Bitter 348

“Obviously they wouldn’t make a copy of you you,” said Dad. “You’ve never been in the game as you.”

Britta was finding it hard to follow what he was saying. “But it would still be me underneath, right? My thoughts and everything.”

Dad smiled in a way that annoyed her.

“They can’t copy how you think, sweetheart. They can make a digitised heart that beats exactly the same way yours does, but that won’t make it feel the way you do.”

“So it wouldn’t be a doppelganger of Britta?” asked Mum.

“No. There’d be no point. They don’t even need it to do anything. It could just lie there, like sleeping beauty. At least that’s my understanding.”

Britta exchanged a look with Mum, who didn’t seem so worked up. More confused.

“Are you sure about this, Dad?”

“No, not entirely,” Dad happily admitted. “That’s why I wanted to speak to them face to face. See what they think. If I’m right, though, all they’d need is for you to go in once, and you’re done. And what they’d be willing to pay, well… no need to worry about university fees or mortgage payments or anything.” He turned to Mum. “She’d be set up for life.”

“I’m still not sure,” said Mum. “Sounds like you’re giving away something important.”

Britta wasn’t sure, either. “Sounds like you want to give them a copy of my soul.”

“Come on,” said Dad. “Let’s not get carried away. I’m not saying it’s nothing to worry about — we should be careful and think it through, of course we should — but it’s no different to the police having your DNA and fingerprints.”

“And no one complains about that, do they?” said Mum. “That’s exactly the sort of thing that can end up being abused in ways you never imagined.”

“Yes,” said Dad, “you’re right. They could bioengineer an army of bots based on our daughter’s DNA that end up laying waste to the cyber-landscape, and history will remember this moment as the start of the dark ages, but I think that’s very unlikely to happen.”

Most people would probably have thought he was being sarcastic, but Britta could tell he was seriously considering all the possible consequences, and focusing on the ones he personally felt were most likely to get optioned by a movie studio.

“I’d rather not give them a piece of my daughter,” said Mum.

“And maybe that’s the right thing to do,” said Dad. “But even if we’re not interested, it might be worth talking to them. They’re unlikely to give up if we just ask them to, but if they see we mean it, if they realise trying to push us around isn’t going to work, then they’ll think twice. They certainly wouldn’t want any bad publicity right now.”

That made both Britta and Mum stop and think. They definitely wouldn’t want any of this made public.

“What about the NDA?” asked Britta.

“Can’t stop you reporting a crime,” said Dad. “It’s the law, not the Catholic church.”

“John, please.”

“What? I’m trying to explain it, that’s all. No one mentioned your family.”

Britta could see they were getting off track. This was an old bone of contention between them.

“Alright,” said Britta. “We can talk to them. I wouldn’t mind hearing what they have to say for themselves.”

“We’ll all go,” said Dad. “Family night out.”

He slid around Mum, embracing her as he went past. She scowled, but didn’t push him off. He let go, grinning, and opened the door. The driver was standing there.

“Okey doke, Lofty,” said Dad. “Lead the way.”

He was an exceedingly tall man. So tall, in fact, that he reminded Britta of being in the game, where everyone towered over her. Although in the game people chose their height, and anyone who went super-tall was either trying to get an advantage over others, or compensating for some inadequacy in the real world. Lofty was born this way, but he hadn’t gained much from his height. He was just a driver. Being big and strong didn’t have the same sorts of advantages in the real world. Although he moved very lightly for a big man. He seemed different to the chauffeur Stan’s father’s had.

She hadn’t thought about Stan in a while, and felt a bit guilty. Was he okay? His dad was on the board at APE, so they must have taken care of him. Probably. She wondered if he’d be at this meeting.

The car was a large SUV, like a minivan that had been stretched. It had a polish that glimmered under the streetlights. The driver slid the door open to reveal a plush interior. And Dr Reedy.

“Ah, there you are. We thought maybe a familiar face would help.”

It did, a bit. At least they could ask her what was going on along the way.

“Where are we going?” asked Mum.

“The airfield isn’t far,” said Dr Reedy.

“The hotels near an airfield?” asked Dad as he climbed in.

“Oh, no. Not a hotel. They’re landing the plane to talk to you. On their way to the States.”

“Landing the plane?” asked Dad. “They’re flying in? From where?”

“From China,” said Dr Reedy. “Had to change their plans completely.” She looked at Britta with a smile. “They’re very much looking forward to meeting you.”

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