Taylor Walker seems like any ordinary 14-year-old . . . if you overlook the fact that she lives on the island of Borneo, on a primate reserve run by her parents, and knows how to survive in the jungle.
Tay isn't just like everyone else. But she is like one other person. She's exactly like one other person. Tay is a clone, one of only five in the world, and her clone mother is Pam Taylor, a brilliant scientist.
When rebels attack her home, Tay escapes with her younger brother and Uncle, an exceptionally intelligent orangutan. As they flee for their lives, Tay must look within to find her strength: Pam's DNA, tempered by Taylor's extraordinary life.
She's not alone, and she might be a clone, but she's also unique.
Release date: October 4, 2022
Print pages: 240
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Donny and Tay had lived in Kandah State, a small independent country on the north coast of the giant island of Borneo, since Donny was five and Tay was seven. Their parents were the Wardens of an Orang-Utan Refuge, out in the wilds of one of the last great rainforests. Ben and Mary Walker both worked for an international company called Lifeforce, which financed the Refuge. To some people it would have seemed a hard and lonely life for the two English children, but they loved it. The forest was such a fantastic place to live. It had been a cruel blow when their parents decided Donny had to go to school in Singapore. But it was fine now. They just looked forward through each term to having a brilliant time together in the holidays.
Would things be different, this summer?
Tay visited the cheap stalls, with the stacks of ugly imitation Dyak carvings that never seemed to get sold, and the Instant Tailoring shop, where the Chinese tailor-women whizzed the cloth through their sewing machines at incredible speed. They would sew you a perfect made-to-measure shirt in about ten minutes. She had a Coke at the ice-cream parlour, where rich Muslim girls from the airport-suburbs (a very classy area of Kota Kandah, capital city of Kandah State) sat gossiping, some of them in head-to-toe white embroidered veils. Donny won’t be different, she was telling herself. He won’t care. But she had butterflies in her stomach.
There was a sarong that she would really have liked to buy, in Mrs Su’s Genuine Dyak Crafts Centre. It was heavy and handwoven, with swirls and thorny curves in gold thread, on shades of dark red silk. She could imagine her Mum wearing this. Tay’s Mum hardly ever got a chance to wear anything but jungle kit, but she loved beautiful clothes. Mrs Su, the Chinese lady who owned the shop, came over as Tay stroked the shimmering folds, with a smile that showed all the gold in her teeth. She took the sarong and deftly unfolded it.
‘Ve’y nice? Eh?’
‘It’s lovely,’ sighed Tay.
‘You old customer, young lady. I make you a special price. Not New York price, not airport price. Nah real price.’
Tay knew that even the ‘real price’ of the best handwoven gold-thread work was way beyond her means. ‘I can’t afford it, Mrs Su. I’ve only got six hundred dollars left in my bank account, and I owe most of it to my dad.’
Six hundred Kandah dollars meant about fifty English pounds. ‘Ha,’ said Mrs Su, and shook her head. ‘Okay, you tell your Daddy, huh? Mrs Su got the best silk-work, special price. You here to meet your brother, home from school, eh?’
Tay grinned. ‘Yes.’ Most of the foreigners who lived in Kandah were ‘oilies’: oil rig people, or ‘chippies’, which meant they worked for the logging companies, and they didn’t stay long. The Walkers had been at the Refuge for seven years. Mrs Su knew Donny and Tay well. Whenever they came to the airport they came into her shop, to talk to her: and she gave them strange, hard Chinese candies.
The old lady folded up the sarong. ‘Why you never go to school, Tay, you so grown up now? Don’t want an education?’
‘I’m getting an education,’ said Tay. ‘I work at home, that’s all.’
‘Huh. A smart girl like you: ought to be in school. Got to learn to compete, make your way, be tough. Some things you can’t learn from books.’
Two teenage girls came in. One of them, about Tay’s age, was wearing a sarong and blouse —the traditional Kandah dress, but very smart— and a Muslim headscarf. The other, who looked about sixteen, was bare-headed. She had her glossy black hair cut short and feathered, and she was dressed in the “Wild West” style that was the height of fashion in Kandah city —boot-cut faded jeans, a beaded belt, and a Western-style shirt with fringes and silver buttons. Tay instantly loved the shirt.
The girls whispered to each other, and giggled.
Tay didn’t have the kind of life that would let her get to know girls her own age: and she didn’t mind. She loved living in the magical wilderness of the deep forest. But suddenly she felt a terrible pang, watching those two strangers and thinking she could never never have a life like theirs. She would never be able to meet her friends and go out with them, just to have an ice-cream and hang around the shops, gossiping, trying things on … She would always have the horrible weight of her secret identity hanging round her neck, always afraid someone would find out—
Tay and Mrs Su had been speaking English. The girls were speaking Malay, but Tay knew the Kandanese dialect of that language very well. As they came near, she could understand every word. There was a sexy popstar poster on one of the cheap stalls that the younger girl wanted to buy, only she knew their dad wouldn’t let her put it up in her bedroom. And someone at school had done something really bodoh (stupid) …
‘What wrong?’ said the old lady, peering at Tay. Mrs Su didn’t miss much. ‘You don’t take offence at old Mrs Su? You got a pain?’
‘No, Mrs Su,’ said Tay. ‘I’m just worried about something.’
Mrs Su sighed, and nodded as she put the sarong back on the display shelf. ‘Ah, understand. Your mother and father worried, everyone worried, even children now. Hard times for me too. No one buying. Hard times for everyone.’
Tay went out of the shop, but not before Mrs Su had insisted she take a handful of brightly wrapped sweets from the jar by the cash register. The afternoon plane from Singapore had arrived, and the passengers were streaming into the Arrivals Hall. For a moment Tay felt a weird jolt of fear. Something had gone wrong, because she couldn’t see Donny … But no, she was being stupid. There he was, talking to some people he must have met on the plane. He saw her, and his whole face lit up.
‘Hey! There’s my sister!’
He came bouncing out of the crowd and leapt up to her, grinning from ear to ear, a twelve year old boy with blue eyes and black hair, and the personality of a crazy puppy. They hugged, and backed off so they could look at each other.
‘I’m taller than you!’ he crowed, ‘I knew I’d be taller than you, these holidays.’
‘Nearly,’ said Tay, measuring, and finding her nose still about half a centimetre higher. ‘Nearly as tall, and twice as daft.’ They gripped hands, did the special Tay and Donny twist of their locked fists, broke the grip and knocked knuckles. It was a ritual they had invented years ago, that always had to be used at important moments.
‘How’s Harimau?’ asked Donny, as they made for the one and only baggage carousel.
Harimau was an orang-utan in the graduation class —a young ape who’d reached the stage where he was partly fending for himself. He’d been ill. The reason why Mum wasn’t at the airport was because she’d had to go to Half-Way Camp, where the graduation apes had a feeding station, to check on him and see if he needed to be captured and brought in for treatment. Dad wasn’t here, because with Mum out in the forest he couldn’t leave the Refuge HQ. One of the Wardens had to be on site at all times, especially the way things were at the moment.
‘Mum thinks it isn’t serious. Oh, and Genevieve’s been promoted to graduation class. We’re going to Half-Way to release her, next week. We’ll camp there for a couple of nights there, so you’ll probably see Harimau—’
Lucia came to join them. They waited for Donny’s bags: Donny and Tay exchanging a babble of news, as if they hadn’t spoken to each other in years. They jabbered like monkeys, Lucia complained. Scatterbrains! If she hadn’t been there they would have let Donny’s things go rolling away to the Lost Airport Luggage Dimension, never to be heard of again … Not that it would have made much difference. No matter how people hassled him, he never packed properly. He always ended up back here with a fistful of odd socks and nothing else.
They collected the bags, including the Refuge Mail Drop (which had come on the scheduled plane, because their helicopter delivery had been cancelled). Then they unearthed Udin from a haze of cigarette smoke, and set off happily for home.
Everything went fine until the outskirts of Kandah city centre, where they wanted to turn right, and head into the interior. There they found that forest road had been closed, while they were at the airport. Another terrorist incident. The police were at the junction, telling people they had to go through the city centre, and be searched. With many groans and grumbles the traffic complied, but of course this meant the city centre was gridlocked. The Land Rover crawled, and finally the queue stopped moving entirely. Udin went to investigate. He believed that the prestige of the Lifeforce Orang-Utan Refuge would get them special treatment, if he talked to the right policeman. Minutes passed. Lucia went to see what had happened to Udin. More minutes passed.
At last Lucia and Udin came back, hot and gloomy.
‘They would let us through, but they can’t,’ said Udin. ‘Everything is completely, completely stuck.’
‘It’ll be an hour they say,’ said Lucia. ‘Minimum. Probably two.’
‘But why?’ demanded Tay. ‘What’s happened? Why was the road closed?’
The others shrugged. ‘It’s the rebels,’ said Udin, as if that answered everything.
‘It’s not worth worrying about,’ said Lucia. ‘We just have to be patient.’
Tay groaned. ‘Do we have to stay in the Land Rover? I’ve got my phone.’
‘No,’ said Lucia. ‘Give it an hour, then call me and see how things are going. Or I’ll call you, if we get through this, and you can meet us in the ferryboat car park.’
The children walked down to the river, past the eye-watering stink of the midden by the fruit and vegetable market, and across the elegant old footbridge into the modern part of the city. ‘Is it going to be like this the whole time?’ asked Donny, looking worried. Like a puppy, he was easily smacked-down: thankfully he bounced back just as easily. ‘No one told me Kandah had gone all horrible. Why anyone say?’
‘I suppose we’re used to it. You get used to it. Anyway, it hasn’t been bad. This hold up is the worst thing that’s happened. Everything’s fine at home.’
They both knew what the problem was … more or less. Most of Borneo was part of either Malaysia or Indonesia: Kandah State was squashed between these two great nations. The Sultan of Kandah wanted to stay independent; the rebels wanted to change things. Some of them wanted Kandah to join Indonesia, some wanted to join Malaysia. Some of them were Communists, and wanted Kandah to be Communist. They fought with each other, and they fought with the government. Terrifying forest fires were started. Remote little towns and villages were ransacked, like frontier towns in the Wild West being overrun by outlaws. The situation had been going on for years. Usually it all happened in the wild, deep interior, and the people of Kandah City Region only heard about it on the news. Occasionally the action would move nearer, and then there would be delays, searches, roads closed and police checkpoints.
Tay could remember one time, soon after the Walkers had come to Kandah, when Donny was only five, when they’d been stranded at the Refuge for weeks, living on tinned food: with no deliveries, and soldiers in trucks driving around on the forest tracks. But even then, nothing terrible had happened.
‘Things will calm down again. They always do. Mum and Dad aren’t worried.’
‘Oh no!’ exclaimed Donny, stopping in shock, halfway over the bridge. ‘I forgot to go and see Mrs Su! And there’s police everywhere, so we can’t go back!’
‘Calm down. I just told you, it’s nothing serious. You can see her next time anyone has to meet a plane. Anyway, I went to see her for you. Look, I got some candy.’
They walked on: doggedly sucking bitter-as-vinegar candied-plums. Neither of them liked the taste, but Mrs Su’s candy was a tradition. It was part of Donny’s homecoming.
Now the modern glass and concrete towers of the city centre sprang up on either side, and the afternoon felt even hotter. They passed the Mercedes car showroom, where they stopped to drool over the beautiful, fantastically expensive cars, and the department stores where fashionable modern clothes filled the plate glass windows in tempting array. Tay told Donny about the gold-thread sarong at Mrs Su’s. It was Mum’s birthday very soon, and Donny confessed he hadn’t bought her a present. He’d brought home something that he’d made in art class, which he hoped she’d like instead: a calendar and letter holder made out of bamboo and papier-mâché, but he was afraid it might have suffered, travelling in his luggage.
‘It’s in the shape of a tree-frog. I think it’s quite good … I hope it’s not broken.’
Knowing Donny’s methods of packing, Tay feared the worst.
‘Haven’t you any cash left at all? You had plenty of pocket money.’
‘It just sort of went,’ said Donny sadly. ‘I don’t know how, but it’s all gone.’
‘Okay, look. You can come in with me. I’ve mail-ordered something really good. You can share it with me, and pay me back.’
‘It’s cos. . .
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