Kano opened the door to find An on the other side, smiling and looking expectant.

“What is it?” Kano asked.

“I believe I’ve solved your friend’s problem,” she said, gesturing toward Blob Kano’s enclosure.

“Already?” That was far faster than Kano had expected. “How did you manage it so quickly?” Had they actually come up with a solution? Or were they just trying to brush Kano’s request off so they could get back to their work?

“I’d already gathered the necessary data and figured out the theory. All I had left to do was make a prototype. I just set that aside for a while to focus on other things. Though that step was a lot easier than it might have been before, thanks to the slime, along with some other parts of Werisah’s research.”

Would’ve been nice if she’d just finished it earlier, given that she was so close, but Kano could hardly complain. It had still happened far sooner than she’d expected. “Okay, great. When can you get started?”

“Right now, if that’s all right with you two.”

“Fine by me,” Kano said and looked to her other self, who nodded vigorously.

Still smiling, An clapped her hands together. “Excellent, then I’ll begin.” She removed a vial from within her robes and placed it in the tank’s airlock before cycling the doors so Blob Kano had access to it.

“What’s this?” the other Kano asked, reaching out toward it.

“If I understand your condition correctly, which I’m fairly sure I do, then it will cause a sudden but short-lived change in your body. Things may get a little strange during that time, so I ask that you stay calm and bear with me. Once it’s over, you should be able to survive outside without any form of life support.”

She slithered over and picked up the vial in her multicolored hands. “What am I supposed to do with it?”

“Open it and consume the contents. Then just relax and let the transformation take its course.”

Blob Kano did as she was told, and after a few seconds, her form melted back into the mass it had sprung from. Long, grasping tendrils shot out and struck the walls of the tank with great force. It wasn’t enough to damage the walls, but Kano reflexively took a step back.

“Is that supposed to happen?”

“More or less. I took a few shortcuts with the actual process, but I believe you should be satisfied with the results. Watch what she’s doing.” An pointed to one of the tendrils, her finger mirroring the appendage’s movements. “She’s searching.”

“Searching for what?”

An gestured to where one of the tendrils was oozing through a grate. “That. The source of what’s keeping her alive. She’ll find the little creatures within and consume them. Then she’ll be able to recreate the organisms that keep her stable and alive.” The blob invaded the other two grates in short order, then stopped.

“What’s she doing now?”

“I believe she should have consumed them all at this point. Now it’s just a matter of waiting for her body to replicate it.”

“What if she can’t replicate what they do?”

“Hm? Of course she can. It might be different if she were having to recreate them from scratch, but all she’s really doing is taking an already-functioning organism and incorporating it into her existing form.”

“What makes you so sure she can do that?” The blob’s amorphous form, which was supposedly made up of other organisms, didn’t seem to have retained anything of its original parts.

“Because I’ve altered her so that she can, much like the slime is capable of doing. Though her ability to do so is far more rudimentary.”

“What if it doesn’t work? Won’t she die? I’m guessing you don’t have a replacement for those things she ate, the same things that were keeping her alive.”

An shrugged, completely unconcerned. “In theory, yes. But there’s no way that would happen. This is all easily within expected parameters.”

Kano hoped she was right, for all of their sakes. Because if An was wrong, if she’d just killed the other Kano, then the remaining Kano was going to crush the necromancer’s head. Regardless of the consequences or her other plans, there was no way Kano could let An go on living after that.

She already felt like a fool for even involving the necromancer. Maybe it would have been better to leave Blob Kano in her tank than risk this. Staring at Blob Kano, Kano wished that she’d move, but she remained inert. “She’s still not moving.”

“I can see that. Just give it a little more time.”

“What if something’s gone wrong? Shouldn’t you at least check? Or try to do something?”

“Nothing has gone wrong, okay? Just trust me on this.”

Kano really didn’t have a lot of trust to spare these days, especially not for necromancers. She was contemplating threatening An into doing something about Blob Kano’s condition when the other her finally stirred. The multicolored Kano reformed on the other side of the glass.

“Are you okay?” Kano asked.

“I think so. It was a bit strange there for a while, but I feel fine now.”

“Do you feel like you can live in the outside world now?”

“Um, not particularly? I don’t feel any different than usual. Though I’m not sure if I’m supposed to feel different.” She looked to An.

“I’m not sure how you’re meant to feel either,” An said, “but it doesn’t really matter. I’m certain that you’ll be able to survive outside now.”

“You’re absolutely confident?” Blob Kano asked, sounding hesitant.

“Yes. I understand your concerns. But to be blunt, you’ve already removed the organisms that were keeping you alive. Staying in the tank will do you no good either way.”

“Oh. I guess you’re right. Open the airlock then, would you? I’m coming through.”

After fiddling with the controls for a little while, An got both the airlock doors open at once, and Blob Kano squeezed through. Squeezing her entire bulk through the small opening took some doing, but her malleable form made it manageable.

Kano reflected that Blob Kano was going to have a hard time getting around given that most of her body was still basically a giant blob, but at least she was free. Though that was assuming she wasn’t about to drop dead. But now that she’d regained consciousness, Kano wasn’t too worried. She should be fine. That was how it felt, at least.

Blob Kano reformed her body and looked around the room with wide eyes before turning to An. “Wow, you really did it. I’m out. I don’t think there’s anything I can do to ever repay what you’ve done for me, but you have my eternal gratitude.”

“Glad I could help,” An said, pleased but reserved. “You seem fine, so I should probably be getting back to my work. Assuming neither of you need anything more from me?”

“No, you can go,” Kano said, not taking her eyes off Blob Kano. Was she really free? It was hard to believe, but there was no denying what she could see in front of her. Once An had left, Kano said, “How are you going to get around, anyway? You’re not exactly small.”

“Is that a problem? The rest of my body can just come with me.” She moved it along behind her to demonstrate. “As you saw, I can squeeze through gaps pretty easily.”

Though it would be inconvenient in confined spaces, Kano’s concern was more to do with aesthetics. Blob Kano’s huge, amorphous form was rather unappealing to look at. It wasn’t something Kano wanted other people to associate with her.

But looking at how happy Blob Kano was to be out made it hard to worry about that. Screw it. Other people could think whatever they wanted of her and her copy. Well, technically they were both copies.

“Never mind about that,” Kano said as she opened the elevator doors. “Which of us came first, anyway?”

“I’m not really sure. Me, I guess? Since your creation seemed to have gone a lot better, almost flawlessly, even. I’m not sure how it matters, though.”

“I guess it doesn’t. I was just wondering.” Did that mean she should be taking Blob Kano’s advice rather than the other way around? Assuming their minds were relatively equal, then presumably the older one would be wiser. It was hard to say if she could really consider Blob Kano older, even if she’d existed longer. Ignoring her lack of experience with the outside world, from what she’d said, she’d spent much of her life asleep anyway. So, in terms of maturity, Kano must be older.

Though now that the other Kano would be meeting more people, possibly without Kano around, what were people supposed to call her? They couldn’t both be called Kano. That would be needlessly confusing, and though she’d been referring to her as Blob Kano, that wasn’t a proper name.

“Do you think maybe you should have a new name? Something to mark you becoming free, maybe? We can’t both be called Kano, and I’ve been going by that name out here for a lot longer.”

“I suppose you’re right.” She thought for a while as the elevator descended. “How about Renvak?”

“Renvak?” It sounded like a pretty stupid name to her. “Why Renvak?”

“It’s the remaining letters in Karen Novak’s name, if you take out the Kano part.”

“Sure, whatever.” It made sense now, even if Kano wouldn’t have chosen it for herself.

“Then call me Renvak from now on.”

“Can I just call you Ren?”

“If you like.”

And thus, trailing the rest of her body behind her, Ren took her first step into the outside world. The tunnel beneath the citadel wasn’t exactly the nicest place to visit, but it was only the start.

Not that Kano could really recommend Shorinstown either. She’d lived here all her life, and she couldn’t think of anything in it that was worth seeing, at least as far as locations went. Maybe the best thing she could do was introduce Ren to people who’d like to meet her and vice versa.

Nove and the children were the perfect fit for that role.


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