She stared at how small the lab was, and looked over at Daniel, who was busy putting some big tank up against the wall on a poorly balanced handtruck.
“A little small, don’t you think?” She asked.
“They say it’s not the size of the lab, it’s the motion of the ocean.” She scrunched up her face at that, and he snickered. “Or something. What do you say?”
She looked around. Daniel had such a hopeful, goofy expression on his face. His gray suit was pressed and trim and he looked pleased as punch to just be doing something, and she knew how his indifference sometimes galled even him.
“So you’re going to just…have them come out, and do what exactly?”
“Well, they’re going to be me, sorta, so I’m going to watch how they interact with the world, without an excess of data. Isolated, mini, momentary Daniels!” He brought out a box, wrapped in silver paper, and showed it to her. “This is for you.”
She eyed it warily. Beware Daniels bearing gifts. She tore back the paper and opened the box. Inside was a white cloth.
“It’s a lab coat,” he said, smirking. “It might be a little big for you, but I can have it taken in.”
She shrugged into it, and it hung off her like a shroud. She was a tall girl, but the shoulders on it were ridiculous.
“I love it,” she wanted to say, but what came out was her usual exasperated sigh. “It’s a bit big on you,” he eyed her up and down, before turning back to the tank.
“That’s what she said,” she replied, and he laughed.
“I’ll observe from there,” he pointed to a series of windows which were shaded to look like the walls, “and he’ll have access to all sorts of things. This is an illusion machine.”
“Illusion machine?” The words tasted strange in her mouth.
“It sees what you want and makes it. Or more accurately — it sees what you think you need, and makes it.” He rattled off some sort of technical specifications that sounded mildly impressive, and she stared at it. It had two green lights, both stating READY in a tall font. It hummed lightly. When she touched her finger to one of the green lights, she felt a pleasant buzz that traveled up her palm to her whole arm.
“And here,” he continued, “is where we’ll process them after they decompose. They’ll have a built in chemical organic deceleration and timed obsolescence.” He pointed to a chute in the floor. She thought — irrationally, just for a moment — that it looked like a smiling mouth. But it was just a panel in a wall.
Still, it was almost sickening. He was just going to make a fake half-life for things, and throw it away so easily? She didn’t know how he could do that. Even if these clones weren’t even really clones, just some sort of localized replicant, it would still be him, or part him. She wondered how he reconciled that, but he had, somehow.
“The illusion machine, the replicant tanks, the observation room…” She looked around. “What else is there?”
Daniel turned around to reply. He never got the chance.
A girder from above had come loose. Before inspection, it had been slated for removal. After inspection, and perhaps a casual bribe from a man in a pressed black suit with very even hair, who somehow didn’t look like himself — it was left above, precariously placed. Only two bolts were still attached. It had been originally designed to hold up a higher observation room, but that project had never been completed.
Now, by bad luck, or tiny vibrations, or all the banging around and moving downstairs, or maybe turtles, who knows — it had come unmoored, and swung down in one swift movement. It struck her from the side, and even after seeing it, Daniel would have swore that he thought she simply vanished.
Her blood speckled the illusion machine, red sliding down the green READY lights.
She lay on the floor, crushed and busted. Daniel slid to his knees next to her, and took her hand. What could he say? What could he do? Her blue eyes rolled in their sockets, and looked at him, fixed at a point far past him. She tried to speak, and instead a glut of blood poured out of her mouth. He patted her on the side of her head that wasn’t ruined.
“It’ll be all right,” he lied. “All will be well, and all manner of thing will be well.” His voice hitched. He looked at her, and her hand squeezed his, her whole body trembling. And then she stopped. All of her.
He held her hand for a very long time.
After awhile — after he closed the chute, and punched the girder until he broke two fingers and a knuckle split down to the bone — Daniel put on the bloody labcoat. He could do that, at least. It fit just fine, and the giant crimson blotch that covered the right side didn’t bother him so much.
Blood came out, after all. Just like any other stain.