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.

Chapter 1.9 (Grace)

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Chapter 1.9 (by Grace)

While Penelope and Rowena reviewed the data Rowena had collected, Edgar stretched languidly in his chair. Horatio and Eric were still flitting around the room in a frenzy. Their panicked flight path brought them closer and closer to Edgar’s chair. Before either bird realized how close they were to the big-face cat, Edgar deftly jumped mid-air between both birds and gently snatched both birds in his paws.

“Hmph. Chelsea learned all her moves from me, you know,” Edgar told the birds.

Eric and Horatio were so stunned, they froze. Horatio found his voice first. “What’s a Chelsea, Big Face?

Indignant, Edgar growled, “My face is perfectly proportioned to my head and body!”

“S-s-sorry Big Fa- M-Mr. Big Fa…ce? We don’t know your name. You were just…a face…we saw in the glass…and your face was…(big)…” Eric trailed off as he realized his explanation was making the not big face angrier.

Edgar sighed heavily. Must he do everything? Teach everyone? “My name is Edgar Percival Crane. I am the most majestic animal to ever grace this planet. When I one day pass from this earthly plane, the heavens will cry at the loss of my presence to grace their view. I am…A CAT.”

Horatio and Eric Exchanged confused expressions. “But everyone knows cats aren’t real!” Horatio blurted out.

“Yeah!” Eric chimed in, “cats are just make believe stories mamas make up to make fledglings behave! What are you really?”

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.