My fingers drifted over her palm, a microscopic but still infinite space between, and still I knew how soft her skin was.
“What do you think?” Dr. Abello asked. Her curiosity was sincere, if clinical.
“I know it’s not her,” I replied, searching the young woman’s eyes for memories I knew we didn’t share.
“You’ll always know it’s not her,” she said. “But this is the closest you’ll ever get. We’ve finely gotten to one-hundred percent genetic similarity.”
She was right. I knew that. Her face was like Amara’s. The overbite. The beauty mark on her forehead. Even the shade of her skin was perfect. I still knew it wasn’t her. Not really.
“This is it,” she said. “Our last attempt.”
The bay door boomed and bent and creaked and cracked under the assault on its other side. They would soon be inside, angry at how I’d wasted the resources meant to keep them alive. I didn’t care.
I turned away and gazed out at the rows of tubes holding other Amaras, each less perfect than this one. Each less perfect than my Amara. The Amara I left behind.
“I’m sorry I let it get this far. We should have known better. You’ve been a good friend to me.”
“I didn’t do this for you,” Dr. Abello clarified. “I’ve been sending my research back to Earth since we began.” Then, as an afterthought, “What do we do with them all?”
There was no good answer. I walked away from her knowing that the generation ship took me 22 miles further from Amara every second. 79,200 miles further from her every hour. 1,900,800 miles further from her every day.
I walked away knowing that no matter how many pictures I kept of her, how many memories I relived, nor how many clones I sanctioned in the hopes of cauterizing my self-inflicted wound—I would never see her again. In all likelihood she was already dead, the effects of relativity cruelly allowing her to live out her remaining years in a fraction of my own. It was pointless.
I stopped and Dr. Abello straightened. “I’m opening the bay doors,” I said. “We’ll let them decide what happens next.”
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