Welcome to the first chapter of A World Full of Monsters, a story about four guys whose business is genetic modification – i.e., the practical application of zipper theory.
And as it turned out, some people didn’t like that very much. For a variety of reasons.
zipper theory n. /ˈzɪp·ər ˈθɪər·i/ 1 A theory pertaining to a specific mechanism of inducing both physical and genetic modification via direct DNA manipulation in living organisms, involving a strand of DNA being separated at the vertical midpoint and then reconnected with a section from another organism which has been separated in the same manner. The theory was so named because the separation and reconnection process superficially resembles the action of a zipper. 2 The scientific theory behind the metamorphic process colloquially known as modding.
GenoMod was just getting started when we got our first referral. A guy came in, kind of a slimy guy who called himself a ‘talent handler’ – that’s slime-speak for an agency agent – and he had a problem he needed fixed. He’d had one of his performers modded, and it hadn’t worked out right. Which was how we found out that one of the guys from Project Chaney, one of the government’s wolverine-using idiots, had gone off on his own and opened up shop in a dark alley somewhere. And he was apparently modding humans. We asked the talent fucker why he hadn’t gone back to the guy who did it, and he said he’d tried but couldn’t get in touch with him again, that he’d up and disappeared and the only name he’d ever given was ‘Doc’.
Dude had paid a guy who called himself Doc to shoot up one of his agency’s desperate little dollies with god knows what to try to make her ‘unique’, and of course it had backfired like a fucking truck because the last time anyone modded a human with an animal the military had ended up liquidating every single one of them. Still, though, the talent fucker’s little girl was apparently not ‘usable’ – I thought Dave was going to go for the guy’s throat when that word popped out of him – so we told him he could bring her in and we’d run some tests. Maybe we could convince her to tell her talent fucker to fuck off at the same time, because within ten minutes of meeting him I wouldn’t have trusted him with a pet tarantula much less a human being.
He’d left her in his car. In his fucking car. Wearing a hoodie and sweats so nobody would see her, I could hear the poor kid panting the minute they walked through the door. This did not endear him to any of us, and now Joey was in on it so I let him have the talent fucker while Dave and I took the kid into the lab and sat her in front of a fan while she shed a few layers. Not all of them, because she was still a girl and she was scared to death of us, but enough so that with some water we could be sure she wasn’t going to keel over from heatstroke. She did have a fur coat on, after all.
Albeit one she couldn’t take off: ‘Doc’ had modded her with a white rabbit. She had the nose and the ears and she indicated that yes she did have the tail, and she was covered with white fur. She hadn’t been a very big girl to begin with, and with the addition of the mod she was tiny and absolutely fucking adorable…but completely miserable. Talent Fucker – so far as we were concerned, that was his name now – had not done the mod to her against her will, far from it apparently, but once she’d come out of it unable to talk and therefore unable to sing he’d been stuck and hadn’t taken very good care of his project after that. The agency had told him it was his problem; they had tried to use her once at some sort of convention, but one of the guys there had gotten handsy and she’d proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that cute, cuddly rabbits are actually vicious little fuckers when you corner them. After that, the agency had washed its hands off the situation. Basically, they’d thrown her away. Coming to us had been Talent Fucker’s last-ditch effort to salvage part of their investment and get himself out of the doghouse. Rabbit house. Whatever it was, he deserved to stay in it.
She had no problem typing, so I let her have my computer while the samples we took were running and she ‘talked’ to us. Her name was Hana Kim, she was nineteen, and she’d grown up in the Midwest. She said the agency had taken her on – and moved her to Cali – because she could sing enough to get by and she was a ‘sweet lolita’. At first we thought she meant the agency was branching into the pedo business, but she got on the Internet and showed us what she meant so we wouldn’t go set the agency’s offices on fire. It meant dressing like a china doll, ruffles and lace and ribbons and bonnets and little shoes and dainty handbags, the whole nine yards. Lolita was apparently some girls’ reaction to a world that just wasn’t willing to be sweet enough or feminine enough for their tastes, and for some of them it was a whole lifestyle and not just a way to dress. Hana was one of the lifestyle ones, and her gig with the agency had given her carte blanche to live it out on a daily basis. She’d never been one of their really popular performers, though, and it had looked like the dream might be ending with her lolitaing on her days off from a job at Walmart when her agent had shown her some pictures of adorable cartoon animal people and asked if that might be a new career path she’d be interested in.
At first she’d thought he meant furries and told him Walmart was looking better every day, but he’d explained that it was an actual physical change, not a costume. He’d told her she could be changed back if she didn’t like it – bald-faced lie right there, since we can’t even undo simple mods on animals yet – and then he’d given her a choice of animals and she’d picked her favorite. And so they’d gone to Doc’s back-alley mod-shop, Doc had asked her some questions – Hana said he’d been kind of scary, something about the look in his eyes, but that otherwise he’d been very nice to her – and then he’d injected her with something and she’d slept until she’d woken up the way she was now. Which had been every bit as cute as her agent had been hoping for…until he’d found out she couldn’t talk.
Here’s the really sad part: Hana actually loved being a bunnygirl. She loved the ears and the nose and the pretty white fur and the cute fluffy round tail nobody but her ever got to see, and she loved the way her dresses and bonnets and accessories looked on her now. She even loved the little handpaws the mod had left her with. What she didn’t like was being treated like an annoying prisoner by Talent Fucker – yes, we got her calling him that too – and she didn’t like what had happened at the convention because basically the guy had tried to molest her and she’d gotten punished for defending herself. She might have been girly, but Hana was no shrinking violet. The only reason she hadn’t told him off was because she was afraid of what he’d do with her if she didn’t go along with him; not like she could go work at Walmart now, after all.
The results finally came out, and we sat down to talk to her about them. “Well, since you want to stay this way, the good news is that you will,” Dave told her. “The change looks stable, Doc did a thirty-five percent mod on you which was just enough to make you fucking adorable but not enough to mess you up in other ways – in other words, most of the change is on the outside, not the inside.” He knew this because we’d run the sims to make sure. “The bad news, though, is that we have no way of rolling back the mod, and no way we can think of to give you back your voice. We’ll research it…but honestly, we’ve never modded a human because without a reversal process in place it would be so completely unethical we’d have to move into a back-alley lab like your boy Doc. In the meantime, though…”
“In the meantime, we do not want to leave you with Talent Fucker out there,” I told her, taking her handpaws into my hands. “Hana, we’re afraid of what he might do to you – I mean, he could have killed you today by leaving you in that car, and from some of the things you’ve told us…well, it sounds to us like he may think he owns you.” Her ears went down and she nodded; I stroked an ear back up. “I already talked to Joey, and I called our other partner Pete. There’s only one place we can think of where we can be completely sure you’ll be safe…and that’s here in the lab.” She glanced around and then gave me a look, and I grinned and shook my head. “No, none of us are into furries. We’ve got a room behind the cage out front – this building used to be leased to a bounty hunter, the cage was something he had in here and we’ve never used it – and you can have that space for yourself as a bedroom. Nobody here will hurt you, I promise. You can even be our lab assistant to make some money…” She shook her head pretty emphatically at that, and went back to the keyboard. “No?”
I already have an online business. I sell hats and accessories that I make myself. It just wasn’t enough money to pay for an apartment in L.A.
“No, it wouldn’t be,” Dave agreed. “It pays for your phone?” She nodded. “Well, we do have wi-fi here in the lab. Do you still have clothes and stuff, or did Talent Fucker take it all away from you?”
No, it’s in storage. I had my boyfriend move it all for me.
Uh-oh. “Hana, you have a boyfriend?”
His name is Barry, he goes to Central U.
I gave Dave a helpless look. “You’re the straight guy, I’m fielding this question to you.”
“Thanks Danny, ‘preciate it.” He raised an eyebrow at her. “Hana, you and Barry haven’t…I mean, since you got modded? You haven’t, right? Because the mod did alter your reproductive system somewhat, and rabbits are…well, they’re prolific. Have you gone into heat yet?”
Her nose wrinkled. Yes. I locked myself in the bathroom. I’d never felt anything like that before. I wasn’t sure I could control myself. And I didn’t want to do Talent Fucker by accident.
Dave choked on that and so did I. Joey came back into the lab, and we waved him over to see. He looked at the screen and rolled his eyes. “Hana, I just knew these two were going to teach you bad things – the name suits him, though. I think I’m going to have to take a shower after he leaves to get the slime off. So you’re willing to stay here with us? You have my word, none of us have a furry kink.”
She frowned up at him, then typed, You’re sure?
“We’re sure,” I told her. “It wouldn’t be safe for you to go out on your own, especially with you not being able to talk, but we’ll figure something out. We don’t want you to feel like a prisoner, but we do want to make sure you’re protected. What do you say?”
Her answer was to hug me. And then she hugged Dave, and then Joey. And then we all went back out to the front where Talent Fucker was trying to do business on his phone and sucking up all of his monthly data allotment because Joey had refused to give him the access code for our wifi, and he stood up with a huff when we came out. “That took a long time. Well, did you fix it?”
“We already told you there’s no way to reverse a mod,” I reminded him. “No one’s ever done it, and even though we’re all really smart guys I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect us to create new science in a couple of hours, do you?”
He rolled his eyes. “So what does that mean? You can’t fix it? You were just wasting my time?”
“We’re going to keep working on the problem,” Dave told him. “The person you had do this to her is doing something highly unethical, and he’s just bound to do it again since it worked so well this time. I’m pretty sure you won’t be the last person we hear from who wants a modification reversed.”
“I don’t want it reversed, I just want it fixed. And I wouldn’t say it worked well this time,” the guy huffed. “So what does this mean to me? It can’t be fixed, so I’m stuck with this bad investment, is that what you’re saying?”
I draped an arm over Hana’s shoulders; she was scared, I could tell because her ears were half-down and her nose was twitching and some of her fur was standing on end. “You are such a bastard,” I told him. “It’s a pity you can’t find Doc, maybe he could have done a human mod on you so you’d become at least partially a human being.”
“I’m not sure you can overwrite this much asshole,” Joey disagreed. He raised an eyebrow at the guy. “Your time has no value because you are such a total jerkwad,” he said. “You did, however, waste mine while I had to sit out here listening to you slime all over people with your phone, and I’m pretty sure we’re going to have to disinfect the couch. So you can go now, and don’t come back.”
The guy sneered. “Fine. Hana, come on.” She didn’t move. “Hana, you’ve cost me enough time and business. Come. On. We’re going.”
“Doesn’t look like she’s interested.” This time I raised my eyebrow when he spluttered. “Aw, did you forget that you’re not allowed to own people? He did, guys, he really did.”
“Just get the fuck out,” Dave told him. “Hana, is any of your stuff in this jerkwad’s car?” She nodded. “Travel bag?” Another nod. “I’ll get it for you, you stay here with Danny and Joey. I don’t trust the guy not to try to kidnap you.” He gestured at the door. “After you, jerkwad. I’ll get her stuff, and after that if you ever show up on the property again we’re calling the cops.” He started to sneer something at Hana; the ears went down even further. “If that was about to be what I think it was, you will get punched,” Dave warned him, and he shut his mouth. “Jesus, you don’t even deserve to be classified as a mammal. Come on, get moving. You’re contaminating our lab with your extreme fuckishness.”
We waited until Dave came back with the bag, and then we took Hana back to show her her room. She texted her boyfriend to have him bring the rest of her stuff, and while she and Joey were playing clean-the-room I called up Talent Fucker’s agency and had a talk with his boss about how illegal slavery was and how maybe if they didn’t want us to help Hana become the poster-bunny for exploitation in the entertainment industry they might want to consider coughing up one last paycheck to help her get settled in her new place. It was just amazing how nice they were, and I hung up satisfied but not happy. I wasn’t going to be happy until we knew exactly who and where ‘Doc’ was and what he was up to. Because modding is a relatively new science, it doesn’t always work the way you want it to…but the bastard still had no problem doing mods on humans even though there was no way to reverse them.
We had a monster on the loose.
Hana was settled in like she’d always been there within a week, and anyone who’d walked into that back room would have wondered if they’d slipped through some sort of wormhole into an alternate dimension. The walls were white, and so were a lot of the other things she owned, but everywhere were touches of pastel pinks and blues and lilacs and yellows, and pretty pictures, and stuffed animals, and a wardrobe straight out of a freaking Disney princess movie. Which she apparently kept filled with the help of her sewing machine, which Dave looked up online and said was worth more than he’d paid for his first car – we had lab equipment that couldn’t operate at the level of technical sophistication Hana’s sewing machine did. She made clothes for herself, and things to sell online, and when she was tired of sewing she knitted little hats and tiny round animal toys and all sorts of pretty, dainty, adorable things. We let her move all of the sewing stuff into the cage so she’d have more room and better light, with the understanding that the cage door would never, ever be locked unless she was in heat – she requested that, and we agreed to it.
We also insisted on one rule: Barry the Boyfriend was not allowed in her bedroom. Anytime, whether she was in heat or not. Because Barry was apparently every bit as okay with the change as she was. I couldn’t even blame him for it, because our whole idea behind eventually releasing the process as a sort of body-mod option had been targeted at Hollywood and the anime cosplay crowd due to their fascination with adorable human-animal hybrids.
But we still couldn’t let Barry have…conjugal visits, not just because Hana probably had increased fertility but also because again, rabbits can be vicious little fuckers. Honestly – and we told Barry this – it was entirely possible that if he skimped on the foreplay she’d rip his junk off and eat it and nobody really wanted that to happen. He told her we said that, of course, and her response had been: Don’t skimp on the foreplay, then.
Yeah, she has a sense of humor. She wasn’t in heat when she said that, though, and we were pretty sure that if she got to him while she was in heat the sex alone would kill him – because if her not letting him stop didn’t do it, him stopping anyway was going to get him disemboweled. His answer to that was to ask if it would work if he became a bunnyman, and we told him not until we’d figured out how to reverse it and to go finish college. He took that in stride and changed his major to zoology, which was probably a bad sign.
We’d been kind of worried about Hana not getting enough socialization at first, but it turned out she had plenty. On Facebook and Twitter, because bunnygirls who can’t talk can still type like a motherfucker. And take adorable selfies. And flirt with their boyfriend in chat. She’d had a small fan following before the mod, had done her best to keep feeding them on social media afterwards, and now that she was back in all her new adorable bunny glory her following was growing exponentially. We were pretty sure the agency had banished Talent Fucker to Minnesota or someplace over that – he’d cost them a fucking goldmine, and since they themselves had dropped her contract their own rules said they couldn’t even ask her to come back for two years.
Not that I think she would have anyway. They’d scared her. We didn’t.