Dr. Kara Lucern flinched from the light as thousands of camera flashes went off in rapid succession. There should be a law against this. What if she had been prone to seizures?

“Dr. Lucern,” a reporter called out, “what do you have to say about the controversy over your work?”

She ignored him. She wasn’t very good with people. Sometimes she felt like she became a scientist just because it was expected for scientists to be a little anti-social.

“Mr. Lucern,” another shouted at her husband. “How does it feel to be declared legally alive again?”

“Is there an afterlife?”

“Have you given full thought to the ramifications of this experiment?”

“What do you think this means for modern medicine?”

“Can you bring back Michael Jackson?”

“How do you justify co-opting a billion dollar experiment for your own personal gain?”

“Where do you get off, playing God?”

This last one was not a reporter, but someone in the crowd. The man threw something — Kara had no idea what it was, since it was deflected by a police officer’s riot shield before it came anywhere close to her or her husband. The police escorting them hurried them to the limousine.

A police detective was waiting inside. Once they were seated, she tapped on the glass, and the car moved out into the streets.

Nobody said anything, not right away. Kara kept glancing out the tinted windows, but once they were a few blocks away from the courthouse, the crowd thinned out drastically.

The detective smiled. “You don’t do things by halves, do you, sister?”

Kara frowned at her sister, Beatrice. “I’ve never understood that expression. If you only do half of a job, you don’t accomplish anything. If you only drove halfway to work, you might as well not drive anywhere at all.” She was trying to distract herself, and she knew it. It wasn’t really working.

“And how are you doing, John?” Beatrice asked. The question had unusual weight, Kara thought. It was usually just a simple nicety, but in John’s case, it wasn’t so simple anymore.

John didn’t say anything at first. This was normal for him. John was a quiet man, and had always thought over his words carefully before speaking.

If she was completely honest with herself, though, she thought he might be taking longer now than he did before. That wasn’t necessarily the experiment, though. War changes people. There were people who were, mentally speaking, doing a lot worse than John was.

He smiled. “I’ve felt worse.”

Beatrice laughed. “I’m still wrapping my head around it, you know?”

“It’s not easy for me, either.” He was still smiling, but Kara noticed him glance out the window.

“Ignore them,” Beatrice said. “You fought for the freedom that lets them be assholes like that. Hell, you died for their freedom. It’s downright unreasonable for them to insist you stay dead.”

“Playing God, hmmph!” Kara snorted. The others turned to face her, and she realized she had spoken out loud. “It’s just a ridiculous phrase, that’s all. I mean, what did I do that’s any different than an ordinary doctor performing a resuscitation?”

“Eighteen months and four-hundred and twenty billion dollars,” Beatrice said.

“My point is the Bible specifically says we’re supposed to help each other, doesn’t it? If someone’s hungry, you feed them. If someone’s hurt, you grab the first aid kit.”

“And if someone’s dead, you inject their brain with microscopic robots.”

“You’re making fun of me,” Kara said, but she smiled. Beatrice teased her whenever she could. The fact that she was making jokes meant that she understood what was going on, and was okay with it. Kara felt immensely relieved by that. It was ridiculous, of course, but she was starting to feel like nobody outside the lab appreciated what they had accomplished.

John put one of his giant hands over his and squeezed gently. “Not everybody’s upset by this,” he said. He had always been able to tell what Kara was thinking.

His hand was warm, and soft, and exactly like it had always been. She had spent a year and a half, wondering if she’d ever get to hold his hand like this again.

Beatrice leaned forward in her seat. “Hell, most people are probably still trying to get a grip on what this all means. Anybody claiming to have figured it out already clearly hasn’t given it enough thought and is just looking for something to complain about.”

The car pulled to a stop. Kara had almost forgotten what their house looked like. She had rarely left the labs during the experiment. The CEO himself had to come down to order her to go home a few times, but he had given up after the first six months, and instead had his assistant check in on her to ensure she was getting enough sleep.

In the two months since John had first woken up, she’d been less inclined than ever. There were tests to be run, and John needed to be carefully monitored at first. Plus, it was a huge hassle to get permission to take experiments out of the labs, and until John was legally recognized as alive again, he had technically been property of LifeTree Inc.

It wasn’t as sinister as it sounded, but the legal ramifications of dealing with someone who was officially dead made their lawyers uncomfortable, and everyone agreed that they should play it safe. Technically speaking, someone might have been able to shoot John, and get off on whatever punishment you got for desecrating a dead body. After eighteen months of him being gone, Kara had no desire to push the issue.

John opened the door and stepped out, blinking in the afternoon sun. Beatrice suddenly dove forward, yanking him back into the limousine. The window cracked into spiderwebs, and an instant later, they heard the gunshot.

“Move!” Beatrice shouted at the driver. He didn’t have to be told twice, and the lurched forward and he stomped on the gas pedal.

“What was that?” Kara asked, panic in her throat. She was on the floor, John’s arms wrapped around protectively around her. She didn’t remember if she fell, or dove, or if John had pulled her down. She didn’t exactly care, either.

“Someone trying to play God,” John growled, glaring up out the window.

Beatrice was also crouching on the floor with them. She had pulled out her cell phone.

“Call LifeTree,” she told Kara. “I’ve got some friends in Witness Protection, and I don’t want your lawyers stonewalling me. We’re getting you two out of here.”

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