It’s been a long, busy six weeks.
Just over six weeks ago, on a Sunday, the phone ringing woke me up from a really good dream, and when I answered it Barry was panic-screaming in my ear and I almost fell out of bed: Danny and Hana had never made it home from the con the day before. I got online. Nothing on Hana’s social media channels since Saturday afternoon. Nothing on the lab’s security cameras – the only person who had entered or left since the previous morning was Barry. I called Mike, grabbed my bag and got over there. Got Barry calmed down, put him to work contacting the con organizers while I called Joey and Dave. The hotel confirmed that Danny’s SUV was still in the parking garage and said they’d check their security cameras and get back to me. I called Detective Angelo, got his voicemail – I’d kind of expected to, it was a Sunday morning – and left him all the details we currently had, which was pretty much zip.
Mike showed up not long after that, did a security check of the building and the parking garage and then headed over to the hotel and left Larry at the lab with us. I stayed online, searching. Someone had to have seen them, Danny’s semi-famous and Hana is all the way famous not to mention a freaking bunnygirl. There was nothing. Mike called me from the hotel with next to nothing, because it turns out their parking garage cameras are only by the elevators and ramps and the system is kind of shit anyway; still, they had been able to catch sight of Danny and Hana getting off the elevator, so we had an exact time we could match up with the ramp cameras…or we would have, if their shitty system hadn’t been displaying the wrong timestamp – a different wrong timestamp – on each and every camera. I texted Rick. The whole reason Danny and Hana hadn’t had security with them at the con was because the hotel was supposed to be providing security escorts for the VIP guests while they were on the premises. The con organizers confirmed that they’d had one of their own wranglers on Danny and Hana the whole time they were there, and that when they’d left a member of hotel security had gone with them…but according to witnesses, he’d only escorted them as far as the lobby elevators.
He also hadn’t come to work that morning, and nobody could get him on the phone. I left Detective Angelo another message and sent Rick a follow-up text. Mike had called the station to report two missing people, and a couple of police officers showed up to get a statement. They were kind of noobs about it, tried to ask if maybe Danny and Hana had run off together, if we’d checked with any of their friends or family or on social media, if either of them had been depressed or having problems. Thank god for Larry, he saw me getting ready to blow and stepped in, took control of the situation, and sent them back to the station with ‘no’ as the answer to all of their noob questions and a very concise statement about the chain of events so far.
By mid-afternoon, social media was exploding. Regular media was exploding too, just not as usefully. I set a media-monitor up to track all of the related stories coming out, and scribbled in a query that would collate all of the ‘did they run away together?’ or ‘did Dr. Darling kill himself?’ speculation stories into a list so Rick could decide who needed to be sued for libel later. Detective Angelo showed up at the lab dressed for the beach, with his not-very-Hawaiian shirt covering his shoulder holster and his badge clipped to the waistband of his shorts. He apologized for the noobs, went over everything with me and Barry, talked to Joey on the phone, talked to Dave’s dad on the phone because Dave was already on a plane, and then sat down and had a long talk with Mike and Larry about what they all needed to do security-wise to make sure none of the rest of us disappeared too.
At the end of the day, though, there was still no trace of Danny and Hana. Or the hotel security guy, either. No one had seen anything. Mike sent some guys to pick up Joey and Dave from the airport, and after that we all camped out at the lab, just in case.
Early the next morning, everyone woke up to the sound of me screaming louder than Barry had been the day before. A video had appeared online; within an hour it was trending, and within three it was everywhere. It had been uploaded from a coffee shop halfway across the country, but even with the shop’s security footage nobody could tell who’d done it. That means they primed the video to download as soon as there was internet, then entered the coffee shop’s wifi range and just let nature take its course while they waited in line with all the other people who were trying to get coffee before work.
We haven’t let Danny see that video – haven’t even told him what it’s of, not yet. No, it wasn’t the mod process, although I’m sure Doc filmed that too. This was before the mod process started, right after he kidnapped Danny and Hana from the con. Basically, it’s Danny’s origin story.
And it’s terrifying. I’d never thought about that much before, how truly scary it must be for those characters in comics who get turned into something else or infused with some sort of power, how helpless they must have felt when they realized there was nothing they could do to stop what was happening from happening – and how violated they must have felt in the aftermath. In Danny and Hana’s case, they were prisoners of a crazy mad scientist supervillain, they knew nobody would be looking for them any time soon, and so when Doc offered Danny a choice, Danny took it. I know there are people who don’t think he should have, but really, what else could he have done? He knew in a general sense what would happen to the two of them if he agreed; he couldn’t be sure what would happen if he didn’t. He chose the only logical option, and the only request he made was that Hana not be made to watch the mod process run its course. Yeah, that’s right. Danny knows exactly what the mod process does to the subject, he could have asked to be knocked out, but he didn’t. And Doc…well, the look on his face said he’d just succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. We think – and so do Mike and his guys and and Detective Angelo – that was why he uploaded the video. He wanted to make sure everyone knew who the hero was and who the villain was.
They do. Believe me, they do.
Something else happened that same morning: a courier delivered a package to the lab that was marked BIOLOGICAL SAMPLES—PERISHABLE – Doc’s way of making sure we’d open it immediately. We did, and we didn’t tell Detective Angelo about it because he’d have had to confiscate it for evidence and that would have been a bad thing on multiple levels; Jo-Jo went through the box and agreed with our assessment, because the only ‘evidence’ in the package was a handwritten note saying not to worry and Doc would text us when we could come pick Danny and Hana up. The package mostly contained a lot of mod research data, not to mention the file we also won’t let Danny see, because that file has copies of all of Doc’s sketches in it, all his notes, and those notes go way back to when the guys were all still in grad school and I was out here in Silicon Valley hating my day job. Remember that guy Danny bought a round for in the bar at that genetics conference? Yeah, that wasn’t Doc – I’m sure you thought it might have been, but it wasn’t. That guy’s name was Dr. Edward Reynolds, and he was Doc’s partner on the project. He’d told Doc aaall about his encounter with Danny, and Doc was apparently intrigued. Doc had already started slipping off the track at that point, we think, started fancying himself a supervillain in the making because of what the Project had made him do, and so he got fixated on Danny as a potential hero who could help keep him in check. Doc didn’t want to be a bad guy, see; he feels like he was made into a bad guy.
He’s been building Danny’s origin story for years. We could see where he started over after he found out Danny was gay, changing the design, making notes about potential preferences and more-desirable physical characteristics. He was still in what I’m calling Phase 1 of his super special secret plan to ascend to full supervillainhood then, building up his resources. Once he had everything the way he wanted it and all the strings were in his hands, he kicked off Phase 2 by ditching his handlers, and that was when the Project Chaney agents started kind of running amok, panicking, trying to get back control of a mess they’d never had control of in the first place – Doc had been the one in control for a quite a while at that point, they just hadn’t realized it. That was also when they’d tried to kill Danny. And we think Doc saw that move as them trying to take Danny’s spot, which he didn’t like very much.
Okay, at all – can’t prearrange to be a hero, remember? The agent who came after Danny and Hana was finally found, you know. Guess what he got modded with? Yeah, I don’t feel sorry for him – and I actually went out there with Joey when they found him, because they called us and someone had to go, and I knew the minute I laid eyes on that that he was the guy. I still don’t feel sorry for him. He’d had my name forged on one of the ‘sworn’ statements they were going to use to justify having Hana euthanized, I hope Doc strapped him to a table and kept him awake for the whole mod.
We didn’t, though. No, of course we didn’t leave him like that – dude’s mind was gone, moles aren’t that smart. We used Danny’s overmod trick to make him…well, more animal and less human, because going the other way wasn’t going to fix anything, so now he’s a great big ‘mutant mole’ that lives in a zoo, he looks kind of like a mole-capybara-monkey hybrid. And Joey knocked him out for the process, because the human who’d tried to kill our friend was already gone and we don’t torture animals no matter what some of the nuts still think. Hell, GenoMod was recognized at the last big biology conference Joey went to for helping to bring back three different species that were on the brink of extinction thanks to a too-small-to-be-viable gene pool, the nuts can kiss our collective ass – we’ve been formally recognized for our contributions to species conservation, thank you very much, all they have is a lot of hot air and multiple arrest records.
And we’re on the verge of being known for even more than species conservation, too. Danny hasn’t just been hiding in the lab moping since we got him back, he’s been working his ass off with all the new information we have thanks to Doc. Because once he knew how the targeted mini-mod process worked – especially once he realized how close he’d been to cracking it himself – he got an idea nobody had ever had before; he got the idea that maybe you could use the process to do more than just make new species. Remember Manny, or more to the point Manny’s balls? Yeah, DNA doesn’t record injuries or other alterations, as far as your genes are concerned anything you do to your body is just a penciled-in change on the original blueprint. We practiced on injured animals the ASPCA had rescued that would otherwise have been put down. Dave has a wolf-dog now, thanks to that, and the ASPCA adopted the rest of them out. We’re already getting calls about helping other injured animals from all across the country, so many that we formally hired Barry as our lab assistant-slash-animal wrangler-slash-secretary and I had to build a new program just to record and qualify all the requests. We may have to hire a dedicated lab tech soon too, or maybe even another geneticist, someone who will do nothing but the ‘everyday’ mod work. That will come later, though.
Once we had the process perfected on animals, Danny called in Dr. Montoya – Dave’s sister the orthopedic specialist, not his dad the general practitioner – so he’d know exactly what he needed to target to get the effect he wanted in a human. Modding a person with their own DNA would work in theory, but it would potentially cause problems by re-growing things like appendixes and wisdom teeth, not to mention that you’d fuse the ‘zippers’ so the person could never be modded again.
Yeah, when we said locked, we meant locked. I ran that sim myself one night after we got him back, while everyone else was asleep, I ran it over and over and over and over again using the data from Doc’s process files and the extra data Dave and Joey had collected from Danny. Once the zippers are fused, even the overmod process won’t work. And I also found out that DNA altered with the irreversible process can’t be used to make a new mod, you might as well be trying to make a mod with a photocopy of DNA at that point. Danny outwardly shrugged it off and said he’d suspected that was the case, but his scent said he was the only member of his species who was ever going to exist and sad violin music should be playing. He let me hug him, though, and then hit me when I mentioned there was a furry convention coming to town.
Hey, Joey’s not the only one working to keep morale up around here, you know.
Anyway, Danny finally got the first iteration of the human repair-mod exactly the way he wanted it and all of the sims said it was perfect…and we chartered a flight to take us all to San Francisco. Joey was nervous as hell, because of course he was. We may tease him about how many women he’s dated, but it’s just teasing. Joey loves women, that’s just a fact. Joey’s ex-girlfriends – and he hasn’t had that many – mostly all still think of him as a buddy, two of them even invited him to their weddings. Which means they’ll probably want to come to his, too. We’re going to need to warn Angela about that.
Yeah, that’s why we went to San Francisco. And out to the new pinniped research station, which had better equipment than the old one courtesy of some grants we may or may not have had anything to do with them getting and at least one pretty sizeable budget bump we’re pretty sure Doc made happen somehow – they are the ones looking after his selkie colony, after all. Angela was surprised to see all of us, especially Danny and Hana, but Joey was wearing his good clothes so she figured it out pretty quickly and frowned at him. “Joey, we talked about this…”
“I know – and you know I didn’t agree with you, but I respected your wishes.” He got down on one knee and held out a pretty box, not a ring box but long and narrow like something you’d get a nice watch or maybe a necklace in. “I love you, I want to marry you. You know I don’t care about the physical issues, but you do so…well, Danny made you this.”
That really confused her, but she opened the box and her eyes went round: it was a syringe full of mod serum. With a blue ribbon tied around it, because Hana had insisted a special present like that needed a bow. Danny nodded when she looked at him. “We had two medical doctors verify the mod, and all the sims came out 100%,” he told her, tail twitching; he caught the end of it in his handpaws to stop it doing that. “It will reverse all the damage, and you can either take some time to think about it or we can do it today – your choice. Whether you tell him yes or not.”
“Whether you tell me yes or not,” Joey agreed. “I’d say we could call in your doctor for her opinion…but she’s a bitch and she’d probably try to have us all arrested.”
That made her laugh. Her doctor is big with the ‘differing-abilities not dis-abilities’ thing, which has been a good thing for Angela up until now, but having the attitude that you shouldn’t try to fix a disability becomes a really bad thing once a real fix is possible. “She might do that anyway when I come walking into her office to get my medical records,” she said. “I’ll just call for them instead.” She closed the box, pulled Joey over to her and kissed him. “Yes. Now. And what did I just agree to being turned into?”
“You aren’t, you’ll just have a dash of wolf, same as me,” Joey told her, kissing her back. “You wanted to be able to have kids, we have to be at least close to the same species for that.”
Dave waited until she stopped crying to put in his part. “My sister is an orthopedic specialist, and she worked with us on your mod,” he told her. “She also agreed to be the doctor of record and set up the PT prescription you’re going to need.” He smiled at her. “Which is all covered, no need to involve your insurance company. That’s my wedding present to you guys.”
“I want to make your wedding dress,” Hana told her. “It doesn’t have to be as fancy as mine if you don’t like that sort of thing.” She pulled up a picture on her phone, held it out. “This is mine.”
Now, we’ve all seen these dress designs, so nobody was surprised when Angela’s eyes got even wider than they had before. “I told her I didn’t think you’d want quite that much lace,” Joey said. “And Hana’s is a summer country wedding dress, or so I’ve been told, and I thought maybe you and I should have a beach wedding here.”
Hana rolled her eyes. “Slide right twice,” she huffed. Angela did, and then squealed. Actually squealed, and Hana stuck her tongue out at Joey. “Beach wedding doesn’t mean ugly plain dress. Or that you get to wear Pete’s board shorts.”
“Hey!” I like my board shorts, thank you very much – but even I wouldn’t wear them to a wedding, or let Joey wear them at his wedding. “My turn,” I told Angela. “Your honeymoon is covered too. My uncle has a tourist business in Hawaii, he takes people out on boats to look at fish and things…but he also works with a marine research center out by one of the reefs, he’s their backup boat guy, so you guys will get to go places tourists can’t go and visit the research center, too. And my best friend back home is going to help me set up all your reservations so you get a great room and the best food.”
That would be my ‘ex-girlfriend’, who I ‘dated’ for almost six years from high school until she moved out on her own. Really traditional family, wouldn’t have reacted well to number-one daughter coming out as a lesbian. I never minded being her beard. I had a lot of things I wanted to do and playing the dating game wasn’t one of them, so that arrangement worked out really well to keep both sets of parents off our asses about relationships and marriage and eventual grandchildren. My parents know now, of course, and they’re fine with it. Dad says that as long as I’m happy he’s happy, and Mom is GenoMod’s accountant and mine too so she knows exactly how happy I am.
She still says no one in their right mind wants me to learn to fly, though. I’ll get her to come around – my flight instructor says that since I haven’t made him piss his pants yet or crashed the helicopter, he thinks I’m doing just fine. Yes, a helicopter. Mom’s right, it isn’t cost-effective for GenoMod to own a regular plane, but we can totally afford to have our own helicopter. Which we’ll be buying just as soon as we’ve bought the land our new headquarters are going to be built on. Or I’ll buy the helicopter and GenoMod will rent it from me as-needed, whichever option ends up making more sense on our taxes. Not like I’m not going to have my own place on the property, after all – we all are. Even Joey, who’d already been planning to do a weekly commute between L.A. and San Francisco because it was a given that Angela couldn’t relocate but he didn’t want to leave GenoMod or his side-partnership with me in K-Tech Solutions.
Yes, I have my own company – I’ve had my own company since I was a senior in high school, because a couple of the phone apps I built back then kind of took off and Mom said doing things as a company instead of as an individual would make things easier down the road. She was right, it did, and luckily I let her and Dad help me name it. Although I still think Computer Mutant Incorporated had kind of a ring to it, but that’s beside the point. We’ll all be living on-site, and we’ll have a big new lab, bigger and better animal facilities, and a helicopter. And we’re all minor superheroes now, too. GenoMod is going places. We’re all going with it.
Especially since we’ve all agreed: Danny isn’t going anywhere without one of us being with him, not ever again.