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Purple Galaxies Under Your Skin

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Morgan should have died. There’s no doubt about it that anyone else would have. It was only a combination of frankly unparalleled brilliance and fantastic amounts of luck that allowed her to survive a catastrophic shuttle malfunction, craft an oxygen scrubber out of broken cooling fans and old plastic tubing, and make the repairs needed to get the shuttle back on its original heading to Talos I.

“…Morgan?” Alex’s voice on the transcribe is disbelieving. And then he laughs, overjoyed and breathless. “Morgan, you’re alive!”

When Morgan docks in the Shuttle Bay, Alex is there to wrap her in an enormous hug, and for a moment Morgan freezes. They don’t hug. This is entirely unlike Alex. Still, she allows herself to relax into his arms. He did think she was dead, after all. She’ll allow him a little sentimentality.

“Tell me everything I’ve missed,” she says when she can breathe again.

She’s not prepared for Alex to look shifty. He’s an excellent liar, he never hesitates. This, more than anything, sets off alarm bells.

But before she can grill Alex on whatever he’s hiding from her, Sarah and Danielle burst through the doors, accompanied by a third person.

It’s Morgan.

It’s like looking into a mirror. The person—thing—looks just like her, but it isn’t. Obviously. Morgan immediately goes into defensive mode, readying herself to attack with the nearest object she can get her hands on, but Alex places a restraining hand on her shoulder.

“Morgan, it’s fine, she’s safe,” he says. “I can explain.”

“What is that and why is it wearing my face?” Morgan demands.

The thing that isn’t Morgan smiles and holds out its hand like it thinks Morgan will shake it. “Hello Morgan,” it says, and it’s as weird to hear her own voice coming from this other thing as it is to hear it on a recording or from January. No, scratch that, it’s way weirder. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“Alex, what did you do?” Morgan says threateningly.

Alex smiles meekly, like that time he accidentally stepped on the cleaning bot Morgan had spent weeks upgrading to be able to do basically all of her chores. She’d been so mad at him for that.

“I can explain,” he says again.

“You’d better,” she says.

“Of course we don’t like her better than you,” Sarah says.

“I do,” Danielle says. “She plays Fatal Fortress with us.”

“So you’d like me if I played your dumb game?” Morgan asks.

“See, this is why I like her better,” Danielle says.

Alex shows her the simulation data.

“Holy shit,” Morgan says. “Alex, that thing is a fucking monster.

“She saved Mikhaila,” Alex says. “She saved Igwe. She helped Sarah.”

“So did I,” Morgan mutters under her breath. Morgan also threw up the first time she killed a Phantom, and actually pissed her pants when she saw the Nightmare for the first time. This thing didn’t seem to have a problem with slaughtering a mob of Typhon, and that is fucking terrifying.

They watch Not-Morgan in the Yellow Tulip blast three Phantoms with a shotgun while dancing to the recording of Danielle singing “Semi-Sacred Geometry.” Morgan feels sick. If it was human, Morgan would say it’s psychopathic, but it’s not. It’s a Typhon that seems to enjoy destroying other Typhon, or at least not have any problem with it. Morgan may have done some horrible things, but never with such a cavalier attitude.

(That she can remember.)

“You can’t keep calling her Not-Morgan,” Danielle says. “It’s rude.”

Morgan raises an eyebrow. “Yeah? What do you call it?”

Danielle hesitates, which is suspicious. “Well, she says her name is Morgan…”

“It’s not Morgan! That thing is not me!”

“We know that, but, you know, that’s the only name she’s ever had.” Danielle looks uncharacteristically guilty.

Morgan leaves the room. It’s either that or punch Danielle, and honestly, she’s not sure that’s a fight she’d win. Danielle looks like a biter.

Morgan’s used to sleeping in bits and pieces. Before The Incident, it was staying up too late working. Since then, it’s mostly been nightmares. This one is the simulation, except the instructions for the tasks are written in a language she can’t read, and every time she gets something wrong, a Typhon kills someone she knows. Then it starts over again, and again, until she can’t tell whether she’s awake or asleep. Finally she stumbles to the grav shaft, just needing to get out of her suite before she loses her mind.

Not-Morgan is sitting on the counter in the kitchen, chatting with Skillet and dipping spiralite cookies in sunburst banana pudding. It smiles when it sees Morgan.

“Want some?” it asks, holding up another package of pudding. Morgan doesn’t want anything to do with the monster, but she does like sunburst banana pudding. She catches the pudding cup the monster tosses to her and steals the box of cookies as well. Not-Morgan just raises an eyebrow.

“Can’t sleep?” it asks.

Morgan wants to say something snarky, but scientific curiosity trumps spite. “Do Typhon sleep?” she asks. “Do they— do you dream?”

“They do,” Not-Morgan confirms. “Not quite the same as you, because of the shared neural structures, but they dream. Mine are different, though. More like yours, probably.”

Morgan wouldn’t wish her nightmares on anyone else. She stuffs a cookie in her mouth to stop from saying so. Showing weakness in front of this thing would be a bad idea.

It’s hard to be afraid of a monster that’s wearing pajamas and has pudding on its nose.

“My turn,” Not-Morgan says. “Are you afraid that I’m going to hurt them, or that they’re going to replace you with me?”

The cookie turns to sand in Morgan’s mouth, but apparently this is sharing time. Things said in the dead of night, whatever time that is in space, don’t count.

“Both,” she admits.

“If I wanted to kill them, I would have already,” Not-Morgan points out.

“I don’t know that,” Morgan argues. “I don’t know how your brain works. You’re something entirely new.”

“Then maybe you should try to get to know me?” Not-Morgan suggests.

The monster sitting in the kitchen killed five mimics with a recycling charge, avenged Abby, likes banana pudding, and broke that stupid statue in Alex’s office just to piss him off. It—she— can’t be that bad.

“Okay, but you have to pick a different name,” Morgan says.

The monster laughs, which is super creepy, but what in Morgan’s life isn’t these days. She’ll take it. Things could be worse.