From a writer to whom “comparisons to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and S.J. Watson’s Before I Go To Sleep are justified” (Library Journal), in Prototype, a woman’s dual pasts lock onto a collision course
Emma looks forward to the day when she can stop running from her past—both of them. But when Declan Burke decides he wants his wife back, there’s nowhere on the planet she can hide. One man could help her, but he’s the person Emma most dreads confronting: Noah Tucker. When she finally returns to face him, Emma discovers that Noah has moved on and another woman is raising their daughter.
Emma will stop at nothing to reveal the truth and prove she isn’t the woman they thought she was. Even if it means she winds up dead. Or worse, reborn.
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M. D. WATERS is the author of Archetype. She lives in Maryland.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
I float in nothing.
The tether binding my incorporeal form keeps me from floating into the abyss that is arctic and as black as pitch. The restraint is also fragile. One wrong move and I will have nothing to hold me.
Wake up, Emma. It is only a dream.
Not a dream, though. My worst nightmare.
The abyss I float in threatens death.
· · ·
I shoulder through the thick crowd of men, clinging to the straps of my backpack. Sweat streams down my spine. Gusts of wind have pulled strands of hair free from my knotted bun and they stick to my neck. Dust clouds the area, kicked up by children playing to the side of the uneven cobbled road and by the marching of heavy military boots. Militia patrol Zirahuén’s street market to thwart any trouble in the otherwise friendly haggling system.
I keep my head down and sunglasses on to avoid eye contact. Any sign of interest on my part makes men too aggressive, too hands-on. It did not take me long to learn this in the year and four months that I have been free. Not every country’s government is regimented to the slavery of women like the eastern half of America is, but that does not mean women are not wanted.
I keep my wedding ring—the ring Declan Burke gave me in the weeks before he died—on a chain around my neck. Sliding the set of diamonds on my finger has saved me multiple times. If men believe I am married, most tend to back off out of respect for my “husband.”
The ring is the last of the jewelry I took from my old home, and I hate to part with it, but it is time. I am nearly out of money and have nothing to show for it. In the year I have searched for my parents, I have come up with only one promising lead: the name of a man who lives in Mexico, of all places. Zirahuén, Michoacán, to be exact. A village beside Lake Zirahuén in the central highlands of Mexico.
The man I seek is ex-resistance like my parents, who seem to be nothing more than ghosts. After escaping a prison in America’s eastern territory more than twenty years ago, they disappeared without a trace. For all I know, they could have died. Either way, I have to know what happened to them. Maybe if I find them alive—I refuse to believe they are dead—I can finally figure out where I fit in this world.
Knowing I am Emma Wade—ex–resistance major, wife of Noah Tucker, mother to Adrienne—does not change the fact that I am still a clone carrying Her soul. That those I left behind could not bring themselves to accept me for who I am. I am forced to make a new life for myself, and this is all I hope to do once I find my parents.
I politely decline the hagglers stepping in my path on my way to the area selling produce. I am told the man I seek sells fruit, but this is all I know. Three blocks into the market, I find a row of five carts selling various types.
Stopping, I ignore the shoulders brushing past. Rubbing the tight muscles in the back of my neck, I blow out a gust of air. Five carts. Five men. And I do not speak Spanish.
I pass the first three because the men are too young to be the man I seek. The fourth is a man who cannot be younger than eighty, speaks no English, and cannot stop staring at my breasts . . . or the ring lying between them. I know he could be the right man, but my instincts say definitely not.
One glance at the last cart reveals another young man, late teens, and my stomach falls. Peter swore I would find him here, and though I spent only two weeks on his ranch in Montana, I trust him more than I have trusted anyone in a very long time.
The ex–resistance general took me in at my lowest point. A time when I was beginning to believe I would never find my parents. When thoughts of the family I left behind clawed at my guilt. But also a time when my abyss dreams had progressed into a true nightmare.
The peace I found with Peter could not have come at a better time. More than that, he gave me hope again with a single name: Cesar Ruiz.
An older man exchanges places with the young man behind the last cart and my heart leaps. I approach the cart, which houses red apples. Flies swarm the bruised skin, removing any appeal. The man behind the rotting wood wears a wide-brimmed hat and has a shock of salt-and-pepper hair flaring around his deeply wrinkled face. He rubs wide, stubby fingers over his mustache while studying me with dark eyes.
I remove my sunglasses and hang them from the front of my tank top. “Cesar Ruiz?”
Please speak English.
The man shakes his head and speaks rapidly in Spanish. He also avoids looking me in the eye.
I hold up my hands to stop him and try to regulate the air that has just become trapped in my lungs. This has to be him. “I do not understand. Do you speak English?”
The young man from before sidles up beside me. His black hair is pulled taut in a low-hanging ponytail. “What is it you need, American?”
“I am looking for someone. Cesar Ruiz?”
“Not today, lady. Tomorrow.”
The boy’s eyes shift quickly to the old man, and I know intuitively I have found the right place. This would not be the first time ex-resistance has lied to me about their true identity. Even in a whole other country than the Americas, they would not want to be found by the wrong person. I have to be careful not to scare him off.
“My name is Emma Wade,” I tell him. “He knew my parents, Lily and Stephen. I am only trying to find them.”
I finish with a pointed look at the old man. His head is tilted in a way that says he listens, but he swats at the hovering flies in an effort to deflect suspicion. I know this tactic and am not fooled.
Instead of nodding or giving me the brush-off, the young boy picks up an apple from the cart. “Not today,” he repeats, squinting into the sun. He tosses the fruit in the air and catches it in his other hand, then rolls it between his palms.
The next time the apple flies in the air, I snatch it away. “Tell him I have come a long way and will not leave without the answers I came for.”
The boy opens his mouth to respond when the old man steps around the cart, hands raised. “It is okay, Miguel.”
I let out a relieved sigh. That did not take as long as I expected. “You are Cesar?”
He casts a furtive glance around. “Not for a long time. How did you hear of me?”
“An old friend of yours named Peter. I ran into him in Montana. He made me groom a lot of horses before telling me where to find you.”
Cesar nods toward the shade of an alley behind his cart, shouting orders in Spanish to Miguel. Once we stand between the buildings, he glances around to determine if we are alone.
He removes his hat and fans his face. “You are resistance?”
“No.” Not exactly a lie. Originally, yes, but I am not Her anymore. He does not need to hear my complicated story. “I have friends working against Burke Enterprises.”
His eyes widen. “This will not be easy. Not after—”
“—the cloning. I know.”
I am curious if Noah was as surprised as I was when the government practically begged Burke Enterprises to begin a cloning program on a much grander scale. They even went as far as to erase the charges against Arthur Travista for the murder of the two hosts of their first successful clones. Ruby and Lydia refused to press charges, anyway. And why would they? They are alive and well with healthy babies. A miracle of science.
No one knew the truth about me, thank God. The few friends Declan trusted with this secret have thus far kept quiet, believing Declan and I were kidnapped by the resistance. At least that is the story they tell the media. With the security system—put in place by Noah himself—there is no way they did not see my fight with Declan. I am not sure how far out the view went, but they know I was the last to see him alive, at the very least.
I shiver, suddenly cold despite the humidity. Declan will forever stare at me from the cold depths of that lake.
“Did you know my parents?” I ask.
“Stephen and Lily Wade, you say?”
A single round shoulder lifts as he looks down the alley and into the market, where so far no one pays us any attention. “I knew a lot of men who went by the name Stephen, but no one by the last name Wade. The only Lily I knew was a Lily Garrett. Young woman with no husband. No children. Our time in the southeast region was short. It is possible she could have gotten married after I left.”
My heartbeat races in opposition to the plummeting feeling in my stomach. “Peter said—”
“Pete and I have been around a long time. Have known a lot of people.” He taps his temple. “We have good, long memories. If I once knew a couple by this name, I would, and could, tell you.”
I should feel numb to these dead ends by now, but I am not. I clench my jaw and turn to hide the tears brimming in my eyes. They are more a sign of my mounting frustration than anything else. This and I am exhausted from the long day of traveling to get here. Crossing Mexico’s border cost me a lot of my remaining funds; then I had to travel by aerotrain for half a day before reaching a working teleporter. All for nothing.
My thoughts are interrupted by the sound of three pitched dings in the street. Cesar and I step out of the alley and look up at the holograph image of an emergency broadcast filling the sky.
The blond male newscaster is American, according to his accent. The Spanish translation runs along the bottom of the holo-sky stream. I stare past the reporter in the video feed to the building behind him, a flutter of nerves winging through my stomach. The main office building of Burke Enterprises towers above all of Richmond, Virginia, a grand structure of glass and steel.
“Must be about the clones,” Cesar says with a scowl deepening the wrinkles on his face. “Burke Enterprises wants the world to know how important they are.”
These same broadcasts air in America. I had not expected them to stretch to other countries, but I should not be surprised. Infertility is a worldwide issue, and no doubt other countries are salivating for Dr. Travista’s “cure.” The one he keeps to himself and that other scientists are unable to replicate.
No one has figured out how the elusive doctor managed to transfer an entire soul into a cloned body capable of carrying multiple pregnancies. According to Dr. Travista’s reports, we clones can even accept donated organs now; we are no longer as fragile as our predecessors were.
In a newsroom, a dashing man with too-white teeth speaks into the camera. “. . . a while since we’ve heard from the creator himself, Dr. Arthur Travista, so do you think he’s making a rare appearance today, Tim?”
The camera switches back to the man in front of Burke Enterprises. A strong wind tunnels through and lifts his carefully placed hair.“That’s a good question, Isaac, and the consensus here is that, yes, we will indeed be hearing from Dr. Travista today. It’s possible he wants to add to the recent statement released from the White House regarding the rising number of successful pregnancies since the birth of a daughter from the Original Clone herself, Ruby Godfrey, just this past winter.”
The man, Tim, pauses and tilts his head as if listening to someone speaking in an earpiece. He glances behind him and says, “It appears the moment has come, and I am told, Isaac, that it is not Dr. Arthur Travista. Let’s tune in now to where the surprise speaker approaches the podium.”
The massive crowd surrounding the dais goes deathly quiet. Camera flashes burst sporadically as finely dressed men spill through glass revolving doors. In the center of this protective cluster is a tall man with cropped dark hair, his head bowed just enough to hide from the camera. Despite his hidden face, I know this man too intimately to be fooled. Yet it is impossible.
Knees weak, I brace a hand on the corner of the tan and red building to my left. This cannot be real. But I do not imagine the broad set of shoulders or the sure gait of the man who demands respect from everyone around him.
Declan Burke reaches the podium and looks into the roaring audience. Flashbulbs erupt in a frenzy as the photographers race to capture every angle of the man long believed captive of the resistance.
Off-camera, Tim gives the audience a brief rundown of the past year in an exuberant tone: Declan’s disappearance, how without his financial aid and support we would not have the promise of a thriving future. If Dr. Travista is the “father” of cloning, Declan is definitely the “godfather.”
Declan raises his hands for silence, casting the throng his devastating smile. Even now my heart skips. Despite our last days together, I loved this man too much for my own good. While our world requires men to think of their women as possessions, Declan treated me with more kindness and love than I deserved. His patience in those first months of my clone life went above and beyond what any other man would have deemed necessary. It has taken me a long time to admit this, but I am the woman I am now because of him. My past, what little I remember, has not defined me.
Declan tugs down on the dark blue suit jacket he wears—my favorite color on him—while he waits for the crowd to calm. Meanwhile, I study the small changes in him. He wears the shadow of a goatee and tightly trimmed hair. His crowd-pleasing smile does not reach his eyes. He is also thinner than I remember.
“It has been a long year,” he says in his deep voice. Every syllable raises goose bumps along my skin. “A year of many successes for the human race. God willing, the success will only continue to grow.”
His expression sobers and he shifts his weight. “I am only sorry it was a year I could not celebrate with you. For me, it was a year of fear at the hands of the resistance, followed by several months of recovery. A year I will never get back, but a year I intend to be repaid,”he finishes with a fist on the podium.
Arms rise in the air and obscure the perfect shot of Declan, who waits in silence while the men cheer. A taut line stretches his full mouth. This matches the fire in his eyes perfectly.
“I came here today not to discuss my harrowing year with these so-called freedom fighters but to beg you, the people of every nation watching this broadcast, to help me.”
Declan’s gaze falls, and a look of sheer loss paints his expression. The strong hands that know every inch of my skin slide up and grip the edges of the podium. His chest rises and falls hard beneath his fine suit.
Then his gaze lifts, and there lies a heat that had not been there prior. Through the camera, past all the miles between us, the intensity of his stare sears into me. As if he sees me. As if there is no distance between us at all.
“The resistance took my wife, Emma. And I want her back.”
My breath catches on the heels of his announcement. Why would he do this? Revenge? Have I not paid enough?
Declan continues, though his voice is nearly drowned out by my heartbeat rushing in my ears. “I’m offering a reward in the amount of a hundred thousand dollars for any information leading to the rescue of my wife, Emma. But,” he says in a sharp tone that emphasizes the word, “bring her to me alive, and you will be a millionaire ten times over.”
My picture flashes across the hologram along with a phone number. It is an old picture—my hair was chin length then—taken from the showing of my art in a gallery. My first and last show.
Cesar pushes me into the wall, where I hit with a thunk. Pieces of the weathered surface fall and pebble around our feet. He grips my thro...
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