Her mother opened her eyes and looked up at Lindsay. She recognized her.
"I'm sorry, sweetheart. I drifted off. What was I asking?"
"How long I would be gone, I think," Lindsay replied.
"That's it! Yes, how long?"
"Twenty-seven years," Lindsay replied. "Give or take." She took her mother's hand. "But it'll only seem like two and a half to me."
Her mother took a trembling breath. It was the only kind of breath she had left. "What does the grief counselor think?" she asked.
"She thinks some time away from all this would be good for me." That was a bald-faced lie. Lindsay had read up on what she was supposed to say to the therapist she'd been assigned.
Her mother sighed. "Well, I think he's an idiot," she said with the same old fire. "Tell me, Linnie," her mother said, "tell me you really believe this is for the best. It's only been six months since Becca died, and we both know I'll be gone soon. To lose so much, so fast…" She sighed.
Lindsay squeezed her mother's hand. "I don't want to live in a world without her, Mom. And this way, at least for a while, I won't have to."
Her mother looked Lindsay over with a searching gaze so fierce it belied her failing body. Then she looked away. "So this…" She paused. "Epsilon Eridani. How far away is it?"
"About ten light years."
"And how fast will you be going?"
"When we get up to full speed? About ninety percent of the speed of light." Lindsay smiled. "Fast enough that if you shone a beam of light at a mirror there, it would get back here just before us."
"So fast," her mother breathed. "And so far. My brave girl. Becca would be so proud of you. I'm so proud of you."
"Still," her mother said, "donating Becca's body." She shook her head. "It would be something if it were organ transplants, but for research? Do you really think she would approve?"
Becca had left no will, and as her spouse, Lindsay was given full control. There'd been quite an uproar over her decision to donate Becca's body for research. Becca's parents had narrowly been talked out of trying to seek an injunction, and that was only because they knew how devoted the pair had been to each other.
"I do," Lindsay replied. "I really, really do." She raised her mother's hand to her lips and kissed the skin.
"Do you really think this is a good idea?" Wei asked her.
Lindsay ran her hand through her hair. "We've discussed this, and discussed this, and discussed this. Yes. Yes, Wei. I do."
"And you know how illegal this is? The technology is untested. We're not even into clinical trials!"
"Yes, you've told me. And told me." She turned away from him. "You know my reasons."
"And you know what you'll be giving up? You'll be a fugitive. You'll lose everything."
She turned back and snapped, "I've already lost everything!" At his expression, she covered her eyes with her hand. "I'm sorry. I just buried my mother. And I'm going up in three days. I don't have the luxury of ethical discussions anymore. I need you to handle this. I've put all the necessary things into place, but Wei…" she trailed off.
"I know, I know. You need me. And you've got me. Your mom's money will keep my research funded for decades. And even more than that, we're friends. But as your friend, one last time: are you sure?"
She was sure.
When the mission was done, the resultant fanfare seemed to last forever. Endless interviews. People congratulating her on the street. Publishers with book deals. By the time it all died down, Lindsay was quietly frantic. She couldn't even check on things until the prying eyes had found something else to look at.
She took the maglev out from the city to a building in the countryside she owned through a complex weave of shell companies. She let herself in when the security system recognized her credentials.
Surrounded by medical robots, she finally stood in front of the metal casket. She initialized the download and awakening procedure, and waited.
With a hiss from the seals, the casket opened.
Becca's clone opened her eyes and looked up at Lindsay. She recognized her.
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