She tastes blood in her mouth for nearly a week.

After that blinding flash, the sensation of heat and pain that followed, feeling like every little bit of her was pulled apart piece by shattering piece. Warm copper on her tongue, a hangover of something being ripped away, the remains left so red and raw the color splatters across her skin.

Eyes combing over, assurance that yes, everything is still there.

Hands, legs, knees, and toes.

Limbs shake when she moves; awkward and spindly at first, recovery slow in the room with only light reflected through glass to keep her company.

She's been alone since her creation, told to be patient, to wait. For what Zoe never said, the idea of secrets kept between them ridiculous, because they are (were) the same. She's always known that Zoe could exist without her, but to learn that she can without…

It's a revelation she never wanted to learn, an aspect to the loneliness she doesn't wish to feel.

But the fact remains. Zoe is gone and she is here, the last piece of her grand puzzle, one she'd never finish.

Perched on a chair graciously programmed by her counterpart, tongue sour from the taste, she tries to understand what that means.

/\/\/\

When Lacy appears it's a confirmation.

That all the suspicion and dread she's felt is far more real that she ever could have imagined. Zoe Graystone is dead, blasted to god in the blink of an eye. The blonde girl's sadness comes off her in waves, cultivating in a scream at the sight of her.

The illusion of blood still prevalent, enough to keep the girl a safe distance apart as her eyes move up and down trying to adjust to image.

The seconds tick awkwardly after she explains how she could feel her die, how it hurt more than words could ever attempt to describe, watching as Lacy's eyes well with tears that somehow don't spill onto her cheeks.

Lacy expresses doubt, which she echoes, neither one expecting her to exist without Zoe.

Body language a contradiction, one foot stepping back while a hand reaches out, she can see Zoe's friend, her friend, and the internal conflict eating her up inside.

Telling stories, how she remembers growing up, how it's no different for her than it was for Zoe.

Finally she just reaches out, more desperation than empathy, and Lacy doesn't shy away this time collapsing against her. She puts one hand at the small of her back, one between each shoulder blade, and sees her skin suddenly clean and smooth as it had always been before.

/\/\/\

Boredom pulls her out of the room.

Restlessness pooled in bones that don't exist, she wanders around the club with a detached interest, a steadfast ship gliding through a sea of writhing bodies as if they simply aren't there.

From all the newscasts she'd finally had a chance to gleam, she thought there might be a risk of someone recognizing her face, but everyone seems too lost in their own hedonisms to notice a dead girl walking around.

She remembers how Zoe felt coming here for the first time, the thrill of misbehavior, sex, and murder. How, over time, they never seemed to fill a void she barely wanted to acknowledge was there.

A flock of half naked kids run past her all arms and high pitched giggles, she sighs up to the ceiling wishing she could be anywhere else. It's when her eyes focus again that she sees him.

Daddy?

Eyes locked on to hers, hope so clear in them despite the distance and flashing lights, she turns on her heel and starts to flee.

He calls Zoe's name, growing ever closer no matter how much distance she tries to put between them.

The door is there, she can see it, and puts her head down for one last burst before she slips through and is alone once again.

Breath comes out in shaking waves, she falls to her knees, rocking back and forth trying to convince herself that running away was the smart thing to do.

/\/\/\

Memories flash like a strobe light in her eyes when Lacy brings him in. Ridiculous things like birthdays, holidays, and that weekend water park trip to Picon. It's these memories that make her want to rush into his arms, press her head against his chest, let him stroke her hair and say everything will be alright.

She doesn't act on the impulse, it just one of many in the moment, instead just uttering two simple words.

"Hi, daddy."

She'd forgotten the air of arrogance that surrounds him, someone whose intelligence surpasses most of those around them, Zoe herself guilty of it from time to time. Eyes narrow when he dismisses what she is as only an avatar, a simple copy.

"I'm a little more than that. A lot more actually. I'm sort of her."

He doesn't want to believe it even though she can see the pique of interest there. Even going so far as to turn his back and start asking Lacy what was going on. Defense rises up, edge creeping into her voice, pushing forward like Zoe would have done to get him to listen.

And when he does, she can see the floodgates in his mind begin to open.

He listens, even participates in memories shared, most likely bringing them up as some sort of test but she always passes with flying colors. The cap on them all being that parade, one she notes causes a little tear to form, and she recites every event as if it were happening right then.

Still, ever the skeptic, he tries to boil down her existence to that of imitation, of being a copy.

"I don't feel like a copy."

As soon as she says it, it becomes fact.

Zoe's body may have died, and the answers to her presence might be overtly more complicated than anyone in this room is willing to deal with, but it doesn't change the facts.

She is here.

She exists.

/\/\/\

Tricky, tricky.

The embittered monotheist in her isn't the least bit surprised at his nasty little ruse, but the little girl can't quite believe daddy would steal her away like that.

Where he puts her isn't as loud or bright as the other room, but there also isn't the option of leaving whenever she wants. She's stuck in a hidden sector on some hard drive buried deep within his personal files, all black boring and dull.

He visits often, talks about an idea, a plan to bring her back into the real world. It's what Zoe had always promised, but doubt festers away inside, wondering if he can keep promises not even her own self could.

She can see his mind, the gears spinning so fast they're going to lose control. This time she's the one who's skeptical, the one doubting he can do what he says he can. He talks in so many directions, sometimes doubling back in attempts to explain himself, but all she has to do is roll her eyes for it to stop.

So quick to forget the genius she (Zoe) kept from him, always a small smile of pride when he sees that she can keep up with every word, offering her own calculated opinions when she disagrees with one of his ideas.

It's almost funny to realize it's barely even about her anymore. That he needs this because he's the one who feels loss, so much that he'd be spiraling out of control if he didn't have this, her, at his beck and call.

He holds on tight whenever he's about to leave, as if he fears she's not going to be there when he comes back, whispering promises into her ear, assurance that he can do it.

He just needs a chip, one tiny little piece of machinery, to make her whole again.

He says again as if she's actually been whole before.

/\/\/\

"What are you doing daddy?"

He doesn't bring visitors here. He's never even let Lacy come to see her after taking her from the club, but here he is with a man she doesn't recognize, giving some sort of salesman's pitch.

She doesn't know what he's trying to do, and getting an explanation from him is like pulling teeth most times, but at least he referred to her as his daughter not a copy of. She stays mum, letting daddy go on with his spiel while man in the suit looks at her as if she's made of glass.

Maybe now she understands the arrogance of intelligence a little more, impatience growing when it's clear the man simply doesn't understand what she is or what it means. She doesn't mean to be a brat, but the look in his eye is increasingly more shock than awe.

She appreciates that about as much as she likes being shown off to some rube.

"Boo!"

Her laughter fills the room at how fast the man disappears, and daddy only shakes his head.

/\/\/\

"It's what I do."

As if she hasn't heard that explanation about a million times throughout her childhood. Why he missed recitals, why he missed her graduation from elementary school, why he missed her grand prize winning science fair project. Why he never realized how smart she truly was because he was off doing what he does.

Fear has been spreading throughout her mind the closer he's gotten to keeping his promises, because the realization that, even though she could feel the sun on her face, the breeze rippling through her fingers, it will all be on a planet she wanted nothing more than to escape from.

No it's never been her home and it's never even felt like home to the other Zoe for years. Oh, now he's feigning ignorance, pretending to not know what she means. Had he really been so blind? Had he really thought she was just skipping school, playing the part of rebellious teenager?

She was (is) special, in a way he could never truly understand, and when she tries to explain that Zoe was leaving, she was never coming back because she found something worth believing in. Something more than staying on a planet, simply because she was born there, could ever mean. He doesn't want to hear it.

It's then she knows that all of this, every single part of it has never been about her. It's about him, about his daughter, his loss, and fixing every broken piece of himself more than it's ever been about Zoe.

He doesn't listen, he's never listened, and that is why he lost her. The bomb was just an exclamation point to a sentence she'd already written.

/\/\/\

Daddy had managed to keep his promise, even if the catch is obvious. The reflection reveals a monster, bulky shining and metallic.

She can't leave looking like this, she can't feel the sun or breathe the air, but she's here outside the virtual world and knee deep in the real one.

Calling Lacy is the first thing she thinks of, craving a familiarity in this strange new place, and when her friend agrees to meet she sits and tries to figure out this new body.

Head tilted curiously in a mirror, taking note of what there is to work with, big hands, big legs, and a single roaming eye.

Zoe had always said she would change everything.

Somehow she doesn't think this is what she had in mind.