Penelope skittered to a stop in her human office and sat back on her haunches. A tiny paw absentmindedly stroking her long whiskers, Penelope contemplated the whereabouts of her research files. She knew they were in this office, but where? Her beady little eyes darted here and there.
Suddenly, without warning, an offensive odor filled the air and then almost immediately Chelsea slid into the room at an angle, reluctant to use her claws as traction on the cement floor. Her tongue hung out of her mouth as she panted, quite out of breath. Penelope froze, unsure of how Chelsea might react to her mouse form.
Never having been in this particular room before, Chelsea gazed wide-eyed at the quite mundane office as if she were in an elaborate museum. She crept slowly towards a towering bookcase overflowing with dusty volumes as if it were a fascinating exhibit. Noticing her preoccupation, Penelope began to plan her exit, and extended one back leg cautiously towards the door. Somehow Chelsea noticed this disturbance and whipped her entire body around and lept the distance between them until they were nose to nose. Penelope tried to ignore the stench. She held her breath and involuntarily blinked several times in rapid succession. She noticed Chelsea’s tail swishing from side to side. “Feline or canine?” Penelope fretted.
“Hi!” Chelsea yipped cheerfully. Penelope breathed a sigh of relief. After a brief conversation, Penelope scrambled up onto Chelsea’s back. She held onto the scruff of her neck as the unlikely duo bolted out the door and into the corridor.
Penelope dug through her tiny mouse-sized files. Every few moments she would find herself digging without purpose as the rodent aspects of her current state attempted to take over. She stopped and ran her little claws over her face in an attempt to refocus her attention. Finally she stopped altogether and trudged wearily to her desk. She wheeled out her wooden swivel chair and plopped down, feeling a bit deflated. Rowena would certainly have something biting to say about Penelope’s genetic alteration hindering their work. She always did. The science had been so new at the time, but they had been so eager to get started. Rowena had insisted that Penelope go ahead with the procedures resulting in a less than perfect result. The final calculations had been Penelope’s and Rowena never let her forget it. Never mind Rowena’s procedures had also been calculated by Penelope, and were near absolute perfection.
Suddenly Penelope raised her head from her hands. She knew where her research files were! She flung her office door open and scurried down the hall and back to where she left her clothes in the lab corridor. As she opened the tiny door in the baseboard, she peered out into the light and saw that her clothes were gone. This. This was the exact reason she was inspired to solve for being fully clothed when she conducted her research for Rowen’s procedure. Someone was always cleaning up the “dirty laundry.”
Still blinking hard in adjustment to the lights, Penelope set off in search of some clothes. She hoped she didn’t run into Chelsea. She was in absolutely no mood to fight off a feline/canine hybrid on an already asinine mission.
While Penelope fetched her research, Rowena checked to make sure Edgar and the birds were soundly asleep before briskly walking over to the cabinet where the empty, sterile sample vials were kept. She had a small window of opportunity while Eric and Horatio slept to collect blood and tissue samples.
She quickly prepared a tray with all the necessary instruments and then quietly walked it over to the table. They had discovered quickly that there was no good way to remove sleep aids from blood samples, so they had developed a subliminal sound “playlist” for animals that induced REM sleep, thus allowing them to collect clean samples not influenced by stress-released hormones, nor contaminated with drugs.
Once Rowena collected the samples she needed, she took her tray of samples to the DNA sequencer. Rowena needed to make sure the wren population they had brought to Alpha Centauri IV were on track in their evolutionary adaptations to the newly terraformed planet. The gravity on this planet was in constant flux of +/-0.2 N. While that level of fluctuation didn’t seem to affect most land animals, birds and fresh and salt-water creatures were having some trouble adapting.
These wrens seemed to be the exception, and could possibly be key in helping other birds survive on Alpha Centauri IV. If she could discover the secret to the wrens’ ability to adapt to the gravity fluctuations, she may be able to save the other birds who weren’t adapting as well as they should be.