Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

Nikki sat on the edge of the bed. The neon flicker from the motel sign outside bathed the room in intermittent blue through the thin fabric of the curtains.

The girl behind her stirred, then rolled towards her and curled almost fetal around Nikki’s bare waist, propping herself up on one slender elbow.

In a few hours this girl would be well on her way to three days of the deepest sleep of her life, before waking to an empty room, an empty bed, and having been relieved of a week’s memories.

There would be nationwide warrants waiting when she stumbled back into the world.

Nikki already was starting to adopt her physique, and once she’d uplinked with her soon to be sleeping companion, she’d become the United Nations translator completely, from the big lower lip pout to the way she smiled ever so slightly when she said ‘bottom’, enunciating the t’s crisply.

By this time tomorrow, she’d be in another hotel room, with another carefully chosen partner playing the chameleon yet again to secure the means of her exit from the country.

So many faces, so many bodies, so many personalities written and unwritten, scribed and erased into the malleable matter of her mind and body. It was supposed to be clean, surgical, but the original tech was designed to load in minor abilities into unused spaces, like how to surf, or speak a foreign language. The physical rewriting was dark ops, and nobody had ever intended it to be used so completely, and so many times. There were countless latent memory fragments that drifted up through her consciousness, she wasn’t sure which were hers and which were crosstalk and shrapnel.

“Hey babe, what’s the matter?” That voice, Nikki had to be careful to modulate her reply for fear of already sounding just like her.

“Nothing, just restless, can’t sleep.” A half truth. The stimulants coursing through her own system would keep her lit up for days. Plenty of time to come down when she was safely out of reach. Besides, the head crash made the unwiring easier to get through.

“You  look like you’re a million miles away,” the girl ran her fingers up Nikki’s back and scratched gently through the hair at the base of her skull, like one might rub a cat, “where are you baby?”

“Where am I?”, Nikki thought to herself, “that’s the easy part, the real question is who am I?”

She wasn’t sure she knew herself anymore.