Chapter 2.6 (Naomi)

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Chapter 2.6 (by Naomi)

Penelope pushed open the door of the lab and took long, purposeful strides through the main corridor. She had a determined expression on her face, discouraging her favorite orangutan lab assistant from approaching her. Penelope saw Sandra’s furry arm reach out and then retreat. She would just have to wait.

Coming to the end of the hall, Penelope stopped, coming to face a seemingly blank wall. Taking a small step back, she crouched down, bending at the knees and waist. Squeezing her eyes shut, she bowed her head into her folded arms. Penelope inhaled deeply, counted to five, and exhaled sharply. As the last of the air was expelled from her lungs, she began to shrink.

Opening her eyes, Penelope found herself in a puddle of clothes. Looking at her hands, she saw the little pink claws of a field mouse. The transformation was successful. Penelope scurried to the wall and placed her paw on a tiny knob and turned. A small door imbedded in the baseboard swung open and she stepped inside.

Taking a number of turns down and a dimly lit corridor, Penelope once again stopped to face a dead end. Opening the door before her, she stepped into a tidy, mouse-sized office. Pausing on a tiny oriental rug, tassles all perfectly aligned, Penelope scanned the room. Now, where had she filed that research? Squinting her beady eyes, she scurried towards a tiny metal filing cabinet.

Chapter 2.4 (Naomi)

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Chapter 2.4 (by Naomi)

Rowena flashed back to her human form and rubbed her temples. Too many flashes in a short period of time gave her head a dull ache. She turned to Penelope who was still observing the whole situation from her seat at the table, chin resting in her hand. Rowena caught her gaze and Penelope raised an eyebrow. This exchange was their signal that the specimens in the lab needed a snack in addition to their regular meal routine. It was a necessarily wordless exchange because any hint of a mention that the animal might be hungry would sometimes result in indignation and hurt feelings, which could lead to accidental ingestion down the food chain.

Once she saw Rowena’s almost imperceptible nod, Penelope gathered up all her energy. “Henry and Henri are most probably interested in a visit!” She sang as brightly as she could muster. She stood up and strode quickly into the lab.

After a few moments Penelope returned followed by two Aldabra giant tortoises in single file. On their backs they carried trays of food for each hungry species in the room. For the birds a worm and insect medley of two types of beetle, earthworms and wingless flies. For Edgar, salmon sashimi on a bed of leafy greens. For Penelope and Rowena, lightly grilled tuna steaks served on beds of rice and a side of sautéed spinach with a hint of garlic and sesame oil. Rowena greeted Henry and Henri and stepped aside. Henry, who stood behind Henri, grasped Henri’s tail firmly in his mouth and gave a little tug. Henri’s shell expanded away from his body into a cube with holes. With care to not disturb the food, Henri stepped backwards out of his shell and began distributing dishes around the room to everyone.

As they sat at the table eating, Rowena took a breath to say something, but Penelope cut her off, “Yes they’re still slow, but Chelsea is the key. And you must admit — the flatulence issue has finally been solved!

Chapter 2.2 (Naomi)

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Chapter 2.2 (by Naomi)

Edgar turned his full attention to Chelsea. With claws carefully retracted, he patted her on the top of her snowy white head, right between her jet black ears, his oversized Maine Coon paw making soft thuds. Chelsea did not respond, instead sitting perfectly still, staring straight ahead, unblinking. Searching for any clues as to snap her out of this trance, Edgar sniffed her face. That musty, offensive canine smell filled his nostrils. Attempting to rid himself of the odor, Edgar shook his head. Regaining his composure, he turned to Penelope, who sat at the table with her head in her hands, oblivious to his frustrations.

“Dr. Glyndor, if you please, I require assistance,” Edgar began. “It appears Chelsea is in some sort of comatose state.”

Penelope looked up to see Edgar gesturing politely in Chelsea’s direction. She warily took in the situation and muttered, “Try her paw. Front right. Front left locks, front right unlocks.”

Following Penelope’s instructions, Edgar managed to release Chelsea, who arched her back in a shuddering stretch and leapt clumsily from the table. Edgar leaped gracefully to the floor to follow. Guiding her to a small flapping cat door, Edgar and Chelsea disappeared into “the back.”

A few moments later, Edgar reappeared and leapt back onto the table to settle right in front of Penelope. “Why? Why canine? And how?” implored a distraught Edgar. “And is she part… ROBOT?!” exclaimed the large cat, as if this was even more offensive than the canine horror.

“Well, technically speaking, the process is threefold…” Penelope launched into what sounded to Edgar a very “science-y” sounding explanation.

Edgar reached out and put a tabbied paw onto Penelope’s gesticulating hand and very patiently told her, “I am a cat. I already know science-y things.”

Across the room a little brown bird twittered in laughter. Penelope held her breath. Edgar glared in Horatio’s direction.

Chapter 2 (Naomi)

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Chapter 2 (By Naomi)

Penelope heard Edgar sigh for the hundredth time that day. She rolled her eyes. Edgar was certainly Rowena’s cat. The two of them resembled each other on the dramatic scale. Despite all of the modifications she had performed on Rowena and the two years she had looked after Edgar, neither had ever warmed to Penelope.

Rowena’s life work and research had always come before personal relationships. Edgar was the one great exception, but even then, Rowena hadn’t been able to resist a tiny modification on even him.

A pioneer in her field, Dr. Rowena Siobhan Crane, Ph.D. was the top scientist in the known multiverse in genetic research. She quickly became known for mocking her colleagues and being difficult to work with. Nevertheless, she was heavily sought after.

In reality, she had little patience for pettiness and a biting sense of humor which was often misunderstood. After abandoning a series of posts at both public and private institutions, she founded her own research facility. Looking to distance herself from her former colleagues and to fly under the professional radar, she named her facility Odd Mods. Other than the random call looking for automotive modifications, the facility stayed out of the general public’s attention.

She brought on board the only colleague she could trust- the fully competent and highly respected P. Fiona Glyndor, Ph.D. Rowena had known Fiona for thirteen years and had never known the P stood for Penelope. Who would have guessed?

“You think you know a person,” mused Rowena. After realizing her data was intact she had let her mind wander. Now she glanced over and saw Edgar talking to her field companions. They had no idea what they had just flown into. Horatio and Eric were just run of the mill wrens. She heard them in turn scoff at the idea of cats really existing. “Uh oh!” she giggled aloud. The birds turned to her with alarm.

Chapter 1.8 (Naomi)

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Chapter 1.8 (by Naomi)

Dr. Glyndor stared down into her tray of medicines. They were useless now. The small window of time she had to administer them to Chelsea had expired in the chaos of Dr. Crane’s re-entry into the facility. She muttered something incomprehensible under her breath.

“What was that?” Dr. Crane asked snidely.

“I said, ‘my name is Penelope.’ I’m going by Penelope. Fiona’s my middle name. Last year I decided to go by my –”

“Stop, stop! Is this really what you want to say right now?!” Dr. Crane whirled around to face Dr. Glyndor, eyes flashing. “You could’ve corrupted all of my data!”

“I’m sorry, Rowena. It wasn’t intentional…” Dr. Glyndor trailed off, unsure of what to say.

Dr. Crane pulled back her lab coat and pulled down the elastic waistband of her pants about an inch to reveal a quarter inch clear nylon zipper on her right hip. She carefully unzipped the compartment and gently extracted a micro memory card. “Well, let’s see if you ruined everything,” she sighed. She handed the card to Dr. Glyndor.

From his chair, Edgar sighed along with her. He might be all feline, but he wasn’t unmodified. His only enhancement was an ability to communicate across species. It was time to comfort the other two birds. Another undignified task.

Across the room, Dr. Glyndor was wrangling Chelsea onto a table across from a projector screen. She gently pressed Chelsea’s front left paw, causing Chelsea to sit upright. She inserted Dr. Crane’s memory card into a slot in Chelsea’s chest and briefly folded her left ear. Chelsea’s eyes emitted an eerie light.

 

Chapter 1.6 (Naomi)

Chapter 1.6 (By Naomi)

“Chelsea, please!” Edgar implored. They had both nestled into Edgar’s favorite chair, favoring the worn tweed to the slippery leather sofa.

“Wha? Wha’d I do?” Chelsea looked around the room absently.

“Your tongue!” Edgar felt helpless trying to train this ridiculous creature.

With a flash of sterile fluorescent light, the door leading to “the back” swung open. Dr. Glyndor’s silhouette filled the doorway. She slowly approached Edgar and Chelsea, taking care not to alarm them. She carried the usual metal tray filled with pointy needles and small shiny glass vials filled with foul liquids. Edgar bristled at the sight of her. Although she gave him grief, Chelsea was still his ward.

“Chel-sea!” Sang Dr. Glyndor. “Time for your meds!”

At that very moment, a clicking noise caught the attention of all three. Edgar’s birds! The teeny tiny one was pecking at the glass of the window.

Before Edgar could stop her, Chelsea was on the table, deftly turned the lock and slid open the window. She stuck her arm outside and scooped all three birds into the room and closed the window, locking it with a click.

The little brown birds flitted nervously around the room as Edgar’s and Dr. Glyndor’s jaws silently fell open.

Chapter 1.4 (Naomi)

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Chapter 1.4 (By Naomi)

Chelsea scrambled clumsily onto the end table with Edgar. While he pretended not to notice, she reared back before pouncing on his head. While she engaged in a one-sided wrestling match with his shoulders, Edgar watched helplessly as the birds fluttered away.

Edgar sighed heavily and resolved to stay calm. His flickering tail was the only thing betraying his slight annoyance.

Finally Chelsea gave up and slumped down into a lounging position. She gazed up at him with a blank expression. Edgar averted his gaze. She was just so undignified. All of these new hybrids were.

Unlike Edgar, Chelsea had never known life outside of this home. She had only recently been released into the house section of the facility. She was created in “the back,” as Edgar thought of it. A result of designer gene modification, she was mostly feline like Edgar, but with just enough canine to cause minor frustrations in Edgar’s daily life.

For example, the utterly embarrassing pounce technique. He had worked with her for hours the day before on stealth philosophy and yet he could hear her moments before she appeared in his peripheral vision.

Edgar sighed heavily. Chelsea’s tongue lolled lazily out the side of her mouth.

There was so much work to do.