Morgan didn't leave the lab very often anymore. It wasn't as if she was a prisoner—there wasn't a prison in the known universe that could hold her these days, for one thing—but Station 11-5B Thanatos was its own sort of captivity.
The smallest of humanity's remaining orbiters, it was thirty-five thousand square feet packed to the gills with the best and brightest and nosiest of humanity. And Morgan couldn't blame anyone here, exactly, because if she were in their shoes she'd want to experiment on her too, but the stares got old and the unsubtle probing questions got older.
Some days she thought the Typhon material she'd injected had rewritten her on a deeper level than just the neural; some days she believed in a soul. Some days, she was absolutely certain she'd gotten so fond of turning into coffee cups and office furniture because it was a better fucking option than having to make small talk with people who could barely look at the bloody mess of her injection eye without either drooling or cringing away in horror.
Better to stay here, all things considered; she slept when she wanted to, she ate on the rare occasions she felt hungry, and the all the rest of her waking hours she got to spending dreaming up more ideas to help a world that didn't exist anymore. And most of the research team had the sense not to intrude on her when she was in her lab, at least. The only one who came by regularly was Alex, and he was Alex. Familiarity made him a comfort, even after everything that had happened—the holes in her memory that would never close, the Earth a glowing nest of Coral that they orbited around both physically and metaphorically, and other things she maybe should feel a little bit angry towards him about—and no matter how they might argue sometimes she couldn't bring herself to hate him.
What was a little planetary destruction between family, after all? And it wasn't as if she was any sort of innocent herself.
Except lately Alex hadn't been coming by as often, and when he did he asked her strange questions: he wanted to know about how her neuromods felt, what exactly she thought when she first saw a Typhon, how she activated her abilities...
Strange questions indeed. The sort of things he hadn't asked her in a long, long time.
He was hiding something, she was sure. Trying to do something with her memories, or her powers, or her connection to the Typhon. But everything he'd tried had failed massively, and he'd tried a lot; Morgan didn't have the heart to get into yet another argument with him about how mimic transformation worked, or what the weavers' songs might really mean, or the feasibility of implanting mirror neurons into a Typhon.
Their legacy—the Yu family legacy—was the ruination of planet Earth. Morgan had accepted it. Alex probably never would. So it goes.
Her own most recent wild idea involved modifying the GLOO Cannon's gelifoam to work as a fast-acting, antiseptic bandage; it wouldn't be too hard to do, despite the fact that no one'd thought to try it before, and as a bonus it might actually benefit some of the people here. For a group that was supposed to be brilliant, the researchers here were amazingly talented in injuring themselves in the stupidest of ways. She'd stopped wondering how exactly the Typhon had managed to slip containment, back in the day, the first time she saw a lab tech trip over a poorly-placed power cord and turn an entire room's worth of carefully set-up equipment crashing to the floor into a heap of sad, expensive scrap. Now she spent more time wondering how the hell they'd ever managed to keep them locked up so long in the first place.
Morgan pulled her hair into a short, sloppy ponytail as she stepped up to fabricator and dropped the materials cubes in. She punched in the code for gelifoam, waited as the machine began to hum to life—and then turned, hand dropping to the stun gun on her hip, as she heard a clattering noise from the living quarters outside her lab.
No one was meant to be in there.
Maybe she'd left some piece of equipment balanced unsteadily. Maybe Alex had chosen to show up unannounced. But...
She slid her weapon free as she stepped closer to the door. She kept her breathing steady, her footsteps quiet. There was a prickle going down her spine; it was the same feeling she remembered so well from Talos I, the same creeping dread she revisited in her dreams every night she managed to sleep. Like turning a corner and seeing two chairs where there should have been only one. Something was off.
Calling out a warning would only give an enemy more opportunity to harm her. Morgan sucked in a breath, pressed up against the door—
It hissed open with an electronic sound, and Morgan found herself pointing a stun gun at her own face.
"What?" she asked, blinking, startled—but not lowering her gun.
The other her cringed back from the doorway, said, "Oh, shit," and Morgan had too much practice fighting for her life not to take advantage of that. She closed the distance another step and pressed her stun gun right up against the other her's temple.
From this close, it... well, it still wouldn't kill. But it would do some serious damage.
"Who are you?" she asked her mirror image. And then, looking closer at her: "What are you?"
Whoever or whatever it was, it wasn't her. Not exactly, anyway. The Morgan standing in front of her now was a few years younger: no gray hairs threaded through her black, no ruined and half-blind eye, no stress lines dug deep into her cheeks and chin and forehead. This was a Morgan Yu—but it wasn't her.
Fuck, she thought, racing through a dozen different possibilities at lightning speed. Had someone invented time travel? If she had, was she even the real Morgan? The other her standing in front of her now, gun pressed to her head, looked just as surprised as Morgan was.
"Um," she said, nervously, "and then, holy shit, you're alive?"
Morgan grimaced. Fuck, maybe she had gotten thrown into another timeline. "Should I not be?"
"No! No, I mean, I'm not complaining, this is, uh—wild, it's just... Alex didn't tell me about you."
Morgan blinked at her doppelganger. The doppelganger blinked back—and then said, finally, hesitation dripping from every word, "...Wait. Alex did tell you about me, though, right?"
She shook her head. She didn't put her weapon away—this still could be a trap—but she lowered it, just a little. Her other self did look very confused, and if anyone would know it was Morgan. "Can't lie, I'm every bit as lost as you are."
"Well, fuck. Holy shit, Alex."
"Yeah," Morgan said. "Yeah, that sounds about right, just in general."
Holy shit, Alex. Truer words, etc. Maybe someday he'd run out of energy for throwing terrible surprises at her. She doubted it.
"So who are you, then, exactly? And how did you get into my rooms?" Morgan eyed her mirror image up and down once more. Aside from the difference in years, there wasn't anything noticeably off about her. No third eyes or weird lurking tentacles that might be a sign of alter-dimensional travel—and wasn't that a bit of a disappointment, really? She'd look excellent with a few extra eyes; it would beat being short one, that was for sure.
"You can't guess?"
"My frontrunner hypothesis right now is time travel, though I've got you being me from a disappointingly-similar alternate universe as a backup theory in case my first theory falls through."
"Time travel? Really?"
"Something wrong with time travel?"
"I mean, it's not exactly Occam's Razor-friendly, is it?"
"Okay, fine," Morgan said. "Third guess: you're an absurdly talented stunt double, and Alex has spent the last three months obsessively tutoring you on my personality and vocal tics because he's just that bored."
Her mirror image barked out a laugh at that. "Okay. Fuck. That's... I hate that that's the closest one. But, uh, getting warmer? I guess?"
"Fuck," Morgan said passionately, finally letting her stun gun drop. She tucked it back away at her hip—if that guess was the closest to the truth so far, she wouldn't mind dying. It would be a mercy, really. "Am I going to have to have a talk with him? Again? I fucking knew he needed a hobby, or a couple of friends, I love him but god did he ever not have a social life outside of the family—"
"...Well, he definitely has a hobby now. Of sorts."
A hobby that involved—what, sneaking body doubles of Morgan onto Thanatos in secret, training them for months, avoiding her all the while? None of this made any kind of sense. God, if this turned out to be some weird repressed incestuous thing...
Morgan was getting more and more disappointed with every passing moment that time travel hadn't been the right guess. She'd be overjoyed for some working time travel right now. It would mean she could go back to thirty seconds ago and erase that thought from her head.
"Look," Morgan said, "just—start from the beginning, all right? Tell me exactly what's going on, and just how badly I'm going to need to kick Alex's ass."
"Oh boy." Her mirror image grimaced. "Can we sit down for this?"
They were still standing awkwardly in the doorway between Morgan's cramped little lab and her equally-cramped living quarters. If they stayed here too much longer, the door would start shrilly ringing out a complaint about obstructions preventing it from closing.
Morgan weighed up the odds that her mirror image had sprung some trap in her living quarters and was trying to lead her into it, weighed that against the infinitesimal odds that literally anything a human could come up with had even the slimmest chance of harming her neuromod-enhanced body, and said, "Yeah, sure, all right. You want the tour of the apartment?"
Her mirror image obediently stepped backwards, allowing them both access into the room she had just been trying to leave. Morgan's bedroom—and kitchen, and living room, and bathroom, all crafted from sterile white fabricated plastic. Thanatos took compact living to a whole new level. Morgan had done her best to make improvements to the cookie-cutter space, mostly in the form of research: fabrication plans were pinned to every available wall; flimsy, fabricated plasti-wood dressers offered a little more storage, her own drawings, diagrams and life sketches and the occasional unflattering sketch of Alex, filled whatever bit of space was left. The end result was what Morgan liked to think of as inspired chaos, and what Mikhaila, the one time she'd briefly come to visit, had dubbed an absolute pigsty, how do you live like this?
"It's a hundred square feet, max, I think," said the doppelganger. "I'm pretty sure I've seen most of what there is to see already."
Which once again brought up the question of how the hell Morgan's body double had gotten in here. The only door to her bedroom was through the lab she'd been working in. And she could get distracted from the world around her when work was going interestingly, she'd be the first to admit it, but—that distracted?
Well, maybe. Not like she hadn't done stupider things before.
"It's small," Morgan said, "but it's the closest thing I've got to home that isn't buried under thousands of miles of Coral. And if I start feeling cramped I can just be small for a while. Er." She paused. "Did Alex tell you about, uh..."
Her hand drifted, unbidden, up towards her ruined eye.
"The Typhon neuromods thing?" Her mirror image laughed, not sounding especially amused. "I, uh. Yeah. Yeah, I have heard a lot about those."
"God. All right. He hasn't been keeping my privacy very well, has he?"
"He has not."
Great. Just what she wanted to hear from someone wearing her face. She was halfway tempted to pick up her wrench again, just for old times' sake. See if it still felt as good in her hands as it used to. Alex could use a good bonk over the head.
A nonlethal one, of course. Probably.
(It wouldn't be that surprising, anyway, would it? Everyone already thought she was insane and dangerous—and it wasn't like she'd be the first person to commit a homicide on Thanatos. Close quarters brought out the interesting in everybody, good and bad.)
"Well, then," Morgan said, trying to hide her discomfort with a grin, "then—yeah. There's all that happening. It might sound a bit weird, but honestly, being an inanimate object for a little while can get pretty therapeutic."
"I don't think that sounds weird at all," her mirror image said, her eyes fixed on Morgan, her expression so earnest it hurt to see. "I think... I think that makes complete sense. Really."
"Well, hey, I'm glad someone agrees with me." And she was glad she had one thing separate from this strange, identity-less woman Alex had built—Morgan would never be caught dead sounding so fucking sincere without at least having a joke ready to finish things off.
(Well, two things separate, really; from this other Morgan's perfect, glossy, unpunctured eyes, she was pretty sure only one of them was hosting weird black goo-genetics in their cranium. What a shame, too, she'd been hoping to find someone to join her support group. She could print t-shirts and everything; she had the fabricator all cued up with designs.)
"That's actually the thing I wanted to tell you about," her mirror image said. "The, uh. The whole story, and all that."
"Tell me he's not doing more neuromod experimentations."
Not that that should be possible, considering the aforementioned eyes, but—
Morgan's mirror image shook her head with a wince. "It's. Well. Not exactly. You sure you don't want to sit down first, by the way? Really, absolutely sure?"
Not too great a double after all, then, if she thought there was anything left in the world that could shock Morgan.
"I think I'll be all right."
"I mean, I'm just saying—"
Morgan leaned against the nearest wall, careful not to knock down any of her decor, and raised an eyebrow. The nice thing about having a mirror image, it turned out, was that it didn't take much in the way of effort to get your body language across; the not-Morgan stared at her a moment, flustered, like she was going to say something else, and then she sighed and ran a hand through her rumpled hair. It was longer than Morgan's current style, and tucked into a messy, half-deteriorated bun. A year ago's hair, maybe? Or two years? Back before she'd gotten tired of what passed for shampoo in space and chopped most of it off.
More evidence for the time travel theory. It was still her favorite, the doppelganger's opinion be damned. What did she know, anyway, except for everything?
"All right," the not-Morgan said. A moment ago she'd been open and friendly; now she was eying Morgan like a cornered animal. Something about it—the tension like a living creature, the hunted look on her face—sent a shiver down Morgan "Just... don't try to kill me, all right? Neither of us is going to like how that'll go."
"What?" Morgan asked. "Is that a thr—fuck."
There was a word Morgan had been avoiding, carefully and deliberately, since the moment she'd seen the other woman's face, a term she'd been stepping delicately around even within the privacy of her own mind. She could call the woman standing in front of her a doppelganger, or a twin, or a mirror image, just so long as she didn't let herself think that one last word that was a synonym to all of them. The woman who wasn't Morgan had spoken; she'd smiled; she'd shown fear and happiness and embarrassment. And of course that meant there one form of life she couldn't possibly be, except—
"Mimic," Morgan breathed, and pulled out her gun.
No time to hesitate now. No time to flinch back from the horror of watching her own face melt into shimmering black anonymity, no time to think, God, Alex, what have you done. She pulled her combat neuromods to life with a spike of adrenaline and willpower, fired off a first stun gun bolt, and then threw out an arm and ripped the world apart.
There was a sound like a bomb going off, and a wave of pressure like a bomb going off to match it.
Kinetic Blast III. Morgan's favorite little party trick. Enough to upend an entire goddamn room, let alone one little cubbyhole like this. Morgan's fabrication diagrams came flying off the walls in a hurricane of paper; Morgan's meager furniture went flying around the room; Morgan went flying too, thanks to that whole annoying equal and opposite reaction thing. Across from her, the mimic was flung back against the far wall, its arms thrown up to guard its faceless head from a stun gun that couldn't do much more than annoy it.
Morgan hit the door with a sharp crack, winced as a shrill warning started up behind her—Alert! Alert! Structural damage taken!—and let her regeneration mods deal with her cracked ribs as she fired off another two sharp jolts of electricity into the center of the creature's mass.
Why the hell, Morgan wondered desperately, hadn't she carried something more lethal? Already the mimic—strangely humanoid even with its true form revealed, too upright and with too few appendages to be a true mimic and yet too small and too sharply-defined to be a phantom—was shrugging off the blows, staggering back to its feet. A moment longer and it would strike.
Morgan let the adrenaline—and her combat enhancer neuromod—wash over her in a dizzying flood, sharpening her thoughts and pushing the panic away. The door was broken, but she could still get out; a phantom shift to distract the creature and get her to the other corner of the room, shapeshift into something that could slip into the vents, and then a desperate rush to get to Elazar and the security station and some half-decent weapons before the thing could beat down the door.
The Typhon shook its featureless head. It glistened like an oil slick in the artificial light, smooth and mirrorlike. It twisted its body towards Morgan—she tensed, ready to dodge a blow—and then it held its hands out and said, in a voice like radio static, "Wait."
Morgan froze. Of course it could speak. It had just been speaking to her before. But some part of her refused to connect the nervous, friendly woman who wore her face to this faceless thing.
It had to be an echo. Like how the phantoms aboard Talos I had spoken, messages from the dead played on loop. A trick.
"Wait," it said again. "Morgan. Please." And then its body shifted fluidly, in something that would have been an awkward shrug if Morgan could've made herself believe a Typhon could learn how to shrug. "I told you you'd want to be sitting down for this."
Morgan let out a breath. "Holy shit. I. Holy shit." She should've used the distraction to line up another blast. Instead, she asked, "What are you?"
Not how did you find out about us? Not are you here to kill us? She didn't have to like the person she knew she could be, the woman who'd vaguely heard of ethics once and wasn't much impressed, but there wasn't a chance she could ever fully let go of that experimenter's side of herself. Some part of Morgan would always be more concerned with curiosity than safety, or strategy, or anything else.
"It's... complicated," the Typhon hissed out. It was impossibly eerie to hear one of them talk in unbroken, logically consistent sentences. Like waking up one morning, back on Earth, to hear the birds outside foregoing the morning song in favor of a discussion about philosophy. "Wait, let me..."
And then—grotesquely, unnervingly—the Typhon's body began to shift again. Pale pink strips of skin, like ribbons made of liquid flesh, flowed back over it to wrap its inky-black shadow of a body in human skin. Morgan's skin. Its face rippled and took shape: a familiar nose, familiar eyes, familiar hair and smile. It blinked its newly-made eyes, shook its head—and it was Morgan again, her own face staring back at her. A perfect replica, minus a few years.
"Shit," Morgan said, for the third time in about as many minutes. And then, because the combat enhancer was still pumping her full of all sorts of chemicals that blocked off things like fear, she asked, "Can you do anyone else?"
"Huh?" asked the mimic. Even her voice was Morgan's again. "Oh—no. And I can't really do inanimate objects, now, since... well. No. Only you."
Morgan thought for a moment, and then it sunk in. "Oh my god. This really is something Alex did, isn't—"
And then the door burst open.
Morgan had been leaning against it, so that wasn't great for her. The blow knocked her to the ground; she caught herself on her elbows and knees. Crawling forward would put her in range of the mimic. Staying where she was meant opening herself up to whatever was behind her.
Morgan crawled forward just in time to watch the door crumple the rest of the way inward. A hand—familiar and human, and holding a gun—forced its way through the gap, and then the rest of the human followed.
"Morgan," said Sarah Elazar, her voice sharp with worry, "are you—?"
Her gaze fell upon Morgan and, with it, the Not-Morgan. The look on her face went through a dizzying slideshow of emotions, impressively quickly—shock, fear, anger, grim recognition, before settling into a bland sort of resignation—before she finally snapped, "What are you doing? You shouldn't be here."
She wasn't talking to Morgan. Or, at least, she wasn't talking to her.
The face of Morgan's duplicate—the thing that was and wasn't a Typhon—twisted into a too-familiar frown. "You should've told me about this! You should've told her!"
"Wait," said Morgan. "Wait." She looked up at Sarah, into a face that was now turning from resignation to embarrassment. "You knew about this?"
So Alex had been hiding things. Fucking again.
"I wasn't intending to keep it from you, Morgan, this was a temporary arrangement—"
"Temporary?" snapped Morgan, throwing her hands up. "Until what? Until you found a good way to tell me, oh, by the way, Morgan, we put your brain into a mimic?"
"Until I had something to show!" snarled Alex, raising his voice to match hers. They both drew back from each other, perfectly matched—Alex, Morgan was sure, every bit as aware of the people beyond the lab's flimsy door as she was. And just as aware of how close they were to coming to blows.
They were tucked into another of Thanatos' artificial, white-walled rooms, this one a research lab that was only sometimes in use. Data collection monitors, hooked wirelessly into the station's outer panels, hummed gently where they were set into the walls. It wasn't much privacy—especially not with Sarah and the other Morgan hovering awkwardly just outside the lab door, both pretending they weren't desperate to know what was going on between her and Alex in here—but it was the best place they'd get without subjecting themselves to security cameras or crowds or both.
Alex took a deep breath and pressed a finger against the bridge of his nose, just below his glasses. "Until I had something that could convince you to come back aboard," he continued, quieter. "To make you start believing again that rescuing our planet isn't just some pipe dream." He sighed. "I need you, Morgan. Your mind, your ideas... it's not the same without you. It never was."
Right. Like he'd never said that sort of thing to her before. We're family, aren't we? I want you here. With me. The memory hit like a sledgehammer, raw and painful even years later.
"So what, then," Morgan asked, quieter but no less sharply, "is that what this is about? You couldn't get me onboard, so you remade me? Got yourself a replacement?"
Alex's eyes went wide. "Don't be ridiculous."
"How else am I supposed to take it, then, with someone else wearing my face a room over?"
Morgan knew she was treading into dangerous waters now. Her body felt itchy; her skin writhed against itself beneath her suit, reacting to her mood, ready to rip and tear and change in the face of an enemy her instincts were convinced she was about to fight.
She forced herself to breathe, forced her shivering alien skin to quiet. There was no enemy in front of her now. Just Alex.
"You're the one who let me take those neural scans," Alex told her, his voice low and not quite steady. "And I told you... I always told you I thought it might work. That it was something we should try."
"Yeah." Morgan couldn't help but crack a smile at that. "And I kept telling you it was a stupid fucking impossible plan, and you were an idiot for wanting to try it."
One point for Alex, at least. The jury was still out on stupid, but she'd been dead wrong about impossible.
"But you didn't say no," Alex said. "You never said no. And you've said no to a lot. So I went to the rest and told them..."
Morgan could already see where this was going. "You told them I'd okayed it, but I didn't want to take an active part in performing the experiment."
"Was I wrong?"
"You were stretching the truth, that's for sure. You sure you weren't a lawyer in another life?"
Not like she had much ground to stand on, considering everything she'd done. Her only defense was that she didn't remember being that person, and that was about as pathetic . Didn't mean she wasn't going to take the opportunity to give Alex a hard time. He could stand to hear it, considering there was a Typhon with her memories sitting only a room over.
"Fair," admitted Alex. "I should've tried harder to talk to you about it."
Should've tried at all, though Morgan drily. She would've taken at least some sort of interest if she'd known Alex was actively doing neurosurgery on Typhon bodies in one of the detached orbital labs.
(At least they'd been using a detached lab. If they'd risked creating Talos 2.0: This Time It's Worse for the sake of performing Typhon empathy experiments, she might actually have had to manifest some tentacles and strangle them all.)
"I'll admit, I wasn't expecting it to work," Alex continued. "Even from the beginning it was a pipe dream. A connection I never thought was going to be possible. All the tests ended up creating monsters. They killed everything they saw the moment they popped into the simulation, or they hid and never stopped hiding. We were just... spitballing, by the end of it. Hoping against hope." He spread his arms, a what can you do? sort of gesture. "And then, suddenly, there it was."
And that was another thing she would've rather not had to think about. Sarah could've brought it up to her, if she was that concerned for Morgan's input. Or Dayo, or Danielle, or... well, maybe not Mikhaila. That was a wound that wouldn't heal over a friendly cup of fabricated tea and a, So, Alex has been talking about Typhon neuro-enhancement, how do you feel about it?. But the rest of them—none of them had come by to ask whether she had any especially strong opinions on what was being done with her data. With her mind.
Morgan resisted the urge to touch her ruined eye. She'd wondered if her isolation was the only reason she hadn't been seeing much of them. Guess that answered her question.
Not that she could blame them. She knew she was... alarming now. Skin-crawlingly off to any human, let alone one who'd survived Talos I and the mass of Typhon there. She'd just been hoping she'd be able to spend the rest of her life in blissful ignorance over it.
But, god, how had they been treating the other her? No chance they'd let her meet anyone, talk to anyone who wasn't them, and they way Sarah'd looked at the other her when she'd first stepped through that ruined door...
They were good people, all of them. Better than Alex. Much, much better than her. But there was one single person aboard Thanatos—or any of humanity's remaining vessels, for that matter—who she trusted to take care of a Typhon forced to take on a human shape and a human mind, and it was the woman with a brain full of alien neuromatter and the voiceless songs of Weavers invading her sleep every night.
"Look," Morgan said, "I'm not dropping this, all right? I'm still mad at you. This conversation isn't over."
"But?" Alex asked. He had the audacity to sound pleased, the bastard. She should've stolen his stuff more often when they were kids. It would've been prospectively karmic.
"But," Morgan echoed, "I want back in. This involves me, this is about me—you don't get to keep me out of this anymore."
Alex smiled at her. "Glad to have you back aboard."
At least one person on the team could still blatantly ignore how fucked up she was now. Hell, he was so good at ignoring it he'd went and created himself another half-alien monster sibling, just for kicks. Their family tree was going to be a goddamn work of art from here on out.
"And one more thing." Morgan scowled at him. This was going to be the harder sell. "I want to be the one who makes the final decisions on her care."
Alex's brow furrowed. "Her..?" And then he realized. "Morgan, no. Absolutely not. It's already slipped containment once—"
"She," Morgan snapped, surprising Alex and herself both with how vehement the word came out, "is confused, and freaking out, and sure someone's going to want to murder her at any moment. And she's got reason to be afraid! She wants answers, and human companionship... and we need to give her that, Alex. If this person you made is going to become the—the diplomat for our species, or whatever it is you're dreaming this is going to be, then we'd damn well better make sure she thinks our people are worth speaking on behalf of!"
"Morgan," Alex said quietly, taken aback. "I..."
His eyes caught hers. For the first time in a long time, he was looking directly at her ruined eye, at the bloodshot sclera and half-collapsed pupil that marked where she'd injected Typhon neuromatter into her again and again.
Morgan grit her teeth and snapped her mouth shut. She'd said too much already, hadn't she? Too sympathetic to her planet's murderers, too caught up in a species not her own... but how could she not be, with what she was? With the woman who looked like her a younger version of herself sitting just outside this room, depending on her?
There were parts of Thanatos she couldn't enter without becoming something inanimate and sneaking through the ceiling vents. The turrets didn't recognize her as a human. And that was pretty damn funny, honestly, even she had to admit it was, but she'd thought of it in that moment in her lab when she first heard a comprehensible voice coming from a Typhon's body, when black had turned to pale pink and a face that was her own, drawn tight with fear and hope and longing.
This hybrid creature was at least as human as Morgan herself was. Maybe more. Even Alex didn't understand exactly what he'd created yet.
"Look. You don't have to agree to my terms yet. Talk to Sarah, or Danielle, or Dayo, or... whoever you need to. But don't—don't dismiss them out of hand, either, all right? And don't do anything crazy until you've talked to me."
"You, telling people not to do crazy shit? That's rich." Alex scoffed at her, but his voice was gentle. "And yeah. All right. It's... she's... I do want to take of her, same as you. Just so you know. She's really something special, Morgan, isn't she? Like you are. I was hoping you'd see it too."
He was half-smiling now. That, finally, was what let Morgan breathe. That smile meant he'd been convinced, even if he hadn't realized it himself yet. He'd listen to her on this.
"Yeah," Morgan said, "like me. Sure. Can't imagine why."
She swept away from him and towards the door, ready to let the conversation settle there for. Better not to risk talking Alex out of something she'd only just talked him into. If he ended up with cold feet sometime in the future, she could argue her point again.
But she couldn't help herself, not entirely: she paused at the threshold of the room, just short of opening the door, and turned back to look at Alex.
"By the way, I still haven't let you off the hook," she said.
"Yeah?" asked Alex, one eyebrow raised.
"You've got competition for the favorite sibling title for the first time ever, and right now? You've got some catching up to do."
"Morgan—" Alex started again, suddenly sounding more than a little terrified, but she ignored him as she opened the door with a mechanical hiss and let it shut behind her.
Let him worry. About her impartiality, her sympathies—whatever he liked. Morgan's new mirror image had the Yu family looks, the memories of growing up a Yu...
Never mind they were both borrowed. That hardly mattered. Memories had been fluid, transferable things since the moment Alex and his team invented the neuromod; it was only fair that her family should embrace what they'd created. And she knew already, deep down in the part of her that understood her brother best, that he'd end up coming over to her side on this issue too.
For now, she motioned for her mirror image to step in behind her and said, casually, to Sarah, "Your Typhon buddy's staying with me for the time being, all right? Let me know if you need either of us for anything."
"That isn't a good idea—"
Morgan grabbed her doppelganger's arm and dragged them both down the hall before Sarah could protest more. "Alex okayed it, all right? Talk to him if you have a problem!"
Sarah Elazar angry at a security breach was a sight to behold. Another thing Alex could be mad at her about later, she thought, watching Sarah's face turn down into a scowl as she marched towards the lab Alex was still inside.
Oh well. He knew where they'd be. He could come find them if he was too worried.
"Can you do much in the way of Typhon stuff?" she asked casually as she led them away from the lab at a brisk pace. "No judgment, I'm only asking because we might need to make a quick getaway depending on how soon those two realize I lied to Sarah."
"Ah," said the doppelganger. "I'm not too sure, they've been going slow with the testing. Probably not as much as you can, I think."
Yeah, that was what she'd been hoping not to hear. More Typhon than the Typhon was.
Oh well. Morgan shrugged, said, "Not a big deal, then, we'll do this human-style."
"Walk fast and act busy?"
"Exactly! See, you've got all the important info from me, you're already golden." And then, because it was getting to be a pain in the ass thinking about the doppelganger and the Other Morgan, she asked, "You have a name, by the way?"
"Uh. I have your name?"
"Hm, okay, yeah, we're going to have to come up with something else, then. No offense, sharing a face and a name is a bit too much. They really didn't call you anything besides that?"
"I mean, they used Typhon, mostly, but that... would probably raise a few eyebrows."
"Hah, yeah, you're not kidding."
Morgan knew a few names her dad had once had in mind in case he and her mom ever had a third kid—but then, the idea of choosing anything at all in her dad's memory would be a lot more appealing if he hadn't once tried to have her and Alex assassinated, so maybe she wouldn't suggest those.
They were approaching Morgan's quarters once more, so far unseen. Which was a good thing, too, because Morgan's only real strategy for if they'd run into someone in the walls was to turn into a coffee cup and hope her other self could do a damn good job of bluffing. Morgan was already cataloguing a list of things she needed to do—clean the papers off her living quarters' floor, fix the door, fabricate an air mattress for her other self—but before they could head inside, her doppelganger grabbed her wrist.
"Hey," she said, a little urgently, a little nervously. "This is... weird, maybe, but if I can ask—were you serious about what you said in the lab?"
"The lab? Oh. Oh. You heard that, huh?"
The other Morgan went a little pink. "My hearing's pretty good."
Better than a human's, that was for sure. She hadn't meant for anyone but Alex to hear that.
She'd meant it, though. So it wasn't at all a problem to say, "Yeah, dead serious. I mean, you might not thank me for that—I don't know if you noticed from, uh, all the memories, but our family's kind of a fucking nightmare—but for better or worse you're stuck with us now."
"Better. Definitely better."
"Oh man, just you wait," said Morgan, but she was smiling too.
It was energizing, somehow, to have a purpose again. Someone to protect. A plan, no matter how massive and ill-defined it might be. She felt alive in a way she hadn't in months.
It didn't happen often, and she'd never admit out loud when it did, but sometimes Alex was right.