The room where Lily and Evan were talking was just a short distance down the hallway. Aubrey pressed her palm against the scanner and the door hissed open.
Lily and Evan were sitting opposite the door and both looked over as she entered. Evan stopped talking in mid-sentence and rushed to greet her.
“Princess! It’s so good to see a face I recognize. How did you get here?” he asked.
He threw his arms around her and pulled her close against his chest. Aubrey waited a few seconds before gently sliding her hands up between them to create a little space.
“Hi, Papa, I missed you.”
They squeezed each other in another tight embrace. Several long seconds went by before Aubrey pivoted so she could take his hand.
“Let’s sit. We have a lot of catching up to do.”
Evan returned to the couch and Aubrey slid a chair over so she was close enough to her mother and grandfather to hold both of their hands.
Lily grabbed Evan’s free hand, and the three sat quietly, just holding each other’s hands for a moment.
“Before we start,” Aubrey finally said to Evan. “You need to know that what I am about to tell you is the truth. Parts of it will sound unbelievable to you but I need you to listen and trust me…trust us. We love you. We are your family and, although you may not agree with everything we’ve done, please know that we did it all out of love.”
“I…I’ll try,” Evan said as he fought to hold back the tears welling up in his eyes. They were tears of joy caused by touching his daughter and granddaughter at the same time.
“What Mom told you is all true. She faked her death so she would be free to help Adee build the Kutanga. If the GSSA, or anyone from the GFN, had known she was alive she could never have finished her work on Mars.”
Evan wiped his eyes with his sleeves. “Go on.”
“What she hasn’t told you is that the Aubrey that oversaw your restoration wasn’t me—she was a clone.”
“But…but she acted like…”
“Hold on, just let me explain. She was a version of me that we restored using an engramic archive created two weeks before Mom staged the plane crash. She believed that Mom had died and, although I don’t know exactly what she said, I have to believe that everything she told you was the truth…at least as she understood it.”
Evan struggled to keep up with the tears pouring down his cheeks.
Lily handed him a small, white cloth. “Here, Dad, use this.”
The cloth was soft and highly absorbent and did a much better job at drying his face than his sleeves.
“Like all of us, that Aubrey was operating based on what she knew and believed at that time, and she did what she had to do to achieve her goals...goals that we gave her.”
“Did…did she…did she know that she was a clone?”
“No, we erased all memories related to her restoration. She thought she was me. We needed her to be there because I had to be here. Do you understand?”
“N... no. Not really.”
“Papa, I have been here working with Mom on the Kutanga for over a year now but I couldn’t be here doing this important work and also on Earth running Telogene. Nor could we fake my death because one of us needed to keep control of the company. Building this ship is taking a tremendous amount of resources and we couldn’t do it without keeping control of Telogene.”
“That’s right, Dad,” Lily said, “you should be very proud. The company you started has allowed us to make the ultimate investment. Kutanga is a colony ship that will allow mankind to leave this solar system and spread out among the stars. It’s a new beginning…a second chance for us—for all of us—to start over.”
Evan's tears stopped as anguish and anger replaced his feelings of joy and happiness.
“Not all of us,” he said.
“What do you mean, Papa?”
“Christine isn’t here...so not all of us.”
“I know and I am sorry, Dad. I promise you we would have tried if we could but she died too soon. We had nothing to work with. Sure, we could have grown a body that looked like her using cells from the parts of her body they pulled from the water but it wouldn’t have been her. We didn’t…we don’t have her engrams, and without those we don’t have her. Don’t you see?”
“But we had you, Papa, and we brought you back…just like you made Mom promise.”
That surprised him. “What do you mean I made you promise?” he asked Lily.
Lily frowned. “You don’t remember? The video you had Bruce Wagner play for me after you died? The one where you told me about your top secret Second Chance project? Ring any bells...no?”
“I don’t remember that, I’m sorry.”
“Do you remember Bruce Wagner?”
“Yes, he died with you in the plane crash.”
“Well, yes and no. Bruce Wagner’s original body died in that crash but Bruce lived on in the form of his son Geoff. Or more accurately, he lived on in a clone created using his DNA but modified to be the son he always wished he had.”
“So he never had any children?”
“He has a daughter with his second wife but they haven't seen each other in a very long time.”
“And the video?”
“I’ll have to show it to you later. It’s very touching, you called me Lilypad but the short version is that you told me about Second Chance and expressed your wishes that I assume the CEO role at Telogene so I could continue your work…so that I could bring you…well, bring you and Mom back once the technology was ready.”
“Yes, that was your nickname for me. Don’t you remember? You used to tease me and say Lilypad, Lilypad why is that frog sitting on your head, my little Lilypad?, and then you would chase after me like you were trying to catch a frog.”
“I…I guess I remember that…when you were young.”
“Don’t worry about it. In a few more days it will be clear as a bell. That’s a pretty strong memory, and it comes back every time.”
“What do you mean every time? Have you brought me back before?”
Lily froze when she realized her mistake.
Aubrey mouthed “It's okay” to her horrified mother before answering her grandfather's question. “Yes, Papa,” she said. “This is the fifth time we’ve tried.”
“Five times! What happened to the other four?”
“Maybe you should take this one, Mom.”
Lily took a second to regain her composure before answering. “We made our first attempt to restore you on December 15th, 2033. Ten years to the day after you died, in fact. Unfortunately, the process was flawed and your synapses broke down within just a few hours.”
“I died again?”
“Yes and I grieved again.”
“Was it my body?”
“Yes, we still had your DNA.”
“Did you know Aubrey?”
“No, she didn’t tell me,” Aubrey answered. “I was too young. I was just starting my freshman year of high school.”
“Go on,” he said.
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