The boys bent to their work. No more special guests for the afternoon; it was a work day. Schoolwork, that is. Dr. Tyson visited frequently to see how they were doing. Cole liked him. He didn’t treat them as geniuses, he treated them as…well, kids.
Sanjay was frozen in place, pencil in hand, eyebrow raised, chin down, staring at his twin. Cole knew the look. Stop daydreaming and get to work! They’d shared a womb for nine months, and hardly ever been separated in the nine years since. Cole met his brother’s eyes just long enough to admit that he’d been daydreaming and promise to give his full attention to the calculus worksheets.
Their math tutor looked over their work when they finished. That was the part Cole hated the most, although Sanjay reveled in it. Being compared not only to each other, but to their predecessor.
Compared to their own potential.
“Thank you Cole, for showing all your work. I can see the same wrong turn you took on several problems…” Cole couldn’t help but pay attention. He wanted… he needed to know what that mistake was. He felt like he understood the material, and was surprised that there was something he was doing wrong.
The tutor turned to Sanjay. “Sanjay, you need to show your work. You only got two problems wrong, but I have no idea whether it’s just some silly little typo, or whether you’re misunderstanding one of the steps…”
Sanjay grabbed the paper from their tutor’s hand, glanced at the two problems marked wrong, and quickly fixed them. “It was nothing. Just a little glitch. I fixed it.”
The tutor didn’t look happy as he looked at the math sheet. “Yes, that’s correct. However you do need to show your work.”
Sanjay heaved a heavy sigh and nodded noncommittally. They had this argument all the time. Sanjay insisted that he could do all the work in his head in the blink of an eye, so why bother slowing himself down to put it on paper just so the tutor could see?
Cole liked slowing things down. He often wished he could slow down life itself, freeze a perfect moment in time and live in it for just a little longer…
Like last Sunday, when their Dad had spent the entire afternoon throwing and catching with them. Cole was just happy to relax and swing at their Dad’s throws, and soon he was hitting every pitch. But Sanjay wouldn’t let their Dad throw the ball until he had adjusted his grip and stance to compensate for whatever imagined mistake he had made the past ten times he failed to hit the ball. He didn’t give up… he didn’t even get upset. He just shrugged when it was all over, as if it was simply one more requisite activity on their schedule.
Cole had watched his Dad’s strong shoulders flex under the late afternoon sun. He wondered what his life would have been like if he’d inherited his Dad’s DNA instead of the donor’s.
I could be a baseball star instead of a genius…
There was no transition to college. High School diplomas were awarded at filed at a young age; just another formality in their formal education. The boys continued to breeze through the math and sciences, absorbing the subjects like they had been born to them.
And they had. By design, they were born to fulfill the potential of their predecessor, the donor. Their education included writing and communication, necessary skills to be able to share their genius with the world. They both enjoyed art, especially when it was something messy like clay. It was also one of the only times they got to interact with kids their own age, on equal ground. The two of them were far too valuable to let them go to public school, or even a private institution. No, their education was finely tuned and tailored to maximize their potential.
Cole began to hate the word. When they turned fourteen and the orneriness of teenagedom asserted itself, he announced that he wasn’t going to be a great scientist after all.
“I’m going to be a fighter pilot. Maybe even an astronaut! And not one of the scientist-astronauts… I want to fly the thing!”
“That sounds like a terrific career.” His mother said calmly. The worst part was, he knew she meant it. He knew she loved him and would enthusiastically support him in anything he did.
But will “they” let me?
“That’s stupid.” Sanjay said. Their Dad gave him a look, and would have spoken up if he hadn’t just taken a rather too-large bite of Mom’s fabulous lasagna. Sanjay had the manners to look contrite. “Sorry. But it’s still not a good idea. I mean, we’ve got such potential, we’ve got the genes of one of the greatest men who ever lived…”
“…and every day of our lives we’re reminded of it! Pictures from his life and his achievements all over the school and lab. And I see it in the eyes of every mentor who comes through. I know these men and women… they’re accomplished scientists, mathematicians, engineers and everything without the benefit of someone else’s extra-special genes! Yet they practically worship us. They treat us like celebrities.”
Their mother quietly interrupted. “You are celebrities.” She said it like it was an unfortunate fact, a burden they had to carry. “And you do have potential. You weren’t given a choice. You were brought into this world as an experiment, but I’ve never regretted that a single day of my life.” She captured Cole’s eyes, and he felt the weight of her sincerity pierce the angry bubble that he’d worked up. “You’re mine.”
Laying in bed that night, Cole wondered about the gifts his mother had given him. Not the toys and mementos scattered around his room, but the more personal gifts of self. Their older and younger siblings were both girls. He didn’t know if that was by design, to lessen the inevitable comparisons, or whether it was simple chance. He did know that the scientists had argued for years before their conception regarding what the ideal family would be like. They wanted the boys to have a nuclear family, and they wanted that family to include other children.
Children who were not test subjects.
Glorianna looked most like their Dad. But as a younger sister, she had picked up a lot of quirks her big brothers exhibited, as well as an impressive vocabulary. There was no doubt she was their sister, even though genetically they had almost nothing in common. Eshana, older by only just over a year, doted on them like she was an extra mother, even trying to help them with their homework long after they passed her academically.
A familiar thump came from the room next door, and Cole was up in a flash. The one thing… the thing that could be the key to everything… was also the biggest difference between the otherwise identical twins.
Sanjay had the visions. Cole did not.
Sanjay hated the blinding flashes of light, and flatly refused to talk about what he saw afterwards. But late in the night, he would come to his brother’s room and sit at the end of the bed, delivering a monologue that often made no sense. It gave Cole strange dreams, but if it helped his brother unload his burden, it was worth it.
Cole found his brother sitting up in bed, his hands over his eyes, rocking back and forth. As was routine, Cole went to pick up whatever his brother knocked off the night stand while their mother breezed past and gathered her baby in her arms. No lights were turned on. The household customarily slept with next to no light… just the tiny safety dots in the hallway, and in each doorway. But eyes that were already adjusted to the absence of light found that tiny bit more than sufficient to find their way around the house, and to each other.
Cole heard Eshana in the hallway, asking if Sanjay was all right, and their Dad reassured her that he was fine, just another flash episode. Soon, Mom got up, leaving a lump of blankets over Cole’s twin. Cole retreated to his own bed, only to be woken moments after he finally got to sleep, his brother delivering the usual monologue at the foot of his bed.
After reading the answers to my SciFi Question of the Day about cloning Nicola Tesla, I decided to expand on the idea. This story is broken up into 3 parts, about a thousand words each.
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