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Written for the My Old Fandom 2016 fic exchange, for Doranwen.


Miss Parker thumbed the textured envelope in her hands, knowing that despite Jarod’s falling off the radar for months since the island, it likely came from him. With an annoyed sigh she slid out the contents: a shiny DSA disc with a post-it attached. In Jarod’s familiar neat print it said:


Odd that he was giving her a choice, whatever it was. The Jarod of old would have recklessly charged right in, but maybe after seven years they were both burned out and bitter. Parker popped the disc into the custom-made player on her desk, and the black and white images flicked up.

The first thing she noticed was the date, 1/24/03, only a month before. The video showed a blondish child barely out of toddlerhood, perhaps two or three years old, seated at a tiny desk with photographs in front of him. Even through the grey security-cam lighting the grim drabness of the room was palpable. With horror Parker realized that she recognized the setup from hundreds of hours of footage of Jarod’s childhood: a small, streamlined sim lab. In this particular recording the boy was handling a series of objects and photographs, narrating an intricate story of the people in front of him using words so complicated they sounded contrived coming from such a small child. The interviewer — shrink? handler? — spoke in an abrupt manner that was cold and uncompromising. Not Raines, but someone of his ilk, very unlike Sydney’s calm persistence.

The child couldn’t be anyone other than Jamie. Her tiny brother, born into her own blood-drenched hands as his mother’s life drained from her. Daddy had called him Jamieson, Mama’s maiden name, which even Miss Parker found to be an odd slap in the face of Brigitte, his birth mother. Parker couldn’t say she had any love or respect for the venomous stepmother who had been a decade younger than she was, but still, the woman had died to bring her father’s child into the world. Some recognition would be appropriate, but Daddy had insisted on Jamieson.

She’d only seen the boy every couple of weeks since Daddy disappeared into the Atlantic — little kids not being in her job description — and at every visit Jamie had been well-ensconced with permanent nannies and tutors at her childhood home, and appeared happy enough. But now that she thought of it, the joy did seem more and more over the top at her arrival with each passing visit. Most three-year-olds wouldn’t be that happy to see an overcoifed stranger who didn’t even come bearing gifts, let alone one unwilling to sing songs or crawl down to the floor with a chipper attitude. Miss Parker doubted there was a child on the planet who would describe her as “fun,” so why would her brother look forward to her visits so much? Unless, of course, it was the only fun he was allowed to have.

It took very little time for Broots to track the boy down within the Centre’s fortress walls. Either Raines was getting sloppy, or else they were getting all too good at playing the Centre’s twisted games. Parker thought about making an “appointment” to see Jamie at her father’s home and whisking him away then, but that led to plausible deniability on Raines’ part that he had ever touched the boy. She needed to catch the sim lab training red-handed, and make a public statement of her own that treating her brother like a lab rat was not an acceptable chain of events. If her father taught her anything about the Centre, it was to know when to connive and hide in the shadows, and when to make a public show of force. In this case, clearly the latter was called for.

Of course, Miss Parker mused as she marched down to rescue the boy, now she’d have a three-year-old on her hands. And as she once famously declared, Miss Parker didn’t do mommy, had never wanted to do mommy in any guise or capacity. Wasn’t her relationship with both of her parents mucked up enough without inflicting the pain on another hapless generation? Yet here she was, about to take an orphaned youngster into custody, on the strength of nothing more than a questionable genetic connection. Ah well, nannies were a thing. Even her cracked shell of a heart had to be better than the dual psychopaths Raines and Lyle.

The sim lab, converted from some old offices all the way down on SL-25, turned out to be relatively undefended when Miss Parker, Sydney, and her troop of sweepers showed up. Broots was standing by up in the control room, keeping copies from the cameras in case she needed evidence later. They had waited around for hours until Raines had showed up to check on Jamie, and at that moment only the old ghoul, his favorite sweeper Willie, and two handler/tutors were in the room when Miss Parker’s posse burst in. The four adults as one jerked up in astonishment at her appearance. Jamie face lit up when he saw her.

“Jamieson Parker,” Miss Parker announced, “is my brother. I’m his closest living legal relative, and you have no authority to keep him down here or conduct any experiments without my authorization. Since the Centre refuses take care of him like a Parker, I will.”

“You never wanted custody before,” an outraged Raines wheezed. “Technically, Mr. Lyle is his brother too, and—”

“Technically that relationship doesn’t exist as far as the law is concerned,” Miss Parker interrupted. “And I’m never going to invite my slimebot brother to the Parker Family Picnic, either. I couldn’t help noticing that Jamie and I were the only ones listed as heirs in Daddy’s will, so what are you going to do? Bring in that footage of my mother giving birth, and you stealing my brother away and telling Mama he was dead? You’re right. Let’s argue this in public court.”

She walked over and picked up Jamie, who wrapped his arms and legs around her as if he were trying to meld them into one. The kid’s warm body weighed her down like a sack of flour in more ways than one, but Miss Parker didn’t let it show. Never let them see weakness or hesitation — her mother’s biggest mistake.

“The boy shows signs of Pretender abilities,” Raines rasped. “The Triumvirate will—”

“The Triumvirate will have to deal with the fact that he is a Parker, and we are not, and never will be, lab rats. I was a red file too, and both Mama and Daddy never let them take me. That’s what you’ll never understand, Raines, and why you’ll never be one of us. We protect our own.”

And with that, Miss Parker turned on her heel and stormed out, her brother still clinging to her like a baby monkey and his head resting on her shoulder.



Plucking Jamie from the jaws of the Centre proved to be the easy part. Now Miss Parker had an actual lifeform on her hands, with zero backup. She’d assumed Broots — really her only parent underling — would help out, at least until the inevitable au pairs were hired. But Broots had chosen that moment to grow something of a spine. He gave her a nervous yet irritatingly schadenfreude smile and blustered his way back home with only a promise that Debbie would babysit. Occasionally. After school. Sydney too had begged off with nothing more than an enigmatic shrug. Traitors.

So Miss Parker took her little brother home. She strapped him next to her in the passenger seat of her Beamer, while he stared at her with wide incredulous eyes.

“No seat?” he ventured. “I get to ride up front?”

Seat? Oh yes, children nowadays were supposed to be strapped to various vehicular devices until they went off to college. “Think you’ll survive one trip with a regular seat belt,” she told him, forcing on her best fake-cheer. Gah, how did real parents do it? Surely a steady diet of false positivity was bad for child development. “We can order a seat tomorrow. And, uh, more clothes. And maybe a couple of toys, if you’re good.” Bribes, sure, why not? Positive reinforcement, as Syd would say. She was going to put Broots on procuring the preschool accoutrements in the morning anyway.

“Legos?” Jamie said, his eyes lighting up.

“Sure, kid, if you go to bed without a fuss. In fact I know somebody who’s got the whole Empire State of Legoland in his office. We got a deal?”

She meant it as a joke, but Jamie stiffened beside her. “I never cry at bedtime,” he whispered in a barely audible voice. The crisply articulated words were those of a much older child, but the warbled tone was all toddler.

“Well, yeah,” Miss Parker told him, trying to keep it light. “You're my brother, a Parker, we never break down. Stiff upper lip, right?”

He stared out the window as best he could from low down in the seat. “Didn’t you cry when Daddy died?”

No, she thought about lying. But instead she said, “You saw me?” He nodded. “Okay. For daddies, even Parkers sometimes cry. But just for daddies.”

“I never cry,” the boy repeated.

Miss Parker didn’t respond, but released one hand off the wheel to reach over and ruffle his quiet head.



At bedtime, true to his promise Jamie did not fuss. He crawled into bed without prompting and in complete silence, pulled the covers up to his chin and stared at the ceiling, without a trace of fatigue. It was unnerving, but Miss Parker still left him to it, not knowing what else to do.

The calling card with nothing but a phone number was sitting on her kitchen counter, right next to the bar. Without thinking it through, she picked it up, flipped open her phone and dialed.

“Why did you want me to do it?” she said as soon as the line connected. No preliminaries; they never needed niceties. “Why didn’t you take Jamie to one of your hidden family lairs, Jarod? He’d be safer there.”

“He’s your family,” said Jarod, his rich voice booming across the line. “Sometimes we all have to step up for our loved ones, Miss Parker, whether we want to or not.”

“Thanks for the platitudes, Dad. You know they could very well storm my place and take him back. Look what happened to my mother when she tried to rescue the children.”

“The Centre’s a different place now, and you are not your mother. I guessed — hoped, really — that they didn’t have the heart to train another child over the long run. The Triumvirate knows that I’ll break them before I let that happen, and now they know you won’t roll over either. They can chase us all they want on paper, but we all know this is done.”

Miss Parker snorted, although she knew it was true. Even her job description, which nominally still included dragging Jarod back, had slowly been shoved over to other tasks over the past three years. Since the very public train bombing, especially since Carthas. Jarod had effectively won through his stubborn will to stay alive and free, although the Triumvirate would go down in flames before overtly admitting it. “Raines doesn’t seem to have gotten the memo.”

“I try and keep an eye on him,” Jarod said dryly. “You should too, if only to watch your back.”

“Oh, I learned long ago to never turn my back on my wheezing wannabe uncle.”

“But you did. You left Jamieson. He’s effectively had him for months.” Another change from Jarod, for in the old days he’d have really thrown that in her face, with all the righteous fury of the bitterly abandoned. Now, though, he sounded exhausted and somber. For once Miss Parker decided not escalate the provocation, and meet him with honesty.

“I was wrong to let the dog and pony show fool me, okay, Jarod? I have him now, and I won’t let them take him again. Is that what you want to hear?”

“Yes. It is.”

A long pause, and then Parker put in, “You sound weirdly defeated for man who basically got everything he wants. I heard you found your mother, finally. And you’ve got the rest of your family, and Ethan’s cooling his jets somewhere.” Ethan, their mutual half-brother, barely able to function thanks to Raines, whom Jarod had put up in what he’d assured was a very humane psychiatric facility. Miss Parker had declined to know where, for his own protection. “And as even you admitted, the Centre’s efforts to find the lot of you have been halfhearted lately, so what’s with the moping?”

Jarod paused on the line even longer, and then gave a little sigh. “Fine. Let’s just say fatherhood is more difficult than I expected. I hope you’re able to break through with Jamie better than me.”

“Ethan’s having trouble again?” Parker asked, although it didn’t make sense; Ethan was over thirty years old, and Jarod wouldn’t consider himself his father.

“No, he’s fine. Every time I see him, he always says to tell you to listen to the voices,” Jarod said, now a little bit amused.

Voices, her mother’s mystical mumbo-jumbo, and perhaps her mother’s instability as well. “Tell him that even if I heard voices, I’d never admit it.” She’d repeated the same line to Jarod on more than one occasion. Miss Parker had never believed in psychics or ghosts, and she didn’t intend to start now. “So, who’s the kid you’re having trouble with? Who have you adopted this time?”

She remembered even before he spoke. “I meant Gemini,” Jarod said.

Gemini, Jarod’s genetic twin and one of the Centre’s secret pet experiments. Jarod had sprung him from Raines’ tender parental care nearly four years ago, before Jamie had even been born. Despite the fact that she hadn't seen him in years, she'd always had a soft spot for Jarod's young doppelganger.

“It’s been difficult to get through to him,” Jarod admitted. “Raines had taught him that I was a monster, which he didn’t believe, but now he’s gotten the notion that his entire miserable childhood was my fault. For not rescuing him sooner, I guess, or just being responsible for his existence in the first place. He can’t help knowing the process to create him was filled with death and destruction.”

“Every teenager has deployed I wish I’d never been born! at some point, Gemini’s just got a more spectacular reason than most. See, normalcy, just what you always wanted. Be consistent and he’ll come around. Deep down all he probably wants is buckets of Leave It To Beaver love, just like you.”

“I wish I had been here. I should have been here, when he first escaped. It would have clarified the situation, allowed us to work out a relationship. My father did the best he could under difficult circumstances, but he still had trouble wrapping his brain around it. He still treated Gemini like he was a literal copy.” Jarod had been recaptured by the Centre just after Gemini’s escape, and it apparently had taken awhile to reconnect after his inevitable escape, according to Miss Parker’s reports. At least that particular capture and release hadn’t been on her conscience.

“And you would have done differently?”

“Well, I know he’s not me, obviously. You were there, I was there, but my father wasn’t there. It’s difficult for him not to try and recapture what was lost.”

“He’s Gemini’s father, too, so is that so bad? Everything doesn’t have to be a contest over you, Jarod.”

“I know. It’s just…” She could hear him sighing on the other end of the phone, and then what sounded like him plopping down onto a chair.

“You wanted a chance to be his father?” she supplied. “Too many cooks in the kitchen in your situation. Is that why you left Jamie to me, instead of busting into the middle of things like you normally do?”

“Maybe,” he said, again amused. “I know you didn’t want children, Miss Parker, but sometimes circumstances intervene, and the child wants you anyway. You know the Centre has footage of you playing with Jamie at your father’s house. It’s almost…adorable.”

Miss Parker groaned while Jarod chuckled. “Blackmail material, right there. How am I supposed to maintain my reputation with a kid on my hip? That’ll show ‘em at the T-boards.”

“If anyone can manage it, you can, Miss Parker.”

For an instant she had to give him brownie points for not saying, Change your reputation, then, and be a good mommy. They knew each other too well.



Two days later, Parker collapsed on her sofa, barely avoiding sloshing her drink. After dinner she’d set Jamie up on her ancient television in the den, not caring if the inane sitcoms airing at this time of night were age-appropriate or not. He stared at the screen with wide-eyed fascination, as if the raw images were pouring into his sponge of a mind, and Parker wondered if he was on some level simming what he saw. Maybe that’s all a simulation was, telling an imaginative story in the mind. She knew she should probably put the kid to bed, but the thought of witnessing another round of catatonic staring was awful to contemplate, so she hoped the idiot box would do her a favor and lull him to sleep. Instead it seemed to be stimulating him at a hypnotic rate, but at least he was content and engaged. Miss Parker took the opportunity to pour herself a nice comforting gin and tonic.

“You shouldn’t leave him alone like that,” a soft voice said behind her.

She heard movement a nanosecond before the intruder spoke, so it wasn’t a complete shock. For an instant her brain assumed it was Jarod before registering the differences: higher voice, longer unkempt wavy hair complete with a dyed blue streak, teenage face from out of a long-forgotten DSA archive. Gemini had gotten tall in the intervening years since she'd last seen him, his face replicating Jarod’s far more as a seventeen-year-old than at fourteen, but he still had the look of a lithe, unfinished adolescent.

“Why not?” she said, turning back to her drink, unruffled by the intrusion. Like father, like clone, she may as well leave a key under the front mat for all the good her security system did. “I don’t hear any screaming, so the kid’s probably mesmerized by Bernie Mac or conked out.”

To Miss Parker’s surprise, Gemini put down the small case he was carrying and walked over to her den without a backwards glance. He emerged a second later with the blinking boy clinging to his hand. “He was left alone a lot. He needs someone to bond to, someone he knows will not abandon him.”

“How do you know that?” she asked. “Every time I saw him, he was pampered by an army of caregivers.” Nevertheless she motioned the boy to come over, and his warm little body curled up against her on the couch. To her astonishment, he almost instantly slowed his breathing and closed his eyes.

“Mister Raines does not change,” Gemini said. Soft still, his voice barely above a whisper. Flat and affectless. Parker noticed that he reflexively used the honorific, just like when she’d met him years ago. It really hadn’t been that long since Gemini was the boy, the nameless lonely child locked in a blank room.

“Sit down, Gemini.” Miss Parker motioned to the end of the couch, beyond Jamie and her feet. “You still want to call yourself Gemini, or have you come up with something better than an astrological sign slapped on a test tube?”

Gemini didn't smile. He obeyed her call to sit down, but also grabbed his case and clung to it in his lap. “I’ve had a lot of names. I’m not as attached to a first name like Jarod is, makes it harder for them to catch me. But Gemini is fine for this visit, since that’s what you know.”

Them, not you. He still trusted her not to drag him back to the Centre. “Mmm-hmm. And what did you mean that Raines doesn’t change? I mean, I agree with you that the bald ogre couldn’t deviate from evil if the angels were hanging over him, but what exactly do you think he’s done to Jamie that was done to you?”

“We have to learn independence, and control, and the self-discipline to teach ourselves what we need to know. Even at his age,” Gemini said, nodding at Jamie. “They give an assignment, and you finish it, with no one but the cameras watching. If you cannot complete the assignment satisfactorily, they give you more books and leave you longer, for punishment. If you do it correctly, they give another assignment and leave you to work on it, as a reward. At ten p.m. the lights go out, and for every minute you cry or make noise, they extend the darkness for an hour in the morning. Once I spent four days in the dark without any food, alone, because I could not stop the nightmares. I think it was four days, I was a very stubborn child, my mind refused to obey. Mister Raines only comes occasionally, but his cruelty is preferable to the horror of nobody. At least when he hits you, you know another human being is alive, and for that moment, you matter to someone.”

Miss Parker had been lightly stroking Jamie’s arm, but as this recitation went on, her grip slowly increased. “Jarod was stubborn too, and he didn’t get beaten for it. It’s not petulance to want to keep your sanity, Gemini.”

“I’ve seen Jarod’s DSAs. He wasn’t always so disciplined. But he had Sydney, and Sydney forgave his outbursts and whining. No matter what Jarod did, Sydney was always there for him.”

“So, you’re telling me I should be more like Sydney as a parent?” Miss Parker said, amused. “Great fatherhood models we’ve got, between the three of us.”

“You let your brother out of the Centre, so you can do better. But at least Sydney was there.”

“True, I gotta give Dr. Head-Shrink that much.”

She let the silence linger between them, allowing him to get to whatever he barged into her home for on his own terms. Or perhaps let him ramble on if he chose. To be there and listen, if even for a moment. But Gemini seemed uncomfortable and unwilling to share more. After a minute, he finally looked over at her and asked, “Don’t you want to know why I am here?”

“I figured you’d get to Jarod’s mission eventually. Shoot whenever you want.”

“He wants accurate information about the boy’s background. After Ethan, and”

“You mean, he wants to know who Jamie’s real parents are.” She gave Gemini a hard stare at this. “You could have cheek-swabbed him back in front of the T.V. and gotten out of here without my knowing it, so there’s more to this story. Jarod wants me to know, too? Or just wants to throw the results in my face.”

“He told me to tell you no more games about family, that we should cooperate and share information. That we all deserve the truth.”

“And if it turns out that through some petri dish wizardry Jarod’s the father, is he going to come marching in here and demand that I hand over his son? The truth can make things complicated.”

“He said if you asked that, to tell you that we’ll work it out an agreement with each other, in the best interests of the boy.”

Miss Parker snorted at that, but didn’t object as Gemini flipped open his case and pulled out a needle connected to tubing and a test tube. “I could do a buccal cell sample if all else fails, but I’ll get more DNA with blood,” he said. Gemini rested his hand on the boy’s head and stroked, but his next words were clear and authoritative. “Jamieson. Time for your assignment.”

Jamie’s eyes flew open and he sat up, as if he were never asleep.

“Hold out your arm. This will hurt for a few seconds, but do not move. Then you can go back to sleep. Do you understand?”

“Yes, sir.”

Parker, sadly, was not surprised when he obeyed without a peep. When Gemini was done he gave Jamie a Mickey Mouse band-aid and smiled at him, the first real smile Miss Parker had ever seen Gemini produce. It made him look eerily like Jarod, right on down to the dimple. Jamie crossed his arms with the band-aid wound tucked inside, and curled back up as if nothing had happened.

“You too, Miss Parker.”

“What, Jarod never creeped in here at night for a lock of my hair? Never mind, I don’t want to know.”

“Well, he does have samples from your late father and Mister Raines. I believe some creeping may have been involved, I don’t want to know either.”

Miss Parker laughed, and then she, too, dutifully held out her arm as he readied another tube. The needle slid in with hardly a prick, as if he had years of professional practice. “Who else is being compared? Obviously he’s not another clone.” She gestured towards the boy’s silky straight, light brown hair, clearly not a match for Jarod and Gemini.

“Ethan. Both of Jarod’s parents. Mister Lyle. Jamieson’s birth mother, something about Jarod saving a lollipop stick? And, uh, me.”

Miss Parker’s eyebrows shot up at that last one, and Gemini glanced away, embarrassed. “They took samples at Donoterase. A lot of samples. I’m genetically the same as Jarod, so it would have been easier than using anything old from a freezer.”

“If you are the same, how will Jarod be able to tell the difference?”

“Jarod’s not running the analysis. I am.”

Now she was surprised, and he turned to shoot her a look of exasperation and pride, the most emotion she had seen from him yet. So much like the teenage Jarod she used to surreptitiously visit, it was indeed uncanny. “I don’t know why this is hard for people to grasp,” he said, frowning. “I was raised in a genetics lab, running some satellite markers will not be a challenge.”

Miss Parker threw up her hands in mock defense. “Fine, fine, I’m sure you’ll give Watson and Crick a run for their Nobel. But you didn’t answer my question.”

“I’ll have to do more extensive sequencing if it comes down to that. Hence the bigger sample. There are likely many small base pair differences between us, especially since they probably set up a stem cell line to do the original nuclear transfers. Those immortal lines aren’t all that immortal, they have terrible rates of allelic drift which…” He cut off at her quizzical expression at his babbling. She was amused and glad, in truth, that he felt comfortable enough to ramble instead of bottling it all in. “Anyway. Basically no copy is perfect, not in biology. That’s how I’ll be able to tell.”

“I see. Is important to you, to know? I’m sure your genius progenitor will butt his nosy head in no matter what things turn out to be.”

Gemini shrugged. “Does it matter? It’s just cells in a dish. His parents are whoever loves and protects him.” Despite the casual words, he reached out again and lightly stroked the back of Jamie’s head. To comfort, or a little bit possessive, Miss Parker could not tell.

In that instant, she decided Gemini was up to the task of clarifying one more mystery. “If Jarod's got samples from both Daddy and Uncle Fester, does that mean you could tell whether he's really my father or not?” she asked. “I trust you for the truth, Gemini.”

“It's important for you to know, too. Even though you know Mister Parker was always your father.” He nodded at her in the affirmative, both in agreement to their fate.



Two weeks later, her defcon parenting situation had stabilized back into the blue. Broots had vetted some very competent nannies, affectionate but firm women that mildly reminded Miss Parker of stable versions of her mother. They'd even enrolled Jamie in an ordinary Blue Cove preschool, albeit accompanied by guards. She's dropped the Centre's name at the school and given them strict instructions on who could leave with him, and no questions were asked; the locals were highly trained on the subject of their secretive town benefactor and employer.

Around other kids and consistent caretakers, Jamie slowly came out of his shell. And although Miss Parker knew she'd never be a Martha Stewart mother of the year, but as Gemini suggested merely being there as his protector was enough. She made an effort to get home before Jamie's bedtime, and secretly let him sleep next to her at night. He was only three, she reasoned, and although he'd probably grow out of it eventually, at the moment he seemed to need the physical contact. It was oddly endearing – and comforting for her as well – to have a warm little body roll over against her at night.

One evening, while Jamie was in bed sprawled against her as she squinted over a glowing laptop, the phone rang. As usual she knew it was Jarod an instant before checking the ID.

“Everything going well, Miss Parker?”

“Eh, muddling through,” she replied, closing the computer lid and sliding it off to one side. Jamie shifted at the movement and rolled his head onto the battery-heated blankets on top of her lap. “Nobody and nothing's died yet, not even my career. He's an easy kid, or so I'm told.”

“Sounds like you two have bonded.” Jarod's voice could be so irritating at times, sometimes she had to resist the urge to throw the phone across the room to make it stop.

“Not really interested in extolling the virtues of mommyhood with you, Jarod. Did you risk waking my kid up at eleven p.m. for a reason other than annoying me? Gemini's got news?”

“He does indeed.”

There was a rustling on the other end as Jarod handed the phone off. Then Gemini's less confident voice cut through. “Hi Miss Parker. I, uh, got the results for Jamie. If you still want to hear about it.”

“Go ahead and spit it out, kid, I won't faint. Is he really my brother?”

“Mostly, yes. But not in the way you think.”

Mostly? How can someone be “mostly” a sibling, or a half-sibling as it were? Miss Parker waited with as much patience as she could muster for him to continue.

“Neither Mister Parker nor Jamie's birth mother contributed autosomal genetic information to him,” Gemini said, and Miss Parker's heart dropped. “Brigitte only matched on the mitochondrial DNA, so I think they used her as an egg donor, and then they took out most of her DNA from the egg and replaced it. Ethan came up as his closest relative on the first pass, but it took awhile to tease out exactly why. Major Charles wasn't his father either, although Jamie does have our Y-chromosome.”

“So, Jarod?” she asked, her head sinking towards the phone. This announcement was to be getting to be worse and worse.

“Jarod and I matched on a bunch of sequences, but not along direct inheritance patterns. Sorry, I'm not explaining it well. Jamie looks like a chimera. Like they mixed and matched big chunks of chromosomes to get what they wanted, plus some individual gene modifications here and there. It's really quite...advanced.” He actually sounded impressed at the Centre's Frankenstein expertise, and Miss Parker wanted to groan at the little scientist through the phone.

“Break it down for me, Doc. You're saying he's genetically engineered?”

“Yes, exactly. Although the primary genetic material they were starting with appears to be a mix of me and Jarod, and...”

If you say me, I really will scream, thought Miss Parker. Although when and where they could have gotten the material would be a mystery for the ages. From the sound of it, the Centre didn't even need good old-fashioned sperm and eggs to make a kid from you.

“...your mother, Catherine Parker. At least as best as I can extrapolate from you, Ethan and Mister Lyle. I didn't have a sample directly from her.”

“My mother,” murmured Miss Parker, mulling it over. “Is that why you said he was still mostly my brother?”

“Yes. Although they doubled up on her genes in places, and our genes in other places. In a few locations there are sequences that don't match any of us. It's kind of a mishmash.”

“That's why he named him Jamieson. Catherine's last child. He always did love her, even when he was using her.” At the mention of his name, as if on command, Jamie's eyes opened. She stroked his forehead, to lull him back to wonderland.

“I'm sorry if this isn't what you wanted to hear, Miss Parker.”

Parker took in a deep breath to absorb the news, before she could continue on and reassure the anxious young man on the other end of the line. “I said I trusted you to tell me the truth, Gemini, and I meant it. Do you have any other results, for that other subject we talked about?”

“Mister Parker and Mister Raines did have the same father. But Mister Parker was your father all along, just like he said he was.”

“Thank you for all this work. I appreciate it, and I'll remember it. You can put Jarod back on the line now.”

Once on, Jarod's voice was very soft. “I won't interfere if you don't want me to. When he's older, if Jamie wants to get to know some of his other relatives, maybe we can arrange some visits. But I think your father wanted you to raise him, if he couldn't.”

“Like my father's opinion matters to you?” she asked, but there was no heat in the question. Miss Parker sighed and waved dismissively, even though Jarod wasn't actually in the room. “Honestly, you know what? I'm doing this first for Jamie, and secondarily for my mother. Because she would have been horrified to see what became of Ethan, and of you, the boy she wanted to save.”

“And you, the girl she wanted to save,” Jarod added. “Take care, Miss Parker. Of your brother and yourself.”

He hung up without warning, Jarod's usual goodbye. Miss Parker flipped her phone shut with a single swift motion and ran her manicured fingers through Jamie's silky light brown hair, in every way but length identical to her own.


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