Ed swiped his ID through the reader and then stared intently into a camera until the system was satisfied with him. This was the first time he'd ever been in the Emotional Doll Research Department; he had a feeling that he should have come here a long time ago.

The technicians all ignored him as he made his tour. It was funny; he had access to every area on the campus but lacked clearance to even know what most of those areas were. He smiled; it was an accident that he had found the EDS Center at all. A chance word from the tech over at the cyberzombie vats had pointed him in the right directions.

"Hey, Ed!"

Ed looked around, that voice sounded familiar. He turned and was surprised to see the same technician he had spoken too on his visit with Largo.

"Oh, hi Yoshimura. I didn't expect to see you here."

Yoshimura reached to shake Ed's hand, "I didn't think I'd be seeing you here either. What brings you to the dollh ouse anyway? I though that the search for that rogue EVS was called off."

Ed shrugged, "Curiosity I suppose. I only saw the thing a few times. It looked like it was an easy mark but every time I'd get hammered by that thing."

Yoshimura chuckled, "They're a lot tougher and smarter than they look."

Ed grinned, "That wouldn't be too hard to do."

The two men laughed at Ed's little joke, "So, what do you want to know about them anyway? I'll answer anything that won't get the two of us sent over to the vats."

Ed blinked, he hadn't thought of that before, "Well, when you put it that way I don't know if I'm really that curious about them." He paused briefly, "Still, I would like to know how come you work here and at the vats too."

Yoshimura scowled, "Well, the truth is that the cyberzombies were a precursor to these things."

Ed's eyes grew wide; "They're not doing stuff to teenage girls are they?"

"No, of course not." Yoshimu ra looked around, "come over here and look at this one and tell me what you see."

Yoshimura led Ed over to a something that looked like a hot tub, "This is a vat, if you'd seen where Largo went the other night this is exactly what he climbed into for his little nap. Look in there. "

Ed leaned over the edge and could make out the nude form of what could have been Ping. She was wearing a mask over her nose and mouth and about a dozen tubes and cables twined around her. Her eyes opened and blinked then she stared at Ed. Fascinated, he leaned closer then hurriedly backed away when he realized that she was attempting to hide her nakedness from him.

"Wha…What is this, Yoshimura?"

The other man looked at him grimly, "The same technology that allows the cyberzombie to regenerate is the same as we use to, umm, build the chassis for the EVS units."

Ed frowned, "I'm not sure I'm getting this. Are these people you're growing?"

Yoshimura shrugged, "I' m not sure about that. The regeneration nanomachinery is much more advanced than that in the cyberzombies. Personally I think that they're mostly synthetic. Sort of a chimera." He shook his head, "Still, every one of them looks the same. They don't grow like humans do though, you lay out an alloy skeleton with all the processors and other hardware and then the rest sort of grows around it."

Ed glared at him, "How can that be, I know that they don't have to eat and that they have to be charged up regularly."

Yoshimura shrugged, "The necessity for charging is simple really. They have to have a power source for the processors and their interfaces."

Ed stared back at the tank, "I'm still not sure that I believe this."

"Believe what you like, all I know is that something in those things requires regeneration nanos and I have to monitor them."

The EVS in the vat in front of them broke the surface and stared at them. Ed couldn't take his eyes off of her.

Yoshimura ignored the EVS as he continued, "My theory is that they all have a stripped down human DNA. That they are really a cyborg with a blank slate for a mind, with the neural processors everything that they need to know can be uploaded."

Ed raised an eyebrow, "That's ridiculous, that sort of tech is twenty years off at the very least. My implants would be primitive compared to something like that."

Yoshimura smiled, "Like I said, that's just my theory." A pager on his belt buzzed, glancing at it he continued, "duty calls, drop by again sometime."

Ed watched the tech hurry away then he turned to look at the EVS who was still staring at him. He reached slowly toward her and after a moment she reached back. Their fingertips brushed, Ed smiled, she took the mask off and smiled back then spoke.

"I'm not Ping."

Ed felt a cold chill run up his spine, the fact that she had spoken to him in English proved that she wasn't Ping but how could she kno w?

She tilted her head slightly; "Do you know Ping?"

Ed's mouth was dry as he shook his head, "I've met her but I don't really know her."

The EVS nodded, "come and see me again, okay?"

Ed felt numb, "Sure, I'll do that."

The EVS was still smiling as she put the mask back on and slid beneath the surface of the vat. Ed stood for a while longer just staring.




School was nearly out when Pings phone began to vibrate, no one noticed as she nonchalantly ran the cable from her backpack and clipped it into her earblade. As she read the text message that her baby had relayed to her a smile slowly spread across her face.

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