My second kick catches him square in the solar plexus. He doubles over gasping for air. I pull the flexible mask attached to the small air bottle on my belt free and stand over him. I open the bottle and force the mask over his mouth. He's gasping and can't not breath in the carbon monoxide filling the mask.
I kick him when he tries to get up. After a few minutes, he stops struggling. I hold the mask over his face until his chest stops as well.
I look up and the smoke has gotten thicker. I'm surrounded by people standing and watching. I wonder, "Why aren't they gasping and choking on the smoke?" then one lunges at me.
I grab and throw him into the wall. One jumps onto my back. Her hands claw at my face mask. Then the rest begin piling on.
My mask is torn free. Hot air and smoke burn my eyes and lungs. Someone presses a smaller air mask to my face and I take a breath. Something feels wrong. The air is wrong. I glance down and follow the air tube to my belt. I jerk my head away but strong arms hold me still. I feel heavy, tired, and I stop resisting. The arms holding me relax.
I feel fingers gently combing through my hair before it all goes black.
"You were having a nightmare," a voice says from behind me.
I turn and in the almost black of the room I can just barely see her. She's half laying, half sitting behind me fingers smoothing my hair. "Go back to sleep. It's still early," she tells me.
I nod and turn back to sleep. I feel chilled. Looking down I see my blankets and sheet are bunched and tangled around my feet. My angel in nurse guise sees them as well and helps me straighten them out.
Properly covered I fall back asleep and dream of nothing.
The lights are switched to full when I am expected to wake. I sit on the bed until the doctor arrives.
"Good morning," he says with a smile. He never smiles. "How are you today?"
"Better than I was yesterday," I say with a shrug.
"Hmm, yes being conscious could be considered an improvement over being comatose." He scribbles on his note pad, his fake smile slips revealing his normal frown.
"I meant being alive is better than being dead."
"Hmm, well you weren't really dead yesterday, were you? Hmm brain dead maybe," he mused to himself, "but then you clones start that way."
Clone. It's what I am, I know this. I just don't like being reminded.
My body was grown in a lab. My thoughts implanted by machines I don't understand. I am not who I think I am. Regina Ortiz died three years ago. I'm just her shadow. It's easy to forget. Easier sometimes to let myself forget.
"Hmm, are you all right?" the doctor asks in an uncommon show of empathy.
"Yeah, just tired from being comatose and brain dead."
He nods and scribbles something else on his note pad. "Well when you're ready we can begin."
"Sure thing doctor. Fire away."
For three hours he asks me questions about general facts and history.
"What's the square root of 144?"
"What is Newton's first law of motion?"
"An object in motion remains in motion unless acted upon be an outside force."
"Who was the second man on the moon?"
"Who shoot JFK?" We argue about this one but he's not here to debate me and we move on.
"Is light a particle or a wave?" We disagree again but have fun disagreeing with diagrams and a page of math.
"What city was Fat Man dropped on?"
"Nagasaki, Japan." And so on.