Eve stared at the disappointing carrot in her hand. It did not transform into a vegetable that was straight and juicy, no matter how hard she willed it to do so. She sighed and put it into the pot anyway.
Rowan was coming over for dinner and conversation, but it looked as if all she had to offer was conversation.
She didn’t miss taking refuge in equations, isolated and terrified of anything else, and she couldn’t have followed the math now even if she’d tried, but as a child she’d been truly unappreciative of the special provisions her unusual status allowed the Harts. For herself, she didn’t mind so much—she could eat stale carrot soup with the best of them—but she was ashamed to have so little to offer Rowan.
He was just back from his latest tour, and he’d want to see her new series. She was working in mixed media now, found plastic from the beaches and fused glass over paint scavenged from one of the abandoned cities. The work was raw, and probably unsaleable—the people who could afford her prices didn’t like to be reminded of what life was like outside the gated communities—but she was in love with it, the way she always was at the beginning of any project, and she had to take the work as it came to her.
This series took its colors from the sunsets on the coast. The gossips said it was pollution from overseas, and Eve had no reason to doubt that, but it was beautiful nonetheless. (The gossips also said that it was dangerous to eat produce grown off of the protected farms, and that chemicals in the soil outside explained why so many people who had their rations cut when they had a second child ended up with a one-child family anyway. Eve didn’t give that as much credence, but then, her stomach was awfully persuasive when it was empty.)
At least she had some nice wine to serve. Her neighbors had a vineyard, and in return for a sign-and mural-painting stint making their store look inviting and old-fashioned, she’d gotten a year’s supply; she could even offer Rowan his choice of red and white.
The knock at the door startled her out of her musings. “Rowan, I wasn’t expecting—”
The man at the door was tall, with the well-fed look that only enforcers and captains of industry truly managed these days. He had a mole on the side of his mouth, a spot like a neglected bit of chocolate. Handsome, even without the good coat and the sheen of health.
“Hello, Anna,” he said.
Eve swallowed and tightened her hand on the door, but doesn’t step back. “I’m sorry, you have the wrong person.”
“I don’t think so,” he says. “Eve Hart, nee Anna Zimmerman Hart. I’m afraid we need to talk. May I come in?” Asked as politely as anyone who knew he couldn’t ultimately be refused.
Rowan would be here soon. Eve wasn’t sure whether that made it better or worse. She hesitated another moment, then allowed him inside. There was a lump at his belt that was probably a gun. She looked out the door and saw his government-issue transport, heavily armored. If there were other people inside, there was no way she could tell through the plating and reinforced glass.
“I won’t waste your time,” the man said as soon as she closed the door. “We’re restarting the Zimmerman program, and we require your help.”
“Restarting it?” Eve repeated, confused. Why would they need her help? She’d changed at the cellular level. She hadn’t had a nightmare about Auschwitz in years; she needed a calculator to do her taxes. “Dr. Jeliff said—“
“Dr. Jeliff retired,” the man said, and made it sound like a euphemism. “I’ll be blunt, Anna. The situation is deteriorating, as I’m sure you’ve seen if you’ve been to a city recently. Our alternatives to the replicator have proved unsuccessful.”
“I can’t help you with that,” Eve told him, willing him to see the truth in her eyes. “I’m not that person.”
He smiled. “You will help us. For your country; for your brother. Rowan. You do … care for him.” That was an accusation. Eve’s fists clenched. “And wasn’t that always the problem? Our mistake was in allowing nature to take its course, or to be guided.”
“I still don’t know what you’re talking about.” Eve turned her back on him and went over to the stove. The pathetic soup was bubbling away. She considered turning off the heat, but this close, it at least smelled like carrots, earthy and warm, and leaving it on made it feel as if this man was only a minor interruption of her routine.
The man followed her into the kitchen area—good, she decided, even though his proximity made her skin crawl. “Michaela Dupont was of course an agent of a foreign power.”
“What?” She turned back, the soup forgotten.
“You must understand that the other nations of the world could not stand to have a tool like the replicator in American hands. Dupont moved up and down the coast under different aliases, disrupting our Annas—we still don’t know who she bribed to find out where they were. She taught Anna Burton tennis. Anna Prescott, knitting. Anna Williams, flower design, of all things. Arranging flowers on the doorstep of the apocalypse. Oh, it was a brilliant tactical move. But we need results now. It’s not just America; our current projections indicate widespread famine, with all the associated political disruptions, in the next twenty months.” They were only inches apart, and Eve was gaping at him like she’d been frozen by the Gorgon’s stare.
Michaela—it couldn’t be. Michaela had set Eve free.
But it had been like she’d known, all along, everything that Anna Zimmerman was and feared. The candles, the earrings, the music box with Reverie. Like she’d planned it all. The metallic notes pounding against her ears—Eve could hear it echoing in her head now, that haunting music the commandant had so loved.
How could Michaela have known just what music box to leave out for Anna to steal? How could she have known exactly how to draw Rowan into her project to improve Anna’s life?
All these years, shaping herself into a person that Rowan and Michaela might like—and now there was only Rowan, and a million questions. “Who was she, really?” Eve asked numbly.
“I don’t know, and I don’t care,” the man said, which shocked her enough to get her moving back from him, almost bumping into the stove in her haste. “Though I realize the irony of this statement in context, I’m not here to revisit the past. I’m here to bring you in.”
Eve shook her head, more to deny everything he was saying than to refuse.
He sighed. “We know about your illegal weapons cache. We’re not sure whether that’s leftover paranoia from Anna Zimmerman, or your own lingering trust issues, but it hardly matters at this juncture. Any aggressive moves will be answered with punishment for Graham and Sarah Hart, and then Rowan Hart if you persist in defiance.”
She had to shove away her shock and horror; this was happening now. “I won’t go with you,” Eve said. But she heard the helplessness in her own voice.
“I’m sorry,” the man said. “Did I give you the impression that this was in any way voluntary? Your neighbors already know you as an eccentric, prone to wandering off for weeks at a time for your little supply collection expeditions. You’re coming with me, and you’re coming now.”
He put a large, heavy hand on her arm. For a moment, Eve was fixed in place. Even though the Harts were no longer favored in the distribution of rations, there was much more that could be done to them, and this man might well be in a position to retaliate in the way he claimed. But—
Rowan had risked everything to save her. Eve. She’d fought for ten years to become worth saving.
She reached behind her and grabbed the handle of the pot. The man cursed, but she was too fast, flinging the hot soup into his face. He screamed and let her go.
Eve bolted for the back door.
She was three steps outside before hands grabbed her, holding her tight despite her frantic struggles. “Be careful!” another stranger’s voice ordered. “There must be no—” Eve felt a sharp sting in her shoulder, and then the world went away.
Anna wakes to a different world.
Her body is, appropriately, different as well, taller than she remembers, and also younger, flush with the elasticity of youth. Her hair is darker. Her face is thinner.
The dreams are the same.
You were in an accident, they say. You were asleep for a long time, they say. They are liars, of course. She does not think they hide ovens behind all those closed doors, but she knows what a convenient fiction sounds like, used to keep the prisoners docile.
Without going outside, it is difficult to tell how much the world has changed. The clothes are coarser, too much like the ones in the camp, but almost everyone wears them and so she infers that this is not deliberate mistreatment. She has enough to eat. There’s not much variety but there’s more than enough, and a few times a week there are even sweets. Anna hides the hard candies and the crackers in her pockets and hides them among her papers, under her mattress, in the pair of shoes she never wears.
(You were in an accident, they say.)
Her lab is beautiful. And it is hers, technicians jumping to do her bidding. When she takes a pen or a paperweight from one of them, there are no complaints; she doesn’t even have to conceal what she’s doing, even though sometimes the puzzled searches of the person who’s lost a thing are the most enjoyable part of the process. The computers are so far advanced that she can do calculations in hours that would have taken weeks beforehand. Part of her thinks that a different face is a small price to pay for this equipment.
She wakes, screaming, no matter how dark and warm and silent her bedroom is. That’s familiar, at least. Not all of the dreams are. In some of them, there are strange forms, sculptures and paintings that don’t actually show anything—Anna hates useless art, but in the dreams she finds these things beautiful. There is also a boy, tall and dark-haired. Beautiful, in the way that an elegant proof is beautiful. He’s got a hawk nose and soft, sensitive lips, and she wonders if he’s Jewish. If he’s normally kept in the men’s section of the camp.
He’s holding something—first it’s a cat, then it’s a violin. Anna can’t move, in the way of dreams. She wants to scream, but she can’t. The young man gives her the violin, and it licks her cheek. Then they are dancing together, twirling around and around in a single circle. Like clockwork, like the mechanism on top of a little box.
She wakes screaming.
She takes refuge in the numbers. She reads printout after printout of papers new to her, insights from others opening up new horizons in her own work. Whoever has given her this new life has removed the dates and even the names from the flimsy sheets, but Anna Zimmerman’s no fool: she has access to decades’ worth of progress, new perspectives that her colleagues would have laughed out of the room the last time she walked the earth.
There are scattered references to mankind’s struggles: energy crises, food shortages, political battles that seem to have sealed off an entire generation of scientists from each other. Anna wonders what they know on the other side, then dismisses the question as irrelevant. Her captors have told her exactly what they want, and she knows that she can give it to them, if she chooses to do so. If they give her what she wants.
The computers are strange, but the algorithms within aren’t. The physics have remained consistent, beautiful and reassuring. The unbending laws of nature will never betray her.
It’s much better than it was before, really. There’s no useless wrangling over budgets and priorities. The people here give her everything she demands—a room free of distractions, cleaned every morning and evening to remove every speck of dust and lingering odor. No flashing lights anywhere, no loud noises, only cool and calm and orderly. She can even have the tech who whistles absentmindedly fired, with no nonsense about women’s emotional instability making them inherently unfit to do physics. Instability, hah—the tech is the one crying when she’s done with him, begging for another chance. I can’t expect you to control unconscious behavior, she says, and he’s gone.
A man comes to see her. She doesn’t like him, and he doesn’t like her; he looks at her the way the guards did in the camps (though this is nothing like, no music and no stench and plenty to eat whenever she wants it; only she must never run, and if she forces her mind back to the numbers she needn’t remember that one rule).
He asks her stupid, irrelevant questions about whether anyone has tried to interfere with her work. “Only you,” she says, and smiles when his mouth curls in irritation.
He asks her whether she likes it here. She doesn’t bother to answer.
He attempts a smile, polite and professional, with venom underneath. “I’d like you to look at some pictures. If you see this person, you must immediately hit the alarm button. There’s one in every room.”
Anna is struck with deep terror as he reaches into his briefcase. He will remove a picture of the commandant, she’s sure, risen from his grave the same as she and pursuing her into this new world. (You were in an accident, they say.) She turns away, shaking her head, covering her eyes.
“Doctor Zimmerman!” he says, but she knows his kind. He hasn’t got the power to make her look. He requires her consent.
“Get out,” she says. “You’re giving me a headache.” And since the lab stops in its tracks when she has a headache—the stabbing pains, the pressure that makes her want to drive a pencil through her skull just to get it out—her main assistant hurries over to whisper urgently in the man’s ear.
“Don’t let him back in,” she orders the assistant. Of course the woman doesn’t have the authority to stop a commandant, or whatever they’re calling them these days, from doing as he likes, but that’s not Anna’s problem. The assistant will figure it out or she’ll get crushed between the two of them; that’s the way of the world. No matter how long it’s been since her ‘accident,’ Anna knows that this basic truth hasn’t changed.
At last she makes the thing, this replicator that obsesses the others. (Results are gratifying, it’s true, and Anna’s not fond of the power blackouts that come at night, but she’s being treated like a queen so the world can’t be that troubled, and really they all seem far too invested in mere physical operation.) The machine requires a huge amount of energy and rare earths to get started, so the first thing she does is produce a second one, which is then set to make oil. They say that’s the easiest to consume, and Anna doesn’t know anything about the trivialities of chemistry, so she puts it out of her mind. Then she makes a third replicator to help use the oil the second is making. There are congratulations and dignitaries who come through, smelling of cigarettes and perfume and other things; one even has a dog, judging from the way Anna’s entire body seizes up. Anna’s briefly sorry she finished the machine if it brought these kinds of disruptions.
But afterwards, when the smiling is done, and many words have been said about the decisive advantage this replicator will confer in world affairs, and a few about the value of Dr. Anna Zimmerman to national security, they leave her alone.
With their machine of wonders in place, perhaps they’ll let her follow wherever her mind goes, out on the edges of the conceptual universe.
Anna has a mug of hot cocoa—no sleeping pills, Dr. Zimmerman, can’t interfere with that delicate machinery—and curls herself into her bed, the covers pulled over her so that the world is twice dark and twice silent, like a chick sleeping in an egg.
When she wakes, it’s because the young man from her dream is shaking her and saying someone else’s name.
Anna stared up at the boy (he was nothing but a boy, none of the cares of the world etched on his face; obviously never suffered a day in his life) and cringed back against the wall.
“Shh,” he said. “I’m here to get you out.”
The alarm button was on the wall behind him. She’d have to get past him somehow. His eyes were dark with what looked very much like concern.
He was the commandant, telling her she’d been selected. He was going to take her away into the place with the chemical stink, the place Mama had gone, drag her there to the sound of the music that wept when it should smash—
She came to herself in just the same place, face wet and the young man desperately hushing and petting her. “It’s all right, Eve. You’re safe, I’m here.”
“Get away,” she managed. “I’m not the one you’re looking for!”
“Eve?” he said, face full of confusion. Then his expression hardened, and she tried to make herself smaller again. He was a boy, but he could still hurt her. “You don’t—Anna?”
“Dr. Zimmerman to you!” she snapped, annoyance giving her the courage to force herself to a seated position. She was still cowering in the corner, as far away from the man as she can manage, but she was upright.
“It’s Rowan,” the man insisted, as if that meant anything to her. “Rowan Hart. Brother of Anna Zimmerman Hart.”
“Who?” she asked.
“That’s you,” he said, soft. “Anna Zimmerman Hart, the clone of the famous scientist Anna Zimmerman. I don’t know how they did it, but they put Anna Zimmerman’s memories into you.”
“No,” Anna said, shaking her head, not that saying no had ever made a difference to what had happened to her. “I’m Anna Zimmerman.”
Except—her hand stole up to her face, not her face, the face of a distant relative. The face, apparently, of Anna Zimmerman Hart. (You were in an accident, they said.) “I don’t remember you,” she said slowly. That wasn’t exactly a lie. A dream wasn’t a memory. A nightmare wasn’t a reality.
The young man, Rowan, nodded. “That’s okay. Whatever they did to you, we can fix it. We did it once before, when you started to remember Anna Zimmerman’s life. But you have to come with me before we’re discovered. I’m better than I was—” he grinned ruefully, and Anna found herself leaning towards him, drawn by his intensity and his knowledge of what she didn’t know about herself—“but I’m not that good.”
But no, he was a stranger. He could want anything from her. They told her that all the security was for her protection, and there were so very many things in the world that could harm her. “No, I can’t.”
“Anna,” he said, and the name didn’t sound familiar when he said it. “I know how unhappy you are. The headaches, the nightmares. The way you can’t tolerate animals or music. The way you lie and steal things, and no matter what you do, you don’t feel better. But I can help you. You don’t have to be this way. When I knew you, you were happy.”
Anna’s fingers were clenched in the blankets. His eyes were so sincere. Could anyone truly care for her in this way? Want to see her happy, whether or not she built their precious replicator? There had been so many lies—
“I was afraid something like this had happened,” Rowan said. “I brought along something—I don’t know if it will help, but it might.” Slowly, letting her watch, he reached into the bag by his side, and removed a small box. The top bore a silly, badly done painting of a man and woman gazing into one another’s eyes. There was a crack in the paint running right between their faces, but of course their insipid looks were unaffected. Pap, Anna thought automatically.
“It’s the theme from Romeo and Juliet,” Rowan said. “I gave it to you ten years ago.”
He opened the top, and the first silvery notes played. “No!” she cried, but he raised his hand to her lips, and for some reason she fell silent. The music should have jangled in her bones and set her nerves on fire, and she did feel nauseated, but the heaviness in her chest was not the terror she remembered. It was as if each turn of the mechanism was sending the music deeper into her brain, turning switches she didn’t know existed.
“Close your eyes and feel,” Rowan said. “What do you see?”
She closed her eyes just so that she could tell him that she saw only darkness, but instead—“A high cliff,” she said. “Far above the ocean.”
“They left it on the floor when they took you. The movement had been smashed. I had to get it rebuilt by hand.” Rowan sounded devastated, more than any music box could justify. “Oh, Eve, all your paintings—”
“You wouldn’t have liked them,” she said, even though she didn’t know why. Her head was pulsing, not the regular icicles of an ordinary headache, but pain like being wedged in a vise and squeezed. “Oh, make it stop!”
But he was turning the key on the bottom of the box, and the music began again, haunting and delicate. “Remember, Anna. Remember Eve.”
“I don’t want to remember!” she wailed, trying to push him away again, her arms gone weak as a child’s.
“Not Anna’s memories,” he said urgently. “They aren’t yours. You know that. Remember Eve. Eve who paints, who makes these sculptures I don’t have the courage to tell you I hate. My—my sister, Eve.”
The world split and yawed, an earthquake underneath her. Rowan’s face blurred and changed, growing younger and then older again. “Oh,” she moaned, and retched helplessly over the side of the bed. Rowan’s hands on her shoulders held her, warm and steady.
“Can you walk?” he asked when her shaking stabilized some. “My bribes only bought me so much time.”
And though her head was spinning and her heart beating so hard in her chest she feared it would crack her ribs, she managed to nod. Rowan was here. He came. He didn’t forget her. “You missed your audition,” she murmured—she had flashes of an island, and the violin from her dreams, and the little music box—and Rowan froze.
“Yeah,” he said, his voice rough. “I guess I did. Come on, Eve. You can do this.”
The name still wasn’t hers. She had Anna’s memories, and she had Eve’s. If she was Eve, then she was also Anna. But whoever she was, Rowan was here for her, and he was the only person in the living world who didn’t see her as a machine for building replicators—now obsolete. Surplus, her mind whispered. Unnecessary.
Shuddering, she got to her feet. It was time to go. Maybe time to be someone new. She clutched Rowan’s hand. She wasn’t ready to meet the future, but she was going to do it anyway.