"This is not a bra," said Darryl, disgustedly glaring at the filmy green thing. "It's wrapping tissue with ambitions."
"It's rayon," said Dot, her tone chiding. "It'll hold."
"I'm not worried about it holding. I'm worried about showing through it."
"The only way anyone would be able to see through this," said Dot, playfully holding the bra against Darryl's perky breasts, "is if you take your blouse off. Since you're wearing it to entice your man..."
"Okay, okay," muttered Darryl, flushing with embarrassment. She quickly shoved it in the shopping cart.
"You need to treat your delicates with more care," Dot scolded, wagging a finger.
Darryl rolled her eyes.
"I think the only reason you go shopping with me is so you can embarrass me."
"That, and the free meals," Dot cheerfully acknowledged, grinning. She leaned in close. "Also, the make-up sex in the morning."
"Well, we need to finish up soon," sighed Darryl, heading the cart towards checkout. "Dr. Frique wants me back this evening for some project he's working on."
"What's he doing now?" asked Dot, only half joking. "Cloning one of each of your bodies for stand-ins?"
"Not exactly. Something involving security."
Darryl hadn't told her about the monster, and didn't plan to tell her. For one thing, it was Frique business. For another, she didn't want to worry Dot.
* * *
Darryl was a bit late getting to the lab. By the time she arrived Dr. Frique and Oliver were already busy. Oliver was just rolling his sleeve down, Dr. Frique moving to empty the contents of a syringe into one of his smaller machines. Oliver looked distinctly uncomfortable.
"This isn't meant to replace you. You of all people should understand the value of teamwork."
"Yeah," sighed Oliver. "Guess I just don't want to admit there's somethin' out there I can't whup."
"One-on-one you can beat these things," said Dr. Frique. "You proved that. However, what if Dr. Browning sends a pack of them? You'd want a pack on your side, too."
Oliver nodded, though reluctantly.
"What will these things look like, anyway?" Darryl asked, reluctantly pushing up her own sleeve as Dr. Frique approached with a rubber tube, alcohol swab and syringe.
He might not be a practicing physician, but he was definitely skilled with a needle. Darryl barely felt it go in and the process was over very quickly. The strap coming off hurt more.
"There's a computer simulation on that monitor," said Dr. Frique, absently gesturing with the full syringe.
Darryl and Oliver both stepped over to the display and peered at it.
"They look like sabertooth Dobermans," said Darryl, after a moment.
"'Dirk tooth' is the proper term," Dr. Frique supplied, most of his attention on his work. "I wanted something agile, intelligent and loyal."
"You're sure they'll obey us," said Darryl, cautiously. "I mean, I can understand them obeying Oliver, but..."
"The DNA of all household members and regular visitors has been programmed into their obedience centers," said Dr. Frique, patiently. "Oliver will be pack leader, but they will respect all of us."
"So they only eat strangers," snickered Darryl. "Well, I don't think that's a problem with some visitors we could get, but what about Girl Scouts selling cookies?"
"They are wary but non-aggressive unless they or a pack member or a household member are attacked," said Dr. Frique, pride seeping into his voice. "For all other situations they will simply patrol their assigned areas and physically block strangers from entering. Believe me, I don't want them to cause trouble any more than you do."
"What about gettin' help?" Oliver asked. "You said they'd be smart enough to send for help if'n it was needed."
"Oh, definitely," said Frique. "Of course, they're only a bit smarter than a naturally very intelligent dog, so their judgement won't be perfect, but in general if one or more or them or one or more of us is in trouble one of the animals will run for help."
"Just as long as they don't all run for help," muttered Darryl.
"No, no, that won't happen," said Dr. Frique, in a reassuring tone. "There. That's everyone's DNA, including both sets of yours, Darryl. I'm ready to begin the actual synthesis of their DNA. Once that's done I encapsulate that in artificial nuclei which in turn go into host cells, and we can begin culturing."
"'We?'" said Oliver, dryly.
Amber fluid from the smaller machine flowed through a sterile tube into a larger one, which was already humming. As the fluid entered it new noises began. The device panted and throbbed almost organically. After several minutes those sounds suddenly stopped, and a pump came on.
"Excellent," said Dr. Frique, monitoring the display on the device. "Synthesis completed exactly on schedule."
A ruby fluid came out the machine and flowed down a tube, which split into an even dozen tubes, arranged so each one filled simultaneously. Each of those tubes led to a sealed glass tank the size of a footlocker, all of them filled with a thin, clear gelatin.
"How long until they're, uh, born?" asked Darryl.
"They'll be fully developed in twenty-seven hours," said Dr. Frique, looking as happy as Darryl could remember seeing him. "I am able to take a different route of development from that used by nature. I start with several billion protocells - analogous to stem cells - which are pumped into the nutrient vats. There they reproduce for a set number of generations, until there's enough mass for the animal. Then each cell differentiates - according to its position in the mass - into a specialized cell. Bone, marrow, muscle, whatever. Much more efficient and timely than nature's way."
"If you say so," said Darryl, benumbed.
"Thet's how he made Fritz," Oliver provided.
"Well, he took a much larger vat," Dr. Frique elaborated. "Eventually I have to attach an artificial placenta, but for now we can let them simmer."
* * *
Darryl was busy installing new security lights the next morning when a large and very expensive SUV pulled up the long drive. Mrs. Frique was working in one of the flower beds which bordered the drive, and waved as the driver tooted a greeting, so Darryl figured the occupant was known and welcome. The vehicle stopped and the driver hopped out.
"Good morning," said Darryl, rising from his work.
"Good morning." The man tossed his keys to Darryl with scarcely a glance in his direction. "Please see that my luggage is taken to my room and my equipment cases to my lab."
He turned and walked away, leaving a bewildered Darryl staring after him. However, before Darryl could recover and ask questions, Oliver arrived, coming out the front door.
"Why, hello, Danny!" said the werewolf, smiling in a not-quite-friendly manner. "You should have told us you were coming."
"I told Mother. Didn't she tell you?"
"Well, you know your mother," Oliver chuckled.
The man's already cool manner chilled a bit more.
"Where is my father? I have some matters of importance to discuss with him."
"In his main lab," said Oliver, jerking his thumb casually towards the house.
The man walked huffily away, as Oliver shook his head, looking bemused.
"He told me to take care of his luggage," said Darryl. "I don't even know where his room or his lab are. Or who he is. He didn't tell me and didn't give me a chance to ask."
"Yep, that's Danny," sighed Oliver. "Always been so full'a himself he don't take much notice of anyone else. Thinks they should already know what they need to about him, 'cause he's important."
The werewolf grinned at Darryl.
"Ain't'cha' gonna take those in?"
Darryl stared at the mass of luggage jammed into the back of the SUV.
"I think I'll get Fritz to help me," he decided.
"Heh. Don't blame you. Guy tends to pack things like lead-lined canisters of plutonium."
Darryl sincerely hoped Oliver was joking. Or at least exaggerating...
End Part 7
Sorry this is so short, but that's the way it originally ended. While I re-wrote these a bit to post here there were no extensive changes. I suspect this originally stopped so abruptly because I was already working on another project. Keep in mind this tale ended a couple of years before I started Masks.
I'm currently at over 31,700 words on the next Masks story, and it's going faster now that I finally gave up and went to the doctor for the respiratory infection I've been fighting the past month. (I at first thought it was just a nasty cold.) It's somewhere between halfway and a third finished. I have the plot and a solid, detailed outline; I just need to fill in the gaps.
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