Jeanette Ransom was an uncommonly smart young girl. Terence Ransom, her father, said so, and he should know, being an uncommonly smart sort of guy. She was also cute--not sufficiently so in her own estimation, but plenty so in her father’s.


Terence was a research chemist--but before you get the wrong idea, he didn’t work on anything interesting: dyestuffs and protective coatings and the like. Or, since he was currently working on carbon sequestration, which is in fact interesting, he worked at the least interesting end of things.


He wasn’t upset about this, and was very well paid, which made his life with Jeanette comfortable and well supplied with amusements. Jeanette was going to enter middle school, and had friends, and ran around doing things that only adults would consider dangerous, and had enough perspective on things to consider those kids richer than her or cuter or more popular as curiosities rather than idols.

And Mom? Mom was a spy.


Terence and Caitlin met in graduate school, got married, and got divorced about two years after Jeanette was born. Jeanette knew all about divorces, visitation rights, blended families and the like simply from being in school. Most of her classmates had step this and half-that, or two of these and none of those, and they became wise to the ways of the world, if not always happy.


About the spy thing? Dad explained that if you were an industrial or agricultural attachée to an embassy, you were almost certainly working for the CIA. And that was the reason that she only sent her a birthday card (with a check) and a check at Christmas. Dad had tended to tell really florid and unusual stories explaining things when she was littler, but this one seemed more plausible than most, and she had no desire to poke around underneath it.

(Jeanette did tend to finish stories she was listening to--and dreams she dreamt--with a mysterious female figure who came in, saved the day, and left as mysteriously as she had come.)


She loved her father deeply. The core of this was that he was calm--which manifested itself, to many, as dullness. Jeanette lived with a father who was calm when he was worried, calm when he was busy, and even, it was true, calm when he was upset. That was not a common gift, and Jeanette knew it (again) simply by being at school.

If she had a peculiarity at all, it was that she was not much of a gamer. That meant, of course, that she only played a couple of the games her friends played. What she liked instead were puzzles, and that was Terence’s fault. He did reasoning puzzles with her, and the puzzles where you changed one word into another by changing one letter at a time, and crosswords. So Jeanette had a haughty disdain for the ‘grab everything and shoot everything’ kind of games, and could be insufferable to her friends for short periods.


Dad’s most peculiar hobby (he had several) was repairing watches. Actual mechanical watches, which somehow still existed. He had a loupe (which Jeanette often stole to play a cyborg) an array of teeny-tiny screwdrivers and boxes of dust-like parts. His best gift to her was a very teeny-tiny watch in a silver locket that wound itself by her movements when she wore it. Dada was happy that she wore it, and would even look at the delicate little hands moving around the raised numerals, even if she got the time from her phone.


That is who Jeanette and Terence Ransom thought they were.


It’s not, of course, who they actually were, which is the subject, Dear Reader, of this story.


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