth would tell MK that she was right to contact her, that it’s better that she knows, but MK knows it isn’t true. Deep down, she knows she didn’t do it for Beth. Beth was just a stepping stone to DYAD, to Topside, to the ones who killed Niki. She was never meant to become more than that. She was never meant to become something that could hurt her like this.
She wishes she’d never contacted Beth. She wishes she’d been able to look past her own struggles and see Beth’s pain. She wishes her last words to Beth hadn’t been so selfish. She wishes she had held on to her in that apartment and told her that they would find another way, any other way. She wishes she could click her heels and wake up home again, these past fifteen years nothing more than a bad dream.
But wishes are just that. The reality is that she still has a mission to complete. Now not just for herself or for her sisters in Helsinki, but for Beth Childs.
Chapter 33: The Stigmata of Progress
Within these walls, time seems to have stopped for Rachel Duncan. Outside, she imagines, the world continues to move as before. Deals are struck, wars are fought, the balance of power shifts more and more to one side. But she can only do that, imagine. For all she knows, a cataclysmic event could have wiped out all but the very last of humanity. Only she and Ira and little Charlotte left standing, a truly pitiful closing act for the human race.
Her thoughts, she realizes, are the only freedom she has left. She clings to them here, within her damaged mind within her crippled body within a concrete prison. And outside of that, the experiment, ever-present, suffocating. Here, the illusion has been stripped away, but she knows she was never really free.
When she spoke to Sarah about a quiet life, away from all of this, she allowed herself to imagine it. And in a terrifying moment of clarity, she realized that that too felt like a prison. And that her only chance of escape had been a pencil through the eye, half an inch deeper.
Chapter 34: From Instinct to Rational Control
What’s the plan?
MK pulls her bottom lip between her teeth as she coils the wires into one.
“The plan is the same. Things are moving quickly now, but we prepared, didn’t we?”
She presses the tip of the soldering iron to the copper. Strands of smoke rise from the wire, sizzling and cracking.
Some might say it’s a bad idea to work with explosives while you’re hallucinating.
A small smile pulls at MK’s lip. She knows what this is, of course: a natural result of lack of sleep and years spent alone. Even still, she’s grateful for the company.
“But not you.”
She sees Niki’s grin clear in her mind, like it had never been taken from her.
No. Not me.
MK twists a cap onto the wire, then nods in satisfaction.
What will you do? When it’s done.
She pauses, staring into the dark space under her desk.
“I can’t think about that right now.”
You don’t know?
What’s this all for, Veera?
“It’s for you. You know that. Don’t ask stupid questions.”
Don’t snap at me. I’m looking out for you.
MK picks at the ends of her nails.
I’m just worried about you.
“You’re not supposed to worry. You’re not even real.”
But I do. Because you know I would.
“I’m fine,” MK says into the empty air.
You became so angry after it happened. And it’s all still there, built up inside you.
MK clutches her thigh, digging her fingers in until it stings.
I’m worried that there’s nothing else left of you.
She bites down into her bottom lip until she tastes blood. She shuts her eyes, tears trickling down her cheeks, hot on her skin. When she opens them again, Niki is gone.
She glances at her watch, clucking her tongue at the sight of it. Minutes wasted. She will have time to think when the job is done. For now, a canister of gasoline sits in the corner of the room, waiting to burn it all down.
Chapter 35: Human Raw Material
Take control of your own destiny.
Krystal Goderitch can’t remember where the advice came from, an old Disney movie or a margarita dream maybe, but she took it to heart regardless. She’s ashamed that it’s taken this long to realize that the old Krystal was never really in control. Sure, she was cute and sweet and basically perfect, but you know what isn’t cute? Getting kidnapped and almost murdered. Twice.
So yeah, the old Krystal is out.
New Krystal has a zero tolerance policy for Instagram creeps. New Krystal pays for herself on dates because she doesn’t owe anyone anything. New Krystal carries a knife.
Whoever these people are, they thought she’d make an easy target. And maybe they were right. But new Krystal doesn’t wait around for things to happen to her. She’ll find out who they are, and when she does…
She’ll be their worst fucking nightmare.
Chapter 36: The Scandal of Altruism
More than anything, Cosima just wants it to be over. Her dark fascination with the science behind her creation, it’s all gone now. The science is what’s killing her, and the science is what’s standing in the way of a cure. Evie Cho tells her she’s obsolete, and that’s supposed to make her feel something? She doesn’t care anymore. About any of it. Evie or Susan or whoever else wants to play god, she’d leave them all to their misguided designs if it meant she’d be free, if she could walk away with a cure and never look back. She feels a twinge of shame at the thought, a part of her past self she hasn’t yet shed. Then it’s gone.
It’s gone, like everything else.
Beth. Kendall. Delphine.
The science brought love into her life, and the science tore it away.
She shuts her eyes, her tears dried out hours ago. She exhales. There’s blood on her breath.