No one noticed her arrival on Idylla, either; unlike the last time she’d visited Cam, her trip from the dirtside tram terminal to the Brenner estate passed uneventfully. A quick stop in the comfort rooms in the terminal stripped Ellie Taymor away and restored Amy Jones to her usual, unremarkable self. There was no need to call on her father’s name, and Amy passed the short trip by napping, her head resting against the tram’s vibrating window.
Teddy greeted her at the gatehouse with delight and let her through onto the grounds, warning her that the mansion was already playing host to several visitors. Amy put her curiosity on hold — Cam, and anyone else waiting up at the house, was unlikely to expire of impatience at this point even if they were awaiting her arrival — and sat and chatted with Teddy for some time. It transpired he was a lonely old man who had outlived his wife and two children, and when Amy began the walk up the hill to the mansion it was with a sense of guilt at leaving Teddy alone yet again.
Amy often forgot that the house, legally, belonged to her. She hadn’t lived in it in years; for all intents and purposes it was Cam’s. For all his flightiness, he’d always been more of a homebody than she had; the carefully cultivated gardens in front of the house, for instance, had Cam all over them. She’d never been the domestic type; her contribution to the house before she’d vanished for good had been the introduction of an even more stringent surveillance system than the one her father had implemented.
The house was silent for a whole thirty seconds after Amy pushed open the front doors. Then a young voice shrieked, “Uncle Cam! Uncle Cam! Someone’s breached our defences!” and Amy felt something thwack against her thigh. She looked down and saw paint spreading across the leg of her trousers. Paintball.
A small head poked into the hall about halfway down and quickly withdrew. Muffled conversation ensued, followed by Cam entering the hall with his paint gun raised in submission and a sheepish expression on his face.
Amy considered her brother. “Paintball,” she said finally, without further qualification.
“I’ve a small child to entertain,” Cam said. He glanced behind him. “Molly, my darling, we’ve called a ceasefire. Do come out and meet my sister.”
The small head reappeared around the doorframe, and this time Amy observed the dark hair and deep, shadowed eyes. As Molly Grayson stepped into the hall, Amy took stock of the child’s condition: thin, but clearly gaining weight; small for her age, which Amy reckoned must be around seven; fierce eyes; a marked resemblance to her father. She crept closer, the boldness with which she had greeted Amy’s entrance gone; instead she clung to Cam’s trousers and peered around at Amy with wide — and frightened — eyes.
“Hello,” Amy said. She’d never been good with children, and invariable either insulted older children by treating them far below their comprehension, or confused tiny children by speaking above their understanding. She thought for a moment. “I’m a friend of your father’s.”
Molly looked up at Cam. He smiled down at her and ruffled her hair.
“Molly, this is my big sister — ” Cam hesitated, clearly uncertain how to introduce Amy, but finally said, “ — Amy. She’s worked with your dad before. And she’s my best friend.” He grinned at his sister. “Anni, this is Molly Grayson.”
Amy and Molly exchanged an assessing gaze.
“How long has she been here?” Amy asked finally, breaking eye contact with the child.
“A week,” Cam said. “Or thereabouts.”
“I’d have thought Grayson would have stayed with her.”
Cam shrugged and put a protective hand on Molly’s shoulder. “He stayed until we were sure she wasn’t sick, and then he left again. Said he had to go get you.” His right eyebrow quirked upwards.
“Bollocks,” Amy said. “I figured they’d be too busy.”
“I did wonder why you’d abruptly appeared without warning,” Cam said. “Molly, my love, I think Maddie promised to make us hot chocolate once we’d finished defeating the Commission. Why don’t you see if it’s ready?”
Molly abandoned her gun with alacrity and disappeared around the corner. Cam returned his attention to his sister and, upon seeing her amused expression, shrugged.
“I’d never have imagined you a natural parent,” Amy said. She reached out and scraped an unidentifiable substance from the expensive fabric of Cam’s shirt. “Complete with mysterious stains.”
Cam shrugged. “She’s a sweet kid. And she’s lonely.”
“And you need a playmate.”
“That’s not fair.”
“Do I need to go find Grayson?” She wasn’t looking forward to the prospect. As much as she enjoyed flying, the last thing she wanted to do was hop, skip, and jump through bureaucratic red tape between spaceports again in search of Molly’s errant father.
“He said he’d be back in within the week.” Cam snickered. “I don’t think he was planning on waiting around long for you.”
Amy quelled his humour with a glare. “Presumably because he’s well aware that I’m perfectly capable of fending for myself.” She sighed. “I saw Dad.”
Cam’s head came up. “And?”
“And…he was Dad.” Amy frowned, and then for the sake of honesty added, “Well, he was…odd.”
“Odd?” Cam blinked in surprise. “That’s not how most people would describe Dad.” He leaned against the wall, his outward appearance projecting complete nonchalance. Amy knew better.
Cam waited, but as his sister didn’t appear any more forthcoming he jabbed her in the ribs, revelled in her squeak, and said, “What do you mean, he was odd? What did he do?”
Amy hesitated. “It’s weird. I’d swear he was trying to — to help me.”
This pronouncement was greeted with silence. Cam thought about the possibility of Seamus Brenner helping either of his children and, despite tending to feel slightly kinder towards his father than his sister, found the idea more than laughable.
“Dad doesn’t help us,” he said flatly.
“No, I know that,” Amy said hastily. “It’s just…it’s like he went out of his way to help me get what I wanted. What I needed.” She stared blindly past Cam, and then added, “And he said that he keeps tabs on us. That he always knows when you’re in trouble.”
Amy snorted and then sobered. “He also said he loves us.”
“And that that love means Naisbitt has power over him.”
Cam straightened up. “What, so he’s trying to liken his actions to those of — ” He cast around in his mind for an example and came up with one close to home. “ — Grayson? Prompted by the love of his children?” He laughed. “I don’t believe it.”
“Neither do I,” Amy said, but her voice was less certain than she’d have liked. “Neither do I.”