I was down at the grocery store, buying the next week’s food (Daddy’s garden won’t carry us far since none of us know anything about gardening) when I overheard Dr. Wainwright talking with a colleague about some experiment that the lab was trying to repossess. The DNA-OD experiment. My heart stopped. I ducked behind the potatoes until they’d left.
I knew that phrase. I’d been almost six years old when Daddy brought home Donovan, but I’d never forget something like that. I overheard him talking to Mom the night before, talking about a cloning project he’d led at the Labs. A project to clone an alien DNA sample found out by Lucky Palms, a project called DNA-OD.
Could they do that? Repossess my brother?! I didn’t know. I had to find out!
It didn’t take long. In fact, the answer was waiting for me in the mailbox when I got home later that evening.
‘To Whom it May Concern:
Experiment DNA-OD (what you call Donovan) was lent to you family by Dr. Bernard Mayfield December 21st, thirteen years ago. Upon the doctor’s death, Experiment DNA-OD was expected to be returned to Landgraab Industries Laboratory. As that has not happened, matters have been raised to its immediate retrieval.
Dr. Bunch will visit you promptly June 15th at 3:00pm. She will collect Experiment DNA-OD and return it to the Landgraabs Industries Laboratory. Included is a packet containing certain legal articles and a release document requiring your signature.
Thank you for you cooperation,
Dr. Sabrina Funke, Creature-Robot Cross-Breeder’
The page crumpled in my fist. I was shaking. They couldn’t do this. They couldn’t do this! We’d already lost so many people in this family!
I jerked upright. Thomas was standing in the doorway, still in his pajamas, it being past midnight.
“Something’s wrong. What’s wrong?”
“The Labs…they’re sending someone over today…to take Donovan away. They own him! Legally, they own him! I’ve been looking for something, anything, to use against them! But I can’t find anything! And now they’re going to take him away!”
Thomas gently pulled me back down into the seat I hadn’t known I’d left. Then he slowly pried my hands from my hair and hugged my close. “Can I see the letter?”
I lifted up the balled paper.
“I see,” he said after a bit.
“There’s nothing we can do,” I whispered.
“That’s where you’re wrong,” Thomas said calmly. He’s always been the calm one. He’s been my rock, ever since we were kids. My best friend.
“How so?” I snarled. “I can’t see how we’re going to get out of this! So if you have any suggestions, please, share!”
“We can leave. Middle of the night. Leave no trace. Never come back.”
A toilet flushed. Footsteps echoed up the hall. We both waited until the bed springs creaked.
“We don’t have the money for that!” I whispered furiously. “Everything’s still in Mom’s name since she never wrote a will!” And the men at City Hall had just sneered at me when I’d tried to challenge it. Mom, while just a homemaker, had been everyone’s friend. I was just her creepy, illegitimate daughter.
“We have our college funds.”
My heart stopped. Our college funds. Together, Thomas and I probably had around $20000. Was it enough? Food, clothing, a new house…maybe. It had to be. It was our only shot at keeping what was left of this family together. It had to be enough.
“Well, there was no way I’d afford med-school anyways,” I said with a grimace. I quirked an eyebrow at him.
A sharp bark of laughter was my answer. “Going to college was Mom’s and Aunt Ellie’s plan for me. All I’ve ever wanted is a new guitar and enough time to play it.” He shrugged. “And I can wait a bit for that. What’s important is keeping us all together and safe.”
I nodded. We were in agreement. We had a plan. All that was left was to pack.