Chapter 2.7 (Grace)

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Chapter 2.7 (by Grace)

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.

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Chapter 2.5 (Grace)

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Chapter 2.5 (by Grace)

Rowena’s eyes widened. “However did you manage to solve for the flatulence issue?!” she exclaimed, “But Penelope, tortoises in tuxedos? So cliche. Though the tailoring is excellent. Whose work is this?”

Penelope preened ever so slightly. “I actually made the prototype, but I taught the spider monkey-falcon hybrids to sew once I knew the tuxedos would fit.”

“Remarkable,” Rowena stated, “now you were saying that you solved for flatulence. How?”

“We were missing a vital protein strain – No. 394. Once I realized it, it was quite easy to fix the problem. It had quite the stabilizing effect and as a lovely bonus, cured the flatulence issue quite by accident.”

As they finished up their snacks, Henri slow made his way around the room collecting empty dishes and placing them on the tray on Henry’s back. Once all the dishes had been cleared, Henri carefully stepped back into his shell. Henry tapped a small knob on Henri’s shell. The shell slowly came back together until Henri’s shell was once again seamlessly in place. Henry and Henri slowly turned around and made their way back to the kitchen.

“Would you like to see my data?” Penelope asked hesitantly, “It’d be no trouble –”

“What kind of question is that?” Rowena interrupted irritably, “Of course I want to see it. Now close your mouth and go get it.”

As Penelope walked away from the table quietly grumbling under her breath, Edgar jumped up on the table and walked to the sunny spot to settle down for a nap. Horatio and Eric landed on Edgar’s side once he had settled down and began preening each other and then Edgar before falling asleep.

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 2.3 (Grace)

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Chapter 2.3 (by Grace)

With a scoffing laugh, Horatio fluttered his wings with annoyance. “Fine, I’ll let Tiny talk — if that’s even your real name.”

Tiny/Rowena let out a slow, calming breath. “Let me start at the beginning. My colleague over there –Penelope– and I are scientists. We study and manipulate the genes of animals –humans, mammals, reptiles– to make them stronger and adaptable to other planets without needing additional life-support and to live longer lives as well as communicate across species. You see…” Rowena frowned at Horatio who was clearly snoring. She let out a long-suffering sigh.

“Tiny?” Eric asked, “I’m not sure what all the means. I know you are speaking bird — I mean, I think you are. I mean, I understand you…” he trailed off. “Why did you pick us? And how come you change into a two-legs-no-feathers? And what is an Edgar? What’s a Chelsea? Also, are there any good bugs to eat around here? I’m starving!”

Horatio snorted awake. “Did someone say something about food? I’m starving!”

Edgar stalked over to the birds and brushed up against Rowena. Then he sat down and yawned wide, showing off all his teeth. “Did someone mention food?”

Penelope knew she should do something to diffuse the situation, but she did not suffer through years of grad school and thesis papers to become an over-qualified serving wench. It was then she remembered the serving turtles. Now was as good a time as any to see if she had worked out the bugs. Everyone seemed to be edging into hangry territory, including herself.

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 2.1 (Grace)

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Chapter 2.1 (by Grace)

Edgar’s fur seemed to grow and make him seem twice as large. With an angry growl, Edgar demanded, “What do you mean there are no such things as cats?!”

That was Rowena’s cue to step in before Edgar became so upset that he ate one of the birds. Or worse, threw up in one of her shoes. Again.

“Edgar!” Rowena sang his name, “Won’t you be a dear and help this poor creature –” Rowena looked at Fiona, no, Penelope.

“Her name is Chelsea,” supplied Penelope with a weary sigh.

“– Chelsea back to the back? She seems a bit dazed. I’ll take care of our newest guests from here. Thank you, dearest,” Rowena cooed to Edgar.

Edgar shook himself out and then set Eric and Horatio on the arm of the chair. He chirped at Rowena and then sauntered over to Chelsea.

Rowena walked over to the wrens and then flashed back to her bird form.

Horatio immediately began chattering away angrily, “Tiny! What is going on?! WHAT IS THAT THING?!”

Edgar hissed angrily from the table but continued to groom Chelsea.

“Horatio, please calm down!” Tiny/Rowena pleaded. “I’ll explain everything, but please stop insulting Edgar.”

“But Tiny,” Horatio whined, “he said he was a cat!”

Edgar bristled and started growling.

“Shut up, Horatio!” Eric whispered fiercely, “Let Tiny talk and stop making Bi– I mean Edgar angry!”

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.