Waking up, Sam felt oddly refreshed. It was more than just arising from a good night sleep. All the little aches and pains that he had grown accustomed to were gone. The small room was dimly lit and quiet, a nice contrast from where he’d left.
A door slid open, and a man in a white coat with a clipboard came in. He sat in a chair, the only piece of furniture in the room other than the cot Sam was on.
“Hello,” the man greeted him.
“Hi. I take it I made it.”
The man frowned. “I suppose so. How do you feel?”
“I feel great. Better than I have in a long time. Is my wife here?”
“Your wife?” The man flipped through the papers on his clipboard.
“Rachel. She came before me. I had to finish some things back . . . Well, back on Earth. I figured she would be here when I arrived.”
“Oh yes. I see her listed here.” He looked up from the papers and studied Sam’s face for a long moment. A look of decision crossed his face. “Very well. I’ll go locate her. Please rest here. I’ll have some food brought to you.”
“I feel fine. I don’t need to rest.”
“Sir, please. It is protocol. We need to make sure everything is in order before releasing you.”
Sam sighed. “All right. I’ll wait. But please get Rachel.”
“I will. Now rest.”
Sam stared at the door after he left and wondered what was wrong.
* * *
Ramsey entered the control room and dropped the clipboard on the desk. Fern looked up from the monitor with her soft brown eyes full of questions. He always thought the name rather silly, but she had chosen it and made it suit her.
“We got another one?” she asked. “I thought we had the system shut down.”
He shrugged. “We had. But the cycle down sequence took time to travel back to the source, and they must have uploaded during that time.”
“Will there be more?”
“Hard to say. We tried to get them to stop before the cycle down, but they insist it’s just transportation. I hope this is the last. And that they can’t power it back on from their end.”
Fern looked back at the monitor. “And now, we need to get him acclimated.”
A year earlier they would be more prepared for a new arrival. Now it fell to the skeleton staff with limited resources. “Yes. We should find her. She arrived about nine months ago and is still in public housing. Please send someone to bring her over.”
* * *
The sound of the door sliding open again woke Sam. Rachel stood in the door. Her hair was shorter and dyed blue, but it was definitely her. She seemed anxious , but he was relieved to see her.
“Rachel!” He leapt out of the cot and embraced her. She did not return the hug. He took a step back and gave her a worried look. “What’s wrong?”
“Um, nothing. Hi. How are you?” She didn’t look at him.
“Rachel, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing. Really. Just… Let’s sit down.” Her forced smile was less than reassuring.
He sat on the cot, and she took the chair. They stared at each other for several seconds before she broke the silence.
“How do you feel?”
“I feel fine. Rachel, is everything okay?”
“What is it? Rachel, please talk to me.”
“I’m not Rachel!” She immediately covered her mouth with her hand as though trying to take it back.
“What… What do you mean? Of course you are. Rachel? What is it?”
Her shoulders slumped. “Please quit calling me that. It’s confusing. I’m trying to keep the memories straight and that name is making it harder. My name is Tara. Just call me Tara.”
“But… What do you mean? You look just like my wife. I know you’re Rachel. Why are you saying these things?”
Tears were flowing down her cheeks as she looked at him with a mixture of pity and sorrow. “You aren’t married. You have no wife. You… You just think you do. Those bastards on Earth sent the memories of a man named Sam here, and they woke up in your body. But you aren’t him. Sam died on Earth when they tried to send him here. And so did his wife, Rachel. You and I were created to think we’re them, but we aren’t.”
“No. No. You and I were transmitted to here, to this colony. You are Rachel. They just sent us here. Don’t you remember? This doesn’t make any sense.”
“I know you think that’s what happened. It’s what I thought happened, too. I do remember everything you said. But that wasn’t really us. We’re just copies of those people. Now that we’re here, we have to make our own lives.” She grabbed his hand. “I’m sorry. I know this is confusing. After time, it will make sense. Just… Try to forget it all. Start over. It will make things easier.”
She shook her head and several tears splashed on his face. “I can’t. I’m not. Just try to forget.” She stood and hurried out of the room.
He wanted to follow her, but Ramsey blocked the doorway. “I am sorry. I know this is confusing. Over the next several weeks, we will help you acclimate. It will take time, but you will have all our support. Now, you’ve had quite a shock. Rest. We’ll start in the morning.” The door slid closed.
Sam sat on the cot, staring. He was Sam, wasn’t he?