They have lived at the Aerie their whole lives, kept secret from the rest of the world and studied by the scientists of BioTronics.
But when Kylie, the Aerie Director’s daughter, discovers that BioTronics has been training the twins to play a sinister role, she decides to help them escape.
I guess it all started to make horrible sense the day two helicopters instead of one came to the annual ‘let’s see what the twins are doing this year’ show-and-tell.
Dad was in a big fuss at breakfast, sorting out all his papers, scribbling revisions and notes on them, barely sipping at his coffee. He was the Director of the Aerie, the boss, it was his responsibility to make sure all the scientific data he and his team collected was crunched into reports and sent away to other people higher up the corporate ladder.
Anyway, so he was in a bit of a flap, reminding Ricky and Tia to conserve their strength and do their best and not be nervous. But he didn’t say it like a parent would, to make the twins feel better. He said it like orders, like he talked to his team.
I saw Ricky and Tia glance at each other when he wasn’t looking but they just nodded silently at him as they ate their Weet-Bix and waited until he gathered up his papers and left for his office. Then they fixed their round grey eyes on me.
‘So what’s going on?’ Ricky asked. ‘I know he always gets in a snit when this thing happens, but this is a bit extreme even for him.’
‘No idea,’ I said, scraping a corn flake off the side of my bowl. ‘He doesn’t tell me anything either, you know that.’
‘It’s like he thinks we’re going to stuff up,’ Ricky went on gloomily. ‘And we never do – all the tests they’ve given us we’ve nailed. I even saw that creepy Mr Bradley smile last year when I did that barrel roll through three hoops.’
I remembered that. Ricky had practiced secretly for weeks to get that trick perfect.
‘I don’t know…’ Tia’s voice was far away, and both Ricky and I looked at her. She was staring down at her Weet-Bix. ‘I’ve got a funny feeling.’
My stomach twisted into a knot. Tia had a sixth sense about trouble, and she was usually right. ‘What sort of feeling?’
‘I’m not sure.’ Tia looked up, biting her lip. ‘Just… danger. For Ricky and me. And you too, Kylie, sort of, but different.’ She reached out to touch my arm. ‘Please find out. You’re better at finding things out than us – ’
‘Hey guys.’ Ricky was standing by the window, his white-fair hair, lighter than Tia’s long blonde curls, lit to gold by the sun. ‘We’ve got company.’
Tia was there first, and I peered over her head. Off to the left, almost out of sight of the window, two helicopters spiralled in for a landing, their rotors flicking up clouds of red-orange dust. One was the familiar blue-and-white BioTronics chopper, but the other one was painted in camouflage colours which blended into the green and brown bush behind it. -Military, I thought, and a little shiver ran down between my shoulder blades.
We didn’t get a lot of visitors here at the Aerie. The only road that led in here was a twenty-five-kilometre dirt ribbon that flooded for two months every year and kicked up a long column of dust behind every vehicle that used it for the other ten months. So we were pretty much isolated, which I guess suited BioTronics just fine. BioTronics Inc. owned the ten thousand acres that the Aerie was built on, and paid the wages of the few people who worked here. Aside from Dad there were three scientists, and their wives and husband formed the admin and support team. None of them had kids; when they started families they were shipped out and another couple moved in. They all went on holidays at different times, so work could keep going.
Except for Ricky, Tia and I. Dad never left, so we never left either. Not that there were many places the twins could go without breaching BioTronics’s secrecy agreements. When we were younger it didn’t bother us – we had our own play area with toys and computers, swings and a trampoline outside, and our own schoolroom where we did lessons through School of the Air.
But I was four years older than the twins and by the time I was fourteen the differences between our lives and the lives of the other kids on School of the Air, combined with some things I’d heard and seen that maybe I shouldn’t have, were making me think twice about things.
So the sight of that military helicopter kicking up the dust, and the mix of people in army greens and smart business suits pouring from them toward the Admin block, made me feel even more anxious than Tia looked.