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"I've got to hand it to you, Bettmann: you know how to do your homework. Too bad nothin's gonna come of it."

Bettmann glared out the glass of Peters' office at the woods beyond the perimeter of the CIA's Langley, Virginia headquarters. He didn't speak until well after Peters had finished his chuckling. "Something will come of it; we just have to give it time."

"Time for what, Bettmann?" Peters leaned forward out of the leather chair he had used his entire twenty years at the agency. "It's a dead end here. You've got some psycho female out there who's taken the identity of a Russian flight attendant and who's using it to pick up Colonists. You've got an airport security guard strung out on drugs, only he's smart enough to hide his stash. Face it, Bettmann, not everyone in this world's a square like you. In fact, some people are downright kooky."

Bettmann removed his glasses and leaned close to the window with closed eyes when the long-absent sun penetrated the cloud cover. "You're right that there are kooks in this world. But I don't think we're dealing with kooks here."

Peters's voice was softer. "If they're not kooks, then what are they?"

Bettmann smiled into the sunshine. "Clones."

Peters was silent until a cloud passed before the sun, and then he was laughing and slapping his desktop. "Are you fucking kidding me, Bettmann? April First has already come and gone."

Bettmann turned from the cloud, uncrossed his arms, and reached into his breast pocket as he crossed the room. "No kidding. It hit me when I was walking up a flight of stairs to my apartment." He finished unfolding the sheet of paper retrieved from his pocket, and placed it on Peters' desk. "I saw two little girls who were twins, and then it just all came together."

"What's this? Your smoking gun?" Peters took the paper in hand.

First Star by W.R. Hammons:

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