The Leg Debate

Chapter One

            Dresden Industries boasts the largest and most state of the art laboratories in the country, and why wouldn’t they? It was no secret that wonders flourish inside those walls – the Calcunists saw them as miracles. Fashion of the times dictates that it’s no longer enough to be. Progress, constant and ever evolving, is necessary.

            The world is dull and boring. This was, of course, decided long ago by a popular vote no doubt created for some political purpose of the day. Though the purists adamantly maintained that life had already reached perfection long before man’s intervention, they were tolerated by the rest of the world rather than exalted. And while purists adamantly disagreed, it was determined that life should be a foundation for the new. The possibilities were endless. And with a skilled imagination, a black and white world could be given color.

            Why settle for an original apple when some fruits were now entire meals? Science brought the world into the era of change. Under the microscope, anything was possible. The deformed were corrected and made whole. Take a serum and obesity transformed into the waistline of choice. The wrinkled and old found beauty restored. Eden was today.

            David Allens carefully buttoned up his jacket taking extra care not to skip a hole. Such a task should be rudimentary for a PhD geneticist and the youngest recipient of the cultivation grant at the tender age of twenty-nine, but it took effort with the mind engaged elsewhere. He put on his glasses and wiped a strand of brown hair off his face. It fell right back in the same place. That’s alright, he told himself. Dresden didn’t hire me for my looks. And besides, I’ll cut it off when I get to work. He always reassured himself in the same way but had yet to see it through. He swung a satchel over his shoulder and headed out the door.

            With little to spend on rent, the commute to his new job at Dresden Industries wasn’t as short as David would’ve preferred. But all the same, he was glad to take the forty-five-minute metro ride as well as walking the twenty minutes in between stations for the opportunity that was certain to open countless doors. He grabbed coffee and croissant on the way.

            The city of Ambris was a lively place to live. The young and ambitious alike gravitated around for the many opportunities it offered. Cultures were diverse. Whether one identified as a purist, calcunist, or even gypsy, they were certain to flourish in such a dynamic atmosphere.

            Unlike Rhune, the city’s northern metropolitan counterpart, Ambris welcomed all walks of life. It was as common to see a calcunist sitting in a café voicing the numerous benefits of advancing the world through evolutionary manipulation to a gypsy as it was to witness a head-covered purist silently lamenting the loss of creations beauty as he walked down the street. Though they took their devotion seriously and never left home without a hat, onlookers merely saw identifier as an easy way to avoid potentially awkward conversations.

            Most purists frequented the temples at least twice a week. A moving experience for many, it was also a chance to be social. The temples, resembling museums more than anything else, contained preserved specimens of plants and animals as they once were. Before the establishment of human interference that was marked by the day scientists first cross-pollinated flowers, the world was considered pure. Animals were not enhanced, people looked as nature intended, and plants were perfect in their simplicity. The temple exalted these beliefs with an unspoken gratitude towards The Quiet One – a creator without a true name, only known by her collected works of the planet. Obviously a she as Her womb was where Her followers believe all life originated, The Quiet One could never have an equal.

            Outside of the metro, many gypsies made temporary homes. While some were well off with large houses and a number of other luxuries, others flooded in from around the world hoping to build a life starting from nothing. Neither purists nor calcunists at heart, they appreciated life without the need look towards the future or a previous time. Walking past a young family gathered under a splayed overhanging tarp, David tried not to look all the while hoping his glasses hid the frequent glances in their direction.

            He never did understand other religions. What makes people willing to praise and put their faith in the flawed designs of nature when the promise of something better was being shouted from the rooftops? Maybe it had to do with a lack of education. After all, gypsies new to Ambris weren’t known for sending their children in for advanced studies. But despite all their faults, and he could think of many, at least that young family wasn’t as bad as the Purists. Though he would never say such a thing out loud, David knew deep in his heart this to be a truth.

            As a geneticist, David had a great admiration for the basic building blocks of the world. He even appreciated the construct of the world as a foundation. But to solely advocate life with that level of simplicity was beyond irrational, it was completely absurd. A rose bush that only produces flowers of a single color was certainly pretty, but it was unimaginative and even boring when compared with the newly-designed bushes displaying multiple colors on each individual petal. Progress through beauty is the true reason for praise, and no one would be convincing him otherwise.

            The commute to work was as lively as any other workday. An enormous billboard advertised the latest youth regeneration procedure with a female model in the process of molting. As the skin fell away, so too did years of wrinkles, sun damage, and age. Emerging from the discard was a woman far younger and happier with eyes that knew more secrets than youth could ever collect.

            Passing the park between stations, David watched a man taking his dog for its morning walk. He had always wanted one of these modern creatures and had waited for the opportune moment before producing one of his own. Constructed with precision in every aspect, the medium sized dog had nails that grew to the desired length before the growing mechanism was switched off. The animal’s short, white hair never shed.

            “Play?” The dog suddenly asked as it looked at the man with hopeful eyes.

            “Not right now, Thomas,” the man replied. “We’ll go home first and have breakfast. We can play with your ball after.”

            “Okay,” the dog said before its ears perked with the sight of a cat resting on a nearby balcony.

            An internship in his fifth year of studies allowed David to work on increasing the size of the dog’s brain. Even then, he had been amazed at the newfound ability to comprehend basic words and thought processes. Another department, specializing in vocal reconstruction, then gave the animal the ability to voice its thoughts. The result was an endearing companion that understood the world through the eyes of an eight-year-old. Back then, David had taken notes and was fairly certain he could increase the brain activity to that of a fifteen-year old. But such a thought led him to keep the research to himself since nowhere in the world was there a market where a perpetual adolescent was desired.

            Arriving at Dresden Industries just before nine and announcing himself to the guard at the front desk, David received an identification badge and attached it to the front of his jacket. It wasn’t noteworthy as everyone in the building was required to wear the same thing, but David’s chest swelled under the subtle weight.

            To him, it was more than just a badge. Years of striving and sleepless nights studying had brought him to this point. It had all been worth it, and he wore the badge with pride. As a member of the group, he was now capable of so much more. Instead of academic theory, he was expected to take strides and make advancements. The challenge was daunting, and he was eager to get started. David made his way to the elevators and pressed the button.

            Honeysuckles filled the air. Faint but present, the illuminated numbers above the steel doors casually descend all the while David was unable to find the source of such a pleasant scent. His mother’s garden immediately came to mind. When he was little, the boy spent countless hours in the back garden next to a wall covered in honeysuckles. Bees were rampant, buzzing in and out of the little white blossoms, but they never bothered him. He and his younger sister used to pull the pistil from the center and touch the drop of nectar to their tongue. The scent was unmistakable and yet an absolute mystery. With only two small trees growing in the entry way of this massive construct, neither produced a single flower.

            The elevator doors opened, and he trailed a group inside the confined space. The smell continued to linger. Floors one, two, and three emptied out the majority until only he and a woman remained. It was then that the aroma became stronger, and he looked at the source with surprise.

            She was younger than most of the employees and couldn’t have been past her early thirties. A pair of glasses magnified her bright brown eyes. Her hair, parted down the center and pulled back into a bun, exposed delicate ears that seemed to remain oblivious to the faint music playing through some hidden speaker. Her red blouse was layered with a white cardigan and tucked delicately into her black pencil skirt.

            Empty handed with fingers folded together and thumbs playing a game of their own, she looked around the confined space aimlessly all the while entertaining herself with a pocket of air expanding and contracting in one cheek. Then, unable to take it anymore, she turned her head in David’s direction and gave him a polite smile as if to say, you’re staring and I’d rather you didn’t. Suddenly aware of his lingering eyes, David curved his lips attempting a smile of apology and looked away.

            They reached the fifth floor, and the elevator doors slid open providing an escape route for what had become an awkward situation. David stepped out and tried not to notice that the woman was right beside him. Both continued to walk in silence completely aware of the other’s presence. Unsure of who was following whom, they gave each other an occasional smile all the while walking side by side to the office of Lucas Germond’s personal assistant. David was becoming flustered and could see the same emotion spreading across the woman’s face. Was there some mix-up? They continued to put on an air of professionalism all the while secretly hoping the third-party’s presence would not cause a poor reflection on their own persons. The assistant picked up a phone and announced their presence before quickly nodding. “Mr. Germond is expecting you,” he said with a smile. “Go on and head inside.”

            “Come in, come in,” Mr. Germond voiced excitedly as the pair entered. “Our newest additions and two of the brightest. Miss Alice Clarke,” he said shaking the woman’s hand. “The pleasure is all mine. So accomplished and still so young! If half of my scientists had a mind like yours, society would be ahead by at least a century by now. I love the perfume! Is it a chrysanthemum composition?”

            “It isn’t perfume,” she remarked with a warm yet shy smile. “My mother loved honeysuckles and had the flower spliced into her DNA. I was able to inherit the gene and became a second-generation flower.”

            “Remarkable! Your mother’s reputation precedes her! And I believe she personally wrote your recommendation for this position. You may be her daughter, but if she has confidence in you as a scientist and is willing to put her reputation on the line, that speaks volumes.”

            From the look on Alice’s face, it was clear that she was flattered. At the same time, she knew herself to be an underling – forever to live in the shadow of her mother’s success. Alice, no doubt, struggled to reach new heights in a futile attempt for the world to see her as her own person. Whether or not she was to succeed remained to be seen, but the determination in her eyes made it clear that she would stop at nothing and try with every ounce of strength she possessed.

            “And David,” Mr. Germond said taking the man’s hand and giving it a shake. “Dresden Industries is ecstatic to have you! I could see your brilliance during our last interview, and I daresay my expectations for you are some of the highest I’ve ever had. I have no doubt a stroke of genius will come from your combined efforts.”

                 “Combined?” David asked curiously as Alice’s face reflected the same surprise.

            He and Alice looked at each other with confusion. It was clear that both were under the impression that the laboratory would be theirs alone. The idea of sharing hadn’t even crossed their minds. But here they were. Suddenly making sense of the situation, both knew the opportunity was too good to pass up regardless of whether or not they’d be sharing.

            “Oh yes,” Lucas replied with the same enthusiasm. “Wherever you two choose to begin, genetics and gene manipulation are tricky fields to accomplish any real progress. It’s going to take more than just skill which you both possess – it’ll require vision.

            By yourselves, I’m sure each of you would do well and add new products to the market. But together, my hope is to produce something exceptional. I hope this arrangement won’t scare either of you away, but I wholeheartedly believe this could be the beginning of something exceptional. Can I count on you both to pursue the extraordinary?”

            The pair glanced at each other giving the other a moment’s calculation nodding in unison.

            “Splendid! I assume you’re both anxious to get started. Get to know each other and brainstorm. The lab will be ready this afternoon, and your badges will give you access. If there is anything you need, please come to me directly. I practically live here, and my assistant, Mr. Orwens, but everyone just calls him Martin, is just as dedicated and readily available.”

            After voicing final words of gratitude for the opportunity, David and Alice took their leave walking side by side back to the elevator. The air felt tense. There would be countless conversations between them, but neither could figure out a way to break the ice. As the elevator took them down a couple flights and the smell of flowers came back to the forefront, David kept his eyes forward.

            “My family used to grow honeysuckles in the garden behind our house,” he told her all the while doing his best not to make eye contact. “Sorry for staring earlier, but smelling something so familiar after all these years really took me by surprise.”

            “It’s okay,” Alice told him picking up on his attempt at conversation. “It’s not a very common scent anyway. My mother developed a whole series of flowers to be added to DNA, but she never put the honeysuckle gene on the market. I guess she wanted to be unique and the only one of its kind. I don’t think she ever expected to share it – not even with me. But life is funny sometimes.”

            “I thought about getting some work done,” David admitted casually. “But it’s still a bit pricey for someone straight out of college. Maybe I’ll look into it in a couple years after working at Dresden. In the meantime, I’ll have to keep appreciating the fragrant aroma of laundry detergent.”

            Alice couldn’t help but laugh. Her mouth curved into a smile while she looked at her feet shyly. “You want to know something?” She asked ready to confide a great secret. “Honeysuckles are tainted for me. The less I shower, the more I smell like flowers. After an hour at the gym, I could be mistaken for a garden of my own. Even though I smell nice, I don’t feel clean. That’s why I wash my clothes more than anyone else.”

            “I always thought the point of constantly smelling good was to cut back on laundry days,” he said amusedly.

            Alice shook her head. “Because my body is different, my mind developed with a different perspective. It’s one of the unforeseen side effects of gene manipulation. We practice the physical but ignore its mental implications. Resequencing DNA may be the easy part. Making the mind accept the change without a negative opinion is where things get tricky. I haven’t quite figured that part out yet.”

            David thought for a second. “So what you’re saying is that, whatever we decide to create, we should probably avoid adding a flowery scent.”

            Alice giggled with the same downward glance to her shoes. “Absolutely.”


 

Chapter Two

           

            Dresden’s cafeteria, if one could call it that, only reflected a small portion of the dining area. It had a variety of dishes ready to order, and employees generally took their meals back to the offices and laboratories to continue working without interruption. The plates were made of a new strain of potato, banana peel, and hemp. Once discarded and introduced to high-frequency sound waves, the dishes broke down to create mulch used in every garden around the facility and packaged for global distribution. The trees and other foliage grown in such soil proved that the sustainable design worked marvelously.

            The majority of the food area was occupied by a restaurant simply known as The Rendezvous. Always busy but never completely full, employees could always find an empty table to meet with coworkers, take a break from the long workday, or develop new ideas over a gourmet meal. So popular and with such delicious entrees, a section of the restaurant recently opened its doors to accommodate the public twice a month on every other Friday. For those days, the public section had a waitlist nearly three months in advance. But it made employees feel good walking in without a reservation and eating just as any other day.

            David was excited to try his first meal at The Rendezvous, but it would have to wait for another time. He and Alice took their seats in The Gene Pool which was the neighboring coffee shop. Alice had been running late that morning and was still in need of her daily caffeine fix, and David was happy to oblige.

            One bite of the cranblue scone convinced him to never again eat them anywhere else. The cranberry-blueberry hybrid was common enough to find anywhere in the city, but the difference in taste between any vendor and The Gene Pool’s was obvious with packaged cranblue berries versus a batch freshly harvested from the water.

            “I’ve had assistants, but never a partner,” David confessed.

            Alice took a sip of coffee and shrugged. She had expected to brainstorm entirely on her own. But instead, she was back in her usual position – as just another part of the team. Her mother had always been the leader, and everyone else provided the bodies to see the vision become reality. That was the past, she reminded herself. Here, she was a leader on equal footing with the man across from her. Whatever vision they had, they were both in charge.

            “This is new for both of us,” Alice told him. “I’m sure we both have different styles, but we’ll make it work.”

            “Where did you even come from?” David asked in admiration of her cool head.

            She wanted to punch him, but that was probably not the best way to begin things. I’ve always been here, Alice wanted to scream. Just because I’ve been living in a shadow doesn’t mean I came from nowhere!

            “I took the usual route,” she said casually. “University followed by a couple years working on various projects. But this will be the first time I’m tasked with creating something entirely new. Any ideas on where to begin?”

            David thought for a moment all the while scanning the room for any sign of inspiration. “Curing diseases would be a step in the right direction. Or we could enhance the efficiency of the stomach. Maximizing nutrient intake could put an end to world hunger.”

            Judging from the polite smile on her face, David instantly knew both his ideas were instant flops. That’s okay. He came to the same conclusion as soon as they left his mouth.

          “Those both have obvious benefits,” Alice said trying to choose her words as carefully as she could. “But I don’t think they’ll grab as much attention as we’re looking for.” Unable to think of where to begin or come up with an idea of her own, she looked at her coffee without another word.

              “I guess you’re right. It’s just a little daunting being tasked with changing the world.”

              “I know what you mean,” she confessed.

            “We could always ask your mother for ideas,” David said jokingly. “It would be an interesting experience working with the famous Martha Clarke.”

            I could strangle you for even mentioning her! Alice thought while revealing nothing more than a controlled smile. From his tone, she could tell that the man was teasing. But it still struck a nerve. Her mother wasn’t someone she wanted to add to this conversation. And even though the list of applicants to work with her celebrity mother grew every day, Alice preferred to think she wouldn’t be forced to share a lab with one of the groupies. It was a joke, she reminded herself. He knows we don’t need her help and is only joking. She took a deep breath through her nose and subtly exhaled her insecurities.

            David looked at her name badge and then to his own. Taking it off and looking at the Dresden Industries logo, he couldn’t help but laugh.

            “Improving the world one day at a time,” he said reading the company moto. The world has already been improved so much. Any thoughts on where we take it from here?”

            “That’s really the question!” She said excitedly. “What else do we want in the world? What do we want in our future that doesn’t exist yet?”

            “More rocket ships?” David said amusedly.

            Alice rolled her eyes but couldn’t help finding the humor. “We’re geneticists. Let’s leave space to the astrophysicists and concentrate on what’s on this planet.”

            David continued to look around before suddenly standing and swinging his satchel over a shoulder. Alice looked at him curiously all the while wondering if he had been offended by her comment, but the smile on his face told her otherwise.

            “The world is already littered with coffee shops,” he remarked. “And they tend to be very similar. If we’re going to look for something original, we have to be out there seeing what needs to change. Let’s go for a walk outside. Something is bound to spark an idea.”

            As much as Alice wanted to make herself comfortable in the new lab and put a wall between her work and the outside world’s interference, something inside agreed with this approach. There would be plenty of time to forget about the rest of the world later. Once looking through the microscope, she was always good at doing that. But for now, they needed ideas. She took a large gulp of coffee and left the empty cup on the table before following him outside.

            The bustling area outside of the building contained some of the most well-kept streets in the entire city. Walking areas lined with trees and bushes splayed in every direction leading to various buildings, business parks, restaurants, and public transportation lines. It was beautiful in its own right, but one look made Alice certain that creative inspiration towards something completely unique could not be found in an environment so controlled. She led the way to the metro and took it a couple stops north.

            When she and David emerged, they found themselves across the street from the river that flowed directly through the city’s center. Gypsy children played on the banks while calcunist mothers let their young ones laugh and run around on the playground just beyond. Without any real destination in mind, he and Alice took a seat on a street bench. David pulled a notepad and pen from his satchel all the while looking around for anything inspirational to spin the wheels in his mind.

            “Algae that eats away unwanted bacteria and pollution,” he said while scribbling down a note.

            “That already exists,” Alice reminded him and watched as her partner put a line through it. “How about water that doubles as a food source?”

            “I’ll make a note, but I don’t think it’ll draw the kind of attention we’re looking for.”

            Alice thought for a moment. “What kind of attention are we looking for exactly? It has to be amazing, but what does that really mean?”

            “It has to better our lives or take the world in a new direction,” David said after a moment’s thought. He looked at the children splashing in the water and laughed. “Maybe we should focus on creating amphibians. I’m sure the kids would love that.”

            “That’s actually not a bad idea,” Alice commented giving it some thought. David could see a light switching on in her mind. It had started with a joke, but from there was taking on a life of its own. “Think about the possibilities. Living above and under water has obvious benefits. And why stop there. If we’re restructuring ourselves to get the most benefit possible, let’s look to nature for other possibilities.”

            “What do you have in mind?”

            The woman looked at a bus parked on the corner taking on a load of new passengers. Each with a different destination, they shared the need to get somewhere faster than humanly possible.

            “I took the metro this morning, and the first car was completely full. I had to wait an extra seven minutes for the next train to show up. And everyone does it just because we can’t get where we need to fast enough – even if it’s only a couple blocks away. People take the metro and buses because they’re direct and fast. What if we weren’t restricted by navigating through a grid? What if we could take direct routes anywhere we need to go and get there faster than our legs allow?”

            “You want to create superhuman legs that can travel at the same speed as cars?” David asked putting down his notepad and focusing on Alice curiously. She shook her head.

            “Wings.”

            “Wings?” He asked as if hearing her correctly was obviously out of the question. “You want to give humans wings?”

            “Think about it. Before we grow gills and have the same traffic congestion underwater, wouldn’t it make sense to perfect life on the surface first? There would still be trains and planes for traversing long distances; but for everyday commutes, we could make life easier for the masses.”

            “Unless you want to see mothers getting winded flying around with three children in their arms, they’ll still need cars and public transportation.”

            “But it would be reduced radically. Only the people with children would be its regular riders. Everyone else would get to their destinations as quickly as they choose.”

            It had obvious potential. Even though the thought of working with a partner had been an initial shock, David could see what Mr. Germond was talking about. They were already making a great team. If their work in the lab was as progressive as their brainstorming session, a breakthrough was certain to take place. The look of excitement in Alice’s eyes only increased his own thrill for the days to come. This was the first time a conversation had so naturally fallen into place that he could remember. Though reserved but trying her best to step into her own light, Alice appreciated the same.

 


 

Chapter Three

           

            The day had gone incredibly well. David and his new partner spent hours walking the streets discussing the pros and cons of altering the human form all the while thoroughly enjoying their first day at a new job. It was more than simply transferring animal qualities to people – such things were common practices from regrowing human limbs using lizard cells to improving eyesight developed from the eye cells of predatory birds. Even the standard sex change took no longer than introducing the enhanced frog genes into the body and letting them run their course. What was on the table, for all intents and purposes, was the next stage in human evolution.

            Was it possible that mankind had reached a plateau in its development? Of course there could be significant improvements to the basic design, but primary constraints remained in effect. Evolution and progress walked hand in hand requiring change, but would humanity become something better by such development or would the animal genes used in the process make the most significant stride forward? Such questions kept them talking long after the workday ended and the evening commute home was underway.

            It was well into the evening when David opened his apartment door just in time to see Milo scampering towards him and ready to jump. A moment later, the little brown dog was in David’s arms, tail wagging with the excitement of company.

            “I missed you!” The little Yorkie voiced with an obvious smile. David smiled back and put a finger to his lips reminding Milo of the need for silence. He put the dog down and closed the door quietly.

            “You’re in a good mood,” the man said setting Milo on the ground and his satchel in the corner. “Did something exciting happen today?”

            The dog spun around. “My football team made it to the playoffs! A couple more wins and the Ambris Griffins will be in the semifinals!”

            David couldn’t help but laugh at his friend’s excitement. It was certainly unusual for a dog to take such an interest in sports. But then again, Milo was the furthest thing from ordinary. David had created him in private several years ago. Hoping for so much more than the norm, he had succeeded in giving Milo a mental capacity far beyond anything in production. Milo was three, or twenty-one in dog years. And his mind was still developing. Where it would stop was a question even David couldn’t answer.

            “Did you spend the whole afternoon down at the pub watching the match?”

            “You worry too much,” Milo told him. “I know the routine. If anyone says something, I pretend to be as slow as Daniel downstairs. ‘Daddy is coming to take me home,’” he said in slow and obvious mockery.

            “Sometimes I wonder if some cat genes accidentally made it in your mix. You’re the only dog I know that patronizes other dogs, and most of them don’t sneak about finding creative ways to watch sports.”

            “Most dogs don’t practice a civilized sport in their spare time,” he retorted.

            “Are you ready for dinner?” David asked as he made his way into the kitchen. “There’s some leftover fish if you want it.”

            Milo followed close behind. “I read an article this morning about how fish used to be the leading cause of mercury poisoning. Are you trying to poison me?”

            David looked at him in disbelief and rolled his eyes. “They sorted out that mess nearly twenty years ago. I think it’s safe.” He pulled the leftovers from the refrigerator and thought back to the idea of growing gills. “If you had the chance to live underwater, would you take it?”

            Milo tilted his head to the side and looked at David without saying a word. They had been together long enough for the man to know when his sanity was being called into question. And without a single word, Milo was doing just that.

              “It was just an idea we came up with earlier,” he explained. “It would certainly change things.”

          “It would make eating tonight’s dinner an act of cannibalism,” the dog told him before jumping on a chair and having a seat. “But what do you mean by ‘we?’ I thought you always work alone.”

            David took their plates to the couch and rehashed the day’s events while they ate. Maybe it was always easier for him to talk to animals rather than people. With Milo, he knew he could confide the secrets of the world and they would be kept safe. Even with the gifts of understanding and speech, the dog was still his best friend. And though he preferred to focus the conversation on his work, Milo picked up subtle hints better than anyone else and would pester enough to always have an answer.

            “Tell me more about Alice,” the dog said while scratching an ear casually with its back paw.

             “There’s not a lot to tell,” David said leaning back. “From what I’ve heard, she’s a brilliant geneticist. We spent all day discussing work, and I think we’re really onto something.”

              “What is she like?” Milo pressed. “Tell me something about her.”

            David thought for a moment. With so many ideas floating through his head, it was only after Milo’s helpful snap back to reality that he remembered their first encounter. He talked about her natural scent of honeysuckles and her first smile. There was something about her laugh that made him gravitate in that direction. And when he noticed Milo resting his head on folded paws with eyes looking straight past his fumbling words, the man took off his glasses and closed his eyes. Milo would never let something like this drop. David waited for the inevitable.

              “You’ve got a girlfriend! You’ve got a girlfriend!” The dog sang.

              David kept his eyes closed and smiled at the ceiling. “She’s my lab partner. Let’s leave it at that.”

              “I can hear your heart beating faster when you think of her. You should tell her how you feel.”

            “I just met her today,” David voiced with a laugh. “And besides, I’m still trying to recover from making a fool of myself this morning in the elevator. Maybe I should’ve made you into a cat. That way I could tell you anything and you still wouldn’t pay attention to a single word.”

            Milo licked David’s hand and climbed up on his lap. “You’re joking, but I will bite you so you know it’s in bad taste.”

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