In Our Midst

Written by Keith Carmack

Everything in the lab had a white surface with no hard edges, only rounded corners connected to drawers or shelves with grey trim. Equipment neatly fit into the nooks in the walls while a microscope lens pointed at a glass inlay and projected the sample to a 3D image above. A dish was carefully placed on the counter and slid across its smooth surface to the doctor who began the somatic cell nuclear transfer. Once removed, the nucleus was examined and its DNA sequence altered. Thousands of lines of code would be implanted in the subject’s DNA.

Genetic engineering had become no different than coding a piece of software. It could be rewritten to embed traits the human did not possess at birth. They were capable of adding anything from a genius-level IQ to supreme athleticism to the DNA sequence. The world's governments saw this developing technology and quickly outlawed genetic modifications. The prospect of curing the world's diseases couldn’t calm the fear of superhumans taking over. Funding for corporations was pulled and the labs were closed down… except for one.

Braeden’s eyes adjusted to the bright lights that circled the lens directly in front of him. The sounds of a producer’s cues pumped in his ear as he waited, hoping he wouldn’t miss his prompt.

“My guest tonight is a former employee of Genetek and the cause of the swirling headlines today day, a report detailing actions taken by Genetek that reads like a plot out of Hollywood...”

“Unfortunately, this is not a work of fiction, Sean,” he said, hoping he wouldn’t be scolded for jumping the gun on his introduction.

“Braeden, let me ask you, what kind of work is done at Genetek?”

“Well, if you look at their website for an answer, it’ll tell you they are a biotech company focused primarily on fighting diseases.”

“And you’re saying that’s not true…”

“No. They have been advancing genetic engineering far beyond what had been imagined when these kinds of practices were halted.”

The reporter kept a stern tone.

“How far beyond? What kinds of things are they doing now?”

Braeden adjusted in his chair.

“They’re making clones.”

“With genetic modifications?”

Braeden only nodded.

“What kinds of modifications?” the reporter asked.

“I’m not sure,” he said, drawing a deep inhale. “They’re cloning different types of humans—they don’t all look alike—and altering their DNA. They raise them to a certain age before releasing them to the world. This place is a farm.”

A look of unease finally swept over the reporter.

“How long has this been going on?”

“For years.” Braeden stamped his answer with a single, chilling word. “Decades.”

The news shook the public who took sidelong glances at everyone from strangers to close friends. Some began labeling persons displaying odd or offensive behavior as a clone even without a way to identify them. Hysteria spread ahead of an investigation into the whistleblower’s claim. Indictments were issued and clips of Genetek doctors scandalously escorted from their lab were shown frequently. One such scientist was Dr. Roux, a stocky man, bald, with round-rimmed glasses. His picture was shown on every outlet with claims he might have been the mastermind behind the company.

Evlyn had taken to sleeping on the couch with her growing obsession with monitoring the news. Squinting her eyes to fend off the bright morning sunlight, Evlyn cursed herself for always forgetting to raise the tint on her floor-to-ceiling windows. She carefully swung her feet to the floor after finding them hanging over the edge of the couch and onto the connecting side table; it was a regular occurrence with her long frame. Evlyn thought design had gone too far in its minimalist desires, she fantasized about having retro furniture; the kind with big, soft cushions to sink into.

Gently touching the glass top of the coffee table, Evlyn engaged the monitoring system for her apartment. The black screen shone with blue outlines of each room as well as the refrigerator, oven—anything that could be set, timed, or tracked—at her fingertips. She quickly turned on the screen displayed on the opposite side of the room and scrolled to see if any networks were discussing government overreach. In her mind there was no need to worry about the clones, they were more likely to be a welcome distraction for what the government was nearby accomplishing. Before she found anything to land on, a notification for an incoming call interrupted her. Evlyn tapped the rounded rectangle indicating the call and raised her arm. A projection of a female face rose above the coffee table as Evlyn slumped on the couch.

“Hey, Lillya.”

“Have you seen all the craziness today?” Lillya asked while using the camera to both call Evlyn and apply eyeshadow.

“I just got up, actually. Haven’t had time to look.”

“You have to see it. This clone thing is out of this world!”

Evlyn was almost disappointed in her friend.

“Clones? There are bigger things to worry about right now.”

“I know, I know,” Lillya said, rolling her eyes. “The merger.”

“It’s everything!” Evlyn bellowed. “The largest manufacturer of electronics, computing power that’s been laced into practically every facet of our lives—even the thing we’re doing right now—is in bed with the government, and you’re worried about theoretical clones?”

“Well…” Lillya shrugged, “what if the clones have something to do with it?”

Evlyn couldn't help but laugh at the occasional brilliance of her naive friend.

“I hadn’t thought of that.”

“If you knew what was going on this morning, you might have.”

“Why? What is it?”

“They’re taking people away! Across the country, mostly cities. They aren’t saying much yet, but they think there’s a way to tell who’s a clone.”

Evlyn leaned forward, slightly astonished, and gestured for Lillya’s projection to return to the screen in the table. She went to the first news channel she could find but didn’t see any reporting before she was interrupted once again; this time by an alert from her office.

“Damn! I’ll text you later, Lillya.” With that, she toggled from her friend’s face to a corporate logo. “This is Evlyn.”

“We need you to come in right away.”

“I’m going to be there in an hour and a half anyway.”

“Well… get here sooner if you can. Right away.”

The voice on the other end was stern but overcompensating as if he was trying to mask something. Evlyn figured it was probably a small issue that would be blamed on her and she would have to work late to fix. Oh well, she thought, no use being pissed off about it all day.

She grabbed her things and went for the door, placing her palm on the scanner which reads fingerprints to allow only those authorized to set security measures for the apartment. This time, however, the blue screen flashed red and the front door whipped open to four armed men in riot gear.

“Confirmed! Get ahold of her!” ordered the guard holding a tablet.

Evlyn caught a glimpse of her face projected with the word “DEVIATION” before she was tackled. Her upper back hit flush against the hard floor, knocking the wind from her lungs. She gasped for air with a groan, her body refusing to cooperate until it again had oxygen. By the time the panic subsided, she was already restrained with a bag over her head, being carried out of the building.

“New details emerging from the Genetek scandal: Reports from across the country that dozens have been apprehended by the FBI who are conducting raids on homes and offices.” The shot of a reporter pans to the left as another face emerges, looking into the camera. “We’re joined tonight by Braeden Callen, the whistleblower of the Genetek scandal. Braeden, does it appear to you that those arrested are clones? Have the authorities found a way to identify them?”

“I think they’ve always known how to identify them, Sean. These people aren’t being arrested, they’re being brought in for debriefing. I am aware of connections that Genetek has with high-level politicians. Clonegate must have been an information gathering operation.”

“For what purpose?”

“The only logical reason is it has something to do with the merger. We’re only days away from back doors being opened for the government. Goodbye, privacy.”

“How were you made aware of this from your time at Genetek?”

Braeden opened his mouth but nothing came out. He gathered himself and tried again.

“I don’t have any proof, but I saw things happen there that would align with my theory.”

“All right, you heard it here: Clones sent by the government to spy on us.”

Evlyn sensed her body entering an enclosure followed by the sound of a slam as she was propped up on a bench. She felt a sway and presumed to be in the back of a police van. The whimpers and murmurs of others surrounded her, then a man's voice cried out.

“I’m not a fucking clone, you hear me!?”

Evlyn heard him thrash in his restraints before continuing.

“Let me out! You have the wrong guy!”

Evlyn didn’t know about him, but she certainly was not a clone. She had parents who forced her to go to college despite her rebellious streak. They fought regularly, most arguments ending with Evlyn screaming “you can’t change who you are” and storming out of the room. She was a fan of old folk music books on explorers. She listened to them while busying herself hacking into websites for political campaigns, rerouting the donation button to charitable causes. She wanted anything but to be another cog in the wheel, but everyone has to grow up at some point, so she put the coding and schooling to use, and got a job at a software company. There she remained for years, feeling like she wasted away a little more each time she swiped her hand on the scanner to unlock the elevator in the lobby of her office.

The ubiquitous crying began to rattle Evlyn, she was faint and her mind swirled for answers. Maybe this is how it begins. Maybe the back door is open and they’re rounding up people who show signs of disobedience. The clones might have been a coverup afterall!

The van eventually came to a halt and the prisoners were dragged out kicking and screaming. Evlyn wasn’t up for a fight and remained seated. Her shoulder torqued when she was lifted and ordered to stand. She was ushered along, twisting and turning until the bag over her face was finally removed as she was thrust to the cold floor of a prison cell. Evlyn was nauseous from shock and sought to warm herself in the dimly lit row of cages. She curled up in a prone position until the sounds of horror emitting from the cell block died down.

Evlyn stood and approached the bars of her hold, gripping them and resting her chin on a horizontal bar that was just the right height. She craned to see down the row; to her left was nothing but bars of steel and darkness behind them. She could see the end of the hall to her right, a slab of concrete that bounced every soundwave going down the aisle. Between that slab and Evlyn was a single cell from which she heard a faint voice.

“Hey. Are you there?”

Evlyn pressed her forehead in between the bars, hoping to get a look. She didn’t make it far, unable to make anything out before the voice spoke again.

“I can hear you over there. Who are you? What is your name?”

Evlyn answered in her head but couldn’t muster the energy to mouth the words.

“They’ve brought many in, but you can’t all be scientists. We didn’t have this many workers at the lab. Anyway, I’ll let you be. Get some rest. They are not going to be kind.”

Protests formed outside government buildings where detainees had been taken. Small groups comprised of loved ones who wanted to know what happened to their friends or family. Most, however, were mobs demanding answers. The rumors had caught hold and spread like a blaze in the wind and became fact in the minds of the public. They wanted to be rid of what they feared, and what they feared was in those buildings. One face among the fearful was that of Lillya. She hadn’t realized Evlyn was missing, she hadn't noticed much at all outside the burgeoning conspiracies surrounding the Deviations. 

A plate with a pressed square of spongy material slid through a slot in her hold each morning. It was edible and Evlyn was starving. Around the time her empty stomach settled from the small amount of strange food, her cell door unlocked and two guards appeared in the opening. They were outfitted in full body gear, thick PVC gloves, and helmets with metal mesh sleeves and pants. They looked as though they were ready to wrestle a great white shark. Evlyn thought they had the wrong cell at first, there was no reason to approach her with such caution. But they each strapped a wrist onto the end of a metal rod which they gripped with both hands and escorted her to a lab room.

Once she was bound to a table, people in lab coats and face masks entered. They drew blood at first, then lifted a small strip of skin from her forearm without using an anesthetic. They talked as if she was an object, showing no signs of hesitation while Evlyn writhed in pain. When her body was sore and tired from knives and clenched muscles, they dragged her to her cell, dropping her to the concrete with a slap.

The guards had barely left the block when she heard the voice again.

“The tests will get worse,” the voice whispered in earnest. “I can help, you only need to listen.”

Evlyn didn’t want to listen. She didn’t want to do anything. She wasn’t supposed to be here and she was being tortured because of some mix-up. She rolled to her back and stared at the dark ceiling, breathing in the stale air.

“Tomorrow, then,” the voice continued. “While you eat and regain strength, I will tell you my story.”

Evlyn didn’t move much throughout the night. Her mind no longer swirled with questions or rage, but with hollow acceptance. Defeat was setting in.

By mid-morning, a plate with a slab of the edible material was tossed through the opening of the bars and she crawled to it. Her mouth watered for food even as bland and horrid as this. As she chewed her first bite, the voice from the neighboring hold whispered to her as promised.

“My name is Dr. Roux. I am here because of my work as a scientist. I have studied and found breakthroughs in genetic modification. I began my work simply enough, in a small lab with practically no funding, testing ideas on mice and getting nowhere. Part of science is to methodically eliminate wrong answers until you find the correct one. You’re taught to accept this as part of the process, but it is frustrating nonetheless. I was at my wit’s end, feeling the weight of failure when a subject began to yield promising results. Before I knew it, my work was swept up with excitement from federal agencies who offered massive grants and moved my experiments from the small lab to a new company whose sole focus was to advance genetic modification, a company called Genetek.”

The slam of a heavy door reverberated down the hallway and Dr. Roux cut himself off to give Evlyn a bit of encouragement.

“You are stronger than you think. Don’t break for them and return to hear the rest.”

A guard swiped his palm to unlock her cell and she found herself dragged forcibly to the lab. Upon being strapped to the table, Evlyn saw her information on the projections this time with the word “DEVIATION” in bold. Apparently, my test results came back, she thought. And I’ve failed.

This time the experiments involved different types of acid. Single drops were applied to different areas of her body and her reaction was monitored. When her throat felt too raw to bear another scream she gazed around the room.

“What are you trying to get out of me? I don’t know anything. I don’t have anything for you.”

“I have breaking news for all the truth seekers out there,” Braeden blustered from a cheap desk in front of a clumsy green screen. “I have intercepted new messages sent from Genetek to government operatives detailing the abilities of the Deviations to be let loose on the public. This coincides with the recent merger, a move to stomp us out and replace us with a new kind of human.”

Braeden was capitalizing on his newfound fame by launching a self-produced show. Subscribers would get daily updates on his findings and he pledged to be an outlet for other whistleblowers like himself. His show was a hit, claiming the top spot on a site called BACKER, a subscription platform which allowed anyone to produce content and charge a small monthly fee. His show also gained sponsors, one of which drew criticism from other networks. A report showed money moving from a conservative telecommunications company to Braeden’s BACKER page. A whistleblower with a low-budget show wouldn’t normally seem like a logical partner for a billion-dollar corporation who promoted conservative values, but the question on who is influencing his reporting didn’t deter the millions of “truth-seeking” viewers.

“This is the big one, people. This is what I’ve been reporting for weeks and weeks now; Genetek has manufactured the Deviations to come after us. They will be genetically modified and have superhuman abilities that we might not be able to fathom, but we need to be ready for an attack. Men, keep the loved ones safe, you’ll need to be ready for a fight any day now.”

Physical pain coupled with the emotional trauma brought Evlyn to weep on her return journey to the cell. She felt nearly broken under the stress and wondered if she would recognize her face in the mirror should she ever be set free. She was walking with the guards on her own two feet, although barely. They heaved her through the door, her body so sapped of energy that her feet stumbled to steady herself. Her left toe rolled over and her knee buckled to the side as she fell. Evlyn winced in pain and hesitated to put weight on it.

“Are you all right?” whispered Dr. Roux.

“Leave me alone!” Evlyn snapped. “I don’t want to hear your pep talks or your stories!”

Evlyn held her knee and gingerly rotated her foot. It was swollen and sore but nothing severe. She noted that no reply had come from her neighbor and pictured a disappointed man who only wanted to help.

“Hey, I’ll be fine, okay?” she said, in a conciliatory tone. “I just don’t understand what’s happening.”

Evlyn heard movement along the wall separating her from Dr. Roux.

“It is surely much to comprehend, but there is a reason for all of this. I am in this cell because of the things that I saw, clandestine entities who roamed the halls of Genetek, combing through my research, taking my findings for shameful purposes.”

Evlyn crawled to the corner of her hold nearest his.

“What did they want to do with it?”

Dr. Roux sneered. “They would have said they were keeping it out of the wrong hands, but they themselves were the wrong hands. We’re talking about the leaders of the most powerful government in the world attempting to turn my work into more power.”

“What could you do in that situation?”

“I sabotaged my own work. I made it look as if the research was flawed and years behind what they wanted. They pulled back and the federal officials roaming the halls suddenly disappeared. It gave me room to devise a failsafe should they ever advance the program elsewhere.”

“So, you conspired against the government with their money in their own building.”

“They never saw it coming.”

Evlyn nearly grinned then asked, “What was the failsafe?”

“Clones.”

It took a moment to sink in and Evlyn’s expression contorted as she considered his answer.

“I modified genes that would give them the tools to fight back,” he continued. “They were sent out into the world with the hope they would never be needed, but the reality was someday they would be.”

“I— I can’t believe something like that could be kept secret for so long. It would be so easy to slip up.”

Dr. Roux sighed.

“The clones were given memories from their counterparts, and a sort of reset button was hit ahead of their release. They remembered a childhood that wasn’t their own, they forgot where they came from. The idea was that they would never know what they were until they were needed. They’re human beings; individuals who feel pain, happiness, love. I refused to deprive them of those things, so I let them live how they wanted and kept their abilities dormant.”

“But it’s coming true,” Evlyn exhaled, “why haven’t you triggered them?”

“The lab was shut down and I was imprisoned before I could.”

“The Whistleblower…”

The doctor hesitated, he was leading her and was unsure if the time was right, but there was no way of knowing and the end was near for him, for her, for civilization as they knew it.

“They’re looking for a way to activate the clones. That’s what the numerous tests are about. They want to find a prompt to force the modifications to the surface. Once active, they can reverse engineer my work by dissecting them.”

Evlyn swallowed the lump in her throat to reply, ignoring her own gullibility.

“You’ve told me all of this, but it doesn’t explain why I’m here.”

“Yes, it does,” he said, his voice now hollow with remorse. “It explains everything.”

Evlyn’s face warmed and her eyes stung with tears of anger. She denied what was happening but felt the truth behind his words.

“There might be another way to activate the abilities,” he added. “If a clone knows and accepts what they are, a memory could resurface, causing a chain reaction within them.”

She stood, her weak body and sore knee now irrelevant, clenching her fists as memories of her youth flashed, falling distant in that instant.

“If none of it was real, then who am I?” Evlyn cried. “I’m just an experiment. I’m a lab rat!”

“No, you are an individual who’s made your own choices and lived a life distinct from any other version of you that may or may not be out there. But you were given a gift, not by God but in a genetic code, that gives you the ability to free countless lives.”

Evlyn lunged at the bars of her cell, slamming into them like a caged animal.

“Gift!? Sounds like a burden to me!”

“You can look at it that way, but you still have free will. You don’t have to use your abilities, I haven’t even told you what they are. They remain dormant inside of you. You can simply cast aside what I’ve told you and nothing will change.”

Evlyn clenched her eyes shut, forcing tears to drip from her cheeks.

“But I already know… deep down…”

Evlyn opened her eyes to see blue outlines, information popping up about her surroundings, similar to the monitoring system in her apartment but inside in her own vision. She reached her arm around the bars to the palm scanner outside her cell. Instantly, she could read the electrical system along with the security software and everything connected; her hold to the hallway, to the whole facility. She realized how intuitive her abilities were, merely thinking about unlocking the cell until the bolt switched and the door swung open. She stepped into the hallway, surveying the rows of prisoners.

“They have it too?” Evlyn asked.

“Yes, I imagine most are like you.”

Evlyn returned to the scanner, her body immediately hacking the system and switching the locks on the entire block. A clang reverberated through the space as the bolts shifted simultaneously, announcing to the entire block the doors were open. Slowly, a few prisoners emerged, tentatively assessing the situation. Evlyn turned to find Dr. Roux near her, grinning.

“This is remarkable!” He embraced Evlyn at the shoulders. “You are remarkable.”

Evlyn shrugged him off and walked away.

“I don’t think I want to see you again.”

As she strolled down the hall, faces lit up as if awakened for the first time. Dr. Roux watched and held his grin. He understood that she would hold contempt for him—they all might. But he brought them into this world, he knew each was extraordinary.

Evlyn didn’t make it far when alarms sounded, and the freed prisoners took off in every direction. They were starting to tap into their powers and unlocked doors throughout the facility. Armored guards in riot gear spilled into the hallways and opened fire. Evlyn took cover in a small interrogation room, ducking on her knees, and rapidly sought a way out. She wasn’t familiar with this facility, having been bagged when she was brought in. She peeked around the doorframe to find a scanner and stretched her arm to touch it. Searching the mainframe, Evlyn found a building layout and looked for a quick exit. She saw there were fewer guard posts in the opposite direction and thought the chances of slipping past might be better there. Wasting no time, Evlyn darted from the room as gunfire rang out. She felt the air slicing with bullets narrowly missing her.

Rounding the corner, she witnessed a clone linked into a scanner, his eyes rolled into his head, seemingly absorbing energy. As she passed him, a bullet caught him in the neck and he spun like a top. Evlyn rushed along, down a corridor and through a double-wide doorway that opened up into a docking area. This ramp must lead outside, she thought, moving delicately. She peered ahead for a way to conceal herself if there were guards outside the exit. But movement came from the shadows and registered in front of her eyes like a computer giving a notification.

“Cameras.”

They spotted her and would undoubtedly send every guard they had to keep their nefarious actions classified. Evlyn took off sprinting up the loading dock ramp, leering at the sunshine twisting into the curved gateway. A loud crack behind her signaled the doors being kicked open, pursuers on her tail.

As she reached the exit, Evlyn saw four guards and abruptly halted, reversing direction behind the curved wall. Her head craned back and forth, surrounded by assailants. From outside the exit, she heard a crowd; chanting and shouting from a mass too large to be from escaped prisoners. Evlyn inched forward to get a look; protestors were marching in the streets and getting agitated. A few of the more violent ones got close to the guards who tried to push them away. All at once, the mob swarmed the guards, pulling them to the ground, kicking and beating them. Evlyn observed for a moment but the sound of boots against pavement came up from the loading docks. She raced along the remaining length of the ramp and edged her way out between the side of the building and the crowd.

Bodies filled the streets, marching and shouting, and waving signs that said things like “God Hates Deviations”. Evlyn crept along, hoping for a break in the sea of faces before a familiar one stared back at her.

“Evlyn!” Lillya barged past several protestors getting to her. “How are you doing? I’m glad to see you’re finally taking up the cause!”

“I’m not, I—” Evlyn stammered. She could only imagine what these people would do to her if they found out what she was and spoke with desperation. “I just got caught in the crowd, I need to get out.”

There was a commotion in the mass, a sextet of armed soldiers had exited the loading ramp and barreled into the mob.

“Back up!” one shouted as they lifted their guns, sights fixed on those closest to them.

The jolt of looking down the barrel of a gun put people on their heels. The soldiers huddled together and moved slowly through the space they were given, scouring the protestors for the escaped prisoner. A projected image jutted out from the side of the scope with ID and information on each person they fixed their sight on.

“Hey, they’re scanning us!”

“Don’t let them take anybody!”

“They’ll throw us to the Deviations!”

Evlyn was running out of time, the soldiers were coming near.

“Lillya, I have to get out of here,” she implored. Evlyn leaned her weight into the cramped bodies behind her but the streets were brimming. Lillya grabbed her by the shoulder.

“Take it easy! You’re gonna cause a panic.”

Evlyn turned around as the barrel of a gun seemed to twist around one person, then the next, and land on her. The reflection of the scope flickered and the projection lit up with red letters.

DEVIATION

“I got her!”

Some in the crowd saw the identification and alerted the others.

“There’s a clone!”

Hoping to get a glance at something they had both vilified and feared, the mass of people turned toward Evlyn with a gasp. Feet tangled and tripped, causing the mob to shift like dominos. The wave of flesh hit the soldiers, knocking them off balance.

“Enough! Hand over the Deviation before you get hurt!” the soldier said, getting to his feet.

By now, more guards were spilling out from the loading dock and police closed in from each end of the block, guns drawn. Drones hovered overhead with cameras from news networks, along with the eyes of each person on the ground, all fixed on Evlyn. From his homemade studio, Breaden broadcast his own feed of the standoff.

“This is it, people! That creature right there was built by the government to take us out!”

Evlyn stood, motionless, with the dreadful feeling that there was no way to hide and that everyone in the world wanted her dead.

“Evlyn, what’s going on?” Lillya asked with a whimper. “You lied to me? You’re not…” She looked Evlyn up and down, “...real?”

The word smacked Evlyn in the face

“Yes, I’m real.”

“But you’re a Deviation!”

“That doesn’t mean what you think it means.”

Lillya shook her head.

“I can show you.” Evlyn held out her palm. “Give me your phone.”

“What?”

“I’ll show you. It’ll be okay.”

Lillya hesitated before reaching for the rounded piece of glass in her pocket. As soon as it hit Evlyn’s palm, she curled her fingertips and the screen engaged. After hacking beyond the building’s system simply by touching the security module, she understood now she simply needed a point of entry to access whatever it was they were hiding.

She scanned details of the merger and found surveillance hidden in the home monitoring systems. Everyone was listened to, watched, and influenced. Media that went against the agenda was cleverly expurgated from people who showed signs of seceding while getting through to those who would disavow the notion immediately. Websites outright opposing them were blocked from view. A massive scheme of oppression had been developing for years and the public was completely unaware. The merger gave them the last piece of the puzzle; any plot to unveil the truth was cut off at the root by raiding anyone who found out.

After severing surveillance capabilities in each system, Evlyn hacked the government's servers, shutting them down. She knew exactly what to do, how to hurt them, how to take their hardware offline. Years of coding gave her the knowledge, only now she had abilities that made her the best hacker in the world.

The clandestine efforts to oppress the masses had gone dark while the rest of the country lit up with notifications. Evlyn boosted the signal of a previously censored broadcast that had been shouting the truth into a void. A group of journalists were reporting how federal agents weren’t detaining clones but kidnapping them; they weren’t made by the government but despite them. Braeden Callen and his show were funded to continue boosting his misplaced hysteria on clones. It was a relatively small amount of money to them considering what his reach had become. He served their purpose well as his completely false reporting affected millions.

Evlyn released her grip and gazed out over the sea of people watching her. One by one, the protestors pulled out their phones to notifications and the broadcasts playing back at them. The truth was finally looking them in the face and the web of lies was untangling. The soldiers got their own notifications; to stand down and pull back into the building. They slowly crept away and tension in the streets calmed. The group dispersed, everyone’s nose buried in their phone as more reports came without censorship.

Lillya had a look of shock as Evlyn handed her the phone.

“What was that!?”

“I suppose what I was meant to do,” she answered with a shrug.

The city was quiet but they both sensed a renewal in the air.

“Everything’s gonna change. What happens now?”

Evlyn raised her chin and smirked.

“Things change. People change. But you can’t change who you are.”