From somewhere, Anne acquired a husband. Her family was never sure where or how this had happened because neither of them ever discussed it. The first the family heard of him was when they were organising Aunty May’s sixtieth birthday party and Anne added at the end of a phone call with her mother, “André will be coming too, of course.”
“André?” Her mother was surprised. Anne had never been a plus one sort of person.
“My husband. You’ll like him,” Anne had assured her breezily and hung up.
Her family did like him, once they got over the shock. He was about five years older than Anne, five inches taller than anyone else in the family, foreign, generally helpful, well read and probably well educated. He was also good with children.
No-one, even those who’d assumed Anne would be childless and unmarried all her life, was surprised when she started having children. After ten years and ten children that were mainly very similar boys, it did look, well, odd.
When they announced that Anne was pregnant again, her brother Vince did some poking around in the library and then confronted André.
“You’re some sort of life-leech, living off my sister, you and your clone kids! How could you? Stop it!”
Vince found himself pinned against the bookcases by André’s arm across his throat so fast he didn’t know how it happened.
“Half right,” Andre hissed in his ear. “I’m the real one and I’m feeding her!”
“What?” Vince looked at him in confusion.
“Your parents’ third child was taken away by the Obsidian Tower at birth and replaced by a simulacrum. It’s their standard operating procedure. Most simulacrums fail within a few months and it’s written up as failure to thrive or cot death. Anne didn’t.” André shrugged with out putting more pressure on Vince’s throat. “I was sent to investigate why. I have some theories – she was formed from a failed twin of the child taken by the Obsidian Tower, not from the child herself, and your family, collectively and individually, have a very strong ambient magic field for non-practitioners. To get to the point, I met her and fell in love – her personality, her interests, her enthusiasms and her kindness, those are hers alone and not the spell. She’s amazing, but she was beginning to fail when I met her, there was a lethargy that would probably be interpreted as a cardiac problem.”
“But it’s been over ten years,” Vince protested, “She’s fine-“
“Because I’ve been pumping as much energy into her as I can afford,” André cut in. “For every one of my clones she brings to term, I can buy her another five years of life or a pregnancy with a child of ours. Lucy, Elvira and John are ours, the other boys are all my clones.”
“So she’ll live for another twenty years now?” Vince asked tentatively.
“If the connection between us was cut today,” André agreed, “But I want to guarantee her more than that if I can. If anyone from the Tower takes an interest in what I’m doing, then it’s clone research.” He released Vince.
“What?” Vince was rubbing his throat where he’d been pinned.
“I have no idea why Reynard has red hair, Craig has freckles, Roger has so many moles or Simon needs glasses. Theoretically, we should be identical,” he grinned at his brother-in-law, “but we’re not and it’s fascinating.”